Taking Off the Mask
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without
and know we cannot live within.  -James Baldwin
Chapter 11
“Guess what?” Jackie was shouting so loudly into the phone that I had to hold it away
from my ear.

“What?”

“I think Roy really likes me!” she squealed.

“What would give you that idea?” I asked sarcastically. “Could it be that he never takes
his eyes off you when you’re around?

“No,” she said excitedly. “When he dropped us off, and you went into the house, I
think he wanted to kiss me!”

“You haven’t kissed him yet?” I asked incredulously. “Does he have bad breath or
something?”

“No, nothing like that. I don’t think he’s ever kissed a girl before.”

“I hardly doubt that.” I remembered what I had seen at Sylvia’s party. If Roy had been
attending them for years, then he certainly had done more than just kiss a girl.

“Seriously,” she insisted. “He seemed like he was going to. I closed my eyes and
waited. But when I opened them, he was just sitting there looking lost.”

“Maybe you just got the wrong idea,” I offered.

“No,” she replied. “I could tell he really wanted to kiss me. He just didn’t.”

“That’s weird.”

“Am I ugly?”

“What?”

“You heard me. Am I that ugly?”

“Um, no. Not really.”

“Not really! What do you mean, not really? So I am ugly?”

“No, Jackie. You are not ugly.”

“Then why didn’t he kiss me?”

“Maybe he’s gay,” I kidded. The phone suddenly went dead. Jackie hung up on me!

I lay across my bed and tried to work on homework. I had a lot of assignments to
complete. I think there should be some law that says a teacher shouldn’t give more
than an hour’s worth of homework a week. Instead, they seem to give two hours a
night.

Teachers must sit at home at night laughing, knowing that their students are
struggling with an assignment while they sit in a recliner and watch television. With all
the homework I had nightly, I was lucky to watch an hour of my favorite shows.

As I was struggling on an extremely difficult algebra problem, my mother poked her
head in the door. “Got a minute?” she asked with a smile. I knew that smile. It was the
kind she uses when she’s getting ready to dump some bad news on me. It was the
same smile she had on her face when she told me and Janet that she was divorcing my
father. It was also the same smile she wore when she told me when I was seven that
she had accidentally let Tweety, my parakeet, out of its cage. He flew out an open
window and was never seen again.

“Sure,” I responded hesitantly. “What’s up?” She sat down on the side of my bed and
looked at me.

“Are you a virgin?” She asked the question without batting an eyelid.

“Mom!” I jumped from the bed and stared down at her. “You’re my mother. You can’t
ask me a question like that!”

“I’m not asking you as your mother,” she replied. “I’m asking you as a researcher.”
I gave her a questioning look. “It’s for a piece I’m writing. I just want to know what a
boy experiences when he has sex. You know. How is it different from how I felt when I
was having sex with your father.”

“Mother!” I shouted as I held my hands to my ears. “I don’t want to have this
conversation. I’ve spent sixteen years trying not to imagine you and dad in bed
together. Are you trying to give me nightmares?”

“I just want to know if you experience love when you’re having sex, or is it just to
have a good orgasm?” I was turning about 100 shades of red.

“That’s it!” I shouted as I threw up my hands. “We are not having this conversation-
ever!” I rushed from my room and went to the kitchen. I was overwhelmed that my
mother had been so open about asking me questions about sex.

As I was pouring a glass of orange juice, she came walking into the kitchen, still
clutching her notebook.

“I’m sorry, Dear,” she apologized. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you. It’s just that I was
reading a story this afternoon, and it struck me. What do two people of the same sex
feel when they are having sex?”

“I’m sure it’s the same thing that you and dad felt.” I buried my head in my hands and
moaned. “I can’t believe I just said that.”

“To be honest,” she smiled ‘that’ smile again. Oh, no. Here it comes. “I didn’t feel all
that much.”

When I blushed a scarlet red, she added with a smile, “In more ways than one.”

“Jesus, Mom!” I squealed. “This is going way beyond the too much information
category.”

“So, you are a virgin?” She asked again. I was trapped. I could deny it, and she would
know I was lying. Or I could tell her the truth, and she’d probably call the police and
have Donovan arrested.

“Not exactly,” I responded.

“Not exactly?” She gave me a questioning look. “What does that mean? Either you
have or you haven’t.”

“Mom, I can’t tell you about my sex life.” I started to get up, but she put her hand
gently on my arm.

“So you do have a sex life?” She seemed amazed that I had done something since I
had never had a lot of friends.

“No, Mom,” I replied. “I don’t have a sex life. I did something- once, but I really don’t
want to tell you about it, all right?”

“All right,” she answered. “I don’t want details; but just for my research, did you feel
love?”

Suddenly, I remembered Donovan pinning me to the bed and trying to ram his cock in
my ass as I screamed out for him to stop. “No, Mom. I didn’t feel love.”

I rushed from the kitchen and wiped tears from my eyes as I bounded up the steps to
my bedroom. I threw myself across the bed and started crying. I had pushed back the
memories of that night, but she had made them resurface. I felt the bed sink down.
My mother reached out and pulled me into her. I started crying like a baby in her arms.

“You want to tell me what happened?” she asked softly. I shook my head against her
shoulder.

“Was it Saturday night?” I nodded.

“Donovan?” I nodded once again.

“Did he hurt you?” I shook my head no. I knew if I told her yes, she’d want details.

“Are you going to be all right?” I nodded once again.

“I just wasn’t ready for what he was trying to force me to do,” I mumbled into her
shoulder.

“You know I don’t want you seeing him anymore?” She said angrily.

I started laughing into her shoulder. “I don’t think you have to worry about that.” I
sat up and wiped the tears from my eyes. I felt a sense of relief talking to her about
the incident; even though I did hold back much of the details.

“Someday when you feel like talking about it,” she took my hand and held it, “I want
you to tell me what happened. I think it could help with what I’m writing.” I gave her a
puzzled look.

“I’m writing a pamphlet for gay teen centers about safe dating habits,” she said. “It
looks like I may have to do a little more reading. I hadn’t considered forcible sex.”

“Thanks, Mom.” I reached out and gave her a hug. “You’re the best.”

“So are you.” She gave me a kiss on the forehead and then stood up. “Don’t ever be
afraid to talk to me. That’s what mothers are for.” I nodded as she left the room.

All week long, Jackie continued to dress to kill. I’m sure when her mother returned
from her business trip and found out that Jackie had raided her closets, she was going
to be upset. She started coming over earlier than usual, and my mother would help
her apply makeup and fix her hair.

I think Roy was beginning to feel threatened by her new image. Whenever they walked
down the hallway, other guys would turn and look at Jackie. By Friday afternoon, I was
beginning to feel some tension between them. My suspicions were true when we
dropped Jackie off at home, and he asked me to ride with him. Jackie slammed the
door shut and went storming into her house.

We drove to Ben and Jerry’s. We sat in a booth and ordered a strawberry shakes.

“Can I ask you something?” Roy asked as we waited for our order to arrive.

“Yeah, sure.”

“What happened to Jackie?”

I gave him a puzzled look. “Why?”

“She’s changed.” he replied sadly. “When I first met her, the thing about her I liked
most was how down to earth she was. She wasn’t like other girls. She didn’t put on
pretenses. Now she’s dressing and acting like all the other girls.”

I put my hand over my mouth and started laughing. “She’s trying to get your
attention.”

“She had my attention when I met her,” he stated. “Now I feel like I don’t even know
her.”

“You mean you liked the old Jackie?” I asked amazed. I figured any guy would have
loved to be seen with someone like her on his arm.

“Yeah,” he admitted. “She was real. I liked that.”

I started laughing. “She has overdone it, hasn’t she?” He nodded. I spent the next ten
minutes telling him how much time she spent getting ready in the morning just to
impress him. We both were laughing when I finished.

“Do me a favor, will you?” he asked.

“Sure. What is it?”

“Tell her I want the old Jackie back.”

I spent an hour on the phone with Jackie that night suggesting that she should go
back to the way she was. Without coming out and telling her what Roy said, I did hint
that maybe she had been overdoing it. I told her that sometimes a guy feels
threatened when a girl looks too good. Of course, she was flattered by my
compliments; however, she did agree to tone down her image when we went to the
movie on Saturday.

I overslept on Saturday morning, and then I had to rush around so that I wouldn’t be
too late.  I had forgotten to set the alarm, and I didn’t wake up until 7:18. I did
manage to arrive at St. Andrew’s by eight. I was going to make it up by staying over
an extra hour.

“Someone’s late, Sleepy Head,” joked Nurse Dorothy when I walked up to the nurse’s
station.

“Sorry,” I apologized. “It won’t happen again. I’ll work overtime today.” She leaned
back and held her belly as she laughed.

“Bless your heart,” she finally managed to say. “This is not a job. You’re only
volunteering your time. I don’t care if you come in an hour or the entire day. We just
appreciate any time you’re willing to spend.” She walked over and pulled me into a hug.

“So you’re not mad?”

“Of course not.” She hugged me again. “Now, since you’re here, would you go down
to the supply room and get me a box of Depends.” I started giggling. “Don’t you even
dare say what you are thinking.” I continued to laugh as I walked down the hall.

The door was ajar when I arrived. I opened it and saw Dion rummaging through a
stack of boxes. He turned and jumped when he saw me, causing him to lose his
balance on the chair on which he was standing. He fell against the boxes, and then fell
to the floor.

“Are you all right?” I shouted as I got on my knees beside him. I could see blood on
his forehead.

“I think so,” he said weakly. “I’m a little dizzy.” I put my hand on his head and
examined the spot where the blood was seeping.”

“You hit your head on the side of the box,” I informed him. “You’ve got a pretty nasty
cut.” He put his hand to his head and wiped away some of the blood.

I stood up and looked around the room. I went over and opened up a box of tissue.
I pulled a few out and then knelt down beside Dion. “Hold still a minute.” I wiped away
the blood. The cut wasn’t very deep, and it was beginning to close.

“Good news, and bad news.” He looked at me with a puzzled look. “The good news is-
it’s just a little cut.” I started giggling. “The bad news is-  you’re going to have a
bruise.”

He looked at the bruise on the side of my face and said, “I guess we’ll have matching
bruises then.” Suddenly, a shocked look appeared on his face. “Oh, God. I’m sorry. I
didn’t mean to say that.” He looked into my eyes, and I knew that he had heard how I
had gotten my bruise. No one had said anything to me all week about it, but at that
moment I realized that other students had been talking about it behind my back. It
must have really made its rounds if someone like Dion had heard about it.

I continued to apply pressure to the cut. “It’s all right.” I tried to show no emotion,
but I knew my eyes were giving me away.

“I can get Momma to look at my cut.” He pushed my hand away and tried to get up.
I gently held his shoulder and pushed him back down.

“I’ll take care of it,” I said. I leaned in to see if it was deep enough to require stitches.
My mouth was inches from his. I could feel his breath on my cheeks. I wanted to lean
in and kiss him. For some unexplainable reason, I felt like I needed to kiss him. I
wanted to feel his lips against mine. And I considered it. He had his eyes closed, and I
could almost hear his heart beating inside his chest. But just as I started to kiss him,
the door opened and his mother came rushing in.

“Oh, my God! What happened Dion?” She knelt down beside me and looked at the cut
on his forehead.

“I’m all right, Momma,” Dion insisted. “It’s just a small cut. James is taking care of me.”

“I can see that.” She stood, leaned down and kissed me on my forehead. “I’ll leave you
boys alone.” For the second time, I felt as if there was a hidden meaning in her words.

I got up and found a box containing band aids. I knelt back down, but this time our
legs were rubbing together. I tore open a couple and began to apply them to his cut.
It always happens when you don’t want it too. My dick started to harden. I was on my
knees leaning forward, and my dick started to tent inside my pants. If he looked down,
he’d definitely see it.

I hurriedly finished and stood, facing away from him. Without being too obvious, I
reached down and positioned my dick so that it was pointing upward. Dion stood and
turned in the opposite direction from me. I started grinning when I saw his hands go
to the front of his pants as he positioned his cock. He had also gotten an erection!  

We left the room without saying anything. But on the way out, I took a quick look. He
had a nice tent in the front of his jeans. I smiled to myself when I realized he had also
taken a quick look at me.

After completing a few small chores for Nurse Dorothy, I headed for Mr. Wilbur’s
room. I had tried to put it off, because I knew he was going to ask me about my date
with Donovan. He was going to be disappointed in me because I hadn’t been more
careful.

He was asleep when I entered his room. I stood for a minute, afraid to awaken him.
When I turned to leave, he spoke out, “I’m not asleep. Come in and have a seat.”

He continued to sit with his eyes closed. “Are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes,” he responded. “Just give me a minute. I took a pill a while ago, and it makes me
a little sleepy sometimes.”  I sat looking around the room for about five minutes until
he finally sat up and smiled.

“Don’t ever grow old,” he warned. “It’s a bitch.”

“I won’t,” I grinned.

“I thought that too when I was sixteen,” he stated. “And I blinked and the years flew
by so quickly. It just seems like yesterday.”

“Would you like to be sixteen again?” I questioned. He sat back in his chair and roared
with laughter.

“Hell, no!” he bellowed. “I don’t think I could ever relive those days again. Thanks, but
I’ll stay right where I’m at.”

“Yeah,” I said sadly. “It sucks being a teenager.”

“Uh, oh.” He sat up in his chair and stared into my face. “Something happened?”

I sat quietly looking down at the floor.

“That’s right.” He suddenly remembered. “You had a date with Donovan last Saturday
night. Didn’t it go well?”

I nervously started laughing and replied, “Didn’t go well is kind of an understatement.”

“Want to tell me about it?” I nodded and spent the next fifteen minutes describing my
‘date’ with Donovan. He said very little, and he would occasionally shake his head. His
face turned to anger when I told him how Donovan had tried to force me to have sex.

“I should have listened to you,” I admitted when I was finished.

“You probably should have, James,” he said softly, “but sometimes life involves you
learning from your mistakes.” I folded my hands and rested my chin on them. I leaned
forward to listen to what he had to say.

“Experience is the best teacher. Your mother probably always warned you about
running in the house.” I nodded my head. “And I bet you didn’t pay any attention until
you fell down and hurt yourself.”

I started giggling. “It wasn’t the fall as much as it was breaking a vase that my
grandmother had given her. She made me write my grandmother a letter of apology.
I was only six. I   couldn’t even spell the word.”

“But you never ran in the house again, did you?”

“No.”

“So now the next time you become interested in a boy?”

“I’ll find out what kind of music he likes first?”

“Excellent, my friend, James. You just learned a valuable lesson about life.”

“Life is difficult isn’t it?”

Mr. Wilbur leaned back and laughed. “My boy, you have no idea. No idea at all.”

“Then I don’t think I want to grow up.”

“That’s another lesson,” he replied. “We all grow up, whether we want to or not. Peter
Pan only existed in a children’s story.”

We talked a little while longer. I assured him that Donovan hadn’t hurt me. Like Jackie,
he thought that I should call the police. However, I managed to make him understand
that it would probably cause more problems than it would have solved.

“The next time I see him being interviewed,” he stated angrily, “I’m going to throw my
shoe at the television.”

“How about a game of Sorry?” I asked, trying to change the subject. I’d been in his
room for over an hour and we had spent the entire time talking about Donovan.
Personally, I was getting tired of hearing his name.

“Quarter a game?”

“Of course.”

“Then get your money out.”

“In your dreams.”

The mood lightened up as we started playing the game. We’d been playing for about a
fifteen minutes when Dion walked into the room and stood behind me.

“Why don’t you pull up a chair and join us?” Mr. Wilbur asked him.

“You just started a game,” he said. “I’ll come back later.” I watched as Mr. Wilbur
winked at me and then tipped the board over with his knee.

“How clumsy of me!” he shouted. “That’s the second time today. I don’t know what’s
wrong with me lately. James, set the board back up, and take out some pieces for
Dion.”

“I don’t want to spoil your fun,” said Dion. I reached out and grabbed his arm.

“It will be more fun if you join us.” Dion walked over and grabbed a chair. When I
looked over at Mr. Wilbur, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

We played two games without speaking too much. Mr. Wilbur tried to get Dion to talk,
but he seemed happy playing the game without engaging in much conversation. One
thing I did find out- he was very competitive. While I would let Mr. Wilbur win from
time to time, he played to win every game.

“That will be another fifty cents,” Dion said as he held out his hand. I reached in my
pocket and pulled out a quarter. When he extended his hand to Mr. Wilbur, he
snatched my quarter from his hand.

“Hey!” Dion cried out. “That’s my quarter.”

“No, it isn’t,” he replied. “You’ve owed me a quarter for over two months.” I sat back
and laughed as they argued over the quarter. It was the first time I witnessed Dion
actually having a good time. It was nice to see him laughing.

As it approached two o’clock, Mr. Wilbur asked if we had any plans for the evening.

“I’m going to the movies with Jackie and her friend, Roy,” I informed him.

“And you Dion?” he asked.

“Nothing much, I guess,” he replied sadly. “Do what I always do.”

As he looked down at the ground, Mr. Wilbur looked over at me and nodded his head
toward Dion. “What?” I mouthed.

“Ask him to go with you,” he mouthed back.

“What!” I shook my head.

“Do it!” He mouthed again, pointing his head toward Dion.

“Um, Dion,” I stammered. “If you’re not doing anything tonight, would you like to go
to the movies with us?”

I watched as his eyes lit up; but then he looked down sorrowfully. “I don’t have any
money.”

“Yes you do,” responded Mr. Wilbur. He opened his wallet and handed Dion a ten
dollar bill. “There. That should be about what I’ve lost to you over the past year.”

“I can’t take this,” replied Dion as he tried to hand the money back.

“Yes, you can,” he said sternly, “And you will.”

Dion looked at me and smiled, “Then I guess I can go with you.”

“Good,” I said. “I’ll get your address before we leave. We’ll pick you up around five
thirty.”

I looked over at a smiling Mr. Wilbur.

I then asked, “By the way, Dion. What kind of music do you like?”


Chapter 12                                    Return to TMJ