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What a day! I had the whole day to myself, as my Mom and Dad wanted to go up to Tampa to visit my Dad's brother and go to the Home to visit my Dad's Mom. She has Alzheimer's, and doesn't know me at all any more. Still knows Dad, but thinks he is a little kid. Then they'd do some shopping, have dinner with some friends from Greenwich that had moved down here, then be back around midnight.
I used to go with them every year we came down to Sanibel for our spring break, but last year, when I turned seventeen, Dad said he thought it would be better for me to not go, because his Mom was so bad, and he knew I didn't get along too well with his brother Sam - he didn't even say I wasn't trying hard enough. I don't think he really likes his brother, either, but feels obligated. And of course, I have zero in common with the Pritzkers.
Dad is not my father, I mean not really. My real father went to war and didn't ever come back. The plane was found in Laos in 1982. He went down in 1970.
His bones are buried in Burlington, where he was born, where my grandparents live. They had two other sons, and seven other grandchildren, so they didn't need me much. I didn't even get a Christmas card from them for the last couple of years. Well, since I was little, anyway. Maybe for the past ten years. I sent them one every year, though. Mom stopped sending hers when they didn't come to the wedding. It's only a four hour drive, and Grampa Harris loves to drive.
That's all they found inside the F-4 he flew in Vietnam. Bones and uniform scraps. Bones.
I never knew him - just the handsome Air Force Lieutenant picture my mom kept on the mantle until just before she married Dad, then stored in the photo album I got for my fifth birthday. We kept it in a waterproof bag inside the safe (Probably to protect it from me, more than anything else) until I turned fifteen, then in my bookcase. My real father never even saw me - I was born four months after the plane disappeared. He was supposed to rotate home after a hundred flights - he went down on number 83. They knew he was dead, not MIA. His Number Two made it somehow, and staggered out of the mountains into a little village three days after the crash.
They looked for the plane, but then the retreat happened, I guess. A hunter found it in a ravine. He wasn't the first, though. Everything salvageable was gone. Wiring, switches, all the portable stuff. Not the bones. Not the strange swastika looking 24 kt. gold charm on a gold chain he wore around his neck, tangled with the doglegs. I guess the charm worked. I still have it, but I don't dare wear it, because people think its a nazi symbol.
Not the bones.
So, Dad is the only father I'd ever had. He treated me like his real son, and we got along pretty good most of the time. He'd always push for me to do better in school, better in sports (my game is BASEBALL! I'm pretty good, too. Lousy in basketball, hate football, soccer conflicts with baseball.) and to stay off drugs. He'd nothing to worry on the latter score, as long as you don't count marijuana. Tried it all, don't like any but weed. Rather smoke it than drink bourbon. Yuck!
Dad was real chuffed in December when I got the appointment to the Academy. Got it on my own, too. No political favors, no using my father's name, just on my own merits. Dad adopted me, and my name is his, except the middle name. Oh, sorry, I'm David Arthur Todd. My real father's name was Arthur David Harris. Mom and Dad didn't get any other kids. They tried and tried, but it never happened. They still loved each other, and I guess that was God's greatest gift.
Mom and Dad left for Tampa after breakfast, before the commute crowd, and I sorta lazed after I loaded the dishwasher, waiting for my morning dump. That happened around seven-thirty, then I showered and threw on a pair of trunks, grabbed my shellbag, and walked down to the beach, headed up towards Shell Beach.
I reveled in being in just trunks and nothing else, on April 20, 1988, while all my friends back at school were shivering through a late season sleet storm. Gee, tough. The sun was already warm, the sky clear except for a few pale wispy strokes on the canvas.
Shell is pretty good after a storm, like we had yesterday and last night. It was a Wednesday, so there wouldn't be hordes of people prowling for good shells until later. The waves were back to their usual lapping, instead of the rollers of last night.
I walked up the beach pretty quickly, as there was not much this far down. I found a couple of likely little red scallop-like shells, but all the good stuff was around the point up ahead. I almost walked right into him, because my shadow was in front of me mostly, and I was watching for some more of the little red shells.
"Oh!" I spit out as I jumped back, not a foot from him. He was just standing there, looking out at the water.
He swung his head towards me, his eyes at first hidden by his long chestnut hair. He looked okay, I guess. No, better than okay - great is a better word. More honest. No zits or anything, angular, a little bit browner than me. Same height, as far as you can tell in the sand. Six foot, give or take a smidgen.
He had a nice body, that was for sure. Slim all over, not all muscled, just tight, well-defined. He had a swimmer's build, but without the extra layer of skin.
He brushed his hair away from his eyes and looked at me, and I was sorta stunned. He said "Hey!" really softly, and smiled one of those smiles that tells you right away that it's genuine, the person is somebody you'd like if there's time to get through the first awkward minute of friendship. His eyes were like agates, bands of yellow, then green, brown and black circling his pupils, tiny in the bright sunlight. His eyelashes were an inch long, thick, deep somehow. Totally masculine. I guessed he was my age, maybe a year older.
I felt something in my chest, but I didn't know what it was. Sort of tight, all the way up to my throat. Maybe the orange juice. Mom chided me for drinking it too fast.
"I wasn't watching where I was going," I said awkwardly. "'Bout ran you down. Sorry"
He looked at me, up and down like you'd look at a girl, and said something like "want to try again?"
I didn't know what that was supposed to mean. I didn't answer, because . . . his eyes made me feel . . . warm all over.
"Shelling?" he asked, looking at my bag, only one or two little things showing in the netting.
"After the storm last night, it should be pretty good," I said. I dropped my gaze. He had broad feet, brown, big toes and trimmed nails. His legs were brown as nuts, the hair plastered against the skin, droplets of water sparkling when the light caught them. He had . . . a big lump in his boxer-style swim trunks.
"Like it?" he asked. His voice was low, husky, there was something there . . .
He didn't answer, and I looked into his eyes again, and felt that funny feeling in my chest again, like I'd been running real hard, and was out of breath but I wasn't.
"You're cute," he said, and his right hand lifted and brushed a stray lock of my dark brown hair away from my temple.
I didn't know what to say. I mean, suppose you're malling and some guy comes up to you and says that? Do your pop him one, spit in his face, laugh at his audacity, or what? Was he coming on to me? Nah!
"Wasn't trying to be," I said. "What did you mean?"
"What I said." He motioned towards a beach house just ahead. We were walking together all of a sudden, up the beach. "Want to come in?"
."You live there?"
"For now," he said.
"Neat. What do you do?"
"No," I said. "I mean what work do you do?"
He looked over at me, almost searching my face for something, then looked away. "I'm a house boy."
"You mean, like a valet, like that?"
"Cool!" I had these visions of a rich married couple with a house boy and a maid, traveling all over the world. "Do you get to travel a lot?"
"Not much," he said, still not looking at me. "We either stay here or in Key West."
"I've never been there," I said. "Is it like they say?"
"What do they say?" he said softly.
"Well, all laid back and slow, people still a little hippie-like, everybody gets up late and parties all night, sorta like New Orleans."
"If that's what you want," he said. We turned up a little sand path, bordered with big shells, leading to a small verandah.
"I'm not sure I'd like to live like that," I said laughing a little. "But it might be fun to see." We walked up the steps to the deck. It was a bigger place than I thought.
"Here we are," he said, reaching for the doorknob. "There's no one home right now, so we can go in."
I followed him into a room right out of a magazine. Everything looked perfect, colorful patterns on stuffed furniture, dark wood grandfather clock, big brick fireplace, polished wood floors.
"How long have you been a house boy?"
"Since as long as I can remember," he said. "Maybe since I was twelve."
"I didn't think you could work that young."
"You gotta do what you gotta do," he said, turning towards me. He was close. Very close. I wondered if . . .
The penny dropped. "No parents?" He must have been a street kid at one time. I imagined him selling matches on a street corner, and this white-haired distinguished-looking guy buys all his matches and offers him a houseboy job, saving him from a life of crime and destitution.
"Up north," he said. "I ran away. Can I kiss you?"
"Oh," I said to the up north part. When I finally heard the rest of his answer, I was gob struck. What does a guy say to a handsome guy who out of the blue asks if he can kiss you? What do you do when that little dream in the corner of your mind, the one you keep trying to make go away, make yourself complete, whole, acceptable to the rest of the world . . . What do you do when it steps right out in front of you, asks you the question where nobody can hear, where nobody will ever know your answer but you and the dream. I ground gears as I tried to unwind my tongue, find something witty to say, anything but what I wanted to say, "yes" was not an option, but . . .
"I ," was all I could get to come out.
He leaned toward some, and I tried to move back, get out of the way of his lips, not let myself go, oh shit. I couldn't move. Something was pushing me . . . I leaned forward, my feet frozen to the floor. We were exactly the same height.
His lips met mine, and then his arms went around me, and I just relaxed into the most natural thing God ever created for me. My arms went around his body, and I felt my nipples poke into his chest, felt the silken hair there. My lips felt his tongue, probing, and I opened them, only to find his tongue pushing at my teeth.
I debated for a few hours on whether or not to open my mouth to him. I had french kissed Sue, quite a lot, actually, so I knew it could be good for her. It got me all hot when we kissed like that. But I'd never had her tongue in my mouth. Should I let this guy, this really neat good-looking guy, put his tongue in my mouth? What about germs and stuff? What about STDs?
I opened my mouth completely and instantly to him, and my blood pressure went of the chart in a vertical line. My . . . penis . . . got as hard as it ever did when I masturbated or made out with Sue. Harder. She masturbated it once for me, right after the Christmas Dance, and it was about this hard. I did her that night, too. We decided -- well, she decided -- to get engaged as soon as we got back from spring break. We agreed that we wouldn't "do it" until we'd set the wedding date. Maybe even wait until we actually got married. Didn't bother me, I'm a man, I can take it, walk around limping all the time. Have to buy more Intensive Care, lots of Kleenex.
His hand went to the waist of my trunks, snaked inside and touched me, right on the head, and I shook. I wanted it, but was it . . . could I . . . I don't want to be . . . gay. Oh, gods, that felt better than anything on earth. Yes! Yes! Omigod, I'm gonna, it's . . .
He pulled back from me and looked into my eyes. His hand was still on my . . . penis, holding it lightly, his thumb doing things that sent shivers to my toes.
"You haven't done this," he said softly.
"No," I admitted. "I'm . . . I don't know what to do."
"I . . ." he took his hand out of my trunks, and leaned forward to kiss me again, but only on the lips, lightly. I wanted more.
" . . . don't think we should, yet."
That sounded just like Sue. No sex, please, we're progressive. My dick was spitting in frustration. Like a cat facing off a dog, hissing and spitting.
"I want to," my mouth said. I didn't say that. I couldn't have.
"So do I," he said. "I think we'd better at least introduce ourselves, see if we like each other enough to do it for the right reasons."
He was beautiful, made my heart pound with whatever it is that makes you want to have sex, we were alone and no one would ever know, and I wanted to know what it was like to do it for real, not just read about it, not just beat your meat, not just fantasize about what it would be like to go to the Park men's room and stick your penis through the hole that says "show hard for blow job." Oh, shit, what am I getting into? I'M STRAIGHT!!!!
He kissed me on the mouth again, and opened his mouth to me, and we stood like that for as long as it took to get me totally completely irrevocably addicted to making out with the guy. It was so much . . .stronger than with a girl. There was something to hold on to, crush you back with affection, make it a truly two-way giving. His kisses were tender, strong, loving, and sent the blood coursing through me. My dick started to hum, like a generator, and all of a sudden, before I knew what was happening, I came. Inside my trunks. I shook like I had the worst case of Parkinson's ever, and my legs got so weak I had to lean into him for support. Okay, that's the proof. I'm not straight. I'm . . . I'm gay? Dad is gonna ground me for life.
"Oh, God!" I said when I came up for air, "I'm so sorry!"
"Don't apologize to me ever again if I make you do that," he said. He chucked my chin. "That was about the nicest thing anybody ever did for me."
"But I," and I looked down. My semen was dripping down on the floor, my trunks were sodden, there was even a little on his belly, where I must have shot right through the waistband.. I was so embarrassed, I wanted to run.
He kissed me on the lips, and wiped the droplets into the floor with his foot. "Let's go shelling." He said it like a little kid would, but in the sexiest voice I'd ever heard.
We walked out of the house, then down the stairs, out to the water, and got my trunks washed out a little. I looked at him in the sunlight, and he was like a god, a breathing, living greek god. He walked in the water hand in hand with me for a minute or two, and it began. We told ourselves about each other, where we came from, what we had done, what we hadn't done, what we dreamed, what we were proud of, what we were ashamed of. I told him everything, listened to everything he told me, all of it. I cried with him at places, we laughed together at others.
It was the happiest day of my life, because it was the day we fell in love. I never went to the Academy -- Dad understood, and Mom too. Bill quit his "houseboy" job that evening, and moved up to Greenwich when the week was over. He slept under our house Wednesday and Thursday night, but Friday night -- our last on Sanibel -- it was too windy and chilly, so I snuck him into my little room. He wouldn't sleep in my bed with me, just curled up on the floor and went to sleep. I couldn't sleep a wink, I wanted to touch him so bad! He took a bus up to Greenwich that morning. We flew out of Tampa that night.
It was really strange, meeting him at the bus station the next morning. I had to loan him a coat. I took him home, introducing him as a friend from last year's summer retreat that had come to Greenwich to find a job, because there was nothing to be had in Springfield Mass (that's where he was really from, almost. There's a little town called East Longmeadow that is his real hometown.} and he needed to find a place to stay in town tomorrow, could he please stay tonight? Mom and Dad fell for him right away. They said we looked like twins. Ha! I don't have chest hair, and my eyes are green. Parents are weird.
Dad helped him the next day to find a little place downtown that was cheap and cheerful. Then he found out what Bill and I meant to each other. After that, it was like he had the other son he'd always wanted. Mom thinks Bill was her son, but abducted by aliens before he was born. We dated for months before we decided on where and when we were going to share my virginity. Bill never had any, and I wanted him to have half of mine.
Shit, look at the time! He'll be back from the office and getting dinner going by the time I get out of here and home. Gotta run. Mom and Dad are coming for dinner tonight, and I gotta get the wine. It's our anniversary. What time's his train? 7:02! I'm off.
Cindy, would you file this
for me? I'm not sure where it should go.
See you Monday. Oh - tomorrow, would you call that jeweler that
mounted the shell -- you know, the one on the corner, I can't find
the name in my wallet - must have lost the credit card receipt -
anyway, tell him the gift was perfect, my partner loved it this
morning, especially after he polished and split it like that to
show the chambers. We found it at Shell Beach years ago.
Oh, yeah - no calls tomorrow,
unless it's . No, No calls period.
Except Morton, if it's about the Dartington project.
Only on my cell phone.
Bill gets furious when I don't cut the umbilical
'Night - if I don't talk with your tomorrow, have a good weekend!
April 20, 2000, 19:11pm EST