I told them my story. When I got to the part about the movies, Adam looked fearful. I'd never told anybody about him specifically, and I never would. I tried to convey that to him with my eyes. In a way, I was getting pretty good at this. I really hoped that this was the last time I'd have to talk about the details, though. I kind of mentally decided to put off telling Richie. He was pretty distant now, so it probably didn't make any difference if he knew or not. If it became important later, I'd tell him.
Right now I was looking at some different people. They were three gay boys, but only one of them had told anybody outside of our little circle. From what I knew, they all had solid two-parent families. I knew for a fact that Rafe did, and sensed it from the other two.
None of them showed much emotion, and I didn't feel much while I was talking. They were certainly spellbound, but I could sense that they were feeling 'there, but for the grace...', like I had experienced a fate that's all too available to gay youngsters. Whatever they thought about me, I could tell they were afraid for themselves.
Rafe had overcome most of his problems and become popular at school even when everyone knew he was gay. He kept looking back and forth between me and Brian and Adam. I think his fears were for us. I could handle myself. I didn't know about Adam, but I really doubted that Brian could fight his way out of a Big Mac bag. Rafe and I couldn't be around every time these guys got in trouble. I found myself suddenly afraid for these guys, too.
I started to say something, but was interrupted by Adam. He was staring at a spot on the wall behind me.
"Um, I don't wanna hide from you guys, either. The things Dave was talking about ... the movies he made ... well, uh ... I don't know how to say this ... I did it too! It was only one time, but it has to be the stupidest thing I ever did." His eyes turned to me, then he dropped his gaze to the floor. "I'm not like that. I'm really not. It's just that the chance came up to have sex and get some money ... it was the first time for either one. Now I feel so ... dirty!"
Adam had to be one of the best looking people in town, but right then he looked pathetic. He had eyeball size tears pouring down his face, which had contorted into a vision of misery. Brian immediately pulled him into an embrace, and I scooted across the floor and took his hand. Rafe was right there in a second, holding his other hand.
Rafe and Brian were trying to calm him with words, but I put a finger in front of my lips to make them shut up. I had been where Adam was right then, and I knew from sad experience that the best thing to do was to let him cry it out.
The word Adam had used echoed around in my head. Dirty! God, that was me. DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY! How could Timmy love me? Shit, how could he even like me? I realized immediately that those were old questions. Questions that had been answered and the answers reaffirmed countless times in the last weeks. I knew how to deal with this!
"Brian, Rafe? Leave us alone, okay? I think I know what to do. If I don't, I'll holler, okay?"
They both gave me grim looks, then stood up and left. I pulled Adam into a tight hug, really squeezing him. I didn't say a word, just let him cry it out, just like I had so many times myself.
That word ... dirty ... had a lot of connotations, but I knew exactly how Adam felt. He didn't feel like a little kid getting scolded by his mother for being covered in mud. He felt dirty inside - outside - he felt dirty in the way that only children who had been used to satisfy the sexual perversions of sick adults could feel.
When Adam's crying slowed to random sobs he started to return the hug. I helped him to his feet, then walked him to the bathroom so he could wash up. He had to pee, too, so I waited outside for him.
When he came out he looked a little better, but not much. We went back to my room and sat on the bed.
"It's gonna get better, Adam. I know just how you feel. I think it's a good thing that you told those guys, 'cause now you can talk to them when you feel down about it. I think I told you once that you can't forget it, but rememberin' ain't that bad after a while. A lot of people know about me, and nobody hates me for what I did. Nobody's gonna hate you either ... they'll feel bad for ya, maybe, but you didn't hurt anybody else and you didn't mean any harm."
Adam looked at me, "But how do I get past it? I want a friend like you have in Timmy, but every time I think about somebody I get these feelings ... like I just disgust myself. I'll never get past GO if I don't get over that."
"I don't know how, Adam, but I can tell you how I do it. Believe me, I wonder how people can still love me after the crap I did, but they do. It's your problem, and you gotta take care of it yourself. I do it by trying to make myself happy every day, by trying to make the people around me happy. You can't really do the second thing until you do the first. There's a lot of beautiful things in the world, Adam, and you hafta believe that you're one of them."
"I know what I look like, but that's not it."
"I know that's not it, and it's not what I'm talkin' about. Listen, Adam, I was a jerk for a long time before I even got into trouble. I think I was a jerk, anyhow. Bein' dumb was a good thing in a way. It made me think everybody was smarter than me ... that they had more to offer. Once I learned how to make friends, everybody I met I was like ... 'Wow! How do you know all that stuff?' You know what? People like to be appreciated. I think I was afraid of bein' soft, so I didn't pay a lot of attention when people said nice things about me ... I didn't want people to think I was nice, or tryin' ta be nice."
I had been looking straight ahead. I turned to look at Adam, and he was staring right at me. "Why didn't you want people to like you?"
"That's not exactly what I meant. I wanted them to like me, I just didn't want them to know that I cared about them. I didn't think anybody cared about me, and I didn't want to be a softie by caring about them. We had a lot of fun, and that's where I wanted to leave it." I was still looking at Adam. I smiled a little. "I told ya I was bein' dumb."
His look softened a little and he smiled back. "I think I have that dumb bug, too. I ... I get jealous all the time. That's dumb. I try to hide my feelings all the time, and that's dumb too. Hiding your feelings is like telling a lie, and that's really dumb."
"What makes you jealous?"
"Seein' what other people have that I don't." He blushed a little and looked away. "I'm jealous of you ... you just make everything seem so easy. I just heard your story and now I know it's not easy, but you make it look like it is. Then you have Timmy. Don't get me wrong ... I'm not jealous of him, just what you have together. You make that look easy, too. I mean, I know Brian and Rafe love each other, but they always seem to be making believe they don't. When we went for pizza the other night, you and Tim looked like ... natural together. That's what I want, and that's why I get jealous."
I remembered some important words from the past. "Adam ... you'll find somebody. Bein' jealous ain't too smart. If you want what me and Tim have you have to go find the right person and make it happen. Be friends first - that's what's important. The reason you think me and Timmy look natural is because we're friends before anything else. We made each other important to ourselves way before we decided we were in love."
Adam nodded at me as if he understood. "What about my feelings? Why am I afraid to let people know what's going on inside of me?"
"I don't really know. I always thought I hid mine, but I been findin' out that I wasn't foolin' anybody. I guess that when I'm happy I laugh, when I'm mad I yell, when I'm sad I cry. Mostly I just talk. I guess when you talk as much as I do you just let things out, even when you don't mean to."
"I should talk more?"
"I don't know. I think you should just stop worryin' about other people. It's no big deal if they know how you feel about things. You know what Kenny says? That it doesn't matter what other people think. You should think good thoughts, do good things and love good people. That's what I been doin', and it works for me."
"You're as happy as you look?"
I looked at him. "I look happy?"
"Well, not right now, but most of the time."
"You haven't known me very long. This look is pretty new, but it gets better all the time. I am happy, Adam, and you're one of the reasons."
Adam looked startled. He pointed his finger at his chest and asked, "Me?"
"Yeah, you! You're the first new friend I made in a long time. Well, somebody my own age anyhow. When you showed up at Ken's that night, I almost passed out. Then we talked and there wasn't any bullshit. Not from you, and not from me. Remember the last time we saw each other before that? That day at school after we made the movie? I just ran away from you and everything. I ain't ever runnin' away again, Adam."
He sat up straighter. "Me either!"
We both laughed a little. "Adam ... um, you're probably the best lookin' guy in school. That's gotta make it easy for you to meet people. You should just try to see how many of those people can be friends. You should like people for what they are ... what they offer, not just what they look like or what things they have."
He looked me right in the eyes. "That's how you're doing it? Just making friends ... just give and take?"
I thought about that question. "Yeah, Adam, it's give and take. Mostly take right now, but I'm trying."
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"I don't either, really. I just been hearin' what other people thought about me all along. That's taking ... and it feels good. I owe a lot of people for carin' about me, and I want to give back to them. Does that make sense?"
"... I guess it does."
"Well, I want to give first. I don't mean things ... I mean me. I really wanna like people for who they are ... I'm not sure what I'm gettin' at here ... I just want to think that everybody's worth somethin'. I can't know everybody, but the people I meet ... well, I wanna know what that somethin' is."
I looked over at Adam. "I'm not sure what it is, Adam. I guess I just wanna be like Kenny ... to like people the way he does ... just take them at face value and be friends with them. I need to learn how to do it, but the only way I can learn is to try doin' it. I can tell ya this. I'm not gonna automatically not like somebody because of the way they look or act or dress... or anything."
Adam pulled away from me, but he just wanted to get more comfortable. He sat up on the bed with legs crossed, looking at me. I'm not sure that I read his eyes right, but the brightness was back. "It's easy, then? I just hafta listen and learn before I don't like somebody?"
"That's a good way to put it. You must get it all the time ... people wanna know ya because of how you look. Who wants to know the skinny kids, or the fat kids, or the poor kids, or the pimply kids? The queer kids, for that matter. What could they possibly have to offer?"
Adam looked thoughtful. "Friendship? Intelligence? Ideas? Maybe even love ... I get what you're sayin', Dave. Look at what Rafe and Brian have. Rafe's tall and handsome. Brian's shorter and - well, ah, good looking doesn't exactly fit here, does it? I see what you're saying. I look like my Mom, and she's really pretty. My father's ugly as sin, but they love the hell out of each other. They love me, too. They're my parents, but they're kinda my friends too."
I had to really choke my emotions back hearing that. "You have more than most of us, Adam."
"I do? Like what?"
"You have a family that loves you. Look at this bunch. We had to make up our own family."
"Dave?" Adam looked at me, intent written all over his face.
"I think I'm gonna talk to my parents. They're my favorite people, and I feel like I'm lying by not telling them the truth about me. I think they probably know anyhow, but I'm just gonna tell them. I know what I am. I just wish I knew what it's gonna be like."
"I wish I knew too, Adam. I really do. I guess if we just try to be good people we'll be just fine. I mean, look at Barry ... he's a pretty happy guy. Rafe gets along with everybody. I don't know why the rest of us can't."
"Rafe used to get his ass kicked all the time. I don't really know how to fight, and I don't wanna be fighting anyhow."
"Adam, Rafe told the whole school he was gay before he made any friends there, and it was a mistake. Look at him now ... he's doin' okay. I don't think anybody likes him because he's gay. They like him because he's smart and fun to be with, and because he's good to people. I don't think he's friends with the people who used to push him around, but I'm sure he's good to them. It's not like he's buyin' friends. People want to be his friend."
"I shouldn't tell people?"
"Jeez! What's the deal with tellin' people you're gay? Is it supposed to matter to anybody? Just go try to be a good person. Kenny told me once that good people are drawn to each other. He was exactly right. I used to be really rotten to Timmy, but look what happened when I started to be nice to him. We got to be friends, then best friends. Now we love each other. Don't go lookin' too hard, Adam. Just make friends and pay attention to them. You'll find your guy someday."
He looked a bit dejected, then brightened up. "I guess someday doesn't have to be way in the future. Tomorrow's someday isn't it? So's the day after. Thanks, Dave. I guess it all makes sense, I just don't wanna wait."
I looked at Adam with a question. "You feel better? Everybody's waitin' on us."
He was pensive. "I still gotta get over that stuff, but yeah, I feel better. Can I call you if I want to talk about things?"
"Hey, you can if you dare. I'm your guy if you want a long answer to a short question."
He laughed. "Thanks, Dave. You're a good friend." He held his hand out, and I shook it.
We were both smiling now. "Let's see what kinda trouble everybody's gettin' in out there. Timmy's probably tellin' them all our secrets."
When we got to the living room the only ones there were Rennie, Rafe, Artie and Brian. They were having a heavy sounding discussion and I had to interrupt them. "What's goin' on? Where's Timmy and Jerry?"
I had startled all of them. Rafe and Brian both gave questioning looks to Adam, but they saw that he was smiling. Rennie said, "They're in the kitchen playing cards with Lisa and Donna. If you have any sense, you'll go join them. We're trying to set Artie straight about a few things, but I don't think we've hit anything that you two haven't already talked about. He keeps saying 'That's what Dave said'."
I looked at Artie, and he gave me a sheepish look. "You okay, Artie? These guys beatin' up on ya?"
"I'm okay. You have some great friends. They don't like me because they care about you. Ah ... that's a good thing, isn't it?"
Rafe protested. "Artie, nobody said they didn't like you, just that we're pissed off about the things you do for a living. If we just didn't like you, we wouldn't even be bothering with this. We're tryin' to help you, man." He looked at Adam and me. "We were making progress here. Why don't you two go play cards?"
They all gave me 'get lost' smiles. I looked at Adam and said, "Gee, this used to be my living room. I guess I can take a hint. Let's go!"
We walked into the kitchen to hear everybody bidding their hands.
"Hi. Whatcha playin'?"
"Shhhh!" (times four)
I looked at Adam. "You feel like an outcast here? Want some ice cream?"
"I guess. You wanna go for a doughnut instead?"
I nodded and we left. We walked around the corner to Fair's and went inside. There were only a handful of people there, but two kids knew Adam and asked us to join them. We went to the counter and got doughnuts and coffee first, then sat down with them. Adam introduced me, and they both said we had been in classes together last year. I recognized their faces, but I'd never gotten to know them.
We talked for a little while, mostly about the upcoming school year. They said they were going bowling and asked us to join them. Adam really wanted to go, but I had a Tim at my house and didn't really want to miss spending time with him, even if the last thing he'd done was to shut me up. I begged off, and when we left the doughnut shop I walked home alone.
I sat on the front steps. I had a vague feeling of annoyance at first, though it wasn't directed at anyone or anything in particular. It was soon replaced with the calm that comes from being alone after having been surrounded by a lot of people for a long time. It wasn't loneliness ... just solitude.
I sat sideways on the top step, leaning against the railing post, and just let my thoughts wander. They didn't wander very far. For the first time in I don't know when I felt like I didn't have a single thing to worry about. Oh, yeah, I had Artie and school to deal with, but I didn't foresee any real problems with either. Artie would become a regular guy because that's what he wanted to be. He was upstairs getting a lesson in it at that very moment.
School might be hard, but that wasn't for another week yet. I just sat there, vaguely aware of traffic and the occasional passerby on foot. I fell asleep.
The next thing I knew I was being shaken awake by a concerned looking Tim. I yawned and saw that Rennie, Rafe, Jerry and Brian were behind him.
Tim said, "I'm sorry, Davy. I didn't mean to chase you away, I just got hung up in the game. Are you okay?"
I yawned again, toying with the idea of teasing him. I decided against it. "I'm fine, I just dozed off. What time is it?"
"Ten o'clock. I was just gonna take Dad and Jerry home. What happened to Adam? I thought you guys went somewhere."
I started to stand up and Tim helped me. "We went for a doughnut, then he met some guys and went bowling." I looked at Brian. "He said he'll call you tomorrow." I was tired. "You comin' back, Tim? If you are, I'll take a ride. If you're goin' home, I'm goin' to bed."
"You look beat. Go to bed. I'll come over in the morning' if ya want."
"Good idea. You got any plans?"
He gave me a wicked grin. "I'll think of something. Go get some sleep." He gave me a hug and a kiss. I said goodnight to everybody and walked upstairs. I said goodnight to Artie, who was already under the covers on the sofa, then went to my room and to bed. I thought about turning the alarm off, but decided that with school starting next week I should get adapted to the shift change.
I dreamed that night. Who knows why you forget most dreams the second you wake up, and others stay with you forever. It wasn't a nightmare or anything, just a dream about Timmy's hands. I don't think his face ever entered into it - it was just his hands. Those large, gentle hands with the long slender fingers. I was seeing him pick up things as only he could, as if every piece of junk he got interested in was something to cherish, certainly not something to manhandle. It was a little like one of those falling-falling-falling dreams, only in this one I was invisibly putting my hands below Tim's to catch whatever object the dream told me he'd surely drop. Of course, my dream efforts were wasted. As gentle as his touch was, Tim never dropped a thing.
When I woke up, I still had the dream in my head. I started to put Tim's face into the picture with his hands, the way he could look at a dirty old medicine bottle with the same look of wonder most people would get if they'd just discovered a new breed of super-cute puppies. Tim's look combined awe, admiration, interest and amusement, and the image of that in my mind gave me all the happy I'd need for the day.
I was the only one up, so I took a long lazy shower, then finished in the bathroom, got dressed, and went to the kitchen to make something to eat. Artie was there in his bathrobe fixing a pot of coffee. He made a smart remark about almost having to pee out the window, then ran for the bathroom. I started some sausages in the frying pan. Donna came in wanting to know who the cute blonde guy was last night. I told her about Adam, and that she'd be wasting her time. Jerry had already told her that he was going steady, and she got into a real funk. I reminded her that school was starting next week, and I'd look around for cute guys for her. My sisters went to a Catholic girl's high school where there was absolutely nothing for them to dream about.
Eventually everybody ended up in the kitchen and we had a nice quiet breakfast. Artie had decided that he needed a car and that he'd try to trade the Cadillac for something that nobody would know. Lisa offered to go with him to make sure he didn't get something too dorky like a Ford. My mother said she'd bring them to Artie's house, and they left just after breakfast.
Timmy came over right after they left. I asked him what we were going to do, and he gave me the absolute dopiest of dopey grins as he fished in his pocket and finally produced the key to Barry's house. I'm sure my grin went just as dopey as Tim's, and we hurried to his car.
We stopped at a store for soda and some pre-made sandwiches, then drove to Barry's house. I think we both had passion in mind, but getting there and finding ourselves alone in that beautiful home made us slow the tempo. We turned on some music, then sat and held each other for a long time. We talked a lot during the first hour. It was mostly about Artie at first, then about Jerry, then about ourselves.
We both felt a change in the way we thought about the future. We knew we'd stay together, and that had a lot to do with it, but for the first time together we had - not just hopes and dreams - we had a feeling of certainty that we could make it work. We both saw the same picture - a picture of privacy and intimacy that lay just over the horizon. There were a lot of good people in our lives and we both loved that fact. We also loved the idea that Barry had given us the means to just shut them all out once in a while and that, later in our lives, we'd be able to do it on our own.
When our hormones took hold, we made love in a way that was new to us. It was a love that was soft and gentle, slow and ecstatic. There was nothing left to prove, no need to try to be funny, though we were without trying. We made love, and we were joined in a bliss that neither of us had known before, that we hadn't known was possible. Timmy had my key and I had his. We could start each other's engines at will, and that day we realized we'd always be able to. We could become beach bums or millionaires or both. It couldn't possibly matter as long as just being together meant so much to both of us.
That's a trite way to put it. We weren't just being together, we were a together being - useless apart - something else together.
Insufferable together (when we felt like it).
In love together.
... to be continued
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