When Alex, Justin and Sarah walked into the reception area for Dr David Boyland, there was another boy sat there with whom Alex assumed was his mother. He recognised him as one of a set of twins that he had seen around school. They took seats on the opposite side of the room to the other family. They had sat there for five minutes before the receptionist came back to her desk. Alex went up to let her know he had arrived for his appointment then sat back down next to Sarah. Dr Boyland came out bang on 12 o'clock.
"Well I'll see you next week Lucas. Alex do you want to come in?"
Alex got up and passed Lucas on the way into the room, they both looked at each other and a hint of recognition appeared in Lucas's eyes and his shoulders tensed up. David noticed the change in Lucas and guessed that the boys at least knew of each other. He wondered, knowing what both were going through, whether it may do them good to try and get them to talk together. He just had to think of a way he could do it without them both getting spooked. After he closed the door he went to sit down and found Alex in the same chair as the previous appointment; he wondered if there had been any progress for Alex.
"Well Alex, I am glad you came back."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Well, you are only seeing me on a voluntary basis, you might have decided that you didn't want to come back today."
"I was led to believe that you could help me understand myself well enough to be able to stop cutting myself. I don't want to keep cutting up."
"Well we can certainly give it a go. Why don't you start by telling me about the first time you cut yourself on purpose. Can you remember when that was?"
"I should tell it properly so it makes more sense then. I was thirteen when I suspected I was different from the other boys in school. I have always been a loner in school, so I didn't have a best friend who I could talk to about things and well, kids just don't talk about things to their parents, right?"
"Well I heard the other boys talking about what girls they fancied and who they wanted to ask out, it never seemed to interest me. Then one day I was in the changing room after we had been swimming and I noticed some of the boys that were getting changed. I suddenly realised that whilst there wasn't any girls I was attracted to, there were some boys who I was. At that point I didn't know that being attracted to someone of the same sex was called being gay or that to some people it was wrong, but I instinctively knew that I shouldn't go shouting it from the rooftops."
"On this one Sunday, a few weeks after my discovery, my parents took my brother and me to church. The vicar decided that it was time to remind people of the sins of homosexuality. It was just after the incidents in the park where the police had arrested a few men for having sex in public. Do you remember it? It was all over the news at the time."
"I remember something about it; but go on."
"Well that was when I found out that according to the Bible I was going to burn in Hell for eternity because I fancied boys and not girls. That was when I knew I had to try and force myself to change. I didn't know how I was going to go about it at that point."
"I started to get really depressed. I am not sure if my parents noticed or cared. One day I was out walking thinking about how I was going to stop fancying boys when I fell and cut my arm, it turned out to be a nasty cut and it really hurt. Later that night when I thought about what had happened, I realised that the pain had stopped me thinking about being gay. I had read about a man called Pavlov who had developed or discovered a means to induce a conditioned response to certain stimuli. I thought that pain would be a particularly good way to condition myself against being gay and so set out to find a way I could achieve this."
"I wasn't old enough at that point to need to shave, but my father kept a small supply of disposable razors in the bathroom. I took one out of the bathroom and went back to my bedroom. I waited until I knew I wouldn't be bothered and I tried to cut my arm using the razor. I guess you can work out that didn't work. I discovered that whilst there was a razor blade in there, it was designed not to cut into skin; but then I thought that if I got the blade out it should work. I got a scissors and started to break the case of the razor apart. It was only a few minutes of cutting and breaking before I managed to free the blade from its case. With my task completed I had my blade. I took the blade in my fingers and drew it across my arm. The pain I felt that first time is something I don't think I will ever forget. You are the only person I have explained all of this to."
"I feel privileged that you have. Can you tell me what happened next?"
"The memory of that first cut sustained me for a few weeks, but like most things it eventually faded. The pain from the second cut lasted for a while but didn't last as long as the first. The third was shorter again until eventually I found I was cutting every day. I found that it was better to cut my arms in the evening before I went to bed, that way they had a few hours to heal up a bit while I slept. Over time I found a mail order catalogue that showed men in underwear and swimwear, I started to use it as a form of porn. When I started to get aroused I would cut my arm."
"So what was different last week?"
"Last week was something else. What I am going to tell you now is another thing that I have not confided in anyone else. You see, whilst I tried to deny to myself that I was gay, there were a few boys in school who suspected. For years, even before I was aware of it, they bullied me. I got called all sorts of names, like queer, fag, bender and backdoor jockey. Last Monday the gang of boys who had been the most vocal stepped up their tactics and did something I thought I would never suffer. I went in the boys toilets during the morning break when they came in behind me. They started with the names like normal. I was used to it and ignored them, but then they grabbed hold of me before I could get into one of the cubicles and close the door. When they had a good hold on me, they got me into one of the cubicles and forced my head into the toilet bowl and pulled the chain. My head was soaked and for a few moments I couldn't breathe."
"As soon as the flush was finished they let me go and left me alone. I pushed the door to the stall closed and fell onto the floor in tears. I didn't know what I had done to anyone to deserve what had just happened. I ended up staying there through the next period. I eventually got up and used the hand driers to try and dry myself off. When I got to my next period someone told me that the teacher from the previous lesson wanted to see me. I ended up getting detention for not showing up to her lesson. The incident in the bathroom went around the school and I was subjected to a whole new level of abuse. All done behind the teacher's backs. I know what you are going to ask next, why didn't I go and report them?"
"That's easy again. Here is how it works, I get bullied, I report said person for being a bully, they get called to the office where they are told to stop being a bad boy and sent on their merry way. They come back and do it twice as much. Some teachers are less inclined to get involved when the bullying involves certain people; people who are perceived to be gay. It is irrelevant whether that person is or is not. So now you can see why there was no point reporting the incident."
"So anyway, I was glad to get to detention, it meant that the main bullies were gone. When I got home my father started having a go at me about why I was late home from school. I couldn't tell him it was because I had detention or about the incident in the toilets. I made up some bogus excuse about having to do some studying in the library. I am sure he didn't buy it because he wouldn't let it go all through dinner that evening. By the time I went to bed that night I was worn out with worrying about what had happened that day and from stressing about what could happen the next day. I just hoped it wouldn't be too bad especially with it being my birthday."
"So what happened on your birthday?"
"That was the worst and best birthday I have ever had."
"For as long as I can remember my birthdays have never been like everyone else's, for me they've never been any different than any other day, and with the stuff that had gone on in school I woke up feeling really depressed; so I reached for my cutting kit. Somehow my hand slipped and the blade went deeper than I've ever gone before. I was mesmerised by the blood flowing out of my arm and didn't hear my brother come in. He screamed when he saw the blood and my parents came running into the room. A quick trip to the hospital and I'm back home, only now I know I'm going to have to deal with the questions about what I was doing with a blade in the bedroom." The tears in Alex's eyes were trying to break free.
"Only that didn't happen. When we got home my father and brother went straight upstairs. When my father came back down he threw the catalogue at me wanting to know what I had it for. My mind was fuzzy from earlier and I just broke down in tears. I always wondered if he might have suspected that I was gay but I guess when he saw that catalogue he knew. He threw me out of the house and told me never to come back." The tears were flowing freely now and Alex had started to shake a little as well.
"Ok Alex, I think we have gone over enough today, I am sorry you had to go over all of that but it allows me to understand you and why you did those things. It also tells me how best to move forward from here. Now next week, assuming you are going to come back, I want to talk about what has happened since you left your parents' house and then we will get down to helping you out. Is that ok with you?"
"Well I know that next week you go back to school, what I want you to do for me is talk to Sarah and Justin about what has been happening there, I am not saying they can do a lot to help you but they may be able to do something. As to your next appointment, I don't want you to miss school because I know you have your exams coming up. Do you normally get up earlyish on Saturdays? I am only asking because when I was your age, the earliest I got up on weekends was around noon."
"I normally get up around eightish."
"Good, what if I say I'll see you at ten on Saturday week then?"
"Wait, what do you mean Saturday week?"
"I mean not Saturday this week but Saturday next week, sorry I forget sometimes people are not familiar with some of my sayings. So I'll see you then, is that ok with you?"
"Yeah, I guess." With that David led Alex back to the reception area where Justin and Sarah were waiting.
When Alex walked into the reception, Justin looked up from his book and noticed Alex had been crying, he wanted to hug him to take away the pain but knew it would only make him feel worse. All three went to the cafe for their lunch in silence. Justin was nervous about why Alex appeared so upset but didn't want to make him talk about it until he was ready.
"David thinks it is a good idea for me to talk to you all about stuff that's been going on at school. I'd rather do it after we've had dinner tonight that way I can tell you all at the same time. But right now I'd rather not have to talk about it."
"If that's what you want, we can wait. Just know we are here for you." said Sarah.
Justin hoped it was something he could help Alex with. The chit chat around the table during lunch was subdued because Alex's mind was still in David's office.
When they went back to the house the boys went up to Justin's room. Alex tried to concentrate on the History past paper. Before Justin sat down with the Geography paper Alex had answered that morning, he dug out his old school stuff to find the answer sheets he had gotten last year. While he sat on the bed marking the answers, all the time his mind was trying to think of possibilities for what had been bothering Alex. The trouble was because he had no basis to start from, some of the things he imagined turned out to be a little far-fetched, although he did think it was more likely to be some sort of bullying. The trouble was, some of the teachers seemed oblivious to it, the Headmistress was the worst, she point blank refused to accept that there was any bullying in her school.
When Justin had finished marking the paper, he highlighted the areas Alex would need to concentrate on with his revision and then went downstairs leaving Alex to work on his own. His mother was in the kitchen making tea when he walked in.
"Hey mom. I've been thinking about what Alex wants to talk to us, and I think we might have a problem."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, the only thing I could really think of that made sense was that Alex has been or is being bullied. The problem is that as far as a lot of the teachers are concerned and the Head in particular, there is no bullying going on in the school."
"I can see that we might have a problem with that. How about we wait and see what it is he wants to tell us. It might be something entirely different. It's pointless trying to solve a problem when we don't know what it is."
"You're right, it's just I don't want him to start cutting again. I can't imagine the type of pressures he felt under that led him to do it in the first place, I know he has explained it, I just can't get my head around harming yourself. I want to say it's nuts, but I know Alex isn't nuts. Do you understand what I mean?"
"I know what you are saying, but I think that unless you were in Alex's position it will always be difficult to understand why he chose to do what he did. You have been lucky in so many ways; you were born to parents who were open minded and we have never had to worry about money, which has allowed you to grow up without having to go without. I am just glad you have turned out the way you did. Not everyone in your position would have."
"I guess you're right."
"Another thing, Alex is finishing his GCSE's in a couple of months, once they are out of the way, if it is bullying, we could always look at changing schools for him."
"Yeah I suppose."
"So how are you getting on with school?"
"Not so well, I don't know why but I can't seem to get into my subjects this year. If Alex is gonna change schools, it might be a good idea for me to move with him and repeat this year. I know it's probably not one of the best ideas I've ever had, but if I don't repeat the year, I'm likely to have to do resits for the end of year exams and that will eat into the time I'm supposed to be working on stuff for next year."
"Why haven't you said anything before now?"
"I suppose I thought I would be able to pull it around, but thinking about it, I don't think I'm going to be able to. Some of the things we were doing just before Easter felt like the teachers were talking a foreign language."
"Well let's see what Alex has to say tonight and then we can go from there."
"Ok. What are we having for dinner tonight?"
"I thought we could have lasagne, I was just about to start making it if you want to help."
While Justin was helping his mother, Alex had stopped working on the exam paper. He was thinking about the bullying, about how bad he felt on both the day before and the morning of his birthday. Thinking of the events was enough to stir the need to cut up, he went down to the bathroom in his bedroom. He sat down on the toilet after picking up the scissors from the medicine cabinet. The scissors weren't very large but they were sharp; sharp enough to cut his arm. Alex sat on the toilet for a while staring at his arm with the scissors in his hand. The desire to cut his arm was stronger than it had been since his birthday. Alex was concentrating so hard on the desire to cut that he lost track of everything going on around him. He moved the scissors so that the edge rested on his arm.
All right guys and girls, I know I left it on a scissor's edge but I don't do this to you very often. I hope you can all hang on for the next chapter.
Once again I want to thank you for reading. You can contact me by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org