Male Bag

By Christina O'Brien

This column is devoted to love letters, hate mail, and other correspondence from guys that I've saved over the years. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent.

Kevin's birthday was Groundhog Day. I don't know why I remember that day, and not the day he killed himself. Maybe because I can imagine him poking his head out of a hole in the thawed earth, yawning and muttering, then ducking back underground to hide from the cold world, or perhaps his own shadow.

We shared too many cigarettes and secrets in the smoking area outside our high school cafeteria. I used to hug him every morning and tell him about my weird dreams from the night before. I can still feel those hugs. He was soft beneath his black leather biker jacket, and he smelled smoky and sweaty. He never had dreams so he liked hearing about mine and trying to interpret them. He once told me, "I can't figure it out, but I wish I could have seen it with you." I loved him for saying that.

We had this stupid joke: I'd run my hand over the sticky spikes of his mohawk and he'd pretend to shudder and say, "Ooh, hair sex." He must have known I had a little crush on him but he never did anything about it, and neither did I. He used to joke that I was too smart for him, but I think he was too shy. And I think I just liked him too much to fuck things up.

I never asked him what "it" was. I never asked him a lot of things. Like why he tried so hard to make people look at him and then got pissed off when they stared at his green hair or his Sex Pistols T-shirt or his knee-high combat boots.

Or why he never let me pick him up or drop him off at his house. He made me meet him at this duck pond down the block. He could sit so still the ducks would come right up to him, beaks open wide, taking the stale bread from his fingertips in silent communion.

Or why he always felt so fat, so stupid, so fucking bad about himself. He wore this button that said "Have a day." It looked like one of those annoyingly cheerful smiley-face buttons, but this face had no smile, no expression at all.

Or why the only time he felt good was when he was sleeping, even though he couldn't dream.

I don't remember what day it was, but I remember hearing that police cars had been in front of his house that morning. There were rumors… Kevin had got busted for drugs, Kevin had beaten the crap out of somebody, Kevin had stolen a bunch of stuff and run away from home. I knew. I knew before the guidance counselor called me down to her office and told me. But I didn't know about the gun. Or maybe I did.

I never asked him what "it" was.

I didn't cry. I didn't go to the funeral. I didn't return to the duck pond until years later, on his birthday, Groundhog Day. The groundhog had seen its shadow, and I thought that six more weeks of winter without Kevin would seem like an eternity. I couldn't stop myself from hating him a little for leaving me with the guilt of living, and dreaming, and loving. I still can't, even now.

But winters pass, years pass, and I am here and he is not. He is sleeping in a hole covered with dirt, and he is never waking up.

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Copyright©2002 by Christina O'Brien.

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