A knock on the door startled Kyle. "Doctor Matthews-Williams, do you have a minute?"
Kyle looked up from the papers he was grading and motioned the student to enter. "Come in and have a seat. What can I do for you, Alex?"
"I have something I need advice on. It's nothing academic, and I didn't know who to talk to, but since you're my academic advisor I thought maybe you could probably point me in the right direction."
"I'll do what I can. How can I help you?"
The very nervous student took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Can we keep this just between us?"
"Of course we can." I wonder what's going on. I hope it's something that I can help him with and not something I have to get the Administration or the authorities involved with. Kyle said to himself. He got up and closed his office door. Going to the mini-fridge, he got a couple of bottles of water and handed one to Alex.
"Thanks." He took a long drink, swallowing half of the bottle. "I've never told anyone about this and I'm really not sure how or where to begin." Alex said. His nervousness was very obvious.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure we can find a solution. Why don't you start from the beginning?"
Alex inhaled deeply then let it out slowly, which helped him calm down a little. "Okay. For the longest time I knew there was something different, something strange about me, but I didn't know what it was. I've always been kind of a loner and didn't have many friends, certainly not any close friends. Lately I've been getting closer to one of my lab partners, and I've started to develop feelings for this person, and they scare me."
"Does he know how you feel about him?" Kyle asked gently, drawing a wide-eyed stare from the kid.
"H-h-how did you know it was a guy?" Alex asked in a trembling voice, stunned.
"Alex, I'm gay. I'm married to another man. It wasn't difficult to figure out."
Alex buried his face in his hands and started sobbing. Kyle went around his desk and pulled a chair up next to Alex's and put his arm around his shoulders. "Hey, it's okay. There's nothing to be ashamed or scared of. You are who God made you."
After a few minutes Alex pulled himself together. Kyle handed him some tissues. "I'm sorry, Doctor Matthews-Williams. I didn't mean to break down like that."
"Perhaps not, but it was what you needed. I bet you're feeling better now."
"It's like a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was so scared to say anything to anyone, but for some reason I felt that I could trust you not to judge or turn your back on me. I don't have anyone else I can talk to."
"You can talk to me anytime. That's what I'm here for. So what do you intend to do about your feelings for your friend?"
"I can't do anything about it. I can't tell him. He's on the baseball team and if I told him, he and his buddies would beat the shit out of me. I don't know what to do. I really think I'm in love with him. Every time I see him my palms get sweaty and my heart starts beating really fast. He has this incredible accent that makes me literally weak in the knees. I could listen to him talk for hours."
Yep, he's definitely in love. "Does your friend have any idea how you feel about him?"
"No. So far I've been able to hide my feelings from him."
"Do you know how he feels about homosexuality?"
"I don't think he has a problem with it. I've never seen him mistreat any of the obviously gay guys on campus. He treats them the same way as he treats everyone else, which is more than I can say for some of the people around here."
"Does he have a girlfriend?"
"I've seen him hanging out with this one girl many times, but I've never seen him kiss or touch her. I think she might be his sister, judging by the way he acts around her. I've not seen him with any other girls other than talking about classes and stuff. Whenever I see him in the cafeteria, he's either with his baseball buddies or by himself."
"Have you ever asked if you could join him when he's eating by himself?"
"No. I'd be too scared to."
"How would you feel if you came out to him and he didn't want anything more to do with you?"
"I'd probably be devastated."
"Okay. So, the best advice I can give you is to not let him know how you feel, at least for the time being. You may have to accept the fact that the two of you can only be friends. I know it's hard. Trust me, I've been there. But given the choice of keeping him as a friend only, or losing him entirely, I'd go with the friend only choice. What's his name, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Jayden. Jayden Carlson."
Jayden Carlson? That name sounds familiar. Just then Kyle's phone rang. "Excuse me for a minute." While he answered the phone, he took the opportunity to pull up a file on his computer. Jayden is a member of the Gay Students Organization on campus. I wonder if he's single. "Sorry about that. Now, where were we?"
"You were telling me to give up on Jayden."
"No, that's not what I was telling you. What I was telling you is that you have to face the possibility that admitting your feelings for him might cost you your friendship with him. You need to play it cool until you know how he'd react to your being gay. He may be cool with you being gay, but not cool with you being in love with him. On the other hand, he may be flattered. If he's straight, then the worst case scenario is that you'll lose his friendship. Best case scenario, you guys remain friends, but nothing more."
"And if he's gay?"
"We'll deal with that if and when the time comes. Tell me, how many gay friends to you have on campus?"
"None. You're the only person who knows that I'm gay."
"Are you familiar with the GSO?
"GSO? No. What is that?"
"It's the Gay Student Organization. They get together every week for some kind of leisure activity. In fact, they're meeting tonight over at the student union. Why don't you go check them out? It would be good for you to have some gay friends."
"But won't I have to `come out'? I'm not sure I'm ready for that. It's taken me almost two months to work up the courage to come to you, and I didn't even tell you. You figured it out."
"Coming out is not an easy process. I went through it when I was sixteen. If you're uncomfortable with the prospect, let them know. They'll respect your wishes and your privacy. They meet in room 2210. They don't advertise their meetings and don't publish membership rosters to protect those who are still in the closet."
"You seem to know a lot about them."
"That's because I'm the faculty advisor and the one who got the group started several years ago when I first started teaching here at U of H. No easy task, believe me. It was easy to convince the Administration to go along with it, not so easy to get students to join. Why don't you check it out? Who knows, you might make some great friends."
Alex stood up. "I'll think about it. Thanks, Doctor Matthews-Williams. I appreciate your time."
"Any time, Alex. My door is always open."
Later that evening, Alex walked into room 2210 and took a seat in the back of the large room that was filled with people. Despite Kyle's assurances that he would not be outted, he looked around the room nervously, ready to bolt out the door at a second's notice. He spotted Kyle sitting and talking with another guy. Kyle stood up and started to address the group, briefly locking eyes with Alex and sending him a warm welcoming smile. "I have a treat for you guys tonight. Many of you have expressed to me an interest in learning more about photography. For those of you who aren't interested in photography, we've planned a movie night next door. For those of you who are interested in photography, how many of you recognize this gentleman?" He motioned the man to stand up. Nobody raised their hands. "Okay, how many of you have seen `Honolulu Happenings' magazine?" Almost all of the hands went up. "Well, we are privileged to have one of their staff photographers with us tonight. I'm sure you'll recognize his name. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you `Honolulu Happenings' star photographer and my husband, Jayson Matthews-Williams!"
The room was stunned into silence momentarily before a thunderous ovation broke out. Jay approached the podium. Kyle's face lit up at the response, happy that Jay was able to continue with his photographer sideline at a magazine that was as big as About Town, thanks to a recommendation from About Town's owner/managing editor.
"Thank you, Doctor Matthews-Williams for inviting me to be here tonight." He said after the applause died down. "So how many of you here are interested in photography?" Everyone's hand went up except for Alex's, who was too shy to participate. "Okay. So tell me, what type of photography are you interested in? Stills, nature, portrait, action, sports, what?" Everyone started yelling out what they were interested in. Jay raised his hands. "Okay, okay. Let's approach this from a different angle. Who here is interested in nature photography?" A few hands went up. "How about sports photography?" Most of the hands went up. "Okay, since the majority of you are interested in sports photography, we'll start with that one then we'll take a short break and finish up with nature photography, which is my personal favorite. So what is the difference between a photograph and a snapshot?" He spent the next hour explaining the basics of composition, scene balance and the rule of thirds as they pertained to sports photography, then called for a break. During the break, Kyle and Jay approached Alex and Kyle introduced them. "For someone who didn't indicate any interest in photography, you seem to be pretty interested."
"Before I came here, I had a part time job in a photo lab. I saw some pretty amazing pictures and wondered how difficult it was to take them."
As they were talking one of the guys, a six-foot-five blond Adonis walked towards the door heading for the bathroom and stopped suddenly. "Alex? What are you doing here?"
Alex wanted to find a hole big enough to crawl into. "Jayden. I'm surprised to see you here. I had no idea. Doctor Matthews-Williams invited me."
"Cool. I'm glad to see you. If you'll excuse me for a minute I have to run to the bathroom." He rushed out the door.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Alex turned on Kyle, a little angry.
"First of all, above all else members' privacy must be respected at all times. Telling you about Jayden would have violated his privacy which is against one of the basic policies of this organization. No outing of a member. Secondly, I didn't want you to get your hopes up since I don't know if he's seeing anyone and I didn't know for sure if he would be here or not. Answer me this. Would you want me telling people about you?"
"I guess not. I see your point. Sorry."
"No worries. Now that you know that Jayden is gay you can think about telling him how you feel. I wouldn't go blurting it out just yet. Get to know him a little better, now that you know you don't have to hide your sexuality from him."
"Thanks Doctor Matthews-Williams. I'm sorry about getting pissed off at you."
"In the classroom it's Doctor Matthews-Williams. Here it's Kyle, and don't worry about it. I probably would have reacted the same way."
Any further discussion was interrupted by the return of Jayden who walked up to Alex and put his arm around his shoulders then pulled him into hug, which was slowly returned after a couple of awkward moments. "I'm really glad you decided to join us. I've been wanting to tell you about me for the longest time, but I wasn't sure how you would react."
Alex visibly swallowed nervously. "Y-you have?"
"Yeah. Would you believe I asked Professor Parsley to be your biology lab partner after your original partner dropped out? I wanted to get close to you. I didn't know if you were gay or not, and I didn't want to take the chance on losing your friendship by telling you how I felt about you since I didn't know how you would react."
"What do you mean, how you felt about me?"
Jayden bent down and brushed Alex's lips with his own. Kyle and Jay made a discrete exit back to the front of the room to finish the workshop as their kiss deepened.
The next day there was a knock on his office door. "Door's open" he yelled out. It opened and in walked Alex and Jayden, holding hands.
"Doctor Matthews-Williams? We'd like to thank you for bringing us together. Believe it or not, we both had feelings for each other but were afraid of saying anything for fear of losing each other's friendship." Jayden began.
"I'm glad it worked out for you. However, I'd better not see either of you on Academic Suspension because you're spending too much time with each other and not enough time on your studies." He growled with mock ferocity.
"You won't. We have several classes together so we can help each other study."
"Just make sure you study more than human anatomy!" He teased, handing them a business card. "If you guys have any questions about anything, please don't hesitate to call me."
"Thanks." Jayden responded, taking the card from Kyle.
Kyle glanced at the joined hands and looked at Alex, raising an eyebrow in question.
"Jayden and I had a long talk last night. He's totally out, and even the guys on the baseball team accept him and are cool about it. I figured that since he was out and nobody really cared, and I want to be with him, it's time I came out as well."
"Are you sure you're ready?"
Alex nodded. His face lit up as he smiled and looked at Jayden. "Yes, I'm more than ready. I want the whole world to know that I'm totally, completely, head-over-heels in love with Jayden Carlson, and if anyone has a problem with that, they'll just have to get over it. This is kind of off the subject, but can I ask you a question?"
"It's more of a favor, actually. Listening to your husband talking last night has got me really interested in nature photography. Could you ask him if he could suggest any books on it, and also what type of camera I should get?"
"I think I can do you one better." He activated his speakerphone and dialed a number.
"Federal Bureau of Investigations. How may I direct your call?" Hearing who Kyle called made Alex and Jayden exchanged nervous glances.
"Hate crimes unit, please."
"One moment please."
"Hate crimes, Special Agent Matthews-Williams." Both students' mouths dropped open in shock. They had no idea that Jay was an FBI agent.
"Hey, baby, it's me. Gotta minute?"
"For you, anytime."
"I have a couple of students here who are really interested in nature photography and were wondering if you could recommend a book on it, and also what type of camera to get."
"There are a number of really good cameras on the market, but I would recommend one of the Kodak digital cameras as they are relatively inexpensive and good starter cameras. Once they really get into it down the road they can invest in a Nikon SLR. If you can have them get in touch with me, I can set up a time to go with them to pick out their cameras."
"Actually, they're right here. Say hi, guys.
"Hi, Agent Matthews-Willams.
"Jay, this is Alex and Jayden. You met them last night."
"Cool. Call me Jayson or Jay. How are you guys doing?"
"Great, thanks for asking."
"You know Kyle, your timing is excellent. I talked with Alohanani this morning and convinced him to have the magazine sponsor a photography club. Not only was he all for it, but he gave me permission to use the magazine's photo studio, equipment and the darkroom. How about it, guys? Interested in being charter members?"
"Oh, hell yeah" they chorused.
"How about you meet me at Honolulu Happenings, 1233 Mohauani Boulevard Saturday morning around nine? We can go look at cameras before the workshop starts at ten."
"I'll be there"
"Great. See you guys then, and spread the word to your friends. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us. Tell them to bring their cameras if they have one."
"Thanks, baby. See you tonight when you get home. I love you"
"Love you too, baby." They hung up.
"Wow. I can't believe it." Alex said, bewildered.
"What can't you believe?"
"First that I've found the man of my dreams" they exchanged a rather passionate kiss.
"Get a room, you two." Kyle said with a snicker.
"Second about the camera club."
"What I can't get over is that Jayson is an FBI Special Agent."
"Why can't you believe it, Jayden?"
"Because he's gay. I didn't think a gay guy could get a job like that."
"Jayden, Alex, being gay by no means puts limits what you can do. He's been with the FBI for over fifteen years and they know he's gay. You can do whatever you set your mind to. I'll admit when he first came out he took some flak. In fact, his supervisor tried to fire him for being gay, even though it was against the FBI's non-discrimination policy and he knew it. In the end it was the supervisor who got fired. More and more businesses are including sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination clause. Even universities such as this one have that policy. The Administration knows I'm gay and they don't have a problem with it. The high school I used to teach at on the mainland before I receive my doctorate knew. Before you guys graduate, check out the non-discrimination policies of companies that interest you. You'd be surprised how many of them have sexual orientation and gender identity in their non-discrimination policy."
"Okay, Jayden, we need to be getting to class. Doctor Matthews-Williams thanks for everything." He extended his hand to Kyle, which Kyle shook.
"You're welcome, Alex. Glad I could be of help. Now get going you two. You don't want to be late!" The two students turned and kind of floated out of Kyle's office.