This story is fiction. The city of Clifton, and the University of Clifton, exist only in my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. These stories have as their main character a sexually active gay college student. If this is offensive to you, or if it is illegal in your area, or if you are under age, please leave now.
This story involves a search for personal acceptance, worth, and meaning. There is a religious element in these stories. If you don't like that, maybe now is a good time to leave.
My stories develop slowly. If you're in a hurry, this is probably not for you.
Thanks to Colin for editing.
Constructive comments are welcome on my e-mail at email@example.com.
Bryce, Chapter 34 - One Week in November
The GLBT meeting caused Bryce to have serious doubts about whether mainstream homosexuality could ever be reconciled with the institutional Church. He was about to give up trying to understand either. After experiencing Tim Jonakin, he decided there was not much to choose between him and Father Payne. Both seemed totally committed to an ideology which was completely divorced from reality or reason. Several things kept him from getting too depressed. His friends, such as Curtis Manning, Mike Sandoval, and Caroline Koehler, could be counted on to bring him back to earth when his ponderings became too dark. Father Miller seemed to hold out the possibility of some kind of balance, although he was taking an unconscionable time getting to the point in Bryce's jaundiced view. Most of all, there was Damon.
No matter how down Bryce became - and the grey, overcast, and damp weather of November was certainly conducive to depressing thoughts - whenever he encountered Damon he brightened up. It wasn't anything Damon did, exactly. Often Damon seemed unaware of his role in keeping Bryce sane. It was more just Damon being Damon. On Thursday, after their joint Biology lab, as they walked back to the dorm, Damon was going on about some guy in the lab who had made a slighting remark about his work. Bryce was not paying the least attention to what Damon was saying, but instead was simply enjoying hearing Damon's voice and seeing Damon's lithe body as he walked and climbed stairs. As they reached their rooms, and entered through Damon's door, with some annoyance Damon said, "You haven't said much. Don't you agree that Adam's comment was off the wall?"
"You're beautiful," Bryce replied.
"Huh? What's that got to do with ...."
Damon was prevented from completing his sentence by an assault from Bryce which carried him across the room and onto the bed. Damon still had some minor evidence of the vicious assault on his person nearly two weeks previously, but this assault did him no harm. Instead, Bryce kissed him passionately while holding him as close as he possibly could. That was not all that close, actually, considering that not only were both guys completely clothed, but they still had on their heavy jackets, and Bryce still wore a toboggan, while gloves had been dropped to the floor.
It took a good fifteen minutes before Damon could come up for air. "Wow! What brought that on?" he asked. "I might want to bottle it and offer it at the campus bookstore. I'll make a mint."
Bryce, now lying on his back and looking at his partner next to him, grinned. "That's good. You're good medicine. The real elixir of love. I was feeling down again at the end of lab, but on the way here I just lost myself in the medicine of Damon. You perked me right up. Just listening to your voice, and watching your sexy ass as we walked, cured me of the doldrums."
Damon propped himself up on his elbow, and looked down at his boyfriend. "You know what? You really are weird. I keep telling you that, but you just keep getting weirder."
"But you love me anyway?"
"But I love you anyway."
"I was thinking of something Father Miller said ...," Bryce began.
"While we were kissing like mad, you were thinking of something Father Miller said?" Damon interrupted. "Even weirder than I thought."
"No, not while we were making out. On the way here. We were talking a couple of weeks ago about types of love, and he said the type of love called agape is when you love the beloved just because he's lovable. That's you. Lovable." Bryce kissed Damon, but only briefly and gently.
"I feel like a teddy bear," Damon complained.
"I've never had sex with a teddy bear," Bryce responded, blinking his eyes and pretending to vamp his boyfriend.
A half hour later, two exhausted teens lay on Damon's bed, still panting, but no longer wearing winter jackets. In fact, no longer wearing anything at all.
"Is that the kind of love you were talking about?" Damon asked.
"No way! That was definitely eros, very erotic, in fact.," Bryce replied.
On Friday, Professor Anjot began the coverage of Voltaire in the French literature class, so Bryce was interested to find out more about this writer who seemed to be some kind of icon to the enemies of the Church. There were three works which the class was assigned to read. One was the play Mahomet, which he had already glanced at. Another was the short novel Candide, while the third consisted of selections from Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique. Maybe before long he would understand the attraction.
In his Psychology class, Bryce had another disagreement with Dr. Greeley, who was attempting to maintain the Freudian position that all forms of love and attraction could be reduced to sex. Bryce argued that the love he felt for his mother or sister was nothing like the love he felt for his 'significant other.' Quite a few of the kids in that class by this time had figured out that Bryce was gay from the way he asked and answered questions, but he was still leery of coming out and saying the love he had for his boyfriend. No use confusing the issue of whether all love was sexual with the issue of his sexual orientation. Bryce was very glad he had that conversation with Father Miller about agape and eros. Maybe he would find time to read that book the priest had mentioned by C. S. Lewis.
Professor Dickinson was lecturing on the efforts of William of Orange to stabilize his regime following his seizure of the throne in the so-called Glorious Revolution. William refused to take second place to his wife, Mary, the elder daughter of King James II. William was himself James's nephew, being the son of the Princess Royal Mary, eldest daughter of King Charles I, and thought of himself as heir to the throne, not initially recognizing the claims of the children of James by his first wife, Anne Hyde, as she was not of sufficiently high birth. Hence, we have the only instance in English history of a joint monarchy, William III and Mary II, by act of Parliament. Then, William had to conquer both Scotland and Ireland, being more generous to the defeated Scots than to the Irish, violating the terms of the agreement reached with them at Kinsale.
That evening, with no party at the SAT house, Bryce took Damon to La Rincon Latina to take advantage of the offer of the Sandovals to provide him with a free dinner. When he called, Isobel informed him that he and Damon were most welcome, but Miguel was not working that evening. It seems his fraternity was having a party. But Damon did not feel up to partying, and Bryce did not want to go without him, so they decided to eat at the restaurant anyway. When they arrived, they found that their server would be Carlos, a.k.a. Kyle Sandoval, Mike's younger brother. They teased Carlos about having to work while his older brother partied, and he teased them about having nothing better to do on a Friday evening.
Towards the end of the meal, with very friendly relations established between diners and server, Kyle felt comfortable enough to ask Damon, "When are we going to see you back at St. Boniface? I haven't seen you there since that stupid sermon by Father Payne."
"Um, not sure, Carlos," Damon replied. "I was turned off by your priest."
"Yeah. We all know Father Payne's a pain in the ass. But, hey, we miss you."
"Who's preaching this Sunday?" Damon asked.
"Deacon Jeffers," Kyle and Bryce said together.
"Okay. The Deacon and I get along just fine. I'll come with my weird boyfriend here. How about that?" Damon offered.
To his credit, Kyle did not blink an eye at this blatant statement of the relationship between Damon and Bryce, but merely said, "Great! We'll see you on Sunday, then."
Damon's dinner was on the house, but Bryce insisted on paying for his. He left Kyle a very generous tip.
On Saturday morning both Bryce and Damon showed up for trash pick-up along the highway. DuBois questioned whether Damon should be there, but he insisted he was fine, even if he did not look a hundred percent yet. Damon was clearly ready to cease being an invalid. The weather was considerably less inviting than when they began this task early in the semester. By November, it was cold, especially at seven in the morning. By the time all of them got back to the fraternity house, they were complaining of frostbite and pneumonia, but that was typical undergraduate exaggeration. Still, they welcomed the fire in the fireplace in the assembly room. Bryce and Damon found, however, that pledges had to give way to brothers in front of the fireplace. Tom Blankenship had arranged for several brothers to return to the house early, not only to start the fire, but also to prepare hot dogs and hot cider for the returning scavengers. Everyone was soon warmed up, with the camaraderie more than compensating for the temporary discomfort.
There was another home game that Saturday, one of the last of the season, as Clifton had no hope of a bowl game. Once again, Bryce would be accompanied by Caroline Koehler, while Damon planned to have on his arm Sheila Officer. However, when he called Sheila on Friday, he was chagrined to find that she had accepted an invitation from DuBois instead. Bryce teased that he had been scheming for this connection all along, but now that it was a reality, he was put out. When Damon said something to DuBois on Saturday morning, DuBois laughed and poked him.
"I think Sheila realizes she has a better chance for future developments from me. But don't worry. She'll still come around every time you get beat up and hold your hand," DuBois joshed him.
"Thanks a lot," Damon groused.
"Considering how ugly you are until your bruises go away entirely, you're lucky we let you come to the game with us. You can sit next to Sheila if it makes you feel any better," DuBois pushed. When Damon threatened to take a swing at him, he laughed. "Now, now. Pledges are not allowed to punch out their mentors."
So Damon went without a date, and did sit next to Sheila, with DuBois on the other side of her. He was not, in fact, upset at this turn of events, as long as there was no penalty from his mentor for attending the game without a date. Bryce was on the other side of him, which was all the date he was interested in anyway.
After the game, there was no party at the Sigma Alpha Tau house. Oh, no! But there was an "informal get together" of the brothers, pledges, and their dates which took up most of the evening. As this was not advertised, and non-members were not invited, this did not rouse the ire of the other fraternities.
On Sunday morning, Damon dutifully got himself ready to attend Mass at St. Boniface with Bryce, in fulfillment of his promise to Kyle Sandoval on Friday. In the parking lot, the guys greeted the Sandovals, with Kyle taking credit for Damon's presence that morning. Mike was accompanied by a member of his fraternity named David Simpson. Bryce had wondered about David, so he asked Mike, "Is this the beginning of something important?"
"You never know, but a guy can hope," Mike replied.
"Hope it works out," Bryce said quietly. "You deserve someone good."
Mike grinned and punched his shoulder.
It turned out that David was a sophomore, and the brother of the Jennifer Simpson who was in the Milton class. He was a Chemistry major, considering going on to medical school.
Inside the church, they encountered Deacon Jeffers in the rear, getting ready to line up the altar servers. When he saw Bryce and Damon, he motioned for them to wait. When he was free, he came over and asked, "Do you think you could pick up DeShawn from his place this afternoon? He doesn't have a winter coat, and I hate to see him walk to the soup kitchen in the cold."
"Sure, no trouble," Bryce agreed.
All went well. While Thornton P. Jeffers was not a dynamic preacher, he was also not insulting and biased. He gave a solid but not very challenging sermon. The rest of the Mass was as delightful as ever, with a special attraction being a violinist assisting with the music this morning. He and the choir's regular soprano rendered Gounod's "Ave Maria" beautifully. After Mass, another brief discussion in the parking lot elicited the fact that David was not Catholic, like Damon, but had no objection to attending with Mike. They parted with every expectation of getting together again soon.
Leaving St. Boniface, Bryce did not head to campus.
"Where're we going?" Damon asked.
"To the mall. We're having lunch there," Bryce replied.
"Any special reason?"
The two lunched at the food court. As they were finishing, Damon insisted, "Okay, that was nice for a change, but what are you up to?"
"I don't normally shop on Sundays, but I think we can be excused this time. Come on." He led Damon to a Target department store. They headed to the boys section. At the winter jackets, he said, "What do you think DeShawn would like?"
Damon let out a whoop. "I knew it! This is why I stick with you, even though you're weird."
"Not because I'm sexy?" Bryce pouted.
"Well, that too," Damon allowed.
They chose a jacket which they thought a boy of eight would like, and guessed at the size based on what they thought would fit the boy they knew. It was black with white stripes down the sleeves, had lots of pockets and zippers, with the words "Number 1" in white on the back. Bryce also picked up a toboggan and gloves. Damon waited until they were back in the car, then he kissed Bryce, who did not object at all.
That afternoon when he spoke with his mother, she told him she had booked flights for him and Damon for Thanksgiving weekend. They would fly to Lincoln on Wednesday afternoon, and return to Clifton on Sunday afternoon. Then she asked to speak to Damon to convey this information to him personally. Damon and Martha Winslow have established a very friendly relationship over the phone. Damon utilized the opportunity to inform Martha about what her son was up to that afternoon, to the embarrassment of Bryce, but the considerable satisfaction of Martha, who further embarrassed her son by gushing about how proud of him she was when he recovered the phone.
"I don't think I'll ever trust you with my cell again," Bryce told Damon.
"No problem. I'll steal it when you're not looking," Damon confidently responded.
That led to a tussle, then to sex, after which it was time to head out to pick up DeShawn.
As Bryce pulled up in front of the apartment building where DeShawn lived, the boy came running out, wearing only a light jacket over a sweater. He hopped in the back, where he noticed a large sack from Target, but did not pay any attention to it.
"Hey, Dynamite, don't you know it's cold? Where's your heavy coat?" Bryce teased, knowing the answer.
"Um, this is fine for me," DeShawn answered.
"No, that won't do. You'll freeze to death guarding this car outside in this weather," Bryce insisted. "Look in that sack back there."
Mystified, DeShawn opened the sack, and pulled out the jacket. "What's this?" he asked.
"Kind of looks like a jacket to me," Bryce said. "Put it on and see whether it fits."
DeShawn tried pulling the jacket on over his own, but got the arms embrangled in his eagerness. So he peeled off his own jacket and donned the new one, obviously delighted. "I can wear this while I'm watching the car?" he asked.
"You can wear that any time you like, DeShawn. It's yours," Bryce told him.
"Mine! You mean to keep?"
"Yes, sir. From now on, I expect to see you dressed warmly when I pick you up for car watching duty."
"Wow, thanks. Thanks a lot. This is great," the boy enthused.
"Poke around in that bag, DeShawn," Damon told him. "There's a little something more."
"Oh, wow! Gloves! And a toboggan! Now my ears won't freeze off!"
"Can't have a car watcher with frozen off ears," Bryce told him.
They had reached the soup kitchen by this time. DeShawn jumped out of the car. "Wait! Wait, I'll be right back!" he called as he ran off, into the building. Two minutes later, he was back, practically dancing, with Deacon Jeffers in tow. "Ask them! Ask them, and you'll see. This is really mine," he exclaimed.
Bryce and Damon just nodded assent.
"Well now, you look real smart. Real cool, there, DeShawn," Jeffers said.
As he and the two college men walked into the building, the Deacon said, "That was real good of you. I worry about that boy. I don't know how he could make it through the winter without that coat you gave him. That was real generous."
"Well, Deacon, we couldn't have a car watcher with his ears frozen off," Bryce joked.
After the soup kitchen, Bryce and Damon returned to campus, then walked down to Pat's Tavern, where they met their friends. Once again, Damon insisted on a booth, as it was just too crowded, and he did not want to be jostled. This settled, they spent an enjoyable evening talking with friends. Keith Henderson showed up again, so he and Damon exchanged opinions about St. Boniface. None were so outrageous that Bryce felt obliged to protest. After listening to that Jonakin character on Tuesday, anything his friends said seemed tame.
Monday morning came around again, as was its annoying habit. After his workout and breakfast, Bryce found himself listening to Professor Anjot on Voltaire's Mahomet. This play, conceived in 1739, first performed at Lille in 1741, and opened at the Comédie française on 29 August 1742, was considered by Voltaire to be his best piece of theater. It's theme is shown in it's full title, Mahomet, ou le Fanatisme - Mohammed, or Fanaticism In it, the Prophet Mohammed achieves his objectives through a series of faked miracles, lies, and assassinations. He suborns a young man, Séide, into killing his own father, a rival to Mohammed's influence, in part by promising him a young woman, who Mohammed knows is the lad's sister, although Séide is unaware of the relationship. In any case, Mohammed wants the girl, Palmire, for himself. In Act II Mohammed outlines his plans for world domination, using religion as a tool for conquest. After Séide murders his father, without knowing of that relationship either, Mohammed then has him poisoned. Palmire frustrates his lust for her only by killing herself.
The play had a short run in Paris, as the censors saw in it an attack on all religion. The Oxford scholar Theodore Besterman, who idolized Voltaire even to the extent of traveling to Ferny to sleep in his bed, wrote that he was "not prepared to assert that ... they were mistaken." Besterman also writes that "this play is perhaps most worthy of revival of all Voltaire's tragedies." Professor Anjot mused that, if anyone did attempt a revival, it would be interesting to see the reaction of the Moslem world ... from a safe distance.
After reading the play, and hearing his instructor's interpretation of it, Bryce understood why the enemies of religion held Voltaire in such high regard. He was every bit as biased as they, but he wrote a thousand times better than any contemporary pundit.
In his Psychology class, Bryce was faced with a dose of Skinner's behavioral determinism, which Dr. Greeley proclaimed as "the only scientifically defensible explanation of human action." Bryce felt moved once again to question his professor by asking whether he was familiar with Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Of course, we do not have unlimited freedom. We cannot choose to fly, or to lift Ernie Ford's 16 tons, without the assistance of mechanical devices, anyway, but we do have options within a range of possibilities. Dr. Greeley admitted that this principle applied in physics, but denied its relevance to psychoanalysis. Bryce could see that on the next test he would again be using the device of beginning an answer with the words, "in class it was said ...." Determinism in psychology, Bryce felt, was a lot like predestination in theology. It deprived humans of any dignity, and reduced them to mere clashing molecules.
Oddly enough, in Biology this theme appeared again, but in a different guise. Dr. Harris was talking about the extinction of some species. He mentioned the dinosaurs. These lords of the Jurassic Period had no known biological reason to go extinct. They were perfectly adapted to their environment, and, according to a narrow Darwinian interpretation, should have continued indefinitely. In recent historic times some species have become extinct less spectacularly, and some others have been threatened with extinction, through the actions of humans. There is no scientific reason why the Japanese sea lion, the Arabian gazelle, the desert rat kangaroo, or the great auk had to disappear. Survival of the fittest? The only criterion for the fittest is those which survive, which is circular reasoning. Bryce mused that in the later nineteenth century many 'scientific' opinions held that the disappearing American Indian was an example of the survival of the fittest, or rather the failure to survive of the unfit. It would be interesting to speculate on what those self-confident Victorians would make of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Dickinson spent his time lecturing on the foreign policy of King William III. He discussed the theory, put forward by several well respected historians, that William "took England on his way to France," q.e.d., was only concerned to capture the English throne to insure that the country remained in the anti-French international coalition which he had created. He discussed the study of William by Stephen Baxter of the University of North Carolina, who depicted William as the champion of European liberty. By this, he meant that William was chiefly responsible for preventing complete French domination of Europe during the later seventeenth century. How did this focus of William on foreign policy affect his rule as king? William presided over many limitations and restrictions placed on royal authority, not only the Bill of Rights of 1689, but the Treason Act and the Triennial Act, among others. William did seem, on occasion, willing to sacrifice everything to foreign policy considerations. But then, he could hardly oppose the supremacy of Parliament, as he owed his throne to Parliament. To what extent was this political development inevitable?
There are so many interesting issues to be studied, and somehow, at least sometime, they seem to come together to reinforce each other.