Chapter 2 – The Incident.
“Hold up!” I called out. No reaction, so then at the top of my voice, “John boy, John boy, wait up!” He stopped, turned around and waited for me to catch him up.
I trotted down the road after him, “Hey, John boy, how’s it going?”
“OK,” he replied. “I’m about 95% fit, so I should be alright for the match this afternoon, that is so long as you and the rest of the guys take it easy.”
We walked on down the road together, side by side.
I loved Friday’s, not just because it’s the start of the weekend, but because most of the afternoon was given over to sports. On the the downside, we had double maths in the morning, but just one period of economics after lunch, then sports.
We arrived at the school entrance and crossed the car park together.
“Well I’ll see you this afternoon then… for the match,” I said.
“Yeah, later Alex… don’t work too hard!” John boy smiled and walked off towards the science lab.
We were in the rugby team together, but not in the same class. John boy was captain, since the start of the season and this afternoon was the training match before the semi-final next week. Yep, we were not doing badly this year.
The morning dragged by slowly like usual. When you’re looking forward to something it’s always like that. I couldn’t wait to escape the classroom. In fact the only thing that cheered me up all morning was seeing Matty during break, but that was short lived, because at school he hung out with his own friends, he was a year below me.
I sat in class half listening to what Mr Adams, the maths teacher was saying, and half thinking about Matty and his revelation, wondering about us, wondering what would happen. I snapped out of this semi-consciousness when the bell sounded for the end of period and lunch break. Suddenly, there was a clutter of noise, books banging against the little wooden desks, the scrapping of chairs against the floor as everyone stood up and packed away their stuff exiting out into the corridor in one mad rush to escape.
I was not really a mad keen rugby player, but I gave my best effort to the team. It was my speed that was my asset, I guess that came from my kind of slim build and long legs. I used to wonder when growing up whether it was normal to have the bottom half of your body bigger than the top. I was not one of the heavy weight jocks in the scrum, although we all got on well as a team, even with huge differences physically and I suppose you might say intellectually.
At least I thought we all got on well, until that Friday afternoon when the practice was over. The game had gone well and I was just saying the same to John boy. Almost everyone in the team had a nick name, which is why I always called John, John boy, when his real name was John Richter. John boy said he needed to talk to the coach and he’d catch me up after.
I went to take a shower and get changed, I preferred to hang back on taking a shower until nearly everyone had finished. Not at all because of embarrassment at being naked with loads of other guys, but out of fear I’d get a hard on and that really would be embarrassing. I would purposely avoid looking at the other guys, both anyone left in the showers and in the changing rooms where guys were drying themselves off.
I heard raised voices even before entering the changing rooms, whatever was going on it was loud and sounded aggressive. Something was up, I thought to myself. There was no one in the changing area, the two double rows of low wooden benches were empty, clothes and sports gear were scattered about.
“Fuck you, arsehole!” I heard someone shout. I thought it was Ryan, but I wasn’t certain.
“Perve!” That was Stewpot, Stewart Evans, the second row forward.
“Queer boy!” Bulldog chipped in. He was the scrum half, Brandon Mc Cauley.
I raced past the benches and was standing in the entrance to the showers. Half way down the white tiled corridor a group had Ryan surrounded. Well it must have been Ryan, I couldn’t see him, but I knew his voice.
“You’re all crazy fucking half wits!” Ryan’s voice had a slight quivering in it, but was strong.
What should I do? Thoughts raced through my head one after another like express trains shooting through the station without stopping.
Bulldog, Stewpot, James and Enzo had Ryan surrounded and were prodding and pushing him. I walked along the steamy showers to where the group was gathered, but before I could react, John boy appeared from the other end, he must not have been far behind me to get there so fast.
“What the fuck are you guys doing?” He pushed aside Bulldog and Stewpot, the other two stepped back in the wake of John boy’s near explosive entry.
“I don’t know what your problem is with Ryan,” he said. “But listen…” He paused, looked from Bulldog, to Stewpot, to James and finally, Enzo. “If there is one… yes, one thing, I will never ever tolerate, it’s bullying… picking on someone for whatever reason.”
I’d never seen John boy so wound up and I’ve known him a long time, we went through school together.
“I don’t care if someone is gay, straight, brown or yellow, Muslim or Jew… I don’t care what your problem is… but if you ever, ever, do anything like this again… your out!”
That last word he emphasised in no uncertain terms, paused, took a breath. I really think he was calling up every last bit of self restraint to stop himself lashing out.
“Out,” he shouted the word, spat it in their faces. “Out of the team, out of the school.”
A deep silence descended, all anyone could hear was the water draining slowly away and the faint dripping from one of the shower heads. The silence was as thick as the steam that was now seeping away.
“Now get out, get dressed… and go.”
The four of them left, didn’t speak, didn’t say a word, but crept out and faded away, disappearing like the steam from the showers.
“You OK Ryan?” John boy asked.
“Yes boss, they’re idiots” Ryan looked to be getting back to his normal self.
“Good… and yes they are, don’t let them get to you, if anything else happens with them, tell me, I’ll deal with it… alright?” John boy was facing Ryan and he gave him a nice smile.
Then he moved close to me and said quietly, “Have a chat with him Alex, find out what’s going on.”
“OK,” he spoke out louder. “I’ve got to get cleaned up and out of here.”
I looked at Ryan and said, “Will you wait for me Ryan, we need to talk?”
I don’t think looking at his reaction that he was too enthusiastic, but he nodded, which I took to be a yes. Then it was just me and John boy in the showers and as the dirt flowed away with the last of the hot water so my thoughts started to stack up, one on top of the other.
Were those guys really saying Ryan was gay? Why? What happened? Was he gay? Now what you have to realise is that Ryan was good looking, no I mean really good looking, he was beautiful, a Greek god. The words from that song by Robbie Williams just came into my head.
‘ Caught a plane and flew away.
And all the best women are married.
All the handsome men are gay.’
I followed John boy out of the showers into the changing rooms, Ryan was still there. Good I thought, I’ll get a chance to find out.
John and I got dressed quickly, picked up our stuff and the three of us walked out. Just as we were leaving coach came in. I wondered if John boy would say anything, but coach, Mr Mathews, spoke first.
“See ya guys… enjoy your weekend,” he said.
“Thanks coach, you too,” John boy replied.
“Yeah, bye coach,” I chipped in. Ryan didn’t speak, he maintained his silence right across the playing fields up to the gates.
It was John boy who broke the silence, stopping at the gates. “Doing anything special over the weekend, Alex?”
I think he was trying to lighten the atmosphere a bit.
“No, not really,” I replied. “My uncle and his family are coming over on Sunday, I hate family get togethers.”
“Well, I’m off this way,” John boy said, indicating the opposite direction to us. “See you Monday, I guess”
“Yes, see you on Monday,” I answered.
“Bye.” Ryan spoke for the first time. We turned and started off down the street towards the bus stop, but it was a fair old walk. Time enough to question Ryan I thought.