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For the Love of David

by Charlie

Second Alternate Reality

Part Three

Camp that summer was fun and exciting as it always was. Lot's of boy bodies to look at; all off limits. A week at the end of the summer with David in Indianapolis at the same time as me. Two nights of sex. It might have been better it we had missed seeing each other. The sex was sad, not happy. We had to go through the parting all over again. It really broke us up.

Then David was off to Germany and I was off to Columbia University in New York. What an adventure. What a bust!

I loved Columbia. I loved New York. I explored the city from end to end and side to side. I loved Broadway. I loved the Village. I found some of the gay haunts, but never anyone that I wanted to relate to. I was propositioned by several men, all older. I suppose I could have made money but it didn't interest me. Soon that aspect of New York faded in my interest. I simply didn't have enough experience to move into a gay world. And I didn't have the inclination either.

Of course, all of this activity left no time for school. And I lacked David's self-discipline, and I missed him as a study taskmaster. My grades were terrible. I didn't flunk out, but continuing seemed pointless. So it was back to Indianapolis in late January. David and I wrote a few times, but our hearts really weren't in it. I knew that he had had a wonderful time in Germany. He had improved his German tremendously. He was back by Christmas, and had enrolled in Northwestern University in a special program for bright kids that didn't need to finish high school. He had already left for Northwestern when I got back to Indianapolis.

My parents were great. They were, of course, disappointed in my failure, but were very supportive. We had an unspoken understanding that I would try again in the fall, probably at a small school nearer home. But what to do in the spring? There was always flipping hamburgers, or other meaningless employment, but it didn't seem the right thing to do. It was finally agreed that I needed to get away, grow up, and experience some new things. At that time travel in Europe was much less common than now, interesting, different, and cheap. I went. I spent about ten weeks touring Scandinavia, Germany, France, the Low Countries and England. I was home before summer. I went back to my counseling job at camp that summer. In the fall I enrolled in Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois, about two hours north and west of Chicago-right on the Wisconsin line. It was a small liberal arts college, and I fit in well. But I wasn't really happy, and certainly not excited about my situation. My classes were going better than Columbia, but I wasn't setting any records either. David and I exchanged a couple of letters. We weren't then, and hadn't been in the time we were separated, inclined to write love letters. We simply exchanged factual information about what we were doing. They were very sterile. But his second letter to me at Rockford included an invitation to visit him in Evanston. He would come into Chicago on the train and meet my train from Rockford. Nothing was said about plans for the weekend-just that we would meet. I think we both were wondering where it would lead. After all, we hadn't seen each other for fourteen months.

He met my train. I walked off the station platform into the waiting area and there he was. I was in love all over again. We ran to each other and hugged. And kissed. Neither of us gave a damn what the strangers around us might think. And I don't their they either noticed or gave a damn.

David simply said, "Welcome back. I have a room reserved for us in the hotel in Evanston."

I said, "Thank you, God."

Before we were out of the station we were back where we had been. It was as if fourteen months had been fourteen hours. We walked quite a ways toward the lake, and found a bench where we could sit and see Lake Michigan. We briefly compared notes about the past year. We both admitted to being afraid of this meeting and what it might bring. Could we recapture what we had had? Had the other moved on? Were we still gay? Sounds like a funny question today; it didn't then. Our kiss had answered all the questions. The rest was trivial details.

We walked around Chicago. I hadn't been there very often, and I enjoyed looking around. But we both knew that we wanted to get to Evanston. After a quick lunch we took the train north. The Evanston Hotel was right across the street from the station. We went in and claimed the reservation David had made for me, and we went up to the room. Clothes didn't last long. It was wild. We were both horny, sex starved, hot, insert whatever adjectives come to mind-they all apply.

We came up for air around dinner time and went out to eat. We walked over to the campus and David showed me around. I saw his room and met his roommate Lon. Lon was moving to a frat house the second semester; David would need a new roommate!

Later than night David laid it on me. First, we were obviously madly in love, and we sure as fuck weren't going to even think otherwise, as we had the last time we said goodbye. Second, I was going to transfer to Northwestern second semester. Third I was going to room with him.

I simply replied, "Yes, Mary Rose. Or was that Brenda speaking?"

David laughed, and assured me that it was his Mary Rose training.

"Look, David. Let's take these one at a time. First, yes, we are in love. And this separation stuff is a bitch. Second, there is no way I could transfer to Northwestern the second semester with the grades I had at Columbia. Third, I'd give anything to room with you. Well, not anything, certain things, if given up, would make rooming with you rather meaningless."

David didn't flinch at that any more than Mary Rose would have. "Look, yourself. You study like you are able to, not like you are inclined to, and the rest will fall into place. Trust me."

"You aren't giving me a choice, are you?"

"Of course not. And I am going to ride you about your study habits for the rest of the semester, maybe for the rest of our lives. And you are going to be a straight A student, starting now, and you will be at Northwestern second semester. But just to be on the safe side, I'll apply to transfer to Rockford."

"You can't do that! Rockford is not the school for you, and you know it."

"Listen, neither of us can stand the pain of another separation. Either you come here or I go there. It will not be discussed further. It will work out."

That fall and winter were Hell. David was in Evanston and I was in Rockford. We got together a few weekends. We talked on the phone regularly. He was my study master, taskmaster, conscience, slave driver. My grades did go back up. At mid-terms I had all A's-the shock of my parents' lives. And, for the love of God, Northwestern wanted me, or at least the full tuition that my parents were going to pay.

We spent Christmas together in Indianapolis. We realized that the time had come to be up front with our parents about our homosexuality, and our being in love. It made the approach of the holiday both something eagerly awaited (guess why?) and seriously dreaded.

We decided to talk to David's folks first. They were younger than my parents and we both thought they were likely to be more open minded. So David arranged for me to have dinner at his house one evening early in the holiday. His three-year younger sister was with us at the meal, but David decided that her presence might help more than hinder. And she had to know as well as their parents.

David began, saying, "Mom, Dad. Charlie and I have something to tell you. It is something I should have told you awhile ago, but I was afraid. I am gay and so is Charlie."

David and I learned right then why the word gay had quickly become popular. Simply let the two phrases roll off your tongue, as you imagine saying them to you mother for the first time: "I'm homosexual." versus "I'm gay." From then on, both David and I always used the word gay.

Before David could continue, David's father said, "And you and Charlie are madly in love. And you want our blessing. Well, you have it. You could have had it two years ago if you had asked. But your mother and I felt that you had to move at your own speed, and tell us in your own time. But don't think you have been that subtle. Just watching you guys look at each other at the dinner table when Charlie ate with us was all the clue we needed. In fact, your sister was on to you first. We three talked about it. We were glad for you. We all want you to be happy."

He turned to me, "Charlie, in our minds you have been a member of this family for about two years now. We are glad to make it formal."

I didn't know what to say. We had been afraid of this? After a little stammer and stuttering, I managed to say the right thing, "Thank you, Mom and Dad." And I hugged them both, with David right behind me.

David said, to no one in particular, "Now we have to go through the same thing with Charlie's parents. I can't believe it is going to be that easy."

It wasn't. But it was nothing like we feared. It started with the same conversation as with David's parents. But we were stopped short by the immediate response: "What do you mean, gay?"

My parents were somewhat more naive that the average folks in 1959, but only a little. The idea of boys being in love, or more specifically wanting to live together as a family, simply didn't compute. The biggest problem we had was convincing my parents, especially my Dad, that we really were in love, that we had physical sex, and that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together just as a boy and girl would, except that we wouldn't be able to get married. No, no. The world just doesn't work that way! It does for us.

Interestingly, the question of homosexuality being sinful, abnormal, or evil never really came up. Finally, I tried to end the conversation by saying, "David's folks have welcomed me into their family as a second son. Please do the same for David in this family."

Mother finally got it. She looked at David and said, "Come here." He did. She gave him a big hug and then a kiss, and said, "Son, welcome to our family. I may not understand all this, but the choice you are giving me is lose a son or gain a son. There is nothing to choose. Welcome." My dad joined in, but in his world men shook hands, and that is what he and David did.

The question of physical sex and sleeping together was equally beyond them. We decided that the best way to deal with that issue was to simply avoid it. David's folks were perfectly content to leave us alone in David's room, knowing full well what was going on. In fact, I think they got a vicarious kick out of it. For that vacation we simply spent a lot more time at David's than at my house, and we began sleepovers again, which neither of us had done since elementary school!

January passed. I moved to Northwestern. I moved in with David. Things that ought to come naturally, did. My grades held up-the best test of our love. David's were never in doubt. But we didn't feel comfortable telling anybody about our relationship. We were just roommates, and that was how we introduced each other. Perfectly natural, unless your weren't really roommates, but soulmates.

Then Michael knocked on our door and our lives. He lived on another floor in the dorm. We had talked a little. Nice guy. Hadn't thought much more about it. One evening he knocked on our door. We let him in. He sat down on my very well-made bed and got right to the point.

"If I have it wrong, tell me, and I'll go away-and please forget this conversation. But I am pretty sure that you guys are a pair, and that Charlie never uses this bed."

You could have pushed both of us over with less than a feather. No one since Mary Rose had ever been that bold with either of us-even if they suspected. As far was we knew, people didn't even suspect. I looked at David and he looked and me, and we tried to figure out how to answer.

Mike didn't give us a chance. "I see you guys looking at each other trying to figure out whether you can be honest with me. You'd like to step out in the hall and compare notes. Go ahead. But I know I am right. You know I am right. Nobody needs to say it. I'm gay too, and I need a friend-maybe two friends.

We became instant friends. A dream come true-someone we could talk to. And did we talk. Two years worth of only being able to talk to each other about some of our most important feelings and thoughts. We talked long into that night. And almost constantly for the next few days. Mike had, of course, been in the closet in high school. His parents hadn't a clue. He had had one friend in high school that he jacked off with. They jacked each other off, but nothing more. He had tried a few moves on a couple of girls; one had been encouraging and moved right back with her hand inside his pants. But he found he had no interest in having her hand there. Having started it, he felt he had to let her go that evening, and was glad when she made it clear that clothes stayed on on the first date.

We soon had a major decision to make. Mike was too kind to raise the issue, but we sensed that he was really eager to have sex with someone, and we were his obvious candidates. We talked about it some, but couldn't make up our minds. We knew we had made a lifelong commitment to each other. We knew that that meant that we would never have sex with another person, male or female, behind the other's back. But damn! sex was fun! Wouldn't it be more fun with more people? And then there was poor Mike. He so obviously was tired of jacking off-and to make it worse he lived with a roommate who pretended that masturbation didn't happen.

We hedged the decision very nicely. We decided that we couldn't make up our minds about what our lifelong commitment meant. We would have to think about that, reach a decision, and then honor that decision-at least until we agreed to change it. In the meantime, all bets were off. This was decided about 11:30 one evening as we lay there in bed, slowing rubbing each other's dicks while we talked, anticipating more serious sex to come. As soon as I had said, "OK, we have decided not to decide for now, and that means Mike is fair game for the time being," David jumped out of bed, put on the minimum amount of clothes needed to wander the halls at night (I think that meant just a pair of shorts, forget the briefs), and headed for Mike's room. Mike and his roommate were asleep (at 11:30, weird), but his roommate answered the door. David called into the room, "Mike, Charlie needs you, please come." Mike hopped out of bed, pulled on pants, and headed to our room with David, asking, "What's the matter?"

I had gotten into the spirit of things and was laying naked in the middle of the bed, with my hard dick pointing up-I had had to keep tickling it to keep it hard, but thinking about Mike walking in also helped. The door opened and David sort of pushed Mike in, closing the door behind him. Mike took one look at me, relaxed somewhat, and asked, "Is this what I think it is?"

David pushed him on the bed next to me, grabbed his pants legs and pulled them off, saying "Yes. Now get your shorts off."

Mike did. We pounced on his dick and did everything we could imagine to it, ending with our taking turns sucking it. He came in my mouth, and David demanded that I kiss him and pass the cum to him for human consumption. Mike just lay their wide-eyed. This was nothing like his little high school jack off session with a friend, and he knew it. He lay back and could only muster the words, "Thank you."

Mike and David took care of my needs, but Mike wasn't ready to suck me. Then Mike and I took care of David's needs, and I encouraged Mike to try sucking David, which he did. But I took over before David came in his mouth, and again David consumed it all.

The year ended with Mike, David and me enjoying our threesome, but with the clear understanding that David and I were a pair, and Mike was an honored guest. He never abused that role, and we had a ball. Summer was a time of trial and abstinence, as the three of us went our separate ways. The separation was not so difficult because we knew that we would be back together in the fall.

Fall came upon us. David and I continued to room together. Mike had a new roommate, Phil, whom he had found in the late spring. Phil was completely hetero, but didn't have any problems with Mike being gay. I am not sure how they managed to figure all this out, but they did. Mike was comfortable telling Phil that he was spending the night with us, when he hadn't been with his roommate the previous year. Phil simply responded that he liked having the room empty so he could jack off. Mike offered to help, but the offer was rejected.

The three of us enjoyed sex, but we also talked long into the night. Our biggest discussions centered on how safe it would be to be "out" at Northwestern. There was a small group of gays, and a couple of lesbians, that were very open. But they stuck to themselves, evidently as a defense mechanism. Other students simply let them alone, or deliberately avoided them. None seemed to have any straight friends. And, for the most part, they didn't room together. It seemed to be an unwritten rule that gays didn't room with each other because of all of the sinful sex that would go on if they did. Well, yes. So? It wasn't clear whether this was a self imposed rule to avoid problems, or whether the administration enforced it, formally or informally. Two gay boys did rent an apartment together off campus. Mike's attempts to become friends with this group failed. He would probably have succeeded had he announced that he was gay, but he wasn't interested in a bunch of friends that would only let gays into their group.

Mike had been attracted to us because we had so many straight friends. But he also sensed that we would have liked to have both a few gay friends and some straight friends that we could be out with. Mike felt the same way.

Slowly, and with some considerable risk, we outed ourselves to some of our close friends. Mike, of course, had started with Phil. Most, like Phil, were quite accepting, and we remained friends. In fact, we often became closer friends for having shared an intimate secret. A couple, while insisting that it didn't make any difference that we were gay, still found less and less time to be with us. In time we found a couple of other gay men and a lesbian couple that were quite discreet, but were identifiable to those of us who were looking.

The couple was Marty and Shirley. We became quite good friends with them, and we all used each other as cover. We would double date and the world saw David and Marty doubling with Charlie and Shirley. We, of course, didn't see the pairings the same way. Then Mike met Sue. Sue was beautiful, sexy, straight as an arrow, and not yet ready to let the horny Northwestern boys into her panties or her life. She loved dating Mike, who told all on their second date. Now we could triple date.

Dating opened a new opportunity for us: Dancing. David and I had a feeling that if we could dance the Charleston as well as we did, we could dance anything. Mike and the three girls were eager as well. So we started attending various school dances, and the girls taught us the basics of the swing and fox trot, which had dominated social dancing for decades.

Many of the revolutions of the sixties were yet to come in 1960. But the revolution in dance was upon us. In the summer of 1960 Chubby Checker had done "the twist" on American Bandstand. By that fall it was dominating dances around the country. And the twist was the "open sesame" for David and me to the dance floor. All of a sudden there wasn't a boy's part and a girl's part that was its mirror image. We could dance the twist without one of us being "the girl." The six of us would head to the dance floor, paired David and Marty, Charlie and Shirley, and Mike and Sue. Very quickly we would separate and you couldn't tell who was dancing with whom, but David and I knew, and we loved it. Thank you Dick Clark and Chubby Checker!

In conversation at one of the smaller dances, I think put on by one of the sororities, either David or I let slip that we knew how to dance the Charleston. In fact, one of us (I'll never tell who) kind of bragged that we were pretty good, and had won a big dance contest in high school. Before we knew it Sue had spoken to the band leader, who announced a Charleston, and went on to say that there were a couple of guys who were pretty good, and would they come forward.

Oh, God. I could have killed Sue. Mike, Shirley and Marty were laughing their heads off. Soon the whole room was cheering us to the dance floor. It had been almost three years since we had done the Charleston. We stood there and sort of worked through the routine slowly, crossed our fingers, and moved out to the middle of the floor. Except for us it was empty! I said to David, "O Hell, let's give it a try." I nodded to the band leader who, bless him, provided a fairly reasonable tempo as we started in.

As we got started all the steps came back. The band leader sensed that we were ready to be pushed and the tempo increased. We even tried the cross-handed stuff that we had worked out for the solo performance at the Prom. Finally the music stopped, and we started back to our seats. We never got there. Sue was the first one to reach us, followed by the Mike and the two girls. Then it seemed like half the school was cheering and surrounding us.

Unlike the Junior Prom at Maxwell High, this was not a farewell. We had to live with these folks for another year and a half. We had no idea how this would be accepted. This society was not half as naive as the Indianapolis high school scene. Surely they would do the math and come up gay. Some, of course, did. Mostly, it seemed that the Northwestern students simply didn't want to do the math. They could see the conclusion coming, didn't want to have to deal with it, so they never did the calculations. Life went on. But, we had our fifteen minutes of fame, and we became known on campus to far more people than we otherwise would have been. A direct result of this was a gradual expansion of the number of gay friends we had, including a couple of straight friends who, it turned out, were friends but not straight friends.

Slowly the circle of boys finding that clothes were an impediment to the evening activity in David and Charlie's room expanded. I think the most we ever had at once was six, more commonly four. But the total number involved over they next two years probably numbered twelve to fourteen.

Not much was off limits, except that it was an absolute rule that "No" meant "No." We had a couple of guys that didn't understand that and pushed and pleaded for sex they weren't going to get. They weren't invited back, but we had to ease them out, fearing that it they got mad and started a lot of rumors (well, more than rumors), we could be in trouble. Luckily, the problem never arose, probably because they couldn't out us without outing themselves.

As the group expanded beyond David, Mike and me, the new people introduced new ideas of sex. The three of us had never been interested in anal sex. In fact, I don't think David and I had even talked about it since our train trip to Chicago when we decided we would leave it for later. Some of the others that came to our room were definitely into fucking. David and I, and I think Mike, found that it didn't bother us that others did it, but we weren't interested. To us, the penis was the center of sexual delight, and our anus was not very interesting. Several guys offered to show us the joys of have our prostates massaged, but we politely declined. "Someday," was our response. When we were alone and talked about it, we both confirmed that we were very content with "Someday."

Peter, who joined us one night with just David, Mike and I presented a completely different adventure. He had told us the week before that he was gay, and we had invited him up to our room to talk. We told him that "other things" often went on in our room, and asked if he would like to join. "With the three of you?" he asked, quite startled.

"Yeah, you would make four. Come around tonight."

He did. He was a little shy, and Mike just came up behind him and pulled his parts down-that was, after all, why he had come to the room. David moved in front of him and pulled his tee shirt off. I stepped up and pulled down his Jockey shorts. He dick was fairly long, thick, and uncircumcised. Believe it or not, it was only the second uncircumcised penis I had seen in my life. One boy in one of my summer camp cabins when I was eleven or twelve had been uncircumcised-and he got teased a little for it. In midwestern America circumcision was the norm, and not many boys didn't match the norm. For David and Mike it was the first uncircumcised dick they had seen-except in a couple of pictures in "sex education" books. We had handled each others penises comfortably, but this presented something new!

I guess Peter sensed immediately why we were uncomfortable. After all, he had spent all of his life being different in locker rooms, scout tents, and showers. But now he was involved in only his second homosexual physical relationship, and his circumcision seemed to be in the way. He said, "I knew this evening was going to be a new experience for me. I have only had sex with one other guy and that was in high school. But I think it is going to be a new experience for you guys too."

David said, "You're right, and we just aren't sure where we're going with it."

Mike said, "Peter, may we just look, touch, and fondle it? We simply need to get used to something different."

"Yes." By this time it was getting quite hard, and the foreskin was back and the head exposed. I gently took his penis in my hand and moved the foreskin up and down the shaft, exposing and then covering the head. "Don't be shy. You aren't going to hurt it." But I was reluctant to do much, as were the others. I guess it took us all most of an hour to get comfortable with his penis and to explore it completely. But we did.

I said, "Turn about is fair play." And the three of us took off our clothes. "Take your pick." He did. His partner in high school had been circumcised, so handling ours was not a new experience.

Finally Mike said, "You are the guest. We will bring you to an orgasm first." Mike started jacking him off, sliding his hand back and forth along the shaft of his penis.

After a while Peter said, "This really isn't going anywhere. I think you need a different technique. Here," (he took hold of his own penis) "grab a little tighter and don't let the skin slide in your hand. Slide the skin itself up and down the shaft. The foreskin will cover and uncover the head of my dick."

I said, "Let me try." I did, and Peter shot his load very quickly. When he jacked me off we had the same problem in reverse: He tried to move my skin up and down the shaft, but there wasn't much to move, and it wasn't arousing. I showed him how to slide his fingers up and down my skin, concentrating on the clump of skin on the underside of my penis-what was left of the frenulum after circumcision.

All told it was more an anatomy and sex education lesson than a four way orgy. We all learned more about ourselves and "the other half" than we ever had in either a sex education class or the books available at the time. The next time we got together we replaced education with orgy, and lived happily ever after!

On later occasions we learned that sucking an uncircumcised penis was a different experience as well. There is simply a lot more for the tongue to play with when there is an intact foreskin!

Our conversations with Peter often centered on whether we regretted that we were, or were not, circumcised. The general consensus was that everybody was happy with what they had (or didn't have) though all of us expressed the desire, regrettably unattainable, to experience the alternative penile state for a while. Peter, the only one with an option, had no desire to have his foreskin permanently removed. David and I decided that the experience with Peter was very valuable to self-understanding, and it made us glad that we had not limited ourselves in our sexual activity.

Mike and Peter fell in love. It was as simple as that. After that first night when we explored each other, Mike and Peter became good friends. They started retreating to Mike's room, which he could get empty by asking Phil not to come home before midnight-which wasn't Phil's inclination anyway. Phil thought the whole idea was "cute" and was a willing co-conspirator.

By now it was fall of David's Senior year, my Junior year. David had gotten ahead by starting in the spring semester ahead of me and taking enough extra credits to graduate in seven semesters. We were beginning to think about the next year, determined that we would not be separated, but not sure how we were going to make that happen. Then an event occurred that, quite unexpectedly, changed our lives.

David was reading the newspaper one day in our room, when he looked up and asked, "Have you ever seen The King and I ?

"Yes, I saw it with my father when I visited Chicago with him one spring vacation. We saw Yul Brynner play the King."

"I haven't seen it, and I'd like to. It's playing downtown this weekend. Let's go."

"OK." We got good tickets and set off by train early Saturday afternoon. We walked around downtown a little, had a good dinner at A Little Bit of Sweden, a Scandinavian smorgasbord restaurant just north of the loop, and then made our way to the theater. It's a great musical, and David and I were enthralled. We sat near the front holding hands. Then came the scene between the slave girl and her forbidden lover, who sings,

We kiss in a shadow,

We hide from the moon,

Our meetings are few,

And over too soon.

Suddenly David's grip on my hand tensed. He was looking at the singer almost in a trance.

We speak in a whisper,

Afraid to be heard-

When people are near

We speak not a word!

"That's us," whispered David.

Along in our secret,

Together we sigh

For one smiling day to be free

His grip was so tight it was almost painful, and I was as wrapped up in the song as he was.

To kiss in the sunlight

And say to the sky:

"Behold and believe what you see!

Behold how my lover loves me!"

David gritted his teeth, almost in anger, and said "That is going to be us too!"

It is a great show, but the rest was virtually lost on us. During the intermission, I expected David to be all excited and talking about the song, but he was silent. Hardly a word was spoken. At the end of the show we both stood and applauded like mad, but unlike the rest of the audience, we were applauding one song and one song only. It had spoken to us uniquely. We just didn't know how to answer.

On the way home on the train David began to talk. "I want people to 'Behold how my lover loves me!' I am tired of kissing in a shadow.

I could only reply that I understood, but that we had to be careful about "coming out." It wasn't a satisfactory answer, and we both knew it. But we didn't have another answer.

The song, however, haunted us. Both of us had sung in church choir (me) or high school chorus (David), but hadn't sung in any musical groups in college. But we had the urge to sing "We Kiss in a Shadow" together. The trouble was, there was no way to sing the last lines without belting them out. We finally went over to the School of Music where practice/rehearsal rooms were both soundproof and available for student use. About once a week we would go over and sing together. Once or twice Mike and Sue came with us. They urged us to find a forum to sing "our song" more publically. Who were they kidding?

So we decided to have a party. We arranged for the back room of a local Chinese restaurant, Wing Lo's was the name of it, I think. They put on a buffet for us at quite reasonable rates, and we invited everyone we knew that knew we were gay. It amounted to twenty-six persons, including David and me. On a campus of thousands, twenty-four other people knew we were gay. It wasn't a closet of two, but it was still pretty small and confining.

We needed musical accompaniment and found it close at hand. Sue played the piano and Peter the drums. It was an odd combination, but the drums were very effective in the middle of the song when it changes from hiding in the shadows to beholding.

The big night came. Only a few of the group had heard us sing. After dinner Mike got up and thanked us for the party, and then told the group that we were going to sing for them.

It turned out to be an extremely moving experience: for us, for the other gays in the room, and even for the straights, who seemed gain an understanding of just how confining it can be to not be able to be who you are, except with select persons. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place, especially as we kissed each other right after "Behold how my lover loves me." The demands to sing it again, kiss again, were legion, and we sang it three or four times. And did we kiss-mad, passionate, deep and long. By God, if boys and girls could kiss like that all over campus, so could we-if only in front of this little group.

Then, out of the blue, came a suggestion, or challenge, or just plain dumb idea, depending on your perspective: "Why don't you sing it for It's a Grand Night for Singing?" Usually just called the Grand Night, this was a charity affair in which students, from soloists to larger groups, sang and the audience voted for their favorites. The voting was done by putting money in boxes to vote for each singing group, and the groups that raised the most money won. The money went to charity. It had become a popular tradition since the 1940's, and had taken its name from the song in the movie State Fair. All the winners got was recognition-and the chance to do an encore performance at the end of the evening.

David and I were flabbergasted. There was no way we were going to "come out" by singing "We Kiss in a Shadow" in front of half the university. There was general agreement in the room that it was a dumb idea. The party continued for a while, but clearly the thought that we couldn't sing for the whole school dampened the enthusiasm of the crowd, and dulled the end of the party somewhat.

Later that night as David and I cuddled in bed, David said, "Maybe it is time to come out."

"I suppose your next line is going to be something like, 'If we are going to come out, we might as well do it with a bang.'"

"Yeah, that's about it."

"You might be right. Are you seriously thinking about singing at Grand Night?"

"Don't know. Maybe."

"I think we would get a lot of support from our friends."

"I know we would. What we don't know is how it would go down on the campus."

"Well, there are other out gays here."

"And they're pretty well ostracized," David said.

"There is something kind of neat about coming out with a big splash. Otherwise, you have to just start telling people. Word spreads; people don't know whether it is a rumor or fact; they are reluctant to come up and ask you in case it is a false rumor; you end up having to tell a lot of different people, and each time is awkward."

"And, with the grand splash you get the honeymoon effect of the enthusiasm that you can build up at the event. I think even people who were very anti-gay would cheer the perceived bravery of coming out that way."

"It would certainly be unexpected."

"We would be capitalizing on that."

"Shall we test this with the group that was there tonight?"

"You know they are going to say, 'Go for it.' After all, it isn't their butts on the line."

"I think the real test is whether they will fully support us, be there, and put some real money in the pot. It would be essential that we actually won first place. That way our encore performance would end the evening, and it would be then that we sang, 'We Kiss in a Shadow'."

"You see it as the encore?"

"Yes, it has to be the end of the evening. After we kiss two or three times in the course of the song, and as it ends, anything else would be an anti-climax. It has to be last."

"Kiss two or three times?"

"Yes, listen to the recording of The King and I. They don't go thru the lyrics just once, but there are a number of repeats. We need to kiss following every "Behold" line."

"Then what do we sing for the main performance?"

I said, "I have an idea for that. In South Pacific there is a terrific song, 'You've Got to Be Carefully Taught.' It is about race prejudice, but it could just as well be about homosexuality. Maybe we could do two or three numbers from South Pacific and title the act something like 'Songs from South Pacific'."

"Gee, that's creative."

"We don't have to be creative, the encore will take care of that."

"We aren't close to good enough to win, but your plan requires us to win so that we get the encore spot."

"Winning isn't based on talent. This is a fundraiser. The winner is the group that collects the most money that night. That is how our friends agree to support us. And they know that if we don't win, we don't get the encore, they don't see the show they came to see."

It isn't hard to see how the conversation went. We soon were caught up in making the plans instead of deciding if we wanted to do it. The whole thing quickly took on a life of its own. Our friends promised plenty of money, and it was clear-based on what had been raised in previous years that we could be the top money getter.

We needed more than piano and drums, and we knew that we would have to go to a wider group to find musicians. We also knew that we had to tell them what was going to happen, as it could be embarrassing to be on stage when we did the encore if you weren't comfortable with the whole plan. We finally added four brass plays to the little group and we sounded fine. We had to select for both musical talent and our belief that our coming out plans would be safe with the person asked. Only one guy turned us down. He looked at us wide-eyed, saying, "You are gay, and you are going to come out at Grand Night? God, I wish I had that many guts. But I honestly don't. I just don't have the guts to be on stage when that happens."

I said, "Look, everyone makes his own choices. We respect yours. We hope you respect ours. Please keep the secret till after Grand Night."

"Oh, God, I wouldn't think of telling anybody. If you guys pull this off, it will make it easier for everyone. But I am really scared for you."

We started practicing with our little six-person combo. We had to select three songs to sing from South Pacific. In addition to "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" we decided that we had to sing "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame." It allowed for robust male voices, and we found sheet music written to two male voices. For the last song we settled on "This Nearly Was Mine." It didn't have any gay overtones, but it was a poignant love song about being alone that seemed to speak to us even though it was sung about a girl.

Things were getting ready. We had signed our entry form and submitted it. We easily passed the audition (they had to make sure that the music wouldn't be too bad, or nobody would come back next year-actually most of the singers were pretty good). One evening, with about three weeks to go, David said, "We need to invite our parents."

"I am not sure that mine could deal with this. They don't like to see us kiss in private, much less on a stage."

"I think this is too big an event in our lives to leave them out. I think we ought to run down to Indianapolis this weekend, tell them what is going to happen, and invite them to come."

"I guess you are right."

"Let's get my parents to invite yours over for dinner on Saturday night and we'll tell them both together. I think we need to sing for them."

I said, "I'll tell you who else we need to invite-Mary Rose."

"You're right. If she knew we were planning an event like this and didn't include her she would kill us."

"More likely cut our balls off."

"Where is she now? At Knox College, I think. Where is that?"

"You're right;I think she is at Knox. It's in Galesburg."


"Yes. Let's call her. It is a small school, if we call the main number they may be able to connect us." The switchboard was able to connect us to her dorm, and she was in. Incredible luck.


"Mary Rose. It's Charlie, and David is standing right next to me."

"My God, it's great to hear from you. What's up?"

"You want the long version, or straight to the point?"

"You need to ask?"

"No. Here is it in a nutshell. David and I are staging a grand coming out event a week from Friday. Here at Northwestern."

"Fabulous! What took you so long?"

"The time just wasn't right until now."

"So tell me the plans."

I did, and her response was exactly as we predicted. She said, "I am really pissed at you guys for not getting me to help in the planning. But I guess you have grown up and can do things for yourselves-of course it took years instead of months for you to have the balls to do it."

"Mary Rose, I don't think balls are involved, you don't have any, and it doesn't slow you down."

"OK, point well taken. Did you invite Brenda?"

"We don't know where she is."

"She is at Augustana in Rock Island. Tell you what, I'll drive up there and pick her up, and we'll get to Chicago for dinner on Friday. I'll bring Fred, and I'm sure she'll bring Karen. We can all share a double room at a hotel. Make a reservation."

"Who is Fred, and who is Karen?"

"Gee, has it been that long since we talked?"


"Fred is my about to be fiancé, and Karen is Brenda's partner."

"Brenda is lesbian?"

"Yes. Oh, I guess that is new information for you."

"Yes, I guess it is. But this is long distance. We'll book a room at the Evanston Hotel and plan to eat dinner with all four of you. We will have a lot to talk about."

This was surely going to be an exciting weekend!

The dinner with our parents turned out to be quite a time. All four parents were there, along with David's sister. After everyone was served and we had begun to eat, David's father asked, "Well, you didn't get us all together because you can't get good food in Chicago. What's up?"

David paused, and then replied, "We are entering in 'It's a Grand Night for Singing' and we want to invite you to come hear us."

"That's that charity event, right? I have read about it in some campus publication or other that they keep mailing here."

"Yes," I piped in.

"Come on, guys. You could have issued that invitation by telephone. What's up?"

"We plan to win."


"The winner sings an encore at the end of the show."

"What make's you sure you are going to win?"

"Trust us."

"OK. But you could still invite us to come see you win by making a phone call."

I piped in again, "I think we should sing our encore for you."

My mother chimed in, "Is that going to resolve this mystery?"


"So, sing!"

We had never sung it better. The kisses had never been more meaningful. There wasn't a dry eye in the room-even my father teared up, maybe for the first time in his life!

My mother could hardly speak, but finally said, "If this is what you want to do, we'll be there. I am afraid for you, but you are not little kids. You have to make your choices, and live with them. Our job is to support you. If you choices were evil it would be another matter. But this is loving. We'll be there."

"So will we," added David's parents.

His sister, now a high school senior, said, "I'll be there, too. I don't know whether you are going to fall flat on your faces or be a huge success. I want to be there for either one."

The big day came. We met Mary Rose and Fred, and Brenda and Karin at the hotel. I took a big bouquet of roses for Mary Rose and David took orchid corsages for both Brenda and Karen. They were big hits. Fred was a charmer. David and I were both ready to take him to bed. Brenda and Karen made a wonderful pair, and seemed to be as right for each other as David and I thought we were right for each other.

Dinner was full of memories and stories of college and romance. But it started with David and I demanding how Mary Rose could so calmly have outed us to Brenda without saying a thing to us about her being a lesbian. Mary Rose answered simply, "You gave me permission. And your story never went anywhere from me or Brenda unless you said it was OK. Brenda hadn't given me permission, and that was that. You know I keep secrets and promises. Still do."

She had us. God, she was a cool cookie. Fred was one lucky guy. And he didn't seem the least intimidated by her former "lovers". We told them about the plans for the evening, and they were excited. "Thank you for inviting us. We wouldn't have missed it for anything."

We invited them to join what ever festivities would happen after the show. And they countered by inviting us to breakfast in the hotel the next morning, at nine o'clock. We thought that was a little early, and got only the response that check-out was noon.

Showtime approached. Each of our friends came with a $50 bill for the pot. That, $100 from each of us, and a couple of our close friends promising to add even more would do the job. Our parents didn't tell us, but they each decided to put in $500 per family, virtually guaranteeing a victory. They had really decided to stand with us.

Our act, slightly retitled to"Songs from the South Pacific," went off better than expected. "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" was a huge hit and we sang it superbly. We then sang "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" which certainly sent the message we wanted to send. We would have liked to have ended with it, but we felt the act had to end on a more upbeat musical note, and "This Nearly Was Mine" did the trick. But we sang "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" in the middle, passing the verses back and forth between us. Oscar Hammerstein's words became ours that evening:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear,

You've got to be taught from year to year,

It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear-

You've got to be carefully taught!

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade-

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate-

You've got to be carefully taught!

You've got to be carefully taught!

We considered changing one of the lines to make a reference to hating gays, but decided it was better to leave the lyrics unchanged. It made the point very nicely.

We got good applause at the end, with our gang going out of their way. We weren't much, or any, better than most of the other acts, and all had their little cheering sections. We were well received, but did not stand out from the crowd. We hoped that that would come later.

After everyone had performed, over-priced refreshments were sold-this was a charity fundraiser. In the lobby was a box for each singing group and people dropped in their money to vote. Unless some other group was organized and determined to win like we were, it was virtually certain that we would win. After a five-minute warning the boxes were removed and quickly counted by counting teams assigned to each box. We all filed back into the auditorium-we were now in the seats like everyone else.

A group of girls who sang a selection of currently popular songs was second. They clearly hadn't planned to be winners, as they had not saved the best for last, and didn't do very well with their encore. We held our breath as they announced that the winner was the team of David and Charlie. This was IT! We had everything planned out carefully, and the group had discussed every small detail. We held hands as we walked up to the stage. We were asked what we were going to sing, and David replied, "We decided that we would leave South Pacific and sing something from The King and I."

The curtains were opened and our six musicians were in place, having been all set to hurry backstage as soon we were announced. We were still holding hands. We now faced each other and held both hands. There was a little stir in the audience at this, and a few gasps. Boys didn't hold hands like this, nor stare into each other's eyes like they were in love. We started as a duet, and then sang lines alternately as we moved through the song. We followed the same repeats as we had heard on The King and I record. It gave us chances for three kisses, including one grand hug and kiss just after the last words were sung. As we stood there in each other's arms Peter started

a drum roll. This was the signal for our gang in the audience to start cheering. Then someone shouted "Zowie" and all Hell broke loose in the hall. Everyone was on their feet. Our friends were rushing to the stage, followed-it seemed-by half the audience. We almost felt guilty that we had so carefully staged things, because the outpouring of support was so spontaneous. David and I finally came up for air and shook every hand around. Girls kissed us and even a few boys did. We ended up in tears of joy, and wondered why we had waited until our last year in school to do this.

My parents insisted on taking our whole gang back to Wing Lo's for a late dinner. We talked, cried, cheered, and celebrated till late at night. None of us wanted to quit. The only damper on the party was the question, would the spontaneous support of the evening continue to the next day and beyond? We didn't know. We did hear one funny story from the evening. One of our friends was a little farther to the rear in the auditorium than the rest. There was a guy near him that, as soon as he figured out what was going on, started muttering "queer" and "faggot". When the cheering started, this guy started getting louder. Just then two guys, strangers to us, hit him on the shoulder from behind and said, "Shut up or we are going to stomp on you instead of just stomping on the floor." He shut up. We knew the mixed reaction was going to continue, but which would win out in the long run?

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