“I wasn’t sure you’d come,” said Rodney as I walked nervously into his hotel room.
“I’m not sure myself why I’m here,” I replied as I took a seat in the overstuffed chair in the corner.
Actually, I did know. I needed to know if I’d wasted the past eighteen years following false feelings. Did Pandora’s Box exist? In my fear to open it, would I really find something inside that didn’t apply to me? Just because I had liked Joey back in high school, and then felt a desire, no a need to kiss him, did it mean that I was actually gay?
Perhaps it had just been teenage infatuation. I read sometime ago that boys often go through stages in which they experiment with homosexuality. In some cultures it was even encouraged.
But that doesn’t explain my intense feelings for Joey. Even after he and my brother, Allen, became a couple, I still felt a desire to have him. On several occasions. I think even Allen sensed it. When Tina and I would visit during the holidays, he’d sit and watch me carefully. In the back of my mind, I always felt I posed a threat to him.
Another thing that worries me, and is perhaps the reason for my drinking, is the fear that Joey may not share the same feeling for me that I have for him. What if I have wasted eighteen years pursuing a pipe dream? Not once in all the years following that kiss, has Joey ever acknowledge it. It’s not like it isn’t meant to be spoken about. It is as if he has completely forgotten about it.
And that hurts. Deeply. That kiss had almost devastated my life. It could have caused a rift between me and my father. It almost ruined my reputation at school. It didn’t only because Joey took the heat for what I had done. After he did that, I thought maybe he had done it because he felt something for me. However, I came to realize he did it only because I was Allen’s brother. And he loved Allen, not me.
“Why don’t you come sit beside me?” Rodney interrupted me from my thoughts. He patted the bed beside him. “I told you earlier, I don’t bite. That is, unless you want me to.”
I looked at him and let out a sigh. I was beginning to question my reason for coming to his room so late at night. Earlier, I had felt a need to prove something to myself. I wanted to cross that bridge and prove to myself that I could face the demons who for so many years have tormented me. Rodney was a willing and very able suitor. He didn’t repulse me like so many other men have done in the past. I didn’t feel dirty when he touched me. I had thought that perhaps this could work. Suddenly, I had serious doubts.
When he saw that I was unwilling to move, he got up from the bed and walked over to the dresser. He opened a brown paper bag sitting atop it and pulled out a bottle of bourbon.
“Tada!” He exclaimed as he lifted the bottle into the air and waved it at me. “I thought we just might need an ice breaker.” He unwrapped two cups from their cellophane covers and poured us each a drink. He walked over, handed me the drink and then sat down in the chair beside me.
“Are you all right?” he asked. The tone of his voice didn’t sound as if he was concerned about me. He was more worried that he would not be able to get me into bed.
I looked over at him and nodded. He was smiling at me and trying to seduce me with his charm. He was extremely handsome, and any other man would have been honored to have been in his company. We sat quietly, sipping at the liquor in our plastic cups. He took one last sip and finished its contents.
“I’m going to bed,” he announced. He walked over to the dresser and removed his watch. He then toed off his shoes and unbuttoned his shirt. I watched him strip as he revealed a firm and toned body.
He had on a gray pair of boxer briefs which showed the outlines of a very large cock. There was a wet spot where precum had formed. He looked at me, and then pulled off his briefs. His cock sprung from its tight confines. I heard a gasp come from my mouth when it lurched upward.
He smiled demurely before going over to the bed and lying atop it. I watched as he laid his head back and closed his eyes. His hand grabbed his cock and he began to stroke it slowly. I could feel my own cock growing hard within my pants.
He looked over at me. “I feel a little awkward here like this. Why don’t you join me?”
I stood and slowly walked over to the bed. I sat down and stared at his nakedness. His eyes met mine as he slowly continued to stroke his cock. I watched intently as droplets of precum formed on its tip.
It was the first time I had let myself enjoy another man’s naked body. I had seen many over the years in locker rooms, but I had always abided by the cardinal rule: Never, ever look at another guy like you wanted him. So most of my curiosity had been satisfied by quick glances. Now Rodney lay before me completely naked, begging me to enjoy him and wanting me to want him.
He reached out and ran his hand across my thigh. I let out a gasp. I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. I stopped breathing when his hand grasped my erection.
“Nice,” he muttered as he began to stroke me. He then took his other hand and grabbed mine and pulled it to his hard cock. I tentatively wrapped my hand around it. I slowly masturbated him as he stroked mine through the material of my pants. My cock was as hard as I had ever felt it.
Then he did something unexpectedly. He leaned up suddenly and tried to kiss me. He grabbed the back of my head and pulled me toward him. When his lips touched mine, I sprang from the bed and looked angrily down at him.
“What’s wrong?” He asked as he sat up in bed and looked worriedly at me. “I thought you were enjoying it?”
“Why did you have to kiss me?” I shouted. “No one kisses me, but...” I suddenly stopped, when I realized what I was about to say.
“Sorry, Man,” he apologized. “I guess you only kiss your old lady. A lot of guys are like that. I should have asked first.”
“It’s not Tina,” I replied as I went back to the chair and sat down. I buried my head in my hands. Suddenly, I stood and announced, “I have to go.”
“What?” Rodney rose from the bed and walked over toward me. His cock was still hard, and it swayed from side to side as he approached. For the first time that evening, I felt repulsed.
“You can’t leave me like this.” He grabbed his erection and pulled on it.
“Look, Rodney,” I apologized. “I thought I was ready for this, but I was wrong. I can’t go through with this.”
“Did I do something wrong?” He approached me, put his hands on my shoulders and attempted to pull me towards him.
I stepped back and pushed his hands away. “I have to go.” I tried to walk around him, but he grabbed my arm. Instinctively, I lifted my hand to hit him. He raised his hands to block my punch.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I was wrong for coming here.”
“Fuck you!” he shouted as I headed for the door. “You’re one crazy mother fucker.” I slammed the door shut and didn’t hear the rest of his ranting as I ran down the hall towards the elevator.
CONGRATULATIONS! NICHOLAS CARPENTER
I stood proudly with my arm around Nicky’s shoulder. We were reading the enormous sign that Star had made and hung over the fireplace mantle. I looked over and saw tears in his eyes. He looked at me, threw himself into my arms and cried.
John Foster, my attorney, had called me earlier in the day and given me the good news. I left my office at 1:30 so that I could pick Nicky up when he got out of his school. He stopped abruptly when he exited the wide doors and saw my car parked out front. I had almost never picked him up at school, except on a few rare occasions when he had gotten sick.
I exited my car and approached him. I watched his lower lip begin to quiver and then tears formed in his eyes. He knew why I was there. We’d been waiting for weeks to hear from the adoption board. When I smiled at him, he dropped his book bag and leapt into my arms.
“Dad,” he cried as I whirled him around in the air.
“Yes, Son.” I put him on the ground and we again hugged. “Come on.” I grabbed his hand and led him to the car. “This calls for a celebration.”
We drove to a nearby Baskin Robbins, the ice cream store with 31 flavors. I think Nicky sampled about half of them. He was holding his stomach and moaning when we left.
“There’s my boy.” Ticker stepped up beside us and ruffled Nicky’s hair.
“Aw, Man!” he yelped. “Now I have to go comb it.” I laughed as he ran off to the bathroom.
“I’m so happy for you,” remarked Ticker as he pulled me into a bear hug.
“I can’t believe it went through so quickly,” I replied as I stepped away from him. I rubbed my shoulder from the pain of his hug.
“John told you that you had nothing to worry about,” he assured me.
“I know,” I replied, “but I still wasn’t sure.”
Just then Nicky went flying by with Booger chasing after him. Booger is Jeffrey, Ticker’s twelve year old son. He and Nicky are the best of friends. When Nicky first came to stay with me, Jeffrey was a regular visitor until Nicky became more comfortable being in the house with me alone.
“Stop it!” Nicky squealed. Ticker and I laughed when Booger put his finger in his nose and tried to wipe it on Nicky’s shirt.
“Dad!” Nicky screamed. “Make Booger quit wiping his snot on me. That’s gross!” He squealed once again, and then tore off through the kitchen and out into the yard. Minutes later, he and Jeffrey were wrestling around on the ground.
“Jeffrey!” Star hollered from the back door. “I want you to stop it.” He looked innocently at her, and then turned and picked his nose as Nicky went running around the front of the house.
“Boys!” She huffed as she walked into the den where Ticker and I were standing. “I swear they’re going to put me into an early grave.”
Star was as beautiful as ever. She is one of those women who seem to age gracefully. Long gone were her girlish features. She had blossomed into a very attractive woman.
She reached down and grabbed my hand. “Let’s take a walk.” We left the house and strolled down the street. I knew where we were going. There was a nearby park with several isolated benches. Allen, Star and I used to spend a lot of time there just before he died. He loved being outside in the fresh air, and the short walk was good for him.
We sat down on a bench far away from the kids playing on the playground equipment. Mothers were running around frantically trying to keep their child from getting hurt. We laughed as one mother tried desperately to pull her son from the parallel bars.
Star reached down and squeezed my hand. “Big day, huh?” She looked over and tears formed in her eyes.
“Yeah,” I replied as tears started falling down my cheek. “I didn’t think I’d ever be this happy again.” She held me as we cried softly into each other’s shoulder.
She pulled away and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “You deserve to be happy, Joey. You’re one of the kindest, gentlest people God ever put on this earth. What you’ve been through, and then to still have a heart of gold is amazing.” She reached out and gave me another hug.
“Nicky’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” I said. “There was a time there a few years ago that I wasn’t sure I’d make it. When Allen died, a part of me died to. Nicky has given me a reason to want to get up in the morning.”
“He’s a wonderful young man,” she replied. “He’s very lucky to have you as a father.”
“Father,” I laughed. “Can you believe it? Me a dad.” Tears welled up in my eyes. “I wish Allen were here to share this moment.” I put my head on her shoulder and sobbed.
“Don’t, Joey.” She raised my head and stared into my eyes. “Allen’s been dead five years. Don’t you think...?”
I stood up and began to walk away. Star trotted up beside me and grabbed my arm. “Star,” I replied angrily. “Let’s not have this conversation right now.”
“But Joey,” she responded sadly. “You need someone.”
“I got Nicky,” I insisted. She put her arms around me and pulled me into a hug.
“And I’m happy for you,” she said softly. “But you still need someone. Nicky can provide a son’s love, but you need more than that.”
“I don’t need more than that,” I said as I pulled away. “We’ve been over this a thousand times. I don’t want anyone else! Just drop it, Star.” I walked away and headed back to the house.
“All right,” Star said apologetically. “This isn’t the right time. I’m sorry.” I turned and faced her.
“I know you mean well,” I replied softly. “But honestly, I’m happy with my life. I’ve got Nicky and my job. I couldn’t ask for more.”
“All right.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed me gently on the cheek. I sighed, knowing that this wasn’t the end of the conversation. She was determined that I needed a man in my life, and she wasn’t going to be satisfied until there was one. The only problem was, I didn’t want anyone else. I hadn’t even thought of a man since Allen’s death. As far as I was concerned, it was a subject I didn’t want to discuss anymore.
Things hadn’t changed when we arrived home. Jeffrey was still chasing Nicky around the house and pointing his finger at him. Nicky was shrieking in a high pitched tone that sent chills down my spine.
“Nicky!” I shouted. He came to an abrupt stop. I pointed to the sofa. “I want you and Booger, I mean Jeffrey, to sit down and stop acting like little children.”
“But, Dad,” whined Nicky.
“No, buts.” I pointed again to the sofa. “Sit.” They both walked dejected to the sofa and plopped down in it. I was immediately rewarded with angry looks from both boys.
Ticker walked over and threw his large arm around my shoulder. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
“What is it?”
“I had a young man in my third period, Travis Armstrong, approach me after school.” I started to pull away, but Ticker tightened his grip around my neck.
“Ouch!” I screamed. He then bent me over and gave me a noogie. He hadn’t done that to me since high school.
He lifted me back up, and then gripped my neck tightly. “It seems you suggested that I be the class advisor for some gay-straight alliance group you want to form at school.”
“Yeah,” I responded as I attempted to pull myself away from him. “About that.”
“Come on, Joey,” he whined. “What made you volunteer me for something like that? You know I don’t have the time.”
I looked over and gave him the saddest face I could muster up.
“And then there’s the kids,” he continued. Again, I frowned and pretended to cry. “I have to pick them up after school and then help them with their homework.”
I frowned harder and started to whimper. I knew I had him when he started to smile. “Look, Ticker,” I said. “Who’s better qualified to do it? After all, your best friend for over twenty years is gay.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Star asked as she stepped up and put her hand on Ticker’s arm.
“He wants me to be the advisor for a gay-straight group at school.” Ticker looked at Star, expecting her to side with him.
“That’s wonderful!” she shrieked. She leaned in and kissed him. “I’ve read about those groups in a few magazines. They really help break down the barriers of homophobia at the schools where they exist.”
“So,” I asked. “What about it?” I raised my eyebrows and waited for him to respond. He looked back and forth between me and Star.
“You won’t take no for an answer, will you?” We both shook our heads.
“All right, then.” Star leaned in and kissed him. I walked over and gave him a hug. He pretended to pull away, and then he pulled me into another bear hug.
“Umph,” I moaned. I pulled away and smiled at him. “You won’t regret this.”
“I know,” he replied. “I was in the teachers’ lounge yesterday when Coach Arnold came in ranting about gay students at Southwestern. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he finds out they are organizing.”
“Thanks again, Ticker.” I leaned in and hugged him again. “This means a lot to me.”
“Mom!” Jeffrey jumped from the couch screaming. “Nicky just wiped his nasty booger on my pants.” He ran from the room and into the bathroom.
I was going to chastise him until he grinned evilly, waved his finger into the air and announced proudly, “The best defense is a good offense.” Ticker, Star and I couldn’t contain our laughter.
We were later able to coax a still angry Jeffrey from the bathroom so that we could attend dinner at a downtown restaurant. It was one of Nicky’s favorite places. He loved pizza, and they had the best oven-baked pizzas in town. Even Jeffrey couldn’t resist.
By the time the evening was over, Nicky had crashed. I tried to awaken him, but I ended up carrying him from the car to his bedroom. I helped him get undressed and into bed. I kissed him gently on the forehead and then got up to leave.
“Dad,” he whispered sleepily. I walked back over and sat down on the side of the bed. He sat up and threw his arms around my neck. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Son,” I replied tearfully as I kissed him once again on his forehead. He laid his head back on his pillow, and within seconds he was sleeping peacefully.
I felt cheap after leaving Rodney’s hotel room. I wondered if this was how a teenage girl felt after letting her boyfriend feel her up in the backseat of a car. Most importantly, I was disappointed with myself. My mind had been screaming all night not to put myself in such a situation, but I had let my curiosity win out.
My cell phone had been ringing endlessly all evening. It was Tina. There were seven text messages, but I didn’t bother to read them. I knew what they said. They always said the same thing- I’m sorry.
What did she have to be sorry about? I was the one who had ruined our relationship. I was the one who didn’t have the guts to face the truth. I was the one who lived a lie day after day. Yet she always ends up apologizing to me. I think I resent Tina for that. If she would just realize the fuck-up I am and leave me, then at least one of us could salvage some happiness in our lives.
There were numerous times I considered telling her the truth, my secret. But every time I’d get up the courage to tell her, she’d bring up the subject of having children. We’d then end up in an argument.
I can’t count the number of times I looked at her and wanted to scream, “I don’t love you! I love Joey!”
I love Joey. Jesus. Even the words hurt. Love. What in the hell do I know about love? I denied myself love eighteen years ago. I even told him how I felt about him, but then I dismissed it as quickly as the words came out of my mouth.
If things had only been different. If my old man hadn’t been such a prick. I saw how he treated Allen, and I couldn’t be rejected like he was. I wasn’t that strong. It would have killed me. So I followed Dad’s lead and turned against Allen. I had loved him- worshipped him as a small boy. Then I watched as his life crumbled away, and I didn’t say anything. I was too young and vulnerable. I was hiding the same secret.
Then somehow he met Joey, the boy I’d had a crush on since the seventh grade. My world came crashing down. I had to sit by and watch as they developed a relationship that I wanted to have.
Then came the kiss, and my world did fall around me. What happened after that is a vague memory. I can recall going to Billy Joe’s barn with the sole intent of killing myself. Ironically, it was Joey who saved my life. My mother learned the truth that day, and we guarded it closely so that my father would never find out.
Only years later, as Allen lay dying, did my father finally reconcile and accept his and Joey’s relationship. He grieved for years after Allen died. I guess the guilt of how he had treated Allen consumed him.
My mother tried to get me to talk to him and tell him that I too was gay. However, life has a way of going beyond points of no return. It’s like you cross over a bridge and can’t go back again. How had that bartender say it? You can’t cross a bridge to yesterday.
Against my mother’s warnings, I married and tried to live a life that wasn’t meant for me. As much as I was disappointed with the direction of my life, so was she. I know she means well, but it bothers me to be told I’m hurting Tina. I know I’m hurting her. I can see it in her eyes every time I look at her.
Damn phone. It won’t stop ringing. As usual, I’m sitting at a bar stool nurturing a drink in my hand. The waiter just announced that it was last round.
“Another?” he asks. I nod and hand him my empty glass. “Here.” He pushes the filled glass back to me. I sip it and again and listen to my cell phone ringing.
“Why the hell don’t you answer that?” The bartender says angrily. “It’s been ringing for the last hour.”
I sigh and open the phone. “Hello?”
“Gene. Thank God,” cried Tina. “I’ve been trying to get you all night.”
“What’s wrong, Tina?” Her voice was quivering.
“Your mother called,” she sobbed. “Your father died a couple of hours ago.”