Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
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Book Two • Chapter 10 — Relationships

November 2004 — Chris 38

When I opened the door, I was stunned. More than a decade had passed since the last time we saw each other, but there was no mistaking the face of Paul Langley. Paul and I had had an ongoing affair throughout my graduate school years, right up until the point where Jen got pregnant. Although I’d overcompensated for the disastrous relationship I’d had with Frank Sanford by becoming a ladies’ man, Paul provided an essential release for the gay side of me that was pent up inside. In retrospect, we were never in love, but we enjoyed each others’ company, and had some wild and crazy sex.

“Paul!” I exclaimed as I motioned for him to come inside. “What brings you to the Bay Area?”

“Actually, you are the reason for my visit,” he began. “I was horrified to hear what happened to Jen, but I was in the midst of a grant application at the time and absolutely could not get away for the funeral. My visit here now is kind of to try and make up for that.”

“Paul,” I replied, “You certainly didn’t need to come across the whole damn country to express your condolences. A card and a phone call would have sufficed. Alameda, California’s a long way from Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

“To tell you the truth, I had to get away,” he related. “I just broke up with my partner of the last nine years…”

You broke up with Steve?” I interrupted.

“Yeah, well, we just had too many differences on how a gay relationship should work. In the end, Steve was just too clingy, and he was jealous if I even talked to another guy. There was no trust, which is horrible for a relationship.

“So I’m single again, and now that my most recent grant application’s done and on its way, I thought it might be a good time to get away from it all, and commiserate with a good friend who also just lost his spouse.”

“We were much more than good friends,” I pointed out.

“How true,” Paul said as he touched me on the arm, “but I don’t think either of us is looking for a relationship right now.”

“I’m certainly not,” I agreed, and then I asked, “Hey, would you like some coffee, or Coke or something?”

“If it’s not too much trouble, coffee would be great,” Paul answered.

“Coffee it is, then,” I stated as I led Paul through our small house and into the kitchen.

As I measured and ground the beans, Paul noted, “This is a pretty nice house for the military.”

“It’s nothing like what we had in Oakland Hills, but we do have a nice view of the bay, and the school district’s one of the best in the state,” I mentioned, and then asked, “Speaking of the military base, how did you get in here without me being notified?”

Smiling, he answered, “I have my ways… actually, I have a top secret clearance for some of the military work I do at MIT. Still, security’s much tighter than it was before 9/11, so I did have to check in with the base commander, but once he verified who I was, he had no trouble with allowing me to make a surprise visit to a good friend.”

“Yeah, 9/11 sure changed things, but after being taken hostage and losing Jen, I’m grateful for all the security,” I noted.

“Actually, I was in one of the towers on 9/11,” Paul stated, “making a presentation to a venture capital group interested in providing startup funds for one of our projects. If it hadn’t been for the hijackers being thwarted, I would certainly have perished that day. It’s kind of spooky to think about it. Had it not been for our government’s vigilance in tracking down the hijackers before they could do anything, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I had no idea, Paul!” I exclaimed. I was shocked to say the least. I’d never met someone that TTT had saved before. It was sobering to think that Paul was alive today, only because of our intervention in the future to change the past.

Although I couldn’t tell him the truth about OTT, I reasoned he had a right to know just how inept the government really was that day. “I hate to tell you this, but you came a lot closer to meeting your maker than you would believe. The feds really were caught with their pants down… much more so than is commonly known. Everyone knows that Homeland Security was formed because of the mistakes that let the hijackers get as far as they did, but even with the hijackers plainly in the Fed’s sights, no one actually put two and two together and realized there was an imminent danger.

“The Bush administration was quick to take credit for having thwarted the hijackers, but the truth of the matter is that they came damn close to succeeding. Had it not been for an anonymous tip, they almost surely would have.”

An anonymous tip?” Paul asked incredulously.

“That’s all it was… an anonymous tip, and even then the White House resisted advice to ground all flights. Had it not been for the credibility of the information obtained from the tip, it’s doubtful Bush would have taken action, and four planes would have been hijacked that day.”

“That’s un-fucking-believable!” Paul exclaimed. “The Bush White House certainly has never failed to take credit for something it almost totally fucked up! Do they have any idea who provided the tip?”

“I’m not exactly in the loop,” I explained, “but it came from a credible source. That’s all I know.”

“Wow! I really am lucky to be here today.”

“More than you know, bud,” I agreed.

Just then, we heard the sound of a key in the lock, followed by the front door swinging open.

“Hey, Dad, I’m back,” Andy called out as he entered the house. When he entered the kitchen and saw that we had a visitor, he said, “Oh, hi!”

“Andy,” I began, “I’d like for you to meet a good friend of mine from Stanford. He and I were graduate students in the same lab. This is Paul Langley, and Paul, this is my son, Andy.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Paul,” Andy said as he reached out and shook Paul’s hand, not hesitating to greet him by his first name. Unlike his old man used to be at his age, one thing Andy wasn’t, was shy.

“Oh great… coffee!” Andy exclaimed as he got out a mug and started to pour himself a cup. “I can sure use this.”

Clearing my throat, I said, “Why Andy, it’s really nice of you to get Paul his cup of coffee. I was just about to get it myself. As you can see, I just brewed the coffee and hadn’t had a chance to serve our guest, yet.”

“Oh, yeah,” Andy said with a sheepish expression, and then he looked directly at Paul and asked, “Would you like anything in your coffee, Paul? Cream, sugar or low calorie substitutes?”

“Thanks, Andy. I’d like a packet of NutraSweet or Sweet-and-Low and just a touch of skim milk if that’s not too much to ask.”

“Not at all,” Andy replied as he added the requested items, stirred and brought the mug to Paul. I wasn’t sure if Andy would know what skim milk was, since Californians call it ‘non-fat milk’, but he evidently did. Andy then added, “Let me know if it needs anything more.” After getting Paul his cup, Andy surprised the hell out of me by getting me a cup of coffee as well, adding milk and sugar to my taste. He then finally got a mug for himself and poured his own coffee, taking it black.

Sitting down across from us, Andy asked, “So the two of you were close friends in graduate school. Just friends?”

I just about spewed my coffee when I heard that, and Paul did in fact choke on his coffee and went into a coughing fit. Seeing the satisfied look on Andy’s face, all I could do was say, “Busted.”

After Paul got his coughing under control, Paul asked, “Andy knows?”

“Well, he’s known about me for the past few years, now,” I admitted. “He overheard Jen and I talking about it on the eve of 9/11. She confronted me, and I didn’t exactly deny it. We still loved each other and it didn’t really change things, but Andy was the one who really surprised us in taking it so well.”

“I’m cool with it, Dad,” Andy interjected. “I understand why you stayed in the closet and dated women. I also realize I prolly wasn’t intended.” This time I was the one to choke on my coffee. Once I got my coughing under control, Andy continued, “Well, it’s pretty obvious, Dad. Why would you have wanted to have a kid while you were still in school, and you and Mom never married. I know you loved each other and you love me… I just wasn’t planned.”

“How old did you say Andy is?” Paul asked.

“He’s fifteen going on fifty,” I answered. He’s always been precocious, from the time of his sixth birthday, when he read the label on the box from his train set, calculated the power consumption in his head, ordered extra components over the Internet that night when he wasn’t supposed to, and figured out how to swap the cord from his video game console for the one I removed from the train transformer to keep him from playing with it unsupervised. Back then, he was just six going on sixteen.”

“That’s quite a story,” Paul agreed. “So what did you do to keep him from playing with the train set after bedtime once you discovered he could work around your tricks?”

Laughing, I answered, “I let him have the damn cord back. I figured that if he was smart enough to figure out how to get around me, I’d be fighting a losing battle to try to control him. He was smart enough to keep from hurting himself, which was my main worry, and if he stayed up all night playing with it, he’d just learn the hard way that he needed his sleep.”

“Sounds like it was a wise move, and you both lived to tell the tale.” Turning to Andy, Paul asked, “So how did you figure out that your Dad and I were more than friends?”

“Because you’re sitting closer together than most guys would feel comfortable sitting,” Andy answered.

We both blushed, because Andy was absolutely right, and we hadn’t even been aware of it. For his part, Andy just smiled at us with a look of satisfaction on his face.

“So you’re OK with your dad and I having been…”

“Lovers?” Andy interrupted, completing Paul’s sentence. “Why wouldn’t I be? It’s no different than if you were one of his former girlfriends, after all. Sex is sex, and love is love, whether it’s gay or straight.”

Turning to me, Paul said, “How did a dork like you manage to raise such a terrific kid?”

“We’re still trying to figure that one out,” Andy joked with a straight face, earning a cuff to the side of the head from me.

“So how was the mall, Tiger?” I asked Andy.

D a a d!” Would you stop calling me ‘Tiger’? I’m way too old for that,” he admonished me. “Yeah, I had a good time at the mall. I’ve made friends here… friends who respect me and don’t treat me like the freak who sat in his own shit while terrorists murdered his mother.”

“I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” Paul said.

Sighing, I related, “It’s still not easy to talk about it. Andy and I have been seeing a psychologist to help us deal with it, but it’s still so fresh, and yet I don’t ever think I’ll forget what it was like.”

“The worst thing was the smell,” Andy added. “The terrorists taped us up with duct tape and gagged us. They wouldn’t let us up to go to the bathroom, and we could only hold it in so long. On top of that, my stomach was already a mess from everything that was going on, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t hold it in anymore.

“But that was nothing compared to the smell of Mom. After two days, her body smelled like nothing I’d ever smelled before. It was horrible seeing her shot dead like that, but the smell is what’s gonna stay with me. Twenty years from now, I’ll still be waking up thinking I smell that smell.”

“Changing the subject to what I hope will be more pleasant,” I began, “How’s MIT these days?”

“It’s still the same old meat grinder,” Paul related. “Young new assistant professors enter at one end, so full of hope, and they leave at the other end, still assistant professors and burned out. It’s a shame that so much talent should be thrown away like that, but it’s MIT and they can get away with it. Fortunately, I didn’t fall prey to that fate. I have tenure and as long as I keep bringing in the grants, my chairman will be happy.”

“So how much longer before your chairman retires?” I asked.

Laughing, Paul answered, “He’ll never retire. Someday they’ll carry him out of his office in a casket. Frankly, I don’t want his job. Let him deal with the politics, so I can do what I like doing. Just give me a lab and a cadre of graduate students and I’ll be happy.”

“It sounds nice,” I commented, and then asked, “Not to change the subject, but it’s getting near the dinner hour, and even though Andy probably ate a ton of junk food at the mall…”

“Damn right I did,” he proudly exclaimed.

“He’s probably getting hungry again, and I imagine you must be hungry, and tired, too. Since Jen… died, we’ve been mostly eating out and ordering out. We were going to order a pizza tonight and watch a couple of movies, but what do you say we go out, Paul. There’s a nice Thai place nearby and I remember how fond you are of Thai food…”

“No need to change your plans on my account,” Paul interrupted. “I’m going to be in town for the next two weeks, so we’ll have plenty of time for catching up. Why don’t you two enjoy the evening you had planned, and we can go out some other night…”

“Why don’t you join us, Paul?” Andy said. “I think you and Dad would like to spend the time together, and I certainly don’t mind having another old guy around,” he said with a mischievous smile. I was amazed that my fifteen-year-old son was inviting my ex-boyfriend to spend time with us. Fifteen going on fifty was quite apt.

“Yeah, please stay,” I agreed. “You can even help us pick out the movies.” When Paul hesitated, obviously feeling a little uncomfortable with imposing on us, I added, “So it’s settled, then. You’ll stay with us this evening for pizza and movies… and popcorn! We gotta have popcorn.”

“OK, it’s a deal,” Paul caved in.

And then I had another thought. “By the way, where are you staying?”

“I’m staying at a fleabag motel. It’s just a place to sleep while I’m here.”

“In that case, we’ll stop by the motel while we’re out getting the pizza and the movies, and pick up your things to bring them here. While you’re in town, you’re going to stay with us.” As Paul started to put up his hands in protest, I rapidly added, “And, no, you won’t be imposing at all. Too many years have passed since we last saw each other. I really want you to stay with us. Check out of that fleabag tonight. Hotel Michaels is a much better place… we have a three star rating, and the rates can’t be beat.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

August 1979 • Chris-13

“Outta my way, faggot!” I heard from behind me moments before I felt someone slam into me and I went tumbling to the ground. I fell hard, and by the time I managed to pick myself up, the kid who’d shoved me was long gone, but I didn’t need to see him to know who it was. It was Billy Winslow, one of the kids in my cabin. He and just about everyone else in my cabin and at camp had been riding me pretty hard since Jeff spoke in support of gays.

Jeff had tried to get me to distance myself from him and to make other friends, but I just couldn’t. He really was my only friend at camp and even though I knew he was straight, I still had a crush on him. Even if I had made the effort, no one else wanted to associate with me for fear of being picked on the way I was, and so Jeff really was the only one I could turn to.

We both were taking a continual beating now, and there didn’t seem to be a damn thing we could do about it. The counselors always looked the other way, and Pastor Jenkins if anything seemed to encourage the bullying. I thought that maybe he got his jollies from watching us getting beat up all the time. The scary thing was that we weren’t even halfway finished with the summer, yet. Some campers were just there for four weeks and had already left, to be replaced by a new batch. At least Jeff would be leaving at the end of the second session too. We still had three weeks of this torture to go, and I wasn’t sure how I was gonna make it.

Looking myself over, in addition to the numerous bruises I was sporting from being everyone’s favorite punching bag, my knees and elbows were badly skinned. I had no choice but to go to the nurse and get yet another lecture about how I needed to work on my ‘clumsiness’. What a crock!

When I got to what they called the infirmary, I found the nurse was already busy tending to Jeff, who had a split lip and the start of a black eye.

“What happened to you?” I asked my best friend.

“Larry Simpson’s what happened,” he replied with disdain in his voice. Larry was one of the counselors in training, the CITs, and he suffered from a serious superiority complex and a holier than though attitude. The fact was that he was nothing but a bully and was the last person that should have been in training to be a camp counselor. Jeff may have been tall for his age, but Larry was three years older, nearly a foot taller and weighed at least another fifty pounds. If he could wreak that much damage on Jeff, I shuddered to think of what he could do to me, which is why I tried to stay away from him.

Unfortunately, if a CIT got you alone and there wasn’t a counselor around, they could pretty much get away with doing whatever they wanted with you. I’d had more than one nightmare about being on the receiving end of his dick and, given the way he sometimes looked at me, I had no doubt he was interested. There’s nothing worse than a homophobic, religious self-hating gay bully.

But seeing Jeff there, I got a little worried that perhaps Larry had tried something, and so I asked, “What exactly happened?”

When Jeff looked away from me, I knew it couldn’t be good. Jeff wasn’t embarrassed by anything, and for him to break eye contact with me was very serious.

Finally, Jeff looked up at me and quietly said, “He tried to rape me.”

“The BASTARD!” I shouted. “The fucking BASTARD!

When the nurse looked at me sternly, I remembered that we were decidedly not alone.

“’Course he’s accusing me of having come on to him… trying to seduce him, if you can believe it,” Jeff said quietly. “He says he was only defending himself, but I got him in the nads, real good. That’s how I got away. Otherwise he probly would have raped me.

“I came straight here, but Pastor Jenkins barged in and took me to his office. He spent an hour lecturing me on the evils of homosexuality. I kept telling him it was Larry, and that I’m not gay, but he wouldn’t believe me. He didn’t want to believe me. Then when he was done, he told me I don’t belong here… that the camp is for God fearing Christians and not for sodomites, and he told me he’s kicking me out.”

What?” I asked in disbelief.

“Apparently I’m not welcome here anymore,” Jeff confirmed. “He’s already called my parents and told them they need to come pick me up.”

“Fuck!” I said quietly.

“Yeah, fuck,” Jeff agreed.

Getting a bit worried, I asked, “What’s gonna happen to you? At home, I mean.”

“Well, I don’t think I have to worry about them buying the pastor’s crap about me bein’ gay. Lacey’s been my girlfriend practically since we both started the seventh grade. We’re tight, and… well, let’s just say we’re not virgins.”

You two have had sex?” I asked a little less than quietly.

“It’s the main reason my parents sent me here,” Jeff explained. “My mom came home early and caught us in bed together. We both got in serious trouble, and they decided to send me here to instill a sense of ‘Christian’ values.”

“So we’re here for the same reason,” I asserted, “for having sex… you with a girl and me with a boy.”

“When you put it that way, yeah, I guess you’re right,” he agreed.

“And you’re being sent home because one of the CITs tried to force you to have sex with them,” I added.

“Ironic, isn’t it?” he responded, and then added, “What I’m more worried about is what’s gonna happen to you. Without me here, all eyes are gonna be focused on you as the camp faggot. If Larry Simpson tries to rape you, you could get seriously hurt. Speaking of which, who was it that messed up your elbows and your knees?”

“Billy Winslow,” I answered.

“The little twerp,” Jeff replied. Perhaps to Jeff, he was little, but not to me. Then in a whisper, Jeff added, “If I get the chance, I’ll pay old Billy a little visit before I leave… something for him to remember me by. At least I can get a little payback for what he did to you.”

“Don’t get in trouble because of me,” I admonished my friend.

“Hey, I’m already in trouble,” he pointed out. “I’m getting kicked out of the camp, for fuck sake. What more can they do to me?” I had to admit, he had a point.

“Seriously,” he continued, “without me around, you’re gonna be a sitting duck. The best advice I can give you is to never, let yourself be caught alone. Always make sure you’re with other kids, even if they’re kids you can’t stand. Even if they’re kids who torment you. If you’re with other kids, the worst that can happen is you get beaten up. Simpson won’t try anything if you’re around other kids. If you forget something, don’t go back to get it, no matter what. If you forget your swimsuit, tell them you have a cramp and can’t swim. Don’t go back and get it.”

“What if Simpson or someone else asks me to go with them?” I asked. “I can’t exactly say ‘no’ if he tells me to.”

“That’s exactly what you have to do, Chris,” Jeff admonished me. “Make him take you to Pastor Jenkins if you have to. Just don’t go anywhere with him alone. If you’re lucky, the Pastor will kick you out, too.”

We both sat in awkward silence while the nurse seemed to ignore us, tending to paperwork and tidying up her supplies. I guess she had better things to do than tend to the injuries of two supposedly queer boys.

We still hadn’t been tended to by the time Jeff’s parents arrived and were directed to pick him up from the infirmary. Jeff immediately introduced me as his best friend, and proceeded to explain what had happened, conveniently leaving out the part about my being gay.

“How ridiculous of them to even think you’re gay,” Jeff’s father exclaimed when he was done, “but allowing a CIT to be in a position where he could rape you is unforgivable.” Sighing, he said, “I don’t know what ever possessed you to stick up for queers in the first place, but it obviously gave people the wrong impression of you and it affected your best friend, too,” he added with a nod toward me.

“Obviously, that CIT is a fag pervert and he thought he could get away with it,” Jeff’s dad continued. “There’s a lesson in here, son. You stood up for people who don’t deserve your sympathy, and then one of them proved it by taking advantage of you. What he did was deplorable, but I can see where your actions might have seemed like an open invitation to him. Not that I’m condoning what he did, but you are partly to blame.

“The bottom line is that you need this camp. You’re on the wrong path, and given what happened, you’re still on the wrong path. This camp is your best hope of getting back on the straight and narrow. We’re going to get this whole mess straightened out. I’ll see to it that that CIT never gets near kids again, and that you can stay here.”

After Jeff’s dad left, I asked Jeff, “Getting rid of Larry Simpson would be a good thing, but I was kinda envying your getting out of this joint. Do you really think your Dad can get Pastor Jenkins to let you stay?”

“Knowing my Dad, I have no doubt I’ll be staying,” he replied dejectedly, “but I doubt we’ve seen the last of Larry Simpson.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

November 1990 — Chris 24

“Chris,” my counterpart from the future, Chris-31 began, “you can look up the details in your notebooks later to verify what I might have told you before. Your memory may have been affected by changes to the timeline, but there’s a chance it may not have been, at least not yet. What do you remember about what I told you of events in my time period?”

“You told me it’s an exciting time,” I replied. “You said there’s unrest throughout the Soviet Block and that the Baltic Republics have actually seceded from the Soviet Union. People protested in the streets throughout Eastern Europe and a virtual flood of people streamed to the West by whatever means they could find, until the Berlin Wall itself fell. You also told me some of what Chris-38 told you… that Germany will be reunified and that eventually the Soviet Union itself will collapse.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Chris-31 responded. “That’s not what’s happening. Two years ago, the Soviets sent tanks into the Baltic Republics, and then they sent tanks into Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany. They’ve only solidified their hold on their territory since then, cracking down brutally on dissent.”

Fuck!” I exclaimed.

“You’re not kidding,” Chris-31 agreed. “It’s apparent the Russians are making use of TTT to alter history, and the longer they have access to it, the further back into the past they’ll extend their reach.”

“We’ve got to stop them, Chris. I need you to warn Chris-17, and have him warn Chris-13. We need to be on the look-out for further modifications to the timeline, but there isn’t much we can do until Dawson succeeds in reaching back to his counterpart in 1959.”

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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