June 30, 2000. I woke early after hearing my dad rummaging around in the kitchen. He wore the Father's Day `Eat Me' boxers I'd given him. And I noticed a huge bulge in the crotch. "You got a boner, dad."
"So have you. Coffee? Looks like you need it."
"Nice boxers, dad."
"Yeah, but your mom doesn't read."
"Can I borrow them? Melanie reads."
"I'm sure. Can I borrow Melanie?" My dad was still a hot looker for an older guy. He could turn girls' heads no problem. "Do you have any plans for tonight, Kyle?"
"Your mom and I want to take you out to dinner. Into it?"
"Want to invite a friend?"
"No. Just us will be fine. We don't always get a stack of time together. Dad? How about taking today off work? We can go surfing together. There's a good off-shore wind blowing."
"I wish. I'll try to get a half-day off. Maybe I can join you guys later."
My folks took me to a local restaurant with a nautical theme; lots of brass fittings, heavy timber beams and ship memorabilia. My dad bought me a beer while he chose a bottle of chilled rose.
I'd received birthday cards before but not buried inside a steak! I opened the card and saw something I never expected in a million years. "Two hundred bucks! I don't believe it! Hey, you can't afford this! Dad? Mom?"
"It's for you to spend on yourself," mom said with watery eyes. "On whatever you want."
I never saw so much damn money in my whole life, and kept staring at it. Then mom got all soppy and said she could still remember changing my diapers like it was yesterday. "Yeah," dad laughed, "how could anyone ever forget a stink like that?" We all cracked up.
It was awesome sitting there with my folks, chatting about all kinds of things. We'd always been a close family but that night was somehow different. I was one day away from my being legally an adult; a teen but also a young man. Mom and dad always looked the same to me. I wasn't able to detect any changes. But, to them, I'd gone through many stages, each one dramatically different to the next: from diapers to my first day at school, from primary to high school, from a grommet who could hardly balance himself on a surfboard to a guy who was the skilled captain of his stick, from a boy whose life revolved around his best mate Paul to a teen with many friends including a girl friend.
By the end of the night, I'd had a few too many beers. We arrived home and mom made three Irish coffees. I thanked my folks for a very special night, explained that I was feeling a bit trashed, and retired to my room. But at the stroke of midnight I woke to the sound of loud knocking at my window.
"Graham! Do you know what time it is?"
"So here," he grinned, and thrust something toward me. "Happy birthday, Kyle."
It was a handmade card. To my big brother, Kyle. Stay around forever. Your little brother, Graham. Then another package was thrust my way. "And here."
I unwrapped the gift to reveal a pair of Billabong socks and a new surfboard leash. He beamed from ear to ear as I thanked him. "That is awesome, bro."
"Love it. Can I give you a hug?" Graham raised his arms as I leaned out the window, then I squeezed the hell outta my special friend. "Do your folks know you're out?"
"Nope. I snuck out quickly. I'm going back to bed now."
"That is so damn awesome."
"That you woke up specially to wish me. You're the first one on my birthday. Thanks a stack."
"It's my pleasure. Anyway, if you were my real bro I wouldn't have to sneak out in the cold. I'd just walk down the hall to your room."
"You gonna jack off now?"
"I'm gonna jack now."
"Night, mate," I laughed. Then his beaming face disappeared into the night.
Next morning, my folks singing `Happy Birthday' woke me. In their arms, they held a pile of prezzies, which I opened enthusiastically: new satin boxers, a new white Billabong button-up shirt with olive-green prints, gray denim cargos, plus the $200 from last night. Wicked! That was followed by a HUGE breakfast.
Later, I checked my email. There was a stack from all over the place but, disappointingly, nothing from Rick in Canada. G put up a special tribute on his web site. Then the phone went berserk: Melanie, Stuart, Brett and even Susan! I felt like the most important person in the world, and chuffed to have so many special friends.
By 8pm that night, everybody began to rock up to my `Mask Party'. Melanie and I had our ups and downs but she left no doubt in my mind about her true feelings when she presented me with a silver chain attached to a silver heart engraved with our names. Stuart gave me a card with cash inside. Actually, I got cash from most people. They figured cash was better `cause I could get whatever I wanted for myself. But Brett had already anticipated my needs. He gave me a totally rad pair of red satin boxer shorts. "You can practice in your dreams," he said, and totally cracked me up.
The party was a huge hit with everyone enjoying a rave time. My only disappointment was the absence of Rick; not even an email from him. All the guys wore full-head rubber masks, but I knew who they were. At least, I thought I did. Brett was the hardest to pick. The only reason I uncovered his disguise was because Susan told me. He wore the mask of a withered old man with a squillion wrinkles and droopy eyes. Stuart was easy to pick because of his height and build. Graham was a cinch. He wore an evil goblin mask. One disguise I thought was kinda odd, though, was a Margaret Thatcher mask. I figured it had to be Frank Wisdom.
11pm was time for me to guess correctly who was under each mask before it was removed. Each time I failed, I had to take a swig of beer. The guests assembled in a semi-circle around me. Oops! I got Stuart wrong; he wore a Spiderman mask, so I took a swig of beer as `punishment'. I guessed Brett and Graham correctly. Then, when I got to the Margaret Thatcher mask I confidently said, "You're Frank!" But, as the mask lifted, the chin wasn't Frank's, nor the nose. Who the hell...???
Tears instantly welled in my eyes as I recognized a face that beamed with pure joy. There he was, my lifelong friend, standing right before me. "Rick!" This was the happiest day of my entire life.
I threw my arms around him and held him as tightly as possible for at least two minutes. Both of us cried uncontrollably. I wasn't aware of how the rest of the guests reacted. I didn't care. All I knew and all that mattered was that I was hugging a special mate I thought I'd never see again. "Oh, my fuck! When did you get here?"
"This morning. Darren fetched me. I stayed at his place today...had some things to take care of."
"Oh, Jesus, Rick! I'm just so incredibly happy!" Then I noticed the other guests: mom bawling her eyes out, dad's eyes watering big time, while everyone else stood staring and stunned. "But how the...?"
"I told your mom I wanted to be here for your eighteenth, and spend the week with you. Your folks arranged everything with Brett, Stuart, Frank, Darren and a few others. I've been saving up for the airfare."
I introduced Rick to the guys who all eagerly shook his hand. They heard me speak of him often, and now it was time to meet him in the flesh. To me, the remainder of the party was a blur of excitement--chatting, laughing, drinking--a joyful crowd of smiling, animated faces. From time to time, I found myself staring at Rick in an effort to fully comprehend his presence. It was a miracle! And as the shock gradually abated, I began to realize just how awesome he looked. He'd always been a hottie but now he was hotter than ever!
By 3am, Rick, Brett and Susan where the only remaining guests. They helped tidy the yard and house. Brett spoke to me before leaving: "That was worth a million bucks."
"Seeing your face when you recognized Rick."
"It showed, huh?"
Rick helped me and my folks put a few more things away, then went to my room. "You gonna shower?"
"Yeah, I've still got the smell of jet fuel all over me."
Rick followed me into the bathroom. When I leaned forward to turn on the taps, I saw something astonishing. "Well," he said quietly over my shoulder, "I couldn't rock up to your party without something to give you, could I?"
Standing in the shower was a brand new Nev surfboard; pure white, like snow white, with contrasting black grips. Totally outtasight. "Anyway," he continued while I was still speechless, "I'm gonna need to borrow my old stick while I'm here. Kyle?" he asked, then placed his hands on my shoulders. "Hey, mate, for Christ sake stop blubbering."
I took the board to my room, slid it under the bed, then returned to the bathroom to shower. I was still in a state of shock when I realized why Graham, the little shit, bought me a new leash for my birthday. He obviously knew about the surprise and, for once in his life, kept his mouth shut.
Brett showered, then climbed under the covers next to me. It was like going back a hundred years. He smelled the same, that special smell permanently etched in my memory even during his absence. "I notice your folks still put the spare mattress out."
"Yeah," I laughed. "But I'm sure they know it rarely gets used."
It pleased Rick to see that I'd broadened my social horizons and made lots of new friends. He liked Melanie. "She's ace, mate, and a hot looker."
"Did you really save for the airfare? How long did you plan this?"
"Ages. I wanted desperately to be here for your birthday."
"When you didn't email I thought you'd lost interest."
"Hey, you know me. I got this anti-net image to maintain. I'm surprised you still have those net friends of yours...TJ and that fossil dude. Anyway, I can't handle cyber relationships. I'm physical, and being here with you beats the pants off any bloody email."
We surfed the rest of that day. The new stick was wicked, not only to ride but also visually. Rick rode his old stick which he gave me as a parting gift before moving to Canada. It was a fantastic day, and one that gave him a chance to catch up with old mates.
Monday morning, after my folks left for work, Rick and I showered, then made breakfast while still naked. When the doorbell rang unexpectedly, Rick offered to answer it and wrapped a towel around his waist as he made his way up the hall. When he returned to the kitchen, with Brett following, the towel was casually draped over his shoulder. Then Brett saw I was also naked. "Are you guys gonna stay naked the whole damn time?"
Rick cracked completely, no doubt reminded of the time he answered the door to collect a pizza. The towel wrapped around his waist unraveled and fell to the floor while he fumbled with change. The young pizza bloke didn't know which way to look. Then Rick "accidentally" dropped the change and the pizza guy got to his knees to collect it, right in front of Rick's considerable assets. What a hoot that was! Nudity never bothered Rick, not even at home with his folks. "Hey," he said to Brett, "you can undress too. Kyle's been telling me how hot you are."
"Don't shit me. Kyle's a pervert."
"I know that."
"Hey!" I protested as I buttered toast. "You blokes speak for your bloody selves!"
Rick asked if I'd help him undress Brett. "Or do I have to do it myself?"
Brett freaked and backed off. "You come near me," he threatened, "and I'll break your nose." At that point, Brett was unaware of Rick's karate expertise.
"Don't stress, man. It's not good for your health." And with that, Rick and I donned shorts and invited Brett to join us for breakfast.
"I was only kidding about undressing you," Rick explained. "Kyle tells me you're pretty buff. I've been working out at a gym in Canada but it's bloody tough yakka."
"I don't do gym all that much; mainly boxing and hundreds of sit-ups." An intense convo ensued about training and buffing up before Rick asked: "You wanna take off your shirt? I gotta see those abs Kyle always raves about."
Brett couldn't resist the opportunity to show off his six-pack to a fellow fitness enthusiast. He stood, pulled his T over his head, then sucked in his stomach to reveal the most awesome definition.
Rick ceased chewing and spoke with his mouth still full of bacon and egg. "Whoa! That is fucking impressive! Dammit! I can't get that cut."
"Just sit-ups and more sit-ups, mate." What followed was something that took me by total surprise. "You've got good legs, though."
Rick quizzed me later about the kind of relationship I had with Brett, and suggested that maybe Brett was more fond of me that I suspected. "I saw the way he looks at you." I disagreed. Brett was straight. One hundred percent straight.