School resumed the Wednesday after New Year’s Day. Of course, both Cole and I were reluctant to go back to school, but we knew it was inevitable. As usual, Cole and I rode the bus together. Cole had turned 16 in the fall and now had his driver’s license, but there was no car available for him to drive to school. My birthday of course was later, but this semester I would be taking drivers ed at school.
The morning passed routinely, although I could see that several of my classmates, like me, had not yet adjusted to rising earlier than we had during vacation. At lunch, there were the usual people at our table: Cole, Bruce, Paul, Amanda, and me. It had become clear to Bruce, Paul, and me that Amanda had her sights on Cole, but Cole appeared completely oblivious to the fact. Amanda had grown to be a very attractive girl, and I thought that if I was truly straight, I would be attracted to her. The fact that I wasn’t was just one more indication to me that perhaps I wasn’t straight.
Soon after we sat down and began talking, I looked up and saw Alexander the Great looking around the room from the end of the cafeteria line. “Oh my God, who in heaven’s name is that?” Of course, it wasn’t Alexander the Great. The boy wasn’t dressed as an ancient Macedonian, but he had golden, long, curly hair hanging down to his shoulders.
Cole turned in his chair and looked behind him. Then he waved and called out, “Over here, TJ.”
The boy heard Cole and began to walk towards us. He was wearing a bright orange, embroidered, collared shirt, an open, purple, sequined vest, purple, elaborately stitched trousers, and purple suede shoes. He walked up to the table with a swing to his hips, put down his tray next to me, and said, “Hi, I’m TJ. And who might y’all be?”
Somehow by his voice, his walk, and his clothes I knew he was gay, and not just gay but very much out there and not reluctant to say so.
Reaching over, I shook his hand saying, “I’m Tyler.” Then pointing to each of the others, I said, “That’s Paul, that’s Bruce, and on my left is Amanda. I gather you’ve already met Cole.” TJ reached over to shake hands with each of the kids.
I must admit my heart was beating very fast and loud. I imagined that everybody at the table could hear it, but if they could, they showed no sign. Trying to remain calm, I asked TJ, “So where are you from?”
Speaking with a mildly southern accent, he replied, “I live in a little town in Florida called St. Teresa. My father’s a Professor of Maritime Studies at Florida State University. We’re up here so my dad can assist the University to create a maritime studies course here.”
He told us that he was in our grade, that he had driven up from Florida with his father, and that they were living in University housing. When I asked him if his mother was with them, he said, “No, she left us when I was five, just about the time she figured out what I really was. In fact, I guess it was just about the time I figured it out too. Dad says that she couldn’t cope with it. They’re now divorced, and Dad says he doesn’t regret that at all. And neither do I. If she didn’t want me, I’m just as glad she’s out of my life.”
There was dead silence at the table. Everybody looked down at their food, ate as quickly as they could, and rose to leave. I was the last except TJ to finish eating. When I began to rise, he put a hand on my arm and asked, “Did I say something wrong? I didn’t mean to offend anybody. Do people up here not accept gays?”
“I don’t think you offended anybody,” I said, “but I will warn you that this is a conservative state and a lot of people here don’t accept gays. I think the kids at the table were more embarrassed by what you said about your mom. We can’t imagine our mothers leaving like that, and you gave us a lot to think about. You weren’t wrong, you just struck us when we were unprepared.”
“I’m sorry if I upset anybody,” he said. “I certainly didn’t mean to. Did I offend you?”
“No,” I said. “I was just startled by what you said. Of course, I think we all knew right away that you’re gay, and I don’t think anyone here had a problem with that. You may run into some bullying and gay slanders, but I think as long as you stay with other people, you’re safe here.”
“Would you be willing to ride back to the University with me after school, so we could talk some? Clearly, I need to know more about living up here.”
“Oh God, yes!” I thought, but I managed to say, “Sure, if my mom gives permission. I’ll text her and see what she says.” I immediately texted her and at once got the answer that it was okay if I could get a ride home. I told her that TJ assured me that he could drive me home, so he and I agreed to meet on the front steps outside school at dismissal time.
We met as planned. TJ reached to hug me, but I pulled back saying, “I’m not sure the kids here are ready for that yet.” He nodded and motioned me towards his car. When we arrived at the University, we walked to a building that had faculty housing, climbed to the second floor, and went into his apartment which was apparently furnished by the University. We dropped our backpacks against the wall, got some iced tea, and sat in the living room, where TJ motioned me to an armchair while he sat on the sofa.
After a little silence, I asked, “So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Well first, tell me about the town. You don’t sound like you’re a native here, so maybe you can help me adjust.”
I told him what I knew, although I said I still didn’t have any idea how gays were accepted here. Then I asked him, “Okay. What’s second?”
He looked at me for a minute and asked quietly, “How long have you known you were gay?”
He couldn’t have asked a question that I was less willing to discuss. I finally said, “I don’t know if I am.” After a pause I asked, “What makes you think I am?”
“I don’t know how to answer that except to say that many gay guys have something called ‘gaydar,’ which clicks on when we’re around somebody gay. You haven’t given any signals that you’re gay, but I was quite sure as soon as I sat down next to you that you were.”
My heart was again beating hard and I had begun to sweat. I had no idea what to say.
When I sat there silently, he asked, “Have you ever wondered whether you were gay?”
I sighed and said, “Yeah, but don’t a lot of boys?”
“Probably, but can you tell me what you’re thinking?”
“It’s kind of funny that the question should come up right now, because just last Saturday I said goodbye to my uncles Kyle and Steve, who are gay and married. Kyle’s my real uncle; I guess you could say that Steve’s sort of adopted. I asked them how I could know whether I was gay or straight. After they asked me some questions, they said that I probably just needed to ask if someone I was attracted to was gay. Of course, I knew right away that you are, but I don’t know whether I’m attracted to you or not. I’m certainly not repelled by you. I just don’t know what to say or do.”
He was silent for a minute and then asked, “So can we talk about attraction?”
“I suppose so,” I said.
“Now, know that anything you say here doesn’t go out of this room unless you want it to. Okay?” I nodded. “So, is there anybody you know who you’re attracted to?”
I thought about that. I thought about the kids I knew at school; I thought about the kids I saw in the gym shower; I even thought about kids I had known back in Missouri, although I had been pretty young to be attracted to them. My first thought was Cole, even though I knew he was straight. There were other boys, particularly in the showers, who certainly aroused me, but I didn’t really know them well enough to consider myself attracted to them. Actually, the only boys I knew at school, besides Connor of course, and Cole, were Bruce and Paul, and I guess I hadn’t really thought about them.
I told all this to TJ, who listened and then asked, “What about girls?”
“Well,” I said, thinking aloud, “I don’t know many girls that well either. And of course,” I laughed, “I’ve never seen any of them in the shower.”
“Okay,” he began. “There’s a few things I can think of that you could try. One is that you could try to get into more mixed groups and get to know some of the kids better. It seems like you don’t really have many friends. Another is that you could try dating a girl and see how it goes. What about your friend Amanda?”
When I explained to him that Amanda was already interested in Cole, he only nodded. I also told him about my reluctance to make friends because of Billy. I told him that Billy had died but I didn’t want to go into it right then.
“Okay, so let me go on for now. The next thing I thought of was that you could try dating a boy, but I gather you don’t know any boys whom you dare ask about that. So, here’s a suggestion, and you can take it or leave it. My feelings won’t be hurt either way. You could try dating me. It wouldn’t have to be anything serious. Maybe we could go to a movie or go to one of the school’s games or just go for a drive in New Hampshire, which I have yet to do. What do you think?”
I was stunned. I had no idea that he would suggest that. Finally, I asked, “Are you attracted to me?”
He smiled and said, “I don’t know you well enough yet.”
I thought some more before saying, “Well, I suppose we could try it.”
“I promise that I won’t try to do anything with you that would make you uncomfortable,” he said.
“Okay, so what should we do for a date?”
“Well, there’s a movie theater here in town. Let’s see what’s playing.” and he whipped out his phone and checked on the Internet. “Hmm, have you seen the latest Harry Potter movie?”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it again,” I replied.
“Okay, how about this Friday night?”
Again, my heart was beating hard and I thought, “Oh God, this can’t be happening!” but aloud I said, “It’s a date.” We both smiled.
After that, TJ gave me a ride home. When we arrived, he gazed at the house and said, “I love it!”
I told him about the Haunted House we had had on Halloween, and he said he was jealous. When he began to get back in the car, I said, “Why don’t you come into the house and meet my parents? Then I could show you the house.” He closed the car door. We walked up to the front door and went in.
Dad wasn’t home yet. Mom was upstairs in her office, reading. We went up and, with some fear and trepidation, I introduced her to TJ. Thankfully, he was on his best behavior, so that, other than his clothing, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Mom rose and shook his hand. I told her that he was a very careful driver, and then I told her we were going to the Harry Potter movie on Friday.
“Haven’t you already seen it?” she asked.
“Yes, but we both want to see it again.”
After that, we went around the house and finally up to my garret, where TJ looked around, examined my CDs, and approved of my video games. Clearly, he was fascinated by the house. “Does the house have a ghost?” he asked.
“None that I’ve seen so far.”
He laughed and said he had to go because he had to eat dinner with his father before his father’s evening class. We went back downstairs and out to the car, where he gave me a sort of sideways hug before he got in. He drove off, and I went back into the house tingling from that hug.
At dinner that night, I told Mom and Dad more about TJ. She admitted that she was rather surprised by his clothes but said that maybe that’s what boys wore now in Florida. I agreed with her that they were somewhat different, but I liked them and maybe someday I’d try some. She looked at me askance but said nothing more. We continued with dinner chatting about other things.
Uncle Kyle had sent me The Persian Boy, which I began reading that night in bed before satisfying my needs and going to sleep. I could tell that I was going to love it even more than the first Alexander book.
On Friday, TJ picked me up at a quarter to seven. That gave us plenty of time to return to the University campus, park the car, and stroll to the movie theater. I had taken care to dress as well as I could. Of course, I couldn’t match TJ’s wardrobe, but I did wear a new salmon-colored shirt and new, black trousers. Inside the theater lobby, when I unzipped my jacket, TJ exclaimed, “Oh, my Dear, you look good enough to eat tonight!”
At the snack counter, TJ asked, “So, is this truly a date or are we each on our own?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Well, if we’re on our own, we each buy our own popcorn, but if this is a date, we get one big tub of popcorn to share.”
I laughed. “I’ll get us a large tub,” I said. In return, he bought the sodas. We went into the darkened theater. TJ suggested that we sit near the back. I didn’t understand why at the time. Later, I caught on. TJ went into the back row and I followed, sitting in the seat just to his right about halfway through the row.
Shortly after the movie began, a man came into our row and sat next to me. To be frank, he smelled as though he hadn’t showered for a week or more. After a few moments, I felt his hand on my thigh. At first, I didn’t know what to do, but then I leaned over and said to him very quietly, “If you don’t remove your hand immediately, my boyfriend and I will pulverize you!”
Very quickly, he removed his hand and left our row. I had to admit to myself that the words “my boyfriend” sounded really good to me.
TJ asked, “If I put my hand on you, are you gonna pulverize me?”
“Why don’t you try and see?” I suggested. I felt him put his arm around my shoulders and give me a squeeze. I felt a little thrill go through my body and I snuggled over as close to him as I could get.
Since we had both seen the movie before, we were able to pick up things in it this time that we hadn’t been aware of the first time.
Part way through the movie, while TJ massaged my right shoulder with his right hand, he reached over with his left hand and gently turned my face to him. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen until I felt his lips on mine. He didn’t do anything else, and soon he broke the kiss and turned back to the movie. By then I had a hard-on.
About two thirds of the way through the movie, I turned to him, reached for his chin, pulled it towards me, and kissed him back. I know now that they were very chaste kisses, but at the time I felt as though they were the best thing that had ever happened to me.
At the end of the movie, I still had a hard on, so I walked out with the empty popcorn tub in front of my crotch. TJ laughed and then I did too. I removed the tub, and threw it in a nearby trash bin. As we exited the theater, we were holding hands. We walked to the campus hand in hand and got into TJ’s car for the trip back to my house.
When we arrived at my house, the front porch light was on. TJ undid his seatbelt, leaned over, and kissed me again, harder this time. Undoing my seatbelt, I put my hand behind his head and returned the kiss with equal force. We sat like that for a long time before I removed my hand and broke the kiss.
“Why don’t you come over tomorrow and we can swim in Cole’s pool?” I asked. TJ had not seen the pool yet, but we had told him about it. He agreed. I climbed out of the car, and he waited until I got to the front door and opened it. I turned and waved as he flashed his lights and drove off.
“Did you have a good time?” Mom asked.
“Yeah, it was fun seeing the movie a second time.” With that I kissed her good night and went up to bed, where I had one of the greatest jerk-offs I’d ever had. I lay back in bed thinking of TJ and picturing him naked. Soon, I was hard again, so once again I satisfied myself, cleaned myself off, and dropped into a deep sleep.