Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
A special acknowledgement to David from the Lakeview area of Chicago and Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story, to Carey for being a patient teacher, and to Drew for helping to expand my boundaries. A 'shout out' to Graeme who helped me work through a few issues in this chapter.
If you have any comments or suggestions for the author, feel free to write me at email@example.com. I love feedback. Support Nifty!
Part 6, REAPPRAISING
I got back to the house just before noon. The baggage retrieval was very slow at O'Hare. American Airlines seemed to be in constant remodeling mode and the lower level baggage area was completely torn up.
Mr. Charley was pissed. No other way to describe it. He had enough food, water, and kitty litter space for a long weekend. What he didn't have was human contact. Abyssinians failed the typical cat aloofness test. They love humans; creatures who will take care of them and return the love. From experience, I knew that Charley would be out of his funk by dinnertime.
It would be a while before I was completely over my funk. To experience a three-year relationship go down the tubes eroded your self-confidence. To willingly expose your vulnerabilities left you defenseless. To trust your mate with confidential details was a breach in your security.
Arriving at the 30th year was hardly over the hill. If and when the right person came along, we would be on equal footing professionally and personally. Someone to love and be loved as we took care of each other spiritually and physically.
Noticing the telephone answering machine blinking in the bedroom, I pushed the button for messages as I started to unpack. Message one was from Matt...delete. Message two was from Mom asking me to call her for a rundown on my weekend and the plans for the family birthday dinner next Saturday...delete. Message three from Sammy confirming that he would be here at three to pick me up...delete. End of messages. The small number of messages was not surprising since most friends knew I was out of town.
Stripping off my travel garb, I threw on chino shorts, a Cubs tee and sandals. Down in the kitchen, I spotted some leftovers I could re-heat in the microwave. Quiet time in the early Sunday afternoon allowed me to sort out the mail, bills, messages and make a few calls while taking in the highlighted sporting events on TV. 'Best call Mom tonight,' I decided.
As it approached 3:00 p.m., I started thinking about my blond friend who would be arriving soon and my new status as a single man. That Matt was no longer in the equation released the guilt simmering below the surface over the past two weeks. 'No decisions now,' I rationalized. 'Nothing worse than someone on the rebound.' But the sex was great, and the guy was fun to be with. I think fun is what I needed now.
Knowing that Sammy was almost anal on punctuality, I left the house and went to the corner to wait for the ride with my buddy. Proving my theory of Sammy's need for punctuality, a black Wrangler, top down, rolled up as scheduled, driven by my young friend with aviator sunglasses covering his familiar blue eyes and a DG gray, sleeveless muscle tee. "Welcome back, Jerry," he yelled, pulling up to the curb.
Tossing the bag in the rear, I swung into the Jeep and firmly grasped Sammy's hand. "Thanks for coming. This has been a wild weekend."
"Maybe we can get wilder this evening?" he asked, with a leering grin.
I hesitated before answering, "We'll see." Shaking his hand, I winked before buckling in. 'Time to do some damage control,' I considered. 'Stop this before Sammy starts assuming there's a relationship developing, other than friends.' As he headed to the club, I told him that I'd treat him to a deep-dish pizza after the workout at Gino's East.
"Then we better burn off some calories."
"By the way, I invited Joe Jenrette to join us for the workout. I thought it would be a good idea for you guys to get to know each other better." I wanted the story about meeting Sammy to have some foundation.
"Boy, you are the careful one, aren't you?" he said, turning to glance at me. I couldn't read his expression, although the brow was slightly frowning.
"Sammy, this is an unusual situation for you and me. From what you've said, your dad isn't exactly comfortable with your sexuality. And, I know him socially. Then, there is an age difference. Maybe I'm being a little too cautious. You're not mad are you?" I asked concerned.
"No, not pissed. Just not used to hiding in a closet, so to speak. But I see your point. Dad is not very liberal minded when it comes to homosexuality." He turned and touched my neck and softly massaged it. "Naw. I'm fine. I just wish you wouldn't worry about being so old," he replied with a smile, squeezing my neck for emphasis.
"A side benefit will be the chance to get closer to one of the real young chargers in the office. If you think that Martin would be a good company for you, Joe could be a real ally."
Laughing, he replied, "Babe, you didn't fall off the turnip truck, did you? I feel like I'm going through fraternity rush."
"Just think of me as the rush chairman and pledge master."
"I can just imagine what Hell Week must be like with you," he replied with a chuckle.
I grinned and joined him in a good laugh. 'God, I need more laughs,' I thought while replaying the past 48 hours. "Just planning ahead and being a basic, anal-retentive, multi-tasking, over-achieving friend," I retorted.
"You're so full of it. I swear your eyeballs are brown," he rapidly replied, in between continued laughs by both of us.
We arrived at East Bank shortly thereafter. Joe was waiting at the reception area with bag in hand. He was in a long-pant version of post-preppy Sunday casual with a golf shirt hanging loosely un-tucked. "Hi, Joe," Sammy said, stepping forward with an outreached hand. "It's been a long time."
"Jerry. Sammy. Yeah, way too long. I think the last time was when I whipped your ass at the country club's father-son tournament a couple of years ago," he said in a good natured manner, shaking hands. I could see that it was going to be a friendly battle of charisma between two younger 'A' types. It was almost like watching how Sammy would develop when he reached Joe's age in a few years.
As we went to the locker room, Joe and Sammy were talking about their families and other acquaintances as though they were old friends. At the lockers, while changing, I said, "Sammy is thinking about Martin or McKenney as a company to join after he finishes graduate school."
"Entering your senior year at Loyola, aren't you?"
"Yes, then University of Chicago for an MBA," he said grinning. I caught the reference.
"Have you been accepted so early?"
"No. But my grade point is a 3.8 average, and the SAT's are up there. Plus, Dad is on the Board of Trustees," he added in a matter-of-fact manner. "I'm going to work on getting in soon. Jerry suggested it."
"Well, Jerry gave you some good, big brother advice. The school is really superior," Joe added, as he smiled my way.
'Yeah, maybe being a big brother mentor is where I should be heading with this blond mass of energy?' I wondered. "Joe, if you're okay with it, how about being Sammy's sponsor for a Martin indoctrination day this fall. It would give him a great chance to look us over," I interjected.
"Hell, yes, I'd be more than happy to do that. Our families go way back and I like you, Sammy. Maybe not as much as my sister did," he said with a smile.
"I would have loved to date your sister more. It was just too complicated at the time."
"When you came out after high school, it explained a lot of things." Joe playfully tapped Sammy's shoulder with his fist. "By the way, we're both cool with you. I talked with her today, and she'd like for all of us to get together for dinner soon. I must thank you, by the way. Because of your openness, Sis wasn't so taken back when I came out a year ago to the family."
Sammy's eyes got wide as he stared at Joe. "You mean..."
"I figured out things during my freshman year at Stanford. I had all those fantasies that guys have. And the things we all do when we're younger boys with friends, I just considered the messing around stuff part of growing up. However, when I went away to college, the fantasy became exclusively about men. Guys at school. When a teammate of the freshman swimming squad came on to me in the shower one day after practice, my willpower melted. We were very close until I graduated."
"Jerry, why didn't you tell me about Joe?" I could feel Sammy's thought process spinning into gigabyte overdrive.
"Not my place. Joe and I are very open at work. In fact, there is one more tribe member at Martin."
Placing his arm around Joe's shoulders briefly for a casual guy hug, Sammy said, "Joe, thanks for letting me know. And I would really like you to be my sponsor." As I watched Sammy, he emotionally had changed gears from 'park' to 'neutral'.
In the next hour, we worked on the machines, hand weights and took turns spotting for each other. Another piece of the plan fell into place when Bill Saunders from American Foundry saw us and came over. Because he had been a classmate with Matt, I knew he was 32 years old. I admired his mature 'boy next door' look, set off by a handsome, sculptured face, piercing gray eyes and well-groomed brown hair. Standing just a little taller than I, Bill had not let his physique soften as Matt had. My hair bristled a little from the energy he projected.
"Hi, guys. Looks like Sammy is in good company as a new member," he said walking up with a big grin. Bill's sweat-drenched tank top clung to a well-defined hard torso. I considered him to be the image of a confident, relaxed, in-charge man who stood out in spite of generic, faded gym clothes and well-worn shoes. Matt would have been in the latest style from Nike or Puma from head to toe.
"Bill, do you know Joe Jenrette?"
"Yeah, we've met a couple of times at parties. You and Jerry work together, don't you?" Bill asked Joe.
"In fact, he hired me two years ago. We're doing a little under-the-table recruiting with Sammy," he said, shaking Bill's hand while returning the smile.
"Graduate school comes first, Bill. However, I'm definitely interested in working in consulting. Jerry and Joe are going to show me around the company. That's all for now," Sammy said in a casual fashion. "I'd appreciate your not mentioning this to Dad."
"As far as I'm concerned, we're just some friends that ran into each other. But we all might be working together soon," Bill replied.
I looked at Bill, tentatively. "Is it okay for me to mention to Sammy what we've been talking about?" 'He might just be the summer office boy,' I judged, 'But Bill recognized that Sammy was also the boss's son.'
"Absolutely, but keep it among us for now. I gotta hit the showers. See you Wednesday at the Union League?" Bill said, walking away to the locker room.
"Noon. I look forward to talking with you. Bye." 'And nice seeing you again,' I thought wistfully. We both offered a final wave.
Nothing had been said about Matt. Bill was the socially tactful type who went out of his way to make you feel comfortable. He was a young executive who wore success naturally, in contrast to Matt, who would carefully orchestrate every nuance to his advantage. Bill was going to make some woman a very happy wife.
Turning to Joe and Sammy, I remarked, "This is a little premature, but we're discussing a possible consulting job for your dad's company."
"Wow, you move fast," Sammy observed.
"Actually, it was Bill who brought up the potential contract last week when we were all together. I have a feeling that your dad and he have been thinking about this for awhile."
"Is there any chance I could work on the project?" Joe asked, with his shoulders casually touching Sammy.
"We'll see how your load is now. Might be a good idea." I couldn't help notice that Joe was subtly leaning over a little more into young Mr. McDonald for complete contact.
It was a successful afternoon at the East Bank Club on many fronts. The windfall of a possible contract was exciting. And Joe and Sammy really hit it off well, giving credibility to my earlier story about the two guys' meeting. When the actual recruiting and hiring process is in place, albeit a placement two years away, I wondered where we would all be then?
I was also happy about the unexpected meeting with Bill. Not only would his company give us good billings, he was a guy I wanted to know better socially and personally. I felt challenged to mentally and verbally excel when we spoke. He ratcheted up my sense of humor as we playfully exchanged banter. I felt excitement. 'Keep it in check,' I told myself. 'Chasing after a straight man would only be trouble.'
After a steam and shower, we took our time getting dressed. "You work out at The University Club?" I knew that Joe was a member because of lunch receipts he submitted for client entertaining.
"Yeah. I'm a legacy. Good place for Dad and me to meet once in a while. But this place is great. The equipment is so much better."
"Why don't I set up a Martin corporate membership and include you and any other associate who would be interested? I agree about the equipment. And you will meet many people in your age group. Not only is it advantageous for a single guy, but great networking for the company. I've picked up several good contract leads." He was still in great shape and about my height with Midwest WASP features.
As we showered, I was amused to see a small "Superman" logo tattooed on his groin just above and right of the neatly trimmed pubes. I also noted a healthy endowment and shaved balls swinging below when he walked out of the shower room. Joe would make some man very happy. My happiness would be to successfully mentor his continued growth as a valued associate.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Sammy exploring the same scenery a little bit too long. Sammy was an aggressive predator. But I sensed something more. The gear had definitely moved into 'drive'.
Joe beamed while stepping into blue Dockers. "A membership would be terrific. I've only been here a couple of times. But you're right. Like today, I saw several guys I know that are on their way up the corporate ladder. Great idea." We finished dressing and continued with small talk while walking to the parking lot. Sammy and Joe had immediately bonded. In fact, they set a date for golf in a couple of weeks at their club.
Joe took off, and we proceeded to Rush Street. At Gino's East, we sat in a beat-up, well-used booth with timeworn carvings on the wood. Above were thousands of names and harmless graffiti, marking the low ceilings. Deep-dish pizza was a Chicago specialty. The calories and grams of fat were obscene, but the flavors and textures were awesome. This Chicago signature-style pizza was guaranteed to drive your cholesterol count right off the 'Richter' scale if eaten too often.
Sucking on two Bud Lights, we looked around the room, trying to decide on the best moment to talk.
"You want to tell me now?"
"Tell you?" Our eyes met.
"Why you came back early? Why we are sitting here?"
"Valid questions. Are you ready for some soul-baring answers? Some heavy shit?"
"I'm ready. Just for the record, I'm glad you called, Jerry. I want you to trust me as a friend."
"Me too." 'Yeah. Trusting him as a friend,' I considered, while absentmindedly peeling away the Bud label. Returning his stare, I took a long pull from the bottle and continued, "As of 9:30 p.m. last Friday, I became a single man again." All the noise in the restaurant dissipated as the visual communication channel between us ignited. He was digesting my statement quietly.
"You mean that you blew off Matt?" His sunglasses slid off his forehead because of the quizzical frown and hit the table. "Does this have anything to do with us?" he said in a subtly alarmed fashion. "I...ah...mean I don't want to be a home wrecker."
"Actually, it's the other way around. And no, this is not about you."
"That's a relief. I think what we've done together is hot. But not hot enough to create problems between two lovers."
"That's the way I see it also, buddy. You ready for the sordid details?" "Hmm,' I considered. 'Was Sammy ahead of me on this human jigsaw puzzle?'
"Only if you want to tell me," he said leaning forward, more relaxed.
"You're the first person in Chicago to know. I'm glad you don't mind being a sounding board for what happened." I felt a tremendous pressure easing. "I guess we haven't talked too much about Matt, other than we were together three years and he was temporarily working in New York."
"Yeah. Plus some pictures of a handsome man. That's all I know."
I proceeded to tell him the first year of our partnership and the slow downhill slide of the relationship. I emphasized the last four months and the uncomfortable feeling I experienced in our rendezvous and phone calls. And then the final meeting and news on Friday.
"Wow. That's some fucking conclusion to your partnership. What about the house and everything?" he asked, concerned.
"That's the only good thing to come out of this. The property and everything in it is mine. No messy legal stuff to worry about splitting things down the middle."
"That's a relief. So you must feel like crap right now?" Not caring about appearances, he put his warm, tanned, freckled hand over mine and held it there.
"I felt very pissed off Friday night but I'm kinda relieved now. Subconsciously, I knew my relationship with Matt was heading south. But I sincerely thought maybe we could work things out when he returned. It's almost like I was used as a...safe harbor until he could move on. I just can't get over his involvement with a woman. She's another safe harbor. Once he gets what he wants, I'm sure he'll fuck her over, figuratively. I hope this doesn't sound too bitter?"
"Maybe not too objective, but, from what you've said, probably on target. I'm really sorry, Jerry."
"Thanks for letting me cry on your shoulder. You came into my life at a very vulnerable time. I won't lie to you. As we were walking up Michigan Avenue, my immediate thoughts were typically driven by a healthy male sex drive."
"Yeah, I saw a little movement below the belt when your suit jacket was blown by the wind," he said with a smile.
"Guilty as charged." I smiled back while twisting my hand around to grasp his. "But, after we...you know...had an intense time, I knew that you were someone whom I wanted in my life more as a acquaintance. A good friend. But, just good friends, nothing more." I studied his face for a reaction.
"I want to be friends, Jerry. You're a lot of fun to be with. And I think you're pretty fucking hot for an old man." He squeezed my hand and grinned. "I'm glad you chose me to come to with this problem."
"Hey, I'll settle for older brother, asshole." We both smiled. "The deal is, I've got a lot to sort out right now. It's going to take a while for me to rebound." We released our mutual grip when the waitress brought the pizza in the black iron hot pan with a spatula. She scooped out a piece for each of us on plates and we ordered two more beers. Continuing, I said, "Thanks, buddy, for listening to me. I do know that we will be friends for a long time. I'm sure of it."
"Speaking of buddies. Maybe we could be 'fuck buddies' once in a while?" he asked, with a sly smile.
"Let's settle for buddies, friends and brothers. Let's save the other stuff for the right guy. Okay, little brother?"
"Yeah, okay," he answered, and winked. We both took tentative bites of the hot wedges of the deep-dish pizza. While chewing, Sammy said, "I know you've got a lot on your mind. In addition to friendship, I want to prove to you and Joe that I have the potential to be a valued trainee and associate."
The waitress returned with two more Buds, and we devoured the food. I purposely changed topics and told him more about what we were doing at Martin and described my two best neighbor friends. He gave me more details on his family and Loyola. After finishing the late lunch, I paid the tab and we returned to his parked Jeep. I hoped that Sammy was fully aware of the sea change that had occurred inside. We were going to be trusting, unofficial brothers, supporting and protecting each other. I'd make a point of re-enforcing that level of association.
Standing curbside, I said, "Sammy, would you mind if we called it a day? Aside from being a little tired, I need to call Mom tonight and give her the rundown of my trip and why there's going to be one less guest at the family dinner Saturday." We locked into each other's sight line intently.
"I understand. Understand completely. Do you want to get together soon?" The look of worry and concern melted me.
"Absolutely. A rain check. How about next Sunday? We can workout and come back to my place for dinner. In fact, if you don't mind, I'll ask my friends Steve and Allen to join us?" I was already moving to safer ground. Safety in numbers. 'Maybe I'd invite Bill?' I considered, as a smile crept up. 'He seemed to be gay-friendly.'
"Okay. As long as it's only dinner you have in mind between the four of us," he replied, with a wide grin and wink.
I laughingly said, "These guys are my best friends. Have you no decency?" I asked laughingly.
"Only on Sundays. Hop in. I'll drive you home."
"Naw. I'd rather walk. Need to work this out by myself. A walk will be good. Okay to call you mid-week?"
"I'll be home Wednesday night for sure. Call about eight?"
"Eight it is. Thanks for letting me spill my guts." I shook his hand and held it.
"Only too glad to help. See ya," he concluded with a compassionate smile. He jumped in and drove off and I continued north on foot.
Cutting over to Lake Shore Drive and the Oak Street entrance to the Outer Drive, I reviewed Jerry's news and what had transpired between us since meeting at this cross-street traffic light over two weeks ago. What started out to be a bold pick-up on my part seemed to be growing into an honest, solid friendship and I couldn't be happier. 'But the s-e-x was pretty steamy,' I judged. 'Hmm, maybe we could re-visit that last part of the agreement?'
Pulling onto the Outer Drive, I soon passed Schiller Street, where the direction of my life had turned that afternoon in the coach house. At the time, I had no idea who this dude was other than being a very attractive, smart, and successful-appearing guy. But as I found out about his professional status, the friendship with my father, social standing and the worldliness he possessed, I had become a little nervous.
While checking out the shoreline traveling north, I guessed that the reason for that feeling was one of age. I had yet to experience what he had. The nine years really made a difference right now. The fantasy to flash forward on a time machine and compare where I would be at 30 was wishful thinking. But it did give me the idea of setting goals. Right now. That Sammy McDonald would succeed was a given. Thanks to the right genes, intelligence, a rich Dad and a loving, committed family; I had distinct advantages that would not be squandered. I would take it to the next level.
Passing the Diversey Street exit, I starting thinking about a relaxed, growing friendship between Franklin and me. We were both raised in prominent families. My education was in a transitional stage. He was an upwardly mobile force in the Chicago business community. We both navigated in the same social waters. After the initial physical encounters, I realized that Jerry was serious about becoming an older big brother I needed. A young, mature, gay man who could be a mentor and teacher.
Around Addison Street, I considered Joe Jenrette was just four years older and on a fast track. 'I could relate to that,' I reasoned with a smile. I could also relate to this incredibly handsome stud. Especially when I saw what he was packing in the locker room.
The last date I had with his sister was three years ago.
The invitations to my summer pool party were coveted. Dad had built a great backyard setup with the three-lane lap pool, pool house, Jacuzzi, flagstone patio and barbeque area. For this annual event, he hired a fun catering group to handle the food, a DJ for music and security. By the time the sixth annual party started on an early Saturday evening in August, there were 200 guests expected with several parents attending as chaperones. This was the transitional summer between high school and college for my group, in addition the college age friends my sister invited.
Debbie Jenrette was in the 'A' clique of girls, whose status was perpetuated by rumor and envy. We had been casually dating for the past three months. By August, I felt she expected me to take the relationship to the next level. That she was my date to the McDonald Summer Splash Party earned her a couple of notches in the eyes of her peers.
That evening, Debbie and I had made the rounds around the pool area. Each clique traditionally banded together at a party like this. But slowly, the groups started intermingling and dancing to the DJ's music mix. Young hormones and adventure played big time. Debbie and I ended up in the Jacuzzi. No one else was present. She was aggressively kissing and groping me above the waist. This was pretty much where my sexual exploration had always ended. Harmless, up to now, for both the girl and me.
"Oh, Sammy, I like this," Debbie said as nibbled at my earlobe. When she started letting her hands wander to my crotch, I instinctively moved away and looked at her intently.
"I think we'd better cool off," I said, as I shifted so that we were staring at each other.
"Sammy, have I done something wrong?" she asked with an expression of self-doubt.
"Naw, nothing like that." Looking at her nervously, I continued, "You and I have known each other since we were caught peeing in the club wading pool years ago." That brought a slight smile to her face.
"Oh, God, even at the age of four that was embarrassing. My big brother Joe wouldn't let me forget it the rest of the summer."
"The point is, we've been friends forever. And now we're going off to college. You're a beautiful woman. Any man is going to be lucky to be with you." I studied her for a reaction before continuing. There was a glow of momentary contentment. "I'm going to tell you something that, up to this point, is known only by my older sisters." Taking a deep breath, I continued, "Debbie, as much as I'd like to get excited with you, ummm, doing things, I don't. Ya see, I'm wired differently."
"Wired differ...you mean...ah...that...?"
"Yeah. I like guys. Only. God knows, I wish I could reciprocate...and probably with some fantasy, I could...but I don't want to lie to you. I hope that we can be friends?"
"Sammy, err, this is all very sudden. I mean, you're telling me you are completely gay?" Debbie asked with a combined look of puzzled embarrassment.
"We've been friends for a long time and I can't mislead you. I hope we can be friends for years to come." I said as I took her hand.
"This is a shock but I appreciate your candor. Thanks for not leading me on." She studied me deeply with silence.
"Friends?" I looked into her eyes for understanding. Time stood still for moments.
After considering my question, she said, "Yes, I would like to be friends." Debbie leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. I felt very relieved. "I hope you meet the right guy, Sammy. Someone who knows how special you are," she added, with a coy smile.
"Thanks. That's my goal...some day. One favor, though. My big outing to the folks hasn't happened yet. I plan on doing that in a couple of weeks. Can we keep this between us?" I looked into her eyes, quietly pleading.
"Oh, Mr. McDonald, my lips are sealed. Joe has a few buddies who are gay. So I've pretty much accepted the differences of other people. I'm sure that will be no different in college." With that I gave her a peck on the lips and we got out of the Jacuzzi and returned to the party.
At the pool we passed her brother Joe, who was climbing up the ladder out of the pool. Looking at his wet, well-honed swimmer's body and the jammers clinging to a defined mound in the crotch area, I would have traded Debbie for her brother in the Jacuzzi in a heartbeat.
I smiled as I got off the end of the Outer Drive and continued up Sheridan Road to Evanston. Reflecting on Debbie's last words that summer three years ago, I wondered exactly how friendly Joe was with his gay buddies at the time. 'Hmmm,' I queried, 'Where did he fit into this equation?'
TO BE CONTINUED