Totally Insufferable Acts of Rebellion

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2016

I hated everything.

I was the biggest 17-year-old fuck up this side of Earth, and it was everyone's fault but mine. Honestly, it was mainly my parents' faults—for locking me up in a Christian school. Being in a Christian school wasn't bad, everyone was nice, but I was super gay, and everyone was so nice they couldn't stop reminding me my sinful ways might land my immortal soul in hell. So, after several failed attempts at achieving straightness, I tried killing myself.

The whole thing was kind of production, really.

Mom had the church-fundraiser ladies over for their annual Spring luncheon, and I was upstairs, tying a noose in my closet. The way I figured, I'd climb on the stool, jump, and the noose—it was actually an electrical cable I found in the garage—would snap my neck. I could've never guessed when I jumped and hit the carpet, the wooden joists supporting the floor, water damaged from a leak in my bathroom, would give way and send me crashing down into the living room, where I'd smash through mom's favorite coffee table to a chorus of screaming women. I survived the whole thing with one broken leg, two pissed off parents, and three months of therapy.

Part of therapy was going to this awkward support group where would-be teen suiciders were forced to talk to each other. I don't know who thought putting a bunch of teens who tried killing themselves in a room together was a good idea, but there we were. The group leader, Kevin (there's always a Kevin), was a 22-year-old youth pastor at his church, and he was getting his master's degree in psychology. At 22, a lifetime of wearing ball caps had left a thinning patch of hair on the back of his head. Sometimes, you could catch him standing in the mirror, craning his neck and struggling to glimpse how bald he'd gotten.

We met in an inclement weather building in the parking lot of a huge Southern Baptist megachurch, the kind that has a coffee shop and a bookstore and a gift shop inside. Aside from a thrown-together stage they probably used for awkward teen renditions of Passion of the Christ, the building was a big aluminum box with rows and rows of metal chairs stacked against one side of the enclosure. Kevin had us each grab a chair and form a circle in front of the stage.

Kevin sat at the edge of the stage, held his hand out toward me, and said, "Alright, everyone, so let's put the new guy on the spot first. Care to introduce yourself?"

No. I stood up and looked around, fielding all manner of disinterested looks. "My name's Austin."

"What grade are you in, Austin?"

"I'm a junior."

"Do you have any hobbies, anything interesting you want to tell us about yourself?"

I played football for a long time until I got depressed about being gay and quit the team. "Not really."

"It's okay. You'll probably open up as you get to know everyone."

Doubt it. I smiled and nodded and sat back down when he gave me the go-ahead.

"Okay, everyone, I'd like you each to introduce yourselves to Austin."

A mousy girl who kept looking at the floor stood up and murmured, "I'm Violet."

"Violet's in the marching band," Kevin added. Violet pulled some hair back behind her ear and half-smiled before sitting back down.

A tall kid with a thrift-store polo and a curly mop of red hair stood up. "My name's Alex. I'm a junior, and I'm in the Latin club." Alex looked like the kind of kid I made fun of to impress my awful friends.

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