I sat quietly at the breakfast table pretending to nibble a piece of toast. I could feel my father looking at me. He wanted to talk to me but knew it wasn’t worth the trouble trying. I swallowed my spit and cleared my throat. He adjusted his tie, still looking at me, still nervously grinding his teeth. I wanted to say something, anything but I couldn’t. I couldn’t. I closed my eyes for a second and the events of the night before came flooding back to me. It was so strange and wonderful and also so unbelievably awful. I remembered feeling that boy’s hand on my leg and then….
My evening started like any other. I was sitting at home watching a Star Trek: The Next Generation rerun on BBC America when I got the text message. It read, “I’m outside your house. See you in five.” The message was from Ashley. She’s been my best (and only) friend since freshman year when she asked me to go to the Homecoming dance with her. I told her I was into dudes but she said we could just go as friends. We actually had a really great time. She’s the only person at school I’ve ever talked to about being gay so I guess you could say we’re pretty close. Anyway she does this all the time. She shows up at my house without asking me and makes me go hang out with her. Sometimes I make a big deal about how I have other plans but it’s never actually true. Usually we just went bowling or smoked in her room. At least it was always better than being alone.
I threw on a sweater and some jeans and ran outside. My mom died when I was too young to care and my dad works late so no one stopped me to ask where I was going. Once I was in the passenger seat of Ashley’s car (a 1997 Pontiac Firebird) she hit the gas. We had been on the road about five minutes when I suddenly realized I had no idea where we were headed and asked where that might be. “We’re going to a fucking party,” Ashley said with a smile on her pale, ginger face.
“What?” I said not sure I had heard correctly.
“A party,” she responded. “You know, one of those places with boys and beer and loud music.”
I started to laugh and then realizing she was actually serious said, “Whose party? We don’t go to parties?”
She pulled up in front of a bland white house and put the car in park. “It’s Cassie from speech. She sent out an open invitation. It’ll be fun.” She got out of the car. I sighed and followed her into the house.
The place was crammed with people I didn’t know. I recognized a few faces from school but I couldn’t have told you their names. Everything smelled like smoke and sweat. I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. After a few moments of standing around the living room trying to breathe and keep from throwing up I darted into the kitchen. A girl sitting on the counter briefly glanced up from her phone when I entered and then quickly returned to whatever she had been doing. I spotted a snack bowl sitting on a pile of old People magazines and soon found myself shoveling bacon macaroni flavored potato chips into my mouth like some sort of ravenous bear (either kind really).
I paced around that tiny kitchen for what could have been ten minutes or two hours. Eventually when all the chips had been eaten and I started mumbling incoherently under my breath the cell phone girl left and I collapsed into a chair like an antisocial human ragdoll. It’s funny how some noise seems almost nonexistent. It’s like when you’re in the woods and everything is so loud but it seems quiet. When you start to think of rap music and swearing in the same way as you would think of wind and birds singing it’s significantly easier to ignore. That is how I fell asleep slumped in a chair, just feet from the herd of brainless sheep I wanted desperately to impress.
My sleep did not last long. I was woken by a sound reminiscent of a dying walrus. I rubbed sleep from my eyes and nearly threw up when I saw that almost unspeakably disgusting sight. A creature which I am now aware is called Alex was receiving manual gratification through his basketball shorts from a girl that resembled what someone pretty might look like if they were freeze-dried and forced to apply makeup at gunpoint while high on crack. Alex himself was a fat bastard whose skin was roughly forty-five percent zit. I had seen him around school before.
He was the type of guy who always wore a confederate flag snapback and liked to shout things like “faggot” and “nigger” at those who even slightly inconvenienced him. Needless to say watching Atop sitting atop the kitchen counter (which somehow managed to support his truly prodigious weight), thrusting and moaning made me want to rip my eyes out and stuff them deep into my ears.
I left the kitchen in a hurry. The living room was a little less crowded than it had been before but I still didn’t feel like talking to anyone or being that rude guy who ignored people for no good reason so I headed out onto the porch where I hoped I could be alone. Once I got outside he was the first thing I saw. It’s not easy to describe what it was about him. He was average height, maybe 5’8" or 5’9". His skin was very pale but not in a sickly way. It was like he was made for the night. His hair was curly and blond. It shrouded his face in darkness. He was built like a movie star or a sex god. His muscles could be seen clearly through a white t-shirt which clinged tightly to his body. His eyes were an electric blue and I felt them running over my body when he looked up from the stone step on which he was sitting.
He was completely silent. I was as well. I felt naked and exposed. It was like his beauty was a poison which had disabled most of the muscles in my body. I was glued to the spot. I wanted to leave but I also needed to stay. He silently motioned for me to sit down next to him. A smile flashed across his face. I did as he wanted. “Hey. I don’t usually go to these kinds of things,” I said nervously trying to seem chill. I expected him to say something. When he didn’t I felt like I was doing something wrong. “My name's Noah. What’s yours?” He acted like he couldn’t hear me. I was thinking that maybe I was reading him wrong and I should leave when he handed me an open can of beer. I sipped from it. It tasted a little funny but it wasn’t bad. He smiled at me again. This time I knew that he and I were on the same page about things.
I’ve never been much for alcohol but I’m no lightweight. By the time I’d finished half the beer I was feeling very strange. I couldn’t remember exactly where I was or how I had gotten there. I started to tell this boy about my life. I talked about my mother’s death and my super Catholic father and that girl who kissed me in the third grade and told everyone I was her boyfriend. He just nodded knowingly. Eventually I realized he had wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “I don’t even know your….” I started to say but he was kissing at my neck and it felt so, so good. I felt something strange graze my skin but I didn’t think much of it at the time. His fingers intertwined with mine and he pulled me to my feet. Every time I went to take a step I began tipping to one side. He took hold of me and walked me through the crowded living room and up the staircase to the second floor. Everything besides his touch and smell was a foggy and indistinguishable blur of noise, light and color.
He threw me down onto the bed. I took off my shirt and jeans. I was so tired. My eyes started to close. I felt my chest being kissed and my underwear slipping past my knees. He was on top of me. His fingers ran through my hair. I wanted him so badly and I knew he wanted me. I had never felt like this before. I never thought of myself as something sexual. I was Ashley’s gay best friend and my dad’s disappointing, straight son. I had never even been touched like that by a guy before. My entire body was on fire. His lips pressed against mine. It’s hard for me to explain what happened next. We were kissing and then it was inside of me. It hurt a lot at first. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. My eyes opened for a second. I was looking into his face. He placed his hand over my mouth. Suddenly there was nothing.
I woke alone in what was clearly somebody’s parents’ bedroom. There was a king sized bed, a picture of Jesus smiling on the wall and a tiny book of prayers on the nightstand. I was naked. My body was drenched in sweat. There was a bad taste in my mouth. It was a mixture of blood and something else. I found my clothes in a pile under the bed and got dressed in a haze. I didn’t have a clue what time it was or if the party was still going on. As I turned to leave I spotted something on the bed. At first I didn’t believe it. I slipped the slimy thing into my pocket and stumbled out of the bedroom and down the staircase.
I can only vaguely remember Ashley driving me home. The next morning I woke up on the floor of my bedroom fully dressed. My head felt like it was filled with tiny elephants. I changed my shirt, socks and underwear and then slouched at the foot of my bed looking at myself in a cracked mirror which hung slightly tilted on the wall. I looked paler than I had the night before. As I looked at myself I thought back to the beer and bedroom and tried to make sense of what had happened to me. I smiled at my reflection in an effort to pretend I was okay. My teeth parted and that’s when I first saw it. I told myself I was hallucinating. I wanted so badly for that to be true. It was covered in blood. Its eyes were beady and black. The thing’s slippery, pale insectoid body was squirming as if it was in pain. It was hungry. I could feel its hunger running through my body.
I knew what it was as sure as I knew myself. I had heard about them in class and on television. It was a kissing bug. They were parasitic creatures which crawled from the mouth of one host to another. I reached into my pocket and thumbed at the slippery thing which I knew at once to be my severed tongue. I was infected. That is how I came to be sitting across from my father at the kitchen table pretending to eat a piece of toast. He didn’t know I liked boys. He didn’t know much about me at all. We hardly ever talked. It wasn’t his fault. He was a good man. He was just old and I knew he wouldn’t understand. This was more or less how we were every day. He would look at me like he wanted to say something but he never would and I would look back at him without showing him any of the pain or anger which he made me feel. Sometimes I’d mention something about school and he would nod and pretend to be interested. He probably didn’t notice anything was different with me. He wouldn’t have said anything if he did.
I pulled off a crust from my toast and shoved it inside my mouth. The kissing bug ripped through it with its razor sharp teeth. I think a little went down my throat. My dad took a sip of his orange juice and scratched at his beard. I took this as my cue to leave. I grabbed my backpack off a hook on the wall, pushed open the front door and left my father to drink his orange juice alone. That’s how it’s been for the last three weeks. I am silent. I eat when I can. Ashley thinks I’m ignoring her because of something she said at the party. Everyone else still thinks I’m the same quiet fuckup as I’ve always been. The creature is my only companion through the day. It will never leave me or judge me for being the person I am. We are one.