When I got off the elevator, Sydney and Jade were waiting for me. “I’m starving,” announced Jade as she grabbed my arm. On the way out, we decided to eat at a nearby Subway.
Sydney looked at me and asked, “Where did you go during orientation? You never came back.”
I told them about my visit to Dr. Avery’s office. I explained to them how I had walked out of his office, and then the angry phone call from my father. Jade couldn’t believe what happened. “They treat you like this just because your father is a senator?”
“One of the perks of his office,” I replied angrily. “I know he’s going to be informed of everything I do.” Then I started smiling. “At least I got something out of it.” I wasn’t sure if they knew yet about Dr. Avery changing their schedules.
Sydney asked, “What?”
I smiled and announced, “We’ll be in the same classes this semester.”
“That explains it,” she said excitedly. “I thought I was going nuts.”
“Me, too,” agreed Jade. “I was on the computer selecting classes when all of a sudden my screen went blank. I thought it had crashed. Then the screen reopened and displayed a completed schedule.”
“The same thing happened to me,” replied Sydney.
I started laughing. I then explained how I had conned Dr. Avery into having the three of us attend the same classes. “So at least one good thing came of this,” I remarked. We high fived each other as we headed toward the restaurant.
As we ate, Jade pulled out her laptop and began typing. Sydney asked, “What are you doing?”
“There it is,” Jade replied. She then turned the screen toward us. On it was a site called Campus Pride. It was our school’s gay student organization. The three of us read about the organization and their activities on campus.
“They seem pretty active,” observed Jade. She looked over at us. “The first meeting is next Tuesday. Are you still going with me?”
Sydney readily agreed. “It’s not just for gay students. Look.” She pointed to the monitor. “They say straight students are also welcomed. So I’m in.” She looked over at me. “What about you, Dorian?”
“I don’t know,” I replied worriedly. “After what happened this morning, I don’t know if I should. Dad will shit bricks if he discovers I’ve joined a gay group here at school. He is bound to find out.”
Jade gave me a disgusted look, and then she and Sydney spent the next half hour trying to convince me I had to start making my own decisions. I tried to make them understand that my dad wasn’t just an ordinary father- he was a U.S. Senator. However, they wouldn’t buy the argument. They said I was Dorian Gale, not Senator Gale. I was now nineteen and in college. Jade giggled when she told me it was time to grow some cojones.
By the time we had finished eating, they had convinced me to at least attend the first meeting. I still wasn’t sure I was making the right decision. I didn’t want to tell Sydney and Jade, but there was the possibility that my father just might remove me from school if he found out I was publicly coming out. Of course, I could always tell him I was straight like Sydney, and I was just attending to support Jade.
However, I knew my father well enough to know he wouldn’t buy it. He had seen me in bed with another boy; however, I was twelve when that happened. It didn’t mean I was actually gay. Even though I had never told my parents I was gay, I’m sure they knew it. I never dated during high school, which always aroused their suspicions. Dad even asked me a few times why I didn’t date. I just shrugged it off and told him I didn’t have the time. He was never around the house long enough to know what I had time to do. Mom, though, had tried unsuccessfully to get me to date the daughters of some of her socialite friends. By my junior year she stopped. I think she finally realized I was gay, but neither of us would be the first to discuss it.
After eating, we went to the bookstore to purchase the books and materials we’d need for our classes. Since we were taking the same classes, we figured we could save money by sharing books. I had a credit card with an unlimited account. Dad proudly gave it to me a week before school. He told me to use it to buy anything I needed. He found it amusing when he warned me not to buy a Mazerati with it. I was tempted when I went online and found out one cost over $100,000. With his money, though, he would probably never miss it.
I knew that the girls’ parents weren’t wealthy like mine, so if I could purchase the books and share, then it would help them. When we were at the counter, I went first and told the cashier I was paying for everything. Sydney and Jade protested rather loudly, causing everyone in the store to look at us. I kept insisting that it was something I wanted to do, but Jade told me I wasn’t going to buy their friendship. It hurt me when she said it, because that was something I hadn’t even considered. I just wanted to do it because they were becoming special to me, and I wanted to express to them how much they did mean. I guess to them it looked differently. When they saw the hurt look on my face, they relented and let me purchase their supplies without objection.
“You really didn’t have to do that,” Jade remarked as we headed back to the dorm. We each were loaded down with several heavy bags. “You charged over $1,000 on your credit card.”
“It’s not my money,” I laughed. “Dad’s worth millions. This is chump change to him.”
Sydney started coughing. “Your father is a millionaire?” She gasped when she finally caught her breath.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know. He could be a billionaire. I don’t really know what he’s worth.”
Jade stopped and stared wide-eyed at me. “A billionaire!”
“I don’t think so,” I laughed. “I just know he’s rich.”
“Rich? Shit!” remarked Sydney. “My mom made $43,000 last year.”
I started to feel really badly. I had never thought about being a rich kid. Actually, I wasn’t. My father was. However, I never had to worry about anything. From an early age, I had just gotten used to having servants in the house. To me it seemed normal. And since I had few friends in high school, I really wasn’t sure how others lived since I had never been invited to their homes. I always knew I lived a life different from others, but I was now beginning to realize how much different it had been.
“Let’s talk about something else,” I suggested. “What do you want to do tonight? We only have one more day before classes start, so we might as well enjoy it.”
“Let’s rest a minute,” moaned Sydney as she dropped her bags on the ground and sat down on a bus stop bench. She looked over at me as I sat down and asked, “If your father has so much money, how come you don’t have a car? We wouldn’t have to be carrying these heavy ass bags back to the dorm.”
“I don’t know,” I replied as I shrugged my shoulders. “I never went anywhere, so there really wasn’t a reason to have a car.”
“But you have your license, right?” asked Jade.
“Yeah, sure,” I replied. “Carlton used to let me drive sometimes.”
Sydney asked, “Who’s Carlton.”
When my face began to redden, Jade started to giggle. “Don’t tell me,” she laughed. “Carlton is your chauffer?”
Sydney stood and looked down angrily at me. “You have a fucking chauffeur! And my back is killing me from carrying these bags!”
“I don’t have a chauffeur,” I insisted, before adding, “Well, not anymore.”
Sydney picked up the large bags and began dragging them down the sidewalk. “Call Carlton and have him come get us.” I laughed as I grabbed one of her bags and carried it for her.
When I approached my dorm room, there were loud noises coming from inside. Several guys were talking loudly over the rap music booming from Travis’s stereo. When I opened the door, the room contained eight guys. Many of them I recognized as roommates on the floor. Beer cans were strewn all over the room, and the scent of marijuana permeated the air.
They looked at me when I entered. One of the guys was at my computer playing a video game. I rushed over and snatched it from the desk. “This is mine,” I shouted angrily. “You have no right to use it without my permission!”
He stood and towered over me. He must have been about 6’3” tall. “What you going to do about it, Shrimp?” He pushed his finger into my chest, and I almost lost my balance. I looked around as the other guys started to laugh uproariously.
“Just leave my stuff alone,” I muttered as I put the computer inside my desk drawer.
“Gay, mother fucker,” one of the guys said loudly as the others laughed.
Another laughed and looked over at Travis. “You boning that at night?” Again, loud laughter filled the room.
“Hell, no!” Travis responded angrily. “I ain’t no homo. Fuck that shit!” Again, laughter.
I attempted to leave, but two of the guys stepped in front of me and blocked the door. “Where you going, Sweet Thing?” One was the guy who had been in the shower earlier in the morning. He reached out and pinched my cheek. “You just got here.” He attempted to hand me a beer and said with a lisp, “Sthay and have a drink wifth uth.” Again, laughter filled the room as I pushed him aside and hurried out the door. I could hear loud laughter coming from the room as I stood trembling at the elevator. I had endured taunting in high school, but nothing like I had just experienced. For a moment in the room, I felt that they might want to harm me.
I exited the dorm and made my way to the administration building. It was getting late, and I wasn’t sure the offices would still be open. Fortunately, they were. I went to the student housing office. There were about twenty students cluttered inside a tiny room. I was informed that if I wanted a room change, then I’d have to take a number. I spent the next hour waiting impatiently to speak to someone about getting a new room assignment.
However, the wait was fruitless. When I spoke to a rather large woman inside a small cubicle, I was told that rooms were scarce. Unless there was something about the room that made it uninhabitable, then I would have to place my name on a list and wait for a room to open up in the future. I wanted to tell her that my roommate made it uninhabitable, but I could tell she was tired and just wanted to leave for the day. I knew there was nothing I could say that would make her change her mind.
I made my way back to the dorm. I didn’t want to go back to my room because I wanted to avoid another confrontation with Travis and his friends. I considered going to see Dr. Avery to see if he could help me; however, I realized that I would appear weak because I couldn’t socialize with guys my age. College was supposed to be my new freedom. Going to the president of the university crying because I was taunted would not be a step toward building my self-confidence. I would have to adjust to the situation as long as I wasn’t physically harmed.
I went into the lobby to watch television on a big screen television, but a couple of guys were watching Sports Center on ESPN. I soon fell asleep. I don’t know how long I had been sleeping when someone sat down beside me. It was one of the guys I had recognized from my dorm room earlier. I sat up and instinctively looked at his hands to see if he was going to hit me.
“Relax,” he smiled nervously. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He offered me his hand to shake, “I’m Seth Gorman.” I reluctantly shook his hand.
Seth was handsome; however, like me, his features were somewhat boyish. He was attempting to grow a beard, but it was rather sparse. He had brown eyes and brown hair which was medium length and combed forward to make a blunt bang across the middle of his forehead. He wasn’t stocky like Travis and the others, but he wasn’t as small as me.
The thing that caught my attention most was how his brown eyes, even though he was wearing thin, small framed glasses. They seemed to twinkle as he looked at me. “What do you want?” I asked cautiously. Even though Seth appeared friendly, I still wasn’t sure of his motive for sitting beside me.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry for how the guys treated you earlier,” he replied apologetically. “Most of them are pretty decent guys once you get to know them.”
“Travis is an asshole,” I muttered.
Seth started to laugh. “He’s not all that bad, really. He’s just away from home for the first time, and he’s having fun.”
“I’m away from home for the first time, too,” I remarked sarcastically, “but I’m not acting like a jackass.”
“Point for you,” Seth laughed as he put his finger up and made an imaginary number one.
I eyed Seth skeptically. He seemed like a nice guy, but I still wasn’t sure of his motive for sitting down and talking to me. “So what’s your game?” I asked.
“My game?” He seemed puzzled by my question.
“Yeah,” I replied. “Why are you sitting here talking to me?” I looked at the elevator. “What if Travis and some of the others come down? They might think you’re a fag for sitting with me.”
He laughed and said, “They can think what they like. I’m comfortable in my own skin.” I met his eyes, trying to figure out his meaning. I still hadn’t determined if he was gay or straight, and his response didn’t help. I was afraid to ask him because I figured if he wanted me to know, he’d tell me. And besides, I hadn’t actually admitted that I was gay.
He looked at this watch and then asked, “It’s after six, and I’m starved. You want to go somewhere and get something to eat?” I wanted to resist, but he his smile assured me that I would be safe with him. However, I was afraid to be alone with him for another reason. He was cute, and I was afraid I might say something wrong that would affect his obvious attempt to be friends with me.
“Can I invite some friends?” I asked, hoping he would agree. I would feel more comfortable if Sydney and Jade joined us.
“Sure,” he smiled. “The more the merrier.” I walked away, pulled out my cell phone, called Sydney and asked if they wanted to go get a bite to eat. I didn’t mention that Seth would be joining us. Five minutes later, they stepped out of the elevator.
Jade stopped when she saw me standing beside Seth. A slight smile formed in the corner of her mouth as she approached. I knew what she was thinking.
She stepped beside me and whispered in my ear, “He’s a cutie. Where did you find him?” My face began to blush as I introduced him to Sydney and Jade. I could tell Jade was appraising him as potential boyfriend material for me.
After a short discussion, we decided to eat in one of the student dining areas inside the basement of an adjoining dorm. Seth said he had eaten there twice, and he guaranteed us with a laugh that we wouldn’t get salmonella poisoning.
I was surprised because it was like a large restaurant. Instead of going through a buffet line to get food as I expected, we sat down to a clothed table. When Seth pulled out Jade’s chair for her to sit down, Sydney looked at me and waited for me to pull out her chair. “Some guys are still gentlemen,” she remarked after giving Seth an appreciative smile.
A young waitress brought us a menu and took our drink orders. Most of the menu items were burgers and chicken, but there were a few pasta and fish dishes. It wasn’t what I would have expected for a student dining restaurant. Seth and I ordered spaghetti, while Sydney ordered the fish of the day special and Jade got a cheeseburger. After the waiter left, Jade grabbed my hand and announced she had to go to the restroom.
“Why don’t you ask Sydney?” I asked. “She’s a girl.”
“Because I want you to go with me,” she insisted as she pulled me from the table. When we were a safe distance away, she turned and looked back at Seth.
“He’s adorable,” she shrieked. “Where did you find him?”
“I didn’t find him,” I replied as I grabbed her hand and headed toward the restrooms. We stood at the doors and talked. Several people came by to use the restroom and stared at us. “I was sitting in the student lounge and he sat down beside me.” I then explained what had happened in the room earlier, and how I had tried to get a room change. She became upset, and an old woman gave her a disgusted look when Jade muttered, “Mother Fuckers.” I then told her how Seth sat down and apologized for their behavior.
“Do you think he’s into you?” she asked hopefully. “He seems like a dream.”
“I don’t know.” Even though Seth seemed like a nice guy, I still hadn’t decided if he was gay. I had never been around many gay people to know. I was hoping she could tell me, but her gaydar probably only worked with other girls. Jade assured me she would try to see if she could pick up some signs that he was gay, and then we both went into the restroom.
On the way back to the table, Jade grabbed my arm and stopped me. “I guess we can scratch Seth off your list as a potential boyfriend.”
“Why?” She nodded at our table. Sydney had moved her chair closer to Seth, and they were engaged in a very intimate conversation. She was holding his arm and laughing at something he had said.
Jade walked over and grabbed Sydney’s arm, pulling her up from the table. “We need to go to the little girls’ room,” she stated emphatically.
“But I don’t have to go,” insisted Sydney as she gave Jade a puzzled look.
“Yes,” replied Jade forcefully, “You do.” With that, she pulled Sydney away from the table.
“What was that all about?” Seth asked as he watched Jade leading Sydney down the hall.
“Dunno,” I replied; although I had a pretty good idea that Jade thought Sydney was moving in on Seth before I had a chance to.
My heart sunk when Seth said cheerfully, “Sydney is great, don’t you think so?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said sadly as I took a drink of my soda. Seth curiously watched me as I looked down at the table.
“Wait a minute!” I looked over when he started laughing. “You thought I was gay, didn’t you?”
My face turned red when I looked at him and our eyes met. “More like hoping you were.”
He covered his face and started laughing. “Oh, Man, I can’t believe this.” He looked over, grinned and started laughing again. I tried not to, but I soon started smiling.
“So you’re not?” He shook his head. “Then why did you start talking to me?”
“Jesus, Dorian,” he replied. “Do all gay people think that straight people won’t talk to them?”
“Well, no,” I stammered. “Well, yeah, I guess. What if Travis and the others find out you’re talking to me?”
“Fuck ‘em,” he sneered. “I can be friends with whomever I want to be friends with. If they don’t like it, then they can kiss my ass.” He looked over and smiled. “Besides, my best friend in high school was gay. We did everything together.”
I laughed and raised an eyebrow. “Everything?”
Seth began stammering, “No, no, not everything, like in EVERYTHING.” His face started turning red. “I mean me and Adam were like best friends.” His face turned more somber. “I was there for him when he like needed someone, you know. When things got really rough for him.” Tears started to form in his eyes. “You know, kind of like you today. You needed someone.”
He didn’t pull his hand away when I reached out and placed mine on top of his. “Thanks,” I replied as tears formed in my eyes.
Just then, Jade and Sydney approached the table. I quickly removed my hand, but not before Jade noticed and started smiling. I jumped up, grabbed Jade’s arm, and announced I wanted her to go to the restroom with me. As we walked away, I heard Seth ask Sydney, “What is it with you guys and the restroom?”
Our waitress passed us as we headed for the restroom with our order on a large tray. When we entered the hallway to where the restrooms were located, I quickly explained to Jade about the conversation I had with Seth.
“So he’s not gay?” she asked disappointedly. I shook my head. “Damn,” she muttered.
“But he likes Sydney,” I added quickly. Her eyes lit up.
“He does?” I nodded. She grabbed my hand. “Come on. He’s a dream. If he doesn’t like you, then maybe she has a chance.”
Dinner became interesting. Jade was a very forceful matchmaker. She asked Seth a lot of questions, and she always made sure to include Sydney’s interests to match his. I was a little disappointed because Seth was a really fascinating guy. Like Jade, he was attending school on an academic scholarship. He had been salutatorian of his senior class, and he was studying to be a pharmacist. He had played basketball, although he said he mainly kept the bench warm. He had also been a pole vaulter in track. I kicked Jade’s leg under the table when she made a crude remark about me liking to vault poles.
Surprisingly, he also revealed to the girls his close friendship with Adam throughout high school. Adam, it seems, was a lot like me- his appearance was feminine. Seth said he took a lot of verbal abuse from his classmates for being friends with Adam. He said that many students thought they were romantically involved. He had to hold back tears when he related how Adam had tried to commit suicide his sophomore year. Jade and I gave each other a knowing look when Sydney took his hand and held it as she attempted to comfort him.
As we were leaving, Seth stopped and looked at his watch. “It’s only a little after seven, and I don’t feel like going back to my room. Classes start tomorrow, and we should have a little fun while we can.”
Jade asked, “What do you have in mind?”
Seth shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know. This is a big campus. There must be something going on.” Jade pulled out her blackberry and searched the school’s online student site.
“Hey!” she said excitedly. “There’s a freshman dance over at the Student Union beginning at eight. They’re calling it a Meet and Greet Party.” She looked expectantly at us. “Are you in?”
Sydney looked at Seth. “I’m in. How about you?”
“Sure,” he replied. He looked at me. “You in, Dorian?”
“I don’t know,” I replied hesitantly. I wasn’t too sure I was ready to socialize with other students. I had spent most of my high school years isolated in my room. Except for graduation, I had never gotten involved in student activities.
Jade reached out and grabbed my hand. “Sure you do, Dorian.” She put her arm around my waist. “You can be my date.” I tried to pull away, but she held me firmly. Seth started laughing.
“I don’t think Jade is the kind of girl who will take no for an answer,” he laughed.
“Damn straight,” replied Jade. She winked at me, and we laughed as we headed toward the student union.
The large room was sparsely populated. It was still early, and most students would probably not show up for another hour or two. We roamed around the room and mainly nodded at other small groups who were waiting for something to happen. The organizers were frantically running around offering non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
At nine, a band began to play, and students started going onto the dance floor. The band wasn’t particularly good, but at least it provided us some entertainment. Sydney eagerly agreed to dance with Seth while Jade and I looked on. They appeared to be having a good time.
“I think Cupid’s arrow has struck,” remarked Jade as we watched Seth holding Sydney tightly during a slow dance.
“At least one of us got lucky,” I remarked solemnly. Seth was really cute, and even though I was happy for Sydney, I kind of wished it was me he was holding.
“Someone’s jealous,” giggled Jade. I looked at her and rolled my eyes. Just then, the band began to play a faster dance song. Jade grabbed my hand and tried to pull me onto the dance floor.
“Come on, Dorian,” she insisted. “I want to dance.”
I admitted, “I’ve never danced.”
“Nothing to it,” she replied. “Just get out there and shake your groove thing.”
“My groove thing?” I laughed. She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the center of students dancing wildly in the middle of the room.
“Yeah,” she yelled in my ear. “Just follow my lead and do what I do.”
I tried, but I kept thinking that anyone watching me would probably think I looked like a chicken scratching in the dirt. Jade kept laughing and encouraging me to “Let it go.” I had no idea what I was to let go, but after a while, I did begin to have fun.
That is until I looked over at the entrance where Travis and his buddies had just staggered into the room. It was obvious they had been drinking heavily. The large guy in the shower instantly noticed me and started to smirk.