WARNING

This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.

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Craigslist

Chapter 63

By: Tim Keppler

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

Six months after he arrives, Evan becomes my fourth adopted son. When word comes through that the adoption is final, we have a huge party to celebrate, because it's been a long road. It hasn't been particularly difficult, and not especially expensive. The lawyers' fees have added up, but my lawyers have been the reason that it hasn't been particularly difficult. When I called Bob Titus, my attorney, the day after Evan arrived, he'd been adamant that I needed what he called "legal legitimacy as a guardian". "What if he gets in a fight at school? What if he breaks an arm? What if he does anything to get anyone looking for his parents? Then you're screwed. You may think you can masquerade, but that's not going to work because his school and his neighbors former neighbors all know that his father was out of the picture. You need to foster him, Tim. Foster him first, and then, if you want to, adopt him."

"What about emancipation," I'd asked. "Can't he file with the court to be emancipated from his parents based on their neglect?"

"This is a very murky area of law. Kids in the U.S. typically get emancipate for one of three reasons: legal marriage, demonstrated financial independence, or military service. Other justifications become very iffy. Better to go the traditional route. It's a pain in the ass, I know, but it's more likely to succeed."

Bob gave me the name of an adoptions attorney that he went to school with. I think maybe Bob went to school with just about everyone. The adoptions attorney, one Vin Kramer, took our case with the promise that this would be the easiest money he'd make this year. "You've already been vetted by the State of California in adopting your eldest, and the State of Michigan in adopting your two youngsters. To refuse you the foster care of this boy, whom you've rescued from off the streets and whom no one else will want because he's been on the streets, would be a major precedent. It doesn't matter that you're gay, although I wouldn't advertise the fact that you're a foursome. Instead, advertise it as two couples sharing a house. When the Child Welfare folks come to inspect the premises, make sure that your "tenants" are not evident, and that Evan's space is clearly delineated from the rest of the household. He has to have his own space. There'll be about a one-month window when you'll need to be squeaky-clean. After that, it's clear sailing."

So, for the month during which we were vulnerable to inspections, I banished Peter and Erich to the bedroom at the Center that we'd originally set up for Ethan. Kenny and Dinh took possession of Peter and Erich's room, making it look like their own, and Jason and I remained in the master bedroom. Toys and videos of a prurient nature we stored at the Center. Even my beloved razor strop had to go into hiding for a month. Kenny, Jason and Dinh had to make do with a hair brush that I'd inherited from my mother when she died, which had since been used for only one purpose. The Child Welfare inspectors came, they saw, and we conquered. They were in and out in under half an hour, and my foster-parent status was approved. Then we reconfigured again, bringing Peter and Erich back from exile. "Jesus, I hated that place," Peter confided to me later. "It's so dark, and so empty. Everything you say echoes. I'm glad you didn't leave Evan there!"

Once my foster-parent status was approved, the adoption just sailed through. Evan, after all, was a homeless kid. I was taking him off the streets. I wanted what no one else wanted. The Child Welfare crowd waved the rule that mandates a six-month wait between fostering and adoption. They did this because I'd already adopted three other children, and because my treasure was their trash. They had no interest in Evan. A social worked asked him if he was happy, and a judge asked him if he wanted to stay with me, and we were done. End of story.

No, the adoption process isn't even remotely interesting. What is interesting are the six months between his arrival as an orphan and street-waif and his metamorphosis into another son. There were some turbulent times...

His first few days with us were...different, he says. First off, he hasn't slept in a bed in years. He's slept on the floor because the only bed in his mother's studio apartment was his mother's. So, sleeping in an actual bed takes some getting used to, although he gets used to it quickly, I notice. When you compare the hard floor and a wool blanket with a comfortable mattress, a down comforter and down pillows, I would have been surprised to have found him on the floor for long. It takes him about a week, and then he's acclimated.

What's more frustrating for all of us is his passivity. Evan has been trained from birth not to want anything, to take what he's given. The Buddhists among us may find this trait laudable. Banish all desires. But, of course, he hasn't banished the desires, he's simply repressed them. Evan has desires, preferences, and longings. He just won't tell us what they are because he's been trained not to. I find this irritating. Kenny finds it frustrating. And Jason, my little Jason, finds it maddening. "Goddamn it, why won't you tell me what you fucking like?" I hear him shout from the kitchen one morning. "What do you want to eat tonight? I want to know. What the fuck should I cook to make you happy?" Evan shrugs, apparently, and Jason continues to curse and swear under his breath for close to half an hour. I finally rescue Evan, take him to my office, and sit him down.

"What do you want to eat tonight?" I asked.

He shrugs. "I don't know."

"Why? Why don't you know?"

He drops his head. "I don't know. I don't know why I don't know."

"Evan, we have opinions here. It's okay to have opinions, even strong opinions. It's okay to disagree. Jason loves Durian and Brahms. I hate them both. Kenny loves Italian food, and Jason hates it. Well, he doesn't hate it, but he doesn't like it much, either. I like my food so spicy that it hurts. No one else does. You have opinions, Evan. What are they?"

Evan continues to look shamefaced. "I like Mexican food. I'd like Mexican food for dinner. But...umm...Jason doesn't...cook Mexican."

"So what? Kenny does. They'll swap nights. What Mexican food do you want?" I can see his shoulders start to rise in a shrug. "Evan," I say loudly, surprising him, getting him to look up at me. "What Mexican food do you want?"

"I like Chili Rellenos and Enchiladas. Could we have those? With some black beans and rice?"

From my cell phone I call the house landline. Jason answers from the kitchen. "Get Kenny and come to the office." They arrive maybe 20 seconds later. "Say it again, Evan. What do you want for dinner?"

Poor Evan is being forced out of his passive comfort zone, and looks really close to tears. "Umm...I like Mexican food. Can we have Mexican food for dinner? Can we have Chili Rellenos and Enchiladas with...umm...some black beans and rice?" Then, he immediately looks at his feet.

"Cool!" Kenny says, enthusiastically. "That means it's my night, Jase. You can do tomorrow. I love Chili Rellenos, but mine are sort of non-traditional. I bake them rather than fry them, and I use feta cheese rather than Jack. They're really good, though, aren't they?" he asks Jason.

Jason nods. "They're amazing."

"And I've been thinking about a new Enchilada recipe I'd like to try. A seafood Enchilada. How spicy do you like your food?"

Evan starts to shrug, and then catches himself, looking over at me to see if I noticed. I did, and make that clear. Then he looks back at Kenny. "Pretty spicy. I don't want to die from it," he says, seriously.

Kenny laughs. "Well, then don't eat anything off Tim's plate."

"Have you ever cooked Menudo?" I ask Kenny.

"No, but I'd like to try. I was chatting with the owner of that Mexican place you like, and he sort of told me how to make it. Let's try that, too. We haven't had Mexican in a long time. This should be really good." Jason and Kenny leave the office chattering excitedly in Cantonese.

Evan looks up at me sheepishly. "You need to participate, Evan. You're a member of a family now. Every one of us has opinions about nearly everything. That's how we know who we are. You're not going to offend anyone, and you shouldn't be offended when one of us disagrees with you. You said you like McDonald's. Ask Kai if he'd like to go to McDonald's for a burger and this is what he'll scream, `Yukkie...yukkie...YUKKIE!' His is a strong opinion," I say with a laugh.

Evan nods, smiling. He gets it. Now it's just a matter of getting past his inherent reticence. I realized early on that, while his mother never physically abused him, she neglected him for years, and that's probably a worse fate. In studies of monkeys neglected by their parents, the resulting pathology is one of extreme isolation and an inability to interact with others in any socially-productive way. Their dominant emotion is fear. They can't love because they can't allow themselves to get close enough to anyone to love them. Evan's problem is not that severe, but he lacks confidence in himself to such a degree that he doesn't even credit himself as worthy of having desires and opinions.

He is clearly able to love, though, and loves the four of us Kenny, Dinh, Jason, and me intensely. Like Kevin, he quickly figures out what our strengths are, and begins coming to us for different things. When he needs to be cheered up or is bored, he goes to Dinh, whose humor and high spirits are uplifting for us all. When he needs someone to help him break down a problem logically, whether it's academic or social, he goes to Kenny who is very methodical in his approach to life. When he needs someone to confide in, he goes to Jason, whose kindness is well known. And when he needs a hug, when he needs emotional support, when he wants advise on life, he comes to me.

So, when he comes into my office and plunks down in one of the leather chairs, I usually know what's coming...sort of.

"Umm...Tim, how do you know when you're in love?"

I've been working on a proposal for a grant, struggling to pull together all the justifications I'll need to secure $100,000 from a private foundation. Evan is a pleasant disruption. I move from behind my desk, and take up the other leather chair. "Well, I was initially going to ask you how you could not know you're in love, but that's not very helpful is it?" I say with a laugh. "What makes you think you're in love?"

"Well, there's this guy that I really like. We've spent a lot of time together recently. He's very sweet. We have a lot of similar interests. I've been trying to figure out what I feel for him."

The guy is Cliff, I'm sure. They've been thick as thieves. Any time Cliff comes over to practice the piano, Evan is out in the guest house with him, listening to him play. They chat endlessly. The guest house has floor-to-ceiling windows that face the back of the main house. From the living room you can see right into the guest house unless the curtains are closed, which they never are. We've all seen Cliff and Evan together, and there's clearly something there. It started with curiosity and moved to friendship, and then on to affection. Lately, at the dinner table, I've detected something else, something deeper. They've been falling in love.

"So, can we put our cards on the table so we don't have to talk in circles? Who is it?"

"Umm...it's...umm..."

"Cliff?"

"How'd you know?" he asks, surprised.

"Well, because I know Cliff, for one thing. He was attracted to you the minute he saw you, and because you guys haven't exactly been...discreet about it, have you?"

"No," he says, sadly.

"What the hell is wrong, Evan? I think it's great you've found someone you like. You don't have to hide anything. Cliff is a really-nice guy. I can see why you might be falling in love with him."

Evan looks up into my face. "But how do I know? How do I know if I love him?"

"Well, how do you feel about him?"

He thinks. "I feel like I want to be with him all the time. I'm sad when he goes home. I think about him all the time. I...umm...sort of...long for him. I love to listen to him play the piano; I'm so proud of him. And, I feel very protective of him. When we take a walk at night, I want him close because I know how dangerous the night can be. When I don't see him for a day, I'm really lonely."

"That sounds like love to me, baby," I say, giggling. "What do you think he feels for you?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe he likes me...a little."

Why are teenagers such idiots? They're such a mass of insecurities. Cliff is clearly head-over-heels for Evan. Why can't Evan see that? And why can't they just tell each other how they feel? Too much vulnerability, I guess, too much chance of getting hurt, especially if you're gay. Lots of gay guys find expressing emotions nearly impossible because they've trained themselves to hide those emotions. Un-training yourself can be nearly impossible. This is all part of the cult of "straight-acting" in which we train ourselves, at all costs, to look, smell, act, and ultimately feel like straight guys, murdering those parts of ourselves that might give us away, those parts of ourselves that are authentic, endearing, and loveable. I did it. Every gay guy I know did it. Well, every guy except Jason. Somehow Jason managed to stay true to himself, and that's why I fell in love with him. He was a real boy, not something carved out of wood to look like every straight boy on earth. He had no Geppetto.

"Why don't I ask him?" I say. "Cliff and I talk. Why don't I ask him how he feels?"

"Would you?" he says, excited.

"Sure."

Evan leaves the office ecstatic, and that evening, when Cliff arrives for his music lesson, I invite him into the office to chat until Jason get home from the Symphony. "So, how's the music coming?"

"Really great!" he exudes. "I learn more from Jason in an hour than I learn from anyone else in weeks. He's a really-good musician, but he's also such a good teacher. So patient. I really like working with him."

I nod. "And how are you and Evan getting on?"

Suddenly, Cliff looks a little worried. "I was going to come talk to you about Evan. I...umm...think I'm falling in love with him. He's so sweet, and so caring. He's very shy, but we just seem to...click. He takes time to know, but once you know him a little, you realize how much of him there is. There's so much life experience there, mixed with so much vulnerability. I feel very protective of him."

"What do you think he feels for you?"

"I'm not sure, yet. Maybe he likes me...a little."

Sitting across from Cliff, I start to laugh. Cliff looks hurt, and eventually I force myself to stop. "Why are teenagers such idiots, Cliff?"

"Are we?" he asks, still hurt.

"Yeeaaahhhh! Evan was in here this morning telling me about a guy he's fallen for. His descriptions of what he likes about this guy were very different from yours, but when I asked him what he thought the other guy felt for him, his answer was exactly the same as yours. He didn't know, but thought the guy might like him...a little."

Cliff looks really sad, really glassy-eyed. "He's fallen for someone?"

"Oh, Jesus, Cliff! The guy he's fallen for is you, you idiot! You're the guy. He's in love with you. Do you guys talk to each other at all? The boy you love is in love with you!"

Cliff is silent for a long, long moment. Then a single tear streaks its way down his cheek. "Are you sure?" he asks.

I turn my chair, and motion him to come sit on my lap. I hug him. "Of course I'm fucking sure. He told me it was you. And, he thinks you might like him...a little." Suddenly Cliff, who is draped over my shoulder, starts to giggle through tears, which makes an interesting gurgling sound. Then he sits up and looks into my eyes. He has the most ecstatic smile. "He said he loves me?"

"Not exactly. He said he `really likes' you. But he came to me asking how you know when you're in love. It was as though he was trying to diagnose a disease. He gave me the symptoms. It sounded to me like that virus that's been going around, the one that the voters of California thought they'd eradicated with Proposition 8. It sounded to me like love. Jesus, Cliff! He's over the moon for you. He's too young to know that right now, but that's what all those feelings he described add up to. And Evan is good at math. He'll do the addition pretty soon and realize that's what he feels." Suddenly, I push Cliff away from me so I can look him in the face. I am solemn. "Love will be good for him, Cliff. It's something he craves. But, you be good to him. He's been damaged enough. If you know you love him, you need to tell him that. If you don't know, the two of you can explore that, but don't lead him on. He's fragile. I don't want to see him broken."

He nods. "I am sure. He's a hard guy to get to know, but I'm sure. I'm in love with him. I've been in love with him for a while, but I didn't know what he felt for me. I needed to protect myself. It just...I just felt too vulnerable."

"You're two years older than he is, Cliff, and you've been in love before. I expect you to take care of him in this relationship. And...umm..." I taper off, and pause. Finally, I wind myself up again. "About sex. He's a minor and you're not. That means that, technically, it's illegal. But, you're only two years apart, which means it's not very illegal. If you're going to make love, do it here, in the privacy of our home. And, don't advertise it. I'm trying to get his adoption finalized. I don't need him involved in a sex scandal in the middle of that process."

He nods and hugs me. "Thanks for telling me about his feeling for me."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I say, slapping him on the back. "We adults have to play Cupid to you teenagers because you're such...idiots," I laugh.

"Exactly," he says, climbing off my lap. "I think I'll go practice...the piano."

An hour or so later, as I'm sipping a cup of tea, I glance out the living room window. It's dark outside, probably half an hour before dinner. The guest house is illuminated, and both Cliff and Evan are sitting at the piano. Cliff has been playing, and stops, having finished the piece. He looks up into Evan's eyes, smiles, and they kiss. Then Evan reaches out and pulls Cliff into another kiss. They embrace, holding each other for maybe a minute...or two. Then Cliff starts to play again, and Evan to listen. They are just so cute together!

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I was not an especially-good high-school student. I mean, I was okay, but I really would have preferred being somewhere else, and it showed. What made it worse, much worse, was all the "help" that was offered me by counselors and teachers. If I missed a class, I was reported and had to go talk to my counselor. If I told my counselor to fuck off, I had to go talk to the vice principal. All I really wanted was to be left alone. And that's why, when I made it to college, I excelled. Why? Because everyone got the hell out of the way. There was no one there to "help" me, no one there to give me advice. I was given permission to fail if that's what I wanted to do. The knowledge that I was on my own, and that any achievements or failures would truly be mine, energized me. I emerged with a BA (and a 3.98 grade-point average) speaking fluent French, semi-fluent German, and having gotten one of my papers published in the Publications of the Modern Language Association (PMLA), one of the most prestigious journals in the world dedicated to English and Comparative Literature. And it was just so much fun! Society had decided that I was an adult, and had left me the fuck alone, and I had reveled in that feeling.

So, when Kenny agonizes about his students, I preach "tough love". Leave them alone. Those that have the gumption will rise to the surface, and those that don't will sink. He finds this approach a little too pragmatic, I think, because he continues to agonize as he sees their performance fluctuate. He thought one girl would be the best student he'd ever taught. Instead she dropped his class after two weeks. "It's too hard," she'd said. Another girl who seemed to be doing fine mid-quarter, sank to the bottom of the class based on test scores. This lead Kenny to wonder who'd been writing her code and doing her homework for her. And then there's Michael. The fact that I know him by name tells you how much Kenny worries about this one.

Michael started his university life as a math major, and switched to comp sci in his junior year. I didn't know you could do that. I didn't know you could change majors that late in your college career. Apparently moving from math to comp sci is not unusual, though. A lot of comp sci people still feel second class, still feel that pure mathematics is a more prestigious degree. So, comp sci departments allow these "changes of venue" with little comment. I guess what you major in all depends on where you want to end up. If you're looking to write a database-management system, then a good math background is essential. But, if you're looking to design games, or something that requires a lot of user interface skills, I'd go for a music or art background instead of math.

But, Michael decided to change majors after the first quarter of his junior year, and he ended up in Kenny's Java class. At this point in his career, Kenny doesn't usually teach introductory language classes. He either teaches game theory, or graduate courses. As a full professor, he gets the pick of the litter, and usually doesn't elect to teach the freshman and sophomore stuff. Recently, though, I think he's felt as though he's been losing touch with the kids who make up the majority of his audience for games, and has wanted to reconnect. So, he actually bartered for this course with an Assistant Professor. He gave up an upper-division course, "Intro to Platform Structures", a course he developed, for this Java class. With the class came Michael, and Michael is driving him crazy.

"I don't understand how he can get it one week, and totally miss it the next. It's not like it's particularly complex. It's a computer language, for god's sake. It's not like it's conceptual. And what's weird is that stuff he did fine on last week, he'll mess up this week. It's not like he isn't studying, though that may be part of it. It's like he's a different guy each week. He forgets what he learned last week, and so has no basis to build this week's skills on. I just don't understand what going on with this boy. He must have some kind of emotional issues."

And so, when he returns the latest homework, he includes a note asking Michael to drop in during office hours to chat. Michael does that the next day.

"I'm concerned about you," Kenny begins. "One week you seem to be doing great, and the next you're at the bottom of the class. I mean, your grades overall may average out to a C, but your good weeks put you in the A range. Frankly, I'm not even sure what to ask you. I've got C students, and they perform at a consistent level for the most part, and I have A students, and they perform at a consistent level. I have students that fall from good grades to poor grades, and students that steadily improve. What I rarely have are students whose grades look like a roller coaster up and down and up and down. I guess what I want to know is if there's anything I can do to help you."

A person's office is a physical representation of their mind. Mine is always a mess, yet I know where everything is. If you ask me to produce galley copies of my last article in Gamesmanship, I'll walk over to a pile of papers in the corner, reach down about six inches, and pull it out. Kenny is the same way. His office is piled with...detritus. But his mind has indexed that detritus. He knows where everything is. The only clear surface in the office is the top of a low bookcase where he has his photos. He has photos of the boys, a photo of his late sister, photos of himself at various conventions and ceremonies, and photos of Jason and me. The one I like best is a photo of the three of us Jason, Kenny and me at our commitment ceremony. We're dressed identically, all holding hands, and Kenny is leaning over, kissing me while Jason looks on and smiles. I like that picture because I remember that moment. It was sweet. We'd said our vows, affirming our love for each other, and Kenny, who'd felt left out of a relationship that Jason and I had already consummated, was expressing his love and gratitude for being allowed in. One of our friends caught that moment in a snapshot, and it's honestly my favorite photo among any number of much more formal poses shot that day. It's on this photo that Michael's gaze rests as Kenny asks him how he can help.

Looking up at Kenny abruptly, he asks, "Are you gay?" He sounds surprised.

"Umm...yeah. I assumed that was common knowledge."

"Maybe. I hadn't... I didn't realize."

It's at that moment that Kenny understands. "What about you?"

This question makes Michael intensely uncomfortable. He begins to squirm in his seat just a little, and to perspire. "I don't think... I don't..." He pauses for probably thirty seconds, finally looking into Kenny eyes, plaintively. "Probably." Another long pause as he stares at his feet, thinking. Finally, he looks up again. "Yes, I think so."

"Where do you live?" Kenny asks, softly.

"In the dorms across campus."

"Come have dinner with me and my family tonight. I'd like you to meet them."

Michael is quiet for a long moment. Then he nods. "I'd like that," he says.

People come out at different rates, at different times, and in different ways. Michael is probably 20 or 21. The only thing we all have in common is that we have to come out to ourselves first. A really-good friend of mine came out to himself when he was 26. He couldn't hide from it any longer. He was despondent for the better part of a month, riding a roller coaster of emotions that looked to one Kaiser psychiatrist like manic depression. She put him on meds and sent him to a therapist, a woman who just happened to be a lesbian, and who read him like a book. She spent two sessions with him, and then told him to stop taking the meds. She spent a month of sessions bringing him out. After session eight, he was happy-go-lucky again. And he was officially gay. Six months later, he was out to everyone, out and comfortable. "How did I live like that for so long?" he asked the psychologist a year or so later, meeting her in the Kaiser cafeteria while waiting for a prescription to be filled.

"We have a nearly infinite capacity for denial," she responded. Ain't that the truth?

So, Kenny brings Michael home for dinner, and what Michael finds here, of course, is a boatload of relatively well-adjusted gay guys. Kenny introduces him to Jason, Dinh and me, his "husbands", a term that elicits a look of surprise from Michael. Next Michael meets the boys and is justifiably captivated. Next come Peter and Erich. Finally, he meets Evan, whom Kenny introduces as my most-recently-adopted son. He tells Michael a little of Evan's history, and you can see that he's intrigued, though he says nothing more than "Hello".

It's Dinh's night to cook, and we're all really excited, not only because we haven't had Vietnamese food in nearly two weeks, but also because of what he's prepared. Dinh has done what no home chef does. He's made Bn b Huế from scratch. Bn b Huế is a noodle soup made by boiling beef bones in water for hours and hours, and then flavoring the broth with lemongrass, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and, in our household, lots of chopped Thai chilis. Then you add thinly-sliced beef shank, pigs knuckles, and, traditionally, cubes of congealed pigs' blood. The pigs' blood is the thing that makes Bn b Huế difficult for Caucasians to deal with. So, in deference to Michael, Kenny asks Dinh to leave it out. Dinh agrees.

 

This is my favorite noodle soup on earth along with my hundred or so other favorite noodle soups and Dinh's version is spectacularly good. "Where on Earth did you learn to make this?" I ask him. "No one makes this from scratch, do they?"

 

"My Mom did, and she taught me. She's from Huế, originally. She used to make it in the back yard in a huge pot sitting on a gas burner with a flame so high that you couldn't use it in the house for fear of burning the place down. The beef bones would boil all day, and by the time she was done, the soup was so intensely flavorful that just the smell of it was enough to..." he pauses, searching for a metaphor, "...to drive grown men to tears." We all laugh at this image. "Grown Vietnamese men," he adds. "Our Caucasian neighbors weren't always as captivated by the aroma as we were, and they got to know it well because when she cooked the broth, you could smell the fishiness for blocks. Coming home from school, I always knew when we were having Bn b Huế for dinner long before I got near the house."

 

Michael seems to appreciate the soup as much as the rest of us, scarfing down three bowls-full before finally leaning back in his chair, sated. "Not exactly dorm food, is it?" Kenny asks with a smile.

 

"No," Michael replies, "that was Yummy!"

 

Suddenly Kai joins the conversation, "Yummy...yummy...YUMMY!" he screams. Everyone laughs.

 

After dinner we have the usual chaos as dishes are cleared, as Peter and Erich go off to work, and as the boys are bathed and put to bed. Finally, Kenny emerges from the kitchen looking for Michael and not finding him. Standing in the living room, looking confused, he gazes out the window, and sees Michael in the guest house, sitting on the piano bench with Evan. They're facing into the room rather than toward the piano. They're talking. Evan later tells me that they'd been chatting during dinner, and he'd had the sense that Michael was really troubled about something. So, after dinner, he'd asked him over to the guest house to see Cliff's piano. If they'd been in a bar, I reflect, this would have been an obvious pickup line, but it worked. It's probably because Michael really needed to unburden and sensed in Evan someone who could help him do that.

 

"We talked about being homeless," Evan tells me later, "and how isolating that can be, how difficult it is to maintain relationships when all you're thinking about is where you're going to find food. He asked me if I was gay, and I said yes. He asked me if I was comfortable being gay, and I asked him if he was comfortable being tall. He must be 6'4" or something. He's the tallest guy I've ever seen. He laughed. I told him that being gay had been the least of my worries. Not having anywhere to live, not having anything to eat, not having any parents to talk to these were harder problems than being gay. Now that I'm living here, I told him, maybe I can worry about being gay. But honestly," Evan says to me, smiling, "I have enough perspective on this that I don't think being gay will ever matter to me. I know there are a lot of kids out there who are pretty messed up because they're gay, and someone needs to help them. Me? I'd rather work at getting kids off the streets, gay or straight, finding them homes where people will love them...like you love me." Then he comes and hugs me, and I remember why I love this boy, why he's so special to me.

 

After about an hour in the guest house, Evan and Michael reappear. Kenny, Jason and I are sitting in the living room having tea. Dinh is preparing for a class he has to teach tomorrow and so has escaped to the office, and Peter and Erich are working the phone banks at the Center. Evan excuses himself. He's tired, he says, and makes his way to his bedroom. Michael plunks down next to Kenny on the couch. He looks a little teary-eyed, a little vulnerable. "I really appreciate getting to meet you all, getting to meet your family. You all seem so...together...and I am so...not." Kenny reaches over and hugs him, and Michael hugs him back...and won't let go for maybe five minutes. Kenny rocks him gently, much as he rocks Kai when he's...distressed. Finally, Michael releases Kenny and wipes his eyes. "I had a really-good talk with Evan. He helped me put things in perspective. I've been a little...upset, finally facing the fact that I'm not like everyone else. I've been trying to come to terms with that, but it's had me pretty depressed. That's why my Java grades have been pretty erratic, like all the rest of my grades. I think I'm better now, though. Evan's experience has...helped."

 

"I'm glad," Kenny chokes. "I'm glad we could help."

 

There a long pause in the conversation, and then Michael swings around to look at Kenny. "Could you help me with one other thing?"

 

Kenny nods.

 

"I have no right to ask this of you, but...could you help me come out to my parents?"

 

Kenny looks confused.

 

"I think if they met your family, met the boys, they'd realize that being gay is not such a big deal. They'd realize that it's `normal'. That's what I got tonight, both from meeting you all, and from talking with Evan. There's nothing really different about us except who we fall in love with. I'd like to show them that. Could I bring them for dinner?"

 

Kenny looks over at me, and I smile. Then he turns back to Michael and smiles. "Yeah. That sounds like a good idea. Do you plan to tell them here, or just let them observe the species in all its gayness, and tell them later?" He's laughing, and so are Jason and I. Michael has to absorb the sarcasm built into this question before he, too, starts to laugh.

 

"I don't know, yet," he says, still giggling. "We'll have to see how it goes. I just want them to realize that this is a gay family, and just like every other family."

 

"Sure," Kenny replies. "We can do that."

 

Four nights later, Michael and his parents arrive at 7:00pm. Kevin answers the door, something I've asked him not to do because I worry about who might be out there. But it's something he loves to do because he likes to be the first of us to greet the guests. "Hi Michael," he says. "C'mon in. I'm Kevin," he says extending his hand first to Michael's Dad and then to his Mom, "I'm pleased to meet you." Kevin is just so cute when he does this greeting thing. He's just so...scrumptious...that we can rarely resist pouncing on him, flinging him into the air, and throwing him over our shoulder like a sack of potatoes, a move that elicits shrieks of laughter from Kevin himself. This is what Kenny does tonight, greeting Michael's parents with a squirming Kevin slung over his left shoulder.

 

"I'm really happy to meet you both. Michael is in my Java language class. He has the potential to be a really-good programmer. This little person," he says, patting Kevin on the back before setting him back down on the floor, "has the potential to become a really-good matre-D, so skillful is he at the schmoozie greeting. Go play with Kai," he says in Cantonese, and Kevin scampers off, giggling furiously.

 

Tonight we're sort of putting on a play, so we've decided to alter the cast list slightly. The idea is to appear to be the quintessence of normalcy, the perfect little American family, although we're faggots. So, Jason and Dinh decide to see a movie and then have dinner at Maggiano's, an Italian restaurant in Santana Row, an upscale shopping mall about five minutes from our house. And Peter and Erich have to work tonight, anyway, so they leave a little early and grab a bite at the bakery and sandwich shop across from the Center. It's just Kenny and me, Evan, and the boys. This is Ozzie and Harriet in drag.

 

I lead Michael and his parents into the living room where I serve cocktails, while Kenny goes off to finish dinner. He's made a Mushroom Risotto with an infusion of Mascarpone cheese that is out of this world, and we have a spinach salad with oranges as an accompaniment. Over cocktails, we chat about the weather, about the transformation of the Rose Garden neighborhood (they live in the Almaden Valley yuk), about local politics, and about last year's elections. They're democrats, thank god, so the political discussion doesn't result in any deaths. Finally, I bring the discussion to Proposition 8, and we chat about that. Michael's father voted against it, I find and his mother voted for it. Like thousands who voted for it, though, Michael's mother thought she was voting to maintain the right of gay people to marry. She was upset when she realized that she'd messed up. She hopes for a quick repeal. I look at her skeptically. "That's not likely. We don't have any gay political leadership in California. All we have is Equality California, a group so inept that they basically gave the vote to our opponents. No, it's going to be a while. But, I'm still married!" I say, happily.

 

This garners vague, insincere smiles from both parents, and now I know what I'm dealing with. This should be an interesting evening but, happily, not one I'm orchestrating. This is Kenny's show. My job is to play the loving and dutiful wife.

 

Dinner finally arrives, and it's wonderful. The smell of those Shitake mushrooms is subtle and earthy. Michael's parents love it. Kenny serves it with a sprinkling of pine nuts, and a bottle of Markham Chardonnay, a wine that perfectly complements the unique sweetness of the nuts. For dessert, Kenny has made a Lemon Meringue pie, one of my favorites, and one of Kai's. Kai has been nearly beside himself ever since he discovered that there's a lemon pie in the kitchen. When it finally arrives at the table, his grin goes from ear to ear. "You gonna let the rest of us have some?" Evan asks, giggling.

 

"No!" Kai responds, adamant. "This is mine. You guys can have...peanut butter." We all laugh, and I ruffle his hair as Kenny dishes up the dessert and pours tea.

 

"Where'd the little guys come from?" Michael's Mom asks. I tell her about Kenny's sister, about the adoption process, and about the second-parent adoption that took us so long to accomplish. I also tell her about getting the boys acclimated to a new household, new parents, and new languages. And then she asks me something that utterly confuses me by its absolute ignorance, something that stops me mid-sentence. "Are they gay?"

 

I pause for probably 15 seconds, a pause you can tell makes Kenny intensely nervous. I have no idea what to say to this, no idea how to respond. I'm not even sure what she's asking me. Is she asking if we were given these kids because they're gay, and if they'd been straight would they have been given to someone else? Or is she asking me if we'd have taken them if we'd known they were straight. Or, is this entirely disingenuous? Is she simply asking me what their sexuality is, as if I know. What I want to say is, "How the fuck should I know?" But, I can't say that. That would ruin the little theater piece we're playing at. So, instead I say, "No, they're Oriental." If she thinks about this response, she'll realize just how toxic it is, just how nasty I mean it. But, in truth, I don't think she has much of a brain. Her son does, though, and I watch the emotions wash over him. He's initially amused, then embarrassed, then hurt, then angry, and finally sad, begging me with his expression not to go further. I don't. I've said everything I need to.

 

After dinner, after the boys are in bed and Evan has retired, we adjourn to the living room for tea and discuss an upcoming mayoral recall election. Finally, Michael's mother says, "Well, we should probably be going."

 

Michael finally dives in. "Actually, there's something I wanted to tell you before you go, something tonight has been sort of leading up to. I haven't been doing very well in school this quarter. My...performance...and grades have been really erratic. I've been really depressed. I haven't been paying much attention to my schoolwork. Most teachers don't really care about that. It's not their job to babysit me. Professor Hsia, Kenny, noticed it, though, and asked to see me during office hours. He wanted to understand if there was something he could do to help me."

 

Michael's mother looks really concerned, almost distraught. "What's wrong, Michael? I wish you'd told us you were depressed. We love you. Are you okay now?"

 

"I am," he says with a sad smile. "I'm much better. I've come to terms with the problem that had me so depressed, and I hope you can come to terms with it, too. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm gay."

 

This kind of confession is a little dramatic for my blood. I like these coming-out confessions to be a little more light-hearted. But I didn't write this script, and Michael didn't take my workshop on coming out to your family. The moment the words are out of his mouth there's absolute silence in the room. No one is even breathing. After almost a full minute of silence during which his mother looks blank, looks like she's actually departed her body, Michael's father is the first to speak.

 

"You know, Michael, I'm not especially surprised. I think I knew you were gay. I don't know exactly how, but I think I knew. It's not like you hated sports, or were a drama geek, or fit any of the other stereotypes we associated with gay people. Somehow, I just knew. My first reaction, a split second after you told us, was sadness. But, then I realized that this revelation will probably make you a lot happier, and that will make me happier. I don't care what you are. First and foremost, you're my son. I love you."

 

Michael's mother is not so forthcoming. She sobbing now, clinging to her husband. Michael looks distraught, and near to tears himself. Kenny gives him a hug. "Let your Dad take her home," he whispers to Michael. "I'll take you back to your dorm later." Michael gulps, and nods.

 

His parents soon leave, and we return to the living room for another cup of tea. Michael looks shell-shocked so, so sad. "What have I done?" he asks no one in particular.

 

"You've come out," Kenny says, softly. "You've done what we've all had to do at some point."

 

"You need to expect that this will distance you from your mother for a while," I add. "It's going to take her a while to recalibrate all her assumptions about who you are and what you mean to her. Do you have siblings?"

 

"No. I'm an only child."

 

"That'll make it a little worse, because she'll have to give up on the idea of grandchildren, or at least she'll think she has to. But, what would have happened if you hadn't come out to her? You'd start living parallel lives, and slowly, you'd shut her out because your life with your boyfriend or partner would have to come first. You wouldn't see them at Christmas because your partner couldn't go. In some cases that's the route parents take anyway, once they've been told. They cut their children off. But whether you do it to them, or they do it to you, the result is the same. You lose them. Coming out is the only way to maintain a relationship with your parents. It's the only way you give them a chance to be a part of your life. You did the right thing. Now you have to be patient and let her get used to it, and she will, because your Dad is not going to give you up. He loves you too much to let you go."

 

How many times have I given this speech, I wonder. This is the toughest love of all because you have to knowingly hurt the person who gave you life, who nurtured you, who bandaged your skinned knees, and held you sobbing for hours when your pet chicken died. You have to hurt them, knowing you're doing the only thing you can do to keep on loving them.

 

Five days later, Michael goes to Kenny's office hours. He's all smiles, hugging Kenny the minute he sees him. "When I got back from class yesterday, my Mom was waiting in the lobby of my dorm. I took her upstairs, and we both cried. She was so apologetic. `I'm sorry, Michael. I didn't respond very well to what was obviously a hard admission for you. Your Dad was right. It doesn't matter to me what you are. I'll love you no matter what. It just hurt so much imagining how much harder your life will be given that you're gay. But your Dad was also right that getting this out must be a relief. Honestly, Michael,' she said to me, `I don't care. Be who you are. I couldn't love you more.' That's what she said. I'm so happy. She still loves me. I'm so grateful to you. How can I ever thank you?"

 

"By getting an A in my fucking class," Kenny responds with a laugh, "the A that you're capable of."

 

He didn't. But he came close. He got a B+, which was the best he could do given the grades he'd already gotten in the class. Two months later, he showed up at Kenny's office hours again. He didn't have a class with Kenny by this time, but he wanted to introduce him to his boyfriend, a really-cute twenty-three year-old guy just about to graduate with a degree in Latin. "What on earth do you do with a degree in Latin?" Kenny asked.

 

"You read Suetonius and apply for law school," the boyfriend quipped. "I'll be at Stanford next year."

 

Michael was radiant, and just so happy. He was out to everyone. His parents adored him, he had more friends than he could keep up with, and his grades were stellar. All this from the simple act of coming out.

-------------------------------------------

I am impaled on Kenny's dick. This isn't something I wanted to do tonight, but Kenny is longing for it. I spank him, and am surprised to have him sobbing inconsolably after only seven strokes. I stop and carry him to the big chair in the corner, where he continues to sob. "What's wrong, baby?" I whisper.

"I don't know." He pauses. "That's not true. I just feel...so lucky!" he chokes. "I don't have anything to atone for tonight. These are tears of joy."

"And why are you joyful?"

"Mostly because I have you," he says, starting to sob again, hugging me tight. "I have you and Jason and Dinh and the boys. I'm just so lucky. I have people who love me. Lots of people! Even Mrs. Leong loves me. Even Evan loves me. I'm important to people. I've never been destitute like poor Evan. I've never felt awkward about myself like Michael. I've felt rejected by my parents. But there you and Jason were to make up for that. I just feel very fortunate," he sobs. And that's when he asks. "Tim, can I fuck you? I'd really like to...umm...fuck you."

"Okay, baby, but you're going to have to get me in the mood. We're going to need to kiss...a lot."

"Not a problem," he says, and seals his lips to mine. Kenny can kiss. He's a passionate kisser, and so am I. We both tend to lose ourselves in a kiss, and that's what happens now. I don't know how to describe this. I know I've described sex as obliterating, but a kiss is sort of like that, too. For the first few seconds of a kiss I'm intensely aware of myself and the person I'm kissing, of our proximity to each other. If the person I'm kissing isn't someone I'm really in love with, that awareness remains. The kiss becomes self-conscious. If the person I'm kissing is someone I'm completely besotted with, as is the case with Kenny, all my inhibitions and consciousness melt away and I become the kiss. Kenny and I kiss for probably twenty minutes before I lift him and carry him to the bed, never breaking the kiss. I position myself on my back with Kenny hovering over me. I reach into the nightstand for the tube of lotion, slick up Kenny's dick, and raise my legs over his shoulders. We still haven't broken the kiss. As he enters me, I groan, but keep kissing him. And I keep kissing him for ten minutes more, ten minutes during which he plows me relentlessly. He slams into me, withdraws slowly, and then slams into me again. There is pain. And there is joy. There is abandon. After ten minutes I break the kiss and scream as I cum. Then Kenny cums. Then we're spent. This is absolutely one of the best orgasms of my life. It'll go on a little spreadsheet I keep of my top best orgasms. What number will it be, I wonder? That's the fun of the spreadsheet. In order to add a new orgasm, I have to review the others, remembering the preceding events. It's a good way to take stock of just how fortunate you are.

Having mopped ourselves off with Kenny's t-shirt, we snuggle, with Kenny spooned up against my back. "I love you, Tim."

"I know, baby. I love you too."

Then we fade away, waking the next morning with Dinh attached to Kenny, and with me attached to Jason. If Kenny thinks he's lucky, he should see the world through my eyes!

-------------------------------------------

"What is it with you and kids," Ty asks me at the party. "Like you didn't have enough of them before Evan?"

"I like kids," I say, laughing. "Besides, poor little Evan needed a break."

"Yeah, I guess. From what you told me, his life hasn't been easy."

"But, he's remarkably well adjusted for what he's been through. I'd like to see him let his guard down a little more and allow himself to be a little more vulnerable. I'd like to see him be a kid now and again. But he's pretty special as he is. The boys adore him," I say with a laugh, motioning out the living room window to the garden where Evan, holding Kai by the hands, is twirling him around, centrifugal force raising Kai's body into the air.

Four days ago, a Tuesday, a certified letter arrived announcing that Evan was now mine. His adoption had been approved. The Child Welfare crowd had signed off. The court had approved. I was now his father, and he was my son. When he read the letter, Evan burst into tears, nearly strangling me with hugs. It was one of those moments of vulnerability that tell me that there's still a little boy in there, a healthy little boy.

Today, Saturday, is the party celebrating his adoption, and we have 37 of our friends wandering between the house and the garden, chatting with each other. Some of these people haven't seen each other in years. Some have never met. All are here to congratulate Evan, something I sense makes him nervous. Still, he's going to have to put up with it, because I am just so happy. In life, there are people who demand your attention. There are those who virtually commandeer your heart, selling their plight so aggressively that it's hard to escape them. And then there are guys like Evan who suffer quietly, not really aware that they're suffering. They make do. When you meet them, they're so charming that you just slip quietly into love with them. That's how it worked with Evan. How could I not love him?

After maybe two hours, it's time for cake and champagne, but I can't find Evan. I send out my scouts, Kevin and Kai, but ultimately, I'm the one who finds him. He and Cliff are behind the guest house, locked in one of the steamiest kisses I've ever seen, steamier even than Kenny and me. "Ahem," I say. "If the two of you could spare a few minutes, it's time for some cake. There'll be time to make out later," I say with a snort. They both flush three shades of red, and follow me to the courtyard, hand in hand. When the crowd sees us, they cheer.

"As you all know, or should," I say, speaking to the crowd, "Evan officially became my son last Tuesday, and I couldn't be happier." The crowd applauds. "Based on what he's said, I have the sense that he feels lucky," I say, beginning to tear up, "but the lucky one here is me. I...umm...couldn't love him more." Suddenly Evan breaks from the crowd and launches himself into my arms, hugging me so tight. Kenny, who's been standing next to me, takes over, raising his champagne glass, "Please join us in a toast to welcome Evan to our family." There's more clapping and the clinking of glasses, but Evan and I are almost entirely oblivious, locked in a very emotional hug, a hug that seems to last for hours.

What would I have missed if I'd never met Evan? Like Kenny, I'm loved by many, and love many. But, love is an interesting thing. The more of it you give, the more of it you have to give. As I've found over and over, my love for one person is never diminished by loving someone else, someone new. If anything, it's enhanced. Why is that? I'm not sure. Maybe each new relationship clarifies the ones you already have. All I know is that I have a surfeit of "warm fuzzies," right now, a term my mother used to use for that warm feeling you get in the pit of your gut when you're really, really happy. I'm not sure I've ever felt better in my life.

Published first at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Nemo-stories/