I had walked around the neighborhood aimlessly for about 20 minutes until I decided to just head off to school. I had forgotten my school bag at home when I stormed off, but that wasn’t my biggest concern at that moment.
Even though it was November, I was sweating in my winter coat. The weather had been very off lately, with periods where it would be awfully cold for a few days, which were then followed by one or two days where it was just way too hot for the time of the year. However, it could have been my own anger at that moment that made me feel sweaty and like I was being suffocated, and perhaps it was not the weather to blame.
I hadn’t managed to cool down nor calm down when I reached school. Somehow I thought I could just pretend like nothing had happened once I stepped inside, that I could just put on my ordinary face and go through the day without being noticed. But, I had overestimated myself.
As soon as I saw Nina in the hallway standing by her locker, I couldn’t contain myself anymore. This was all her fault. If she hadn’t told her stupid mother about my stupid relationship, I wouldn’t be in this whole stupid situation with these stupid bruises on my back and this stupid aching in my heart.
She looked up at me, smiled faintly, raised her hand to wave at me, and then it happened. I exploded.

“I’M GOING TO KILL YOU! I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU!” Before I could think about it, I had grabbed Nina’s hair and was yelling at her from the top of my lungs. “YOU FILTHY SLUT!”
Nina’s flat hand hit me hard on the cheek. “Let go of me! What the hell are you doing!? What the hell did I do now?!” Nina spluttered angrily. She tried to push me away, but my fist kept clutching onto her hair. “Ouch, Lars! Cut it out, you’re hurting me!”
“You did that on purpose!” I yelled, “You told your mother on purpose! You wanted her to tell Jason! You little bitc-“
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Nina yelled back, but for a second, it looked like there was a flicker of a mischievous shimmer in her eyes, before they turned innocent and fearful again.
About now, people were starting to interfere.
“Hey, are you crazy? Let go of her!” someone yelled.
I didn’t care, I kept spouting my anger: “You knew this would ruin me! They all hate me now!”
Then, a familiar pair of arms closed themselves around my torso, and pulled me back. Embarrassingly enough, I recognized his scent before I recognized his voice. “Lars, it’s time to let go now”, Matt whispered calmly in my ear. Somehow, it was sufficient to make my head go fuzzy enough for my grip on Nina to loosen, and I felt slightly numb as Matt pulled me back more. “There now, good boy. Let’s go and talk somewhere else.”

A moment later, Matt and I were sitting alone in an empty classroom. He was rubbing my back slowly and soothingly, although I could sense an awkwardness and lightness in his touch. I first thought that he was rubbing my back to soothe my anger, but when I felt how wet my eyelashes were when I blinked, I realized that Matt was trying to comfort me.
“Stop it”, I muttered.
Matt tried to read the likely mixed messages I was sending, and saw how I was saying the opposite of what I meant. He scooted even closer and put his arm around me, but I pushed him off roughly.
“I told you to stop!”
Matt quickly withdrew and held his hands up defensively.
I knew that I was acting dumb. But I was acting dumb because I was hurting, and I was righteously hurting, so in my mind it felt like I was also righteously being dumb.
Then, Nina came in. She was looking a little disheveled, but mostly had an annoyed and impatient look on her face. I couldn’t meet her eyes, afraid that I would erupt again when she gave me the chance to talk to her.
“Lars,” Matt started hesitantly, “you owe Nina an explanation of why you were being so aggressive towards her.”
Still not looking at her, I explained tonelessly: “Nina purposely told her mom of our relationship, so that she would tell my stepdad, who she works with. She knew I’d get in trouble if he knew.”
“I didn’t!” Nina said defensively, but when I looked up to look at her, it was like I could see that evil look of mischief on her face for a split second again, before she turned to Matt. “Why would I do such a thing?”
Matt looked at me for an explanation.
“You’re jealous,” I said through my gritted teeth, “you’re an evil, jealous creature who wants to see me suffer because you’re a horrible person who-“
“Lars, stop it”, Matt said strictly. “You can’t just attack Nina like that. Nina said that she didn’t mean any harm. Nina, why don’t you tell Lars why you told your mother? This must all just be one big misunderstanding.”
Nina pouted slightly as she explained: “I didn’t even think about it when I said it. It’s just… I didn’t want to tell you guys because I didn’t want to come off as homophobic or selfish, and it isn’t your fault, but… when I heard that Matt had a boyfriend, it really broke me. I was so upset. I was crying all day when I got home,” Matt stiffened besides me, “I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. When my mom asked me what was wrong, I just broke down and told her. I didn’t mean to tell anyone’s secrets, Lars, I really didn’t. I didn’t even know that our parents worked together and that she would tell him. Did… did he get really mad at you? I’m so sorry.”
Looking at the pained and pitiful look on Matt’s face, he seemed to wholeheartedly believe Nina. I couldn’t. There was something manipulative and disingenuous about her tone and story, something I swore I wasn’t just imagining because of my anger.
“Yes”, I said brusquely. “He was angry.”
“And what about your mom? She’s such a sweet woman, isn’t she? I’m sure she understood”, Matt said. For just a second, I closed my eyes and remembered her standing there next to Jason as he was yelling at me, hesitantly nodding her head in agreement with him. I thought of how indifferently she had treated the fact that Jason had beaten me and thrown me down so that I got the wind knocked out of me.
I sighed. I couldn’t tell Matt. I wanted him to think good of my mom. “I don’t know. She was nice about it, I guess. That doesn’t take away the horrible thing Nina did, though!” I pointed at her, and said to her: “I guess you’re to privileged to know what it feels like to be forced to come out like that, but it’s horrible. And you’re a horrible person.”
Nina looked at me with big, upset eyes, looking as if she was about to cry.
“Lars, stop it!” Matt said again. “You’re being unusually cruel. It’s not Nina’s fault, and now you’re just taking your anger out on her because your stepdad didn’t react very positively to your coming out. It’s not like they hit you or they kicked you out, so be a bit tactful here for a second.”
I knew that Matt just wanted the best for everyone, that he meant well, but at that moment I wanted to rip his throat out. I bit my lip to stay quiet and not lash out at him too.
“They didn’t, did they?” Matt then asked hesitantly.
I bit my lip harder and turned my head away. “No, they didn’t”, I forced myself to say. What was I supposed to do? Tell Matt what really happened while I was in this state, while he had already clearly picked Nina’s side?
“Can I… go now?” Nina asked uncomfortably. “I’m really sorry for what happened, Lars, I really am.”
I just nodded and waved my hand at her as if she was an annoying insect that I was trying to shoo away.

It was quiet between me and Matt for a second. The school bell had already rung a while ago, but apparently nobody was using that classroom that hour, and neither of us was leaving for our class.
“…are you mad at me?” I then hesitantly asked.
“I’m not mad,” Matt said, “…but I am a little frustrated with you.”
“Because I’m an asshole?”
“Because I just don’t know what to do with you sometimes. You seem to utilize all the methods of coping with your feelings but the right ones. You’re upset, you drink. You’re ashamed, you shut down. You’re angry, you attack someone.”
“I also drink when I’m angry”, I tried to make a joke about it, but Matt didn’t find it funny.
“I get that you’re upset at what happened. I would be too,” Matt sighed, “but you can’t take that out on Nina. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
“She did”, I insisted.
“She didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”
“That’s what she says. She knew what consequences her actions would have. I explicitly told you guys that I didn’t want my family to know that I was gay.”
Matt tenderly grabbed my hand, probably looking for a moment of connection. I didn’t like the distance and hostility between us at that moment either, so I sighed, gave in, and put my head on his shoulder.
“I’m not angry at you”, Matt repeated.
I shrugged. “Jason was.”
Matt wrapped his arm around my waist. “Was he very horrible to you?”
I hesitated for a moment. “He… gets angry with me a lot lately.”
“Do you think it’ll turn out okay in the end?”
I felt like I needed to reassure Matt at that moment. He sounded so hurt and worried. “Yeah,” I said, “I guess it will. Like you said, it’s not like he hits me or threatens to throw me out. Maybe my mom will make him understand eventually.”
Matt smiled, relieved. He cupped my cheek for a second, and then he hopped off the table we’d been sitting on. He wrapped his arms around me and lifted me off, but as he did so, the knuckle of his thumb pressed into the tender and painful bruise from the corner of the coffee table.
I gasped, followed by a restrained groan.
“Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
“No, I’m fine.”

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