I had a lot of thinking to do. Was I gay? What was I? I was David, but gay David? Straight David? Something else? What?
I often accused myself of overthinking things, but this needed a lot of thought. I gave myself time for that. This didn’t seem like overthinking but more like letting my brain go where it hadn’t before, where I’d prevented it from going.
If I were gay, I had to figure out why I’d been repressing it for so long. From what I’d read, boys my age either instinctively knew that they were different and then, eventually, at different times for different kids, that their difference was that they were gay. Or, in some cases, that realization came to them rather abruptly when they were a bit older. But in both cases, they seemed to accept it, if sometimes with reluctance and bitterness. They might not have liked it, they might have decided to ignore its ramifications, but they accepted the fact of it. They were gay. They needed to deal with that however they deemed was right for them.
I hadn’t allowed myself to accept that I might be gay. I hadn’t entertained the possibility, not even when I had crushes on boys, not until Jordan came along. Then, now in fact, I had to end this repression; I had to think about what was real. Was I gay. And if so, could I accept it?
I knew some gay kids at school. Yeah, times were different now and gay kids didn’t have the same problems they’d had in the past. Acceptance was pretty normal now for most of them, at least for the kids at my school. I’d grown up in that era, with that rather universal acceptance. So why had I not recognized that it was quite possible I was gay? Why had I resisted that possibility so vigorously?
I couldn’t figure that out. After trying really hard to find an answer and not being successful, I finally decided if I wanted to know, if it was important for me to know, I probably needed to talk to someone, go into analysis and dig back into my early childhood to find the answer. If I’d been blocking it somehow, that block was still doing its thing. Of course, I’d had years of practice.
I didn’t want to go into psychoanalysis. I had a life to live, it was summer, I had friends, I had limited time with Jordan, and I didn’t want to spend any time on a couch in a dim office talking to some guy with a German accent who wanted to dwell on whether I’d been breast fed when still a baby, and how old I’d been when that had stopped. Or if I jerked off too much or fantasized about sausages.
The fact was, I had noticed boys all through my growing years. I’d had crushes on them. Girls, too, but not as many and they weren’t as intense as the ones featuring boys. I’d simply not allowed myself to get too involved with those boy crushes, to dwell on them. As far back as I could remember, that voice had been in my head building a wall between my inherent urges and the real world around me.
So, I probably was gay, probably always had been. Well, if that were true, where does one go from there, I asked myself. And shuddered. I was asking myself to make a major change in my recognition of who I was, the way I thought of myself, my self-image, at the age of fifteen.
How should I do that? How could I? First, I’d have to totally accept the fact I was indeed gay. I wasn’t sure I’d done that yet, and I still felt some resistance to doing so. That voice was still there, although I wasn’t letting it affect me as much now. I was close to accepting that I was gay, accepting it completely—but, well, maybe not 100% yet. There was fear involved with doing that. Fear of the unknown, of how people would react, of how to tell people. Like my parents.
Wow! How would they react? Would they even believe me? Would anyone? In fact, there might be several people I’d somehow have to convince I was gay who’d not believe it at first. If people wouldn’t believe it, how was I supposed to go about arguing the point? What could I say that wouldn’t be, well, outrageous?
This all had to be silly. I shouldn’t need to convince anyone. Just tell them and leave it up to them how they reacted. I only had to convince me. And I was working on that. It should have been easy, it seemed, but it wasn’t.
But Mom and Dad. And Jeff! Oh, golly. Jeff.
I didn’t want to disappoint Jeff. He was important to me, and I knew I was to him. How would he feel? How should I tell him?
The day after Jordan and I got back from the lake, I spent a lot of it in my room just thinking. Jordan asked me if I was okay, and when I said I was, he asked why, then, was I spending the day lying on my bed?
“You know why. You’ve just turned my world upside down. I need to lie here and figure it out.”
“Do you need my help?”
He nodded. “I should spend some time with Mike anyway. Uh, how about my telling him we’re sort of together now? We are together, aren’t we?”
I heard tentative worry in his voice and turned my eyes from my ceiling to his. “Yeah, we’re together. That’s the one thing that makes sense and keeps me from falling apart, thinking about all this. I know what I feel about you.”
He walked over, leaned down and kissed my lips. “I’m going over to Mike’s. I’ll tell him you and I are kind of getting to like each other; it’s early days, but he should know. Okay?”
“Not okay!” I was sure that when I had to start telling people about being gay, Mike would be one of the first, and I’d have to be the one to do it. But I wasn’t ready yet. I had to know for sure what I was thinking and feeling, know for sure who I was, and I wasn’t quite there yet. I guessed that intellectually I was, but certainly not emotionally. I don’t think anyone can go from straight to gay overnight at my age and just have that be it. There had to be a transition of some sort, didn’t there? I hadn’t thought about how to tell people, to answer their questions, especially the one about why I hadn’t said anything earlier. Or the one about how gay was I. I didn’t even know the answer to that. Are there degrees of this? Huh! I returned Jordan’s look.
“I’m not sure how it works, being gay. But I do know I need to tell Mike about it. And my parents. But are there degrees of gay? Is one all gay or just partly gay? That sounds stupid, just asking that. See how unclear about all this I am? But it’s a good question: How gay am I?”
He grinned. “I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve known I’m gay long enough to be comfortable being me. Being me and now actively gay, acting on being gay, will be new. It’ll be fun learning all the ins and out together. Ins and outs. Hmmmm.”
He grinned at me then rushed on. “I’ve known I was gay forever, but never acted on it. I always acted straight. So we’ll learn about the physical side of being gay together. Even the emotional part: it’s got to be easier learning that with someone than all alone. But I think the main thing is, don’t change anything. Continue to be who you are. You’re David Pierce. Not David Pierce the gay boy. Just David Pierce.”
“I like that!” I said, suddenly feeling a little less nervous, less like I was a newly hatched variety of myself not sure how to behave. He’d answered the question I’d had about who I was and taken much of my uncertainty away. “That’s really good. I’m still me. Mostly.”
“See ya,” he said, smiled at me and turned to leave.
“Hold it!” I jumped up off the bed. “Let’s call Mike and get him over here. Shoot some hoops or swim. Something. He hasn’t been around since I broke it off with Jessica, and I miss him. He needs to spend some time with us. Before I tell him anything about, well, you know, I want him to see us together. Not romantically or anything like that. Just together. Maybe that’ll make telling him, make his accepting of it, go a little smoother.”
Jordan agreed, and I called Mike. He seemed very happy to hear from me and said he’d be right over. Said he was bored out of his gourd. I wondered why he hadn’t come over without an invite. Neither of us had needed that before.
I found out when he arrived. He came up to my bedroom. I was still sprawled on my bed; Jordan had slid the mattress back under my bed and was sitting on my desk chair. Mike came over and sat on my bed, bumping me into moving a little. This was just how we were together. We’d always been a little handsy with each other; that’s how boys are, some boys, physical boys. I grinned at him.
“Where the hell have you been?” I asked.
“Sorry. You know I’ve been wooing Maryann—”
“Wooing,” Jordan snorted. “Wooing?”
“Well, yeah. Spending time with her in person and on the phone. Spending enough time that Jessica can’t bend her ear too hard, too much. But I think Maryann is getting to think I’m smothering her, so I’ve pulled back a little. I wasn’t sure how welcome I was over here; you never called, which made me feel funny about just coming over, so I’ve been home playing video games and getting more and more bored. Boreder. Is that a word?”
“You’re nuts, you know that?” I said. “I loved the way you helped with my breakup with Jessica. When was it you decided to be all sensitive? Anyway, glad to put all that behind us. What do you want to do: swim, play pool, shoot hoops, go to the park, what? The day lies ahead, open and waiting, just there to satisfy your desires.”
He reached over and punched my shoulder. Not hard; we never did hard. He was just reminding me to keep it simple. He always said poetry and flowery language were for girls and lesser men. When I got that way, I got hit.
We decided to play basketball. There was a backboard and rim attached to the front of our garage, and as it was a three-car garage, there was a wide area of concrete pavement in front of it. Mike and I and some neighbor kids had played lots of games there.
We played some two-on-one and horse and a couple of other simple shooting games, some one-on-one games with one guy sitting out, watching. All these games were a bit rough. At fifteen, boys are feeling their stuff. Bumping into each other, roughing the dribbler, fouling on purpose when a guy is shooting; it’s all part of the revelry. We played long enough and it was warm enough that we were all sweating when we were tired enough to stop.
We went back inside and down into the basement to relax. It was more comfortable there and cooler than in my room.
“I’m all sweaty,” Jordan complained when we were lounging in the sitting area.
“That’s why Dad wanted vinyl-upholstered furniture down here,” I told him. “He expected sweaty teens to be resting here, and it’s easy to wipe this stuff down with a damp rag. Mike and I are like this a lot.”
“Well, I don’t like it. I feel sticky. I’m going to take a shower.” With that, Jordan stood up and left, heading upstairs to use the shower close to our bedroom, where he’d have quick access to a change of clothes.
As soon as he was gone, Mike turned to look at me. “David, what’s the deal? I’m your best friend, and you’re mine. We tell each other everything. Done so for years. I know you as well as you know me. Well, mostly.”
“Whaddya mean?” That was more rhetorical than anything else. Knowing him as I did, I had a feeling where this was going, and it was way sooner than I wanted it to be. I hadn’t thought out how to do this yet.
“I mean I’m getting vibes from you that probably no one else in the world would pick up on, but they’re there. So I need to say this. You’re my best friend. You were yesterday and will be tomorrow. No matter what. I know you, David. Really know you. I’ve got your back; you have mine. No. Matter. What. You understand?”
“I understand what you’re saying. But not what you’re not saying. What are you talking about? What the hell, man? Spit it out!”
“I don’t care what you do, what you say, how you feel, none of that. We’re solid. Right?”
“Damn it, Mike! Of course! What’s going on?”
“Okay, okay, but if I’m wrong, don’t walk away. And if I’m right, don’t walk away. We need to talk about this.”
I shook my head. “Not if you don’t tell me what’s got your tit in a wringer.”
He looked down, checking himself out. “I don’t have tits. But that’s beside the point.” That was Mike. Making a joke out of anything. “All right. All right. It’s just hard, you know? Because as much as I need to say this, you’ve needed to say it before I did, much more than me mentioning it first. So, you’re to blame for me doing it like this. Your fault.”
I got up. “I’m going upstairs. Maybe take a shower myself. When your mouth isn’t constipated—when you’re able to finally come to the point—then come on up.”
Mike stood up, grabbed my arm, pushed me back onto the chair I’d been sitting on, stood before me and said, “When did you decide to be gay? And more to the point, why did you decide to keep it a secret from me? From me!”
I looked at him silently for a moment or two. Then, “Decide? Do people decide to be gay? Are you one of these troglodytes who believe being gay is a decision someone makes rather than a genetic predisposition?”
He stared at me, shaking his head. “As I said, I know you. Now you’re doing the thing you do to avoid questions you don’t want to answer. I don’t want to play word games with you. I don’t want philosophy lessons or vocabulary refreshers. I want to know about you being gay. You going to tell me or not?”
No getting around it, I realized. If I prevaricated or obfuscated or did anything but talk truthfully to him, I’d be weakening the bond we had, and I wasn’t about to do that. We were closer than many brothers I knew, and I didn’t want that to change.
“I don’t know. That’s the answer, and that’s why I haven’t said anything. I don’t know.”
“But I saw you with Jordan! I don’t know if he’s gay, but I’ve had the idea he might be for a long time. Today, the way you two were all over each other, much more than the game called for, the way you guys were grinning—it wasn’t normal. The way you were staring into his eyes a lot, and the expression on your face a couple of times when you were doing it . . . and on his.”
“Well, you’re right about that. I do have something going on with Jordan. I . . . we, okay, we like each other. We even fooled around once. Yesterday. I think it’s something that’s not just a passing crush. It feels like it’s more than that.”
I shook my head. “Everything’s not black and white, Mike. I might be gay. I’m trying to come to terms with it. This is all brand new to me. I’ve only accepted what I feel for Jordan like ten seconds ago. He’s made me realize I may have hidden my feelings about crushes and stuff for boys for a long time. I might be gay. I’m still in the process of understanding just who I am. He had a great answer to that; he said I’m David. Period. Yeah, I might be gay. But the only person I feel that way about is Jordan. So maybe I’m not gay, just a Jordanphile.” I grinned. He ignored it.
“And he feels that for you?”
“Oh, yeah. Big time.”
“Well.” He sat back down, fell back into his chair and thought for a while. “Maybe this explains you and Jessica.”
“Maybe. But she wasn’t right for me. Her personality didn’t fit with mine at all. But sure, it could be partly the gay thing. I didn’t enjoy a lot of the making out with her. If I were entirely straight, I probably would have, even if I didn’t like her as a person.”
“Is that why you avoided the blowjob she wanted to give you?”
“Yeah, probably. I just felt it wouldn’t be right because I knew I didn’t like her very much. But I think avoiding that had maybe more to do with me thinking a blowjob is a pretty big deal, and it wasn’t just a gay or straight thing. Just like first time, all-the-way sex. It should be special. With someone special. A blowjob from Jessica wouldn’t have been special.”
“You do realize that wouldn’t have stopped nine boys out of ten from accepting the offer, don’t you?”
I grinned at him. “So I’m number ten. Or just a ten. I always told you that. You never believed me.”
He would have hit me in the shoulder again, but the chairs weren’t close enough together for that.
“So, you don’t mind if I am gay?” I asked.
“Of course not. How would that affect me? I can’t even be mad that you didn’t tell me about puzzling this out; it’s been way too soon for that. I assume you haven’t told anyone?”
“No. I’ll have to. My parents and Jeff. You were on the short list, but that’s done now. I think Mom and Dad will handle it okay. I don’t know how Jeff will react. He’s the one I’m worried about. He looks up to me, and I don’t want that to stop.”
“When will you tell them?”
“I don’t know, Mike. It’s still early days. But now I have to tell Jordan that you know.”
Jordan wasn’t happy that I’d told Mike, but he knew Mike well and believed him when he told him that he’d keep the news to himself.
We spent the rest of the day going to the park and playing soccer, then coming back to my house to swim. Mike finally went home, telling me how happy he was that he and I were back spending time together again. That Maryann was great but not a boy to hang with. She was a girl to date, not a steady companion.
Jordan received a phone call when we were playing ping pong after Mike had left. He looked to see who was calling him before answering, then walked away into the entertaining and media part of the basement to talk. After disconnecting, he came back to me.
“That was my dad. He’s left home and is on his way here; wants to see me. He sounded a little strange, said he needs to talk to me. Do you think he could spend the night here? It seems friendlier than making him go to a motel. At least for tonight.”
“Of course. Jeff’s bed’s free. I’ll tell Mom, and he can eat with us, too. Do you think he wants to talk about the divorce?”
“I have no idea. Guess we’ll just have to see.”