Thinking of Lyndon, thinking of that night had the effect upon me that I thought it would. When I was done with my shower, I stepped out, toweled dry. After that, I reached over, squeezed a dollop of skin lotion onto my hand, worked it along the length of my growing erection. It felt good, of course - it always did - but there was still something lacking in it.
I watched myself in the mirror as I brought myself nearer and nearer to climax, watched my eyes and mouth flutter with the intensity of the feeling; when I was there, I stepped over to the sink, spent myself into it with nothing more than a quiet moan and a whispered " … fuck … fuck …"
How many times had I done this? How many lonely, desperate nights had I stood in exactly this same spot, doing exactly this same thing, trying to lose myself in an all-too-brief glimpse at another kind of paradise?
I stood there for a long moment, working my fist to squeeze out the last of it, then rinsed the pungent goo off my hand, took a wet washcloth to the rest of me, then went into the bedroom to dress.
Why was I doing this? Why had I agreed to go out to dinner with these people? Had I agreed to it?
What did I think was going to happen?
I slipped on a pair of boxers and a t-shirt, left it at that. I stretched myself out on the bed, took up my tablet, started surfing idly.
A short moment later, I heard someone coming up the staircase, then there was a soft, tentative rap on my door.
I closed the cover of my tablet. "Come in."
Of course, it was Bryce, dressed now in a crisply-pressed pale blue short-sleeved shirt and khaki trousers over polished loafers. I don't know how he had done it - did we even own an iron? I knew that I did not - but he looked nice and the well-fitted trousers did interesting things with the various geometries of his midsection. He had a phone in his hand, waved it.
"That was Dad. They're on their way back, about fifteen minutes -" He took in my state of relative undress. "You're not ready."
"Yeah, no … I'm not. Look, Bryce … I'm sorry, but I don't think I'm going to go."
"What? Why not? I thought you wanted to."
"Well … I don't exactly remember being given a choice."
"Well, yeah, I know, but … I told you, that's just the way he is."
"Maybe that kind of attitude works with you guys, but not with me."
"Omer, c'mon …"
I sighed. "I don't know, Bryce. It's just …"
"What? I've already told him that you're going to come with us."
"Well, then you can just tell him I've changed my mind. It's not a big deal, Bryce."
"It is a big deal, Omer. He wants to pay you back."
"He doesn't have to do that."
Bryce looked close to tears; maybe it was just being seventeen. Maybe it was something else. It didn't matter either way. "That's not the only reason, Omer."
He looked down at the ground. " I want you to go."
He looked back up at me. "Because, I … I … this is … well, this has been one of the best days of my life. I know that sounds stupid, but it's true. I really enjoyed being with you today. I really had a good time."
"Well, if it means anything, so did I. It was fun being with you." It was more than that, but I would never say that. "I hope it helped you make your decision." And then I knew what else I had to say. "I need to tell you something."
"I … well, it seems that all of my life I've been doing what other people tell me to do. And it's been okay, at least for a while. What they wanted and what I wanted - or thought I wanted - were pretty much the same thing, so I went along with it. But, lately … lately I've come to understand that what I want and - more importantly - what I am aren't quite what others think I am." I took a deep breath. "Bryce, I'm gay."
He said nothing for a long moment. We stared at each other across the room. Then, "I know." His voice was quiet, almost a whisper.
"You know? How do you know?"
"How else?" he answered. "Lyndon told me."
I didn't know what to say. " Lyndon told you?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I mean, that wasn't quite the word he used, but … yeah, he … he said you had some guy up here one night, back around Christmas time. Said he could hear the both of you up here. Said the guy sounded really drunk. Said that that was probably the only way he would -" Bryce bit back the rest of it, but I could fill in the blanks.
I bit back the most obvious reply; Bryce probably wouldn't have believed me, any way, would have thought that I was just trying to get even. "Okay," I finally said. "Well, there it is. Now you know." What are you going to do with it? I thought. "So …" I started, trying to prompt him.
"So … that's okay. I don't mind."
Well, you say that, Bryce, but … "If you come here and we end up hanging out together, I'm not going to hide it. You need to understand that. I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of hiding."
"I understand, Omer. I really do."
Easy to say, I thought. Less easy to put into practice. It didn't matter one way or the other, though.
He cleared his throat, smiled. "So, about that dinner …"
I smiled back. "You really want me to go with you? Knowing what you know?"
"More than anything." He paused, looked like he was about to say something else, but then we heard the sounds of the door opening and voices - sounding angry - and then someone stomping up the stairs to the second floor and the sound of a door - Lyndon's bedroom? - slamming shut.
"I think they're back," Bryce said, smiling, his voice flat. Then, "Please, Omer. Please."
I thought about it, then realized that I was just being stubborn. At the very least, I would get a free meal out of it. I got up from the bed, went over to a rack made of galvanized pipe - something I'd found in the basement - that served as my closet, starting going through my clothing.
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