Episode 4 - Brian
My family moved into our neighborhood just after I was born. I grew up with the same kids that I went to school with, seven other boys around my own age. I was actually a year older than most of my friends, though I wasn't any bigger. I started first grade and went for a few months, then I got sick with rheumatic fever. There were complications, so by the time I was well enough to go back to school there was no chance of my passing. I had to repeat first grade.
That's where our little group formed, and we were pretty happy kids. We all had stable families, which was the main reason we were happy. We liked enough of the same things that we stayed together through our late teens. When we were little, we played together in the park, went to each other's birthday parties, and made each other Valentine's Day cards.
As we got older, the two things that held us together most were bowling and basketball. We all had basketball hoops on the fronts of our garages, and it was really easy to get a game up. None of us were particularly good, but we had a huge amount of fun dreaming up new variations of the sport. We'd play with deflated balls, soccer balls, even little super balls. We'd play barefoot or on roller skates. The only thing that was certain was that we'd play almost every day.
Bowling came later, when they built a new bowling alley near the neighborhood. The first time we went, we just sat at the snack bar and watched other people. It was a brand new place, so they were doing all kinds of things to attract new customers. One of those was free lessons based on age groups, so we signed up. You had to pay to rent shoes and for the game, but it was only a dollar for both. Our eight made up our whole age group.
We went for the free lessons every Saturday morning, then we just kept on going. A few of the guys really loved it as a sport, but the rest of us liked going there for the fun we had. It became a regular thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and when we got older, it became part of our Friday night agenda.
Getting older presented one little problem for me. My friends started liking and talking about girls. I started liking my friends, though I never talked about it. I didn't have a word for it at first, but I knew I was different. When I started having sexual thoughts on a regular basis, they were always about the other boys. At that point the other guys were just looking and hoping, so it wasn't a real big deal. I could look as well as they could and, believe me, I could recognize a stacked girl as well as they could. It just did nothing for me. Well, almost nothing. I wasn't exactly a monk.
I made it through eighth grade just fine. My feelings were my secret, and they weren't strong enough to get me into any kind of trouble.
The trouble started in high school. There was a kid there, Rafe, who got picked on by everybody for being queer. I saw him on the first day of school when somebody pointed him out. He was big and, I thought, awesomely handsome.
I'd learned things about being queer, mostly from scuttlebutt. I knew it pretty well described me, so I buried my feelings even deeper. It wasn't too hard. The rest of the guys were seriously chasing girls. All I had to say was that I was too shy because of the way I looked, which explained everything to their satisfaction. I wore glasses and I was a little overweight. I tried to compensate with what I wore, but I knew nobody would be beating a path to my door based on my appearance. My mother was always trying to reassure me that some girls looked for the person inside. That's the line I used with my friends.
Our little group still stayed together for the most part after we started high school. We were all still friends, but we did less and less together with the whole group when our specific interests became more varied. It wasn't anything that threatened our friendship, it's just that we developed different tastes in things like movies. Nobody ever went with somebody from outside the group, but we stopped feeling compelled to do everything en-masse.
It was like that until Adam started acting weird. None of us knew what had come over him. He'd grown up with us and had always been game to do whatever we thought up. He thought up a lot of those things himself. He was solidly in the middle, then he just started declining.
He lost his easy smile, then even seemed to lose some of his grace. He got rude when we pressed him to do something, a quality I'd never seen in him before. He stopped doing everything with us. He wouldn't even come out to shoot hoops when we were playing in his own driveway. We all felt bad, thinking that we'd done something to him, or become something he didn't want to be a part of anymore.
The other guys pretty much let him go, even though they felt bad. I couldn't. Adam lived two doors away from me, so I was persistent at keeping something like a friendship going. We'd been too close for too long for me to let whatever was bugging him just make it end. I also have to admit that he was the best looking boy I'd ever met in real life. I can't really say that I ever lusted after him, but he was the subject of many jack-off fantasies.
The kid was beautiful. No. Gorgeous! Just perfect in every way that makes somebody perfect. He came out of a different mold than the rest of us, and they'd used different wax to make him. You could look at him from any angle and there just wasn't a thing to displease your eye.
Adam knew what he looked like, but he thought it was almost a liability. When he was still joking about things, he wished that, just once, he'd get a huge boil on his nose or something so he could walk through the halls without everybody looking at him.
I wanted to know what happened to him that made him change. I visited his house almost daily, then I'd sit with him at lunch a few times a week. I figured that he'd eventually tell me what was bugging him.
One day at lunch, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a voice asked, "This seat taken?"
I didn't even turn around. "Help yourself."
I looked at Adam, and he was staring at the guy beside me. I turned, and it was Rafe Anziano, the only openly queer kid in school. The only one in the town or the state, for all I knew. It was strange, though. At the beginning of the year he was like a real pariah, now he seemed popular. Most of the times you heard his name mentioned it was in a good light. He had one of the most popular tables in the cafeteria. I wondered about that.
"Did you get demoted or something?" I asked in surprise.
He looked at me with a smile. "What's that mean?"
"I thought you had your own table with all the hotshots."
"Hotshots? I guess. I got here late and I can't see makin' somebody else move so I can sit down." He looked at Adam and smiled. "Hi. I'm Rafe Anziano, but you probably already know that."
There was too much stuff on the table for them to try to shake hands. I could tell that Adam had been disarmed. His scowl almost turned into a smile. He held his hand up in a little wave. "Adam Danielson."
"Hi, Adam." He turned his look to me.
"I'm Brian." I was looking directly into his eyes, eyes that seemed to have no bottom - no end. If I'd had a train of thought earlier, it had left the station. I just stared until something inside of me made me look back at my food. I picked up a fork full of potatoes and aimed it at my mouth."
"You guys are freshmen?"
Adam answered, "Yeah."
"What do you like? I mean, what do you do?"
The conversation continued. I liked the guy, and I could see that Adam did too.
It seemed that with Rafe you were an instant friend of his. He sat with us occasionally after that. He'd sit alone with Adam when I was with our other friends. I actually had some pretty snide thoughts about that. It seemed like a pretty simple equation. Queer boy sees Adam Danielson, queer boy finds love at first sight.
I kept those thoughts for a long time. I'd see them sitting together and wonder what they were talking about. Adam told me Rafe was always asking questions about me. I started to sit with Rafe whenever I got the chance, then we did a few things together after school. The first time was when I'd stayed late for extra help in biology. It was the only subject that really gave me trouble. I didn't want to know what the insides of creatures looked like, much less hold them in my hands.
I was leaving the building when I heard, "Hey, Brian! Wait up!"
I turned to see Rafe hurrying towards me, a load of books in his arms. I smiled at him. "Hi, Rafe! You stayed after, too?"
He got to where I was standing. "Yeah. I was in the library gettin' books about the French Revolution. You need a ride?"
"You have a car?"
"My mother's. Just for today." He nodded towards the student parking lot. "Just over there."
We started walking. "So. You and Adam have been friends a long time, huh?"
"Yeah. A real long time, since like potty training."
He laughed. "I wish I had that. All my old friends dumped me when I told 'em I was gay."
This was new information. "You have a lot of friends now. They're all new?"
"Pretty much. I still talk to the other guys, but who needs 'em?"
"I don't know. You don't need 'em?"
We were approaching a steel-gray Nova, the most boring car ever put on the planet. Rafe said, "This is it. Yeah, I guess I don't need them. You know what it feels like to get dumped by everybody just because you say one thing?"
I took his books so he could unlock the car. "No, I don't. Then why'd you say it?"
He reached in and unlocked the back door, then opened it. "Toss 'em on the back seat. Why'd I say it? Crossed wires, I guess."
I walked around and got in on the passenger side. "Crossed wires?"
He started the car and turned towards the street. "Yeah. When I told my parents I was gay, Dad said I should be honest with everybody." His look hardened a little. "I took that to mean I should tell each and every one of my so-called friends about myself. Dad only meant for me not to deny myself, but I did a lot of damage." He looked over at me briefly. "You gotta get home, or can you take a ride?"
"I'll go for a ride."
Rafe headed out of town on a busy road. He eventually turned off onto another road that led down a hill. At the bottom, the road became a low bridge crossing the middle of a lake surrounded by pine trees. As soon as we crossed the bridge, he pulled over into a little gravel area and we got out of the car. He led me to a grassy area where we were facing away from the road and looking out across the water. I thought it was really pretty.
"What is this place?"
I think I startled Rafe a little. "Huh? Oh, it's just where I come to think." He sat down and put his knees up, then put his elbows on his knees and knotted his fingers together so he'd have a place to rest his chin. He was looking out over the lake. "I love it here, Brian." He looked over at me. "Do you think about things sometimes?"
I thought it was a dumb question. I pretty much emulated the position he was in, then said, "How can you not think about things? I think about stuff all the time. When I don't wanna think about things, I'm still thinking about not thinking."
He laughed a little. "Try it, Adam. Maybe you're thinkin', but just look at the water ... the trees. Try to make it everything that matters."
"I'm tryin'." I was. "What about the car noises?"
"It's part of the picture. See ... hear ... feel."
I was trying. It was a beautiful spot, but I couldn't stop thinking for the life of me. I looked over at Rafe and he seemed like he'd been transported to somewhere else. He still had his chin on his fingers, and he was looking across the water at the pine trees on the other side.
"You're thinkin' things, aren't ya Rafe?"
Even looking at him from the side I could see a little smile form. "I'm thinkin' you should shut yer yap and try harder. It's important. You need to learn how to just empty your head sometimes."
I tried. Eventually I did it. I found myself there, just a little being on this planet, staring across water at trees. It was the first truly serene moment of my life. I started to think about that and it ruined it. I looked over at Rafe, but he was gone. I turned around to see him walking out of the woods.
"Where'd you go?"
"Piss. Did you feel it?" He laughed. "Not my piss. The feeling I get out here."
"A little, I guess."
"A little? You were goofed out for twenty minutes."
I was surprised. "Really?"
"Really. You're just like me, Brian."
"A real nature boy. Isn't it great? I mean, don't you think so? When I need to think I come here, but I come here when I don't wanna think, too." He grinned at me. "Kind of a dual-purpose place."
I laughed. "Gettin' your money's worth, huh?
He laughed. "Yeah. I like you, Brian. Adam, too. I wish I knew you guys before." He looked at his watch. "I gotta get the car back. You ready?"
Rafe could look at me like nobody else. It was like whatever words came out of my mouth, he'd know what I meant to say. Another thing was that he never put you into a position where a truthful answer was difficult, never ask you something you weren't willing to answer. I think he sensed when you were becoming uncomfortable. He'd shift by degree until you got back in your own comfort zone, then keep on trying to know you.
I wished I knew how to do that. If I did I could figure out what had been bugging Adam. It suddenly dawned on me. Rafe had said he liked me, and I felt liked by him. Nobody had ever said it before. I wasn't dumb. I knew my friends and knew they liked me, but this had come out in words. They were words straight from the mouth of the most desirable guy on the planet, at least in my estimation.
I was having too many thoughts. I smiled at him. "Ready when you are."
We started hanging around together a lot after that day. That had its ups and downs. Rafe was a popular guy, but mostly with kids older than me. We'd go places where I just didn't fit in and I'd feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we'd just leave, other times Rafe would drop me off and go back. I knew that he was sensitive to my feelings, but I never knew exactly where I stood with him as a friend.
We went to the lake several times, and our experiences there were similar to the first time. We could both just blank out and have no thoughts, then go home feeling good about it. When he was hanging out with his jock friends, I just felt too out of place.
I liked it best when we just talked about things. He told me about his friends and I told him about mine, about the things we did together that made us be friends. I was falling in love with him, slowly maybe, but falling in love just the same. The guy could just mesmerize me with his deep thoughts about things, humor me with his wacky side, hypnotize me with his handsome gaze.
I had a feeling ... more like a prayer .. that Rafe felt something back for me. I was afraid to tell him about my love, and he could get so oblique sometimes that I just held it out as a slender thread of hope.
Not everything was confusing. I had started driving school and my Dad had promised me a car as soon as I got my license. It wouldn't be anything new, but I could pick out what I wanted in his price range. Adam was being a little more responsive, though hardly his old self. I was still friends with the other guys, still played basketball and went bowling.
My life was pretty full and mostly happy, but now I had a longing. Every time I thought about Rafe it made me think more. I was pretty sure I was falling in love, but I wasn't at all sure what that meant. I felt an increasing need ... no, a craving ... to be near him all the time. I started to feel disconnected when he wasn't around.
I met some of his other friends. They hung out at a house on the edge of town. It was fun there, always something happening. It was a woodsy place, and Rafe showed me all around. The guy that owned it had dirt bikes and dune buggies, and Rafe showed me how to have fun with them.
There was also an old quarry pond out there and, after getting over my initial fear of it, I started to jump in off the cliff with the rest of the guys. It was scary fun, and nobody teased anybody else about their technique. It was plenty enough just to get up the nerve to jump over the edge.
By this time I was pretty sure I was in love with Rafe, but I never knew for sure if it was returned. He was sharing his life and his friends with me, and when we were alone he'd stay close. He'd lean against me, put his hand on my shoulder.
When somebody else was around there was little of that. If we got close it would be because we bumped accidentally, then we'd excuse ourselves. I always thought Rafe was stopping just short of calling me 'little Buddy' or something like that. I'd start to think I was getting feelings back from him, then that feeling would be gone.
I wanted to tell Rafe how I felt, but I was afraid to. I was afraid that I was making myself believe there was something there when there wasn't. It was killing me.
Rafe asked me if I wanted to go to Vermont with him one weekend to visit a friend of his. I thought that spending a weekend alone with him might give me the nerve to tell him how I felt. I was a nervous wreck about it, though. So nervous that I spent the afternoon before with Adam. I told Adam that I was gay and in love with Rafe. He was the only person who knew besides me, and I was fearful about what his reaction would be. It certainly surprised him, but he took the news pretty well. He gave me a little confidence, anyhow.
The kid we were going to visit was named Dave Devino. Rafe said Dave had helped him a lot the year before, then just disappeared. He got hooked on drugs, then vanished. He'd just turned back up a few weeks earlier and was in Vermont trying to recuperate. When we got there he was zonked out in bed. There were a couple of other guys there who I knew, and they were just getting ready to take a ride into the mountains. Rafe told me to go with them, that he'd just wait at the farm.
I went with them, feeling terrible that Rafe had driven me all this way just to get rid of me as soon as we got there. At that moment I was certain that I'd dreamed up any feelings that I thought he had for me. I suffered through the whole drive, then when we got back Rafe was helping Dave write a letter and they asked us to leave them alone. I just sat there in silence, staring at Rafe. I took time to study Dave for a few minutes. That he was messed up was obvious. He was nice looking in an Italian sort of way, but he didn't seem to have any strength. Everything he did seemed to be almost in slow motion and he acted fairly confused. I sure wasn't seeing the kid that Rafe had described.
When they finished the letter we went outside and sat at a picnic table. Rafe and I were on one side, but sitting at opposite ends of the bench. Dave and Jerry sat side by side across from us, then Dave started teasing Rafe about me. He was good, too, displaying the charm and humor that Rafe said he was famous for. I started liking him.
We all took a walk down by a brook, then Dave told me to tell Rafe what was on my mind. That's the other thing Rafe had said about Dave ... that he could read people. As soon as he'd said that, the other three guys disappeared. I was alone with Rafe.
We were quiet for a minute, then I decided it was now or never.
He turned and smiled at me.
"I ... uh, I have feelings for you. Strong ones." This wasn't coming out too well. "Shit, Rafe. I love you."
I was watching his face. His smile seemed to fade and his eyebrows went up a little. I was sure I'd just blown it, then he took my hand.
"Brian ... you love me?. I can't believe you said that." His voice was low with surprise. "I love you, too. I love you so much ... I was just afraid to say it. I wasn't sure how you felt."
I was shocked out of any more words. I just stared at him, looked into those brown eyes. I couldn't move my mouth, but my head was spinning with thoughts. One thought, really, but it came out in a lot of different ways. Rafe loved me. Rafe loved me. Rafe loved me. Rafe loved me! I finally despaired of getting any words out. I leaned forward and hugged him. We'd both been facing forward and it wasn't even comfortable, but I'd never felt happier or more contented ... hopeful ... in all my life. I could feel his strength, his warmth, the stubble on his cheek scratching against mine.
Neither of us said a word, we just gradually reclined into a more comfortable position, laying on our sides facing each other. Rafe grinned at me, then rubbed the tips of our noses together. "How long, Brian? How long have you felt like this?"
"I don't know. It seems like forever." I giggled. "I can't believe you feel the same way."
"I know what you mean about forever. I can't believe we were both too chicken to say somethin'."
Rafe was digging in his pocket. "Give me something, Brian." He fished out a little pocket knife and held it out to me. "It doesn't matter what it is, just something of yours I can keep. Take my knife. I've had it since I was ten."
I took the knife and looked at it, wondering what I had that I could give to Rafe. I knew it would just be a symbol, but I was touched by the gesture. I undid the bandana from around my neck and wrapped it around Rafe's, tying it in a loose knot. He was beaming as I did it.
"I feel like I should be saying something," I said as I finished tying the knot.
He leaned forward until the tips of our noses touched again. "You just did, Brian. You just said it all."
We both laughed quietly and shyly, resuming our hug.
Rafe grinned. "Wanna kiss me?"
"Um, you better kiss me. I don't know how."
"Neither do I, but we'll figure it out." He leaned into me until our lips met. Surprisingly enough, we did figure it out. It didn't even take very long, and we didn't stop until we heard somebody hollering out our names, calling us to dinner. We ignored it for as long as we could, then finally stood up to go and eat. We held hands until we got out near the road, then via some unspoken agreement, we let them fall apart as we approached the people.
Everybody kind of watched us cross the street. When we got right up to them Dave stared at us for a moment, then grinned. He clapped his hands together once and said, "Well! That's settled, then. Let's eat!"
We had a great time that night. I thought we were emitting radiation or something because everybody figured it out, even though Rafe and I weren't doing anything but eating some fantastic ribs. We were being teased, albeit gently. We got called lovebirds and sweethearts, even sweeties. It didn't matter that I blushed for a straight four hours, which actually started to hurt after a while. No, it didn't matter to me at all that they knew. It only mattered that Rafe and I knew.
We spent the night there, sleeping on the sofa-bed in the living room. We both watched each other getting undressed. I'd seen Rafe in his bathing suit before and knew he had a fantastic, muscular body. I sure didn't, and I wondered what he ever saw in me. We were whispering as we got undressed.
"How'd they know, Rafe? I mean, everybody figured it out right away."
He was sliding his jeans down and I was staring at the bulge in his skivvies, something I'd always done covertly before.
"Maybe it was the red glow coming off those cheeks of yours."
The red glow started right back up. "I was that obvious?"
He smiled. "It wasn't your blushing, Brian."
He was standing there in nothing but his underpants, looking like he was waiting for me to notice something obvious.
"Look up, Brian!"
I admit, I had been looking at the most attention-grabbing thing in the room. I looked up at the ceiling, wondering what I'd see there.
Rafe giggled. "Not that high, fuckstick. Look at my neck."
I lowered my gaze only to find myself looking at my bandanna still tied around Rafe's neck. I got really embarrassed, but it was only about my own lack of attentive powers. I looked up a little to see Rafe grinning at me, only this time it looked a little evil. I decided that evil begets evil.
"So, Rafe. I have one little question."
"Well, if I'm gonna be your fuckstick I need to know exactly what my duties are gonna be."
I don't know how he did it, but Rafe managed to sputter and keep it down to a whisper at the same time. "Shhh! We'll talk about that stuff tomorrow. You ready for bed?"
I grinned. "You don't know how ready."
"We can't do anything here."
"It makes noise, 'least I know I'd make noise."
"You've done it before?"
I was sorely disappointed. We climbed into bed and fell into a hug. It was an impossible situation. Absolutely impossible, for me anyhow. We were nearly naked and together for the first time. My dick felt like it was made out of concrete, except it was harder than that. We kissed, and I let my hand drift onto Rafe's rod. He jumped a little, then started moaning a lot. I removed my hand and whispered in his ear. "Rafe?"
"Let's go outside, maybe in the barn."
He kissed me. "That's why I love you. You're so smart." He reached his hand down and felt my dick. I also jumped at his touch, but he grinned at me. "I knew it! Beeg str-r-r-r-ong man!"
We climbed out of bed and grabbed an afghan that was on the back of the sofa. We tiptoed to the door, then opened it slowly and crept out onto the porch, closing the door quietly behind us. Then we bolted towards a far corner of the yard. It took about two seconds to spread out the afghan and fall onto it.
We went after each other like wild dogs for a minute, consumed with passion. When we broke for a second to get our underpants off, something clicked in my head. "Rafe. It shouldn't be this crazy. It's our first time."
He looked over at me. "You're right." He grinned. "No you're not. You're full of shit! The next time's when we take it slow."
I was smiling. "When's that gonna be?"
"How long you think you'll last?
"Right now? Maybe twenty seconds, if I'm lucky."
"Me, too. Okay, next time starts in thirty."
It sounded pretty reasonable. Take care of immediate needs, maybe even learn something, then think things over, then do it again. I mean, was that reasonable or what? Rafe was such a reasonable guy.
We literally devoured each other after that, tasting our respective offerings for the first time, gagging and learning. I was lost in an ecstacy that I hadn't imagined in my wildest fantasies. There was zero experience between the two of us, but love made up for that. Every time either of us gagged and caught the other with a tooth it didn't matter. It didn't matter because we weren't there. We were both far, far away from any place we'd ever been before. In a different world, a different galaxy, maybe even a different universe.
That's the theory, isn't it? The universe started with a big bang? Well, there was a big bang that night. Two of them actually, but when I exploded it was into billions and billions of stars, a universe of my own with only Raphael Anziano to share it.
When all those stars started to coalesce back into the little puddle of life that was me, I started to wonder how anything could be so powerful. The places I'd just been didn't seem possible, yet I'd been there. Rafe had, too. I could feel it, taste it. As my muscles and blood vessels and all the rest of my cells settled into their former positions, I started to wonder about love.
I'd seen it all my life in the form of my parents, now I knew what kept them together for all that time. When I'd learned the facts of life I'd been fascinated, but a little repulsed when I thought of my actual parents doing that. Now I was mentally cheering them on, hoping they'd still be at it when they were ninety. If they could even have a remote chance of doing for each other what Rafe and I had just done ... well, they must. I don't know if the big thing led to all the little things they did to keep each other happy, or if it was the other way around. It didn't matter. I wanted to do anything I possibly could to keep Rafe happy. The first one was to gather up enough consciousness to sit up and turn around, then snuggle up to him.
I looked into his eyes. "Wow!"
He looked dreamy. "Double wow!"
"Enough math." He kissed me gently, then pulled back and looked at me. "Did you think it'd be like that? I ... I'm something new now. I just never imagined."
We just held each other for a while, basking in the afterglow of what we'd done ... what we'd become together. I didn't have a good word for it, but I knew we were together. Forever, I hoped.
We'd talked about a round two, but we were both exhausted. We didn't want to fall asleep out there and get found out, so we located our underwear, shook out the afghan, then snuck back into the house and into bed. We kissed and giggled, giggled and kissed, until we both fell asleep.
The next morning we got some teasing about what we'd done together on the sofa, but we could honestly tell everybody that it wasn't what they thought. We told them they had filthy minds, but just overnight I'd managed to develop a filthy mind of my own. Not just filthy. It was degenerate, lustful, wanton. I loved it!
We took turns in the shower, then had a huge breakfast. Rafe and I walked back down to the brook with Dave before we left, thanking him for giving me the courage to break the ice with Rafe. I looked at Dave and wondered about him. He looked like a physical wreck, but he'd read me like a book the day before, pushed me to do what I wanted to do, be who I wanted to be. I wanted to hug him, but I was afraid he'd break. He alternated between being spaced out and joking easily. I decided that I liked him, whatever his past was.
On the ride home I talked to Rafe about being gay. I knew I was, but I wasn't ready for the world to know it, especially my parents. I guess that I was a little afraid. I'm not sure why, maybe just because it had been a secret so long that I just wanted to keep it that way. Maybe I was afraid of being hated, but having Rafe by my side made that less likely. Rafe agreed that there wasn't any reason to tell the world right away, maybe never.
I was a little worried about Jerry knowing. Rafe wasn't, but said he'd talk to him.
He thought that Jerry was pretty serious, and if it hadn't bothered him the night before, then it probably never would. He went to a different school anyhow.
I loved Rafe. Part of me wanted everybody to realize that, another part wanted to hide it. I didn't know if I could really hide it if I tried. The world knew that Rafe was gay. If I was suddenly being seen with him all the time I thought it would apply to me by extension. Rafe made sense when he said that most of his other friends were straight. If I didn't suddenly find a limp wrist and develop a lisp nobody would think anything about us being friends.
I looked over at Rafe. "Why do you like me? I mean, why me? I don't get it. You're so great ... so good looking. I'm just a tubby little kid compared to you.
I watched him. He stared at the road for a while, then I saw a grin form. He was looking at the road. "You ain't so little."
"Come on, Rafe. You know what I mean. Why would you like somebody that looks like me?"
"Let me ask you a question. You've been friends with Adam forever. Why me and not him? I know what I look like, but nobody looks like Adam. I mean, straight guys are queer for him."
I thought about that for a second. Rafe was right in a funny kind of way. Everybody did look at Adam, but he was pretty modest about it. Adam knew how he looked, but actually seemed to be regretful sometimes. He thought his looks were the only thing people cared about.
I myself had lusted after Adam in my dreams, but I also knew him as a person. He was a great kid, but nothing about his personality really tripped my wires. We'd been friends since I could remember, and he'd always been a good one ... until recently, when he started trying to hide away. I was still trying to figure that one out, but it wasn't what Rafe had asked.
I looked over at him. "I love you, Rafe. If you turned into a worm right before my eyes I'd still love you, as long as it was still you inside."
Rafe held his smile. We were in some traffic, so he couldn't really look at me. Staring ahead, he said, "Brian, looks are one thing. I love you because you're me, at least the way I want me to be. You're so smart ... so funny ... so helpful ..."
I was staring at him. Leave out the good looking part and that's exactly what I loved about Rafe. He'd said I was helpful and I'd substitute caring for Rafe, but it was that ... and the smart and funny ... that really got me hooked. Rafe could be a character when he wanted to, but it was his serious side that drew everybody to him, even if that serious part could be uproariously funny.
We drove in silence for a while. It occurred to me that I hadn't mentioned Dave.
"I like Dave. He's just what you said he'd be."
Rafe smiled for a second. "I knew you would." His smile turned to a frown. "I hope he makes it."
I was shocked. "You mean he might not? What's wrong with him?"
Rafe took a quick glance at me, then turned his eyes back on the road. "I don't know, Brian." His voice got smaller. "I wish I did. I really do."
"He's gonna be alright, isn't he? I mean, he looked like shit, but his head seemed okay."
It took Rafe a minute to process that and answer. He started to answer so quietly that I had to make him repeat it.
"I said he looks like shit because his head's not okay. There's somethin' wrong, Brian, and I don't know what it is."
I could tell Rafe was concerned. I reached over and covered his hand with my own, wondering what could turn somebody my own age, somebody good looking and seemingly smart, into the Dave that I'd met. He was still good looking and smart, but somebody had to carry him on his shoulders to show us where the brook was.
Still, he'd been the guy that gave me that fateful shove, and I felt that I owed him, at least enough not to wonder about him too much, to let him work out his own problems without sticking my ignorant nose into things.
We passed an accident off on the right side, then things sped up. When we got back to town, Rafe headed directly to the quarry. We walked out to a fort in the woods, then repeated the deed from the night before, frantically again the first time, but slowly after that. I can't say it was more satisfying. I mean, could it ever be? We were in daylight, though, and took the time to explore each other. It was at least more gratifying.
Satisfied, gratified, I didn't really give a shit. I'd been both and I was in love! Big time in love. Raphael loved me and I loved him. I loved his name both ways. I was sure that, if the need ever arose to find out, I'd love his ear wax. When he dropped me off at home, I was too high to go inside. Instead, I floated over to Adam's house and told him.
Told is a weak word here. I gushed, propounded even. In one weekend a lot of people had figured out about me and Rafe, but Adam was the only soul I'd actually told about myself. I wouldn't feel complete until I told him that I'd really found love, but I was telling him so quickly that he just looked confused.
* * * * * * * * * *
After that, Rafe and I spent all our free time together, but anybody watching us would be hard pressed to tell that we were anything but friends. We never touched in public. We practically ignored each other in public. That came from me. I had developed a regular fetish about protecting our secret. Some people that hung around the quarry knew about us, but we felt safe with them. We still never put on any displays of affection, even there.
I got my license and my car. It was an oldie, a red 1967 Cougar, but I loved it. I was sure they had me in mind when they designed and built it. I was the happiest and proudest kid in town having that car, and my father was the happiest and proudest father for being able to provide it.
We started to bring Adam along with us when we went to visit the guys at the quarry. When I was alone with Adam, I kept pressing him to tell me what was bothering him. It took most of the summer, but one day he just up and told me that he was gay. That surprised me, but telling me didn't seem to make him any happier. I tried to talk to him about it, but he never wanted to.
It was near the end of summer when Dave was judged well enough to come home from Vermont. There was an unplanned welcome home party for him, and when he got there he was with Tim Atkins. I'd only met Tim once before, but I was more than surprised that Tim and Dave were a couple. They weren't afraid if people knew it, either.
I'd gone back to see Dave in Vermont a few times, and he looked better each time I went. Seeing him in his own element was a different matter. He was relaxed and happy, glowing even. The unsure, almost haunted look he had when I first met him was a thing of the past. He disappeared with Adam to play guitar for a little while, and when Adam came back outside he was just like his old self. It was just like the first time I met Dave. A few hours with him and I got up the guts to tell Rafe I loved him. He hadn't spent more than a half hour with Adam and he'd already brought him down to earth.
When we were eating later on, Adam was babbling like he had never shut up in the first place. I watched Dave, wondering what special powers he possessed. After awhile, Tim and Dave were getting a champagne toast with a few other people. They ended up kissing in front of everybody. To my astonishment, the response was loud cheering. I wasn't even standing next to Rafe.
The next few weeks were pretty amazing. Dave made friends pretty easily, and before long I felt like I had an entire new circle of friends. Good friends ... the kind you never wanted to let go of.
On Labor Day weekend, there was a big picnic at the quarry. It was a great day all around, with good food and lots of things to do and people to meet. When things started to wind down, Adam played guitar while another kid, Eddie, sang. The first song they chose was 'You've Got to Hide Your Love Away' by the Beatles. Eddie had a good voice, and I was listening to the tune more than the words. I looked at Rafe and he was crying. I started listening to the refrain and understood why. I was making Rafe mimic the words of the song in real life.
A while later he told me he was sick of hiding. I was, too. I leaned over and kissed his cheek, but in a minute we were sharing a love kiss right in front of everybody. They were cheering for us. We continued our kiss without embarrassment.
That was a defining moment for me, for Rafe, for our relationship. We had avoided going all the way for a lot of reasons, but we made up for it the following day. We borrowed a friend's house and discovered a whole new realm of possibilities and ecstasies. My fears disappeared when I made my commitment to Rafe. Loving him had been a wonderful thing, but being committed to that love made anything and everything seem possible.
Adam had already told our friends about him, so I did the same the day before school started.
They were surprised in various ways, one even saying there must be something in the water on the street where Adam and I lived. I laughed at that, then wondered if it might be true. They'd always been good friends, though. I'd be viewed somewhat differently, but I'd still have my same friends.
I had two more things to do. I met Rafe and we decided how we were going to handle things at school. We weren't going to hide anything if anybody asked or guessed, but we figured public displays of affection were pretty rude in the first place, pretty gross in the second.
We'd seen enough guys trying to prove something by french kissing and dry-humping their girlfriends in the hallways to know that it wasn't appropriate behavior. Kissing in front of a group of friends was one thing, but we didn't get passionate even when we did that. There were too many people in school, people with different backgrounds and sensibilities. We had nothing to prove to begin with, and could find enough privacy away from campus. We didn't have a problem if people knew we were gay and a couple, but the rest of it we'd leave to their imaginations ... if they decided to give it any thought to begin with.
The last thing I had to do was tell my parents. I wasn't afraid that they wouldn't love me anymore, just afraid that they'd be so naive they'd think they could cure me with medication or something. Rafe had told his parents while they were eating and they had almost choked to death. I told my parents that I wanted to talk to them after we ate, but before we left the table.
My father always said we were kitchen sitters, meaning we spent most of our at-home time in the kitchen. It was true, so I thought it would be best to tell them where we were the most comfortable.
I helped clear the table, then we sat down. My father looked at me. "What's up, Brian?"
I was a little nervous. Not shaking, but if my palms were any wetter they'd have been dripping. I looked back at my father's expectant look, then at my mother. "Um, do you guys know about homosexuality?"
The change in my mother's expression was priceless. Nothing changed except her eyes themselves. Her smile didn't fade, her eyebrows didn't budge, but the overall look had gone from one of mild interest to laser-eyed intensity. Her lips started to move. "Why are you asking about that? Has someone been bothering you?"
My father was leaning forward. I was sure that he was thinking what my mother was ... that I was being molested or something.
"Nobody's bothering me, Ma. Why'd you ask that?"
"Isn't that what those homosexuals do ... bother little boys?"
"I'm not little anymore, Ma. And that is not what homosexuals do."
My father looked suspicious. "Well, suppose you tell us what they do, then tell us how you know."
I was trying to breathe deeply and slowly. "Homosexual men love other men. Men! Not bother little boys. Those are perverts that you're thinking of."
My mother looked astonished. "Aren't they the same thing?"
My father looked a little exasperated when he faced my mother. "It's not the same thing at all, hon. Brian's right. The people who molest children are called pedophiles. They may be homosexuals in some cases, but it's not any more likely than it is with anybody else." He looked back at me. "Why the interest, Brian?"
I sensed something, sensed that he knew or suspected something. I threw a question back at him. "How do you know all this?"
"I read a lot. You know that."
"I know you like to read. Why that choice of material?"
"Brian, you have something to tell us. Just say it, then we can talk about things."
I was stunned. "You know?"
His look was grim, but not angry. "I'm not a detective, Brian. I can think things, but I don't know if I'm right until I have some facts. Your brainy little head holds the facts that I need right now." His look softened, almost into a smile. "Go ahead, Brian. Nobody's going to bite you."
Damn! I guess intelligence is inherited. I looked up at the ceiling. "I'm gay."
I didn't hear anything, so I looked back down for their reaction. My father was looking at me, studying me. "You're in love, too." He stated it as a quiet fact.
"Let me guess. Somebody with your smarts wouldn't get swept off his feet by just anybody, it would have to be someone special. Maybe a nice tall Italian boy who seems just as smart?"
I just stared at him.
"Maybe somebody with an interesting name. Raphael is an interesting name, no?"
I was stunned.
"Lighten up, Brian. I may be an old man, but I'm not too old to recognize when a young man is in love."
"I saw the signs of love, but for the life of me I couldn't detect a girl. The only new person I've seen around here is Rafe. If I was sure I was right I would have talked to you before, but I couldn't be sure. That's when I started reading."
He smiled. "Don't worry, Brian. You can learn a lot from books ... well, you already know that. What I learned is that nothing has changed. You're the same Brian who's always been cluttering up our house. You're the same Brian that your mother and I have loved since you screamed your way into our lives, the same Brian that we'll always love."
I finally turned my look to my mother. She had tears in her eyes, but I thought they were from listening to what my father had just said. I had tears in my own eyes. I looked back at my father.
"You don't mind?"
"I have my concerns, but they're for you. We need to talk about the way the world is and about you staying safe. Right now I want you to know that we've both always been proud of you, and I know we'll be prouder still of the awesome man you're growing up to be."
I was grinning through my tears. "I love you both so much. I thought sure you'd have me gettin' a needle or somethin' to cure me."
My father started to stand up. "Nope. No needles ... no cures, just two things."
He was right in front of me. He grabbed my hands and pulled me up.
"First I want a big fat hug, then you go and wash them dishes."