Behind The Silver Screen
By Jerry Miller
Sitting there with Ben was always comforting. I admired him for so much. He's in my heart with Mike. That's good company I thought. I have wondered lately what would have happened between us if I had made the moves on him when we jacked off together.
I'm glad that I didn't because I would rather have him here, as my closest, best friend than anything else. I put my arms around Ben and hugged him. I noticed Debbie standing in the doorway, smiling at me. I released Ben and walked over to her.
I put my arms around her and said, "You know I love him, he's the best friend I have ever had in my life."
I heard Ben turn around and she whispered back at me, "I know he loves you too. Believe me when I tell you I understand what it is between you two. I think, without having known you, he wouldn't be the man I'm in love with."
"He's had an influence on me, too."
"I know, for the better."
We heard Mikey crying, she kissed me on the cheek and went to him.
"I happy for you, Ben. She's terrific."
"I know. Trust me on that one. I know," he said smiling and proud.
"I guess I had better go," I said.
"I am expecting you at dinner Sunday with Betty and Eric."
"I know. I'll be there. I promise."
This time Ben came over and hugged me. I was so glad that Ben and I could show each other affection without the discomfort most guys feel with such emotions.
The next week was hectic. Jay and I couldn't find anytime to get together. He worked early and I was always working late. It was usually one or two a.m. before I got back to Dayton. Jay would have to be up at five for his job. We agreed to get together the following Friday, after I got off of work so we could have a real date.
Working in Cincinnati, I spent most of my time at the Ambassador Theater. I would work a couple of shifts at the Esquire, but spent little time at the Hyde Park. The Ambassador had four projectors in the booth, which was very unusual. I remember the Loew's Downtown had three. The four projectors included the original two that were installed when the theater opened in the 1930's. "The Sting" had been playing there for eight weeks, as a discount second run at $1.50 admission. Even with the striking picketers outside the theaters, things were running pretty smooth. I got my Sunday off so I could spend it with my friends.
I got to Betty's house early and walked in without knocking. As we considered ourselves family, this was expected. I found Betty in the kitchen and I walked up to her and put my arms around her.
"Hi, Mike. I'm glad you're here."
"Me, too. What's cooking?"
"Roast Beef, baked potatoes, corn, my home made bread and your favorite: my pumpkin pie."
"Nice. I can't wait."
"How have you been, Mike?" she asked as I sat down at the table.
"I have been doing alright."
"I know you are working that strike. I hope you don't get hurt."
"I don't worry about that. I think with all the press coverage that the union would be stupid to do anything."
"I hope you're right."
Betty continued to get things ready for dinner. I wondered where Eric was.
"Is Eric here?"
"Yes. He's up in his room."
"Okay. I'll go up and say 'hi'."
I strolled through the living room and up the stairs. I saw Mike's room at the end of the hallway with the door closed. I hadn't been in it since Mike was alive. Eric's door was opened and I walked in and sat on his bed. He was sitting at his desk reading a book when he saw me walk in.
"Hi, Eric. What are you reading?"
"In Cold Blood."
"Oh, yeah. I read that in high school for a book report. It's quite a book. Good movie too."
"There was a movie?"
"Oh yeah. It was up for some Oscars. Robert Blake was in it. He was the cop in "Electra Glide in Blue" that you, Ben and I saw at the drive-in a couple of years ago."
"Oh, yeah. That was a strange movie."
"So, what else have you been up too? How's school?"
"Kent State's all right. I like it. I hate living in the dorm but I can't afford to get other housing."
"I'm sure. Do you have a decent roommate at least?"
"He's alright, I guess. We don't have much in common. He is all about sports and I prefer the arts and music."
"You like music?"
"Oh, yeah. The classics. I love to listen to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Handel."
I looked around his room and didn't see any albums or a record player.
"Where do you listen to the music?"
"Usually at the school library. My father said that music was a waste of time so I couldn't have anything here."
I looked at Eric and saw the same type of sadness in his eyes that I saw in Mike's.
"I'm sorry, Eric, about what your Dad did."
Eric closed his book and came over to the bed and sat next to me.
"I have had a lot to think about how Dad brought us up. After Mike died Mom and I had our talk and I realized that I had a lot to discover about life, love and caring. I spent my years growing up afraid to do anything that my father wouldn't approve of. I watched him treat Mike the way he did, so I learned by that. My father cheated Mike and he cheated me. I wanted my brother to be a brother like I saw on television, like in the reruns of "Leave It To Beaver". Wally was a great big brother. I wanted Mike like that."
Eric rarely opened up with me. On the occasions that he did, he didn't always go for very long talking about his feelings with me. Our conversations in the past about Mike had been brief.
"Eric, Mike loved you very much. He told me. He wanted that closeness too. I'm sorry."
"I know he did. There has been so much I have wanted to say to him and now, I can't."
"Why not, Eric?"
Eric just shook his head.
"Eric, have you been to the cemetery since the funeral?"
"You should go. Sit there and talk to him and tell him what you want to. He'll listen. I know that."
"Yeah. I talk to him all the time. It helps."
"I miss him even more now."
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Eric leaned towards me and kissed my lips. I was stunned.
"Why did you kiss me, Eric?"
He looked down to the floor. I felt uncomfortable. I am sure he did too.
"I just wanted to feel what Mike felt when he kissed you."
I thought about that for a moment as I wondered where this was going. I sensed that he had a longing for understanding about Mike that hadn't been resolved. I took a hold of his face and brought my lips to his and kissed him with as much passion as I could create. I don't really know why I did it at that moment. I thought in a way I was helping him find answers. His desire to feel what Mike felt was something I could do. Eric was starting to respond to the kiss; his lips parted and his tongue started to probe mine.
I FREAKED OUT COMPLETELY.
The touch of his lips and tongue were exactly like Mike's and I couldn't handle it. I slipped out of his bedroom and stood in the hallway to catch my breath. What the heck just happened I wondered. What did I do? I didn't hear anything from Eric's room, but I could hear the voices of Ben, Debbie and Betty. I rushed down the stairs and composed myself.
"Hi everyone," I said walking into the kitchen and snatching Mikey from Debbie.
"Glad to see you could make it, Mike." Ben said.
"Yeah, I couldn't miss another one of Betty's great meals."
"You know it." Debbie said watching me play with Mikey.
Mikey had the deepest blue eyes and the cutest smile I had ever seen on a baby. I haven't been that close to babies before. Mikey loved it when I held him. He would always wrap his fingers around my thumb.
"You know, Mike, he never cries when you hold him. What's that all about?" Debbie asked.
"I don't know. Maybe he's the reincarnation of Mike." I said half joking.
"Yeah, sure Mike." Ben said.
"I heard that." Eric said coming into the kitchen. He stopped and kissed Mikey on the head. "Mikey is Mike? Anything is possible." He turned to his mother and asked, "Is the food ready, Mom?"
"Sit down everyone." Betty said. I think she loved having Eric and her adopted family together.
I watched Eric when he sat down at the table. He saw me and smiled like nothing had happened.
Debbie took Mikey from me and put him in his high chair between her and Ben. I sat between Ben and Eric and Betty sat between Eric and Debbie. Dinner conversation was light as we all caught up on each other since the last dinner. I didn't mention Jay.
Betty served her great pumpkin pie, topped with Cool Whip. She knew that was my favorite and she always did it just for me. I appreciated Betty for so much over the years. I have grown to love her. Despite our grief, we were able to form a lasting friendship. Looking around the table, I knew how I felt about Ben and Debbie. But, it was Eric who seemed more like a mystery to me, more so after the kiss.
Suddenly, my trance was broken when Eric began talking about himself to me.
"I'm sorry, Eric. What did you say?" I asked.
"I have something to tell you." Eric said.
"Okay." I said.
"Mike, Mom and Ben have known for a couple of years now and I feel it's time to tell you. I'm gay, Mike."
I looked at him with stunned silence. My mind was spinning with that bit of news and I tried to rationalize the information and connect it to the kiss. I laid my fork down on the pie plate. I looked over at Ben. His look at me urged caution. I looked over at Betty. She just smiled at me. I looked back at Eric. Ben and Betty knew, then why hadn't I been told?
"Mike, we felt that Eric's situation would be better left not said. You were dealing with enough in your life and I was just protecting you again." Ben said.
I looked around the table. The people I love the most are in this room. We have shared so much and now I get to share this.
"Okay." I said. "I understand that you guys have watched out for me by protecting me. Don't get me wrong, I have appreciated that, but I am hoping that is that last secret you guys have kept from me."
Ben looked away, as did Betty. Eric just gazed at me. Debbie was feeding Mikey without much concern to the conversation.
"Look. It's 1974 and it's been four years now. I think I have recovered enough to handle everything now without being protected. If there is anything else you are keeping from me, please, tell me. I can handle anything now."
Ben got up from his chair and leaned down to me and said, "Let's go outside and talk."
I followed Ben out the front door and closed it. I sat down on the porch swing and Ben sat in the patio chair.
"Ben, I had no clue about Eric."
"What was the reason in not telling me before?"
"It's a little complicated."
"When Eric told me he was gay, I was surprised. I never expected that from him."
"We don't wear flashing signs." I said.
Ben chuckled and said, "I know."
"So what happened?"
"He had confided in his mother just before he left for his freshman year at Kent."
"When did you find out?"
"About three months ago. He wanted to tell you. I told him this wasn't a good time yet."
"I don't know why. He's gay. What's the big deal?"
"Don't you get it, Mike?"
Ben just gave me that look. I tried searching my brain for whatever clues that had been thrown my way. Suddenly I realized, THE KISS.
"Ben, I kissed him earlier. Up in his room."
"How did that happen?"
"We were talking and suddenly he leaned in and kissed me on the lips. I was a little taken back by it and I asked him why he did that. He told me that he wanted to feel what Mike felt when he kissed me. I thought it had to do with him connecting with Mike. I found myself pulling him in and I kissed him passionately."
"Wow. That must have been one heck of a kiss." Ben said with a huge grin.
"It was. Then I panicked when Eric lips felt just like Mike's. I couldn't handle it."
I shook my head, considering the possibilities of what it all meant.
"Eric has feelings for me?" I asked.
"Yes. He told me he was in love with you."
"Exactly. Do you have any feelings for Eric?"
"I don't really know. It's weird, he's Mike's brothers."
I rocked back and forth in the swing shaking my head, wondering what the heck to do.
"The problem is, my friend." Ben said, " that Eric has had these feelings for you for a long time. He looks up to you. Knowing about you and Mike made it easier for him to deal with his own sexual feelings. Mike, look at me!"
I looked at him.
"He worships the ground you walk on." Ben said.
That blew me away. I had no clue.
"I don't know what to say to that." I said.
"Well, you may have to come up with something. From what I can see, you have two problems to deal with."
"Yeah, Eric and Jay." I said. "Did you know he was going to tell me tonight?"
"No, I didn't. But I didn't want you saying anything about Jay."
"I understand now, why." I said. "I need to go talk to Eric."
"Mike, I don't know how you will handle this, but Betty doesn't want him to get hurt and I am sure she doesn't expect you to fall all over him either."
"Yeah, I don't know, yet."
I entered the house and headed to the kitchen looking for Eric. Betty was there, holding Mikey with Debbie. Ben followed me and Betty looked up at him and he nodded his head.
"Mike," Betty said turning to me, "I know you and I trust you. Be gentle with him."
"I will. Where is he?"
"He went up to his room." She said.
Moving past Ben, his hand patted my back as I went, I climbed the stairs and walked into Eric's room. He was sitting on his bed, leaning up against the wall. I sat down next to him.
"You know?" he asked.
"Yes. I figured it out. Are you sure about how you feel about me, that it's not some infatuation?"
"Mike, I have felt this way for about three years now. It's been killing me not to be able to tell you. Ben and Mom were determined to make me wait. I wanted to tell you after we kissed, but you left."
"I know. It sort of freaked me out."
"Because of Mike."
"Mike, I am smart enough to know that this is completely new to you. I didn't expect you to have those kind of feelings for me like I do for you."
"I don't know if I do, Eric. I have feelings for you since you're Mike's brother and my friend. But, romantic feelings I haven't had before. Until that kiss."
"Did you like the kiss?"
"At first, I don't know."
I am usually in control of myself, but in this situation, I was feeling totally lost.
"You did like it?"
"Would you kiss me again?"
Do I want to go with this? Do I kiss him and see where it all leads? Do I...? Before I knew it, Eric was kissing my lips again. His lips were tender and wanting. His tongue pushed through to mine and this time I didn't react, I went with it. We started making out. Our tongues were at each other. I felt myself getting hard. My feelings were swamped with the emotions coming from him. It felt like he had wanted this for a long time and his passion was real. I felt his hands on me, reaching for my cock. I found my hand going for his and it was hard.
My brain was racing. My cock wanted out of my pants. I wanted to feel Eric's cock in my hand. I reached for his zipper when I felt him reaching for mine. Then reality set in and my senses took over.
"Eric." I said pulling from his mouth.
"We can't do this. Not here. I'm sorry. I'm not ready for this."
Eric pulled up and leaned back to the wall again. His face was flushed and his breathing was labored. I scooted off the bed and sat down at the desk.
"I'm sorry." I said again.
"It's okay." He said with a smile. "I guess we got carried away. The door's open and we might have been caught."
"I don't think so. Everyone is downstairs, waiting on us."
"We need to talk privately. Away from everyone."
"Let's go for a ride."
We straightened our clothes and headed downstairs. Eric said we were going out and I said my goodbyes to Betty, Debbie and Mikey. Ben followed us out. I gave Eric the car keys and told him I would be right there. I turned and looked up at Ben.
"I'm not sure what I'm doing." I said.
Ben put his arms around and said, "You'll figure it out."
The End of Chapter Eleven