By The Way
I had a really hard time with Alan off at school. We'd only had a
couple of weeks after returning from St. George and they flew by,
seemingly in the blink of an eye. While on that trip he and I had
come so much closer together. He'd helped me to discover that I
could love him even deeper by helping him discover new things in our
relationship, and letting him embrace those new things much as I always
When he first went off to UGA to begin
football training I felt like I did when Don had left to go to North
Carolina, full of hope and promise. I'd had an honest to God
boyfriend at only nineteen and we'd been together for nearly two years. With Alan gone my weekends
looked to be boring and lonely. Well,
the weekdays too. It was like the machinery in my life had come
to a grinding halt. Because we both worked for the same theater
company we used to see each other a lot in work situations as
well. But no more
night screenings for me. Oh sure, each theater had their own as
it was just another reminder to me that he was gone. I know I
pouted for a while, even though that was silly of me to do.
Athens is just
over an hour away from Stone Mountain out Hwy 78 and it was an easy
trip. But I had to work a lot to earn money for school; a lot
more than the year before because the theater only paid
at minimum wage, whereas the bank paid nearly double that. The
amount of time I had to work kept
me from heading up to see him a lot. Add that to his almost
training schedule and I hardly saw him in August. He was playing
second string, being a freshman, but he still had to be there for every
practice. I understood that; I just didn't like it.
He had a calling card but long distance phone calls were still
expensive back then
and not the wisest way to spend money when you're on a student's
Still, he'd call twice a week and I'd call as often as I could. A
times when I'd call him after I was done working there'd be no answer
in his dorm room. I wished I could be there but then I knew he
was hanging out with and getting to know his new teammates, which was
important. You can play better as a team out on the field if you
act like a team off of it. I got this; I just didn't like
it. But I never said anything to him because I didn't want to be
a nag. Quite the opposite. I encouraged him to hang out and
be social with his new teammates and friends.
After about a month of this, my encouragement to him became like a
knife sliding back and forth against my Achilles tendon. I
weight. I didn't work out as often as I used to and people slowly
but surely made comments about the weight loss. By September
gone off to join Scott at UGA and they were both on the marching
band. Glen hadn't done so hot at Georgia State and had to sit the
fall out at the school's request. George continued to work at the
theater along with Glen and I but he'd enlisted in the Air Force and
would be going off to basic training in December. After Matt
joined the Navy he and I had written back and forth a few times.
Don and I had remained friendly, though we'd only had the one computer
class together the previous year. He transferred to Georgia
State that fall.
Blake, whom I'd mentioned before....well, he and I weren't exactly
friends as much as we were always in social situations together.
His parents owned a house in what was then east bumble fuck Stone
Mountain. They were gone a lot of weekends or at parties, so we'd
go over to his house to party a lot on the weekends. He had a
younger sister who was a year younger than Alan and so a lot of her
friends knew of or were friends with him. They'd always ask me
how he was doing. I guess I'd sort of taken for granted how much
time he and I had spent together because I didn't realize it was often
enough for other people to notice. It started to get painful when
I was still going to DeKalb Community but after much soul searching
(and thinking about how hard it is for architects to make really good
money) I opted out of going to architecture school and also dual
Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta. My new major,
business. How original. In the mornings I was signed up for
two or three classes at DeKalb and then I took my science at
State. It was geography; not the kind where you point out the
states, but the kind where you discuss land formations and
whatnot. Our teacher was sort of a throwback to the hippies, with
his leather sandals (this was before they became popular again)
covering his socked feet. He was actually a fluvial
geomorphologist (say that one ten times fast) which is basically the
study of water and rocks and was really an
School would keep me busy.
Football kept Alan busy.
Alan called to say that he was finally going to be able to come home
after the first game of the season. I could barely contain
myself. For days I was on a high anticipating seeing him.
It'd been nearly five weeks since I'd seen him and I was going
bonkers. I had lots of plans for us which included all parts of
each other's body. I couldn't fuckin' wait to see him.
That first week of school just creeped on by for me. I had
Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes at DeKalb and Tuesday / Thursday
down at State in the evenings. The science was two hours long
but the lab was late Friday afternoon. This meant that I had
to haul ass from DeKalb to the Avondale Marta station for the train
downtown. My lab ended at five and I'd normally have to haul ass
back to Stone Mountain to go to work. Alan wouldn't
be coming home until Saturday afternoon and I'd arranged to have that
night off. I had to work the afternoon shift, then went home to
take a shower to get the popcorn smell
off of me before heading over to his house.
When he answered the door I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
"My God!" I said.
"What?" he smiled.
"You're fuckin' huge dude."
He just laughed at me. "I'm not that
"Christ! The shit you ain't. Dude, you must've gone up a
couple inches in the waist....and the arms....your neck is starting to
disappear. You're not on the juice, are ya?" I joked.
He laughed again. "Get in here," he reached for me and hugged me
to him. Fuck, I'd almost forgotten what that was like, having him
hold me. We held each other for a minute and as we did that
familiar "Alan smell" wafted into my brain. His body felt
different because it was bulking up a little bit. I was just
kidding about the steroids but you could certainly see and feel more
"Ahem," someone cleared their throat.
He and I looked up to see his dad coming into the foyer with his mom.
"H'ar y'all doin'?" I asked.
"Nice to see you Paul. It's been a while. How's school
going so far?" his dad asked.
"Well, the first week seems to be okay. I'm keeping busy, though."
"Good, good. Well, we're on our way up to bed. Good night
" 'Night dad."
"Good night, y'all," I said.
They headed up and we went into the den. Alan walked on ahead of
me so I grabbed his arm and turned him around, then grabbed his face
and kissed him. God, that felt good! We stayed like that
for several minutes and I was finally able to take a breath. That
was when I noticed he was acting sort of weird, but I couldn't quite
put my finger on it. He walked over to the couch and fairly
collapsed onto it, exhaling loudly. He was in the middle and I
sat down next to him.
"Man, you are such a sight for sore eyes," I said.
He smiled and nodded. "You too," then he put his arm on the back
of the couch - not around me - and started flipping through the
"Excuse me? Dude," I laughed a bit, "I haven't seen you in five
weeks and you're gonna channel surf?" He grinned a bit, but it
seemed empty, like there was nothing in his eyes like there used to be
when he smiled. "Alan. Is everything....you okay? You
seem kinda 'out there' tonight."
"Oh Paul, I'm just so friggin' tired. I've never trained this
hard in my life. If it's not the practices, it's working out,
more practices.... We barely have time to just sit and veg."
"Hey, it's okay man, I understand. Here," I said,
laying a pillow on my lap and patting it. "Lay down, I'll rub
your back." He looked at me and gave me another unsure smile
before slowly leaning down onto my lap. "Damn, son, you're heavy."
He laughed, then wrapped one arm around my back, between it and the
couch, and the other he curled up onto my knees with his hand beneath
his chin. I couldn't move if I tried. And while it wasn't
quite the reaction that I'd expected after not seeing him for so long I
figured that hell, this is his life now and I'll just have to adapt to
his crazy schedule.
Within five minutes of rubbing his neck, shoulders and back his
breathing became low and long. He was asleep. Dammit, I
thought, I didn't even really get a chance to talk to him. I kept
the massage up, simply because I felt better when I had my hands on
him. I figured that even if he was asleep his mind would be aware
of what I was doing, on a deeper level. It wasn't long before I
noticed that I was nodding off to sleep also. Oh well, we'd talk
* * * * *
* * *
"Look dude, I know that you're busy, but even when you get the chance
to come home you're not really 'here.' You're always off in some
other zone." It
was late in September and the temperatures outside weren't the only
things that had cooled off.
"Paul....I'm sorry. Things are so crazy with practice-"
"What practice! I get so sick of-" I stopped in
and took a breath. "Alan, I'm sorry."
"I really am. Look man....I...I just friggin' miss you, that's
"I do too, Paul. What am I supposed to do." It wasn't
really a question.
"Shit man....." I left the rest of the sentence unsaid, mainly
because I didn't know how to finish it. "I really hate to sound
like a nag, man, but....and I know how important all of the football
is. I really do. Hell," I laughed a bit, "dude that's your
"I know." He didn't laugh back.
"Hey, at least I care enough to get irritated, right?" I tried to sound
like I was being flip but didn't quite manage it.
I said, "Okay, forget I'm being an idiot" he snorted "and just tell me,
is everything okay? Are things just too....difficult....up there?
God, how do I say this," I muttered. "I mean, hell, I really
don't expect you to call me every day-"
"I dunno....I guess because it's so far away-"
"But Paul, it's just a phone call."
Huh? I was getting confused..."I know, man, what I'm trying to
say is that....shit, I
don't have a schedule on my wall saying when to call you, or when to
expect to hear from you. It's just...." How do you say that
you know something's wrong, that you've known it for weeks but you feel
powerless because if you say something you could take a chance at
saying it wrong and alienating the other person. Or if you don't
say anything and they later find out that you kept it from them - what
if that would've pissed them off even more?
"It's just that this whole relationship thing is new to me-"
"No it's not," he said.
"I meant to say that the long-distance thing-"
"I know what you meant," he said sounding pretty curt.
Now I was getting a bit irritated. "Wanna quit
heard him exhale. "Alan, we used to talk all the time on the
phone when you were still at home, why does now have to be so
"It's not that different."
"Shyah, right. When's the last time we just shot the shit?
Everything seems so fuckin' scripted. 'How's your day - fine,
how's yours - how was class - fine, yours?' It's like the day to
day stuff is just-"
"It's just day to day stuff, Paul, that's all there is. Just
fuckin' day to day stuff." That
got my attention because Alan
didn't really cuss a whole lot. Visions of Don going off to
school kept coming back to haunt me. Maybe I was thinking too
damn much about the
situation. It wouldn't be the first time in my life I'd done
that, and the last time put me into the hospital
three times with stomach problems.
"So what's going on this weekend? Other than practice and
studying," I tried to make a light joke.
"Um....shit," he mumbled. "Paul, I gotta tell you something" oh
fuck "and I don't know why I didn't tell you before....well, I kinda
I sat silent for a moment. "What."
There was a long pause. "I'm rushing a fraternity."
I took a deep breath and blew it out. "Is that all?" I asked
"Christ, I thought you were going to lay some bad news on me, or
something." I laughed a bit nervously. "Why didn't you tell
"Bullshit. Alan, I told you a long time ago that we needed to
tell each other everything, no matter what it was. Did you think
I'd have a problem with you joining a frat?"
"Hell, I don't know. It's all stupid, I guess. But on top
of the football and school, plus there are always things going on with
the fraternity and while I'm a pledge I have to-"
"Wait, you're a pledge? When did this happen?"
"Well, rush week was the second week of school and now I'm pledging-"
Fuck! Where did all of this come from? "Which
fraternity?" He told me. I was familiar with the name
because I'd seen it down at Georgia State as well. I chuckled a
bit. "Alan, you coulda told me."
"I know...." he hemmed a bit. "I just felt bad because of all the
time I was spending anyway on school stuff, and then throw a fraternity
into the mix, I just-"
"Alan," now I was interrupting him, "hey, I get it man. That
doesn't bother me at all, dude. Shit. I wish you woulda told me, It
would've made things easier in this ol' boy's head, for sure."
"Man, I'm really sorry, I just thought you might think I'm picking a
bunch of guys-"
"-yeah, drunk guys" he laughed "over spending time with you."
"Well," I laughed a bit, "you did
chose a bunch of drunken guys over me. But hey, I'm cool with
it. I take it this is the jock fraternity?"
"Yeah," he laughed.
"Oh Christ, and naturally they're gonna try and get you laid."
"Good luck with that."
I couldn't help but laugh. "And they'll start involving paddles
"Goats!" he laughed.
"Wasn't that on 'Animal House'?"
He laughed and I could hear that his voice sounded a little better
now. "Shit man, who knows."
"You're such a goof. Next time, just tell me, okay? I'm not
your parent. I'm not gonna scold you. Ya gotta talk to me
"I know, I'm sorry."
" 'S okay. I won't tell you about how much anguish I'd felt when
you'd seemed so distant-"
"Shut the fuck up, dude," he laughed, and I joined in.
Later on after we'd hung up I was still shocked that he wouldn't tell
me that he was even considering a fraternity, let alone that he'd
actually gone and pledged one without saying a word. I hated that
something was happening between us where he felt he couldn't, or
wouldn't, talk to me. I just knew that if things kept going that
way our relationship wouldn't work. I had absolutely no problem
with Alan having a social life while he was at school, and I didn't
expect him to include me in every second of his life. Shit,
that's too hard to expect of anyone when they're so far away.
I was starting to feel helpless which until then was an unknown feeling
where Alan was concerned. For two years I knew where I stood with
him, and where 'we' stood with him.
I kept losing weight, one pound at a time....
* * * *
I kept myself distracted, or tried to, by hanging out with Glen and
George. Since Glen wasn't going to school that quarter he'd
picked up a lot of shifts at the theater. George's time was
winding down a bit as the clocked ticked closer to basic
training. Because I was spending so much time with the two of
them we all started getting pretty close. A lot of times after
concession was closed and the rest of the crew would go home the three
of us would hang out in the box office and play cards or just talk.
Glen had a girlfriend, Teresa, who also worked at the theater.
George was dating a girl named Jessica. The two girls were
seniors in high school and were best friends so the four of them dated
a lot. I think that George was completely head over heals for
Jessica, so much so that he may have driven her crazy with all of the
attention that he was giving her. In fact looking back I think
it's safe to say that his personality was pretty smothering. I
remember one time I was working projection and he came up there on a
day off just to hang out, apparently after they'd gotten into a big
fight. He ended up following me as I threaded up all six
movies. At one point he just started crying thinking about how
awful things might be once he went into the Air Force and whether or
not he and Jessica would survive the separation. Trust me, I knew
what he was feeling as I threw my arm around his shoulder, the two of
us sitting on the floor as he poured his heart out to me. I think
in that moment I started to let
George into my heart a little bit. Not in a way that was hopeful
for a relationship like Alan and I had, but I guess I just ended up
being there when he needed someone and it felt good to be friends with
someone else in that
Glen and Teresa also had some issues. Glen's pretty much a laid
back guy with a great sense of self-deprecating sense of humor.
Sound familiar? Teresa, on the other hand, was wound up pretty
tight. She had no problem cracking jokes if someone else were the
brunt of it, but man if you'd try crackin' one on her - whew! She
could be a bitch on wheels. I never really understood why the two
of them became an item in the first place. Regardless of her
mood swings she could be really fun to hang out with. A lot of
times a bunch of us would go out to Applebees or Chili's and
Don was still trying to get onto a minor league team but at the time
there wasn't one in Atlanta, so he'd just join whatever baseball or
softball league he could find. During this time he was playing
softball with a bunch of guys sponsored by Applebees and I'd see him
there a lot. It was nice just hanging out with him and I really
did miss the days when we were back in high school. It was only
two years before when I'd started my senior year and he'd gone off to
college, but it felt like ten. Many times he'd leave his buddies
and come over to see me. After a few times at the bar he'd go
back and forth, then as he'd gotten to know Glen and George we'd all
hang out and drink, then maybe go over to someone's house to play poker.
Alan was busy with school and football. I'd finally come to
accept it....somewhat. Part of me really missed the sex, simply
because it had gotten fuckin' incredible. A bigger part of me
just really, really just
missed being with
him. It didn't matter if we were just sitting watching a movie or
going out for a burger. Canoing at Stone Mountain lake was one
of the things that I'd enjoyed the most, and a lot of that time we
didn't really talk. It was nice just being in each other's
company. God, I'd'a done anything to get that back. But it
Funny. An era had ended and for once I didn't really recognize
that it was happening. But maybe that's what's referred to as
Alan was constantly at
school and even though we'd had a couple of heart-to-hearts things
at all. I still hardly heard from him and when I did he was in
between one or ten different things. I shouldn't have been that
surprised, given which school he was at. UGA is definitely a
party school. I mean hell, this was a totally new
experience for him and I wanted him to have fun while he could.
As long as he didn't forget about me. I still wasn't sure how I
about the whole fraternity thing. It's not as though the Greek
system appears all that great to people outside of it. Most
people unfamiliar with it are probably prejudiced against it in some
way. I figured people in fraternities were just paying a lot of
dough for friends. But what the
hell did I know. Now Alan was pledging in one so I'd have to get
used to the idea.
But I was fuckin' spoiled and I think that what really made things sort
of bittersweet was our trip to Florida with his parents. It was a
significant milestone in our relationship and it seemed to have been
stolen in such a short time. I knew that if I didn't watch it my
mind would take control over my stomach and I'd end up back in a
place where I swore I wouldn't be again.
* * * * *
* * *
"Alan, I hope you get this message because I'm coming up tomorrow
afternoon. Call me, otherwise I'll see you around 4:00. See
That was what I told his answering machine. Lucky for him the
other guy assigned to his room had moved into another dorm room a
couple of weeks into the quarter and it was too late to find a
replacement, so Alan was able to have his own room. Being a jock
it was only natural that he was in the dorm with all of the other jocks
next to the stadium. If I recall correctly people refer to the
being played there as "between the hedges" because of the hedges that
up on each side of the stadium. Alan's dorm was an old building
built probably in the 20's or 30's only steps away. Some campus
group had painted a
cartoon of a UGA, the Bulldogs mascot, on one of the walls in the
hallway around the corner from Alan's room.
I got to his room and knocked. It was just past 4:00 but there
was no answer so I stood and leaned against the wall next to the
door. A minute or so later a guy came out of the bathroom dressed
in a bathrobe and headed towards me in the hall. "H'ar ya doin'?"
I nodded. "Just fine. You?"
"Aiiight. Lookin' for Alan?"
I nodded again.
"You must be Paul, then. I'm Jared."
"Good to see ya," I said. He reached to shake my hand and I took
"He had to run to the store, said he'd be back in a minute, but that
was like thirty minutes ago. Said you'd be coming by 'round four
o'clock," Jared said as he stepped to the door across from Alan's and
"Cool. Thanks man."
"Mm hmm," he said, then shut his door. I just shook my
head. It was Sunday afternoon and before long guys started
trickling in from their weekend. I was really hyped to see Alan
and every time I heard the door at the end of the hall creak open I'd
look to see if it was him. It was the week before Thanksgiving
and my schools were shut down until the following week. Alan had
a class on Tuesday and would be going home that evening, but I just
wanted to see him and have some alone time with him.
Jared's door opened and he stood there wearing jeans and pulling a UGA
sweatshirt on over his head. His hair was still wet but combed
back. "Hey Paul, you wanna wait in here until that numskull
I laughed a bit. "Yeah, if you don't mind...."
"Not a problem, buddy, come own in." I detected a strong
country accent but I couldn't tell which part of the state he was from.
I stepped into the room and sat down in the chair he offered.
"Thanks, man." He left the door open so we'd know when Alan
"No prob'em. Wanna Coke? Somethin' ta drank?" he offered.
"A Coke'd be just fine," I said. Jared offered me a bottle of the
drink. You don't see that
a whole lot. Most people drink out of the cans but it really does
taste better in the bottles.
"Peanuts?" he offered and gestured to my drink.
"Son, you are a true Southerner, aren't you?" He laughed and
opened up a can. I took a handful and dropped them into my
Coke. This is something that I've only seen done in the
South. My northern cousins almost flipped their lids the first
time I'd done this around them. After you drink the Coke, and
sometimes while there's still some in the bottle, you eat the
peanuts. Definitely a conversation starter.
"Is there any other kind?" His accent was infectious; "any" came
out sounding like "enne".
"So Jared, you come from around here?" I asked.
"No. My fam'ly's from Rome. A lot of my parent's folks are
livin' outside of May'retta." Actually it's Marietta but a lot of
times it sounds like May'retta if your talking to some of the local
"So where y'all from? You in school? That's a dumb
question," he backtracked. "Alan talks about you all the damn
tahm," this time smiling. "Paul did this. Paul did
"Paulie. He actually said 'Paulie'?"
I laughed and rolled my eyes! "Well I know that he's been awful
busy with football and the fraternity so I'm surprised that he has any
time to socialize at all."
"I tell you! That boy's in an' out of his room so much ya think
they'd put a revolvin' door on it!"
I laughed again. Jared had a way, as is true with many
Southerners, to make you feel at home as soon as he met you.
"So whereh ya from Paul?"
"Ahhh. The rock."
"Mm hmm. Originally from New York but Georgia's my home now."
"Well, we'll fuhgive the Yainkee pawrt o' you, 'long as you fuhgit ya
past!" And he laughed. It was a really warm laugh and I
could tell that if I'd lived here in this dorm I'd enjoy being friends
Just then we heard the outside door creak open and shut again, followed
the sound of someone jogging down the hall. In short order Alan
appeared at his door with his back to us and slid the key into the
"Paulie is heah."
Alan turned around and a big smile broke out on his face.
"Lyons!" he hollered. As I stood up to greet him he came into the
room. "Dude, I'm so friggin' sorry I'm late. I ran to the
store...." and the rest of his words soft of faded into the
background. I was so glad to see him I didn't even care that he
was late. His hair had gotten a bit longer and he wore it sort of
mushed down onto his head. "Jared keepin' you company, bud?"
"Yep. And he's a true
host. Even offered peanuts for my Coke," I smiled at Jared.
"God that shit is so damned gross. I don'know how y'all drink
that crap then eat the nuts," he shook his head. "Can I steal him
away from ya Jared?"
"Steel away, Alan," Jared said in his drawl.
"Come on, dude," Alan gestured with his head towards his room. He
picked up his bag of groceries and we went into his room. Once he
shut the door he headed over to where his refrigerator and hot plate
were set up, I reached around him and turned him to face me. "I
have so fuckin' missed you," but as I started to pull him to me he took
a quick, deep breath and stiffened up a bit. Totally different
from his demeanor a second ago. He saw that I picked up on it and
averted his eyes away from mine.
I stepped back with my hands up in the air. "Okay. What the
fuck was that."
"Nothin'," he said and turned back to putting the contents from the bag
into the fridge.
"Don't 'nothin' ' me, Alan. I wanna know, what the fuck was that?"
He stood there with his back to me, unmoving for a minute.
Finally he turned around and his eyes said it all in their sadness as
well as their emptiness. I stepped back a few paces until my back
was against the other wall.
"Alan, we gotta talk. And we gotta talk right now."
He tilted his face forward and put it into his hands. After a
minute of roaring silence he finally spoke. "Paul. I'm
sorry. I am just so....god damned...sorry." He looked up
and I could see that his lips twitched once or twice.
I took a deep breath. "For what."
"I thought I could do this..."
His mouth twitched down into a frown and I thought I saw his eyes
glisten. "It's not gonna work, Paul. It's just....it's not
gonna..." and he bit his lip, again averting his eyes from me, this
time with his hands on his hips. I folded my arms in every
attempt to tighten my body into itself. I couldn't look at
him. I had no more stomach because it had dropped somewhere in
the direction of the floor. I wasn't even sure if I was breathing
or not. Alan wiped his face with one hand and walked over to his
bed, sitting down on the edge. I was still avoiding his eyes, all
the while trying not to lose it there in front of him.
"Please don't call me that." It came out sounding pretty short
but I knew if I said anything else it wouldn't be pretty. I could
see in my peripheral vision that he turned to look at me. My gaze
found his. He held my eyes for a moment then looked down at the
"God, I honestly thought I could do this....long-distance thing....but
it's hard Paul. Before
talking on the phone was cool because we'd see each other so much
during the week but this....this fuckin' sucks. I never get to see
you, I can't be around you, there's so much....crap...going on...."
"And you're busy being busy." I said it rather coldly because I
was really hurt and pouting. God, how did I not see this coming?
"I thought that....well, I remembered what you said about Don going off
to school and how it changed things with y'all....but I didn't think
it'd happen. Not to us." His head dropped even lower on his
shoulders. "God, and the days when we didn't talk I'd think of
you until it hurt." At
this point a tear escaped my eye and I flipped my hand up to wipe it
away. He saw the movement out of the corner of his eye and looked
at me. "I just can't.....I can't hold on anymore. I feel
like a pussy," here his voice cracked "because I can run through
hundreds of pounds of guys but I'm so fuckin' lost without you.
And I can't handle that. I have to be with you but...we just
can't. Not now." He shook his head quickly, as if to clear
"Out of sight, out of mind, huh," I muttered.
"Oh my God, no. I can't
clear my head of you. Christ. I've never given...I've never
cared for anyone like I have you. I think the coach thinks I'm a
bit retarded because he has to call me down to earth so much on the
sidelines." I couldn't help but smile at that.
"You're anything but that, Alan."
"God, and then during all of the rushing....crap....I'm thinkin' about
you. In class I can't shake your ghost."
There was a moment of silence. "Jesus. You make me sound
like a disease...."
He stood up from the bed. "Bullshit. I'm not saying that
and you know it."
I nodded. "I know.....I know."
"You told me once before, a long time ago, that you'd sacrifice 'us' in
order to keep our friendship. And I agree with you-"
"Then why have you been so damned...distant?"
"Because I fuckin' missed
you, man!" His voice cracked again and he rubbed his eyes with
the heels of his hands. I had to be stoic. No fuckin' way I
was gonna let him see me cry. "I've been
thinkin'...worryin'...about how to tell you. I'm so damn worried
about our friendship. I was.....oh shit, I was afraid that I'd
lose that. And dude," at this point he was standing right in
front of me, his shoulders hunched into his body. He's a big guy
but damn he looked a lot smaller right then, "I can't lose your
friendship. I just can't do...."
My lips were quivering as I bit my lower one to keep from
bawling. Finally I spoke. "You can't do the dating thing
He shook his head 'no.' "I'm so sorry, Paul. God, can we
still be friends?" His eyes were begging me but I had no
voice. I couldn't breathe and I couldn't swallow. I held up
my finger as if to say 'hold on', then I turned and opened the
door. I had my back to him and I composed my face so I wouldn't
look like an idiot to anyone in the hall, stepped through and shut the
door behind me. As I was walking towards the bathroom I heard a
loud "Fuck" followed by "Shit!", and then a "God-fuckin' DAMNIT!!!",
all followed by a crash from Alan's room. I hurried back and
opened the door. The things that were on his dresser were now
across the room in one big heap.
"Alan, what are you doing?" I asked.
His chest was heaving with frustration. I closed the door again
"You left! I spill all
of that and you fuckin' left
"I had to take a piss! That Coke finally kicked in," nodding my
head towards Jared's room.
Alan took a second to absorb this and then started laughing.
Slowly at first, which got me chuckling as well. "Alan," I
started to say, but he kept laughing.
"God, that makes me feel better," he said.
"What, that I had to take a leak?" I was really trying to be
strong and get through this and was trying desperately to use humor.
"No, dumb ass. I thought you were leaving to go home." He was still chuckling
"No. Trust me, I have a thing or two to say, but I really gotta
take a piss, okay?"
"Go 'head," he said as he started straightening up his room again.
I stepped outside and shut the door. Then I leaned back against
it and closed my eyes. Thankfully nobody was walking up the hall
and Jared's door was closed. I took care of business and went
back into Alan's room.
"Look," I said, closing his door, "I hear what you're saying and I
understand. I really do." I sat down on his bed as he
finished up picking up the mess he'd made. "I'm shocked and damn,
it fuckin' tears me apart to think of you as anything else but what
you've been to me for the past two years." I took a deep breath
and blew it out. "But like I said after we first started seein'
each other, I'll do anything to keep our friendship. Even
if it means that we're no longer...dating." He was about to get
up off the floor and I put my hands on his shoulders to face him to
me. "Alan Collin, I love you. I gotta have you in my life
and if it means only friendship then so be it." Any acting coach
would be proud because to Alan and the outside world I was just
breezing by this, one of life's hurdles. Inside I still felt like
I couldn't take a breath. I couldn't swallow, which was fine
because I had no saliva to swallow. If I kept talking about this
I'd lose it and start bawling like a baby, which is not what I wanted
to do in front of Alan.
He leaned up and hugged me for a long time. "You're the best," he
said. His voice was muffled in my shoulder but I could hear it
cracking all the same. The tears started rolling from my eyes
then and I squeezed them tight to try and keep them in. Alan
stood up and we both rubbed our eyes.
"Well, wanna eat?" I asked him.
He sniffed and reached onto a shelf that held his food near the hot
plate. "I got these Ramen noodles for the first time..."
"Dude, you're a fuckin' football player. You need more than Ramen
noodles." He laughed. "C'mon, I saw the Pizza Hut on the
way in." I headed towards the door which he blocked with his body.
"We gonna be okay?" There was still a little concern in his eyes.
I nodded. "We hafta be, buddy. 'Cause I ain't losin'
you!" I poked at his chest.
Alan smirked then opened the door. "After you," he gestured.
For all of our joking and laughing at Pizza Hut that night we actually
ate very little. We each knew the seriousness of what had just
happened and neither one of us was in the mood to eat, no matter how
hard we pretended to be okay.
* * * *
Back in his room we undressed to go to bed. He in a pair of
boxers and me in my shorts. Since the other bed was without
sheets I climbed into his bed with him. We talked for a little
while about a lot; about nothing at all. At one point we were
lying facing each other, our heads on the pillow. In the middle
of some inane conversation all of the emotion from the day swelled up
in me and I lost the ability to speak.
"Paul. You okay?" The lights were off but the room glowed
from the parking lot lights outside his window.
I shook my head 'no.' Then the floodwaters came. We guys
have this funny way of crying. When we do it feels like we're
struggling to blow a breath out of our noses, almost like a heavy
hissing sound. I tightened my eyes shut and was doing everything
I could to not whimper or make a noise but I couldn't help it. My
body jerked a little bit with the sobs that were racking my
brain. I tilted my face forward until my forehead was against his
chest and he pulled me into his body, his muscular and strong arm
holding me as tight as he could. We held each other like that for
a solemn eternity and I bawled into his chest. The chest that
once held so much physical passion for me was now the rock holding my
emotions. He was crying too and I could hear him continually
sniff as his arm would reach over my head to wipe his own eyes. I
felt the dampness of his tears on the tip of my ear when he spoke.
"God Paul....I hate to say it but I'm glad you're crying," then he
laughed through his tears.
I sniffed. "Why?"
"God, when you didn't react earlier tonight, and then just started
cracking jokes, I wasn't sure if it was even bothering you that...."
"Damn! Alan!" and I reached through his arm and his torso to pull
him to me. "Oh God...." and I cried even more.
* * * *
Well, that's it for this segment. I apologize for taking so long
to write it but you can see why it took me a while to get this one
out. The holidays were only an excuse to delay the
inevitable. Thank you for hanging in there with my story.
There's a lot more to go.
copyright 2005 by Mark Logan