The Garden








As the three of us walked up the steps after Bill drove off, Dan stopped, pointed at the mailbox and said, “Thomas, Langer…. Elliot will just fit!” 

 I looked at him, my eyes widened and we burst out laughing.  I didn’t even know the last name of the man I had fallen in love with! 

Then through the laughter he blurted out, “Am I in love with Mr. Thomas or Mr. Langer?” 

“Langer, my darling Mr. Elliot, Langer!” 

We continued to giggle at the whole situation, hanging on to each other.  I kissed him on the lips; much to the dismay of my neighbor who sat shocked on the stoop next door. 

“Mrs. Robinson, may I introduce to you Mr. Elliot, my boyfriend.  Dan, meet Mrs. Robinson.” 

“How do you do, Mrs. Robinson.” 

She nodded, unable to speak.   I turned and opened the front door, scooped Dan up into my arms and walked, staggered really, across the threshold.


On Monday we hugged for at least ten minutes in the heat of the noonday sun.  Our shirts were soaked by the time we let go.  It was very tough to let go for the first time, but Dan had to be in class in the morning. 

“I love you, Dan Elliot,” I said, my bottom lip quivering. 

 “I love you, Pete Langer.  Graduation is only two months away; don’t worry we’ll survive.” 

“I know, I always wondered what it was like to connect with another on this level.  I’m beginning to realize what it’s all about.  It’s just a tad overwhelming at the moment.” 

“Look, I’m scared shitless, but I’m also happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

He stared into my eyes; “Now, I’m going to get into my car before I become a blubbering idiot.”  

He opened the door to his orange ’69 VW Beetle, tossed his green duffel across the seat.

 “See you in ten days.” 

He reached around me, grabbed my butt and pulled me tight into him.  I looked up at his face.

“Love you, don’t worry, we have the rest of our lives, OK!” 

“Can’t wait to come visit.  Love you too,” I said in my most determined voice, trying not to break down.


The car started with the whiny roar only a Bug can make.  He looked at me through the open driver’s window, winked, flicked down his sunglasses and let out the clutch.   He zoomed down Upperline Street, across Laurel and was gone into the shade of the trees.  I could hear him accelerate as he turned onto Magazine Street.  I stood there and kept listening, but heard only the roar of the buses on their route.


We each made the six-hour trip a couple of times between New Orleans and Houston by the time his graduation came.  It was a time of absolute bliss.  I was never happier to work so hard to get my schoolwork done so that I could spend time with Dan.   My work flowed from me with ease.  Ideas, designs and decisions came naturally.  I still bitched and moaned about the workload and school but now my life had taken on another level of complexity.  It was to be expected.  One step of maturity had happened to me. Another was about to occur. 


Dan told his parents he was gay and about me.  Now I was going to meet them at his graduation.  Although they lived in Houston, they had been away each time I had visited Dan.  They had taken his announcement as well as could be expected.  They were basically disappointed, but realized that they loved their son and decided to accept the situation.  He couldn’t get a real read on how they would accept me, but they wanted to meet me.   All I hoped was that they wouldn’t look at me as the man who turned their son gay. 


At Dan’s apartment the afternoon before graduation, he opened the door and wolf whistled me.  I smiled at the flattery yet should have done the same to him.  He had gotten his haircut, what had been a permanent mop of flowing brown waves was now trimmed into a tamed crop of soft ripples.  Still it looked natural and unforced, typical of Dan.  He was dressed in a pair of tan linen pants and a pressed blue oxford button-down shirt.   This casual outfit was the most formal dress I had ever seen him wear. 

“You really clean up nice,” I said with a smirk. 

We kissed and he said, “Well you’d better too.  Mom and Dad moved dinner up an hour.  They’ll be here in half an hour.” 

 “Oh shit!  Why didn’t you tell me.” 

“I just did,” he said with a laugh, “They called an hour ago to tell me.” 

“What’s up with that?” 

“Who knows, they didn’t explain why. That’s why I’m already dressed.  My original plan was to answer the door naked.”  

Mmmmmmmmm, that would’ve been cool.  But ‘cause you look so damn handsome I can’t complain.” 

After tossing my duffel onto his bed, I undressed, leaving a pile of clothes at the foot of the bed and grabbed my dopp kit on the way to the bath.  Twenty-seven minutes later I was tying my shoes when the doorbell rang.  The hard-on that I had gotten having Dan watch me dress began to fade, hopefully enough as Dan called for me to come out.  I pushed it down and adjusted myself as best as I could.    I checked my hair and fixed my collar in the full-length mirror.   Everything looked good except I still showed a bit.  I just hoped they didn’t stare at my crotch.  I stood up as straight as I could and walked out into the living room with a smile.


They were a handsome couple.  I saw Dan in each of them and I now knew where his natural grace came from.  They each were very much at ease with themselves.  They looked a lot younger than the late forties that I knew they were. 

“Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Elliot.  I’m so glad to meet you.” 

In the back of my mind I wanted to call them Mom and Dad.  That thought gave me an impish grin.  Dan looked at me with a quizzical stare, wondering what was going on between my ears. 

“We’re very glad to meet you, Pete,” said his Dad. 

“Dan has told us so much about you and the two of you.” 

“I hope it was all good,” I replied with a smile, wanting to keep it as light-hearted as possible. 

His mom got a bit of a distressed look on her face, but quickly recovered. 

“Why don’t we get on the road, Dad?” 

“Good idea, we don’t want to be late.” 

Mr. Elliot took his wife’s hand and placed his other hand between my shoulders and guided us out the door.  I smiled with uplifted eyebrows at Dan as I went by.  Any tension that he may have had was definitely gone now.  I turned to wait for Dan to lock the door.  As we went down the walk he reached for my hand.  We were two couples walking into a future very different from the one they might have imagined a few months ago. 


Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the restaurant that had a colonnade of wide and deep plaster arches with a low-slung red tile roof.  A typical Spanish Mission style building prevalent in Texas but this one was done properly with real plaster, good proportions and craftsmanship.  We entered across the terra cotta tiled floor and through a wide blackened, rough-hewn wood door.  Greeted by the Maitre D’ we were escorted to the back to a small nook of a room.  It was as if we had our own dining room with plaster arches infilled with wide vertical oak plank boards on three sides.   As we were seated the thought crossed my mind that they were hiding us from the rest of the world, as if they were saying, “We can’t be seen with our gay son and his faggot boyfriend.”


I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Soon it became very apparent that any apprehensions that they had about meeting me and adjusting to this situation were just that.  I think they would have been just as nervous if Dan were dating a woman.  It was natural to be wary of any new person who has attachments to someone you love.  If ever there was any problem that they had with Dan being gay it was with Dan, not us.  It wasn’t long before his mother was embarrassing him with stories of when he was young.  I thoroughly enjoyed the stories and getting to know about Dan through them.  I know he would rather have told me himself but sometimes a mother just has to do this, so she can share in him.  I told a few embarrassing things on myself, to ease Dan’s discomfort by getting some of the laughter pointed at me.  My mother would be jealous if she knew these stories had already been told.  Dan would always let her tell them never letting on that he had already heard them.


Dinner was fantastic.  The six-course meal had been completely prearranged.  Except for choosing the wine we were left with deciding only what to talk about.  While we waited for the dessert course Mr. Elliot excused himself from the table and said he would be right back.  He walked back with a big shopping bag and placed it in between him and his wife.  Down the aisle came a cart with a huge cake ablaze with candles followed by an entourage of waiters.  They came to a stop in front of our table between Dan and me.  We looked at one another, shrugged and smiled.  Then they began to sing, “Happy Birthday and Graduation to you, Happy Birthday and Graduation to you…”   I was floored!  So was Dan!   We both were stunned that they knew it was my twenty-second birthday the next day.


After we both blew out the candles we sat speechless looking at one another and the parents. 

“We saw Dan’s calendar on his refrigerator,” his mom confessed, “we couldn’t let it go.  You mean so much to him and he means so much to us.  Happy Birthday, Peter,” and turning to Dan she said, “and darling, Happy Graduation.  We are so proud of you.” 

Then she handed each of us a present.


I still couldn’t believe how well I was being treated.  I opened my present first.  It was a beautiful book of photos, drawings and sketches of Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright.  It was a book that I had always wanted but never had the extra cash to buy. 

I was thrilled and my face showed it.  Before I could say anything Mr. Elliot said, “I think we got a winner here, dear.”  

“Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Elliot, thank you.  I’ve always wanted this book.”


Dan’s box was a cube about the size of a basketball.  He unwrapped it and opened it up, digging into the tissue paper.  He kept digging into the tissue paper.  He looked at me, rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.  Then his eyes lit up. He had come across something and as he began to pull it out he stared at his parents now knowing what they had done.  He pulled out a set of keys on a VW fob. 

“We know you love your car Dan, but we thought you also needed to graduate in the car world too,” his Dad said with a slight trepidation in his voice, knowing how much his son identified with that Beetle of his.  

“Dad, Mom, It’s cool.  As long as I can keep Sammy!”   

“Sure, son, sure.”  

I had never asked Dan why or how he had named his car.  It was another one of those things I found natural about him.


“Well where is it, Dad?” 

“Out in the parking lot, the first space past the handicapped spots, I put it there this afternoon.” 

“Come on let’s go!” he said as he grasped my hand and jerked me out of my chair. 

“Whoa!” I said, as I was halfway down the aisle, napkin still in my hand.  “Come back for cake,” Mr. Elliot called to us with a laugh.  

Dan blew through the front door, turned the corner and stopped dead in front of a black VW Rabbit. 

“Oh, my God!   They got me the only thing that could come close to being a substitute for Sammy.” 

“So you are OK with this. I know how much you love your Bug.”  

“I don’t know yet.  I’m still in shock.  I rebuilt that car from an abused and mistreated heap. It took me almost two years to finish.  I love that car.” 

Dan turned and hugged me.

 “Come on, you got the keys … let’s get in!” 

He unlocked the door, got in, reached across to unlock my side but I opened the door.  He was not used to power locks.  We both laughed as we sat and stared out the windshield. Dan caressed the steering wheel and ran his hands across the dashboard.  He fiddled nervously with the buttons and knobs. 

He turned to me and said, “I thought that was really cool about my parents doing something for your B-Day.  I was shocked to say the least.  I didn’t want to add any pressure on them about this whole situation so I hadn’t told them.   Anyway, now that they’ve done this I won’t feel bad about stealing you away for our graduation/birthday celebration tomorrow.”  

“Cool, well we better go back inside and have some cake and really enjoy tonight.  And I want you to know that they got me a great gif; I really mean it.” 

“I could tell from your face. Come on.” 

He locked the door and we headed back in.  He interlocked his fingers with mine as we walked back to the table.  We got some stares but we didn’t care.


“I thought you guys had headed for the border.  The ice cream is getting soft.” Mr. Elliot said as he scooped another mouthful in. 

“Mom, Dad, the car is fantastic.”   

“Thought you might like it.  Now eat up so you to can all get out of here and be on your own.” 

“Dad, I’ve been meaning to talk to y’all about that.   Peter is going home for the summer to work for his Dad’s construction company.  He’s asked me if I wanted to join him in New Jersey for the summer, stay at his house, work for his dad, and explore New York City and the beach on weekends.  You know I’ve always wanted to see New York” 

“What about a real job now that you’ve graduated,” his Dad said with some consternation in his voice. 

“Well, Mom, Dad, I told you I was serious about Pete. He doesn’t graduate till next year and we want to live together.  We don’t know where the best opportunities will be for the both of us yet.  So I thought we could do this for the summer and then I could find some sort of job in New Orleans for next year. Then we could go from there.  Trust me he’s worth it!”

 I almost burst out in tears at that last statement.


His parents looked at each other.

 His mom spoke up, “Well, he’s always done exactly what he has wanted since day one.  I guess we have to trust him on this one too.  No sense changing now.” 

“OK, Dan, Pete, go have fun in New Jersey.  I never did, ‘cept I was stationed at Fort Dix.  Of course that’s no comparison,” his dad said as he began to chuckle.  


We finished up and gathered our stuff to leave.  Mrs. Elliot excused herself to the Ladies’ Room and said she would meet us outside.  Mr. Elliot stood between us and put an arm around our shoulders as we ambled toward the door.

 As we walked to the front of the Rabbit and stared at the car, his dad turned to me and said, “You take care of my only child.” 

Then he turned to Dan and said, “You take care of my son. OK?”

He paused, smiled at Dan and then looked at me.

“This is not an easy thing for us, but many years ago we pledged to each other to support whatever made Dan truly happy.  And he’s really happy.  Right Dan?” 

“Yes,” he replied with a soft warm smile.  

His dad then kissed us each on the side of our foreheads.  He let go of our shoulders and turned quickly away.  Mrs. Elliot was walking up at that moment. 

He turned back to us, his eyes full, and said, “See you at the house at ten, so we can all go together.”  

“Absolutely Dad!” 

Dan paused a second and said, “I love you.”   It was something that he had said often to his parents, but he meant it more now than he ever had before.


Dan still reached to unlock my door when he got in.

Dammit,” he said laughing. 

We continued to laugh, talk and plan for the summer and the future for a couple of hours as Dan settled into driving his new car.  He kept calling it “our” car. We pulled up to his apartment around 11pm and left a trail of clothes all the way from the front door to the bed. It was amazing there weren’t any left out on the front steps of the apartment. 


It was nine in the morning when I woke with a start. 

“Oh, shit, Dan!  Wake up!”

Wha…oh, shit, Pete!” 

We raced like fools to the bath.  If we hadn’t learned all of the personal things about the other yet we did that day, in a much-abbreviated form.  We had to shower together to save time and it was all that we could do to stop from repeating some of the scenes from the night before.  It’s a wonder that our faces weren’t bloody messes from shaving.   I grabbed his tie and camera and we bolted out the door only to turn right back around for our sunglasses.   Without a cloud in the sky the heat and humidity were already brutal. 


We were ten minutes late coming through his parents’ back door.  Our clothing was askew and now we were sweating profusely. 

“Sorry, we woke up late.” 

His mom shook her head slightly and said, “Boys…now go and finish getting ready.” 

I bounded up the stairs after Dan and we cruised into his old room.


It was a good-sized room, at least 15-feet square, with a high ceiling.   It had a small window by the closet door and a large bay window with a built in bench covered with a cushion.  Posters of football and baseball players surrounded the single bed in the corner and a shelf of trophies hung over the bureau.  A baseball glove and ball were tucked next to the pillows on the bed.

 As Dan caught me ogling over the inner sanctum of his childhood, he asked, “Do I pass muster… nothing scares you away?” 

 “Of course not!   Actually, it’s all incredibly normal… maybe that’s the only scary part,” I smirked as I looked at him out of the corners of my eyes. 

“You bastard,” he laughed as he jumped on me pushing me onto the bed.

 We ended up rolling around on the bed turning ourselves into a wrinkled heap till fell to the floor in a loud crash.   

“Boys! What’s going on up there?” his mother called through the floor. 

“Sorry,” we called out in unison, giggling like ten-year-olds.  We both had incredible hard-ons.  I clutched his through the fabric of his pants and began to stroke it. After he spun around and kicked the door closed, I unzipped his pants and began to suck his cock.  To be doing this in his childhood bedroom with his parents in the house made it that much more exhilarating.   I couldn’t help myself and he must have felt the same because it didn’t take but a minute before he shot down my throat.   He picked me up off of my knees and kissed me. 

“Wow, what I’ve dreamed about happening in this room finally came true.” 

He kissed me again.  A light knock at the door scared the shit out of both of us. 

“Leaving in five, OK!” his dad said. Then we heard his footsteps down the stairs. 

“Do you mind if I take care of you later?” 

“Understood,” I said with a smile. 

“Actually, I would like to finish turning my dreams of this room into reality.”

 “Hmmmmmmmmm, I’m intrigued.”  


We did our best to make ourselves presentable, but we should have started over.  Luckily with the day being so hot and humid everyone was a bit disarrayed.  The graduation ceremony was typical, long and boring.  I enjoyed chatting with Dan’s parents though, I felt very comfortable with them and I think them with me.  I had been unconditionally accepted by them.  As I watched Dan and the others walk out at the end of the ceremony I knew that I was one of the luckiest guys in the whole world and this was just the beginning.  I wondered how I could have ever been afraid to come out.


Lunch was a fun and delightful occasion for the four of us.  The only sad part was when Mrs. Elliot realized that her son was not only graduating from college but also entering another stage of his life.  He was not her “little boy” any longer and he had someone else to rely on.  Sitting to either side Dan and I hugged her and simultaneously kissed her on her cheeks.  It made her giggle.


By late afternoon Dan and I were off on our own, for real.  To me it was the best birthday present I could have ever received.   We went back to his apartment, changed and went out to the pool.  We lazed in the shallow end, sitting on the steps up to our necks in water with our sunglasses on, holding hands, not saying a word.  It was as if we were experiencing a cleansing of what our lives were so that we would be ready for our life to come.


After an hour we took our wrinkled bodies up to the apartment, rinsed in the shower, got into bed and spooned.  We whispered to one another, drifted in and out of sleep enjoying the spirit of the other.  

After a while Dan said, “Fuck me, Pete.” 

Our lovemaking continued for an hour, and then when we were again nestled in with each other half-asleep I said, “I will love you forever Dan Elliot.”  

“I will love you forever Pete Langer,” he said softly and then turned his head so we could kiss.

“OK birthday boy, I made reservations for a wonderful restaurant… that are in about five minutes.  I could call and see if I could move them but I wanted to see if you want to do anything else.” 

“Why did you wait to tell me?” 

“Sorry, I was being selfish. I was more into making love and snuggling with you than eating.” 


“Now, I’m famished, so let’s eat!”

 “Me too, actually this has been by far the best birthday of my life, and it’s still not over. Let’s not ruin it by going too far over the top…How about something simple?   Let’s see…” 

“Pizza and beer simple or….” 

“THAT’S IT!” I yelled and kissed him.

 “Where’s the best place for pizza and beer?” 

“Pete’s, as a matter of fact.  That’s appropriate, isn’t it.” 

“Let’s get showered and go!”


In my opinion sneakers, cut-offs and a polo shirt were much better than the jacket and tie affair he had originally planned.  I told him that we would save it for his birthday in October when the weather was cool.  He agreed with my reasoning even if it was only because it was my birthday.


Off we went into the heat of the evening.  The sun had just set.  The sky was an orange glow of haze and pollution with purple mounds of thunderstorms off in the distance.  We took Sammy for one of his last rides before he would go into hibernation.  I loved to ride in that car.  I felt that it was part of Dan and I was closer to him when we were in that car.  The pizza place was packed when we pulled in.  Making our way through the door we saw a small booth in the corner and quickly claimed it.  Through all the noise and chaos of that place full of teenagers, families and college kids we had a quiet dinner chatting, laughing, drinking beer and stuffing our faces with fabulous pizza.  Half the time he had his hand slid up my shorts as his other hand held a slice. 

“Now I understand about not wearing underwear!” 

“See what you’re missing by wearing it…and what I’M missing?” 

As we finished the second pitcher Dan said, “Let’s go, I’ve got your present at home.” 


During the walk to the car and the ride home we both expressed how much fun dinner had been and how full we were.  The conversation also went on about how lucky we were in coming out, so far, and how his parents had been so wonderful.  Dan was really proud of his parents.  I was too!  Now it was on to my parents and it didn’t look like I would get the chance to prep them before he arrived.  All they knew was that I was bringing a friend home to stay with us and work for my dad.  I had always had friends work with me for my dad.  Egil still worked for him each summer. I just happened to be bringing this one 1200 miles.  Although I thought that they had wondered if I was gay, yet it had never been even remotely discussed.  We were flying into this one and just had to hope we were not about to be blindsided.  My gut feeling told me we were OK.  We decided we had to believe in us and that our luck would hold out.


Dan’s present to me was the most unexpected thing imaginable.  He was nervous as he brought it to me. 

“What’s the matter, Dan?” 

“Nothing, really…well…” 

“What?” I said softly.  

“I wanted my first gift to you to be the best. I’ve wracked my brain for a month deciding what to do…and actually this is going to be from me and my mom….I’ll explain later, just open it.”

 I looked at him thoroughly confused and began to unwrap my present.  It was a leather bound volume about twelve by fourteen inches and two inches thick.  In gold embossed letters in the lower right corner it read, Daniel Boone Elliot.  

Daniel Boone!”  

“Oh, just get over it, it’s my mother’s maiden name.  And if you ever give me a coonskin cap I will leave you…. forever!”  

“Sorry, I’ve sorta been wonderin’ why you had avoided offering up your middle name.” 

I got serious for a moment to get back to my present but I just couldn’t help it and burst out laughing.  

“I’m sorry…Dan I love you….but this has caught me by surprise,” I said chuckling. 

“Hey, when we get married you can be Daniel Elliot Langer!” 

“Oh shut up and open the book!”


With a broad grin I opened the book. It was a photo album, all of Dan growing up, beautifully arranged in chronological order, labeled and dated.  The album told the story of Dan from birth to the day he left for college.  I was awestruck.  I slowly went from page to page absorbing it all.

“I thought that this is the best way for me to share my childhood with you, which I wish I could have. Mom gave this to me last year and I really want you to have it.   Besides, it will always be there if ever I need to reminisce.” 

“Thank you Dan…This is amazing…incredible.  I love it, absolutely!”  I leaned over and kissed him.


That night we sat in bed with the album between us and he spun stories around most of the photos.  It was well past three when we both passed out with the album still on our laps.


The next three days were spent packing up his apartment. A lot of it was going to be boxed and stored in his parents’ garage.  Some of his college friends came and took most of the furniture.  The rest overflowed the dumpster in the parking lot.  I had to build a platform in the garage for Sammy so we could store boxes underneath.  We had promised his dad we would use only half of the garage.  I had asked Dan if he wanted to put the boxes over the car or the car over the boxes.  He diplomatically replied that although he trusted my design and construction abilities he would rather have Sammy crush his belongings than the other way around. 

He kissed Sammy on his roof, “Take care, guy. I love you.”

 He pulled the dust cover the rest of the way over and adjusted it so it hung just right.


The next day we packed the Rabbit and my car for New Orleans.  Tulane’s graduation was the next day and we had to be there.   It was a teary good-bye with his parents but we promised that we would visit in August before school began and they were always welcome to visit us.  All the way back down I-10 I had to keep pinching myself at the reality that I was actually in love with a man better than any dream I ever had, and we were moving in together.