"Oh my God, Adam!" I said. "You were raped?!?"
Adam nodded his head ever so slightly. I could see he was having a hard time trying not to break down. "I was going to tell you before, but I didn't know how," he said.
"Adam, you can tell me as much or as little as you want. Just know that I love you, and I'm here for you," I said.
I watched Adam carefully as we continued down the freeway. He had a stranglehold on the steering wheel, and he looked like he was going to fall apart any second.
"Will you drive, please?" he asked.
"Of course," I said. "Anything you need, you got it." He slowed down and pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway.
"Just stay there," I told him. I got out of the car and went around to the driver's side. I looked around to make sure we were clear of traffic. I opened the door; took Adam's hand, and I helped him out of the car. "Come on, Babe," I said. I led him to the passenger's side of the car. I wanted to hold him in my arms, but I wasn't sure that was what he wanted. So, I just helped him into the passenger's seat; buckled his seat belt for him, and I closed the door.
I got into the driver's seat and looked at Adam. His head was down, and his body seemed to be pulling itself into the fetal position. His arms were covering his head. I knew that feeling. He was trying to block out the world and escape into himself – just like I had tried to do when David left me.
"Adam," I said. "I'm going to take care of you. I'll get us back to campus safely. You just rest as much as you can. Don't try to talk unless you want to. Just know that I love you, and I'm right here. Nothing bad is going to happen."
I eased back onto the expressway. We were still about an hour and a half away from Oberlin. "Will you sleep over with me?" he asked. He spoke so softly that I could barely hear him.
"I'd like that," I said. "I think we need to be together tonight - just you and me."
It took a while for Adam to regain some composure and to sit up straight.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"Better," he said. "Sorry I lost it back there. I didn't realize how hard it would be to talk about it. I've never told anyone before."
I couldn't believe it! Why had he kept a trauma like that to himself? Who had done such a terrible thing to him? I could only imagine the horror of the experience, and then the pain of keeping such an awful secret. Wasn't there someone whom he could have told? Wasn't there somewhere he could have gotten help?
"Adam," I said. "I want to do whatever I can to help. But, I'm not sure what the best way to do that is. Do you want to talk about it?"
Adam took a deep breath, and he seemed to be calming down. "I just wish I could put the whole thing out of my mind and pretend it never happened. Other than that, I don't know what I want."
"Well," I said. "I could track the guy down and cut off his nuts! Or if you prefer, I could hire a hit man and rid the planet of the monster for good."
Adam laughed a little. He tried to joke back, but our conversation was hitting too close to home. "Can you afford three hit men?" he asked. Tears started forming in his eyes again. "It was a gang rape. And they beat me up. There was nothing I could do, Joel. It was three against one." Adam broke down, sobbing.
That was it! I had to hold him. I had to comfort him. His trauma was even worse than I first imagined, and he needed my love. I saw an exit sign and pulled off the freeway. I turned into the parking lot of a closed fast food restaurant, and I parked in the back.
I leaned over and tried to put my arms around him, but it was almost impossible. "Damn bucket seats and consoles!" I thought to myself. Adam pulled closer to me. He managed to rest his forehead on my shoulder, and he cried. The pain behind his tears was heart-wrenching.
"I'm so sorry, Adam," I said as I tried to cradle him in my arms. "Oh my God! I am so, so sorry that happened to you! Babe, I'm glad you told me. I'm here for you. Just let it all out."
I think it was almost twenty minutes that we stayed there like that. Adam would cry for a while. Then, he would seem to pull himself together, only to break down again. He had been holding in a tremendous amount of pain, and I knew it was going to take a great deal of time for him to let go of it all and piece himself back together. He finally sat up and wiped his eyes and nose with a tissue. "Let's go back to school," he said.
When we got back to Oberlin, I pulled into the Wesley Hall parking lot. "Let me get you upstairs to your room. I'll come back for our stuff," I said. I expected him to object, but he didn't. Fortunately, we didn't run into any of his friends, and we got into his room without attention. It only took me a few minutes to get everything out of the car and into his room. Adam was coming back from the bathroom as I was finishing up. I set our bags down and went to the restroom myself. When I got back and closed the door to his room, Adam was stretched out on his bed. He was wearing only his underwear. He reached out his arms for me. I lay down and pulled him close to me.
"Maybe I'll tell you the rest of it later," he said. "Right now, I just want you to hold me." I undressed to my skivvies, and I held him until we both fell asleep.
The next morning, I woke to find myself alone in Adam's bed. I went to the bathroom, thinking he might be there. He wasn't. I cleaned up quickly and went back to Adam's room. I looked at the clock and realized I had a class in less than an hour, so I started getting dressed. That's when I saw the note addressed to me. I picked it up off of his desk. It read:
Thank you for staying with me last night, but I need some time alone. DO NOT hitch-hike to the cabin! It's not safe, and I'm not going there. Don't worry. I'll be fine.
I sat down on his desk chair, and I felt my stomach sink. "What the hell?" I said out loud. His note not only surprised me, I thought it was kind of terse.
I had no idea what to do. Finally, I realized the only thing I could do at that point was go to class. I finished getting dressed and took my stuff back to Pilgrim Hall. Mitch wasn't there. I threw my bag down on my bed, got my books and folders, and I headed to class as fast as I could. Although I was genuinely worried about Adam, I would have to figure out what I should do later.
I had a difficult time paying attention in my classes that morning. Somehow, I managed to do the minimum required. I went to lunch, and I saw Tom in the food line. He sat down at his usual table, and I joined him.
"Hey, Joel," he said. "How was Thanksgiving?"
"Okay," I said. "It was kind of weird to be back home and have to listen to my mom tell me what to do all the time. But, we had a nice celebration with lots of family. How about you? Did you have a good holiday?"
Tom got a big smile on his face. "I had a great holiday!"
"Oh, yeah?" I said. "Sounds like you enjoyed more than a turkey dinner. What happened?"
Tom looked around to make sure nobody was listening. "I had my first blow job!"
"So, you got lucky, did you?" I said. "Congratulations! Come on, spill the details, Dude! Giving, receiving, or both?"
At first, Tom didn't seem to understand my question. Then, when he got it, he scowled. "I was the receiver," Tom said. He sounded annoyed. "And before you have to ask, it was with a girl!"
"That's cool," I told him. "No need to get upset. I was just asking."
"I ran into this girl from high school," Tom said. "She used to flirt with me a little, but I never thought much about it. Well, we wound up at the same party, and she took me to one of the bedrooms. And - you know – things just happened."
"Yep," I said. "You get some young guys and young girls together, and things just happen! That's what makes the world go 'round. So, did you return the favor?"
"Sort of," Tom said. "She let me touch her down there. God, I couldn't believe how hot and wet she was. And when she came, she pressed her legs together so tight that I couldn't even move my fingers!"
Before we could continue the conversation, Peter brought his tray over and sat down with us. Tom looked at me intently and shook his head ever so slightly. Apparently, he didn't want me to say anything about his news to Peter. I suspected he wanted to tell Peter himself, maybe when they were alone.
Peter said that he had a nice Thanksgiving with his family, and he was looking forward to Christmas at home. "But, I've got a ton of work to do before then," he said. "I can't believe that finals start in just a few weeks."
I went back to my room after classes finished for the day. Mitch was there. It was good to see him. Mitch and I had bonded that first day of school, and I still appreciated him saving me from my first roommate – the 'tool.'
"Hey, Joel," Mitch said. I was surprised when he came over and hugged me. "I was concerned when you weren't back last night."
We sat down on our beds to talk. We caught up with each other, and I told Mitch about Komiko coming over to my house unexpectedly. At that point, I didn't mention Adam. I remembered that Tom had said Mitch thought Adam and I might be "really into each other."
"I bet you're glad to be back at school so you can see that girl from your Astronomy class again," I teased.
"Not so much," he said. "Amy's dating someone else now – some creep here in Pilgrim Hall."
"Mitch!" I said. "I'm so sorry! Is the guy someone you know?" I asked.
"I have no idea who he is," Mitch answered. "But, I hear he's pretty much a jerk!"
There was a long silence. "Joel, can I ask you something?" Mitch said. "If it's none of my business, just tell me to fuck off."
I got a nervous feeling in my stomach, but I told him it was okay.
"Tom and I were talking," Mitch said. He paused for a moment. I knew where this conversation was going. I decided to spare him the embarrassment of asking.
"About Adam?" I offered.
Mitch nodded. 'Really," he said. "I'll drop it if you don't want to talk about it."
"Mitch," I said. "You're my best friend here at Oberlin. If you want to know about Adam and me, I'll tell you. But, I don't want to jeopardize our friendship."
"You won't," he said. "I'm not usually one to judge, and I'm totally loyal to my friends."
"Sounds to me like you already know that Adam is my boyfriend," I said.
Mitch didn't say anything, and I became very uncomfortable. "What?" I said. "You want a new roommate?"
"No! No!" he said. "I'm cool with it, and I don't want a new roommate. It's just that – well – people are talking."
I wasn't surprised that 'people were talking.' Wearing my heart on my shirt sleeve has been a curse on me since childhood. I have a terrible time trying to hide my feelings.
"So," I asked. "Is there a lynch mob being formed? Should Adam and I quit college before we're tarred and feathered?"
"No," Mitch said. "Nothing like that. Just gossip and some mean jokes."
"And what do you say when people call me a faggot?" I asked.
"I defend you, of course! I tell them you had a girlfriend in high school, and you were dating a girl here at Oberlin," Mitch said. "But, I also ask them what difference it would make if you were – ah, well, you know - gay. You're still a great guy – and my best friend."
I was touched. "Thanks," I said. "That means a lot to me. I'd give you another hug, but you'd probably think I was putting the moves on you."
"Well," he said. "If I ever get that desperate, I'll let you know. Have you seen Adam since you got back?"
"That's a long story," I said. "But, I'll keep it short. Adam had a difficult Thanksgiving with his family, and he was pretty upset. He came to my house in Detroit last Friday. I rode back to Oberlin with him last night. It was kind of late, so I slept over in his room. When I got up this morning, there was a note saying he was going somewhere so that he could be alone for a while. I'm a little worried about him."
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Mitch said. "Did everything go okay when he was at your house?"
"Yeah," I answered. "Having Adam and my high school girlfriend at the house at the same time was a little awkward. But, it worked out."
I didn't mention anything to Mitch about Adam's grandfather kicking him out, nor did I share anything about Adam telling me he had been raped. Those were things Adam had told me in confidence, and it wasn't my place to share them with anyone.
For the rest of the week, I asked around about Adam. No one had seen him. I went to his afternoon art class on both Tuesday and Thursday, but he wasn't there. By Friday, I was close to panicking! I was afraid he might be having another bipolar episode.
Early Friday afternoon, I went to Wesley Hall. There was no answer when I knocked on Adam's door. As I started to leave, however, I heard a noise that came from inside his room. I turned back around and listened closely. I heard the creak of a bed. I knocked again. Silence.
I didn't know what to do. I didn't think it likely that someone had broken into Adam's room, and I suspected that Adam was in there. I knocked again. "Adam," I called. "It's me, Joel. Please let me in!"
Adam opened the door and glared at me. "What part of 'I need some time alone' didn't you understand?"
His anger at me hurt my feelings, and I snapped back at him.
"The part where you told me you loved me," I said. "The part where you asked me to sleep with you. The part where you clung to me in bed. If you want to be left alone, Adam, I'll leave you alone. But, I deserve to know why you're pushing me away."
He let me come into his room, and I closed the door. Adam sat down on his bed, and he ran his hands through his hair. "It's not you," he said. "It's me."
"Adam, that's what people say when they're breaking up with someone," I said. "Is that what's going on here?"
"No - not exactly; I don't know," he said. "I just need some time away."
"Away from me?" I asked.
"Joel, I can't deal with what happened to me," Adam tried to explain. "I'm not ready. I'll fall apart, and I won't be able to finish school. I have to get back to where I was before I told you."
"Then, why did you tell me?" I asked.
"Because I was jealous of Komiko!" Adam said. "I didn't know she was so beautiful and talented. She made me insecure. I was worried that you'd get tired of me being so uptight about sex – why I can't get beyond jacking you off – even when you satisfy me in other ways. I wanted to tell you so you would understand – so maybe you wouldn't leave me."
"Adam, you have nothing to be jealous of," I said. "I'm not going to leave you. I love you. I love what we do together. And you do more than just 'jack me off.' Your kisses while you're touching me drive me nuts. I love how you make me feel!"
Adam looked down at the ground. "Even so," he said. "I have to be away from you. Every time I see you, I'll remember what I told you, and it will just set me off again."
I felt myself getting angry. "You tell me a secret that has been causing you terrible pain," I said. "And I give you all the love and support I possibly can. And now, you don't want to be around me because I know the secret? My presence makes it harder for you to go back and pretend that nothing happened? Adam, that makes no sense!"
I stopped and forced myself to calm down. I realized that I should try to see things from Adam's point of view. "Okay, Adam," I said. "I'm trying to understand. Take all the time you need. I love you. I'll wait."
"No, Joel," he said. "I don't want you to wait. It's over."
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut! I was so shocked that I couldn't even speak.
"I need you to go now," Adam said.
Adam's words hurt me to the core. I was devastated! But, I fought not to let my emotions take control – at least for the moment. I went over to him. "Okay," I said. "I'll leave. Just know that I will always love you, Adam." I leaned down and kissed the top of his head. "Be good to yourself."
Adam turned to me and shouted, "Why the hell are you always so nice to me?!? It makes me feel like a jerk for needing time away from you!"
Hearing Adam shout at me like that hurt more than I can describe. I turned around and left the room. I ran down the stairs as fast as I could while fighting back tears. I didn't want to go back to my room, so I just kept walking – with no particular destination in mind.
I wound up in front of the campus chapel, and I decided to go in. The door was unlocked, and the sanctuary was empty. I sat at the end of the back pew, closest to the wall. I looked up at the stained glassed window to my right, and I saw a depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus. I started crying. I was leaning forward with my head in my hands.
I couldn't believe what had just happened, and I didn't know what to do. I thought about prayer, but I decided that praying about a lost gay relationship might be blasphemy. Still, I felt comforted by being in church.
I began feeling sorry for myself, and I wondered why everyone left me – David, Ben, Komiko, and now Adam. It didn't seem right; it seemed cruel. I was only eighteen years old, and four different lovers had cut off their relationships with me. Was there something about me that made them want to leave? Was I destined to be alone? How could Adam break up with me like that? I was completely in love with him. I thought he loved me. I felt sick to my stomach, and I couldn't stop crying.
Then, I heard a deep, male voice. "Joel? What's wrong?"
I thought I had been alone, and hearing someone speak startled me. For a split second, I considered that God might be talking to me. But, I didn't really think that was even possible. Then, I recognized the voice. I looked up and saw my Religion professor, Reverend McAllister – the last person in the world I wanted to see!
"Joel?" he said again.
I wanted to escape. "Sorry, Reverend," I said. "I shouldn't have come in here without permission. I'll go now."
"Joel," he said sternly. "The Lord wants you to come to him in times of grief and sadness. This church is his home. You are welcome anytime. That's why we leave the door unlocked. Tell me what's troubling you."
I thought back to Reverend McAllister's lecture on the sin of homosexuality and his condemnation of those who were an abomination before God. Knowing that he couldn't – or wouldn't - help me, I wasn't about to seek his understanding and support.
"I don't want to talk about it, Sir. I just want to be alone," I said. I got up to leave, but Reverend McAllister stopped me.
"Joel, I have a responsibility to the church and to the university to ensure the well-being of our students," he said. "I can't leave you to suffer like this all alone. Come to the office. We can talk there."
"No, thank you," I said as I regained my composure. "I want to be alone - with my prayers."
"You seem to be in a great deal of distress, Joel," he said. "I don't know if you are ill, or if someone might be bullying you, or if you're remorseful for some sin you've committed. But, if you won't talk to me, I'll have to call your parents. It would be neglectful for me to do otherwise."
I was dumbfounded! How dare he manipulate me and try to get me to share a personal matter that I chose to keep to myself. I considered Reverend McAllister's attitude to be totally inappropriate. And, saying he would call my parents if I didn't tell him what he wanted to know was nothing other than a threat!
It's my basic human nature to fight back – regardless of the consequences - when someone threatens me.
"And yet," I said. "Calling my parents without my permission would be a violation of my right to privacy. I'm eighteen years old, and I am an adult in the eyes of the law. You are employed by the university, and you are bound by the privacy policies adopted by the Board of Trustees. I'm sure I read that in the Student Handbook."
Reverend McAllister looked infuriated. "Don't you get insolent with me, young man!" he yelled. "Don't forget that you still have to pass my Religion class - if you ever want to graduate."
"So, if I don't answer your questions about my personal thoughts and feelings," I said, deliberately challenging him. "You'll give me an 'F' in your class? Who the hell do you think you are? The thought police?!?"
Reverend McAllister glared at me and said nothing. Then, he slapped me across the face. It hurt!
I felt my anger explode! "You ever hit me again," I yelled. "I'll knock your damn teeth out!"
When I realized I had just threatened a professor, I forced myself to calm down so that I wouldn't get myself in further trouble with more impulsive behavior. But still, I didn't back down.
"And, if you give me an unfair grade or fail me in your class," I said in a softer, but determined voice. "I'll file ethics - and assault charges - against you!"
I glared into Reverend McAllister's eyes. He appeared shaken. I think he realized that he had crossed the line when he hit me.
"Joel," he said. "I'm sorry for slapping you. I shouldn't have done that."
His apology was short-lived. "But, you need to learn to respect your elders," Reverend McAllister said. "That's part of what we teach here at Oberlin. That's part of what we expect from our students. If you can't do that, Joel, then you'll have to leave!"
I could still feel the stinging in my jaw. And, I thought Reverend McAllister was threatening me again – this time with expulsion. I couldn't control my impulse to lash out at him.
"With all due respect," I said. "Go to hell!" I went around the back of the pew and walked to the sanctuary exit. I left the building.
Up until that moment, I had thought that my first day at Oberlin had been the worst day of my freshman year. But, I was wrong. Today took the prize. Adam had broken up with me; I had been slapped by my Religion professor, and I had told him to go to hell - all in less than two hours.
I decided I wouldn't wait for Reverend McAllister to hit me again or fail me in his class. I went straight to the Ombudsman's Office, and I filed a formal complaint against Reverend McAllister.
Then, I went to the Registrar's Office, and I withdrew from college. I was done with all the bullshit at Oberlin University!
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