At the beginning of the school year, the high school principal always held a full assembly of students and teachers. Even his administrative staff was in attendance. He used the occasion to kick off the new school year, introducing new teachers, explaining the departures of the ones who’d left, and talking about changes being made that would affect the student body: new classes that were being introduced, old non-essential ones that were being dropped, new library hours, any new sports teams—just a lot of news about whatever would be new and different.
There was one new development he was quite proud of and that he spent a good deal of time expounding upon.
“There is more and more emphasis throughout the country these days about high school students going to college. As a result, college attendance is skyrocketing and is at an all-time high. It’s the next step for most of you after high school. I’m sure most of you here today are thinking along those lines. Most high school seniors are.
“This is good. I applaud your choice and encourage you to study hard while still in high school to meet that significant challenge. But, I’ve been an educator for most of my life, and I know students. I know many of you will relish the college experience and will flourish there. I also know that college isn’t something all of you want, and agree that for some kids, it isn’t the direction they should be going. There’s nothing wrong with that choice, or for many of you, the choice to enter the job market right out of high school. Some kids shine at academics; some have other areas of interest and ability.”
He stopped and looked out over the mass of kids in front of him. They were listening. This was a subject that had their attention.
The principal was a short man, showing a little more scalp and a little less hair covering it each year. One student in the audience had watched this progression with interest for three years now. Watched the receding hairline, wondering if the man would be entirely bald by the time he graduated. He usually had little interest in these assemblies, these perorations that had little to do with him. Instead of paying much attention, he instead would study the man making the speech. Checking out how his hair was ebbing while his waistline was expanding was as exciting as what he’d been saying other years.
The man, balding or not, putting on weight or not, was a pleasant, easygoing man who was well-liked by the students. He was fair and consistent with discipline, he got to know the students and, most importantly, he listened to what they had to say and responded as well as he could. He took the time to address even trivial concerns. And he almost always wore a smile.
Now, the student who rarely listened to this introductory speech was caught up in it. The principal was making it clear that he was looking out for those students who weren’t planning to extend their educations beyond the four years they’d be in high school. The student, Ethan Hunter, didn’t think there were many high school principals who were all that concerned about the non-academic types in their schools. He knew about the pressures of the day and the push for higher education. He knew schools were rated by the GPAs they generated, by the test scores they turned in. It was quite clear that Dr. Fellows was an anomaly, a principal who had as much concern for the non-academic student as the other sort.
Ethan was the other sort. He’d be going on to college. Both his parents were college graduates; that he himself would be going had been a foregone conclusion from birth. But Ethan did have friends who had no interest in college. Accordingly, he was happy to listen to what Dr. Fellows was saying that applied to them.
Ethan wasn’t the only boy who was sitting up straighter, paying more attention to Dr. Fellows than they had in the past. Three others in particular were listening intently: Marcus Albright, Adrian Curlow and Tyler Morrow.
“I feel it is incumbent on this school to prepare those of you not academically oriented for good jobs and a good life to the same extent that we prepare the academics among you for the college experience. I want every student who graduates from this school to fly. To spread your wings and take off into a bright, happy and fulfilling future. And to further this cause, I’m announcing a new program today, one that will begin this year. It is an apprentice program where anyone who is enrolled here can sign up to intern with one of the many places in town that we’ve spoken with that are willing to take on kids who want to learn what each company does. These hands-on training positions will prepare you for jobs after graduation that won’t require college degrees, and they will be better positions than burger flipping or waitressing or other low-paid, physically exhausting, bottom of the rung occupations. These companies will be looking at you as you look at them. They’ll have jobs for those who meet their requirements.
“This on-the-job training will be accomplished during the day. You’ll have your school schedule arranged so you can leave here early in the afternoon and spend time learning the ropes with a local employer.
“Our guidance counselors have the list of internships available. These are for seniors only or upcoming seniors next summer, and preference will be given for those seniors not planning on continuing on to college. I’ve looked at the senior class and see most of you are headed to college, but the number who aren’t matches up pretty well with the number of places in town who are willing to take on interns.
“It will be to your advantage to get with your counselors sooner rather than later. First come, first served. We’re doing it this way, not just letting anyone sign up for anything, because our counselors know you and have a pretty good idea of who will fit well with the available openings.
“While this is directed this year at current seniors, the rest of you can be thinking about this, thinking about your own future, and talking to the counselors about where you might like to intern in the future. Letting your counselor know your thoughts early might well allow you to pin down a job to your liking in the future.
”We’re also hoping that local business will see the advantage of beginning training prospective permanent hires early, and we’ll be able to expand the program to more students and those in earlier class years.
“I’ll leave you with this thought: just as a thousand-mile walk begins with a single step, so is spreading your wings for your flight into the future.”
Ethan had followed this speech closely, and he thought this was a great idea, and one that would certainly help a lot of kids. It was bound to relieve some of the anxieties of some of the seniors who had no idea what lay in front of them. Before, many high school seniors finished their academic life looking at the working world with no experience, little idea of what they wanted to do, and some pretty strong trepidations of what might come next for them. This program sounded like a very, very good way to avoid the precipice they’d be facing.
Ethan’s thoughts proved prescient. Seniors took advantage of this new opportunity. Almost all those not headed to college signed up. There was a plethora of training positions available in town; Dr. Fellows had a lot of contacts and was a very persuasive man; businesses could easily see how this was advantageous for them as well. Accordingly, training jobs had been opened in trades like plumbing and landscaping and painting; in businesses like accounting firms, architectural firms, machine shops and retail stores; and even in professional areas like dental offices, chiropractic clinics and nursing homes, all places that had no-degree-required work available. The seniors wouldn’t be doing the actual work that required a license or a degree, but they could do jobs to assist those people who had those credentials. The trainees would receive what training they could attain as an intern and learn something valuable about themselves—what sort of work they liked or didn’t.
The program was a huge success and gave a lot of hope to many of the seniors, and even younger kids in school who knew they weren’t college material but kept hearing how only college grads would have decent jobs in the future.
I was really happy that Dr. Fellows introduced the internship program last year. I myself would be going to college. I’d be a senior next year, and college a year later. My parents would both have coronaries if I chose otherwise. They’d supported—pushed might be a better word—me through all my schooling, expecting A’s every year and getting them, and it had all been focused on my future, my future in college. The thing was, all my learning had been academic in nature; I had no idea what the real world was like or what I wanted to do as an adult working man. About the only job I knew anything about in any depth at all was teaching. I’d had teachers in my life since kindergarten; I did know what their jobs were all about. And I knew that I didn’t want to be a teacher.
So what was left? Nothing that I knew anything about, that was for sure. So what should I take in college?
No clue. Nada.
That made those internships look awfully attractive, but they weren’t available to kids going to college. They were reserved for kids not matriculating at a university. There weren’t enough of them for those kids, and so they didn’t give them to kids like me. More’s the shame. I’d have loved to take one. Ethan Hunter, architectural assistant. Yeah, I could dig that, and I might learn whether I wanted to be an architect in the process. Right now, I had no idea what was required to design a building.
So I was mulling over what to take in college, which college to take it at, and time to make a decision was closing in. Well, okay, maybe not, but I was worried about it. It was coming, and I wasn’t prepared. I was going to apply to three schools. They’d all want to know what I wanted to major in. I had to supply them with an answer. I knew I could change it once I was there, but I should have an idea, shouldn’t I?
While I’d been spending too much time worrying about that, my junior year had finished. I’d managed all A’s again, making my folks happy, and me, too, to be honest. It was good to be good at something. That’s what I was good at, getting good grades. Not too much else. I wasn’t much good at all about knowing what I wanted to do with my life.
It was finally summer and my junior year was history. I’d sent off applications to three pretty good schools, UC-Berkeley, Northwestern and Yale, and I got an early acceptance letter from Cal, rescindable if my grades faltered in my final year. My parents were ecstatic; I was sort of scared. I imagined others like me were, too. Excited, sure, but scared as well. Going away to school. I wasn’t ready. Okay, I still had my final year of high school ahead of me, and thought I’d probably be more ready when I’d completed that. I’d be 17 then, and hopefully a little more mature. I was 16 now and didn’t feel mature at all.
I was spending the summer goofing off as usual. Spending time hanging with friends, going to the community pool, reading, that sort of thing. Just relaxing and not studying, which I did a lot of when school was in session.
I’d decided to go out for the swim team again as a senior. It was a relief from the academic side of school, I had friends on the team, and it was kind of cool to be on a school team and to be known for that. This would be my fourth year as a member of the team. I swam in the 4x100 relay team. I wasn’t all that good, but I was the fourth fastest short-distance man on my team, so I got to swim that event. As usual, I needed a physical exam as a requirement for participation. I’d done this three times now; this would be my last time.
I scheduled the exam for the last week before school started. The doctor I’d been seeing since I’d become a teenager would do it. I liked the guy, though I didn’t see him often. I was pretty healthy. These yearly physicals were about my only contact with him.
I had an early-in-the-day appointment and showed up just on time. One thing I liked about Dr. Bain: he didn’t keep you waiting. He scheduled enough time between patients that he was ready when it was your time.
I sat down with the questionnaire they always had for patients, asking questions about any new health problems you had, any meds you were taking that they didn’t know about, and changes in your life they should be aware of, that sort of thing. I always just checked the boxes by rote. I guess I led a pretty dull life. No real problems, no real changes.
There was one thing on the bottom of the form I hadn’t seen before. It stated that Doc Bain had joined the high school’s intern program, and questioned if it was okay if an intern was there in the room helping with the procedure or exam that the doc was going to do; that the doctor was planning to add an assistant and was in the process of training one.
I really liked the intern program. Seniors who’d signed up for it only had good things to relate about it. This would be my chance to be part of it. I couldn’t see any reason not to agree to having an intern in my exam. He’d probably just record things the doc would tell him during the exam. Like the doc would check my blood pressure, read out the number, and the intern would write it on my chart. I checked the okay box.
The receptionist said I could go on in, and I left the reception area and entered the doc’s office. He got up from his desk and shook my hand.
“Hi, Ethan. How are you today?”
I smiled back at him. His smile always brought out mine. He had that sort of charisma. He was young, early thirties, I guess. That probably was one of the reasons I got along with him so well. I thought it was likely he could remember what it was like to be a boy my age.
“Fit as a fiddle,” I said and laughed. “Just need approval for the swim team again. My last year.”
“That’s good. Maybe you’ll even get to swim more than your one event. Anyway, I’ll check you out, and it should be just routine. I do want to ask you something, though. I have an intern with me. You probably know him as he was a senior last year. He wants to become a medical technician, and he says that maybe he’ll even go to college eventually, but needs to work first, and I’m breaking him in. What he needs at this point is what you can help us with. Mostly so far he’s seen and learned about illnesses and injuries. What he hasn’t seen much of is a perfectly healthy human being. So he needs to see that, and here you are!”
This time he laughed, and I grinned at him. “A guinea pig?” I asked, still grinning.
“I guess that’s about it,” he said. “If it’s okay with you, I’ll let him do your examination under my close supervision, and I’ll point out what he’s looking at. The thing is, he needs to go over your body, checking reflexes, breathing sounds, muscle development—well, most everything, really, so when someone comes in with something wrong, he has a memory of how things should be—a comparative example. You get to be the exemplar teen boy. Do you think you can accommodate that? I guess I should tell you, what I’m imagining is that this will be a little invasive, but it’s exactly what Cameron needs.”
I’d been about to agree, but that stopped me cold. Cameron? I only knew one senior with that name. Cameron, well, Cam, Fuller. Cameron wasn’t a common name, and Dr. Bain had said this guy had been a senior. It almost had to be Cam Fuller. In truth, I didn’t know Cam at all, but I certainly knew who he was. He was one of those guys you look at a little too much, too long, too often. If you’re gay. One of the guys you get a crush on if you’re gay and if he’s the type you find attractive.
I was gay. Out, too, as many of the gay boys in school were. There was no opprobrium attached to that at our school. It was one of the reasons I liked, most all of us liked, Dr. Fellows. He’d established a no-ill-treatment policy for gay students, no degradation or bullying of any kind. The policy which he’d implemented allowed people like me the freedom to be who I was, to be out. As a member of the swim team, I saw other guys naked all the time, and it was best if they knew I was gay, if I didn’t hide it only to be discovered later. There were a couple of other gay guys on the team as well. None of us perved on anyone or gave anyone reason to be concerned about us, and so no one ever had a problem with any of us.
Of course, not all the gay boys at school were out. It depended on your personality and the degree of self-confidence you had. I didn’t know if Cam was gay. I thought he might be. But I didn’t know him more than to look at him. From looking, I knew he was shy. Really shy. He blushed a lot, and I found that endearing. I found a lot about him endearing. I thought maybe he was gay and not out because of, well, I just thought it likely he wouldn’t be, seeing he was as shy as he was.
Why gay? Well, I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t have that gaydar I’d read gay boys were supposed to have, but I did watch him, and I did see him noticing other boys. That didn’t mean all that much because everyone noticed everyone else, but he did look at other boys quite a bit, and so it gave me hope, at least.
What gay boy doesn’t have hope?
I had to think about it. An exam from a boy I found attractive? A boy I’d had a crush on at one time, and maybe still did a little? A boy I still felt a bit of a zing when I saw him? Well, I did want to know about Cam, know if he was gay, and perhaps this was one way to find out. He might find out about me, too, but if he knew anything at all about me, he probably already knew that. But this would certainly be interesting, and I wasn’t shy so it shouldn’t embarrass me too much. Dr. Bain knew I was gay. He also knew I wasn’t sexually active. Well, not with other people at least. He’d asked me about masturbation when I was thirteen and knew that I did that, and how often I did. We had a really sound relationship, the doc and I; he was able to ask about things like that without embarrassing me.
Anyway, that was what I was sure the form I’d filled out meant with the question about changes in my life. I’d said there hadn’t been any. He’d asked me when I’d first started going to him, when I’d told him I was gay, whether I currently had or ever had had a partner. I’d told him no and no, and that I’d be careful and safe when I did have one.
I didn’t tell him how much I wanted one, because that wasn’t a medical issue at all. It was a personal one, one I thought about a lot. But one I hadn’t had any luck pursuing. Since then, I’d tried getting closer with a couple of gay boys I found attractive, but nothing had come of it. I was at the age now where I really wanted someone in my life, but, so far, I hadn’t been that lucky.
But that was neither here nor there at the moment. Dr. Bain had asked me about Cam examining me, and, all things being considered, I told him that letting Cam do the exam was all right with me. I also told him to remember that I was gay, and it was quite possible he would get to see that for himself during the exam. He just laughed. Dr. Bain and I were tight. I liked him a lot.
The exam room was next to Dr. Bain’s office. We entered, and the doc did the introductions. “Ethan, this is Cameron Fuller. Cameron, Ethan has been seeing me for almost five years now. He’s one of my favorite patients.”
I grinned at that, understanding that maybe he said that about all his patients. But, yep, this Cam was the Cam I knew.
With the introduction, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Meeting adults, they usually stuck out their hand to be shaken. With kids, there were all sorts of possible greetings, like fist bumps or hugs or just smiling or whatever, depending on the circumstances. I’d never been in this circumstance before. I nodded at him. He blushed. Yeah, that was Cam all right.
Dr. Bain acted as though nothing was amiss, though he saw everything all the time. He saw how I was uncertain and Cam was flustered, but he ignored it. “Cam, Ethan has agreed that you can do his exam with my intervening when needed. You and I have talked about this so you know what’s what. So, we might as well get started. You’re in charge, you do a complete physical exam, and I’ll record what you tell me as you go, just what you’ll be doing as my assistant. Okay, I’m ready.”
Saying that, he sat down at the desk in the exam room with his back to us.
Cam hesitated. This was real, a person in front of him, waiting. He was reluctant to be assertive. Dr. Bain cleared his throat. I was pretty sure he would be repressing a smile. I figured that as he’d worked with Cam, training him, he’d seen Cam’s hang-ups, and he probably knew them better than I did.
Cam opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, and then, not looking me in the eye, spoke to me.
“Okay, this is a checkup for your swim team approval. And the doctor wants you to have a thorough physical exam as well. So we’d better start with the simple stuff, like weight and height. For that, and what follows, I have to ask you to undress.”
I was looking at him, trying to look him in the eye, which I couldn’t do as he wouldn’t meet mine. He was sort of looking past me. When he told me to undress, I’d swear his voice shook a little.
I started undressing, not being too uncomfortable doing so. We all did this in gym and before and after swimming. Showers were mandatory, especially after swimming because of the chlorine in the pool. A few kids in gym wore boxers to shower in, a few kids on the swim team showered in their Speedos, but most guys just got naked. I always showered that way and was used to being naked around other guys. I’d been naked briefly every year with Dr. Bain, too, so being naked in this room was normal for me. The only kicker here was Cam’s presence, and the fact he turned his back on me when I started undressing took away any anxiety I might have had should he have stared at me while I stripped. I finished and stood facing him naked. He still hadn’t turned around. Dr. Bain cleared his throat again. I took a quick look at him. He shuffled some papers on the desk. I couldn’t be sure, but I had the feeling he was enjoying this.
Cam spoke, and I turned back to him. “Please get on the scale,” he said. He was looking over my shoulder rather than at my face, and his voice was funny. I could have entertained a lot of attitudes about that, but the one I had, surprising myself a little, was compassion. I could tell that while the doctor found this amusing and I found the situation just slightly risqué and rather fun and not at all bothersome, Cam found it quite difficult and embarrassing. Rather than doing anything to make it harder for him, I simply did as asked. I got up on the scale.
Okay, this is a little embarrassing but here it is: I’m kinda small for my age. It’s one of the reasons I swim. My dad wanted me to be involved in a sport in high school. He didn’t insist on it; my dad isn’t like that. But he said it would help with my college applications; it would show I was involved in a team activity, and that would suggest I didn’t have any social hang ups or problems. I liked to swim, I was friends with a couple of swimmers on the team, and I was too small for most other sports. So I’d done as he asked, and I’d enjoyed it. But the fact was, I was small. At sixteen, the average height and weight for boys in the U.S. is 5’ 8” and 134 pounds. You’d better bet I knew those figures because I’d have loved to have matched them. I didn’t. I was only 5’ 4” and 123 pounds. Both my dad and Dr. Bain say it’s nothing to worry about, I’ll catch up when I’m ready. Dad says he was a late bloomer, too. But it doesn’t make me happy, having to wait.
I think all boys have things they don’t like about themselves. There was a lot I did like. I was reasonably good-looking, I was intelligent, I was outgoing and had friends, I was coordinated and athletic enough to get by, I enjoyed school, but . . . I was small. I was. That’s what I didn’t like. Short and skinny. I suppose there could be worse things to fret about. I tried to ignore it. Even when I was on the deck with the swim team. We wore Speedos and nothing else, so anyone in the crowds we drew could see how skinny I was. I got used to it.
Now, I had a boy I’d had a crush on for a couple of years seeing how scrawny I was. That should have been upsetting, humiliating even, but it wasn’t. Why? Because he was more upset with my nakedness than I was. He wasn’t judging me, that was for sure. He was mostly trying to keep his shit together. That allowed me not to worry too much about my skeletal appearance.
He took my measurements and read them off to Dr. Bain. Then Dr. Bain spoke. “Uh, Cam, you need to use a good, clear voice I can hear all the way over here.”
Cam started to speak again, then had to clear his throat. Louder this time, he said, “124 pounds, five feet, four and a half inches tall.”
Aha. I’d grown some!
Dr. Bain wrote the numbers down, then turned to look at Cam. Cam blushed.
Dr. Bain didn’t say anything, just turned back to the desk, leaving what came next up to Cam.
Cam went ahead. He had me sit on the exam table and used a stethoscope to check my breathing and a sphygmomanometer to check my blood pressure. He asked if I had any pains anywhere, which I didn’t. He checked my reflexes with his rubber hammer. All the time I was sitting there nude, and not once did he drop his eyes. Nor did he meet mine. He told Dr. Bain the results of each test, and Dr. Bain made notes.
Cam stopped at that point. It looked to me like he was sweating. This was a lot harder for him than it was for me, and I was the one who was naked.
When Cam had just stood there like a frozen mummy for a while, Dr. Bain said, “Skin? Musculature?”
Cam nodded, then turned mostly to me, not catching my eyes, and said, “I’ll check your skin now for any anomalies. First your back.”
He had me stand up and started with my backside. Top to bottom, touching me here and there, palpating my muscles, being quite thorough, but seeming to take more and more time, the lower he got. My heels seemed of particular interest, and he might have spent even longer except for Dr. Bain clearing his throat again.
Cam turned to look at him, and in an almost sarcastic voice, the doc said, “His front now?”
Cam nodded and turned back to me. He started with my forehead and then the rest of my face. He was up close to me now, and I could definitely see small beads of sweat on his face. He checked under my chin and began working his way down, touching me, calling out each area of skin, telling the doc each time there was nothing wrong.
Eventually, as he had to, he came to my waist, and what was just below. I was watching him carefully, and I was a little amused at how uncomfortable he was; a little turned on by it, too. But as I was watching, I could see that as he moved down to where my pubes should have been had I not shaved them like all of us on the swim team did, he closed his eyes. Dr. Bain was behind him and couldn’t see that at all, but I could. Cam kept them closed until he was half way down my thighs.
When he finished, he started on musculature. That was very embarrassing because one thing I don’t have is well-developed muscles. I did have swimmer’s muscles, I guess, but they’re not the bulging-biceps type. However, as he looked at my arms and legs, touching them, feeling them, running his hands over them, what he kept saying to Dr. Bain was that they were all perfect for my physique. Wow! That was kind of hot, a gay boy feeling me all over and pronouncing my body perfect! I was struggling the best I could not to chub up. I was mostly successful.
When he finished, he looked at the doc. Hoping he was done. That was obvious from his body language. He also looked like he was afraid he wasn’t.
He was right. He wasn’t.
Dr. Bain looked at him, then at me, and smiled. “Ethan, I guess I need your permission for the rest. Cam needs to do more, because we’ll have patients who’ll have to have exams and treatment for their genitals. It’s part of a normal physical exam as well. Right now, Cam is a little reluctant to do that, and I can’t have him in the room with me when I’m doing that sort of examination if he’s blushing all the time I’m doing it. It would make the patient uncomfortable, and we can’t have that. It would be a great privilege if you’d allow yourself to be examined like we sometimes need to examine male patients. I’ve given you some cursory exams like this before, although this one will be more thorough. You yourself might find it a little embarrassing, but shouldn’t. It’s just medical testing to find problems and to help patients and very routine. But it’s certainly personal, and you yourself don’t need this type of testing at this time, so I think it best if you understand that, and understand you’ll be doing this simply for Cam’s benefit. If you would have a problem with that, well, it’s up to you. If you choose to go ahead, we’ll greatly appreciate your help.”
Check my genitals. Cam, checking my genitals. Cam, who’d been too uptight to even look at them when he had the opportunity. But the question was, did I want him looking at them? Did I want him touching them. That would almost certainly be part of it, wouldn’t it?
The answer to that was, hey, I kinda did! Being with him today, letting him look at my body, test it even, and seeing how he reacted to that, I liked him even better than I had before. I liked boys who were a little shy, a little vulnerable. I wasn’t attracted to the aggressive types. But shy, non-aggressive ones like Cam? Yeah, that was my type.
I thought Cam was probably gay. Otherwise, why was he so obviously reluctant when examining me? My thinking was, if he were gay, he might realize, he probably would realize, there was a pretty good chance he’d become aroused when checking out my genitals, maybe even doing all the other things he’d done, and he was afraid it would show. Too, I guess it was possible that somehow or other I turned him on a little. That seemed unlikely, but not all that unlikely, and it would explain some of his discomfort. A boy that wasn’t shy, even if gay, shouldn’t have a problem checking the geniticular area of a boy he felt no attraction to, should he? But, what if he liked or even had a crush on the boy, but was shy and terrified anyone might find out he was gay? Of course doing this exam would be difficult for him. He might try as hard as he could not to become aroused and give himself away. And he might know he’d not be able to stop it.
I had to make a decision. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the pros outweighed the cons. I should have a much better idea afterwards if he were gay. And the worst that could happen to me would be to become erect. Would that be embarrassing? Well, yeah, a little, but not all that much. It probably happened in here a lot. And, besides, I was proud of my erection! No one had ever seen me hard, but still . . . There was always a first time to look forward to, and maybe it was now. Maybe I’d even enjoy it, especially if he blushed.
“I guess I don’t have a problem with it if we’re doing it to help Cam. Sure, go ahead.”
Well, now we’d see what was what.
Cam was quite obviously sweating now. I took pity on him. “But not if it’s too hard for you, Cam,” I said, speaking to him rather than the doc. It was only after the words came out of my mouth that I realized the double entendre he might have heard.
Cam looked away, but replied. “I need to do this. You can see this is ha—see it’s difficult for me, but I love working here, working with Dr. Bain, and I need to do it. You’re nice to let me. Let’s go ahead.”
“Okay. Do your worst.” I laughed. I wanted to ease the mood. I don’t think it worked, but I did try.
“I know what to do. Dr. Bain has gone over it with me. First, I need to do a testicular exam, looking for any lumps or other irregularities. To do this, I need to handle your scrotum. Please sit on the end of the exam table and open your legs a bit.”
His voice was shaky, but there was some determination in it that hadn’t been there before. I sat where he wanted me, and he sat in a chair with casters on it and rolled over so he was right in front of me. He looked at my penis and scrotum and gulped, but then hesitantly reached out with his hand.
“Did you put on your gloves?” the doc asked softly.
Cam stood up, retrieved a pair of thin surgical gloves, and came back to me. He took my scrotum in one hand and began his exam. As he checked me out, he ran a commentary for Dr. Bain. “No sign of a hydrocele, no torsion, no lumps, no epididymitis, the testicles are the normal size for the patient’s age, both are completely descended with the left testicle slightly lower than the right one.”
As he spoke, his voice became stronger. I was pleased. He was getting into the exam and getting through his awkwardness.
“Now a hernia check, Ethan.” Wow, he’d used my name! “You need to stand up for this.”
I rose, and he put a finger on my scrotum and pushed up. He had me cough and checked both sides. “No sign of a hernia,” he reported.
“Now I have to ascertain some measurements for the records,” he told me.” I was to remain standing, and he sat in his chair again, meaning his face was at the same height as my junk. He took a cloth measuring tape from the pocket of his white gown, then reached up and took hold of my penis. He checked the length and circumference and called out the numbers to the doc, prefixing them with the word ‘flaccid’.
“Now I need to check your penis for irregularities,” he said, and now his voice was back to scratchy. He felt all over my penis, touching the crown and sides, being thorough, and, of course I got hard. Anyone would, I thought. Anyone at least who was 16. I couldn’t help it. Didn’t really want to help it. What he was doing was stimulating, arousing, and I got aroused. Thoroughly and triumphantly aroused. What did he expect would happen?
Well, he quite obviously did expect that because suddenly he had the cloth tape measure in his hands again, and he called out measurements again, this time with the prefix ‘fully aroused.’
It was my turn to blush, but he didn’t notice because after pocketing his tape again, he was looking anywhere but at me. That gave me the chance to look at him. Yeah, he was showing some signs of arousal, too. Maybe not the amount I was, but certainly some.
However, the room was silent as he was pulling himself together, and silence wasn’t what he wanted. Any silence would quickly turn into a pregnant one. So, he spoke again, his voice as shaky as ever. “Now we’ll do a prostate exam. Please lean over the table, keeping your legs slightly apart.”
The doc had never given me this exam, but I’d read about it. I’d read different things, that it was painful and objectionable, but also that if done correctly it was just another test and nothing to worry about. So I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was more concerned about preparing for it. I was still hard as a horse standing at stud with a willing mare in front of him, and Cam wanted me leaning over and up against the examining table. I had a protuberance that was in the way. And with all the poking and prodding and palpating, I knew it wasn’t going away anytime soon.
I did the best I could, but the front couple of inches of my erection were mashed up against the table. The table was padded, so it didn’t feel bad. Felt kind of good, actually, because as he did his thing, my thing was moving around just slightly against the padding. No, it wasn’t going away any time soon.
I was watching him the best I could, turning my head to do so, and I saw him pick up a tube of medical lubricant from the cabinet. I expected to see a big blue K-Y on the label but it was evidently some other brand. He anointed the middle finger of his right hand, then stepped behind me. He spread my cheeks and then very gently rubbed the jellied finger over my anus. He seemed to do that longer than necessary, and probably more gently than a rushed doctor would, but as this was my first time, I had nothing to compare it to, and it was certainly nothing to object to.
Then he applied a little pressure, and he moved inside of me. Now that was different! But it didn’t hurt at all. Just different.
He pushed very slowly all the way in till his hand was against my bare bottom, then moved his finger around. He touched something and I jumped. It didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel like much of anything except perhaps a very slight electrical shock.
“Everything’s okay here,” he told Dr. Bain, and he sounded like he was choking.
He removed his finger very slowly. That felt strange, too, but not a bad strange.
He gave me a paper towel, which I used to de-grease my bottom. Now that was a bit embarrassing! How often does one wipe his bottom with two people looking on? How often does he do it with a hard-on rampant? Never, that’s how often.
I figured we were probably done now. I mean, what else was there? I was still fully aroused, but maybe they’d let me dress and it would go away. I sat down on the table and crossed my legs. Sure, he’d seen me hard, but I didn’t have to just stand there with it jutting out all over the place and making a spectacle of itself.
He wasn’t done. I discovered that by watching him. He took off his gloves, I breathed a sigh of relief and prepared to stand to get dressed, but then saw him put on another pair of gloves. Now what?
He’d been standing sideways to me but now turned to face me. Not being obvious about it, covering it by raising a hand to my face to fake a cough, I glanced at his midsection. Well, now I knew. Knew more than I had at least. He was obviously hard, maybe as hard as I was. There was no disguising it. I met his eyes and saw that he knew I knew. So, that was that. Life goes on. We were both hard. It didn’t really prove anything, but did give me a pretty strong inclination that what I’d surmised about him was probably true.
There was a certain amount of electricity in the room. I think we both felt it.
He was looking at me fully, meeting my eyes at last. “One last test,” he said. He was really nervous now, maybe because he knew I knew he was hard, or maybe something else. I found out; it was something else.
“Dr. Bain says a thorough physical of a male in his late teens and through his fertile years should include having his sperm checked for motility. There are clinics that specialize in this, but the vast majority of men are fine, and what we do is run a simple test here to check that. Dr. Bain obtains a sperm sample and checks it under the microscope. Dr. Bain wants me to take a sample. He says we should do this rather than the patient because this way we can ascertain the state of the penis to feel if it loses any tumescence while producing semen. This allows us to see if there are any problems with another male problem: impotence. Some men cannot maintain an erection through the sex act. Very few teens have this problem, but it’s a good idea to check so if there is a problem, it can be treated and most likely resolved.
“So, all that being said, with your permission, I’ll take a semen sample from you and we’ll look at it under the scope. Is that all right? May I proceed?”
I was having a hard time keeping my jaw from dropping open. Was he saying what I thought he was? Was he saying he was going to jerk me off? Is that why he put a fresh pair of gloves on? Is that why he was still holding his tube of ersatz K-Y jelly?
I realized he wanted an answer. I studied him. He was very nervous, sweating, and, and . . . I couldn’t believe it, but I could clearly see his eyes, and I could see desire in them. I could see that he wanted to do this.
Well, if he could want to do it, I could safely want him to do it, too. I wasn’t sure about Dr. Bain being there watching, however. I gave him a quick glance and found he was very busy with paperwork on his desk. I looked back at Cam; he was so uncomfortable it was painful to look at him. The eagerness, though, that was still there. He was trying to hide it, but it was there.
“Sure,” I found myself saying. Now my voice sounded as strangled as his.
“Lie back on the table,” he said, not a command as much as a soft, hopeful wish, and I did. This of course meant I was now sticking straight up in the air. He moved to the side of the table, just looked at what was standing so proudly for a moment, but then got busy. He greased up his right hand, took my stiff-enough-to break erection in his hand—
Well, you know how it works. I don’t need to describe it, other than to say it didn’t take very long. Hardly any time at all, really. This was the first time anyone other than me had touched me like this. And I’d been ready for this since I’d gotten hard. I just hadn’t realized it.
When I came, I’m sort of embarrassed to say I spouted. Surge after surge. I’d finished the sci-fi book I was reading last night, staying up late to do so, and had fallen asleep thinking about it right after turning off the light. Then, because of being up late, I’d slept late enough that morning that I’d had to be awakened by my mom. She’d said I didn’t have time for breakfast before my doctor’s appointment, only time for a very, very quick shower, that she’d lay out my clothes while I was in there but to be back dressing in only a couple of minutes. So there was another lost opportunity for me to check that my personal plumbing was in order.
In order it was, and quite voluminously because of missing my last two regular milkings. Cam stopped pumping when I exploded, which wasn’t very nice of him but perhaps very professional. I took over, not a bit self-consciously, either; who can be thinking of that sort of sentiment at that very eruptive time that demands seeing through to the end?
Cam had found a petri dish from somewhere and was scooping my juice off my chest and stomach. He didn’t bother to take even half of it. He did give me a paper towel which I used to clean up the rest. By then, I was feeling what one feels after climaxing: a little spacey, a little tired, a little all’s-right-with-the-world-ish.
Dr. Bain was busy making a slide from a small dab of what I’d produced, and he looked at it under the microscope. Meanwhile, Cam was telling me I could dress, which I did a bit lazily. Cam then was called to the microscope, and Dr. Bain had me come over, too.
“Want to see?” he asked me.
“Yeah,” I said, and Cam moved so I could look through the eyepiece. I saw just what I’d seen pictures of in sex ed, and they were all wagging their tails like crazy. I couldn’t help but smile.
Dr. Bain thanked me profusely for being such a good sport. He shook hands with me. I didn’t know what to say to Cam. He wasn’t looking at me at all. Had his back turned. So I said, “Nice meeting you, Cam,” and got a soft grunt in return. At least it was something.
Time to go. I checked I’d left nothing behind, got my signed medical permission slip from Dr. Bain and left.
I was still in the outer reception area when the door to doc’s office opened. I stopped to see if I was wanted for something and saw Cam step out. He came over to me and handed me a slip of paper. I looked at it and saw he’d given me his phone number and three words. ‘Call me, please?’ I looked at it, then up at him, a wide smile on my face.
“And of course, we have a standard non-fraternizing policy which is rigidly enforced.” He looked over his half glasses at me, his small eyes narrowing.
I was already nervous. He didn’t need to try to intimidate me further. Of course, that might have only been the way I was reacting, not what he intended.
Mr. Pierson was a small man, a bit too heavy for his height, which made his stature less imposing than it might have been. But his face was hard, severe and forbidding. It also had a reddish hue that might have come from too much familiarity with booze, high blood pressure or too much sun, but it had the effect of making him look constantly angry. He appeared to be a man with no lightness, no humor, no sentimentality, no grace. And as he was the one interviewing me and had the title of manager, he’d probably be my boss, maybe my boss once removed, if I came to work for this hotel. Did I want to work under a man like him?
This is what you get for not working hard in high school, I told myself; you get stuck with not having any leverage, any options, not being able to call your own shots. I did that, talk to myself a lot. Unfortunately, rather than pat myself on the back during these one-sided discussions, I tend to harp on my weaknesses, to berate myself for them. No one knew better what was wrong with me than I did, and my inner voice wasn’t a bit reluctant to tell myself about it.
The fact was, I had lazed my way through high school. I assumed I’d be going to college, and I was certainly smart enough to get a degree from whichever one of them accepted me. I would study hard enough for that to happen once I was in the ivied halls, but that was in the future and definitely not when I was in high school. I didn’t need to work there. I could easily get by without doing much at all and still get C’s. That was my target and that’s what I got.
Then I discovered my parents, whom I’d been pretty much ignoring; the advice they gave was like putting plaster on walls: thick and heavy and over everything. I’d learned to tune it out and become good at doing so. They’d been saying I needed to do better to get into college, saying that with so many kids applying these days, many, many more than when they’d been my age, there was competition for slots, and C’s wouldn’t cut it. And furthermore, C’s wouldn’t get me any scholarship money, which I’d need.
It didn’t dawn on me to pay any attention to their blather until the rejection letters started pouring in from colleges during my senior year in high school. One after another. Since it costs money to apply, I couldn’t flood the country with applications. And I’d not been trying for the really top-notch schools, either. In fact, I’d checked out which colleges had the lowest acceptance standards, the easiest ones to get into, schools like Evergreen State College in Washington, Transylvania University in Kentucky and Loras College in Iowa, thinking if it was easy to get in these, a lot of applicants would have worse grades than mine, and I might not only get in but get some scholarship money.
Turns out, not even easy-entry college admittance people liked my academic record. I was accepted at one of them, but it offered no scholarship money, and it was in another state. Going out of state would be way too expensive, and in-state schools had too many applicants to be looking favorably on me and my myriad C’s. I would not be going to college until I made some money. Meantime, I would be attending a local community college, taking night courses and working during the day, or working nights and taking day courses; I’d probably end up with a combination of both.
Both those work options were not what I wanted, but what I’d earned, I kept telling myself. That voice, you know?
Those C’s didn’t look so good to me now.
Why hadn’t I worked harder in high school? I took a long, honest look at myself, and I didn’t have to look very long. I knew the answer. There were three major reasons. First, and maybe foremost, I tended to be lazy. It had been a default position for me for a long time. Second, I hadn’t liked the academic side of high school. The classes, the homework, the studying—I hadn’t liked any of it. Couple that with that number-one reason, my laziness, and I realized it was only because of my native intelligence that I even got C’s.
Number three? Well, it’ll probably sound trivial, and written down like this to be read, even a bit silly, but it is what it is and was at least partly responsible for my not doing better in school. What is it? Well, I’m gay. I am also not shy, exactly, but not very outgoing, either. A little reticent with other people. I’m a little socially awkward, I hate being embarrassed, and I work hard at avoiding situations where that might happen. That means I’ve become adept at not being noticed. Asking a boy whom I like the looks of out on a date? Outing myself? Those would come under the heading of VERY AWKWARD—BAD IDEA—TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS. If you don’t want to be embarrassed, don’t ask another boy if he’d be interested in dating you, because if he says no and then tells all his friends about it, you’ll be living in embarrassment city with no bus ticket out of town available.
Why did this affect my school performance? Well, let me ask a question here: Do you have any idea how many really, really, really cute boys there are in high school? Cute, beautiful, alluring, arousing boys? Oh, my god! Any school is full of them. Right there. Right in front of you.
That isn’t me being unresponsive, refusing to supply a direct answer to the question. It’s me explaining why I was distracted so much in school. I was looking at all the boys. In all the years I was there, I never let on I was gay, and I never chatted up a boy who was either out or I thought might be gay. But, man-oh-man, did I look and dream.
The boys who were out, I ogled the most. There was this one, Ethan Hunter. Omigod, he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent watching him, thinking about him, dreaming about him, doing that other thing we boys do when we’re crushing hard on someone. He was tiny but had the sort of larger-than-life personality a lot of smaller kids evince. And did I mention he was cute? And out? I watched him all the time. I was one of the few kids who attended the swimming meets the school had. I went because Ethan was there on display. Yeah, Ethan was there, almost nude, and, yikes! When he’d tug on his suit, arranging or making room for what was inside, I almost had to turn away. Almost.
But he was just one of many. I spent way too much time in classes not paying attention to the teacher but paying lots of it to the boys around me. Way, way too much. I do think calling this number three is realistic. If the choice I had was getting a C and watching boys, or getting a higher grade but giving up boy-watching, well, I was a teenager, I had hormones, and getting A’s or B’s wasn’t worth giving up what made life in high school worth living.
Or so I’d thought.
I realized when we were into my senior year and the rejections were coming in that I needed to change my perspective. I needed to get serious about my future. I wasn’t a kid any longer. I’d tried to remain one too long, way too long. Most of my classmates, fellow seniors, were looking ahead to four years of college. Of the few who weren’t, many were taking advantage of the new intern initiative Dr. Fellows had set up. I’d dismissed that when it had been announced. A couple of months into my senior term, when I’d realized what a mess I was, I had second thoughts about it. I wouldn’t be going away to college next fall, and I’d have to be earning money while attending community college. That intern program made a lot of sense.
I went to see my counselor. I did have one but had never spent any time with her. She’d tried; I hadn’t been interested. I just picked up my class schedule from her each semester and that was that. As I’d never met with her, she didn’t know me at all. The open class times when I should have picked electives, she’d always simply left them blank. No class being scheduled during a class period meant I had study halls then. Do you know how many cute boys sit in study halls and play with their hair, or doodle on their notebook paper with the greatest expressions of concentration on their faces, or even put their heads in their arms on their desks?
Can I say this? I watched them a lot because some of them, kind of unconsciously I guess and forgetting where they were, would put one hand in their lap while drowsy and sort of semi-somnolently move their fingers around a bit or squeeze a little down there. It was fascinating to watch, and not just a little, uh, well . . . fascinating covers it.
I liked study halls.
So, I went to meet my counselor, Mrs. Nguyen.
“Nice to finally get to talk to you, Marcus.” She smiled at me and rose from her desk. She motioned at the chair in front of it, and I sat down when she did.
We shot the breeze for a minute or two. I guessed she was trying to see what sort of person I was—or maybe just so I’d relax some. I was nervous. Eventually, she got down to it. She said she was sorry I’d put this off so long because people wanting the internships had already selected most of the offerings and there were only a few left. She told me what those were, and most of them included some pretty stiff labor or some terrible hours. Or worse. I mean, who wants to work floating hours as a fill-in for a 24/7 emergency plumber’s shop? What do emergency plumbers do? I have no idea, but can imagine having to work on clogged toilets, stuff like that.
I could envision myself being sound asleep at three in the morning and getting a call to come out for an overflowing toilet, completely full of the worst-smelling human waste you can imagine. I try plunging it for a good ten minutes but all that does is make my arms sore and the customer madder than he was, as though this is somehow my fault. I decide the only thing to do is to remove the toilet. So I do that and in the process of picking it up, it weighing something like 100 pounds and awkward as hell, I spill that stuff that’s in it all over myself. Then I’m sweating up a storm installing a new one, leaning over the rank sewage pipe I have to hook it up to, and all with an irritable drunk homeowner, the guy who’d plugged it up, yelling at me for spilling shit on his carpeting and taking so long getting the job done that he’s losing sleep because of me.
I could see why that job was still available.
After mentioning a couple of other jobs besides the plumbing one, Mrs. Nguyen said, “There are only two other intern positions for you to consider, Marcus. One is with a nursery in town. It would involve learning about plants, which ones are annuals and which perennials, how much sun exposure each takes, what sort of soil is best for them—all that kind of detail—and then helping with some installations.”
Working outside all day in the hot sun? Or even in the hot shade? Helping install plants, which I took to mean I’d be the one digging all the holes . . . Look, I was going to turn over a new leaf; I’d psychologically committed myself to that. But I was the sort who’d stick his big toe in the water to test it for chilliness before leaping in rather than the sort of daredevil who’d simply jump in the deep end with no idea how cold it’d be. Yeah, I’d be actually working, earning money, being involved, but that nursery job seemed way more physical than would be good for me. I wanted to take it slow and easy at first, working my way up to hard and challenging.
“No? Well, the only one left then is an assistant manager at a downtown hotel, actually the nicest one in town. You’d be trained how to check people in, handle reservations, run credit cards, solve problems the guests might bring to your attention—that sort of thing. That sound like something you’d be interested in?”
She laughed. “Often companies these days hand out august titles in place of sufficient money. Sometimes and certainly in this case, Assistant Manager really means scut work with a title that’ll impress customers who’ll see it on your name badge.”
“Tedious, menial, boring work that needs to be done, like watering the plants in the lobby, making sure there are towels in the exercise gym, putting new grounds in the office coffee machine, checking that the pen on the reception desk is working and replacing it if it isn’t. You’ll get to do things like that along with desk duties. Actually, you’ll do whatever they assign you.”
It all sounded good to me. Better than toilet replacements for sure. She hadn’t said anything about lifting people’s 120-pound trunks out of the back ends of taxis or carrying twenty-seven cases of beer to the bar. They probably had someone else for that. I could handle scut work.
“What does it pay?” I asked.
“Quite a bit more than minimum wage. And they’ll give you a raise after a few months when they don’t need to hold your hand any longer.”
Which is how I became an assistant-manager trainee. After, of course, getting through the interview with Mr. Pierson. His eyes, when looking at me, made me think he was regarding me as some sort of drug-dealing, over-sexed, dishonest, trouble-making, weaselly teenage hooligan. Little was he aware of how passive and unmotivated a person I was. But then, I didn’t know him from Adam, either. It was only after I’d worked there for a week that I understood why this position was still open. A couple of other seniors had opted for it and given it a try. Both had had enough of Mr. Pierson before two weeks were up. He’d watched them with a critical eye, railed at them for such trivial things as putting their hands in their pockets, scolded them in front of their coworkers, and rotated their shifts such that they often were working on way insufficient sleep. And this was while they were still attending school each day!
I hoped I’d last longer than they had. If I was going to do that, it meant staying as far from Mr. Pierson as it was possible to do. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind strategy. At least it was summer now, so I didn’t need to spend most of every day in school. I would be taking community-college classes in a few weeks but not a heavy load. I could get an hour off from work for a class when needed. Mr. Pierson couldn’t object to that; it had been discussed and accepted by businesses as part of joining the intern program, and Mr. Pierson had agreed to let me go when needed as long as I showed him an official class schedule, which he’d Xerox so he could keep tabs on me. Trust? Not from him. Suspicions. Wariness. Dislike. Not trust.
I hadn’t told him I was gay. No reason to. The less reason he had to not hire me as an intern the better.
Mr. Pierson watched me like a hawk. I was on probation, and every move I made, or didn’t make, came under his scrutiny. I was yelled at, scolded, even ridiculed for the most minor things. And me, not liking to be embarrassed, what did I do? I put up with it. Remember that new leaf? That was me. I was learning how to thicken my skin, now that I had to. All those C’s, remember? They were giving me the motivation to do better than I had in the past, to prove to myself that I could.
He said all that abuse, which he called constructive criticism, was because he wanted the hotel to be the jewel in the crown of the corporation’s hotels. And for that to be true, every employee had to be perfect. He said making customers happy had to be my main, my only objective. Whatever they wanted, they got, and with a respectful smile. I was to be friendly, courteous, obliging and helpful. All within the bounds of non-fraternization, of course. This was for the customers, not the staff.
If that seems like it might have been a tad difficult to pull off, this being perfect, you got it in one.
I’d been there working the day shift for three weeks; I think Mr. Pierson liked me working days because he could keep an eye on me that way. I was getting quite used to the job by then and didn’t mind either his watching me or the job. Scut work it was, but to me, not boring.
I learned another word for what I did. I was a dogsbody. An English gentlemen, while he was reading his newspaper in the lobby, beckoned me over and asked for a G and T to be brought to him. Before being under Mr. Pierson’s cultivation, I’d have asked him what it was and then told him he needed to go to the bar, or to find a waiter to help him. Now, though, I told him, “Certainly, sir, but could you please tell me what a G and T is so I know where to go look for one?”
I smiled as always. And, as I wasn’t needed behind the counter at the moment, I walked into the bar and got his drink, giving the bartender his room number, and took it back to him. He tried to tip me, but Mr. Pierson was lurking around, and as I didn’t know where, I didn’t accept it. I simply asked the man if I could help him with anything else, and he, rather smugly I thought, said no, but that the next time he needed a dogsbody, he’d look me up. That was how I learned that term.
It was my last stint on the day shift. My last duty before going home turned out to be checking in an arriving couple. They were a rather elegant looking middle-aged man and woman. This was strictly routine with me by now. I went into my act. I was all smiles and courtesy, when suddenly I became a nervous, repressed high school kid again. Why? Because there were three people in the arriving party, not two, and the third, showing up carrying their bags while the others were signing their registration cards, was something to behold. The boys I’d ogled in high school had nothing on this kid. He was probably my age, maybe, probably, a year younger, and he was as handsome as a movie star with long, perfect hair and a face to die for, and the self-assurance to go with it. He was dressed in a suit that fit him perfectly but without a tie. His collar was open on his dazzling white shirt, showing a glimpse of hairless chest.
The thing that was so evident was, he knew how he looked! He took one look at me and, somehow, he knew who and what I was. How? I have no idea. But his eyes told me he did. They were eyes of a deep blue that a person like me could get lost in.
His parents had no clue how the boy was affecting me. The kid smiled, as devious and enchanting a smile as I’d ever seen. I was unsettled by his looks, his almost lizard-like body language, but I needed to keep serving his parents the way I’d been taught. I finished their transaction and handed out key cards. They all got one; they’d taken one of our best suites, one that had two private en-suite rooms and a central communal area.
“Would you like help with the bags and a boy to show you the amenities?” I asked the man.
“No need. Toby will handle the bags for us, and we’re quite accustomed to hotels. We’ve been here often before.” He smiled at me and nodded at the boy, who turned from his father to smile at me, and I’d swear he almost winked.
They had three bags, two regular size ones and a smaller one that fit under the boy’s arm. They headed for the elevator. Just as they entered the alcove off the lobby where the four elevators were located, the boy turned back and looked at me. Then he said something to his parents and set the bags down and walked back to the reception desk.
“Will you be here in the morning?” he asked. A very strange question indeed. But I was well-trained now. “No, sir, sorry, but I go on the night shift starting tomorrow.” I didn’t ask why he’d asked such a question. I simply answered it.
“Not ‘sir’,” he said. “Toby.”
“Yes, sir . . . Toby.” I couldn’t help myself. Even as nervous as I was, almost comatose, really, just talking to this teenage god, I still amazed myself by smiling back at him. I had no idea what that smile looked like.
“So you’ll be on duty tomorrow night then?”
His voice was almost musical, lyrical, and what he was doing with his eyes was even worse. His tone of voice was a little sarcastic, a little lord-of-the-manor speaking-to-the-stable-boyish, but with a large undercurrent of humor, and self-deprecating humor at that. It was altogether beguiling. I was behind the desk, thank the lord, because he was basically flirting with me with that voice and those eyes, and I was hard as I’d ever been, hard as I thought it was possible to be. My face probably showed something, but what, I didn’t know.
“Yes, si—, uh, Toby.” My voice sounded almost breathless to me. I wanted to clear my throat but didn’t.
“And you’re leaving now, uh, Marcus?” He’d just glanced at the clock. He was also making fun of me, of my stuttering his name.
He again read my name badge, then pierced me with those eyes. They moved from my hair down to my mid-section, which was all he could see, thank goodness, because of the counter. I’d read about people being undressed by someone’s eyes. Now I knew what that meant. I started to speak, but then just nodded.
He grinned. Oh. My. God! I guess I grinned, too. I was hoping I wouldn’t faint. I mean, you read about this sort of reaction and I, at least, always scoff. Faint? Come on, now. Yet that was exactly what I was feeling. Maybe those authors had come upon someone like Toby somewhere in the past. I never had before, and I was unprepared.
“That’s too bad,” he said, and he tried to look sad, failed, and then smiled again, that undercurrent of humor, of being entirely in charge of the situation, still there. “But there’ll always be tomorrow,” he said in a faraway voice, changing his pronunciation while trying for a Bogart impression and not missing by much. Then he laughed, gave me a slight wave, and walked away.
The next night, my first time on nights, was much different from the day shift. I had a couple of late check-ins but not a lot to do most of the time. There were two of us on the desk, but it was mostly just me; the other guy was an older man who had things to do in the office behind the desk. He spent most of his time there. I was at the desk to serve any latecomers but also was free to roam; the other guy could answer the bell when I was away.
There was an in-house call to the desk. I answered it, and it was a voice I knew. I’d heard it in my head all night long. Toby.
“Marcus? I’m in the exercise room. Can you bring me some extra towels?”
“Right away, Sir Toby,” I said. I laughed. I hoped I wouldn’t be so nonplussed dealing with him today. I could hear him laughing as I set the phone back in its cradle. God, that laugh.
We kept the exercise room at 75°, a little warmer than the other common areas, because most people who used it wanted to sweat. Toby was the only one there. Most guests who used the room did so early in the morning or sometime in the afternoon. It was going on 8:00 PM when he’d called me. Dinnertime or later for most.
He was on the weight bench doing bench presses. I had to stop when I walked in. He was dressed only in athletic shorts. He had a film of sweat all over his body, and he glistened with it. He had only five pound plates on the bar, but the bar itself weighed fifty, so he was pressing 60 pounds, and with reps, that was plenty for a kid to work up a sweat with.
A kid he was. Slender with unblemished, perfect skin. A hint of his ribs showing. Stringy muscles rather than thick biceps. Nice thighs thinning down to more rounded calves. He was an artist’s picture waiting to be painted.
“Could you bring the towels here, Marcus?” His voice was a little forced, probably from the exercise he’d been getting. As I walked towards him, I noticed the stack of towels on the table. It didn’t surprise me much. I thought this kid capable of almost anything. He hadn’t taken the trouble to hide them. Maybe he was even making a point.
As I neared him, he raised one leg, putting that foot on the bench. His shorts were loose-fitting, and raising his leg opened the lower hemline. He was going commando and now was on full display.
He was soft, and I could see he was also larger than I was. He had a trimmed bush, good-sized equipment, and the view was arresting, which was why I stopped. Couldn’t help it. Stopped and stared.
He watched me looking, then slowly put his leg back down. He sat up, a pernicious, evil, dastardly grin on his face. “Towel?”
I handed him one, and he began to dry his torso. He raised each arm so I could see the soft, sparse sprouting of light-colored hair under each. He dried his upper half, then started to lean over and made a face.
“I think I must have tweaked my back. Would it be possible, could you do my legs and back for me? Please, Marcus?”
Why was it, I wondered, that I’d been called that all my life and it was just a name, but from his lips, it sounded different. Sexy. Erotic.
I was going to get hard. I knew that. He probably did, too. I wondered if he would, what with me toweling off his legs. I wondered if that was why he’d called me here.
“Sure, Sir Toby,” I said, grinned, and knelt down next to him. He was sitting on the bench, not straddling it, but with both feet on the floor next to each other. I started with his ankles and worked my way up one leg, then the other. As I neared the top of his leg where the bottom hem of his shorts lay, he opened his legs a little. I could see in again but tried to ignore that. He pulled his shorts up a bit higher, high enough, in fact, that he was just visible poking out the bottom of them, at the same time saying, “More to rub down this way.”
Yeah, especially if I’d go just a few inches higher.
But I didn’t. And he didn’t press the point. Nor did I. Uh, I didn’t mean it that way. I didn’t take it any further. Yeah, that’s better. Well, I didn’t. It seemed quite evident to me he was trying to seduce me, and if anyone would have loved to be seduced by Toby, it was I. Yet, I was on the job, working, and visions of Mr. Pierson screaming, ‘You did WHAT?’ were sufficient to deter me.
Toby let it go at that point, too. He probably felt he’d said enough, talking about rubbing things, and if I didn’t want to take the ball and run with it, then that was my choice. That he’d been willing was obvious.
I did his back, too. He smelled of sweat, but clean sweat, and it was an invigorating, almost intoxicating scent. I was hard and glad I was behind him. But then I was done and had to move out in front of him. I guessed he could see how I was then. He was certainly looking in that direction. I still had the towel, though, and it was easy to casually keep it draped in front of me as I stood facing him. Too little, too late, of course.
“Thanks for the help, Marcus,” he said, and for some reason, he whispered it. “What time do you get off? Oh, I’d better reword that to be clear. What time does your shift end tonight?”
“1 AM,” I said, still letting the towel dangle in front of me and ignoring the double entendre. His whispering was aphrodisiacal.
“I may call for help again before then,” he said. He casually laid his hand on his shorts. Then he stretched, showing the world, anyone there to see him—well—me, how slender and perfect his almost-nude body was. “But for now, thanks . . . and good night.”
I took the towel back to the front desk with me. No one was around, but I wasn’t taking a chance on being seen.
It was all I could do not to visit the men’s room, but I was only supposed to do that on my break, and that was still some time ahead. I was being a good boy, and it was very hard.
The next call came a little after midnight. “Marcus?”
I grinned and knew he could hear it in my voice. “Toby?”
“I need a favor,” he said.
“Another one?” I asked. Okay, so maybe my training was slipping. But he was a special case, and while he definitely had the upper hand with me, I liked to try to twit him just a little when I could.
“Another one,” he agreed. I could hear the grin in his voice, too.
“Anything for a customer,” I said.
Damn, I was getting hard again. “Within reason,” I replied.
“Okay. That’s fair. Uh, the sign on the door says your pool hours are 8 AM till 10 PM. It’s a little late now, but I need a swim before sleeping. I never sleep well. I somehow feel lonely in bed all by myself. Hard to sleep alone. You know?”
He was asking me that?! Me? This kid knew how to flirt better than I knew how to tie my shoes. It would be best to stick to his request. “We’re not supposed to open the pool on request,” I said. No one had ever told me that. I was just playing the game now.
“That’s why it would be a favor. A big favor. One I’d remember. Do you have a key? Can you open it?”
“Well, I do, and I can. I’m not supposed to, though. I’m kind of new here. I don’t want to jeopardize my job.”
“Oh, no problem there. We stay here a lot. My dad knows a lot of people. A lot. No, you wouldn’t get in trouble. So, maybe?”
“I’ll be at the door in five minutes.” He hung up before I could respond.
I was there in four; he was waiting. I knew if anyone reviewed the surveillance videos from the camera in the hall, it would show me opening the pool door when I shouldn’t, but without any complaints, the videos would never be reviewed, and they’d be copied over within a week or two. I wasn’t sweating it.
He was wearing one of our hotel’s fleecy robes, carrying a towel and barefooted. Best or worst of all, he was smirking.
I unlocked the door with my master key. It was an indoor pool in the basement next to the exercise room, which was also locked; it could be opened by the customers’ room keys. The hall lights were on, but that was all. The pool was dark, and when I unlocked the door, I switched on the overhead lights.
“No, leave them off,” Toby said, and shrugged out of his robe. He was naked.
“Whoa!” I said, and quickly doused the lights.
We were only illuminated by the light from ceiling lamps in the hall, light which was filtering through the glass windows in the wall surrounding the pool. It was enough that I could see Toby in all his glory in chiaroscuro outline.
“This is cool!” he said, sounding younger than he was. I realized I didn’t know how old that was. I was guessing either 15 or 16. 17 tops. What I did know was that he was absolutely, totally beautiful.
I got hard again just looking at him. I picked up his robe so he wouldn’t see my arousal and then his towel, too, as he’d dropped it when he’d dived into the water.
I watched him swim two laps, then swim to the side where I was standing. “Come on in?” he said. He said it so lustfully that if I hadn’t already been hard, I’d have gotten that way immediately.
“I can’t,” I said. “I do have to stand here and watch you, though. It would be unsafe for you to swim alone. If I’m caught here with you, I can at least explain that I was letting you swim at your request and that the customer is always right. But if I left and you got in trouble, there’d be all hell to pay.” Then I chuckled. “Either way, I’d probably get fired, but at least this way I have the pleasure of watching you.”
Okay, so maybe I was learning a little flirting just being with him.
“So, you have to stay and watch me?” he asked with a lilt in his voice that spelled trouble, ignoring everything else I’d said.
“Yes, I do.” I tried to sound severe but didn’t even come close. I think I sounded wistful.
The brat smiled and turned over to swim another two laps, this time doing the backstroke. Yeah, I watched him all right!
Eventually, he got out of the pool. He got out at the end farthest from where I was standing and walked to me. He could see where I was looking as I watched him. Really, though, I wasn’t just looking there. His whole body was sensuous, and the water running off it, dripping all over his body, upped the erotic vision he provided me.
When he reached me, he took the towel I was still holding and used it to dry his back, leaving his front on bold display for me. He wriggled and squirmed against the towel, and it was both obvious and glorious when he started to chub up.
He turned away from me and reached the towel back to me. “Can you get the back of my legs, and anything else I missed?” he asked, using his whispery, come-on voice again.
The backs of his legs and butt were all still wet. I dried them. My hands were shaking, but I dried them, too. I then kept the towel as I needed it again. Needed it badly.
“You have my towel,” he said accusingly as he turned back around.
“I need it,” I said. He certainly didn’t need me to explain why.
“That’s okay, then,” he said. There was a stack of towels on the table near the door, and he stepped over and picked up the entire pile. To my dismay, he then opened the pool door, looked out, and then dropped the towels on the floor there. He came back to me and gave me a look of disapproval. Well, he did with his mouth. His eyes had the sly, devious, amused look he did so well. He said, “You’ll have to dry my front, then, as this is the only towel we have.”
So, I dried his front. What choice did I have? The customer is always right. As before, I got down on my knees and worked up. This time, he was all hanging out right in front of my eyes, and the chubbing was turning as I looked at it into something else entirely, more like a tent pole than a goose neck. I tried to ignore it, but it was like those elephants in rooms you hear about. I knew what it looked like by heart by the time I was done. In fine detail.
I dried him, and I dried it, and when I was done, there was no point in trying to hide myself from his gaze.
“We need to do something about that,” he said, and his voice was as gravelly hormonal as I’d ever heard.
“Can’t,” I said, sounding exactly like he did. “I’m on duty.”
He put the robe back on and giggled when he stuck out the front gap. No one was in the hall to see it—or me, for that matter. I locked the pool door, and by the time the elevator had stopped and then taken us back to the ground floor, he was no longer visible. I got out of the elevator, adjusted myself for a final time, and left him to ride up to his floor.
It was time for me to punch out. I did and went home. Like him, I slept that night in a very lonely bed.
Toby had told me they were staying for one more night. We’d talked some before he’d gone up. He’d wanted to know about me, and I’d probably told him too much. I never talk about myself, but somehow, he had me hypnotized. When I had the chance, I’d asked what his father did and found he was some sort of bigwig who was on several boards of directors and had to travel a lot to attend meetings. I asked him if he was on TV or in movies, and he laughed. He said he had done some modeling but didn’t like it at all. I was right: he was a high-school junior, or had been; he was entering his senior year in a couple of weeks.
Anyway, this would be the last night he’d be here. I had no idea what sort of shenanigans he would pull this time, but was certain there would be some.
I thought that I should be girding my loins in preparation, but as I had no idea what that was or how to do it, I desisted.
The night passed by, and strangely, by 11 PM, he hadn’t called me once. I’d spotted him in the lobby once, but he hadn’t even looked my way. I thought maybe he’d tired of me as it was obvious I wasn’t going to be doing the sort of thing with him he’d have liked.
Then the desk phone rang.
“Meet me in the coffee shop,” he said, and that was all.
We had a 24-hour-a-day coffee shop, and that’s where he was headed. The front desk was dead as usual. I poked my head into the office, told my partner where I’d be, and then walked to meet him.
He met me at the door. “A booth,” he said. The place was deserted, as usual. We had our choice of booths, and he chose one in the back corner where we couldn’t be seen by anyone not in the shop.
A waitress walked over, nodded at me, and asked what we wanted.
“What do we want?” I asked Toby and suppressed a grin.
“A banana split,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “A huge one. Big enough for two.”
She looked at me, and I shook my head.
“Two spoons,” he called out as she was walking away. “Big!”
“A banana split?” I queried.
“I was thinking about showing you how I can eat a banana and hoping that might do the trick.”
“Do what trick?”
He smiled, and I had to look away from his eyes. She would be back soon, and the table tops were glass. She’d be able to see my lap. Thinking of that, I opened my napkin and spread it out there, even though I wasn’t planning to eat anything.
I shook my head. “No, I don’t. Do what?”
I swallowed. Then I realized I had the upper hand here. He could suck on a banana anyway he wanted. He could get me hot and bothered. But there was no way he could do more than that.
Hey, I’d love to do what he wanted. I wanted it. Hell, I craved it. But he was a customer, I was an employee, and I needed this job. It was a job I liked, and a one-night dalliance with Toby, no matter how earth-shattering it might turn out to be—as it probably would turn out to be—just wasn’t worth losing my job.
That’s what my brain was telling me. I was rallying up all the good resolve I could muster. I was trying as hard as all get out not to hear that little voice telling me I was making the mistake of my life.
The banana split came, and it was as requested: huge. Like a whole gallon of ice cream and several bananas— whole bananas with all sorts of syrupy sauces. Chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch, even blueberry. And whipped cream with sprinkles. A ton of the stuff.
“Dig in,” Toby said and picked up his spoon.
“Not hungry,” I said and made a face at him.
“You’ve got to help. I’ll have a brain-freeze headache and a stomachache to boot if I try to eat all this. But look, I can eat this.” He reached into the mess with his fingers and picked up a banana. He kissed the end of it, then licked all the goo off it, all over it, then sucked about a third of it into his mouth. Then he started moving it in and out of his lips while groaning, in and out, in and out, a look of rapture on his face.
Thankful for my strategic napkin, I quickly looked around. No one was in sight.
He continued making oral love to his banana, then pulled it entirely out of his mouth, looked at it, then said, “Your turn. Show me what you got.”
“I’m not going to do that here,” I said, not having to fake my aghast reaction.
“Aw, come on.”
His eyes were still sparkling. He wasn’t about to stop. I knew that. He knew I wasn’t expecting him to stop. He had no limits, and we both were aware of that.
With that gleam in his eyes, he pushed the banana toward me, and as I drew back, he leaned over the table to get closer to me. When he did that, his shirt landed in the dessert.
I expected him to jump back, feeling that cold ice cream on and against his chest and stomach. He didn’t. “Oops,” he said, and pressed harder into it so he could bring the banana closer to my lips.
It touched my lips, and I reacted by shoving his hand back. What happened next I figured out later was planned, but I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was I pushed his hand back, but with his arm rigid, pushing his hand back ended up pushing him back as well. ‘Him’ meaning his whole body got pushed back, and his body was lying in a huge dish of banana split.
Back he went, back against the rear cushion of the booth, and then sideways along it, even though I was no longer pushing. As he fell backwards, the dish went with him, falling face down on him.
“Oh, golly, gee,” he said in a louder than needed voice. I could hear the delight in it, though I’m sure he was trying for distress. “Look what you’ve done, Marcus. What a mess. I’ve got to clean up.”
So saying, he put the bowl back on the table, stood up, and immediately slipped on some of the ice cream that had fallen on the floor next to the booth.
I was standing, watching by then, and I saw him go down. First, he was on his side, then on his back, and then his head thumped gently on the floor.
“Oh, ouchie,” he said. Then, “Help me up, Marcus.”
I pulled him to his feet. “You have to help me to my room. I might be dizzy. That terrific bang I took to my head. They’ll clean this up. Come on, help me upstairs.”
I wasn’t buying it for a moment. You might be dizzy? You don’t know if you’re dizzy or not?”
He looked at me, and his eyes showed me a combination of need, desire, and humor. Damn! What could I do?
I didn’t know what to do, that was obvious. When you don’t know and you’re in my job, you follow the maxim that’d been drilled into you since day one: the customer is always right. I was pretty sure it wasn’t needed, but I took his arm and helped him to the elevators, then up to his floor, silently happy not to have to be part of cleaning up the mess he’d left.
At the door to the suite, I let go of his arm. “You can take it from here.”
He looked at the door, then at me, and then walked forward to the next door in the hallway. The bedrooms in the suite also had doors to the hall. He slipped the room key he’d had in his pocket into the electronic lock mechanism and released the lock. He pushed open the door, then looked at me again, still standing there.
“Come on in,” he said.
“I’m a little woozy from that nasty bump I had. You’ll have to make sure I’m okay. What would management say if—”
He stopped because I was already coming to him. He had me by the shorthairs and knew it. We entered the room and went immediately to the bathroom so as not to drip any of the mess he had on him onto the carpet. When we were there standing on the tile floor, he said, “My hands are all gooey. You’d better do the buttons and zippers and stuff.”
I was pretty sure there was nothing wrong with his head. His speech was perfect. His movements were perfect. But this was his game, and he was enjoying it. It was pretty elaborate, too, and certainly clever, working out how to get me into this fix. So, I’d reward him for that. I’d undress him, then make my escape. Maybe enjoy looking at him nude again, then make my escape. Fair’s fair.
Unbuttoning his shirt buttons was something of a trial as they were cold and slippery. His belt was, too, but his zipper was still dry and easily workable. I stepped back then, but he shook his head. “Underwear, too.”
“But you can do that. It’s barely wet.”
“No, I have to hold onto the counter here so I won’t fall. Two hands work better than one on underwear.” Then I got to see that intoxicating grin again.
So, I stripped him naked, and I did take a good look. He was still the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, and of course it did cause me again to rise up and take notice.
“Okay,” I said, regretting it as I said it, “you can wash yourself. I’ll be leaving. Wish your stay with us was longer. I really enjoyed having you here. Goodbye, Toby.”
I turned to go and heard a groan. Quickly turning back, I saw him holding his head in both hands. “I’m afraid I’ll fall in the shower and hurt myself because I’m so dizzy from that terrible blow I took to my head. I can’t possibly wash all this stuff out of my hair and off my body with one hand, and I should really be holding on with both of them. You’ll have to get in the shower with me. Quickly, too, as all that ice cream is starting to give me a chill.”
I knew he was faking it, knew I was being played, knew it from the look in his eyes. But not only were they showing his deviousness, I was seeing longing there, too, and need, and while I might have been able to ignore his cunning, I wasn’t strong enough to deny him his desire.
That was how I ended up in the shower with him. Naked. I washed him thoroughly and, by then, he’d recovered enough from his “dire” head injury to decide I needed just as thorough a wash as he’d had, and he didn’t need to hang onto anything but me any longer. So, he washed me, and it was no surprise, with the thoroughness of his washing and the place he washed the most, that I got some on him, some of what you can certainly guess, so we both needed to be washed again. It took us a long, long time to both get clean enough to get out and dry off, and by then it was too late for me to go home, so we got into bed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any pajamas, and he said he never wore them, so we had to sleep nude.
Sleep. I guess that’s what you could call it. Eventually.
I caught hell from Mr. Pierson the next day. I hadn’t signed out. That was unforgivable. I’d also had a dessert in the coffee shop with a customer, another serious breach of conduct. So, he was letting me go. Giving me the axe. And without regrets and certainly no letters of recommendation, either.
So, was it worth it? I’ll tell you, it was the greatest night of my life, bar none. I’d always have it to remember. But it was just one night, and now I had the rest of my life to deal with. Damn!
I started looking for another job. There were a few open, but they were the exact sort I hadn’t wanted before and I still didn’t want.
I didn’t actually have to get one. Without one, I could get through community college quicker. I was still living at home, so I wouldn’t have to pay for room and board. The problem was, I’d still need college money, and I wouldn’t have it.
I was lying on my bed in my room, stewing about how life worked and how some of us never seemed to catch a break when I heard the doorbell ring, and then my mom called up to me.
“You have a visitor, Marcus. Says he knows you.”
“Send him up, then.” I was feeling some of the laziness I’d thought I’d put behind me. But I was a little depressed. You’re allowed to be lazy when you’re depressed. If that isn’t a rule, it should be.
I closed my eyes for a moment and then heard a knock on my doorjamb. I opened them.
“Toby!” I couldn’t believe it. “What are you doing here? How’d you know my address?” I swung my legs off the bed and onto the floor, but before I could stand, he was there and sitting on the bed next to me.
“Don’t I get a kiss?” he asked, and I melted, just like always when he was near me. We kissed. It was a few minutes later before we could talk. Okay, okay, nothing else happened. The door was open. Jeez.
He was the one who spoke. I was too out of breath to do so anyway.
“I discovered Mr. Pierson fired you. Well, that was a nonstarter. I talked to my dad. He’s great. And he feels bad about pulling me all over the country during the summer. Of course, if he didn’t, we’d never see each other, so in a way I’m glad he does. He and I are real close. You might say he spoils me. Do you think I’m spoiled?”
“No, I don’t think so either.” Then he kissed me again, and it was a few more minutes till he could continue. I didn’t have a napkin, but I did have a pillow I could lay in my lap because it was possible my mom would come up.
“So anyway, I spoke to my dad, and he spoke to Mr. Pierson, and the job is there for you should you want it again. But . . .”
I was happy, and enthusiastic I could work at the hotel again, but didn’t like the sound of that ‘but’. “But what?”
“But maybe you don’t need to. You told me all about why you were working there, about your situation. And I told my dad about it. I also told him about how smart you are, and how much character you have.”
“But I don’t—”
“Shush. You do. Anyway, I talked to him, and he agreed. You know where I live. Well, there’s a college in that town. A good one. And he’s on the board there. He can and will get you admittance and a scholarship for next year. You only have to say yes. Oh, and the scholarship is a limited one. It pays tuition and books. It doesn’t pay living costs. But, there’s a spare room at our house, and my parents love the idea of having an older chaperone for me living there when they’re traveling. How ’bout it?”
What, you think I’m dumb? I said yes, of course. Of course. Sheesh!
I’m awfully young-looking for my age. For cripes sake, I’m a senior! But I look like I’m fourteen. I’m skinny and wimpy-looking, and no one takes a second glance at me, and if they did, what they’d see would be a mousy little kid with a deeper voice than the kid I look like should have.
I don’t feel like that inside, but that’s what people see and how they treat me. My name doesn’t help. It’s Adrian, for cripes sake. Who names their kid Adrian, anyway? It’s just another straw on the camel’s back. I’ve learned to accept them all. I mean, what can I do? Small as I am, I’m not built to stand up to people, and if you act wimpy enough, you don’t really have to. Our school has a strictly enforced no-bullying rule, so I’m okay there at least. People at school have learned to accept me as they see me, a wimp of no consequence, and they leave me alone.
Everyone does, so I’m alone a lot. And it’s alone where I can live more like I want to: in my imagination. You’ve heard of imaginary friends, haven’t you? Well, if you don’t have the real kind, imaginary ones work fine. Even when you’re 18.
My parents are used to me staying in my room a lot, and they don’t bother me there. I’m sure they think I’m a wimp, too. But I’m not, really. At least not in my imagination.
I make up stories, the kind of stories kids do when they’re seven and nine and maybe even eleven. I still do, even though I’m older now. Well, not so much stories of being a superhero and able to fly or being the handsomest dude in town and beating up all the bad guys and having all the townspeople thinking I’m a hero and admiring me and all that.
No, my imagination is always about cute boys. Sometimes they’re small, as small as I am. In those tales, I’m usually bigger than I am, and I protect them; I’m brave in those stories. But sometimes I can be small, the imaginary boy large and strong, and I’m scared and he protects and takes care of me. Those are fun, too.
Of course, protecting isn’t the only thing we do together. For many of those stories, I’m naked. I have a full-length mirror on the back of the door of my closet, and while I’m imagining, I like to pose in front of it. I can get really hard, and I like to watch that happening. That’s exciting. I’ve got a really good dick, much better than you’d expect looking at the rest of me. No one knows. I always shower after class gym wearing boxers I keep in my gym locker just for that reason. If people saw how well-endowed I was and how it looks against my wimpy body, I’d get teased, and everyone at school would know and look at me funny, thinking about my body and what’s hanging from it, maybe make up a horrible nickname for me, and I don’t want any part of that. I don’t like being noticed. I’ve got used to being a nobody, and I don’t want people paying attention to me.
But in front of my mirror, I can watch myself get hard and stand up past the horizontal. Then I think of that multitude of imagined boys I’ve created that either protect me or whom I protect and all the things we do together when we’re naked. Things like taking chances being caught doing stuff in semi-public places. Performing together in porn videos. Skinny dipping alone at night and then other teens coming by and catching me. Being caught outside naked by another of my imaginary boys who then grins and wants to join in with me. Finding a boy I’m crushing on being stripped naked by a gang, the biggest of them telling him what’s going to happen to him, all of them taking turns, but I rescue him by single-handedly defeating the leader while all the other run off, and then my crush insists on showing his gratitude by doing the things with me that they were going to do to him. Like that. I have a good imagination, and I have to keep my window open to air the place out so the lingering evidence of my activities isn’t so noticeable.
I watch myself in the mirror a lot. It’s almost like having an imaginary friend in there. He’s kind of cute—or maybe even without the ‘kind of.’ I guess that while I’m certainly wimpy, I’m reasonably good-looking for a 14-year-old who’s actually 18.
You can tell I have a love/hate relationship with myself. I wonder if all wimpy boys do.
I don’t need to go on the internet in my room to enhance my imagination. I like to think up this stuff for myself.
I wonder what it would be like to really be able to do these things, to play out my fantasies. No one knows I’m gay, and I’ve never had any experiences, certainly nothing like what I dream up. I sort of think maybe real-life activities wouldn’t be as exciting and satisfying as what I imagine. How could they be? Everything is perfect in my head. Real life is never like that. Never.
Anyway, it’s silly to compare my fantasies to real life. I’ll never be brave enough to actually find a partner. I’ll be one of those old bachelors everyone wonders about if they think about him at all. And they probably won’t. I won’t be going to college and getting one of those good jobs people talk about, so why would anyone want me for a partner? Smart kids are the ones who have great lives. I was blessed with a less-than-great body and the appropriate mind to go along with it. I do my homework and try hard in my classes, but a lot of the work is too much for me. Even working as hard as I can on homework, I still only pull C’s on my report card. I knew I was no brain back in elementary school, and nothing since then has made me change my mind about that. I still don’t follow along that well in some of the class discussions we have.
I’ll be finding a job when I graduate. I’ll at least graduate. But that’ll be it for me and school.
I’m going to look into that intern program Dr. Fellows set up. I’ve overheard other seniors who aren’t planning on continuing their education talking about it, and the guys that are already in it say good things about it, usually. Sometimes I hear about really awful bosses. There was this one guy at school, a senior named Marcus, who was telling everyone about his boss. The guy would criticize him in front of his co-workers and was watching him all the time. Marcus said other interns who’d had that job before him had quit because of that guy. I hope I don’t get someone like that. I probably won’t. Most of the guys are enthusiastic about the job-training they’re doing.
Most companies that had signed up for the intern program had just one opening. The exception was Welman’s Super Foods. It’s one of that newer sorts of supermarket that has all of the grocery products plus a delicatessen and bakery and wine boutique and cheese bar and includes everything you can think of. They have lots of employees keeping the shelves stocked and produce looking fresh, bag boys and butchers’ helpers and . . . well, you get the idea. They can use several interns and usually have openings. What I’ve heard is that their employees are treated well, and most of them say they like working there. But they do have frequent turnover in their entry-level jobs, which means there is almost always something available for interns from our school.
I liked the idea of working there. The store in our town had a good reputation. Yeah, trainees—or in our case, interns who were still in school during much of the day—started at minimum wage, but the employees who’d been and learned skills and had experience made decent money. Those older employees had been trained to be friendly and solicitous with the store’s customers, and that training seemed to have led to friendliness among themselves as well; I’d seen how they interacted when I’d shopped there. It looked like a happy place to work. So, when I talked to my school counselor about interning and he recommended Welman’s and said they currently had two openings, I was pleased. Working there seemed like a good idea.
To get in as an intern, I’d need to interview with them. That was a first for me, a job interview. I was nervous going in, not knowing what to expect.
My counselor had made an appointment for me with a Mr. Hagsworth for 3:30 in the afternoon. I had time to get home from school, shower and change into good clothes: a sport coat, dress shirt and tie, chinos and leather shoes. My counselor had recommended dressing up, saying it showed initiative. I almost never wore those clothes and, in fact, found everything just a little tight, especially the shirt collar. But I buttoned it and had my mom help me with the tie. I guess at my age I should have known how to do that all by myself, but my excuse was that I never wore one. If I did, I’d have known how to tie it.
Some 18-year-olds are very self-confident. I wasn’t. Never had been. Now, feeling very uncomfortable in the clothes and nervous about what to say in the interview, I had Mom drive me to the store. I showed up right on time. I thought that might show responsibility. Employers like that, don’t they?
I’d asked Dad about the interview, and he only had one thing to recommend. He told me to be honest. He said answering questions with what I thought they wanted to hear was not the way to go. He said I should tell the truth even if I thought it might put me in a bad light, because lying meant having to remember each lie I told and then trying to live up to it. If telling them the truth about myself meant not getting the job, then the job wouldn’t be right for me anyway. He advised me to be myself, tell the truth, and show some integrity.
It had sounded like good advice to me. Sounded like if I went into the interview with that in mind, I had some character, some dignity, and I could be on equal terms with the interviewer.
I had one of the employees in the store tell me where Mr. Hagsworth’s office was, and, arriving there, I saw he had a nameplate on the door reading John Hagsworth, Personnel. I knocked and a voice called, “Come in.”
I walked into his office. It wasn’t much. Not that I knew much about administrative offices; I didn’t. But his was small and old-looking and mostly just a desk with a couple of uncomfortable chairs in front of it and two filing cabinets. He had a computer on his desk. That was about it.
He stood when I came in and offered me his hand to shake. From the look of him, I was overdressed. He was wearing slacks and a maroon polo shirt with ‘Welman’s’ embroidered in gold thread on the breast. He was smiling at me. He was quite thin, and I guessed him to be in his thirties. “I’m John Hagsworth,” he said. His voice was very low and resonant for such a thin man.
“Adrian Curlow,” I replied and couldn’t help smiling as well.
When we’d shaken hands and were seated, he said, “Tell me about yourself, Adrian.”
Ouch! Tell him about me? I guess I should have thought about questions like that, but I hadn’t. This was awkward! I hated awkward. Talking about myself brought attention to me, and I didn’t want that, ever.
I didn’t know what to say and started to sweat. Then I remembered my dad. ‘Be honest, be who you are, and maintain your dignity.’ Well, okay, I could do that.
So I did. I told him about myself, perhaps concentrating on the things that were wrong with me more than the good things, but that’s who I was. I had more negative qualities than positive ones. I was simply being me, being honest, and letting the chips fall where they may.
He didn’t interrupt me, and I spoke longer than I should have. I don’t know why, but then I thought about being gay and hiding from it all my life, never having told a soul, without really thinking about it, and I told Mr. Hagsworth I was gay, but I wasn’t out and it wouldn’t be any problem if he hired me. When I realized what I’d said, I was shocked, then embarrassed, but it had one good effect: I finally stopped talking.
There was a pause when neither of us said anything. Then he smiled again.
“Most people I interview aren’t quite as frank as you are, Adrian. It’s refreshing to hear honesty rather than contrivance, openness rather than reserve. Thank you for that. Now, how do you think you could be an asset at Welman’s?”
Surprising myself, I didn’t feel nervous answering that. I guess telling the truth and not turning him off by doing so had done that for me. “Whatever job I find, I’m going to work hard at it. I know I have to find a job I like, and one that can pay me a decent wage because I won’t be going to college. All I’ll have going for me in the future is the performance record I create for myself. So I’ll try hard. I think I can learn a lot working here, things I didn’t learn in school because those were all academic subjects, and this will be real-world stuff. I think I’ll do better in this setting than I was able to do in school.”
He was nodding as I spoke. Then, when I was done, he said, “You’ve got a great attitude, Adrian, and I like your confidence and how you present yourself. If you go about learning your job here the same way you’ve handled yourself in this interview, I’m going to be happy I hired you. Which I’m doing now, if you’ll accept.”
And that was that. He talked about hours and how their training program worked in conjunction with the school’s intern program and the pay they offered and how eventually I’d have to join the union but not till I was full-time. I really liked him and was on cloud nine when I walked out. I had a job. And he promised me that no pre-calc would be needed, nor would I need to know the dates of the Battle of Ticonderoga or the capital of Albania. He actually said that, and we both laughed.
I had a job!
Six weeks later, I was a much happier guy than I’d been before that. I was loving working at Welman’s. I was still in school, but even there I was happier than I ever had been before. I was finishing up the final few weeks of high school, and now I had some idea what I’d be doing when I left it. Before, it was firmly in my head that I was pretty much a failure. Academics were mostly a puzzle for me. I tended to judge myself against all the other kids. Most of them seemed to find what befuddled me to be easily understood; that was a big reason I was so down on myself.
But it was so different at the store! There, people were teaching me how each department in the store worked, and I had no problem learning it all! That told me something, something I needed to know: I WASN’T STUPID! I just had a problem with academic subjects or the way they were taught. The problems I was faced with on the job, I found I had no problem solving those on my own. All I needed was my innate common sense.
I only had a few more weeks in school and then I’d be out of there for good. As a result, I went in each day with an improved attitude. I tried my best. I wanted to graduate with my C average intact. I wasn’t the worst student there, not even the worst one who’d be graduating. And now that I saw my future ahead of me, I felt much better not only about myself but about school, too. I was a happier person.
I even went to some of the school events that remained. I hadn’t had much school spirit before. When you’re down on yourself as a student, joining clubs and going to athletic events doesn’t appeal, at least not to me. Okay, I’ll be honest. I was a little embarrassed because I just wasn’t much good at most anything at school and figured other kids would be looking down their noses at me, so I avoided being where they could do that to the extent I could. I hated being embarrassed.
I was surprised that when I started showing up at some of our games, no one seemed surprised to see me, nor did they make any negative comments. Our basketball team had had a great year and was still competing in our sectional tournament even with the school year winding down. The whole school was excited, and as I was feeling better about myself now, I was able to get enthusiastic about the team, too. I’d rarely gone to any games before, but now I did.
I enjoyed the games, and what made it even better was watching one of the players. Casey Forester was our star. He was an all-sports sort of athlete: he was a wide receiver and safety on the football team that played in the fall, and a star forward on the basketball team that played in the winter and now into the spring.
I couldn’t help myself; I’d had a crush on him for years. I’d watched him as he’d matured physically. He was definitely a man now and had a man’s physique. He was quite physical on the hardwood, and while he was only 6’ 3”, he was the team’s leading rebounder. Scorer, too. He was like a man playing against boys. He was graceful, quick, intelligent and immensely handsome. No wonder I had a crush on him.
He was that good-looking. Black, curly hair, strong arms and shoulders, narrow waist, sturdy legs, and a face that could have made him a movie star if he’d wanted that. I didn’t know what he wanted; I’d never spoken to him. He had all sorts of hangers-on, and a weeny senior who looked four years younger than he actually was and had never had much self-confidence throughout his school years, had never really got even a glance from him. He was also reportedly the school’s stud. It was common knowledge that he’d had every cheerleader at our school and even some from competing schools. I didn’t doubt it was true. What girl wouldn’t want to have that notch on their bedpost? Even some adventuresome boys would have liked that notch!
Anyway, why do I bring this up here? Because, two weeks later when school was out and the basketball team had lost in the state finals, which had been a week before we’d all graduated, who should take an intern job at Welman’s but Casey Forester.
What happened was: Casey was in Mr. Hagsworth’s office when I was called in. I entered, and Mr. Hagsworth introduced us. “Adrian, I’d like you to show Casey around, show him the ropes. He’ll work with you, and you can train him.”
He turned to Casey and said, “Casey, Adrian is relatively new here, but has been a revelation to us. He’s learned all the departments in record time and is the perfect man to show you what we do here and how we do it. You can learn a lot just being around him and watching. For the first few weeks you’re here, you’ll be working under him. Good luck!”
We left Mr. Hagsworth’s office together. Casey Forester had been a god at our school, and I’d had a longstanding crush on him. From a distance, of course, a long distance, but still. He was a god; I was a mouse. How was this going to work?
I was feeling really uneasy about this. I was supposed to tell Casey Forester what to do? I was now his boss? No way, José!
I didn’t even know what to say to him, much less how to say it. I guessed first things should come first, so I asked him to follow me and went to the employee locker room. There were both assigned and empty lockers. I told him to take his pick of the empty ones, which were all the ones without a lock hanging on the latch, and to bring his own lock. “Today, you won’t need a locker. You can just stay in the clothes you’re wearing and follow me around. I’ll explain what you’ll be doing in each department. I’ll introduce you to the person in charge of each one. The people here are both very friendly and helpful. Do you have any questions? I’ll try to answer them if I can.”
He was looking at me perplexedly. He had been ever since Mr. Hagsworth had introduced us. I sat down on one of the benches, thinking that might make for a more relaxed conversation. I’d never spoken to him before; no reason I would have, considering our substantially different status in school. Besides, sitting down, my nervousness might not be as apparent.
He sat down, too, still looking at me, and finally said, “Do I know you? You look so familiar, like I’ve seen you not just before once or twice, but often. Yet I can’t place you at all. Maybe you’re in middle school, and I saw you there? I went to some of their games.”
I smiled at him nervously. “No reason you should know me. We’ve gone to school together since second grade, but you were you and I was me. You’ve always been surrounded by admirers. No reason at all to take any notice of me. But I graduated with you last week.”
“You were a senior? At my, uh, our school?”
I nodded. “I know; hard to believe.”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry. How could that be? I thought I knew everyone there. And you were a senior!”
“And a freshman, and, well, you know, going back to second grade. But hey, it isn’t surprising. You were into sports and girls and had a ton of friends. Why would you notice someone who wasn’t into any of that?”
“You weren’t, uh, aren’t, into girls?”
I think I blushed. “I didn’t mean it that way. I meant, well . . . you didn’t notice me in the background, and neither did they, and girls, well, I’m not assertive enough to try to talk to one under those circumstances. I so admired guys like you with all the self-assurance you have. I think I was in the john the day they passed that out.”
“Well, again, I apologize. Yeah, I was busy, but I’m ashamed I never even talked to you in all that time.”
“Thanks, but I totally understand. What I’m having a hard time figuring out is how I’m supposed to be your boss. That’s just wrong.”
“No, it isn’t. Hey, I’m brand new and don’t have any idea what I’m doing here. You do. That man said you were aces, and I believe it. So you should be my boss, and I’ll be happy to do whatever you tell me to.”
I was having a hard time believing this. I was talking to the Casey Forester, and he was talking to me, and we were talking like equals. Never in a hundred years!
I had to say something, even if it was me being a nerd. “You know, you’re not anything like I imagined you would be. You’re not a bit stuck-up, not even cocky. Most of the jocks at school were both. You were better at everything than any of them, and what I find most surprising is, you’re nice.”
I thought that would make him laugh, but it didn’t. “Well, I don’t know about that, but thanks,” he said. “I hope you still feel that way when you’ve gotten to know me.”
And I did. He followed me around like a puppy dog for the next few weeks. I was still learning the job myself but also knew quite a bit more about it than he did. I got to like him more and more as I got to know him. I only knew him at the store, however. We were there five days a week, both on the same shift because I was training him. We talked mostly about store stuff at first. It was what we had in common.
That changed, though. We took our breaks together, and while I’d always been quite reserved—some people might have called it repressed—he was quite gregarious, and as he spoke so freely about most everything, I found myself opening up.
He was interested in me for some ungodly reason and got me to say more about myself than anyone else ever had. He was insistent to know what I did in my spare time, what interested me, what made me happy. I eventually told him I liked to write. That I’d always had a great imagination, and, as I was alone most of the time, that I had plenty of time to create stories.
Of course, that meant he asked to read some, and I had to stop that really fast. I did write stories, but since puberty had hit me like a train wreck in all ways but physical growth, most of my stories in the past four years were full of sexual encounters of one sort or another. I wrote them on my computer and kept them in encrypted files on memory sticks I had well hidden in my room. No one had ever read my stories. No one.
When he was able to inveigle me into telling him what they were about, and I couldn’t deny him any longer without damaging our growing friendship, I caved but just made stuff up. I made up some innocuous stuff. But he never read anything of mine. And he never did let up on asking me to allow him to.
The highlight of my days, other than working with him and getting to know him out in the store, was quitting time. Working in the store, even with its air conditioning set to 68° to keep perishable goods from perishing, we still managed to work up a sweat when restocking shelves and mopping floors and bagging customers’ purchases and hauling what we bagged out to cars in the heat of the day. As the time to punch out neared, I started to get nervous. Nervous and excited. Excited because I knew I’d soon be seeing Casey naked again. Nervous because he’d be seeing me, too.
We always showered after working our shift. We didn’t want to change while still grungy from our work uniforms into our regular clothing. Showering with Casey at first had presented me with a certain degree of anxiety. He’d see me nude, and I still felt I was somewhat freakish with a larger penis than a person of my size should have. I’d also worried that my larger than normal feature would get even larger in close proximity to his nakedness.
The first time we’d showered, I was really reluctant to do so. At school, I’d always worn boxers in the showers following gym class. Here, at the store, I hadn’t thought about it till suddenly, there he was stripping off in the locker room, and there I was only a few feet away from him. No one who showered at the store wore anything at all to do so. Obviously, Casey was going to do the same. He’d showered all his life with teammates. Naked. But for me, this would be a first. The first time anyone would see that I was abnormal.
Casey was undressed before I was, and after that, he stood there waiting for me. Looking at me. As I was looking at him. He was gorgeous. Built. Muscled. With an appropriately sized dick growing out from a trimmed bush. I could stare at him all day, but I wouldn’t let myself take more than a glance. That’s when I suddenly started worrying about getting hard.
I gulped and reached the point of no return. I dropped my tighty-whities while standing facing my locker in profile to him. I couldn’t see him right then, couldn’t see the direction of his eyes. I didn’t really think he’d more than glance at me if he even did that. He’d undressed and showered with other boys so often it couldn’t be of much interest to him.
So I turned to face him. He was looking at me. At the part I was hoping he wouldn’t notice. He noticed. I was hoping he wouldn’t say anything. He didn’t. He just smiled at me, nodded, and we went into the showers.
He never said a word about my inappropriate size. But every day since that first one, as the time approached for our shower, I’d feel nervous. And excited. All my days with him were good, but undressing with him, feeling the intimacy of doing that, that’s why it was the best part of each day.
One day when we were in the locker room undressing, I found out a secret of his. I’d told him that since I’d come clean with him, he should, too, and I didn’t mean in the shower.
He still undressed with no modesty at all while we were talking. “You want to know a secret of mine? Well, fair’s fair, I guess, though why you think writing stories is a big secret, I don’t know. Anyway, okay, one of my secrets. I don’t have many. What you see is pretty much what you get from me, all out in the open and straightforward. But I guess I do have one. Or did, in high school. I had a rep as a big stud. Did you know that?”
“Yeah. Everyone did. All the boys were jealous.”
He smiled. “Yeah, and it was all made up. Oh, I did sleep with a couple of girls who made it really hard not to—one in 8th grade and one as a freshman. But the rest? No, I told them I was saving myself for sports while in high school and that I’d get serious after that, and the way I’d been brought up, sex wasn’t a casual thing. I told them if they wanted to brag to their friends to elevate their status, I’d back them up that we’d been together, but that if they wanted to date me, I wasn’t available for sex. I did date a lot of them, briefly, but a lot of the ones I did date wanted to wait, too, so it worked out pretty well.”
“Why?” I asked. “The girls were willing, and you said no? Why?”
He was standing in front of me, naked now and ready for his shower. I had a hard time keeping my eyes focused on his. I mean, he was right there! And as gorgeous as his body was, when he was naked, he looked even better. I always had to pray I wouldn’t chub up when he was naked with me. I couldn’t let him see that.
“Why? Well, there’s more than one reason, but what I said about sex being something I didn’t want to be casual, frivolous with, I meant that. It should mean something.”
The annual store inventory was coming up. From the old-timers, I learned all about it. Everything in the store had to be counted. Something about taxes and the accounting or finance department. I never did learn exactly what. But they were going to have all employees in on a Thursday when the store would be shut down all day. It was a complicated, arduous procedure. We were broken into two-man teams and each team had to count an assigned area. We’d count all of one specific item—say Heinz ketchup in 8-ounce plastic bottles, then write the number on a perforated tag that had a number on it, tear off the numbered tag and leave it with the item we’d just counted, then move to the next item, which might be the same product but in a different size or container, or a completely different item, and we would count all of them in the same way. Eventually, a second team would come along and count the same thing and put their count on their tag and leave the same torn off tag that had the same identifying number on it that our tag had. Then the accountants would match the two cards that showed the counts for that item. If the counts were different, that item would have to be counted again.
There were hundreds of items, and some were difficult to count. Like Brussels sprouts, for example. Most of the produce was difficult because the items weren’t separated into one item per container. Most weren’t even in containers. And there might be 150 key limes in a bin. We didn’t actually count them. We put them in a plastic bag and weighed them. But it still meant gathering them all into the bag and then emptying them out again after they‘d been weighed. Do that with limes and lemons, apples and bananas, broccoli and grapes, squashes and artichokes and watermelons and, well, you knew you’d been working when you were done. And, you were awfully tired of counting things.
Casey was my partner, and we learned really fast that this wasn’t a bit of fun. We had the produce and wine sections to count. The store had a huge wine selection, four long, double-sided rows of the bottles. The shelves were deep, eight lined-up bottles deep, and we had to pull them all out, be sure only the exact same label we were counting was in that row, and then put them all back and mark the number and the item on the card, tear off the tab and leave it. Time after time after time.
We started at eight in the morning and were still at it twelve hours later. It was evening and we weren’t done. Some of the teams were; a lot weren’t. We had to stay and finish as the store was due to open at 6 AM the next day.
“Let’s take a break,” I said. I was sweating up a storm, even though the store was quite cool. Maybe it did help keep the perishable food fresher longer.
“Five minutes,” Casey said. “I want to get finished.”
“Hot date?” I asked with humor in my voice. We tended never to get very personal with each other.
“No, I’m just exhausted. What I’m craving isn’t a woman. It’s a very cold beer.”
I didn’t respond, and he looked at me. We hadn’t gone back to the break room. We were just sitting on the floor in the middle of the wine section. Probably another hour’s work lay ahead of us.
“You drink beer, don’t you?” he eventually asked.
“I tried one once,” I said, knowing I sounded like me: a wimp. “Hated it. I don’t understand how so many guys love the stuff. But anyway, I’m too young. So are you!”
“I guess it’s an acquired taste,” he said, ignoring my drinking-age comment. “But you must be as whipped as I am and in vital need of liquid refreshment. Look, when we’re done, come with me. I’ll get you something you’ll like, and we can forget what we’ve been doing all day.”
“Okay, but I don’t really drink.”
“Is that a commitment, like a vow or a religious thing, or is it you just don’t like the taste?”
“The last one,” I said.
He stood up. “Let’s get this done. Now I have a purpose. I’m going to open your horizons. Tonight!”
So we finished. It did take an hour. A little over, actually. Then we punched out. At least we’d get some good overtime pay out of all the hard work we’d put in.
We showered. I didn’t worry about throwing a boner any longer. Showering naked with someone does become routine, even if you’re a hormonal teenager and have feelings for the other guy. That shower did feel good.
Back in the dressing room, I dried as quickly as I could without looking like I was rushing it. I took sneak peeks at him while doing so. He was standing facing me as he toweled himself. As I said, no modesty. And he was looking at me, then away, then back again. Somehow, the air in the locker room felt electric right then. He didn’t say anything, and neither did I.
Casey had a car, and I got in it for the first time. I rode my bike to the store every day, he drove, and we’d never been together anyplace but at work. He left for the day in his car, me on my bike, and that was how it had always worked. It felt very different, getting in the car with him. Like an entirely new chapter was beginning.
I asked where we were going. I didn’t really want to go to a bar full of his high school friends drinking illegally. He glanced over at me, and I guess he saw my concern. He smiled and said I had nothing to worry about, that this bar was very private. A private bar? I didn’t get it, but then I knew squat about bars, although a private bar made sense if it was serving minors.
“Do you drink a lot?” I asked. He replied that he often had a beer after work but didn’t drink much and never more than two. “I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. Some of my teammates get blotto when they have the chance. I’ve seen what that looks like and don’t want to be like that.”
I’d never been in a bar before, private or not. My parents didn’t drink, and while they’d never preached against it to me, I was the sort of son who tended to take cues from his parents. This was going to be an entirely new experience for me. I was nervous. I was with the guy I’d been crushing on for years. And now what? Was he planning on getting me drunk. To take advantage of me? No, that wasn’t Casey, and it was more likely that I’d take advantage of him than him of me. Which would have been an all-time joke as he was almost twice my weight and almost a foot taller, and I was a mouse. But still, I was being driven into the unknown, and while I was no longer the scared little boy I’d been in school, remnants of him still existed.
When we arrived, I found out why he’d called it a private bar. We were at his house, and he said we were going down into the basement. His dad liked to entertain, he explained, and the basement had been finished to look like a tavern. The house was dark; Casey said his parents were out of town, attending his parents’ twentieth college reunion. He led me down to the basement, turned on the lights, and there it was.
The bar itself was on the short end of the large room that took up most of the basement. There was a large mirror covering the wall behind the bar with rows and rows of liquor bottles on shelves in front of it. Concealed lighting played on them and made their colors glow. There were three long handles sticking up near one end of the mirror, each bearing a popular beer name; I assumed that meant that even draught beer was available here.
The rest of the room had scattered tables and chairs, and there were even booths along one wall with padded vinyl bench seats. The lights were on a dimmer switch, and Casey turned them down to a soft, dim level, then turned on some upbeat background music but kept the volume low.
He invited me to sit in a booth while he did the honors. He brought a frosty mug of beer to the table along with a tall glass filled with ice and a light-colored amber liquid. There was a maraschino cherry in the bottom. He set the drink down, then he slid into the booth.
“Drink up, Ade,” he said, then laughed. He could see the naive bewilderment on my face.
I was still getting used to this Ade business. He’d called me Addy once a few weeks ago, and after seeing the expression on my face, had asked if that was okay. No, it wasn’t. We’d settled on Ade. He’d called me that ever since, but as the need to use names when we were working together with someone was rare, I was still taken aback to hear him use it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the glass he set in front of me. Casey took a good-sized gulp of his beer and said, “Aaahhh!” Then he looked at me and raised his eyebrows.
So I tried it. It was great! Tasted a little like a Sprite but the sweetness and sourness were both more intense. There was a pleasant aftertaste, too, a taste I couldn’t describe but that complemented the drink.
“What is this?” I asked him.
“A Brandy Collins. Thought you’d like it!”
“It’s good,” I said enthusiastically.
He laughed and took another pull of beer. “I don’t drink much, as I said. I don’t like to lose control of myself. But you? Surprised this is the first time. Most boys are at least curious about beer and other drinks.”
“I’m your typical nerd, I guess,” I answered. “Never done much of anything, and that includes drinking.”
He frowned, then actually looked angry. “I don’t like it when you say stuff like that about yourself. You’re always putting yourself down. Way too often. You have no reason to feel like that.”
I took another sip, then another, and was surprised to see the glass was half-empty. I also felt a warmth in my stomach I wasn’t expecting. I looked up at him. “Sure there is. I compare myself to guys like you and, well, you know.”
“Okay, but look, I got good athletic genes from my parents, but so what? I’m done with that now. High school’s over. No more sports. At least organized ones that are for a school.”
“What do you mean? You‘re going to college, aren’t you? You must have twenty, thirty scholarship offers.”
“Nope. I got a couple from division two schools, but that’s it. Ade, there are much better athletes than me out there. The really good ones get free rides at D-1 schools. Guys like me who played at small schools in relatively noncompetitive leagues or conferences get overlooked unless they’re really topnotch, which I’m not. But that’s fine. I know my limitations. I’m good against mediocre competition; I don’t belong with those really good athletes.”
“I’m being realistic here. I don’t have any offers for scholarships that would pay my way, and I can’t afford school without one. My father has a good job but doesn’t make enough to pay what tuition costs these days. I’m going to take classes at our community college in the fall and hopefully work at the store nights while I’m doing that. I might try out for a team there, but I think work and studies won’t leave me much time for that. But, you know, I won’t miss it. I’ve been doing that for too many years already. I’m happy to be done with it.”
“Wow. I don’t know what to say, Casey. I thought you loved it. The sport itself, the popularity . . . hell, you were the biggest star in our school. Hard to think of you and not think of you competing. Surrounded by friends. Being bigger than life, the king of the school.”
“Life moves on, Ade. I’m just me now, no more high school hero. It’s an adjustment, but I’m not missing any of that.”
“What about all the girls who were always hanging all over you? You have to miss that. And you said you were waiting till you were out of school. Well, you’re out.”
Casey drained his beer, then looked at my glass. I took another full swallow of my drink, and when I set the glass down saw it was empty. How did that happen? I realized I could still feel the warmth I’d begun noticing as I was sipping my way to the bottom of the glass. I could feel it was working its way to my head, too. Felt good.
“No, I don’t miss that. I kind of put up with it, like I’ve already told you. I’m just not the Don Juan type. And, well . . . no. Better not go into that.”
I was already thinking of something else when I realized he’d just said something that I should question him about, but my brain was as loose as the rest of me at that point and was focusing more on me than him. As he got up to get us both refills, I had time to reflect on that. When he got back to the table and I’d taken a first sip, I said “Maybe not a Don Juan—although that’s not what I heard—but at the very least, you got to see what it was like with someone else.”
Even as I was saying that, I realized maybe I’d said too much. I shouldn’t have admitted what I just had. I also noticed I’d already drunk about a quarter of my new drink. Slow down!
“Well, that was your own doing, Ade. You’re cute as hell. You know that? You project this ‘save me’ vibe girls just love. You could have had almost any of them you wanted. But you didn’t go after them. They were there. I can attest to that. If you’d wanted a girl badly enough, you could have made a move. But you have this horrible inferiority complex, and you let that rule you.”
He took another slug of beer. Not much left in his glass, and he never drank more than two. Damn. I was so comfortable sitting here with him, talking with him. The slight trepidation I’d felt on coming into his house was gone. Now, I didn’t want the evening over so soon. It felt like there was more to say, like some limits or restrictions had been lifted. Like there were possibilities in the air. Like we were talking about things that mattered and should keep doing that.
He finished his beer in silence and set his mug back on the table, watching me as he did, and I finished my drink, too, just to be polite and keep him company, and I regretfully figured this was it, our drinks were done and with them our night together. I think he saw that in my face, and perhaps he could read what I was feeling. Or maybe he was feeling the same thing I was, because he said, “My glass is empty, and so is yours, and I can walk you home when we’re done. What I’m saying is, let’s have another drink. If that’s okay, I want to talk more. More about you. About why your stories are so secret. About your feelings of inferiority.”
He gestured at the bar, then looked to me for acceptance. I nodded.
While he was getting the drinks, I had time to think about what he wanted to talk about. If he really wanted to talk about those things, and if I was going to do it, I probably did need another drink. I wasn’t drunk, but I wasn’t as sober as when I’d walked in, either. That made talking a lot easier.
While this thought was moving slowly through my head, he came back to the table and sat down. “I have a theory, Ade. About you. You never talk about yourself, anything personal, ever. Yet you’re smart, even though you say you’re not; you’ve learned the store much faster than I can, and I’m not exactly dumb. You write stories but don’t let people read them. Why? You never dated in school but just said you were envious of me because I did, so that means you wanted to. But you didn’t. Why? You have a massive inferiority complex but are as capable as anyone, more so than many. I see all this and wonder. Why? There’s some explanation that makes all this make sense. I’ve thought about it, and I think I may know the answer.”
“You do? What do you know?”
I’d taken several sips during Casey’s monologue. Enough that I was really curious about what he’d figured out about me without being afraid of it. Odd. That was very odd. I was usually afraid of most everything.
I looked up at him, waiting for his answer. Instead of giving it to me, he asked me something. “Tell me about your stories. Not the bullshit you usually feed me. What are they really about?”
I took another sip of artificial courage and looked into his eyes and just spoke without thinking about consequences. I felt I had to. It felt good to begin to unburden myself. Just a little, I thought. No more than that.
“When I was younger, I made up stories and told them to my imaginary friend. I was lonely; that was how I filled my time. I never wrote the stories down then; I just made them up and that was that. I was much more, much stronger and more alive in my stories than I was in my actual life. I kept making them up all through middle school. Once I was in high school, some of them seemed like pretty good stories, like something maybe I didn’t want to just throw away and forget. So I began writing them down. That’s how I spend most of my spare time, writing. That’s what you do when you don’t have friends; you find something you like doing and spend time doing it.”
“What kind of stories?” he asked. His eyes were intense. He asked it like it was important, like the answer meant something.
I never considered not being truthful. “When I was young, I wrote stories like I was a brave hero—just what I wasn’t—and about how I’d save boys my age from all sorts of dangers. Sometimes they were about larger, braver, stronger boys, and they were saving me.
“When I was in high school, well, you know, puberty hit. I was a normal boy, I guess, because then adding sex to my stories just seemed a natural progression. I had crushes, stronger than the ones I’d had when I was younger, and they were a big part of what I wrote about. Crushes and fantasies, you know?”
“Are you still writing those?”
I might have blushed. My face was already so warm I didn’t feel it getting hotter, but I really didn’t know. “Some.”
He was quiet for a moment, then asked softly, not really looking to me, “And do you still save boys, and do they still save you?”
He slowly raised his eyes to mine. I suddenly wasn’t so comfortable. “Uh,” I said. I stopped, then said, “I should probably go.”
He grinned and his eyes softened. “I have a beer to finish. You have lots of time to answer that.”
I was glad I had my drink. I picked up the glass and drank some, thinking. Then I put the glass back on the table. “Are you asking me if I’m gay?”
He reached out and put his hand on mine on the tabletop. “If you are, I have no problem with that. It would make sense to me, though. It’s what I was leading up to earlier, when I said I thought I’d figured you out. Being gay would explain everything I mentioned about you.”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“Not at all.”
“Yeah, I’m gay. No one knows. Well, Mr. Hagsworth does. He’s the only one I’ve told. Not even my parents.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I get that. You’ve been afraid for about forever that someone would find out. It’s hard when you don’t know how someone will react. You’ve created a life for yourself where you didn’t need to tell anyone. At the same time, it’s been a lonely one.”
“I had my imaginary friends,” I said, sounding defensive even to myself.
“And when you started having all these crushes, did those boys become your imaginary friends? Did you write about what you’d like to do with them? Wishing those stories would come true?”
“You’re trying to embarrass me,” I said. I didn’t feel the anger or upset that was probably in my tone of voice. What I actually felt was a great calmness. I was lifting a weight off my chest, and it felt good doing so.
The alcohol might have helped.
He smiled at me. “Now the big question. You had crushes on all these guys. Did you have one on me?”
“Why would you ask me that?”
“Because I want to know. I want to know if you still feel that way.”
“Because I feel that way about you. But if you don’t still feel that way, now that you know me and I’m not imaginary, it’s good to know that early on. Then I can try to stop hoping.”
“You—you feel that way about me? Really?”
“You’re avoiding the question!”
“No, I’m reacting to what you said! You like me! I can’t believe it! You’re telling me you’re gay!”
“Well, believe it! Now answer the fucking question!”
“Okay, let’s do this,” he said, looking very eager. “Be my boss the way you fantasized it.”
“I didn’t dream of being your boss that way!”
“Damn it, it’s a fantasy. Go ahead. Do it.”
We were in his bedroom. It was late, really late, but I wasn’t tired at all, not even after the drinks we’d had. He’d asked more questions about the stories I’d written. I was loose enough by then from both the alcohol and his confession that I had no need to hide any details. Then, when we were both hot and not from the drinks, he’d convinced me that he was up for it: that we should act out a few of the fantasies.
I had some mixed feelings about what we were doing. Sure, I wanted to. Sure, the alcohol had reduced my inhibitions. But I’d never done anything, and I wasn’t a brave person, and, and, and—
It’s so easy to find excuses. So, I had mixed feelings, but I was here, I was in his bedroom, the door was closed even though no one else was in the house, and why would I be here if I wasn’t going to do this?
I decided to listen to my excitement rather than my fears for once. I was going to do this—and not with reluctance or reservations. Do it fully engaged. He deserved that, and hell, so did I!
I was more excited than ever, even more than when I was a little kid at Christmas. This was something I’d been dreaming of like forever. I’d made up stories. Now I was going to live some of them out.
“All right,” I said, then lowered my voice into a stern, uncompromising boss-mode—or what I expected that would sound like. He’d said he wanted me to be his boss like at the store, but a different, demanding kind of boss. A fantasy one.
I managed to make my face grim. “I just caught you out in the store. You were stealing a watch. I saw you put it into your pocket. There are grave consequences for that. Grave consequences. Come with me. We’ll go into my office and decide what needs to be done about this.”
We were in his bedroom. But we needed it to be my office, so I opened the door, walked out into the hall, waited till he joined me there, then walked back into the bedroom. When he came in, I shut the door behind him.
“Give me the watch,” I said. Sternly.
“I didn’t take a watch. I looked at it and put it back,” he said. His demeanor was of a small, scared young boy confronted by a no-nonsense, no-compassion boss. Perfect.
“All right, if you want to do it the hard way, we’ll do it the hard way. You could have hidden it any place. Take off your clothes, one piece at a time, and I’ll search each one.”
Looking very defeated, he obliged. First, his shirt, which I felt and then dropped on the floor, playing my part. Next, his shoes and socks, which got a quick glance from me, then his jeans. I checked the pockets cursorily, then dropped them, too. “Now the rest,” I demanded mercilessly.
“But I only have my underpants on. You can see there’s nothing but me in them.”
“I’ll have to do more than just look,” I said, and approached him. I felt all over his underpants, thoroughly all over, and felt him harden. I felt a bit longer, front and back, then said, “Yeah, there’s definitely something hard in there. Can’t tell if it’s the watch. Take ‘em off. I have to see.”
He gave me a worried, embarrassed look. I admired his acting ability. Then he stripped with his back to me, and when he was bare, he turned around. He was naked and hard in front of me.
I reached over and took hold of it, lifted it and peered under it. I turned him around and had him bend over so I could check there, too. When I’d looked and touched and rubbed and fondled, I said, “So where did you hide it? Somewhere in the store as we walked to my office?”
“No. I never had it.”
“Sure you did. I’ll have to take you back out into the store; we’ll walk the same path we took to my office. I’ll look at all the places it could have been hidden, or you can just tell me now where it is.”
“Let me get dressed first.”
“Absolutely not. You’re just wasting time. Come along now.”
“But people will see me!”
“That’s what happens when you steal. You end up getting embarrassed and punished. This is part of the punishment.”
“No,” he said, “I don’t want anyone seeing me naked. I hate being embarrassed and would just die being naked out there. No. You can’t.” He sounded very convincing. He was playing his part much better than I was. “You can do anything you want, but I’m not walking out there naked.”
“I can do anything?”
I acted like I was thinking, then said, still sternly, “Okay, then, you’re naked and hard, and it’s turning me on. I want you to undress me, get me hard, too. Then I’ll decide the rest.”
He didn’t say a word, just started removing my clothes. It didn’t take him long, either, undressing me or getting me hard. The last part wasn’t necessary.
He stood back then, looking at me, looking at my dick, looking at both, waiting eagerly.
I nodded. “Down on your knees. Right in front of me,” I said gruffly.
He did as told. I didn’t need to give the next order. He did it on his own. I thought he’d stop when it was apparent I was about to explode. He didn’t, and I did.
When I could talk again, I gasped out, “There. Hope you learned your lesson.” Then I couldn’t help it. I broke character and began laughing. He did, too. He was still hard, and I thought it only fair to take care of that. I’d never done anything with another boy, and doing what he’d just done seemed a rather advanced way to start, but he’d never done anything with a boy, either, and what was good for the goose and all that.
He didn’t complain, so I must have done it satisfactorily. Still, I was looking forward to lots more practice.
He kissed me, and I kissed him back, and we did that for a time, and then he said, “Let’s do another.”
“All right. Let’s see. Okay, I’ll talk you through this, and then we can act it out. There’s this really good soccer player in high school. The team has a kid, Abe, who’s the team manager who acts as their trainer, taping up ankles, massaging sore muscles, that sort of thing. The kid, Abe, is gay and has a huge crush on the star player; we’ll call him, uh, Tracy. Well, Tracy strains his groin during a practice, and Abe has to help him limp into the first-aid room. Abe asks Tracy to show him where it hurts, and Tracy says he’ll have to undress to show him. Abe says that’s fine, and Tracy strips. The strain is right up there, high in his crotch. Abe has to massage that area. He does, reaching into Tracy’s crotch. Abe rubs and massages, and the back of his hand keeps rubbing against Tracy’s dick and balls. Tracy gets hard and apologizes, and Abe says he doesn’t mind, that he’s hard, too; Tracy says show me, and Abe does, and, well, you can figure out how the story goes from there.”
Casey smiled at me and asked, “Can we make it a basketball player?”
“This is crap, Ade.”
I look over at him. “What’s got your nose out of joint this time? And besides, cut out that Ade crap. It’s Mr. Curlow to you.”
“Fuck Mr. Curlow. Maybe I should go back to calling you Addy. You liked that.”
“The hell I did. Besides, with my promotion, I think Mr. Curlow is a more suitable name for an underling to call me.”
“I’ll give you ‘underling’! Come over here a second; I want to whisper something in your ear.”
“Fat chance! You always were a bully. Just because you’re still bigger than I am doesn’t mean you can abuse me. Mr. Curlow. Yeah. I like the way that sounds.”
“Okay, okay, so now you’re a regional manager. Whoop-de-fucking-do! You don’t need to keep rubbing it in.”
“Hey, it is a big deal. Especially because I’m your boss again now. All local store managers report to me.” I manage to look very pleased with myself, even though smug isn’t an attitude I’ve had any practice with.
“Well, there could be worse things. I remember the last time you were my boss. I guess that worked out okay.”
“Okay? Okay? That worked out exceptionally. Now, to get back to what you said.”
“What was that?”
“You said it was crap. You read that history of the two of us that I just wrote—the one for our son when he hits puberty.”
“Oh, yeah, that. Yeah, I said it was crap. It was! You took credit for my work. If that isn’t crap, what is?”
“I did what? No way!”
“Way! That last story you wrote? The way it was written, as if it was you who created that last fantasy? The one about the soccer player. But that was my story! I made it up! You pretended you did. In my version, I was the trainer, you were the jock. You switched the Tracy and Ade characters! And you pretended you wrote it. You’re a thief, a plagiarizer. A low down, fucking cheat. Admit it!”
“Well, maybe. But it’s allowed. I used my poetic license, Casey, that’s all. You’ve heard of poetic license, haven’t you? I didn’t want to confuse our son. I’m the writer. You’re not. Makes sense that I wrote it. You don’t want to confuse him, do you? Anyway, the story worked better with the wimp being the trainer and the macho athlete being the star.”
“Would you stop calling yourself a wimp! Regional manager. Regional managers aren’t wimps. When are you going to accept yourself for what you are?”
“I don’t feel that way—all those negative vibes—as much as I did back in school, but I felt that way as a kid, and it’s hard to get entirely past that. I am better. Maybe I have to do something in life that shows some real bravery, some real character to completely rid myself of those thoughts.”
Casey stands up and walks over to me. He’s still 6’ 3”, but heavier now at 205 pounds. Strong, handsome as the devil—and mine. He sits down next to me and hits me lightly on the shoulder. “You’ve put up with me for 15 years now. If that isn’t brave, if that doesn’t show character and tenacity, then what does?”
I smile at him. “You do have a point there, Case. An excellent one.” Then I give him my evil, cunning smile, the one that usually ends up with us in bed. “But I’m not changing the story!”
I am walking the aisles looking at the merchandise, answering questions when they are asked, though that is often embarrassing as I don’t know all that many of the answers. I know more than I did a week ago, but there are hundreds of things on the shelves, and it would take me longer than I’ll probably be working here to know not only where things are in the store and what their good and bad qualities are but also how they compare with those made by different manufacturers.
Anyone who tells you a retail clerk has that job because he can’t do anything else, that he’s probably a high school dropout and still needs to be shown how to tie his shoes, doesn’t know beans.
Beans. Canned ones are in aisle G-12. See? I’ve learned some stuff already. G-aisles are the grocery section. Duh!
And I’m no dropout, either. I’m interning because I want a job next summer before going off to college, and by interning now when I’m in the second semester of my junior year, I’ll be guaranteed summer work as long as I get a favorable recommendation for doing what I am right now.
Even though it is now 2020 and there are regulations prohibiting discrimination for all sorts of things, there are still small businesses in town that won’t hire gays. I’m one of those. No, not a small business. Stay with me here! I’m in one of those discriminated-against groups. Okay, I’ll spell it out. I’m gay.
Gay high school kids here in Northern California, a conspicuously conservative region, often aren’t hired. Businesses aren’t able to ask about an applicant’s orientation, but I live in a small-enough town that people know people, and as I’m one of the high school kids who is out and proud, people with open jobs they are looking to fill can easily find out about their applicants if they’re curious enough.
I’d been smart. When I signed up for the intern program in school, I looked at the available jobs and saw one I knew wouldn’t hold my sexual affinity against me. There was a job open at our Target store. Target is a national chain with a history of backing gay rights. If any store would accept me, Target would.
And they did! I’ve been here a week, as I said, and rather than finding the work boring, it’s fun. I think having a great boss is part of that. She’s a black woman in her thirties named Mavis. She’s always smiling, has the most positive attitude of anyone I know, and wants her people to succeed. I’m one of her people! She’ll stop me and quiz me on where, say, the baby diapers are, and if I say aisle 13, she’ll break into a broad smile and give me a tiny Snickers bar. She keeps them in the pocket of the apron she wears.
That’s really nice, but the best part is, if I say anything wrong, like I place something in the wrong aisle, she frowns, shakes her head, mutters, “What’s to become of you, Tyler? My word. Tut tut tut. And you so smart and all. When you go off to medical school and get to be a gynecologist, I won’t be looking you up to tell me where I lost my, uh, um, how old are you anyway? No no no, you don’t know about things like that yet.” Then she laughs like a hyena in heat and walks away. The only bad thing is I don’t get a Snickers.
But I’m learning from her, learning about the store and where things are and how to help the customers. She says that’s number one in importance. She says there’re lots of stores selling the same shit we do—her word, not mine!—and the reason why people come to most any store over another is because they feel welcome and comfortable there. So, I have to do everything I can to make people who talk to me happy so they’ll want to come back. I’m supposed to recognize them, smile when I see them, and show I’m happy to see them again.
Makes sense to me. I think about the stores I like, and the ones I don’t are where the staff acts like I’m an annoyance and a bother and probably a shoplifter rather than someone who’s helping keep their doors open by shopping there.
She’s been drumming this into my head since the first day I arrived. Help the customer, do it with a smile on my face and an attitude that says the best part of my day was helping make their day a little brighter and easier, a little better.
The thing is, her approach works. People come up to me wanting to know something, and by the time I’ve helped them, half of them are smiling, and some even have noticed my nametag and say, “Thanks, Tyler.” I get those when I not only tell them where they can find something in the store but tell them I’ll show them, then take them right to where they wanted to be. If I see someone with their arms full, I ask if I can either carry some of the stuff for them or go get them a cart. Sometimes I’ll find a woman looking at a blouse and holding it up to herself while staring into a mirror, and I walk by, stop, and say, “Gee, ma’am, that’s really your color! It makes your eyes sparkle. Good choice!” I never do this with men; I like my nose just as it is—no bumps or crooks in it.
Some of the friendliness I get back from them comes from a little dishonesty on my part. Well, not dishonesty per se, more like something I haven’t earned. I get their friendliness partly because I have something going for me that I have through sheer luck and not because of anything I’ve done. It is a gift. See, I’m cute. There, I said it. I’ve seen it over and over: good looking people have an easier time charming someone than plain people do. I’m cute and young, and both make a big difference.
Anyway, back to the job. I walk through the store with no real duties at this point other than to learn everything there is to learn, and to make customers want to come back. Not sure when I’ll get some real assignments; I like this job a lot so far, however.
So, I’m doing my thing, wandering around, wearing my uni—a white, long-sleeved shirt without a tie or the neck button fastened, a red vest with my name plaque on it, and black cotton slacks. Black shoes and socks. No jeans. Mavis would have a cow if I showed up dressed like that. Actually, I do show up in my own casual-wear clothing but change in the employee’s locker room. I have a locker there where I hang my work clothes. There are locker rooms for both men and women. Showers, too, though I’ve never seen anyone use them.
I’m in the pharmacy section of the store memorizing where things are, when I spot a guy I know from school. Okay, I should be a bit more truthful here. I see a guy I recognize as a student who goes to my school.
I’m having a little trouble saying this right. Maybe because it’s embarrassing. Or not so much embarrassing as—no, it is embarrassing. Maybe I should just say it like it is and let the chips fall where they may.
I’m a junior at school, just turned 17. I’m out, but only to a few friends. Being out at my school is no big deal, even if the area we live in is conservative. This is 2020, and the country has mostly come to grips with the fact that some people are gay, and they haven’t decided to be; they just are. I don’t know how many people believe the Bible should be used to determine what’s relevant about the people and times we now live in; I’ve heard in school that the Bible was written more than 1,000 years ago and was then translated through many, many versions, picking up the biases of the times when the translations were made. People of my generation tend not to go along with those biases. People of my generation tend to view gay kids just as any other minority: different but the same and not to be feared or discriminated against.
I think I got a little off track there.
Anyway, as noted, I’m a junior and know all the other juniors because I’ve been in school with them for 11 years now. Kids come and go each year. This year, there are four new members in our class and we lost the same number. Families move in and out. We’ve all come to expect it.
One of the new kids is a boy named David. He’s very quiet. Maybe it’s because it has to be hard to be new in a close-knit group of kids who’ve all known each other so long. It’s hard to fit in unless you’re the super-outgoing type—the type who has lots of self-confidence and can make friends as easily as puppies do when brought into a kindergarten class.
Not only is he quiet, he’s the type of boy I find very attractive. He stands back from the crowd, observing rather than joining in. He has a mop of soft brown hair that isn’t messy like most of the other guys at school wear theirs; his is brushed and parted, and you want to run your fingers through it. Well, some of us do. Okay—I’d like to.
He looks intelligent to me. I like smart kids. They’re more interesting than the loud, dumb ones. David looks like he’d be fun to talk with. I don’t know if that’s true as I’ve never spoken to him. I don’t know him at all, but I do notice him. I do look at him.
When he gets called on in class, he can always answer whatever is asked of him. He speaks softly, but he meets the teacher’s eyes when doing so. I don’t get the idea he’s shy as much as I do he’s simply reserved.
I’ve seen him in gym class, and he stays out of the fray in basketball games, stays outside rather than getting in under the boards, bumping the other guys there, throwing an elbow when one is thrown at him. I saw him get challenged once when Brad, who’s an asshole, called him out for not passing him the ball. When Brad did that, David walked over to him and simply handed him the ball, turned around and walked off. He looked a little . . . well, the expression on his face didn’t show much, but the way he was walking sort of said, come after me, punk, and you’ll be walking funny tomorrow. I think maybe Brad saw that, too, because he just let the game start again without doing anything else.
The rules in high school are, you’re not supposed to back down from kids like Brad, and David didn’t. So, I know he’s not shy—and no pushover. I know something else, too. After David did what he did, he looked over at me and saw me watching.
Okay, that’s part of this. I do watch David a lot. And I’ve seen him looking at me, too, more than once.
But we’ve never talked, and while I do look at him and do think of him—maybe more than I should—I don’t know him. Maybe I wouldn’t like him if I got to know him. But I doubt that. What I’m hoping is that part of the reason he’s so quiet and reserved is just that he’s a new kid in a conservative town, and well, if perhaps he’s gay, maybe that’s the way you’d expect him to be—just getting to know the area and people and taking his time about it. And maybe, maybe, if he’s heard that I’m gay and out, that that’s why he looks at me.
Well, that’s all fantasy, of course. Just wishful thinking on my part. I would like to get to know him. To talk to him at least.
And here he is. Standing in the store where I work, where a big part of my job is helping the customers. He’s standing in the aisle looking a little lost. Well, that’s the interpretation I’m putting on the look I see on his face. So, I’m on this. It’s my opportunity. An opportunity to do my job and get to know David. If Mavis sees me chatting him up and asks about it, I might forget to tell her about that second part.
I walk over to where he is. Aisle P-4: men’s health. He sees me coming and smiles. That’s a good sign!
“Hi, Tyler,” he says. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
Nope, he doesn’t seem shy at all. He seems happy to see me.
“Hi, David. Yeah, I’m interning here. Trying to make some coin. Just started recently. I, uh, I didn’t know you knew my name.”
“Sure, I do. Just like you knew mine. And I don’t even have a nametag to help you out.” He laughs. I have to laugh, too.
“So, I see you’re looking a little confused here. Can I help? That’s what I’m here for, you know? Helping customers find what they want.”
He looks at me for a moment, then sort of looks away, then back again; the smile he’s wearing now is what I’ve heard called an enigmatic one. I have no idea what he’s thinking. But he looks like he’s decided something.
“Well, I do need help,” he says. “But I’m not sure it’s something I can ask anyone about. It’s sort of personal.” Then he does something that he can’t quite pull off. He tries to look embarrassed, looking down at his shoes, pulling his shoulders in a little, cocking one shoe behind the one with just the toe on the ground. He does all that, then looks back at me with a strange expression on his face. He looks like he’s trying to figure out if I’m buying his act. Maybe, just maybe . . . well, I get the idea that he wants me to see he’s acting.
I try to work this out, and I decide not to accept that he’s embarrassed. That might be what he wants and might not be. I mean, I could play along with his act, but I’m out for a reason. I like things transparent and open. Ambiguity isn’t for me. I’m not good at games. If he likes to play games, maybe I won’t like him. But too, maybe he’s just testing me. We don’t know squat about each other.
Well, maybe that’s not true. Maybe he does know something about me: that I’m gay. If he does, then he knows a lot more about me than I do about him. Either way, I’m going to play it straight. So, I challenge his look and say, “Okay, you’re pretending to be embarrassed. I’m not buying it.” I smile broadly to take any sting out of my words. “But I do want to help you. What I see here is that you think you’re supposed to be embarrassed, but you’re not, really; you’re pretending. Am I right?” I keep smiling. That’s just me, one happy dude. I hope I’m reading him correctly.
He smiles back. “I thought maybe you were the type to be embarrassed,” he says. “If you’d be embarrassed by what help I want, I thought maybe you’d like it better if I were, too. We’d be on equal footing then.”
I keep grinning. “That’s not me. I don’t embarrass easily. And I’m not supposed to be embarrassed about anything when I’m working retail. I mean, if some dude in his fifties comes up and asks very quietly, a little sheepishly, maybe, about what size adult diapers would be right for him, I’m not supposed to either blush or giggle. I’m supposed to be there for him, be empathetic without invading his space. Be okay with him needing diapers. Helpful, that’s what we are, and solicitous is what we do, but we’re aware of what can embarrass customers, and if we see it, we try to diffuse it.”
“Well, okay then,” he says, and I can see he’s now decided whatever it was that needed a decision. He looks at me, and I can’t come close to reading his expression, but I do see his eyes have a spark in them they didn’t a moment earlier, and then he starts in.
“See, I’m looking at the stuff you have in this department. Men’s health and hygiene products. You work here, so you must know all about this stuff, huh?”
Now I’m getting the gist of this. I can see that maybe he’ll be trying to embarrass me. Not to be mean, though. To have fun with me. And I quickly see that I’m right.
He picks up a container of Astroglide, then looks at me. “What’s this for?” he asks guilelessly.
Okay, I have to make a decision, too, and I decide not to be embarrassed if he’s not going to be. I decide right then and there that he is trying to embarrass me, and I’m not going to let him. I’m going to play along with this.
“That’s what’s called a personal lubricant. It’s condom safe and makes intercourse much easier for a lot of women.” I say that without a blush. There might be a trace of challenge in my voice. He might have heard it.
He looks back at the tube again, then at me. “It says here it’s for couples or solo use. Does that mean . . . uh, is this a product you personally can recommend? Have you tried it?”
He keeps a very straight expression. If he’d grin, he’d be giving too much away. As it is, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s going down, but I can’t be 100% sure, and he is a customer, and the customer is always right and needs to be comforted and appeased and satisfied.
“No, I can’t say that I have. And, before you ask, I can’t say I’ve ever had a customer either ask me about it before or tell me that they used it with great success. However, I do see both men and women buying it. And I know for a fact some of the men aren’t married, so they certainly couldn’t be having sex with a woman, that being so sinful and all; it’s probably for themselves, don’t you think? Anyway, it does seem quite popular. We sell a lot of it. If you’re into that sort of thing, you might try a tube. Then you could tell me if it’s good or not.”
I feel I have to add that last bit. I have to show him that if he can play me, I can play him a little, too. I’m also curious just how far he’ll take this. I realize I’m having a very good time doing this.
I think he’s about to ask me if I am into that sort of thing myself but then appears to change his mind. He puts the tube back on the shelf, then looks at the large display of condoms.
“Hmm,” he says. “You know, I should probably have some of these. You never know when you might need one. Which do you recommend?” Then he grins at me. Now he’s making the game more obvious.
“You mean from personal experience or what?” I grin, too.
“You have personal experience with them?”
Wow! That came out of left field. He’s good at this. How should I answer? Well, I’ve found I rarely get in trouble by being truthful. A lot easier, really. “I’ve never tried one. Never had one on. Never had reason to. Sheltered life, that’s me. Sheltered and lonely and condom-free.” I give him a big grin to show this doesn’t bother me at all. Just a clerk helping a customer, talking about condoms. “But Trojans have a good reputation. And how many dozen would you like? And, of course, what size?”
I laugh. I’ve just shown him I can play this game as well as he can, and I don’t embarrass easily. Now it’s his turn to show me whether he can play along or needs to change the subject. Maybe he’ll want my help somewhere else. Maybe he’ll want to move on into a different section of the store. Perhaps I can show him what shirt color makes his eyes sparkle.
That isn’t what happens. He’s been watching me closely, and I can see he likes my laugh. When I stop, he says, “You know, that’s a very good question. You’re here to help the customer, aren’t you?”
“Okay, then. I need to find out what size I need. Why don’t you come help me do that? I can’t take these into a dressing room and try them on. Some lady would see me bringing them in and get the wrong idea and have a cow, especially when I brought the open box back to her and said these didn’t fit; too tight. I’d get tossed out on my ear. But if you come with me, it’ll all be aboveboard. So, let’s see. I don’t think I need the magnum? Do you think I need that?”
He winks at me. He does play this game a whole lot better than I do. Well, I decide, I’ll see how far he wants to take this. He’ll give up before I do.
“Gee, that’s a hard one to guess. I mean, I’ve seen you in the showers at school, but flaccid size means nothing when it comes to erect size. At least that’s what my exhaustive research into this subject says. You’d be much better able to know if you need a very large one—or maybe an extra small one.”
“But,” he says, argumentatively and ignoring my size crack, “how would I know? I’ve never seen anything to compare myself to. What I think is large, someone else might think is small and vice versa. Very much vice versa, I’d think.”
“Surely, you have a computer. You must have seen erections on your computer. What self-respecting boy in the computer age hasn’t?”
“Well, yes,” he says, frowning, “but my exhaustive research tells me that the boys who perform on those sites are chosen because of their attributes. I don’t think they’re a good standard for comparison, and besides, if we’re fitting me for condoms, what does their size have to do with it?”
I can see he’s trying to befuddle the issue. Rather than play along, I make a suggestion. “You could, of course, buy the normal size and try them at home. Then you’ll know what’s right for you.”
He’s shaking his head. “No, that could be a waste of money, and I’m quite frugal. I think the proper way to do this is for us to go test various sizes. You do want to help a customer any way you can, don’t you? That’s what you said, at least. You said you wanted to help the customer find what they want and to help them. I heard you. You weren’t making that up, were you?”
“No, that’s what my job is. I’m here to help customers. Like you. Well, I’ve never had a customer quite like you before, but I would like to help if I can.”
“You can,” he says emphatically and selects three boxes: small, regular, and large condoms. “Let’s go see which of these are right for me.”
“Where are you going?” I ask as he’s heading for one of the fitting rooms. They’re unisex and a female attendant, Muriel, an overweight but very friendly black woman, sits at a desk inside the door. She checks the number of garments that are being brought in, then hands the customer a large plaque with that number on it. She also takes the items that aren’t being bought and folds or hangs them back up so they can be returned to the sales-display areas. I can just imagine David handing her the three boxes of condoms and getting a number three while she’s watching me as I walk into a cubicle accompanying him. I’d never live it down.
I grab his arm. “I’ve got a better place to go.” I take him to the staff changing area and locker room.
“This is where we change,” I tell him when we’re inside. There’re shower rooms for employees, too, but no one ever uses them. I’ve never seen anyone go in.”
“You’ve been in, though, haven’t you?”
“Well, yeah, but how did you . . . ?”
“You’d have had to be in there to check no one is there, and to make the assumption no one else ever is.” Okay, he has me there. But what he says next is a killer. “So, you were in there when and where no one else ever was. Why?” And then he makes the universal jacking off motion.
I open my eyes really wide. “Really?” I say. “You think I come in here to jack off?”
“Well,” he says, and I guess he never is embarrassed because he then says, “I know at our age, sometimes you just have to. You know? And you have to know a place to go to do it. And here you are, and you know the perfect place. So, my question is, when you need to jack off, is this where you come?”
I need to find a quick answer to that even though he’s asked it with humor in his eyes, and I know I can ignore the question if I want. I obviously don’t want to answer it, but I don’t want to show him he’s got to me, and, fortunately, I have a pretty quick mind, and something comes to me that I think ought to do the trick.
“Hey,” I said, “are you throwing double entendres at me now? That one was pretty clever. Good for you! Anyway, I can’t be off the floor long, so let’s get down to business if we’re really doing this. Or was this just a test to see if I’d go along? I think we’ve come far enough. You can see I’ll do almost anything to satisfy the customer. So, you ready to go back now? Huh?”
I’m sure he’ll back down. Instead, he hands me the boxes and starts unbuckling his belt.
“Really?” I say, a little shocked and a little in awe.
He grins at me and lowers his jeans. “In for a penny,” he says. Then he drops his boxer briefs.
My God! He is going through with it. He looks at me with delight on his face when he sees he’s shocked me. “I need to be hard for this, huh?” he asks, sounding innocent. He is anything but that, but he’s continuing in his role.
“Uh, yeah, I guess,” I say. I’m sounding husky and nervous, which is just what I am.
He takes hold of himself, and with only a few strokes is hard. He looks at me and asks, “Why don’t you have the boxes open yet? Don’t keep the customer waiting!”
I fumble around opening them. I only open the regular-size box. I know nothing about condoms and also nothing about other boys’ sizes—other than the porn stars that he’d rightly said aren’t normal. I assume he is normal, regular, whatever. He’s the same size I am, more or less, and I assume I’m normal, too. Regular should be fine.
I take one out and hand it to him. He doesn’t take it from me. Instead, he asks, “Aren’t you going to open it? Customer service? You can’t expect me to do everything, you know. I’ve already done the hard part.”
“Another double entendre?” I grin. We’re both enjoying this; no telling which of us the most. “I’ve never opened one of these before,” I say a little nervously.
“Neither have I. I’ll watch while you do it so I’ll know how in the future.” He is still handling himself, a bit nonchalantly, I think. Just touching and squeezing, keeping himself ready for the fitting.
I get it open and hand it to him. Again, he doesn’t take it.
“No, no, you need to put it on me. I’ve never done this before, and I’d probably screw it up. You do it.”
“Me?! No, this is something you should do. Very personal, you know. Plus, you need to learn how so when you really need one, when you’ve got some girl waiting, lying there with her legs open, breathing hard with a wanton look in her glazed eyes, you want to show her how experienced you are so she’ll feel some confidence she’s in capable hands. At that point, you don’t want to keep her waiting.”
“You mean like you’re keeping me waiting? I don’t have all day here, you know. Look. If this was a sport coat I was looking at, you’d hold it up and help me slip into it. That’s how these fittings work. So, go ahead. Put it on me.”
Arguing will do no good. I can see that. Best to get it over with. Not that I’m reluctant at all. Holding his erection? Running a condom down its length? No, I certainly have no objections at all. But . . . But . . .
Okay, I can’t come up with a good but, so I say okay and move over next to him.
“No, from behind me. That way, you’ll be putting it on in the same direction I’ll be doing it, the same way you’ll be doing it on you. We might as well be doing this anatomically correctly.”
I sighed. “Bossy bastard,” I say with a chuckle, though it sounds strained even to me. Well, it should; that’s how I feel.
I do know how to put on a condom. I’ve never worn one, but I had put one on a small zucchini squash in sex-ed in eighth grade. That had been done with lots of giggling by my classmates and a stern look from the teacher, an older lady we thought was being forced to teach us about sex. We knew almost nothing about sex, and we doubted Miss Stoneson did, either. It was a mixed-gender class, and the girls were learning how to put them on, too. They were the ones doing most of the giggling. We were the ones doing most of the blushing.
Anyway, I stand behind David, the front of my slacks up against the bare skin of his ass. That’s embarrassing as I’m as hard as he is, and he has to feel it. Of course, he already knew. He’d been giving my mid-region the eye for some time now, ever since his boxer briefs had hit the floor.
I reach around him and pinch the end of the condom as I’d been instructed—as we’d all been instructed, though the teacher had never said why we needed to do that—and unroll the condom onto him.
Wow! I’m not sure how excited he is—he’s a lot better actor than I am—but there was no doubt I’m about as excited as a guy can be. Rolling that on him, then checking it for fit, feeling that it is smooth against his skin, then checking that again just to be sure. Yeah. Excited.
He steps away from me and turns around. “Does it look like it fits okay?”
He wants me to admire him! So I do. “Looks great to me. Beautiful. Uh, I mean, looks fine.” My voice definitely sounds funny now.
He looks down at himself, then back at me and frowns again. “I don’t know. It might feel loose. If it is, it could be catastrophic, couldn’t it? I mean with that mystical lady you mentioned. Hah! Anyway, what if it comes off? I think you’d better check it for tightness. You know, something like you’re fitting a shirt. Make sure that it’s not too tight or too loose.”
He doesn’t have to ask twice. He might still be play-acting, but me, I am into this. I step behind him and reach around and put my hand around the condom.
I feel him twitch when I do that. His voice now is the same funny as mine when he speaks. “See if it’s loose when you slide it up and down the shaft, see if the thing slides off,” he says. His voice is really sounding strained now. Even more than mine.
I do as asked. I’m not sure how much I need to do before he’ll be satisfied the fit is perfect. I think about it while sliding my hand up and down, checking the fit as best I can, stroking just the way I like it myself, and I decide the best thing to do is to keep on it till he tells me to stop. That way I’ll know I’ve done it long enough to be sure of the fit, long enough to get his approval, long enough so he’s satisfied, and I won’t have to guess about it.
It seems he doesn’t need all that long for the fitting check. I haven’t been checking very long, not more than a minute or two, before he lets out a groan, and I look and see why pinching the end has been a very good idea. One point for Miss Stoneson.
“It seems to fit,” I almost gargle. I hope we are through. He’d just used my spot in the store for what I rather urgently needed to do, and it is time for him to go.
He has other ideas.
“Okay,” he says, breathing deeply. “But we have all these boxes, and, you know, we should see if the smaller size is better. But I’m probably not able to test them right now. You tested the fit on me way too well. I won’t be ready to test any more of these for a while yet. But you’re ready now, I can tell that for certain, and why waste it? Go ahead and open the small-size box, and we can see how they fit on you. If you’re about the same size I am—and we can check that, too—then small probably won’t work. Let’s find out.”
I’m in no mood to argue with him. Off with the pants! I have zero interest in trying out condoms. I am interested in his seeing if we’re the same size. And in getting off.
He takes one look at me and says, “My, oh my. Here, let me judge the size of this, which I can do better with my hand than by just looking. I can tell with my hand if it’s the same size as mine. I’ll know much better by feel. Here, stand still.”
So saying, he steps behind me and takes hold of me. I’m ready for this. I’m more than ready. It isn’t instantaneous, but pretty near.
“Oops,” he says, laughing. “I hardly had time to get a good feel all over you. I’ll tell you what. I’ll come back tomorrow, and we can try this again.”
He didn’t come back the next day. I did go to his house, however. He called and invited me, and I came. Uh, went. Uh, both. We did all the testing we wanted to do. That day he was at the store, however, Mavis looked me up when David had left.
“Where were you so long? I couldn’t find you on the floor.”
“Oh, I was helping a customer. He seemed happy that I’d helped him out.”
“Yes, he was. I saw you with him, and then I saw him fill out a Customer Satisfaction card when he left. He wrote on it that he’d just had the best time and best service ever in any store, that he’d certainly be back again, and that Tyler was the reason why.”
“Oh,” I said, not sure how to respond.
“He wrote one more thing,” Mavis said, and though her voice was calm and normal, her eyes were doing a number on me. “He said if a customer ever needed a special fitting, Tyler was the one he should see.”
* * * * * * *
These stories, while a departure from my usual writing style, were great fun to produce. I apologize for any offense the more graphic sexual activities may have given any of my regular readers.
My editing team of Rob, Andrew, Colin, John and Linc did a tremendous job cleaning up the mess I gave them. I’m very fortunate to have them helping me put these stories together and thank them for their great work. Any problems remaining are mine and mine alone.
Mike can always use support for this great site. Please contribute what you can to keep it up and running.