Those Golden Eyes
The four days after Mary returned home from Dave's passed like a rocket. Lloyd stood at the plate glass window in the airport watching the plane slowly back away from the port and taxi toward the runway. He felt he needed his wife beside him now more than ever, but the needs of their children always came first. David and Max stood on either side of him. He placed his arms around their shoulders as he sighed. He maneuvered them away from the window.
"Well, boys we're bachelors for a while."
Mary and Gary sat in the front row in first class. Gary was next to the window. He could see his dad and two brothers standing in the window. He waved.
"Can't they see me, Mom?"
"I don't think so, honey, The plane's windows are polarized. We can see out but they can't see in."
He was disappointed that they weren't waving back. The plane began to move backwards. He looked out at them again. They were waving. He waved back hoping they could see him. He sighed and sat back in his seat. Mary looked out the window to see her husband and two eldest sons waving as they moved away from the terminal. She mentally sighed. Now was such a fragile time to be leaving her family. She looked at her youngest the one that everything else in her life was being put on hold for. Yes, what ever the turn of events. What ever the outcome, to see him standing straight for the first time in his young life would be worth the price.
"Aren't you excited, Gary? Just think when you come back you'll be standing straight. Maybe you'll even be able to play football. Wouldn't you like that?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
He had long ago lost any enthusiasm in answering that question. It was a dumb question anyway. He'd probably never be able to play rough games like football. The grownups knew that as well as he did.
As the plane disappeared from view behind a building Lloyd squeezed his sons' shoulders.
"Okay guys, they're on their way. Let's be on ours."
David broke away from his dad's arm around his neck and walked beside him. He mumbled something about being too old for such public intimacy with his dad. He looked at his dad as they walked. Lloyd was ruffling Max's hair. He wondered if his dad had any secret desires toward him or his brother.
The thought neither repulsed nor disgusted him. He was completely secure in his sexual identity, and had no antipathy toward gays. Although he'd never told a soul, his best friend, Jim Gray, was gay. He was the only one that Jim had ever confided in. They played football together all through high school. David had always helped him cover by double dating and making him look like "the man." Now Jim was in Westwood, California on a football scholarship at UCLA.
Max held on to his dad's hand to keep him from removing it. He felt, down deep where he hadn't really thought about it, that the days, when his dad would be willing to show him love this way, were numbered.
"So you guys ready for another trip down to Dave's this weekend? Lloyd asked.
"Oh yeah, Dad. I really like Uncle Dave and Uncle Joe. They are way cool." Max said.
"Sure, Dad, I'd love to go, too." Dave said.
"So, how did Joe get to be uncle, too, Max?"
"It was David's idea."
Lloyd looked at David for the answer.
"It's simple logic, Dad. If Uncle Dave were married to a woman she would be my aunt. But he's married to another man. So he has to be my uncle. Don't you agree?"
"There is nothing wrong with your logic."
"Well, don't you agree?" David persisted.
Lloyd looked up and met his son's eyes. David wondered at the sad expression in his dad's eyes. He knew what his dad was thinking about that made him so sad. He recalled the story he'd over heard him tell his mother, and thought about the pain that his dad had to be going through. Lloyd looked down for a moment and then back at David. The expression was gone.
"Yes. Yes, Son, You are absolutely right. What better way to express your love and acceptance of Uncle Dave. I love you David." he didn't try to hug him, respecting the personal space David had set between them. Lloyd had always had a close rapport with David. To him it seemed they were an extension of each other.
He looked down at Max and gave him a noogy on top of his head.
"And I love you, too, Max." He said. Max grinned in delight. David watched his dad for a moment and then thought, 'What the hell, he's my dad no matter what and we love each other. That's all that really matters.' He put his arm around his dad's shoulder and they marched three abreast out to the car.
Mary had called Dave during her flight Tuesday and told him that Lloyd had been to see a psychotherapist and had gone through a catharsis. Dave was expecting Lloyd's call Tuesday evening. He found that he was looking forward to Lloyd's visit and dreading it at the same time. He told Dave he'd be down Friday evening, and to expect to have him and the two boys through Sunday morning. He supposed that Lloyd's gruff abruptness was a cover up for emotions he didn't want to deal with at that moment.
After Mary had left Dave had told Joe the whole story. They were sitting outside enjoying the cool air and warm sunshine of a beautiful fall morning. Joe had been quiet for a while after Dave finished. He only made one comment.
"I can understand even a straight guy falling in love with you."
Dave looked at him waiting for more.
"Dave you may be forty-two but you are still the most naive person I may have ever encountered. You don't realize the effect you can have on others."
"You're wrong Joe. Think about this. Don't answer. Can you be my friend and not want me sexually?"
Joe blinked. He looked at Dave. He stared off into space. He looked back at Dave. Dave's stare never wavered. Every time Joe looked at him their eyes connected. Joe couldn't figure out how to answer without entangling himself. If he said yes, he'd be accused of lying. If he said no, then he'd lost the argument before it even started.
Dave eventually broke the silence with another question.
"How many close friends do you have, Joe?"
"Can you count them on one hand? Two?"
"Not counting a couple of female friends, I can count mine on one finger, and that's you and only because I consented to sex with you. Bill was very gregarious, he had lots of friends and everyone of them flirted with me, some even propositioned me. They acted like I was their friend, too, until he died and then they all faded away."
Joe studied him for a moment. At the moment he could only grasp the first sentence and what it meant.
"Do you really think that the only reason I love you is for the sex?"
Dave didn't answer. He just stared at Joe. Joe put his own interpretation to the look.
"I never had any idea you felt this way."
He stood up and walked over to the parapet and gazed out over the city. He wondered how Dave could be so fucked up and be so warm and loving at the same time. He turned around, resting his arms on the high wall and studied him. Dave returned his stare with a quizzical expression. Joe dropped his gaze and looked at his feet.
"I am so hurt." He looked up again. "Just to be in your presence brings me great joy. I love you, Dave. I love you. Having sex with you is wonderful because it is one of the ways I can express my love for you. I'd give it up in a heart beat if I had to, if I could still be with you. Don't you understand that it is you I want? You I need? You I love? The sex is just an added bonus."
Dave continued to look at him, his expression confused. Joe had no idea what he might be thinking. He turned and stared back over the city, not really seeing it. He turned and walk back to his chair and sat down. He picked up the glass of iced tea and sipped it. The ice was melted; the tea was tepid. He set the glass back in the wet ring on the tabletop.
Dave was sitting forward his arms folded across this knees, his head down. He knew he had just wounded the love of his life, yet he couldn't figure out what he had said to make Joe hurt so bad.
Joe wondered what he was thinking. Dave wasn't responding to what he had said, so he lanced out at him.
"So having sex with me was your way of paying me to be your friend. And here I thought you were doing it out of love."
Dave looked up at him. The pain in his face was like a dagger in Joe heart.
"You've got it all wrong, Joe. I love having sex with you. I love making you feel good. I love the touch of you hands. I love touching you, your body. I love you, Joe. I need and want you as much as you do me."
"And yet you sit there and tell me I'm your friend because you consented to have sex with me. That's really fucked." Joe's voice was cold.
"I didn't mean it like that." Dave shook his head.
"So how did you mean it? They are plain English words. I didn't misunderstand one of them. Especially, "consent". You're messed up in your head, Dave." Joe stood up and looked down at Dave. He shoved his hands into his pocket and walked away. He'd taken about ten steps. Stopping, he whirled around. "I don't think that Bill's friends abandoned you. I suspect that you dropped them."
Dave looked like he had been physically slapped. He sat there with his hands clasped between his thighs. Tears streamed down his face. Joe realized that he had hit on a truth. He didn't want to hurt Dave, but he did want to straighten out his thinking. He walked back, and sat down next to him.
Didn't you have close friends when you were a kid?"
"Not really." Dave was abashed.
"You had to have at least one." Joe was astounded by the admission.
"Yeah, I had one friend I was close to when I was about eleven."
"What happened with him?"
"He talked me into jacking him off. My dad caught us and forbade me to see him again. He told me to be wary of other guys that wanted to have sex with me, that they were just using me. There were other guys in high school that were friendly, but they all wanted the same thing. The only real friend I had was Lloyd. He was Mary's boyfriend. He was safe. He was my friend for nearly four years before he wanted to have sex with me and you know what happened there."
"How did you ever manage to hook up with Bill?"
"Well, by the time I met Bill my dad was dead. I didn't have to worry about him thinking I was a pervert. Plus Bill never came on to me. I fell in love with him. I seduced him."
"And me? You let me take you to bed that first night."
"You? Joe, I had fallen in love with you before Bill died. You had seduced me long before you got me into bed. I never could have said no to your golden eyes."
"So explain what you meant when you said youconsented to have sex with me."
"I meant that I gave myself permission, that it was okay for me to love you."
"Joe, I didn't mean to hurt you. You know I would never intentionally hurt you."
"I know that." He paused in thought for a moment."Dave, you need to understand that in nearly every friendship between two gay men there is a sexual tension. The curiosity of what he would be like in bed. The little sexual innuendos. The innocent flirting. It's all part of the camaraderie. I suspect that, maybe, it's much the same with straights they are just not conscious of the sexual tension.
" In gay male bonding the flirting goes a little further. Maybe you misconstrue this. You're a very handsome sexy man, Dave. Of course, every other man is going to flirt with you, make a pass at you. It's what men do. It doesn't mean that they only want your body. It's their way of saying they want to be your friend, too. Your dad was not entirely wrong. There are those out there that only want sex. But if the passes and flirting are handled right, kept in perspective, then a beautiful friendship can develop in most cases.
"Dave, we've been sequestered for too long. I want you to meet my friends. I'm going to invite Gene over for dinner. I want you to observe how he flirts with me. He'll do the same with you. Believe me if either of us tried to get him into bed literally, he'd be shocked and offended. His flirting is just his way of saying he likes you. Nothing more. So don't go getting offended by it and you will probably find that you like him, too. Okay?"
"I'm curious about something. Were there any of Bill's friends that you really liked?"
"Yeah, they were all nice, there were several that I thought were extra nice. I liked them."
"Did any of them seriously try to seduce you. Like make unwarranted physical advances? You know physically grope you while making lewd or lascivious remarks, of maybe pushing their tongue into your mouth while forcing you to kiss them."
"No, no one ever did anything that gross. No, it was usually just comments like 'tight buns, wouldn't it be nice to play with them' or 'Oh, what a big basket. Anything in there for me?' you know that kind of thing."
"Dave, do you really think that any of them were intent on getting into your pants?"
Dave thought for a bit before answering.
"No, I guess not. But I wasn't going to give them the chance."
"So you're telling me that you cut yourself off from your mutual friends and other potential ones because they flirted with you."
"Yeah, I suppose that is what I did."
"You must get awfully lonely."
"I haven't been since I met you, Joe."
"But don't you see you've got to have friends other than just me. If I kicked the bucket you'd be right back where you were when I found you in that bar. You wouldn't want to re-experience that would you?"
"Well, I'm going to teach you how to make friends and keep them. I don't want to see you being alone if something happened to me."
"Hi, Larry. This is Dave Gates."
"Hey, Dave, we haven't heard from you in a long time. How're you hanging these days?"
Dave noted the sexual innuendo and ignored it.
"Life's been really good to me since Bill's death. It took me a long time to get over it, but I'm back with the living now. How are you and Ben doing?"
"Oh, we're doing great. Just getting a little older."
"Larry, I've got a new partner. We're having a little get together. I'd love for you and Ben to come and meet him. I know he'll really like you guys."
"I'll answer now for both of us. Yes, we'd love to lay eyes on your gorgeous body again and meet your new man. When?"
" Wednesday a week from tomorrow, seven o'clock. Oh, I've moved. I live in the Tower Condos across the campus from my bookstore. Just tell the guard that you're going up to Dave's place."
"We'll be there. It's so good to hear from you again. We've missed you, Dave. Bye."
Dave placed the receiver back in the cradle. He was incredulous.
"See Dave, they love you." Joe said, giving him a hug. "They're delighted to come back into your life. They really are your friends. Make another call."
Dave ended up calling the whole list of friends that he had turned away from after Bill's death. They, every one of them, were happy to hear from him and most accepted his invitation. The others left it open to get together with him another time. They were all glad he had found another partner and had moved on with his life.
Joe was amazed that in forty-two years that Dave had never figure it all out. He guessed that his dad had been a very strong influence, accepting of Dave's orientation, but slightly misguided in helping his son. And then Lloyd's actions reinforcing what his dad had led him to believe. Yeah, he could see how Dave had stayed so naive about relationships.
The boys had described where Dave lived, but that really didn't prepare Lloyd for the awesome magnificence of the building or Dave and Joe's home on top of it. Dave met him at the elevator door. He looked no different than he ever had; he was still dressed in Levi's, a plaid flannel shirt, and cowboy boots. His relaxed air indicated that he had adjusted to the new standard of living. He shook Lloyd's hand and welcome him to The Eyrie.
Lloyd took in the quiet masculine opulence with a bit of envy. But he knew that there was nothing he would trade for his life, wife and sons. Thanks to Dave, he was where he should be, where he wanted most to be.
"The tent is set up and ready for you guys." Dave told his nephews. "If you'd like to swim, the pool is heated, and the air is warm today. Would you like a tour of the house, Lloyd?"
"Yes, that would be nice."
"Can I offer you some iced tea or a soft drink. The boys know that sodas are available in the fridge out by the pool."
"I'd love a glass of iced tea, Dave."
After showing Lloyd the whole house Dave suggested they sit out on the covered deck. The afternoon air was pleasant. Dave watched Lloyd walk around the yard taking in his surroundings. He walked over to the parapet and gazed out over the city. He turned and smiled at Dave.
"Mary tells me you have found a new partner." He said as an opener to further conversation.
"Joe Paolini, you know he designed and built this tower."
"That's what David was telling me. I've heard of him. I saw a bunch of award plaques on the wall in the entrance to the building, but I didn't get a chance to read any."
"Yeah, Joe is an internationally acclaimed architect. You'll like him. He's really a neat fellow."
"So how did you meet him?
"I'd seen him in the bookstore for years, and didn't know who he was. Then one night several months after Bill's passing, I was sitting in a local bar being morose, when Joe walked in and started a conversation with me. We went to dinner and talked through the evening, late into the night. We started seeing each other. I eventually moved in with him."
Lloyd studied his tea glass, rubbing a finger up and down the condensation.
"We're sitting here talking like this, like old friends. I have really missed it." Lloyd said. He looked over at Dave. "I am so sorry that I've been such an ass for so many years. I wronged you and Mary and my sons. Even your mother has been affected by my mean actions.
"Dave, I don't expect you to understand why I did what I did. Or how I treated you for so long. I'm not sure that I understand it all myself. All the crap about keeping my boys away from gay influence was just that. It was so much bull shit. All to hide my feelings from myself. I twisted things in my mind to make it your fault that I did and said the things that I did, when all you did was be my friend."
Lloyd went back to studying his glass. He swirled the ice as he continued.
"I loved you, Dave. You were the little brother I never had. I perverted that love. You were so handsome. Nineteen. Star football player. As Mary's pregnancy advanced, I suppose I let my little head do the thinking. I began to see you as an extension of your sister. I let my feeling get out of hand. I lusted after you. Worse, I acted on that lust."
He sighed and paused, collecting his thoughts before continuing.
"I couldn't face myself. I wanted to be a good husband to Mary. I managed to convinced myself that it was really your fault that I propositioned you. I took all the stupid prejudice that I was brought up with and accepted it as fact. I couldn't let Mary know what I had done. I couldn't face you again. So I cast you out of my life."
Lloyd sighed. He glanced up at Dave. The tears in Dave's eyes wrenched his heart.
"It was the stupidest thing I've ever done. Losing you as my best friend."
He stared into the amber liquid in his glass; the ice had melted. He sat the glass down and stood up. He couldn't look at Dave again in his shame. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and shuffled over to the parapet. He stared out over the city not really seeing it. He couldn't blame Dave for not responding to his confession. He didn't deserve a response. Maybe he should just gather his sons and head back home.
"Lloyd." Dave's voice was soft soothing and full of compassion. "Lloyd, I never stopped caring for you."He'd moved silently up behind him, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I've waited all these years for you to wake up and recognize that you needed to face yourself. My heart is bursting with joy that you finally have. Please, still be my friend. I want you in my life again."
Lloyd turned and looked at him.
"Do you mean it, Dave? Can you really forgive me for what I've done. Can you really accept me as you friend again?"
Dave smiled and held out his arms.
"Yes, my friend, yes."
Lloyd walked into a badly needed hug.
David had followed Max into the bedroom and changed into a swimsuit. Max was eager to get into the water and had changed and left before David even got his clothes off. As he strolled through the living room toward the Den and the door leading directly to the pool he caught a glance of his dad and Dave sitting right out side the french doors. He paused and listened. Forgetting the pool he sat down just inside the door where he could hear the conversation between the two men.
Tears coursed down his cheeks as he felt his dad's anguish. He didn't hear the elevator doors open nor did he see Joe walk over and stop next to him and watch Lloyd and Dave embrace. Joe reached over and ruffled David's hair.
"They are both going to be alright. Are you okay?"
David nodded and smiled up at Joe.
"I'm fine. I just had to hear how it went."
At that moment Max called out for him to come join him in the pool. He grinned apologetically at Joe and headed toward the Den.
Dave never thought about the dichotomy in his psyche. He wasn't the kind of man to analyze his feelings, unless they were brought to his attention. Yes, he was the one and same person who had turned away from his friends feeling that they only wanted him for sex. And now he accepted Lloyd unconditionally back into his life after him being, in fact, the only one to ever make a serious sexual move on him.
Joe had figured this out and had made the decision to guide him back into being friends with all those he had left behind. Joe had discovered in his unbound love for Dave the ability to know Dave's innermost feelings just by looking into his eyes. Through the pain of Dave's words he had learned to look beyond the verbal and see what Dave really felt and why. That was why he was not surprised to see Dave giving Lloyd a hug as he stood in the doorway talking to his nephew David. After David left he leaned against the door jam and waited for the emotional moment to finish between the two men before he made his presence known. When they broke Joe stepped out.
"Honey, I'm home." he called out.
Lloyd blushed. That was a phrase he often used on Mary. Dave grinned.
"He's jerking your chain, Lloyd. Start getting used to it." He turned to Joe.
Joe wrapped him in an embrace and kissed him. Dave reciprocated and then pushed him back.
"Joe, this is Lloyd, Mary's husband. Lloyd, my partner, Joe Paolini."
Lloyd smiled and put out his hand. Joe ignored it and stepped up to him and hugged him. Lloyd found he liked it and hugged him back.
"So it's good to meet my fellow in-law." Lloyd said. "You're exactly like Max described you...totally awesome."
Joe actually blushed. Dave grinned.
"One point for Lloyd." He said.
David sat down on the edge of the pool, dangling his feet in the lukewarm water.
"What took you so long?" Max asked as he grabbed the edge with both hands.
"Aaa... I had to go to the bathroom." David lied to his little brother.
"Come on in, I'll race you to the end and back."
"Nah, I don't feel like swimming right now."
"Oh man, you're no fun."
"Maybe later, huh?"
Max pushed off and floated away on his back. He closed his eyes and moved his hands slightly, just enough to keep his face
End of chapter 17