One often wonders if their life really has any meaning at all, or if it is just some big cosmic joke where supernatural beings are laughing and pointing at our misfortune, all the while eating a large bucket of overly buttered popcorn and drinking something unnaturally sweet. This thought has often plagued me. Especially when circumstances would lead me to tell the guy I really liked that I liked him after I had hidden it so well, while precautious perched on a tree limb. Yep. I’m fairly positive my very existence is merely for someone else’s amusement.
Let’s start somewhere near the beginning, shall we?
Graduation Party day, the day were all the seniors get together after graduation and go do something fun together as a last fling before moving on with their lives. Most seniors save up and go to Disneyland or Six Flags or something like that. Where do we go? A water park. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it works.
Now look really close. See that poor pathetic kid down there in the shade of the trees at the side of the main building for rentals getting the shit beat out of him by several large football players? Yeah, that’s me. No, don’t pity me, I knew it was coming and I just sat there ready to take it.
Why am I getting beaten into a bloody pulp, you ask? Oh, just because my fellow classmates somehow found out what I myself only found out two weeks prior. I’m gay. How it happened, I don’t know. But it might explain why I’ve never been able to keep a girlfriend for longer than a month and why we always parted as friends. Who knew?
I had only told two people, my best friend Jose who was gayer and more feminine than most of the girls in my school put together, and his friend whom he swore I could trust, Benny. You know, in every movie I’ve ever watched and the million times that I’ve watched The Mummy, I’ve come to realize you should never trust anyone who allows themselves to be called Benny. Now, I know Jose would never betray my trust because he knows I know where he lives and would reap revenge upon him like no one else, so the only other explanation that I have is that Benny leaked it out and now my fellow classmates are taking it upon themselves to kick my ass because I was in the locker room with them on countless occasions and never told them that I might be salivating over their lean forms, something Jose was always kind enough to do so they could grab towels and run for it.
I don’t mind getting beaten for being gay. Considering the fact that I was still trying to come to terms with it in my one mind, I kind of felt like something might be wrong with me and if they just hit hard enough, it might be fixed. I know, but I wasn’t quite thinking logical yet, give me a break.
I hadn’t told my parents yet. That would just be too weird. My dad, who always encouraged me in sports and told my mother that I was going to be a real man’s man because of it probably wouldn’t take it very well. My mother would look at me like some kind of alien, say “Oh, that’s nice dear, whatever makes you happy,” while grabbing my little brother as if she could protect him from becoming gay like me. At least, these where the scenarios that repeatedly ran through my head, so I kept my mouth shut.
Just as one of the guys over me landed a nice kick to my ribs, the rest of the players began to back away. Someone was yelling, several of the players were saying they were only having fun. With a small cough of blood, I gave a weak laugh. Fun? Is that what this was?
Rolling over to my side, I spit out what blood I could and crawled a few paces away before someone laid their hand on my shoulder. Involuntarily I flinched, still waiting for a blow to fall, but the hand just stayed there. A soft voice started to speak to me, “Hey, it’s okay. Come with me and I’ll get you cleaned up. I’m not going to hurt you. Come on, that’s right.”
Allowing someone to help my up, I kept my eyes on the ground as the person led me into the First Aide Station. Stumbling over to the chair, I began to investigate my face with my hand as the person said to wait there while he got some supplies. My left eye was swelling at an alarming rate, my lip was bloody and I had a nice sized cut above my right eye that was bleeding everywhere making it hard to see. I’ve had worse, but it still wasn’t very fun.
“Hey, keep your hands away from it, okay?” It was that kind voice again, very commanding without being hard. “Now this is going to sting a bit.”
Sucking in some air as the alcohol hit, I tried my best to glare at my rescuer, even though I really couldn’t see him yet.
“Man, those guys really did a number on you, didn’t they? What happened?”
“Yeah, right. Because everything that is nothing gets dragged into the First Aide Office.”
“It’s none of your business. They were just being retards.”
A damp cloth touched my face, wiping away the worst of the blood that had kept me fairly blind for the last several minutes. The man standing before me was around my age and beautiful. His tanned body spoke of strength, the red shorts of a lifeguard hugging his muscular thighs in a way that really should have been outlawed. My chest constricted and I groaned. Why did he have to be a great looking guy? Didn’t I have enough problems at the moment?
“Sorry, I know it hurts.” His beautiful hazel eyes looked closely at my forehead. “I don’t think it needs stitches. A butterfly bandage should do it for you. Head wounds always bleed the most.”
His brown hair was streaked with sunlight giving him this almost ethrel glow. Of course, that could have been the sunlight coming in the window glinting behind him, but I like the fantasy that he was a Godly being instead.
After he put on the bandage, he handed me an icepack for my eye. “Do you have someone you want me to call? I don’t think you should drive home by yourself.”
“Could you just call out for Jose? Jose Martinez. He’s somewhere out there in the park.”
“Sure, no problem.”
After hanging up the phone, he came back over to me with a cup of Tylenol and water. “You might want to take this. You are going to have some nasty bruises on you side, but it looks like nothing is broken.” Holding out his hand, he said, “Name’s Derek Briggs. What’s yours?”
Damn, even his handshake was nice. “Ethan. Ethan Chambers. Nice to meet you.”
Derek grabbed my hand and turned it over, examining my knuckles. “I’m sure it would be nice over different circumstances. Can I ask you something? Why didn’t you fight back? You didn’t take one swing at any of them. How come? Why did you just let them wail on you?”
I tried to jerk my hand back, but he wouldn’t let go. His eyes stared into my gray ones, looking for answers he had no right to ask for.
Just then the door to the First Aide office opened with a slam and there stood Jose. Dressed in his frilly pink two piece, a thin cotton wrap around with blue green flowers on it and sandals with matching flowers on them came barging in with a look of distress. “Oh, ma poor baby! Those vicious brutes! Why would they do something like this? Look what they did to your beautiful face!” He came rushing over, shoving my savior out of his way, his hands flitting all over me. “I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all! Thank goodness they were thrown out of the park, every last one of them, or I would go all Miss Bitch on their asses.”
I rolled my good eye towards the ceiling, cursing my day once again. Just over Jose’s shoulder, I could see Derek looking at him with amusement and trying very hard not to laugh.
“Jose, could you please just go get my car? The good physician doesn’t think I should drive home alone.” I passed Jose my locker key. He took it patting my hand reassuringly.
“Of course you shouldn’t, poor thing! I will get you home before you can say Birdcage, darling.” Turning to go, Jose spotted Derek, eyeing him up and down like a piece of Symphony Chocolate. With a last look over his shoulder at me that spoke volumes, he hurried to the door and was gone.
“I’m sorry you had to see that.”
Derek started laughing. “You have very strange tastes in friends, Ethan.”
I nodded. This was not the first time someone had told me this. “Jose is as weird as they come, but he’s a good friend. No one messes with him though because he kind of scares the guys. They are all afraid that if they start wailing on him that they might get him excited or something. Not to mention their girlfriends would give them all hell because all the girls love him to death.”
I rose from the chair slowly, making sure I didn’t fall over. “Hey, thanks for patching me up and stuff.”
“No problem.” Derek came over and grabbed my arm. “I’ll walk you out to your car. If those guys did get kicked out of here, they maybe hanging around for you.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I want to. I just patched you up, I don’t want to see my work wasted.”
I gave in and let him lead me from the office into the park. Kids everywhere turned and stared, pointing and talking about what had happened. I was suddenly grateful that school was over and I wouldn’t have to face them all in the halls. Looking over at Derek, I realized that Derek was taller than me by several inches. “So what made you become a lifeguard?”
“Oh, I just do this during the summer. My school let out about a week ago, so I go here. I’m going to college this fall though so this will be one of my last summers here.”
Jose swung the car around like a mad man . . . err . . . woman. “Es okay, baby! Jose es here to take care of you now! I ain’t gonna let no man hurt you. You es safe with me.”
“Should I be more afraid of letting you go with him?” Derek laughed as he opened the passenger door.
Somehow I managed a smile and slipped into the seat. “Thanks again, really.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. That’s why I’m here.”
I don’t think it would have hurt worse if he’d actually said the words, “It’s my job.” Why it hurt, I didn’t really know. I didn’t even really want to think about it. “Let’s go, Jose.”
I watched Derek as we pulled away. He waved happily and walked back into the park. Leaning my head against the cool glass of the window, I let out a lingering sigh. Why did I just let them beat me?
“You wanna me to take you home, baby?”
“No. Let’s just go to your place.”
“Ooo, honey, I have just been waitin’ for your to say that! Let’s go!”
I let out a painful laugh. “Don’t get excited, you pervert. I just don’t want to go home. This is not something I really want to explain to my parents right now, okay?”
“Okay, baby. Don’t worry. I am goin’ to take care of everythin’.”
After having healed up, physically at least. I started visiting the water park more often. I would just go and sit, watch people as they went by and played in the water. Okay, so I primarily went there to watch a certain Life Guard. I never got close enough to talk to him. I never even got close enough for him to see me. I felt bad doing it, like I was some creepy stocker in a B rated film, but I couldn’t help it. I had the hots for the guy and I was going to admit it to myself, even if I wasn’t going to admit it to anyone else.
It didn’t take long to spend all of my spending money. Soon I was forced to go once maybe every two weeks on what little allowance my parents still gave me for doing chores around the house. A little degrading, yes, but I had nothing better to do than watch movies with Jose and listen to him rate each of the guys that had the misfortune of crossing the screen.
Summer came and went, the water park closed as its season came to an end. Soon I was packing up and heading off to college. I decided to forget about my Life Guard, forget about being gay, forget about everything and start out fresh where no one knew me. College sounded like the best place to do that, so off I went. My Mom cried, and my Dad told me to give them Hell. Who “they” were, he wasn’t too specific, but I told him I would.
Do you have any idea how confusing it is to walk onto campus, knowing you have to find your dorm, and have no idea of where you are going? I kind of felt like a kid from L.A. suddenly being dropped in New York City with no map. Granted, I was only about fifty miles away from home, but it felt like a lot farther.
“Ethan, baby! Honey, hello!”
Looking to the skies, I wondered if the Fates were mocking me, than turned to great Jose. The sight before me was frightening to say the least. Jose had managed to grow his hair long enough to put it in pigtails, was wearing a purple halter top and very small Daisy Dukes. I wondered again, not for the first time, why I had ever become his friend when I thought I was straight? “Hey, Jose, what are you doing here?”
“Cha, I’m goin’ to school here. Didn’t I tell you I was applying to get in? Well, I did! Yay!” Jose jumped up and down with a happy little clap, drawing attention from everyone passing us by.
“Oh, great!” I could weep. “That’s just fantastic, Jose!” Someone kill me now.
“And look, I’m in your dorm, honey! Just down the hall!”
Forget it. Someone just give me a gun and I’ll pull the trigger myself. “Wow. What are the chances.” My only saving grace, and there wasn’t much of one, was that he wasn’t my roommate. I knew what an active sex life Jose had and I pitied his roommate whoever the poor sap was. “Well, I guess we should go find our rooms.”
It took us another twenty minutes, and innumerable stares, to find our dorm. It was fondly referred to by the other students as The Swamp. Apparently, it ate several freshman every year and they were never heard from again. At least that’s what we were told. Whereas Jose thought this information was exciting, it just made me glad I had not eaten any breakfast, pure nerves making me sick to my stomach.
“Oh, look, baby! This is my room, isn’t it cute?” Jose pulled me into a small freshman dorm room, nearly jerking my arm out of its socket in his excitement. Jose flitted around the room in awe taking in the bunk beds and two small desks.
I just stood in the door way and looked around the small room. I honestly think my room back home was bigger than this! And they expected two people to live for a year in this tiny space? Looking around, I came across a small mouse of a kid sitting at one of the desks. To say that he looked shell shocked was an understatement. The poor kid looked like he was suddenly in a Cabaret production and wasn’t sure what the next line was. I felt bad for him.
Walking over to him, I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I suggest you find a close friend that doesn’t have a roommate and learn to hang out at his place a lot if you don’t want your virgin ears to be violated repeatedly over the next year.”
Leaving his unpacked box on the desk, the kid bolted for the door.
“Baby, don’t go scaring ma victims. How am I suppose to have fun if you warn everybody I’m coming?”
I laughed. “Trust me, doll. I don’t have to warn them. They just have to look at you to know what’s on your mind.”
“Hmm. Maybe your right. Oh, well. I haven’t had any complaints yet.”
It took us only two hours to unload all of our stuff from our cars and set it up in our rooms. The hard part was trying to memorizing the map of the campus. Jose said all he needed to do was bat his eye lashes at some guy to get directions, but I felt a little better trying to find my classes on my own.
It was late afternoon while I was staring out my window at the beautiful tree when I realized I still didn’t have a roommate. Maybe I was one of the lucky few that got their room all to themselves. It was a pleasant thought that didn’t last long. Soon someone was walking into my open door loaded down with boxes.
Jumping up, I walked over to him, “Here let me help you.”
Taking the top box, I turned and set it down on the empty desk. He set the other boxes down by the empty trunk near the beds and stood up. If I’d been holding anything, I would have dropped it. As it was, I nearly dropped myself into a chair when I looked at him. Tanned skin, sun kissed brown hair, sparkling hazel eyes, biceps that should have been illegal. It was none other than my Life Guard that had come to my rescue three months earlier.
“Hey, you look familiar, do I know you?” He tilted his head slightly as if to look at me better. “Hey, your that kid from the water park, right? The one that was getting wailed on that day?”
Still not able to make my tongue work right, I nodded my head.
He laughed and sat down on one of the desk chairs. “Man, what are the chances, huh? Ian, wasn’t it?”
“Ethan.” How did I end up with all this saw dust in my mouth? Why couldn’t the Fates just leave me alone? Did they really hate me this much?
“Ethan, that’s right. This is cool. Hey, do you mind helping me gather up the last bit of my stuff? I want to get settled before dark.”
And so my life began. Cooped up in the same room with the man that had given me more wet dreams over the summer than I care to think about and living just down the hall with the guy that likes to pretend he is a Hispanic Tina Turner.
By the time Derek had finally settled in, I learned that he had a brother and two little sisters that he was very proud of. The twin sisters were both on the honor roll and in the journalism club at their high school while his older brother was somewhere in Florida doing Med. School. His parents owned a law firm together and supported him in whatever venture he desired. I nearly puked when he told me his Grandmother was the author of the highest selling cookbook on the New York Times Top Ten List. This kid had never known a hardship his entire life. He was surrounded by success! It was sickening. Too bad it didn’t affect my hormones at all. He was still the hottest thing I had seen walking the halls.
He tried to ask me about my family, but seeing as how they paled in comparison, I didn’t really want to bring them up at the moment and fended him off with questions about his work load.
Near ten, Jose stopped in and flopped down on to my bed, since I had claimed the bottom bunk for my own. I have a thing about heights. “So, ladies, what do you think about our new home, huh? Some of those guys are just delicious!” Jose eyed Derek appreciatively. “Mmm, but there is some eye candy in here, isn’t there?”
“Hello again. Couldn’t forget you if I had to. Jose, isn’t it?” Derek said in way of greeting, that smile that never seemed to go away hovering on the edges of his beautiful lips.
“Damn right you couldn’t forget me as I am unforgettable, darlin’. I don’t believe I ever caught your name.” Jose held out his hand like a princess waiting to be lifted out of her carriage.
Derek, like a real man, took it and bowed over it making Jose flush. “Derek Briggs at your service. Just don’t get to friendly or my girlfriend will claw your eyes out.”
“Mmm, she may have to fight me for you.”
I laughed. Laying on the bed, I stretched a bit and reached for my Sprite. “Jose is better at cat fighting than most cats.”
“Isn’t that the truth?” Jose patted my hip looking down at me. “Do wish I had the room across the hall instead of down the hall what with these two hansom men in here.”
“Yeah, Ethan does look quite a bit better than the last time I saw him,” Derek said with a smile as he looked down at me. Perched on the side of my desk, he grinned as I blushed. “Don’t be so modest, Ethan. You are a good looking guy. How many girls did you leave broken hearted back home, huh?”
“Oh, not many.”
Jose started laughing. I reached over and punched his arm. “Ouch, baby! Don’t play so rough or I’ll think you want me! Now, I’ve got to scoot. I need plenty of beauty sleep. I have young men to ogle in the morning. Tah-tah!”
“That is quite a friend you’ve got there. Guess I had better get used to him hanging around, huh?”
“You had also better get used to him hanging around in lingerie. He has a tendency to do that and if you are not prepared for it, it can scar you for life.”
Derek spit out the coke he had been drinking. “No kidding?”
“Jeeze. No offense, but I’m glad I don’t have to room with him.”
“That’s okay. I’m glad I don’t either!”
I think my heart actually stopped when he stood and took off his shirt, going over to close the door. “Well, I suppose I should get a good nights rest, too. Got to get up early tomorrow morning.”
Sitting up in bed, I’m ashamed to admit I watched eagerly as he stripped down to his boxer-briefs. Had I not been clenching my jaw so tight, I would have been drooling. Every part of his body was just as my dreams said it would be. And the parts his underwear cradled left very little to the imagination. The boy was packed!
Giving my shoulder a friendly pat, he launched himself up into his bed. “Nite!”
“N-night.” Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.
Morning rose disgustingly bright and cheerful. I’d only fallen asleep two hours previous when Derek jumped down onto the floor. “Wake up, man. Class starts in an hour. If we hurry, we can catch some breakfast first.”
Grumbling, I rolled out of bed onto the floor. Curious as to why my legs didn’t work the way they should have, I looked down to find them mummified in the sheets and proudly sporting a boner the size of Tokyo Tower. Shit! Grabbing my sheets tightly around my waist, I tried to rise only to find the damn sheets were wrapped tighter around my legs than I had thought.
“You okay, man? Didn’t sleep well, did you?” Derek looked down at my sheet encased legs. Bending down, he gave a sharp tug to the sheets. “You were moaning those last couple of hours. Nightmares?”
“Yeah, something like that.” Truth be told, they were some of the most erotic dreams I think I’ve ever had. Once my legs were free, I jumped up and ran for the door. “Gonna grab a shower first, I’ll be right back!”
And so, this is how my life started at college. Derek thought I was a little obsessed about the morning ritual of showering, but I could deal with that as long as he didn’t realize I was going to jack off.
Four months into the school year, he and I became really good friends. I went to all of his football games; he was a lead quarterback. We hung out all the time, even with Jose. My crush wrapped around my heart with barbed wire and began to tighten painfully.
I found myself falling for a straight guy that had a girlfriend. Now how screwed up is that?
Derek had no idea the feelings I had for him. Since I was a drama major, I was a fairly good actor, so I liked to think that played a good portion for his obliviousness. He liked to tease me all the time about things. My good looks, my morning showers, my oblivious nature to all girls, my fear of heights. Anything he could find. He never did it out of meanness, it was all in fun and if I really couldn’t stand something, he wouldn’t tease me about it anymore. One of his favorite games was to go out on the limb of the tree outside our window and pretend he was going to lose his grip. Freaked me out every time, even though I knew he wouldn’t fall. But for me whose afraid of heights and knowing we were on the third floor, I couldn’t help but beg him to come back in. During one of those begging sessions was how he got me to write his mid-term paper.
Derek had even confided in me that he didn’t love his girlfriend. He was with her because they had been expected to be together all through high school. He was fairly positive she had cheated on him countless times, but they liked to keep up appearances. Both of their parents always said they looked like the perfect couple. But looks were often deceiving. When I asked him why he didn’t just dump her, he told me that he didn’t like to be alone and he didn’t really have an interest in anyone else at the moment so he just kept her around the same way she kept him around.
He talked about breaking up with her eventually. He was just bored with her and their whole relationship. He just wasn’t sure when he wanted to do it or if he even would.
It was sad, really. It was like he was content with the way things were, like he was in a rut that he didn’t have the gumption to get out of. But worst of all, I had wanted to tell him to dump the twit and date me instead. Yeah, right, as if I had the guts to do that. Even if I did, he would probably think it was a joke.
The last football game of the year is tonight and I told him I’d be there. It’s not like I’ve missed any of the games, but tonight he made me swear I’d be there. He said it was for luck. Apparently, I had become a lucky charm to him when he was playing, just knowing that I was there watching and cheering him on.
Standing before the mirror in our room, I shook my head at myself. Down at my feet attacking my toes was a small grey kitten with white feet, hence named Boots. Granted, animals were not allowed in the dorms, but the poor thing had looked like it was starving and it would have frozen to death, so I took it in about two weeks ago. The whole floor knew about it, but they had all fallen in love with the little bundle of fluff, so no one ratted me out. Derek had just laughed at me and ruffled my hair the morning I brought the cat in, saying that was so like me to try and save the kitten. While wiggling my toes for the amusement of Boots, I glared at my reflection. My brown hair never seemed to understand the idea of what a brush was for. Oh, I tried to tame it, but my hands couldn’t resist running through it so it constantly had this mused look about it that Jose said was sexy. I say it’s just sloppy, but I work with what I’ve been given. Not willing to spend the sixty dollars it would cost to get that naturally sun kissed look that Derek’s hair had, I was stuck with dirt brown just sitting there on top of my head like some unruly beast. Where Derek had that ruggedly good looking almost needs a shave, but not quite look, I had a damn baby face! I tried saving before there was really anything to shave and what happened? My face got smoother. I don’t even have peach fuzz to be proud of. Curse my luck. Steel gray eyes staring back at me, I stuck my tongue out at my reflection and bent to save my mangled big toe from the ferocious Boots.
“I’m out of here, okay? You’ve got milk in the corner and I’m warning you, don’t even think about eating my homework. I’ll leave the window open a crack so you wont die of stale air. Now be good.” Dropping the kitten on my bed, where it sat there and meowed at me, I grabbed my scarf and headed out the door.
The game was fantastic. That’s all I can say! Derek actually had the ball and ran eighty-five yards for a touch down! The crowd went wild at that. Jose even got up on an over hang (giving me a mild heart attack) and started the wave with his pompoms and cheerleader skirt. How he managed to get a hold of one of the skirts shall ever remain a mystery. Our head kicker could have been kicking for the pros, he was so good. When we scored the winning points, the crowd poured out onto the field to congratulate the team and to wreck havoc in general.
Jose and I followed down to the field looking for Derek and Tim, Jose’s current boy toy. Jose ruffled his pompoms and shouted over the crowd. “Oh, honey, there is my man. I’ll see you later, okay?”
I nodded, but Jose was already leaping himself into Tim’s arms. I moved forward, still looking for Derek when I saw him at the end of the field by the goal posts. A pretty little red head I recognized as April, his girlfriend, was hanging on his arm as the school’s journalism club took pictures of them. Any joy I had at the game disintegrated in a horrible mass of stomach acid. Bile stung my tongue as I glared at the happy couple. I couldn’t help it, really. I’ve had Derek to myself for the last several months without hardly a phone call from his so-called girlfriend and now here she was soaking up the limelight in all his glory from a spectacular play. I easily could have swung her around by her hair just for pleasure, but I didn’t. That would have looked like jealousy.
“Ethan! We won, man!” Derek disengaged his arm from the leech and ran over to me grabbing me in a bear hug. “We did it! We won! Did you see that run I made?”
Stepping back from his embrace, I blushed. “Yeah, I saw it. You were fantastic.”
April glared daggers at me, stalked over and grabbed Derek around the neck only to plaster her slobbery mouth all over his luscious lips. All I can say is it’s a good thing I was not armed at that moment or she would be toast. “Honey, who is your friend? I’m April Trovko, Derek’s girlfriend.”
Her sneer almost matched mine. Even Derek wasn’t so blind as to see the explosion of dislike between us. “Ethan Chambers, his roommate. Funny, he doesn’t talk about you much.”
April’s face almost matched her hair in that spectacular moment. “You prick!”
“Hey, be nice, man. She’s my girlfriend,” Derek said with a strange mixture of anger, confusion, and embarrassment.
“Oh, you mean the one you are shackled to by obligation and are fairly certain is having numerous affairs on you? That girlfriend? Well, April, I must say it is an honor to meet you.” I did a mock semi bow.
“You arrogant bastard! You slimy filth!” April was screaming now, and attracting quite a gathering of curious on lookers.
Derek looked at me for a split second before his fist shot out and decked me in the mouth. My head whipped to the side and I tasted blood, but I deserved a whole lot more than that, I knew. Derek would have every right to kick my ass from here to tomorrow and I wouldn’t stop him.
I could hear April laughing now. People had gathered around and were murmuring. Shame rose up in me; I thought I would die right then, but I couldn’t give April the satisfaction.
Wiping the blood from my mouth with my sleeve, I looked down at the ground. I had to leave, I couldn’t stay here. I had crossed an unspeakable line and I knew it and so did Derek. I couldn’t face him. Without looking up, I think I muttered something close to an apology and turned to walk away. I had to fight to get through the crowd and when I did, I broke into a run. I couldn’t seem to go fast enough, I could still hear April laughing behind me.
What have I done? Derek would never talk to me again and I wouldn’t blame him! I lost a friend because I was jealous of a girl, but not just any girl. His GIRLFRIEND!!!
How could I have been so stupid?
It wasn’t long before I found myself in my dorm room scrounging through our mini fridge for something cold to put on my mouth. Grabbing a Sprite and a Kleenex, I dabbed at my mouth and then started sucking on the can of Sprite. My mouth hurt like hell, but my heart hurt worse. I was so stupid I could kill myself right. I had never been more tempted to slit my wrists than I was right then. I was such a fool.
What I really needed was some cuddling. Jose was out, he had Tim to keep him occupied and I had no desire to walk in on him ridding Tim. Looking around I called out for Boots, but couldn’t find him. “Boots?”
A tiny meow drifted to me. I looked under the bed, in the clothing piled around the room, near the trunk and still couldn’t find him. Calling out again, I realized with a horror where the meow was coming from. Running to the window I opened it wide. There, out on the thick limb of the tree, was Boots huddled next to the trunk. Seeing me, he started to meow louder.
“Oh, Jesus, no. Boots, come here kitty. Come on, kitty! Please, Boots, come back this way.” But the cat wasn’t coming. Poor little thing looked frightened to death, not that I blamed it. Running out into the hall, I looked around for anyone that would be able to reach the cat, but they had all gone to the game. The halls were empty.
Taking a deep breath, I walked back to the window with tears in my eyes. “You stupid cat, look what you’ve done. I hate heights. They scare me worse than anything in the world and you go out on to a tree limb three stories above the frozen ground. You little fur ball, I should leave you out there.”
Tears streaking down my face, I crawled up onto the window sill. Willing myself to not look down, I edged my way out on to the tree limb backwards, choking back a sob. Whereas fear made most people tremble uncontrollably, I stayed very calm, body wise that is. Emotionally, I was nearly paralyzed with fear, but I couldn’t leave little Boots out there to starve, freeze, or fall to his death. Inch by inch, I scooted farther until I was completely free of the window. Boots meowed at me and took a step forward only to scuttle back towards the trunk of the tree again in terror. “You stupid, stupid little fur ball. I hate you more than I can say at this moment, you have no idea.” Slowly I inched closer until the only thing between me and the trunk of the tree was Boots. Reaching behind me, I grabbed Boots around the middle, careful not to crush his fragile frame and to not fall off the tree. Leaning back against the trunk of the tree, I hurriedly stuffed him in my jacket and zipped it up higher so he couldn’t fall out. He cuddled around my middle, savoring the warmth.
“It’s okay now, Boots, I’ve got you,” I sobbed, holding to the tree limb so tight my fingers were numb. “Don’t worry, your safe.”
“Ethan? You in here?”
It was Derek. He was looking for me. Choking back terror at being out in the tree, I debated whether or not I really wanted him to find me out in the tree, or if I should just stay silent. He took that decision out of my hands when I saw his hands reach out and close the window.
“NO! PLEASE DEREK, OPEN THE WINDOW!” If I wasn’t terrified before, I was now at the thought of being stuck in the tree with no escape.
“What the hell?” The window opened again and Derek stuck his head out. “Ethan, Jesus, what are you doing out there?”
A tiny meow escaped my jacket.
“Boots?” Derek opened the window wider as he realized what had happened. “Come on, Ethan. Get back in here before you fall.”
He couldn’t have said worse words. The words fall automatically make you think, How Far Up Am I, which then leads to looking down. Something I had been trying so hard to avoid for obvious reasons. A whimper rose in my throat and I gripped the tree harder.
I shook my head the tiniest bit, afraid if I shook my head too hard I would loose my balance and plummet to my death. “I – I can’t. I c-can’t move.”
“Jesus, okay. I’m coming, just don’t look down, okay? Stay right there and don’t do anything.” Derek disappeared from the window. For a split second, I was afraid he was so mad at me that he would just leave me there, but within moments he returned. He had stripped off all of his football gear and thrown on a sweatshirt. Slowly, he eased himself out onto the tree limb, making me whimper again when it moved. “It’s okay, just breath, okay Ethan? Breath for me. Look right at me. That’s right, look at my eyes. I’m not going to let you fall, okay? You are going to be fine. Why the Hell did you go out here?”
“There was n-no one in the hall. I couldn’t leave Boots out here and there was no one around, so I came out.”
“But you are terrified of heights! You don’t even like getting on to my bunk bed!” Derek edged himself carefully out to where I was huddled against the trunk, trying not to make the branch move to much for fear I would lose my grip and fall. He sat there and looked at me. “Now that I have you somewhere you can’t run away, want to tell me what the hell went on down on the field?”
“Can’t we talk about this inside?” I cried with distress.
“No, we can’t. You have this knack for disappearing when you don’t want to talk about something and I don’t feel like chasing you all over this damn campus. Now talk.”
“Derek . . . I . . . we could fall,” I said weakly. Boots meowed again and stuck his head out by the zipper of my jacket to look at us.
“I’m not going to let you fall, but I’m not going to get you inside yet, either, until I know what the hell happened down there. That was a pretty nasty thing you did and I think I deserve an explanation.”
“Please, don’t make me do this. I’m sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have said those things, it was wrong. You can beat the shit out of me if you want to, I’ll let you, just let me go back inside,” I pleaded. I could feel my hands and legs going numb. Visions of my premature death ran through my head like a sick slide show.
“I just . . . I was jealous, okay? I hated her for hanging on you and kissing you when she hasn’t been here for the last four months and I have. She’s called you all of twice, right? She doesn’t give a shit about you, she cares about her image and what you can do for that. It made me sick. And I hated the fact that you didn’t have enough guts to get rid of her years ago.”
“Ethan, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I like you, you son of a bitch! I’m gay, okay? I’m gay and I like you! I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to look at me the same way you look at Jose, like some kind of freak who amuses you, but nothing more.” I leaned my head back against the trunk and stared up into its bows, tears falling freely. “You can hate me for that or not, I don’t care. You can beat the shit out of me like those football players did back at the water park, I just don’t care. Please, please, just let me go back inside now.”
Derek was silent for a long time. The first snow of the year began to fall down around us, not yet able to penetrate the dense bows of the tree.
“Come on. Move slowly, okay, I’m right here, I won’t let you fall.” Slowly, he eased us backwards until he reached the window. Lifting himself in, he slid across the desk top. Reaching out, he grabbed my wrists. “Come on, you’re almost there. Just a little farther. Your going to have to let go of the branch to come inside. No, don’t panic on me, come on. There we go, that’s right.”
I may never remember how he did it, but somehow he got me back into the room. After I slid across the desk, I collapsed onto the floor, cradling Boots in my jacket. Rocking back and forth was all I could do, just sit there and stare at Derek’s feet. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
Derek didn’t say anything, he just turned and walked out of the room.
Within half an hour, I grabbed a blanket, the bag of kitten food and was banging on Jose’s door. I could hear moaning on the inside, so I banged harder. Before long, Jose was opening the door in a very small and revealing robe. I didn’t even let him speak, just pushed my way into the room and threw my blanket and kitten food on the empty upper bunk. Looking over at a disheveled Tim, I pointed for the door. “Out.”
“What the fuck? You can’t tell me to leave.”
“OUT!” Tears stung my eyes again and I turned away.
Jose rushed over to Tim. “Honey, can’t you see my little tiger es wounded? Now, go on, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Tim gathered up his clothes, throwing on his pants and headed for the door, grumbling all the way.
“Baby, what’s happened? Why all the tears?”
Holding Boots close with one hand, I grabbed Jose with the other. I buried my head in his neck and began to cry.
“Oh, Baby. Come sit down and we’ll talk.”
Sitting down on Jose’s bed, Jose patted my shoulder as I hid my face with my scarf that was still wrapped around my neck. “You tell Mamma all about it.”
With a hearty sniff, I came up for air. Letting Boots down to wander around the room, I stared at the wall blankly. “He hates me. I told his girlfriend he wanted to dump her after she had been smooching on him and he hit me. Can’t blame him, I would have done the same thing. So I went back to the dorms only to find Boots out on a tree limb. I couldn’t find anyone else so I c-climbed out.” A gasp from Jose. “He found me stuck there and crawled out after me. I was terrified. Everywhere I looked there was this empty air just waiting for me. I couldn’t move, could barely breath.”
“So, he got you back inside?”
“After he cornered me and made me tell him what was wrong with me. I told him, Jose. I told him I’m gay and that I like him. I told him because he wouldn’t let me come in otherwise.” I sniffed again, willing myself not to cry again.
I shook my head. “When we did get be back inside, he just left. Didn’t say a thing, he just left.” I turned watery eyes to Jose. “Let me stay here for awhile, please. I can’t face him, not right now.”
“Of course, Baby! Don’t you give it another thought. It will be like a slumber party, okay?”
“Okay,” I gave a weak laugh.
That night I did nothing more than curl up on the empty top bunk and stare at nothing. Jose talked none stop about nothing important, occasionally sending me sympathetic looks. Near three in the morning, I was looking out the window at the courtyard bellow, wrapped in my blanket at the desk and listening to Jose snort in his sleep when someone began pounding on the door. Jose gave one great snort and sat up in bed to look over at me. I shrugged my shoulders and looked back at the door. Jose jumped up and ran over to the door, pulling his night shirt farther down his thighs. “Who es it?”
“Open the door, Jose,” Derek’s commanding voice shot through the wood barrier.
I jumped up from my chair, dislodging a sleeping Boots who complained an hid under the bed. I was half tempted to follow him but was afraid I wouldn’t fit.
“Don’t you know what time it es?”
“I said open the door, Jose.”
“I em trying to sleep in here. Now shush or you will wake up Tim.”
“I just saw Tim getting cozy with Peter Shanks out in the entertainment room, so your story is blown there.”
Now, me? I would have known this was a ploy to open the door, but my poor misguided Jose suddenly forgot about protecting me and thought about how his boy toy was playing with someone else. Throwing open the door, a very displeased Jose poked his head out into the hall. “What? Where es he? I will scratch his eyes out.”
“Thank you,” Derek said as he stepped into the room and closed Jose out into the hall. With a resounding click, he locked the door.
My heart dropped to my feet.
Jose started pounding on the door, demanding to be let in saying what a dirty trick that was. Derek ignored him. The dim light from the window reflected off of his eyes, giving them an unholy light.
This was it, I was sure. He was going to kill me or yell at me or hit me or something equally displeasure able. Leaning against the desk, I tried to look casual all wrapped up in my blanket, my bare feet kicking at the carpet. Not an easy task, but I like to think that I pulled it off. “What do you want?”
“I want to talk to you. I waited for you back at the room, but it didn’t take me long to figure out you had turned tail and left.”
The accusation stung, but it was true. I fled like a scared little kid. “I don’t want to talk.”
“Well,” Derek said as he sat down on Jose’s bed. “Good thing I didn’t ask, huh?”
I scooted over to the far wall which was only about five paces away, but I figured if I could manage it, I could break for the door eventually.
“First of all, screw you for thinking I wouldn’t be your friend if I knew you were gay.”
The venom in his voice made me flinch. I glared at him. “It’s a rather new thing for me and I didn’t feel like advertising it.”
“And after we were friends? What, you didn’t trust me enough to tell me?”
“The last time I told someone I got my ass kicked, so sue me for being a little more cautious! Wouldn’t that have just made the perfect dinner conversation?” I threw my blanket onto the chair, my hands waving around wildly. “Hey, Derek, I’m gay. Oh, and by the way, I’ve had the hots for you since I met you at the water park. Yeah, I could barely wait to tell you that!”
“It would have been nice if you had told me something rather than springing it on me like that!”
“Springing? It wasn’t like I wanted to! You were holding me hostage up in that tree! You wouldn’t let me come inside! You made me tell you,” I ranted. How dare he put all the blame on me. I never would have told him if I hadn’t gone out on that tree limb. This was Boots fault.
Derek rose from the bed, a soft laugh on his lips. “Yeah, maybe I did.”
I scooted closer to the door, not watching him. “What was the second thing?”
“Second, that was a pretty nasty thing you did out there on the field, but,” he raised his hands to hold me off as I opened my mouth to retort, slowly advancing on me. “I understand why you did it and that’s okay, I guess. I don’t like it much, though. You put me in a pretty tight situation back there.”
“You know what, I don’t care what kind of situation I put you in. I’m sure your smooth tongue got you out of it just fine.” I turned and headed for the door. I was tired of this, I just wanted to go to bed. I’d definitely had enough stress for one day. “Why don’t you just go back to your girlfriend and let yourself be roped into a loveless marriage that you’ll regret within a month. I’m done.”
I didn’t get very far. Before I knew it I was back against the wall with Derek leaning his elbows on either side of my head so I had no where to go. Even as angry and hurt and tired as I would, I couldn’t help but notice how close he was standing to me. We weren’t quite touching, but we were oh-so-close.
His eyes bore into mine. “Maybe I don’t want to go back to April. Maybe I’m not into a fake relationship with her anymore. Maybe I broke up with her down on the field, told her what you said was true. Maybe, just maybe I want something different.”
I think the guys down the hall heard me gulp; the rapid bounding of my heart that was trying to jump right out of my chest. “What . . .err . . . what do you want?”
“Maybe I’m finding myself a little more into you than is right. When you were down there on the field picking a fight with April, I was strangely fascinated by you. And back there on the tree, I didn’t know whether to hit you or . . .”
“Or kiss you,” he said so softly, I almost missed it. Part of me wanted to believe it was my imagination playing tricks on me. This was Derek my roommate, the guy I’d had a crush on since he came to my rescue at the beginning of summer, the guy who’s girlfriend was a complete limelight seeker, the STRAIGHT GUY!!!!! Surely, he could not have said what I think he had just said.
“I’m sorry, what?” Probably not the best thing I could have said at that moment, but I was really at a loss.
Derek just laughed softly, shaking his head. “Only you could have utter disbelief in your voice at a time like this.”
“But your straight! You had a girl friend just a few hours ago that doesn’t even resemble a guy in the slightest! You’ve never given Jose a twice over when he really dresses up, you’ve never tried to check a guy out as he’s walking away, you don’t even like fashion! I mean I don’t either, but still! You are one of the straightest guys I know!”
He leaned in close and whispered in my ear, his breath just brushing my lobe making goose bumps breakout over my arms. “Even straight guys wonder if they really are straight.”
Wasn’t that the very thing that had set me on the path to discovering who I really was? The gay guy who had not yet actually gone out on a date with a guy because he was too nervous to let anyone know he was really gay? Even if he wasn’t honest with anyone else, he was honest with himself to say he really liked to watch reruns of Baywatch and it wasn’t because of Pamela Anderson. It had all started with a question, ‘What if I’m not as straight as I think I am?’
When Derek pulled back to look at me, I know my mouth was hanging open. Not in invitation, mind you, but in shock! He apparently thought it was the first option. He leaned in and kissed me! I thought my knees where going to give away, but I had them locked just as tightly as every other part on my body. Oh, the conflicting emotions I was feeling right then. Shock, first and foremost, terror wondering if this was really real or was he just using me as some kind of self discovery experiment, and burning desire I couldn’t deny even if I had to.
Derek leaned back and gave me what I could only describe as a shy smile, which looked so damned cute! “I wouldn’t do this with anyone else. You have to know that Ethan. You’re my friend and mean so much to me. I don’t know when I’ll have the courage for this again.”
I knew then it was now or never. Even if I was an experiment on his part, I would regret it forever if I didn’t have this moment with him. I couldn’t speak, my voice having decided to desert me at this crucial moment, so I did the only thing I could to let him know how I felt. I leaned in and kissed him. It was a soft kiss barely containing the burning hunger I felt within me. He moaned low in his throat with desire and nearly undid me right there.
Even knowing I was gay and liked guys, I still had never actually kissed a guy yet. It was nice, so different from kissing a girl. Derek’s lips were strong and demanding and I felt myself yielding to him.
One of his hands moved to cup my cheek, my own hands creeping up to grip the back of his neck holding him close to me. With a pull of his other hand, he began to lead me back to the bed. I didn’t resist. It was like a fantasy come to life. It was everything I had wanted since I had realized I was gay just before summer. And now I was with the one guy besides Colin Farrell that I really wanted.
It wasn’t long before he had me on my back on Jose’s bed, moving restlessly under him, practically begging for him to take me. Wordlessly, we stripped each other, our eyes locked. No words were needed, not between us. I may have only known him for the last four months, but I felt as though I’d known him my entire life and everything about this moment was right. I didn’t need to tell him to go slow, I didn’t need to tell him I’d yet to be with a guy, I didn’t need to tell him how badly I wanted him. He knew it all, I could see it in his eyes. In their murky depths, I could see he was even more nervous than me and that made me feel so good.
When at last we lay together with nothing between us, Jose’s K-Y in my hand that I’d found in his desk moments before, he looked at me, his bottom lip between his teeth. “You, uh, you’re sure about this?”
I grabbed his throbbing member in my hand and grinned at him. “Don’t tell me you want to back out of this now?”
He groaned with pleasure. “No. I just, I wanted to give you a chance to, you know, if you weren’t sure about it.”
I leaned up and kissed him deeply. It was so sweet that he was thinking about me, not wanting me to regret what we were about to do. I wanted to jump him right then. “You’re sweet, but no, I definitely don’t want to back out.”
“Okay.” He watched me with fascinated eyes as I pored the lubricant out onto my hand and warmed it up. Gently, I rubbed it onto him, delighting when he moaned out my name.
Leaning up, I whispered into his ear, “Take me, Derek.”
Not waiting further, he pushed into me, just his head. The pain was abrupt and fierce, making me gasp. He didn’t move, waiting for my body to adjust to him. It hurt, but I could tell that the pain was fading fast, only to be replaced with one of the most curious sensations I’ve ever felt. When I nodded I was okay, he began to push into me farther. I felt so full and so beautiful wrapped in his arms. Then came the pleasure.
I began to buck back against him as he began to move, He kissed my collar bone, nipped at my neck, making me cry out in delirious delight. Sweat beaded out on our bodies, but still we held tight to one and other. In the throes of passion, we came together, falling from the heavens back down on to Jose’s bed.
He fell asleep in my arms. I simply laid there, holding him to me as I watched the sun rise out the window. Even if he wanted nothing more to do with me for the rest of my life, I would always have this moment to cherish close to my heart.
Somewhere around noon, we both awoke to furious pounding on the door. Derek jumped up and threw his pants on, while I wrapped Jose’s blanket around my middle. For some strange reason, I could not find my pants. Strange.
Derek opened the door to an indignant Jose. “Well. Es about time you let me back into my own room, you brute. Look what I had to go around campus in! Just look at me! I had to sleep in your room, and borrow your clothing. I look like a disgrace!”
I began to laugh as I really looked at Jose. He was dressed in one of Derek’s extra football jerseys, which was belted around the waist, and a pair of my skinny jeans. I couldn’t remember the last time he had looked so much like a guy. “You look good, Jose.”
“Don’t you get started on me, girl. I will scratch your eyes out, you-” Jose looked at the blanket around my waist and the blushing Derek who was leaning casually against the wall next to the still open door. “Oh, girl, you have to tell me everything! You look like you were ridden all night long and enjoyed every minute of it. Mmm!”
“Jose!” I’m fairly certain my face had turned a red somewhat similar to that of a ripe tomato, my eyes doubling in size. Did Jose have no shame? No, not really.
Derek laughed and moved over to me, encircling me in his arms. He wasn’t making this situation any better, let me tell you. “Would you stop badgering my boyfriend, please?”
“Oh, honey, really?” Jose asked with excitement, clapping his hands in front of him.
I looked up at Derek in shock, still trying to keep the blanket around my waist. “Really?”
Derek leaned down and kissed my nose. “Yeah, really. If your game for it, that is.”
“Of course, he’s game, honey! What do you think he’s been waiting for all this time? A beer buddy?” Jose asked, hands on hips, eyebrow expertly raised.
Seeing the look in Derek’s eyes, I couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, I’m game.”
And that was how I found the love of my life. College goes pretty smoothly when you are in love and dating the Captain of the football team, let me tell you. Maybe the Fates weren’t laughing at me. Maybe they were telling me to stop being so afraid of what others thought and to just take a chance? Who knows?