Behind The Silver Screen
By Jerry Miller
Leaving Ben on the steps, I got into the car. Eric handed me the keys and I started the engine and pulled around Ben's classic Mustang. I really didn't know where I was going. It was still the afternoon and the sun was bright and hot so I kicked on the air conditioning. Eric remained quiet. I assumed he was waiting for me to say something.
"Are you alright?" I asked.
"Yes, I am."
At the stoplight, I turned and looked at him. He turned and smiled at me. His eyes were just like Mike's.
I pulled away from the light when it turned green. That conversation with Mike came to mind. I tried it.
"Eric, how do you know you're gay?"
"I have always felt this way."
"When you look at a guy, what do you see?"
"I look for an attraction. How good looking they are. I wonder what they look like naked and what they have down here." He said pointing to his own cock.
Damn, he got me there. I could hear Mike chuckling in my mind.
"Was the kiss about you or Mike?" I asked.
"I could ask you the same thing." He replied.
"I'm serious. The first kiss, what was it about?"
"Like I said, I wanted to feel what Mike felt when he kissed you."
"Was it what you expected?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. I ended up confused. When you walked out, it bothered me. But when we kissed just now, it was more than I expected. I think I know what Mike felt. I know what I felt and I loved it." Eric said. "How did you feel about the kiss?"
"The first kiss, Eric, it felt like Mike was kissing me and I panicked. I had tried to forget how he kissed, the feeling behind it, the love. It all came flashing back to me. It took my breath away and I had to get out of your room."
"Are you afraid that I might be too much like Mike?"
"I don't know for sure."
We rode in silence. I was driving, but not really paying attention to where I was going until we got there. I pulled into the driveway. I suddenly realized why I was here. It seemed right.
"Why are we here, Mike?"
"Eric, do you trust me?"
"Yes, I do."
I parked the car and Eric and I got out. I looked around and found we were alone in the cemetery. I gazed over the sanctuary of stones thinking about all the lost souls who left their bodies here, including Mike. I took Eric's hand we walked towards Mike's grave. There was a concrete bench in front of it and we sat down. I didn't let go of his hand.
"Do you come here often?" He asked.
"I have only been here twice, with Ben."
"Why did you bring me here?"
"How many times have you been here, Eric?"
"Not since the funeral."
"I couldn't. Mom would ask me to go with her and I always declined."
"He misses us, you know."
"I never thought of it like that. He's dead. He can't feel anything."
"Is that how you see this?"
"I don't know if I believe all that stuff about an afterlife. Heaven and all that." Eric said.
"I do. Believing that someday I will see Mike again, keeps me going." I said.
The wind swept briskly through the trees, brushing the leaves along. I saw a few birds leave the tree's branches as they waved. I squeezed Eric's hand.
"I loved him so much it hurt, Eric."
"I know. I watched you at the funeral. If it wasn't for Ben I think you wouldn't have made it through the service. Mom was watching you, too. "
"Ben's been my rock. He helped me get through it. I love him for that. Your Mom has always been supportive."
"Mike, you're the reason I feel love now. If you hadn't loved Mike and he hadn't loved you, none of this would be happening. It scares me to think what my life would have been like after he died without my mother's love and support. To feel love and caring and affection that was so foreign in our house."
"Is that why you think you're in love with me?"
"No. I don't think so. I felt so much when I was around you before. It was on Mike's first anniversary that I started to feel things for you. I have spent the next two years trying to settle in mind what it was about. Finally, I told my mother that I was in love with you."
"What did she say about that?"
"She started crying and I didn't understand why. Mom finally told me that if it was right, that I should give you some more time and if I still felt this way, to tell you when she felt that you would be able to handle it."
"You've felt this way for three years now?"
I looked at Mike's marker stone. Mike's body was only a few feet from me. I hoped he could hear this and understand because I'm not sure I did.
"I brought you hear to be near Mike. I told you earlier that you should talk to him and tell him how you feel about things. Things that you never got to say to him. I've done that a few times here. Ben left me alone so I could be private about it. I believe with all my heart that he heard me. It helped me to heal."
Eric dropped his head. I could see the tears running down his face. I put my arm around his shoulders and pulled him to me.
"Do you want to be alone with Mike?"
"No. I want you with me, please." Eric said quietly.
For several minutes I suspected Eric was working up his courage. I didn't know everything he had gone through over these last four years. He went through his own personal torment and grief. Finally he got up and walked over to the headstone. He kneeled next to it and began to whisper to it. I couldn't hear him. I closed my eyes and thought about Mike asking him what I should do. Then Eric's voice broke through my thoughts. I opened my eyes and he was still at the headstone.
"Mike, we missed so much together. I needed you when I was growing up more than you know. It wasn't your fault. Our father was wrong about everything. I remember when you played with me when I was little. You would put the building blocks up and I loved knocking them down. The comic books you snuck me and your secret messages kept me happy. I hoped through our teen years that we would get to know each other after we were out of the house. We didn't get the chance. I miss you so much, my brother."
I wiped tears from my eyes when I saw his shoulders shake. I resisted the urge to go to him. I suspected that his grief was deep. My own grief had been deep. I openly suffered through mine. Eric must have kept his buried.
I wished I had realized sooner what was happening with him.
"Mike, I know you loved Mike with all your heart. I love him too. Please don't be angry with me. I watched him in so much emotional pain for so long that my heart broke for him. In that time I started to look at him differently. At first I hoped he would be like a big brother to me. In his way, despite what he was going through, he did. That's when I started to fall in love with him. Ben and Mike have been good to me and Mom."
Eric began to whisper again outside my hearing. I watched him softly stroke the top of the stone. With his other hand, he ran his finger over the letters engraved. I felt the realization that I was looking at Eric in a different way. We had shared so much in common, both being lost without Mike. Was I so blind to him that I couldn't see the pain in his eyes? I closed my eyes again, thinking about Mike and what he would want me to do. A thought came out of nowhere and I hoped it would make sense of all this.
"Mike, I'm sorry for not coming sooner. It was too hard for me. I watched them put you here and I resented it. I think about you here all the time. Don't ever think I will forget you. I won't. Ben, Mike, Mom and I always get together because of you. I hope you know how we all feel about you. None of us will ever be the same without you."
My face was flooded with tears when I heard his words. Watching Eric made me think of Ben watching me, feeling the same things I was feeling with Eric.
"I love you Mike. I hope you are sleeping peacefully. I miss you."
Eric turned towards me and I stood up as he embraced me. We cried together like Ben and I had done so many times before. This time with Eric, I felt like the rock. I thought I had cried myself out over Mike, but I was wrong. I was crying for Eric this time as well.
We sat back down on the concrete bench. I handed Eric my handkerchief and he cleaned up his face.
"You were right, Mike. I feel so much better. I felt so close to him."
"He heard you."
"Do you really think so?"
"Yes I do." I put my arm around him again and pulled in to me. "I'm sorry, Eric."
"Because I didn't see the pain you were in. You waited a long time to do this."
"You had your own pain to deal with. I thought I was handling it pretty good. But there would be moments."
"I'm sure there were."
I rocked him silently as the sun began to disappear behind the trees. I hadn't realized how long we had been here. It didn't matter. How many times did Mike and I draw close like this? We both needed it. Eric needed it too.
"Let's go Eric." I said getting up. Eric stood up and we walked hand in hand back to the car.
Pulling out of the driveway I headed to the nearest Burger Chef. I thought it was time for a chocolate milk shake. We rode in silence down Main Street. I believed we were both gathering our thoughts. The Burger Chef was across the street from the Loew's Northtown. We entered the restaurant and I ordered the shakes and we sat down.
"You've been awfully quiet, Eric. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, better than ever." He said managing a smile.
We drank our shakes and just enjoyed the company. Eric, I thought, was just like Mike; enjoying each other's company, without words.
After we finished, I drove north on Main Street. I turned right on Shoup Mill Road and headed towards Dixie Highway. I turned right and pulled into the driveway of the North Star Drive-In. Passing the marquee, I didn't even look to see what was playing. I paid our admissions and drove in with my parking lights on. I went to the back row and parked.
"I couldn't think of anywhere else private we could talk, Eric."
We both stared out towards the screen. I didn't know where to start. I reached out for his hand and held it. I felt something special from the warmth of it.
"How do you feel about this?"
"Me being Mike's brother."
"I don't know yet."
"I'm not exactly like him. I am myself. I only want you if you want me, but not a substitute for Mike."
Damn. He knew how to put me on the spot. He's had some time to think this over.
"I think the idea at first scared me. You remind me so much of Mike is many ways. Your eyes, your smile; the very same look of sadness I saw with Mike. I wonder how much your body would remind me of him."
"I can't help the way my eyes look to you or the smile. I don't think my body will resemble Mike that much." He said. "I do remember seeing the sadness in Mike's eyes too."
"I'm sorry. I don't want to constantly compare you to Mike. It's hard not too." I said.
"I was afraid of that and I understand it too."
"I don't want to hurt you." I said.
"I know you don't. I don't want to hurt you either."
I watched the action on the screen, trying so hard to do the right thing for Eric, the right thing for me.
"Have you been with anyone yet, Eric?"
"Not like that. I have a jack off buddy at the dorm. We've done each other a couple of times. It's not my roommate. You were the first person I ever kissed. Was Mike your first one?"
I expected him to ask that right after I asked him.
"To be honest, no, Eric." I said. "I was with one guy before Mike. His name was Jay. We would jack each other off and kiss some. The last time I saw him we together I, uh, went down on him. He freaked out and we never did anything again. Ben and I even jacked off together a few times, but we never touched each other. I met Mike and it was all different."
"You and Mike did everything?"
"Wow. This is getting awkward for me. I'm talking to his brother about having sex with him. I couldn't do this with your mother."
Eric laughed at me. "I'm not my mother. I'm the guy who's in love with you. We were just going over our histories."
"My history is longer than yours."
I got his drift with that remark. Suddenly I felt a need to use the rest room.
"I need to go. I will be right back. You want anything at the snack bar?"
"I'll go with you."
We trekked the ramps down to the snack bar building and went into the Men's Room. I was worried about standing next to Eric at the urinal. Do I dare look at him down there? Will he look at me? Having gotten to know Eric more today, of course he would.
The urinals were lined up along the wall, they were the kind you could lean into to hide yourself. Eric went to the last one and I took one about three urinals up. I watched out the corner of my eye to see if he was looking my way. He was with a big smile.
"What's so funny?" I asked.
"You. Being shy down there. You forget I've felt you up."
"Smart ass. Maybe I'm not ready to show you my goods yet."
What am I saying? I hadn't decided yet whether we would go that far. Eric laughed at me. I couldn't see anything from my distance. I noticed him shake and stroke himself when he finished. Then he zipped up.
"What's the matter? Pee shy?" Eric asked, chuckling.
"No, I am just fine." I said as I finished up.
Eric had washed his hands and was waiting for me to come out. We bought ourselves a Coke and went back to the car.
We watched the movie without the speaker in the car. With the windows open, the sound was loud enough from the other speakers that we had no trouble hearing it. I realized that it was the second feature, the John Wayne film, "The Cowboys". I loved this movie.
I felt Eric move towards me. I put my arm around him and snuggled. He turned his face to mine and I moved towards him to kiss. His lips were soft and tender this time. The urgency from before was gone. The kiss ended and he turned back to the screen.
I stroked his hair like I did with Mike. I started to come up with reasons why I couldn't fall in love with Eric. All of them dumb. Every one of them was unfair to him, even if I could fall in love with him. Could I fall in love with Eric? I could. Being here with him felt so right. I didn't feel this with Jay last Sunday. Damn, Jay. I hadn't thought of him since my conversation with Ben earlier.
Ben was right. I had two problems. Jay and Eric. I promised his mother I wouldn't hurt him, but I had to be honest with him.
"Eric, I have something to tell you."
The end of Chapter Twelve.