"You want to get married?" I asked in disbelief. "But you're so young!" I complained.
"Dad," my son, Steve Jr, replied, "Greg and I have been a couple for over two years now. How much longer do we have to know each other to know that we want to spend the rest of our lives together?" he countered.
"Still," I pointed out, "you're only seventeen years old! You're not even an adult yet."
"Steve'll be eighteen in just two months," Greg, Steve's boyfriend challenged, "and I've been eighteen since January. And just what's wrong about high school sweethearts getting married when they graduate high school? We were both out and proud throughout our junior and senior years. We even went to the prom together as a couple . . ."
"And you got hassled for it," I interjected."
"There are assholes everywhere," my son replied, "but the amazing thing is that almost everyone accepted us for who we are. The few who took exception were a tiny minority. Everyone else was fine with it, and that was in conservative Orange County, California . . . not here in The Village . . . not here in New York."
"The bottom line, Dad, is that Steve and I love each other," Greg said as he took my son's hand. I liked it that Greg called me 'Dad' too. "We know we're gonna spend our lives together, regardless of whether we're married or not. Maybe marriage means nothing more than a piece of paper to you and Pete, but to Steve and me, it's an important symbol of our commitment to each other. Even if gay marriage isn't accepted everywhere, we believe strongly that getting married is our right."
"It isn't a question of gay rights," I asserted. "I'd be having this conversation with you even if one of you was a girl . . ."
"So you're discriminating against us because of our ages rather than our sexual orientation?" Steve Jr. asked.
"Well, when you put it that way, I guess I am," I replied, "but it just seems you're so young, you know? You need time to experience your youth before you settle down."
"Are you saying you'd rather Greg and I fucked around on the side?" my son practically shouted. "Is that what you want? Dad, I'm not like that. We're not like that. Are you saying you'd rather I not be with Greg? If that's the way you feel, then maybe Greg and I shouldn't be moving in with you!"
Damn! That wasn't what I meant at all. Pete and I loved Greg as if he were our own son. We couldn't be happier knowing the two of them were together.
"Steve," Pete sighed, joining in for the first time, "Your dad and I absolutely love you and Greg. Your visits during the past two summers were among the best times of our lives. You can't imagine how thrilled we were when you gave us the news that you'd both been accepted to NYU, and how ecstatic we were when you agreed to take us up on our offer to live with us during your studies. We remodeled the attic with you guys in mind.
"You're right when you say a piece of paper doesn't mean that much. Your dad and I never saw the need to get married, not that we even could until recently. Thanks to the laws of New York State, we enjoy the same rights that heterosexual couples share, regardless of whether or not we're married."
"But we don't want the same rights," Steve countered. "We want identical rights to those enjoyed by straight, married couples. Separate but equal is not equal.
"Greg and I love each other and that's something that's never gonna change. We don't need to sleep around with other guys to know what we have is something special. We're all we'll ever need and getting married is, to us, an important symbol of that lifetime commitment to each other."
"You guys knew each other back when you were in high school," Greg added. "You both had major crushes on each other but were afraid to take a chance on coming out.
"Steve and I live in different times. Coming out is still a big deal, but it doesn't mean the end of the world the way it did in the Midwest back in the 1970s. Imagine how different your lives might be today if you'd gotten together back then."
Greg was right - our lives would have been different . . .
Growing up, I was pretty much an ordinary teenage boy. I was a bit introverted and shy and a major bookworm, but I had a close circle of friends, played the trombone in the marching band and was happy. That all changed when I came to realize I was different.
We lived in a new, upscale subdivision known as North Willow Farms on the city's north side. I went to North Central High School, the largest high school in Indiana and, although I wouldn't have considered myself popular, I held my own. I'd even managed to survive junior high and the merciless teasing that seemed to be a rite of passage into puberty.
It was during the summer between junior and senior high school, between ninth and tenth grades, that things changed. I was fifteen years old and hormones were raging through my body. I'd been jerking off just about every day for more than two years by then, but the fact that I kept a stash of pages ripped out from catalogs to use as jerk-off material barely registered its significance on me.
When my sister Marcie discovered my stash and asked me about it. She asked me if maybe I was gay and, of course, I vehemently denied it. 'Gay' was a word that had only recently become popular as a term for homosexuals but it didn't change people's attitudes. To be queer meant you were a freak, a pervert, a sicko. Stonewall had just happened but, hell, that was in New York. Being gay was not an option for a Midwestern boy of the time.
Until that time I never really thought about why I jerked off to pictures of boys in swimsuits and underwear. As a kid just about to turn thirteen, everything was new to me and I just knew I liked seeing lots of skin. Seeing shirtless boys made me hard and the thought of my being in public wearing next to nothing was a major turn-on. But, at fifteen, why was I still looking at pictures of boys? Why didn't I get excited looking at pictures of girls in scanty clothing? What was wrong with me?
I had a best friend, Darryl who, like me, was a bit of an introvert and a nerd. There were no computer games worth mentioning back then, so we mostly spent our time together talking about things we liked - music, science fiction, poetry and the like.
We also played basketball - not that either of us was any good at it but, for a boy in Indiana, not playing basketball was almost worse than being queer. As did most families with boys, we had a basketball hoop mounted above our garage and Darryl and I often spent whole afternoons shooting hoops. We played Horse, simple games of one-on-one and we just plain horsed around. We were two Midwestern boys growing up. It was not unusual to see us both shirtless, wearing skimpy cut-offs and sneakers on a hot summer day, as we shot hoops in front of my house.
Our games often degenerated into a general free-for-all and we'd end up rolling around on the front lawn, wrestling. I loved to wrestle with Darryl. I often got a boner when we did but then, so did he and so I didn't think there was anything wrong with it. We'd been wrestling around since we were nine years old - long before we knew anything about sex and sexual attractions.
It was on a hot day in late June that things changed. Darryl and I were wrestling around as usual, our skin covered with our sweat and grass from my lawn. There was nothing different about that time; as usual, we were both hard as could be, when Darryl went rigid and shuddered.
Suddenly, Darryl got a look of panic on his face. He seemed terrified of me. Without warning, he leapt up to his feet and ran. He ran from me. He ran away and I didn't understand why.
I tried running after him but he was long gone by the time I got to my feet. Expecting that he'd run home, I checked his house but either no one was home, or he just wasn't coming to the door.
Dejectedly, I walked home and tried calling him but there was no answer. Cell phones hadn't been invented yet and not many people had personal answering machines, which were pretty new back then, so the phone rang on and on.
I tried calling again that evening, once his parents were home, and I spoke to his mom, who called him to the phone only to tell me a minute later that Darryl wasn't feeling well and didn't want to talk to me. I was devastated.
The next day Darryl didn't show up at my house the way he usually did and again, when I called, there was no answer. I walked over to his house and banged on the door but the house remained silent. I was beside myself. What had I done?
That evening after dinner, I went over to his house and his mother answered the door.
"Could I see Darryl?" I asked.
"Darryl, Stephen's here!" she called out and he answered back, "Tell him I'm not feeling well. Tell him to go away!"
"Did something happen between the two of you?" she asked.
"No!" I answered back. "At least I don't think anything happened. I don't know what's going on, but I've got to talk to him. He's my best friend!"
Opening the door wider, she ushered me inside and I went straight to his room. His bedroom door was closed and locked.
Cautiously knocking on the door, I quietly said, "Darryl, open up, man. We gotta talk. What's wrong, man? Aren't I your best friend?"
Slowly the door opened to reveal a scared little boy. I'd never seen Darryl like this before. He was dressed only in a pair of 'tighty-whities' and his hair was in total disarray. Although neither of us shaved every day yet, it was evident that he'd gone longer than he usually did, with a fine growth of hair on his upper lip and stubble on his chin. Worst of all, his eyes were red and it was obvious he'd been crying.
"What's wrong, man?" I asked. I'd never seen him like this and it was killing me.
"How can you stand to be around me after what happened?" he asked in return.
"What in the world did happen?" I responded. "I mean, one minute we're on the ground wrestling and the next, you're running away from me."
"You don't know what happened?" he asked incredulously and then he added, "I came, Stephen. I actually came!"
"You came where," I asked in all my innocence and then a light bulb lit up in my head and my eyes got big as saucers. "You mean you came? I asked, and then I added, "You ejaculated?" seeking clarification.
Merely looking down, he nodded his head and then he said, "I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm all fucked up." That was the first time I'd ever heard him use that word.
"I look at a pretty girl," he went on, "and nothing happens. I don't get excited. I don't get a boner. I feel nothing.
"But when I'm with you, I get hard all the time. I can't help it."
"I'm the same way, Darryl," I said trying to reassure him, not realizing the admission I was making.
"You mean you don't get excited around girls either?" he asked.
"Come to think of it, no," I answered, still not grasping the significance.
"And you do around me," he stated, seeking confirmation.
"I just said I did," I replied, "but I've been getting boners when we wrestle since we were little kids."
"But my boners aren't just from when we wrestle," Darryl countered. "I get hard just being with you. I even get hard thinking about you at night," he added as he blushed furiously.
"Do you . . ." Darryl started to ask, "Do you . . . when you, you know, jerk off, what sorts of things do you think about?"
Now it was my turn to blush as I contemplated telling him about my stash of catalog pages. In my heart I knew that jerking off to catalog pages of boys in underwear wasn't exactly normal but I still didn't think it was queer, even though Marcie had told me it probably was.
Before I could answer, however, Darryl went on, "When I jerk off, I think about being naked. I think about being naked with you. I think about touching you and you touching me, and feeling each other. Sometimes I even think about kissing you while we touch each other."
"You think about kissing me? Like on the lips?" I asked in disbelief.
Darryl didn't say anything in reply. He just hung his head and started to cry.
Although I was just starting to comprehend what Darryl was saying, I was still in denial and, besides which, Darryl was my best friend and I couldn't stand to see him suffer.
Without even thinking of the consequences, I grabbed him and wrapped my arms around him, hugging him tightly as we sat on his bed. He hung his head on my shoulder and because I was wearing what we then called a tank top, I could feel his hot tears as they ran down the bare skin on my shoulder.
I immediately became aware of two things. First, I was harder than I'd ever been in my life. The feel of my best friend's skin against mine and the intimacy of our hug was pushing me to new heights of arousal. The second thing I noticed was that I wanted to kiss him.
Not even thinking about what I was doing, I pulled away slightly, lifted his chin with my hand and looked right into his sad eyes. He gave me a slight smile and that was it - my heart melted and I knew just what I wanted as I pressed my lips to his.
Neither of us seemed to be surprised at my action as our arms went around each other and the kiss deepened. Before we knew it, we were lying down on top of each other, writhing on the bed as Darryl opened his mouth and pressed his tongue against my lips.
As naēve as I was back then, I new absolutely nothing about kissing, much less French kissing, but I instinctively knew that I wanted Darryl's tongue in my mouth and so I parted my lips, allowing it entrance. By the time we came up for air, we both had goofy grins on our faces. We were two horny, sweaty boys.
Then getting a more serious look, Darryl asked, "Do you think this makes us gay, Stephen?"
"I don't know," I answered honestly. "A couple of years ago, Marcie told me she thought I was gay when she discovered . . ." I stopped myself when I realized what I was about to reveal about myself.
"When she discovered what?" Darryl asked. I was trapped with no way out, and so I answered.
"When she discovered my stash of catalog pages. I was almost thirteen and just starting to jerk off regularly, and I kept a stash of pages I'd ripped out from catalogs. They were pages of boys in swimsuits and in underwear."
"Wow!" was all Darryl said in response. "I guess maybe you really are gay, but then so am I, I guess. But it's more than that," he went on. "I think I love you the way boys and girls are supposed to love each other."
It was then that it hit me. It wasn't just about sex, although I did feel a desperate need to have sex with Darryl - not that I had any idea how to go about having sex with another boy. It was very much about love. I loved Darryl. I loved him romantically. Darryl and I were in love with each other and at that moment, I didn't care what the rest of the world might say about it.
Pouncing on him, I kissed Darryl hard. I was hard - hard as a rock. We were both hard.
I'd kicked off my sneakers when we first started making out and, between kisses, Darryl pulled my shirt up over my head and off, and he threw it to the floor. There was now nothing more than my shorts and our tighty-whities between us.
Before long, Darryl slid his hands down my back and inside my underwear, cupping my ass as we continued to make out with passion. He then reached around and unfastened my shorts and, in one smooth motion, pushed both my shorts and briefs down and off my feet. I likewise pushed his underwear down and off him as well. We were now completely naked and making out like crazy.
I wasn't sure when it began but soon we were humping each other as we continued to make out. All too soon I felt my balls pull up tight against and into my body as the most intense sensation worked its way from my toes to the pit of my stomach and out my throbbing member. I felt Darryl's body shudder, even as did my own.
I suppose we should have felt guilty but we didn't. We both had dazed looks on our faces and then we went back to making out and managed to get ourselves off two more times before I went home. It wasn't just our first sexual experience - it was the first time we made love.
There was no Internet back then and access to sexual material at the library was limited to adults, so Darryl and I had no way of learning more about what being gay was all about. What gay magazines there were, were in their infancy and outright illegal in most parts of the country, and nearly impossible to obtain in the Midwest.
In spite of all this, Darryl and I figured out on our own how to make each other feel good. We had sex with each other pretty much every weekday throughout the summer while our parents worked. The first time Darryl went down on me, I thought it was pretty gross, but then the feelings he generated within me left me wanting to do more, and to do it to him!
By the time we started high school in the fall, we knew all there was to know about each other's erogenous zones. We learned how to go down on each other at the same time - something we would learn years later was called a sixty-nine. We learned that it felt good to stick our fingers up each other's butt and that there was a 'magic button' deep inside. We even learned that boys can fuck each other just the way a boy can fuck a girl and that it felt great for both the one doing the fucking and the one being fucked.
We knew what we were doing was perverted and that we could never tell anyone but neither one of us was about to stop. We loved what we were doing and we loved each other. Although it was considerably more difficult for us to get together for sex once school started, we still managed to do it at least a few times every week.
Then our world came crashing down on us. Darryl's father got transferred to Cincinnati.
It might have been only a two-hour drive away but we were still only fifteen. We'd both be turning sixteen toward the end of the school year and could get our licenses the month after that but, even then, neither of us had regular access to a car.
In theory, we probably could have managed to see each other every weekend once the summer came, if we'd made the effort, but nine months had passed by then and Darryl had made a new life for himself in Cincinnati. Getting together just didn't happen. I guess it had just become too painful.
Even without knowledge of what was to come, my teenage psyche had difficulty coping with the loss of my boyfriend and my life started to spiral downwards. I got a job working at the nearby Hook Drugstore at 86th Street and Ditch Road but my heart wasn't in it and I ended up being fired after working only three weeks. With nothing else to do that summer between my sophomore and junior years, I increasingly just lay around. I often didn't bother getting dressed and sometimes didn't even bother getting out of bed.
I knew my parents were worried but their concerns took a back seat to the pain I felt in my heart. Finally, it just got to be too much for me. I was a fucking queer pervert and the one person who understood - the boy I loved - was gone from my life. What was the point?
At the time I felt nothing - all I could think about was ending my pain. Now, decades later and with two teenage boys of my own, I can appreciate the hell I put my family through. Back then I couldn't see any of that. I was a selfish, self-centered teenager and I was desperate to be done with it.
I spent days contemplating how to go about ending my life. I wanted something final - something from which there would be no return. Not that I had access to any, but pills would have taken too long. There was too much risk of being found by my sister or my parents before I was dead. We didn't own a gun and, well, stabbing myself . . . I could have never gone through with it. I could have hung myself but, somehow, I knew I'd be conscious throughout the whole ordeal.
What I wanted was just to go to sleep and not wake up. Somewhere I'd read that cutting one's wrists was like that but, unlike with pills, it would be fast. I waited for a day when Marcie was out with friends and, with my parents at work, I had the house to myself. Even then it took me much of the day to work up the courage to head downstairs and grab a pack of single-edged razor blades from my dad's workbench. I spent another hour just staring at the blades in my hand.
Noting that it was already mid-afternoon, I suddenly realized I couldn't put it off any longer. I took off all my clothes, neatly folded them and placed them in the laundry hamper. I then filled the bathtub with the hottest water I thought I could stand and slowly lowered myself into it, enjoying the sting of the water on my skin.
My first attempts were tentative and, God, it hurt like fuck! I'd thought it'd be almost painless but it was anything but. I almost gave up on it; however, I thought about how hard it would be to explain the scars to Mom and Dad and so I redoubled my efforts. It's hard to relate to my mind as a teenager - the silly, trivial things that seemed so important back then. I shudder at the thought I actually went ahead with trying to kill myself so my parents wouldn't find out I'd tried to kill myself. How perverted was that?
When I finally hit an artery, I was shocked at how the blood went everywhere and got all over the tile walls and even the floor. Not that I was thinking of my parents even then - I just hated messes of any kind - so I used a washcloth with my good hand to clean things up while I held my injured wrist under water. Finally, I got the resolve to cut the other wrist too, which wasn't easy while holding both hands underwater.
I noted with satisfaction that the bathwater was turning a deeper shade of red, but I still felt OK. Why wasn't I at least starting to feel groggy? I just wanted it to be over. Lying back in the tub, I closed my eyes and waited for death to overtake me but all I could feel was the intense pain - the fire in my wrists.
The next thing I knew, I was awakened by a blood-curdling scream and nearly jumped out of the water, only to see my mother standing in the doorway. I had failed.
I ended up spending the next four days in Intensive Care on the Pediatrics Ward at St. Vincent's hospital, which had recently moved from downtown to a new facility, right near our house. Then I spent another three days on the adolescent ward. During the entire time, my parents never left my bedside. Only then did I come to realize how devastated they would have been had I succeeded. Not that I didn't still feel the pain of losing Darryl but, with my parents love, I began to believe that my life could go on.
One week after my arrival, I was released, only to be hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for teenagers at Central State - Indiana's main psychiatric hospital. If I hadn't already been depressed, Central State would have been enough to depress me. It was enough to depress anyone with its century-old buildings and dingy atmosphere. Fortunately, my time there was fairly short as I underwent intensive psychotherapy, was medicated with antidepressants that left my mouth feeling like it was filled with cotton and that made me have the weirdest dreams, and they even gave me electric-shock treatments.
Finally I was allowed to return home to continue my therapy as an out-patient and, even though the problems were still there, I no longer felt the situation was hopeless. I was still depressed, and would probably always be depressed but at least I didn't feel like killing myself anymore.
Sure, I was still a homo faggot pervert - a secret I ultimately shared only with my mom. The medication took the edge off the pain and allowed me to drift through life. I even managed to pull off getting good grades.
Before I knew it, it was summer again and I managed to get a job 'flipping burgers' at the Burger Chef across the street from the drugstore I'd worked at last year. This time I did OK. The job actually helped to keep me focused and from drifting back toward suicide. I even saved enough money to buy a car!
My senior year got off to a pretty good start and I continued to get good grades. I got serious about college and realized I really liked figuring out how the economy worked. I wasn't interested in business and definitely didn't want to be a businessman like my father, but I nonetheless enjoyed the theory behind finance and trying to understand what made markets swing from bull to bear and back again. I was hooked on Economics and decide to pursue its study as a career.
I visited a number of Midwestern college campuses and ended up applying to several including, of course, Indiana University. Of all the places we visited, however, I especially liked Evanston, Illinois and so, when the acceptance letter came from Northwestern, I happily accepted.
In the meantime, the one thing I'd lacked ever since Darryl moved away, more, even, than the love and the sex, was a close friendship. I'd abandoned my circle of friends when my life fell apart and never managed to get them back - not that I really wanted to. I'd become a loner and preferred it that way.
That all changed one bright, sunny day in March when a moving truck showed up across the street from us. My curiosity piqued, I watched from my bedroom window as the movers carried load upon load of furniture and box after box inside.
It wasn't the furniture I was interested in scoping out, however, as I paid particular attention to our apparent new neighbors. Among them were an old couple who looked to be about the same age as my parents, a boy and a girl who looked to be a few years older than me - they were probably college kids - and a boy who looked to be a year or two younger than me.
It was the younger boy that drew my interest. Even from a distance, I could tell that he was particularly handsome - perhaps even beautiful. I wouldn't have gone as far as to say it was love at first sight but I certainly had developed a crush on him. But what were the odds that he was gay? Darryl was the only boy I'd ever known beside myself who was gay. No one else in the entire school was, and that was with a school population of some 3600!
One thing my long separation from Darryl had done was to make me a realist. I now accepted that I would always have an attraction to other guys and would never outgrow it. The chances of finding another like me, much less one I could love, were slim to none. Now that I knew what sex with someone you love was like, I could never settle for just sex alone. It would be far better to fake it with a girl I loved than to spend my life alone and lonely.
Resigned to my fate as I looked out my bedroom window, I realized there was no way the 'boy of my dreams' could possibly be interested in sex with another boy. Still, he was incredibly cute and it looked like he was a nice kid, the way he was helping his family out with the move. Somehow I could just sense he was a good guy - someone I wanted to know.
It had been a long time indeed since I'd had a friend, let alone a best friend, and I wondered if I could change that. The boy of my dreams would never be my lover but he could be my friend - maybe even my best friend.
Getting up off my desk chair, I headed downstairs and grabbed a light jacket from the closet. Exiting through the front door into the chilly, early spring air, I walked across the street and right up to the old man who appeared to be the father.
"Hi there. My name's Stephen Wolfe and I'm your neighbor from across the street."
Taking my proffered hand and grasping it firmly, the man replied, "Hello, Stephen. I'm Larry Sandler, and this," he added as he pulled his wife toward me, "is my wife, Marilyn."
"It's nice to meet you," I responded.
Signaling for the two older kids to come over, Mr. Sandler added, "These are two of our children, Mark and Wendy. They both go to IU down in Bloomington."
"Nice to meet you guys," I replied as I shook each of their hands.
"What school do you go to," Wendy asked. "IU, Purdue, Notre Dame?"
I was pleased to think she'd mistaken me for a college-age kid. "Nah," I replied. "I'm still a senior at North Central."
"Our old rival," Mark commented, causing me to raise my eyebrows. "We moved here from Lawrence," he explained, "so we didn't move that far." Lawrence was a less affluent suburb on the city's east side. "So I guess you'll be going to school with Twerp," he added.
"Twerp?" I asked.
"Mark, you know we don't like it when you call Peter that," Mr. Sandler admonished his son.
Just then, the younger boy appeared in the front doorway of their house and started to walk toward us. "Speaking of Twerp or, rather, Peter," Mark said.
"Hey," the boy said as he approached. He was even more stunning up close. "My name's Peter," he said as he extended his hand toward me.
At first I didn't move. I was totally taken by his good looks and sexy voice and it took a moment for my brain to kick into gear. Finally, I took his hand and grasped it firmly and replied, "And I'm Stephen, from across the street."
"Nice to meet you, Stephen from across the street," he responded with a laugh and I couldn't help but laugh with him.
"Hey," I asked, "would you guys like some help?"
"There's really no need," Mr. Sandler replied. "The movers are doing all the heavy lifting and it's more a matter of showing them where things go."
Desperate to spend more time with them and particularly with Peter, I suggested, "But you still have to unpack things. Perhaps I could help you unpack some of the boxes. I'd really like to help you."
"The movers have finished with my bedroom," Peter noted, "and I have a lot of boxes of books. If you really wouldn't mind, I could use your help putting my books away."
"I'd love to help you, Peter." I replied, "It'd be a great way for us to get to know each other and I could tell you a little about North Central."
"C'mon, let's go," Peter said and we took off toward the house, where he led me inside, past a myriad of piled up boxes and upstairs to a bedroom at the front of the house - a bedroom that faced mine.
Soon we were busy unloading box after box of books and loading them into what was, literally, a wall of bookshelves.
Peter had a large variety of different kinds of books but it quickly became apparent that science fiction was our shared passion. Not only did he have books from more modern authors such as Arthur C. Clark and Isaac Asimov, but he also had classics from the likes of Jules Verne - authors that most kids our age had barely heard of.
As we worked side by side, we talked a lot about our shared interest and the stories and authors we enjoyed the most. We were clearly destined to be friends - probably good friends and perhaps even best friends.
Although it was chilly outside, we were working hard lifting boxes and shuffling, sorting and placing books on their shelves. Our jackets had long since been discarded but we were both wearing sweatshirts and were beginning to sweat profusely.
"I think I'm gonna get heat stroke if I don't do something about the heat," Peter said, but rather than opening a window, which was what I thought he'd do, he reached for the hem of his sweatshirt and lifted it up over his head.
I had to work hard to keep from staring as his torso came into view. Rather than the skinny physique I was expecting of such a bookworm, Peter had a toned, muscular appearance.
"Aren't you going to take your shirt off too?" he asked. "You must be burning up!"
I was trapped. Not only was my torso much less developed than his, but I was afraid he'd see my wrists and that was one secret I didn't want him to know about - at least not yet. I could only hope he didn't notice.
No sooner was my shirt off, however, than he was at my side, holding my hands in his and running his fingers over the scars. Embarrassed, I turned my head away and started to cry.
Peter reached out, however, and used his hand to turn my head back toward him. Looking deeply into my eyes, he said, "With me it was pills."
"Huh?" I asked.
"When I tried to off myself, I used pills."
"You tried to kill yourself?" I asked incredulously.
"Something else I guess we have in common," he replied with a wan smile.
"Why'd you do it?" I asked, forgetting for the moment that he'd probably ask me the same question - a question I decidedly didn't want to answer.
Turning his head away very briefly and then turning it back toward me, he replied, "I'd rather not talk about it. Maybe someday I'll get the courage, but I'm not ready yet."
"Same here," I added, saving myself from having to tell my story, too.
Changing the subject, he asked, "Could I call you Steve? Stephen sounds so, well, formal."
"You can call me Steve if I can call you Pete," I replied.
With a broad smile, he responded, "You've got yourself a deal, Steve."
"Likewise, Pete," I added, and then we both broke out in fits of laughter. Everyone else could call us Peter and Stephen but, from then on, we were Pete and Steve to each other.
At school we hardly saw each other during the day because he was a sophomore and I was a senior, but we spent many an evening or weekend together. We shared so much in common - much more than I ever did with Darryl with the exception of that one important similarity, our sexuality.
By the time I graduated, however, I was almost glad I'd be moving away. Spending time with Pete was becoming sheer torture as it became more and more apparent that I was hopelessly in love with him. Sadly, it was a love that could never be returned.
Our summer together was truly the best of times and the worst of times. The only thing that made it bearable was my job at the city's first Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor, at Castleton Square Mall. At least the job limited the time we were together and helped keep my hormones in check.
Come August, it was a tearful goodbye when I left for Evanston. Pete and I both hugged each other and wept openly, not caring what others thought. My love for him had nothing to do with it - Pete was the best friend I'd ever had, even if it had only been for five months.
Once I got situated at Northwestern University, however, life settled into a routine of study and reading and, although I never forgot about Pete, he became less and less a part of my life. He never faded away to the extent that Darryl did but my life became less and less centered on my childhood in Indiana.
There was something else in my life that changed when I left home - I started dating girls. Although I talked a lot about girls in high school, desperately trying to prevent any rumors about my sexuality, I never actually dated. With the break with my past, I decided to put into place my long-term plan for the future. I was going to date women, find one I loved, settle down and have a family.
About halfway through my sophomore year I met Cindy, and that was it. She wasn't a science fiction aficionado the way Pete was but she at least understood it and respected my passion. In other ways we really were a good match, except for that one nagging bit about my sexuality. In spite of that, we managed to fall deeply in love and were married in our senior year.
After graduating with my B.A. in Economics, I went on to get a masters and then a Ph.D. degree in the field, which was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship. Cindy got her Masters in Social Work and went to work for the Chicago City School System. After graduation, I was offered a position as assistant professor at the University of Iowa. After a little discussion, we decided to accept it.
Iowa City was a nice little college town and it seemed like a nice place to raise a family but, to a couple of kids from much larger cities, it seemed downright stultifying. We did enjoy our time there and it was a great stepping-stone for my career but, in time, it became increasingly apparent that we could never stay there long-term. When I was offered an associate professorship at New York University, we jumped at it.
With help from my parents and from Cindy's, we bought a house in Upper Montclair, New Jersey and I became a daily commuter. Taking an express bus eastward and through the Holland Tunnel every day, I taught, advised, graded papers and wrote by day, returning home each night to my wife and the three beautiful children we now had. It was a grueling routine, but I loved it.
Because NYU was located adjacent to Manhattan's Greenwich Village, or The Village as New Yorkers call it, I often found myself going out for lunch. There were many cute restaurants and shops in the area and there were always colleagues who didn't mind getting off campus for a while.
"Hey Stephen," my colleague, Zach, asked as he appeared at my door on a beautiful, early spring day. "A bunch of us are going to check out a new restaurant that just opened today in The Village. Care to join us?"
"Why not?" I responded as I grabbed my jacket and fell in with a group of about six of us. "So what kind of place are we going to?" I asked as we headed out of the building.
"It's a place that serves 'California Cuisine', whatever that means," Zach answered. Because the place was new, there was a bit of a line and a further wait once inside to get a table big enough for six. Still, my next lecture wasn't until later in the afternoon and so I was in no hurry. None of us were.
The menu was certainly interesting, with a variety of unusual food combinations from which to choose. I decided on the butternut squash ravioli with a tomato, spinach and goat cheese salad and a cup of crab bisque. The food certainly smelled delicious and my mouth watered thinking about the sumptuous lunch I was about to enjoy.
As we ate our salads, someone came up from behind me and started to speak in a vaguely familiar voice. "Gentlemen, welcome to Glass. I'm glad you could come here on our opening day and I hope you're enjoying yourselves.
"My name's Peter Sandler, and I'm the owner and principle chef. If there's anything I can do . . ."
But that's as far as he got as the name and the voice came together in my mind and my salad fork fell onto my plate.
"Stephen, are you all right?" my colleague, Carl, asked from across the way, but I couldn't answer. Slowly, I turned around and looked up into the familiar eyes of the man who had been my boyhood best friend - the man who still held my heart after all these years. Those eyes were still the same eyes. That face was still the same face, even though we were both in our mid-thirties now.
And then Pete saw my face and it was his turn to register shock at seeing me. "Steve, it really is you, isn't it? What brings you to New York?"
Thinking about it, I wasn't sure just when it was we lost touch. We'd kept in contact throughout my early college years but then I got married and he'd gone to school on the west coast and, somehow, we'd just stopped corresponding.
Finally realizing Pete had asked a question, I answered, "I'm an associate professor at NYU, in the Economics Department."
"I'm impressed," Pete responded.
"And how long have you been living in New York?" I asked.
"Nearly a decade now," he answered, "ever since I got my degree in Culinary Arts. I've slowly been working my way up the ladder through some of the finer restaurants in the city, saving the money to open my own place."
"Then congratulations are in order," I said as I grasped his hand firmly in mine, and then asked, "Do you live in the city?"
"Right here in The Village," he answered, I'm sure raising the eyebrows of all my colleagues at the table but I wasn't about to embarrass my long lost friend.
"Your lunch today is on me," he stated, and then added, "all of yours," as he looked around the table.
"We have a lot of catching up to do, Pete," I proposed as I finally dropped his hand. "We ought to get together for old times' sake."
"It's a bit crazy right now," he replied, "with the opening and all, but stop by in a few weeks and things should have settled down a bit by then."
"I'll do that," I promised, and then Pete disappeared back into the restaurant.
It was nearly two months before I made the effort to return to Glass and sought out Pete. Even though they were every bit as busy as they'd been on opening day, he took the time to sit with me and have lunch. We spoke for nearly three hours!
So began my new relationship with Pete. We often ate lunch together and occasionally found the time to visit museums together, or to take in an afternoon concert. Even when we weren't trying, we often ran into each other by happenstance on the streets of The Village and elsewhere in Manhattan.
My life in New York went on for another year like that, almost living a double life with my work and my friendship with Pete occupying my days and my family life occupying my nights and weekends. However, I wasn't about to break my wedding vows. Some men could cheat on their wives with abandon but that wasn't me.
How ironic it was that I now worked in one of the most gay-friendly places in the world and that my boyhood crush was almost certainly gay himself. I was bound by the choices I'd made more than a decade before.
Then one night, shortly after I got home, Cindy asked me outright, "Stephen, are you gay?"
Swallowing hard and wondering why she'd asked the question, I replied with my own question. "What in the world would ever make you think that?"
"It's because you often talk in your sleep. Several times I've heard you mention the name, 'Pete'," she explained.
"Oh shit," was all I could say.
"Is he your lover?" she asked.
"No!" I shouted. "It's not like that. I'd never cheat on you."
"But you're gay," she stated more than asked.
Hanging my head, I replied in a mere whisper, "Yeah."
"You LIED to me!" she shouted. "You DECEIVED me! How DARE you."
The argument only deteriorated from there as she called me every name in the book, demanded that I get out of the house and threatened to accuse me of molesting little Stevie Junior if I ever attempted to see my children again.
With no way out and nothing else to do, I grabbed the largest set of luggage I had and filled it with as many of my clothes as I could fit in them, as well as a few priceless first editions. Whatever was left would undoubtedly be thrown out. It would take me years to recreate my book collection but what could I do?
Throwing my suitcases into the car, I drove off into the night, unsure of where I would go or what I would do. I shouldn't have been surprised when I found myself double-parked in front of the apartment building where Pete lived.
Calling him on my cell phone and waking him up, he was down in a flash when I explained that Cindy had thrown me out and I had all my belongings in my car. He helped me carry everything inside and then he went with me as we searched for and found a garage where we could park my car for the night and perhaps longer.
Grinding some fresh beans and brewing coffee, Pete simply asked, "Would you like to tell me about it?"
Smiling, I replied, "We'll be up all night if I do."
"Then we'll be up all night," he agreed, "but only if you're ready for it."
Taking a deep breath, I replied, "Pete, I've been ready since the first time I laid eyes on you. Rather than start at the end, however, I might as well tell it to you from the beginning.
"Before you and I became best friends, I had a best friend named Darryl. He and I had been inseparable since we were nine years old but, when we got to be teenagers, we managed to fall in love.
"I'm gay, Pete. It took me a while to admit it to myself but, when Darryl and I were fifteen, we fell deeply in love and made love just about every day. We didn't know what the hell we were doing but we managed to figure out everything on our own and, believe me, I mean everything.
"However, early in our sophomore year, Darryl's dad was transferred to Cincinnati. We tried to keep things going but it was months before either of us could drive and neither of us had ready access to a car. By the time it became practical for us to visit each other, the relationship was already over. Darryl had moved on and, to an extent, so had I.
"With that realization, however, I fell into a deep depression, spiraling ever downward. I knew I'd never find another love again so long as I lived and wound up deciding to end it all.
"Fortunately, I didn't know shit about how to slit my wrists and ended up only falling asleep in the bathtub as my wrists slowly oozed blood. My mom found me and, after months of psychotherapy and treatment with antidepressants, I reached a truce with my life and things were OK . . . not great, but OK."
"Did you ever hear from Darryl again?" Pete asked.
"Years later, I became curious and wondered what had happened to him" I answered. "Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I was able to track him down from his high school records, only to discover that he'd fallen victim to AIDS in the mid-1980s. I was devastated but, by then, I was emotionally much better able to cope with tragedy than I was in my youth.
"How sad," Pete commented.
"But then I met you," I added with a smile. "From the moment I saw you, I knew you were someone special. As with Darryl, I fell madly in love with you but I knew you could never be gay and I didn't want to take a chance on losing you as a friend. Your friendship was vastly more important to me than any sexual gratification I might gain and, hence, I never allowed our relationship to move beyond that of a mere boyhood crush.
"It was difficult, though . . ."
"You have no idea," Pete interjected.
"Yes, I do," I countered. "Being around you was heaven and hell all in one."
"You never realized I felt the same way?" Pete asked.
"Never," I answered. "So I went away to Northwestern, bound and determined to be 'normal', to fall in love with a girl, get married and raise a family."
"So what happened?" Pete asked.
"What happened is that I never stopped loving you," I answered. "Finding you again in New York brought all the heaven and hell rushing back to me but I wouldn't have traded it for anything in the world. I pretty much figured out you were gay but I could never have been unfaithful to Cindy.
"But I guess I've been saying your name in my sleep and tonight, Cindy confronted me about it."
"Oh shit," Pete replied.
"She threw me out of the house and threatened to accuse me of molesting little Stevie if I even attempt to maintain contact with the kids."
"How can she DO that to you?" Pete shouted. "That's HORRIBLE!"
"Yes, it is," I agreed, "but the mere hint of a sexual relationship with my son could be enough to put me behind bars for many, many years."
"Shit, she has you by the balls, doesn't she?" Pete realized.
"Yes, she does," I agreed, "and so here I am."
After an awkward period of embarrassing silence, I asked, "What . . . what's your story?"
"Well, like you, I didn't realize I was gay until I was fifteen," he began. "A particularly well-endowed boy I knew caught me staring at him in the gym locker room and accused me of perving on him. I could have and should have simply denied it, but my lack of a response pretty much confirmed his suspicions. By the start of the next day, it was all over school.
"At first I tried to ignore the taunts but they became increasingly vicious and violent. I kept it all to myself and didn't utter a word of what was going on to my parents. As bad as things were, the thought that even my parents might turn on me was more than I could bear.
"Eventually the bullying became too much for me and I downed a bottle of my mother's sleeping pills. Fortunately, the bottle wasn't nearly full and she got home in time to get me to the hospital before I stopped breathing.
"Like you, I spent months in psychotherapy and, in the process, my parents learned I was gay. They couldn't have been better about it! They were truly wonderful. They even moved the whole family to your neighborhood so I could make a brand new start."
"So what happened after I left Indiana?" I asked.
"Well, you pretty much know about my final years in high school from our correspondence at the time," he answered, "but of course you didn't know I had a horrible crush on you as well. When you told me you'd fallen in love with a girl and were getting married, I was devastated . . ."
Placing my hand on his knee, I said, "I'm so, so sorry, Pete."
Smiling back at me, he said, "I know you are, but it wasn't your fault any more than it was mine. After all, I kept my feelings from you just as you did from me.
"So when you told me of your wedding plans, I kind of deliberately let our correspondence slide. It had become too painful.
"I finished up high school, moved to California and went to one of the finest culinary schools in America."
"Why California?" I asked out of curiosity.
"I foresaw a move to more inventive cuisine on the horizon," he answered, "and realized I needed to go someplace where the instructors were not afraid to try new ideas. Besides which, California represented a radical change from the past . . . and there are lots of hot guys out there," he added with a laugh.
"So how come you never found Mr. Right?" I asked.
"I'm not a virgin, Steve," Pete answered. "I tried going out with a number of guys . . . but don't worry, I always used condoms, even for oral sex, and I've been tested every six months and come up clean. The thing is, not one of them could ever measure up to you. I just couldn't be happy with any of them."
Looking deeply into Pete's eyes, I slowly reached forward and pressed my lips to his. We wrapped our arms around each other as the kiss deepened, but then Pete broke the kiss and said, "Wait! This isn't the right time for this. You just broke up with Cindy!"
But that didn't stop me. I just leaned forward and kissed him again. He tried to resist me but, once our tongues became involved, resistance was futile.
Sunrise found us lying together in Pete's bed, side-by-side, having made love to each other more times than either of us could count.
Looking at me and stroking my chest, Pete said, "You know this is wrong."
"I know," I agreed in a whisper.
"You know we should have never done this."
"Not in a million years," I added.
"You know what else?" Pete asked.
"What?" I asked in reply.
"I don't give a fuck," he responded with a broad grin, and then we both broke into laughter.
"I love you, Pete," I stated. "I'll always love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Rather than say another word, Pete slid himself over on top of me and inserted his tongue into my mouth. That led to yet another round of love making . . .
Yes, Greg was right. Coming out of my reverie and realizing that my son and his boyfriend were waiting for me to say something, I responded to the assertion that if we'd come out in high school, Pete and I could have been together all these years. I realized though, that things would definitely have been different.
"If we'd come out in high school, at least to each other," I began, "we might have spent all these years together . . . indeed, that is true. However, it's also quite possible something would have happened to derail our relationship.
"I still would have left for college while Pete finished high school. I would have still wanted to go into Economics while Pete went to culinary school. I doubt I would have considered going to school on the west coast and we both might have resented the other if we'd expected the other to accommodate our own plans. There are many things that might have led to our breaking up and damaging the relationship beyond repair.
"You're forgetting the most important thing, however . . . the most important three things. If Pete and I had gotten together as lovers back then, you, Connie and Lance would never have been born and you guys mean the world to me. I'm so proud of you, I want to shout it from the tallest skyscraper.
"The bottom line is that everything worked out in the end. My relationship with Pete is perfect and I have the three most wonderful children in the world."
"I feel the same way," Pete added. "I wouldn't even want to think about our lives without you in them. Steve . . . Greg, you're important to us as family, but there's far more to our relationship with you than that. You're our best friends, bar none."
With tears all around, I found myself hugging my son for dear life as Pete did likewise with Greg.
I pulled away from Steve Junior and looked into his smiling face and then watched as he and Greg hugged each other and kissed passionately. There was no doubt in my mind about the sincerity of their love for each other, nor that they were destined to be together.
Was there any reason, other than their young age, for them not to marry? As Pete took me in his arms and I thought back to our early days together, it suddenly came to me with startling clarity that age and time truly make no difference. Steve and Greg were already a couple and all they wanted was to share their joy with the rest of the world. Who the hell was I to stand in their way?
Pulling away from my lover and turning to face my 'sons', I said, "You know, I think it's high time you two make honest men of each other."
With huge grins on their faces, Steve asked, "You mean it, Dad?"
"I couldn't mean it more," I confirmed with an equally big grin.
"And I feel the same way," Pete added.
After a short pause, Steve got a serious look on his face and asked, "Why don't the two of you make honest men of each other and get married at the same time? We could have a bitchin' double wedding."
"Why not make it a triple wedding?" Greg chimed in. "I mean, how many families have three generations of gay men? Steve's gay and the love of my life. The two of you are a committed couple and both of your dads are gay and they're in a committed relationship with each other. Why not make one big celebration of it?"
"Wow," I exclaimed, "what an interesting thought. I mean my dad and Pete's dad, Larry, actually did suggest a double wedding when they came out to us as a couple . . ."
"So why didn't you do it?" Steve asked.
"I really don't know," I answered the best I could. "Call it inertia but there just wasn't a real reason to do anything. We're all happy the way things are, you know?"
"Well now you have a reason," Greg countered. "With Steve and me getting married, how will the four of you be able to go on living in sin?" he asked with a wicked smile.
"I think it'd be really sick to have a triple wedding," Steve agreed. "Imagine . . . how many families have that kind of an opportunity?"
"But can you imagine the logistics?" I asked. "Think about it . . . there would be three sets of grooms, each with a pair of best men, and then there'd be all the friends of the various grooms. It could end up being quite a circus."
"Yeah, but a lot of the family members would be the same, so it wouldn't be that many more people than if it were just Greg and me, my son pointed out.
"Not quite," I countered. In addition to all of your family members and all of Greg's family members, there'd be all of Pete and Larry's family members too. Then you throw in all of your friends and all of Greg's friends and . . ."
"Most of whom are the same," Steve noted.
"We'd need to invite all my colleagues, the secretaries, staff and graduate students and their spouses from the Economics Department at NYU, all of the staff from Glass and I have no idea who my dad and Larry would want to invite."
"OK, so it would be a big wedding," Greg agreed, "but it'd be cool."
"Assuming my dad and Jack are even willing to go along with it," Pete started to ask, "Where and when would we do it?"
"How about the Fourth of July?" Steve Jr. asked innocently enough.
With a chuckle, I replied, "You'd like everyone to drop everything they're doing and join us for a humongous wedding in just two weeks?"
"Well when you put it that way, I guess we need more time," my son replied.
"More time, as in maybe a year from now," I suggested.
"A YEAR?" my son practically shouted. "No way I'm gonna wait a year. We want to get married now."
"Much as we'd like to accede to your wishes," Pete began, "there's a hell of a lot that goes into planning a wedding. First you need to choose the location, which is particularly important for gay weddings since there are only a handful of states where they're legal. With a location in mind, you need to locate a facility large enough for the wedding and check on its availability. All the better facilities are booked months, or even years in advance."
"Alternatively, you could choose the date first," I added, "but then you may not find anything available in your preferred location and you might have to opt for something less desirable."
"And even if you find a location and a facility available on your chosen date," Pete continued, "you still need to check to see that there are enough available hotel rooms . . . after all, your guests need some place to stay."
"Then there's the matter of finding a band," I pointed out, "and a minister . . ."
"Or a rabbi," Pete noted.
"Or both," I suggested. "And you need to be sure the timing of the wedding works for your intended guests, and then you have to select and send your wedding invitations, choose the formalwear, decide on who will be your best men and so on. All of these things take time . . ."
"But a year?" Greg asked.
"Pretty much," Pete replied. "Keep in mind that with you guys and many of your intended guests in school, you need to make it at a time when school's out. A year from now would be ideal in that respect, and then you could go on your honeymoon afterwards, rather than waiting until a time when you're free."
"Why not Winter Break?" my son asked. "Everyone would be free then, too."
"You might have trouble finding a place available at that time of year." I pointed out. "A lot of people travel during the holiday season and most facilities are booked way in advance."
"Yeah, but there are a lot of vacation spots in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut," my son pointed out.
"And Washington, D.C.," I added.
"And don't forget Iowa," Steve chimed in, but then his boyfriend countered with, "There are vacation spots in Iowa?" which got a laugh from all of us, particularly me since I'd actually lived there.
"Seriously," Pete began, "Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts all have major ski resorts, but they're not generally full during the holiday season. It's a bit on the early side for skiing and most people tend to spend the holidays with their families.
"Overall, I think it would be better to wait until the summer, when we'd all have more flexibility but, if we were to opt for a December wedding, chances are excellent we could find a resort facility that could accommodate us."
"A ski resort?" I asked. "But none of us ski!"
"Actually, I used to ski a lot during my years in California," Pete countered.
"Greg and I both snowboard," my son added. "Actually, I really like the sound of an alpine wedding. Nestled in the mountains of New England and surrounded by snow, our guests could stay in a cozy ski lodge with a warm fire in the hearth . . ."
"You don't even know what a hearth is," Greg interrupted.
"Sure I do," Steve Jr. challenged, and then stuck out his tongue at his lover. "It's like a fireplace, but bigger and it can be used for cooking. Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, we could hold the wedding and reception in the main lodge while our guests stayed in cabins and partook of the resort facilities. We could hold the wedding on the Christmas weekend and those that wanted to, could stay and spend the week with us, enjoying the slopes. Beyond that, they could then help us ring in the New Year."
"A ski vacation would be a neat way to spend our honeymoon," Greg added, and my son seemed to heartily agree as the two of them kissed.
"Yeah it would, wouldn't it?" Pete agreed.
"But I don't ski!" I protested.
"Looks like you're gonna have to learn, Dad," Greg suggested.
"Besides," Pete added, "we'll be spending most of the time indoors anyway."
That got me blushing furiously as my son said, "I'm not sure I want to even think of what you guys'll be doing."
"Like you two won't be doing the same thing," I countered.
"No doubt," my son agreed with an intense blush of his own.
"Shall we ask our dads?" Pete suggested.
Picking up the phone, I dialed the number I knew so well from all the times I called Pete there. A half-hour later, I hung up the phone and turned to my sons.
"Your grandfathers are even more excited about the idea than you two, and they want to pay for the whole thing!"
"All right!" Greg shouted as he pumped his fist into the air.
I'd never felt so nervous in my life! I'd been presenting papers to humongous audiences at international meetings for nearly thirty years. Day after day I'd stood in front of a classroom full of students, some of whom actually listened to every word I spoke. I'd even met with presidents and their chief financial advisors, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
None of these things could compare to the way I felt on my wedding day. I was a bundle of nerves.
Outside it was snowing but inside it was cozy and warm. Everything was perfect, so why were my knees shaking?
When we'd looked into planning a wedding at one of the many New England ski resorts for the week between Christmas and New Years, we quickly found that we were far from the only ones with this idea. The most popular ski resorts were all booked with tourists for the holiday week and couldn't accommodate such a large wedding. The smaller ones, however, were thrilled to have guaranteed business, even if it meant turning away the usual holiday crowd.
With multiple choices, we selected one that seemed to be particularly picturesque and, with a location in the scenic White Mountains of New Hampshire, provided easy access from New York via Interstate 91 and from Boston via Interstate 93. We chartered a couple of buses to ferry our guests from The Village to the resort, and several buses to bring in our guests who were flying into Logan International Airport.
The six of us grooms were all sharing a huge cabin with a large living room and a master bedroom on the first floor, and a couple of lofts upstairs that overlooked the living room. The grandfathers, of course, were sleeping - or not - in the master bedroom, while the boys were in one loft and Pete and I were in the other.
Although the lofts were across from each other, a ceiling divider afforded a surprising degree of privacy. Of course the visual privacy afforded by the layout didn't exactly extend to sound, which traveled between the two with ease. From the prior two summers, however, during which we all shared a small two-bedroom apartment, we'd learned not to make any comments about what we thought we heard while the other couple was in the throws of making love.
Outside there was a wraparound balcony overlooking forested hills above us and a forested valley below. The view was secluded so we could all partake of the large hot tub, sans clothing if we so desired. I had a strong feeling we'd all so desire at least once before the week was out.
Most of the family arrived on Christmas Eve so we could all celebrate the holiday together. Besides the six of us, my ex-wife, Cindy, was there along with our other two kids, Connie and Lance. My sister, Marcie, was there along with her husband, Frank and her sons, Tom and Joel. Pete's brother, Mark, was there, along with his wife, Rachel, and their daughters, Sophie, Sarah and Susan. His sister, Wendy, was there with her husband, David, and their children, Sam and Jennifer.
Greg's whole family spent Christmas with us as well, having flown in from California. Among their brood were Greg's parents, his five brothers and sisters, four aunts, six uncles and several cousins, nieces and nephews. Greg's family was larger than all of Pete's and mine combined.
Sadly, neither Dad's nor Larry's brothers or sisters would be coming. They were certainly invited, but they just couldn't get past their old prejudices.
None of us were all that religious and with the Sandlers being Jewish, the question of whom to ask to officiate at the wedding was a potentially thorny one. Pete and I hardly ever attended services. In fact, we only went to church on Christmas and Easter and to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but when we went, we went together.
It turned out that Dad and Larry had recently joined a Unitarian Church with an associate pastor who was an ordained rabbi. With an offer of an expense-paid skiing vacation for her entire family, she happily agreed to officiate at our wedding. She led us in the Midnight Mass and in services on Christmas Day, which certainly made for an interesting and fresh approach to the celebration of the holiday. Her sermon, titled, 'Jesus was a Jew - the universal appeal of Christmas', was definitely unique.
Most of our other guests arrived the day after Christmas, having spent the holiday with their own families. All-in-all, including all the family members, we had nearly three hundred guests. These included my colleagues from NYU, the staff from Pete's restaurant, and friends from our college days in Evanston and California, and even from our high school days in Indiana. There were also Steve's and Greg's friends from NYU and California, and some of Dad's and Larry's friends and neighbors.
The selection of best men was interesting, as they represented a wide swatch of individuals and relationships. Dad's best man was the attorney who'd handled the legal affairs of his business before they both retired. Ron Levy and my dad had become good friends over the years and it was Ron who drew up all the legal documents to ensure that Dad and Larry could have the closest thing to spousal rights that was available in the state of Indiana. Ron had been supportive of Dad and Larry's relationship from the very beginning. He was a true friend.
Larry chose his son-in-law, Wendy's husband, David. David was a cellist with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and the love the two men shared for music had brought them closer together than most fathers and their sons-in-law would be. Indeed, Dad and Larry often traveled to Cleveland to hear David and the symphony play, rather than attending the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra or the Carmel Symphony nearby.
Steve Jr's choice of best man was his brother, my other son, Lance. Lance was nearly sixteen now and an incredibly handsome young man. From what I'd heard, he had girls fawning all over him, but he only had eyes for the same girlfriend he'd had since he was twelve. Lance was also the vice-president of his school's GSA. As Steve Jr. liked to put it, Lance was the best brother he could have ever asked for but, more than that, he was truly his best friend.
Greg's best man was his friend, Alan, who'd been his best friend since the two of them were in diapers. Alan was attending the wedding with his fiancé, Lynn, who was equally as close to Steve and Greg as Alan was. Indeed, the two couples had double dated through much of their high school years and even went together to their senior prom.
Pete's best man was his brother, Mark. Back when Pete attempted suicide, Mark took a full semester off from college so he could stay with his brother and lend his assistance. Mark couldn't have been more supportive of his gay brother than he'd been and the two of them had remained very close over the years. Ever since Pete and I got together, Mark treated me like a brother, too.
Finally, my best man was a very special friend from the past - my first boyfriend, Darryl. No, my best man wasn't a ghost - he'd actually shown up out of the blue one evening several years ago at Glass, hand-in-hand with another handsome gentleman. In spite of the years that had passed, I would have recognized my first boyfriend anywhere.
Naturally, Darryl was shocked to see me, but not as shocked as I was, given that I thought he was dead. When I told him that his high school alumni association reported he'd died of AIDS, he was surprised to say the least. After checking into it, he discovered that the report of his premature demise had come from a guy who used to bully him in school. Although never out in high school, the guy figured Darryl was queer and must have died of AIDS. Needless to say, the alumni association corrected their records.
Darryl was now a physician at Kingsbrook Medical Center in Brooklyn. He lived along with his partner, Corey, who was also a physician, in a lovely brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. They'd read a favorable review of Glass and decided to check it out and make a day of it, doing some shopping in The Village and nearby SoHo. Our reunion was by pure coincidence.
Since rediscovering each other, Darryl, Corey, Pete and I often went out together - to take in a show, attend a special exhibition at one of the museums or to attend the symphony. We'd become as close as any two couples could be. Pete was still the love of my life, and Darryl and Corey were now our brothers in almost every sense of the word.
With all our guests safely tucked away in the various cabins that dotted the New Hampshire mountainside of the resort, it slowly began to sink in that this was really happening. Pete and I were really getting married in a triple ceremony with my dad and his partner, and with my son and his fiancé. Until now it had all been hypothetical but now it was real. I only hoped we would survive the ordeal.
We'd held a rehearsal dinner the night before, at which the six of us had been thoroughly roasted, and there had been a brunch in the morning for all our guests. The six of us had our own special brunch, complements of the lodge, served to us in our cabin. Having feasted on crab and shrimp, lox and bagels with capers, individually prepared omelets and fresh fruit, I was now wishing I hadn't eaten so much as my stomach did its flip-flops.
Just then, there was a knock on the door. Being closest, I opened it to find Alan, Greg's best man.
"As the coolest member of the wedding party," he began, "I was elected to be the one to trudge through the snow and escort you. Gentlemen," he went on, "it's time."
"Trudge through snow my ass," Greg countered with a laugh. "There's hardly a speck of snow on your formalwear, and where are your boots?
"The only thing cool about you is the cold air seeping through the open door, and isn't that one of the resort's vans I see behind you?"
"Van?" Alan practically spat out. "You call this a van? Do you not see that this is your royal chariot, come to take you to the Promised Land."
By now we were all in stitches. He said it with such a straight face, too.
"Very well, your highness," Steve Jr. replied. "Lead the way."
With a bow and a flourish, Alan opened the side door to the van. Greg and Steve graciously climbed into the back row along with Alan. Pete and I took the middle row and Dad and Larry took the front row, just behind the driver.
Slowly and cautiously, the van wound its way down to the main ski lodge. Exiting the van, the seven of us entered the lodge to find a large, warm and inviting room with a vaulted ceiling, two large fireplaces on opposite walls and floor-to-ceiling windows facing a magnificent vista of the snow-covered mountains ahead of us. Just as we entered, the sun came out, illuminating the scene outside the windows.
The room was filled with all our family and friends, and a string quartet was playing variations on Pachelbel's Canon in the background. As we'd agreed upon, since our fathers were themselves among the grooms and, except for the youngest generation, there were no living mothers on whose arms we could walk, we walked up the aisle as couples. We had all been together as couples, after all, for a number of years.
The six best men joined us at the back of the room and walked up the aisle in pairs, bringing up the rear. When we reached the front of the room, we lined up facing the windows in front of us, toward the snow-covered mountains outside, forming a semicircle. Our best men continued around us and ended up lined up across from and facing us, completing the circle. A large canopy was suspended high above our heads in a bow to Jewish traditions.
The minister stood in the center of the circle on a raised platform, so she could be seen by all. The chairs in which the guests sat were arranged in concentric, radiating semicircles around us, so that no one needed to crane their necks to see us. It was an ingenious way to accommodate a wedding party with three couples. It was all my son's idea.
As nervous as I was, I somehow felt strangely calm as I stood there with Steve Jr. on my left and Pete on my right. Perhaps it was Alan's antics on the way over that had helped to break the tension, perhaps it was the soft, soothing music, maybe it was the warm smile on the minister's face or the magnificence of the scenery before us, or perhaps it was a combination of all four.
After the minister welcomed all our guests, she began a ceremony that was both unique and yet traditional. We kept our vows short and to the point, since there were six of us, and we recited the traditional Hebrew vows as well. At the end, after all of us had kissed our respective husbands, each couple sipped wine from their own wineglass. We then took turns stomping on the glass in a Jewish tradition meant to symbolize that, as ours were the last lips ever to sip from the glass, no one else would ever come between us.
The minister then shouted, "MAZEL TOV," which is Yiddish for 'good luck', and the string quartet began playing 'La Chaim', the song from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof.
The minister then grabbed hold of Dad's hand, and he in turn grabbed hold of Larry's hand and he grabbed hold of Pete's, who grabbed hold of mine and so on until all the grooms and all the best men were running down the aisle, hand in hand, dancing one of those traditional Jewish dances you see in the movies. But we didn't stop there as we continued right out the door and outside! The music continued, blaring through outdoor speakers as all the guests followed us outside, dancing too!
It was crazy. It was hilarious. It's a wonder someone didn't slip on the snow and ice of the empty parking lot that served as our dance floor and break something, but we all had a blast! The funny thing was that even though it was well below freezing outside, between the sun and the exercise of dancing, if anything I felt too hot.
I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but the minister showed us a few other traditional dances and by the time we finished the dances, we'd been outside for more than two hours! What a crazy way to celebrate a wedding - it was all Dad's and Larry's doing.
After returning to all our cabins to freshen up and change into more comfortable clothing, we reassembled in the main lodge for a dinner reception, just as the sun was setting behind the mountains, lighting up the sky in glorious hues of red, gold and corral.
Dinner was an amazing eight-course feast consisting entirely of dishes prepared under Pete's direction. Some of them were recipes I'd never sampled before - Pete had developed them just for the wedding - but I suspected that most would find their way into selections at Glass sooner or later.
Ironically, we were all way too full at the end of the day to even think of having sex. All the talk about the wedding night and none of us even contemplated doing anything. The next morning, however, Pete and I awoke to the distinct sounds of moaning from the other loft. That was all it took for our libido to return and, after a quick stop downstairs to use the bathroom, the two of us returned to our loft and went at it with reckless abandon.
It was well after noon before we headed back downstairs to take a shower together. A half-hour later, we emerged from the bathroom wearing our towels, and found my son and Greg lounging around in the nude, waiting for their turn. Those two had no modesty, but then Pete looked at me with a sly smile and dropped his towel and so did I!
Just then, Dad and Larry emerged from the master bedroom, which had its own bathroom, fully dressed. Taking one look at us, Larry shouted, "Last one in the hot tub's a rotten egg," and then he stripped right in front of us all and ran out to the terrace, cannon-balling into the hot tub. Since he was still dressed, Dad ended up being the last one in, but he took it in stride.
As it turned out, most of our guests stayed the week, making a skiing vacation out of it. Experienced as they were, Steve Jr. and Greg headed right for the advanced ski slopes and we hardly saw them during the daylight hours. Pete and Larry both had some skiing experience, but Dad and I were total novices. For his part, Pete was very patient with me, sticking initially to the beginner slopes as our private instructor taught me the ropes.
By the end of the week I was handling the intermediate runs with ease - well, I fell a lot, as did my dad, but no one broke anything or seriously injured themselves. That sure would have been a great way to wreck a honeymoon!
On New Year's Eve, the resort put on a spectacular fireworks display for all of us. It was a wonderful way to end a memorable week - the week when three generations gathered in love to tie the knot in a triple wedding ceremony we would always remember and cherish.
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope in editing this story and Alastair in proofreading it, as well as the support of Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for hosting it.