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 39 - The Coming Out Party
After leaving Father Miller on Monday afternoon, Bryce returned to the dorm. He had plenty of work to do for his classes, and the semester was inching its way to a conclusion. He also wanted to be there when Damon came back from his Math exam. Damon should do well. He had all the answers down when they reviewed, if only he did not panic. It was quarter past five when he heard Damon come in. He waited, but nothing happened. So Bryce went through the bathroom, into Damon's room. His partner was sitting on his bed, looking subdued.
"How'd you do?" Bryce asked, fearing the worst from Damon's attitude.
"When I went into the office there for the make-up, I was nervous. Dr. McGee is not the most friendly member of the faculty. He sat me down at a side desk in his office, and handed me the exam. When I first looked at it, nothing made any sense at all. It was like I had never seen any of that before. I just sat there sweating. Then, you know what happened?"
"No, obviously not," Bryce replied.
"I was about to give up and just leave. Then I heard a train whistle. You know, the tracks behind the parking lots and maintenance facility. A freight train goes by there every day in the late afternoon, I found out. Hearing that whistle reminded me ...."
Bryce interrupted, "I think I can, I think I can. Whoo! Whoo!"
Damon jumped up and the two hugged each other, dancing around the room and laughing. When he regained his composure, Damon announced, "I aced that sucker. I know I did."
"This calls for a celebration. Where do you want to go for dinner? My treat," Bryce insisted.
"Where else?" Damon asked.
A call to La Rincon Latina confirmed that seating would be no problem, and Miguel was working that evening. So, after cleaning up a bit, the two men set out to have a celebratory meal. Arriving at the restaurant, they were seated, and Mike appeared at their elbows. "Buenos tardes, señores. My name is Miguel and hell, you know the routine. Are you here for some special reason, or just to annoy me?"
"Just to annoy you, Miguel," Bryce said. "What can we do to make your life miserable this evening?"
"My dad has taken care of that. I had plans to spend the evening with David, but Dad decided he needed me here," Mike despondently reported.
"Sorry. We don't mean to make matters worse, really. But we are celebrating. Damon did a smash up job on his Math make-up this afternoon," Bryce reported.
Mike grinned. "I'm glad somebody is having a good day. So, shall I slip you a couple of beers, or what? You know you're illegal, right?"
"Illegal aliens," Bryce teased. "Seriously, do you think you could manage a couple of glasses of wine. I promised Damon some lessons in refined dining, and wine is part of that."
"Well, seeing as how it's for educational purposes, I guess we could stretch a point. But if I give you the signal, that means put it all out of sight right away, okay? It wouldn't bother me at all to get fired, but it would if my dad got in trouble with the authorities."
"Got it," Bryce agreed.
They had a marvelous meal, with Bryce giving Damon pointers about wine, and Damon commenting on Bryce speaking with his mouth full, while Mike made sarcastic comments whenever he appeared. By the time they were ready to leave, Mike was in a better mood than he was when they arrived, so they figured they had done him a good turn as well as enjoyed themselves.
Rather than retire to Pat's, despite all temptation, they returned to the dorm and spent a few hours on class assignments before retiring to bed. For the first time since Damon's attack, the two felt ready to sleep together again, after celebrating in a much more personal manner than at dinner.
The week unraveled in a more or less predictable manner. On Tuesday, the two again visited Rebecca Ruth Hall for lunch, and met there with Caroline Koehler. She informed them of another concert on Friday evening which they should attend. This time, it was a concert by the jazz combo associated with the School of Music. Caroline said she especially noted this after talking to Damon at the last concert. Consequently, this time it was Damon who was eager to attend, and Bryce who agreed to go along to please his partner. Turn about is fair play. Caroline once again would not be performing, but would sit with the guys. After lunch, during karate class, she was more demanding than usual, really putting Bryce through his paces. She, too, felt the approaching end of the semester, and seems to have felt that if Bryce did not score well it reflected poorly on her as his instructor. Not for the first time, by 3:30 Bryce was dripping with sweat. On the way back to the dorm, Damon said that made him sexier than usual, with the predictable result. He barely had time to grab a snack before running off to meet his mentor at the Sigma Alpha Tau house.
Keith was in a good mood when he met with Bryce. He informed his pledge that he had discussed pledges in general with some of the other brothers, and was pleased to find that the consensus seemed to be that all the current pledges would be voted into membership. Moreover, several brothers had been especially complimentary about Bryce and Damon. Evidently, the fact that they were gay made no difference. As one brother put it, "It's a good idea to admit them in pairs like this. Then they won't be hitting on the rest of us." Bryce protested that he would not hit on a straight brother, but Keith just told him to loosen up, it was a joke. Neither Bryce nor Damon had pledge duty that evening, so this was an opportunity to put in some intense studying, preparing for the exams which would come all too soon after Thanksgiving. Bryce was accustomed to advanced studying like this, but Damon was not, and had to be convinced by his boyfriend each time it was suggested. By 9:30, Bryce relented, and the two went out to Pat's for a couple of beers before bedtime.
On Wednesday, after a normal day of classes, Bryce and Damon were having their evening meal at a small restaurant off campus before Bryce went to his study group on Milton. In the course of the conversation, without having planned it beforehand, the subject of Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation of the slaves came up. Bryce was poised to go into a lecture on Lincoln when Damon held up his hand like a traffic cop.
"Before you get too wound up, I admit Lincoln was a good guy, okay?"
"You do?" Bryce said, almost disappointed that he would not get to argue the point.
"Yeah. Sometimes I actually pay attention to what you say, you know. And I think about it. So, I'm willing to admit that Lincoln was a good guy, even if some of the things he said about us black folks were not exactly politically correct. Or, let me back up, they're not politically correct today. I guess they were in his time," Damon said.
"Hurray! I think I just made a convert. Damon is now a part of American history!" Bryce exaggerated.
"Don't rub it in, Asshole. I might take it all back," Damon threatened, although he was happy to see his partner so pleased.
"Damon, you know I'm kidding when I exaggerate like that. But I really am pleased that you feel more a part of the whole of America, not just the black part. If it makes you feel any better, I'm perfectly willing to admit that the dominant white element has been narrow and prejudiced toward non-whites, and that blacks have had a rough time of it. But we have to pull together if things are going to get better. It's kind of like that time I came back from an SAT meeting and found Mr. Aeropostale and Josh Young in the room arguing with each other. Both of them had a point, but because they could not see the other guy's point, both of them were almost clowns, and were not terribly effective even with their own narrow goals," Bryce urged.
"Yeah. You know, that's what convinced me in the long run. When DuBois said I was sounding like Mr. Aeropostale. So I actually thought about what you were saying. I don't have to agree with everything Washington or Lincoln said and did. I probably wouldn't want to live next to them. Of course, they probably wouldn't want to be living next to a black man either. But they did great things, even with those limitations. For their times, they were what was needed. Not for today," Damon decided.
"Right. It's the principles they stood for, not the flaws in their characters, which are important, just like with Dr. King. We need to look at people in the context of their own times, not in ours. That doesn't mean we have to agree with the problems or flaws we see in other times, but we should try to be a little more understanding," Bryce insisted.
"Okay, I'm on board. And besides, there was something else you said that kind of rang a bell in my head. Something about whether we were a people or just a bunch of isolated individuals who happened to live in the same place."
"Yeah. We have to have something in common to hold us together, and I think it's the ideals on which our republic was founded," Bryce insisted. "Washington and Lincoln and all the others are just examples of those ideals."
"Well, you know that hit me because of my life in the projects. I guess maybe it's not that way for everyone, but for me, a gay man, life in the projects was pretty much that isolated individual who just happened to live around those other guys. Most of the brothers were in gangs, but that was out for me. No real family ties. My mom was high most of the time, and pretty clearly didn't want me around. Tyson tried to bully me and rape me every chance he got. I guess maybe I have some feelings for my sisters, but they were pretty much doing their own thing. I was afraid to have any close friends. After Mr. Gentry died, there was really no one I felt close to. I was really alone, and scared a lot of the time. That's one reason I really appreciate you, boyfriend, and also the fraternity. I need connections. So what you said about people being a nation or just a collection of individuals hit home."
"You have been thinking, haven't you?" Bryce marveled.
"Does that surprise you?"
"No. I knew from the beginning you were one smart cookie, and smart people actually think about things, and not just accept some party line that's dished out to them. It's just that I can't believe you're willing to let me win this one without putting up a bigger struggle."
Damon chuckled. "Just you wait. I'm setting you up with false confidence. Next time, I'll blast your socks off with my brilliance, and you'll be groveling at my feet for disagreeing with me."
"To next time," Bryce said, raising his coke in salute.
On Friday, Dr. Anjot turned the attention of his class to the career of Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799), a man of many talents, from watchmaker to supplier of arms to the American Revolution, but of interest to the class in his role as playwright. His most famous works were the plays featuring the character Figaro, later turned into operas. Le Barbier de Séville premiered in 1775, but was turned into an opera most famously by Gioachino Rossini in 1816. It is true that an operatic version of Le Barbier de Séville appeared in 1782, written by Giovanni Paisiello, but it was hardly a success. The composer was decidedly second rate. The second in what was actually a series featuring some of the same characters, Le Mariage de Figaro was completed in 1781, but was not able to pass the King's veto and be performed until 1784. Only two years later, it became one of the most successful operas of Bryce's favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. These and others were stinging social commentary at the time, and are still performed with success today. That was the most interesting class of the day. Could that be because of Bryce's partiality for Mozart?
That evening Bryce, Damon, and Caroline attended a concert given by the jazz ensemble of the School of Music. It was an eclectic program from the early and middle years of the genre, with pieces by Scott Joplin, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie making up the offerings that evening. Humorously, Damon wanted to know what that white man (Goodman) was doing on the program. Caroline, whose sense of humor was limited, had to go into a lengthy expostulation about Goodman, interrupted only by the beginning of the program. When the ensemble took their places on stage, Bryce and Damon were surprised to see an SAT brother among them. Jason Todd, a member of the fraternity, but not one either had come to know well, was a saxophonist. Damon, with a show of reluctance, admitted he was "pretty good for a white boy." After the concert, they went up to speak with Jason, who was pleased they had come to hear him. They did not tell him they had not known he was performing until he walked out on stage. On the whole, Bryce had to admit the experience was a broadening one for him, and he enjoyed it. Previously, he always associated jazz with music for old people, probably because his father was a fan.
That Saturday morning was another scheduled trash pick-up, which took up most of the morning. In addition, there was a home game that afternoon, which pledges were expected to attend, of course. As Bryce and Damon had attended the concert the evening before, Caroline again agreed to attend the game with them. Once again, Damon found that Sheila was attending with DuBois Kennedy, but this time he suspected as much ahead of time, and found another date. The date was not only for the game, but they had plans to attend a party at Mike Sandoval's fraternity that evening. The game was against Evansville, which everyone decided didn't have a chance, so there was a good deal of excitement about adding another feather to the cap of the home team. The SAT section had a good turn out, and the U of C team performed as expected. In fact, things went so well even Wayne Diebold got some time on the field. Bryce had been feeling sorry for Wayne, as the poor fellow tried so hard to be friendly. He was glad to see him have his moment in the sun.
After the game, there was a pleasant 'get together' at the fraternity house, after which Bryce and Damon took their dates out to dinner. Bryce was accompanied by Caroline, while Damon again had Kitty, a girl whom he had dated before. She seemed a nice enough girl, and more than able to take care of herself in a social situation. She seemed eager to attend the party at Mike's fraternity, and Bryce suspected it was that, rather than any expectation from Damon, which lay behind her presence that Saturday. Dinner went well, with all four enjoying the meal and each other's company. They lingered over their meal, not wanting to arrive unfashionably early at the party.
When the four of them arrived, they were admitted after paying the required twenty dollars per male student. They were pleased to find Mike already there, and so made themselves at home. As they moved into a large room, where there was music and dancing, Bryce asked whether the girls wanted anything to eat or drink.
"After that dinner, I don't think I need anything to eat," Caroline said. "At least, not for a while."
"But I wouldn't mind something to drink," Kitty said. "Something safe," she added with a knowing look.
Taking her meaning, Bryce approached the area where there was food and drinks set out on a table. He and Damon would carry the drinks to their dates. He was relieved to find David Simpson acting as bartender.
"Hello, David. Are you stuck here for the evening?" Damon asked.
"No," David replied, looking at his wristwatch, "only for about two more hours. Then I'll be relieved and able to take part in the festivities."
"We have two young ladies who want something to drink. What do you have to offer," Bryce enquired.
"This bowl," David said, indicating a large one on his right, "is a fairly decent fruit punch, with just a slight tang. And this one," indicating the one to his left, "is the special house blend."
"Very appropriate, having the house blend on the left," Bryce commented. He knew that would be the highly spiked punch which brothers would serve their dates when they wanted to, shall we say, loosen them up for further activities. "Left in Latin is 'sinister,' you know," he told David.
"No, I didn't, but, as you say, very appropriate," David replied with a grin.
"Well, we won't be needing that. Two from the bowl on your right, please," Damon ordered.
Punch in hand, they carefully made their way back to where the two girls awaited them.
"This is a safe drink, isn't it?" Kitty asked with concern.
"It is," Bryce assured her. "I know the guy at the bar. If you go back for a refill without one of us, be sure you get it from the bowl on your left, his right."
The four stood around for a while talking. Then, when they had finished their drinks, the girls wanted to dance. That was fine with the guys. Bryce actually liked dancing, and Damon was enthusiastic about it. After a while, the music became very wild, which Damon and Kitty responded to energetically. Caroline, however, moved over to the side, saying it was too fast for her, which suited Bryce perfectly. They watched as Damon and Kitty put on quite a show, eventually gaining the attention of just about everyone there. When the music finished, the entire room applauded the performance Damon and Kitty had provided. Sweating and puffing, they came to the sidelines where Bryce and Caroline awaited them, sipping drinks and grinning broadly.
"Since you chickened out," Damon panted, "how about getting me and Kitty another drink."
"Chickened out, indeed," Bryce protested, but he went across the way to the refreshment table, where David was just being replaced by another fellow. He gathered up two cups of punch from the correct bowl, and returned them to Damon and Kitty. "Here's to the champion dancers of the evening," he proclaimed.
"The hot and sweaty dancers of the evening," Damon amended. "I hope this stuff is cool. ... Ahhhh, just the thing," he added after his first sip.
Bryce espied Curtis and Maddy across the room, and urged his friends in that direction. He had not seen them earlier, and also had not seen either his mentor, Keith, nor Damon's, DuBois, at this party. As the four approached, Curtis noticed them.
"Oh, no! Here come the trouble makers," he kidded.
"Now, is that nice?" Bryce asked. "All we ever want is a little peace and quiet. How do we get labeled trouble makers?"
"I think there's a little black cloud that hovers over your head, and from time to time lightning strikes from it, and, presto! there's trouble. Simple as that," Curtis speculated. "How are you guys? Enjoying the party?"
"Sure. We always enjoy a party where we don't have to work our butts off," Damon said.
Curtis chuckled. "Patience, my friend. In only a few more weeks we'll vote, then you'll no longer be lowly pledges, but brothers of Sigma Alpha Tau, and can enjoy the parties along with the rest of the elite."
"Watch it there," Mike Sandoval interjected as he approached. "Remember, you're guests at this party. If I hear any more talk like that, I'll have to ask the bouncers to eject the whole passel of you."
"Hi, Mike," Curtis answered, ignoring the folderol.
"I hear you and Maddy are making it legal in the spring," Mike said. "Congratulations."
"Have you noticed this," Maddy said, flashing her engagement ring.
Mike grabbed her hand and kissed her fingers, bowing in a flourish. "Mademoiselle overwhelms me with the sparkle in her eyes, which dims the sparkle on her finger."
"Oooh, wow! Bring in ths shovels. It's getting deeper and deeper in here," Curtis kidded.
"You be quiet," Maddy said. "I like what the man says."
"Yes, ma'am," Curtis quipped, playing the obedient boyfriend.
"Nice party," Damon commented to Mike.
"Thanks. Saw you and Kitty entertaining the troops a little while ago. You're good."
"Thanks, man. You know what they say, us black folk have rhythm," Damon replied.
"If I said that, I'd be labeled a racist," Bryce protested.
"If you said that, you would be a racist," Damon returned.
"Hey! What about me? I was part of that act, too, and I'm not black," Kitty complained.
"Oops, there goes that argument," Damon grinned, and kissed her on the cheek.
David Simpson quietly joined the group.
"Finished being bartender?" Bryce asked him.
"Yeah. No more putting up with impolite demands and half drunk orders," David stated.
"Only half drunk? You were lucky," Damon quipped. "Last time I had to babysit the drinks they were mostly all drunk."
"It's early yet," David rejoined. Looking wistfully about, he said to Mike, "I wish you and I could dance together."
Mike grinned, but said nothing. Stepping into the breach, Kitty said to Maddy, "How about it? Shall we raise a few eyebrows?"
Maddy grinned. "Sure, why not?" And the two girls moved out onto the dance floor.
David looked at Mike again. Before Mike could respond, Bryce said, "Come on, Damon, let's not let the girls have it all their own way." Looking at Mike, he said, "We're SAT. If there's a blow-up, it won't affect you here at your place."
Bryce and Damon moved out onto the dance floor. Bryce had his arms around Damon's neck, and Damon had his hands on Bryce's hips. They began to dance to a slow tune that was playing.
"Kind of feels good," Damon commented.
"Uh huh," Bryce responded.
About that time, a couple danced near them. The male partner said, "What is this, some kind of queer coming out party? You guys are disgusting."
Bryce looked over, and saw Jennifer Simpson, the sister of David and a girl in his Milton study group. He just shrugged his shoulders.
On the sidelines, David said to Mike, "I'm tired of hiding."
Seeing no great earth-shattering cataclysm, Mike took David's hand and led him out onto the dance floor as well. A moment later, they circulated in the same general direction as had Bryce and Damon. When they came near Jennifer and her date, she looked at her brother. "David?"
David grinned at her. "I guess we need to talk soon."
"No need," her date replied. "We don't need any queers around here! Take your perversions somewhere else!"
Unexpectedly, a familiar voice replied from nearby. "You know, gay guys don't like being called queer."
It was Wayne Diebold, dancing with one of the cheerleaders, who happened to be nearby at that point. Wayne was a lot bigger than Jennifer's date. That couple moved away without further comment.
Bryce grinned. "Hi, Wayne. You did a great job this afternoon."
"Thanks, Bryce. I see Damon's recovered from his attack."
"Yeah," Damon replied. "I'm in fine shape now. Thanks for the back-up there, man."
"Bryce helped me with the guys who were being a problem a little while ago. Just being a good neighbor," Wayne replied.
"That's what we need more of, good neighbors," Bryce said.