“Don’t get defensive, OK? You and I know that you worked your butt off and put your heart and soul into this, but don’t let ‘em get to ya, ‘cause if you get defensive they’ll tear your ass up. And besides I’ll get pissed at you!”
Dan was trying to get me ready for my Thesis jury. This is when all of the Thesis Directors plus a few others listen to you present your project and the theories behind it, to explain why it is architecture. I had been through a hundred juries and had made all the mistakes of getting through them before. Dan had a natural insight into them. I don’t know how, but he did.
“Just go in there and talk to them like you told me what you were doing and why. It’s the same as all those conversations you had with me while I was reading…I was listening, ya know. Besides, we know there will be a jerk in a pissy mood, somebody who hasn’t been gettin’ any lately, and he’ll be lookin’ for a tussle to assert his fucked up ego. Don’t give him the chance. OK! Now come on. Let’s go see the two before yours to see how the tide’s flowin’.”
God how I loved him for knowing the right thing to say at the right time and for the support he continually gave me. He made my life.
The two juries before mine couldn’t have been more different. In the first one the guy wowed them. The jurors gushed all over the place. It was disgusting. I don’t know why they all wanted to kiss this boy’s butt, his project wasn’t all that good, but I was glad for him in a way. The second kid had been a friend of mine through the five years. We had shared a joint on the first day after classes. I rarely then or now smoked dope but that day with Jon was one of those days that exemplified the times that I did and the fun that I had when I got high. He knew things that nobody else did. He had a mind like an encyclopedia and knew how anything could be built. He just was so unsure of himself and the huge cache of natural talent he had for architecture. On that day trepidation was his downfall.
The courthouse complex that he had designed was good, not great, but competent. There was no reason that he shouldn’t have sailed through. He just had to say what he needed to say and let the jurors whine if they wanted and then walk away, but the tide had turned from the giddy gushings of before. From the start, they laid into him from the quality of his pencil lines on his drawings, the typefaces that he used for his labels and the arrangement of paving stones in a cellar lobby of the main building. They tore at all the piddly-shit. They never even talked about the overall concept, because it was solid and there wasn’t a damn thing that they could say negatively about it. Jon immediately got defensive and it ended up in a huge shouting match. His Thesis Director finally cut it off. Jon stormed out. I took off after him. I grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.
“It’s OK. You’ll pass. Look they were too chickenshit to even talk to you about the real issues. Let it go, it’s done, let it go. OK?” He put his head on my shoulder and sighed.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck! Why did they have to do that…It sucked! The fuckin’ bastards! Thank god my dad went on that business trip and couldn’t make it.”
He stopped short and looked up into my face. He sighed.
“Hey, it’s your turn. Don’t be late and piss ‘em off,” he said with a grin.
“Yeah, thanks for warming them up for me,” I said laughing.
Jon shook his head, “Sorry ‘bout that…but thanks, Pete, you’re right, it’s over and I know I’ll be at graduation next week. So who the fuck cares?”
“It just sucks, that’s all.”
“Yep. Now go in there…and shoot ‘em if they start actin’ up.”
Jon hugged me as hard as he could and then bounded down the steps in groups of four. I thought he was going to kill himself in a fall.
I walked back in, stood next to my project, and waited for them. Dan sat a little off to the side behind where the jurors would sit. They slowly flowed in and sat down. Dan smiled at me and winked, then grabbed his crotch, his sign for give ‘em hell. I took a deep breath and began. Jon came back in and sat in the back with Dan. I could tell he had been outside smoking a joint. Half the jurors were still pissed off from Jon’s review and still had their claws out. The other half didn’t want a repeat of that debacle. I spoke for ten minutes before I gave the jurors a moment to interrupt. Most of the comments and questions were straightforward and rational a few were even lighthearted. The ones that were obnoxious or venomous I refused to acknowledge, which pissed them off more. I answered the reasonable questions and comments in the calmest voice I could. Still, I struggled at times not to lose it when I was verbally poked. The one thing that saved me was when they were their nastiest and I didn’t have or couldn’t come up with an answer that wasn’t defensive I gave in, “OK, good point, I’ll do it better next time.” They lost at their own game.
After forty-five minutes, it was all over. My Director came up to me when it was done and said, “Good job, ‘A’ for lion taming, that’s for sure. See you at graduation.”
Dan came up and bear hugged me, lifted me off my feet and spun me around, covering my face with kisses.
“My God I’m proud of you. Man, you’re soaking wet!” My back was completely soaked to the point where the ass of my pants down to the inside of my thighs was wet with sweat.
“Let’s go home,” I said, seriously.
“I’ve had enough of school.”
I shook Jon’s hand and gave him a hug.
“See you next week.”
I grabbed Dan’s hand and pulled him down the stairs. I cried in relief the entire car ride home.
Dan called me “Mr. Planner Man” but he was as good as I was at organizing things and events. Taking care of all of the arrangements and accommodations for our parents to visit for my graduation and birthday were all done with a minimal amount of input on my part. He only asked me if certain days were OK with me. He called my parents and gave them all of the reservation information. I was astounded when they called to thank me for getting it done and I had no idea what they were talking about. Dan had made it look like a joint effort. Dan had gotten the parents adjacent rooms at the Columns Hotel, an old mansion on St. Charles Avenue half way between Tulane and the French Quarter. These were not first class accommodations but it had character and that’s what they both needed in their first meeting, something to talk about besides us.
My parents would be flying in the day before graduation and we were to pick them up at the airport at noon. Mom and Dad Elliot would arrive by car early that same afternoon and we would all go out to dinner that night. Jason would arrive while we were at dinner and spend the night so that he wouldn’t have to drive in early on Graduation Day. Graduation was at noon and afterward the six of us, plus Steve, Katie and Jason would all go out to a late lunch, what they refer to as supper in the south. We had not figured out how to explain Jason but to say that he’s our friend and to be honest about any questions they asked.
If it got touchy, “Well, that’s the fun part of life,” Dan said.
Having Jason there was far more important to us than having to answer some embarrassing questions. Dan had made all of these arrangements as I made my mad crash at finishing my thesis.
“Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!”
“Peter, Dan,” my mom squealed as she hugged and kissed us both, dragging us over to her five foot two height.
“Gentlemen,” my dad said with a degree of sarcastic wit and a warm smile as he shook our hands.
“Hi, Mom and hello, Sir,” Dan said in return, causing Dad to laugh out loud.
Dad put his arms around both of our shoulders and said, “I see you’ve been taking very good care of Pete. Normally by the end of the school year he looks like road kill.”
“Oh, he knows how to straighten me out when I get out of hand,” I said with a smirk thinking of the morning after handing in my thesis. I had to look at Mom and ask her how she’d been so that I wouldn’t get a hard-on. I came to find out later that Dan had to divert his thoughts too because of that comment.
We got them to the hotel and were checking them in when Mom and Dad Elliot arrived. Dan saw them coming up the front steps as we turned around to carry the bags up to the room.
“Hey, look who’s here!”
“Mom, Dad, it’s Mom and Dad,” I said.
Dan and I dropped the bags and went and opened the front doors to the lobby.
“Got a real job, huh, Pete,” Mr. Elliot exclaimed,
“And I see you’ve moved up from waitering Dan.”
“Hi, Danny. Hi, Pete,” Mrs. Elliot said brightly.
“Mom, please do not call me Danny. Thank you.”
I laughed as I looked at Dan.
“Mom and Dad, this is Mr. and Mrs. Langer. Jim and Marge. Mr. and Mrs. Langer, these are my parents, Tom and Thelma Elliot.”
The parents made their cordial hellos all the way around. They had spoken to each other on the phone, but I was still so nervous over their meeting. This was the last hurdle of our relationship. Not that it completely mattered since they lived 1500 miles apart, but Dan and I hoped that our parents liked each other and got along. We wanted them to be friends.
Soon they were installed into their respective rooms and we all met downstairs for a drink before Dan and I would leave to shower, change and return for dinner. I was sitting to the left of Dan and beside my Dad, Mr. Elliot was next, then my mom and then Mrs. Elliot completed the circle. I had one hand on the table and Dan had his on top of mine, our fingers interlocked. There was a polite banter going on about general things, work, interests and such when my dad noticed Dan’s ring on his finger. He reached down, plucked my left hand from my lap, and splayed out my hand.
“Very nice. Platinum. Good choice.”
“What,” my mom queried as her eyes zeroed in on our matching rings.
“Did I miss something? When did this happen? Nice of you to invite me.”
“Whoa, Mom, don’t get too excited. No one was invited but Dan. On his birthday, October the fifth and no, I don’t think you missed anything but the tears of joy. And before you ask it, when and if there ever is a ceremony of some sort you four will absolutely, unequivocally be the first to know, besides us. OK”
“Don’t worry, Marge. I had the exact same reaction,” Thelma said, “except you got a better answer out of Pete.”
Jim and Tom started to laugh. My dad began to talk of how good a worker Dan was last summer and how good he is to me. Tom talked of how I had made Dan a joy to be around since he was never cranky anymore. Dan cranky, I thought, I was confused. They began to share us between them. The moms talked of us when we were little boys and how that related to how we are today. Dan and I found that conversation a bit scary, to say the least. Soon we couldn’t get a word in edgewise and found it odd how they talked as if we weren’t present, so excused ourselves saying we would be back in a little less than two hours. I don’t think they heard a word we said. Once we got out on the porch Dan and I hugged.
“Thank God they like each other. I sort of knew they would, but I was nervous,” Dan said.
“Ditto. Thank god we got out of there before they started pullin’ out pictures.”
Dan and I were in the shower when the bathroom door snapped opened and a smiling red head with a crisp haircut popped in.
“Hey, can I join you?”
“You know you don’t have to ask.”
He stripped down and climbed in.
“I got an A and the rest B’s for this semester,” Jason said quietly.
Dan and I hugged him, squeezed him more like it.
“Eeeeoowww,” he exclaimed, “ Hey, I’m just a skinny little fart. I bruise easy.”
We both kissed him hello and began to soap him up.
“I’m so excited about being here for this with you guys.”
“We are too, Tiger. Pete and I said there was no way we could have graduation without you here.”
“I know that I will have to think about what I say and what I do. No sense in rocking the boat in calm waters.”
“Jason, be yourself, it’s OK,” I said, “You don’t do anything outrageous normally that would set off flares.” Then I locked my eyes upward for a second. Jason laughed and lightly slapped my ass.
After drying off and we moved into the bedroom. Jason put back on his shorts and bright red T-shirt while we got dressed in slacks and oxford shirts.
“You guys look so good all dressed up. Makes me feel like a little kid next to you guys.”
“Jason, in less than a year, actually in the last five months alone, you have grown up so much. You are not a kid any longer. We both think of you as our age, on our level. Sure when we all met in the gas station we felt you were sort of a scrub, a really cool kid, but that has changed and you have grown into a man. You stand up for yourself, you assert yourself and our whole relationship has begun to evolve because of it too.”
Dan stopped and took a huge breath, then stared me directly in the eyes. I nodded my head yes.
“I think we all have begun to realize that going our separate ways in the fall might not be the best thing for us all.”
“This summer will you come stay with us? Not just here and there but to move in with us?”
“You mean this?”
We both nodded our heads.
“Yes, I accept. Oh man, do I accept!”
He reached out with both arms and grabbed us as tight as he could.
He then abruptly stepped back, stood tall and said, “OK, one thing though, till we all agree that it’s the right thing to do for…forever, that… shit, for lack of a better word it’s an engagement, OK?”
“Alright, that sounds good,” Dan said.
“Cool by me too…wait, wait, I got it.”
I opened the top drawer of the bureau and took out a small box of odds and ends.
“Over the rainbow…” Dan started to sing.
“A-ha, got it.” I turned and picked up Jason’s left hand, then turned and took Dan’s hand, put it underneath Jason’s, palm up. I lifted Jason’s ring finger and placed a jade ring onto it. I placed my hand on top and bottom of the pile and said, “All for one and one for all.” We all repeated it and then broke into laughter, soon quieted by some serious kissing.
“Get out of here or you’ll be late. I’m going to be late too.”
“For what?” I wondered.
“Dinner with Steve and Katie.”
“Oops, Pete, forgot to tell you about that arrangement,” Dan said, with three fingers over his mouth.
“Can I tell them,” Jason asked, wiggling his finger.
“Sure Tiger, actually, they need to know. Since you’re moving into the house that belongs to all of us on a permanent basis, I think they definitely deserve it.”
“Tell Fitz she can be maid of honor.”
We cracked up laughing and headed for the door. Out on the street before we got into our cars we each gave the other a huge kiss. I spied our next door neighbor on her porch.
“Hi, Mrs. Robinson, I want you to meet our new boyfriend, Jason.”
“Now you’ll be seeing me all the time, Mrs. Robinson.”
Mrs. Robinson never said a word. She put her hand on her heart and looked to the sky, then took a swig out of her can of Dixie beer.
“See you by eleven, Tiger.”
Dinner with the parents was a fun, almost silly, affair. I think they must have kept the drinking up until the last moment before they had to get ready. My parents hardly ever drank. I’d only seen my dad drunk once in my life and I knew the Elliots weren’t really drinkers either. So they were on a roll by the time we got there. They all kept their heads but it made for lots of ridiculous comments and outbreaks of laughter. By the time dessert arrived we thought they were beginning to fade. I was glad to get them home to the Columns Hotel, where they promptly adjourned to the bar.
Dan and I stared at one another with wide eyes asking each other, “What is goin’ on with them?”
We shrugged our shoulders, said our good-byes and headed home. We were both dying to see Jason.
I popped the front door open.
“Hey, Straw, we’re home,” I called out. Fitz came marching down the hall right at me, followed by Jason.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“What, about Jason. No, we’re not!”
“No, silly, about being maid of honor!”
“Oh, shit, I don’t know, I just wanted to get a rise out of ya.”
“But I really want to when you do it, OK!”
“Sheesh, a little over excited are we,” I replied.
Dan said, “Ooooh, oooh, can I be a bridesmaid at your wedding?”
“No the two of you…well I guess now three of you will be the best men at our wedding,” Fitz paused for a second, “No, he hasn’t asked me yet…dammit!”
“Less than a year and you know for sure,” I asked.
“Yes…and you find this hard to believe how, Mr. Ask-him-to-marry-you-seven-months-later. Hmmmm?”
“Open mouth, insert foot.”
“Insert something else how ‘bout,” Jason said.
“OK! I can relate to that,” Dan piped in. Fitz started to giggle.
From the kitchen, Steve leaned back in his chair and said, “What is going on out there? Aren’t you comin’ back here? Three chairs and a stool, no waiting!”
“Lazy ass,” I laughed.
“Got that right,” Fitz responded. We all went back and sat in our seats. We never shut up till after three in the morning.
“Do I have ta get up,” I whined.
“You are the oldest twenty-three-year-old I have ever met,” Dan said to me.
“Hey, I ain’t twenty-three for three more days,” I replied.
“Get your lazy ass up,” Jason said as he planted his feet on my ass and pushed me out of bed.
“Woo Hoo, that’s workin’,” Dan said, as he helped me to my feet.
“Come on, will ya…,” Dan pleaded.
“I’m sorry, I can’t get awake, especially to run around in a long black nylon dress!”
“I know you don’t want to let go of school, that’s all.”
“I’m tired, that’s all.”
“Oh, bullshit, Pete! You’ve been running on less sleep for the last three months and cranking out work at an unbelievable pace…Time to let go of the past, OK. It’s time to enjoy the future with me and Jase.”
“Arrrrrrgggghhhh,” I screamed as I ran off to the bath.
The other two shook their heads and sauntered after me.
I was impressed when we all stood on the front porch an hour later. Our family was quite a respectable group when we were all dressed in slacks and ties, or dresses as the case may be with Fitz. Steve was setting up his camera on the tripod so that we could have a family portrait. The morning sun angled across the front porch. The light was a soft golden yellow as it filtered through the thick humid air of New Orleans. Steve kept calling out directions to rearrange everyone to his liking. After the third renovation of the line up we all groaned and yelled, “Take the picture!” Steve pushed the timer and ran to get in order. Three repeats later Steve dismounted his camera and began to take some candids as we waited for our parents to arrive in the Elliot’s car. We would walk the eight blocks to St. Charles and take the streetcar from there.
Dan, myself and Jason were sitting like a train on the steps, each in-between the other’s knees on descending treads when the parents arrived. Steve was taking our picture. After the click we got up for handshakes, hugs and introductions. The parents were eager to meet Steve and Katie, whom they all had heard so much about, and, I think, were reassured by the fact that we had straight friends. Dan and I were distressed by their coolness to Jason. I guess they thought he was more of an acquaintance than a friend. Fitz picked up on it too and wrapped her arm around Jason’s shoulder as we walked off down the middle of Upperline Street. It was much easier to navigate around the potholes and occasional car than deal with the narrow obstacle course they called sidewalks in our neighborhood, especially with this large entourage.
We were two blocks down the street when Dan said, “Darlin’, forgetting something?”
“Wha…SHIT! Keep walking, I’ll be back.”
Dan laughed as I took off at a good clip to get my gown and mortarboard. They were all at the car stop when I made it back. Mom took her handkerchief out of her purse to wipe the sweat from my brow.
“Mom! Cut it out, you make me feel like I’m five.” Jason had his hand over his mouth trying to stifle his laughter.
“Oh leave her alone, Pete. Her little boy is graduating from college. She won’t get many more chances like this,” he said.
“Thank you, Jason,” Mom said with a smile. She appreciated the validation.
The ceremony was held on the lawn in front of Richardson Memorial. With only sixty graduates it was intimate compared to the thousands involved in BA program. The music was provided by a group headed by one of the architecture professors. It was all medieval music played on period instruments, unique to say the least. As I sat in the first five rows of chairs with my class, they handed out the tassels. I was not happy. I did not realize they were brown, dark shit brown.
“Who chose this fuckin’ color?” I said to Jon who was seated next to me.
“I don’t know but I want to be an engineer; look,” he said pointing at the tassel of one of my favorite professors who is a structural engineer by training. His was orange, beautiful bright orange.
“Shit, is it too late to change?” Jon asked of me with a smile. I then noticed the joint he had stuck behind his ear like a pencil. I laughed and then the music began to play.
The speeches were a bit too long for the hot steamy day that was developing. Sweat was pouring down my chest under the nylon tent I wore. I seriously thought about pulling my arms through the sleeves and getting naked under the gown. I could easily have done it, but discretion won out. I finally made my way across the stage, got my diploma, made a slight bow and smiled as wide as I could as I looked into Dan’s eyes. His arms were raised as high as they could go. Jason was clapping as hard as he could. So was the rest of my family, all of them!
“Thank god, that’s over with,” I said as I gave Dan the biggest hug I could once the ceremony had ended.
“Wow, you’re a sweaty mess.”
“No shit, I’ll need to shower and change before lunch.”
After hugs and congratulations and making the rounds to other classmates and their families I was finally able to get out of that horrible piece of plastic and turn it in. I was amazed that for my fifty bucks I could keep the square piece of cardboard wrapped in nylon that was called a “mortarboard”. Dan arranged for him and me to get off the streetcar at Upperline so I could shower and change as they continued on to Commander’s Palace for lunch. We would then drive the Elliots’ car down to save them the trip back. I asked Dan about Jason, if he wanted to come along with us.
Dan said, “He suggested he should stay with the group. If our relationship is really going to come out at some point he thinks it best if we work into it. I couldn’t agree with him more...and he still questions if he’s grown up, sheesh.”
Lunch at Commander’s was an experience. The place was packed with architectural graduates and their families, besides the usual crowd of regulars and tourists. The nine at our table spread away and across from me as I sat in the middle, Dan to one side, Jason to the other and our parents across from us. Steve and Katie held down the ends. The questions were endless from the parents about the past, present and future of all of our lives. The questioning was almost relentless. It’s exciting to those who have been down this road to know what incredible opportunities exist by the simplest of choices. They wanted to understand our decisions and directions. Dan and I almost lost it when Steve came within a breath of proposing to Katie by default. They also asked questions of Jason and us too.
“How did y’all meet,” Mom Elliot asked Jason.
“We started talkin’ in a gas station in Alabama at the end of last summer,” he replied simply. The moms got very confused looks on their faces.
“Then, by chance, we all met up again at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party here in New Orleans. We’ve been friends ever since,” I said, trying to fill in the story.
“Dan and Pete have become my best friends. They are always there for me and I can turn to them for anything. It’s not easy being queer when you’re from a Southern Baptist family in Mississippi.”
His blunt confession eased everyone’s mind and made sense to everyone as to why we three had the bond that we did.
The conversation then turned to the immediate summer plans. Everyone knew about my summer job offer at a local architecture firm, which the next day I became ecstatic over, called everyone and babbled incessantly about. Now it was twenty questions for everyone else. Dan was going to continue his waiter position till further notice. Steve got a summer intern job at a downtown law firm. Katie had her job.
Jason said, “I’m moving in with the gang on Upperline Street next week and will be looking for work ten minutes later.”
“Is there room for you?” my mom asked.
“Well…” Jason fumbled.
“We’ll make room, Mom. It’s the right thing to do. Jason is not on the best of terms with his family right now since finding out he’s gay. So Dan and I…along with Steve and Katie want him to join us. He needs a safe, stable place to live.”
Mom let it go and the conversation went on to more fun and lighthearted subjects.
Then came time for graduation presents; I could not imagine what either set of parents had in store for me. I knew they wouldn’t give me a car. Dan and I had three between us now, so that was of no use. I had always been a relatively simple person and didn’t believe in material things so expensive objects were not on the list. I was handed a large card from Dad who said that this was from the four of them.
“Uh-oh, they got together on this,” I thought. The card was one of my mother’s schmaltzy, sickly sweet card selections. I opened it and dutifully read the outside, then unfolded the card. I never finished reading the inside because there was a savings account passbook. I opened that up to find an account in BOTH Dan’s and my name with $15,000 in it.
“It’s for moving to New York, buying furniture, savings for a down payment or whatever you and Dan want…even add Jason’s name to the account too,” my dad said with that sly grin of his.
Eight heads spun around like twist-offs at quitting time.
“Just kidding,” he said as he raised his hands and laughed aloud. He had noticed Jason’s ring though. Dan, Jason and I did not know what to say after that. We all knew the inevitable was a hell of a lot closer than we wanted at the moment. Shit, we hadn’t even moved in together yet and my dad was marrying us already.
After dinner, as we all stood outside under the live oaks next to the wall of the cemetery across the street from Commander’s, Mr. Elliot made the suggestion that we all go to the bar at the Columns for a round or two. It was five in the afternoon and everyone agreed it sounded like a good idea.
At the bar we split up into little groups at those tiny bar tables and slowly table hopped from round to round. The dads spent a long time at the bar itself in a very animated, sometimes very serious, conversation. I got worried that they might not be getting along. Yet all seemed safe and normal when I went to take a leak and it was, until I came out into the hallway to return to the bar.
“Hi Dads,” I said to the two of them.
“Could we ask you a question?” Tom asked.
“We’re very serious now,” my dad said. My heart jumped to my Adam’s apple.
My dad continued, “We want to know if you guys, you, Dan and Jason, are a trio?”
My eyes shot back and forth between them. I felt like I was about to shit in my pants.
I blew air out between my lips and said softly, “Yeah.”
“I knew it,” my dad yelled with a smile and slapped Tom on the back.
“Next round’s on you!”
“Pete, really?” Mr. Elliot said seriously.
“Yes sir, actually…” my breathing was clipped and nervous, “it…it…it’s only sort of official between us as of this morning…but it’s been goin’ on for a while.”
“Pete,” my dad said sternly, “don’t worry. We are not going to get upset with the situation. We don’t understand it; then again I don’t quite understand you being gay in the first place, but I’m OK with it. We actually think it’s a hoot, really! We’re laughin’ because all of our lives we have been surprised by the actions of you two. And then just when we thought it had become predictable, wham, you guys broadside us again.”
Mr. Elliot took over. “Pete, you and Dan are two of the sanest, most down to earth people I have ever met, and I think you ground each other even more. I know, for a fact, that y’all would not rush into something like this, especially with the incredible bond that you two have. So Jason must be one hell of a person or…well…damn,” an incredibly big nervous smile came across his face, “…the sex must be…well…I can’t go there. It doesn’t matter anyway. You guys do what you want. We will support you however you need. Because we have already argued this out between us, we don’t think there’s any reason to argue with you guys. We know you two and we know you have to have thought this through….or at least we hope so, but I have to admit you two…sorry three, make life interesting, that’s for sure, and we love you for it.” Mr. Elliot sighed.
My dad started again, “What kills me is the fact that you guys are livin’ this fantasy that so many married couples have, well at least the male half…different variation maybe, but the two of us find it funny that you really pulled it off. We knew you guys were remarkable but this takes the cake!”
The two of them started laughing out loud. My knees were shaking uncontrollably.
“What about Mom,” I said softly.
“Oh god, not yet, they’re not ready for this yet. The five of us will talk about it one day on how to do it. Maybe we’ll let them figure it out like I did and let them come to us to discuss it.”
Tom agreed with my dad’s idea. I just nodded my head. I was completely numb.
“How did you figure it out Dad,” I asked softly.
“I added up some strange things and it was the only thing that made sense, but I was not going to say a word. Then Tom and I started talking about it and well…”
“But what was it that made you think that?”
“Well, when we were waiting for you at the restaurant Jason talked about you two and nothing that he said was indicative; it was a gut feeling that I didn’t understand. Then I saw his ring, which doesn’t really mean anything, but the kicker was at the bar. I could see under the table where you were sitting with him and the two of you had your pinkies intertwined. At first, I got upset that maybe you were having an affair, but when you got up to get drinks, Dan sat in your place and the two of them almost immediately interlocked fingers. My jaw hit the floor at the realization.”
“But, Dad, what about what you said at Commander’s about the bank account?”
“That was a joke…and a good one too!” He and Tom dissolved into laughter.
Dan came around the corner at that moment.
“Hey there y’all are. We’ve been wonderin’ where the three of you had gotten to, and what’s so funny?”
“Pete will fill you in on the joke,” my dad said with a smile as he and Tom went around back to the bar.
I was about to tell Dan when his dad leaned around the archway and said, “Oh, I lost the bet, my round. What do you two want to drink? You’ll want doubles of whatever, I’m sure!”
We gave him our beer order and his head disappeared.
“What’s the joke darlin’,” Dan said with a big smile as he put his hands around my waist and pulled me tight.
“They guessed about the Three Musketeers.”
“Just them! They don’t want to tell the Moms…not yet. They think it’s kinky but they’re cool with it.”
“I don’t believe this is happening.” Dan put his hand on his forehead.
“That’s sort of their take on it too.”
“OK, now we need to tell everybody else without the Moms catchin’ on.”
“Oh God,” Dan said softly; he turned and yelled, “Dad, I want to change my order to a scotch…a double!” He quickly turned back to me, “How’d they figure it out?”
“Saw me and Straw with our pinkies locked, Dad thought I was havin’ an affair and was about to shit, when I got up and you sat down and you two did the same thing. He had a clear view under the table from the bar.”
“Oh well, now we don’t have to have this serious discussion, well at least not with them. Come on, lighten up, unbelievably, they really thought it was funny.”
Mr. Elliot came around the corner with the drinks and handed them to us. He looked at Dan and picked up his chin with his finger,
“Dan, don’t be ashamed, seriously, live the dream, OK? No matter how I was brought up to see the world, as long as you are truly happy I’ll work with you. I love you, Dan. You know, one thing my old man said to me, right before you were born was, ‘Having kids will teach you things and take you places you ever dreamed of goin’.’ Oh, how right he was….and oh, how he must be spinning in his grave over this. And don’t you worry we’ll figure out a way to tell your mother. Come on back now, they’re wonderin’ if we’re all out back smokin’ dope ‘cause we all keep disappearing back here.”
“Smokin’ dope, what, Dad?”
“Well they figure it’s not a topless club back here that we’re all interested in!”
We all broke up in hysterics. Dan took a swig and turned his double into a single. We filed back into the bar.
Within the hour, the five of us were on the streetcar rocking our way up the Avenue. The tourists got their sixty cents worth if they caught our conversation. I know the couple from Minnesota next to me learned more about life in New Orleans than they tell in the guidebooks. We were all in the back of the car where the bench seats face each other.
“Your parents are cool. No doubt about it,” Steve said with a flourish, “well the male half for the time being.”
“Jason, I know we are doing the right thing, but when it comes to our parents, I…we… still question ourselves. I know you understand that, so I hope you aren’t upset with us that we’re upset.”
“Nope, it’s all cool because I still go back to Hattiesburg on Sunday to pack my car and come home to you guys. That makes it right for me.”
“I love you,” I said caringly and leaned across the car and kissed him.
“I love the two of you,” Dan said, his eyes full of tears. He kissed both of us. The couple from Minnesota had fear in their eyes. They stared at us. Their eyes darted back and forth across the streetcar as we spoke. Too bad they were missing the great architecture that rolled by at fifteen miles an hour.
We pushed open the back door and stepped onto the fold down step. I reached for the foot pedal and rang the bell at the rear operator’s station as I exited, signaling the arrival of our unit. We laughed and carried on, dodging the streetcar going the other way, as we made our way home.
The backyard glowed red from the setting sun as we sat and drank beer after changing out of our dress clothes and into shorts and T-shirts. I got up, readied the grill and lit it. We had planned a simple dinner of burgers, salad, fries, beer and ice cream for our own celebration of my graduation, just the five of us. It had been a long day. We moved at a sloth’s pace for the rest of the evening. I had to add more coals to the fire because we never got hungry till after ten. We lounged on the chaises and talked about whatever fancied our minds at that moment. Once I realized that I did not have to get up and go do some sort of schoolwork, I truly relaxed for the first time since I met Dan. I did not have to think about school again. Ever! I got up and walked over to the Garden that ringed the backyard and got down on my knees to weed and nurture. I was happy as I yammered on in the conversation with everyone, including the plants.
Later, I was in the kitchen rinsing plates and filling the dishwasher. Jason was helping me. Fitz sat at the table finishing last Sunday’s crossword puzzle. Dan and Steve were out back picking things up and straightening the yard furniture. The huge clock that hung over the sink had just moved past midnight and I was officially in a non-school life for the first time in eighteen years. I was finally an adult in some warped frame of my mind. I was an adult man with two husbands I loved more than I knew possible. I began to laugh out loud, a devious chortle. Jason and Fitz stared at me like I had lost my mind.
“Oh, my God, hasn’t even hit twenty-three and ‘Old-Timer’s Disease’ is kicking in,” Fitz said to Jason. Jason giggled and came over and put his arm around my waist.
“Never been better, darlin’, never been better,” I said quietly into his ear and then stuck my tongue in it.
He just giggled some more.
Steve and Dan came through Steve’s room and into the kitchen. The phone rang as they walked past it. Dan snapped the receiver off the hook, “The Godcheaux Institute for the Sexually Insane, Dan Elliot, Chiefly Responsible speaking, how may I direct your call?” The rest of us broke up laughing.
“How does he do that off the top of his head,” Jason mused.
“Hi, Bill. You sound in a good mood.”
A long pause.
“O…K… maybe you need to check into the Godcheaux Institute…of course I’m one to talk.”
“Yes, that’s right I am ‘Chiefly Responsible’…OK, OK, here he is…” Dan handed the phone to me, “It’s Bisexual Bill, live from bedside with boyfriend. He wants to congratulate you.”
I disappeared into a ten-minute conversation. He was still confused about the whole deal of his sexuality but enjoying himself. He was pissed that he had forgotten about my graduation; “You just don’t ‘think’ school anymore once you’re out.” He had remembered right in the middle of sex and stopped to call me.
“I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, Bill. Tell your boyfriend Bill ‘Sorry’ and not to get jealous.”
Bill went on to say how proud of me he was. He asked about my relationship. I told him about Jason moving in next week.
“Now don’t get any ideas, Bill!”
Of course he immediately started speculating on whether he could get Bill and Jill in bed with him at the same time.
“Oh, Bill, I got to go if you’re gonna go on like this.”
All he could do was laugh. We said our good-byes a few minutes later and hung up.
“We need to filter what we are going to say to him. He is just a sponge for anything sexual,” I said laughing.
“Come on, I’m ready for bed now. How ‘bout you two?”
Dan turned to Steve and Katie, “Night all.” He kissed them both on the lips.
“Night guys, see you in the AM,” Katie replied.
Jason waved to them and then put his arms around my waist as we wandered off down the hall.
I was up and out of bed at dawn unable to sleep. I pulled on a pair of Dan’s boxer shorts; I went out the front door and down the side alley to the backyard. I started edging the Garden. The shorts kept riding up my ass crack. I took them off.
I had been out there for over an hour when Steve opened the back door, “What the hell are you doin’, Pete?”
“Workin’ in the Garden,” I said obviously as I turned my head toward him. I was down on my hands and knees with my ass facing him. “Why?”
“Cause you’re out here naked, that’s why,” he loudly whispered to me.
“So are you.” He had gotten up to take a leak and spied me out here on the way back. He put his hand over his eyes and shook his head, then came down the two steps closing the door behind him. He crossed the yard and sat down cross-legged next to me.
“You alright, Pete.”
“Sure, I’ve just tended to everything else in my life lately except for the Garden. I only got started last night. Thanks for asking.”
I leaned over and kissed him gently.
“What about you, now you’re out here naked in the yard?”
“I’m hangin’ out with my best friend…and givin’ Mrs. Robinson a thrill.”
He leaned over and kissed me back.
“Yes you are hangin’ out, that’s for sure. And ditto, you are my best friend. Now get off your ass and give me a hand.”
Some time later the back door flew open, “What are y’all doin’? We’ve been wonderin’ where y’all were,” Dan called out, “Beautiful view, I might add.” We turned around to see Fitz and him in the doorway.
“I needed to get dirty, darlin’,” I said.
“My ass was too white,” said Steve.
“Got that right,” Fitz exclaimed. Jason pushed by the two of them, dropped his shorts on the lawn and got down on his knees next to us, “Can I help?”
“Boys,” Fitz said as she turned to go make coffee.
“Oh shit,” I said.
“What,” Steve and Jason asked simultaneously.
“You’re helpin’ me get a hard-on. I’m sorry Steve, Jase has that effect on me.”
“I could imagine that. It’s OK. Let’s just keep workin’. We’ve only got a bit more to do. More excitement for Mrs. Robinson.”
“Breakfast in twenty, OK,” Dan called out.
“Thanks, love, we’ll be there with bells on.”
“Katie would probably appreciate some clothes!”
The plants were in a growth spurt and needed to be tamed a bit. Some delicate trimming and tying up were all that were left to be done when Dan screamed from the back door, “Parents are here!”
“Fuck,” we yelled as Jase and I picked up our shorts and blew through the back door. Katie was trying to block the view down the hall, as she stood ready to open the front door. Jason and I rebounded off the bedroom doorframe and whipped the door closed. We heard the doorbell ring.
I looked at Jason, catching my breath, and said, “Why did they ring the door bell when they can see Fitz through the glass of the door?” Jason shrugged his shoulders and pulled back on his shorts. We made ourselves as respectable as we could in under a minute as we listened to the greetings. My hair would not cooperate at all.
“Aww, hell, they’ll just have to accept I ain’t perfect,” I said to the delight of Jason.
“I know you’re not but that makes me love you even more,” he said as he kissed the back of my neck as I opened the bedroom door.
Then he pinched my ass hard.
“OwwHi, Mom and Mom and Dads. What are y’all doin’ here? I thought we were going to meet for lunch in the Quarter.”
The moms had funny looks on their faces as they peered into our room.
“Well, we decided to change plans on you and thought you all might want to go to breakfast instead.”
“I don’t think any of us have had showers or anything yet. I’ve been diggin’ in the Garden for almost three hours.” Dan came up the hallway, “Hey, we’re already cookin’ breakfast, easy to make more. How ‘bout it?”
“OK, by me,” my dad said, “Sorry we didn’t call, but we got in the car to look for breakfast and we…well, we ended up here when we decided it would be great to see some of the plantations upriver today…But then we’d have to skip lunch with you guys.”
“Well, are you going to give us a tour of this plantation,” Mrs. Elliot asked with a smile.
I showed them around for the next five minutes. That’s all it took and I stretched it out too. Then began the task of setting up the back yard to eat at the old picnic table, my dad gave Jason and me a hand. We shook out a deep purple tablecloth that was edged in small gold fleur-de-lis and laid it over the table. The Moms disappeared to the front living room with Katie and Steve. Dad Elliot and Dan finished up with the food.
I heard Dan call to come and get it.
“Let’s go, I’m starved,” Dad said.
“I’ve been up since before six. Got a bit of a hangover today.”
“I’m in need of some coffee,” I said, remembering that I had been up for over three hours and had yet to have any. Everybody laughed and chattered as they filled their plates at a buffet set up on the kitchen table and filed out into the backyard. I ran back inside after placing my plate at the table to get my juice and coffee cup. Fitz was the only one left filling her plate.
“They know,” she said. “What…who…knows what?”
“The Moms as you call them. They know about the three of you.”
“What, how? You didn’t tell ‘em, did you?”
“No! Come on, Pete. You know I wouldn’t do that unless you asked. Look, they noticed the three pillows in a row with three head imprints. Pretty obvious, huh, certainly not rocket science. They noticed other signs yesterday, then told me what they thought was going on. Then they asked whether it was true or not, and did I know anything about it. I said yes. Like your dads, they don’t get it, but they aren’t going to condemn you for it either. I told them that it was an ongoing thing that had recently turned serious. They kept laughing about how you and Dan have always been one surprise after another your whole lives, so what was one more. They are cool, Pete…I think…or they’re just holding on until reality sinks in. So, it could get interesting later. I told them they could always talk to me if they for some reason can’t say the things they need to directly to you. It isn’t an easy subject for mothers and sons to talk about, ya know.”
“We better go out and eat. Do they know that the Dads know?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh Shit! Come on.”
I smiled as I walked down the back steps. I could have used my sunglasses.
I leaned into Dan as I sat down next to him and whispered in his ear, “The Moms know too.”
I saw his eyebrows rise above the tops of his sunglasses. Then he shrugged his shoulders. I whispered into Jason’s ear. He tilted his head to the side as he looked over at me. I smiled. He sighed, nodded his head in acceptance and took a bite of his biscuit. I let any thought of nervousness go and got into the flow of the friendly banter that arose between us all in the bright, yellow-white glow of the morning sun.
When my dad was helping me return the yard to its typical layout I said, “Mom knows about the Three Musketeers.”
Dad burst out laughing at the name, “Good one, I like that, it fits. Anyway, I know, she cornered me when I went in for seconds. When I told her I already knew, she got pissed at me for not tellin’ her and then for stealing her thunder.” He shrugged, “She thought she had a big scoop. She’s pretty whacked about the whole thing, but she really likes Jason. What’s she gonna do about the whole thing anyway? Pete, ya just can’t worry about it. The four of us will have a long talk in the car as we drive between the plantations. Tom and I have already talked about tellin’ them, so…Look it’s your life, you are obviously in love, we see that you are happier than you have ever been, and you have good friends who support you too. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking last night.”
Dad continued, “So if your family doesn’t support you, well, then we get cut out, ‘cause you don’t need us. And I want you and Dan and Jason around…always. So I’m going to do all that I can to support you. We all will.”
He hugged me, which he very rarely did. I began to cry into his shoulder. The relief of this being known and the love and support of my dad was too much.
Mom appeared at the back door and saw us hugging. She knew we must have been having a serious heart to heart. She quickly moved to join in.
“Pete, can we talk.”
“Marge, he’s already at the crying stage. Can we talk about it later? Please.”
Dad must have given her one of his expressions that said so much. He, like Dan, had a huge library of them. I picked my head up and wiped the tears from my eyes. I saw Jason up in the doorway. He had an expression of distress. I waved him to come over.
“You OK?” I asked Jason. He nodded yes but I knew something was wrong.
“Mom, Dad, can I talk to your new son alone for a sec?”
“Sure,” Dad said, as he led Mom back into the house.
I could tell he was about to get an earful from her.
“I’m just upset causing all this turmoil. Dan’s in there having a tough time with his mom over this…she ain’t mad, just freaked.”
I put my fingers on his lips.
“Ssssh, you are worth the effort of having to go through this. We will work it out with them. My mom’s freaked too but she really, really likes you. Once she stops trying to imagine what we do in bed and accepts us for us sake, it’ll be cool.”
He started to giggle at that thought.
“OK, now I know why they’re freaked. That’s why I love you, Pete, you are so strong and know the simple reasons for things.”
“Well, strong I don’t know about, but that’s the only way to solve difficult problems, break them into simple pieces. I have to thank Dad for that lesson.”
I hugged him and gave a squeeze to his beautiful butt.
“Come, let’s go save Dan.”
Fitz was doing her best with Mrs. Elliot. She had become an emotional mess over this situation. Now, my mom was involved and letting her emotions spill. The situation was getting too dramatic for me. My dad walked up, wrapped his arms around her, and began to whisper in her ear. Her tears began to slow.
We heard her say, “But, Jim…” Dad kissed her gently.
Dan was distressed over it all too. We went over and stood with him, one of us to either side. We each put an arm around his waist. Mrs. Elliot looked up at us and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“It doesn’t make sense to me…I don’t understand.”
“Mom, it doesn’t make sense to me either. Really, I know that I love both of them, in the same ways and in very different ways. No one has yet to explain love to me very well. In the thousands of books that I’ve read my only real understanding of it comes from all of them, not one in particular, but in the end I’m just going with the honest gut feelings that are in my soul, not the thoughts in my mind. The comfort and companionship, the caring and sharing, the energy that flows between us all adds up to something far greater than the three of us apart. Mom, we aren’t absolutely sure ourselves, but dammit we are gonna try and see where this leads us. We owe it to each other.”
Dan sighed, and then looked to each side with a tense smile, looking for reassurance. Our eyes gave him that support. Mr. Elliot walked over with a smile and put his arms around the three of us.
“What’s there to understand, I got three sons now.”
Mrs. Elliot stood up, her knees a little weak. She dried her eyes.
“Dan, Pete and Jason - a mouthful, but I guess I’ll have to get used to it.”
“The Three Musketeers works for me,” my dad said with a laugh.
Dan and Jason’s eyes bulged out, not knowing I had told him. I laughed too and then so did everyone else. The laughter broke the tension. Enough had been said on the subject, at least until we all had time to process it further.
My dad said, “Time to go see the plantations and think of a time when life was simple.” He gave a sarcastic laugh.
They all got ready to go.
“Geez, what a day, and it’s not even noon, but I sure could use a drink,” Mr. Elliot said.
“They got a drive-thru Daiquiri place where St. Charles and Carrollton meet,” Jason proclaimed.
“You’re shittin’ me,” my dad said.
“Nope, for true,” I replied.
“I’m game,” my dad offered.
They were about to go out the door when my mom asked, “So that’s the three of you in that photo in the kitchen?”
Knowing what she was talking about I couldn’t resist a joke, “What the one of Dan, me and Sammy?”
“What? Sammy, who’s Sammy?”
Everyone laughed except for Mom.
Laughing hardest of all was Mrs. Elliot who took my mom by the shoulder and said through the laughter, “ Let me explain….”
“Bye,” we all said as I closed the door.
I turned around, grabbed Dan and Jason, hugged them as tight as I could and kissed them both tenderly.
“I guess that was my real graduation present. I mean it. Sometimes honesty with parents is a rough thing. Especially if it doesn’t fit the Leave it to Beaver mold. So to get this over with is a wonderful thing. To be able to hold one, or the other, or both of your hands in front of them is more than I could ask as a graduation present,” I said in a depleted voice.
I was emotionally drained. All five of us were spent.
“Thank god you’re not Wally, I really hated him…and I wasn’t too fond of the Beav either,” Dan said pointedly.
“Fitz, Steve, you two were great through all of this. I’m sorry you had to go through it too, but…”
“Don’t worry about it, Pete, we’re friends. ‘Nuff said,” Fitz responded.
“Besides life would be boring without the three of you,” she said with a smirk.
Steve stared at her.
She slapped his butt and said, “Oh, don’t be silly. I love you.”
“Well, what do you all want to do today? I’m free, what about y’all,” I said with a spark in my voice, my energy rebuilding.
Dan had taken this week as his vacation. Jason was hanging out. Steve’s job started on Monday, like mine.
Only Katie spoke up, “I’ve got to go put in a half a day at the clinic.”
“Boo Hiss. Well, you’ll be back for dinner?”
“Let’s all go to dinner. My treat,” I offered.
Katie nodded her head OK and so did everyone else.
“Good, then the boys are goin’ to the levee to lie out. What do ya think? Sandwiches, beer and the Frisbee!”
“Only after I can have a shower,” Dan said smelling his armpit. Jason picked up Dan’s other arm and smelled it, then nodded his head yes with a silly grin. That’s when it dawned on all of us that we were all in the same boat.
The afternoon flowed by as we sat in the speckled shade of a small tree on the bank of the Mississippi just downstream from the “Butterfly.” The “Butterfly” was a small concrete pavilion with warped wings for a roof, hyperbolic paraboloids technically speaking, that was built on land beyond the levee. This entire park, past the Audubon Zoo, is on landfill from debris of the clean up after Hurricane Betsy.
Dan and Steve sat back to back, propping each other up, reading. I had my head in Dan’s lap and Jason’s was in mine. I spent the afternoon reading the newest Flying magazine. I promised my dad and myself since I was a child that I would get my pilot’s license; for now I would continue to dream. Jason would alternate between sunning himself and drawing in his sketchbook. We hardly drank a beer. The sodas lasted as long as the sandwiches, which was less than an hour. We never got excited about tossing the Frisbee. The cool breeze off the brown water high from the spring melt of the snowpack, the warm golden sunshine sparkling between the leaves and the deep green grass surrounding the four of us were all that was needed to satisfy ourselves on that lazy day in early May.
By four we piled into the Rabbit for the quick jaunt down Magazine to home. I convinced Steve to help me with the garden to either side of the front steps. Dan and Jason started washing the Rabbit. Steve didn’t last long helping me. He wanted to wash “his” car, which technically was still mine, though I had used it less than a dozen times since I “gave” it to him to use a year ago.
“How much?” I asked Steve.
“How much, what?”
“How much will you give me to sign the papers so that it really is yours?”
“I don’t know. It’s worth a couple of grand, but I don’t have that.”
“Again, how much will you give me for the car?”
“Five hundred and a blow job, how ‘bout that.”
“Well, I appreciate it but…the five hundred is good enough! I already got two guys who love me that give me blow jobs and after today that’s enough.”
“Pete, you mean it, I mean, really, five hundred and it’s mine.”
“Yes, but if I ask I can use it. OK?”
“Deal! I’ll sign the back of the title whenever you’re ready.”
Dan and Jason finished toweling off the black Rabbit and began to help Steve. When they were done they moved on to Jason’s car. Even I decided they needed help. Jason had inherited his grandmother’s ’72 Buick Electra 225, one of the biggest pieces of bleached yellow sheet steel ever to roll down a Detroit assembly line. I could comfortably lie down across the back seat.
When we had finished sudsing and rinsing the car and ourselves. I went back and picked up the debris that I had pulled out of the bushes and Jason was rolling up the hose when Fitz pulled up. Steve bounced across the street for a hug and a kiss when she got out of the car.
“Hi guys, Y’all have gotten some color today. Hope you haven’t burned yourselves.”
She got three more kisses by the time she got to the steps.
“Comin’ home to four men…wow! And your parents think you guys have a kinky relationship!”
We all chuckled as we hopped up the stairs and into the house.
The phone rang as we were heading for the shower. I wrapped a towel around myself and got to the phone a half a step in front of Steve, who was barely wearing his towel.
“Hi, Dad, how were the ghosts along the Mississippi?”
“Well, I’m takin’ ‘em all out to dinner over here.”
“No, haven’t decided yet. Haven’t thought of a place where I can spend fifteen grand on dinner for five.”
“Just kidding…sheesh, Dad. Anyway, how are the Moms?”
“That’s cool, but like I said to Jason, when Mom stops trying to imagine what goes on in bed between us she’ll be OK with it.”
“That’s what Jason said and I’m just applying what you taught me Dad.”
“No, that’s right, I didn’t learn this from you, but how I conduct myself in this relationship I did…from you and Mom.”
“OK, well why don’t we all meet for lunch tomorrow, the parents and their three sons for lunch and sight seeing in the French Quarter.”
“Where should you go to eat? Well…go to Christian’s. Oh not too far, it’s in an old church.”
“OK, I’m glad you and the Elliots are getting along so well. It really makes me and Dan happy.”
“ Give everyone my love.”
“DAD! You cheeky bastard you, I do NOT give everyone my love!”
“Yeah, I know you’re kidding!”
I laughed all the way down the hall and into the shower.
Dinner was relatively quiet. We all enjoyed being with one another, interacting with one another, blending together as friends. We were five friends who shared evenly with one another. I was stunned by the simplicity of the interactions of this extremely complex mixture of personalities and situations. How the hell did this ever happen, I wondered. All I could tell myself was not to question it, just enjoy the ride.
In bed that night, we were hugged up tight to one another. Jason was in the middle.
“We are three lucky bastards,” he said.
“I’m the luckiest though. I got the two best husbands a man could ever want who are the two best friends a guy could ever have and two new sets of parents who love me more than my own. I can’t wait to go clean out my dorm room.”
Dan and I chuckled and squeezed him tight.
“Jason, I’d like to come help you clean out your room but I don’t think I should ask for my first day off from work.”
“Don’t worry about it. It will only take me an hour or two. Half the shit goes into the dumpster and I take a garbage bag and pull it up over my clothes in the closet, tie it up hangers and all and then box up my books, records and tapes. I’ll spend more time driving and doing paperwork to check out than packing. I need to do some things on my own, ya know.”
Dan smiled and kissed him.
“This is why we love you.”
Jason looked at Dan with a quizzical face as he thought about it. I kissed the nape of Jason’s neck. I kissed him again. He moaned when he felt me getting hard. He reached for Dan’s dick. Dan kissed him passionately.
It was just past nine when Steve knocked as he popped his head in the door. We had been awake for a while and Jason was lying on top of me. The three of us were talking. Steve stared at Jason’s butt.
I craned my neck around and said, “It’s cute, ain’t it!”
“Y…y…yes, it is…sorry.” Jason turned his head around.
“Don’t be sorry, Steve, it’s OK.”
“Yeah, I know. I only confuse myself. I still keep trying to stuff the feelings you all know that I have… Anyway… Katie’s makin’ breakfast, join us?”
“Only if you join us,” Jason said in a sultry sexy voice as he caressed his ass.
Dan and I broke up with laughter. Steve turned red with embarrassment, walked over and slapped Jason on the ass, then bent over and kissed it.
“Maybe, some day.” He kissed his ass again.
“Mmmmm, it is nice.” I could see Steve had gotten hard. He headed to the door and adjusted himself as he turned the corner.
“They’ll be at the table in five, Katie.”
“He is such a sweetie to put up with us,” Dan said, “Let’s go and make ourselves presentable.”
Dan leaned over and kissed Jason’s ass.
“Don’t I know it,” I said as I rolled Jason off of me and dove for his butt, wedging my nose between his cheeks, which made him giggle with delight. I kissed both cheeks and then we scrambled for the bath to brush our teeth.
I got the Sunday paper off of the front porch and headed for the table.
“Everybody just sit and grab a section of the paper. I’ll serve,” Fitz said.
“It’ll be about five or so. Steve, dear, get the butter and syrup. Thanks. Oh and pour coffee, will you?”
“I guess the sports will have to wait, huh...” With a grin toward us he continued, “Do you want me to kiss their butts too?”
“You can if you want, they certainly are cute enough!”
“Damn, I thought I’d get a rise out of her.”
“You’re the one who’d get the rise, dear,” Katie shot back ever so calmly.
Steve got red, poured the coffee, sank into his chair and buried his head in the sport section. I patted his thigh, winked and grinned at him. He smiled back. He was OK.
At eleven thirty I called Dad and said we were heading for the streetcar. Ten minutes later I waved out the window as we pulled up to the stop near the Columns. The parents boarded for the ride downtown. Two stops later a good friend, who had gone to Loyola, the university on the other side of the chain link fence from Tulane, got on. Tim Welker and I had dated for six months before we went our separate ways. I still didn’t understand why we broke up. I introduced him all around. Tim had met Dan, but had no idea about Jason.
My dad was going headlong into this whole thing with the world when he said, “So, Tim, do you know my three sons?”
Tim’s face screwed up into a knot not knowing what to say.
“Well, I’ve known Pete for a few years and he introduced me to Dan about six or eight months ago, but I haven’t met Jason before.”
“They’re the Three Musketeers, you know.”
“OK” said Tim, feeling a bit awkward.
“Tim,” I said, knowing I had to set this straight from my father’s wicked sense of humor, “I’m in a relationship with both Jason and Dan, simultaneously. I guess since our parents know my dad wants to make sure the rest of the world knows too.”
“Pete, you are always full of surprises,” Tim stated.
Our entourage burst out laughing.
“Sorry, Tim, long running joke. I guess I’ve always been full of surprises in their opinion. Please carry on.”
“Maybe that’s why we…well, this is just one more and…actually I think it great.“
“Tim, are…were you trying to say that I’m a bit too much, that’s why we stopped dating?”
I looked to the rest of the group, “Yes, yes, Tim and I used to date. Whoever snags him will get an absolutely, wonderful man. Anyway. Is that it, Tim?”
“You wanted to be honest with the world about being gay…I guess I still can’t scream it out yet…It’s too personal…as I say that in the middle of a crowded streetcar. Oh geez.”
He put his hand on his forehead, “Now do you understand, Pete?”
“Yep,” I said softly. I wanted to kiss him gently but thought better of it.
“I’m sorry, Tim. I hope that I didn’t hurt you…now or then.”
“No, actually I am a much better person because of you. You amaze me, Pete, who else could turn a crowded streetcar into a confessional.”
“Trust me, he’s no priest,” my dad said.
Tim looked up at me and started to laugh.
Tim got off at Common Street a few blocks from Canal. He was going in to work some overtime at the bank. As we all waved bye, I worried about how he felt meeting us all like that, but he smiled as he waved to us. We disembarked at Canal and wandered into the Quarter. We stair stepped the blocks to make our way to the Napoleon House for lunch. I greeted Sal, the owner, as I walked in and asked for a table for seven. He led us to the courtyard that was bright, yet cool. The white plaster walls, stone floor, fountain and plants transform this space to another world less than fifty feet away from the hot, noisy streets of the old city. This restaurant was my favorite place in New Orleans. The walls unpainted in more than forty years, the classical music that was constantly played, known by tourists yet a staple of the locals, Uncle Joe, a founding partner who can be found at his table each afternoon, these are some of the things that make this place holy to me in my love of New Orleans.
Sal asked if there was anything we needed before he got our waiter. Mr. Elliot piped up, “Do you know my three sons?”
“DAD,” the three of us yelled.
The Dads just laughed.
“These are our parents, Sal, and a round of Pimm’s Cups for everyone, please.”
“Certainly, Pete, I’ll send your waiter,” he said with an upturned lip of a smile.
“Does everybody know you?” my mother asked.
“This is one of my favorite places in all of New Orleans. During orientation on my first day at Tulane they brought me here; I had my first drink ever in New Orleans at the end table in the main room between the two arches, the one where Uncle Joe likes to sit. Sal, the owner, I think remembers my name because it’s his father’s name, at least that’s what I figure.”
“Who’s Uncle Joe?” Mom asked.
“The founder, Pete’s brother, Sal’s uncle, the really old guy who was sitting in the room where we came in. He’s closing in on a hundred.”
“Oh, got it…Gee, a hundred…”
Our waiter arrived with the drinks. The slice of cucumber in the drink confused my dad.
“Oh, just drink it Dad, it’s got 7-Up in it,” I said.
My dad loves 7-Up. I could feel that I was getting a little cranky. Dan picked up on it too.
“Pete, where’s the bathroom,” Dan asked.
I was about to go off on him because I knew he knew exactly where it was, not ten feet away, but I realized he wanted to talk.
“Hey, I’ll show you, I got to go too,” I said in a bright voice.
We squeezed through the narrow door and into a bathroom that had character, to put it politely, and stood together at the trough.
“Pete, I know this is all wearing you thin. Your seams are stretched out. Let it go. Calm down. Think of it as your Thesis jury. Thirty-six hours to go,” Dan monotoned to me.
I watched him piss. I loved to watch him piss.
“Pete, I hate to say this, but I’m ready for my parents to go too. I’m ready to just have a normal life with you two and Steve and Katie…Boy, that statement wouldn’t work out of context.”
“Dan, I know, but I have to agree with Tim; I’m really not ready to go screaming out to the world that I live in a threesome. I just want to live in a threesome, that’s all.”
“I figure that they are trying to deal with this somehow…it may not be the best way, but at least they are trying to deal with it. I’m amazed that our dads haven’t lost it on this one. So, don’t get pissed and don’t get defensive, please.”
He was just finishing up, I was still watching. I gave him a sinister smile.
He laughed, “Later, Pete, I’ll drink lots of water.”
Jason had everyone laughing. He was telling a story using the slew of voices and accents that flowed out of him. Dan and I smiled at one another and sat down. I convinced everyone to have a muffeletta for lunch, well half of one at least. A “Muff” is a huge dome of bread sliced in half with ham, salami, mortadello, provolone and an olive dressing that is heated to make the cheese melt. I loved them. One of my joys of this place was to sit down and order “A Dix and half a Muff” which was a perfectly normal request of a beer and a sandwich, except to the ears of a tourist who thinks I’m as kinky as I really can be.
The afternoon was spent on a slow meander around the French Quarter. We looped continually back on ourselves as we explored the streets and shops.
By late afternoon I finally got the attention of both sets of parents and said, “I’m whacked, I’m not old enough for this tourist stuff, I’m ready to go home.”
They decided to stay on for a while. They were still having fun and had yet to get to the shopping part of the adventure. Dan, Jason and I bid them good-bye as they disappeared into an antique shop on Royal Street.
“Thank God, can we cab home?” Dan exclaimed, “I’ll pay!”
I ran out in the street to find one to hail.
“What, I was having a fun time,” Jason said.
“You were enjoying having new parents,” Dan said.
“Well we’ve lived with them for a long time so we’re jaded, and from what you’ve told us about your parents ours seem perfect. So we understand, they’re yours too, now, OK!”
I flagged down a cab.
“Upperline at Annunciation,” I said as we rolled into the back seat.
Fifteen minutes later, we were naked on the bed, ten minutes after that we were asleep.
It was just getting dark when we all stumbled into the kitchen. After too long of a nap, we were having difficulty waking up. There was a note from Katie to call them when we got home.
Dan dialed, “Katie darling, what’s up?”
“OK, cool, naw, we’re just going to eat here and go to bed early. Petey’s got his first day of work tomorrow and I’m doing brunch.”
“Who the fuck is Petey, Danny?” I said in the background.
Dan gave me a smile and the finger.
“Jason, don’t know what he’s going to do, entertain the ‘rents I guess.”
“OK, see you in the mornin’ maybe. Bye.”
“They are spending the night at her place. Thought we might want to run around naked or something…can you imagine her thinkin’ that?” he said with a wry smile.
Dan put on the apron to start cooking dinner. It was the cutest thing in the world seeing that tall man with his firm behind sticking out from the back of a simple white cotton apron as he shuffled up and down the counter. Jason and I sat shoulder to shoulder at the table with our cheeks on our fists watching and enjoying the site until he noticed us.
“Will you two go find something to do. This is not a spectator sport.”
“Oh yes it is,” Jason exclaimed.
The phone rang. I got up to get it.
“Hey Tim, What’s up? I hope that I didn’t embarrass you today?”
“That’s cool, thanks.”
“Tim, I’m really proud of it too. I don’t understand how it happened. There wasn’t a bit of planning, it just is, that’s all.”
“Well, thanks for being cool about it.”
“Sure, Tim, of course we’re still friends even though we don’t go out anymore.”
“You are welcome anytime.”
“Nope, not a problem.”
“Yep, twenty-three. Thanks for remembering.”
“Sure, streetcar confessionals anytime, just call.”
“I love you…always.”
“Sure a movie’s cool, especially at the Prytania.”
“Yeah! Call anytime. We mean it.”
“He called to say today’s streetcar ride was an epiphany for him. If I could come out to my parents about a menage-a-trois gay relationship then for him to go to his boyfriend’s parents’ home where they know he’s gay and dating a guy named Tim can’t be too bad. He said he’d need another one to go to his own parents’ home though. Tim is too strong and wonderful a person to be struggling with coming out. I don’t get it. He wants to come by sometime with his new beau to meet us all and get together some time. I told him that was cool….If not tell me now guys, OK…”
“Cool by me,” Dan said as he chopped vegetables.
“Same here, I just met him today so if you say he’s cool, then OK.”
“It make’s me feel great that he remembered my birthday.”
“You still have some feelings for him, don’t you?” Dan asked.
“Mmmm…well…I guess I can’t deny it…he wanted to break up, but never really told me why…well until today. I had my suspicions, but I was confused. I really thought it was me and beat myself up about it…but yeah, he’ll always have a bit of my heart. But I really, really, really have something so much better, light years over what we had. Wow! And I guess if I got room for both of you, maybe I got a big enough heart for a bit of Tim too.”
“Dinner will be on the table in about ten or so. Jason, big glasses of water all the way around, ok?”
“Sure thing, and keep ‘em full too, right?”
“Oooh, baby, yes,” I exclaimed.
Dan and Jason were asleep. It was after two and I kept tossing and turning. I needed to be up at six to get ready and be at work by eight. I didn’t want bags under my eyes my first day…on my birthday!!!
After I rolled over one more time, Jason cracked an eye, “What is it, Pete? Can’t sleep? Happy birthday, again, old man.”
“Yes, can’t get to sleep, wiseass.”
“Here, trade places.”
He slowly moved Dan’s left arm and I slowly rolled over Jason to trade places. Jason placed Dan’s arm so that his watch was near my head. He kissed me behind the ear and snuggled up to me. I was asleep within a minute or two.
I was shaving when Dan came into the bath.
“You didn’t wake me up,” he said quietly, but perturbed.
“I was going to wake you before I got in the shower. You don’t need to get up yet.”
“Pete, this day is important to me too…and Jason. We want to share it with you.”
He came up behind me and put his arms around my waist. He put his face next to mine, getting shaving cream on his cheek. He smiled and I could feel him begin to get hard.
“I love you, Birthday Boy.”
“I love you too.” “
Hey, I woke up alone. It was weird,” Jason mumbled as he rubbed his eyes.
He was not awake at all. He came up to the side of us and wrapped his arms around us both and nuzzled his face between us.
“I love you both but this is making shaving difficult.”
“Come, Jason, let’s go make the coffee. Finish shaving, we’ll be back.”
Dan took Jason by the hand and led him down the hall. I smiled. In a four-day period my life had made an incredible shift. I was comfortable where it was heading, but there was a lot of my life still left to work into. There was a new rhythm to dance to and I had yet to feel the beat.
Two beautiful men and three steaming cups of coffee came into the bath. I took my cup and sat on the side of the tub. Dan sat next to me. Jason sat cross-legged on the rug in front of us and leaned back against the blue tiled wall. Dan wiped some remaining foam from my ear. The only sounds were the sipping of coffee and the drip from the faucet.
I stared blankly at Jason’s groin. Then I began to study the soft ruddy red triangle of hair that filled the space between his hip creases and how his cock protruded in a flowing arc from one point of this triangle. I hadn’t realized that I got hard, but the other two did.
“Are you ready for a birthday present or two?” Dan asked.
“Huh, what?” Dan leaned back and turned the water on. They gave me two wonderful asses to fuck. I was fifteen minutes late to my first day of work.
When my Thesis Director, now boss, found out it was my birthday and my parents were in town he literally kicked me in the butt and told me to get out of the office and that he’d see me in the morning and it would be fine to be an hour late.
He laughed and said, “Damn kid, go have fun and kiss your mother, OK!”
It was an hour till noon. My new office was at the far edge of the French Quarter, just on the other side of Esplanade, on Frenchmen Street. I wandered up to the restaurant where Dan worked. I was hoping he wasn’t busy since it was Monday, but I didn’t know. I had only visited him twice at work since he started. I walked up and peered through the front windowpanes to find him. He was doing a dance around two little kids as he maneuvered to a table with a huge tray over his head. He was incredibly agile, that is until he caught sight of me out of the corner of his eye as he was swinging the tray down onto one of those folding stands. I don’t know how he saved it from being flung across the floor but he did. Only two big glasses of iced tea toppled over on the tray, making a mess but the only real damage was his pride. He apologized to his customers and served the food, wiping the bottoms of the plates as he did. His customers were gracious to him. They blamed the two little kids’ parents for the mishap. With his back to me I saw his finger beckon me to enter. I went inside. With an impish grin I greeted him as he was heading to get more tea.
“Be right back, darlin’,” he said.
I was grateful that he wasn’t upset with me.
He placed the tea on the table and apologized again. Then he turned and marched toward me.
“What are you doing here?”
“He kicked me out, literally, for showing up on my birthday!”
“He said go out and have a good time and kiss my mother…but I’d rather kiss you!”
He did a quick scan of the restaurant and gave me a quick peck on the lips.
“Well, Pete, I’d like to come out and play but we’re short today so I don’t think I could get off.”
“Mmmm, I got you off this morning!”
“Stop it, you’ll get me hard again,” he whispered with a smile, “Here’s a dime, call Jason.
He was going to meet the parents for lunch.”
“Yeah, when we mentioned that yesterday he took it to heart and they were excited by it too.”
I called home. Steve answered but Jason had just left and Steve was home because his work had called to cancel his first day. There had been a death in the family of one the partners. I called the hotel and the parents had left too. I told Dan that I was going home to hang out with Steve. It had been a long time since the two of us had spent time alone together. Dan called me into the kitchen and gave me a big hug and a kiss. His boss had said it would be cool to leave a couple of hours early.
“Great! I’ll see you at home in a few.”
I kissed him again and the staff hooted and hollered.
“Awww shuddup, he’s one of my husbands,” Dan said.
They all got quiet.
He slapped me on the ass, “See ya, Birthday Boy.”
I had a huge grin as I looked back over my shoulder on my way out the kitchen door.
“Hey, Stevie, where y’at, dawlin,” I yelled as I came through the door with a bang.
I could see an arm wave from the kitchen. I stopped off in my room to kick off my shoes and lose my socks. I dropped my slacks and took off my dress shirt. I walked into the kitchen in a tee and boxers. Steve was there in a tee and his suit pants. He was finishing up on a conversation on the phone with Katie.
“OK, bye, love…bye.”
He turned to me after hanging up, “Hey, Happy Birthday!”
He gave me a huge hug and a kiss.
He was making grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.
“Yep, they smell great.”
After placing the sandwiches on the table he said, “Good idea,” referring to my outfit.
He took off his pants and socks, laying them neatly on the bed. He got a couple of Barqs out of the fridge and sat down.
I smiled at him, “It’s like old times, just you and me at this table. Seems so long ago and far away, like another lifetime.”
“You got that right!”
We had a long meandering conversation; enjoying talking to each other. Then we moved out to the living room and turned on the TV. I remarked that I couldn’t remember the TV being on for months.
“You were at school, that’s why.”
We sat on the couch while we surfed through the weekday afternoon wasteland. Steve turned and lay down on the couch, his knees over the arm and his head in my lap. I put my arm on his chest and ran my fingers through his thick wavy light brown hair. We both fell asleep.
I awoke a while later to find Steve still asleep. He had rolled over and had his face in my crotch. I could feel his warm moist breath on my thighs. My fingers were tangled in his hair. Two women were screaming at one another on the soap opera on Channel 4. I slowly pulled my fingers free and gently straightened his hair. He began to stir. He moved his head as if to adjust a pillow and I began to get hard. He woke up. After a few seconds, he realized where he was.
He picked his head up quickly, “I’m sorry…sorry.”
“I’m sorry, Steve, I couldn’t help gettin’ hard.”
“It’s all right.”
We both watched my dick continue to harden and emerge from the fly.
“Wow, this is great to watch this close up,” he said with delight.
Once it had completely filled out Steve gave me a look. I nodded yes. He reached in and fully exposed my cock and balls on top of the orange fabric of my boxers. He put his nose down just above the skin and inhaled. He kissed the underside of my head.
“Pete, your dick is beautiful!”
Steve turned and sat upright. He turned to me and put my hand into his. He started to say something about a half a dozen times.
“OK, Steve, say it.”
“I can’t…” “Steve…”
“I want you to fuck me,” he whispered.
I was stunned.
“Wow, didn’t expect that…oh shit…I can’t, Steve. Not unless Dan and Jason are there or at least know about it. You know I would love to, because I love you, but those guys mean everything to me.”
“I know, but…shit, I’m sorry I asked.”
“No, it’s cool, Steve…Look at how hard I am.”
He rolled back down onto the couch and buried his head into my crotch. He picked his head back up and then kissed the head of my dick. He quickly stood up, his cock also exposed out of the fly of his boxers. I gave it a tug.
“I need to go for a walk.”
He turned and headed for his room. I quickly followed and caught up to him at the door to his room. I spun him around and hugged him tight. He began to cry into my shoulder.
“Why do I struggle with this so?” he sobbed.
“You confuse sexual urges with love. You don’t want to be fucked by any boy you see, do you?”
“Isn’t it that you only have these feelings with people you have emotional feelings for?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“I know that we love each other very much, ever since we first went to the toy store. I sure fell in love with you that day, and I think you did with me too. Now, do we want to cloud that true love with sex?”
I stared into Steve’s eyes for a moment.
“Yes, I want to fuck you too…and be fucked by you…but… There’s always a ‘but’…Shit, I have an amazing relationship with Dan, Jason, you and Katie; I don’t want to fuck that up by fuckin’ you and I don’t think that you do either.”
“No, I don’t!”
Steve kissed me as hard as he could.
“Thank you for saying that.”
Steve paused, tilted his head and then continued in a strong confidant voice; “Maybe some day I’ll ask the whole lot of you if we could fuck each other, but right now I had the hardest time asking you alone. So I guess it will just wait until I have the courage.”
He started to laugh as he gave my now soft cock a squeeze.
The front door banged open, “Luuuuucy, I’m home,” came the singsong voice of Dan doing a Desi imitation.
We popped our cocks back into our boxers.
“Back here, dear,” I yelled.
He kicked off his shoes into the bedroom as he came down the hall.
“Hey, good lookin’ and good lookin’!” Dan came up, hugged us both, and then kissed us both.
Steve looked him straight in the eye and said, “Can I suck your husband’s cock for his birthday?”
I almost passed out.
“Whoa, Pete, you OK,” Dan asked, feeling my weight in his arm as my knees weakened.
We told him of what had happened in the last half hour. He listened very intently.
He kissed me gently on the lips and said, “I love you so much.”
He kissed Steve too.
“Ask Jason too, Steve, but it’s fine by me…can I watch?” he added with a devilish grin.
BANG, the front door opened.
“I got to put a stop on that door,” I said.
A flash, a rush of wind with an immediate boom of thunder scared us.
“Fuck, I guess I didn’t latch the door,” Dan yelled as he took off running down the hall.
We watched from the kitchen as he began to close the door.
Then he whipped it back open, “Whoa, come on, run, Tiger! Come on, you’ll make it!”
Ten seconds later, “Shit…Fuck…Son of a bitch…Thanks…for the door.”
Steve and I ran down the hall to see Jason, bent over panting, and soaked to the skin.
“Tiger, you OK?” Dan asked as he put his hand on Jason’s back.
“Yeah,” he said as he started to regain his breath,” ten steps after gettin’ off the streetcar the fuckin’ bottom drops outta that goddammed cloud. Man, Shit, Fuck…”
“Jason, chill, you’re just wet, don’t get so bent over this,” Dan said sternly.
He kept panting and swearing.
“Here, Jase,” Steve said, tossing him a towel.
Jason let the towel fall to the floor. It was only then that he stood up revealing a brown paper bag stained a rainbow of colors. He slowly opened the bag to reveal what was a watercolor painting. I could not tell what it should have been. Jason’s shoulders sank as far as they could go. He did everything he could not to cry. I walked over to him and hugged him.
“It was your birthday present,” he said softly.
“It still is,” I replied.
“Oh, Pete, I’ve been thinking about and lookin’ for your present for weeks now…and then I’m cruisin’ around with the ‘rents, when I least expect it, bang, I see it…I was so happy that I had found the right thing. It was gettin’ a little late, ya know. Now I’m fucked.”
I hugged him tight and then looked him in the eye. Gently, I used my thumb to wipe the single small tear that hung just below the rim of his eye, then picked up the watercolor and looked at it. It was signed, titled and dated in pencil at the bottom. “The Three Musketeers” was the title. Now, it was an incredible abstract painting.
“But, Jason, it’s beautiful, really, I’m not shittin’ ya.”
I picked up his chin with my thumb and forefinger.
“I am not kidding, it’s beautiful.” I showed it to Dan and then Steve.
Steve looked for a long time at it, then with absolute innocence said, “It really is.”
We all burst out laughing!
I gave the watercolor to Dan, picked up the towel and began to dry Jason’s dripping hair. I slowly undressed him, handing the soaked clothes to Steve as I continued to dry him off from head to toe. I finished toweling his feet and left the towel to soak up the puddle on the floor. I began to kiss him from his toes up.
I had made it to his cock when Dan said, dryly, “Ooops, the porno show will have to continue later. The parents just pulled up.”
“Shit,” I said softly.
Dan adjusted himself and stood by the door while Jason and I ducked into the bedroom and Steve took off down the hall, dribbling wet clothes all the way.
Dan opened the door for the four of them as they ran up the front steps. The rain had subsided considerably. They immediately saw the watercolor and their worst fears were realized. They had gotten in the car to search for Jason to see if he was holed up somewhere avoiding the rain.
“Oh, poor baby, where is he? He was sooooo excited,” my mom said.
“He’s in drying off and changing; Pete’s consoling him. I’ll get them,” Dan said.
Dan stuck his head in the bedroom door. Jason and I were embraced chins to necks.
“Hey, you guys actually have clothes on,” Dan said with a bit of sarcasm.
“The Moms want to console too.”
We heard Dan, but our thoughts were elsewhere.
“It’s cool, Pete, I’ll talk to Steve.”
Dan cocked his head, “OK, I think I know…”
“You do,” I said.
I led Jason out by the hand and into the beckoning arms of the Moms. Jason just melted with the attention. Dan and I looked on, one arm around each other’s waist. The Dads stood there gawking, their arms akimbo. After ten minutes of love and care the parents headed back to the Columns.
“OK, we will call when we are heading for the streetcar, just like last time, alright?”
A collective “Bye,” came from the parents and Steve, Dan and Jason.
Jason added, “Thanks, I love you all.”
The moms gave their own special wave back to him.
The four of us filed back into the house and then into our bedroom wondering how to kill the next couple of hours before having to head for dinner. I took Jason’s present and weighted it so that it would dry flat. I went to the closet and started rooting around in the boxes in the back. The catcalls, hoots and comments about my cute ass began from the three man peanut gallery that sat on the bed.
“Awww, shaddup,” I cried from the closet.
I finally pulled my shorts down and mooned them, much to their delight. I discovered what I had been looking for and backed out. I triumphantly held up a roll of cloth that protected the pieces of a German Silver metal picture frame. I tossed my shorts to the side, tossed the frame package to Dan, got down on my belly, and slid under the bed. I was in search of some backing and mat board. I could hear creaking and movement above me.
“Just don’t break the fuckin’ bed while I’m under here, OK!”
I pulled the two sheets of cardboard I was looking for out with me. I cranked my head to look up when I was free of the bed. Three smiling faces had been staring at my butt.
“I’m busy here. Is this a spectator sport or what?”
Three quickly nodding heads were my answer. I stood up to see the three of them naked.
“Oh, shit, you guys.”
I flung my tee off into the corner so I was too. I took the frame out of its wrappings and cleaned it, measured exactly, got out my X-acto and cut the backing and overall mat. I pre-assembled some of the frame and checked the cut sizes. In the half-hour I took to do this the peanut gallery watched me and what I was doing, patiently and quietly. I put the extra and tools away. I would have to wait till the watercolor had completely dried to finish. I looked at the guys with a pursed lip grin. I walked over and lay face up between them. They smiled with impish grins before covering me with kisses. Then Steve gave me his ‘extra’ birthday present while the other two watched. When he was done he sat back on his haunches and smiled at us.
“Thanks,” he said.
“No, Thank you, Steve! Next time, we’re going all the way! OK?”
Steve looked at me nervously, then at Dan and Jason.
“I’d like to see that,” Jason said excitedly. Steve’s face went from worried nervousness to a relaxed smile.
“OK, maybe some day.”
Steve headed to his room to shower and get ready, and so did we. Katie called as Steve walked by the phone. She had just walked into her house and was about to do the same. She would be here in less than an hour and she wanted to make sure we would be ready.
“I’m always ready for you,” was his comment back.
“Oh, you are so full of shit sometimes, Steve,” she said laughing.
“Love you, see you soon.”
It was my turn to be treated to Antoine’s. I had called Marvin again and set up for us to be in a back room. Antoine’s has a series of private dining rooms named after a few of the old-line krewes that hold their private dinners there. The walls in the Rex Room are covered with memorabilia and neat rows of photos of the past queens. There were glass cases embedded into the walls that hold some of their most prized possessions. The large round table was set for nine. The room could easily hold forty or more. By luck, and or Marvin’s discretion this is the room they had for us.
“Wow,” my mom understated as she walked into the room. The ladies were seated and then the men. I stifled a crack about where the Three Musketeers fit into those categories. Marvin stood between Dan and me and asked how we had been.
I said, “Fantastic.”
Dan nodded his concurrence. I explained how this was my birthday with my partners, which raised an eyebrow, my best friends and our parents, pointing at Dan, Jason and myself.
“Good,” he said softly and then went about on his routine of deciding what we all should eat.
The evening was a fabulous endnote to the slightly demented but enthralling weekend for all of us: coming out, again, having our parents meet and become good friends, ending five years of school and an amazing phase of my life and completing twenty-three circuits around the sun. I felt as if I had truly come of age and all was well and complete, except for the living I had left to enjoy. I was at a loss as to what any of them could give me for my birthday that I did not already have!
When the strawberry iced cake appeared lit with candles everyone got a chuckle out of it. Even Jason, who felt the reference was to him, not to my coming out a year ago at home or the seventeen other birthdays that I’ve had one. Dan told the story, while we ate cake, from a year ago to his parents and Jason, imitating voices and actions of what went on that night that we came out to my family. I was laughing so hard, so was everyone else. Marvin came and closed the door to the Rex Room. Jason said tongue in cheek that he liked the reference to him better.
Then I was presented with the gifts. I had already received Jason’s so before I opened one I acknowledged his gift and said that by tomorrow it would be framed and hanging above our bed. I kissed him on the lips. It was the first time our parents had ever seen any of us kiss besides a little peck. I could hear my mother quietly gasp. I then started to open the presents, Steve and Fitz’s first. A soft brown leather bound sketchbook that tied closed and had a braided leather cord so that I could sling it over my shoulder. It also had a couple of loops to carry pens or pencils. They had certainly found something I wanted and needed!
The parents had given us a hell of a lot of money three days ago so I didn’t really expect anything from them and had told them so. As practical as the money was so were the gifts they gave, an exquisite Brooks Brothers’ blue suit, multiple shirts, ties, and a pair of black leather shoes.
“I’m an architect, not a banker…or a lawyer,” was my cheeky remark to the gifts with a poke at Steve.
I was humbled by it though and it was something else I was very much in need of having. Mom Elliot said that Jason had picked out the suit fabric.
“You look so good in blue,” he exclaimed.
“You were busy today! How did you get all of this done today?”
“Thelma, Marge and Jason all had their input and made the choices, Tom and I had the credit cards. Easy. Oh, and the tailoring is all paid for too, you just have to show up to be fitted…with the suit.”
“Duh, Dad, duh!” I rolled my eyes at him. Dad just smiled.
That left Dan. What did that man of mine have up his sleeve? I sat for a moment with that wrapped cube on my lap. I jiggled the box. It was as big as a basketball. It was also very heavy. I was expecting a box with lots of paper and a chunk of lead inside.
“Open it, will ya, come on.”
I looked at him and sighed. I tore the paper slowly. It was a plain box that I lifted the lid to. Inside were a series of other boxes.
“Oh…my…god…you didn’t,” I said as I could read the labeling on one.
It was a Canon 35mm camera, with all the basics and most of the extras. I was stunned. “How did he know?” I thought. What was in front of me was exactly what I had wanted but had always planned to buy it as a present to myself. I had never told a soul.
“How did you know?”
“I love you, that’s how.” I put the box in Jason’s lap and put my arms around him and kissed him until we went over backwards onto the floor.
I kept repeating, “How did you know?”
“I didn’t,” he finally admitted, “But it’s the truth, I love you and I guess we don’t have to talk sometimes.”
We got back into our chairs and within a couple of minutes I had all the pieces out and was clicking them together, changing lenses, attaching the flash, installing the batteries and loading film.
“I guess you don’t really need this,” Jason said, holding up the operations manual.
“Nope, not really. See you guys don’t understand, I have been looking at this camera and set up for the last two and a half years. I always looked at it alone and never spoke to anyone about it. That’s why I’m at a loss and keep asking him how did he know.”
“That is love,” Dad Elliot stated simply. Then I focused the camera on Dan and clicked the shutter.
“Come on, everybody up against the wall.”
“We’re being arrested,” my dad joked.
“Arrested for posterity,” Katie said.
I used up the two rolls of film that Dan had included in the present and bought three more at the drug store at Royal and Iberville on the way to the streetcar. We all got off at the Columns to say good bye to the parents. The Elliots were going to drop off my parents at the airport at nine the next morning as they headed down I-10 for Houston. The parents had made arrangements to get together in the fall when it had cooled off in Houston. There were a lot of hugging and kissing, a bunch of handshakes and some crying. Mostly it was the Moms, but Jason was upset too. For the first time in his life he had felt the love and respect that parents could give to their children. He did not want to give that up. My dad bucked up his spirits by saying that Dan and I couldn’t come home if we did not bring him with us and also said that he was welcome anytime and our presence was not required. Jason giggled and hugged my dad. Tom and Thelma agreed with my dad.
Mom said, “I want all of you to come every and any chance you get.”
“We do, Mom, we do,” I said.
Dan slapped me lightly on the back of the head. Dad and Tom chuckled. I turned and smiled at Dan.
It was almost eleven by the time we made it home. I hung up my suit and kissed Fitz and Steve good night. I wanted some time with my husbands before I had to sleep. We climbed into the shower to wash up and talk. I don’t understand why but our conversations in the shower were always a core level of deep communications between our souls, even if we talked about the water temperature. I guess there was some river of emotion that was tapped when we were being sprayed with water. The care and concern we showed for one another while we were in there was extraordinary and completely natural. It was then a wonderful progression into bed and into each other. We got into bed exactly at midnight. Our summer of fun had begun.