box of jars

madeline perett
We Used To Be Friends

I'm almost there. It feels so good. When I finish, I moan real loud, then all of a sudden I'm crying. I just break down sobbing. I can't help it. I sit on the floor in front of the bed. I don't even put my dick back in my pants. I just let it hang out there, soft and sad. I hear Charlie rustling around next to me. Then I feel his arm around my shoulders and I let him hold me. I lean into him even. I hate myself for how good this feels.

Charlie's a good person and I fucked him. I tore him apart from the inside and still he holds me. I calm down after some time and pull my pants up and put my shirt back on. Charlie just sits on the floor and watches me. I look at myself in the mirror. My face is puffy and my eyes are red. I can't go out looking like this. I sit on the bed and Charlie gets off the floor and sits next to me. He puts his hand on my knee. I stare at the floor and push his hand away. I feel his lips on my ear. I push him away and he laughs a little. I give him one of my looks, my what-the-fuck-you're-disgusting look. And he laughs more, won't stop laughing, is crying too.

I broke Charlie.

"Stop it," I say.

He wipes tears from his face.

"Shut the fuck up," I say.

He puts his face in his hands, still laughing, crying.

I grab his arm and make him look at me. I hold his eyes until he calms down. He takes a deep breath, sniffles.

"I'm sorry," I say. I really am.

He looks down and crosses his arms over his chest. He's still shirtless. I get his shirt for him off the floor and he puts it back on.

"I have homework to do," he says.

So I leave.


I used to play this game with my cousin. He's a lot older than me and I'd always be really excited to play with him. He'd say, "Take off your clothes and lie on the bed. Play dead. I'm the coroner and I'm examining your body." Then he'd touch me all over. I didn't realize how wrong it was until later. Maybe that's why I'm so fucked up. I try not to think about it too much.


Mr. Fig stops me in the hall and asks me why I didn't show up for practice yesterday.

"I got sick," I say. "I threw up after Chemistry."

He looks at me sideways, like maybe he doesn't believe me, then he nods and walks away.

I see Charlie in the hall and he's got this far away look in his eyes, kind of foggy. He doesn't even glance at me when we pass each other.

When Brendan asks me why I missed practice, I tell him I went to meet a girl and ask him not to tell anyone. I tell him I finally did it and he gets real excited. His first time was last summer.

"Finally a member of the club," he says. "What's she like? Anyone I know?"

I tell him I met her online. I say she has a nice little body, blue eyes, soft brown hair. I tell him her name is Charlene. He wants me to tell him more about it but I act shy.

I say, "I might see her again."

He says, "She have any friends?"

"She's shy," I say.

"You still want to see Lisa this Friday?"

I tell him I'll think about it and he shrugs and says okay.

I see Charlie again during lunch. He's sitting with his friends a few tables away. He's hunched forward and resting his cheek on his hand. He's just kind of looking at the ceiling. Then he looks towards me and our eyes meet and then he looks down at his table. He picks up a fork and stabs at his food.

"What a fucking weirdo," says Brendan, looking at Charlie.

"He's alright," I mumble.

"Yeah," he says. "He is a faggot."

I leave a note in Charlie's locker telling him to meet me in the second floor bathroom during fifth period. I wait in a stall the whole period but he never comes.

I leave another note, write down my number this time, tell him when I get out of practice, ask him when and where. I get a text after practice that says Friday at his place again. I tell Brendan that I can't go with him Friday, that I'm seeing Charlene.

I wonder how much longer I can put up with this lie.


On Friday night, I head over to Charlie's. I tell my parents I'm spending the night at Brendan's. On my way over, I get kind of nervous, like I'm afraid someone might see me going into Charlie's house. I can already imagine what people would say, what rumors they'd spread around.

When I get to Charlie's, it's really quiet. He doesn't have the TV on or any music playing. We go straight to his room, and then we just stand there and look at each other. I can see he's shaking and his cheeks and ears are red. I step forward and kiss him and we just do that for a while. We move to his bed and we lie there and hold each other and kiss. I take his hand and make him feel me and he resists a little. We take a break, just lie there.

I ask him if I'm the first guy he's ever been with and he says, "Kind of."

He met a guy online a few months back. He was older, said he was in college. They were going to meet in person but Charlie chickened out at the last minute.

"I was afraid he would just . . ." He stops and shrugs. "You know," he says, and glances at me.

"I'm sorry," I say.

"I want to try again," he whispers.

"Where's your mom?" I ask.

"At work," he says. "She works the night shift now."

I forgot she's a nurse.

When we were younger, Charlie would spend time at my house after school. My mother made sure we did our homework before we played any games. Charlie always finished his homework before me. I got distracted easily and was a slow reader. I remember one time he helped me with a reading assignment. I was close to tears because he was done with his homework and I had been stuck on the same assignment for a long time, and I kept begging my mom to let us go outside. So Charlie sat right next to me and helped me read it line by line.

Charlie starts kissing me on the neck. It feels good—he feels good. This is getting easier I think.

After a little while, we fall asleep. I wake up in the middle of the night and see Charlie changing out of his clothes in the dark, down to his boxers, and then he gets back in bed. I take off my clothes too then I wrap my arms around him, get comfortable.

I try to fall back asleep but all the good feelings I had are gone and I start to panic.

"I can't do this," I say and sit up.


"What am I doing?" I try to scoot out of the bed.

"What's wrong?" Charlie says. He grabs my arm and looks me in the face. His eyes are dark holes. He says again, "What's wrong?"

I can hear his voice trembling.

"I don't know what I'm doing," I say. "I shouldn't be here."

I feel out of breath. I'm tired.

"You can't leave now," Charlie says. "It's too late."

I nod.

Charlie says my name real quiet and makes me lie back down. He holds me close and I tell him I'm sorry for everything. We start kissing and then we're doing it. But we do it right this time. I'm real slow and gentle. And he doesn't cry. And neither do I. When we're done, Charlie falls asleep. I get dressed and leave because I don't want anyone to see me leaving here in the morning.


Me and Brendan and some other guys from the team are hanging out outside behind the school when I see Charlie walking towards us. I want to will him away with my mind, make him turn around and walk home a different way. When he gets close to us, Brendan coughs "Faggot" under his breath. Charlie stares straight ahead, doesn't look our way. Then Jarred coughs "Faggot," then Nick and Matt do the same. Then they're all following Charlie and coughing "Faggot." I follow but say nothing. Then they're saying "Faggot" out loud, not covering it with a cough, and they're pushing Charlie, but he just keeps walking.

"Fucking faggot," they say.

"Fucking queer," they say.

Jarred grabs Charlie's arm and throws him to the ground. Charlie makes a strangled sound and tries to get up but Nick kicks him in his chin. Then they're all kicking him and stomping on him.

I don't know what to do. I just watch.

Brendan takes Charlie's arm and pulls him up and Matt takes his other arm and they pin him against the wall. Jarred punches him in the chest and Nick punches him in the stomach. Charlie's crying and begging them to stop. Brendan calls him a pussy and says he has a tiny dick. Actually he has a big dick, bigger than mine at least.

Charlie looks at me and cries, "Michael, please!"

I can feel them all looking at me, waiting, probably wondering why he's calling out to me.

Brendan says, "Come on, Mike. You haven't gotten a hit in yet."

Jarred and Nick step aside. I get real close to Charlie and we look into each other's eyes for a long time and I can hear everyone breathing and I can smell everyone's sweat. Then I step back, pull up a fist, look at the wall so Charlie is just a blur, a featureless face, no one I know, not my friend.