An (Un)Masked Day of Silence
Today – April 19, 2013, GLSEN sponsored a Day of Silence to bring attention to bullying among LGBTQ kids. In an effort to help GLSEN raise awareness Dreamspinner Press encouraged it’s authors to write short ficlets using characters from their books participating in the Day of Silence. Anyta and I submitted one for our book (Un)masked. In addition, Dreamspinner Press is donating 20% of all sales today to GLSEN. So if you have a notion to buy any of my books or any others offered by Dreamspinner Press – today is a great day to do it as you will be helping GLSEN and its efforts to end bullying of LGBTQ teens.
“I think we should do it.” I handed the paper to Lethe, wondering if my boyfriend would think I was crazy.
Lethe read the page, looking up once, then set it on the table. “Not that I’m saying no, but why the sudden interest? I mean this is something that’s much bigger in the United States.”
“So does that make it any less right?” I knew how bad it sounded to answer a question with one of my own. “Sorry, I don’t mean to be defensive. I…I saw it and I just felt that I should do it, even if it’s not something ‘we’ do here.”
Lethe’s lips quirked into the mischievous smirk I found so cute. “That’s really…I want to say sweet, but that sound condescending. I’ve always watched out for myself so I never had time to worry about others.”
“Right, me neither, but Gristle did.” I pinched the bridge of my nose when I felt myself close to tears. “Gristle always stuck up for those who got picked on. I want…need to do this. For him.”
Lethe leaned closer and kissed my cheek. “You don’t need to explain anymore. Of course I’ll do it with you, Jay. What did you have in mind?”
The weather cooperated and Oriental Parade was busier than usual for a Friday afternoon. I held a sign Lethe and I had made that read: “Day of Silence to End Bullying.” I tried to restrain a smile as I watched the crowd gather around Lethe and his accordion. More than a few tossed coins in the box after reading the information sheet that I gave out.
Lethe’s music had an extra edge today. As with everything he did, Lethe poured himself into the day, and it showed. I could hear some of the sadness that I felt whenever I thought about those who suffered with no one to turn to for help. Like my Lethe had in his own way.
“Um, hey, what’s this about?”
I looked up to find a young woman standing in front of me. She had auburn hair and a smattering of freckles on her nose.
I held up my placard and gave a handout to her. From the corner of my eye, I saw Lethe watching us. The woman accepted the sheet and then looked at me for a long moment, frowning slightly as she took in my face and the greenstone around my neck. She looked like she was trying to place me from somewhere. She shook her head and read the sheet.
“My name is Jayden Walker. My boyfriend and I are observing a day of silence to draw attention to all the gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered youth who are bullied everyday just for who they are. They suffer in silence because they have no one to talk to who will understand. Suicide among GLBT youth is many times higher than among their peers. Please donate to help those who suffer in silence. . . .”
I waited for her to crumple the paper and throw it at me. When she stood there staring at the paper, I cast a worried glance at Lethe who shrugged but kept playing. Finally she handed me back the sheet and I noticed a tear rolling down her cheek, over her freckles.
Still not speaking, she fished into her jeans and pulled out her wallet. She grabbed a ten dollar bill and dropped it in the box. Another tear appeared and she nodded to Lethe who smiled back at her.
As I watched her, there came a tiny pulse from the greenstone around my neck. What is it, Gristle? I thought, putting down the papers and standing up. The pulse came again. And I knew he wanted me to comfort this girl.
Gently I touched her shoulder. She hiccupped a small half-sob and turned into me, wrapping her arms around my torso. Gristle’s last gift to me grew warmer as it pressed against my chest by the woman’s hug. Slowly, I brought my hands up until I touched the shaking woman’s thin shoulders. The crowd seemed to have grown and they stared intently at me and the young lady sobbing into my shirt.
When she finally gained a measure of control, she pushed back and tried to clear her eyes. Someone produced a few tissues that I accepted and handed to the grateful woman.
“Last year . . . there was this guy. I’d met him a couple of times. I liked him. Really liked him. He stuck up for a couple of my gay classmates at this party we had on campus. They were being bullied, and he was the only one . . . he was the only one brave enough to stop it. I wanted to, but I . . . I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to tell him I was impressed with what he did and, maybe, sort of ask him out. But I never saw him again. . . .” She looked at me and my greenstone once again. “I wish I could have said thank you. And I know I can’t now, but I just”—she sniffed—“I want to thank you two for standing out here and doing this. It’s brave. I think it’s something he would have done too.”
She kissed my cheek and slowly moved through the crowd that parted to let her pass. As the crowd began to donate in earnest, I caught Lethe smiling at me and noted the music sounded just that much happier. Putting my hand on the greenstone, I could almost see Gristle smile and nod his approval. And I wasn’t sure, but I thought I could hear him whisper: Thank you, Danielle. I liked you too.
Note: This was originally published on Harmony Ink Press’s site. (Un)Masked Ficlet