Alex was afraid, and knew he had every right to be, but he also knew that this wasn't something he was going to be able to help. So he was understandably fretful as he waited to drive Bobby home from school.
Two weeks ago, he'd finally been able to admit, at least to himself, that he liked guys. That he was gay. He'd actually said the word to himself. Gay. It was surprisingly hard to do. He'd known, in a way, that he was gay for four years now – since he was fourteen. Knowing wasn't really that big a deal. It was a secret, certainly, not the kind of thing you let anyone know about. Not here in West Texas, not here in the Permian Basin, not here in the tiny, dusty town of Wink. Knowing was easy. Using the word was hard.
The word set him apart. The word made him suddenly "different"in a way he hadn't really thought of before. The word meant he had something to hide, which is different than just keeping a secret. He'd never realized any of these things until he'd used it. Now he knew that if the word got out, everything would change.
The problem was – he wanted things to change. Some things. Not everything . He wanted things to change between himself and his best friend Bobby, and that was all. Because he was in love and he couldn't keep that to himself anymore. So he bit his lip and waited in the tree-less parking lot, under the blazing Texan sun, with the air-conditioner on max.
Calling them "best friends" was an unjust description for the relationship between Alex and Bobby – in any other century, people would have simply said that they loved each other. They'd met in Kindergarten and been virtually inseparable ever since. Back in grade school, they were still walking with their arms around each other's shoulders in public long after everyone else had become too self-conscious to do that. In Jr. High, they'd hit puberty within a month of each other, and watched their hair grow with innocent fascination. Not long after that, they'd also discovered the joys – and eventual messiness – of masturbation, and were still doing that together. They'd taught each other how, after all.
Not to say that they hadn't fought, cursed each other, even "hated" each other for as many as three days at a time. But they always got over it. They understood each other too well to hate for longer than that.
They shared too many boyhood secrets - many of which involved vandalism – although they hadn't meant it that way at the time. Like how they used to throw rocks at that shack the weird old man used to live in, just to be mean. Then one day they were out poking around in his backyard – he had a lot of cool junk back there – and the weird old man came out and showed them the coolest junk, and why it was cool, and he wasn't so weird after all. Now, years later, both boys were so ashamed about the rock-throwing that they always went uncomfortably silent whenever they passed the place. Shared guilt is a strong bonding-agent.
For Alex, though, it was going to the next stage. He was in love - deeply, madly, truly, he felt. It was a crush - Alex's first - and he would eventually come to realize that. But by then, the damage would be done.
"Hey," Bobby said, opening the passenger-side door and snapping Alex out of his reverie, "Sorry I'm so late – I got to talking with Renee'. I think I'm gonna ask her out! Anyway - home, James! Prince of Persia III , awaits!" Bobby pulled the shoulder-belt down – the town cop was always watching when school let out – and continued, "I can't believe you pre-ordered that without telling me, man! Didn't think PP3 was your kinna thing..."
"Yeah, well... Halo was getting' kinna old, y'know..." Alex replied. He wasn't about to say that the only reason he'd bought it at all was because of how much Bobby wanted to play it. That'd be awkward. That'd be like admitting that he bought it for Bobby. Alex's parents were a couple of steps above Bobby's on the short social ladder in Wink. That's why Alex had his own car - even if it was only a '92 Cavalier - and Bobby didn't.
"Hey – stop at the Git-n-Go. I wanna get a Slurpee. Uhm... you got five dollars I can borrow?"
"Sure. The Coke side's still broken, y'know... you're gonna hafta get cherry. I thought you hated cherry..."
"Not really..." Alex rolled his eyes. Neither of them cared for cherry Slurpees.
They continued making small-talk. Alex was nervously looking for a space to bring up what he'd been working up the guts to finally say, but the opening never came. Bobby thought it was odd that his friend didn't want to come into the store, but didn't ask why. Instead, he bought the 48 oz. Slurpee, in case Alex were to change his mind and want some later, after all.
During the rest of the 20-minute ride – things tend to be spread out in the West Texas desert – Alex kept waiting for his chance, but it just never seemed like quite the right time.
"Something botherin' ya, Alex? Yer awful quiet... too many grease-burgers at lunch?"
"Nah. Just... I'll tell ya later."
"Okay-fine," Bobby said, thus dropping the subject. He knew it must be something important, though. He hoped it wasn't anything bad. The most important thing in the two boys lives right now – Bobby thought – was getting accepted to Texas Tech for college next year. After that, it was going to be finding the money to actually go. Even Alex's parents weren't well-off enough to just pay his way outright, and Bobby... well, Bobby was going to have to think of something. There was a chance for a soccer scholarship – but Texas is into football, not soccer. West Texas even more so.
When they got to Bobby's house, Alex went in without even asking. It was a given. Prince of Persia III , after all. It never even occurred to Bobby that he could play games by himself. He'd never had to. So they took their accustomed positions, cross-legged on the couch, and played. Bobby kept offering Alex some of his Slurpee, but Alex didn't seem interested. Which meant that Bobby was drinking a lot of Slurpee.
"I gotta take a leak," Bobby said after killing his friend off yet again.
"Yeah, me too."
Bobby peed while Alex washed the dust off his face – it doesn't take long in mesquite-country, there's not really any grass anywhere – and ruffled his bristly blonde flat-top. Then he made the mistake of glancing over at his friend's dick. And subsequently staring at it for longer than he should have. It wasn't because he was especially horny, and he'd certainly seen Bobby's dick before, it was just that seeing it there, and feeling the sigh of desire that went with it, reminded Alex that he had something to do. Something that felt critical, somehow, although he hadn't thought it through enough to wonder about what might happen afterward. Alex was simply hoping for the best. Or if not "the best", at least the "not so bad".
"Hey – stop checking out my cock, ya fag!" Bobby joked after catching him staring.
Alex forced himself to chuckle weakly, too embarrassed now to think of anything clever to say. Which was another new experience. He'd never been embarrassed before when they'd joked around like that. A lot of things were suddenly different, since Alex applied "the word" to himself .
They went back to their game, and Bobby forced down the last of his Slurpee. He made a mental note to never get cherry again.
While he was doing that, Alex finally saw his chance.
"You're right, actually..." he began, knowing that Bobby wouldn't know what he meant.
"I'm a fag."
Having finished the drink, Bobby set it down on the coffee-table and picked up his controller, getting ready to play again. "Very funny," he said, thinking that it wasn't one of Alex's cleverest moments.
Alex punched through his character's options, watching the tv screen so he wouldn't have to look at Bobby. "I'm serious, Bobby. I'm gay. And... uh... I really like you. Uh... love you, in fact." Alex swallowed, but never did take his eyes off the screen. There, it was finally out. At least that was something, whatever happened.
Bobby was not gay. He'd never even given it much thought. He was having enough trouble trying to deal with the intensity of his attraction towards girls – it was nearly overwhelming. He knew what it meant, though. And he thought about that while he stared dumbfounded at Alex on the couch next to him. It meant cock-sucking and butt-fucking and sharing cum. It meant that all those incredibly dirty thoughts that Bobby was having about girls - Alex was having about boys.
About him .
... love you, in fact.
It meant that Alex wanted to-
Between that, the school's lunch, and 48 oz of flavored corn-syrup and water, Bobby power-heaved into his mouth. He was barely able to stop himself from spewing all over Alex, the couch, everything. He jumped up in an attempt to get to the bathroom, but didn't make it, and ended up on his hands and knees in front of the television, retching onto the linoleum.
Alex watched it all, too stunned to even think, let alone speak. He had wondered how Bobby would react, but he'd certainly never thought of this ... Alex's mouth hung open as he continued to watch his friend – his best friend – convulse and gag. All because of that one word: gay . Knowing that Alex was gay was making Bobby throw-up.
Quietly, barely even mouthing the words, Alex said to himself, "God... Bobby... God..."
Finally Bobby had emptied his stomach and was down to his last couple of dry-heaves, saliva dripping out of his open, panting mouth, snot hanging from his nose. His hands were surrounded by a pinkish pool of vomit. And Alex, the cause of all this, had his epiphany. His "crush" disappeared in a flash of realization: not going to happen .
He set down his game controller and got up from the couch.
"Ok. Ok Bobby - I get it. I'll get some paper towels from-"
"Get the fuck out of here..." Bobby said, still panting for breath.
"Look, Bobby... It's not-"
" GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" Bobby screamed at him, looking at him with an expression of hatred mixed with betrayal.
Alex hung his head, got up, and walked out without saying anything else. So much for "sharing everything". So much for "best friends".
He got in his car, started it, and put it in drive. Then he just stared out the windshield for awhile. Then he pounded his hands on the steering-wheel, "Shit SHIT SHIT! " He'd keep saying that, from time to time, all the way home. Even if it was Bobby's fault for, apparently, being a raging homophobe; he still couldn't help the nagging feeling that it was all his own doing, somehow. For being "gay". To make matters worse, it didn't seem likely that Bobby was going to be keeping that a secret, either. That was going to be bad. Very bad.
When Alex showed up at Bobby's house to pick him up for school the next morning, Bobby's dad informed him that his son had taken the school bus, for a change. He seemed surprised to see Alex there, in fact, since Bobby had told him that Alex "was busy with other stuff".
They couldn't avoid each other in the classroom, though. Alex and Bobby had 4 out of 6 periods together, and naturally, their seats were always side-by-side. But they didn't say a word, and were obviously going to great pains not to even acknowledge the other's presence. Everyone could tell something was up, but when their other friends would ask, all they'd get back was an annoyed "Nuthin."
At least Bobby wasn't telling, then. That was a relief. A huge relief, and one that Alex wasn't really expecting.
When school let out, Alex saw Bobby sitting by himself at the far end of the knee-high wall that ran next to the sidewalk, waiting on the buses to show up.
"Hey." Alex said.
"Get away from me."
"Don't worry – I'm not gonna touch ya or anything," Alex said snidely, "I just wanted to say thanks for not telling anyone. That's all. Bye."
As Alex walked away towards his car, Bobby finally thought of something else to say, "I want all the stuff of mine from your house."
"Fine," Alex said without turning around.
Bobby heard Alex's car drive up – he recognized the sound of his tires on the gravel – and peeked through the venetian blinds to see what he was up to. Alex opened his trunk and took out a cardboard box. Bobby met him at the door, but didn't even say "hey".
"Here's all your stuff I could find. If anything else turns up, I'll letcha know," Alex said simply.
Bobby took it and looked down into the box. The Prince of Persia III game was on top. "That's not mine..." he said, nodding at it.
"I don't want it. You take it."
"It's not mine ..."
"I only bought it because you wanted it so much, asshole. Just take it. I don't even like that kinna stuff."
With that, Alex got back into his car and drove off again. He didn't notice that Bobby was still standing in his doorway with the box in his arms when he reached the highway and turned to go back home.
Bobby was trying to figure something out, and it was giving him problems. Okay – so he had a cool game now... but who was he going to play it with? For that matter, what the fuck was he gonna do with his spare time? Because he was sure gonna have a lot of it now...
Normally, at this time of day, the two boys would have been off somewhere. Walking around the pond at the airport, maybe, shooting BB guns at turtles. Or sitting in the Dairy Queen just talking and drinking their "lime ices" - a local 25c drink that consisted of half a lime, a cup of ice, and two packets of salt. Or climbing over the fence around the "Wink Sink", the crater of a sink-hole that had appeared overnight just outside town, several years ago. The water at the bottom was an amazingly fluorescent shade of green. Or... well, or something. Lots of things. They used to talk a lot . Just go somewhere and walk and talk, or sit and talk, or whatever - and talk.
That day, neither of them said more than twenty words. All together. The entire day.
And the next, and the next, and the next – for over a week.
Then, late one night, Alex just had to get away from the tv. It was driving him crazy - he could actually feel it - and he had to go somewhere and do something , even if it was by himself. Outside, there was a three-quarter moon in an absolutely clear sky. Ah – clear sky? Bright moon? Water-tower. Of course.
It was against the law, naturally. It meant parking his car far away and climbing over the fence, but it was worth it. He and Bobby had spent a lot of time up there, and nights like this were the best. Of course, there wasn't going to be any Bobby this time... but at least it was some thing.
And as it turned out, Bobby was already there, sitting on the grating, dangling his legs over, his arms crossed on the guard-rail. Alex saw him as he came around to the side of the tank that faced the town. It was a surprise – but it shouldn't have been. Alex froze in his tracks, unsure what to do. Bobby still wasn't looking his way... he seemed to be staring off into space. But... he had to have heard Alex's footsteps on the steel grating, hadn't he?
Then Bobby said, "Hey."
"Hey," Alex replied back, still unsure what he should do. Turn around and go away? Try to talk to him? What? After a while, he decided on - "Didn't know you'd be here..."
"Left my bike in the ditch so the cops wouldn't see."
"You rode your bike all the way here?" It was over ten miles from Bobby's house to the water-tower.
"Yeah. Not much else to do..."
After a moment, Alex replied, "Know whatcha mean."
This led to an uncomfortable silence, until Bobby eventually looked over at him standing there and said, "Well, you're here now. Might as well sit down."
Alex sat in the same fashion as Bobby was, about five feet away from him. Last time they'd been here, they'd sat touching. That wasn't going to happen anymore. A kind of innocence had been lost.
"Got anything goin' on?" Bobby asked.
"Been out with Renee' a couple of times now..." Bobby said, his voice trailing off. Bringing up girls just seemed like it might be... inappropriate.
"Ah," was all Alex could think of to say back. He, too, felt that it would be... wrong... for him to talk to Bobby about girls. It felt weird now. Moreover, it felt weird that it felt weird. Embarrassing, somehow... An awkward silence ensued as both of them stared off over the town.
After a heavy and loud sigh, Alex broke the quiet with, "I don't see what the big deal is, Bobby... you like girls, I like boys. So what?"
"So it's pretty fuckin' gross, is what..."
Alex turned to face the other boy, his mouth open in astonishment that Bobby would say something like that. Here Alex thought they were getting somewhere, since they'd exchanged more words in the last five minutes than they had the whole previous week. But Bobby was putting them right back at square one again. Okay – he wanted to have it out? Let's have it out...
"Yeah, I get that you feel that way about me, asshole! Okay? I fucking GET it! It grossed you out so much when I told you I was a fag that it made you fucking vomit ! I know it seems gross to you, okay? You can stop reminding me that I make you sick!" Alex waited for Bobby's no-doubt stupid response, ready to verbally pounce on him again.
Bobby frowned, "You didn't just tell me you were a fag, y'know. You said something else, too..."
That took the wind right out of Alex's sails, and he looked embarrassedly away. "Yeah, well... Look, I thought I had a crush on you, okay? Trust me, I'm so over it now. I was... confused about... things. Haven't you ever crushed on someone? I wasn't thinking right. God, Bobby - gimme a break..."
"Yeah, I've had crushes. On girls, though."
"Fuck you. You think that makes a difference? Look – I'm sorry I said that. Okay? I'm sorry that I'm so disgusting to you now. You feeling alright, are ya? Need a barf-bag or anything?"
"Would you just STOP bringing that up? I threw-up because of... of a lot of things. I just... I had these pictures in my head of... It was just everything. All at once."
"Fine. So besides how sickening I am, what the fuck were you so mad about? What the fuck are you still so mad about? It's not like I was touching you or anything. What the hell?"
Bobby's face lost its angry tension and became suddenly dead-serious, "Maybe not. But you have before. We've been jerking each other off since eighth grade, Alex. And me , I thought it was just... but it was different for you, wasn't it!? I was only doing it to you so you'd do it to me. But YOU ... you LIKED it, didn't cha? Yeah – you never said anything, but you did! Your little fuckin' secret, wasn't it! You were getting off on me!"
Alex tried to hold the other boy's icy stare, but couldn't. He looked away and sighed. It was true. He'd never really thought about it that way before... He'd just assumed that it was mutual – that Bobby was enjoying him as much as he was enjoying Bobby - even though looking back, it obviously wasn't mutual at all. Because Bobby was always looking at the magazines, or the videos, or whatever porn they had. And Alex wasn't. Alex had never really noticed that difference before. Not until he finally realized that he was "gay". Not until he'd used the word.
And once he did come to that self-realization, yeah, he kept doing it with Bobby anyway, knowing full well that he was "getting off" on Bobby in a way that Bobby wasn't getting off on him. So Bobby was right. Alex had used him. Sort of. It really was Alex's fault...
He said weakly, "That... that's what you were so mad about?"
"That's why you threw-up?"
"Well... that was part of it, yeah."
Alex turned and brought his legs up onto the grating, preparing to pull himself to his feet. It was time to go. "All right. Yeah – you're right. I was. But... before about a month ago, I wasn't actually doing it on purpose , okay? That's when I realized that I really was a fag. Before that, I thought I was just... I mean, I thought that everybody... Anyway, it doesn't matter. You have a right to be mad about that... I guess I would be too, if I were you." Standing now, Alex looked over the town one last time, and took one last look at Bobby. So much for that. Might as well move on.
"Where you goin'?" Bobby said, surprising Alex that he would bother to ask.
"Home. We're done here, I guess. I can understand why you feel the way you do, Bobby... and I'm sorry about that, all right? I guess I fucked up. I don't suppose you want a ride home from me now that-"
Alex looked over his shoulder suspiciously, unable to comprehend what he'd just heard. "What?"
"Sit the fuck down."
Alex continued staring for awhile, unsure what he should do. Finally, he sat back down, and resumed hanging his legs over the grating. They both continued gazing off over the town again, and for a long time. By now, only the streetlights were still lit.
Eventually, Bobby said - as much to himself as to Alex - "You really can't help being a... being gay, can ya..."
"Wish you weren't?"
Alex thought about it. "I know I don't have anything to be ashamed of, Bobby. But... I still kinda am. Especially after you... y'know..."
"Yeah. Uhm... sorry about that."
Alex didn't say anything back. "Sorry" or not, Bobby had still thrown up. It wasn't something that could be taken back.
For his part, Bobby wasn't going to let it end like this. He'd been sitting there for an hour before Alex had shown up, wondering what the hell he was going to do now. The desert of West Texas is pretty bleak to start with, and it all seemed a hundred times more so now. And Bobby knew why. In fact, things looked just bleak enough for Bobby to say the most intimate thing he'd ever said to the other boy: "Thing is, Alex... I miss doin' stuff like we used to."
"Me too," Alex replied nervously. Things were suddenly going an unexpected direction here...
"It feels weird bein' around you now, though."
That got Bobby's attention, "It does? I mean, for you too?"
"Well, yeah. Now that you know, an' everything."
"Huh. I figured it was just me..."
"Well..." It was a new kind of awkward, talking about how awkward they both felt. And besides, what was the point? So Alex tried to change the subject, "It's gettin' late..."
Bobby looked over at Alex, who obviously knew he was being watched - but didn't look back. Okay – so Alex liked guys. And okay – so that was gross. But like Alex said, it was only "gross" to him , weird as that seemed. And yeah, Alex had done a sneaky, under-handed, and maybe even dirty thing to him. On the other hand... they each knew where they stood now, at least. And he really did miss Alex. A lot. Despite everything.
Sooo... fuck it. Getting to his feet, Bobby said, "Yeah. I'll take you up on that ride, by the way. Can I put my bike in your trunk?"
Alex's eyebrows went up. "Uh... sure..."
"Good. And pick me up for school tomorrow."
After a pause of wonder, Alex said uneasily, "Okaaay..."
"I still have that game, y'know... You don't actually hate it, do ya?"
Smiling faintly – and a little amazed that he was doing so – Alex replied, "I can deal with it. Hey – the Sonic should be open for another half an hour..." He winced inwardly after he said that. It had just sort of slipped out... Obviously, Bobby wouldn't be interested in-
"Yeah, I'm starvin'. Uh... you wouldn't happen to have-"
"Five bucks. Not a problem, Bobby."
So things got better between Bobby and Alex, but it would never again be the way it was before Alex had come out. There was just too much tension now. For Bobby it was simply the weirdness of Alex turning out to be a fag, and for Alex it was knowing that there was something so basic about himself that Bobby would never understand. Things appeared to resume some semblance of normalcy, though - Alex still drove Bobby to and from school, they still went places and did stuff together, and sometimes they just stayed in and played games, or studied for the fearsome SAT test.
The talking didn't exactly stop, either... but there were taboo subjects now. Anything connected with sex was not to be mentioned. It was a tacit agreement between them; 'tacit' because it would have sounded ridiculous if they'd tried explain why they should do that. And they both knew it. For 18 year old best-friends to suddenly start refraining from any mention of sex left a big hole in their conversations. Holes that they filled up as best they could, but they still felt stupid for having be that way around each other. It just seemed like there was no choice. But sometimes things slipped out. Usually, that led to an awkward silence – but not this time:
"I asked Renee to go steady with me today - I actually have an official girlfriend!" Bobby said, getting into the car and forgetting the new status quo in his excitement.
"Yeah – I asked her, I said, 'Renee, would you go steady with me?' and she said yes! I felt kinna stupid asking... it's not like I think she'd be dating anyone else anyway, but I just wanted it to be official, y'know?"
This time, Bobby finally noticed Alex's laconic if not surly tone, and remembered that he shouldn't be talking about this. Not to Alex. Because Alex was... weird that way, after all. What did Alex care if Bobby had a girlfriend? It was kind of a pisser... and Bobby got more pissed the longer he thought about it.
"So what – I can't talk about Renee now just because girls aren't your thing?"
Alex sighed, "It's not that, Bobby. I'm happy for ya. I really am, okay? It's just... kind of depressing, is all."
"Fuck ya mean 'depressing'? 'Cuz I have a girlfriend and you don't?"
"I don't want a girlfriend, you idiot! Geez..."
Bobby took a moment to as that sunk in on him. He'd been trying not to think about what it was that made Alex different. Odd as it might seem to some, it simply hadn't occurred to Bobby that Alex wouldn't even want a girlfriend. So, did that mean-
"Yeah, well... 'boyfriend' or whatever, then."
"Or whatever," Alex repeated, shaking his head, "Surprised, are ya? That I wish I had a boyfriend?"
"Well... Anyway, it's not my fault you don't."
"How many girls you have to pick from in school, Bobby? How many chances have you had to ask some girl out? In fact, what's the worst that would happen if you were to ask them all out? Huh?"
"I imagine I'd get slapped a few times," Bobby said defensively.
"Yeah, big deal. And what would happen if I were to go around asking every guy out, ya think..."
Bobby immediately understood Alex's point, and turned away in defeat as he thought about it. He was right, though. Alex didn't dare ask any boy out unless he was absolutely sure that the boy would be interested. That he was gay too. And since no one in Wink would dare make it known if they were gay in the first place... Alex basically had zilch to choose from. While Bobby could pick from every girl in the senior class - even the Juniors, even the Sophomores, if he could withstand the smirks.
But still... boyfriend ? Like, going on dates and stuff? Like Bobby was doing with Renee? Bobby thought that "gay" was all about... well, cock-sucking and butt-fucking. Dating too? Alex really wanted a boyfriend ? Is that what "gay" meant?
"Uh... okay, you have a point. I just hadn't, uhm, thought about it... from that angle."
Alex took his attention off the road long enough to see if Bobby was sincere. Apparently, he was. "S'okay, Bobby. Why would you? I have to think about this stuff all the time though. Look – it's great that you and Renee like each other so much, okay? I'm happy for ya. It's just that I know it's not going to happen for me... at least, not here."
"Yeah, I guess it's not. Uhm... sorry."
Bobby was going to spend a lot of time, over the course of his next several dates with Renee thinking about that conversation. Thinking how Alex wanted to be with a guy the way he liked being with Renee. It was weird – incomprehensible, even – but he at least understood that it was true, now. Poor Alex... he'd never find a boyfriend in this town, that was for sure.
Turns out – he was wrong about that.
Christian Echiverri had been volunteering for the swing-shift at the Git-N-Go ever since the day he'd been covering for one of his co-workers and Alex had come into the store.
Alex had bought a quart of milk, cheese, ice-cream, some motor-oil – he was obviously on an errand for his folks – and three magazines. Electronic Gaming Monthly , Popular Science , and most importantly, Men's Health . The Men's Health that month featured a particularly hot guy on the cover, shirtless of course, and the guy with the blonde flat-top had put it on the bottom of the stack as he set them down on the counter. Of course. Christian had a feeling it wasn't just coincidence. He used to do that himself.
Since he'd been working at Git-N-Go, around two years now, he'd learned that the straight boys usually didn't buy Men's Health , they went for the muscle-magazines. And they didn't care who knew, either. They weren't trying to hide anything.
Trouble was, after-school was a busy time at the Git-N-Go, and that was usually when the boy – most often with that other guy – showed up. Christian couldn't very well start test-flirting with him when there were other people in the store, lest he be found out himself. But today was going to be different, and Christian had been ready for weeks now.
"Get me a Slurpee!" Bobby yelled as he pumped the gas while Alex went inside to pay. Alex waved to show that the message was received - this was a common enough scenario. He didn't know that inside the store, Christian had seen him pull in on the video camera.
"Hey," Christian said when Alex came in, and Alex "Hey"'d right back, making his way to the Slurpee machine. Nothing new there, Alex didn't even know the guy behind the counter. He'd never really paid attention. He had no idea that it was the same clerk who'd checked him out that day he'd worked up the courage to buy the magazine with the hot model on the cover. Much like that fateful day, there was no one else in the store now, either.
When Alex got to the cash-register, Christian pretended to not notice - that he was too engrossed in the magazine he had laid out on the counter. Muscle and Fitness , opened to a place with a full-page photo of a muscle-builder on one side, with accompanying text on the other. Muscle-men weren't really Alex's thing – he thought it was kind of gross, actually – but still, that was a lot of male flesh in the picture, and he stared awhile before clearing his throat to get the clerk's attention.
"Oh, sorry. Just that and the gas?"
Christian began punching buttons. "Check out the abs on this guy – he does like 400 crunches a day. If ya ask me, that's just too much. He's probably tensing up for the picture, though." Christian turned the magazine right way around to give Alex a better view.
"Uh... yeah. The muscle-guys kinna over-do it, I think," Alex replied, a little awkwardly.
"There was an Olympic swimmer in last month's Men's Health . Now that's how I'd wanna look, if I could. You see that one?" By adding the part about "how I'd wanna look", Christian was making sure that he had an out, that he had an excuse for admiring men's bodies. You could never be too careful, in little West Texas towns. There were a lot of serious homophobes running around.
Alex had to think before he said something. What made this guy think that he'd seen last month's Men's Health ? Although... he had bought it from this very store... Was this the same clerk? Did he remember selling it? Had Alex fucked up already, and was about to be outed? What was this guy playing at? The clerk didn't appear to be trying to trick Alex, though. He wasn't looking him in the face or anything, looking for signs. But if Alex were to lie and say he'd never seen the magazine, it'd be a dead giveaway - if the clerk remembered selling it to him. Dammit! How could simply buying a magazine like that get him into so much trouble? Maybe the clerk really was just into health and stuff... All those thoughts flashed through Alex's mind, but he didn't have a lot of time to think about it. He had to come up with something to say now , before too much time passed. "Yeah – he just looked really... fit. That guy looks kind of like a freak, I think."
"Totally agree. I'm Christian, by the way. 'Chris' to my friends. I know, I know – not a very Mexican-sounding name... I think my folks were trying to make me sound white," Christian stuck out a hand and smiled - this was his chance to flash his teeth. Christian was proud of his teeth, and had every right to be. Against his brown face, the whiteness of them really stood out.
"Oh. Uh... Alexander. 'Alex'" Alex was starting to feel nervous for entirely different reasons now as he shook Christian's hand. The teeth had worked their intended charm.
"Nice to meet you Alex," Christian said casually, and then made his move – subtle as it might be. He dropped his smile but kept hold of Alex's hand, looked straight into his eyes, and said, "I thought I was the only guy in town who read Men's Health ..." Then he dropped the hand and went back to the cash register. "That'll be fifteen seventy-eight."
Alex's right hand went to his back-pocket to find his billfold. The billfold that he was already holding in his left hand. And after a brief panic at not finding anything in his pocket, his face flushed for multiple reasons as he said, "Oh, heh. Yeah. Yeah, they have some good stuff in there, sometimes..." The best Alex could hope for at this point was not to say anything too stupid, and get the fuck out of there. Think about it later.
Just then the bell over the door rang and new customers came in. Alex watched Christian expertly fold up the magazine on the counter and hide it away before they would be able to see it. Then he handed Alex his change as if nothing had just happened. But Christian glanced into Alex's eyes again, however briefly. Enough to signify that the magazine they'd been looking at was a secret. "Come again, sir," he said, just like he said hundreds of times a day.
Alex turned to check out the new customers – man and wife, it looked like, with two kids in tow – then looked back at Christian, still too stunned to think straight. He felt like he ought to be saying something, but couldn't imagine what.
Christian said, "See ya 'round, Alex. The new edition comes out in a couple of days."
"Okay. Yeah. Uh... see ya. Christian." With that, Alex finally got the hell out of the store and tried to catch his breath before he got to his car. Did what had just happened mean what he thought it meant?
Bobby was already seated and ready to go, "Where's my Slurpee?"
"Oh. Here. Sorry."
"You all right?"
"Fine. Uhm... I'm gonna just drop you off at your house, okay? I gotta help Dad at the store."
"All right. But if he's gonna make you work for 'im, he ought pay ya, I say. And if he does need help, by the way, you might tell him you know someone who's available..." Bobby hinted. His father had been harping on him to get a job, save up some money for college. Obviously, Bobby's dad didn't have any idea how much college cost – a part-time minimum-wage job probably wouldn't even cover dorm expenses and textbooks for a semester, let alone tuition. But if he was going to have to get a job anyway, might as well be where he could hang out with Alex.
"I'll see what I can do, Bobby," Alex said, not really paying attention. He had other things on his mind.
Only two hours later:
"Hey, Alex. Didn't expect you'd be back today..." Christian said, catching Alex's eye and then glancing over at another customer who was staring at the beer fridge. The man was apparently trying to make up his mind – either about what he was in the mood for, or what he could afford. Anyway, the coast wasn't clear.
"Yeah... uh... got the munchies, I guess." Alex went to the food-warmer display case and pretended to be interested in the deep-fried variety there. "What's good?"
"Corn dogs. My favorite."
The beer-man made his selection and paid while Alex remained glancing back and forth between the food and Christian. He still wasn't sure about what he was doing. He needed more hints. It wasn't hard to imagine that Christian might be trying to entrap him in some way. He'd seen the kids at school try that on boys they considered "suspicious" - usually the more nerdy or effeminate types. Luckily Alex didn't fit either of those descriptions, so he'd always been in the clear.
Once the man was safely out the door, Alex said, "The corn-dogs are always kinna greasy though..."
"Yeah, they really are. Maybe I just like the shape or something," Christian shot back, smiling faintly at Alex's shocked expression.
Well, THAT was pretty obvious... Alex thought.
Then Christian shrugged and pretended to be counting ones in the cash-drawer. They were both on dangerous ground here. If either of them were "just kidding" and were to find out about the other, and spread the word... well, if the jocks didn't get them, the Catholics would. Wink was a Hispanic-majority town, and the ultra-macho culture had crossed color-lines a long time ago. Nonetheless, Christian pushed the envelope out of desperation. "Where's your friend? Seems like you guys always show up together... almost like boyfriends or something."
Alex rolled his eyes, temporarily forgetting himself as the thought of "boyfriend-Bobby" flashed through his mind, "Heh. That's Bobby. And they don't come any straighter than him." As soon as he said it, he realized how it sounded, and checked Christian for a reaction.
To find him looking looking directly into his eyes. Christian (was he frowning?) replied with, "Well, in this town, that's really saying something. For sure."
That, finally, was enough hinting around for Alex. What the hell else could either of them say without just coming right out with it? But there was a new problem: what now? Alex had been so anxious about the verbal dancing that he hadn't considered what he'd do when the dance ended. Or even how he was supposed to tell when it ended. Alex was completely at a loss.
"Uh... I'll just have a burrito, I guess. Barbecue." He suddenly felt completely awkward, and just wanted to get out of there.
"'Kay," Christian said curtly, picking one from the case and bagging it. "That'll be a dollar eighty-two." Christian wasn't sure what was going on with Alex – was he backing off?, or was he straight and had just realized what was going on?, or... what? Christian's best bet at this point was to go back to being a plain, normal, forgettable Git-N-Go clerk. If he'd read Alex wrong, hopefully the boy would only think "That guy was kinna weird" as he drove away. Not what Christian had been hoping would happen, but it seemed like maybe it was time for some pre-emptive damage control.
"Here ya go," Alex handed him a five, and wondered why he was suddenly feeling guilty, as if he'd cheated Christian somehow. Obviously the clerk had been feeling him out... and isn't that exactly what Alex had come here for? Isn't that what he had been doing, too?
"Your change. Come again, sir."
And Alex was out the door.
He'd just started his car, and was buckling his seat-belt when he had a thought so powerful that he said it out loud, "What the fuck am I doing ?" Feeling like an idiot gave him the courage – just barely – to get out of his car and fairly march himself back into the store. There were still no other customers.
Christian, looking a little surprised, started to say, "Forget some-"
"You wanna do something sometime?" Alex asked hurriedly. It sounded more like a challenge, like he was daring Christian to answer.
And Christian could understand why. "I get off at seven," he replied matter-of-factly.
"I'll pick you up."
"Okay. Well... see ya then. Then."
That terminated the conversation, and Alex marched right back out and to his car. Only when he'd pulled out of the parking-lot and onto the highway did he allow himself to think about what had just happened.
"Holy Mother of God – I think I have a date !"
Christian was waiting for him beside the ice-freezer outside the store. His green Git-N-Go pants and shirt were gone, replaced by pleated not-quite-dress slacks and a blindingly white Egyptian cotton shirt. Long sleeved. Alex was awe-struck.
"You... you changed..." he said, as Christian got into his car without being asked.
"You thought I was gonna wear my uniform? I wouldn't be caught dead in that outside the store. God."
"Well...no... but..." Alex looked guiltily down at himself. He suddenly felt under-dressed in his own striped pull-over and bluejeans, "I didn't know I was supposed to dress up..."
Christian chuckled, "Don't worry about it. You look great."
"Oh. Uh... thanks... Uh... you too..." The nervousness in Alex's voice was almost painful. Especially to Christian.
"All right, Alex – let's just get this over with right now. I'm a fag. How 'bout you..."
Is that how it works? "Uh... yeah. Me too. I'm a... fag too." This was the second time Alex had ever told someone that he was gay. The first time had been a nightmare, and had left him feeling even more anxious afterward than he had before. This time... was different. This time it was okay. It was OKAY! He faced forward and took a deep, deep breath, leaning back onto the headrest as he let it slowly out, "HooOOooly fuck..."
"I know. It's hard, isn't it..."
"Jesus H. Christ..."
"Yeah. Know what's funny, though? The straight guys think it's hard to ask a girl out. I swear man, they just have no idea."
"Heh. I never thought of it like that before. They do, don't they... buncha chicken-shit bastards."
"Let's get outta here. Where we goin', Alex?"
"I dunno... Rodolfo's?"
"Dude – I'm Mexican. I eat Mexican food every damn day."
Alex grinned - it was amazing how the tension was just evaporating now. It wasn't so much that Christian was gay, as it was that they were both in the same boat, and so – for the first time in his life – Alex didn't have to hide anything. It was... liberating... "How 'bout the Sizzler in Kermit, then..."
"Now yer talkin'."
"So... your friend – Bobby, was it? - does he know?"
"Yeah. I told him about two months ago now, I guess. So far, it's just you and him, though."
"How'd he take it?"
"Not good. He... he threw up."
"That's rough, man. But... you guys are still friends?"
"We've been hanging out since kindergarten. It's... not the same now, though."
"Uh-huh. You were crushing on 'im, weren't ya..."
"Hey – don't worry about it. We all do that. Even the lesbians. You're not the only one."
"Did you do it?"
"Heh... not exactly. My 'best friend' was my big brother, so I wasn't exactly 'crushing' on 'im... but..."
"What'd he do?"
"Beat me up. And then he went all weird... like hyper -macho... Started talking Chicano gang-banger. Last we heard of him he was headed for El Paso. That was a year ago."
"I think he was afraid he had 'gay blood' in 'im, y'know? Anyway, I have other brothers and sisters – you know how us 'Spics are – but yeah. That was in my senior year. It was pretty... bad."
"Maybe we should talk about something else, Chris..."
"Maybe. But... Look, I dunno about you, but I'm amazed just to have someone I can talk to like this. Know what I mean?"
"I know exactly what you mean."
"Let's go bowling... You bowl, Alex?"
"Of course I bowl. I live in the Permian Basin. What the fuck else am I gonna do? But... I dunno Chris... people are gonna see us together..."
"Oh gimme a break, ese. How many times have you gone bowling with Bobby? You ever think about that then?"
"That was different."
"For you , sure, but as far as anyone else can tell... We just gotta be cool, is all. C'mon."
"Well... okay. It just makes me mad that I 'gotta be cool'."
"Hey, like you said – Permian Basin. Soon as I can save enough money, I'm moving to Dallas."
"What's in Dallas?"
"Lots of other fags. LOTS of other fags."
And finally -
"Okay, this is it. Stop here," Christian said. As far as Alex could tell, they were literally in the middle of nowhere.
"Geez – when you said 'out of the way', you weren't kidding."
"The things we gotta do to keep our secret, eh? I know it sucks, but I guarantee ya there ain't no one else around. Lets get out." And they did, meeting in front and leaning back against the hood of the car. They both stared up at the brilliant night sky for a moment before Christian said, "So – ever kiss a guy before?"
"God, Alex – you're so goddamn cute when you're embarrassed I could just die..."
"Shut up," Alex replied, smiling.
And they kissed. With parted lips, but no tongue, and for a little over five seconds. Then Christian backed away and checked Alex's eyes for a reaction. The first gay kiss was... important. He would be able to tell a lot of things about Alex by how he handled it.
"So?" he asked.
Alex's brow furrowed, "So what? What'd you stop for?"
That's what Christian had wanted to know, "Nuthin'," he grinned, and the kissing resumed.
And they turned to face-to-face, and their arms wrapped around each other, and their tongues came out, and their hands began to roam about – Christian's more so than Alex's – and their breathing got heaver – ditto – and their mouths began to roam too, to each other's necks, and ears, and even hair as they took turns, and eventually Christian's hands found their way under Alex's shirt to roam upon his back, and Alex did the same, and then his chest, and Alex did the same, and then they were almost breathing too hard to even kiss, and they could feel each other's erections as they pressed themselves together, and then Christian began pulling up Alex's shirt, and then-
"Hold on. Wait. Wait a minute..."
In between pants for breath, Christian said, "What?"
"It's our first date, is what..."
Christian's first impulse was to say So what? But he knew better, even in the heat of the moment. Alex apparently wanted to take it slow, and... well, that kind of sucked, but short of rape there wasn't much he'd be able to do about it. Virgins... they take so much work! He thought. Besides, there was at least a fair chance that their "dates" would be nearly every day. Certainly they would if Christian had his way. But for now -
"Yeah... okay. Sorry. Got a little carried away. 'S been a long time."
"It's just that I've barely known you for... four hours, Chris..."
"You don't have to explain. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – I'd forgotten what it was like. You're just so fuckin' hot, Alex..."
The silence following that remark was deafening, and Christian immediately regretted having said it, although he didn't think he should have to. Alex didn't have a response, and wouldn't realize – ever – that what he'd needed to hear was something entirely different.
It was becoming obvious that Christian was the experienced one here. On the drive home, Alex began to wonder just how experienced he was.
But he didn't wonder what 'kind' of experiences they were. He still thought that as long as they were 'gay', then there could only be one kind. And naturally, he assumed that they would be his kind.
Christian hadn't thought it would take this long... They'd been out three times, and were still only up to second-base. Shirts-off second-base. He consoled himself that at least there was only one "base" left.
Meanwhile, Bobby met Christian when he'd barged into Alex's house one day – he'd never needed to knock before, so why start now – to find his sort-of best friend and some other guy on the couch together. They were only playing a game, but that was supposed to be Bobby's job, and he was surprisingly taken aback at finding someone else occupying his spot.
Alex introduced Christian as "my friend", and Christian didn't need to be told to "cool it". Still, to Bobby it felt awkward and wrong, although he couldn't show it, so he played one game and then left again. It kind of bummed him out. He'd been spending more and more time with his new official girlfriend Renee and was beginning to miss hanging out with Alex. A little. Now that Alex had himself a – he could barely think it - "boyfriend", they'd no doubt both be too busy to hang out much. They were going their separate ways, it seemed. About all they had in common now was searching for scholarships and grants, trying to find the money for school.
One of Bobby's best shots for a good chunk of change was coming up, in fact. Since his father drove an oil-tanker truck, he was required to join the Teamsters. And the Teamsters – tanker division – were giving scholarships to member's kids. And Bobby's father was well-liked in the Union. It wasn't a full scholarship, but it was a good-sized one, and Bobby had a fair chance at getting it. But first he'd need to meet the members of the Award Committee at the Union Hall.
The actual "Committee" consisted of only four men, but the "meeting" was far more casual than Bobby had expected. He wore his one suit, usually reserved for funerals and weddings, while everyone else in was in their grungy work-clothes. And he'd certainly never thought that the Union Hall setting for this interview would seem more like a smokey bar-room than anything else. The four men sat at a table, with a pitcher of beer. There were lots of other Teamsters there too, smoking and laughing and drinking. Bobby felt completely ridiculous in his suit amongst all these older men – but if they'd give him money, he'd do whatever he had to.
Introductions were made, and boiler-plate questions were asked. What do you intend to study? Why? Why should we award the scholarship to you? Bobby expected these questions, and had prepared answers for them. The committee pretended to listen, but they'd heard it all before. What they really wanted to know is: Is this kid one of US?
So, once the "interview" was over, and the food brought out, the real questions - subtle and oh-so casual and vague - began.
Who was his favorite pro-football team? Bobby faked it. He knew enough about the subject from his father to do it well, at least. He said "Cowboys". Why? Because at least they were from Texas.
Had he ever been hunting? He had – although it was a long time ago – and said he wished he had time to do it more often. Studying got in the way. He even added "Dammit". The men sympathized with him.
Did he have a girlfriend? Yes, he did. Renee. They'd been going steady for a month now.
Would he like a beer? No, thanks, I'm underage. Oh, go ahead, we won't tell. Well, okay then.
That about covered the direct 'getting to know you' questions, and he passed on to the even more subtle "feeling out" stage as the men sat back and lit their cigarettes and cigars. So far he'd been doing great.
Drugs. Women. Work. More sports. War. The Press. Liberals. Bobby continued to play along. It was easy. As long as these idiots would pay his way, he'd say whatever they wanted to hear. They really did seem like idiots, though. It was obvious the kinds of things they wanted to hear, so Bobby let them hear it, doing his best to throw in "his own opinions". As long as they matched the Committee's.
Then, the subject of homosexuality came up. Bobby hadn't expected that.
It happened casually enough. The conversation had drifted to basketball, and one of the men said, "Yeah, I used to like that team – until they signed on that faggot Tennyson."
To which another added, "Damn fags are showing up everywhere now. I can't hardly let my kids watch TV at all anymore! You know that even kids shows are starting to have fags and dykes on 'em?
"I hear that Texas A&M has a course in faggotry! 'Gay Studies' or some damn thing... God – and I thought 'Women's Studies' was fuckin' bullshit!"
"Oh, don't worry Lou – AIDS'll kill 'em off."
"I tell ya what, I wouldn't mind helping along with that. Goddamn fags... They make me sick!"
It went on and on, and all through this Bobby kept smiling and joking and agreeing – fervently, if he felt like he was supposed to. In short, he sold out. For money.
And he knew it.
Saturday night. Christian and Alex had spent pretty much the whole day together, from breakfast to dinner. Now they were making out again at the usual place out in the desert. This was their fifth date – they'd been seeing each other for a just over a week now. Not much had changed, and Christian was getting desperate. Truthfully, so was Alex – but there was just... something... that wasn't quite right. Something that wasn't what he'd hoped it would be. He couldn't figure out what it was. And now with Christian rubbing the crotch of his jeans like he was, Alex was having a hard time thinking at all. In fact -
"Chris... ah... mmm... stop. Mmm. Stop..." Alex was saying, but the other boy didn't, until finally Alex cried, "Stop!" and pushed him away.
After a moment to recover his breath, and still fairly panting, Alex said, "I was about to cum in my pants... god..."
"That'd be a shame," Christian smiled wryly, "C'mon Alex... lemme take care of that for ya..."
Alex didn't reply. He didn't know what to say.
Getting impatient waiting for him to say something, Christian finally continued, "Look, Alex. I know you want it. I know you want me. And... I hate to be all crude about it, but... Alex – I need some dick. I'm serious. You're making me crazy here... It's been over a year, and I just need some dick! So, just lemme suck you off, okay?"
But still, Alex didn't respond, and just stared at him, not knowing what to feel, let alone say. It felt to Alex almost as if the other boy was trying to steal something. He just didn't know what. Something precious.
After a moment, Christian went on, "I just need some dick, Alex. I'm sorry, but I don't know how else to put it. And besides... don't you?"
Yes, he did. But... wasn't there supposed to be something more? More than I just need some dick? Because Alex felt that need too – and badly. He was obsessively thinking about it, of late. Having Christian's penis in his mouth. Being the source of Christian's pleasure. Taking his pleasure from Christian's penis, rather than getting himself off with his own. He hadn't even seen the other boy's dick yet... but oh, he'd been imagining it. It had taken awhile - getting used to the idea that Christian wanted his body as badly as he wanted Christian's. That feeling like that was okay. That the other guy even wanted him to feel that way – and wanted to do something about it. Yeah, he needed Christian's dick. He sure did.
There was more that he wanted... but fuck it. That would have to wait, apparently. This couldn't.
"Yeah, Chris. I do. Can I... uhm... go first?"
Christian smiled, white teeth in the moonlight, and Alex felt his knees go weak, "Heh, my kinna guy. You ever practice?"
"Well... a few times. Bananas. Saw it in some movie."
Now Alex, too, smiled, "And I promise I won't bite it off."
"Good enough for me!" Christian said, beginning to unbuckle his belt.
"Hey! God, Chris – let's work back up to it, okay? Geez..."
So they did, and eventually it was Alex who finished unbuckling Christian's belt.
And it was better than he'd ever imagined, because he couldn't have imagined it would be like that... It took seven minutes.
When Christian had his turn, it took three.
Then they both kicked back on the hood of Alex's car, talked, and drank sodas.
Then they started making out again.
Then they did it again. It took... longer.
On the way to school, the next Monday -
"Hey Alex – remember that time we went canoeing on the Buffalo River?"
"Yeah. That was fun. God, that was... six years ago now?"
"Well, y'know we got this four-day weekend coming up... I wanna go again. I wanna take Renee. Show it to her. And... well, you wanna go?"
"You, your girlfriend, and me? I don't think so, Bobby. I'd just be a third wheel."
"So bring your friend Chris..."
Alex looked over at Bobby and smirked, "You do realize that he's my boyfriend, right?"
A little uncomfortably, Bobby said, "Well... I wasn't sure... but I kinna figured, yeah."
"You really wanna hang out with a couple of fags?"
Bobby winced. "I wish you'd stop using that word."
"I'm allowed. I wish you'd stop."
After a silent moment, Bobby said, "Okay – I will. And actually... I'm... sorry that I used to."
The smirk on Alex's face disappeared. He'd thought they were just kidding around, like they usually did. But Bobby was obviously serious. Too serious.
"Something going on with you, Bobby?"
"Nuthin'. So anyways, ya wanna go?"
"That's a long ways off. We'll have to get motels..."
"Two rooms. Me and her, you and... him." The hesitation before "him" caught Alex's attention. Goddamn it, Bobby... this is ridiculous.
"Uh-huh. You fucked her yet?" Alex asked, breaking all the unwritten rules.
"Alex... I don't go around asking you what you do with Chris..."
This was going exactly the direction Alex was hoping it would. There was something he wanted to get off his chest. And if Bobby was actually willing to go on a river-trip with him and his boyfriend, then this would be a good time for it. Since having sex with Christian, Alex had been feeling a lot better about being gay. It was no longer something to feel ashamed of. It was, in fact, great. So great that he felt a little sorry for Bobby – he didn't know what he was missing.
"Well we haven't fucked yet – we just make-out and give blow-jobs to each other, so far." There. That oughta do it.
"Alex! Christ... I don't wanna hear that stuff."
"Get the fuck used to it, Bobby. This... deal we have now, where we pretend like nothing's different, and avoid talking about some things... it's just stupid, all right?! I'm not doing it anymore. It makes me feel stupid! I'm not going to keep pretending, for your sake. I'm a fag, Bobby. I like boys. I like having sex with my boyfriend. I'm not asking you to approve or anything, but you should at least be able to deal with it! I like sucking his dick! I'm a fag and-"
"Would you PLEASE stop using that word?"
Alex pulled into the school's parking lot and cut the engine, then looked over at Bobby. Neither one of them made any move to get out. They both knew that something was changing, and they wanted it to change, but they just couldn't imagine how they wanted it to end up. It was scary. They might fuck up. It could happen. If it did, that would mean 14 years of friendship – their entire childhoods – down the drain. This was important.
Alex could see that Bobby was down about something. Something more than just Alex's talk of dick-sucking. He had only said that to shock Bobby, to force the issue. He'd thought it was their only issue... now he realized there must be something else.
"Yeah. What's the deal with that, Bobby? How come you suddenly don't like the word 'fag' anymore? It doesn't bother me, y'know..."
"Well, it should."
Man, Bobby was really being weird about this. Why the hell should 'fag' bother him so much? It's not like he was... uh... No... no, c'mon now... gimme a fucking break. "Something you wanna tell me?" Alex asked, their previous line of conversation forgotten for the moment.
"I... I got that grant from the Teamsters..."
"Okaaaay... Congratulations," Alex said, a little mystified. But at least he hadn't said Alex, I think I might be gay. That would have been just... weird.
"Those guys are assholes. I mean it, Alex. Total and complete assholes."
"Why? What happened?"
"Well... they don't exactly like... gays."
"Well duh, Bobby. They're Teamsters, for Chrissakes. And anyway, how the hell did that come up? You said something?"
"No. We - they, I mean - got to talking about sports, and some gay guy who was on some basketball team. God. You shoulda heard 'em..."
"And what'd you say?"
This was it. Bobby was going to tell Alex what he'd done. He hadn't really intended to, but, hell, if they were going to start talking to each other about things like this, then so be it. We'll just see how it works out, I guess. "I made out like I was one of 'em. One of the gang. That I loved sports, girls, guns, and getting drunk. That I hated feminists, liberals, abortionists, and pretty much everything about California. Especially the... uh..."
"Yeah. The 'fags'." The more Bobby remembered about it, the madder he got. "The goddamn fags. Good thing AIDS will kill 'em off, eh? I just wish it'd hurry the fuck up. They're taking over, y'know. They're everywhere! On TV, in the news... ya can't get away from the goddamn fags! They're even making MOVIES about 'em now! How am I supposed to keep my kids from seeing that shit? It's fucking disgusting! They just make me goddamn sick!"
Now Alex was the shocked one. Okay, he knew that a lot of people didn't like him, or wouldn't anyway, if they were to find out he was gay. But, he was part of a conspiracy now? He, and others like him, were trying to corrupt the Youth of America? He deserved to be dead? And... did Bobby really think that way? It was hard to believe – but after the things Bobby had said, anything seemed possible now.
"You... you said that stuff?"
"I agreed with 'em, Alex. I didn't... I mean... It's almost three thousand dollars..."
"So... you only did that so they'd like you? So you'd get the grant?"
"Of course I only did it for the grant! God, Alex! And fuck you for thinking anything else, too! Christ... It makes me a little uncomfortable, but fuck, man, I don't want you all to just die or anything! And besides, I'm getting more used to the idea, now. I mean, when you first told me that you'd turned gay, I-"
"I didn't turn gay, Bobby. I just didn't want to tell you about it, is all. I've always been gay. I figured it out when I was 14. It took me four years to work up the guts to tell anyone. To tell you. And then you threw up..."
That was a revelation to Bobby; he'd been thinking that what was going on between them was because Alex had changed one day. But that wasn't really true, was it... The only 'change' had been that Alex had finally told him about it. Alex was still Alex, after all. He'd never thought of it like that. It wasn't that Alex, sitting there next to him, had suddenly become a gay guy. It was simply that "Alex" - the very same Alex he'd known all his life - liked guys. Always had. Still kind of weird – but a lot less so than it had seemed a moment ago.
The part about throwing up touched an old sore, though, and Bobby looked out his window to hide his face.
"I wish you'd stop bringing that up. Look, I was already feeling sick from that damn cherry Slurpee. It wasn't all just you. Stop making me out to look like an idiot. Anyway, those guys were just morons, is all, and I had to play along. Maybe I should watch that movie they were all so pissed about. I don't remember what-"
"Brokeback Mountain, I imagine."
"Yeah. You've seen it?"
"Nah – Chris told me about it. Gay cowboys or something. He wanted to go see it with me, but I told him I didn't think it'd be a such good idea, for obvious reasons."
Now Bobby looked back at him. God – he has to deal with that shit every day... Poor guy... "That sucks, Alex."
"Yeah..." Alex was a little surprised to hear that, especially from Bobby.
And Bobby was a little surprised at himself, too. But it did suck for Alex, didn't it... He was only trying to spend time with his boyfriend. Go see a movie. Not like they were planning to... do anything... in public or something. But he couldn't because of... people like those Teamsters. And Bobby had pretended to be one of them.
"I feel bad about acting the way I did with those assholes..."
"Well... you got the money. That's the important thing. I guess I can't really blame ya. So, is that why you asked me to bring my boyfriend on the canoe-trip? Feeling a little guilty, were ya?"
"Well fuckin-A, Alex. I mean – if things had been the other way around, I'm not sure... what I'd do. So yeah, guilty as hell."
Against all odds, a smile played on Alex's lips. "If 'things had been the other way around'? You, uh, you think you can imagine what it's like to be gay now?"
"Never mind, Bobby," Alex said, giving the other boy a break, "I swear – sometimes I don't know whether to smack you or laugh at you. So anyway, yeah, I don't like what you had to do, but it's at least kind of nice that you felt bad about it. So you take their money and run, I say. Good job."
"Just like that? You're not mad?"
"You're too cute to be mad at for long."
"I'm just pulling your chain, Bobby... God. Get over it, will ya?"
"Bastard. So you wanna go canoeing or what?"
"You're serious about that? Me and Chris, and you and Renee? Look, Bobby – you're off the hook for the Teamsters thing, okay? You don't have to make it up to me or anything."
"It's not that. Well... it's not just that. It wouldn't be the same without you there, is all. And if you wanna bring your boyfriend - heh. 'Your boyfriend.' God... - Well, I'll deal with it."
"I'm not sure I can, Bobby. 'Cuz then I'd be out to Renee, too."
"Oh, don't worry about her. She's cool."
"You... you didn't tell her, did you? Damn it, Bobby-"
"I didn't have to. She already kind of figures you are. Hell, she thought I was, 'cuz we hang out together so much."
"So you didn't say anything?"
"Alex – I wouldn't do that. I gotta tell ya, though – get this – she thinks it's 'hot'."
"She... she thinks two guys together is hot?"
"Yeah. Weird, I know. She was actually disappointed when I told her I was straight. I think I killed her fantasy or something."
"Wow. Hey – bell's about to ring. I'll ask Chris if he wants to go."
"So we're okay now?" Bobby asked, just to make sure.
"Let's find out. I suck cock, Bobby. And I really like it. A lot."
Bobby rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sighed, as if appealing to the heavens to do something about his weird, gay, best-friend.
Alex chuckled, "Yeah, looks like we're okay."
And on the ride home -
"So, whatcha got goin' on tonight, then, Alex?"
"Work for Dad 'till 6, picking up Chris at 7. Oh - Dad says you can have a summer job, but he doesn't want anymore after-school help."
"Good enough. I don't really have time after school anymore anyway, what with grants and Renee and homework now."
"Taking her out again tonight? How many dates is that?"
"Four - but they're not all exactly 'dates'. We just hang out, sometimes. Tonight it's bowling."
"Dude - me too! Guess I'll see ya there."
"You... you and..."
"Relax. What're we gonna do? We can't even hold hands in public. We'll just say hi and get as far away from you as we can, okay?"
"You don't have to do that, Alex... "
"'S okay. We'd just make each other uncomfortable anyway. So, what're ya gonna wear?"
"Wait, don't tell me - the same thing you're wearing now. I'm right, aren't I..."
"You moron. Does she wear the same thing when you go out that she has on during school?"
"Uh... no. No she doesn't, actually. Fuck."
"I bet you don't even shower beforehand."
"And she's actually gone out with you four times? Man - she must really like you."
"Fuck off. So... what should I wear? I mean... it's just bowling..."
"It's not 'just bowling' if you're bringing your girlfriend, Bobby. God. How do you straights ever hook-up? Okay, first - that denim jacket has got to go. And I mean in the trash. Never to be seen again."
"But it's my-"
"It's old, it's ratty, and it's beyond grunge, okay? Get rid of it. Actually, I've been wanting to say that for a long time..."
"Next you'll be telling me to style my hair."
"As a matter of fact - you should. But I ain't gonna say it, because you'll think it sounds all gay."
"Yeah, well... think about it, Bobby. I care what guys look like, okay? You don't. So you just throw on whatever's comfortable and not too dirty, and you're good to go. Don't you want Renee to think you're hot?"
"Oh shit. Here it comes. Me an' my big mouth."
"So... uh... can you come over and-"
"Fine fine. I'll dress you for your date. God."
"Thanks. I guess. But I'm not goin' to no beauty shop with you."
"Careful, bucko. Just because I like boys doesn't mean I'm a girl, y'know. Big difference. You still need a haircut, though. Shave too."
"Shave? Really?" Bobby had never shaved before.
"Yeah. And you might wanna trim your pubes while you're at it."
"Hey - I toldja - I know what looks good on guys. And what doesn't. Trim 'em."
At the bowling alley, Alex and Christian had arrived first, and picked the lane farthest away from the door, leaving two empty lanes between them and the next-nearest bowlers. You can never be too careful in a town like Wink. They knew what they were doing... unfortunately for them, so did Renee. She insisted that Bobby and her join the two boys, and they were too polite to say anything about it. Besides, before she'd even picked out a ball, she insisted on buying nachos for everyone, thus ingratiating herself into the group. She was smooth. Be that as it may, she still couldn't help but stare at the two boys she suspected might be "together", from time to time. They were so cute, the way they looked at each other sometimes, when they thought no one was watching. And especially how Christian would stare intently at Alex when he got up to bowl. Stare at his butt. Even Bobby noticed that.
Renee never said anything hinting at what she thought though, for which Bobby was incredibly relieved – it would be so embarrassing... So they bowled and made small-talk – Christian had decided he would go on the canoe-trip after all – and Renee played it cool. Until they'd finished their first game and were eating at the snack-bar (chicken-fried-steak baskets and iced-tea, all around) -
"So, are you guys dating?"
"Renee!" Bobby blurted out, caught by surprise.
"What?" Renee asked as if it was the most natural question in the world, "There's no one else around... No one can hear us over the music anyway."
Alex and Christian only looked at each other and smiled faintly. As long as Renee knew it was supposed to be a secret, that was a good sign. And besides, since Christian was on for the trip, she was going to find out sooner or later, anyway.
So, since Renee seemed pretty cool, Alex decided to have some fun with Bobby, and cocked an eyebrow at him, "You still didn't tell her?"
"Of course not! Christ..."
"Yeah, Renee – we are."
"How long?" she asked smiling, not even trying to hide her interest.
"Renee! Fer cryin' out loud..."
Christian had to put down his 7-Up before he spilled it from laughing – and trying not to. Alex winked at him.
"It's okay, Bobby," Alex said, "It's a lot easier coming out to someone who thinks it's cool than someone who thinks it's gross." Bobby looked away and tried to ignore that comment, so Alex turned to Renee, "Coming up on three weeks."
"Wow – so have you guys-"
"For GOD'S SAKE, Renee!"
Both Christian and Alex doubled over from laughing, the straight boy was being such a dork. And Renee... was she doing that to her date on purpose?
"I was just gonna ask 'em if they'd seen Brokeback Mountain... Geez, Bobby... get a grip."
Bobby turned every shade of red. He still didn't realize that he was being picked on.
"Aww, you're so cute when your embarrassed, Bobby..." Renee cooed.
"He really is," Christian added, his laughter finally dying off.
"Totally," Alex agreed grinning.
Now Bobby got it. "... I'm... I'm gonna... I'm gonna get my shoes back..."
"What? We're gonna play another game, aren't we?" Now that it was out in the open, Renee had so much she wanted to ask.
"Yeah – c'mon Bobby, don't be such a 'tard," Alex said, snickering. It was fun to have Bobby out-numbered, for a change.
"Yeah, man," Christian chimed in, "There's lots of stuff we can embarrass you with yet – with Renee's help."
Bobby sat back down, stared at the remainder of his fries and said the cleverest thing he could think of at the moment - "Fuck you guys."
Alex and Christian exchanged glances, then looked back at Bobby with their eyebrows raised questioningly – and now it was Renee's turn to laugh out loud.
Although Bobby hadn't seen their expressions, he knew what was going on, and hiding his face in his hands, sighed, "Goddammit..."
A few days later, Alex and Bobby were working at the kitchen table at Alex's house, filling out scholarship application forms. Bobby's parents were in the den sitting in their matching Lay-Z-Boys watching what sounded like an action movie. They do pretty much all sound alike, after all.
"Okay, that's the fourth one tonight. I'm getting writer's cramp..." Bobby said, pushing aside a sheaf of papers.
"Me too – plus I gotta write an essay to go with this one."
"Uhm... ' On Being Gay in Texas' , if you must know. Texas Gay/Lesbian Professional League."
"Dude..." Bobby whispered, glancing at the opening into the Den.
"They can't hear us. They're probably asleep, anyway."
"Oh. Gay/Lesbian Professional League? You didn't tell me about that one..."
"Should I have?"
"Uh... okay, you got me there."
"I say it's time for a movie," Alex got to his feet, stretching his legs.
"Kettle-corn, natural, or caramel?"
"Kettle-corn," they said simultaneously. That's how it usually ended up, nothing new there.
In Alex's bedroom, Bobby was looking through the stack of DVDs on top of the 14" television. "Ya got anything new that-" he stopped mid-sentence as he flipped through the disks. He hadn't expected anything like this. "Uh... you have Brokeback Mountain?"
"Well, I keep hearing about it..." Alex replied a little guiltily, "And it's won awards an' stuff... An' Chris still wants to see it..."
"Ah. We'll save that for you guys then."
With even more guilt in his voice Alex replied, "Actually... I kind of need to check it out before I watch it with him..." He knew what Bobby was going to ask next, and dreaded it.
"I just do, okay?"
"Just pop it in and shut up. It won't kill ya."
"Uhm... I dunno Alex... it's gonna be a little weird... uh..."
"Yeah Bobby, I know. For me too, actually. Look, I didn't plan this, okay? But, I really do need to see it, and now's as good a time as any, and anyway, maybe... maybe it'll be good for us to see it together. It's not like there's any actual porn in it, they say."
"Well... okay then. But you forgot our tea."
"Damn. Don't start it without me."
By the time Alex came back, Bobby had arranged the pillows as per usual and taken his accustomed spot on Alex's bed, leaning up against the headboard. They'd done this often enough – but never since Alex's coming out. It was more than a little tense - for both of them.
Finally, Bobby couldn't stand it anymore. He knew exactly why he was feeling so anxious, and needed to clear something up. The TV was still showing previews.
"Look, Alex... you're not still, like, crushing on-"
"So you don't, uh, think of me that-"
"No, Bobby. Not at all. Swear to god – you're safe." Alex said it all plainly, not snidely or jokingly. It was simply true, and he was even kind of glad that Bobby had asked.
"Ah. Good,then. Yeah..."
One preview ended, and another began. And the more Bobby thought about it, the more he wondered-
"So... why not?"
"Why don't you think about me like... that?"
Alex looked over at him incredulously, "You gotta be kidding me..."
"Well... the other day you said I was cute, so-"
"Bobby! You're straight ! That's like, a MAJOR turn-off, dude..."
"Oh. But, I am still... like... good-looking, though. Right?"
Alex shook his head in disbelief, "Honestly Bobby, what am I gonna do with you... You're 'okay', a'ight?"
"Yeah. Just 'okay'. You sure you wanna hear this?"
"You dress like a slob. Your nails are almost always dirty. Your elbows look like rhinoceros skin. Your hair is unkempt, and you talk with your mouth full. That's just off the top of my head."
"You wanted to know, dude."
"So... Clothes, nails, uh... hair..."
"Elbows and table-manners. You making a list?"
"Well... yeah. Shh – it's starting."
For awhile, things went well enough. Two cowboys, thrown together out in the woods by their job tending sheep. Both Bobby and Alex were surprised that both of the men in the movie were so... manly. They'd expected at least one of them to be more obviously gay – yet that didn't seem to be the case. They were just regular guys. Bobby even found himself identifying with the quiet one, and knowing the premise of the movie, that surprised him again. How could these two men possibly turn out to be gay?
When the sex-scene came up – such as it was, since the screen was almost completely black – it became quite a bit more tense for both of them. Alex, in fact, looked away. Bobby noticed from the corner of his eye, because he didn't dare look directly at Alex right then. Too... uncomfortable.
But once the scene was over – they hadn't really seen anything at all, but could tell what was going on from the sounds and snippets of dialog – Alex was still looking away, apparently having lost interest in the movie.
"Something wrong, Alex?"
Bobby didn't feel it was his place to follow up on it.
When the two men later confronted each other and made excuses for their behavior that night, each asserting that they "weren't gay", Bobby snorted in derision. Yeah, right , he thought. Bobby was actually enjoying the movie – it was pretty cool - but when he looked over to get his friend's reaction, he found Alex still not paying attention. He was missing the good parts... Well, whether it was 'his place' or not, Bobby hit the pause button.
"It ain't nuthin'... God, Alex... I'm getting into it more than you are! What's goin' on?"
Alex sighed and finally looked at the now-frozen screen again. "I don't think I'll be watching this with Chris, is all."
"Because... because... well..." How embarrassing. Humiliating, even, to have to talk to Bobby – a straight guy – about this. On the other hand, if not Bobby, then who? He couldn't very well talk about it with Christian... Renee? God, no. So that left Bobby. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad – Bobby had been cool with some things... Not that this was likely to be one of them... Oh well. To hell with it. What's he gonna do? Throw up? "Doesn't it... doesn't it seem like that would hurt?"
"Well yeah it seems me like it would hurt... You guys are supposed to like it, though."
Alex glared at him icily, "You're a fuckin' idiot sometimes, you know that?"
"What? Isn't that why guys become gay in the first place? Because they like... that... stuff?"
"Y'know what?" Alex jumped off the bed and opened the door, "You need to go. Like right fucking now. I'm serious!"
"Hey – Jesus, man... I don't fucking know! I haven't got a clue why anyone would want to... do that. I figured you did!"
" NOW ! And you can just walk home, too!"
Bobby got up from the bed, "Fine!" and stormed past the fuming Alex, who followed him to the front door.
"You're taking the bus to school tomorrow too, asshole..."
"Whatever," Bobby said, and stepped outside. Alex watched him walk away for a bit, but then Bobby turned around. "Look, Alex. I don't KNOW how it works, okay? If I said something-", but Alex slammed the door on him.
All of which his mother and father continued to sleep right through. Their movie was still going – it sounded like a car-chase now.
Fucking Bobby – thinking that gay men were that way because they liked it up the ass. Goddamn moron. Why would he think it'd be different just because someone was gay? Having something shoved up your ass didn't hurt because you were gay? Wouldn't it still feel... and wasn't that kind of... So – and here was the real reason behind Alex's anger - why the fuck did Chris seem to expect it? Making Alex feel like, oh, you GOTTA let me butt-fuck you because, after all, you're gay! Like it was Alex's duty or something. Goddamn Chris, anyway! Goddamn Chris and Bobby!
The worst part was this: not wanting to get fucked was making Alex feel guilty. Because he wanted to fuck Christian that way, too. He'd been thinking about it more and more as he became comfortable being intimate with his boyfriend. Yeah – sucking dick was good, and getting sucked was good but... it just wasn't... fucking. It just wasn't. And now that blow-jobs were becoming common-place between them (a little too common-place, in fact. Pretty much a given. If they could find a place, and had the time, they did it.) Alex wanted to do something even more... intimate. Personal.
But... he knew it was going to hurt. He'd done experiments. There was no question about it.
And how come no one talked about the fact that it hurt? Not that he'd had much chance to research the subject. Alex didn't know any other gay men besides Christian, Men's Health wasn't much help, and the family computer was just that – in the family space. So he didn't dare check the 'Net. All he knew was that – apparently – he was supposed to like it. How could that be? Gah!
But Chris was starting to make advances... and Bobby was... he was...
He was straight. Bobby wasn't an idiot – he was just straight. This wasn't something Bobby was ever going to have to deal with – which made Alex a little mad – but that wasn't Bobby's fault. Bobby had simply lucked out again.
Alex jogged up behind Bobby just as he was walking past the mailbox out on the road. Bobby heard him and braced himself for more abuse. Whatever he'd said, it had sure ticked Alex off. He'd have to be more careful, he guessed. What the fuck was he so mad about, anyway? Well, I'm probably about to find out...
"Bobby... Bobby, look... Uh... I'm sorry, okay? It's not you. I was mad about something else, and I took it out on you. You were handy at the time, is all. I didn't mean it."
"Oh. Well... it was probably a mistake for us to watch that movie anyway, so-"
"It's not the movie, Bobby. I like the movie. It's just that Chris... Chris's been hinting that he wants... to... do that, see? And I'm... I mean, I don't... uh..."
Bobby knew what 'that' was. 'That' was the worst part about the whole 'gay' thing, as far as he was concerned. Cock-sucking was... well, at least it wasn't nearly as gross as anal sex, that's for sure. And it seemed like Alex would actually agree with him about that. For once, they were on common ground.
"So tell him you don't want to..."
Alex felt a pang of anger again, but then realized that Bobby just had no idea what it was like. "It's not that easy, Bobby."
Why not? Bobby almost asked, but the expression in Alex's eyes made him check himself. It seemed like an obvious question, and he really couldn't imagine what the big deal was. If Alex didn't want to... do something, then why couldn't he just say so? Obviously, there was something he wasn't getting... but that kind of figured, didn't it... Bobby wasn't gay. There were a lot of things about Alex that he didn't understand, lately. Maybe he should just keep his big mouth shut, for a change.
"Alex... I really don't know what to say. Uh... I'm sorry."
"Yeah." That was true, and Alex felt a little stupid for mentioning it to Bobby in the first place. What could Bobby possibly have to say about it? "It's just that, y'know, I had to tell someone. And I can't talk to Chris, so... So, let's just watch the rest of the movie, okay?"
And then, to top it all off -
Bobby had waited as long as he could, and now it was going to be obvious. It probably would've been obvious no matter what, but now... well, it was just going to be that much worse, is all. And the chance to do something about it had passed long ago, so there was simply no way he was going to be able to hide it anymore.
He wiped his eyes.
And naturally, Alex caught him -.
"You're crying... Jesus Bobby, ya big wuss."
"Shut the fuck up."
"A gay love-story, and you're the one crying..." Alex was honestly amazed.
"Eat shit and die. It was a sad ending, okay? I hate movies with sad endings."
"I can see that..."
"I... I just can't believe it..." He knew Bobby had a soft side, but he certainly never thought he'd see it in this context. He'd been all self-conscious about forcing Bobby into watching it at all! It was a gay movie! It was his movie, not Bobby's! And yeah, it was all pretty bitter-sweet and sad – very sad, in fact... very very sad... - but he sure never thought a straight guy would care...
"You gonna give me a ride home or what, asshole..."
"God help me... I could just kiss you right now..."
"But you're not going to - right?"
As for Alex, he finally let Christian fuck him two days later. It hurt. A lot. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing the least bit erotic about being the bottom.
But at least he didn't feel guilty anymore.
And fucking Christian made it almost worthwhile. Well, at least it got easier the more they did it, but Alex still didn't understand how anyone – like Christian, for instance – could actually like getting butt-fucked. Still, he didn't say anything, because his boyfriend obviously enjoyed screwing him quite a lot. Quite a lot. And by the next weekend – the four day weekend – it had even become old-hat.
The problem was that, for Alex anyway, a lot of things were becoming old-hat. Okay, so that's what it's like to have gay sex with another guy... For the most part, it was great. But... was that it? Really, it didn't seem like there was much to it...
The Permian Basin of West Texas is way, way west, almost all the way to New Mexico. The Buffalo River is in Arkansas – all the way across Texas and then some, not counting a good bit north. It was a day-and-a-half drive just to get there, and another to get back. Oh, it was worth it, though – it's hard to explain the effect that woods and hills and a clear, cool river have on people who've grown up in the featureless, flat, tumbleweed-and-mesquite desert of the Basin... that's what Bobby was so anxious to show his girlfriend. So they left immediately after school on Thursday, intending to stay their first night in Dallas.
Which suited Christian just fine, although he didn't mention it. He knew things about Dallas. He had things of his own to show his boyfriend in Dallas...
Alex could only stare wide-eyed. There were fags EVERYWHERE ! Men were making-out in the street, holding hands, walking around with their arms around each other's waists... And all different KINDS of fags, too! Twinks, queens, smooth muscle-builders, hairy bears, leather-setters; mostly young, some middle-aged, an old man here and there. There were bared chests and abs all over the place! Right out in the open, too! Alex just couldn't believe it... Nothing had ever prepared him for this. Christian was grinning ear-to-ear.
To start him off, Christian took him into a country-and-western gay-bar. Alex found the whole concept immensely amusing – C&W gay-bar. Men in cowboy hats and blue-jeans showing off their bodies to other men in cowboy hats and blue-jeans. Oh, if the guys back home could see him now...
"Take off your shirt!" Christian had to shout to be heard over the music.
Christian began pulling it up for him as they danced together. Alex was wearing traveling-clothes – a comfortable tee and jeans. He hadn't known he should bring anything... nice. "I said take off your shirt!"
"But..." Alex tried to protest, but raised his arms anyway.
"It's okay, Alex – I know I kinna surprised you with all this. There's basically two options here – either you wear something sexy – or you don't wear anything at all, long as you're hot enough. And believe me – you're hot enough!"
This was yet another new experience for Alex. Guys were checking him out – and not making any pretenses about hiding it, either. At first it felt a little... strange... but he soon got used to it. He even started to enjoy it. It was like everyone there was flirting with him, all these good-looking guys staring him straight in the eye, wordlessly saying "Hey – I like what you got. You like what I got?" He did. It was intoxicating.
And once Christian judged Alex was into it enough, he took him by the hand and led him out of there.
And into the Zone, just a little ways down the street.
The Zone was another gay-bar – but techno-pop this time, lasers and flashing lights and dancing men in very revealing costumes up on platforms, all permeated by the loud, insistent, pounding beat of the music. If talking had been hard before, it was impossible now.
And the flirting took on a new tone too. Now men were dancing up behind him, rubbing themselves on him. Several times, he found himself squeezed between Christian in front, and some stranger behind, making a sandwich of him. He could feel both their erections, too... it was a little... much, for a West Texas boy, on his first night out. Although... once he realized that this was just how it was done here – that no one was going to go any further, he began to get into that, as well. He'd actually been afraid that one of these strangers was going to reach around and unzip his pants – but apparently that was against the rules. It wasn't so scary after all, once one knew the rules. Alex found that he could feel comfortable around these people – his people – as long as there were rules.
He didn't know that there was more than one set.
Christian did – and led Alex off the dance-floor again. It was time for the coup-de-gras of the evening, in his eyes. Alex allowed himself to be led wherever Christian was taking him – he was having too good a time to notice. It was just so cool to be around all these guys, checking them out, getting checked out himself. The volume of the music wasn't a problem, he was beginning to understand. It was all in the eyes. It was absolutely fucking amazing ...
They passed through a doorway that had no door, and into a room dimly glowing with blue light. The music wasn't so loud in here, but there were still topless men all around. The dancing seemed to be a little slower, too, and Alex began to wonder what the deal-
Wait a minute. That guy's on his knees. He's sucking the other guy's dick! And those two – he's fucking that guy! In fact, ALL these guys were fucking one way or another! And now that he could hear again... oh my god...
Rules? What rules?
He turned towards Christian for an explanation, but his boyfriend was only grinning at him knowingly. And reaching for Alex's zipper.
Christian pulled Alex's pants down expertly, and then began kissing him – on the mouth at first, but soon trailing down to his nipples. Alex was too stunned to stop him. Normally, he would have had his eyes closed and his back arched, but not this time. Alex's eyes were wide open.
In front of him, two men were just standing there, their backs to him. When he glanced down, he saw the third one – one dick in each hand, blowing them both. One was in the process of cumming – all over the blower's face.
Alex's stomach rose in his throat.
He pushed Christian forcefully away, and frantically pulled up his jeans, already on his way out the door, just holding his pants up with his hand without taking the time to zip and button them. He had to get the fuck out of there! Christian had nearly fallen down backwards – and he really didn't want to touch the floor in there – and shouted at Alex's back, "Alex? Alex! Alex, what the-"
But Alex was already gone.
Alex hadn't gone far, though, and Christian found him sitting dejectedly at the first bus-stop bench he came to. Since Christian was Alex's ride – the group had agreed to take Christian's extended-cab pickup, and they'd all chip in for the gas – he knew that Alex would probably head back to the parking garage. So he felt good about being right about that... but not so good about Alex. Christian had gone too far, too fast, is all. Figures. He should have known better than to introduce a Virgin from The Basin to a place like that his first time out. It was just that Alex seemed to be getting into the experience, even more than Christian did when he first discovered the big-city club scene. Because of that, Christian had thought...
Well, obviously, he'd thought wrong.
Alex, hanging his head on the bench, felt alone. And he was wondering why... Here he was, surrounded on all sides by gay men, men flirting with one another, showing affection for one another, no one caring, no one even noticing ! These were his "people". These guys knew the score, knew how he felt, knew what it was like to be gay. So, why did he feel so lonely amongst them?
What he'd seen going on in the club's back room had really gotten to him – and not in a good way. All those men screwing each other, blowing each other, and... well, whatever the fuck else they were doing with each other... and no one seemed to care. It was no big deal.
Sort of like having sex with Christian had become, after the novelty had worn off.
No big deal.
The fact of that – the casualness of the gayness, and the sex that went with it – was stirring up complicated feelings in Alex, as he sat there on the bench with nightlife streaming all around him.
On one hand, it felt good to be surrounded by these people, to be in the company of others like him. It was great that it was no big deal! He didn't have to wonder who was gay and who wasn't – they all were! And that was okay! He could flirt with pretty much any guy who caught his eye! He could probably fuck pretty much any guy who caught his eye...
But – wasn't fucking supposed to be a big deal? It always seemed like it was for the straights... for the most part, anyway. And at first, sex with Christian had been a big deal, too. It had all been so wonderful, so unexpected, so unimaginable - if perhaps a little rushed-feeling – but so great, anyway. Now, he and Christian were fucking every chance they got. No big deal, anymore.
Hey, he thought to himself, doesn't it feel good? Don't you like it? That's what Christian would no doubt say to him, if he were to bring up his feelings.
Sure he did. Sure it felt good – except for the bottom part perhaps, but hell, the rest of it made up for that, didn't it? Sure, he wanted to have sex more often than not, right? Just like all these other guys around him. Just like the guys in that room... They were all fags. Alex was a fag. Those guys were just doing what fags like to do, right?
So why shouldn't he like to do that? If that's what it means to be gay, then why not?
And so it happened that a lone man/boy sitting on a bus-stop bench in the center of the urban Dallas gay strip, found himself envying the hets of the world. And he was both aware and astounded by the irony of that. The straights. The normals. The others.
That's why he felt lonely.
Christian sat down beside him, "Sorry about that, Alex... Uhm... I guess it was a little much, huh?"
Alex wasn't surprised to hear Christian's voice, he knew he'd be found soon enough. He wasn't hiding anyway. Christian's timing was perfect, sweeping away the feeling of being so alone. Okay, so Alex would never be straight – but at least he had a boyfriend. "Yeah. Kind of. I guess... I guess I just have to get used to it, is all..."
"You seemed to be getting into the whole thing a lot faster than I did, when I first came here. I'm sorry if I read it wrong, Alex."
Christian sighed. He'd be lucky to get any sex at all, tonight. Damn. He'd never thought that Alex would react like that. Never in a million years. Okay – the back room had put Christian off a little when he'd first seen it, too – but Christian had been by himself at the time. He'd felt like fresh meat thrown to wolves when he'd walked into that room, and the men started eying him as if to ask, "Hey, cutie – wanna join in?" He'd had to think about it a whole day, before he came back the next night and did just that - joined in. That's when Christian had lost his virginity. He didn't even know the guy's name. Their names...
And that didn't bother Christian. Anonymous sex was fine, was just what he needed. What bothered him was going without it later when he got back home to Wink.
"So... ready to head back to the motel?"
"Yeah. Uh – you got my shirt?"
"Oh, shit... I think I left it back at that cowboy bar. Sit tight – I'll go buy you one real quick."
Christian ran off back to The Zone – he'd seen tee's for sale there. They were all the same though; showing a simple yet elegant line-drawing of a very effeminate boy in a cowboy hat, no shirt, and a wickedly-knowing expression as he seemed to be about to unzip his jeans. The bulge in those jeans was drawn nearly half-way to his knees.
"Jesus, Chris... this is what you picked?" Alex said as he examined the graphic printed on the front.
"There was nothing to 'pick' – they were all the same. I chose the white version, though."
"But... I can't wear this anywhere..."
"You can wear it next time we come here..."
Alex thought about saying something – he wasn't sure if he'd be back or not - but decided against it, so he got up and shook out the still-folded-up shirt. Only then did they both discover that it was actually a half-shirt. Christian began to chuckle as Alex blushed. The shirt couldn't have screamed " FAG!" any louder if it had been pink.
"I swear to GOD I didn't know! Here – I'll exchange it... Seriously, I had no-"
"Oh, to hell with it – we're only going back to the motel. No stopping anywhere for anything else though - got it?"
"Damn Alex," Christian said admiringly, "You look-"
"This would be a good time for you to shut the hell up," Alex almost sneered – and then he had an idea. "As a matter of fact, you take off your shirt. Then we can both be twinks - see how you like it..."
As a final insult, once they got back to the motel, who did Alex have to run into but Bobby, padding barefoot down the row of rooms carrying two Cokes. He raised his eyebrows in surprise and opened his mouth to speak, but Alex stopped him with a pointing finger and a fiery glare, "If you say ONE word , Bobby - I swear to God I'll pop you right in the mouth!"
Bobby held up his Cokes in a gesture of surrender, turned around without a word, and went back to his room. He was smiling though. He knew Alex was gay but... damn... he didn't know he was that gay... Yeesh.
"Bobby!" Renee whispered as loud as she dared, "Bobby! C'mere!"
"Shh! Come look!"
They'd started out on the river at 8am, it was now approaching 11 – time for a rest stop, bathroom break, a fire, and some hot-dogs. The two couples had split up, agreeing to meet back at the canoes in a little while, but Alex and Christian hadn't gone very far...
"Wha- oh, geez, Renee... I don't wanna see that..." Bobby whispered and looked away. Christian was in the process of topping Alex.
"Oh come on! They're so cute! Not to mention totally hot!"
"They are not... And besides, you shouldn't be spying on them like this, anyway."
"Give me a break, Bobby – if they were lesbians you'd be watching. Tell me I'm wrong. Go 'head."
"Well... they're not," but Bobby did look again anyway, just curiously wondering what the hell his girlfriend saw that was so sexy about two guys fucking. He shouldn't have looked – because he could see Alex's face. And Alex wasn't enjoying it. In fact, Alex had a look of... well, Bobby didn't know what, but he knew Alex's face well enough after having grown up together to know that something was wrong, even at this distance.
And he felt sorry for him. On the other hand – if anything in the whole world was "none of his business", this was it.
"Okay, Renee – that's enough. Even if they were lesbians – and one of 'em was your best friend – you wouldn't let me just watch forever."
She giggled, "No, I s'pose not. You guys are so weird about lesbians..." She followed him quietly away from their spy-hole in the bushes.
"Oh, but two guys makes perfect sense, does it? That's hot?"
"Well yeah ! God, Bobby... I can't believe you guys have been hanging out together all your lives and you never even-"
"Hey Renee? You ever jerk off to yourself in the mirror?"
"... Fine," Renee frowned, after eventually remembering to close her mouth, "I get it. God, boys are such pervs... All of ya!"
Later in the day, they were a little ahead of schedule due to the spring-time flow of the river, and were just wasting a couple of hours at a place where the water was deep – and slow – enough to do a little snorkeling. Bobby and Alex had brought snorkels and masks, but let their respective partners go first anyway. They figured that neither of them had ever swum in naturally clear water before... since there is none for a thousand miles in any direction from Wink. Sure enough, both Renee and Christian were immediately entranced, so Bobby and Alex found a handy log to lean back against and wait. They didn't mind so much – this is why they'd wanted to bring their partners in the first place.
But Alex had something on his mind; "So, how's it going with Renee?"
"Great!" Bobby answered excitedly, "She's never been anyplace like this before. She can't get over it. Although she does keep complaining about the sun, and the bugs, and how uncomfortable the canoe seats are, and how we should have brought an ice-cooler, and... well, lots of other stuff. Still, I think she's having a good time. Just not a very outdoor person, I guess."
"Yeah. Uhm..." Alex paused. Those weren't really the kinds of things he was wanting to know right now. "What I meant was – are you two screwing yet?"
"No – I'm not trying to start a fight or anything this time. I really wanna know, okay?"
"Ah. Well... yeah, we are. Still none of your business, though."
"I know, okay? I'm just... curious about something..."
"Okay," Bobby said, and launched into an educational monologue of things he knew Alex didn't care about, "First of all, you never touch it directly. It's up above the opening, right at the top of-"
"Bobby – I'm being serious here."
"Oh. Uh... okay. Just kinna surprised that you'd be... Uhm... Well, what, then?"
"How often do you do it?"
Bobby's mouth hung open. Guys just don't ask guys that! Or if they do, they don't expect an honest answer! Alex appeared to want both.
Alex sighed. "Look, I just wanna know, for real, okay? I... I'm not gonna make fun of you or anything. A'ight?"
Bobby stared out at the river where his girlfriend was snorkeling. Best-friend or not – and gay best-friend or not – this was still awkward. "I dunno... It depends... Maybe, on average... oh... twice a week?"
"That's like every third day."
"Well, I said on average , I mean... sometimes, every day. Like on this trip. But not usually. And anyway – why do you wanna know?"
Rather than answer the question, Alex asked another one, "Do you wish it was more often? Like, 'at least' once a day? Sometimes more?"
"Well fuckin'-A I do!" Bobby blurted out, reflexively giving the answer that one guy would think another guy expects.
And Alex did expect that, so he just waited awhile for Bobby to think about what he'd just said. Then he asked, simply and looking Bobby in the eye, "Really?"
"Well... Geez Alex... I dunno. I mean... for one thing, it takes a long time with girls, y'know? They usually gotta be warmed up for awhile. And then after, when you just want to go to sleep, she'll wanna talk and cuddle. Not that I mind so much... but... Anyway, I guess what I mean to say is that if we were to, uh, have sex, even every day – forget about more than once a day – well... it wouldn't leave much time for anything else, y'know? I dunno if... I mean, I don't think I'd want it to be just about sex..."
That was exactly what Alex had thought he would say, he just wanted to hear it. From someone. But Bobby and Renee were a het couple. Did that make a difference? Surely it must... everyone knows that boys and girls are different about sex. "Guys don't need any warm-up, y'know. I mean... even me – two minutes is really taking it slow. And if you make a stupid pun, Bobby, I will hit you with this rock."
"I wasn't gonna! Shees. So... how often do you and Chris... do it?"
After a lengthy pause, Alex only said, "More. We're fa – I mean, we're queer. We're different." Now that he'd actually said it out loud, we're different , the phrase reverberated in his head. Yes, they were. But... surely it was more complicated than that...
Bobby broke his reverie, "So you're not gonna tell me..."
"Conversation over, Bobby. Besides, here they come."
"You guys weren't making out, were ya?" Renee asked jokingly as she walked up the gravel-bar toward them for a towel, "'Cuz if you were, it'd be totally unfair."
"Yeah. Least you could do is let us watch," Christian chimed next to her.
"Very funny," Bobby smirked. He had resigned himself by this time to being the butt of everyone's jokes. Apparently he was one of the 'things that doesn't belong here.' "I'm sure glad everyone's having such a good time at my expense..."
Alex nudged him in the ribs, "Get used to it, Bobby. You're the one invited me an' my boyfriend." He could tell the joking was getting to Bobby, and offered a way out, "Hey – you bring your BB gun? Let's go shoot some turtles."
"Uh... no. No I didn't."
"What? We're on a canoe trip on the Buffalo river and you didn't bring your BB gun? Why the hell not?"
"Because you have a girl with you this time, Alex," Renee said, "And you can't go shooting cute lil' turtles when there's a girl around."
"Tell 'im why not, Bobby," Renee narrowed her eyes at her boyfriend.
"Uhm... because you can't..."
"Exactly," Renee confirmed, crossing her arms over her chest.
Alex made a whip-cracking sound, and Christian tried his best to imitate a cat - "MeeeooOW!" A cat in pain.
"Fuck you guys," Bobby responded. As usual.
So the river-trip was a success. On the way back to Wink, they stopped in Dallas again, and Christian took Alex to a couple of different gay-clubs, but never into the back-rooms, if there were any. So that was okay. Not that Alex would ever forget what he'd seen, or how it made him feel. He didn't wear that shirt ever again, though.
And school resumed and wound down. The Prom came and went. Bobby took Renee, Alex simply didn't go. Which - in a town the size of Wink - probably wasn't a good idea. People would want to know why... But that was okay – once he was off to college, Alex didn't expect to have to deal with any of those people ever again anyway.
Bobby began working at the welding-supply store with Alex for a summer job. They'd both found enough money to go to college, although Bobby had to do what he didn't want to and get a small student loan. Student loans come back to bite you, he'd heard. And Bobby still had no car, so he was going to be depending on Alex a lot, and he knew it. So did Alex. And it was okay - that's what friends are for.
One day Renee casually mentioned to Bobby that his elbows were looking a lot better, and a light went off in his head - Alex was right! Girls do notice! Holy shit...
Shortly thereafter, Bobby learned (under Alex's tutelage) how to use an emery-board, and the right way to push his cuticles back. And that the trimmer on his dad's electric shaver worked a hell of a lot better for trimming pubes than did scissors. That was kind of a painful lesson...
Renee noticed it all. Maybe not right away – but eventually. Bobby was cleaning up nice. His mother noticed that her son was suddenly changing clothes after work every day, rather than just lounging around in his jumpsuit like he used to. About time , she thought. She knew what was going on – it was that Renee girl. Well, she knew part of what was going on, anyway...
So one day – a month before he and Alex were due to pack off to Lubbock and Texas Tech – Bobby was ready to take the plunge -
"So... uh..." he began, while he and Alex were loading acetylene cylinders into a pick-up. He couldn't quite finish, though. It was so embarrassing.
"Well... y'know how you once said I should get my hair styled..."
"Yeah? Gonna do that, finally?" Alex was concentrating on tying down the bottles of explosive gas, and hadn't noticed the anxiety in his friend's voice.
"Thinkin' about it..."
"Good. Renee'll be putty in your hands."
"Yeah. Uh... so..."
Having secured the last bottle in the truck, Alex squatted there and finally took a good look at Bobby. "Oh, for God's sake, what ?"
Bobby rolled his eyes and looked away, "Will you go with me?"
Alex just stared at him.
So Bobby started making excuses, "Well, y'know, I dunno how it works, an' all... or what to get... or anything..." Alex was still staring. "... or where to even go... or... What the fuck are you looking at?"
"I could eat you with a spoon."
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I could though," he grinned, "Right - I'll come get ya soon's I get cleaned up and change clothes. We'll go to Curler's – they shouldn't have any problem with a walk-in on a weekday."
"That's a women's place..."
"We ain't in the big city here, Bobby – there aren't any men's places, 'cept for barber-shops, an' they don't know how to do anything like what you want. Anyway, lots of men go there. Straight men, I might add."
"If you say so."
"I was thinking maybe... something like that guy?" Bobby pointed to a picture on the wall.
"Wrong decade. Too Hasselhoff. Try again."
"Okay... that one?"
"You're kidding me..."
"All right, look, Bobby - how much time are you willing to spend fucking with your hair..."
"I mean how much time, per day, are you willing to deal with it? 'Cuz something like that takes like half an hour every morning. Another hour in the evening. And a stylist every two weeks. You up for that?"
"That's what I thought. Look, Bobby – long hair is a pain. Ask your girlfriend. In fact, you'll score major points for noticing her hair – and I bet you've never even mentioned it. When your 'style' is basically 'shaggy dog', like you have, it's not so bad. But if you want it to look nice ... well, think short."
"Okay..." Bobby proceeded to study the other models on the wall, but nothing was grabbing him. They all just looked... y'know... like guys . How the fuck was he supposed to know what girls liked? "Geez Alex... why did I bring you, anyway, if you're not gonna help me?"
"Christ. Okay – see that one there? All spikey? That'd look good on you. An' all it takes is a minute of rubbing in the gel and you're good to go."
"But... he looks..."
"Bobby... have ya ever heard the girls complain how 'all the cute guys are always gay'?"
"Well, why do you think that is?"
Renee squealed gleefully. "Pretty hot, for a straight guy", she said.
The night before they were to leave for Lubbock.
"Alex?" Bobby said in surprise when he answered the door, "What're you doing here? I'm still packing for-"
"We're going to the water-tower. C'mon."
"I need to talk," Alex interrupted him impatiently. "Just c'mon, okay?"
"Uhm – lemme get some shoes on."
In Alex's car, on the way -
"So what's the-"
"Not now. Wait'll we get there."
"Big, is it?"
Prior to Alex's coming out, they'd always sit touching when they sat on the grating surrounding the water-tower. Last time they'd been here, they were five feet apart. Now, they were separated by inches. Some things change, some things stay the same.
"Okay Alex, so here we are..."
Alex didn't say anything, so Bobby waited. And waited. And waited. Until finally he had to say something , if only to remind Alex that he was there ready to listen.
"So, kind of scary, leaving town an' all. Whole new world..."
"I... I broke up with Chris."
"What? Tonight? Just now?"
"Just now. Just before I came over."
After a pause to see if Alex was going to explain further, Bobby prodded, "What happened? I thought you guys were... well, hot 'n' heavy..."
Alex didn't answer right away, not really sure if he could go into this with Bobby. A straight guy. A straight guy wasn't going to understand... And whatever he did understand, he was likely to get wrong anyway. Alex had never wished for another fag to talk to so bad in his life, but all he had was Bobby. He looked over, and Bobby looked expectantly back. Well, maybe Bobby wasn't queer, but at least he knew Alex. Knew all about Alex. Maybe that would be enough.
"He... he wanted to do a three-way."
Whoa. For Bobby, the idea of a three-way was pretty heady stuff. And Alex... "You mean... like, three guys ?"
"Of course three guys , you idiot."
"Some guy from Odessa. Met him on the 'Net. No one I knew. No one he knew, for that matter."
"Wow," Bobby said as it sunk in on him. Three guys. Man... what a weird idea. Two girls and a guy - well, sure! - two guys and a girl – now, wait a minute, that might be a little strange – but three guys? Well, obviously they'd all have to be gay... and from that point of view... well... what was the problem? "So, uhm... not your thing?"
"... Bobby... that's just it. It seemed like a good idea, at first... like it'd be fun. But..."
"But... I... I'm just not so sure anymore that I'm really cut-out for... all this gay stuff..."
There wasn't much Bobby could say to that. So he kept quiet. Not cut out for all this gay stuff? he thought. Here Bobby had finally been able to feel almost comfortable with Alex's orientation, and NOW he wasn't cut out for it? Fuck, man! And besides – Alex had been doing... gay stuff... with Christian for months now! Fuck did he mean he "wasn't cut out for it"?
And since Alex wasn't saying anything more, Bobby finally did put voice to that question: "Fuck ya mean 'not cut out for it'?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"Well... maybe not. Never know if you don't tell me, though."
"No, no – look. Okay – I don't 'get' a lot of this 'gay stuff'. I admit it. I know it ain't for me. But... geez Alex, you seemed to be... into it. I mean, even I could see that! If nothing else, I 'get' that you're gay – that you're into guys, a'ight? So what the fuck ya mean you're suddenly 'not cut out for it'?"
Alex sighed. Might as well go all the way... "Remember Dallas, on the way to the river? Me and Chris went out?"
"Well... we went to a couple of gay-bars."
"I figured that from that shirt you had."
"Bobby – don't ever mention that shirt again," Alex said, annoyed. "Anyway – there was this one place, had a back-room. Chris took me in there. There were... it was... This one guy in there – there were lots of others, but this one guy, he was blowing these two other guys. And one was, uh, ejaculating all over the guy's face..."
"Yeah. That's what I thought."
"So what'd you do?"
"I... I almost threw up, Bobby..."
Now there was a surprise. " You almost threw up?"
"Yeah. I know. I'm a fag – I'm supposed to be into all that stuff, right? And the thing is, Bobby, I was into it! Not that , but... the whole scene! The dancing and the flirting and checkin' all these guys out... getting sandwiched... all of it! It took awhile, but yeah – I got into it. I felt like I belonged – that's the part you wouldn't understand – and I liked it! Right up to then..."
"They were just doing that... right there... in front of-"
"Yeah. And you could hear other stuff going on, Bobby! You could smell it! I... I really thought I was gonna throw up... And Chris... he was into it... He thought I'd get into it!"
"So see? I guess I'm not gay enough , it turns out..."
"Who'd wanna be..." Bobby said, before he remembered who he was talking to. "Uh... sorry, didn't mean it like that..."
They both sat in silence, looking out over the town. Bobby was trying to wrap his mind around this new information – that this was the kind of thing gay men did. It seemed hard to believe... And even harder to reconcile with the fact that Alex was one of them. That he was like that. Anything like that! Even a little bit!
"So... you mean all gay guys..."
"You're not, though."
"Exactly. 'S what I'm trying to say, Bobby. I don't guess I fit in with them , either."
Ah – well, Bobby could certainly understand that. And thank God, too, that Alex wasn't that gay, after all! Because that... that was just... man...
Alex didn't fit in with the straights, and now he obviously didn't fit in with the fags, either. Fuck. Alex sighed to himself, as well as to signal his state-of-mind to Bobby. Of course, there was at least one person that Alex fit in with...
"Goddamn it, Bobby... Why couldn't you have been gay too – we woulda been perfect together..."
Without thinking about it – because he didn't need to – Bobby said, "I know."
Surprised and confused, Alex gawked at him, "You know?"
"What – you think you're the only one who noticed? Yeah. I know."
Now Alex was more confused than ever. "So... But... I mean... uh..."
Bobby shot him a sidelong glance – no – that Alex immediately understood.
"Ah. God, Bobby – you had me scared for a minute there..."
"Oh – scared now, are ya? Didn't you used to have a crush on me?"
"Well... yeah, but that was... and now... It's just that, thinking about it, it'd be... it'd be weird , Bobby... I mean... God..."
"Imagine how weird it'd be for me... Anyway, Alex, look – all the queers can't be like that. And there'll probably be lots of 'em in college, right? Other fish in the sea and all that?"
"Maybe... but... I'm just kind of tired of it all, y'know? It's not... It's not like I thought it'd be. And besides, I'm taking like 14 hours – not gonna have a lot of time. Speaking of which – you picked a major yet?"
"I put down World History, just to have something. Isn't going to matter for the first couple of years anyway."
"Yeah. So anyway, I guess I'm just gonna cool it. I've kind of had enough sex to last me awhile, y'know? Hey – what's gonna happen with you and Renee?"
"Oh. Well... she's going to A&M... so... we're gonna e-mail and call an' stuff, but... y'know..."
"Sort of breaking-up without really breaking-up?"
"Yeah. We'll see what happens. We're both gonna be hanging out with a lot of new people..."
"And one old buddy."
"And one old buddy."
It was indeed going to be a new world. More – and in more ways - than either of them could have imagined.
Lubbock, Texas, isn't quite as flat as the Permian Basin (it's still pretty damn flat) - but at least it's green. Grass grows. It grows better with a sprinkler... but it grows. Trees will grow if someone plants them, but there are no woods in prairie country. It's a fairly small city, a little over 200,000 people. Texas Tech University is something of an anomaly - a technical, science-oriented school located in the heart of oil-and-cotton land.
First-year students are housed in one of two dormitories - all double-occupancy. If you want a room to yourself, that'll be an extra $500/semester, please. Neither Alex nor Bobby could afford that luxury, not that they had planned to anyway. They had always assumed that they'd be rooming together, although they hadn't considered how Alex's coming out might affect that - until they were sitting together in the Housing Office signing up for their room. Nonetheless, they still agreed to be roomies. There was only a moment of hesitation - and it was on Alex's part, not Bobby's.
"You didn't have to do that... I would've understood if you... y'know..."
"What - we're gonna live in separate rooms?" Bobby shrugged him off, "After all the time we've been talking about coming here? I don't think so. It's kinna funny that it's you who's worried about it, though."
"Well... I just thought you might be... uncomfortable, or something. It's starting already, Bobby... didja see how she was looking at us funny?"
"Heh. Yeah, I saw. She probably thinks we're queers."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
"Uhm..." Bobby thought about it, and surprised even himself by admitting, "Not really, no. To hell with her."
That suprised Alex as well - Bobby had really come a long ways, it seemed. Still, it bothered him that the woman in the Housing Office seemed to assume that they were gay. She must check in pairs of guys all the time... why would she think that he and Bobby were any different?
"Hey, uh... Bobby? Can I ask you something'?"
"You have to tell the truth..."
"Well... does it show?"
"Does what show?" Bobby had no idea what his friend might be referring to. Besides which, he was pretty excited just to be there, university, Texas Tech, a place they'd both fantasized about for so long. It didn't hurt that there were an awful lot of pretty girls running around. In summer outfits too, even though it was only May.
"Know what?" Bobby was barely listening.
"Damn it, Alex - does WHAT show?" He looked Alex over closely, thinking that maybe he was referring to a stain on his shirt or something.
"That I'm gay, you asshole."
Of all the things that Alex might have meant, that one would have never occurred to Bobby. "Oh fer cryin' out loud... I didn't know, until you told me."
"Yeah well... you're a moron."
Bobby smirked at him, "And I've been your best friend for 15 years now. Doesn't say much for you, does it... Get over it, Alex."
"I just don't want to get a reputation, is all. This town is bigger than Wink, but it's not that much bigger. I bet not much is gonna be different... there'll still be bullies... the seniors will still snub everyone else... the jocks will still make wise-cracks from the back of the class..."
"Hey Alex?" Bobby interrupted, "We're here! We're at Texas Tech! Let's try it out before we jump to any conclusions, huh?"
Over the course of the first few weeks, they began to understand some of the differences between high school and college.
The bullies were gone. Or, if they were around, somewhere, they were keeping very quiet. The seniors didn't snub anybody at all. In fact, who even knew which students were in their fourth year and which were freshmen? There was no way to tell... even the 1000-level courses had sophomores and juniors in them. And being a senior doesn't really mean much anyway, if one intends to go to grad school. Or if one is failing...
As for the hard-core jocks... they were all taking Physical Therapy classes and such - they weren't there for education, they were there for their sport, so they just didn't show up much in the regular student body.
But the biggest difference - and the one that felt most amazing - was that Alex and Bobby found themselves treated like adults for the first time in their lives. There were no "hall monitors" at the University. The teachers - whether they were just grad-students or actual professors - didn't take roll. In fact, they didn't really care if you showed up for class or not. You paid for this... fine with them if you wasted your money. Besides, they were busy with things of their own.
Because, unlike high school, the teachers weren't responsible for teaching anymore. That wasn't even their real job. Oh, there'd be a professor here and there who cared about teaching students (and even they didn't care about freshman courses), but for the most part, the teachers taught only because they were forced to, not because they wanted to. Here, it was the students who were responsible for learning, if they could. And if they didn't... well, no one cared. That was the difference: it was all up to the student, now. No one was going to give a shit whether they passed or not, as long as they paid the tuition. College is a business.
And lastly: there just simply wasn't time for high school bullshit... Every teacher seemed to assume that the class they were teaching was the only one their students were taking, judging by the amount of homework and reading they assigned. It was incredible... Alex had to buy six textbooks just for English Lit. One (Beowulf to Chaucer). Homework solutions were either printed in the back of the book or posted on bulletin boards on the classroom walls, and it was never "passed to the person behind you" for grading - that kind of thing just didn't happen. You graded yourself, and it didn't count anyway. For most courses, only the tests counted.
So it took some getting used to. And as for life outside of class - that, too, had it's peculiarities -
"Oh my god - what WAS that, anyway?" Bobby asked, hurriedly making his way to the bathroom. He needed to brush his teeth to get the flavor of lunch out of his mouth.
"The menu said 'beef strohganoff'. Move over - quit hogging the sink."
"That's my toothpaste..."
"I'm out. We need to go to Wal-Mart today."
"Good - I wanna get some of those ramen noodles everyone keeps talking about," Bobby took off his shirt to keep it safe from stray toothpaste foam, "You ever try that stuff?"
"Had some once - just noodles and flavored salt-water, pretty much."
"Gotta be better than what we just ate here."
They proceeded to brush, jostling for mirror-space in the process. Eventually it seemed to work out best with Alex behind Bobby, looking over his shoulder. Ostensibly at his own reflection. But... not really...
"Dammit Alex - quit staring at me like that."
After brushing, Alex sat up in his bed and prepared himself mentally for the task of reading ridiculously over-analytic essays about the symbolism of Grendel the Dragon. It was difficult - especially when Bobby was still shirtless... and now bending over to search through his backpack.
"Alex..." Bobby had caught him again.
Bobby was getting ready for his next class. Due to the randomizing factors of full sections, conflicting classes, and required courses, he and Alex had only one class together, despite their best efforts to try and take as many of the same sections as they could.
Having gotten everything ready, he stretched his arms over his head to slip his shirt back on. Alex, of course, stared. And Bobby, who was expecting that by now, caught him looking for a third time. It wasn't always like this... but Alex was getting worse about it all the time.
"Jesus Christ Alex... Go find a boyfriend, a'ight?"
"Sorry..." It was getting kind of stupid, all these 'sorry's... even Alex felt that way. "Actually - know what? I'm not sorry. I mean - I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, but for God's sake, Bobby, how am I supposed to not look? I'm queer and you're a half-naked guy! You must have known it was gonna be like this when you decided we were gonna be roommates... So fuck you - I'm gonna look. Whenever I want. You can just deal with it... It's not like I'm gonna hit on ya or anything."
"Fine. In that case, I'm putting up my poster." It was a pin-up; two girls and a .60-caliber machine-gun. There were nipples showing through the thin camouflage bikinis and buttocks exposed by thongs. Pretty typical, actually. He hadn't put it up because Alex made fun of it, said it was stupid. But if he was going to be this way about things, then, well, to hell with it.
"Oh, god..." Alex rolled his eyes, "Yeah, fine. Whatever."
On his way to the Liberal Arts building for his Lit. class, Bobby read the postings chalked onto the sidewalk for news of what was going on around the campus. B'nai Br'ith - whatever that was - was hosting some kind of fund-raiser. The African-Americans had something going on, as did the Native-Americans, the German-Americans, the Italian-Americans, and the Muslim-Americans. Some band he'd never heard of was going to be playing at the amphitheater next month. And it was breast-cancer awareness week, apparently.
He stopped in front of a rainbow-lettered announcement:
DJ, Dancing, FREE FOOD!!
Student Union - Wed, 7 to ??
GSA. Gay/Straight Alliance. The novelty that such an organization even existed had worn off of Bobby by this time, and he'd gotten used to the idea of the gays being 'out'. There weren't many, but he'd see them from time to time, girls or boys, holding hands, even kissing, right out in public. After the first couple of weeks of school, no one even stared anymore. And no one ever pointed, even during that first week. They definitely weren't in Wink anymore... At any rate, by now it was kind of "old-hat, big deal, so what"... although he did steal glances at lesbian couples sometimes. Lesbians were hot.
"Free food" was underlined three times - the GSA knew how to appeal to college students.
This wasn't the first GSA event of the school year - there had been others - and Bobby always asked if Alex wanted to go, since the pair of them were pretty much the definition of "gay/straight alliance", but Alex wasn't interested. In fact, he kept making fun of Bobby for bringing it up, saying that he probably just wanted to go check out the dykes. Which was partially true, after all.
But more than that, Bobby wanted Alex to just get OUT, in every sense of the word. He couldn't understand why he wouldn't want to - here they were, finally out of Wink, finally in a place where he wouldn't have to hide anything - and he didn't seem to care. What was the deal with that? Had whatever happened between him and Christian completely screwed up Alex that much? And even if it had, well, wasn't it was time he got the fuck over it? What better place to do so than here? And what better time than now?
But Alex would only say he "hadn't come to University to cruise for boys", and nothing Bobby said would change his mind. Fucking hell... Bobby shook his head in dejection and walked on, carefully stepping over the chalk so as not to smear it.
And someone noticed that.
And his name was Chaz McCarver. And he was gay - but with a difference. He didn't think it was a big deal.
Chaz's father was an R&B saxophone player in Houston. His mother created and sold artistic ceramics. They lived in the Bishop Arts district of the city; the artsy, avant-garde part of town. He'd been home-schooled until he was 16, when his mother's pottery finally started selling and she wanted to devote more time to it, and so sent Chaz off to public school for the first time.
There, Chaz discovered that being gay made him different - and not necessarily in a way everyone appreciated - so he learned when it was best to just lie low, at least about that . It was a hard-learned lesson, and one he never got at home. As a result of that, Chaz had little use for straight boys. He didn't quite hate them outright, but almost.
At home, Chaz had never even bothered to "come out" to his parents - they had so many gay friends and acquaintances that he hadn't even realized there was anything odd about it. It seemed perfectly normal. That was just the kind of environment he'd been raised in. Public school changed all that.
Chaz wasn't a virgin - but on the other hand, he'd never had a serious relationship, either. Never had a boyfriend who lasted more than two weeks. Those two attributes were related - because it was always Chaz who wanted the relationship, and that scared off the potential boyfriends.
Chaz was a romantic. Thus, Chaz was alone.
Alone but looking.
And that brunette guy with the hair-gel, reading the GSA advert - and looking all depressed about it - caught his eye. He was cute enough, for sure; with professionally-styled hair and clothes that not only weren't wrinkled from being worn several days - unlike most of the boys on campus - but even matched. Whoever he was, he obviously wanted to go to the GSA event, but was probably too shy, or ashamed, or maybe even afraid. It was so cute - he reminded Chaz of a wet kitten - and he made up his mind right then: I'm going for 'im.
That was the first thing that Chaz got wrong. There were going to be a lot more.
One of the classes Alex and Bobby didn't share was Analytical Geometry, a required course for all students at Texas Tech, regardless of how high one's Math SAT scores were, or whether they'd had Calculus in high school. The university used it as an introduction to what college was going to be like. The material wasn't especially hard - and the students should have seen it all before, anyway - but it was thrown at them much faster, and in more depth, than any high school ever would. The classroom held 500 students - and it was packed. Obviously, there was little to no raising of hands to ask questions with that many students to a single teacher. It was taught by an exasperated-looking PhD candidate who had a staff of four teaching-assistants to grade tests. The class was more of a hazing ritual than anything else. Welcome to Texas Tech. Get fucking busy.
Bobby groaned and mumbled to himself, "Four pages of homework problems? Holy fuck..."
"Yeah - he really piles it on, doesn't he?" came a voice to his right, "It's all easy stuff, though." Chaz had arranged to sit right beside him.
"Easy for you maybe..."
"Well, I'm pretty good at math. Name's Chaz, by the way. Freshman. Music Theory," he said, submitting all the required introductory information, "But that was just to please my dad. I'm gonna change it to Physics next year. Maybe minor in Music."
"Bobby. Freshman, History - but only because I couldn't think of anything else."
"So listen - we could work on these together - you do even, I'll do odd. Cut it in half that way. "
Bobby was only a little surprised at the offer - these things happened all the time. It was only natural, since ALL the students were beginning to feel snowed-under, and were turning for help in every direction they could think of. It was kind of frightening, everything they seemed to be expected to do. And this was just the first semester! Usually hooking up with a homework-buddy didn't happen quite so blatantly... but what the hell, Chaz seemed like an okay guy.
"You're good at math, ya say? 'Cuz I gotta warn ya - I'm not."
"No sweat. So when ya free? We could meet at the library, second floor. They have little rooms up there, if you didn't know."
"As a matter of fact I did. Four this afternoon?"
"Four-thirty. After my Chem Lab."
"Works for me."
"Okay then - 4:30 second floor of the library. See ya there."
"'Kay. And thanks ahead of time, uh..."
"Got it. Chaz."
Bobby looked around for his new study-mate. Shouldn't be too hard to find him - all that red hair ought to stick out like a sore thumb. That was about the only thing he could remember about him, though; the long red hair in a pony-tail that hung halfway down his back. He'd been too overwhelmed - not by Chaz's offer, but just by the day in general - to pay much attention. Thursdays were a hectic day for Bobby.
Red pony-tail, a little taller than him, freckles - there he was, just about to sit down in one of the glassed-in cubicles. One with a window to the outside. Good choice. What was his name again?... oh, 'Chaz', that's right. Math Chaz. Good. Must remember that.
For Bobby, having a study-partner, in his section, who was good at math, was going to be a life-saver.
There wasn't much small-talk:
"Hey. Okay, you're doing odd, I got even, right?"
"Let's get started."
That was it. All of it. They got to work.
From time to time, Bobby would ask Chaz for help with something, but for the most part, the work was carried on in silence, only the scratching of mechanical pencils on engineering paper filling the void. And a lot of erasing, on Bobby's part.
Meanwhile, Chaz inspected his quarry more carefully. The most telling thing about Bobby was his nails - they were immaculate. Not glossed or anything, but perfectly cut, buffed, clean, and he even took care of his cuticles. It looked like he might even be using lotion on his hands (he was).
Bobby was clean-shaven, too, which was kind of rare. Most of the freshman boys were growing some kind of facial hair, sort of a right-of-passage, both because they finally could, and because their parents weren't around to tell them not to. And Bobby smelled good - he was using cologne (again - following Alex's advice). Could have taken more time picking one though, Chaz thought. Bobby bought his cologne based on how much he liked the way the bottle looked.
None of these things were actual proof that Bobby was gay, of course. He might just be Metro, or even Preppie - although that didn't seem likely. And he wore New Balance sneakers, not Converse, the secret shoe of gay pride. But then, maybe Bobby didn't know that. Or maybe he did know, and was just too deep in the closet. Well, Chaz was going to find out, one way or another - and tonight would be a good night, come to think of it...
"Look, Chaz... it's been three hours, and I'm only on number 25. You wanna pick this up again tomorrow or something? I don't wanna use up all your time..." Bobby said, feeling guilty about being so stupid at math.
"Actually, I was working my way back up. If you're on 25, then there's only six left... And as for my time, don't worry about it. Maybe you can help me out with something... what classes are you good at?"
"Well, I do pretty good in English Comp and American History, but those are easy courses..."
"Which American History?"
"Founding to Reconstruction."
"Damn, I'm taking post-Reconstruction to Modern. English Comp, you say?"
"Yeah, but like I said, that's easy."
"Says you. You... uh... write good essays?"
"All A's so far..."
"I think we can make a deal, Bobby. But look - let's finish these up now, and then copy each other's stuff. And... I should probably go over some of the ones I did with you - maybe this weekend - because there's some trick problems in there. So let's finish up, and then maybe we can go unwind somewhere. You been to Static's?"
Static's was a bar & grill, the only bar, in fact, in walking distance from the dorms. "Yeah, I've been there. Good idea - I'm hungry, too."
"Then it's a date."
"Very funny," Bobby replied, not taking him seriously. He looked back own at his pad. GOD he hated math!
It was 8 o'clock before they got to the bar, and Bobby was starving by then. They both ordered burgers and chowed down like... well, like starving college students. Bobby was so hungry that he wasn't paying much attention to anything else. In between mouthfuls of food, they chatted about where they were from (Ah - West Texas, Chaz thought, that explains a lot), why they chose their particular majors, and why they didn't really think those choices were a good idea. Small-talk. The place seemed unusually busy, but Bobby figured it was probably just some kind of frat thing. The times he'd been there before weren't this... loud.
Bobby was feeling quite at ease and comfortable with Chaz - he seemed pretty cool. Alex would probably like him, too. Maybe they could form their own little study-group - Alex was better at math than Bobby, but not nearly as smart as Chaz about it. That'd be cool. In fact, it was too bad Chaz wasn't gay... he might be just the kind of guy Alex would be interested in. Wouldn't that be something - him finding a boyfriend for Alex? He smiled to himself at the very idea.
Funky Town began playing on the jukebox and Bobby's head started to bob with the beat.
"Dude... you like disco?" Chaz asked.
"SOME of it, okay?" Disco is almost universally despised in college-towns, "I like this song, anyway."
"Me too, actually..." Chaz said, and then dropped the bomb - "Wanna dance?"
THAT isn't something one guy usually asks another. Bobby froze in mid-chew, lifting his eyes to see if the other boy was serious. It looked like he was.
Ohmigod... is he... does he mean...
There WAS still a slight chance that maybe Chaz was just... strange... and not necessarily gay. He'd met a lot of "strange" people at Texas Tech, so it wasn't out of the question. But either way - dance with another guy? Sure, girls could do that without people thinking they were queer, but with guys it was different, and everyone knew it. He surely didn't want all these people in here to think...
He quickly looked around. The eating area had a few mixed couples, but it was mostly guys at the tables. A couple of tables looked like they were all-girl - and they were smiling and giggling and watching the dancers.
What were they giggling at? He glanced over at the dance floor.
It was ALL guys.
"Is... is this a gay bar?" Bobby hadn't really intended to say that out loud.
"Only tonight. It's Queer Thursday. You didn't know?"
Panic set in. He was in a gay bar - as good as, anyway - sitting at a table with another guy, who was asking him to dance. Those gawking girls probably already thought he was gay. He needed to stall, think things out. There had to be some way out of this...
But Chaz wasn't going to give him the time. He stood up and held a hand out to Bobby. "Oh, come on. Don't tell me you've never danced..."
So now Bobby had a new problem thrown in the mix - his rather intense phobia about dancing. He may have been even more embarrassed about that by itself than about dancing with another boy - it was a close call - so he retreated into safe, well-used lines. This wasn't the first time someone had ever asked him to dance, after all. Renee had harped on him about it, too.
"Uh... I'm not... I don't dance."
"You like disco and you've never danced..." Chaz asked incredulously.
The same guilt that he felt about refusing to dance with his girlfriend made Bobby feel awkward and stupid with Chaz. He blushed. Fact was, Bobby had fantasized about dancing... but just didn't see how he could do it, y'know, in front of people. He'd always wished he could dance, but...
Chaz saw the blush and his heart nearly melted. Poor Bobby... Good GOD he was so cute!
"Look, Chaz..." Bobby started, intending to say something about not being gay - if he could only figure out a way to put it - but then he changed his mind, and went an entirely different way. He would never know why. "It's just... I'd just be too... embarrassed, y'know? I mean, it just seems... a little..."
"Fruity?" Chaz would read every signal wrong tonight.
That wasn't how Bobby would have put it... but yeah. Exactly. "Yes."
Chaz sat back down, leaning back in his chair. It was time to explain something to the boy from West Texas. "You've never been in a gay bar before, have ya Bobby..."
"Well... No..." And there's a reason for that...
"Okay - here's some things you gotta know: on Queer Thursday, it's our night. The straight jerks you're afraid of won't be coming here , swear to god. No one's going to point at you and laugh or say to his buddies, 'Hey, look at that guy - what a fag!' You don't have to be a stud, tonight. You don't have to be a flaming queen, either... I'm just saying that you can be yourself. It's safe here. No one's gonna judge you. It's not like dancing with the straights."
"What about all these girls?"
Chaz chuckled, "Bobby - don't worry about the girls. We call 'em 'fag-hags' - and actually, they're the best friends you can ever have. Oh - don't call 'em 'fag-hags' to their faces, though... they don't like that. Now c'mon - just do what I do, okay? It'll be fun, it really will. I know I'm embarrassing you, but it's for your own good. You need to break through this." He stood up again.
Even in his confused state, Bobby knew a truth when he heard it. He did need to break through this. He wanted to break through this! And... if all he had to do was imitate what Chaz did - a thought that had never occurred to him before - then... well... maybe he could. Dance. It sure seemed like a lot of other people enjoyed it... he wished he could, as well. It's just that he could never... figure it out. And finally - although he wasn't thinking it - it just somehow seemed... safer... being taught by another boy. A gay boy. Someone he wasn't worried about impressing with his coolness, or manliness.
"Well... okay..." Bobby said apprehensively, and pushed his chair back, "Just do what you do, right?" Since the whole dance-floor was boys dancing with boys, at least Bobby didn't have to worry about standing out. He was kind of taking advantage of Chaz... he knew that... but if he could learn to dance, well, it might be worth it. He'd explain that he was straight later, and apologize. He could do that. Chaz was cool - it should be okay.
"You got it. You'll thank me later, Bobby. C'mon."
At first, Bobby felt exactly like he had thought he'd feel - absolutely silly. But, the things Chaz was doing looked pretty silly too. Yet Chaz was smiling, whereas Bobby only felt embarrassed. Then Chaz started doing really "silly" things, spinning around, bumping his chest against Bobby's, swaying his hips... and grinning and laughing about it.
It was contagious. Bobby copied his moves - and he also laughed about it. And Chaz laughed at him, as well. And that, too, was funny. Fun, and funny. And... kind of cool.
So Bobby finally figured out how to dance. Apparently, the secret was NOT to worry about figuring out how to dance... no wonder it always seemed like such a mystery! An hour and fifteen minutes later, give or take, they sat back down, after a trip to the restroom. Chaz brought them a couple of beers, but Bobby didn't need it to loosen up, anymore.
"Toldja you'd like it."
"And you were goddamn right! Heh - thanks for teaching me, Chaz."
"It doesn't have anything to do with 'teaching'. Sort of the opposite... but I knew you'd get into it. You just look like a dancer."
Commenting on how Bobby "looked" brought back to his mind that he really needed to tell Chaz something - "Look, uh... Chaz..." But just then a new song started - Relax, (Don't Do It) by Frankie Goes To Hollywood - and Chaz suddenly got a far-away look in his eyes, so Bobby waited to see what was up. Then those eyes turned to him. And narrowed mischievously.
"C'mon... Hurry - I don't wanna miss this song!"
"Come ON Bobby! Just follow my lead, okay? It's starting! We gotta get on the floor before the beat starts!" Chaz cried in extreme excitement, virtually pulling Bobby to his feet and dragging him back on the floor.
Bobby was a little bewildered, but he was comfortable enough dancing now that at least he wasn't afraid anymore.
He would have been, if he'd known. So far, the music had been mostly classic rock with a little '80's disco thrown in. This song was different. It was from a whole other era - the '90's - and it was overtly, extremely, and almost ridiculously - gay. And Chaz had worked out a dance for it. Bobby was never going to be the same, after this...
The glint in Chaz's eyes was almost evil. "Stay," he told Bobby, and went on ahead of him about five feet. The lead-in beat hadn't started yet, so he just stood there, facing Bobby. Once the beat started, he began flexing his knees, first one, then the other, and taking tiny steps towards the other boy. Bobby flexed in the same fashion, but gathered that he wasn't supposed to move. Something in Chaz's eyes said so. By the time the down-beat of the refrain kicked in, Chaz was pressing himself hard against Bobby, zipper-to-zipper. Bobby was entirely disconcerted, but what could he do at that point? He played along. Then, with the word "Relax!" Chaz thrust his hips forward, arching his back away, bouncing himself off Bobby's groin.
It was dirty-dancing, and unlike before, there was a lot of touching. Moreover, it was dirty gay dancing, and Chaz was obviously having a ball. All Bobby could do was try to hide his shock - and he did. At least well enough that Chaz didn't seem to notice. Not that Chaz would have noticed either way, probably.
But it got worse (or better, depending on whose side one was on). Chaz kept taking Bobby's hand, wrapping himself in Bobby's arms and twirling out, sometimes pulling Bobby's arms behind his back. He'd obviously been working on this awhile... And Bobby could see what was going on - this was a song about sex, after all. So when Chaz danced up behind him, one arm around his waist, the other pushing between Bobby's shoulder-blades, Bobby knew what he was supposed to do. And he bent over, still flexing his knees - so that his butt swung back and forth - while Chaz pressed himself against it. With the next "Relax!", Chaz again thrust himself hard against Bobby's butt, and Bobby, getting the idea, arched his back as if he'd just been penetrated.
Well, it seemed like the obvious thing to do... once, y'know, you got the idea what was going on... and besides, the music SO went with it - it was a pretty high-energy, intense song - and, well, y'know, it was just dancing, and, well...
It was fun. Kinna. Not that Bobby would ever want to... y'know... but - it was just dancing! Right?
Next time the refrain came around, it was Bobby's turn to be the "top", apparently. Chaz was bent over, hands-on-knees, a good distance in front of him, wagging his butt to the beat and smiling at Bobby over his shoulder. Bobby couldn't help but grin - and even laugh - as he danced up to his hips and grabbed them, waiting for the down-beat of "Relax!" again. He thrusted with all his might. God - I can't believe I'm doing this shit... but to hell with it man - it's a blast!
For the ending refrain Bobby was again the bottom, but he didn't mind, and his back arched and his mouth opened and his eyes closed - anyone would think he was getting a nine-inch cock up his ass. He wasn't, obviously, and he never would - and even if he did, he'd be more likely to scream in agony than moan in ecstasy - but, hell, it was still fun to pretend.
Only when the applause started did Bobby realize that he and Chaz had the center of the dance floor to themselves. Now THAT was embarrassing... and he covered his face with his hands as Chaz - still laughing - led him back to their table. Embarrassing, but in an okay way. He just hadn't realized that they'd been putting on a show, is all. And what a show, too.
"You totally got into that, din'cha Bobby..." Chaz was grinning.
"Well... But Christ - ya coulda warned me, y'know! I mean... damn..." Bobby rolled his eyes.
"Yeah - I coulda... but where would be the fun in that? Hey, you did really good, though. I have all the moves worked out, y'know, if ya wanna really do it right. We could practice..."
"Chaz... there's something I've been trying to tell you... I hope-"
"Hey, Bobby, look: it's okay. It's just dancing is all. Doesn't mean anything. I know it's kinda dirty - that's what makes it fun, don'tcha think? Anyway, if that was over-the-top for ya, I'm sorry. It's just that I really like that song, and you seemed to be getting into dancing and... well, I'm sorry if I went too far."
"Oh. Well... no, it was okay... I mean..."
"Hey - I have class in the morning, so I better be getting back to the dorm. If you wanna go over that math stuff this weekend sometime, I'm in the book. Or... if you wanna do anything else. Call me. But seriously, I gotta go now, I still have a lab to get ready to turn in tomorrow."
"Uh... yeah. Me too, actually..."
"Thanks for the evening, Bobby."
"You're thanking ME?" It seemed to Bobby that any fun they'd had was Chaz's doing. He'd actually danced! Next time he went out with Renee, he was gonna blow her socks off! And, if Frankie Goes To Hollywood should happen to come up... well, so much the better...
"Yeah - I'm thanking you," Chaz said, and then kissed him. "Thank you."
"Y-you're welcome..." Bobby said eventually. Chaz was already out the door and in the street by that time.
The kiss hadn't been much - no open mouth or anything - but it had been on the lips, and it had definitely been more than a "peck".
"Holy fuck," he said to himself, picking his way through the tables and people, making for the door. A few of the other guys stared him right in the eye as he went by, but Bobby pretended not to notice. He wasn't sure, but it seemed pretty obvious what those stares were all about. "Great. Just fuckin' great..."
He should have come out to Chaz right away, he thought. But... there just hadn't seemed to be a good time. And then the dancing - learning to dance had been a HUGE thing for Bobby... and then actually having fun dancing... He'd just never expected to have an evening like this. Ever. With anyone. Let alone another guy.
On a date...
"Goddamn it," he mumbled to himself on the way back to his dorm, "Alex would just LOVE this guy... well, except for..."
He remembered the look he'd seen on Alex's face when Christian was screwing him on the river trip. Alex wasn't into anal, obviously, and it seemed like Chaz - if that dance was any clue - probably was. Then again, Chaz DID say it was 'just dancing'... So what did that mean?
Well, before he brought up Alex to Chaz, he was going to have to find out.
He continued mumbling to himself - "Hey, Chaz - do you like fucking guys in the ass? 'Cuz if you don't, I got someone I want you to meet. Yeah. That'll work great. God..."
This might take awhile.
"Find everything you need?" the cashier asked without looking at him as she continued to swipe merchandise across the laser at the University Bookstore.
"Pretty much," Bobby replied - standard 'we have to say this' conversation. While she scanned each and every pad of engineering-paper he was buying - eight of them - he checked her out. She was pretty cute, and after last night, he needed to remind himself that he was still straight.
Pretty cute - but kind of strange, as well. Short black hair cut almost boyish fell down in front of her eyes, and she kept flipping it away every ten seconds or so. She looked like she might have some Oriental blood in her, but obviously not pure, and was kind of on the short side. She wore a white muscle-T over her black bra, thereby turning her underwear into part of her outerwear, and she certainly made Bobby glad that tight jeans were back in style... she filled them out nicely. All in all, she looked kind of... "butch". Maybe she's a lesbian.... he thought with mild excitement, Can never be sure though...
The best part was - she wore glasses. Bobby had a things for girls in glasses... and since most girls wore contacts, they were getting more and more rare all the time.
"Seventeen eighty- hey! I remember you!" she almost squealed, "You were the one dancing with that other g-" she stopped herself short and looked around furtively, "I mean, uh, with that red-head last night... That was so hot, by the way - you guys... uh," she paused again and looked at him guiltily, "you two were really good, I mean... Uh... sorry. Uh... crap. Sorry. Uh, that'll be seventeen eighty-three."
He had his money ready, and handed it to her with an equally guilty-sounding "Uh... thanks." Great - just what he needed - cute girls thinking he was gay. And damn near outing him, too. God - how did he get himself into these things?
"Sorry," she said again as she handed him his change. He looked up at her to make sure she was 'sorry' about what he thought she was sorry about - and yup, that was it all right. Fuck.
"'S okay," he mumbled, and got the hell out of there. The man behind him in line didn't seem to be paying attention, so that was a good thing, anyway. That was a close call... How often was this sort of thing likely to happen, anyway? And what could he do about it? Fucking hell, man... Well, at least he could dance now... although it was beginning to feel doubtful that he'd ever have the opportunity to dance with a girl... And certainly not a cute semi-Asian possible-dyke in glasses.
The next day - Saturday - Bobby was headed back to the Student Union for something to eat. The dorm's lunch that day was some kind of turkey casserole (they served a lot of casseroles) and he and Alex had dutifully taken it and sat down to eat. It smelled okay, but... well, for one thing, it was green. Maybe it was spinach, maybe it was broccoli, who knew, but it was still green. And kind of runny. With white and brown oddly-shaped chunks in it that might have been turkey...
Alex wolfed his down anyway - he had a Modern Physics study-group to get to - but Bobby, watching him, just couldn't touch it. Besides how disgusting it looked, he was also pretty nervous. He'd be meeting Chaz at the library again that afternoon. For who knew how long. Chaz was going to go over the Geometry, and Bobby was supposed to help him write an essay about William Faulkner, and whether his paragraph-long sentences were a good thing or not.
It was Bobby's opinion that they were not, but that wasn't what he was nervous about, of course.
"Excuse me!" Bobby heard someone say. Was that aimed at him? Did he need to be excused for something?
"Excuse me! Uh, sir! Excuse me!"
Bobby turned around to see who was excusing whom, and there she was - the semi-Asian girl. In glasses.
"Oh. Uh... hi - I remember you from yesterday. At the bookstore."
"Yeah - the girl who almost outed you. God - I'm so sorry about that, that's what I wanted to say." Her voice did sound earnestly apologetic. Maybe a little too much so. She seemed very... nervous; talking too fast, her eyes darting everywhere except at him. Self-conscious too. It was kind of cute. She carried on before he could say anything, " It's just... I was at Static's that night, and you guys were SO hot doing that dance and - God, I'm such a dork - and anyway, uh-"
Bobby broke into a grin, unable to help himself - she was so flustered! He waited for a space in her speech where he'd get the chance to say something - but it never came.
"- well, I'm sorry for what happened yesterday, or almost happened anyway, and I promise I'll never do that again, uh, and, well, I know it's not as exciting for you to talk to a straight girl as it is for me to talk to a gay boy so, uh, I'll just leave you alone now.... bye!" And she turned and trotted away, leaving Bobby dumbfounded but smiling.
Another yaoi fan-girl, he thought, just like Renee was. Heeeee! Who would've thought that being gay would be such a great way to meet girls? Wait. What the fuck am I saying?! She's getting away!
"Hey! Hey, wait a minute!" he shouted after her. She stopped - she'd almost made it to the entrance of the Union - and looked at him questioningly, He jogged up to her. Being at the door was a bad place, though. "Uhm... I wanna tell you something... uh... but not here. Over there."
"Well... okay... but look - I said I was sorry, and I swear-"
"No, no, it's not like that," he led her away from the students and faculty trying to get in to and out of the building, "It's just that... uhm... well, it's kind of a secret. Promise not to tell anyone?"
Now she was really confused,"Well... I guess..."
"Don't worry - it's not so much a 'secret' as... uhm... Well, it's complicated. See - I'm not actually gay."
The girl didn't say anything, but her eyes took on a new look - you're not? followed by, The HELL you're not...
"Yeah. I'm Bobby, by the way. Straight guy. Really."
"... Denise. Denise Wainwright. And... Bobby... uhm... it's okay if you're gay, y'know. You don't have to hide it or anything..."
He wasn't expecting that. "Yeah... but, I'm not. It's kind of a long story... See-"
"I saw you kissing that guy."
"He kissed me, Denise. I didn't even know-"
"And the way you guys were dancing?"
"Yeah - I didn't know that was gonna happen, either. Like I said, it's complicated. Uhm... can I buy you lunch?"
"You really don't have to pretend with me, Bobby. It's okay..."
God, I don't fucking believe this. "Yeah. Well... good. Lemme buy you lunch."
They went inside and stood in line, but only made the usual small-talk about majors and where they were from, since they were surrounded by people now. Bobby was still trying to get over the fact that he was having to "come out" as straight - and do it in secret, lest Chaz find out, somehow. And do it to a girl, at that. A girl who might even be gay (he secretly hoped she would be - that would be SO cool!). This was just all kinds of weird...
The girl behind the steam-table putting together the taco-salads was looking at Denise funny, it seemed to him. Trying to catch her eye, it looked like, but Denise seemed to be determined that she wouldn't get it. Ooooh, probably some kind of lesbian thing, I bet!
Then came the clincher, when the girl handed Denise her plate and said, "Here ya go, sweetheart."
Denise replied, still without looking the other girl in the eye, "Thanks."
They found an empty table in the noisy room, and Bobby cocked an eyebrow at her, " 'Sweetheart'? "
Normally, he wouldn't have mentioned anything, but what the hell - Denise already thought he was queer, so somehow it seemed safe.
Denise huffed, blowing her hair away from her eyes in the process, "Yeah - she thinks I'm a lez. It's this haircut. I thought it would be 'cute', but apparently it's 'butch' instead, and all the lezzies are hitting on me. Honestly - it's like two or three times a day! I just hope it grows back out fast..."
"So... you're not gay, then?"
She smirked at him, "Bobby - I'm about as gay as you are straight. It's just that it's harder to tell the lesbians from the straight girls, y'know? Even for the lesbians it is. So when they see a girl they think looks the least bit butch, they all kind of swoop down like vultures. You gay guys are a lot more obvious." In the noise of the cafeteria, there were no worries about anyone overhearing.
"Denise... I'm not gay! For cryin' out loud... Hold on - uh, you mean you think I look obviously gay?"
"Well... even if I hadn't seen you and that guy-"
"His name's Chaz."
"Even if I hadn't seen you and Chaz dancing and kissing... yeah, I'd still suspect. Look at how you're dressed! Skin-tight shirt, v-neck, and not just a colored t-shirt, either. Nice shoes, not all old and ratty. Styled hair. Pink elbows. Manicure...."
"It's not a manicure! I do it myself! And besides... girls are supposed to like those things! Now you're telling me that it makes me look gay?"
"Everyone knows the cutest boys are always gay, Bobby."
He looked around the room as if searching for someone sensible to talk to. "So, you're telling me that - in order to be 'cute' to girls - I have to do all this stuff, and when I do, they assume I like boys instead. Is that right?"
Denise giggled and smiled at him, "Well... I hadn't thought about it like that... but yeah, I guess so. You really can't win, can you... So... you're really not gay?"
"You sure looked like you were having fun with that Chaz guy..."
"Well... I sort of was... but not that way. Ah ha... Maybe that's why he thought I was gay, too. Geez. That's it. No more hair-gel for me. And to think I actually threw away my favorite denim jacket, too. Damn it."
"Uhm... your hair looks really nice... You mean, this Chaz guy doesn't know you're straight?"
"Yeah. Now that I look back on it - he must have been picking me up from the very beginning... I didn't even know about 'Queer Thursday'! I thought he just wanted to get something to eat after we'd finished our math homework! And then when he asked me to dance, God, I didn't know what to do..."
"That is so freakin' CUTE!"
"Yeah, well... Wasn't freakin' cute to me."
"So why didn't you just tell him you weren't gay?"
"Well... It's kind of embarrassing... I was going to - but he was gonna teach me how to dance first, so... And then, I was about to, when that 'Relax' song came up, and-"
"That was SO hot!"
"Uhm... yeah. Anyway - I tried to tell him again, and... Well, I started to think that maybe my friend - who is gay - would like him... maybe... and... so now, I'm sorta checking him out. For my friend."
"... You're pretending to be gay, in order to 'check out' a gay guy, so you can set him up with your gay friend?"
"Uhm... told you it was complicated."
"And you're sure you aren't the least bit-"
"And I suppose I'm not allowed to tell anyone this story..."
"Not even in Creative Writing class? As a short-story?"
Studying with Chaz turned out to be a non-event, much to Bobby's relief. The night at Static's was never mentioned. Chaz made no overtures towards Bobby in any way - he was back to being "just a regular guy", as far as Bobby could tell. Not that Chaz had really ever stopped being a "regular guy"... even during the semi-erotic dancing - now that Bobby thought about it - Chaz had seemed "normal", like he was just having fun. Except that he was having fun pretending to fuck Bobby. Which was sort of understandable, because Bobby had fun pretending to fuck him, too. Strange as that was.
And now, as Chaz explained the difference between circles and ellipses, it was as if that whole experience - that "date" - had been no more "gay" than... well, than throwing rocks into the Wink Sink with Alex. Well - the kiss had been pretty gay, though...
Why did the world suddenly seem divided into 'things that were gay' and 'things that weren't'? And why was he suddenly wondering why he was aware of that in the first place?
And why did it all seem... kind of... vaguely... like bullshit?
Later, Chaz attempted to write his essay while Bobby worked through some of the problems Chaz said he ought to. But when Bobby read that essay -
"You... uh... your writing is awful."
"No, I mean - it just seemed like you were so smart in AG, and now..."
"Now you can see what an idiot I really am?"
Bobby had to smile, "You might say that." It felt kind of good that Chaz wasn't as much a brain as Bobby had assumed he was. The poor boy did need help in English! Geez... "Okay - let's start at the beginning. Do you like the way Faulkner writes or not?"
"Because... because it's... Because I can hardly keep track of what the fuck he's trying to say! He wanders all over the place! I mean, he'll start off saying how much he likes fishing, for instance, then there's this whole long speech about dragonflys, and how the clouds are reflected in the water, and the smell of catfish bait, and half a dozen other damn things, and then ends up with catching a fish! By that time, I've forgotten that he was even talking about fishing!"
"Then you need to say that. 'I don't like Faulkner's style because the descriptions are too disjointed to follow the main thought.' "
"That's what I said!"
"Noooo... you said - and I quote - 'William Faulkner sucks. I can't believe anyone could ever like this stuff.' Then you rant on like that for three more paragraphs, then you say he sucks again. Well, at least you got the beginning and ending main ideas to match."
"I was gonna change the 'sucks' part..."
Bobby laughed out loud.
And he forgot, at least for now, all about "straight" and "gay" and "checking him out".
"You were gone a long time..." Alex said from his desk, where he was in the middle of a Physics problem. Component forces. Not too hard... but kind of tedious.
"There was a lot to do - and I suck at math. But this other guy - he sucks at English - seriously - so yeah, it took longer than I figured."
"Other guy, huh? I'm not sure I like you seein' other boys..."
"Ha ha. Y'know Alex - all work and no play makes you a dull homo. You should really get out here and-"
"Bobby? Don't start on me again, a'ight? I'm fine. And I have a lot to do."
"Didja know that Thursday is gay night at Static's?"
"Yeah, I heard about that. Kind of wondering where you heard it... but I'm not interested. Get that through your thick head, will ya? Not interested."
"Fine. Be that way. What the hell, right? It's only four years..."
"Hey - I met a girl, though. Denise. We're gonna go see the free movie tomorrow. 'Eraserhead'. No idea what it's about. I'd ask you to come, but without a date-"
"Have a good time."
"You're getting to be a real, uh... square, y'know that?"
"Fuck you. And I mean that - if you're interested. But hey... what about Renee?"
"Oh. Well... y'know... we used to e-mail every day, then it kind of dropped off... and we agreed that we'd see other people... and... Well, we weren't really serious. I mean, we never talked about getting engaged or anything... we just went out together is all."
"For three months..."
"Well, yeah. But like I said, it wasn't anything serious. We were just messing around."
"That's how us fags do it too - nothing serious, just messin' around."
Next Tuesday Bobby met Chaz in the library again, and they got their English and Math out of the way. Homework for the Tuesday Analytical Geometry class wasn't so bad - with only one day between classes, the teacher didn't lay it on like he did on Thursday. Within a couple of hours, they were both hitching up their backpacks to go.
"Oh, by the way Bobby - my Comp. teacher gave me a B on that essay, so thanks for that. Probably would've been an A if I'd agreed with 'im that Faulkner the greatest thing ever. He's a real fan-boy."
"Mine's that way about Shakespeare... I wouldn't mind so much if they'd translate it into English, for Christ's sake. As it is, you have to stop reading every other word to look up what the hell it means!"
As they made their way towards the stairs, they passed another glass cube occupied by a boy and girl making out. A librarian passed them at the same time, obviously ignoring the couple as he pushed his cart past them.
"See that. Bobby? If we were to do that, they'd kick us out of here. Goddamn breeders."
"Yeah..." Bobby said uneasily, trying to get over the thought of "doing that" with Chaz. It reminded him that he still had things he needed to find about the other boy, though. Would this be a good time to-
"It's no big deal when the straights do it, see..." Chaz went on, "That's 'normal'. But look out! When the fags are getting it on, they're just disgusting perverts! They oughta be banned! But ya know what? If it was lesbians, they'd let that go too, probably. Straight guys think that's hot. Closed-minded bastards..."
"Well... I'm sure not all straight guys are that bad..." Bobby said guilty. Chaz had pretty much just described Bobby to a tee. Bobby of six months ago, anyway.
"I suppose. Theoretically, at least. There must be some cool straight guys, over in the tail of the bell-curve, statistically-speaking. I've never met one, though."
"Uh... yeah. Well, I'll see ya in class on Thursday, Chaz."
"I was gonna ask if you wanted to get together tomorrow... no homework or anything, just hang out?"
"Uh... sorry - it's going to be a busy day for me. Three classes on Wednesday." Which was true; English, History, and Psychology (an elective - sounded as interesting as any other possibility). But they were all easy, at least for him. Luckily, Chaz bought it.
"Okay, some other time then. Maybe we can go to Queer Thursday again, if you're up for that. Think about it. See ya."
Well, that was just great - Chaz was asking him out now. And on top of that - he hated straight boys. This is just getting worse and worse... I gotta figure out a way to find out if he'd be good for Alex, and quick! And then I can tell him I'm straight. Fuck. He's not gonna like that... and THEN I gotta get Alex to... I should have minded my own damn business. Fuck.
Queer Thursday was day-after-tomorrow.
And maybe he figured out a way after all. A way that didn't involve using the word "fucking" or "ass" or even "anal". Thank heaven for unrestricted access to teh intarnets. Now he just needed a way to work it in to the conversation...
It didn't happen during class - but then, it would've been surprising if it had.
It didn't happen while doing homework in the library, either. It just wasn't the kind of thing one would say to "a regular guy". Even when that regular guy is asking you on a date.
So it was going to have to happen now, one way or another. At Static's. On Queer Thursday. Jesus. There were lots of reasons why this wasn't a good time either...
Naturally, Chaz asked him to dance again. So, well... maybe after a dance.
Luckily, Chaz's favorite song hadn't come up. Bobby felt like Fate must be on his side, for a change. About damn time.
Then they sat down again, and talked. Not exactly small-talk, but nothing too personal. Stories about growing up in their respective home-towns, mostly, and how different college was from what they'd been expecting.
But the Fates were only going to give Bobby so much time, and now he'd used it all up. Relax started playing on the juke-box...
Bobby glanced at Chaz with fear in his eyes. Chaz smirked.
"Don't worry, Bobby, I'll letcha off the hook. I think I kind of scared you last time - and I'm really sorry about that - so we'll just sit this one-"
A female voice came from behind them, "Aren't you guys gonna dance?" It was Denise.
"Denise?" Bobby blurted out in shock-horror, "What are you doing here? Uh... Chaz, this is my... friend Denise. Denise, Chaz."
"Hey Denise," Chaz said amiably.
"Hi Chaz - everyone's waiting on you two! And not just us fag-hags, either!"
It was true - as Bobby looked around, a lot of the other guys were giving him the eye and motioning him to go on, get the fuck out there! And of course the whole 'fag-hag table' was smiling and waving at him. And giggling.
Chaz was giving him a look of, It's okay with me either way, dude...
Chaz really was worried about scaring poor Bobby off. He was getting to really, really like Bobby. The poor boy was going to need some prodding to get out o f the closet, obviously, but he was pretty cool. And funny. And smart. And... nice... Chaz was going to take it slow and cautious this time; see if he could make it last longer than two weeks. Bobby seemed like he might be... the one...
Everyone was expecting this? Everyone was going to be watching him? Initially, Bobby felt a twinge of stage-fright - but it didn't last long. It was a fun dance... Chaz was really good at it... and maybe, it'd even make it easier to ask... Yeah. Maybe it would.
That did it.
"Aw hell, wouldn't want to disappoint the fag-hags, would we..." he said, getting up from his seat.
"You sure?" Chaz asked.
"C'mon - we already missed the lead in. If I remember right, I should be topping about now," Bobby used the new vocabulary he'd learned on-line.
And so he did. Now that he knew what it was all about - and what was expected of him - and that he and Chaz were apparently even good at it, Bobby got into it much more than he did last time. Good thing Chaz had said It's just dancing... Doesn't mean anything, last time. Bobby danced with abandon, even wrapping his arms around Chaz and stroking his butt at the appropriate time. Just dancing. No big deal.
The fag-hags squealed. The other on-lookers hooted and clapped. Bobby and Chaz laughed.
When they returned to their table afterwards, they found two fresh Bud-Lites waiting for them. Bobby looked over at Denise at her all-girl table, and she and several of the other girls waved and smiled to him.
"I thought you told me they didn't like being called 'fag-hags'..."
"They can call themselves that - but you can't. It's one of those deals. You're really getting into that dance, aren'tcha, Bobby... Kinda took me by surprise this time."
"Yeah, well, like you said, it's just dancing. And besides... it kind of makes me feel... I dunno... all naughty or something."
Chaz grinned at him.
Bobby was feeling quite comfortable now, even with Chaz, even on a date, even in a 'gay-bar'. Or maybe, it was because they were in a gay-bar. Chaz had been right - it just felt safe in here. No need to act all cool all the damn time, or worry that some other guy was going to be 'cooler' than you. No need to worry about being a ladies-man. Or even a man's-man. Unless that was your thing. No judging. So, what the hell-
"So Chaz - would you say you're more of a 'top' or a 'bottom'?" There. That was easy enough. Bobby took a swig of beer.
And therefore missed it as Chaz's grin slowly evaporated.
"I'd say... that it's a little early for you to be asking me that question..." Chaz knew all about casual sex - and knew that it wasn't his thing. For him, sex, any kind of sex, was very, very, personal and intimate. The question caught him off-guard. Maybe he'd been wrong about Bobby after all... Damn sure wouldn't be the first time.
"Whaddaya mean?" Bobby asked, setting down his beer. Then he looked back up Chaz - expecting that smile to still be there. It wasn't. Oh, shit...
Chaz looked at his watch, "Look, Bobby, I have class-"
"Wait a minute - I have a reason for asking... I'm-"
"I bet you do," Chaz interrupted.
Bobby was taken aback, "Now what the hell does that mean?" He was completely at a loss, and it was frustrating. What had he said? Chaz was already on his feet.
"Chaz - hold on a sec..."
"I'll see ya in class, Bobby."
"Chaz! Goddamnit..." Bobby got up to follow him, "Hold up! Would you just wait a minute?!" But Chaz never acknowledged him, so all Bobby could do was follow behind him as they weaved and dodged their way toward the door.
Once they were outside, in the night-time street, it was a different story. Bobby grabbed Chaz's arm and spun him around.
"Look - I don't know what you're thinking, but I can guarantee you you're wrong. I take it that was offensive somehow - and I'm sorry if it sounded that way - but I need to know. I have a reason."
"What's the reason, then..."
"I... I can't tell you until I know the answer. I know how that must sound..."
"It sounds like you're avoiding telling me the reason."
"Well... okay, I am. Chaz... I have to tell you something, and you're probably not going to like it, a'ight? I didn't really intend for this to go this way... but maybe... it has to. Could you please just answer the question? It's one word! Top or bottom?! And then I'll tell you everything. And it'll all make sense. I hope."
Chaz stared at him. Bobby seemed oddly earnest, and that didn't quite fit with how Chaz was thinking about him at the moment. No doubt Bobby's big secret was simply that he was a virgin - boys always attached so much importance to that. But there was something strange going on here. And Bobby had been so much fun, and so cool so far... maybe he should get a break. Maybe Chaz shouldn't be so hasty. Maybe this time things would be different. They kind of had been so far. Bobby seemed to want to take things slowly, and that alone made him different. Okay, then -
"You want to know what I'm into, is that it?"
"Well... I guess so, yeah."
"A'ight - let's see if I can scare you off like everyone else, then. I'm into dancing - but not the club scene. I'm into being together - but only with one person. I'm into things like candlelight and walks in the park - if we had a park - and watching movies together. I'm into holding hands. Now, as for what you want to know about - I can't say, because it... it would depend..."
"It would depend on you. If we were to get that far, I'd be into whatever you're into, see?" Chaz paused to study Bobby's face. "Yeah - I can see you're getting it. I've been called a sap, a bleeding-heart, a fairy-tale boy, and a princess. I'm into being into someone. So it's NOT a one-word answer. You follow?"
"Uh... yeah..." Holy shit - he's fucking perfect!
"Good. Now it's your turn. Tell me your deep, dark secret."
Uh-oh. Great. He was perfect, and after Bobby explained the situation, he'd probably hate his guts. Bobby was going to have to handle this very, very carefully...
"Well... I have this friend-"
Chaz turned and began walking away.
"Chaz? What the fuck?"
"Any story that starts with 'I have this friend' is bullshit."
"But I do! And he's-"
Good-BYE... Bobby thought, not "good-NIGHT". Shit. He's pissed...
"Chaz! I... I'm not gay."
That stopped him.
Bobby added, "I'm not gay - but my best friend is. Best-friend since kindergarten. And he... his last boyfriend... his ONLY boyfriend, so far... well... they... I shouldn't be saying this... they... Alex will kill me... they... well, they fell apart, okay? Never mind why. And now he's all bummed about... well, whatever, and he won't go out with anyone, but I can tell he's lonely, so I was - and I didn't mean to, it just sort of happened - I was kind of checking you out. That's why I needed to-"
"Was that your girlfriend in there? 'Denise', was it?"
Chaz hadn't heard much beyond I'm not gay. It sounded like the truth, and besides that, a lot of things were falling into place. Bobby wasn't "going slow", Bobby was only playing a trick. It made sense. Bobby wasn't gay - so that meant he was just another straight-boy bastard, like every other straight-boy bastard he'd ever known.
"Well... sort of... we only met -" and Bobby did carry on, but Chaz wasn't listening. Oh, Bobby was good, all right, Chaz thought. He'd played it smooth - sucked Chaz right in. Him and his god damned girlfriend. They'd probably had a lot of good laughs about it. heehee, poor Chaz - he doesn't suspect a thing! Let's get him to do that dance again! Oh - and find out if he's a pitcher or a catcher too!
Goddamn fucking breeders!
GOD-DAMNED fucking breeders!!
"Bobby - if that's even your fucking name - just shut the fuck up. And stay away from me." Chaz resumed walking away.
"Shut the fuck up and FUCK OFF!!" Chaz yelled at the top of his lungs. It echoed down the street and everyone turned to look.
Shit. I KNEW this would happen... Bobby thought, What I get for getting in over my head. Fuck man... he would have been PERFECT, too! Man... Good fucking job, Bobby. Real match-maker, you are. So much for that. Even if I WERE to introduce him to Alex now, he'd want nothing to do with him. Fuck.
"Something bothering you, Bobby?"
"You seem kinna down..."
"I'm fine okay? I gotta go meet Denise. We're goin' out again."
"Going out with your girlfriend is bringing you down?"
"No, it isn't. Look, Alex... I happen to KNOW that there are some nice boys out there for-"
"Bobby? Would you lay the fuck off? I think I know more about boys than you do."
"You might be surprised."
"Never mind. Don't wait up."
Over the course of the next week, Bobby seldom saw - and never talked to - Chaz again. They'd see each other on their way to and from class sometimes, and Bobby would just roll his eyes and sigh as Chaz glared at him hatefully. Chaz had made up his mind about Bobby, and nothing was going to make him change his mind.
Until he spied Bobby with some other boy, walking and talking their way towards the Student Union. Even then, Chaz figured it was probably just another straight-boy bastard. Who else would be a friend of Bobby's? But... the other boy - the blond - seemed awfully... friendly, with Bobby. Maybe he was another fag, and Bobby was merely doing the same thing to him. If so, he should warn him. Maybe he should find out more, first...
So he gave them time to get their food and get seated, then went into the Union himself, and took a table, his back to the two boys but where he could hear them. Or at least, sort of hear them... it was noisy in there. He did hear one thing that caught his attention. The blonde's name was 'Alex'.
He'd heard that name before...
Alex will kill me.
Chaz sat at his table for a long time after Bobby and Alex left theirs. Could it be that Bobby had been on the level? Could the straight boy not be a bastard, after all? He went over in his head the reasons he was so sure about Bobby's bastardly character. There were holes in his reasoning. And if Bobby's story really was just a story, then it was an awfully good one. No holes in it.
A little incredible, to be sure... but no holes.
Next Monday, mid-morning, Chaz found Alex sitting out in the sun in the Square, leaning back against the statue of some old guy in a cap-and-gown. He sat next to him.
"Hey Alex," he said.
Alex did a double-take, "Hey... uh..."
"Chaz. I'm sorry but - do I know you?"
"Apparently not. I used to help Bobby with his AG. He'd help me with my English Comp."
"Oh! You're the guy! Yeah, okay... He said your essays sucked."
"Well... I dunno about 'sucked', but-"
"No - he said they sucked. A lot."
"I see. Did he... say anything else?"
"Only that you were really, really good at math. That he didn't know what he'd do if it wasn't for you helping with his homework. So now I have to help him with it... but I don't have a lot of time, so-"
"He tried to set me up with you." Chaz watched Alex's eyes.
"He... uh..." That was all Alex got out, for the moment.
"Yeah. Said you were his gay best-friend."
"... I'm gonna fucking KILL him! God DAMMIT!"
"Not true, then, I take it?" Chaz had been expecting this.
"No. I mean yes... I mean... that fucking ASSHOLE!... Uh, look, uh... Chaz - No, it's true - I am gay, and we are best-friends. 'Were', anyway. GOD!" Alex paused to catch his breath, "Uh... But look, I... I'm really not looking for a boyfriend... okay? I'm sorry..."
"That's okay. But listen - you're serious? You're really friends? And Bobby's... straight?"
"Oh yeah. Straight as an arrow. Though that may change after I cut his FUCKING BALLS OFF!"
Chaz had to suppress a laugh. Then they both sat there in silence for awhile - Alex put down his Canterbury Tales and stared off into space, obviously fuming, while Chaz digested all this unforeseen information.
Really - aside from the humiliation of being set-up by a straight boy - it was kind of funny, Chaz thought, and eventually said -
"I dated him, y'know."
"Yeah. He was pretending to be a fag, so that he could see if I was good enough for you, I guess. I took him to Queer Thursday."
"You..." Alex was in shock.
"He's not a bad dancer."
"He... Bobby doesn't dance..."
Chaz have Alex a sly look, "He does now."
Alex stared at Chaz slack-jawed and wide-eyed for a moment - and then exploded into laughter - "Oh my GOD!" he said several times, interspersing a "Poor Bobby!" here and there. His copy of The Canterbury Tales fell to the ground. When it looked like Alex was winding down, Chaz added -
"Kissed 'im, too."
Which started Alex off all over again, only he added "Really?" to the mix, to which Chaz would just smile and nod.
After several minutes of this, Alex was finally over his hysterics, his laughter dying down to a chuckle now and then as he panted for breath.
"I can just see Bobby out dancing with a bunch of queers... GOD I wish I could've seen that... Did he take his shirt off?"
"Nah - we're not quite that flamboyant here in Lubbock - that's big city type stuff. Not really my thing, either. Oh - but we did dance to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, you know-"
"Oh my God - that's like the gayest song ever! Someone should've taken a picture - I could blackmail him with it. I'm still gonna kill 'im though..."
"I get next crack at him after you then. I was really starting to... well, I was starting to really like him. Put it that way."
"Yeah. Then he tells me he's straight... I got kinna upset. Hey... I bet we could work out some way to get him back... ya think?"
"Ooooooh... good idea... Got anything in mind? Let's really sock it to 'im!"
"I bet we can come up with something..."
"Bobby..." Chaz came up to his table in the Union, where Bobby sat alone. Alex had told him that he'd be there later.
"Chaz? Uh... hi..."
"Mind if I sit here?"
"No, no... Just... I thought you never wanted to see me again."
"Yeah, well... I've been thinking about what you said, Bobby. I guess I kind of... blew my top. Now that I've had some time to think about things... well... I think I know what's going on. I want to help."
"Help?" What was Chaz talking about, 'help'? Help what?
"I want to help you come out of the closet, Bobby." Chaz scooted his chair over closer to Bobby's.
Chaz took Bobby's hand in his, "We can get through this together. It'll be okay. I promise."
"Yeeeaaah..." Bobby tried to free his captive hand, but Chaz only held it tighter. "Look, Chaz, I-"
"Y'know how my Dad taught me to swim?"
"Nooooo..." Bobby said slowly, trying to put these highly two disparate ideas together. He hoped no one was looking at him holding hands with another boy.
"He threw me into the pool. It was a public pool - other kids were everywhere. He threw me in and told me to get swimming. That was it, end of lesson."
"And it worked. I think it'll work for you, too."
"Uhm..." Bobby took the opportunity to glance around at the other students there. None of them seemed to be paying attention to him. Thank god. This was likely to be awkward. Hell - it was already awkward! In fact, it was un-fucking-believable!
But while he was thus distracted, Chaz made his move, planting his mouth onto Bobby's. And staying there. Chaz's other hand moved behind Bobby's head, to press their lips together even harder.
"What's going on here?" Alex was suddenly standing on the other side of Bobby, who frantically pushed Chaz away.
People were looking now, for sure. Not just at the two boys kissing, but at Alex as well. He was wearing the belly-bareing shirt from Dallas. The one with the cute and erect cowboy printed on the front. The one that screamed 'FAG!'.
"Yeah, 'Alex'. I finally decided to take your advice and 'get out there' - and what do I find? YOU swapping spit with another boy!"
"Who's the twink?" Chaz asked before Bobby could say anything.
"Oh. Uh, Chaz, Alex. Alex, Chaz. Now look Alex - this-"
"So that's how it is, huh?" Alex cut him off, "I've been your best friend since kindergarten, and when you finally jump the fence, it's with this Chad asshole! What's he got that I haven't got? Is it the hair?"
"Chaz asshole. Not 'Chad' asshole." Chaz corrected him, "And maybe he's known you forever, but he didn't discover his True Self until he went out with me! So nyah!" Chaz stuck out his tongue.
"You've been OUT with this pony-tail freak?"
"No! Uh... Well, yeah, but..." Bobby back-pedaled, panicked. The whole damn school was going to think he was gay now! What the fuck was going on?
"Queer Thursdays," Chaz explained, "Twice. And he's a dancin' fool too! I guess it took a real man to get him out of his shell, powder-puff boy..."
"That's where you've been going, Bobby? When you told me you were studying?"
"Listen! Guys! All I was-"
Alex crossed his arms over his chest, and put his nose in the air, trying to look as prissy as possible, "Okay, Bobby. Okay. I get it. Let's just get something straight. Him or me. Choose." Alex dropped his head to glare into Bobby's eyes, "NOW!"
"Alex!... for God's sake-"
Chaz interrupted, "You saw who he was kissing when you walked in, Alexander," Chaz tried to make it sound as 2nd-Grade as possible, "He's already made up his mind!"
"Chaz - shut the hell up! And I WASN'T-" Bobby cried, but was again cut off.
"That's true," Alex said, rubbing his chin contemplatively, "He needs to compare, then..." With that, he took Bobby's face with both his hands - lightning fast - and kissed Bobby on the mouth too. Only for Alex, it was open-mouth. With tongue. Bobby's eyes were wide open, while Alex's were shut, and it went on at least twice as long as Chaz's kiss had. In fact, it went on until yet another voice was heard.
"Oh. My. GOD!"
Alex pulled away, leaving Bobby looking up at Denise in front of the table.
"DENISE! This... This isn't-"
"You... you said you were only PRETENDING to be gay, Bobby!"
"I was! I WAS!"
"But you're not anymore?" Denise asked, and then a look of realization swept over her face - "I... I've turned you gay..."
"DENISE!! Jesus H. Christ - No! That's-"
"I mean... maybe I'm not the best girlfriend in the world, but-"
"- to actually turn you GAY... Oh my GOD... I'm so ashamed..." Denise's hands covered her face and she turned her back on him, stumbling away, crying.
"Denise! Wait a minute!" Bobby tried to scoot his chair back to get up, but Chaz was holding on to it, and stopped him.
"You don't need her for cover anymore, Bobby, why don't we-"
"It's ME he wants Chet!" Alex too grabbed Bobby's chair, "It's ALWAYS been me! Ever since we were-"
"WOULD YOU GUYS SHUT THE FUCK UP!!" Bobby fought his chair free of the two boys, nearly overturning the table in the process - everything slid off it. "YOU... YOU GODDAMN FUCKING... FAGS! GOD!" Finally free, he ran towards Denise, who had barely made it to the cash-registers.
She'd stopped just before the exit, and Bobby caught up to her, grabbing her by the shoulders to spin her around, "Denise... Denise, listen-"
"Oh Bobby - can you ever forgive me?"
"Denise - I'm NOT GAY!"
"So you forgive me then?" she said, still hiding behind her hands.
"Of COURSE I forgive you! There's nothing to FORGIVE! I'm NOT GAY, Denise!"
She put her hands down and looked into Bobby's eyes.
"Well, I hope so - because Alex and Chaz made me do it. I didn't really want to... I'm sorry..."
She was smiling.
Bobby's mouth hung open. He glanced over his shoulder at Alex and Chaz. They waved to him, grinning.
And Bobby 'got it'.
He stormed through the exit, flailing arms in the air, shouting "FAGS! Goddamn fucking FAGS! God-DAMN fucking fags!" over and over, while the rest of the students clapped and hooted and laughed.
"... C'mon Bobby - open the door. I said I was sorry."
"Eat shit and die. Fag."
Alex chuckled and tried to hide it so Bobby wouldn't hear.
"You know you deserved it anyway. How many times did I tell you to lay off? Hundreds? Now c'mon."
"Bobby... it's eleven o'clock. I want to go to sleep."
"Go sleep with Chaz."
"He's not my boyfriend, Bobby. He just wanted to get you back. Same as me. So now we're all even, okay?"
"Denise... Denise didn't want to. We had to talk her into it. It took awhile... but, you know her - she'll do anything for a couple of fags."
After a moment of silence while he stood there trying to think of something else to say, Alex heard the door unlock - but Bobby didn't open it. He sighed. The charade had gone better than his and Chaz's wildest dreams... it had all fit together so well - even Denise's ad-lib of but you're not anymore? That hadn't been rehearsed.
He opened the door and went in. Bobby was sitting at his desk with his AG book open. He didn't look at Alex.
"So are you gonna forgive me or not, Bobby..."
"You embarrassed me in front of the whole fuckin' school!"
"It wasn't 'the whole fuckin' school'. It was maybe a few hundred people."
"And it's not like I wasn't embarrassed too, y'know. Look at this fucking shirt I'm wearing! Everyone's been staring at me since I put it on..."
"Serves you right."
"And Chaz - he was acting like a flaming queen. You don't think that was embarrassing for him? Even Denise was embarrassed, Bobby."
Bobby didn't say anything. So Alex gratefully pulled of his fag-shirt, kicked off his shoes, and flopped down on his bed. He'd been either wandering around the campus - getting stared and leered at - or standing in front of the dorm-room door for 9 hours.
"Speaking of Denise - you did forgive her, I hope."
"Of course I forgave her. I like her..."
"Well, you like me too. And - know what? - I think you like Chaz, as well - that's what you were so bummed out about that day, isn't it... That was the day you finally told him you weren't gay, and he got all mad at you. You were sad because you liked him, didn't you..."
"He liked you too, y'know. In fact, he told me he was starting to really like you. That's part of why he was so mad. And... I really like you too. Bobby - it went a little too far, okay? I'm sorry. I kind of thought you'd see through it before you did."
"So now I'm stupid too, huh? Ass-bandit."
"I didn't mean it that way and you know it. And you can slur me all you want Bobby, I know you don't mean it. Don't forget 'butt-pirate'. I've always liked "turd-burgler', myself."
That made Bobby chuckle, but he tried to hide it.
Alex sighed and got ready to take a shower.
By the time he got back, Bobby was in bed with the lights off, so Alex silently put on a fresh pair of underwear and got in bed too. He laid awake, though. He had something on his mind.
"What," he answered gruffly, obviously wide awake too.
"So... you were checking out Chaz for me, right?"
"For which you both gave me a ration of shit. Yeah."
"Well... so... be honest now... how'd he do? Did he, like, pass?"
"You gotta be shittin' me..."
"Well - he seems like a nice guy..."
"Fuckin' shittin' me."
"Fucking fags. Yeah - you'd like him. He passed."
"Really. And if you guys hook-up, I swear to God I'll never let you forget that it was me who found him for ya!"
I can probably live with that..., Alex thought.
Next Thursday, on the second floor of the library, Alex was helping Denise with Physics while Bobby and Chaz did their usual Math/English trade.
Chaz broke the studious silence with, "Queer Thursday tonight, Alex?"
"See you guys there," Denise added - to Bobby's surprise.
"What? Why are you going?"
"'Cuz I'm a fag-hag, Bobby - there's a whole table of us. Gay guys are hot!" Alex and Chaz glanced at each other and rolled their eyes. "Hey, why don't you come too - it'll be like a double-date! And besides, it's not like you've never been..."
"Yeah, C'mon Bobby - you can dance with a girl, for a change," Chaz grinned at him.
"Very funny. Fine. Queer Thursday, then. Just dandy."
And so they all danced - a floor full of boys and one girl. Denise didn't have much time to be self-conscious about it, because both Alex and Chaz danced with her too... and did it like gay boys do. Chaz even sandwiched her against Bobby once, but that didn't last long because Denise nearly doubled-over from giggling too hard. She was the envy of all the other fag-hags.
Later they all sat at the same table and bitched about their teachers, the school administration, their parents, and especially their tuition.
Then, Chaz's favorite song started to play.
Chaz looked at Bobby with his eyebrows raised, only to find Bobby already looking back at him. His eyebrows went up too.
"Hey Alex - mind if I borrow your boyfriend for a minute?"
"Wha - you're kidding me. For this song? It's like the gayest song EVER!"
"I know... Hey, I just like it. It makes me feel... I dunno... naughty."
"No time! Chaz - let's go!"
Alex watched in amazement as the other dancers made space for Bobby and Chaz. When the dance began, his mouth hung open in astonishment.
Eventually Alex rolled his eyes, shook his head, and sighed, as if appealing to the heavens to do something about his weird, straight, best-friend.
A week later - and Alex and Chaz still hadn't had sex. Bobby used that as an excuse to get some revenge - "What, STILL! What the fuck, Alex!"
But it wasn't like it had been with Christian. Not like it at all... Chaz didn't seem to be in a hurry to have sex, had even told Alex point-blank that he wanted to wait a while longer. That had been four days ago. And four dates ago - they were seeing each other every day, for as much time as they had to spare. But so far, all they'd done was make-out. They weren't even up to third-base.
And it wasn't because either of them were afraid of having sex. They were - both - afraid of something entirely different.
Chaz didn't detect any of the usual fear in Alex that boyfriends over two weeks old always gave off. Just the opposite, in fact. It was... kind of scary.
And Alex was wondering if he'd never find anything he didn't... like... about Chaz. He would have used the other word - but that was... kind of scary.
As they once again broke off a deep, long kiss because it was about to become too deep. They looked into each other's eyes, as saw the same hue of fear - but this time the "deepness" carried right on, even without the contact. It was Alex who put words to it -
"Kind of... scary... isn't it..." he said softly, one hand under Chaz's shirt, the other on his neck.
They stared a while longer, losing themselves in the other's gaze, then Alex whispered, "I don't want to stop this time, Chaz..."
And they didn't.
Two weeks after that:
They were both lying naked in Alex's bed - he and Bobby had arranged a system, and Bobby would be spending the night with Chaz's room-mate. A Math major. Bobby learned something everyone who's ever gone to college finds out sooner or later - Math majors are weird. Just... weird.
They'd spent the last half-hour "warming up" - a process that had taken maybe - maybe - two minutes with Christian. With Chaz "warming up" wasn't just something to get through, an annoying prelude to the main event, it was something to savor. And now, a feeling within Alex that he couldn't quite believe he felt, was finally strong enough that he had to say, whispering into Chaz's ear -
"I want you inside me..."
Unfortunately, it didn't happen that night. Or the next. Or the next. In fact, it took five days, eight tubes of Astro-Glide, a dozen scented candles, a CD of gently lapping waves, and - by the time it could actually happen - half a bottle of scotch before Chaz decided that Alex was ready.
And even then, it hurt a little bit. But not much. Not enough to dampen the experience. Chaz blew Alex's mind.
Not long after, Alex returned the favor.
And all four of them lived happily ever after.
Or, at least, for the rest of the school-year. :) And we'll leave them that way.
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