I had another weird dream last night. All this gay stuff was starting to bother me. I was trying to understand, especially after my talk with Shawn and Steve, but I still couldn't quite grasp how a boy could be into another boy like that.
I needed to stop thinking about it before doing so drove me crazy. I needed to escape. It was Saturday, my favorite day of the week. I had all day to do as I wished, although I was meeting Spencer later. I needed to do something physical so I could stop thinking. A run. That would be perfect.
I put on my running shorts and shoes and walked outside. The very late morning temperature was just right, not too hot and not too cold. I settled into a nice easy pace as I ran past one home after another. My thoughts calmed as I reached the park, so I kept on running. Maybe my problem was that I was thinking too much. Maybe if I just didn't think about the dreams, I could forget them.
I ran across the river and kept on going. A little while later, I turned onto the road that led into the park on the east side of the river, where all the campers and fishermen were. It was a great shady place to run. I'd banged a few girls here. I grinned at the memory.
I ran along the road that circled the park and eventually neared the far side. I slowed and stopped.
I noticed someone sitting outside his tent as I walked by. I recognized him from school, but I couldn't figure out why, since he wasn't a teacher or anything. He smiled as I approached.
"Hello, Philip," he said, motioning toward a chair across from him.
I wasn't too surprised he knew my name. This is a very small town after all, and I was a popular jock.
"Hey," I said, sitting down. "You're…"
"Michael," he said.
I gazed at him and he gazed back at me calmly. I could tell he wasn't impressed because I was a jock or popular. He probably knew almost nothing about me since I was several years younger, but had probably seen my name and picture in the local paper. He was completely at ease with me in a way that most guys I knew were not.
"What are you doing way out here?" he asked.
"I took a run so I could think, or stop thinking," I said. "Running helps."
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, "or should I say, what are you trying not to think about?"
I paused, but then surprised myself by telling him.
"I've been having these dreams," I started. "They're very vivid, disturbing and weird. I remember them as if they aren't dreams, but the boy in them isn't me. Well, he is me, but he's also not me. We're alike in some ways, but very different in others. The most disturbing thing is that he's gay, and dreaming about the things he does with other boys gets me excited, you know. I'm not gay. I don't think I am, but what if I am?
My eyes widened as a realized what I had just told him. I didn't mean to talk about the gay stuff, only the general weirdness of my dreams. I did not know this man at all, although I had seen him around town and at all the football games. He wasn't like Shawn or Steve who were teammates. He was a stranger. What had I done?
"I will tell no one what you tell me," he said.
Oddly, I believed him and my rising fear dissipated, just like that. I felt safe.
"I didn't mean to tell you that," I said.
"It's something you needed to talk about," he said. "Would it be so bad if you are gay?"
"I can't be," I said. "I like girls. I mean… I really like them. So, at the most I might be bi, but I'm not. I know I'm not."
I realized I had just shouted.
"Why does the possibility frighten you so?" he asked.
"It's… wrong," I replied.
"Is it?" he asked.
"Well, maybe… I don't know," I said. "I don't want to be like that. Gay guys creep me out."
"All of them?" he asked.
"Well, no," I admitted. "Shawn and Steve are actually very cool. I even talked to them about some of this. I wish I could be more like them. I don't mean I want to be into guys, but in every other way."
"So, you admire them?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Are you sure you dislike gays as much as you think, or are you letting others do your thinking for you?" he asked.
"I do like Shawn and Steve," I said. "Maybe even Troy isn't so bad. I don't know if you've heard about him, but he gets around."
"Other's get around too, don't they?" he asked.
I thought about all I'd done with girls, Ms. Atkins, and Ms. Shields. I got around and I was proud of it. Was I so different from Troy?
"Yeah," I admitted.
"Search your true feelings, Philip," he told me. "What do you really fear."
"Being different, I guess," I admitted.
"We're all different, Philip," he said.
I thought about that for a good long time, for so long I feared Michael might think me odd for being lost in my own thoughts, but when my eyes met his again, I could see only patience and compassion.
"My dreams are so real, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I might actually be gay," I said.
""Does it matter?" he asked. My brow furrowed. "Do your dreams seem real to you?"
"Yes," I said.
"Then does it really matter if you might be gay?" he asked.
"Well, I don't know," I said.
"What is there to fear?" he asked.
"Maybe you're right," I said. "I guess it doesn't matter because it wouldn't change anything, but I am curious sometimes."
He nodded and smiled.
"What you fear is fear itself," he said. "Think about that."
Just then, a pickup pulled up and a young boy, maybe six or seven, jumped out of the passenger seat, and ran up to Michael, followed a few seconds later by Coach Barrett.
"Philip," he said. "I never expected to see you here. What's going on?"
"Hi, Coach," I said. "I was out running and came across Michael here, so I stopped to talk. I guess you two know each other?"
"You might say that," Coach said, laughing a little. "Michael is my partner. And this," he said, pointing to the little boy, "is our son, Ryan."
Now it made sense how Michael knew me. I knew I had seen him at several games and with the coach a few times. He had probably mentioned me a few times.
"Ryan, this is Philip, one of my players," Coach said.
"Hi, Ryan," I said. "It's nice to meet you. You going to be playing for your dad in a few years?"
Ryan was kind of shy, but he did say hi and walked over toward me.
"I already do," Ryan said. "He's always showing me how to play football and baseball."
"And, he's getting better all the time," Coach added.
"Philip and I were just talking about some stuff before you got here, Brendan," Michael said. "He's having some minor issues, but I promised I wouldn't tell anyone. Sorry."
"Don't be sorry," the coach said. "I understand."
The three of us sat there for a while, just talking. The calmness I now felt was as intense as the confusion and upset I had felt before. Michael didn't give me an answer about my dreams, but he did put them in perspective.
I thought about what Michael had said. I had never considered the possibility that maybe it didn't matter. Dreams were real when I dreamed them. Sometimes, that was a bad thing. When I had a nightmare, the terror, grief, or whatever unpleasantness was quite real. I had even awakened from nightmares shaking with fright. When I had sex dreams, the sex was as good as real sex. When I dreamed I could fly, that was real too. It was all real inside the dream. Even the parts of the dream that were weird and seemed unreal were still real while I dreamed. I had still hooked up with girls and older women. I was still a stud. I am definitely not gay. I grinned and looked at my watch.
"Is something wrong?" Coach Barrett asked.
"I need to go," I said. "It was nice seeing you, Coach, and it was nice meeting you, Michael. And you too, Ryan. I'll see you around."
It was later than I thought. Had I really talked so long with those guys? It didn't seem like it, but the time had slipped away. I stood and began to run toward home. I needed to clean up before I met Spencer. I hadn't even showered yet.
I ran faster than before, across the park, and then over the bridge. I began to sweat, even in the shade of the trees. Yeah, I was really going to need a shower. By the time I was home, I was quite out of breath. I race up to my room, stripped and showered. In no time at all, I was dressed and ready to head back out. If I hurried, I wouldn't be too late. I thought about texting Spencer to let him know I might be a little late so I went ahead and let him know. He answered and let me know he was already waiting for me at the Chouteau Café .
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