An Accidental Romance

Chapter 7

Thursday, June 14

Jordan’s face told me what he was going to say was important. I hoped it wasn’t anything I’d have to deal with. I didn’t want to deal with anything. I wanted to enjoy the day and his company.

“David,” he said, “being gay isn’t easy. I’m sure there are challenges being straight, too, so maybe I should say being gay presents challenges that are different from those that you have to deal with. What I’ve had to deal with might not sound too bad, but until you’ve been there, you have no idea.

“What I’m talking about is my need to keep who I am entirely to myself, keep it a complete secret from everyone, even those closest to me. Doing that sets me apart, makes me lonely. Think about it. You have a network of support behind you. You have your parents, and Mike and Jeff and maybe some teachers at school. You know they’re there if you need help. Who do I have? No one, that’s who.

“The thing is, some people might help, but I can’t trust that. If I need to stay in the closet, and I do, then no one can know. My need to stay there is very powerful. It’s my mom. If she learned I was gay, she’d most likely try to send me to a conversion camp. That would kill me. I’m not strong enough to survive that and still be me.

“But aside from that fear, just coming out would be too hard. Some gay kids can come out and withstand anything that comes from that. Some of us can’t. I’m one of those. I’m too sensitive, too thin-skinned. I don’t know how to accept teasing and criticism. Plus, I’m shy, which just makes everything worse because coming out would mean everyone paying attention to me, and I hate that. There’s more, too, but that’s personal. But just because of what I said, I had to keep this a secret.

“The problem with that isn’t just that I have no support. It’s that I have no one to talk to about my feelings. No support but also total isolation. If I’d had someone to confide in, to share my feelings with, someone who knew what I was going through and could be with me on this, it would have been so much easier. But I’ve never had that. I’d never told anyone until I told you. I’ve been alone since the beginning.”

He paused to catch his breath, allowing me to absorb this. Then, “That might not sound so awful, but think about it. When a straight kid gets the feelings, the urges we all have at this age, he’ll usually share them with a friend or several. He’ll talk about the girl he likes, what attracts him, how he feels. He’ll mention why those girls turn him on. Sometimes this’ll turn into sex talk, but maybe not. The thing is, friends talk about their feelings. They get to express them, to share, to learn what other guys are feeling, to not feel so alone.”

I could hear the emotions he was feeling spilling into his words. He’d been holding this inside; that was clear.

“But that doesn’t happen if you’re gay and deep in the closet. You can’t tell anyone what you’re feeling unless you lie about the gender of your crush. And that just makes it worse when you eventually come out. I’ve missed being able to say what I feel about the boys I get crushes on. I’ve felt so alone. I’ve been hiding myself and couldn’t share what other boys share. It’s set me apart and caused some of my shyness. It’s made the closet shrink in on me.

“Yesterday, talking to you about what boys I found attractive, how they make me feel, and you listening and joining in, even though you’re not gay and it made you uncomfortable—you not teasing me or, worse, walking away from me in disgust—was one of the best times I can remember. I was a normal fifteen-year-old boy for just a few minutes. For the first time, really. I could be out in the open and be real. I could feel I was normal; I didn’t have to feel bad about myself. You can’t imagine how good that was.”

He was staring at me. No shyness now. His eyes showed as much emotion as his voice. I could feel it in the air around us.

“I’m glad I helped,” I said in all sincerity. I was. I felt good that I’d seen how he needed support and I’d provided it. “And I don’t mind at all talking about this. Or anything you want. Yeah, I can imagine, not having any outlet for your feelings would be crippling.”

“I hope you don’t mind if I go on a little with this. It’s just I have so much on my mind. It’s difficult to talk about, but you’ve made it possible. It’s been so hard not letting anyone in. I couldn’t have the kind of friendships others around me had. You have that with Mike. I can see it when you’re together. I never had that because I was hiding part of me.

“What I’ve needed for a long time is someone I could talk to, to discuss my gay identity with. I like to look at boys. See who’s cute. Who turns me on. Until yesterday, I never could tell anyone about that. But I did it with you yesterday. To you, we were just kidding around. To me, it opened a window all the way into my soul. For the first time, I was with someone I could be myself with. It felt like I was taking my first real breath in years. I was being me. I was being validated. And that was because of how you are, David. My being gay doesn’t bother you at all. You’re the friend I’ve always needed. I can’t even begin to tell you what a tremendous gift that is.”

He was talking from the heart. He was right, too. Boys aren’t conditioned to say these things—or hear them.

“Boys our age need someone they can talk to about everything they’re feeling. Not parents; a friend, someone who can relate to them because they feel the same things at the same time. These feelings we all have are as new to a gay kid as a straight one, and keeping them bottled up is . . . well, it hurts. I think it damages one’s soul. It’s made me feel like a lesser human. Not having anyone to share what I’m feeling with makes me feel so alone. Now, with you, I’ve got something I’ve really needed: a confidante. Someone who’ll be happy for me when I get a crush on a guy. Someone I can share my joy with. Someone with whom I’ll feel no embarrassment when doing that.”

I had to say something. Couldn’t just let him go on. If I didn’t speak, he might get embarrassed, think he’s saying too much. I didn’t want that. “I’m sorry you’ve had to live with that. But you know, all boys have secrets. Yeah, Mike and I are very close and talk about almost everything, but I keep some things from him, and he probably does that, too. A good example for me is sex. I don’t like to talk about sex, and Mike understands and doesn’t press the point.”

Jordan lay back on his elbows, studying the clouds, and let the moment pass in silence. I checked out the clouds, too, wondering if I’d invited a conversation I didn’t want to have.

“Why are you like that?” he asked, talking to the sky more than me. “Most boys talk about sex all the time. I hear it in our locker room. They talk about what they’re doing with girls, about jerking off, about seeing their sisters or the girl next door naked, the dreams they have; nothing seems off limits. Is there some reason you’re not comfortable with that?”

I had to think about answering. Did I want to discuss it with him? Well, with what he’d just said about being bottled up and how much better he felt now opening up with me, he was certainly giving me the opportunity to finally tell someone what I was feeling. So, why not? I had the feeling he’d understand much better than Mike would.

“I’m like you, I guess. I’ve never felt there was anyone I could talk to about it. Mike would have been nice about it, but he wouldn’t have got it. I guess I can talk to you. See, well . . .”

I stopped; this was hard.

He stayed silent, just looking at the sky.

Okay, I thought, I can do this. Surprisingly, I found I wanted to. Maybe the ambience on that hilltop was affecting me. “See, I went out with Jessica because she asked me to. I did enjoy the necking, but it wasn’t because Jessica turned me on emotionally. It was because of how she was touching me physically. I’ve always read if you like someone, you want to make them happy. I never cared much whether she liked what I was doing to her. I loved what she was doing to me.

“But that isn’t the way it’s supposed to work, and I knew that. What was worse, we always double-dated, so Mike was always nearby when this was going on, usually in our basement or one of the girl’s houses, and I ended up thinking about what he was doing and how that would have looked if I could have seen it. I shouldn’t have been doing that, but my mind would go there. I don’t have any romantic feelings for Mike. I’m not gay. But thinking those kinds of thoughts, imagining him and Maryann naked together, that was more exciting to me than feeling up the girl I was with. I got no joy from that at all.

“I hear the boys in the locker room, too. They get excited when they make the girl they’re with moan and squirm and sometimes get off. That seems to amaze them and fulfills them, makes them feel like major studs, and it’s all a big part of their sexual excitement. Yet it does nothing for me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

I sighed. “I think I might know what it is, though. Maybe I’m one of those people that doesn’t have a strong sex drive. I don’t think any woman would want a partner like that. I might end up never getting married. No kids.”

I was surprised when Jordan didn’t respond with words of encouragement or condolence. He didn’t say anything for a time, and it started to annoy me. I’d been there for him when he needed it, and he’d certainly heard something in my voice that would have told him I needed support, too.

When he did speak, it was to ask a question that didn’t seem to have anything to do with what I’d just said.

“I had crushes on boys and girls up till around the age of 11, when they started to only be on boys. Were you like that, too?”

“I guess so. Why?”

“Oh, nothing, really. Just that you were very normal then; that’s what everyone does and did. I wonder if you’re still very normal. You just haven’t met the right person, uh, girl. You didn’t have a crush on Jessica. Maybe that’s why having sex with her didn’t do much for you.”

Now that was a thought I hadn’t considered. Maybe that was why making out with her had seemed more an obligation than exciting. I smiled at the thought. Jordan could have been right.

Jordan stood up. “Let’s go visit that lake.”

I jumped up, too, and gathered up the detritus of our lunch and put it in my backpack. The trail down the hill was easy, that slope being less steep than the side we’d climbed up.

The hike to the lake was pleasant, and for some reason, we talked this time. He told me about the boys he’d had crushes on at school, what it was that had attracted him, and in general what sort of boys he liked. He had a way of making much of what he said sound funny. I ended up grinning or laughing much of the time.

He asked what girls I’d had crushes on, and I ended up lying a lot. Well, I couldn’t say what was true, that I still was finding boys just as cute and crushable as girls because he would have taken it wrong. That was the same reason I didn’t want to tell him the girls that caught my eye were the tomboyish ones. If they cut their hair short, didn’t have much on display up top, and didn’t walk with the feminine sway of their hips many of the girls were now practicing, I found myself watching those and wondering about them.

Maybe all that contributed to my feeling that I was undersexed. This was all an area I just tried not to think about. Thinking about other things, like soccer, didn’t leave me confused and in a foul mood. Mind over matter, that was what was important, and not allowing myself to dwell on unpleasant, negative thoughts, that had become the norm for me.

Jordan was a much happier guy than I was, and I allowed his cheerfulness to carry my mood all the way to the lake.

It was deserted as usual. There were no roads leading to it, so access was limited to those who liked a long hike. I’d always wondered just how many people even knew it was here. The best way to get to it was the route we’d traveled, across country, up and down hills, and then more cross-country trekking. But it was worth it. The scene was picturesque: a small, very clear lake that was spring fed but warmed by the sun. The spring that fed it just trickled out a slow ooze, so the summer sun warmed the lake more than the spring chilled it. I’d had several swims in it in the past and always felt that thrill I assumed everyone did when taking off their clothes outside. No one was there to see, but it still felt so wicked and adventurous, stripping off out in the open.

Every time I’d done that before, I’d got very hard. I was hoping that wouldn’t happen this time. Just like I was hoping Jordan would be up for skinny-dipping.

He’d been living in my house, sleeping in my room part of that time, for long enough now that you’d think I’d have seen him undressed. I hadn’t. Maybe it was because he knew I knew he was gay, and he didn’t want me to think he was trying to seduce me, but he’d never been naked with me. He locked the bathroom door when showering, and when I was in the room only stripped to his boxers when undressing.

As he was so careful not to show everything, I was careful about that, too, so he hadn’t seen me, either. At school, I had no problem at all stripping in the locker room or showering when everyone was. It had been a thing, something to get used to early last year when none of us had done that before, but in a surprisingly short time, we were all comfortable together in just our skin. At least no one seemed to have a problem with it. Now, when Jordan seemed so modest, I felt kind of strange about getting entirely undressed with Jordan in the room. I had slept nude before he came. Now, I was sleeping in my boxers and wearing them to the bathroom to shower in the morning and changing into fresh ones there. I regretted having to sleep this way. I liked the feeling of being bare in bed. But I wasn’t going to get naked if Jordan wasn’t. It just seemed right that we should behave the same way.

This meant, of course, if we were going to skinny-dip in broad daylight, we’d be seeing each other for the first time. Why was I feeling excited about that? I couldn’t answer that but knew it was true. If he wanted to swim, of course. He might well not.

We walked to the water’s edge. The lake was surrounded by the same soft grasses we’d just walked through. A few reeds and cattails were littered in places near the shore, and there were three places near the shore where water lilies grew in abundance and harbored frogs and turtles. The surrounding grasses, the water plants and the lake inhabitants all added to the special charm of the place, as did the few large oaks dotted here and there around the shoreline.

Jordan stooped down and felt the water with his hand. The water was so clear we could easily see the bottom.

“Do you swim?” he asked, and the twinkle in his eyes showed he was thinking about some of the same things I’d been since we’d been on the top of the hill.

I didn’t answer. Instead, I shrugged off my pack and began pulling off my shirt.

It became a race to see who could get naked first. I won, but only because I’d started first.

I was used to seeing and being with naked boys in the locker room. It was nothing special at all. Yet, for some reason, with just the two of us there and being outside where I’d gotten hard before, this wasn’t the same as the locker room at all. There was an exciting intimacy here that was absent there.

I felt the feeling I always got right as I was beginning to get hard. I was looking at Jordan, and I could read his face for once. He was feeling exactly the same thing I was.

I still to this day don’t understand why I just stood there and let it happen, hands by my sides, right there in full view of Jordan. I didn’t have to wonder why Jordan did. He was gay, he was with a nonjudgmental friend, and he’d never been able to have a moment like this before. He got hard, gloriously hard, and I did, too. We looked at each other, and we both blushed, neither of us saying a word. Then, he with a grin and I with a whoop, we jumped into the lake together.