The first time someone called me a “faggot” I didn’t hear it at all. That’s because my head was being slammed against a locker, the syllables crashing together like cymbals in my ear.
When I arrived at this new private school in seventh grade, after my mom got a job teaching, I hoped Fred and I might be friends. We were both faculty brats, and the school catered to elite students from wealthy families.
But our similarities ended there. Fred was tall for an eighth grader, and he was clear-skinned and golden, with hair so light it seemed more than blond. I was short, stocky and pale. He wore clothing emblazoned with Hilfiger and Klein. I was perpetually clothed in hand-me-downs. People whispered that he smoked pot and felt up girls after school. I had changed schools so often I’d forgotten how to make friends.
Something about my incompetence made Fred furious. In the locker room after lacrosse, he would snap at my ankles with his stick until they turned bright red. One day during practice, he dropped any pretense of chasing after the grounded ball and simply rammed into me with all his force. My helmet disappeared; my sweaty gloves flopped on the ground.