Bad Habit: Part One by Andre-Naquian Wheeler

Upon her passing I discovered a powerful quote from Maya Angelou that, after reading it, ended a six-year friendship of mine.

Maya Angelou said (to me personally I like to think, but really it was to Oprah):

“When someone shows you who they are; believe them the first time.”

See, I don’t know when to quit.

Or even how to quit, to be honest.

From biting my nails to procrastinating to drinking coffee all the time, I take sticking to bad habits as seriously as an SAT test. And when people get on to me for one of them, say, falling in love with straight guys, I always respond with:

“I’ll stop. I promise. I’m serious this time.” When really I’m as serious as a drunk couple in Vegas saying “till death do us part”.

How do you consciously stop something you never consciously started? Like a bad friendship.

In high school I took what I could get when it came to friends. I wasn’t in any position to be picky. So I told myself that Cody, who allowed me to hang out with him during theater class, was my best friend because Cody said that I was his best friend. Cody was the kind of kid who bought his teachers loafs of banana bread on teacher appreciation day and was friends with the janitors and lunch ladies and obsessively made sure he was always in compliance with the school’s dress code of tucking in your polo. I was the kid who matched his polos to his shoes every day and walked around saying he was “fierce like Beyonce”. If I tried to talk to Cody in the

hallways in between classes he would always speed walk away from me as he yelled out: “I have to get to class!” I didn’t know that friendships could be such an uneven see-saw.

I couldn’t be picky with who I was friends with because no one wanted to be friends

with the gay kid of Wylie East High School. Even though I never said I was gay until senior year. Regardless, from the ninth grade onwards Wylie East High School was on a witch hunt to get me to confess my homosexuality. The thing is, believe it or not, at the age of thirteen with a tanker truck’s worth of hormones running through my veins, anything could make me horny. I was being told I was gay before I was even sure if I was gay. To this day my love for dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” holds no correlation to my desire to kiss a guy. But Wylie East thought differently when I executed the video’s full choreography at a school dance (to this day I

don’t regret performing the dance because of the subsequent bullying I endured as much as I regret making myself sweat for such an unappreciative crowd). I didn’t want to give any of my bullies the satisfaction of being right. So, it wasn’t until the age of fifteen that I would lay down at night, exhale, and allow my mental wank bank to become exclusively images of guys. And enjoy it.

When people made fun of me for gyrating my hips to Beyonce or for calling myself

fierce or for having sixty pairs of shoes, Cody sat by silently. I resented him for this. Many times it was his friends, who used to be friends of mine, that were attacking me the heaviest. At the beginning of ninth grade Kim, Emily and Caroline had been my closest friends. But that all changed when I told Kimberly’s best friend, Kaitlyn, that Kimberly had been going around saying she thought Kaitlyn was a lesbian. The three girls would group up and follow me down the hallway whispering “ANDRE’S GAY!” It wasn’t as bad as the kids on the bus who threw gatorade bottles at my head and gleeked on me but it hurt the most because the words were coming from the people I had least expected them to.

When yearbooks came out I wrote three passionate paragraphs in Cody’s yearbook on how even though we had had a rocky freshman year I would stay friends with him no matter what. Two periods later in theater class I flipped through Cody’s yearbook to see Kimberly’s handwriting saying “I’m gay” with an arrow pointing up to my signature. I asked Cody why he had let Kim do that. Cody just squirmed in his plastic chair and whined: “I told her it wasn’t nice.” Then I asked him why hadn’t he scratched it out.

“I guess I forgot to.”

So I grabbed his pen and scratched the ugly words out until little bits of the white page were coming off. Just in case he forgot again.But when the shoe was on the other foot I would die happier than an extremist terrorist defending Cody’s honor. One day senior year, Justin Wagenhauser, one of only four out gay guys in our

graduating class of 330, asked me if Cody was gay. I was appalled. “No!” I shouted. “Cody’s not gay. He has a crush on a girl in our theater class!”

Justin tilted his head. “Really? You’ve never even suspected he was?”

“No,” I said resolute. I folded up my arms.“I’m his best friend. If anyone would know it it would be me.” See, I was so confident in Cody’s heterosexuality not only because we were best friends but because of what he had said to me one day the previous year.

I was gushing over a boy in our theater class to Cody. His name was Gavin. He was the first gay crush that I actually allowed myself to consciously say: “I love him.” Even though he sat on my lap three times, Gavin is a devout Christian so even if he is gay he will never say it. When I was telling Cody about how perfect Gavin’s straightened hazelnut hair was, Cody just shook his head and mumbled: “That isn’t right.”

“What isn’t right?” I asked Cody with fake confusion painted on my face. I already knew what he was talking about. I just needed to hear him say the words aloud.

“You talking about Gavin like that,” Cody said as he messed around with his lunch box.

“Who says so?” I asked leading him on.

“God.”

But I didn’t tell this story to Justin, who was sitting on top of my desk cross-legged, looking down at me in disbelief. “Well everyone thinks he is gay,” Justin said to me.

But Cody couldn’t be gay. Because if Cody was gay he would have stood up for me all those times people made fun of me and he would let me talk about how perfect Gavin’s skinny jeans fit him.

And, besides, I had been the one to help Cody step-by-step with building up theconfidence to ask Aubree out. While everyone was rehearsing on stage Cody and me stood at the theater classroom’s whiteboard and brainstormed cute ways he could ask her to prom.

“You could write it on the whiteboard of her first period class,” I suggested. That’s what I would of wanted from Cody.

“Or I could leave her little notes throughout the day and then at the end of the day ask her,” Cody proposed.

I shook my head. I imagined if he did that for me. “That’d be really sweet. But that’d be a lot of work.” The truth is, I was hoping that Cody was asking me all of this to find out the best way to ask me to go to prom with him. I mean I was the one he shared his lunch with everyday. Not Aubree. But the day just ended with me physically pulling Cody up to Aubree and shouting out:

“Cody has something he wants to ask you!” and jetting off to catch the bus.

The closest I came to going to my prom was looking at the Facebook photos of an awkward Cody and Aubree dancing together.