By: Rosa Swann
No matter how much you try to leave your past behind, it doesn’t always leave you…
After being hired for my dream job, I move back to the small-minded town where I grew up, for the job and to finish my degree.
I’m surrounded by my past, by old classmates, old neighbourhoods and old prejudices against gay people.
But on my first day back, my eyes fall on something new around here. A goth guy sitting at the front of the class and I can’t keep my eyes off him.
Even though I don’t know him, I feel like I need to protect him, no matter what.
I can’t stay in the same place for too long. People start to notice that you don’t age, that you don’t get older, and add to that that the chance of vampire hunters finding you gets bigger the longer you stay…
I know that I’m running out of time in this town. I need to move on. I just need to finish my degree and then I can leave and start over somewhere else.
But when my housemate/blood donor turns on me and forces me to leave, I suddenly find myself asking for help from the new guy in our class.
Leaving doesn’t look as appealing anymore…
I never thought I’d ever be back in my hometown. I left this place for a reason, but now I’m back…
Standing in front of an old factory building, the dark brick outside not betraying the new insides, I’m amazed by the change. This whole area used to be abandoned factories and I’ve been to many unsupervised parties here while I was in high school. But while I was away for college, they renovated this whole neighbourhood and now the old buildings are luxurious apartments and studios.
The whole area has been upgraded, turning it into a modern neighbourhood with hipster cafes and biological and eco-friendly stores at the ground level of many of the buildings. The merging of old and new. It’s… interesting.
I swipe my card at the reader by the door and step inside into the light and modern hallway. I grab my keys and take the two stairs up to my floor. Then I open the door to my studio and drop my keys in the bowl next to the door, before I take my jacket and my shoes off and step further inside.
A single room studio can be really confining and claustrophobic, but the big factory windows on one side, reaching from about waist height to the very high ceiling, let in a lot of light and give a great view of the surrounding area. And to get extra space in here, they even put in a second level on one side of the room, creating a great study area underneath and a bedroom area on top.
This place is bigger and lighter than where I used to live before, that’s definitely true, but I’d love to move to a bigger place, an actual house. Which hopefully happens as soon as I’ve finished college.
I grab my forms and class schedule from the desk and walk over to the kitchen. I just have to make sure that I actually properly filled out the form in all the crazy moving stuff last week, and didn’t forget things.
Then I grab a sandwich and check my phone. I should be going again soon. I’ve got to be at the college in half an hour and I don’t want to be late.
Busy day today. First I worked the morning at my new job, getting my logins and my desk set up. Now I’ve got to go to the registration office at the college, before I have to go into the city to pick up my books for this semester. And then I’ve also got my first classes this evening.
I sigh, putting the papers into a bag and checking my phone for the bus schedule. Yeah, I need to go now. I can’t wait much longer.
I quickly grab my things.
Time to get serious, if I ever want to graduate and all.
I stare out the window as the bus drives around the corner and the college building comes into view. The one college I tried so hard not to go to… The one place I really wished I didn’t have to attend, ever.
But a really cool junior software engineering job opened up here at a company that makes educational software but uses a lot of gamification, so videogame elements, to do it and I knew that I had to get over myself if I wanted to get anywhere as a programmer. So I applied for the position and then even got the thing. But it means attending evening classes at this college until I finish my degree.
My college career is a little unusual, as I early on realised that going to college full-time wasn’t for me. So I started working at a website development company, way at the bottom, and taking evening classes in the evenings to gain the skills needed to advance in my job.
It’s slow going, I take about two years to finish what most people finish in a single year, but I’ve now got years of experience working as a programmer. And that really helped me get this job as I could prove I was reliable and a quick study.
I stand up, getting out and then I stop to stare at the huge building in front of me. Where the dark brick of the factory buildings make it imposing, here it makes it more oppressive. It’s like the building is looming over me, ready to squash me at any moment. Although, that may be because I’m biased and don’t really like the place, or the town…
It doesn’t help that coming out as gay in my final year of high school didn’t really make my life any easier. So going to this college was never really an option, not if I wanted to stay sane.
When I came out, people told me that they didn’t really care about it, and since I was a basketball player, I never got much crap for being gay. But it became obvious very quickly that I wasn’t getting invited to parties anymore and people would act strangely around me. It was so annoying. But the worst was the way that people would suddenly be really interested in setting me up with a girl ‘to make sure’ that I wasn’t ‘accidentally straight’ or something. It was… frustrating.
So, when I got a place at a college a couple of cities over, I took the chance with both hands. Getting away from here was the best thing I ever did. I could be whoever I wanted to be and I didn’t have to worry about people whispering or gossipping because I was just another guy walking around.
I wasn’t ‘the guy who could go pro’ and who ‘threw it all away’ by coming out as gay. I was just another guy, nobody special. That was probably the most freeing thing that ever happened.
I take a deep breath, walking into the building.
If everything goes well, I shouldn’t have to meet any of my old classmates. That would be awesome. It’s been seven years since we all graduated, so most of us should be out of the system by now, unless they were also doing something unusual like I did.
I walk over to the registration office, the doors opening automatically, and just as I walk through them I hear a high pitched voice I’d recognise anywhere.
“Sorry, I really have to hang up now.” Evy giggles. “There is someone coming in.” She’s quiet for a moment. “Love you too. But I really have to go. Bye.”
I walk further into the office, looking at the girl —no, woman— behind the desk. Evy, she used to be my best friend Jeff’s girlfriend. They were one of the few people who didn’t push me away after I came out, though things were sometimes a little awkward.
Evy giggles and then looks up, her eyes going wide, a grin spreading over her face. “Sean!” She almost gets up, but I hold out my hand when I see her huge belly.
“Hi, Evy. Long time no see. How are you doing?” She looks very happy, which takes away from the unease I feel as I stand here.
“Good, good. It’s been so long! Why are you here? Do you have an appointment?” Her eyes go between me and the screen.
“Not really, just dropping by the registration office. I’m going to take classes here this semester.”
“Cool. Yeah, they should be available soon. But, tell me. How are you doing? A beautiful girl in your life yet?” Her eyes glitter as she leans forward.
“No, no boy in my life yet.” What is it with these people and ‘not remembering’ I’m into guys?
“You’ll find someone. I bet.” She winks. Then she shows me her hand with a delicate wedding ring on it. “Jeff proposed last year, right before graduation. It was so romantic.”
“Congratulations. And I see that you’re adding to the family too?” I guess I can be sort of normal around her.
“Yeah. We just really wanted to. And with Jeff’s job as a PE teacher at the old high school, and my job here, we can afford it and all. We’re lucky.” She gets a dreamy look in her eyes.
“I’m so happy for you.” I really am, they deserve everything good.
Then the door to the registration office opens and a figure dressed in a long black coat comes rushing out. He bumps into me for a moment, but steadies himself and then rushes out of the office. He almost looks like a bat in the long black coat, his long black hair flowing behind him.
I blink. Well, that’s definitely different. You didn’t used to see guys like that when I was still in high school. Interesting.
“You can go in.” Evy’s voice is sweet.
“Thanks.” I smile at her. “Have a good day and tell Jeff I said hi.”
“Will do.” She grins. “We should really meet up soon. Promise me?” She flutters her lashes at me, and I may not be into girls, but I’ve never been able to resist her when she looked at me like that.
“I promise. I’ll see you later.” I pull my bag up higher and walk into the office.
Who else could I be running into today? Because this is a really strange start to living here again. Almost like I never went away, and I start to feel a lot like I used to feel in high school, even though I definitely outgrew that.
Ah well, I guess running into a couple of people is bound to happen… Just as long as it doesn’t turn into a habit.
I sigh as I stare at the door to the classroom. I don’t really feel like going in right now, but not going to class even though I pay a lot of money to be here… Yeah, also not a good idea.
I’ve got no idea what this is going to be like. I’m just hoping that people aren’t going to be all strange to a new guy joining them for just the final semester, or that I’ll somehow be surrounded by old classmates, that would also suck. Like, really suck. I don’t want to deal with that all over again either.
I put my hand on the doorknob. I really don’t feel like it, but then I open the door and step inside, looking around. The room is pretty empty and I’m sure that the professor isn’t here yet. Lucky.
Then a loud voice calls my name. “Sean? Is that really you?”
I flinch for a moment, but then turn to the voice. Sitting in the middle row is the guy who used to be my other best friend, Darren.
He waves at me to come over and since not doing that would be rude, I get over to him. He pushes the guy next to him to move a seat over, leaving one empty at the side.
“Hi.” I sit down in the empty chair next to him. “Seems I’m not the only one here.”
“Tsk.” Darren shakes his head. “I thought you were too good for our small-time college. I thought you had to be a big boy in the big city.”
I shrug, taking my books and notebook from my bag.
“Tell me. There has to be some great story as to why you’re back. Will you be staying?” Darren keeps talking and I remember that he never really was able to shut up. Always running his mouth and everything. Kinda annoying, but he was never really nasty, just ignorant.
“I could get a better job here. So, I came back.” He’s going to have to do it with that, because there really isn’t more as to why I’m here…
Luckily, right then, the professor walks in and Darren quickly tries to grab his stuff before class starts.
The professor is explaining something mathematical on the board, and I’m trying to keep up with his writing speed, when the class door opens and someone comes in. It’s the same guy as I saw before, his long black jacket, his hair all messed up. Yeah, same guy, has to be.
Now I can see him a little better, his pale skin becomes more obvious, his slim frame under the jacket… But I can’t see much else as he keeps his head down and sits in the front seat.
Darren bumps his arm into mine. “Don’t stare at the freak.”
I look his way, not sure how to interpret his sudden change.
“He’s… you know… gay. You’re better off staying far away from him, he’s creepy.” Darren looks so convinced of what he’s saying, and I really have to stop myself from punching that smug smile off his face.
“So?” I glower at him, hoping he catches the look.
“Stay away from him. Or he’ll try to hit on you.” Darren shudders theatrically, pulling a disgusted face. “They shouldn’t let guys like him in with us normal guys.”
This guy apparently hasn’t gotten any smarter since I left. “You want me to leave too? I’m gay.” As I’ve always been, in case he forgot.
Darren’s mouth falls open and it would have been funny, if he hadn’t been behaving like such an asshole. “What?” He’s lost for words now, apparently not used to being challenged on what he’s saying.
“I’m gay. You want me to leave?”
Because that’s the main reason I never went to college here, getting away from people like Darren. Getting away from the remarks and the taunting. Getting away from the disgust people here have for people who aren’t straight.
Somehow, Darren has to think about an answer. I can see him think really hard.
But I shake my head, looking at the board and groaning when I realise how far I’ve fallen behind.
I can’t already fall behind, I need this to work. Guys like Darren prove why I need to get back out of this town before I go insane.
I guess that’s a great motivation, working my ass off to get back out of this hellhole, again.