Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
Chris
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Book Two • Chapter 8 — Deception

September 1983 • Chris-17

“Like I told you the first time, Mom, I’m GAY!” I shouted. “G… A… Y. What about that don’t you understand? You ripped Frank out of my life once already. You’re not gonna do it again!”

“It’s not up to you!” Mom shouted back at me. “You’re both still minors and subject to our rules.”

“When you were thirteen,” Dad explained, “we assumed it was just a phase. A lot of boys experiment…”

“That’s not what you said back then,” I countered.

“We didn’t want you to think we were OK with it, which we weren’t… and aren’t,” Mom answered. “Regardless of whether it’s experimentation or something more, homosexuality is the tool of the Devil. He uses it to seduce young boys and make them turn to evil. We had to separate the two of you for your own good. We’d hoped that four years in Catholic schools, with a firm moral upbringing, would have made you change.”

“There’s nothing too change!” I countered. “I’m gay, I’ve always been gay and I’ll always be gay. What’s more, Frank and I love each other. How can it be wrong to love someone?”

“It’s wrong if it leads you down the path of the Devil,” Dad replied, “and we’re not gonna stand for it. The only reason we let the two of you go camping was we thought you’d changed. You both even dated girls.”

“That was just a cover,” I stated flatly. “It was to keep anyone from suspecting me of being gay, but it never changed the way I feel.”

Sighing, Dad said, “Perhaps we should have done what the Sanfords did with Frank and pulled you out of Dawson’s program. Perhaps we should have sent you to a military school, too.”

“To this day, Frank hates his parents for what they did,” I lamented. “After two-and-a-half years, he was literally ready to kill himself. He probably would have if they hadn’t let him come home for his junior and senior years of high school. The place was horrible, even if he was surrounded by other gay boys. He said that being in that place with so many others like him, but never having the privacy to do anything was like being out on the ocean without drinking water. It made him even thirstier than he’d have been if he’d stayed here.”

“How long have you been carrying on behind our backs?” Mom asked.

“Since the day he returned to St. Louis,” I answered with a smile, causing my mom to gasp. “And the moment we’re both eighteen, we’ll be back together again.”

“Frank may be turning eighteen in a few months,” Dad pointed out, “but you won’t be eighteen until next April. Until then, you’re subject to our rules. First thing you’re going to do is withdraw from the University.”

DAD! You can’t ask me to do that!” I whined.

“I don’t want you going anywhere near that place. Dawson facilitated your involvement with that boy four years ago in the first place. He knew about your relationship… he condoned it. We should have pulled you from that program back then, but you were learning so much and at the time we felt we would have been biting your nose off to spite your face. Obviously we were wrong. Your learning advanced math and physics came at an unacceptably high price.

“You were already accepted at Stanford and you accepted their offer, only to turn it down at the last minute. Come Monday you’re going to get on the phone with them and beg and plead forgiveness. Hopefully it’s not too late to get into the fall semester, but if they can’t take you now, you’re going to get a job until they can take you, which will likely be in the spring.”

“I can’t leave… not yet,” I countered. “Professor Dawson needs me and he’s been paying me well for my assistance.”

“Dawson can get someone else,” Dad challenged.

“No he can’t. We’ve been working on this project together for four years. FOUR FUCKING YEARS!” I replied.

CHRISTOPHER!

NO!” I shouted back. “You listen to me. What we’re doing is critical to a project he’s working on that has implications to national security. It would take him years to bring someone else up to speed on it.”

“My, don’t you have an inflated sense of self-worth,” Dad challenged me. “Son, one thing you’ll learn as you grow up is that everyone is expendable. No one is irreplaceable. And if you think you can make me believe that the Feds would entrust a project of critical importance to national security to you when you were just a thirteen-year-old kid, you must take me for more of a fool than I think you are for suggesting such a thing.”

The arguing only went downhill from there. There was no way I could convince Mom and Dad that I really was working on something that affected the very fate of the human race, much less that being gay was no different than being straight. I wasn’t even allowed to talk to Professor Dawson to explain what was going on. I was grounded, was forbidden to watch TV or use the telephone, and forbidden to use my own car — a car I bought and maintained with my own money. Dad took my car keys to make sure I wouldn’t sneak out, and personally escorted me to the University on Monday morning to make sure I withdrew from school and requested a transcript of what I’d done so far, which was next to nothing, since I’d been in classes for less than a month.

As I expected would be the case, getting into the fall semester at Stanford was a lost cause. Even if they could have reinstated my place in the freshman class — a place that had already been given to someone else — it was too late to get into any classes. Given my SAT scores and my grades, however, there was a good chance I could get in for the spring semester to replace one of the students that inevitably dropped or flunked out. I would have to reapply, however, and needed to do so right away. At least going to Stanford would get me out from under my parents’ thumbs.

Finally, Dad relented and let me have my car keys back, but only because I would need my car to get to and from work. Dad expected me to have a job lined up by the end of the week, and made it clear there would be consequences if I didn’t. Rather than hitting the pavement in the traditional sense and looking for an entry level job bagging groceries or pumping gas or the like, I decided to check the classifieds and look for something that at least would make use of my skills. I could type more than sixty words a minute, I could operate a word processor with ease, and I could handle complex mathematics. I also thought I might check the employment office at the University — after all, Dad never said I couldn’t work there.

By the end of the day, I had interviews lined up at Emerson, Monsanto, Charter Communications and Sigma-Aldrich. I also had three interviews lined up at the University. Although these were all positions as a technical secretary, they weren’t entry-level positions at all, and a few of them even required a college degree, but I was allowed to interview because of my years of working in a similar role for Professor Dawson. I would just somehow need to get a reference from him. They were all advertised at between three and five dollars an hour, which wasn’t bad money for a secretary.

Regardless of what happened, I knew I would need a job, but I was hoping I could still go back to school, the sooner the better. I also knew I wanted Frank there with me by my side. If our parents didn’t approve, then fuck ’em. My plan was simple — Frank and I would leave home and stay with Professor Dawson until we were both eighteen and legally able to be on our own. We’d lie low and work with Dawson on OTT in secret, and hopefully finish the last of what needed to be done by next fall. We’d then both move to California and attend Stanford.

The first step in making this happen was to contact Frank and since I wasn’t allowed to call him, nor would my calls be allowed through by his parents, I decided to meet him immediately after school Tuesday afternoon. I stood patiently outside the entrance where students gathered to meet their school buses, and waited for Frank to come out.

When I finally spotted him with a group of his friends from school, I called out, “Frank?”

His eyes registered surprise and shock, and then anger when he saw me. He took three long steps that brought him right up to me, and then he gave me a forceful shove that nearly caused me to fall backwards.

Get away from me, faggot!” he said with vehemence in his voice that I’d never heard before. “Don’t you ever come near me again or I’ll whip your faggot ass.” He then stormed back to where his friends were standing, and together they boarded their buses.

I was stunned. How could he do that to me? And then my brain started working again and I reasoned that perhaps he had to. Maybe he was just putting on a show for his friends, but more importantly, for his parents’ sake. I would have to find a way to meet with him alone.

On Wednesday, I began the first of my interviews. I had one at Monsanto, one at Sigma-Aldrich and one in the Biology Department at the University. That morning, I showered, shaved and even put on some cologne. I dressed up in my one and only suit and wore my best tie. I even polished my dress shoes before putting them on.

The interview at Monsanto was a real eye-opener. There were at least twenty people interviewing for the job, and all of them were women except for me. We all had to fill out a lengthy application form and actual employment forms as if we had already been hired. There was even a psychological assessment! The interview itself, once I was finally called, lasted only five minutes and I suspect was terminated prematurely when I mentioned that I might leave at the end of the calendar year to attend school at Stanford. I decided that I would not mention it again in my subsequent interviews.

The interview at Sigma-Aldrich was somewhat less of a circus, but again I was the only guy interviewing for the position, and I had to fill out just as much paperwork as at Monsanto. Things were also chaotic, as Sigma Chemical had just acquired Aldrich Chemical a few years back, which was based in Milwaukee, and the corporate headquarters of the combined company, in St. Louis, was still in the process of merging operations from two completely different corporate cultures. If I got the job, it could be a chance to get in on the ground floor if I stayed with the company. The interview lasted ten minutes, and some of the questions were surprisingly personal. I was even asked if I was gay, which frankly I didn’t think was anyone’s business. Taken off-guard, however, I choked on my reply, causing the man conducting the interview to say, “I’ll take that as a yes.” I wasn’t sure if he was following company policy or not, but I had a feeling that I wasn’t getting the job in any case.

The final interview was in the Biology Department at the University. At least I didn’t need to fill out any paperwork for the position, since I had already been a University employee. I seemed to be the only person interviewing, but I was truly shocked, when I was called in for the interview and found Marion Dawson waiting inside. When he stood, without even thinking about what I was doing, I ran to him and we both engulfed each other in a crushing hug. I know he had a reputation of being interested only in things that could advance his own career, but to me he was a better father figure than my own father was. I truly loved the man as only a disaffected teenager could.

When we finally separated, he asked, “How are you holding up, Chris.”

“Not well,” I acknowledged. “I’m not sure how I’m gonna get through the next several months, or more. My parents hate me, and are insisting I enroll at Stanford this spring if I can get in again. I think they just want to get me away from Frank, but it may not even matter. I tried to see him after school, but he was with his friends and he shoved me and called me a faggot.”

Professor Dawson winced when he heard me say that, then said, “He was probably just showing off in front of his friends. He was afraid that being seen with you might get back to his parents, and we all remember how they reacted the first time.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, too, but it still hurt. I’m just gonna have to find a way to get him alone to see what’s really going on in his life.”

“Just be careful,” Professor Dawson admonished me. “You absolutely cannot risk discovery. You’d be hurting Frank even more than you’d hurt yourself if you did that.”

“Believe me, I know,” I acknowledged. “Somehow I’ll find a way as soon as I possibly can, but I won’t do anything that might risk us being found out.

“So you’re interviewing me for the Biology job?” I asked.

Laughing, he said, “You’re not being considered for the Biology job.” My face fell at hearing that, so he quickly added, “As soon as I got wind that you were applying for jobs at the University… of course the departments contacted me to find out if you were any good… I made some phone calls to see if I could find a way for you to work for me without your parents finding out. What we’ve done is we’ve created a dummy position for a technical secretary in the Physics section of the Department of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. As you know, Barnes is a major teaching affiliate of the Medical School, but your parents aren’t likely to make the connection to me, since it’s not directly a part of the University. It’s just on the other side of Forrest Park, and as far as your parents are concerned, we’ll let them think that’s where you’re working.

“What your parents won’t realize, and hopefully will never find out, is that the Physics section is located right here in the Physics Department on the main campus. I would suggest you never let them know that fact… let them think you work in the hospital and that you were hired because of your experience as a technical secretary. Your paycheck will be issued by the hospital rather than by the University, and your direct phone line number will even use a hospital prefix rather than a University one. As you can see, I’ve covered my tracks well.

“There are some requirements associated with working in a hospital… you’ll need to have a pre-employment physical, which can be done by student health, and as part of that, you’ll have to have a tuberculin test placed today and read on Friday. Assuming everything’s OK, you can start work on Monday. Because it’s an hourly position, you’ll need to be here to clock in by 8:30 every morning, and you’ll need to clock out at five PM. It’s acceptable for you to work more than the forty hours you’re required to be here, so long as we keep it off the books. Because you’re under eighteen, you’re restricted from working overtime, but I can pay you under the table in cash for your extra hours.

“Obviously your role as a technical secretary won’t involve much secretarial work. As always, I’ll take advantage of your typing skills for my lecture notes when you aren’t busy with other tasks, but that’s about it. Mostly, you’ll do what you’ve been doing… continuing your studies and working on OTT.”

I just sat there with my mouth hanging open as what the professor told me began to sink in. He’d arranged it so I could continue everything I already was doing with the exception of attending class. Even that didn’t matter all that much, as I’d have ample time for independent study. Most importantly of all, I’d be able to continue my work for him on OTT, helping to extend the technology back another decade and, hopefully, preventing the Russians from getting their hands on Professor Dawson in the future.

I could also give more thought to how we might find a way to prevent the otherwise inevitable destruction of Earth that would come from our own interference. Without Frank, it wouldn’t be nearly as easy, but his eighteenth birthday was just over three months away, and then he would be able to do as he pleased. I was sure looking forward to that!

Before heading over to student health for my pre-employment physical, I gave Professor Dawson another tight hug. He was the one who’d made everything possible.

I went back on Friday to have my TB test read, and of course it was fine.

My parents were surprised to say the least that I’d managed to land the kind of job that I did at Barnes-Jewish. Dad did make a comment about how maybe I really was queer, since I’d chosen a secretarial job, but I think both my parents appreciated that I was able to land a job that made use of my skills, and they were a bit proud of me for it. It didn’t hurt that I’d be earning six dollars an hour, which was nearly double the minimum wage.

With nothing better to do over the weekend, I started obsessing about Frank and how I might be able to reach him, and talk to him alone. Obviously, meeting him at school was out of the question, as there’d always be friends or acquaintances around him. My last attempt in that regard had ended disastrously. The only other approach I could think of was to sneak into his home late at night, but his bedroom was on the second floor, making it virtually impossible to reach it from the outside. I had visions of me throwing stones at his window to get his attention, but then I saw myself accidentally breaking the window, and his parents calling the police. No, there were too many risks involved with a late night visit.

Since I couldn’t get through to him by telephone, that only left the mail as a way to reach him. Undoubtedly, anything I sent him addressed from me would be confiscated by his parents. Even if I addressed the letter from someone else, there was a significant risk his parents would open it anyway and discover its true origin. I therefore needed to fake a legitimate letter that would somehow clue Frank in to the fact that it was from me.

The thought came to me on Monday, my first day of ‘work’, when I was sitting at my desk in the Physics Department and noted that one of the drawers contained official University letterhead and envelopes. The idea came to me instantly, and so I typed out the following message on a sheet of official letterhead:

Dear Mr. Sanford,

It has come to our attention that you have withdrawn from Professor Dawson’s advanced math and physics program for high school students. Although there is no tuition associated with the program, we note that you paid a laboratory fee in the amount of $67.50 for the use of facilities and equipment, and as a deposit for potential breakage during the coming academic year. This fee was paid with a check dated September 3, 1983. Because you had not yet had the opportunity to make use of the laboratory facilities, you are entitled to a full refund. To obtain your refund, you must present this letter in person in the office where the fee was originally paid. Our office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 12:30PM and 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. If you wish to claim your refund, please be sure to bring at least one form of identification in addition to your student ID. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me at (314) 555-8793.

Sincerely,

A. Michael Christian, Bursar

There were three major clues in the letter that hinted it was from me, and I could only hope that Frank’s parents didn’t pick up on any of them. Firstly, the date of the payment was actually the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend. It was the day we’d gone swimming with everyone in Shaw Park — a day together that we would never forget. It was also the day he was spotted being where he wasn’t supposed to be, and it was because of that day that his parents were able to discover that Frank and I had been lying to them about going camping all summer.

The second clue of course was my name. Instead of Christopher Michaels, I signed the letter A. Michael Christian. I could only hope it wasn’t too obvious, but that it was obvious enough. Finally, there was the fact that there was no laboratory fee for attending the program. Professor Dawson had a grant that paid all costs and Frank knew that, but hopefully his parents didn’t. Because Frank had his own checking account, his parents wouldn’t necessarily know that he hadn’t written a check to cover the lab fee. I was sure to make the fee high enough that they wouldn’t likely blow it off. The telephone number was for the one on my desk at work.

With great trepidation, I addressed an official University envelope to Frank, and added my room number to the return address, along with the title, ‘Bursar’. I tucked the letter into the envelope, sealed it, ran it through the department’s postal meter, and hand carried it to the campus post office. That way it would go out that very day, and would include the appropriate postmark. After dropping it in the outgoing mail slot, I crossed my fingers, and prayed.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

September 1990 — Chris 24

Even after a dissertation is complete and the thesis successfully defended, there remains much work to do. After all requested corrections have been made, which in my very fortunate case, were none, the final document needs to be reviewed and signed by the major professor and by all the members of the committee. The requisite number of copies then needs to be made, and the copies bound and submitted to the Graduate Office along with the unbound original. The original is photographed onto microfiche, to be stored in a national clearinghouse from which copies can be requested. Additional bound copies are given to the major professor, each of the members of the committee and to anyone and everyone who contributed in any way to the dissertation. There is also an expectation that a final manuscript will be submitted and published in a major journal within one year of the completion of the dissertation.

I could only imagine what all of this had been like in the days before there were computers, or even word processors. Most students, I’d heard, hired professional typists to type up their thesis and then retype it with all the requested revisions. The only way to save one’s work was on the printed page, and most students lacked the skills and the time to type it themselves. Students would spend a small fortune paying by the page for each version to be retyped. Even after word processors became available, students still often paid professional typists to do the work, as most of them lacked touch-typing skills in those days. At least by then, they only had to pay for the cost of making revisions, rather than to retype the entire document.

How well I remembered the early word processors. It was not until 1976 that the first dedicated word processors became available. I certainly remembered the Wang 1200 WPS with its tiny monochrome CRT-based screen and a pair of eight-inch floppy disk drives. Professor Dawson’s lab still had a pair of them when I started there in 1978. It was not until the year after that Wang introduced the 1200 OIS, which made use of the first-ever office-wide network, allowing users to share documents and store them on a central hard drive.

It was that same year, 1977, that Apple introduced their first Apple II computer. When VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet program, came out in 1979, it propelled the Apple from being little more than a hobbyist’s toy to being a powerful office tool. With VisiCalc, people began to see that a personal computer could do everything a dedicated word processor could do, and much more. IBM then introduced their first PC in 1981, employing a small, little-known startup company called Microsoft to build the operating systems that ran its PCs.

In the meantime, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC as it was known, was working on the next evolution in computing — one based on a graphical user interface rather than a command line structure to control the operating system. As with so many of their projects, however, Xerox’s corporate structure allowed the technology that could have saved the company to wither on the vine. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, however, didn’t fail to see the significance of what Xerox’s brightest engineers were doing, and ended up reverse engineering what they saw at PARC into the Apple Lisa, introduced in 1983, and the lower cost Macintosh, introduced the following year.

Of course Microsoft wasted no time in reverse engineering the Macintosh operating system themselves, and although they have yet to produce anything even remotely as functional, IBM-compatible PCs are so much cheaper than the Mac that they already dominate the corporate desktop in spite of their continued reliance on a command line interface, or on Microsoft’s kludgy Windows 3.0 release. I’m just glad that Apple products dominate the educational market. Nothing works better than a Mac.

I wrote my dissertation on a Macintosh IIsi with a beautiful color monitor, a huge 80 MB hard drive and a whopping 20 MB of RAM. Man, was that machine ever decked out. ’Course I could never have afforded one of them for myself without the hefty educational discount. System 6 was one slick operating system, too, and storing my thesis on 3½-inch floppies sure beat using the eight inch and 5¼ inch floppies we used to use.

Since no revisions were requested, I was pretty much done with my PhD thesis — I just needed to print out a fresh copy, proofread it one final time, and then take it to the printer to have the extra copies printed up and bound. I could imagine that someday, rather than handing in printed copies, one would just hand in a floppy disk or whatever passed for one, and additional copies could then be printed out as needed. I could also imagine a day when theses would be stored electronically rather than on microfiche. I had a feeling that day would not be too far away. Maybe I could ask Chris-31 about it sometime, but then I thought better of it. Knowledge of the future should be restricted to the absolute minimum to deal with the crisis at hand.

Once I handed in my PhD thesis, I started work in earnest on a manuscript that I hoped to publish in the journal Nature. My backup plan was to submit to the American Institute of Physics, and if it was rejected there, to the Journal of Physics. Because my hypotheses were controversial, getting a manuscript published could be difficult, but I would not rest until it was published in the most prestigious journal possible.

The fact that my work was groundbreaking became apparent when I started getting requests for my dissertation even before I’d finished the submission process. I was even getting requests for my manuscript — a manuscript I hadn’t even written yet. Some of my fellow students treated me as if I were a celebrity, given the way my original defense had been thwarted, and I’d come back stronger than ever. I was being called ‘the comeback kid’ in a number of circles.

It was during this period that I was approached by a physics student I didn’t know named Wang Lee. He was originally from Hong Kong, but had lived in the U.S. for a number of years and was just finishing up work on his Masters degree, with an ultimate goal of a PhD. His interest was in particle physics, and he found the premise of temporal quantum variations to be fascinating.

He wasn’t half-bad looking — in fact, he was very cute — and he had a wicked sense of humor that made him fun to be around. We ended up spending a lot of time together while I was preparing the manuscript for submission to Nature. He often showed up in my lab unannounced and eager to go out for a beer. As he put it, I’d be more likely to finish if I took the time to relax now and then.

We were quickly becoming the best of friends, but I couldn’t help but get the feeling he was actually flirting with me. Were it not for having a girlfriend and an infant son, I could have easily fallen for him, but the last thing I needed right now was a boyfriend.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.

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