Although my new gay best friend Elias “got” me, he also had a dark side, clearly. In addition to cutting, he was increasingly depressed an erratic. At some point within months of knowing each other, and cutting, our parents found out about the cutting. Elias also found it more and more difficult to hold up the glib facade he maintained. Hints of his anger and depression turned into rages and fits of sobbing. He used his cutting intellect on his parents. They were not up to that challenge. They’d also been unaware of the level of increasing unhappiness that he’d been hiding for years. Their sunny little boy (which his mom used to call him as a nickname) had changed into someone dark and contemptuous and nasty.
He’d also fallen in love.
With a guy.
(Of course, being gay, and all)
A guy who played on the football team.
A guy who played on the football team and was one of Elias’ best childhood friends in the days when kids are still more homogenized and still hadn’t sorted out the firm popular/unpopular pecking order that (in my experience) doesn’t really start to take root until third or fourth grade.
They’d manage to stay friends through middle school, though increasingly distant. Once their school was closed down and they moved to mine, it appears that the football player, Marco, decided to make a clean break of it with Elias and stop being friends all together.
When I met Elias, Marco was still saying they’d talk and hang out “sometime” if Elias approached him at school. Within a few months though, Marco’s patience wore out, and he started telling Elias to stop bugging him and go play with the art fags.
Elias didn’t take this well.
In fact, he went a little crazy.
He stopped going to school. His parents wanted to take him to a psychiatrist or a mental hospital. He broke a glass in front of them, held the cut edge to his wrists and told them that he’d kill himself before an ambulance could arrive.
They believed him, and didn’t call 911.
My mom let me visit Elias during this time. I think it was a Thursday. When I saw how miserable he was, I refused to leave. His parents asked my parents if I could stay a few days and help them. My parents (my mom mainly; my dad didn’t make any household decisions) said yes.
By this time, Elias’ parents (and my parents) knew he was gay. They knew we were best friends. They knew I’d use all my energy to try to cheer him up, get him talking, try to show that life wasn’t so bad. And I was a girl, so we were “safe” together. There would be no fooling around, between him being gay and me obviously having no interest in him.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Leading off of the Thursday that I visited then refused to leave Elias, we had a suicide watch. Because I was safe, I spent the nights with him, while his parents slept. They stripped his room of everything he could possibly hurt himself with and nailed the windows shut. Pins, shoelaces, belts, anything he could use to injure himself, they took.
Elias was manic those nights. He raged, he cried, he talked nonstop about how unfair it was, why didn’t Marco love him, why was he so different, why was he always hurting? He didn’t sleep, so I didn’t sleep. I was fifteen, and didn’t yet know there was a big, wide world out there, full of people, with places that were havens for gays. But I tried my best to cheer him up. I reminded him of his brilliance; he could move away, go to college, because an amazing physicist like Carl Sagan (one of Elias’ heroes) only hotter.
He wasn’t consoled. He kept raging. I kept trying.
Two nights of this. The third night, he got weirdly quiet. He apologized for being so difficult. He offered to brush my hair for me, since I found that soothing. I fell asleep.
I woke up to the sound of a weird thud.
That thud was the sound of him sinking a long corsage pin to the bulbed tip into the wall. Turns out, Elias had remembered something that his parents and I had forgotten that could harm him.
On his dresser was the dried corsage he wore when we went to the last Christmas dance at school together. The pin was still in it. That pin was long enough and strong enough to slice skin.
So he lulled me to sleep to kill himself.
Only, he couldn’t do it. he said as he went to dig it into his skin, I made a little noise in my sleep and he realized that if I woke up to him being dead, I would be devastated. Potentially kill myself over my failure to protect him.
I did feel like I failed to protect him. I felt terrified that he didn’t believe that anybody loved him enough. I wanted to convince him that someone loved him more than anything. That I loved him more than anything.
So I said I would have sex with him. I wanted to give him my virginity as a proof of love. We’d already fooled around, so it wasn’t so big a leap in my mind.
In my mind then. Now, with more than half a lifetime of additional living behind me, I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking. Who was this strange, sick girl suggesting having sex for the first time on her gay best friend’s suicide watch?
That would be me.
Was it wrong? Morally, was it wrong? Should I even be asking myself that, when the whole situation – especially the part where his mother thought it would be a good idea to let one fifteen year old watch another fifteen year old for four consecutive nights during a suicide watch so that she and her husband could get some sleep – is completely fucked up? She could have, you know, called 911 once the kids were in the nearly suicide-proof bedroom room that first night and gotten an ambulance to quietly show up and take her kid to get actual professional help.
But she didn’t. And everything happened the way it happened and Elias and I had sex that night.
It was extremely awkward. I wasn’t turned on at all, so I was dry as hell and we were…as awkward as a pair of teenagers having sex for the first time.
We also didn’t use our hands. People don’t really use their hands in movies, you know. They’re naked under some strategically draped sheets and their arms are around each other, hands clearly in sight. Or maybe their holding each others hands. Anyways, it’s clearly a “no hands needed” kind of thing. So no hands.
When I was in middle school, a song had come out. Tootsee Roll, by 69 Boyz. The lyrics were like a way more fun version of our pre-coitus conversation:
to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right, now slide, slide, side
Those lyrics were going through my head as we shuffled ourselves around trying to figure out why our genitals didn’t have whatever magic they must usually have that makes sex look so easy in movies.
Eventually, we figured it out. It hurt like motherfucker. A sharp miserable pain that lasted longer than Elias did. He came inside me, even though we’d agreed this would be quick dip and he’d pull out so his “stuff” wouldn’t be inside me and possibly get me pregnant.
(spoiler alert: I didn’t get pregnant. Let’s all just take a moment to be happy about that)
After that, he seemed calmed. We went to sleep.
The next day there was a suspicious brown, watery stain on the bed. Elias’ mom asked me about it. I said I had no idea what it was from. Elias reminded me that we’d had some tea before bed (we had) and that it had spilled on the bed (it hadn’t). Later he yelled at me for not coming up with a lie myself.
I remember feeling proud of myself in the days after. Because Elias did seem calmer. He agreed to go to see a psychiatrist about medication. He was still depressed, or rapid cycling, or something clearly mentally ill, but not so acutely that there was a danger of him killing myself. I did that, I thought to myself.
My love did that.
We didn’t have sex again. Our fooling around tapered off too. I honestly don’t remember why. If I had to guess, it was because Elias’ behavior, while less suicidal, got more disturbing in other ways. When we were together, I tried with everything in me to build him up, to praise him, to remind me that he could get a scholarship to any college and do whatever he wanted. Whenever I said something he didn’t like though, he’d get enraged. He accused me of controlling him. He asked if I enjoyed knowing that I could destroy him with a few cruel words.
Adult Liz is going to tell you that she now realizes that this relationship was completely fucked on many levels. Teenaged Liz thought this was the best relationship she had, in part because it wasn’t about her. Because her relationship with her mother was mostly about her mother trying to make Liz do everything her mother wished she’d done as a kid. Her other relationships were awkward and involved her “friends” frequently pointing out how weird she was. At least her relationship with Elias didn’t have any weirdness in it and focused on him to the point where she didn’t have to worry about herself. She only had to worry about him.
This gives a fairly good picture of my early high school years. It sets the stage for the sexual trauma to come. In writing all that out, there are a few things I should clarify. I didn’t feel that my first sexual experience was traumatizing at all. I was proud of it. I thought I did a good thing. I was still committed to not having sex again until marriage, but I thought it was worth it to lose my virginity the way that I did.
It took a very long time to realize that my relationship with Elias was harmful to me. Part of that realization was fueled by Elias’ behavior at a much later time. I cut off all contact with him over five years ago. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get into that, but it’s probably a good thing to share.
Looking back at both our behaviors at the time…we were messed up kids. Obviously there was massive parental fails on both sides. Elias needed a lot of help that he didn’t get. For the things that happened before we were adults, I don’t really assign any blame to either of us. We were both doing the best we could do.
Things that happened later…that’s another story.
But to get back to this story, you now have an idea of what my life was like and what my relationship to sex was like when I met David, my high school art teacher.