Senior year here I come! My high school years were coming to an end. It had been a bit of a roller coaster these past 3 years. Tons of homework, changes to my body and my mind, and just trying to fit in. It is a lot to deal with at 17 years old!
Who am I you ask? My name is Andrew. I am a senior at Valley High. At times, I didn’t think I would make it this far. I thought I would be dead by now. I had a tough childhood and was often bullied by my classmates. They made my life a living hell for at least the first 2 years of high school. Then things seemed to calm down, after the fools got kicked out and their bad deeds caught up with them.
I took up weight lifting in my junior year and lo and behold my skinny frame started to fill in. My Dad stopped trying to make me into his clone and my Mom trusted me to do the right thing whenever I was out with friends.
On the recommendation of my childhood friend Shelley, I even took up track and field. I didn’t know how competitive I was! I always liked board games, but this was totally new to me! I won my first meet last January, and here I was now the captain of the relay team going into my senior year.
To the casual outsider, it looked like everything was going right for me. Except for one thing — I was gay. Would my family and friends still love me if they knew? Would I get taunted again, because of who I was during matches?
I told myself I was going to be OK. I just had to take that first step. I was to give a speech to the entire student body during Thanksgiving week. This would be my time — to own who and what I was. I even decided I needed a special outfit for the occasion. I looked online at my family history, and found out that I had some Scottish ancestry. I decided that I would order myself a kilt to wear for the occasion. It looked a bit rock and roll. It was what they call a hybrid, part Utility kilt and part tartan kilt. This was going to be part of my coming out day outfit.
The package arrived and it looked great with my boots and designer shirt. I finished writing up my speech and the weeks flew by, as I was busy with classes and after-school activities. Finally, the day arrived. It was time to give the speech. I dressed in my normal kakhis and school polo in the morning, and changed before I came out to give the speech. As I approached the microphone, there were a few gasps from the crowd, like huh? What is that guy wearing?
Dear fellow students,
It is a great time to be alive! Our teachers have been recognized for their outstanding leadership and our coaches are all come off of past winning seasons. We have given back to the community around us via feeding the homeless and cleaning up neighborhood playgrounds. Senior year has been a time of reflection for me and most of my classmates. I have been struggling with something my whole life. Despite looking to most like I got it made, I really don’t. I have been hiding a part of me, and it is time for me to break free and set the record straight. I am gay! (Again, a few gasps and laughs from the crowd.) But I am not going to hide who I am anymore. It is time for all of us, to be proud of who we are. I am proud to be a golden eagle! I am proud to be a student at Valley High!
The crowd erupted in rapturous applause! The haters were drowned out. I was free. Afterwards, my classmates kept coming up to me and congratulated me on how awesome and inspiring my speech was. The outpouring of love and support was amazing! I even got interviewed by the new editor of the school newspaper — Julio. He was a sexy latin guy who had just transferred from Colorado.
Before you know it Julio and I were dating. He had always loved men in kilts and here I was in the same class with him! It was wild that I could finally live my truth. What I didn’t know was that things were about to get weird for all of us at Valley High.
It all started at the first movie night of the AV Club. They were doing a salute to Leonardo Decaprio and the first movie up was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Julio and I wanted to be there, but I was running late from work (did I mention I worked part time at a book store?). But from what heard, the lights went down in the auditorium, and a fire broke out in the control room.
People started screaming and running from the exits. Someone said they saw someone in a kilt running out the back door.
Luckily everyone got out in time, and there was only minimal damage to the school before the fire department showed up.
The next day rumors started circulating that I had tried to burn the school down. I told them I wasn’t even there as my boss pulled inventory on me that night, and I had to stay at work until 10 PM.
Now Julio had an interesting relationship with his parents. His Dad seemed cool and was a former athlete himself. His Mom, or should I say step-Mom, was another thing. She was always hard on Julio and seemed disappointed/sad when she found out that Julio and I started going out. She came from a strict religious background from what I was told, and that her Dad had died of AIDS.
Months flew by and why wouldn’t they… what with school, work and the track team. Before you know it was time for the big Spring Fling dance. I was able to talk Julio into getting a kilt to match mine for the occasion. The dance went off without a hitch thanks to the efforts of the School Spirit Committee. There were lights, lasers and a fantastic DJ who played all my favorite songs. Too bad the event had to end at 10 PM because it was on school grounds.
So when it was over there was a big group of us just shooting the shit in the parking lot after the event. Lots of seflies and funny pictures; talk of what we were going to do with the rest of the weekend; what was playing at the movies or streaming online.
Next thing we know this car come barreling at us out of nowhere! And the person who was behind the wheel was none other than my ex-girlfriend, Kristin. Did I forget to mention that I dated girls in the past?
I guess she is not taking to the new me like the rest of my classmates. Kirstin seemed cool after we broke it off last summer. She was busy with the cheerleading squad in addition to the School Spirit Committee.
Photos of me and Julio along with a patch of tartan cloth were found burning in a trash can near where Kirstin had parked her car. I reached out to her via text, but she didn’t respond.
Next week at school, I was assigned a big project in history class. I had to write a paper about the Renaissance. My history teacher was Mr. Thomas. I always suspected that he was a closet case. And I wasn’t the only one. He was very attentive to the guys in the class.
Between work, school and track team, there wasn’t much time for me and Julio. But he was busy too, and I knew we would find quality time together soon — There was a 3-day weekend coming up for us. Another day to unwind and let loose.
We were going to go to the Lady GaGa concert in the next town over. Unfortunately, our car broke down, and we had to crash at a cousin’s house that night instead of coming back to town.
We got back to town in the morning, after the car got fixed. What we didn’t expect was that the town was reeling from a brutal murder the night before. Fr. Magnus O’Flannery had been murdered in the confessional of the church. Fr. O’Flannery was one of those colorful characters who always had a story to tell. I remember him showing up at the local Scottish festival in his family tartan.
Back at school, Mr. Thomas was acting weirder than usual. In fact, he disappeared later that week. Someone said they saw him on a travel website buying a ticket to Bermuda.
Things sure had gotten weird the past couple of months. And why did it all seem to start happening after I started wearing kilts? So far I had avoided a school fire and being run-over. Who could have murdered Fr. O’Flannery? and was it connected in any way to Mr. Thomas running off?
Things quieted down for a few weeks. The police still had no clues in the murder. Mr. Thomas had been tracked down in Bermuda with one of the locals there. Seems he had made a love connection online and he went to be with them.
Graduation was right around the corner. I was almost done with high school. My parents were going to rent a limo for me that day, and Julio and some other friends were going to go with us in it. When we went to Julio’s house, his Mom said he wasn’t ready yet, and that we would have to go on without him.
WTF? How could he be late for his own graduation? We had coordinating kilts picked out for the occasion. And he usually texted me “good morning handsome” every day too. But today, I just got a text saying he didn’t sleep well. Something just didn’t seem right.
On the way to the graduation, Detective Sanders called and wanted to talk. He said he was closing in on the murderer, but had a few questions for me. Seriously, could I have any more drama in one day? I told the detective I had a few minutes to talk just before the ceremony (but he would have to make it quick).
Well, the time came for the ceremony to start and still no Julio. Things were definitely not right. The names started being called and I was still hoping he would show up. But then, I saw someone that shouldn’t have been there. It was Julio’s Mom! Why was she here? And where was Julio?
I texted my parents to find her in the crowd. She moved around the room, trying to avoid being seen. But I knew what I saw — she was here somewhere. The principal was getting close to my name … Andrew Taylor. I walked up on the platform, and and waved to my parents. As I was shaking the Dean’s hand, a shot rang out, and a bullet grazed my shoulder.
Could the day get any worse? Now I was in a school shooting. Everyone scrambled to get out of the building. And we were happy that there were no more bullets flying. It seems like someone had it out for me. The cops had the idea to check the school cameras and see if they could find any clues.
So far, we had a fire (and someone in a kilt) who ran away. Fr. O’Flannery? No, no way, he wasn’t up to running for a man his age. Then we had my ex almost run us over because she was jealous. And don’t forget the closest case, Mr. Thomas, who ran off to be with his internet boyfriend in Bermuda. His departure was still too close to Fr. O’Flannery’s murder for my taste.
Thank God the school had installed those cameras last year. The shooting itself was not on camera. But they did show who arrived last and who ran out first: Mrs. Lopez, Julio’s Mom. She had just moved to suspect #1.
Paramedics were called and took me to emergency. Meanwhile, my parents followed the cops to confront Mrs. Lopez. Mr. Lopez was out of town on business that weekend. She answered the door and did her best to get rid of the cops. But her story still didn’t add up. Why was she there on her own? Where was Julio? The cops started to look around the property. And in the backyard trash bin was a burned up kilt. And then they heard muffled screams coming from the back bedroom.
The cops busted the door down, and quickly were able to take Mrs. Lopez down. They got to the back bedroom to find Julio tied up to a chair. They got the gag off of him — “I always knew my step-Mom was nuts!” is all he had to say.
Pretty soon, my phone was blowing up with texts from Julio. Are you OK? I really missed being there with you at the graduation.
Mrs. Lopez was the missing puzzle piece. Seems she couldn’t stand her son being gay, what with what her father did to her. She dressed in drag to set the fire at school. And then she murdered the priest, cause he told her that she should move on and accept her son as is. She was there to kill me, as a way of showing her son that being gay is not a happy life. And that it always ends tragically.
Boy, was she wrong! My life was not tragic. I was full of life, excited for the future. And I was going to go about it being the real me. Armed with optimism, talent and a few kilts, I was ready to face my future. Now let’s hope college is not so dramatic!
KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.