Alex - Chapter 17 

 

 

 

Dad poked his head in the door and asked if I was feeling better; said the photographer was getting anxious about getting the photos he wanted to take of the guys goofing it up before the wedding.

 

“I’m almost there, dad. Do you think we could get maybe five more minutes?”

 

Dad gave me a kind of exasperated look, but said he would tell her.

 

 

 

“Phil, those next couple of weeks, it was like I was on a roller coaster ride.

 

“Even though I went to the bathroom and relived that night with Eddie so often, my roommate, Assad, had asked me if I was sick, I had like zero desire to hook up with him again – or with any guy for that mater. Instead, I thought a lot about Beth Ann, and how much I wanted our friendship to grow deeper.

 

“In my mind, about the only real sticking point left for me, was whether or not I would be able to have a normal sex life with her if we were to eventually get married; and seeing how much of a pushover I had been for Phoenix and Eddie, I was kind of worried that if Beth Ann and I found out we weren’t compatible that way, it could push me into being unfaithful to her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Ben was booted from school, I was assigned a new roommate. Assad was a first year transfer student from King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He actually had a pretty good command of the English language, and although his thick accent sometimes made it difficult for me to understand his words, his insistence on trying to use American vernacular, often left me scratching my head.

 

When I woke up at three, Saturday afternoon, Assad, didn’t even ask me where I had spent the previous night, he just assumed that I had been with Beth Ann.

 

“So, Alex,” he slyly questioned, “you broke your nuts last night?”

 

“I did what?”

 

“You know, you and daht girl you always hung up with, you broke your nuts with her last night?” His hips swung forward slightly, so that I got his drift.

 

“Ah-h-h… You mean, did I ‘bust my nut’ last night with Beth Ann Caruthers?” Just because we ‘hang out’ with each other a lot, doesn’t mean were doin’ it.”

 

“Yeah, I guess daht’s what you Americans say, but daht’s improper English, isn’t it so?”

 

“What makes you think we were doin’ that last night?”

 

“Because when you came in da room, you smell like when my brother Hassam when he come back from da baths. My parents didn’t know he went to daht place, so I had to sneak him into the house when he came home. And d’eres is only one ting daht smells daht way, so daht’s how I think you busted your nuts last night.”

 

After being with Eddie for a day, and observing once more how he used words and half truths to manipulate people to believe what, ultimately, he wanted them to believe, I set out to follow his example, and steer our conversation away from the entire truth of what I had done last night.

 

“It’s nut, as in singular. You bust your nut,” I explained.

 

“Yes, but d’ere are two of dem, are there not? Why do Americans use d’er language improperly?”

 

“I don’t know. Did you ever bust your nut with someone, Assad?”

 

Assad’s dark skin grew even darker.

 

“Was it a girl?”

 

“No way. When my parents feel daht I’m ready for marriage, dey’ll arrange a wedding for me. It would be wrong for me to defile my body before marriage.”

 

I waited for Assad to talk, suspecting that he wanted to say more.

 

“It was my cousin, Hakeem. We attended a boarding school for our secondary education, and sometimes at night, we would sneak off together to practice with each ud’er, for when we were old enough to marry girls. It was very bad if we would be caught together like daht, so we only did it a couple of times. We don’t talk of it to each other any more.”

 

“Did you like doing it?”

 

“The only part that I liked was when my body shook, and forced the seeds out. It was wrong for us to experience such pleasure.”

 

“Well, I can tell you that I’ve never busted my nut with a girl either. I guess you could say that I’m waiting for marriage too.”

 

I hoped Bill Henderson would be as easy to sidetrack tomorrow.

 

 

 

Beth Ann and I had a date that night. Ignoring what had happened last night with Eddie, I began to wonder if she suspected something because of the way she kept asking annoying little questions all night, including whether or not I was seeing another girl. Most of her questions seemed harmless enough in and of themselves, but several times that night I felt like she had trapped me into a corner, and I had to make up a story to get myself out of it.

 

By the time we got to the entrance to her dorm hall later that night, she was in a real serious mood.

 

“Alex, I really like you a lot. Friends have to be completely honest with each other, right?”

 

A cold sweat instantly broke out across my brow. In theory, I totally agreed with her point of view – but there was no way I could be that honest with her if she asked me about last night. Irrational fear, I know, but I was sure that she somehow knew about me and Eddie, and had just been playing me all night. I began frantically trying to recall all that I had told her tonight, so I could come up with a believable excuse when she asked me.

 

Her, “I think you’re cute, Alex,” totally surprised me. Her, “I love you,” shortly after she said that, scared me. “Sorry for all the questions tonight, but sometimes you’re so secretive. I just wanted to try to find out where I stood with you.” She ran the back of her hand affectionately across my chest. “I think about you all the time, Alex… I dream about you being my Prince Charming – sweeping me off my feet some day, and whisking me away to be with you forever.”

 

Beth Ann looked at me strangely when an audible sigh escaped my mouth. So that’s what all the questions had been about. I felt a huge weight lift from my back, and without further thought, I looked straight into her soft brown eyes and knew I had to do something, so I leaned in to kiss her. It was awkward. At first we both turned our faces in the same direction, and so when our noses touched, we both compensated and turned our faces in the opposite direction, again bringing our noses together before our lips touched. Finally, she cupped my cheeks with her hands and turned my face opposite hers. It was just a brief kiss – a tender touch of our lips. Her lips felt strange, not having any stubble on them. As I left her there at the entrance to her dorm, and hurried off, I wondered if my own whiskers scratched her tender skin. “Later, Beth Ann,” I called over my shoulder as I headed to nowhere in particular so I could process what had just happened.

 

 

 

Last night’s affair with Eddie had been like every other one I had ever encountered. I made myself available, and then simply followed my partner’s lead. That’s the way I had always handled relationships – watch for what the other person wanted, and then try to please them by going with the flow. Of all the things Beth Ann had said tonight, the one thing that really scared me was that she dreamed of me being the one to pursue her. I had no idea how to do that, but was coming to grips with the fact that I was falling in love with her, and knew that if that’s what she expected, I had to try. I wondered around campus until three in the morning, trying to figure out how, and not coming up with an answer.

 

As I lie in bed trying to fall asleep, I began to wonder about the morality of me even pursuing a girl romantically. Sure, I knew that her tender kiss had done something inside of me, but truth be told, I had never even gotten hard when I was with her. Actually, I never even fantasized about her body as I was taking care of business in my private world. What would happen if and when things between us got physical? That thought made me think I should tell her that I had lied to her when I told her I wasn’t gay. Maybe I should just let things happen and see if God was as capable of performing miracles as Dottie Henderson seemed to think he was.

 

 

 

Despite being up most of the night, I woke up early on Sunday morning. It wasn’t my eagerness to go to church that kept me from falling back to sleep, but rather, it was my dread of having to face Bill Henderson’s simple question about how my week had gone. To anyone overhearing him ask on any given Sunday, the question was innocuous enough. But Bill and I both knew that what he was really asking me was if I had fallen into any illicit sexual behavior that week – including searching for online porn.

 

I had already decided I wouldn’t tell him about Eddie – that I would tell him that everything was good, but my conscience was just not gonna make things easy for me. Part of me actually did want to tell Bill everything so I could deal with it and he could help me move past it. But after having messed up the previous several weeks, I figured I had used up all the grace I had coming to me. Besides, having actually had sex with someone the past two weeks, I figured that I had messed up too badly to be forgiven this time. Plain and simple, I was miserable.

 

 

 

The end of the service church service came far too quickly. I felt some relief in that I hadn’t run into Bill to that point. In fact, I hadn’t even seen him, and wondered if he was sick. Afraid that I had just overlooked him, and that Dottie would point him out to me if I asked, I looked for Dalton instead.

 

“Hey, little bro. What’s up? Where’s your dad been hidin’ this morning?”

 

“He had to go out of town for the weekend. He said he’ll be back on Wednesday, or something. Hey, you want to go see the Ducks play hockey? Dad got two tickets, for Monday, and since he’s not going to be around, he said I could find someone else to take the ticket and go with me.”

 

“Cool. What time?”

 

 

 

Just like last night, when my conversation with Beth Ann had gone far better than expected, I was suddenly feeling like I could just ignore what had happened with Eddie on Friday, and move on with life. Wouldn’t it be nice if life would cooperate like that?

 

Monday, at the hockey game, it was Dalton who put hard questions to me in a way that I never expected. He started telling me about the boy from school who he had had his eye on all year, and had tried to forget about by dating girls.

 

“Dude, we’ve been hooking up for some serious making out sessions almost every day after school for the past two weeks,” he told me matter-of-factly.

 

“What?” I almost hollered at him. “I thought you made a commitment to that you weren’t going to do that. I mean you even have that thing where you tell your dad everything that you’re struggling with, like I do.”

 

“You don’t tell my dad everything, do you?” His words felt like an ice pick stabbing my chest.

 

Actually, up until last weekend, I had told Bill Henderson everything. It was amazing how similar Dalton’s and my situations were at the moment.

 

“I guess not, I finally admitted to him.”

 

“Well, here’s something that you’d better not tell him. Jeb was gonna come with me tonight. Only we weren’t gonna come here. We were going to find a place to get alone. He got grounded ‘cause he flunked a math test on Friday, so that’s why I asked you to come with me.”

 

I nearly choked on my soda, as with the next breath, he nonchalantly asked, “You ever go all the way with a guy?”
       “What? That’s kind of a personal question.”

 

“That’s what I figured. So it’s yes, then?”

 

“I didn’t say that.”

 

“Yeah, but you didn’t say no right away, so you did do it, right? That’s what me and Jeb were planning on doing tonight. Neither of us has ever done it before, and we’re kind of curious. I heard it hurts really bad the first time you do it. Does it?”

 

I was staring at Dalton, not knowing what to say. I think he misunderstood my silence, because he immediately tensed up, and for the first time in our conversation, got defensive.

 

“You’re not gonna tell my dad are you? You told me I’m like your brother Daryl, right? So when we tell each other our secrets, they’ll always be safe.”

 

“I guess so.” I felt trapped by the words that I had used to get Dalton to open up to me at camp more than a year ago. I couldn’t betray his trust, even though I felt like it would be in his best interest if his parents knew about what, at the vulnerable age of just barely fifteen, he was getting himself into.

 

“Alex?”

 

His nervous voice broke into my thoughts.

 

“Alex, I just like told you my biggest secret. It would only be fair for you to tell me yours. Not that I think you would tell my parents, but I’d kind of feel better if I knew something about you, to sort of be sure that neither of us tells the other one’s secret.”

 

“So you want us to be able to blackmail each other so we don’t let anything slip?”

 

“It’s not blackmail, it’s just like an insurance policy for both of us.”

 

I’m not exactly sure why I let him talk me into it, but I told him about my junior year of high school – how bad it had hurt when my first boyfriend had practically raped me, and how he had invited me to a party the next week and dumped me. Then I told him how I met Eddie, and filled him in with more details of our intimate lives than I should have.

 

“Oh my god Alex, that is so hot. I never talked to anyone who’s done it before. I can’t wait to tell Jeb.”

 

“Dalton, you promised,” I reminded him.

 

“I was talking about not telling my parents.”

 

No one hears about it,” I insisted.

 

Maybe it was my need to get what had happened last week off my chest. Or maybe I was just caught up in the moment, but next thing I knew, I was sharing my biggest and darkest secret with Dalton, as he sat beside me eating up every word.

 

“That’s not all, either. And this is just between the two of us,” I warned him, “No one ever hears about this – not your dad, not Jeb, and for sure, not Beth Ann.”

 

“Why would I tell Beth Ann? I mean she’s just cover for you, right? My parents actually think you’re gonna end up marrying her. I was kind of wondering about that too, but now I can see what you’re really doing. I’m not afraid of people knowing that I’m gay though, so I’m not gonna fake like I have a girlfriend just so people think I’m straight, like you are.”

 

Kids sure have a way of saying things that get straight to the point. Trouble is I had no idea how to tell him that I actually had more feelings for Beth Ann than I had ever had for any guy.

 

 

 

The next weekend, again dreading facing Bill Henderson at church, I decided to sleep in. I was feeling a little achy, like I was catching a cold or the flu, and reasoned that with finals coming up, I needed to get as much rest as I could.

 

I felt lousy all week – achy joints, head ache, sore throat, tender lymph nodes. By Friday night, I was feeling a bit better, so I decided to get out and see if some fresh air would help me to climb out of the doldrums.

 

“Hey, Beth Ann.”

 

“Alex, I haven’t seen you much this week. Are you feeling okay? You must have caught some nasty cold. Did you go to the infirmary?”

 

“Nah. What were they gonna tell me besides, get some rest, and drink plenty of liquids? Anyway, I’m feeling better, so I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie tonight?”

 

“Sure, what’s playing?”

 

“I don’t know. Why don’t you pick one, and surprise me.”

 

Beth Ann couldn’t make up her mind on what movie to take in, so we went to the mall theater and took in a two dollar matinee. They were all second run movies, but figured that if we didn’t like it, at least we weren’t out much money. I hadn’t seen her for at least a week, and was kind of surprised at how passionately we kissed when we met each other. I thought of my late brother Daryl’s description of his first real kiss with a girl. Actually, I was thinking specifically about what had happened inside the front of his swim trunks that caused him to have to jump back into the water as soon as she pulled her tongue out of his mouth. I never expected that to ever happen to me – I mean not with a girl anyway.

 

I bought two tickets, and we settled into two seats near the back of the theater.

 

Beth Ann was hugging my arm with her head lying on my shoulder when, ten minutes into the movie, the main characters were naked in bed. Beth Ann tensed slightly, but she didn’t let go of me.

 

I wished that I had looked over our movie choices, because by the end of the movie, I felt very uncomfortable with the amount of celluloid devoted to the bedroom scenes in this film. Three times the star had made love to the leading actress, and each time, it seemed like Beth Ann had held onto my arm more tightly.

 

By the time the movie had ended I was afraid to look at Beth Ann. Something had changed in the way she was caressing my hand. She seemed nervous about something, and I hoped my intuition was wrong.

 

Beth Ann suggested we make our way over to Malibu, grab some fast food on the way there, and watch the sunset from atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I saw her nervously glance at the front of my pants. I thought about my last conversation with Dalton Henderson, and about how wrong he had been, when he thought that I was just using Beth Ann as a cover.

 

 

 

We found our way to a high cliff overlooking the ocean, and tore open the bag of McChicken sandwiches and fries. Spreading the torn paper on the grass as a sort of tablecloth, we sat, silently eating, and watching the brilliant reds on the horizon, melt into deep purple. I put one end of my last fry between my lips, and leaned in to see if Beth Ann would remember the first scene of the move we had just watched. She giggled, and leaned in, taking the free end of the fry in her mouth, and nibbling her way to my waiting lips.

 

A cool breeze blew in off the ocean, and Beth Ann snuggled back against me. With my arms draped around her neck, and my chin resting on her shoulder, we sat, rapt in each other’s presence, watching a thunderstorm far out over the ocean, move its way northward.

 

I wanted to touch her breasts – to find out if they were soft or hard, but reasoned that it just wouldn’t be right for two Christians to give in to such behavior.

 

As if she was reading my mind, Beth Ann moved my right hand over her left breast and gave it a gentle squeeze. Moments later she moved my left hand to the other breast and snuggled back against me, even harder.

 

We locked lips again, and soon were lying beside each other.

 

Dottie Henderson had been right. God could pull off miracles of sorts. Our first time was there on the grass atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, while the surf roared hundreds of feet below us.

 

Afterword, we straightened our clothes without looking at each other, pretending that nothing had happened. When I walked her to her dorm that night, she informed me that her roommate was away, and pulled me through the dimly lit hallway to her room. Feeling a sense of shame for what we had already let happen, I kissed her goodnight, and slept on her TV chair.

 

The next day, Assad asked with a smile if I had busted my nuts last night.

 

“You da man,” he laughed as he watched my face turn crimson red.