This reads like a fairy tale, but I swear it's all true. As I (Tim) think back over the events told here, the song line from "Young at Heart" can't help but come to mind, "Fairy tales can come true; it can happen to you, if you're young at heart." Well, believe me this is the story of two young men who were, and are, truly "young at heart." And their fairy tale came true.
Charlie and I were back from Darwin, where we'd had the most wonderful ten days you can imagine. Auggie had decided that this should be more of a fun time with less intense training. A little bird told me that that was Perry's suggestion, and I think it proved to be a good one. Our team, now increased to eleven with the addition of Norman, was really great. They made Charlie and me feel guilty, because they wouldn't let us do anything for ourselves except sail. I should mention that we all loved Norman. He was charming, right down to his British accent, which was an interesting contrast to Goose's. Goose used all of the British forms, but his accent was the delightful patois of the islands. Norman's was a mixture of the Pompey dialect of Portsmouth and the standard British of the merchant class that his father had done his best to instill in him. Sometimes Goose and Norman got so confused listening to each other that they would break down in laughter.
Perry and Norman were so in love with each other they couldn't even begin to hide it. And on that team of eleven, there was no reason why they should hide it. They got used to being kidded about what might be going on at night, and learned to give it right back to us. One day as we were all eating lunch together at the club in Darwin, either Charlie or I said something to Perry that inspired a quick riposte. He looked straight at me and said, "You know, Tim, the night before your first Olympic race Norman and I are going to be eighteen, and we plan to be your love and support. Charlie, you're welcome to join us." He looked like he didn't plan to brook any objection, either.
I said, "We'll see."
He said, "Indeed we will." That ended the conversation, but it was pretty clear to me that it wasn't going to be forgotten!
Just to catch you up to date before I tell my fairy tale, I should note that Christmas was spent in Freeport. Goose and his family hosted us all for a wonderful Bahamian Christmas dinner, but that was the only day off that we got from sailing. Auggie was back to his brutal self, and we sailed, sailed, sailed. We had some really rotten weather, and that made Auggie ecstatic: "You know we could get weather like this in Australia, or during any of a lot of key races before that, and you have to be ready. This is great." That said as he and I sailed in what seemed to me to be a gale force downpour. Both Charlie and I got pats on the back for our sailing that afternoon, but we'd rather have been back in the hotel where it was dry. As Charlie and I headed home following the holidays, the rest of the team took a week off for a belated Christmas with their families. It was Perry and Norman's first trip back to Portsmouth since Darwin, and they returned with a little fear as they met Norman's folks for the first time since they'd become lovers. To their great relief, they were welcomed into the family without reservation-just as Norman had been in Perry's family in Ironwood. From there they headed to Grand Forks to subject Norman to the scrutiny of the Gang. He passed.
My fairy tale begins in my office on a day early in February. Early in the morning as I went over my calendar with my secretary she noted an appointment at 2:15 with a student named Allen Kramer. "I told him he could have fifteen minutes, but I don't think that satisfied him. I'll let you deal with that."
"I never heard of Mr. Kramer, do you know what he wants?"
"He wouldn't say. I respected your open door policy and made the appointment."
"Exactly correct, as you know. I guess we'll see what it's about this afternoon."
2:15 arrived, and Allen Kramer was shown in. Oh, my God, was he beautiful! I've met a lot of young men that were simply drop-dead gorgeous, but this fellow topped them all. Where do I begin? At the top: his hair was light blond, thick and straight, and fell down over his forehead just above his eyes, so that he'd never developed the tic of flipping hair out of his eyes by shaking his head. Eyes a sort of electric blue. Face that looked as unblemished as a baby's. Cute dimple on one cheek. Tall, maybe six-three. Slim around the waist, but seemingly very strong. Dressed in khaki's with a razor sharp crease, blue oxford cloth shirt, that looked freshly starched. Plain brown leather shoes, that were shined like he was ready for a military dress parade. I could easily have led him over to the couch and let him do anything to me that his little heart desired. Charlie would've understood. Hell, he would've done the same.
That's what I thought. What I said was, "You must be Allen Kramer. What can I do for you?"
"Thank you for the appointment, Dr. Tim. I appreciate it."
"My office is always open to students, and please just call me Tim. I'll call you Allen."
"I hope it's all right to raise a personal problem with you. I know that it isn't really the role of a university president to deal with personal problems, but I'm gay and I don't know where to turn to ask some questions."
"Allen, if a student thinks that I can help him with a personal problem I'll always try. If I don't think I'm the right person, I'll refer him. But I don't want you or any student to think that I'm in such a lofty position that I can't be approached about a personal problem. But, before you start, let's talk time. As soon as you said you were gay I suspected that this discussion might not fit into the fifteen minutes that my secretary has allotted to you on my schedule. Am I guessing correctly about that?"
"Yes, I'm afraid you are."
"Nothing to be afraid of. But let's look for a different time. How about 8:30 this evening, at Dakota House. Come for dessert-it'll be something simple. Charlie will be there. I don't have any secrets from him, and he may have insights that I don't have."
"I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"Believe me, you won't be. And I have an absolute rule for myself: I never issue invitations that I don't mean. You can assume that applies to the one I just issued to you. Can you come tonight at 8:30?"
"I'll be there."
"Tell me just a little. I don't recognize you. Are you a first year student? If so, do you know where Dakota House is?"
"I am, and I'm sure that I can find Dakota House. I'm a first year graduate student in education."
"I'm looking forward to dessert and conversation, Allen."
I called the registrar and got a little background on Allen Kramer. He was a Milson Scholar from Hebron, Ohio. I guess Charlie hasn't told you about the Milson Scholarships. We had started them several years before to bring top level teachers to campus to get master's degrees in education while they were sharing their knowledge and insights with our faculty and undergraduates. One-third came from North Dakota, one-third from the rest of the Northern Tier, and one-third from the rest of the U.S. Competition was particularly keen for the national scholarships, and Allen had one. He had to have had an outstanding academic record as an undergraduate, and superb recommendations from at least three years of teaching. He'd be spending either two or three years at UND in a very advanced and specialized program. The three-year option, which Allen was in, was for students that wanted to expand subject knowledge as well as pedagogy. Allen was a mathematician, and would get an M.S. in mathematics as well as an M.A. in education.
I called Charlie and alerted him to our evening plans, and stopped by a bakery on the way home to pick up a little chocolate cake that would nicely serve the three of us.
Allen arrived almost exactly at 8:30. He'd changed into gray wool slacks, a dress shirt (no tie) and a charcoal wool sweater. He could've walked straight here from a downtown men's store window. I couldn't help but comment that he "looked nice, but hadn't needed to change."
He smiled, thanked me, but didn't apologize. Clearly, the clothes fit the man, and he wasn't going to change. I introduced him to Charlie, who invited us into the den where we had the cake on a table. Charlie followed us in carrying a carton of vanilla ice cream to go on the cake. Allen accepted a small piece, with an even smaller tidbit of ice cream. We offered drinks and he accepted a Diet Coke. It was no wonder that this young man maintained his perfect figure. I maintained mine with an excess of exercise; Charlie had to watch his diet a little more than me, but since we'd been under Auggie's thumb, weight wasn't an issue. We had regular Cokes.
I said to Allen, "OK, Allen, tell us your story. Take as long as you need to."
"I told you this afternoon I was gay. I've known that since junior high school, I guess. Certainly by early high school. I told my parents some time in high school, and they've been entirely supportive. But I haven't really been out to anyone else-with the exception of the guy this story is about. I'll get there. In high school I was completely celibate; I didn't date girls or boys. I did get up my nerve to go to the prom with a girl in my class that didn't have a regular boy friend. The same in college. I went to a few of the college dances, usually because some girl asked me to go."
I interrupted with, "The girls would've been standing in line to date anyone as smart and handsome as you."
I got a shy grin for that, and he said, "I've been told I'm good looking, but what makes you think I'm smart?"
Charlie said, "Hell, Allen, let's be honest here. You have to be the best looking young man I've met in years. You're a Milson scholar, so that means you are one of the smartest I've met in years. Let's not play games."
That embarrassed him, but he continued. "I graduated."
"Summa cum laude, I suppose. From Harvard, might I guess?" chimed in Charlie.
"Yes, but from the University of Chicago. I'm a born Midwesterner."
"Good, maybe Charlie will let you go on with your story."
"The University of Chicago has an intern semester rather than simply a student teaching assignment. So I spent the fall semester of my senior year at Lakeland High School in Hebron, Ohio. I grew up in Dayton, so it was near home, and it was easy to arrange the internship. I taught ninth grade math, a regular section and a very advanced honors section."
Charlie said, "I'm still waiting for the sex. That is where this story's going, isn't it?"
"I'm there. The regular math teacher introduced me to his honors class on the first day of school. There in the front row was the most incredible example of male humanity I have ever laid eyes on."
I said, "No, Allen, you are the most incredible example of male humanity anyone has ever laid eyes on. Who is this interloper?"
"His name was, is, Carleton Holmes. He's about an inch taller than me, fire engine red hair which he keeps cut just long enough to curl a little, blue eyes, a few freckles, a perfect build. It was all I could do to keep enough composure to greet the class. Thank goodness that the program didn't anticipate my teaching until the fourth week of class. I could hardly have gotten three words out that day.
"Carleton-he goes by Carle, spelled with an e on the end-was every bit as smart as he was good looking. And he was charming, well liked, and seemed as intent at staring at me as I was at him. Before the end of the year we had both learned to keep our eyes off of each other, but I think we both sensed that there was something going on. Nothing was ever said, and certainly nothing was ever done. We just coexisted.
"I graduated, and was invited back to Lakeland High School to teach mathematics. In particular, they wanted me to teach their honors math classes, as the teacher that had been doing it was retiring. It meant that I had Carle in my honors math class for the next three years.
"We made it. We became good friends, and I made certain that we never got in any kind of a compromising situation. Well, we did better than that. We both seemed to get the sexual stuff behind us, and we became collaborators on special math projects, tutoring club, and other things typical of a good high school.
"Sexuality was never mentioned until one day in Carle's senior year. He stayed after school one fall day, clearly intending to talk. I asked what was on his mind, and he told me, quite matter-of-factly, that he was gay. That he had known he was gay all the time he was in high school. That he hated being in the closet, but thought that that was best in high school. Now, however, he was looking at colleges. Could I help him find a college where I thought he'd be comfortable as an out, gay man?"
"That was quite a load coming from a high school student, especially one that you had the relationship with that you did."
"Lord, isn't that so? I thanked him for being willing to trust me with his personal secret, and I told him that perhaps we could research together a good school for him. I'll make a long story short. We both knew that things are getting fairly open on most college campuses, especially large ones. They all have gay support groups, gay-straight alliances, or some such. But the more we read, the more we were attracted to the University of North Dakota-in particular because it had an openly gay president." He looked at Charlie and said, "And Dean of Law."
I thought for a moment and said, "Carleton Holmes! I know that name. He's a National Merit Scholar, one of several in last year's freshman class. He was here in Dakota house last year for a National Merit Scholars reception. You're right, he is a handsome looking young man. You two would make quit a pair."
"I hope so."
"It that where this is going?"
"In a word, 'Yes.' He came here a year and a half ago, and I followed last fall, after having gotten into the Milson Scholar program. I didn't tell him I was coming until I actually got here. But as soon as we were both on campus last September I sent him a note, telling him I was a graduate student here, and let's meet for lunch. We did, and had a wonderful lunch in the dining hall while we each caught the other up on what had happened to us in the last year. About all that had happened to me was that I had decided to come to UND. Carle was a math major, getting all A's, doing a stupendous job. He'd been fairly out about being gay, had had a few dates, but no romance had developed.
"We agreed to meet the next night for dinner at a restaurant I'd found called Jerry's."
Charlie and I both burst out laughing at that, and we had to explain that it was one of our favorites as well. I noted that as a Milson Scholar he might like to know that it was a favorite of Fred Milson as well.
"We had quite a dinner. I decided that it was time to tell Carle that I was gay and had had sort of had a crush on him for years. He said the same thing to me. We've been going to movies together, having meals together, studying together in the library, and other date-like things ever since."
"The way you are saying that," I said, "makes me think that perhaps your relationship hasn't gone beyond that. Would I be right?"
"And, for some reason, that's why you're here," I said.
"Yes. Tim, Charlie, we started our relationship as student and teacher, can we get beyond that? How can I go back to Hebron, Ohio, and meet the parents of one of my former students, and then say I was in love with him?"
"Is he out with his parents?"
"That's a start."
"I'm madly in love with Carle, and I think he is with me. But we both seem unable or unwilling to move it farther. I can't imagine what his parents might think."
"So you are looking to us for help?"
"I take it that this is more that just hoping that we'll say, 'Go for it, the teacher-student relationship has ended.' You can figure that out for yourself."
"Yes. I really need help, not just permission."
I said, "Good for you. I don't think your situation is as ticklish as you do, but the fact that you think it is speaks worlds about you. I can hardly believe the restraint you've shown. But clearly it's time to move on. You are looking for a path."
"Yes. I wish it were that simple. If nothing else just telling the story has helped."
I said, "Wait a minute. You haven't given Charlie and me a chance. You are making it sound like you don't expect us to be able to help, just lend an ear. Well, I'm going to show you the path, and then push you down it."
"What do you mean?"
"I love problems like this, and for gay kids they are rare. Most of their problems are close to insoluble. Yours, however, is easy. I'll tell you exactly what to do."
"As simple as that?"
"Exactly. You say nothing to Carle. You call his parents and tell them that you'd like to visit them. Set a time. Get on an airplane and fly to Columbus, rent a car and drive to Hebron, and keep your appointment. Tell them the exact same story that you just told to Charlie and me. See what they say. I'll bet they are very happy that their son is loved by a wonderful man that they know and trust. And by being there you are proving that you can be trusted. If their response is hostile, then you'll know exactly where you stand. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a relationship with Carle-he's an adult-but you'll both know where you stand. But I'm betting on a different outcome."
Charlie told him, "The next time you come to Dakota House, bring Carle with you, and let's do dinner. Have you ever kissed Carle?"
"You have been chaste. That's incredible. Well, as soon as you've kissed him, call us up and tell us, and we'll invite you for dinner."
About two weeks later my secretary buzzed me and said, "That Allen Kramer you met with two weeks ago is here, with a friend. May I send them in?"
I went out to greet them. Oh, my God, what a pair! One was just more gorgeous than the other. They held hands as they walked toward me, and only let go their hands to be able to shake mine. Without hesitating, I led them over to my secretary's desk and said, "Irene, I'd like you to meet two of the nicest, smartest young lovers on campus. Irene this is Allen Kramer and Carleton Holmes. Gentlemen, please meet my secretary, Irene Cummings."
They were completely flustered, but they rose to the occasion and managed to get out, "Very pleased to meet you."
Irene and I laughed, and I invited them into my office. Allen asked, "How... how did... we never...."
I said, "I took one look at the two of you, the light in your eyes, your holding hands, there was absolutely no doubt. I couldn't resist teasing you a little."
"Well, you sure did. Tim, I'd like you to meet my partner, Carle."
"Hello, Carle. We've met before, under very different, but equally flattering, circumstances. I'm glad to meet you again with Allen. I've heard Allen's story, at least up to two weeks ago, but I'd like to hear yours." I remembered Charlie's invitation, and I asked, "Allen, have you kissed Carle yet?"
"Oh, God, yes."
"Then a dinner invitation is in order. Tomorrow night? Say, six o'clock?"
The date was made, and I sent them on their way. I wanted Charlie to hear their stories first hand.
Among their many stellar attributes was punctuality; they arrived almost exactly on the dot of six the next evening, dressed nicely as I'd always observed them to be, holding hands and grinning from ear to ear. What a pair! They were dressed appropriately for our formal living room, and having anticipated that, we had drinks along with cheese and crackers already set out.
Perhaps an aside is appropriate here. I'm sure that you've noticed my preoccupation with their dress. You have to remember that this was the nineties. Student dress on US campuses had completely deteriorated in the sixties, but had still managed the almost impossible feat of declining continuously since then. By the nineties faculties had been infected as well. It'd never been a trend that Charlie or I followed, or liked. But we both understood that it wasn't a fight worth fighting on any campus. Nevertheless, we certainly were conscious of those few students who bucked the trend. And I can attest to numerous occasions when dress was the deciding factor in selecting students for honors, privileges, scholarships, teaching assistantships, fellowships and the like. Ratty bluejeans were never a disqualifier, but when you got to the flip of a coin stage-which wasn't uncommon on a competitive campus-clean neat clothes were as good a separator as any other. These two in front of me would've won any fashion prize they sought-without being ostentatious (unless wearing a sweater without holes is considered ostentatious).
I said, "OK, you both have stories and we want to hear both of them. Who's going first?"
Carle said, "I think I should. You've heard Allen's story of our early years, you should hear mine. It's quite similar."
Charlie said, "What would you like to drink? We are both having Cokes; what can I get you?"
Allen said, "I think we'd both like tea in this cold weather."
Carle said, "That would be nice; we'd both like lemon in it, if you have it."
I went out to the kitchen and put water on to boil and cut a lemon. Soon they had their tea, and we were ready to hear their stories. Carle began.
"I'll never forget the first day of high school. I always like to sit in the front row of class, so that I don't miss things. While it wasn't true of my honors math classes, in many classes the teacher can be drowned out by students in the back. So I made it my business to get to my classes early and stake out a front row seat. Most teachers wanted you in the same seat every day, so if you got the front row on the first day, it was yours. So I'm sitting there in the front row, not having any idea what my teacher, listed on my schedule as 'Carson,' looked like, his age, or even if he was a he. In he walked; he was male, old, and smiling-a good sign. Before class started he looked outside and saw someone, whom he signaled to come in. And in walked Allen. My God, the blood rush to my groin was unstoppable. He was over the top beautiful. If I'd had to stand up right then, I would've displayed the most embarrassing tent you can imagine. Instead, I just sat there and stared. And I realized that he was staring back at me. We started glancing away and sneaking little looks. From time to time that meant that our eyes caught again, and we'd both look away.
"After Mr. Carson introduced himself and gave a very brief overview of the course, he introduced Mr. Kramer who would be a practice teacher in the class that semester. Allen greeted the class and then sat at the teacher's desk while Mr. Carson got on with the lesson. By about half way through Allen and I had learned not to stare at each other, my tent relaxed, and I got through the lesson without missing too much."
Allen added, "I can completely vouch for the accuracy of that description of our staring at each other."
I spoke up, "By the way, both of you, the word hard-on is a perfectly acceptable English word, and is more accurate than the word tent, though we knew what you meant."
Carle continued. "What more can I say? I think we both knew that things could happen between us if we weren't careful, so we were careful. I didn't interact personally with Allen very much that semester. He taught most of the lessons after the first month. I didn't have much personal interaction because I understood the material, had few questions, turned in my homework, and..."
Allen continued for him, "Aced all the tests. He was head and shoulders the top in the class, and the smartest student I've ever taught-that first semester of teaching, or since."
"Allen wasn't around the second semester, and I assumed that I'd seen the last of him. That was a mixed blessing. I was head over heels in love with him, or at least with the image that I'd seen in the front of my class. You'd call it a teenage crush, and I would completely agree. I knew that his leaving would put an end to it, and I realized that that was probably good for me. But I sure hated to see him go.
"Then the next fall I got my schedule in homeroom the first day of school. My math teacher wasn't listed as 'Carson' as I had expected, but as
'Kramer.' I asked my homeroom teacher, and he told me that Mr. Carson had retired, and they'd hired the student teacher that'd been there the previous fall. He said he was 'a smart kid from the University of Chicago-honors math major. He's going to be teaching all the honors courses.' I knew who it was, and I realized that he'd be my math teacher for the rest of high school. It was either too good to be true or a complete disaster. I wasn't sure which.
"After playing the staring game at the beginning of almost every class for the first month, Allen and I learned to coexist. He was a great teacher...."
"And Carle was a great student."
"For three years we had a great teacher-student relationship. We got involved in all sorts of special class projects and extra curriculars. We both managed to keep our libidos under control, our hard-ons infrequent, and our passions private. We never expressed a thing to each other, because I think we both understood that had we moved just an inch down that road, the result would've been a disaster. And we both wanted to protect the relationship that we did have.
"Let me back up a little. I told my parents I was homosexual the summer before high school. I really didn't feel that I had much to fear from them, as they'd always been very open and accepting. By the early nineties, homosexuality was often in the news, and then it was talked about at home. My parents were outspoken liberals and were completely accepting of homosexuality."
Charlie said, "But it's one thing in the abstract, and quite another when it's your son, and you're smart enough to have known that. So coming out to your parents was still a fearful experience, right?"
"Absolutely. But it went well. They easily walked the walk as well as talking the talk-a cliche which my father likes a lot. So I came home from my first day of high school and told my mom that (1) I was in love with my math teacher, (2) that I was pretty sure that he was gay, and (3) I thought he had about the same reaction to me that I had to him."
"What made you think he was gay?"
"I told you, he had the same reaction to me as I had to him. It was the reaction of a gay boy or man. And I might point out, in hindsight, that I was right."
Allen said, "Indeed you were."
"So my folks were confronted with a son with a teenage crush, but not one they could talk about without outing me, and we had agreed that being out in Hebron, Ohio, might not be the best idea. They helped me get through that semester, and they were great guides as I struggled in the next three years to build a healthy, non-romantic relationship with a good, but very sexy, teacher. I know I wouldn't have made it through those years without my folks support.
"Then in my senior year I came out to Allen and asked for his help in picking a college. He's already told you that it led to UND. But I don't think he told you how devastated I was that I was off in North Dakota and he was in Hebron, Ohio. Nor how crushed I was that he didn't look me up that summer after my freshman year. I think we both knew we had to get on with our lives, and that seeking each other out was going to interfere with that.
"Then. Then, I get a note in my mailbox at school...."
Allen said, "I think it's time for my story."
Carle said, "Go ahead."
"Tim and Charlie, I left here determined to take your advice. It was too late that evening to call Ohio, since they're an hour ahead of us. I called the next day, but didn't reach anyone until about suppertime, when I reached Carle's mother, Charlotte. I asked if I could come visit them in the next day or so, and she suggested the next evening-I'm sure that she thought I was calling from my folks' home in Dayton, not from North Dakota. The date was made, and I immediately got plane reservations for the next day. I drove to Fargo early in the morning, got a direct flight to Chicago, and a decent connection to Columbus. I rented a car, drove toward Hebron stopping for a quick dinner, and got to Carle's home right at seven.
"Charlotte met me at the door, greeted me warmly, and invited me in. Carle's father, Jason, was in the living room, and he greeted me just as warmly. He asked, 'Well, Mr. Kramer, what can we do for you? We understand you are now a student at UND along with Carle. We didn't expect you to be here in Hebron.
"'It's a long story, and I'm not sure just how much of it you know from Carle.'
"'I think we know quite a bit. Carle tells us that you are now a grad student at UND and that you and he see quite a bit of each other. Is there more to tell?'
"'Yes, there is. It's hard, but I think I need to just come out and say it. I'm falling in love with Carle, and I think he's falling in love with me. I hope that isn't too blunt. But I know that you know he's gay."
"Charlotte answered me with, 'Well, you have one fact wrong there, Allen. I hope I can call you Allen, since you're no longer Carle's teacher.'
"'Of course. What have I got wrong?'
"'Carle isn't falling in love with you. Carle fell in love with you five years ago when you were his student teacher. He's been waiting for this day for years. But why are you here, and not telling this to Carle in Grand Forks?'
"'I was Carle's teacher for four years. That's a relationship that's difficult to end, and students and teachers falling in love with each other is simply not acceptable. Carle and I are good friends in Grand Forks, but going beyond that is a major step, and one that I want to undertake very carefully.'
"Charlotte asked, 'But it's a step you want to take, am I right?'
"'Yes, Charlotte, it is.'
"Jason got into the conversation with, 'In other words, this visit is sort of like the old fashioned call on the father of a girl to ask for her hand in marriage. Except that Carle isn't a girl, and you two can't get married.' I wasn't exactly sure how to respond to that, particularly the bit about how we couldn't get married. Jason saw my uncertainty and continued, 'Don't misinterpret me. If I didn't say, "Yes," Carle would disown me.'
"Charlotte said, 'Are you here visiting your parents in Dayton? No, this isn't vacation time. You came all the way here just to ask us this, didn't you?'
"'Yes, ma'am, I did.'
"'What if we'd been upset and said, "No"?'
"'From what I knew about you when I was teaching here, and from what Carle's told me, I didn't think that was likely. But it would've put both Carle and me in a difficult position. Nobody ever wants to have to choose between two people that he loves. I'm not sure that I could've put Carle in that position. But I don't know, and I'm very glad that I'm not going to have to find out.'
"Jason said, 'Good answer. Allen, you are an amazing young man. I'll have to say you are an anachronism. Asking a parent for permission is twenty-five years out of date, at least. You dress neat as a pin, just like Carle, also about a quarter-century out of date. You are the perfect fit for Carle. And your showing up here to talk to us is the most wonderful gift you could've given us. Too many young people today have no respect for parents, courtesy, or propriety.'
"Charlotte continued, 'By the way, just so you know. We've never encouraged or discouraged Carle from dressing the way he does. He never liked jeans, and always wanted to look neat. Now you need to hear a little of our story. Carle told us he was gay back in junior high school. We were classic liberals, that were now confronted with a personal reality, not an abstract idea. Well, ask Carle, we passed the test. We've been supportive of him all along. He told us about his crush on you that first day in ninth grade, and he was convinced that you had your eye on him, too. Well, it seems he was right. We've been helping Carle deal with the problem of having a normal student-teacher relationship with his math teacher, as well as being in love with his math teacher. And since math is Carle's dream, he couldn't avoid his math teacher. It seems that all the heartaches were worth it.'
"Jason said, 'OK, let's be specific. You ceased to be Carle's teacher a year and a half ago. I know, because Carle has told me, with sadness in his voice, that you've been totally restrained and upright in your relationship to him since. That's incredible, by the way. I could never have done it with Charlotte; of course I wasn't her teacher, I didn't have to be discreet.'
"'You weren't, either.'
"'I'll ignore that. Allen, go back to Grand Forks and forget all about being a teacher. Let your romance flower. Make my boy happy-deleriously happy, as only you can. Believe me, I know that.'
"'When do you go back? Would you like to spend the night in our guest room?'
"'Yes, I would, but I'm going to drive over to Dayton and say hello to my mom and dad. I'll fly back tomorrow.'
"'Allen, you are an amazing young man. I look forward to welcoming you into our family.'
"'One thing, Mom, if it isn't premature to call you that, don't tell Carle about this visit. I will in good time. But I want this all to come from me.'
"'You're right, and please do call us Mom and Dad.' And she kissed me, very softly and sweetly.'"
Carle spoke up, "That's more detail of their conversation than I've heard up to now."
Charlie said, "That's because you two have been doing other things than talking."
Carle said, "Oh, it's not like you think. Allen flew back to Grand Forks and the next day we met for lunch as usual. I expected him to tell me about his trip to Chicago-that's where he'd told me he was going...."
"It's true. I did go to Chicago. I just kept on going."
"At lunch he invited me to his apartment for dinner."
"It would've been appropriate to take him out for a nice dinner at Jerry's or the Dakota Steak House, but we needed privacy."
"Indeed we did. As soon as I was inside with my coat off he put his hands on my shoulders and said, 'Carle, I love you. I have for years. Do you love me?'"
"'Oh, God, yes. I love you beyond belief, Allen. And it's so wonderful to have said it.'"
"We kissed for the first time. We sat and talked for a while, and then we kissed again. And then the timer in the kitchen went off, telling me that it was time to serve dinner. Dinner gave us a chance to talk; and we went over our unspoken love affair that had been going on for the last five years, ending with my visit to Hebron two days before."
Carle said, "But our story has a slightly different twist than you expect."
I said, "How's that?"
"We decided that we'd taken five years to get to the stage of speaking our love aloud. We were going to go slow and let it progress slowly. We wouldn't try to catch up for five years in five minutes or five days."
Allen said, "We haven't spent the night together yet, and we haven't had a physical sexual relationship yet. We're moving slowly and enjoying it."
I said, "Someday you'll hear Charlie's and my story. But we had to wait forty months before I was of age and could have a romantic relationship with Charlie. But by five minutes past midnight on the morning of my eighteenth birthday we'd made up for a lot of lost time. If you two can move slowly, more power to you. I certainly didn't have that kind of self-restraint."
Charlie said, "You two keep us posted. Your story has been wonderful. It we had some small part in it, we're glad. And there are some gay couples around the campus that we know that would love to get to know you, and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy getting to know them. I'll start with a bunch that live just off campus in what they call The Roundhouse. I'm going to tell them to get in touch with you."
It was getting late-well, not late for typical college students (though these weren't typical college students in other ways, maybe they went to bed at a decent hour), but late for us. We wished them well and sent them on their way. Allen walked Carle to his dorm and then returned to his apartment.
For the rest of the year we got most of our news about Allen and Carle from Toppy or one of the others in the Circle. We'd called Toppy, told him their story, and he'd responded, "I'll get in touch; invite them for dinner. They sound like a couple of kids we'd like to get to know, even if they are fifteen years younger than us. My God, Charlie, has it been fifteen years since I was a college student? It doesn't seem like it."
"It has. But I'm quite certain that you'll enjoy Carle and Allen, and I know they'll enjoy you. They are both entirely too mature to relate well to the current crop of college students-even graduate students."
I think that they might've been inspired by my talking of Charlie and I moving so fast after my birthday. Toppy reported that the next night they began getting physical. They actually got their shirts off and discovered that hugging and kissing skin to skin was really a lot more exciting that when you had clothes on. It was a week later before hands got to groins. Progress was so slow that the entire Circle was getting frustrated as they waited for a report of more progress. Finally, they took matters into their own hands. Spring had come, it was getting warmer, and Carle and Allen were invited for a picnic at The Roundhouse. There was some tennis, and Allen and Carle played a creditable game. Then volleyball. Enough to work up a sweat. Toppy said, "We all need showers. You two will love the shower in the master bedroom. It's big enough for two-well, actually more than two, but we'll let you two have it to yourselves." He led them upstairs, showed them the master bedroom and the famous shower and said, "No buts. You two guys share that shower."
They did. It was the first time that they'd been naked together. Hell, it was the first time they'd seen each other's dicks. Toppy reported that from the noise and the length of time they were in the shower, clearly they'd passed a major hurdle. When they came out of the shower Toppy and Murray had removed their clothes to have them washed, set up a table in the room, set dinner out on the table, folded down the covers on the bed, and left a note saying that their clothes would be washed in the morning. "Enjoy the night."
It wasn't their first night together. They'd been sleeping together several nights a week, but always with pajamas-well, only the bottoms, but that was enough. But that night they were already naked as they came out of the shower. They wrapped towels around themselves to eat, but dropped the towels for bed. They were unable to keep their hands to themselves during the night and they each had an orgasm. They both found that very embarrassing, but they were able to laugh at themselves, and realized that Toppy and Murray, and the entire Circle, had done them a wonderful favor.
When the dorms closed at the end of the spring semester Carle moved into Allen's apartment, and when his lease was up in late August, they moved into a little larger apartment with a joint lease. Summer was the occasion of a trip to Ohio to see both sets of parents. Allen had told his parents how things stood the night after his visit to the Holmes', and they'd continued to be supportive. On the summer trip they spent a few days with each set of parents, and had one dinner at a restaurant in Columbus with both sets of parents. Then it was back to Grand Forks where they were working together on a project in matrix mathematics under the guidance of one of the top professors in the math department. By the end of the summer they had an article ready to submit for publication to the American Journal of Mathematics. Jumping ahead, I will tell you that it was accepted, and for an undergraduate and a graduate student to have an article accepted in AJM was virtually unheard of, but the editor insisted that it contained significant insights in how matrices could enhance environmental modeling.
It was the next year when Charlie and I were gone more than we were present because of our sailing that the Chairman of the Mathematics Department got fifteen minutes on my schedule and tossed the latest issue of AJM on my desk. "The lead article is by two of our students. They are, quite simply, geniuses. You won't want to read the article, I'm not sure that I even understand it-it's not my area of specialization. But I've talked to the two of them. It's the environmental modeling piece that interests them, the matrix business was just a means to an end."
"And you are telling me this because...?"
"We need to keep these two here. I'm sure that a fellowship will keep them for Ph.D.s, but we need to think beyond that."
I thought to myself that when I had picked Damon Anderer as chair of mathematics I'd hit a bulls-eye. A university needs forward thinking leaders, and clearly I had one. I said, "You are suggesting some kind of specialized program in environmental modeling. Is that what I'm hearing?"
"Yeah, specifically climate modeling. With these two guys part of it, we can get good grants. Climate change is going to be a big deal in the next decade and beyond. And nobody's really on top of climate modeling."
Well, you know where that's heading, don't you? Charlie and I had been so busy sailing that we hadn't kept track of Allen and Carle, so I called up Toppy for an update. Toppy told me, "They've become popular guests at The Roundhouse. They don't have a lot of extra time, because they both study like mad, and are constantly involved in some special mathematics project, program, meeting or such in the math department. They've kept us up to date on their sexual progress-I guess that's what you'd call it. We all have agreed that if our partners had moved that slowly, we'd have bailed out. But it seems to suit both of them. It took them six months to discover the joys of oral sex, and I don't think they've even thought about their assholes yet. But, and you won't believe this, one night at dinner with all of us at The Roundhouse Carle asked if his understanding was correct that we all had sex with each other from time to time. Well, Tim, you know the answer to that, and we gave it to him straight on.
"There was silence for a while, and then Allen said, 'I think we're ready.'
"Some one of us asked, 'Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?'
"Carle said, 'Yes. We've talked. We think you folks, as a group, are the most wonderful people we've ever met. And it seems pretty clear to both of us that one of the underpinnings of your relationship is physical.'
"Allen continued, 'It will push us a lot further than we ever expected to go, and certainly a lot faster. But we think we're missing something.'
Toppy's story continued. Alex had stood up and simply told them to take their clothes off. Right there at the dinner table. Right then. He said, "If you aren't ready to do that, then you really aren't ready." It wasn't what either Carle or Allen had expected, but they looked at each other, nodded, and then slowly took off their clothes.
Carle asked, "Now what?"
"Eat the rest of your dinner. Sex is dessert."
"What if somebody comes to the door?"
"It'll probably be a member of the Gang. They won't be bothered by a little nudity. Not in this house."
After dinner they'd all gone upstairs to the master bedroom. Nate asked, "OK, would you like all of us to strip; how would you like this to play out?"
"We aren't sure."
Arnie asked, "Just how far have you guys gone? You've told us that you are into oral sex. Have you tried 69?"
"No. We know what you mean, but it's completely new to us."
"Well, you have great teachers here, and a great audience for your first time. There are lots of ways to do it, including having one of you stand up and hold the other upside down in a bear hug, while you suck each other. Somehow, I don't see you two doing that. There are essentially four ways to do 69. Lie side by side on the bed on your sides, and just wiggle up to each other. Or have one guy lay down and the other kneel over him, head to dick. You can put the big guy on the bottom, and then the little guy can put some of his weight on the bigger guy. Or if the bigger guy, at least the taller, is on top, then his longer arms and legs can keep him off the little guy. Or you can kind of corkscrew around each other."
"How does that work?"
"Lie side to side on your backs. Then each raises up, turns his shoulders, and finds a dick to suck."
That's what they did. The group cheered them on, and it didn't take long. While they were watching the show, the group all stripped and were naked by the time Carle and Allen finished. It then became sort of a free for all. Margie sort of held back, thinking that she shouldn't push the only female on two gay boys on the first time with the group. But Carle sought her out and told her, "Clearly you're part of the group." With that he hugged her, kissed her, and knelt down and kissed her nether regions. He didn't go any further, but they all agreed later that that was quite a first time for both Carle and Allen.
That evening broke down some huge barriers, and the relationships have grown deeper ever since. They do a lot together, more likely in small groups than all of them, and sex is frequently not part of their visits. But often enough it is, and they all agree it's an important part of who they all are.
Allen and Carle decided that they wanted a formal commitment to each other, and their parents enthusiastically supported that decision. Allen's family attended a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Dayton, and that church was glad to celebrate a "holy union" for the two of them. A Holy Union was a blessing by the church on their relationship and commitment to each other, independent of a civil relationship that current law didn't allow for. Allen hadn't grown up in that church; his family had been active in the Presbyterian Church until he came out to them as a gay teenager. Their pastor was personally accepting of Allen's sexuality, but he wasn't willing to be public about it, since the Presbyterian Church forbade the ordination of gay individuals, and the local congregation in Dayton had supported that decision. So they'd left the church and simply been unchurched. After Allen had gone to college the United Church of Christ had become the first mainline protestant denomination to accept homosexual clergy, and this position was supported by the local UCC congregation. Their church wedding policy specifically provided for "weddings and holy unions." Allen's folks had joined, he'd worshiped with them when he visited at home and now would have his holy union there.
All of the Circle, a few of their friends in the math department, Charlie and I flew down to Dayton for the big event. A huge contingent came over from Hebron (it's a little under a two-hour drive), including friends of Carle and former students of Allen. They'd been open about their relationship just as soon as they'd admitted it to each other, and they'd found a very supportive community. And no one had raised the question of teacher-student relationships; rather the reaction was likely to be, "Aren't they just perfect together?"
Well, indeed they were. And though we will meet them again in this story, I think that you can imagine with me that this fairy tale can properly end, "And they lived happily ever after."
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