On Football Video Games

I never played physical football. The only thing I know about football is that they wear tight clothes. I did pretend to like football once with a high school crush.

On Football Video Games

I walked down the steps, through the den, and into Jack’s bedroom behind him. He offered me a corner to put my backpack.

“So, this is it,” Jack said. His bed was on the left side of the room. There were folded clothes next to his pillows. Above his bed had an Evanescence and a Lacuna Coil poster. Rob Zombie was behind the television on his dresser. There was a blue bean bag chair at the foot of his bed. His brother’s bed was bigger and on the right side of the room. His brother’s dresser was against the opposite wall, and he had a larger television.

Jack took off his shirt and sprayed some cologne. “You want anything to drink?” There was a small refrigerator just outside his room. It held an assortment of cheap department store branded sodas. Red cream and strawberry flavors dominated the few cans of grape. There was one diet Coke.

“I’m okay for now,” I said. Jack took a red cream soda and chugged it. His elbow extended and his chest stretched. There was hair under his arms, but no hair on his chest. “You can get comfortable,” he said. He changed into a pair of athletic shorts. His legs were skinny and were as tan as his chest. I brought a pair of sweatpants in my backpack, but I left my jeans and thin black sweater on. I took off my shoes.

He laid out some video games over the blue and white quilt on his bed. He switched on the PlayStation 2 as I checked out his collection. The title screen of Madden 2002 loaded. Footsteps walked across the floor above us. He closed his bedroom door.

“Do you play Madden?” He asked.

“I have before,” I said. It was a lie. He handed me a controller. He sat on the edge of his bed with his legs spread apart. I pulled the bean bag chair away from his bed a ways and sat down in it. I picked the 49ers. He was the Broncos. Plays were presented along the bottom of the screen. I mostly lost yards and failed at blocking Jack. When I meant to sprint, I passed. I preferred playing defense, that way I could look up and over my shoulder more. I scored a touchdown accidentally once. He got down off his bed and grappled me at my shoulders.

“You’re getting it!” He said. I blushed when he touched me. I realized this, so I laughed.

We played Madden all evening until we got tired. The only thing I learned about football that night was that they wore tight clothes.

“You can sleep in my brother’s bed if you want. He won’t be here. Or the couch out in the den. Wherever you want,” Jack said. He went upstairs to the bathroom. His brother’s bed had Guns and Roses and Black Sabbath posters, and their records hung above it. They were all symmetrically separated. The records were placed like bricks in masonry work. When Jack returned, I walked all the way up the stairs to the bathroom to change into my sweatpants. When I got back to his brother’s bed, I took off my sweater. I slept in my white shirt. I knew I was gay.

I’ve been blogging about my childhood and high school a lot lately. I wrote this post about the first time I cooked mac and cheese. I wrote this post about one of the times I came out as gay to a friend.

Have you ever pretended to like something because of a crush?

I don’t think I’ve played a football video game since then. Someone will have to actually teach me how football works one day. Have you ever pretended to like something for a crush?

Comment below! You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

Also, the edits for the paperback of my book, Crushes, are coming along. I promise it’ll be out and available for purchase soon. It’s a short fiction collection.

Selfie me of with my fiction collection Crushes, and coffee.
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Coming Out Over An Evening Phone Call In 2004

Harry, the father of my mom’s boyfriend, sat on the couch smoking a cigarette. The news was on the TV by the air purifier. The phone was in the big chair by the sliding glass door. I answered it.

“Shhh,” I said. I listened for any sounds of other lines being picked up.

“Is it true?” Jay asked. I was glad to hear his voice. I imagined what he looked like now. Maybe he’d started growing some facial hair. Maybe a few chest hairs, too. Was his black hair still short, or had he grown it out a bit? After a while, I answered.

“Yes.”

Harry sighed, lifted his single crutch from the arm rest, and pulled himself up. He walked back through the kitchen and into his bedroom. He shut the door. The oxygen tank groaned.

“Are you sure, though?” Jay asked. His voice cracked a little, going down too low and coming back up too high.

Yes,” I said. I think my voice did the opposite.

“But what about Jenny and Alex? Remember? On the bus?”

“No.” I remembered the bus. “And you liked Alex.”

“Man, this is wild. Does anyone else know?” He was starting to sound anxious.

“Everyone at school.”

“Dang. You have to be careful.”

“I know.”

“Wild, wild, wild. Hold on—”

A muffled voice beside Jay came and went. Jay’s audio stayed muffled. Sounds of swirling and sucking grew from behind Harry’s bedroom door, with a few coughs in-between them. I dragged the phone and the cord over to the couch, turned on the air purifier, and watched the replay of John Kerry conceding. After a few minutes, the smoke cleared.

“Sorry,” Jay said. “Anyway, it’s good to talk to you. When are you gonna come and visit?”

“I can’t drive. My eyes.”

“Oh, shit. Right. Well, when I get my car I’m gonna come and get you. Me, you, Pete. We’ll go to Lexington or something. They have gay bars there.”

“We’re 16.”

“Pete can get us in. No limits, man. Hey, can I ask you one more thing?”

The oxygen turned off. I hurried back to the chair. Harry’s crutch pounded back through the kitchen.

“What?”

His voice stayed steady. “Did you ever, you know, like me or anything?” He breathed into the phone, then quickly breathed in. I thought about the conversation we had with Alex on the bus. I remembered Jay’s big, blue eyes, and I imagined they were sitting in front of me.

Harry stopped at the fridge and pulled out a can of beer.

“No.”

Jay breathed into the phone again.

“You sure? You can tell me.”

I turned my head and looked through the sliding glass door, then back to the hallway behind the kitchen, past Harry. My mom’s bedroom door was closed. I listened for the silence on the phone.

Harry speed-crutched his way back to the couch with his beer in his other hand. After he sat down in his spot, there was a loud pop as he opened the can.

“No.” I said.

“Because we’re like brothers.” He said.

“Right.”

“Right.”

Coming out is hard.

This is a story about coming out. It was one of the times I came out to a friend. Do people still “come out?” If you’re out, how many times have you came out? Do you still find yourself coming out to people, or do you just sort of let people figure it out as an adult? If you’re not an adult, what’s on your mind? If you’re straight, cool. Do you come out? Comment below and let’s discuss. You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

And, for those of you who can’t come out right now due to, well, reasons, that’s okay.

Eric Shay Howard selfie in alleyway in sun
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