Chapter 6: 'Cuz it's easier than telling the truth
First you protested vociferously, too prideful not to object, at least a little, for appearance's sake. As soon as you said 'yes', though, and realized it didn't trigger overwhelming feelings of guilt and failure, that's when you knew this was the right decision. Then you hugged Dad and Carole and wept without shame for their lost honeymoon and your salvation.
And now you're in limbo, standing just outside the doorway, again uncertain, as you have been for days upon days upon days without end, about what to tell everyone in that choir room. The hall, the bustling students, the clanging bell that signals sixth period is starting – everything seems … fake. It's like McKinley is inside a snow globe and when you shake it all the shadow figures start rushing about, no meaning whatever behind their frenzied activity. You built the snow globe yourself, after waking from a dream about a place you once knew, and filled it with echos of faces you used to recognize and people you felt connected to long ago.
Mr. Schue and the kids are going to realize something's up. You're not crying now and you won't cry again (got that?) but they'll spot the evidence that you recently were. Well... actually, no, they probably won't. Generally speaking, most people move through the world in a self-centered haze, looking but not seeing. It's not indifference to others, per se; sometimes the audience is just too lazy to go backstage after the performance. Or, in your case, the fashion show. Inevitably, people – even your friends – look at your clothes. As well they should, considering how much care you put into each ensemble, and the fabulous figure you cut when not covered with sticky purple syrup. But the distinctive outfits serve another purpose – as a distraction, a shield, deflecting efforts to dig deeper, get more personal, except on your terms. Mercedes, Dad, Blaine, Finn on occasion ...Karofsky in that locker room – it's a very short list, the people who have managed to peek behind the curtain uninvited, to see Kurt Hummel not fully in control.
So adjust your shirt, fix your hair and raise the curtain. The show must go on! But how shall you play this scene? Only bad choices here – stay through Glee practice and tell everyone afterward? Tell them upfront and then stay through Glee practice? Tell them and leave before practice begins? Don't go to Glee practice, send a group text and then throw away your phone? No matter how you package it, losing their most talented member is a punch in the gut New Directions just does not need right before Sectionals. After an eternity of hovering, you decide. You tilt your head up, assuming the characteristic Kurt Hummel devil-may-care attitude (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), and start strutting towards the risers.
Mr. Schue is trying to gain control over the unruly mob known to its fans as Nude Erections (further evidence, if any were needed, that New Directions has no fans). "Come on guys, the wedding was great but we have got to get ready for Sectionals next week."
You quicken your pace to breeze past him. Destination: a seat next to Mercedes. One last time, sit with her and quietly dish about the others. Yeah, one last loving memory of your friends singing and dancing and horsing around, something to hold on to at Conformity High.
"Oh, Kurt, good. I want to talk to you about this amazing idea I had for a solo for you at sectionals."
That stops you in your tracks.
Now, Mr. Schue? Geez, your timing is as atrocious as that sweater you lifted from the Goodwill rejects bin. So many, many times you've dreamed of hearing those exact words from him, pondered just how brightly to beam, how overtly to gloat (while still appearing appropriately modest) in that triumphant moment when you best Rachel and claim the center spotlight you so richly deserve. But now? It just shows you were right after all – either God is a major jerk, or there is no god at all.
The thought of discussing some mythical solo part makes your stomach clench, and you realize that even if you deflect that conversation, you'll never make it through practice without breaking down again. So change of plans. "Can I make an announcement first?"
"Yeah," Mr. Schue says quietly. Something in his tone, his look, is instantly downbeat. Could he possibly know already? No, Kurt, you must be imagining things.
Eleven pairs of unsuspecting eyes give you their undivided attention. Now time slows to a jello pace. An anvil presses on your chest, and for some reason you can hear every noise in the room, no matter how small. Between hardly knowing what to say and the total lack of rehearsal, you very nearly flub your opening lines. But you manage to push the air out roughly, forcing it past your lips because it doesn't want to go.
"F-first, I wanted to thank everyone for what you did at my dad's wedding. Especially Finn," you add sincerely. That bromantic dance truly was the second-most joyous moment of the happiest day of your life, coming in just a hair's breath behind Dad and Carole's robust 'I do's.' "It's nice to know that I have great friends here, as well as a true brother." Okay, that "true brother" bit was somewhat overripe, but you're feeling generous in your misery.
For a moment, a tiny, fleeting moment, you stop. And pause. And hesitate. Y'know, it's not too late to change your mind, Kurt. Stay, wait and see. Things might get better, it's possible. Stay through Sectionals, at least. Dalton – and Blaine – will still be there next week if you need them. Who knows, maybe the expulsion will reign in Karofsky's worst inclinations, and now with the Gleeks watching out for you and Sue Sylvester on alert –
But Finn grins smugly and your heart sinks. Look at him, lapping up your exaggerated praise as if the abuse and the … the other stuff … were definitely over, the danger past, instead of possibly beginning anew, and somehow it was all his doing. You know that he sincerely meant that wedding toast, committed wholeheartedly in that moment to every word when he said "No matter what it costs me, I got your back." But you also know from experience that Finn is a fickle beast – suiting up in red vinyl to protect you one minute, freaked out about your duet with Sam the next. Hiding … somewhere... while everyone else risks a beat-down, then swearing to all and sundry that you've taught him 'what it means to be a man.' Should you open yourself up to more potential disappointment from your mercurial new brother? If he let you down again, if he failed to show up, if he... if he blamed you for 'making a spectacle of yourself'... No, it's too risky. Better, much better to just go, remove yourself from the whole situation, and then there will be no occasion for Finn to disappoint you, no obstacle to being this new fraternal unit 'Furt'. You can go to your grave believing Finn absolutely would have made good on his pledge. If the occasion had presented itself. But you transferred, so it never did, so he didn't have to. Otherwise your brother-from-another-mother would have run to your defense, no question. Without hesitation. Definitely.
You tighten your grip on the straps of your messenger bag, bracing for what must come next. "Which is wh-why it's so hard for me to leave."
The group just gapes at you. Quinn, of all people, speaks up first. "What do you mean leave?"
Funny, that might be the longest sentence she's directed your way since the Glee Club debated theology a few months back and she told you it was blasphemous to compare God to an evil dwarf living on the dark side of the moon. But fair is fair. You've never exactly reached out to her, either. In fact, you've been pushing them all away for weeks, even Tina and Mercedes, coping with the ever-worsening harassment by withdrawing further and further into yourself. Life's a little easier, albeit a little lonelier, that way. Okay, a lot lonelier.
"I'm transferring. To Dalton Academy. Immediately." Dalton will be better, a place with other out and proud kids, where people will accept you, or at least keep their mouths shut and their hands off even if they don't. "My parents are using the money they saved up for their honeymoon to pay for the tuition."
One thing you'll always be grateful to Finn for, and that's bringing Carole into your life. In addition to lighting Dad up like a Broadway marque, she has been so terrific during this whole ordeal. In fact, you wouldn't be surprised if it was her idea to use the honeymoon money for Dalton, because a phenomenally expensive strategic retreat isn't an option that would naturally have occurred to Dad. You make a mental note to find out about that, once the dust settles on all this Karofsky business. In any case, you plan to cook romantic dinners for two and drag Finn out for organic pizza often so your parents (parents, plural!) can have some newlywed time, even if they're not in Waikiki.
As soon as you mention Dalton, the reality of the situation seems to sink in among your friends. Mike shakes his head. Brittany's hands fly to her mouth in shock. "Kurt, you can't leave," Tina insists.
Finn seems indignant as he stalks forward a few steps. "What the hell, dude! How 'bout you talk with me about this first?"
"I'm sorry, Finn, but there's nothing to talk about."
Don't you understand, dude, the wedding is over! That was just about the only thing getting me through the past few weeks. And Figgins the Vampire Slayer will be in charge. And Karofsky will... I sincerely have no idea what he'll do, but even if he never touches me again, what he's already done haunts me nightly. You know, Finn, how in science matter and antimatter can't both occupy the same space at the same time? Think of Karofsky and me as... Never mind, don't strain yourself thinking. I'll just give you the bottom line.
"Karofsky's coming back tomorrow, so that means I won't be."
Karofsky won't be able to touch you at Dalton, but you'll keep his secrets, anyway – the one you both share and the one that is his alone to tell. Not like you feel you owe him anything, that would be absurd. But Karofsky 2.0, the one behind the curtain, the most hidden and vulnerable Karofsky of all, when he kissed you in that locker room, you saw him. Maybe you're the only person in the world who has ever seen him. 2.0 seemed pretty wretched. You'd like to think that once you're gone, 2.0 will be able to clear his head, get some help and come to a better place. And then beat the metaphorical shit out of all the other Dave Karofskys for being such assholes.
"We can protect you."
Um, might want to check your face again, Goldilocks. Your eye's still gross from your last run-in with The Fury.
"Seriously, we can, like, form a perimeter around you, like the Secret Service."
Appreciate the sentiment, Puck, but I'm not willing to be the reason you get sent back to juvie.
Eloquent as always, Finn, but not especially persuasive. Guys, if I may offer a tip for when the next gay kid you befriend gets abused and forced out of school, a little less "don't" and a little more "we understand and support your decision" wouldn't go amiss.
Even if the idea were appealing, which it's not, a Glee Club Praetorian Guard would never work. How could they be with you every minute of every day? Because that's what it would take, you know that now. The danger is always there, even in the crowded hallways, even in the packed lunchroom, because teachers and students alike, McKinley residents look but they don't see. There must be blood and witnesses and constant fear and things will have to get worse before they get better and why the fuck should you and your family have to go through all that crap?
"The only thing that can really protect me is what they have at Dalton – a zero-tolerance no bullying policy. It's enforced," you add for Mr. Schue's benefit, glancing over at him meaningfully to make sure he doesn't miss the headline School Enforces No Bullying Policy.
Zero tolerance, eh? Well bless my stars and garters! What will those crazy Dalton kids think of next? Okay, perhaps you're still just a tad bitter about how the faculty here have failed you so spectacularly. Surprisingly, Mr. Schue just nods sympathetically. In contrast to everyone else, he doesn't seem the least bit surprised, which means he must have known in advance, although you can't fathom how. Unless now-ex-Principal Sue picked up your conversation with Dad and Carole on one of the many covert listening devices she's deployed around the school, and relayed the information to him under a flag of truce. Anyway, it's only right that he should approve. He's an educator (well, only Glee and Spanish, which everyone knows is très inférieur au français, but still) and the whole point of high school is supposed to be academic advancement, at least for those of us aspiring to more than junior college, not learning how to avoid asphyxiation when locked in a port-a-potty.
Education-wise, you won't miss McKinley even slightly. It's a testament to how pathetic this school is that your grades haven't slipped one iota since Karofsky ramped up the abuse, wrecked your sleep, stole your appetite and killed your concentration. You'll probably have to study your adorable butt off to catch up to your new Dalton classmates.
The revelation that there are schools – non-imaginary ones – which don't tolerate petty thuggery stuns everyone else into silence. And then it happens, right on cue. Little Miss Me! Me! Me! has an epiphany. "Does this mean that you're going to be competing against us at Sectionals?"
God, you just want to shove a sock into her mouth! Or maybe just sock her. Yes, Rachel, that was my first thought, too. How does this impact you? That and how cool will it be to kick your musical ass as a Warbler, indistinguishable from all the other uniform-clad robo-boys. Ugh! The very idea of wearing exactly the same thing as everyone else, every single fucking day – it's like spitting on everything you stand for.
It appears once again Rachel has gotten the last word, as everyone seems finally to have run out of objections. So now it's time for your plaintive, heart-tugging farewell song. Mr. Schue scooped up Over the Rainbow after Regionals last year, and of course Rachel already over-emoted What I Did for Love a few months back, damn her! On second thought, maybe that would have been too on-the-nose anyway. The Way We Were, perhaps? That would be such a killer song for you, and no matter what she thinks, Ms. Berry does not have a monopoly on the Streisand oeuvre. Or Harold Arlen's One for My Baby and One More for the Road (the Bette Midler version, not the Fred Astaire version). Oh, oh! How about So Anyway?* You can't get more apropos than something from a show about mental illness and the lyrics are perf–
Mercedes stands. The one person it really hurts to leave, the one person who might persuade you to stay. "Kurt..." she starts softly, her arms spread wide in protest (or embrace?). And that's it – so clear and so many are the words that fly in the air between you, she doesn't even need to voice them.
Now Mercedes is stepping forward, and you, you're backing up, your body instinctively moving to protect itself from yet another threat. You shake your head adamantly, as if that will somehow ward off the devastated look on her face, which has just become fresh grist for your regularly scheduled nightmares. You couldn't sing now if you wanted to – it's getting hard even to breath.
Ta-ta, must go, so busy, you know. Classes to register for, uniforms to buy. We'll do coffee, we'll go shopping, we'll have sleep-overs and gossip and text each other all the time. This isn't goodbye, just goodbye for now. Please, Mercedes, stay back. If you touch me I am totally going to lose it. Just pretend I sang Sondheim and we hugged and you wished me good luck. Just pretend nothing's changed and we'll see each other tomorrow. Okay? Please, for me?
This scene is unendurable. For God's sake, someone bring the curtain down! Unscripted, your tears well up, ready to fall, but you ruthlessly hold them back, because you are so damn sick of crying. You manage to choke out, "I'm sorry. I have to go," and turn, now walking quickly, grimly away from them all.
People will say this is not your bravest moment. They'll say this is not your finest hour, that you took the easy way out. Screw them! You have no interest in being a martyr so fuck all that Don Quixote bullshit about one man, scorned and covered with scars fighting the unbeatable foe and bearing with unbearable sorrow. Dammit, you have a right to be safe and happy and properly educated! And nothing about this is "easy." Leaving your friends sucks! Starting over in a new school, surrounded by strangers – especially in the middle of junior year – that takes courage. But no one else will view it that way.
No, they'll call you a coward or a wimp or whatever, gossip and snipe that you're running from Karofsky. Okay, that's partly true. But mostly, mostly you're running from that defeated, despairing, insecure little boy, the boy with no voice, the boy in the lead fear apron who is stressing his father into an early grave. You're terrified that if you stay, that boy will take over, swallow you whole and stamp out every inch of what makes Kurt Elizabeth Hummel unique and special. And without being unique and special, what's the point of being, really?
So yeah, away to Dalton, maybe not forever, maybe just until the end of this year. Or just until the money runs out, but you'll cross that bridge when you come to it. Let people think what they want. Everyone looks but they don't really see, because they don't want to see, because that would challenge them to understand and care and maybe even help. Indifference requires no effort. Being closed-minded and mean is more fun. And that's why leaving is easier than staying; why remaining silent is easier – so much easier – than telling the truth.
Author's Note: And we're done, thank goodness! If I ever get tempted to write a POV on another entire episode, I hope someone confiscates my computer and locks me up until the urge passes, because this was so much harder than I ever dreamed. Even so, I'm proud (and relieved!) that I finished. Once again, all dialogue is taken from the episode 'Furt'.
* The song So Anyway is from Next to Normal, a musical about family secrets, mental illness, and coping day by day. It sounds weird and depressing but trust me, this intelligent and intimate show will touch and move you. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Thank you all for seeing the story through with me to the end. Reviews rock my world, so go ahead guys, rock on!