“The Hollow Ones” was published last week in Last Girls Club Fall Edition: The Gay 90’s. This is a decade of hell I know well. I’m honored to have my story published in a magazine that pays tribute to this tortured time. I will begin the tale here in the hopes that you will be inspired to dive further into the dark side of this decade. Happy Sunday!
Leaves of gold form a halo around the Hollow One. His shotgun rests on his shoulder, a fishing pole he will use shortly to bring in his biggest catch yet. He is an owl inside the pine tree of a hoodie, his own face half-blown away years ago. The Hollow One hides his craters, a courtesy to the innocents in the park.
He visited this place the night of his death. Dressed in a tuxedo, cumber bund the color of the sea, a creamy rose boutonniere that matched the fuzzy moon. He shuffled down a familiar path to the lake. Dust gathered on his dress shoes; he’d selected the ones with the slight silver sparkles. Staring at them, they looked like his own private constellation.
On that night, the shotgun hung limply. His prom date’s deflated voice repeating in his head, “I’ve got a terrible cough. Really don’t want you to catch it.” She was truthful about one thing; reputations were contagious.
When his father saw him pirouetting in front of his mirror, he murmured, “Why can’t he stop doing gay shit?” Stabbing statements loud enough to be heard.
“Hey Homo!” The hot dance studio was no longer as safe place, skateboarding bullies taunted him as he entered and exited.
He didn’t know if he was gay. Was gay when a person longed to put on eyeliner that matched their tights? Was gay a lipstick color that didn’t match, but still looked fabulous? He danced with joy, moving his muscles in harmony; was that what it meant to be gay? He was at peace with whatever he was; it was the world that wasn’t okay with him.
His mother asked about his date. She took his photograph by the wood burning stove, and handed him her keys, her what-would-Jesus-do fish dangled from the bunch. She knew this was a phase.
The boys found his fashion magazines tucked in his gym locker behind dirty socks, the ones he thought no one would ever be brave enough to touch. That’s when the taunting intensified at school. Fag, homo, fairy, queer, gay boy, each bell a twist of torture that restarted in the morning.
Bullies are relentless. They put a tiara on his head at breakfast, chanted, ““Queerio, Queerio.” His cereal spilled out on the floor, and he fled to the library. The only place in the school that didn’t have a gender. He tried to tame the tears, but they charged out of his eyes and nose. He was the blubbering dandy lion they imagined him to be.
He felt shame for staying after school every Tuesday to see Mr.Shierden swim; his teacher’s muscular seal of a body cutting through the chlorinated waves of the pool. He ached, but there was no relief. He tried not to think of the navy swimsuit bobbing during his next few classes. His mind needed a muzzle, and he couldn’t concentrate when thinking of something firm.
He’d sent her a friend request months ago. She was always in the Manga section and usually with something from lunch stuck in her braces. When he messaged her an invite to prom, she said yes. But days before when they chased him into the library shouting, “Run Faggy, Run!” She turned away from the thunder bolts of chuckling zapping any further conversation.
He heard ribbits by the edge of the manmade pond; the sounds seemed to swallow the serenity of the park; his own reflection stretched taller than real-life in the moonlight. Yes, he was an aberration. There had been moments like this before, where he’d thought about the key that slept in her father’s desk drawer. Tonight, he awakened the small silver object and took out the shotgun his father kept loaded for safety to be his well-hung date for the evening.
He sat on the bench shivering and put the gun down between his feet, its stem pressed into the wavy aqua cumber bund. Finally, to be free. No longer carrying the heavy shame of abnormality. No more asking for forgiveness for each queer thought, sneaking peeks of magazines in the locker room, the follies of a fag.