Don't Wanna Be Lonely Tonight
By Tim Mead
Lois Hammond officially took over as my boss, Dean of Students, on June 1. And then she left to attend a conference in Corvallis. She managed, in fact, to be away at one meeting or another most of the time. I'd been doing the Dean's job since Carol left, and I continued to do that job as well as mine. I'd expected when the new Dean was on board I'd get a bit of respite, but it didn't happen. Things went on like that, even into the fall. Apparently the powers that be decided to hire Lois for the prestige she brought to the U of Z, knowing full well that she'd spend most of her time speaking to groups of other university administrators who preferred to be at professional meetings rather than at home doing mundane things . . . like their jobs.
The point of all this is that I couldn't help feeling resentful. Resentful that I wasn't chosen to be the Dean but was considered competent to do the Dean's work while she glad handed her way from conference to conference. I was even more resentful that Russ and I weren't able to spend many evenings together. Call me insecure. Even though he was so great looking and so sweet that he could have had almost any gay man or straight woman he set his cap for, I didn't really think he'd leave me. I believed him when he said he loved me and that so far as he was concerned we were in this for the long haul. Maybe it was just selfishness on my part, but I cherished our time together. And evenings should have been our time. Yet after Lois came on board, I often had to stay on campus for meetings and other university functions or else bring work home with me.
And Russ took to spending several evenings a week at the Shelter. He, too, could do a lot of his work on his computer at home if necessary. But I think he got so caught up in the work they were doing with the kids that he wanted to be there, or perhaps felt he should be.
* * *
"God, I'm glad you and I broke up!"
Mitch grinned, wadded his napkin into a ball, and tossed it toward the waste basket beside my desk. It missed.
"So, are you just going to sit there?" I asked.
"You can be such a queen!"
"Moi?" I arched an eyebrow. "What have I done to deserve that? Is it just because if you don't pick up the damned napkin, I will?"
We were sitting in my office. He'd called earlier and said he was bringing subs for lunch.
"Relax, Bax!" I hated when he said that. "You're just so compulsive. I'll pick up the fucking napkin."
"But that's not what you really want to say, is it?"
"Maybe we broke up because we understand each other too well."
"Mitchell, we broke up because you want to top all the time. You're really selfish, you know, keeping that cute ass off limits."
"Who says it's off limits?"
"You mean you let Corey . . . ?"
"None of your business."
"Oh, now you are being a tease. But I have to say, I've always wondered about you always topping that sweet big hunk."
"Eat your heart out, Crouse!"
I wiped my mouth, folded the napkin, picked it up along with the paper that had been wrapped around the sub, and dropped it all into the waste basket. Then I picked up his napkin from the floor and put it in the basket as well.
"Yep! You're compulsive. Anal, even."
"Come off it, Keller! Just because your office is a pigsty doesn't mean I'm compulsive when I don't throw trash on my floor."
"What makes you think that's what I meant?" He positively smirked.
"Very articulate, your deanship."
I took a swallow from the can of diet cola on my desk.
"I think I'm lost."
He shook his head. "What would you do without me to lead you through the labyrinths of life?"
"Okay, what I meant was . . . how shall I put this . . . ?"
"First of all, you're the English professor. If you can't figure out how to say something, who could? And if I had a clue what you're trying to say, I'd help you, but I haven't, so I can't."
I thought a change of subject might be in order. Whatever Mitch had in mind, I was guessing it had something to do with me and being anal. "What shift is Corey doing this week?"
"He's on nights."
That was getting close to what we'd been talking about, so I changed tack.
"I've never asked you this before, but I've often wondered. How do you cope with the worry?"
He didn't pretend not to understand me. "I live with it. It's the price I pay for loving a fire fighter."
"Still, it must be hard."
"Yes. But you need to understand, Bax, I don't complain. It's a fact of our lives that he has night duty a lot. So we make the most of the time we have together."
"I get that. But what about the . . . other?"
He clasped his hands behind his head and stared out the window for a moment. Then he unclasped them and studied a thumbnail.
"I try not to think about it. As I said, that comes with the territory and, like it or not, I have to accept it because I love the big hunk."
I started to say something, but Mitch continued.
"And if you love Russ as much as I think you do, you'll accept the fact that he has a life outside the house and that it's important to him. Don't smother him. Just be glad he comes home to you."
Before I could reply, my phone rang. It was one of the assistant academic deans with a question.
As I was talking to the caller, Mitch stood, emptied his cola, walked to the waste basket, gently placed the can in it, and straightened up. He puckered his lips at me.
I put my hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and said, "Thanks for lunch."
"Your turn next time."
* * *
I don't mean that Russ and I never had time for each other. One weekend we took off a couple of extra days and flew to New York, where we managed to see a Broadway show and the Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. We spent an afternoon poking around Washington Square, holding hands and just enjoying being together. Another weekend Dad and Lisa came down and we all went to see Alan Jackson, who was in town.
Often Russ and I would meet after work and have drinks and dinner downtown before coming home on the Rapid.
Sometimes we'd cook together, sipping wine as we did. Then after cleaning up the kitchen, we'd spend the evening snuggling together watching television or else listening to music and reading. Good times. The best. Just not often enough. Where Russ was involved I was greedy.
* * *
One afternoon Russ called me at the office to say he was staying at the Shelter until 8:00 or so. I'd gone home, nuked something, and was reading a proposal from the Inter-Fraternity Council when the phone rang.
"How are you, sexy?"
Finally I recognized the voice. "Oh, Eric! I'm good. How are you?" `And why are you calling?' I wondered.
"Good! Glad to hear it!" He paused. "You're probably wondering why I'm calling."
"Hey, it's just good to hear from you. I don't think we've talked since that night at Mitch and Corey's."
He chuckled. "Well, that's pretty much the reason for my call. I wanted you to know that the matchmaking worked."
"I don't know whether you were behind setting Sam and me up, or whether it was totally Mitch and Corey's idea."
"They were responsible for the invitation to dinner. I didn't know you guys were going to be there until Russ and I arrived."
"But it was your idea?"
"Eric, I honestly don't remember. The four of us did talk about you two guys one evening. But tell me what's happening?"
"Whatever it is, is happening fast, man. The doc is an amazing guy! I can't get enough of him." Then there was a pause. "This is pretty embarrassing, considering what I once said to you."
"Eric, you and Sam are great people. I'm really happy that you two are . . . what should I say here?"
Another chuckle. "Together? `Cause that's what we are. I mean, we've still got our separate places, but we're a couple, whatever that means."
"That's fantastic! You should call Mitch and Corey."
"I've just talked to both of them. How about Russ? Is he around?"
"No, he's not here at the moment. Something going on at the Shelter he couldn't miss. But I'll be sure to pass on your good news when he gets home."
"Yeah, do that, please. And ask him to call me. I want to talk to my old work buddy."
"Great. And Bax?"
"Be happy, Eric. Best to Doc Sam!"
Well, how about that? Happy endings . . . or at least happy beginnings for a couple of decent guys.
* * *
Russ worked afternoons at the Shelter, but he got up most mornings when I did. After I left for work he ran errands, did shopping, cleaned the house, read, and practiced his guitar. It was like having a housekeeper. I worried that he might be bored or feel unfulfilled, but so long as he wasn't complaining I wasn't.
One morning he saw me off to work as usual. We kissed goodbye as usual. I asked if he'd be staying at the Shelter that evening, and he said he didn't think so.
When I got home he was there, but I sensed immediately that something wasn't right.
"What's wrong, gorgeous?"
He turned his head to the left and pointed to his right temple.
It looked fine to me, and I said so.
I got so close my eyes almost crossed, but didn't see anything amiss. I swiped at his ear with my tongue.
"Bax, this is no time for that!"
"Then will you just freakin' tell me what's your problem?"
"Don't you see those gray hairs there? I'm getting old, that's my freakin' problem."
I hugged him and whispered in his ear, "You'll always be gorgeous to me."
"But I'm turning gray!"
"Yeah, I've noticed."
"You've noticed? And you didn't say anything?"
"No, babe. It's no big deal. Happens to everybody."
"Hasn't happened to you."
He sounded a little pouty, and I chuckled. "Well, not at the temples. But have you noticed I don't run around with stubble on my face on weekends anymore?"
"Can't say I have, but now that you mention it . . ."
"I've had gray in my beard for a couple of years now. With my light hair, it's hard to notice unless I don't shave for a while. So chill, stud! We're just a couple of hunky guys in their prime. Your little glints of silver will just make you look distinguished."
"Distinguished!" He practically wailed. "I'm not old enough for distinguished."
"In that case, babe, how about Just for Men?"
Then I kept his mouth occupied for a while. When he could speak again, he said, "Nah. I'm not gonna cover it up. If you promise to stay stubbly this weekend so I can see your gray."
"It's a deal. Now, let me get out of these clothes and into something comfortable."
"Cool! I'll toddle into the kitchen and pour us some wine."
"Go to it, old man!"
* * *
One evening in early October, Russ and I were in the family room reading as a Rufus Wainwright CD played softly in the background. The softer the better so far as I was concerned. I thought he had a whiny voice, nothing like Russ's smooth baritone.
Russ answered the phone.
"Hello? Oh, hi, Dad. How are things in Cincinnati?"
He paused to listen.
"Huh? What's wrong?" Pause. "And what did the doctor say?"
He listened again, his mouth getting tighter and tighter.
"Okay. Tomorrow. I'll make arrangements at work. Tell her I love her."
When he hung up, I watched his face, waiting for him to tell me what was wrong.
"Is it serious?"
"It's a cough or a chest problem of some sort. I'll have to wait until I get there to see what the situation really is." He shrugged. "The doctor doesn't seem worried, but Dad's concerned, of course. According to him, whatever she's got hasn't responded to antibiotics. It's not getting worse, but it isn't getting better either. She wants to see me."
I didn't have any reason to like Eleanor, but she was Russ's mother, after all, and I was concerned. "Do you want me to come with you?"
He hugged me. "No, babe. You have work to do and I don't want to subject you to my family if it isn't necessary. Let's see . . . tomorrow's Friday. I'll go to the Shelter in the morning and get some work done. I'll leave from there a little before noon. I should be in Cincinnati by 6:00 or so."
"Call me when you know anything, okay?"
So there was another weekend without my lover. I don't know what I did to fill up the time, but I kept telling myself hopefully this wasn't going to go on for weeks and I could handle it.
Russ called about 10:00 Friday night to let me know he'd gotten there safely and so far as he could tell his mother wasn't in such bad shape.
He called from his car Sunday afternoon to say that he was on the road and would be home (our home, that is) in time for supper.
As he sipped his pre-prandial Piesporter, he said, "She doesn't have a fever. Just a cough, which sounds pretty juicy. She's taking some sort of over the counter product the doctor suggested. He says there's a lot of that kind of cough going around. It hangs on forever, and about the only thing to do is wait it out. If she gets worse or develops a fever or chest pain, she's to get in touch with him right away."
"I'm glad to hear it isn't worse."
"Bax, I hate to say this, but I don't think there's any reason why I needed to make that trip. I'm tired and tense. I love Mother, but she can be . . . well, you know."
What was I going to say, yeah, his mother was a demanding bitch?
"And, Christ, she's got Dad and Bud and Kimberly to call if she needs them. They were all there, even the kids, this weekend. She didn't really need me. It was almost as if she was on her deathbed and wanted to see her `dear boy' one last time."
"After supper we're going to put you in the tub and turn on the jets and leave you there a while. Then if you're still tired and tense, I think I know a way to get rid of the tension."
He grinned. "That probably means I'll still be tired, though, huh?"
"Well, yeah, maybe."
He went to Cincinnati every weekend for a while; I think it was four in all. Mitch and Corey stepped up, as they always do, to keep me from spending every one of those weekends at home alone. One Saturday afternoon we went out for supper and then saw a French film at the art cinema in Fair Hills.
Another time we went to the stadium to see Zenith take on Colby State. It was a perfect fall football afternoon, and we all forgot our dignity and yelled for the home team with all the enthusiasm of the kids in the student section. Apparently we didn't yell loud enough, for though it was a close game, Colby State won. Afterward we came back to my place and ordered pizza. It was an exciting afternoon followed by a mellow evening with my two best friends. I couldn't help feeling a little jealous, though, when they left. To go home together. To go to bed together. And then I realized just how insecure and needy I was. But my man was with his family, who didn't like me. And I missed him.
I gave myself a good talking to the next day before doing some work I'd brought home. After lunch I put on some music and read until Russ arrived, tired and ready for some wine and nibbles.
After the first weekend of being alone, I had been tempted to go with Russ, but he didn't really expect me to go, and although I would have enjoyed being with him in the car, helping with the driving and just gabbing with him, I didn't really want to see the diva.
Anyway, I was a bit tense myself that fourth weekend when he went to Cincinnati. I tried very hard to keep my feelings to myself, but Russ sensed them. He was very apologetic when he got back, told me he was sorry he'd deserted me, and that he'd make it up to me.
"And just what did you have in mind, cowboy?"
He leered. "Tonight, I'll start by giving you lots of very personal attention. But maybe I'll have some other news for you soon."
As good as his word, he pampered and spoiled me for hours. Welcome home sex can be every bit as good as make-up sex, and that night Russ was
Midweek we got a call saying Eleanor was over her problem. The doctor suggested it may have been some sort of seasonal allergy. Big fucking deal! I must admit that I was pissed. Pissed with her for being so dramatic and demanding. Even pissed with Russ. A little. For not standing up to her.
I didn't tell him, though.
* * *
That Sunday night he'd said something about having news for me in a day or two. I got the impression he meant something big.
It was big, all right.
Friday evening when he got home he had a huge bouquet of asters. For me!
After a prolonged thank-you kiss, I asked him what the occasion was, all the while searching my memory. Was this the anniversary of something? What had I forgotten?
"Well, first of all, babe, they're just to say I love you. And I'm sorry I've been away from you so much, first because of the Shelter and then because of Mother."
"You didn't need to do that, cowboy," I said, giving him another kiss. "But I'm glad you did. You're so sweet!"
After I'd changed out of my suit we were sitting in the living room with some hunter's cheddar and those sesame rice crackers I like so much. Russ had opted to have cab with me instead of his usual Piesporter. Life's good, as that appliance commercial says.
It seemed to get even better when he said, "I've told them at the Shelter I won't be hanging around there in the evenings any more."
Trying not to show just how happy that made me, I asked, "Why not?"
His face changed, ever so slightly, and I knew he was uncomfortable.
"I could say it's because I want to spend more time with you."
"You could say that, but . . . ?"
"Sweetie, it's true. I always want to spend more time with you. It just seems like life's always throwing something at us to keep us from being together as much as we both would like."
"Yeah, I understand that. Honestly." I sliced a bit of the tangy white cheese, put it on a cracker, and handed it to him. "But now you're going to be around more in the evening?"
I relaxed, fixed myself a cracker, and ate it.
"Sounds good to me, gorgeous."
He set his glass down and leaned forward.
"But there's more. I hope you're gonna be okay with it."
I tensed and then, trying to look nonchalant, said, "Tell me."
"Well, you know how much I've gotten caught up in what's going on at the Shelter, with the work they're doing, helping all those kids."
My big-hearted Russ. Of course I knew that. And I told him so.
"Thanks for that. So here's what I want to do. I've been talking to the admissions people over at the U. They say there'll be no problem with me becoming a student there."
That came at me out of left field. "Doing what?"
"I want to get another bachelor's, this time in psychology or counseling so I can work full-time with the kids."
"Have you talked with Les Crocker? Would they be interested in hiring you?"
"He said he can't guarantee anything until I actually have the degree, but he was sure they'd be glad to get me when I was qualified."
"And how long will that take?"
"Well, I'm gonna keep on working part time, but they're going to let me fit my hours around my classes. Since I've already got a BA, I'll only have to take the major courses, so my admissions advisor says I can probably do it in three years."
"And you really want to do this?" Actually, it didn't surprise me. I knew how caught up he'd been in what was going on with the teens at the Shelter. And I certainly couldn't fault the altruism he showed by wanting to make this particular career change. (A nasty little part of me said it hoped this would be his
last career change, but I told it to go crawl behind its rock.)
"Yeah, if you can deal with me working and going to school."
And, I realized just then, studying.
I went over and sat on his lap, putting my arms around him. I said, breathily into his ear, "Yeah, gorgeous. I'll manage to live with that, so long as you come to bed with me every night."
"Sleeping with the dean of students? I think I can deal with that."
* * *
Although I'd been as enthusiastic as possible with Russ about his college plans, the actual fact of having him studying from supper to bedtime five nights a week meant we spent less time together evenings than before. I didn't complain to my lover, but I did grouse about it to Mitch. Which had interesting results.
Russ officially became a student at the beginning of the second term, just after the first of the year. One January night about three weeks into the semester, we'd gone to bed and were in the early stages of love-making.
He was lying (naked, of course) on his back. I was more or less draped across him, and we were kissing while I fondled his balls and occasionally humped against his belly. Suddenly, I found myself face down, with my ass in the air. (He's surprisingly strong for a guy as lean as he is.)
"What are you doing, Smith?" I squawked.
"Never you mind, your deanship."
He began rimming me. He didn't do that often, since usually I did it to him, getting that area ready for what was to come, so to speak. This time, however, he really got into the task. In fact, I'd not been that turned on by any kind of anal stimulation since I was in college (but that's another story).
Did I say I was turned on? When he replaced his tongue with a lubed finger and began stroking my prostate, I had to ask once more. "Cowboy, what the fuck
are you doing?"
I heard a nasty chuckle. "You just answered your own question, lover. Oh, and this is courtesy of Mitch, by the way."
"What does fuckin' Keller have to do with you fingering me?"
Another chuckle. "Well, he didn't specifically say to finger you. But that's the way it usually works."
"Are you seriously going to . . . ?"
"I seriously are." He inserted another finger.
Before he was done, I was screaming for him to fuck me more, to fuck me harder, and I'd forgotten all about my so-called best friend.
The next morning Russ had breakfast ready when I entered the kitchen. I was doing that spraddle-legged walk. You know, the one you do when your ass is still a little achy?
"How are you this morning, babe?"
"Apart from a little tenderness down there, I'm just fine." I smiled. "Really fine."
He nodded his head, chuckled, and handed me a glass of OJ. "He said you would be."
"Who? You mean Mitch? He put you up to switching roles?"
"Yep. Told me you'd been way tense for months, and he thought you just needed to have me fuck the daylights out of you a few times to get you uncoiled."
"A few times, huh?"
There was that grin that made my knees weak. I started to flop onto a stool, thought better of it, and eased myself down carefully.
"Yeah. The good doctor Keller said on an as-needed basis."
"Fucking Keller. Our sex life is none of his business. Wait'll I see him!"
"Cool it, little man!"
This was a new Russ speaking, and somehow I wanted to cool it.
"Well, if you had ever wanted to top, you know it would have been okay."
"I know. And I like it. So get used to getting topped from time to time."
"This doesn't mean a permanent role reversal, does it?"
He grinned and set a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage in front of me.
"Mitch thinks it should. He says you've always deluded yourself thinking you're a top."
"But . . ." I was momentarily speechless.
"Before you have a stroke, Baxter, I've been happy as a pig in shit with our sex up to this point. But last night was great, too. I'd forgotten what that's like. So let's just see how things go. Who knows, much as you may hate to admit it, taking it up the ass once in a while might be just what you need to go with the flow a little more, huh?"
Something deep inside me twitched, and I shivered.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to trade off now and then."
* * *
And that's what we did. Uh, do.
* * *
I learned in an undergrad English class that a story is supposed to have structure. They called it plot back then. We were taught to look for a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think it may have been Aristotle who said it first. Though one might ask why an ancient Greek was laying down laws for modern fiction. Oh, and the latest buzz term, according to Mitch, is to look for the story's "arc."
But there's the problem. This story doesn't have an "arc." It doesn't have an ending. I'm still in the same old job. Russ is working on his degree and still doing his thing at the Shelter. He studies most nights. And I'm okay with that. I'd like to think that after he gets his degree and starts working full time at the Shelter – or wherever – we'll have our evenings together. But I'm not foolish enough to believe that's guaranteed.
I've realized, however, that I've got my one special guy. We live together and make love together. And that makes me pretty lucky. I spent so much time wishing things were perfect that I forgot to be thankful for what I have. If you're thinking it took me long enough to figure it out, well, you'd be right.
* * *
I did ask Tim (you remember him, don't you?) what to do to conclude this story, since it has no real ending.
"Say goodnight, Gracie."
Once again, thanks
to Drew, Mickey, Tinn and Bill for invaluable help with "Lonely."
This story is my intellectual property. Do not post it to another site
without my express permission.
If you'd like to email me, please do so at
being sure to put "Lonely" in the subject line so I'll know it isn't
spam. Thanks! --Tim