After cleaning up both the bathroom and himself, Luke left his room, but paused at the top of the stairs and sat on the top step. He hadn't really expected to see his mum waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed accusingly, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t waiting for him in the kitchen armed with awkward questions. In his head he tried to come up with some plausible lines in the event she asked what on earth he could have been doing all that time in the bathroom.
Eventually—and apprehensively—he padded down the carpeted steps, but then bottled out and tarried in the hallway. Finally, he could put it off no more. It was time to face the music, and he joined his mum in the kitchen.
“Hello sweetheart." As he entered, her eyes flicked up from where was seated at the table to greet him. He could see she was studying some papers that were spread out in front of her. "There’s tea in the pot if you want some,” she added, peering again at him over the top of her reading glasses.
Turning over one of the sheets, she tapped meaningfully at it with her pen. “You’re not allergic to anything are you?"
Allergic? Of all the things he’d considered she might want to bring up, that wasn’t one!
He joked, "Why—is there something in the tea?" It sounded awkward, but then again, she didn't sound like the kind of mother who’d just busted her son while he was unloading in the bathroom. He seemed to be in the clear, so, breathing again, he crossed the kitchen and lifted the top off the china teapot—a family heirloom that, much to his mum's relief, had survived the flight to the States.
It made great tea!
"No," she replied. Behind him, as he poured tea into a mug and added a little milk, he could hear the smile in her voice. "I'm just making sure your forms are completed."
He frowned, wondering what the heck she was talking about, and turned. "What forms?"
"For Friday...the medical release forms for the doctor.” Taking off her glasses, she gave him one of her tetchy looks. “Remember, you have your urology appointment! Don't tell me that after all this, you've forgotten?"
"Oh, those forms!" He almost burst out laughing. Forgotten? Hardly a waking moment passed when he wasn't thinking about it!
"No, I haven’t forgotten, and no I'm not allergic to anything that I know of, either." Holding his mug, he leaned against the worktop across from where she was working, blew over the surface of the drink, and took a sip.
“I didn’t think so.” She seemed satisfied enough to shuffle the papers again to bring a fresh one to the front to peruse.
“So is Dad still taking me?”
“He can’t, I’m afraid.” She didn’t look up, and instead appeared to be searching the sheets for something more important. “He’s got to do some staff appraisals that morning. I’ll be driving you there.”
Luke chewed on his lip and took another sip of tea to mask his thoughts. He would have preferred it be his dad for when it came time to be back on the doctor’s couch again.
"Ah, here it is.” She drew out a sheet of paper. “It says here that you need to trim.”
“Trim?” His expression remained non-committal. Now wasn’t that spectacular timing!
“Yes, trim. In preparation for the surgery…down there…” Over her glasses, she looked rather matter-of-factly at his crotch as he leaned against the worktop, making him feel faintly uncomfortable. “It’s in the letter from Doctor Tiberius." She turned the paper towards him, pointing at the paragraph as proof.
As if he hadn't memorised every word.
"It says it here that you’re expected to trim back your hair a little."
"Mmmm...right…" Keeping his face bland, he still smirked to himself as he took another sip of his drink. Even she hadn't the courage to say the word 'pubic'!
"Well, don't forget.” She slid the paper back with the others. “It's obviously important or the doctor wouldn't have made a note of it."
Feeling the need to get his crotch out of his mother's line of sight, Luke came and sat across from her at the table. Staring at nothing, he remained tight-lipped. She misinterpreted it.
"I realize it might be...a little..." Even she seemed ill-at-ease, trying to choose her words carefully. Her tone was cautious as she continued, "well, a little delicate for a young man. I'm sure your friends will quite understand if you explain it to them."
“Well, that you had to trim a little...down there...as part of your surgery," she offered helpfully. “I’m sure nobody will mind, and it’ll grow back soon enough.”
He couldn’t hold back any longer. Leaning back on his chair, he burst out laughing, and she stared at him, appearing a little perturbed by his outburst. Okay, he got that she was only trying to be supportive, but he wasn’t planning on telling his friends about ANY of this (well, other than Ryan, whom he’d already blabbed to). She had to be living in another century!
"Mum, for goodness sake, it's okay." He coughed as a slurp of tea went down the wrong way. "It's not a problem—really! Nobody cares about that kind of thing anymore. Everyone does it these days!"
He rolled his eyes. On the tail of the scare of being caught red-handed, it drove him up the wall that she still treated him like a kid, and it irritated him that she'd made him feel guilty. And most of all, what really got under his skin was that she already knew what his pubes were like because she just couldn't help pushing herself into his examination! It was like she wanted to control everything at times.
"Lots of guys trim their pubic hair these days! Some even get rid of it altogether and are completely smooth!" Of course, he didn't need to give her any of the details, but he was done with subtle.
The revelation floored her, and her mouth flapped, "Oh...well...I..."
"And before you say it," he continued, daring her, "it doesn't mean they're gay or anything—it's just how guys like to look." He smirked with a rather obtuse sense of victory as he watched his mum shift uncomfortably.
"I wasn't going to suggest anything like that!" She looked like she was totally out of her depth, and muttered, "All I was going to say it certainly wasn't like that in my day."
Briefly, Luke wondered what girls did around that part of their anatomy. Did they all trim? Shave? Actually, he realized that he didn't particularly care. It just wasn't his thing, and that was a huge turning point. He SO wanted to ask her how she knew what guys’ pubes were like in 'her day'; it was almost unbearable—but there were some places you just couldn’t go with your mum!
"Anyway," she continued, recovering, "just make sure you remember to get it done for Friday. I think there's still your dad’s adjustable trimmer in one of the drawers in our bathroom if you need it."
"Oh, is there?" He dialled it down and did his best to sound surprised.
"Just be careful though, won't you. Don't end up cutting yourself. You can use the adjuster to—"
"Mum, I think I can figure out how to trim!" Rolling his eyes, he interrupted her again before she could ask if he needed a helping hand!!
"Okay, there's no need to be so touchy. I'm only trying to help!" Stiffly, she turned back to the papers and took up a pen.
Luke sighed as he heaved himself to his feet. He couldn't blame her for everything. She was only being a mum after all. "I know you are. I'm sorry— and I'll get it sorted before Friday. Promise.” Walking around to her, he leaned over and kissed the top of her head, leaving her with a smile as he took his mug of tea back upstairs.
Back in his bedroom, he remained thoughtful, and put the petty squabble about trimming pubes behind him. There was something much more important on his mind.
Standing at the window, he stared out across the front lawn towards the cul-de-sac, and opened the window to let in the warm afternoon air. He liked this time of year, and he preferred his side of the house to Simon's side where the sun burned the outside walls for most of the day.
Not much traffic ended up at their end of the subdivision, and he gazed into the stillness of what was an ordinary, late afternoon. Some distance away a few of the local kids were wobbling unsteadily on skates as they attempted a game of street hockey. It was as typical as it got.
He let his thoughts drift back through time, remembering when he and Simon had been that young—back to the life he had had back in London with his friends there. Names and faces drifted across his memory. What were those guys like these days, he wondered. What had become of them and what were they doing right at that very moment? It had been years, but people change—wasn’t he was proof of that?
He'd grown up a lot since then, but he couldn't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if he hadn't have ended up in seat 23D on the Delta flight from Gatwick to Atlanta? Him, and Simon too. Would things have been different?
Leaving his half-finished mug of tea on the window ledge, he went back to the bathroom. A fresh, less-hurried, inspection showed up quite a few of his stray hairs, and even a spot of goo he’d missed on first inspection. He took a cloth and wiped away the last tell-tale signs, and allowed himself to examine his feelings, finding there neither surprise nor guilt. There was little surprise because his orientation was something that he had instinctively known about for some time, and he didn’t feel guilty because he no longer fell bad about it, either
It was what it was.
The world around him was peaceful and looked the same today as it had yesterday. Nobody was pointing up to his window, accusingly. Nothing had really changed today. No, that wasn’t totally true, he mused—something had changed. He closed the doors to his room, and slipped down his boxers to have a look.
Holy crap—it looked a lot shorter now than it had when he’d been kneeling over the sink!
He grimaced and tentatively drew the ends of his fingers to feel the closely trimmed skin. Oh well… all in a good cause!
The memory of how he got to his rather dramatic transformation brought a grin to his lips. So, who cared? It felt good, and if pushed, at least he could fall back on an operation as explanation. He went through into the bathroom and studied himself in the mirror as he tidied up both the sink and his questions. Did the ‘what might have beens’ really matter, or was it the ‘here and now’ that mattered the most? He already knew the answer, and out of the glass, his mirror image studied him and nodded. He felt surprisingly confident and hopeful.
“Despite the fact that you're gay, that you like guys?'” He spoke the words aloud to his reflection, though softly and for them alone, embracing them as he tested their meaning and value. They didn’t demean or frighten him; rather they were a welcome relief and offered a future that made sense.
At least he could be honest with himself about it now, and it certainly felt better than beating himself up about it all the time. He’d done enough of that of the last months, feeling guilty with every glance and passing dream, criticizing himself each time his sexual release centered on another guy instead of a girl.
He studied himself in the mirror as if seeing someone new, someone he’d not met properly before. The face was familiar, but there was more, so much more.
Funny how so much could change in an afternoon! An afternoon during which changed how he looked when he removed most of his pubic hair—not because of medical necessity or light grooming, but because it looked hot and he liked it.
He'd also changed how he thought. The total nakedness, his feelings about guys—even about Ryan. He couldn't quite imagine sex or even a steady relationship quite yet, but the things that turned him on, and the things he knew he wanted, were going to be with another guy.
And it wasn't a surprise anymore.
If gay meant this, then that was what he was. And whilst there would be many moments over the coming weeks when he still felt insecure—years of conditioning don't go away easily—for now, it was okay. Seeing his mum floored by a changing world of sexuality had somehow helped free him, too. The world had changed. Stuff was changing with it—him included—and he could be himself for who he was right now.
It was okay.
First things first: he could do with a shower. Making sure he'd locked the doors to the bathroom this time, he stripped off again. Unhurriedly, he examined himself, paying special attention to the look of the recent trim.
Damn, it was sexy! He was sixteen. He wasn't in bad shape. He definitely wasn’t ugly! In fact, he had plans for his life that were going to take him places—places where he might be able to meet people that he might hit it off with. And this—he pushed at his freshly aroused, uncircumcised wanger—would be sorted out in a few days. Things could be worse!
Satisfied, he took a long shower to wash away both the remains of the day and the mixed-up past. As the water cascaded over him and washed away the soap, he knew that, even now, he had no real idea of what happened next. He certainly wasn't going to go to school the following day and make an announcement!
There was Ryan, but…
For the first time, he realized the truth of what Simon had said—that gay kids got no breaks. It was almost impossible to tell anyone the truth. Maybe when guys were older it was easier to be more open about being gay? But now…at his age…at a school like his?
If Ry found out, that would probably be the end of their friendship, and if it got around school, the place would become a living hell because of bastards like Mitchell and Landon.
No, he couldn’t tell anyone. Not even his parents.
It made it easier that Simon was travelling the same journey as him, and maybe, when the time was right, at least he would have someone to talk to.
And there was always his Facebook friend, Damon Jamieson, he mused as he towelled himself dry. That might be somewhere to start—a gay teen that lived far enough away that it didn’t matter. Not that Luke was going to say anything too obvious right away about what he was going through, but he might be able to ask a few questions about what it was like to survive as a gay teen.
Either way, Luke was determined he wasn’t going to let it get him down. Clean now, and after briefly admiring himself again in the mirror, he dressed in fresh boxers, pulled on his tee and jeans, settled down at his desk and powered up his MacBook. Once he’d picked up the wireless, he surfed to Facebook. A few people he knew were online, but disappointingly, not Damon. The guy hadn't been in contact since Luke had left him hanging that last time.
Using the mail box, he sent a note just to say he was sorry he'd bombed out on the last conversation, but something had come up (literally...but he could hardly confess that!). Then he got stuck into some schoolwork again.
It was almost bedtime, later that evening, and he was lying on his bed reading a book, when his laptop made a 'ding'. It had been left on all evening, and 'dings' could come for all kind of reasons. Investigating, he saw that the notification was from Facebook (which had lain open in the background), and the cause was Damon.
[DAMONJ] "Hi! Are you there?"
Luke swung the screen up to an easily readable angle and smiled in anticipation.
[LUKE] "Hi—I’m here. How's the frozen north?"
[DAMONJ] "Thawed enough so the Husky sleds can't get out to airport anymore! It's really messing us up. People are having to use the bus instead!"
Luke laughed. The guy's humor was dry enough to be a Brit, and they bantered back and forth for a few minutes.
[DAMONJ] "Thanks for the mail by the way...I was worried you were mad at me," Damon typed, as they settled comfortably into a conversation.
[LUKE] "Why would I be mad at you?"
[DAMONJ] "I dunno....people get mad at me sometimes...I guess I can be an asshole sometimes."
Luke paused. He knew exactly what the guy meant, but grinned as he let him grovel a bit.
[DAMONJ] "Okay, to be honest, I thought I might have said something a bit past the mark last time.... "
[LUKE] "Mmmm…about my dick, I recall…”
[DAMONJ] "Ahhh…yes, you noticed then...I guess that was it. Sorry about that, I shouldn’t have said that."
[LUKE] "I’m only kidding ya…and I'm kind of honored! I just hope your prediction turns out to be true! So, no I'm not mad, just curious."
[DAMONJ] "Curious...crap, that sounds bad! Curious about what?"
[LUKE] "Just about stuff—and I wanted to ask you about something!"
[DAMONJ] "Fair enough! But you first —did you get your circumcision done yet?"
There was a pause while Luke tried to compose a reply.
[DAMONJ] "I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Sorry, it’s none of my business..."
[LUKE] "Don’t be an idiot. I don’t mind talking about it. And nope, not yet—soon though."
[DAMONJ] "Okay, but aren’t you worried? I guess you go into hospital for it, don’t you?"
[LUKE] "Oh...no, actually it’s not being done in hospital. I think it's just a local anaesthetic—like the dentist."
[DAMONJ] "SHIT! NO! You’re going to let them cut bits off you under a local? You're nuts!"
[LUKE] "Something like that!" Luke grinned to himself. It was too complicated to explain the workings of a SmartKlamp!
[LUKE] "Hopefully it won't be too bad."
[DAMONJ] "But nobody knows...you said you hadn't told your friends. It must bother you? What about when it's done, it'll be pretty obvious then, won’t it?"
[LUKE] "I guess." It was personal, but Luke saw an opening for his own question.
[LUKE] "So, what about you? Do your friends know everything about you? Do you tell them everything...for instance do they all know you're gay?"
There was a long pause, and Luke waited expectantly. This is what he needed to know. How did you tell friends?
[LUKE] "Does anyone? What about your parents?"
[DAMONJ] "No. Almost nobody. It's...difficult."
[LUKE] "Sorry—I'm the one being nosey now. Forget it."
[DAMONJ] "It's okay. You answered my questions, after all. I guess you’re right, there are some things that are really hard to tell people about. Even my parents...they wouldn't...well, it wouldn't go down well. I guess I only tell you because you don't know who I am."
It sounded familiar.
[LUKE] "Are they strict or religious or something?”
[DAMONJ] "Kind of..." Damon didn’t offer any more
[LUKE] "Doesn’t it bother you, though?”
[DAMONJ] "What? That I can’t tell anyone, you mean? Of course it does. It’s fucking crap! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got plenty of friends—it’s just that they… well, you just learn to live with it.”
Between the lines, Luke could hear the frustration. Was that what it was going to be like for him, too? He tapped on the keys for a few moments, but then back spaced and deleted his question. Maybe it was too obvious to ask ‘when did you first know you were gay?’.
[LUKE] "I suppose we're the same then," he typed after a few more moments dwelling on it.
[LUKE] "I mean that we keep some things private, because we're afraid of what people might say." Safe enough.
[DAMONJ] "Oh, I see what you mean—your circumcision op. LOL, yep I guess we’re as bad as each other. Listen, would love to chat more, but my folks just came in and I gotta go. If we don’t talk soon, good luck with the op"
[LUKE] "Thanks! Nite."
Resting comfortably in bed when the house was quiet some time later, Luke lay there thinking about what Damon had said. When he did drop off to sleep, it was deep and dreamless.