Plan A: A Kiss at Night
If you do the right thing, even with the wrong attitude, you've still done the right thing
The day after the fireworks, the day after our regular Sunday off, the day after the long, wet weekend, I worked. We worked. It seemed like a long time, but since the Fourth had fallen on a Thursday half the country had the long weekend. We got paid nothing, but had the time off anyhow.
I didn't care either way, I preferred working to doing nothing, and I liked the money. I was clearing plus or minus three hundred a week and barely spending half of that most of the time.
I'd come to Riverton with a pocketful of cash, and I had this constant fear of having it stolen at first, so I kept it all on me at all times. With my first paycheck I'd opened up a bank account, only needing the check and my Social Security number to do it. Then I deposited the bulk of my cash, and now only carried around enough to eat on and an ATM card.
I was wary of winter. Harlan had promised me work through the summer and fall, but winter depended on snow falling, and that was nothing to rely on. I needed a nest egg.
I worked that day, and when I got dropped off Billy and Huck were sitting on the porch rail, and they both smiled expectantly when I came towards them.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to explain what that felt like ... what it meant to me at the time. God, kids my own age who thought enough to come by and wait for me.
It made up for all the times I had to spend with the guys I lived with. I was so elated to see those guys, kids I'd already met ... and they'd come to see me. The guys I lived with were fine, and I got along with them, but every night I went to sleep feeling so lonely, so left out of everything, that I cried. All I had were acquaintances, too far removed in age and interests to become real friends, and I was becoming desperate to meet people my own age, to connect with someone on a level that made sense to me.
I beamed, "Hey guys!"
They both slid off the rail smiling, and Huck said, "Hi, Evan."
Billy snickered, "Man, you're all green!"
I laughed, happy, "It's the nature of the work, Billy. It comes off, honest!"
Billy smiled, and pushed himself back up so he was sitting on the railing again. "Take your time, Even, we'll be here."
I smiled at him, "It's Evan," even though I'd been called 'Even' a million times. I didn't care what people called me, I answered to lots of names, and I could tell by Billy's smirk that he said it wrong on purpose. I stood there looking. Huck was big, and he had a pleasant, open face, and a gentle demeanor.
Billy was cute. The devil in him showed through his every expression. He was short, built tough, and had a round face, freckly, but not the kind that really showed up.
I liked the way he looked, I mean I liked the way he looked. It was pure conjecture on my part, but I was wearing tight chinos and he was in baggies, and I thought I saw him looking at my crotch.
I didn't want to get stupid, and I didn't want to get myself in trouble, so I said, "I'll be right back, give me time to wash up and change. You can come up if you want."
That apartment would never be anything to be proud of, but it was clean now, and I wasn't ashamed of it either.
They followed me up, and I led them directly to my room on the back porch. I wasn't proud of that place either, but it was what I had.
They both seemed a little envious that I was living on my own, and commented on it, even though I'd done very little with the porch itself. I'd picked up a few things at a neighborhood tag sale; a book case, a throw rug, a lamp, so the room wasn't totally inhospitable anymore, and it smelled okay by then. I pulled out some clothes to change into, and the guys sat on my mattress to wait while I took a shower.
When I got back, dressed in board shorts and a tee, I sat down with them to pull on my sneakers. Billy commented, with a wry grin, "Thank you, Even. You smell much better!"
I grinned at him, "Thanks for noticing. I do work for a living, you know."
Billy toyed with my blanket, then looked at me seriously. "Why is that, Evan? Why are you on your own?"
I thought for a moment, then said, "I have to be, I don't have any choice," then I changed the subject. "Want to eat something? I can make some hamburgers if you want."
Huck said, "I already ate."
Billy said, "Me, too, but if you want something go ahead."
They followed me into the kitchen, where I tossed two frozen patties into a pan, then got out rolls and ketchup. I was slicing an onion before anyone spoke again, and it was Huck. "Eww, onion? You eat that raw, man?"
I shrugged, "I like onions, and they're good for you."
Huck chuckled, deep and throaty, "Maybe good for you, but onions aren't good to me."
Just then, Pat, Kevin, Shane and Eli came in, all dirty like I'd been. I introduced them all to Billy and Huck, which was probably pointless, and they grabbed beers from the refrigerator and asked me to leave the pan out, because the hamburgers smelled good. Eli went to watch television while the others headed outside.
I ate my hamburgers, carrying on a minimal conversation, then cleaned up after myself. When the guys asked if I wanted to do something, I said, "Can we take a walk around? I've just been up and down this street, I don't know where anything is."
That was a go, so we headed outside and turned down the hill. Huck was pointing out his house when a big woman appeared on the front porch, calling, "Henry? Did you forget to mow the lawn, or are you just avoiding it?"
Huck called, "Sorry, ma. Can I do it tomorrow?"
She looked at the lawn, which was pretty shaggy, and said, "At least do the front tonight. I don't want the neighbors thinking that we're pigs."
Huck looked like he was about to argue, then just shrugged his shoulders, turning to me and Billy, "Sorry, guys. We can't be pigs, you know." He eyed Billy, "Where you gonna be?"
Billy shrugged and smiled, "Just around, I guess. Probably my house or the park.
When we turned to go, I asked, snickering, "Henry?"
Billy laughed, "It's worse than that, his real name is Clarence Henry. I nicknamed him 'Huck' back in third grade just so I could stand hangin' around with him."
I chuckled, "That's funny. It just came from the goodness of your heart?"
We'd walked up almost to my house when Billy turned right onto a cross street, then turned left at the next corner.
He slapped my shoulder, "Hey, I can have a heart, can't I? I guess it doesn't matter now, but back then Huck was a real runt, and everyone teased him about the name."
I took a closer glance at Billy, appreciative of that little act of kindness, and surprised that it came from him.
The day before he'd behaved like your ordinary sports-crazed teenager, now he was showing some sensitivity and I liked it. He looked at me and smirked, "How about a blow job?"
I swear that my eyes bugged out. How could he possibly know? I stammered, "W-what?"
Billy laughed at my discomfort, then said, "Hey, don't go ballistic, I could just use a good blow job. How about it?"
I said nervously, "I ... I'm not sure what you're saying here."
The thoughts going around in my head were crazy. Was he saying that he thought I was gay? Was he suggesting that he was? How could he know the one thing, and if it was the other, how could he be so bold? I mean, I'd seen him in his bathing suit, and I'd happily oblige him, and I'd be a thousand times happier if he'd reciprocate, but nobody did it like this.
Billy smiled, "You never got your dick sucked? It's great, man! So, how about it?"
I eyed him suspiciously, "How about what? Exactly what are we talking about here, Billy?"
Billy stopped and looked at me like I was a complete idiot, and right then he wasn't too far off the mark. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, "I'm talking about Aaron Castle!" He pointed at a brown house just up and across the street, "You don't just walk by this house without stopping in for a howdy-do."
I got the feeling that Billy was pulling my leg, which would be in character, so I said, "Oh, I think I get it. This Aaron guy lures little boys in off the street, then plies them with ... what? Milk and cookies? Booze and drugs? Then he has his filthy way with them?"
Billy gaped at me in astonishment, then bent over laughing. "I like that! His filthy way? Oh man, that's funny!"
I just stood there while he laughed, confused again. "Come on, tell me what you're talking about!" I demanded.
Billy laughed it out, then giggled at me, "Oh, man, are you ever naive!"
I countered, "I'm not naive, you're not giving me enough to go on here! Who is Aaron Castle, and why all the talk about blow jobs?"
Billy stopped and looked at me, his mouth twitching into a smile, "Okay, you're right. Aaron lives there," pointing again, "and he's in my class. He sucks dick. He likes it, so when we're horny and there's nothing else to do with it, we visit Aaron, then everybody's happy," he nudged me and winked, "if you know what I mean."
I did know. There was someone in that brown house doing just what I'd fantasized about for a few years. I was so lucky to have Chris. He approached my emerging gayness with sensitivity, tact, humor and grace. He also let me play with his dick pretty often, and that kept me from going crazy, from outing myself before I had to.
There were many other boys who interested me, though, and Billy was already firmly on that list.
The simple fact was, I'd been blowing Chris for a few years now, but I'd never exactly had a blow job myself. I still fantasized about the lame attempt Chris made once, and it had carried me for a long time ... just the thought of it. I asked, "What? You just take your dick out ..."
Billy nodded and said, "Yes! Then Aaron's on his knees, and before long you're both happy."
I mulled that over, then asked, "And you don't have to do anything back?"
Billy looked at me, and I saw mischief in his eyes. "I didn't say that," he grinned. "About once a month you have to bend over and take it up the ass." He looked at me with sincerity written all over his face.
He put a hand on my shoulder and said solemnly, "Think about it, Grins. It's a small price to pay for thirty-odd blow jobs."
Honestly, my brain was scattered with question marks. First, "What did you just call me?"
Billy grinned, "Grins! Smiley has too many syllables for my humble brain to deal with."
I laughed, and the new nick kind of appealed to me. It was like something Chris would come up with, and it made me smile. There was still unsettled business, and only because I wasn't yet too sure how to take Billy. "You let him cornhole you?"
Billy shrugged, and said matter-of-factly, "Yeah, once a month, just like clockwork."
I stared at him, looking at his face, which I liked. He had these round, hazel eyes. Hell, his whole head was rounder than most, even his mouth was kind of round, and he had nice lips.
We stared at each other, and Billy licked his lips once, which turned me on, then he grinned, shoved me backwards, and cried, "I don't believe it! You're gullible, man! Do you fall for everything?"
I still didn't know how to take Billy, so I said, "I'm glad we got that cleared up, then."
His eyebrows went up, "You up for it, then?"
I had to think, but not for long, and the answer was, "I guess so. You sure he won't mind?" Oh, I had mixed feelings alright. I'd wanted a blow job for a long time, but I wasn't sure about one from a stranger. I'd always pictured some kind of attachment between the blower and the blowee, but after such a lonely month anything sounded good.
Billy said, "Let's go. You'll love it, man."
We started crossing the street and I asked, "What's he like?"
Billy asked, "Who, Aaron?"
"He's okay, I guess. We don't have much in common. I mean, he doesn't play sports or anything."
I asked idly, "What's he do?" Then, before Billy could answer I added, "Besides suck cocks, I mean."
Billy grinned, "I don't know, he's into acting mostly. He's okay." We were turning into the walk to the house, "You'll have to decide."
We got to the step and he rang the bell. After a minute, the door opened and a woman stood there, a very good looking woman. She smiled, "Hello, Billy," then looked at me and back at Billy. "Who's your friend?"
Billy said, charmingly enough that I wanted to puke, "Oh, I'd like to introduce Evan Smiley. Evan, this is Mrs. Castle."
I smiled and shook hands with her, and she continued, "Aaron's at a rehearsal right now. I don't expect him home before nine."
Billy, still smiling, said, "That's okay, then. I just wanted him to meet Evan. He just moved here. Tell him we stopped by?"
She smiled, "I'll do that. Aaron has rehearsals most nights now, so come over earlier if you want to see him."
There was some more small talk, then we left. I asked, "What's he rehearse for?"
Billy shrugged, "Some play, I think it's at the Community Playhouse this time."
I tried for the upper hand, "So, I guess now you have to do it."
Billy looked at me, "Do what?"
"Blow me. I mean, you promised me a blow job. Just because Aaron's not around ..."
He laughed, "Fuck you. I mean, fuck you! I don't suck dick, and you can put that in your bank account!"
I laughed, having fun, "That's okay, you can just bend over then."
He tackled me with no warning other than a growl, and we ended up rolling around on somebody's lawn. Billy was shorter than me, but he was tough, and we were a pretty even match. I'd think I had him pinned and down, and the next moment I'd go flying, and it ended up with us both all sweaty and out of breath, sitting there.
Nothing was said for a long time while we both caught our breath, then we remained silent, just looking out into the creeping darkness.
The thought that I should tell Billy I was gay teased my mind, but then I thought of the possible consequences. I wasn't so much afraid of him as I was it getting back to the guys I lived with, and thus back to where I worked, and I could envision only dark consequences. I figured no, for now Evan Smiley was still in the closet ... way back in it.
When we cooled down, Billy stood up and I followed him to his house, which was only three doors up. "Don't mind my dad," he said as we approached the door. "He's a good guy, really, it's just too new."
"What?" I asked.
"My mother died last winter."
I was stricken, "Oh, God! What happened?"
Billy, who'd had his key out, plopped down on an empty planter. "Cancer ... breast cancer." His eyes found mine, "It's hard Evan, even now." He sighed, "This used to be a happy house, full of people all the time. Now it's just us, and ..." his eyes got shiny, "it's just not the same anymore."
I watched him, and after a minute he wiped his eyes, saying, "Sorry. I should be over it," as he fumbled the key into the lock and opened the door.
"Dad?" he called, "I'm home. I have a friend with me!"
In a moment a man emerged through a door, clad in shorts and a tee shirt, a can of beer in his hand. He was short, stocky, and balding, but he had a good smile.
He held out his hand, "You are?"
I shook, "Evan Smiley, sir. Pleased to meet you."
Billy's dad touched his shoulder, "Get Evan a drink, be a good host." Billy disappeared, and his father smiled at me, patted my shoulder, then took off through the door he came in from.
That gave me a minute to look around, and the house was kind of beat up looking. They had nice things, but most of it seemed to be a little old and worn out. There were pictures on a bookshelf, and I gravitated there. Billy, his parents, another boy who was older. Billy's expression hadn't changed much from the pictures of him at about six, and in a few I could tell that he had an older brother who looked much like him.
I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on it. Billy came in with cans of Coke and Sprite and a bag of chips. I took the Sprite, and he led me out through the kitchen to the back yard.
"You didn't tell me you had a pool," I said when I noticed a pretty large above-ground one.
Bill sat at a picnic table, "It's not open yet." His eyes caught mine again, and his were sad. "It's just another thing, Evan. The pool was Mom's thing. Without her, there's no reason ... no gumption to open it." His eyes leveled, "I don't want to lay all this on you, it's not your problem."
I said softly, "It's okay, Billy. I think I understand."
I understood, in concept anyhow, and it hurt to even contemplate. My mother was the rock in our house, the glue that held things together, and I don't think she was atypical for that, so I knew what Billy had lost without ever knowing his mother, and I felt bad for him.
I reached across the table to touch his arm, "Billy, I can't know what it's like for you. I'm really sorry, man."
He looked at me for a moment, then smiled a little, "Want to open the pool? It'll be a few days before we can use it, but if we don't start we won't have it!"
I smiled back, "Yeah, let's open the pool."
We started with the cover, which was the hardest part, and Huck joined us before we had it fully rolled up. Billy checked the filtering system, then cleaned it out and added new diatomaceous earth, while I took a net and started scooping leaves out of the water. Huck took care of adding chemicals, then Billy started the filter and there was nothing to do but wait for the water to clear up.
We were satisfied with our work, and Billy brought out more sodas. We talked for awhile, mostly about how much fun we were going to have. I participated happily enough, but I felt like I was only half there with them, because I'd already had plans for the summer once. Making plans all over again, even with guys I liked, was hard for me because the plans didn't include Chris, and I couldn't get his image out of my mind.
At the same time, I was so happy to have a couple of new friends, guys who were friendly and who I shared interests with. I was torn, trying to have fun with Huck and Billy, remembering too much at the same time, missing Chris something awful. When I looked at my watch and saw that it was after nine thirty, I said, "I should go, guys. I have to work tomorrow."
"Don't go, man," Huck pleaded, "we're just getting on a roll."
I started to stand, saying, "I can't stay up too late." I looked first at Huck, then at Billy, "You guys think of things to do, then just come and get me."
Billy seemed sad that I was leaving, but I could tell that he understood why. He said, brightly enough, "Well, now you know where we live. Don't be a stranger."
"Thanks," I said.
Huck added, "You know where I live, too. Stop by anytime, okay?"
I smiled, "Thanks, Huck. Well, I'll see you guys."
They said goodbye and I walked out to the street, lost in confusion about what I should do. I missed Chris so badly I could barely keep from crying when I thought of him, and I missed home just as much. I felt so emotionally wasted, wanted things to be the way they used to be so badly, that I was thinking of calling Chris the next day.
I needed to hear his voice, needed to hear that he, at least, was living out our summer plans. Instead, what I heard suddenly was a loud voice right next to me saying, "You can't say that, Abby! You know how I've tried."
Well, I jumped, startled, and turned to see the shadowy figure of someone dressed in dark clothes yelling at the front end of a car. A nut, I thought, as his one-sided discourse went on, then I realized where I was; right in front of the Castle home. I didn't know who it was talking to himself like that, but I had a good idea. I asked timidly, "Are you alright?"
That certainly had the element of surprise. He jumped, spinning around at the same time, and stumbled backwards so he ended up sitting on the hood of the car. "Jesus!" he said as I approached him.
I couldn't define him to myself in the dark, and I asked again, "Are you okay there?" I walked a little closer.
He was breathing heavily, like someone would when they'd just been scared to death. I was scared too, but less so than him, from the sudden sound of his voice when I'd been so lost in thought. I said, "Sorry, man. I didn't see you there, and you jumped me."
He patted his chest, and I could see the whites of his eyes, then his teeth as he smiled, still breathing unsteadily. He said, leaning forward to see me, "We must be even then. Are you Evan?"
I was close enough to see him then, and I had to draw a breath before I could speak. "You must be Aaron?" My God, he was good looking. I liked everything about his face, from its overall shape, his shaggy but short black hair, his dark eyes, his pretty mouth.
I got nervous, "How'd you know my name?"
He smiled playfully, "How'd you know mine? My mother said Billy came over with somebody new."
I relaxed a bit and held out my hand. Aaron looked at it, then hesitantly shook with me, and I felt his soft skin. I asked, trying to sound pleasant, "Why are you out here talking to a car?"
He looked away and snickered, "I'm not talking to the car, I'm practicing my lines for a play. I majorly bunged up at rehearsal today, and it's a really stupid scene, so I have to learn it by rote."
I sat on the other side of the hood, again admiring Aaron's looks. "I like drama, too, you know. I'm no actor, but I work on sets and lighting."
Aaron looked at me, "Really? I love everything about the stage."
I liked Aaron's speaking voice; like a kid, but not at the same time. It wasn't loud, but there was a richness there. He was also very girlish in his gestures, and I though that was cute.
"I love it, too," I said, and I smiled wistfully, thinking about the two productions I'd worked on during the last school year. "I love to help make it happen," I said quietly.
"Are you going to Riverton High next year?" Aaron asked excitedly, "We have an active drama club."
"No," I said as I shook my head sadly, "I quit school."
I saw his eyes narrow, but he didn't say anything, so I said, "I didn't have any choice." I lowered my voice, "I'm a landscape technician now."
Aaron looked at me for a long moment, then hung his head, looking away. "Billy brought you here, that means you know ..."
"I know what Billy said," I whispered. "If you tell me he's full of shit, I'll believe you and not him."
Aaron lifted his face to look at me, and I felt that he was searching me out. Then he dropped his face away again and muttered, "He's not full of it, Evan. Billy's my friend, and he's a lot of things, but he's not a liar."
"He's not?" I asked. "That means you're ..."
"Gay." Aaron looked at me nervously, "Listen, Evan, I don't know what you think of that, but Billy's had my back since fourth grade. I love the kid, no matter how he comes across to guys like you."
I was taken aback, "Guys like me? I was just surprised tonight by how sensitive Billy can be."
Aaron looked at me, his eyebrows lifting, "Really? You picked up on that?"
I nodded, smiling a little.
Aaron went on, "Billy can get wacky, and he's a lot of fun, but now he's hurting inside."
I mumbled, "I could tell that much." I looked at my watch, and it was after ten. I stood up, "I have to go, Aaron. I need some sleep."
"Where do you live?"
I said, "Over on Evergreen Street, just around the corner,"
Our eyes caught once again, and Aaron said, "I'll walk you, if you want."
I smiled, "Sure."
We walked in silence for awhile, then Aaron said, "I'm not like that, you know."
I was confused, "Like what?"
He said, lightly enough, "Billy brought you here for a blow job, I know he did,"
I thought that over and said, "That's true."
"He's done that before."
I asked, "And you hate it?"
We took a lot of steps before Aaron responded, then he said. "I don't know ... hate ... love, it's all the same. I don't ask for it, that's the point. I don't know how much you understand gay, Evan."
I gulped, silently I hoped, "Some."
"You know gay people?"
"One," I admitted.
Aaron took a few steps, then said, "Billy thinks I want every guy on the street, so he brings guys like you around, and that's not it, Evan. I'm not a whore! I'm not!"
I stopped walking, and Aaron turned around. "I didn't think you were, Aaron," I said. I was getting feelings for and from Aaron. Maybe it was the scene, under the streetlight on a misty, warm night, and he looked so ... hopeful.
He smiled at me, "Thanks."
I was nervous, I'll admit that. This was my first ever experience with an openly gay boy, and I didn't know what to do with it, didn't know how to behave.
Aaron acted gay, and I liked that he would, and at the same time didn't like that he did, if that makes sense. He was out, too, or at least I thought he was, and I was kind of enthralled by that. And he was so ... let me insert pretty here, but I'll get back to that particular choice of words, because it's not exactly right. He had this girlish fragility in his demeanor, a certain gentleness to his every motion, and it was hugely appealing to me.
I tried to change the subject. "So, tell me about Billy."
Aaron looked at me sadly and said, "Another time, Evan. It's a long story and a short walk."
I said "Okay," then had to catch up with him because he'd headed towards the corner. When we reached my street, I pointed and said, "That's where I live, second floor."
Aaron said, "Okay. Well, see you next time?"
I said, "Yeah, next time," hoping for more conversation, but Aaron walked away, headed home.
I called after him, "Nice to meet you," and he turned to give me a smile and a quick wave, then he turned around and left. I stared after him, feeling envious that he could be the way he was, worried that he seemed so fragile, so delicate. I kept looking, watching his slender form disappear from one light, then reappear under the next. When he turned the corner, I headed home, totally consumed by both Billy and Aaron, especially Aaron.
It was late for me, and I was sleepy, but for the first time since I'd left home I didn't cry myself to sleep. Rather, I pictured Billy, then Aaron, and it turned into something of a fantasy; the sort of fantasy that boys have had fun with since the beginning of time.
Explosive fun as it turned out, and probably necessary. Sex was another thing that had been far down on my list, and for too long. I pulled off my undershirt and used it to clean up, and I started giggling a little.
I'd been happy to meet Billy and Huck in the first place, now I could tell that there was some real depth there, at least in Billy. He really interested me, and not just by his looks. He'd told me that he gave Huck his name because he wanted to hang around with him, and that was in third grade. How many good looking white kids want to hang around with runty black boys? And Aaron told me that Billy had covered his back for a long time.
Given that Aaron was so effeminate, I was surprised at first, and even more intrigued by Billy's nature. I didn't know if he just liked people, or if he was someone who was just naturally protective of people, and I didn't have enough to go on to figure that out. Talking to Aaron made me think there was more to his friendship with Billy than Billy had led me to believe, though, and I wondered about that, too.
I fell asleep trying to decide what I felt about Aaron. Our encounter had been brief, but I felt somehow encouraged by actually talking to someone my age who was gay, even though he didn't know I was. There was also something about him that touched me in ways I'd never been touched. It was his looks, of course, and I'll find words for him someday. It was more than that, though.
Being gay was one thing, but I'd known who some of the gay kids were where I came from, and just being gay didn't seem that relevant to me by itself. There was something I was missing, something big, and those thoughts took me into sleep that night.
The next day I was a maniac, working faster than I ever had in the idiotic belief that I'd get out earlier, have more time to spend with the guys I was making friends with. It didn't work, of course. I just got more done, but it did have the effect of making the day fly by, so when I got home I immediately showered, ate, then ran to Billy's house.
I rang the bell, then waited, and when nobody came I rang it again.
Hopeful, I walked around to the back yard, but there was still nobody. Disappointed, I started back home, then thought to stop at Aaron's house. His mother was gracious for remembering me, but he wouldn't be back from rehearsal until after nine.
I was disappointed, then I remembered Huck's invitation and ran down to his house. I stood on the doorstep, apprehensive, and rang the bell. In a moment, the door opened, and there was a man standing there in a dress shirt and a loosened tie. "Yes?" he asked.
"Is Huck home? I mean Henry?" I didn't know what I meant.
His blank face took on a wide smile. "You must be Evan!" He held out his hand, "I'm Huck's father. He's not here, I think they went to the park."
"Park?" I asked.
Huck's dad chuckled, "That's right, you're new here." He stepped out and pointed up the street, "Head up there, take the second left, then ... Hell," he put his hand on my shoulder, "Come on, Evan, I'll give you a ride."
I protested, "I can find it."
He called inside, "I'll be right back," then nudged me towards the driveway saying, "You'll find it next time. Nobody finds it the first time."
I got in his car with him, and he was right. It was a big park when I got there, but I wouldn't have found it. The entrance was off a dead-end street, and it was from a long, chained-off driveway to the left, and there was no indication at all of what was at the end of that driveway. Huck's father stopped the car and pointed, "The park's in there. If they're not playing basketball, just follow the path down to the softball fields."
I smiled. I liked Huck's dad, and I liked basketball, and I loved baseball. I thanked the man, then walked to the park, and Oh, Lord!.
From where I came in, there was a colossal rectangle of many level acres that contained two football fields, three soccer fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, field houses, and most of it seemed to be professional quality.
I ran down to the basketball courts, noticing the lights overhead that would allow play at night. There were four full courts. Four! and six tennis courts beside them. That part of the park was encircled by a running track, which was really nice in itself.
I had to wait to cross it, because there were a lot of joggers and walkers out. We had nothing like that where I came from.
There were people playing basketball and people waiting to play, but I couldn't pick out Huck or Billy, so I asked a guy, "Where are the baseball diamonds?"
He told me, and I took off running. When I got there, I found an amazing five softball fields, lit already. Most of them were already involved in team play, and I had no clue if Billy and Huck played on teams, then I spotted one field with a rag-tag bunch of kids playing, so I went there first.
Sure enough, Huck was the runner on second base while Billy sat on the sidelines, so I walked over to Billy, and he was looking good in black shorts and a dark red shirt. He saw me coming and smiled, and when I sat beside him he said, "You found us! Good going, man!"
I smiled, "You were hiding?"
He started to answer, then a collective groan came from the field, and Billy pushed himself up, grinning at me. "We're killing these guys! You play?"
I shrugged, "Yeah, not usually softball."
He grinned, "This game's over after this inning. Next time you can play."
"Great," I said as Huck sat beside me.
He complained, "Man, I got a lead off double and nobody could hit me in." He grinned at me, "How's Evan tonight?"
I chuckled, "Evan's just fine. How's Huck?"
He grinned, and I said, "I met your father, he gave me a ride here."
Huck smiled, "Dad's like that. I hope you noticed the professional job I did on the lawn."
That was a good tease, and I laughed. I knew by then that it was hardware that mattered to lawns, not tender loving care. The equipment we used did a beautiful job every time, and it was fast. Harlan had some really big properties under contract, and we kept them looking perfect without a whole lot of manual effort.
We watched the game for awhile. Billy was in the outfield, and he made a great play on the first hit ball, shagging it at first, then he made a diving catch when he realized he'd misjudged. He went tumbling, but held onto the ball for the first out of the inning.
I said, offhandedly, "Billy's pretty good, huh?"
Huck said, "Yeah, he's the best."
"Yeah, you watch. He knows how to hustle."
We watched the play for awhile, but it was slow because the pitcher wasted a lot of time. I asked, "Do you know Aaron Castle? I met him last night after I left you guys."
Huck said, kind of coldly, "I know him. He's a fruitcake."
I stiffened a little, "Care to explain that? He seemed okay to me."
Huck said, "Let's not get into it, okay? That one's trouble."
I suddenly didn't know what he meant, Aaron or the pitch that had just been thrown, because the batter killed it, sending it way over Billy's head for a solo home run. I was on my feet, cheering the hit along with everyone else, friend and foe alike. "Damn," I said, "he really clonked that one!"
Billy was funny on the field. I couldn't hear him, but he was yelling at the pitcher, the runner, and gesturing wildly. Huck was clapping slowly for his opponent, and he said, "That be Justin Castle!" He looked at me, "He's Aaron's brother, the man of the family."
I was getting annoyed by Huck, but I didn't know him well enough to challenge him, nor was I big enough to. All I could do was move away a little, and turn my attention to the game, which ended with two more pop fly's.
I had a chance to take a look at Justin, though, and there was a family resemblance to Aaron, but Justin had none of the softness, none of the gentle attributes of Aaron. Even from a distance, even though his team had lost, he was happy with his home run, and clearly pleased with himself. A jock, but I was a jock! I knew all about playing well myself in losing games, about the personal satisfaction that you could feel amidst group loss.
I knew what it felt like to screw up and lose a game, too, and I'm sure Justin did as well. I didn't like the comparisons Huck had drawn though, and I kept my distance from him until Billy ran over, tossing his glove at me in exuberance.
I caught it, then put it on his head when he got close enough, where he left it. Billy was beaming, and he high-fived Huck, then they made funny farting sounds at each other.
Billy said, "Let's get an ice cream!" and Huck was all for it, and it sounded good to me.
The park, as I knew it must have, had a main presence on a different street, and there was an ice cream truck there, apparently a permanent fixture. It had a picture menu on the side, and I decided on a strawberry sundae bar.
We sat on a stone wall to eat our ice creams, and Billy and Huck went on for awhile about the game. When they ran out of steam bragging, Billy touched my arm and said, "I hear you met Aaron last night. What'd you think?"
I shrugged, unwilling to commit anything. "He seemed nice," then I smiled. "I thought he was some nut at first, yelling at a car."
Billy laughed, "He told me you caught him practicing. That's funny!"
Oh, I wanted to know more about this relationship, but I didn't want to ask with Huck there, so we just bantered while we ate, then I learned the way back to our neighborhood from that direction, and Huck kept going when we got to Billy's. There was something he wanted to see on television, and he was perfectly friendly to me when he said goodbye.
Billy went into the house to get sodas, and we wandered around to the back yard, where he checked the chemicals in the pool, then we sat at the table. Billy smiled at me and said, right out of the blue, "Don't have a problem with Huck, Evan. It's just the way he is."
Oh, man! I looked at Billy and we locked eyes, me more confused than anything. I asked, "What makes you think I have a problem with Huck? I'm not prejudiced."
Billy looked at me for a long moment, then said, "I don't mean you're prejudiced, I just have the feeling that there's something wrong here, and I think it's your problem." His eyes bored into me, "Huck's a good kid. It's a free country, he can think what he wants to. Get what I'm saying?"
By then, I had my elbows on the table and my cheeks resting on my hands, and I smiled nervously, shaking my head no.
Billy's eyebrows went up and down quickly, and he reached across the table to touch my hand. He smiled a little, "Okay, here's how it is. Guys like you and me," and he pointed at me when he said 'you', then at himself, "guys like us, we can feel for someone like Aaron ... understand where he's coming from." He threw up his hands, "Guys like Clarence just don't ... won't! It doesn't make him bad, it just gets his back up, and that's not a criminal offense." His voice dropped, "Huck's a real decent guy, Evan."
I didn't know where this was going, so I tried to drop it. "I know," I said, "I like them both."
Our eyes were still locked, and Billy said, "I'm glad you like Aaron."
I stared back, and asked levelly, "Why? What's it to you who I like?"
Billy winced at my words, and I added, "I'm sorry, that sounded unfriendly. I meant, what's not to like about Aaron?"
Billy leaned forward, "Listen, Evan. I like you. You're not superficial, and I like that. You're not phony, and I like that, too. I'm sure I have friends that you won't like, and I'm sure you have friends that I wouldn't like, and that's a personal thing." He sat back, seeming to relax. "You like Aaron, and he's gay, and you like Huck, who's black. I like that about you, I just don't want the fact that they don't care for each other to cloud your liking of either one of them."
"Huh?" That's what came out of my mouth, but I had to think about what Billy was saying. This kid was really bending my mind. He was outwardly so simple and easy to figure out, just another athletic kid, but talk about contrary. I looked at him hard, and he stared back, waiting for me to say something. I started with a question. "You didn't tell me you were close to Aaron, but he gave me the impression that you're his friend ... his defender. Who's right there?"
Billy smiled, "We're both right. What I told you is that I don't have a lot in common with Aaron, and if you thought about that you'd see it's true. Aaron's this quiet, gentle kid, and I'm your basic pit bull." His smile brightened, "That doesn't mean we can't like each other does it?" His smile faded, "And I do like Aaron. I like him a lot."
I let that sink in, then said, "You embarrass him, I think, when you bring guys over for him to ... perform sex on."
Billy's face became grim, and he looked down, "Yeah, he told me that today." He looked back at me, "It's the first time he said anything about it, though. I'm not a mind reader, and he was always enthusiastic enough, so I thought he liked it. I mean, I know he likes it, just not those circumstances." He looked away again, his voice soft, "It won't happen again."
I looked at Billy for a long, long time, trying to figure him out, long enough that he smiled sheepishly and asked, "What?"
I said haltingly, "I'm just trying ... trying to figure you out, Billy. You have these ... I don't know ... relationships that aren't ... that are out of the ordinary. I'm sorry, I'm not making any sense. What I mean is, from the surface I'd have you figured as Justin's friend, not Aaron's." Damn, I felt foolish, but I pressed on, hoping to learn something about my new friend. I looked at Billy's confusion and smiled, "Let me try again."
He grinned, "Thank you."
I chuckled and started over. "Look at it this way, Billy. When I met you the other day, all I saw at first was a jock with a wise-ass sense of humor. Then we talked, and I could tell you were pretty bright, in tune with a lot of things, that you had interests outside the gym and the field. I liked that, because it made you more-or-less like me, and I was pretty sure we'd end up being friends." Billy was staring at me expectantly, so I added, "And I think we are friends ... at least beginning friends."
Billy said softly, "Thanks. That's just about what I felt."
I smiled at the confirmation. "Then you tell me you wanted to be Huck's friend, even though you described him as a runt with a funny name, and that was in third grade. That got me thinking differently about you, like admiring you, and I'm still not sure what for."
Billy grinned. "Maybe I'm just weird?" he offered.
I laughed, "Maybe. I'm pretty weird myself. You just caught me off guard when you said that, then you started in about blow jobs, and I never got a chance to think it over." I looked at Billy, and he was just looking back. "That's where real weird came in. I couldn't tell if you thought I was gay, or if you were saying you were gay." I grinned, "You never mentioned a third party!"
Billy grinned a guilty grin. "I knew Aaron would like you ... I was just teasing, man."
"Fair enough," I said. "I think that kind of teasing comes at a cost to Aaron, though, and it makes it harder for me to be friends when he knows what I was there for."
Billy seemed contrite, "I know. I already said I won't do it again." He looked at me hopefully, "You don't care that he's gay?"
I shook my head, afraid of what might come out if I opened my mouth. Billy leaned closer, "That's great, Evan. Aaron's a good person to know if you take the time to learn him."
I just stared, not sure what that meant, and Billy went on, "And I do like Justin. They come from the same source, Evan, and in some ways they're a lot alike. Justin's a jock, yeah, but he loves his brother, and between us we keep the loonies away from Aaron."
I was impressed, "You do that?"
Billy just smiled, then the talk turned to the pool, and we checked the different levels again before I had to go home. Well, it served as a home.
I left thinking I knew a lot more, but I still didn't understand Billy. I now had some of the 'whats', the 'whos' and the 'hows', but I was missing the why of it all.
I liked him a lot, and the little mystery of his feelings about other people intrigued me. I left his driveway and headed down the street, thinking that the next time I'd try to get Billy to talk more, see if I could get him to open up to me.
Aaron was on his front step when I went by, and he called to me, so I stopped.
No black this time. He was in a wet bathing suit with music notes printed on it, and wearing a tie-dye tee that I would have killed for at one point in my life. I grinned seeing it, and said, "Nice getup! Where'd you get that shirt?"
He looked at himself, then smiled at me, "My mother did this one."
I said, "Nice job. What's up?"
He looked at me, studying my face, "Did you just come from Billy's? He came by today."
I said, "Yeah. I ... um, I told him I thought it made you uncomfortable why he brought me here yesterday."
Aaron looked down and didn't say anything, so I said, "I saw your brother hit a homer tonight, he's got awesome power!"
He smiled, "Did he? Yeah," he said proudly, "he's really strong."
I started to fidget, "Well, nice seeing you again. I should get to bed."
Aaron looked up, "Want me to walk with you?"
I smiled and said, "Yeah, I'd like that."
We headed down the street, again not talking at first, then Aaron asked, "What do you think about Billy now?"
I looked at Aaron and decided that it was an innocuous question, nothing intended, nothing expected. Instead of answering, I asked a question. "Can you keep a secret, Aaron, I mean tell nobody?"
He stopped walking, and I turned to look at him. He studied me for a moment, then smiled, "Sure."
I gulped in air, not sure why I was doing this, not sure that I could trust Aaron for anything, but out it came. "I'm gay too, Aaron. I'm just like you, at least in that respect."
I didn't know what to expect from Aaron after I said that, his reaction might have been anything. What I got was a hug from a sniffling boy, after a long, surprised stare.
We stood there on the sidewalk, tight up against each other while Aaron soaked my shoulder with his tears. I was confused by his crying, but I took the opportunity to explore his body a little, his back, shoulders and waist, and I liked what I felt. At any rate, I felt good by trying to soothe him. I liked it, even though I'd never done anything like that before.
When he quieted down, I let him go and pulled off my shirt so he could clean his face with it, then he handed it back and looked at me, and surprised me again with a quick, embarrassed giggle. "Sorry," he said softly, "I got all choked up. I'm such a girl sometimes."
I smiled, "If you were a girl we wouldn't have just had that moment." I touched his chin, almost whispering, "Why'd you cry?"
Aaron hung his head for a moment, saying, "I don't know," then he looked back at me. "I ... I guess a lot of reasons ... that you're gay, that you said you're just like me ... that you chose me to tell." He breathed deeply, "I was just overwhelmed."
I smiled until Aaron smiled back at me, then we started walking again, more slowly now, but without talking. I was excited and I was nervous, and I didn't know what my next step should be, or even if I should make one. We were close, I could feel Aaron's heat on my arm, and I wanted to touch him. I wasn't sure yet if a touch was warranted, so I spoke instead, asking, "Feeling better now?"
Aaron's voice was soft, "I'm better, but now I'm confused." He looked at me, "Why'd you tell me, Evan? Did you just need a safe outlet or ... or are you interested.?"
I stopped, Aaron stopped, and I smiled at him, "Both, Aaron. It's really hard keeping this to myself, and what safer outlet could there be than another gay boy? And I am interested, because I like you. I like you a lot, Aaron."
He cooed happily, "Tell me more."
"I like your looks, Aaron, and I love your voice, and I like that you're so ... I don't know ... out there." I snickered at my own choice of words.
Aaron giggled, "Out there? I've always been out there, Evan. Heh, my parents had me figured as probably queer by the time I was six." He giggled again, touching my arm this time, "Everyone, and I mean everyone, just assumes I'm gay the minute they lay eyes on me, and I'm the first one to admit that I'm obvious. I mean, I am kinda skanky." He smiled.
I giggled myself, "Well if you call it skanky, then skanky it is, but that's not a word I'd have thought of."
Aaron's look became more intent, "Evan?" he asked, and I responded by raising my eyebrows. He lowered his voice a little, still engaging my eyes with his, "I'm interested, too." His voice got even softer, "I like you too, Evan, and a lot. Listen, I don't have rehearsal tomorrow, so why don't you come for dinner and we can spend some time ... get to know each other."
I said, "I promised Billy I'd come over."
"I'll see Billy tomorrow and tell him you aren't coming, okay?" He saw my expression change, and said, "Don't worry, he won't ask questions. He'll just be glad that we like each other, and that we're getting to be friends."
I smiled, "Okay, then. How about around seven?"
He snickered, "AM or PM?"
I laughed, "PM."
"Rats!" he giggled, "Okay, PM's fine. I'll see you then?"
I smiled and nodded, and Aaron smiled, and we just stood there smiling for the longest time, and I thought I'd bust with happiness. We stayed there long enough that it started to feel awkward, and Aaron finally said, "Well, see you."
"Yeah, see you."
Aaron stayed, with this cute, shy smile, and I finally pointed up the street and said, "March!" then I laughed and said, "I really have to get to bed, so get out of here."
Aaron grinned, "Okay, bye for real."
I could see that he wasn't about to leave soon, and I finally managed to disconnect by forcing myself to take a step backwards. Only then did Aaron turn to go, heading home with what I can only describe as a happy stride.
I stood and watched, and every ten steps or so he'd turn around, smile and wave, then continue on.
I watched him disappear around the corner, and stayed there a while longer, finally disengaging myself enough to get home, though I was disoriented when I turned around, having forgotten where I was.
I was giddy when I got up to the apartment. I thought to pull some paper towels off the roll in the kitchen, and I even bothered to bother Eli by saying hello before I headed out to my porch and bed.
When I stretched out in bed I was very pleased with myself. I'd had no plan at all to come out to Aaron, it just came out of me. I was very glad I did it, though the reason for that gladness was vague. I think it was partly because I'd wanted to say those words about myself for a long time, partly because it gave me a better definition of myself.
Aaron was right when he said most people assumed he was gay, and that was the way he was. I wasn't like him in that regard, and when I wanted people to know about me I'd have to tell them. At fifteen, nobody really questioned my disinterest in girls, though that would change someday. I was so tied up in academics, sports and theater that I always had something to do, and a busy boy who's succeeding in his interests isn't often told to take time off for a love interest.
The big thing was that I could be gay here myself, and selectively at that, or maybe not. If something started with me and Aaron, it probably wouldn't take long to get out, and I had to consider that. My fears didn't weigh a lot then, though, not when held up to the possibilities. I was rolling, and into new territory, uncharted territory for me.
I was gay. I'd understood that for a long time, but now I was finding the feelings that being gay could bring me, and really for the first time. I'd always held it in, stuck with Chris. Now I had somebody like me to test things with, and it wasn't a challenge really, other than intellectually, not even a decision to make. Confronted with another gay boy my age, I did the traditional thing and imagined this fantastic love affair. Me and Aaron sounded good.
Another thing, though the word hadn't come up, was that I had a date with Aaron, and he'd asked me. I knew I was stretching it, but what else could it be called? And anyhow, I really liked Aaron already, after our two short encounters. He was bright, that would be clear to anyone. He was also pretty ... make that cute ... make that handsome, that's better! He liked me, too ... a lot ... though he hadn't said why he did. Probably my own personal brilliance and handsomeness, though you'd have to refer to a foreign dictionary to find a place where that particular word pair would apply specifically to me.
I had a date, though, and that was the important part. It was my first one, and that simple thought enthralled me. Back home, the group I hung with always did things kind of en-masse, and most boys weren't with specific girls, just kind of all together for things like school dances, parties, whatever we did together. That had always worked out perfectly for me. I already said I'm not interested in girls, but that's in a sexual manner. I like them just fine, and I always liked dancing with them and talking to them. In that respect, I had the perfect playing field for a closeted gay boy. I was seen out having fun with girls, and the fun was real, and it was all the cover I needed.
Now I had a date. Oh God, my right hand got busy, and my left was armed with paper, and it was a happy me when I finally fell asleep. When Aaron had walked away before, his shirt had stayed pulled up, probably by me, and I'd seen his ass, all covered by musical notes, and it was a notable thing to behold. I was in a whole new world of trouble.
It was the second night in a row that I didn't cry, and that held its own significance,
The next day I wasn't so anxious at work, in fact the crew leader I was with had to prod me twice to pick up the pace because I was so moony, but who wouldn't be?
I was totally excited when I got home. I took a good, hot shower, made sure I cleaned all the hard to get at spots, paying particular attention to my ears, which tended to inhale grass clippings. I deodorized, shaved, spent a lot of time on my hair because it hadn't been cut in a long time, then I had to choose clothes.
I couldn't exactly go in work clothes, and most of my good things were back home.
That made the choice easier due to lack of options, so I ended up putting on my Tommy jeans and a no-team-label basketball jersey, that bore the number '34' in orange on white.
I was ready except for a few things. It was Wednesday, laundromat night for the guys, and I needed someone to wash my clothes for me.
One of them would do it, I knew, because we covered for each other with things like that, me doing most of the prior covering. They weren't home yet, and I wanted to get going, so I crammed my dirty clothes into a bag, wrote a note asking someone to take care of it, and taped that to the bag along with a ten dollar bill.
I left it in the middle of the kitchen table. Then I checked myself out again in the mirror, only having to fluff out my hair with a comb a little because it was dry now, and had been wet when I combed it earlier. I checked my teeth for things stuck to them, and yes, I'd had problems with that before.
Satisfied, I tried to calm down, because I was definitely excited.
I had a date!
I tried deep breathing, thinking it's not a date.
I looked at the clock, and I had five minutes to be on time for seven.
It's not a date, I tried to convince myself.
Move your butt, Evan! You have a date!
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