Notwithstanding the return to reality that happened every evening when a parent came to the house to cook dinner and impose the normal expectations and guidance, it felt to all of them like a short period of blissful freedom where they could live life the way they wanted. They were in many ways on their own, free to wake up when they wanted (though they woke early), free to eat what they wanted for breakfast and lunch (though they were constrained by what David and Jackson had stocked the house with), free to play tennis or walk or skateboard, all of course with Kaiser actively participating (though they all still had their chores to do at home). Still, this interlude gave all four of them a feeling of freedom and self-actualization that they hadn’t experienced before.
The boys had played tennis and then gone swimming at the local pool in the afternoon, and Sam and Will arrived with Susan about 5:30, and set about preparing spaghetti. Susan helped her in the kitchen, and Will relaxed on the porch with Kaiser and the boys, getting the update about the tennis match, how Eric and Kim were improving their game because Jerrod was a good instructor. He’d given them important pointers about court position for volleying the ball, and about the toss and timing for effective serves. After a while, the aroma of sautéed sausage wafted out the kitchen door, shortly thereafter followed by the smell of onions, garlic and Italian Seasoning. Ten minutes after that Sam announced that the pasta was going in the water, and Will joined her to help with the salad and garlic bread. The boys got called to set the picnic tables, and then all helped carry out the food and they chatted away over dinner.
When Sam asked about the next day’s plans, Kim had to help his Dad, but the other’s had planned to get their lawn mowing chores done in the morning, and that freed Jerrod and Roger to meet Sean and his Mom at the park with Kaiser. Eric asked if he could join them, and Sam commented on that commendable undertaking and asked how it had started. Jerrod told her about meeting Sean and his Mom on the sidewalk and described how it went from there, but Roger jumped in to let her know that for someone with cerebral palsy, being accepted and treated like normal, the way he experienced the afternoons with them and Kaiser was really unusual. They had peach cobbler for dessert, and then the boys cleared the table and hung out on the porch while Will and Sam cleaned up the kitchen.
Later, when Will and Sam had left, it was easier for Jerrod to understand how Eric and Kim were so emotionally solid in their relationship. Eric’s parents weren’t just loving and accepting, they modeled caring, openness and shared responsibility. They also had fun together. The emotional relationship between Eric and Kim, one of friendship and love was certainly the foundation of their physical relationship. Jerrod had watched Roger chatting with them and wondered if their relationship could develop that way. They’d agreed to take it slow physically, and in his mind Jerrod worried if he’d be able to sort out his worries. Each night in the tent Eric and Kim got more intimate, and Jerrod found he and Roger moving closer, too. They had become quite good at ignoring whatever Eric and Kim were doing on their side of the tent, happy to create a space on their side that was uniquely for them. Two couples separated and somehow connected by the reddish Golden Retriever who loved them all and slept in the center of the tent.
With mowing over the next day, they all met Sean and his mother at the park. Sean was thrilled as usual at being able to throw the tennis ball for the dog he loved, and have it retrieved. He’d learned not to get excited as Kaiser brought the ball back, and that by remaining quiet, the dog would drop the ball between him and Jerrod who always stood next to him. They walked Sean and his Mom home, then headed back to the house to clean up. Kim’s Dad was doing dinner, and they’d been warned he wasn’t much of a cook, so they weren’t surprised when he arrived with Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners. The aroma was amazing as the lid on the buckets of chicken was opened. Clean up was easy and before long they were alone. They played some badminton, then hung out listening to some music…and before too long did what they all really wanted to: retreated to the tent.
That night their make out session had gotten so passionate that Jerrod had pulled Roger on top of him and they’d ground on each other till they blissfully came almost simultaneously. They weren’t embarrassed, but both simply understood there would be some pajamas to wash the next day.
They played tennis in the morning on Friday, then after lunch walked to the swimming pool and then loafed around for the rest of the afternoon. Will arrived about 6:30 with pizzas and salad, plus ice cream and cake for dessert. Sam and Susan were having a girl’s night with a couple of Sam’s friends and their daughters. When the boys retired to the tent, Jerrod and Roger heard Eric and Kim drop their pajamas, and after they’d settled into an amorous kissing session, Jerrod adventurously asked if Roger wanted to sleep naked? He could see the glimmer in Roger’s eyes in the remaining light, and smiled when the response was, “I thought you’d never ask.”
“You could have asked?”
“Yeah, I suppose, but this is your house…and, you know, Eric says I’m timid.” Roger giggled. They silently slipped out of their pajamas, and as they embraced once again, Jerrod said, “This probably means I’m going to want to hold your cock. Are you okay with that?”
Another giggle, then Jerrod heard “Only if you are,” immediately followed by a tongue being pushed into his mouth desperately seeking his own. He reciprocated in kind, and shortly after they both discovered the wondrous feeling of another hand holding and then stroking their cock, especially when that hand was attached to a body both were coming to understand they loved, even if they couldn’t say it yet.
Over breakfast the next morning, which was French Toast that David had taught Jerrod how to prepare, Eric and Kim were snickering away at the table when Roger finally said, “What’s up with you guys?”
Kim grinned at him, and said, “We just think it’s so neat?”
“What’s so neat?”
“That you guys slept naked and got it on, kinda!”
“Are you guys keeping watch on us,” Jerrod asked, his face slowly breaking into a grin.
“Not really, it’s just that there’s some things you don’t miss when you’re in a tent with another couple.”
“Another couple and a dog. Don’t be hurting Kaiser’s feeling by leaving him out of the formula.”
Kim leaned to the side and reached under the table to pet Kaiser, “You’re right. I can’t leave Kaiser out of the deal, ‘cause he’s the best dog ever. Right, Kaiser?”
Eric tried to put a more serious point on it as Jerrod served the French Toast. “Seriously, we’ve tried not to put any pressure on you guys, but we just think you’re made for each other. We also think it’s cool you’re going at your own pace. You may think we’re sex fiends, but I think it’s really cool that your relationship is developing the way it is.”
Jerrod sat down next to Roger and took his hand. A thought flashed through his mind: did that mean he had a boyfriend? After what had happened at school last year he had wondered if it would ever be possible for him. And then as he lifted Roger’s hand in a kind of victory sign, he said, “Here’s to having the two best friends in the world. Without you guys we wouldn’t have even met.”
Will picked them up for a trip to the skateboard park, and then they stopped for lunch on the way home. That night to celebrate it being Saturday, Sam and Will came over and organized a burger cook out on the grill, and they rented Contact, the film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s sci-fi novel of the same name. They were completely pulled in by the notion of finding evidence of extraterrestrial life and all thought Jodie Foster was great as the SETI scientist who is chosen to make first contact. They all also liked Matthew McConaughey and Rob Lowe, but for different reasons—all agreeing they were both pretty hot.
Fueled by the upbeat vibe from the film, Jerrod and Roger’s lovemaking took on a new and less constrained form, that found them actively working to make the other feel as sensuously alive as possible. They were slow and patient, kissing and caressing, stroking and licking, building up an expression of the growing deep-seated feelings they now had for each other. As they reached a sensual high point, without even consciously thinking about it, Jerrod whispered, “Turn around, I want to kiss your cock.” He heard Roger whisper some kind of acknowledgment back and then turn in his arm. Jerrod kissed his stomach, and licked down his treasure trail, imaging the dark blond hair he couldn’t see in the darkness.
Roger was fully hard, and Jerrod softly held the bottom of his shaft with one hand, kissed and then licked the head. He heard Roger gasp, and then copy his actions. Jerrod hadn’t planned on going further, in fact, he hadn’t planned any of this. He just followed his heart and his emotions, and slowly opened his mouth and took the head of Roger’s cock into it. As he closed his lips around it and swirled his tongue, the sensory feeling of silk came flooding back to him. Silky softness over rock hardness. He loved the feeling, and also felt himself get harder as Roger licked the head of his cock, too. As Jerrod went down on the cock of the boy he now felt so much affection for, the thoughts of silk over hardness were replaced by something completely new to him. As much as he had previously liked the physical feelings, they were always accompanied by a sense of furtiveness and urgency. Now it was the opposite, it was a sense of peace, of giving something special to the person he now cared so much about. He felt Roger’s pubes against his chin and could hear him whimper as he took more of Jerrod’s cock into his mouth. The passions took over, but Jerrod was engulfed by the feeling of peace and love as they both slowly made love to each other and came close together.
After they’d rested briefly, Jerrod felt Roger turn back into his arms and pulled him close for a kiss. Roger whispered “That was amazing.” Jerrod hugged him tight and whispered in his ear, “It was. You’re amazing, and you taste great, too!” After which they settled into each other’s arms for a blissful sleep.
The next morning Eric and Kim were judiciously silent, understanding that their friend’s relationship had moved to a new level, and that the indignity of rasty jokes would be uncool. They spent the morning taking down the tent and stowing the rest of their gear, cleaning up the back yard and otherwise getting ready for David and Jackson’s return in the afternoon. Jerrod and Roger exchanged occasional glances that were now filled with deeper meaning and affection.
When David and Jackson arrived, it was clear that both of them had tanned a bit from time in the sun, and they looked relaxed and refreshed. Will came by in the late afternoon to retrieve the gear and take Kim and Roger home. Jerrod walked them out to the driveway, and they all gave each other high five kinds of goodbyes, and Jerrod realized what he really wanted to do was hug and hold this boy he was growing attached to. He hesitated, then saw Eric and Kim holding hands as they walked to the van. He looked at Roger and found him looking back at him, so he stepped forward and pulled him into a hug that included a kiss just below his ear.
“You know I love it when you kiss me there!”
“I love kissing you there, and lots of other places. This has been the best few days of my life, being with you, getting closer to you.” He hesitated, wanting to say he loved Roger, but he choked and smiled widely instead.
“Me, too. I’ll call you tomorrow morning and we can figure out what we’re going to do.”
Jerrod told David and Jackson as much as he felt comfortable with about the time while they were at the beach, leaving out the sex details. He could tell they were pleased the boys had had a good time, and he got a couple of lewd looks from Jackson, his face a wide grin. David let him know that they hadn’t called the house to check in so they’d feel like they were on their own, but they had called Will and Sam twice to make sure everything was okay, and got good reports.
David and Jackson were off to work early, and after cleaning up breakfast, Jerrod called Roger, told him he was going to do some training with Kaiser at a local park, and they arranged to play tennis in the afternoon. It looked like another relaxed summer week was getting under way.
That, however, was not to be.
It was the next evening, the Tuesday evening of the first week of August, when Julius Burgoyne called, outraged about what he and Cassie had learned concerning their son. It was mid-afternoon and David took the call. Will had planned a hike with all the boys and Kaiser after they met Sean and his Mom at Oak Bottoms Park. And they’d driven to a big state park east of Portland where the Sandy River joins the Columbia. David, who knew they wouldn’t be home for quite a while, immediately went into counselor mode and tried to calm the parents down.
“Julius, I can tell by your tone that you’re very upset and that likely means you’ve learned something very disturbing about Jerrod. You’re an attorney, so you know full well that emotion doesn’t serve anyone very well in situations like this, so why don’t you step back and fill me in on what you’ve learned. After all, I’m out here on the west coast where it’s three hours earlier, and this is news to me, too.”
“David, this has nothing to do with where you live or time zones. This has to do with my son deceiving us and participating in criminal activities. I am perfectly within my rights to be very upset by that.”
Before David could respond, he could hear Cassie telling Julius to calm down, that David hadn’t done anything and was, in fact, trying to help and had been doing so for two months and that it was inappropriate to take it out on David. He heard Julius say, “You talk to him for a few minutes then,” and handed the phone to Cassie.
“David, I’m sorry that’s the way this call started.”
“I understand it’s very emotional. Why don’t you fill me in on what happened, and we’ll go from there?”
“Well, it turns out that the fraternity he joined last year, which was supposed to be an academic fraternity was basically a party frat, and he completely mislead us about that. He lied to us about that. On top of that, though, along with many of the frat members, he’s been a practicing juvenile delinquent, raising hell, destroying property, painting graffiti on God only knows what, and the most recent thing is an actual crime of breaking and entering. He and two other frat brothers broke into a house.”
“How did you come to learn all of this, in as much as Jerrod is out here for the summer?”
“Because the homeowner was away on vacation when it happened. Jerrod and two others broke in on a Saturday and got away with it. The next day some others went back, and they got caught and arrested, and then they were bailed out by their parents. When the homeowner returned, he wanted to meet with the miscreants.”
“That’s not a typical behavior for a victim is it?”
“No, and all these boys are incredibly lucky. The homeowner is a retired Boy Scout Troop Master and though nothing was stolen, it was just breaking and entering. He made it clear to the police that he wasn’t going to press charges, but he insisted that he meet with each of the boys involved along with their parents. The point he wanted to make to each of the boys is that people make mistakes and they could choose to make better decisions. He pressed each teen about why they did what they did, which led to one of those who were caught divulging that they only went into the house because three others had gone the day before and gotten away with it. That led to who those three were, and it was Jerrod and two of his close friends. You can imagine that Julius was outraged that his son had participated in a criminal activity.”
“Yes, Cassie, I can imagine how outraged Julius is, especially as an attorney. It must be a shock for both of you on the personal and emotional level, too.”
“It is. It’s completely devastating. Here we thought we were doing all we could for our son, providing all he needed to get ahead in life, sending him to an exclusive school, and this is how he repays us. It’s more than a shock. It’s outrageous, just like Julius said.”
“I understand, Cassie. And what do you and Julius plan to do?”
“We don’t know yet, and I should put Julius on to discuss that with you. Thank you for what you’ve done for Jerrod this summer, but I just don’t know what happens now.”
Cassie handed the phone over to her husband.
“Hello, David, I’m sorry I got emotional, and you were correct in pointing that out to me. However, this is totally over the top. It’s bad enough that our son deceived us about the fraternity, and then got involved in criminal activity, but to do so knowing full well that his father is part of the legal establishment is beyond the pale. It is an insult to me and a total denial of his lineage. My forefathers moved to England after the Norman Conquest, the Burgoyne’s originally being from Burgundy were upright British citizens and peers of the realm, up to the son of General John Burgoyne who emigrated from England to Pennsylvania after the Civil War. All of his descendants have been lawyers or judges down to me. And now I learn I have a criminal for a son! It is unbelievable and totally unacceptable.”
“Julius, as I said before, I understand the emotion that you’re feeling. I also know you are the attorney and I’m just a counselor, but isn’t it a little extreme to label Jerrod a criminal?”
“What? No! He committed a crime.”
“Technically, yes. However, isn’t the practical definition of a criminal one who is charged and convicted of a crime, and most commonly a repeat offender with a pattern of behavior?”
“David, don’t try to tell me my business! I know the law and I don’t need you telling me what is criminal and what isn’t.”
“So, what is it you propose to do?”
“Well, you’re right. He was lucky he wasn’t caught and arrested, but now the full story is out, and he will stand the punishment. I’ve already spoken to some of my partners about the type of school we can send him to for his senior year, military academies that teach discipline and instill values, and I’m investigating them now. He will not be returning to Haverford and that depraved crowd of fraternity brothers that he’s been running around with. When will he be back? I demand to speak with him.”
“Julius, a demand is not required. He’s your son. As I told Cassie, he went on a hike this afternoon with some friends and their parents, and I expect they won’t bring him home until after dinner, which will be very late your time. Can I suggest that we agree on a time tomorrow when you can call, and I will have him here to speak with you both?”
“That will be fine. Thank you for that offer. We’ll call at 10:00 AM your time. That will allow me to go into the office in the morning and be home for lunch and then have the call in the afternoon.”
“Very well, Julius. May I have your permission to tell him what the call is about and what has happened to lead up to it?”
“Yes. Far better that he knows, and we can then be discussing corrective action rather than spend most of the time discussing the events that led up to the situation.”
“Very well. We’ll be here for your call at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you, David. We’ll speak tomorrow.”
David hung up the phone, rolling his eyes. He’d already known most of the information, the Scout Master part being new and amazingly fortunate for those who had been caught. On the other hand, he couldn’t let Julius know that he already knew most of what had happened without appearing to betray the trust of Jerrod’s parents.
He decided then to call Jane and fill her in, so at least she got the other side of the story. She’d only heard bits and pieces from her sister, but knew there had been some kind of legal blow up. She had also kept in touch with David during the summer and so she also understood how Jerrod had changed during the summer, and completely recognized the type of reaction Julius would have.
“Jane, I have to tell you that I knew much of what Julius and Cassie found out today, but it was the kind of information Jerrod told me in counseling sessions, where he was trying to resolve what had been such a problem for him. That said, it sounds like Julius is about to go in a very radical direction, sending Jerrod to a military academy or something like that, and I can tell you from what I know after the last couple of months about this boy and what he’s wrestling with, that is exactly the wrong thing to do. Jerrod’s biggest problem is that he is not accepted by his parents. If they do this to him it will be interpreted as rejection, and then they risk compounding non-acceptance with vindictive punishment, and they could lose their son.”
“God, David. Is it that serious? We were so hopeful that this summer would be good for Jerrod.”
“Jane, I’m trying to tell you that the summer has been good for him. It’s been good in a lot of different ways, but this happened before summer. However, there’s a couple of things going on, and what Julius and Cassie are reacting to is something that happened months ago, about which Jerrod is very contrite. He knows it was wrong and stupid. That’s part of the disconnect here. He’s in a different place today, but they’re reacting to something that happened in the past.”
“Are you serious about losing their son?”
“Jane, I’m dead serious. You know my work. I’ve dealt with youth struggling with problems like this for almost twenty years. Much of it is about acceptance—accepting oneself and being accepted. Julius and Cassie need to calm down and understand what happened and why, as well as where Jerrod is now, or they risk a familial fracture. I don’t think that’s what they want, but they’re very emotional right now, and a lot of it is worry about their image and reputation. Please keep all of that in mind when you speak to Cassie and see if you can’t moderate the extreme direction that I think they’re going.”
“Okay, I’ll do that. I love that boy, so I’ll do what I can. You said there’s a couple of things going on. Now, tell me what the other thing is.”
“You don’t miss much, do you?”
“We’re talking about my nephew, so I care a lot.”
“This is totally confidential, agreed?”
“He’s almost certainly gay and he’s been repressing and suppressing and denying it for a very long time.”
“God! I mean, David, don’t get me wrong. Cassie and I have talked about it. She’s suspected it based on a few conversations they had over the years, and the fact that he hasn’t dated much and then got into that frat and hung around with all those guys. Now what?”
“I don’t know yet. He tells me that Julius is the next best thing to a homophobe, but that might just be his interpretation. Cassie is a nurse, so hopefully she has a more open mind, one that’s informed by science, and understands that sexual orientation is biological. Right now, though, I think it’s too much to add his sexual orientation on top of this other problem. There’s enough to deal with about the other matters. Do you agree?”
Jane did, and though she had a few questions and was shocked by it all, she understood and agreed to try and assist on her end. She also promised to keep David updated on how things seemed to be developing with Jerrod’s parents.
David set about planning for a family meeting that evening.
Jackson got home from work first, and David briefed him on the call with Jerrod’s parents and what they were threatening to do. They didn’t expect Jerrod and Kaiser back till after 7:00 PM and knew Will would stop somewhere on the drive back to feed the boys, so they had dinner, frequently touching on the looming crisis. It was almost 7:30 when Will pulled in the driveway and the entourage disembarked and came into the back yard. They all chatted briefly, it being clear that they’d had a great hike right along the Columbia River and Kaiser had gotten tons of exercise, and he’d even eaten because Jerrod had been smart enough to take some dog food along in a Zip-lock bag.
When Will, Sam and the boys had left, David gave it a few minutes to settle down and then said, “There’s something we all need to talk about, so, let’s go into the living room.”
As he followed them in, Jerrod realized that Jackson had sat on the couch, at the far end, leaving a space for him with Kaiser between them on the floor, but that David had pulled up one of the armchairs on the other side of the coffee table.
He didn’t waste any time. “Your parents called this afternoon. There have been some new developments and you’ve been busted.”
Jerrod was wide-eyed, and then as David related the new information and what had happened, he slowly settled into a painful resignation that the arm of fate had dropped and there was now no escape. He seemed to withdraw into himself and actually become smaller on the couch.
When David finished, he said, “So, it came out that my friends and I were at the house on Saturday because the homeowner wanted to talk to the guys that got caught? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does,” David said, “if you can conceive of an adult who has worked with kids and youth for years and understands that they can occasionally fuck up and make bad decisions and do stupid things. And, if you can conceive of the fact that helping them understand they’ve made bad decisions might help them not to make them again in the future. My read is that this is one very gracious and compassionate person who also understands that criminal records are bad, and it’s way better to help people understand how or why they made the bad decisions so they don’t make them again. Doesn’t that sound positive to you?”
“Yeah, I guess. But why would the guys that got caught rat us out?”
“I think that’s the wrong way to phrase it. It’s more likely that they got caught up in the realization that in spite of the fact that they’d committed a crime, the victim didn’t want vengeance. Rather, he wanted to help them succeed in life. That’s what Boy Scouts are supposed to do, you know. Can’t you see how in a setting like that, one thing could lead to another and they could have been thankful and said that what they were doing wasn’t premeditated, and that they were only there because some other guys had been there the day before with no problem?”
Jerrod was silent, chewing his lower lip. “I told you guys weeks ago that I know what we did was stupid and now I guess it’s all out there. How wigged out are my parents?”
“Your Dad wants to send you to a military academy for your senior year, so you learn values and discipline.”
“Like that’ll work!”
David was silent, and Jerrod was chewing his lower lip, looking down at his feet. Jackson slid over next to him and put his arm around the young man’s shoulders. “Can I say something to you?”
After a few moments of silence, Jackson saw the beginning of tears and saw his head nod.
“I love you, man, you’ve been part of this household for the summer. But I’ll tell you that’s the wrong attitude. You’re a minor and they’re your parents. You’ve got to deal with that reality. It’ll go way better tomorrow if you’re honest and contrite and don’t cop an attitude. You’ve got to face the music, but you know what? If you look back on how uptight and nervous and insecure you were when you got here, even though it’s way better now, it never completely went away did it? You knew that all of this was likely to come out sometime. So, it’s happened. Now we deal with it. We’ll all deal with it, but don’t cop an attitude. All that will do is confirm your Dad’s position.”
“But he wants to ruin my life!”
“And he thinks you just ruined his, and his reputation as well.”
“So what! They’ve never accepted me! They just want me to do their program.”
“That’s only partially true, and you know it. They may be controlling, but you don’t really believe they’re totally tyrannical, do you?”
Jerrod paused, the slowly said, “No, I guess not.”
“You already told us what you did. You admitted it was wrong and stupid. So why would it be so hard to admit that to your parents?”
“You’re right. It shouldn’t be.”
“Can you do that? Because if you can, and don’t get angry and defensive, and let whatever emotional venting they do just run over you like water off a duck’s back, then the odds are much better that we can all come out of this whole.” David looked over at Jackson. “Do you agree?”
“Yeah, I do. I’m betting that by tomorrow they’ll have calmed down quite a bit, and if Jerrod acknowledges what he did and that it was wrong and that he now understands that and he’s willing to take the consequences, then in the long run it will go much better.”
Jackson hugged Jerrod again. “Can you do that? You’re pretty good at chewing your lower lip. Can you bite your tongue and take it?”
Jerrod looked hurt and offended and then softened as he accepted that Jackson was trying to help by laying out a way to handle this mess. “Yeah, I can do that. Two months ago, I couldn’t and wouldn’t have, but I’ve learned a lot being with you guys, so I can, and I will.”
“Good,” David said to him, “because we’re on your team. It’ll go much better if you don’t do things to provoke them or confirm that their wrong assumptions are correct.”
He paused, looking at Jerrod, who was looking back at him, eye to eye.
“So, we’re good on that?”
Jerrod nodded. “Yeah, and you’re right. It’s because of the last couple of months and experiencing this.” He waved his arm around to encompass Jackson, Kaiser, David and the whole house. “I’ve never felt accepted and loved like this before, and I don’t want to lose it. I’ll do whatever you think I should do to keep it.”
Jackson gave him another hug, and David reciprocated with a big smile.
Then David said, “Okay, so now why don’t you tell us the rest of what’s going on and what you’re so hung up about?”
Jerrod looked momentarily shocked, that was replaced by a flash of defensiveness that swept across his face, and then he slumped into Jackson’s embrace. He barely mumbled out, “What do you mean?”
David kept on. “Look, all this stuff was heavy and disruptive in your life, the break in, the accusations, the threats, the reasons you wanted to leave Philly for the summer. But that’s not what’s really eating at you is it?”
Jerrod blanched, then looked frightened, then seemed to relax into the inevitable as he finally realized that these were his friends, that they had probably already figured it all out, and were really just trying to help him.
“From the psychological point of view, you’ve been doing some major acting out, and it seems to me that while there’s an underlying anger at your parents for having what you call ‘their plan,’ there is also something else more deep seated and has to do with you personally. With your being. Do you want to tell us, or would it help if we asked some questions?”
Jerrod just nodded.
“This has to do with being gay, doesn’t it?”
Jerrod nodded again.
“Are you afraid of it?”
Jerrod nodded again and started to cry. Jackson pulled him tight to his chest, saying, “There’s nothing to be afraid of. The fear is all part of trying to live up to other people’s plans or expectations. We all went through that. Why don’t you tell us where it started and how it happened?”
Finally Jerrod was able to tell them that he’d always felt attracted to boys, that he hardly ever dated girls, but that his father had made it pretty clear that homosexuality wasn’t acceptable and that there wasn’t a place for gay people in the Burgoyne line.
“How did it start?”
“Well, you know, playing around with other kids. Then in high school looking at porn I realized I was more interested in looking at the guys than the girls. But it wasn’t anything serious until I got into the fraternity.”
He stopped, looking from Jackson to David. “I’m afraid of what you’ll think if I tell you it all.”
While Jackson hugged him, David said, “We told you before that you can tell us anything and we won’t love you any less. You remember that? You know we love you?”
Jerrod nodded, and then said, “I’ve been avoiding or denying it, except when I jack off, and then it all got going again in the frat because the pledges are always juniors and they’re below the seniors, and on initiation night each pledge has to drink a six pack of beer and…you won’t hate me if I tell you?”
“Jerrod, we already told you we love you.”
“Each pledge has to drink a six pack of beer and suck off one of the seniors.”
They were silent, and finally David said, “And?”
Jerrod looked up. “What do you mean ‘And?’ I just said I had to give a blowjob to a guy I didn’t know and didn’t love.”
“Okay, so what?”
“What do you mean?”
“It was part of an initiation ritual. When I was in college, fraternity pledges had to eat raw onions. Do you think that means they never ate onions again in their life?”
Jerrod looked at him, slowly comprehending. “You mean I don’t have to hate myself?”
“Why should you. We all do stupid and raunchy shit in our lives. You didn’t do this out of choice, it was part of the initiation. In hindsight you might now have made a different decision, like not to join that frat, but you did what you did. It’s over. Can you let it go?”
Jackson still had his arm around Jerrod’s shoulders, and he felt the encouragement and love and finally said, “I guess. When you look like it that way.”
“You didn’t do it out of choice. Can we assume you didn’t like it?”
Jerrod nodded his head.
“So, what’s the hang up.”
“It…it was one of…it was one of the other pledges.”
“Meaning what? There was something between you two?”
“Yeah, we both hated it, having to suck off one of the seniors, but it turned out we both liked each other, and I guess, well in fact, we liked doing stuff together. I mean it didn’t happen much, but it did, and…”
“Jerrod, can I try and reframe this for you?”
He nodded, looking at David like a drowning man hoping for a life preserver.
“Okay, you have to do this ritual blow job thing as part of the initiation. You and this other pledge get that behind you, and you are probably talking about it or whatever, and you discover that you both like boys to one degree or another and that you have feelings for each other. Eventually you act on those feelings. What’s the problem with that?”
Jerrod looked from one to the other and said, “Because this was the Alpha Mother Fuckers, this was a macho, looking-for-trouble, take-no-prisoners type fraternity. There was no room for faggots.”
“Okay, so that’s a problem because the two of you are living a lie. Why couldn’t your relationship have been private, just between the two of you?
“Well, it was, you know occasionally when we could go somewhere, which wasn’t very often. But then there was the breaking and entering thing, and it was him and me and another junior on Saturday, and so when the other guys got caught and the blaming and the finger pointing started, then suddenly it wasn’t just that it could come out that we’d been in the house the day before, but that we were gay. We’d already heard a comment or two, and suddenly he turned on me and said he wasn’t gay, that I was the faggot and it was all my fault. And that was on top of the threats from the seniors about how they got caught because of us, and suddenly life just turned to shit and I was hurt and scared and just had to get out of there before…” He fell silent, crying softly onto Jackson’s shoulder.
David moved over and sat down next to Jerrod and also put his arm around his shoulder and they both hugged him tight.
Finally, after the crying had turned to sobs and the sobs abated, Jackson said, “You know, it’s not as terrible as you think it is.”
“What do you mean?”
“You sucked off a senior, but so did all the other pledges, so no one’s going to talk about that. The guy you thought you had a relationship with turned on you, and he’s scared shitless about two things: getting busted about breaking and entering, as well as it coming out that he’s gay. You know what I’ll bet money on?”
Jerrod swallowed hard and then said, “What?”
“That dude will never say a word about it. He’s still living there. He thinks his reputation and his whole life depends on keeping it quiet. If he says anything about you, he outs himself. Problem solved.”
They were quiet, and Kaiser stirred on the carpet below the coffee table, moving his chin from Jackson’s foot to Jerrod’s.
“Don’t ya think?”
“Yeah, when you put it like that. I guess you’re right. It just means everything is manageable as long as I never go back to Philly.”
“Well,” David said, hugging Jerrod hard, “that’s what your Dad has in mind, so he’s solving your personal problem and he doesn’t even know it.”
Even Jerrod had to laugh at that.
They sat quietly, then David said, “Look, here’s where we are. It’s not as bad as it seems. We have to deal with your parents tomorrow, and we’ll do that. Now, look at me.”
David waited until Jerrod lifted his head off of Jackson’s shoulder and looked at him eye to eye.
“You’re a good guy and we love you. It doesn’t matter if you sucked some senior’s cock, and it doesn’t matter if that other junior turned on you. It’s unfortunate because that was your first gay relationship, but that can be repaired. In fact, it seems pretty certain that you are repairing it with Roger. Are you hearing me? We love you. We accept you, just like Kaiser does. And you know what? Kaiser has been lying right there through this whole conversation, and so we know he heard it all, but you know what? He thinks no more or no less of you now than he did an hour ago. You know why? Because he loves and accepts the Jerrod he knows now, the one who took him on that great hike today.”
Jerrod smiled ruefully. “I guess.”
“No, it’s not an ‘I guess’ thing. It’s a ‘for real’ thing. You have to be able to hear what I just said and accept it. Can you do that?”
Jerrod hesitated, then said, “Yeah, I can. But you know, Roger and I have been getting close. We really like each other. What if he finds out about any of this shit?”
Jackson tipped Jerrod’s face toward him and said, “Do you think that Roger is so perfect and so pure that he hasn’t had a fuck up or two along the way? Give yourself a break, will you!”
At that Jerrod smiled meekly and finally relaxed.