Below is the first chapter of Doorway 54. To purchase, please see here.
Three weeks. Just three more weeks and I will be free. Twenty-one days. About five hundred hours. Around thirty-two thousand minutes. One point eight million seconds, give or take.
I should have a plan. I can do a plan when I’m free. I say free, by that I mean I’ll probably head off to work some hours in the supermarket, secretly hatching my master plan whilst putting tins of beans on a shelf. Maybe I should start a plan now? Is it so much of a plan or is it just being who I am now but in a different setting? Who knows. At least I’ll be earning more money I guess.
“Joseph”. My nonsensical train of thought is interrupted.
”Joseph Eaton, are you listening to me?”
I can’t lie. I’m not listening. I haven’t really been listening for the best part of a month to be honest with you. I am currently sat on a grey sofa in the school library. It’s not at all comfortable and it has definitely seen better days. The foam on the cushions is slowly disappearing where it has been picked at by other bored students over the years. It was probably placed here when this particular teacher was a student here at Greenwood Academy. Dwindling budgets mean that it will probably be here by the time that I reach her age. She always ALWAYS goes on about how she was more alert and engaged “when she was a student at this school”. The ‘she’ I am referring to here is Miss Moxley. It’s a strange name that makes her sound like she should be about sixty years old with her hair in a bun, but in reality, she can’t be much older than twenty-five. Her short dark bobbed hair frames her mouse-like face, which is complimented (Wait. Complimented is definitely the wrong word – What is the opposite??), her face is paired with a set of round red-rimmed glasses. They make her look a bit more evil than she actually is. Miss Moxley is quite laid back as far as teachers here at Greenwood go. This doesn’t make this situation much easier for either of us though. Younger teachers are regularly seen as easy targets by some of the more unruly students. She knows that I’m not listening to her. It’s the second time today she has broken one of my trances.
“Sorry miss” I mumble.
“I know it’s a Monday morning Joseph, but you still need to listen”
She carries on with her talk and once again my thoughts slowly drift to the very near future. It is a Monday, and the first ‘lesson’ of each week is always dedicated to ‘Tutor Time’. We are ‘officially’ on study leave at the moment. I use inverted commas here because we were told that this hourly period per week was to remain mandatory. The blame for this lies in the hands of those in the year above us at this school. During study leave last year a group of kids got involved in a drinking game in the town centre that got out of hand, and somehow ended up with arson. No one knows exactly how it happened, but it ended with the local coffee shed on fire. As a result, students are now forced to attend these sessions, and sign in to ensure attendance, every single bloody week.
Tutor Time used to be interesting, and we learnt the very basics of politics, sign language, nutrition and a variety of other things during these sessions over the last two years. These lessons used to be quite good fun as they provided things that would be useful in future life. Now though we are into our GCSE’s, which continue next Monday. All of tutor time is therefore dedicated to things that will apparently help us succeed in life. That is how it is sold to us, but sadly they aren’t very useful to me. One of the things that sets me apart from ninety-five per cent of the people in this room is that I have no interest in going to university. None at all. I’m not sure why it is exactly that I don’t wish to go, but it’s never been something that I have been keen on. Today the topic is filling in UCAS forms, and how students can do extra-curricular activities to really make them stand out when they apply in about eighteen months’ time. There is a lot of talk about the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, about how we can volunteer at charity shops throughout Sixth Form, or help with local community groups and that kind of thing. As mentioned, I won’t need to bolster my UCAS application because I won’t have one that needs submitting. The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme sounds awful enough. I don’t enjoy sitting in this library with many of these people, let alone having to go through the endless task of putting up a tent in the rain whilst trapped on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales with them. Volunteering at a charity shop sounds dull, although I bet there are some fabulous grey-haired women there who could bore me to death. Community groups? Why would I want to be involved in the community when the community subconsciously tries to reject me at every opportunity? You will never catch me running a community project.
Why do I dislike these people so much? Well, they have never really wanted to engage with me in all honesty. I don’t really fit in with most of them and I think the fact that I am gay means that some subconsciously distance themselves from me. My school friends know about my sexuality, despite me not actually going through any official coming out parade. In fact, I have never even confirmed it, but everyone has great delight in telling me how obvious I make it. Why do people feel the need to tell you how obvious you are? Some of the girls seem to use it as a way to become my friend as if I am a big glittery unicorn shaped accessory to add to their outfit. This is just as frustrating as those who go out of their way to bully me. The ones who call me a ‘faggot’ or ‘gay boy’ in the long white corridors. Being the token ‘gay friend’ and being the ‘token queer’ are both just as offensive to me. I just want to crack on with my own life to be honest. To most in this school, the abuse comes because they only think of the sexual acts involved, rather than the fact that gay people go through all the same emotions as straight people. Honestly, I don’t know why homophobes are so obsessed with talking about it. It’s not as if sex is the pot of gold at the end of the LGBT rainbow. Anyway, I know that in three weeks I will not be required to see these people ever again if I so wish. Three weeks. Just three more weeks and I will be free. Twenty-one days. About five hundred hours. Around thirty-two thousand minutes. One point eight million seconds, give or take. I keep repeating this to myself over and over again, much more than you imagine. I am completely done with this school.
The stress of school life has taken its toll on me over the years, and the lack of support has meant that I have also struggled with my mental health. I find family life quite hard sometimes, and it sometimes feels that whatever I do never improves a situation. It’s quite hard to describe. It probably is in part to my sexuality, however my parents do not know about that, so I am unable to explain my problems to them. Recently I have made some online friends, mainly in forums that discuss gay things. I’m a bit behind in terms of the internet as my parents have an overly strict policy with using it at home. They have even put restrictions on my phone so I can’t access anything that has been classed as ‘adult content’ by the militant in-built parental lock. These friends tell me that I will know when I am ready to let people know, and the time isn’t right with the parents just yet. I just know that when I tell them things will be very hard for a while. I wish I had a brother or sister who could help support me through it, but I have been cursed as an only child. I know some other only children and they think it’s great that they get all the attention, but I would love a sibling who I could share things with, someone who I would be able to speak to about anything.
Now, I bet by now you have a picture of me in your mind. You have a picture of what I look like, how I sound, what my interests are, that kind of thing. I think you are wrong. Being gay does not mean you are effeminate and camp. I’m not saying that there aren’t effeminate and camp people, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong whatsoever. A lot of my online friends are like that, just as equally that a lot of my online friends talk about Top Gear and rugby. See, being gay does not mean that you dance around in a pink crop top to Britney Spears or Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande. Being gay does not mean getting an erection every time a boy in shorts walks past. Being gay does not mean that you describe everything as fabulous, as a-maz-ing or beautiful whilst flinging your arms around in some grand gesture. Most people assume this is the case as this is how we are portrayed in most mainstream television shows. Gay people are not just your new best friend and someone to gossip with or to help you choose an outfit. We are doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, politicians, business CEO’s, retail workers, Olympians, teachers, physicians, engineers, astronauts, IT consultants, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Being gay means that you are gay. It has no connection to what you listen to, what books you read, which films you watch, which famous people you aspire to, which sport is your favourite, what career you want. Literally no correlation. One common connection is that we have all had our own struggles with being gay. People assume it is easier if you are ‘straight acting’. What a horrible fucking phrase. Each gay person has fought, or is fighting, their own battle, most likely inside of their own mind. And let me tell you this, it isn’t easy. You can’t leave your mind and conscience to one side whilst you take a breather. Your mind, your battle, follows you EVERYWHERE. It’s with me in this library right this second. It’s with me when I’m walking on my own through town past a group of men. It’s with me during Sunday lunch with my family. It will be with me when I hit eighteen and I’m enjoying my first legal pint. It will be with me in the workplace when I do have a career. It’s with you when you wake up sweating at 3am wondering why you were chosen to fight this. Older friends tell me it gets easier and I hope that they are right. The first step for me will be walking out the double doors of Greenwood after my last GCSE and into my future whilst all the ‘fag hags’ and hormonal boys slowly disappear behind the sun that will be reflecting off the glass. This is why I can’t wait. Three weeks. Just three more weeks and I will be free. Twenty-one days. About five hundred hours. Around thirty-two thousand minutes. One point eight million seconds, give or take.
I’ve digressed, sorry. As I was saying, you’re probably wrong about me. Now before I go on I need you to clear your mind. Whatever picture of me you currently have is something I need you to flush out. Breathe in. Breathe out. You don’t know what I look like. You don’t know my interests. You don’t know my height, my weight, my hair colour, my eye colour or anything. You don’t know what this library looks like. You don’t know what my school friends are like, or even any of their names. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget everything.