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This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2014 by Steven Wells.
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John's Journey Forward
Chapter 03: Good Things Happen to Those Who Wait Patiently
On Tuesday, I went to the support group at Aids Action Committee. Noel and I sat next to one another after Jake started the session.
"So, men," Jake began. "Tell us about your week."
Bobby was the first to share his experiences of his week. "I started looking for a job this week. I need to work so I can find a permanent place to live and to keep me from going completely mad. Being on welfare is no treat! I feel embarrassed when I pay for groceries with my food stamp card. Everyone knows I am a loser when I pull out the blue card and press the EBT button on the card swipe machine. I even heard one guy grumbling about all black people being on welfare. Let's face it, being black, even in this day and age, is strike one. But, strike two is being on welfare. Strike three is being gay. And, strike four is being HIV positive. I used to have a little dignity. Now, I'm just a gay, black, HIV positive welfare sap. So, forgive me if I sound a little down tonight."
"But, Bobby," Jake began. "You are trying to move beyond being on welfare by at least looking for a job. What kind of work are you looking for?"
"At this point, I will do almost anything," Bobby explained. "I have a degree in education, but that is not in the cards right now because of my record."
"Record?" Jake asked.
"Yea! That's something I didn't tell you about last week," Bobby proceeded to tell us another part of his story. "When I hit bottom, I robbed a liquor store and beat up the clerk around midnight one night. I needed booze. He called the cops. I was arrested. I was lucky, though. The judge took pity on me after I told him my story. He is a recovering alcoholic himself. He told me that in his chambers. My friend didn't find me wandering the streets... he found me in jail. He pleaded with the judge to give me probation if I agreed to go into an alcohol rehab program. And, I did. But, there is no way a school system is going to give a job to someone who has a criminal record. And, I do have a criminal record now. I guess that is my fifth strike."
"Can I ask a question?" our blond Chris asked.
"Sure," Jake agreed.
"Can you type, Bobby?" Chris asked.
"Yea! I can type like a demon. Why?" Bobby asked.
"This would only be part-time—at least for now—but I need someone to help me write proposals for clients. We should talk after the session." Chris explained his reason for the question.
"Why would you want a person with a criminal record to work for you?" Bobby asked.
"I think everyone deserves a second chance," Chris added. "Look! My boyfriend Gavin gave me a second chance on our relationship. I am not saying the job will make you a millionaire, but it should help get you moving in the right direction. So, will you talk with me after the session, Bobby?"
"Shit yes!" Bobby effused. The demons seemed to lift from his shoulders.
Noel raised his hand to ask permission to talk. "Yes, Noel. What's on your mind tonight?" Jake asked.
"I was wondering if any of the guys could give me some advice," Noel began. "If you remember, I am a gay boy in a really conservative family. My mother is continuously asking me about why I am not dating women. I keep making excuses. She is getting even more annoying as time goes on. She thinks I should find a nice Hispanic Evangelical Christian woman and begin to procreate. And, we all know that is not about to happen—at least not for me. I feel claustrophobic when I am around her. Any insights on how I can avoid these discussions?"
"Why not tell her the truth?" Jake asked.
"Because I think she and her fellow church goers would disown me and probably beat the living shit out of me," Noel answered.
"The disowning part is not the worst thing that could happen," Jake explained his position. "You have a job. You support yourself. You are over 21. Maybe it would be worth confronting your mother so you can relieve this source of anxiety. I know because I was there. When I got kicked out of my family's home, I lived on the streets, which added a different kind of anxiety. However, I don't think YOU would be homeless or YOU would turn to prostitution to support yourself. Anyone else have any thoughts on Noel's situation?"
"Noel," I spoke up. "Remember what I told you when we met for coffee on Saturday afternoon? You can always stay at my place if things get tense. And, the offer still stands. Things would be a little tight, but we could survive if we at least agree on basic bathroom rules!"
"Thanks, John," Noel responded. "I don't want to be a burden for you."
"It would not be a burden! I work nights at UPS. I am trying to save money so I can go back to school and get my BA in computer science. We could split the rent!" I explained. "Please tell me you will talk to me after the session."
"Sure," Noel answered. "At least I would have a respite from my mother's nagging!"
"Anyone else have news to share about your life living with HIV?" Jake asked.
Chris spoke up, "Gavin and I are in counseling to help us get through my infidelity. We had our first session over the weekend. Needless to say, it was somewhat tense. But, Gavin says he still loves me and wants us to work through our issues. I know I have hurt him, and I am trying to make things work between us. I think he is scared about the possibility of me infecting him during sex. We haven't had sex since I told him about my diagnosis. I guess I am asking for help here with regard to what I should be doing to reassure him that we can survive this mess!"
"I think his reaction is normal, Chris," Jake began. "It will take time, I am certain, before your relationship heals. I might suggest that you and Gavin do some research on safe sex techniques. I have some information that I can give you or you can go to the Aids Action Committee's website for further explanation of safe sex techniques. And, once your meds begin to kick in, your viral load will become `undetectable.' Your risk of transmitting HIV once you are `undetectable' is greatly reduced. But, please do not assume that you can have unprotected sex with anyone even when your meds fully take hold. We also have another support group for couples where one is HIV and the other is not."
"Thank you, Jake!" Chris said. "I really appreciate your words of encouragement. Who runs the couples support group?"
"William and his partner Hank," Jake answers. "They are really terrific group leaders. One is HIV positive and the other is not. It meets here on Wednesday at 7 pm."
Another person raises his hand. "Yes," Jake gives the guy the opportunity to speak the group.
"My name is Charles," the guy begins. "I... ah... have sort of a problem that I hope someone can help me with. I met this great guy a few of weeks ago. We've gotten together for coffee a couple of times. He wants to go out on a date with me. But, I am scared shitless because I don't know how to tell him I am HIV positive without totally scaring him away. And, if he doesn't run kicking and screaming away from me, how do we get intimate?"
"Well, you can't know how he will react until you have the conversation," Jake began. "He could be in the same boat. However, most gay men today do not react with fear the way gay men used to react. If he does bolt on you, then perhaps he isn't boyfriend material for an HIV positive gay man. We live with the stigma almost every day of our lives as HIV positive gay men. But, promise me you WILL have that conversation before you get intimate! Any suggestions, guys?"
"You can kiss each other without fear. You can caress each other's bodies without fear. Sex doesn't need to be full on anal to be erotic!" Ron, another participant, suggested. "Some of the best sex I've had has not involved anal activities. I only wish I had the intelligence to understand that when I was drunk as a skunk. I wouldn't be HIV positive!"
"That's very good advice, Ron," Jake continued. "Does anyone else have a question or something they would like to share?"
When no one responded, Jake directed a question to me. "Now, I have a question for you, John. Have you pursued going back to school?"
"I have appointments tomorrow at Northeastern and Boston University to discuss the possibilities," I answered Jake. "My friend Mel wants me to look into MIT and Harvard as well. The last two might be a stretch of the imagination. So, I'm still schlepping packages at the UPS warehouse at night to pay the bills and save money for school."
"You have an Associate's degree, right John?" Jake asked
"Yup!" I answered Jake. "It is an Associate's degree in website design from Bunker Hill Community College. It's not realistic for me to expect to get a job doing website stuff with just an Associate's degree."
"Not necessarily, John," Chris interjected. "We should talk after the session. I guess this is sounding like I am using this group session to recruit talent for my business, but it just so happens we are looking for an entry level website developer. I hope you don't mind, Jake!"
"I think it is great!" Jake answered. "We are here to help each other. So, you will talk to Chris, John?"
"Absolutely!" I effuse. "Frankly, going to work at 12 midnight is getting a little old. And, my social life definitely sucks!"
"Our time is up here, guys," Jake explains. "We have coffee and snacks on the table in the back of the room. I think it would be good to get to know one another!"
Noel and I headed to grab coffee and talk.
"Do you want to come over to my apartment to see if you want to share the space with me?" I asked Noel.
"I need to head back to my mother's house tonight before she goes off on a tangent!" Noel answered. "Are you sure I would not be imposing on you if I decided to take you up on your offer?"
"You would not be imposing," I effused. "I think I would like the company. We will need to work out arrangements for sleeping and storage, but, other than that, I think it would be good for me to have another living being in the apartment."
"Cool! I'll call you after I get out of work tomorrow evening," Noel added. "What time is good for you?"
"Anytime tomorrow evening," I answered Noel. "I have a couple of appointments at schools tomorrow during the day. I'm available after about 3 in the afternoon."
"I get out of work around 5," Noel told me. "I'll call you when I'm heading to the subway."
"Great! See you tomorrow!" I exclaimed. I was beginning to like this dude. He has a nice body, too!
"John," I heard and turned around to see Chris walking my way from across the room. "Do you have a minute?"
"Sure," I told Chris. "My only commitment tonight is sleep!"
"Let's sit over here, and you tell me all you know about website design," Chris suggested as he motioned to a couple of chairs.
I began to tell Chris about my courses and what I had learned—or thought I had learned. After I told him about my courses, he asked me a couple of questions, "Do you know Dreamweaver?"
"Yes! We had to use it on most of our projects," I answered.
"What about cascading style sheets?"
"Yes, we had one course that was mostly a lab that covered cascading style sheets. I'm certain I have a lot more to learn, though," I explained.
"What were your grades in the computer science related classes?" That was Chris's final question.
"I had all A's in most of my classes with the exception of economics," I added.
"I don't know how much you make at UPS, but we generally start entry level developers with a BA at around $50,000 a year. I have this feeling you will be well worth the $50,000. You would get health insurance after 30 days plus a whole slew of other benefits, which I can have my HR person explain to you if you are interested. We also have a tuition reimbursement program to help with additional college classes," Chris added. "So, would you be interested?"
"Shit yes!" I told Chris enthusiastically. "Sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out like that. But, I have one question for you. Why me?"
Chris began his explanation, "John, I know it is hard getting a good website design job with only an associate's degree. However, I am looking for someone who is bright, creative, polished, and works well with others. So, I think I would like to give you a shot at this if you are willing."
"You mean... just like that?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes. Just like that," Chris answered with a smile on his face. "Gavin tells me I am somewhat impulsive. However, I think I am a fairly good judge of character. So, do I have a new website designer?"
"You bet!" I exuded. "I need to give UPS a week's notice. Is that okay?"
"Absolutely," Chris answered. "Here is my card. Send me an e-mail with your contact information, and I will have our HR person send you some pesky forms that need to be taken care of."
"Thank you, so much, Chris," I answered. "I think I am still in a state of shock!"
After Chris and I finish talking, I raced home to call Mel. She picked up on the first ring, "How was your group session this evening?"
"Incredible!" I enthused. "You will not believe this! You remember me talking about Chris, the guy with a website design company?"
"Yup!" Mel replied.
"He offered me a job! A fucking website design job!" I was almost bouncing off the walls. "A fifty thousand dollars a year website design job!"
"You're shitting me, right?" Mel ask in disbelief.
"Nope!" I told her. "And, they have a tuition reimbursement plan for employees."
"So, who do you have to sleep with?" Mel joked.
"He has a boyfriend, remember," I added. "They are in couples counseling, so I am fairly certain that is not part of the job description."
"I'm happy for you, John," Mel began. "Now all you need to do is find another boyfriend, and you will be all set!"
"Noel," I explained, "has agreed to visit my apartment to see if he will want to move in with me. His mother is driving him nuts with her questions about him finding a girl to settle down with."
"Is this a potential boyfriend, or just a roommate?" Mel asked.
"Well, he is cute as fuck! He's funny! He's intelligent! He works in an advertising firm downtown. He's about my height. He appears to have a gym body. But, we are calling this a roommate scenario until something else develops," I added.
"My personal advice, which I am certain you will ignore, is to take your time with this," Mel cautioned. "You don't want to jump into a relationship on the rebound. I don't think you've gotten over the previous asshole!"
"You are probably right, Mel," I agree. "But, it will be nice to have someone to talk to while I am at home. And, I might even have a chance to develop a social life now that I will not be working nights!"
"Well, John! I am happy for you both on the job front and the roommate front," Mel continued. "Just go slowly with Noel. I don't want to see you hurt again. Now, I need to eat food. I am starving! We should talk sometime tomorrow after your interviews at Northeastern and Boston University."
"I will, Mel," I explained. "I just wanted to share my good news with you. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow about the meetings at the schools."
Noel arrived at my apartment around 6. When I opened the door, he was smiling, "Hello, John!"
"Hello, Noel," I responded. "Welcome to my humble home. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Do you have any coffee?" he asked.
"Just made it," I said. "I need it to stay awake. Working nights is a killer! But, I have some good news about that!"
I poured us coffee and we sat on the sofa in the sitting area. "How was your day?"
"It had its good moments," Noel said in a cheery voice. "My favorite account manager really liked the stuff I gave him this morning. He is one of the pleasant ones. There are a couple of bitches that I try to avoid at all costs. At least today, I did not deal with any of them. So, in that respect, it was a really terrific day! What happened with Chris last night after I left?"
"He offered me a fucking job as an entry level website developer!" I enthused.
"Congratulations, John!" Noel responded. "That was certainly a fast decision on his part!"
"I was amazed! I thought that I would need to go in for an interview with him and several others before I was offered a job. But, he said he wanted to give me a chance! To say that I'm excited is an understatement!" I said before we turned the conversation to our living situation.
"Have you given any more thought about sharing an apartment with me?" I asked Noel.
"If you can stand me, I would really like to try," Noel admitted. "I need to get away from my family!"
We discussed our traits. We were both neat freaks. We both like to chill out by watching television, reading books, or playing video games. We both like to go for walks and hang outside when the weather is good. We both have bikes. We both want to go back to school—me for my BA and Noel for his MBA in marketing. We both like much of the same music.
Finally Noel decided to move the conversation to something more personal. "John, I need to be honest with you. I hope we can be roommates and maybe best friends. I like our time that we have spent together so far. I know you just came out of a relationship, and you don't need another one right now. But, I do like you a lot. If you were in a different place in terms of relationships, I would be tempted to ask you out on a date. I know you are probably not ready for that. So, I will be happy just being roommates and friends."
"Thanks, Noel," I decided to be honest with Noel. "I like you a lot, too. But, you are right, I am not in the right frame of mind to plunge into another relationship. When I was talking to my friend Mel about you, I realized that, if I were in a different frame of mind, I would be asking you out on a date. So, if you don't mind being a really good friend for a while, there might be more in the future. Right now, I can't promise anything. Who knows, I may never be ready for another relationship after my asshole boyfriend fucked me over. It will take some time. And, if we get along as roommates, there will be a one bedroom apartment on this floor available in two months. I told the owner that I was interested in it."
"What are we going to do about sleeping arrangements?" Noel asked.
"There are two options as I see it," I began to explain some of the features of the apartment. "This sofa is a sofa bed. You could use that. Or..., you could sleep in my queen bed. I think we won't crowd each other too much."
"Let's start with me on the sofa bed," Noel suggested. "I don't want to be tempted to attack you in the middle of the night. I have a question for you. I like to sleep naked. Does that bother you?"
"Nope," I answered Noels question. "I sleep naked, too! By the way, do you go to a gym?"
"I go to the YMCA on Huntington Ave," Noel explained. "I think the people there are a lot less full of themselves than some of the other gyms in town. You?"
"I used to go to the same place before I met my ass wipe of a boyfriend," I answered. "I am seriously thinking about trying to get back into it. I might even manage to work out on a regular basis now that I won't be working nights at UPS. When do you go?"
"You might think I'm a bit nuts," Noel begins. "But, I go at 6 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before work. I tried after work, but I was just too beat."
"Maybe we could go together," I thought out loud. "We could be morale support for each other!"
"I think that would be terrific!" Noel effused. "Now, why don't I take you out to dinner to celebrate our new roommate relationship?"
"You don't need to take me out," I said to him. "I can pay my own way!"
"Don't get me wrong," Noel added. "I know you can pay your own way. I just want to butter up my new landlord!"
"In that case," I decided. "I'm game! How about Thai? There is a place just down the street that has great food and an equally great waiter! He became my waiter/shrink after I threw Pedro out!"
"Let's jet!" Noel agreed.
We talked about some of our favorite recording artists on the way to the restaurant. When we arrive, we stood at the host station for a couple of moments before the host noticed us.
"John!" Hank exclaimed. "It's good to see you again! I take it you would like your regular table with Allan as your server. But, before you answer that question, I have one more. Who is this seriously good looking dude with you?"
"Hank, this is my friend and future roommate Noel. Noel, this is the owner's son, Hank," I made the introductions.
Hank pulled Noel in for a hug, "Any friend of John's is a friend of ours, Noel. Welcome to Chestnuts!"
Once they broke their hug, I said to Hank, "And, yes, could we get the booth in the corner?"
"Of course!" Hank exclaimed as he led us to the booth in the front corner of the restaurant. "Allan will be with you shortly. He is just giving the check the huge table in the back. I think he is ecstatic that they will finally be leaving. They were just a little problematic. I'll let Allan explain!"
Hank led us to our booth, gave us our menus, and took our drink orders. Noel and I both ordered a beer.
"You must come here a lot!" Noel said to me after Hank had left us alone.
"I started coming here while I was still going to school," I told Noel. "Then, when I graduated and finally started at UPS, I would come here before I went to work at least once or twice a week. When Pedro came into my life, he told me I shouldn't go out to dinner except at the restaurant where he worked. Then, a few weeks ago, after I kicked Pedro out, I started coming here again. These people are like family to me. They have helped me through some serious shit in the past several years. That's why I refer to Allan as my waiter/shrink."
About the time I finished explaining my association with Chestnut's, Allan arrived. There were more hugs and introductions.
"So, Noel," Allan asked. "When are you moving in with our friend John?"
"We haven't set a date yet," Noel began. "I will let him make that decision."
"You can move in tonight as far as I am concerned," I said to Noel.
Allan raised his eyebrow.
"I don't have any clothes for tomorrow!" Noel objected. "How about over the weekend?"
"Deal!" I agreed.
We gave Allan our orders and continued talking.
"How do you think your family will take the news about you moving in with me?" I asked.
"I already told her I was meeting a possible roommate tonight," Noel explained. "I convinced her that I would be so much closer to work that this was a really good idea. She didn't say much, but I suspect she will not be a happy camper once she finds out that I will not be under her control any longer."
"We never talked about how much stuff you have to move in," I thought out loud. "I can make some space in the closet, but what else will you need?"
"Not much," Noel decided. "I will only bring the necessities for the time being. If we do decide on the bigger place, I can move more stuff later. All I have is my laptop, tablet, phone, docking station, and some clothes. I live simply! I will try not to freak you out by moving in a whole house full of nick knacks!" Noel was smiling.
We talked about how we would work out the details of our living arrangements as we ate. I was beginning to like Noel more and more. He was a good listener and very positive about life.
Noel paid the check, and we walked outside to go our separate ways.
"Okay," I summarized. "On Saturday, I will see you around 12 noon. By then, I will have found you some closet space and a couple of drawers for your clothes. I will also make certain there are clean sheets on the pull out sofa. I need keys! I'll have keys made for you."
"Thanks, Mr. Organized!" Noel said as we were about to go our separate ways. "I'll bring a bottle of champagne and a couple of glasses. You don't have champagne glasses, do you?"
"No, I don't," I replied as Noel was about to descend into the subway station. "Noel, I hope you are as excited about moving in with me as I am."
"I am definitely excited, John," Noel answered as he turned to leave.
I saw Noel pause at the top of the stairs. He turned and walked back to me and hugged me and whispered into my ear, "My dick is getting hard. That's how excited I am!"
"Same here," I whispered back as I held onto my future roommate.
When I arrived back at my apartment, I instinctively called Mel.
To be continued...
I hope you liked the direction that "John's Journey Forward" is taking. I would like to hear from anyone who reads this story.
I would enjoy hearing your comments about this story. You can write to me at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
This is my third posting of my third story on Nifty.org. Please also see:
Sam and Chris in the college section
Life With Tim in the authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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