Tommy Hirsch
A Time of Need

While most kids ran around, played games and made new friends, I sat in the corner staring off into space. Unlike all the others who ignored the fact that their parents had just left them alone in a scary new place called school, I was consumed with fear and I didn’t want to be there. I had no interest in joining the others or making new friends. As I sat there, gazing off, a short little girl with chin length brown hair sauntered over and plopped down next to me. With three simple words: Hi! I’m Claire! my life had changed forever. From that point on we instantly became friends.

Although each of us spent most of our time with other friends throughout elementary and middle school due to the fact that our schedules varied vastly, we still managed to always keep our friendship connected. It wasn’t until we began high school that or friendship really began to blossom. With all of our newfound freedom, we found plenty of free time to cause trouble and in the process became like family. I considered her family, as she was like my sister. When I was down, she knew how to make me feel better and unlike my real family, she listened to what I had to say. She never made me feel like I had to continue the act I put up for everyone else because she allowed me to be myself. It was because of this that Claire helped me accept a part of myself and in the process made our friendship even stronger.

It started out like every typical Friday night, a simple text message, asking if I was free. As if it were hardwired in my head, I responded yes and found myself quickly getting ready. A new shirt and jeans to replace the ones I had worn in school that day and a quick glance in front of the mirror to make sure everything stayed in place. I told my parents I was going out and rushed out the door to find the familiar steel gray Honda waiting for me at the end of the driveway. Music was blasting out of the windows and the bass thumped in a slow rhythm, causing the car to vibrate. I opened up the passenger side door, allowing the music to escape its cage and crawled into the low compact car.

As I adjusted myself in my seat and fastened my seatbelt, I glanced over at my friend, Claire, fixed behind the steering wheel scrolling through her iPod’s music library. Unlike the Abercrombie and Fitch clones at my school, Claire was unique. Tonight, she sported her favorite ruby flannel over a floral shirt, a black skirt with leggings and a pair of cowboy boots. Drawings of skulls and random notes decorated her hands and fingers between her oversized fake emerald rings. Her mid back long brown hair fell down in a tangled mess of hairspray and a light pink headband nestled its way within the nest of hair. Within seconds I was thrown back in my seat as we sped away towards the mall, our typical hangout. Like many of the other teenagers in the area, we spent most of our free time there. As we sauntered down the polished eggshell white tiled floors, we gazed over window displays and searched for friends. Unable to find any, we made our way back to the car in disappointment. Although I was looking forward to a night partying with a group of friends, I needed some alone time with Claire. Lately, my head had become crowded with thoughts that just needed to be set free.

Soon we found ourselves parked in front of the abandoned field next to our old elementary school. The air was thick and hung around me like a quilted comforter. We sat in silence staring at the empty field sprawled out in front of us. With a flick, she turned on the reading light between the front seats of her car and picked up her iPod. As she searched through her music library for the perfect song to blast on her dilapidated speakers, my mind began to race. I felt light headed as I contemplated all my options and visualized all the possible outcomes. A light click broke the silence as she chose a song and motioned for me to turn up the volume. Quickly the sound of music mixed with the suffocatingly thick air and surrounded me.

The dim amber car light radiated down and lightly flowed to the crevices of the car, giving us a sickly complexion. I briefly glanced at the light switch and shut it off. My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I refocused my attention to the empty field. Unlike the field, my head was crowded with thoughts and I felt like screaming.

We bobbed our heads methodically to the beat of the song and silently lip-synced the lyrics. She leaned forward and violently turned the volume knob to the right, causing the car to vibrate with each beat. I leaned back in the plushy vinyl seat and waited for the music to drown out the incessant clamor of thoughts in my head.

The air grew thicker and became muggy with our breathing. Like a menacing shadow, fog began to creep up the windows, and soon our view of the field was blocked. I slowly sat up and held down the switch to open the window. Light spring air wafted in and began to clear out the thick, muggy air that was trapped in the car. I glanced down at my shoes and focused my attention on the hole forming midway down the side of the right shoe. I took a deep breath, looked up, and turned down the music.

As if it was planned, our eyes connected in the darkness. With a puzzled look she asked me why I shut the music off. I fumbled over my words like a toddler as I searched for the right thing to say. I quickly looked away and began to play with the hole in my shoe.

What’s wrong? she asked as I continued to play with my shoe, making the hole bigger. My head began to throb and my heartbeat raced like a stallion. Sweat began to form on my brow as I ventured to meet her gaze again. You know how you said we would always be friends? No matter what, right? I quickly blurted out. Worriedly she shook her head yes, never breaking her gaze. The puzzle pieces of words and thoughts that filled my head began to piece together and my fear began to subside. For a second, I listened to the light breeze whistle outside and rustle the tiny fledgling leaves that were forming. I moistened my chapped lips and pieced together the two simple words that have been the source of my fear: I’m gay.

The wind continued to lightly blow in through the window, occasionally blowing a stray strand of hair across her face. For a brief moment, she broke her gaze and glanced down at her hands. I searched the darkness for the familiar gleam of light her eyes reflected, but did not find it. Inside, I began to feel nauseated and completely convinced that I had made a wrong decision. As much as I wanted her to accept me and continue to stick by my side, I couldn’t expect her to just be okay with it. She had every right to think whatever she wanted and ultimately the future of our friendship rested in her hands. I slowly leaned back in the seat and attempted to melt into the darkness that fell around us. Once again, the air grew thick and weighed my body down. Looking back at the empty field before me I silently awaited her reply hoping that it would be what I wanted to hear.

As I sat there motionless in my chair, she began to fidget with her shirt and her clothes rustled as she readjusted herself in her seat. Without a word, she picked her iPod back up off the floor and continued to search through her library. After a few seconds of her songs noisily clicking by, she selected a song and lightly turned up the volume. Leaning back into her chair, she set the iPod down and looked over at me. Once again, she held me under her gaze.

When I said we would always be friends, I meant it. Whether you are gay or not, I love you and I will always be here for you. Slowly a smile crept across her face and the familiar gleam of her eyes began to shine brightly. She outstretched her arms, leaned over, and hugged me close. Instantly I was filled with her warmth and kindness and for once, some of the fear that had welled up inside of me began to subside. With her by my side, I felt complete and it gave me the courage to accept who I was and share it with those around me.

Our hug lasted for what felt like hours, and regrettably I let her go. Each of us fell back in our seats and once again focused our gaze on the field. With a growl, the engine started as she switched on the ignition of the car and turned on the headlights. The field was instantly illuminated in the dull white light from the headlights. Let’s get out of here, she said. She wrapped her long delicate fingers around the black leather steering wheel and switched the care into reverse. With a sudden jump, the car began to move and the field that lay before us was replaced by the empty road that sprawled out ahead.