“What’s wrong?” Jade asked as I stopped dancing and stared at Travis and his friends.
“My roomie,” I stated nervously. They were all now looking over at me and whispering to each other. Jade took my hand and led me to the other end of the large room. A minute later, Seth and Sydney approached.
“I see Travis and his ignorant posse showed up,” remarked Seth angrily. After spending the evening with him, I had almost forgotten that he had been one of them earlier. “My roommate, Raleigh, is with them.
“Which one’s Raleigh?” Seth was looking at the guy in the shower.
“The big goober with no neck,” he started laughing. I was right. Raleigh was the guy who had confronted me in the shower, and he had tried to block me from leaving the dorm room. “He’s a real work of art,” added Seth.
“Like Travis,” I said. “I guess birds of a feather flock together.”
Seth laughed and remarked, “More like scum settling to the bottom of a pond.” He looked across the room at the table where other students were busily putting snacks into bowls. “I’m hungry,” he announced as he grabbed Sydney’s hand. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
We loaded a couple of plates with chicken wings, chips and dip. Jade and I shared one, while Seth and Sydney shared another. We were standing off to the side talking about the upcoming first day of class when I sensed someone approach me from the side. Soon, the plate I was holding went flying across the room.
“Oh, damn, Dude,” said a sneering Raleigh. “I didn’t mean to do that.”
“Fucker,” I spat angrily. I looked at him as his eyes narrowed and his face began to redden with anger. He reached out and grabbed me by my collar.
“What did you call me, Fag?” he asked angrily as he lifted me off the floor.
Jade hit him in his side. “Put him down, you goon!” she yelled as she hit him again. Seth stepped up beside me as Travis and several more of his friends approached. Raleigh drew his hand back to hit me when Seth stepped in front of me and grabbed his wrist.
“Give it a break, Raleigh,” Seth ordered. He stared defiantly at his roommate.
Raleigh took a step back and glared at me. “You going sweet on this faggot?” Seth approached him with his fist drawn, but one of the chaperones of the event stepped between them. His lapel label identified him as dean of the English department.
“Is there a problem here?” He stood between Raleigh and Seth. Raleigh became excited as he pointed at me.
“Yeah,” he replied as he teetered slightly. “He called me a fucker.” The Dean looked over at me.
He asked, “Is this true?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied nervously. “But he knocked my plate out of my hand.” I pointed to the food lying on the floor.
Raleigh looked innocently at the Dean. “It was an accident, honest. I even apologized for doing it.” Travis and his friends stepped forward and started to confirm Raleigh’s side of the story.
The Dean turned to me and said, “Perhaps you should leave.”
“What!” Seth and Jade shouted in unison. Jade stood before the Dean. “Dorian didn’t do anything. We were having a good time,” she pointed toward Raleigh who had a smug look on his face, “when this asshole knocked the plate of food out of his hand.”
The Dean’s face reddened. “I think you should leave too, Young Lady?”
Jade and Seth started ranting about how unfair it was for us to be removed from the event when we had been there all night, while Raleigh and the others had just arrived. Sydney remarked that she suspected they were probably intoxicated.
Most of the people in the room had circled around us as they continued to argue. Raleigh and Travis had their arms crossed with smug looks as they watched what was going on. Finally, two school security officers arrived. After a short conversation with the Dean, they took me, Seth, Jade and Sydney by the arm and began to lead us from the room.
As I passed by Raleigh, he leaned in and whispered in my ear, “This ain’t over, fag.”
Seth and Jade were still fuming as we walked back to the dorm. Since it was after eleven o’clock, we decided to call it a night. All of us had early classes in the morning. My first class was Modern Biology at eight. Jade and I went to our rooms while Sydney and Seth wandered off to a sofa in the lounge area. On the elevator, Jade remarked that she thought they made a cute couple, and she hoped they started dating. I rolled my eyes when she said, “Now we have to find you a cute guy.”
When I got to my room, it appeared as if a tornado had swept through it. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take of Travis’s partying. My laptop, which I had put away earlier in my desk, was sitting out with a video game still displayed on the monitor. I shut it down and then attempted to clean my area. I tossed all the beer cans, empty snack bags and paper cups onto Travis’s bed. He would be mad, but I didn’t care.
I finally crawled into bed and fell asleep. I was awakened later when Travis came stumbling into the room. One of his friends helped him over to his bed. He pushed all the trash I had thrown there earlier onto the floor, threw Travis onto this bed and left. I had to get out of bed and turn off the overhead light he had left on. When I returned, I stood and looked down at Travis’s drunken body. He was sprawled out with slobber drooling from the side of his mouth. He snorted something inaudible and then rolled over in bed. I climbed back into my bed and fell asleep.
When my alarm went off at 6:30, Travis hollered out, “Turn that goddamned thing off!” I hopped out of bed and slowly made my way to my desk to silence it as Travis continued to rant. “I’ll throw that mother fucker out the window the next time it wakes me up!” He moaned his displeasure and then fell back asleep. I quickly dressed, put my laptop in its case and left for the day. I considered showering, but I could hear movement in the hallway; so I assumed other guys were getting ready for classes too.
When I went downstairs, Jade and Sydney were waiting for me. Since we had the same schedules, it was easy to accompany each other to class. Sydney looked much nicer than the day before. She had spent a lot of time curling her hair and applying makeup. When I told her how nice she looked, Jade commented, “She’s trying to get a certain guy to like her.”
Sydney lightly slapped my arm when I asked, “Could that certain guy be Seth?”
We went to breakfast at the dining area in a nearby dorm. It was filled with sleepy-eyed students who, like us, had scheduled early morning classes. “I’m glad we only do this two mornings,” moaned Jade. “At least the other morning classes are at 9:30.”
I found out quickly that my first year of college wasn’t going to be much different from high school, except the classes seemed more organized. In all classes, the professor passed out a syllabus with the material they planned to cover for the quarter. We had to endure lectures about attending classes and making sure our work was turned in promptly. My world civilization professor even confirmed that our freshman year was the ‘weeding out’ process. If we didn’t make the cut, then we’d be flipping hamburgers the rest of our lives. I wanted to raise my hand and ask him if he knew my father.
Seth called Sydney as we were leaving our afternoon class, and he asked if we would like to meet him in the Student Union. Jade and I kidded her because she was practically running to get there. He smiled a toothy grin when we approached, and his eyes lit up when he saw Sydney. It looked like Cupid’s arrow had found its mark. Even though I was at first upset because Seth was straight, I was happy that he liked Sydney. They made a nice couple.
Seth suggested that we go to the game room and play pool. I was skeptical because I had never played the game. I had seen a movie a few years earlier about a guy who made money shooting pool; but other than that, I knew nothing about it. Seth assured me, however, that it wasn’t that difficult to learn to play.
Since it was still early afternoon, we had the game room to ourselves. At least I didn’t have an audience to watch me make a fool out of myself. Twice I knocked the eight ball in the pocket; but Seth would take it out and place it back on the table. I asked him if that wasn’t cheating, but he said that it was okay as long as the other player agreed. I had very little knowledge of the game, but even I knew he was lying. However, Sydney and Jade were worse than I was. Jade and I would raise an eyebrow each time Seth got behind Sydney and put his arms around her to show her how to hit the ball with her cue stick. Jade even commented to me that she thought Sydney knew how to play pool, but she was acting dumb just to get Seth to hold her. Their faces reddened when Jade put her arms around me and began humping me as she acted as if she was trying to instruct me.
Suddenly, Sydney stopped, stepped toward the door and looked at a television screen that was suspended from the ceiling in another room. She then turned toward me with an astonished look on her face. “You’d better see this, Dorian,” she warned me. Jade, Seth and I cautiously approached the door.
On the television screen was file footage of my father. His image appeared on CNN, and the caption scrolling across the bottom of the screen read, ‘Special Announcement: Governor Mark Caswell to announce at a press conference at 5:00 that Senator Jonathan Gale will be his vice presidential running mate.’
Jade turned to me with a surprised look on her face. She grabbed my arm and excitedly exclaimed, “Holy crap, Dorian!”
“What’s going on?” asked Seth. He looked puzzled by the reactions of Jade, Sydney and myself. I couldn’t remember if anyone had mentioned to him that my father was Senator Gale. Jade gave me a questioning look and I nodded my head.
“Senator Gale is Dorian’s father,” she informed Seth. His eyes widened, and he fell back against the door.
“What?” I nodded my head. “Jesus,” he sighed. “How come you never mentioned it?”
“It just never came up,” remarked Sydney. “Besides, Dorian and his father don’t exactly get along.”
I walked over, sat down on a sofa and buried my head in my hands. “I can’t believe this,” I moaned. Jade and Sydney sat down beside me and patted me on my back.
Just then, my cell phone rang. It was my mother. I got up and excused myself as I walked across the room so the others couldn’t hear our conversation. “Hello, Mother,” I said nervously into the phone.
She asked, “Have you heard? Governor Caswell wants your father to be his vice president.”
I paused a minute before answering, “Yes, Ma’am. I just saw it on CNN.”
I almost fell to the floor when she announced, “We’d like you to come home.”
“What!” I shouted. I looked over to see the others staring at me.
“Your father thinks it would be best if you came home,” she replied. “He thinks you should be here with us.”
“So he can control what I do, Mother?” I asked angrily. “He doesn’t want me where he can’t monitor what I’m doing so I don’t embarrass him?” I was beginning to become very upset. I was just starting school and making new friends. I wasn’t going to let him force me to come home and live a solitary life in my bedroom so it wouldn’t be revealed he had a gay son.
“Dorian,” she insisted, “It’s not like that. He just feels you should be here at home with us.”
“At home while you’re out on the campaign trail? At home where no one will know?”
“Know what? What are you talking about, Dorian?”
“Cut the crap, Mother!” I shouted. “Dad doesn’t want anyone to know I’m gay.” The phone went silent as she grasped what I had just revealed. Even though I had never officially come out to my parents, I realized I had just done it in a moment of anger.
“Mother?” I asked urgently when she didn’t reply. “Are you still there?”
Her voice shook as she insisted again, “You’d better come home.”
Tears started to well up in my eyes as I replied, “No, Mother. I won’t.” I then hung up.
When I looked across the room, Jade, Sydney and Seth were staring worriedly at me. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I was upset, and I knew they would pressure me for details of what my mother had said.
So I left. I turned and headed out the door. In the background I could hear the newscaster on the television in the Student Union still discussing my father’s qualifications to be vice president.
“If you want a homophobic prick,” I muttered to myself as I hurried from the room.
I felt guilty running away from the others because they were becoming really good friends. I knew I could trust them; however, talking to someone about my problems was something I wasn’t accustomed to doing. In the past, I would find solace in reading book or watching a movie to forget what was bothering me. Occasionally, Carlton would try to prod answers from me when he would notice I was upset. But for now, I needed to be alone. It was in my solitude that I could better deal with life’s problems.
And I knew this would become a serious problem. I was a delicate situation that my father didn’t want to discuss. How could he stand on a stage and denounce gay rights and gay marriage if he had a gay son? People might view him as hypocritical. However, I am the only one who could attest to the fact that he was firm in his beliefs. He is homophobic, and he detests having a gay son. If I admitted that to the press, however, it would only make him more appealing to his conservative base.
I considered going back to the Student Union, but I wanted to be alone for a little while. I would apologize later and hope that they would understand. I knew Jade and Sydney would. Seth had only recently found out who I was, so it might be a little more overwhelming for him. I needed to talk to him and try to persuade him not to tell Raleigh, Travis or the others what he knew. I was hoping I could fit in somehow, although that seemed impossible. However, I don’t think it would matter to them that I was Senator Gale’s son. All they cared about was that they presumed I was gay. They displayed the same resentment toward me that my father did. One thing was certain- the next few months were going to be difficult for me.
I wandered around aimlessly for an hour. There was a chill in the air even though it was a late August night. I entered a school store located in a small mall in the center of campus and purchased a school hoodie. After leaving the store, I noticed a small coffee shop. I sat down at a table with a large umbrella that shielded me from the sun setting in the west. Soon a server came to the table and took my order. After studying the menu, I ordered a café latte and a spinach salad.
As I ate, I kept making eye contact with a young man at a nearby table. He had his laptop out, and he would occasionally look over the top at me and just stare. I tried to avert my eyes, but there was something about him that made me want to make eye contact. I continued to nibble on my salad and occasionally look over at him.
He was cute, but he looked like most of the young guys walking around campus. His hair was curly brown. It appeared naturally soft, almost as if you would want to walk up to him and run your hands through it. He had on sunglasses, so I couldn’t tell what color his eyes were. It appeared he hadn’t shaved for several days because a light beard was beginning to form on his face. He appeared rather thin, but his features weren’t gaunt. He seemed to have a swimmer’s body- lean and muscular.
The waitress had cleaned my table, and I was getting ready to leave when he closed his laptop, got up and approached my table. I nervously looked away because I was afraid he was going to say something about the way I had been staring at him. Instead, he sat down and extended his hand toward me.
“Hi,” he said smilingly. “I’m Weston Hayes, but everyone calls me Wes.” He smiled broadly as he took off his sunglasses to reveal a pair of beautiful blue eyes. I nervously reached out my hand to shake his. His grip was firm and strong.
“I’m Dorian,” I replied nervously. I didn’t tell him my last name because I was afraid he would make a remark about it being the last name of the man who was now being talked about on the news.
The waitress walked up and asked us if we would like anything else. “Yes,” Wes replied quickly before I could object. He looked at my now empty glass. “Bring us two of whatever he just drank.” She nodded, turned and walked away. He looked at me and asked, “What is that? I hope it isn’t anything strange.”
My face reddened as I looked over at him. His smile was infectious, and I didn’t want to seem too struck by his genuine friendliness. He noticed my embarrassment and started laughing. “Relax, Dorian,” he laughed. “I don’t bite.”
“Why are you here?” I regretted saying it as soon as the words came out of my mouth. Wes was probably just being friendly, and I was assuming he had some ulterior motive. I wasn’t used to strangers approaching me, especially good-looking ones.
Wes shrugged his shoulders as he continued to stare at me. “I don’t know,” he replied. “You were looking at me and I just sort of felt this vibe going on between us.” He looked around at the nearby tables, and then leaned in and asked softly, “You are gay, right?”
“What?” I asked nervously.
He leaned toward me and whispered softly, “It’s okay. I’m gay, too.” He sat back and smiled. “God, I thought I was the only one at this school who was.” When I didn’t reply, he gave me a worried look and asked, “I didn’t offend you or anything, did I?”
“No,” I replied. “It’s just this whole thing is kind of weird?”
Wes gave me a puzzled look. “Weird?” Then he sat back and started laughing. “Oh, you mean me being so brazen?” I smiled and nodded my head. “My boyfriend, Alex, tells me all the time I’m going to say something to the wrong person some day and get the shit kicked out of me.”
Boyfriend. That was a word I didn’t want to hear. Wes was very cute, and I was beginning to think that maybe he would pass Jade’s approval as boyfriend material; however, that all vanished quickly.
“Boyfriend?” I asked solemnly. Wes noticed the disappointment in my voice.
“Oh, God,” he leaned toward me, “You didn’t think I was coming on to you, did you?”
“No,” I replied with a forced smile. “I didn’t think that.”
He scooted his chair nearer to mine. “It’s just that I’m really missing him, and I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. All the guys in my dorm are straight, and...” He stopped when I started laughing. “What?”
“My dorm is the same,” I replied. “My roommate is an asshole.”
“Yours too?” Wes laughed. “When I left this morning, he was jerking off to a Hustler Magazine.” We laughed when he put his hands to his chest and pretended he was holding two ripe melons.
“Mine was in a drunken stupor,” I said. “But I walked in on him banging some girl the first night we arrived.”
“That must have given you nightmares.” He sat back and laughed. The waitress arrived with our lattes and we stared at each other as we quietly sipped from our cups. Finally, Wes put down his cup and asked, “So, do you have a boyfriend? I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re really cute.”
My face reddened, and I looked away. “No,” I replied, “No boyfriend.” The sun was beginning to set, and the dim patio lights came on as we continued to drink our lattes. Wes ordered another when the waitress came out again.
“This is nice,” remarked Wes as he sat back and took a sip. Just then, my cell phone rang. It was Jade calling. “Aren’t you going to answer it?”
“No,” I replied. I was enjoying the relaxed mood I was feeling with Wes. I felt comfortable, and Jade would insist on finding me. I motioned for the waitress to bring us the tab. Wes insisted on paying his share, but I quickly handed her my credit card.
“You don’t have to do this,” he remarked. “I can pay for my own drinks.”
“I know,” I replied as the waitress returned with my card. After writing in a generous tip, I stood and asked Wes if he was ready to leave.
“Are you trying to avoid someone?” He asked as we strolled slowly down the sidewalk.
“Yeah,” I laughed nervously. “Me.” Wes gave me a puzzled look as I quickly walked away. He ran up beside me and grabbed my arm.
“Are you all right, Dorian?” The trembling started in my shoulders, and before I could stop them, tears started falling from my eyes as I began to sob uncontrollably. Wes reached out and pulled me into his body. “Come on,” he whispered softly as he looked around to see if anyone noticed us. He put his arm around my shoulder to steady me as we walked.
He asked worriedly, “Do you want me to take you back to your room?”
I wiped tears from my cheek and laughed, “That’s the last place I need to go.”
“Do you want me to call someone?” He pulled me closer into his body and held me tighter.
I looked into his eyes and sighed sorrowfully, “Why are all the good ones always taken?”
He closed his eyes and brought his lips nearer to mine. The kiss was gentle and tender. I wrapped my arms around his body as he drew me tighter. Suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of remorse surged through my body. I knew what we were doing was wrong. Wes had a boyfriend who he obviously loved very much. It was wrong for me to take advantage of him. I pulled away and shook my head. “I can’t do this,” I muttered as I looked upon his astonished face. By his expression, he too knew we had crossed the boundaries of friendship.
“Listen,” he said apologetically as he wiped my kiss from his lips. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to happen.”
“Me either,” I replied sadly as I turned and hurried away.
* * * * * * * * * *
“Are you all right?” Jade asked as she and Sydney sat down beside me at the counter at Tim Horton’s. “I called you all night but you didn’t answer your phone.”
“Yeah, well...” I mumbled as I motioned for the waitress to bring me more coffee. I was going to need it to stay awake for my classes. After leaving Wes, I walked around campus for a little while before returning to my dorm room. Travis wasn’t there, but from the noise two doors down, it was obvious a large party was being held. The noise from the stereo could probably be heard a mile away. I undressed and climbed into bed and covered my head with a pillow. However, it did no good in silencing the pounding music coming from down the hall.
Finally, sometime after four, Travis staggered into the room with the help of a friend and dropped into his bed. Seconds later, the room filled with a different irritation- his deafening snoring.
“You look like shit,” stated Sydney as she closely studied my somber mood.
“Thanks,” I remarked sharply as I turned my back to them.
Nothing was turning out as I had planned. I thought that by beginning college I could start a new life. However, I was quickly finding out that nothing had changed- just the same old shit, a different place. I hated my dorm room more than the quiet room I used to dread at home. It was agonizing to go to my room and never know what was waiting for me on the other side. At least at home, I could find solitude- and loneliness. Now, I was just lonely.
I also thought I could finally be free from my father’s influence, but now my life was just beginning to become intertwined more deeply with his. Now that he had entered the national political spotlight, his life, and mine, would be examined under a very intense microscope. It was only a matter of time before the media would make their way to the campus to meet ‘The Senator’s Son.’ I know my father would make every attempt to shield me from public scrutiny, but that would be next to impossible. As a senator, it was easier to do. Now, he was on the national stage, and the vetting would be more difficult to stop. It would only be a matter of time until I was paraded before the world as Senator Jonathan Gale’s gay son.
As I glanced at Jade and Sydney, I wanted to let them help me with my problems; but I couldn’t. I needed to protect them. Even though our friendship was still in a blossoming stage, I knew that they both would feel the need to protect me. However, I had seen how cruel the media could be when they wanted to penetrate someone’s personal life. They would be no match, and it could jeopardize their own reputations. Therefore, I needed to distance myself from them in order to keep them safe.
And Wes. The kiss. My first kiss. I couldn’t fall asleep because each time I closed my eyes, I felt his gentle lips against mine. But why did I allow him to kiss me?
Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed right. What little order I had tried to maintain in my life was quickly coming apart.
Jade startled me from my contemplative reverie. “Dorian?” she asked worriedly, “Are you all right?”
“No,” I replied woefully.