Thirteen, by Cameron Colwell

Cameron Colwell is a writer, critic, and poet from Sydney, Australia. He has appeared on a panel at National Young Writers Festival, has had work published in The Writer’s Quarterly, Writers Bloc, Heaps Gay and The Star Observer, and was the 2013 winner of the Mavis Thorpe Clark award for a collection of short stories. His Twitter is @cameron___c and his work can be found at neonslicked.wordpress.com.

This story first appeared in Issue Sixteen of Tincture Journal. If you like this story, please consider buying a copy or subscribing.

I wander all these forums, these days. All these chat rooms for teenagers. I don’t know why, I just like finding these people talking about all these grown-up problems. All these kids older than me talking about their boyfriends, or their eating disorders, or make-up. Sometimes I pretend to be other people—girls, emos, university students—for a night, and talk on these chat rooms. I really get into it; after a while I forget I’m me. One time I’m just cruising, just going over things without really paying attention, and I find this picture.

Two boys kissing. Both in shorts, both skinny American boys with big brown fringes. They’ve got rainbow armbands on their wrists, and t-shirt tans. Just faggots, just poofters, just fudgepackers.

It takes me about five minutes to close the window. Later, I keep coming back to it. I want it so bad it blocks out everything else—even shame.

§

Dad’s car rolls into the parking lot at around eleven. By now I’m sweaty and my book’s abandoned in the pocket of the passenger seat. My mouth tastes like Frozen Coke residue. Out the window there’s another family, all looking struck while they walk to the McDonald’s in their summertime clothes. They seem like zombies, directionless and dazed and murmuring to one another. “Alright, get out,” Dad says. The car locks shunt down in unison. On the other side of the back seat, Connor blinks, returning back to Earth, not from sleep but from a daydream.

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