By The Way
by Mark Logan
* * * * *
* * *
It was mid-July and
I'd been working at Rhett's full-time for just about a month. At
the beginning of the year Mom
and Dad had hired a builder to build a new house way out in the
country. It was about an hour away, and you could get there if
you headed north on Scenic Highway from Highway 78 in Snellville
("Where Everybody's Somebody"), or if
you drove north on I-85 through Gwinnett County. It was so far
north that it was still around ten miles beyond the
friggin' rest stop at the
85/985 split; so far north, in fact, that the
exit sign which told motorists what restaurants/shops/et cetera were
available, was blank. East Bumblefuck, only in their case it was
North Bumblefuck. I swear, I thought I saw Laura Ingalls skipping
through a field nearby.
The area where we were living in Stone Mountain had deteriorated to the
point that once a week, we had police helicopters flying over our house
looking for the criminals who were constantly ripping off the
convenient markets that were about a quarter of a mile from our
was always neat to be lying in bed at night and have the bright light
from the helicopter shining around the houses and then flashing into
your room. One night I was sitting on the front porch when
dudes came hauling ass up the road from the direction of the
ran down the hill and around the side of my house, which was situated
corner of the entrance to our subdivision. Within minutes, two
police cars came screaming by, presumably looking for these guys. I
stopped them and pointed to the apartments behind my house, showing
them the direction I saw the two guys go.
It was time to move.
it was through Glen's parents that my folks signed the contract to
build. No joke. Just after the tornado that came ripping
through the city, Mom, Dad and I took a ride all through north Gwinnett
county looking for houses. We pulled into this subdivision, and I
saw the name of Glen's parents' company on the sign. They were
real estate agents who worked in concert with various builders in the
area, and this particular subdivision was a neighborhood made up of
forty lots or so, all
nearly an acre in size. It was
really awkward for me at times, because throughout the process I'd go
them to make decorator selections or observe the construction itself,
and we always ran into Glen's folks. I wasn't sure if they knew
how things were between him and me, so I just made it a point to be my
normal goofy and polite self towards them. Once or twice if we
went up on a weekend, I'd see his old Prelude in front of the
construction trailer and a bolt of sadness would shoot through me,
remembering the friendship I'd once shared with him.
Moving our furniture actually took around three days. Luckily, I
had a couple of
strapping friends. Don and Alan were
there, and my roommate Greg also came down from Marietta to help.
The last day that we were to have the old house was on a
Saturday. With those three guys helping my brothers and me,
unloading the moving van went relatively smooth. Everybody's
schedules were pretty crazy, though, and that added to the length of
took for the actual
Most of our things were at the new house. Don had followed me
back to the old one, with Dad following the two of us around an hour
later. Once I got to the house and opened the front door, the
reality of moving hit me like a brick wall. This was the second
house that my family had lived in after we'd moved to Georgia.
first house we'd rented for three years before moving in May of 1984 to
this one, back when
still a geeky, gawky fourteen-year-old. So much had happened in
my life while I lived in this house, and it felt like the
first real home I'd ever had. I'd associated so many good
with that house and had a hard time seeing it vacant.
There were still a few miscellaneous boxes to load my car with,
and I had brought the vacuum to make a final run
through. Mom had already cleaned the house with Grandma, but I'd
accidentally taken the vacuum to the new place, and instead of one of
them coming back, I just volunteered to pick up the other boxes and
handle the vacuuming myself. I was standing at the foot of the
were a few feet from the front door, looking around the first floor.
"Boy, this sure looks weird," Don said as he stepped into the house
"Tell me about it," I said.
"How long did y'all live here?"
"Just over seven years. Seven years, two months," I said. I
took in a breath and let out a sigh.
"Where are those other boxes?" he asked.
"Um...I thought Mom said there were one or two things in my brothers'
room, and maybe a couple of small things down in the basement."
"Tell you what," he clapped me on the shoulder, "you start vacuuming
and I'll load up your car."
I plugged the Hoover in and flipped it on as he walked off towards the
basement door. I was in the formal living room where we'd kept
piano. There's no telling how many lessons I'd had in this room,
or how much time I had spent in there getting the Christmas
decorations out in preparation to set up the
chachkis all over the house. Our fake tree, which I later
boycotted for a real one, was always set up in one of three places each
year, and since I was the person getting all of the Christmas stuff
out, I got to
decide where it went. Over here, I thought as I pulled and pushed
vacuum, used to set the couch and love seat that nobody ever used,
unless they were listening to me play the piano.
Next was the dining room where we used to keep all of our stereo
equipment. Because the house was fairly small and somebody was
always at home, blaring the stereo was a rare treat, and
normally I'd have to sit by it at the table wearing headphones.
No amount of
vacuuming could bring up the furniture impressions in the
carpeting. I remembered when my wisdom teeth were removed in the
tenth grade that Mom and Dad had gone and bought the family a new
stereo. The old one, which we bought when I was in the
second grade, was moved up to my room. I always liked it
because the numbers on the radio dial plate had a light behind it which
acted as a great night light in my bedroom. 'My bedroom,' I
I unplugged the vacuum while Don came up out of the basement and into
the kitchen where I'd sat my parents down nearly five years before to
tell them that their youngest son was gay. I remembered that it
an open-mouth moment on their end. It was also the place where
I'd called Glen a couple of years previous to ask him to please come
and get me; I had to talk to him about the cancer. Next to the
kitchen was a small den where my family spent a lot of time;
perhaps not all together as one big Walton experience, but certainly
watching television, reading or studying. I looked at
the impressions in the floor where the couch once sat, the couch
where Alan and I spent many hours doing things that made us quite
vigilant listening for other people during the late nights in an
otherwise quiet house.
Looking at that place on
the floor only served to remind me of all of the time I'd spent with
him. It was hard to believe that nearly three years had passed
since he and I were last on the couch whose impressions I was so
desperately trying to erase with the vacuum.
I went into my brothers' room, which they shared because they
co-oped alternately at Georgia Tech. There were a number of boxes
in there, all small, and Don came in just then to start collecting
them. I carried the vacuum upstairs and into my parents' old
bedroom. Their sitting room was next, and I remembered the
bookshelves that I'd helped Dad build to hold some of the seemingly
books that we owned. It was in here that his old computer
once sat, waiting for another Lyons high school or college term
paper to be written.
Grandma's room. I'd spent countless hours with Grandma, watching
television with her while she crocheted one of her many afghans.
She and I talked and talked endlessly. I think it's extremely
fair to say that Grandma kept me going during many low times in my
life. She was a generous and loving woman whose wit was unmatched
by anybody else I'd even known. I remember that my friends from
school always loved seeing Grandma, because she was always saying
things that cracked them up. Yeah, they knew who was my biggest
influence in the family.
I'd saved my bedroom for last and made a quick run-through. Hell,
the room itself wasn't very big. A lot had happened while I had
this room. In my mind's eye I could see the stereo table where
old family stereo had been replaced by another, newer one in my junior
Boy, I'd felt like hot shit then, because it was my first real "big"
purchase. Over in one corner I had a bookshelf that had a lot of
trinkets and basically junk from when I was growing up, each having a
distinct memory associated with them. The ceiling fan chain
once held the
"love beads (mon)" that I'd bought on my senior cruise down in the
Bahamas. For a flash I recalled talking with Scott Dell on the
deck of the ship, and I wondered how he was doing. I smiled to
myself when I thought of that guy Mike leading a congo line around that
bar in Nassau. In another corner of the room sat the rocking
chair that I'd read many a book in, and beneath the window sat the desk
that was once my father's. Untold hours were spent at it,
studying or drawing the latest house that had popped into my
Inside the closet was the organizer that I'd put together myself.
I was proud of it because it had many shelves where I could set
the ship models that I'd built over the years.
I turned and looked at the place where my bed used to be. From
it, I could lay and look out at the tops of the trees that separated my
subdivision from the apartment complex behind it. The sun was
setting here just now, at the back of the house. The
streams of light coming in from between the pine trees in the backyard
danced with the dust
that was stirred up by the vacuum.
"Wow, I never would've imagined how bare things would look."
Don's voice startled me, as I didn't hear him come back into the
"Tell me about it." I walked over to the window and looked
out. Our lot was hilly, and the way the house sat on it, the land
around and sloped down so that you could be in the basement and walk
out into the back yard. From the front it looked like a two-story
home; from the rear, a three-story one. Looking down, I
remembered helping my dad
and my brothers measure, cut and build the fence. I could see the
deck off of the den where my friends and I would cookout and just
chill. The pine trees were always a pleasant backdrop. At
level was a
patio that I'd helped Dad build many
years before. I remember when my mom's brother and wife brought
their two kids to visit us right after we'd moved in back in '84.
It was the
year when the country pooled together its resources to save and
renovate the Statue of Liberty as well as Ellis Island. I
remember it so vividly because of the various Fourth of July shows that
year, and the statue was always featured. Lee Iacocca was one of
heroes that year, I'm sure, because he was so involved with the
renovations--at least publicly, he was the guy we all saw.
We'd only lived in that house for seven years, but the memories pulled
me like the tide as I thought of seeing it for the last time.
"You okay?" he asked.
"I think so. Sort of." I paused. "Not quite," I
smiled a bit.
"It's hard to leave, ain't it."
I nodded and turned back to the window. "So much has happened in
this room," I said.
"Like you finally learned what it was like to switch hands when you
were jerkin' it?" he asked.
I couldn't help it and I busted out laughing. Even though
his comment was stupid, Don knew me enough to know that that's exactly
what I needed
at the moment.
"What? You did finally switch hands, didn't you?" Don tried
serious, but even he couldn't keep a straight face.
"You're such an asshole," I laughed.
"Hey, speaking of assholes, how's that old boyfriend of yours, now that
he's moved out?" he winked.
"Excuse me?" I grew serious. "Moved out? What the hell are
you talking about?"
His eyes grew a little wider. "Uh oh. I thought you'd
known." I shook my head. "Shit!" he muttered. "He
said he was gonna tell you once he was out, but....crap, I guess that
was only a couple of days ago."
"Jeeze...hell, he hasn't said a word." I couldn't help but feel a
bit hurt that Alan never mentioned moving out from the apartment he'd
shared with Reed.
"Well, I know he was going to tell you. I just happened to find
because his brother told me yesterday. I think that's why he was
sorta helping us move y'all at crazy times. 'Cause he was also
moving his own stuff out."
"Well, that does explain a lot. He seemed really vague when I
asked him why he was so sporadic with us. I just assumed that
something was going on at school."
"His brother mentioned that he was going to tell you. Again, I
just assumed that he'd already done it by now."
"Tell you the truth, I haven't seen him since yesterday morning--"
"Don't worry about it. He'll tell you. You can tell him I
let the cat out of the bag, if you want. Sorry man," he said.
I shrugged. "It's okay."
"So," he said, flashing his eyebrows up and down, "what kinds of
memories do you have in here, huh?"
I decided to play his game. "Actually, I have one really clear
one of you lying down on my floor, right before you went to North
Carolina." I gave him a flirty grin back.
"You mean right here?" he said, then squatted down, leaned forward, and
lay down almost in the exact position he was in when I gave him a
massage so many years before. He was propped up on his elbows
with a very seductive grin on his face. Then he started
shifting his shoulders up and down, and said, "How about a repeat
I couldn't help but laugh at him. "Yeah. Right." He
laughed back. "The only massage you'll get from me is my
foot." I raised my foot above his back and was about to step on
him when he rolled over, then grabbed my foot and jerked it, sending me
right down onto my ass. "OOOOFF!" I hollered. "What the
fuck--" A second later he launched himself and pushed me onto my
back, laughing the whole time. It was like when we were back in
high school, goofing off and chasing each other around his house.
He held me in place with his forearm across my chest and pretended to
be a referee, fake-shouting "One....two....three....the winner!
Don Keller!" And he threw his hands up in the air then sat up
onto my thighs, just above my knees.
I was dying laughing. It was exactly the goofiness I needed at
that moment. He simulated a crowd
kept doing the "victory" gesture with his arms. I propped up on
elbows, still laughing. Finally, he quit his antics and looked
down at me.
"You can get off of me anytime, now," I said, still chuckling at him.
Don stayed there, though, unmoving. He was looking down at me,
gazing in a funny way. I tried to remember where I'd seen that
look in someone's eyes before, and eventually it came to me. The
night of my birthday after the football game, up in the attic room when
he'd tripped and landed against me near the window, Alan had
exactly the same look in his eyes. But fuck! This was
Keller! Why in the hell would he be looking at me that way?
I was a bit confused and felt like I was living in the twilight
'Don's not gay, Don's not gay,' I kept saying to myself. But the
way he was looking at me...
--slam! "How's it coming, y'all?" It was my dad, coming in
the front door. Don remained sitting on my legs, looking down at
me. I couldn't tear my eyes from his, and our
breathing was getting heavier. Suddenly, the look in his eyes was
gone, and he raised a knee up, then turned to get off of me. I
scrambled to my feet as I heard Dad making his way up the stairs.
Don was standing casually in the room and I was winding the cord around
the vacuum as Dad stepped into the room.
"Well, guys, it looks like this is it," Dad said. "Your mother's
going to be picking up some KFC in about an hour or so, so we should
probably be leaving now," he said to me.
"Tell you what, Dad, give me y'all's keys, and I'll lock up. I
just want to take one last look around, 'kay?"
"Sure," he said, handing me all of the house keys. "I have to run
to Kroger real quick, but then I'll be heading up to the new house when
"Okay. We'll lock up," I repeated.
"Alrighty. Don, thanks again so much for your help."
"Hey, no problem, Mr. Lyons. I was glad to help."
"Well," Dad said, "I guess we'll see you later. Paul, I'll
see you at the house."
" 'Kay, Dad. See ya in a bit." He went back downstairs and
I heard the door shut behind him.
I just looked at Don. "I'll, uh...I'll head down, now," he
couldn't tell if he was uncomfortable or what, but heard him going down
the stairs, too.
I stepped to the doorway of my bedroom and looked in, again. The
sunlight was still streaming into the room, but the angle was a little
lower now. I turned and looked back into Grandma's room one last
time; then the sitting room; then Mom and Dad's room. In each
room I lingered for a few moments as the memories flooded into and out
of my mind. Bittersweet memories. For the last time in my
life, I went down the stairs
slowly walked through the living and dining rooms; then into the
kitchen. I wound up standing between the kitchen and the den
when Don opened the front door again. As I looked at the den I
felt his arm slide around my shoulders, his side pressing
against my own.
"You're having a hard time, aren't ya," he said.
"You have no idea," I replied. Only I wasn't thinking about the
house as I responded. His arm felt comforting, so much like
at that moment. I felt like I could have melted into him.
All of the feelings I'd once had for him in high school came roaring
back, and I couldn't even begin to fathom why. Once again, I felt
that I remembered when he finally called me that first summer, after my
family's trip to New York. The guy that I once had such a huge
crush on was now standing with an arm around my shoulders. Though
appeared to be a simple gesture, to me it felt like it was so much more
I kept thinking about the look in his eyes moments ago in my bedroom,
and how it compared to the look in Alan's eyes I saw the first night he
and I kissed. They were the same. And though Don's gaze had
faltered once my dad came into the house....
I was conflicted in so many ways at that moment. On the one hand,
I was still practically counting down the time to when I could be with
Alan again. On the other hand, Don's arm around me felt like an
old, comfortable ball cap. What scared me was that the place I
felt I'd belonged, at that moment, wasn't with Alan, but with
I wasn't sure what was happening to me, and I was hoping that all of
the crazy thoughts were
caused by all of the emotions I was feeling from moving to another
house that I knew would never feel like my home.
"You ready?" he asked.
"Huh!" I let out an exasperated laugh. A question that
could be asked with several meanings. The fuckin' irony of it all.
"Maybe this'll cheer you up," he said. Before I could turn to
him, he grabbed my head and pulled me towards him. I was in shock
when I heard him making an overly-exaggerated kissing sound on the top
of my head, then
ran towards the front door laughing.
"You fucking douche-cock!" I hollered after him. He laughed
even harder, opened the front door, then slammed it shut behind him as
he ran out. I took one last look around as I made my way to the
front of the house. This home held so many memories for me, most
of them wonderful. The final memory that I would have would be
Don goofing with me, and I wondered if he was goofing off
something else that he really felt? If there indeed was some sort
of feeling behind his action that he was disguising with his laugh,
would I be
able to chose, if forced to, between him and Alan? When my world
wasn't upside down, as it
had instantly become, I could have answered that question easily:
Alan had always been the obvious choice. But now with still so
before Alan and I would both be out of school, and with what I know was showing itself in Don's
Sometimes, I hated how God presented choices to you. I closed my
eyes and hoped that my equally strong feelings for Don and Alan could
only be blamed on stress, and the emotional rip-tides from moving, and
school, and...I was reaching for something
that I could place the blame on for having the same feelings for both
I opened my eyes and
took the last look at my home. My final memory in it would be one
of confusion. It's funny: there are moments you remember
all of your life. This was one of those moments.
* * * * *
By the end of August I had fallen into a good routine at Rhett's.
The six of us would change our songs every two to three weeks just to
add some variety. I still got to do the more bluesy, torch songs,
and I was fine with that because they suited my voice. With each
new set, however, came a new battle from the three partners. I
always managed to throw a song in where either the actual lyrics or the
sentiment of the song involved another man. I actually gave up
fighting for "Lover Man, Where Can You Be," because I figured since
Rhett kept coming to my rescue and letting me sing basically whatever I
wanted, then I could give up certain battles. But
good music is good music, dammit, and while I understood their stance
on my choices, from a musical point of view I knew that I was picking
good material. Our audience never really had a problem with it,
either. Well, almost.
One bad thing was that the guy Damon continued to come to the
bar. I could count on seeing him at least every other
weekend. He never presented a problem to me outwardly,
think the main reason for that is because not long after Alan got
clobbered across the head with the mug, the bar manager ended up hiring
Don as part of the security team. I guess he'd already proved
himself on that night, and since he'd already put in an application for
a job, Kylie gave the green light to add Don to the staff.
Another less than thrilling thing was that some asshole kept
vandalizing my car. Every time I'd introduce a new set of songs,
I could bet on the fact that my little Nissan would get the brunt of
it. Once, the side mirror was broken and left dangling.
Another time the tail lights were smashed. Twice, the air was let
out of two tires. The bad thing was that I had no choice of where
to park. Rhett's was in a part of Midtown that didn't exactly
offer an abundance of parking choices. Oftentimes, I'd have to
park my car on a street or a couple of blocks away, and
I'd even contemplated taking MARTA to work, because then at least I
park it at a station and ride the train into the Midtown station.
It got to be that every time I'd introduce a new set I'd try and find a
completely new location to park it, but it didn't matter. Someone
still able to find it and mess with it. The repairs were slowly
adding up. Needless to say, I suspected Damon.
Having Don work at Rhett's was a bit of a conundrum for me.
It was quite a nice place, and they required all of their security
personnel to wear casual slacks and shirts during the week, and suits
on weekend nights. I have to admit that I really enjoyed seeing
Don in a suit. On even his bad days he was very good looking; now
you put him in a suit and he became downright hot. This, however,
did nothing to ease how strongly I was feeling for both him and
Alan. For the life of me, I couldn't get that final afternoon in
house out of my head.
I tried very hard to convince myself that I was just reliving a silly
teenage crush. I even tried ignoring my thoughts, but then
discovered that Don had become a really touchy-feely kind of guy.
There were many times when I'd be picking up a drink order that he'd
come up next to me if he was on break and put his hand on the small of
my back to tell me something. So many times I would just linger
for a second longer than I should, enjoying the strong and comforting
presence of his hand. Either he'd do that or he'd come up and
turn a clap on the shoulders into a small, quick shoulder massage as
he'd comment on a song I'd just sung.
Getting him out of my mind was a hard thing to do when we saw each
other at work almost nightly. What continued to drag at my brain
was that I wasn't at all convinced that I even really wanted to get him out of my
mind I kept reminding myself about Alan, but then Don would touch
me, by all appearances innocently, and I'd start to question what the
future held for Alan and me. He was being looked at
quite a bit by NFL scouts, and I still had four years of college
left. Sometimes, I'd get irritated in my own head at Alan for
such a restriction on our relationship in the first place - how close
did we have to be geographically in order to start dating again?
And that's when I would
realize how much I was feeling for Don.
When I was a senior in high school,
I had no idea how my feelings for Alan and Don would
That oscillation had now begun.
* * * * *
I'm not sure why I decided to grow a beard. I'd already
had a mustache for years and thought maybe a beard would look cool,
too. At the very least it might make me look older, which is
always a concern when you're twenty-one. Without my mustache, I
looked ten. I knew I'd never shave that thing off, because having
lips that were shaped like Joan Crawford's, well, was not quite the
I wanted people to see. Alan just smiled at my new look, but he
thought it was kinda cool and that it made me look older -- I'm sure
Don, on the other hand, had been out of town the week that I'd grown
it. He saw it for the first time on a weekend night. The
reason I remember this factoid is because I have a vivid recollection
of turning away from the bar and seeing him stop in mid stride as he
walked over to me. He was wearing a black suit with very faint
pinstripes, a cobalt blue dress shirt, and a vividly colored tie.
He stood there, his hands at his side as I held a tray of drinks that I
was about to serve, and said "Wow."
I didn't quite get what he was reacting to at first, then it hit
me. "Oh! You still haven't seen the beard!
Well? Whatcha thank?" I asked, being goofy.
He blinked a couple of times and regained his composure.
"Um. I almost didn't recognize you. Jeeze," he smiled for a
quick second, "what made you decide to grow a beard?"
"Ehh. I dunno. Just a different look, I guess. It's
not horrible, is it?"
Don raised his eyebrows and shook his head. "No. No,
it's...it's pretty cool."
I laughed at him a little, then delivered the drinks to my thirsty
Alan's final weekend before football camp found him at Rhett's with a
few of his teammates. Secretly, I was drooling over all of
them. I mean, I loved Alan....and Don...but give me a
break! What gay guy in his right mind doesn't slow down to check
out the jocks? Seeing as how I had no real interest in the sport,
completely lost when Alan introduced
me to them and mentioned their positions on the
field . They all seemed like really nice
guys, though, and a tiny voice deep down inside of me wondered if any
of them had ever felt toward Alan the way I did. It was a crazy
idea, and maybe I was trying to justify having feelings for both Alan
and Don, thinking that maybe if Alan had someone else...but I brushed
that thought away almost as quickly as it had entered my mind.
Alan ended up telling me that he moved out of his apartment the same
day that Don did. I acted like I didn't already know, and after
discussing it with him for a while, I could tell that he was glad that
things were over between him and Reed. His next two priorities
were to find a new apartment and face the reality that the scouts from
several NFL teams were vying for his attention. He'd made quite a
name for himself, though he sometimes cringed when people referred to
him as "Diesel." Though he knew that he was great at playing
football, Alan mainly really loved the sport. He was very modest
all of the attention that he was receiving from the professional
teams. I tried to look at the prospect of his playing
professionally in a positive way: if he was busy playing pro
football, then that would give me time to finish my studio classes, and
we could be together afterwards.
While I understandably wanted a full-time, all-out relationship with
him, I also knew that nearly all professional sports weren't
exactly places open to social engineering. The fact that he even
had any sort of relationship with Reed was shocking, but I knew that
they must have kept things extremely discreet. If he ended up
playing pro ball, it would be very
hard to explain why he had a guy for a roommate as opposed to shacking
up with some broad. In a way, I felt that if he were offered that
sort of career and took it, things might be easier for us until I
* * * * *
One relatively slow weeknight I was standing at the bar talking with a
new bartender named Stan. He was a really nice guy who had a case
of the "smart-ass" a lot, but he was funny and I enjoyed hanging out
with him. I was pretty sure that he was also gay, but the ol'
gaydar of mine was sometimes wrong. It seemed lately that more
gay guys were being hired to work at Rhett's, which was
all surprising, considering that it was located in the part of the city
that had a high gay population.
On this particular night, I felt Don's presence before I saw him.
could feel the hand pressed low, between my shoulder blades, and his
chest barely touching the side of my arm. His other hand was
stretched across the back of a bar stool.
"You tryin' to wrangle some free drinks from Stan?" Don was
standing there smiling, dimples and all.
"You met Stan yet?" I asked him. "He's kinda new here."
"I sure have. How's it goin' man?" he asked, taking his hand off
the stool to shake Stan's.
"Didn't you notice that he said my name, Paul?"
"Stan, you're such a smart ass," I said. I wasn't exactly
thinking clearly with Don's
hand between my shoulder blades. It lingered a little longer
before he let it drop down to his side. I'd begun to feel so
comforted by Don's little touches that I found myself longing for them
more and more. Turning to him I said, "What's goin' on, man?"
"Not a lot. Say, I wanted to ask you, when does school start?"
"Uhh...I think around the tenth of September. Why?"
"Ehh. I was wondering if you'd like to head up to the mountains
some weekend. Maybe go to y'all's cabin." Gulp. "I
tough it is for you to get away from studio once the quarter
starts. I dunno," he said looking down, "I just thought it'd be
kinda cool to go up there and hang out. Maybe do some fishing, or
I hesitated for a moment, thinking.
"Hey," he said, "if you don't have time, that's fine. I was just
remembering when we all went--"
"Don," I interrupted, then continued slowly, "that sounds like a really
good idea. We'll have to go before the first week of September,
though. I've got r.a. training that week. And then school
starts a few days after that."
"R.A. training?" Don asked.
"R.A.'s are the resident assistants in the dorms at school.
Basically, the hall monitors."
"Hmmm. Well...I guess that leaves...weekend after next
open? Is that right?"
"Cool!" he said. "Hey Stan, could I get a glass of ice
water? My damn throat just got friggin' dry as a bone,
As Don went to take a sip of water, I said, "So your throat needs
lubrication, huh?" At that he gagged on a mouthful of water, then
sputtered trying to keep it in. "That's the real reason you wanna
go to the cabin, isn't it." I laughed out loud as he flipped me a
bird, then I headed towards a table that had been just seated.
"Y'all should get a room," Stan said, smiling.
"Hell," I said, "he wants a whole damn cabin." As I said that,
Don pushed himself away from the bar and stalked towards me with a
glint in his eye. "H'ar y'all doin'?" I asked the couple at the
table, trying to dodge Don's shoulder as he nudged me in my back.
I vaguely heard their drink order as I looked after his khaki-clad ass
* * * * *
Now that my parents had moved so far north into the boondocks, the ride
up to the cabin didn't take all that long. Don and I had loaded
my little Nissan's trunk with a cooler
of food, our overnight bags, and a cooler of iced-down beers for him
and Cokes for me. I'd forgotten to get a bottle of JD before we
left, so we ended up stopping off at a liquor store in Clarkesville,
which was a few miles from the cabin. I didn't have a fishing
rod, so I picked up a Zebco 33 at the Wal-Mart in
Buford. I hadn't been fishing since I was seven, but Don had gone
several times with friends out on Lake Lanier. The creek at the
edge of my parent's property never had fish, so we'd have to head over
Unicoi and rent a boat there.
We arrived mid-afternoon, and as we piled out of the car, Don stretched
his arms out and took a deep breath. "Man, Paulie, nothin' beats
this mountain air."
He was right. Down on the piedmont, the temperatures were still
hitting the nineties, while up here in the mountains it was mild in
the low eighties. The sun that filtered through the tall pine
boughs warmed up the fallen pine needles that covered the ground, and
their scent filled your nose and caressed your senses. Up here,
the air was so clear that you could make out every rough edge on the
bark of the tall pines. Off in the distance, between the breezes
whispering in the trees, you could hear the mountain creek babbling and
tumbling over the boulders.
"You know," I said, "I don't know why I don't come up here more often."
"And why you don't bring me," he smiled. I grinned back.
"Let's get our crap inside."
Once we got everything into the cabin and the few things loaded into
the fridge, he popped open a beer and I fixed myself a Jack and
Coke. Don headed out onto the porch as I went upstairs to open up
the windows and turn on the fans in the loft bedroom. Afterwards,
I headed back down and stepped out onto the porch, the screen door
creaking as I opened it. Don was sitting on the railing with his
back facing the cabin, and I took a moment to look at him. His
back still had the ideal v-shape, but five more years of working out
after high school had beefed his whole body up, and his shirt was
stretched taut across his back muscles. I remember thinking that,
damn, how was I lucky enough to
have two physically perfect men in my life. Two men. Don
and Alan. Shit! Alan! my head screamed, and I
physically shook my head to clear it of thoughts of Don. Shaking
it seemed to work for a few seconds until he said, "You got any
chlorine tablets, or whatever, for the hot tub?"
"Uh...I think so. I"m sure we do....why?" I sat down on the
swing that was hanging a few feet behind where he was sitting on the
His shoulders lifted a bit as he snorted and said, "Because, dumb ass,
I feel like jumping into it in a bit."
"Shit, man, I didn't even bring a swim suit," I said, thinking I was
getting out of what could be an uncomfortable situation.
"So. Use your shorts," he said, turning towards me.
I took a breath and blew it out. "I guess. Let me just sit
here for a sec before I look, okay?"
"That's cool. I was just asking," and he turned back to look out
at the woods. We sat there silently for several long minutes as
he downed his beer
and I sipped on my drink. "Man. I really do love it up
here. It's so damn peaceful. So far away from the day to
"I know," I said
Still facing the woods, he asked, "Do you ever think you could live in
a place like this full-time?"
"You mean a cabin?"
He chuckled a bit. "No dumb ass. Well...sure, I guess."
"Hmm. I'm not sure. I kinda like bein' near the city.
If there's anything you want to do, it's right there. The
mountains are so close, too. I mean, I love it up here, and all,
but...maybe I could live in a small town, or somethin'...but tucked
away in these woods might be a bit much. Plus, what would I do
for a living?"
He shrugged again. "I dunno. We could figure out something."
My insides did a flip-flop, and I stared him for the briefest of
moments. "Do what?"
He turned his head a little, and I could see the side of his face as he
smiled. "I meant to say 'you'."
I chuckled myself and said, "You goob," and he laughed a bit.
* * *
Two hours, six beers and four Jack and Cokes later, we were both
feelin' hunger pangs. Well, we really weren't all that
hungry, but it was time to eat. My Jack and Cokes were
now around seventy-five percent Jack. I was feeling totally
relaxed at this point. Anyway, Dad and I had built a
patio just off the rear deck, along with a few steps leading down to
it where we'd set up the grill, the previous summer. I got the
ready as Don went inside
to change into his swim trunks. Through the open windows I could
hear him rustling around in his bag, but oddly enough I didn't hear the
bathroom door close. I'd forgotten the matches and headed inside
to grab a few. As I stepped in the door, I saw Don standing in
the middle of the cabin pulling his trunks up over his hips. I
came in just in time to see the top of his ass, and he turned around
when he heard the creak of the screen door.
For the first time in six years I was seeing him without his shirt on,
and I think I stumbled a bit as I walked across the floor. "Damn
rug," I said, turning to look at the area rug that was on the floor
near the door. I did my best to take in the view of him as
quickly as possible. His whole torso was as solid as a rock, you
could tell, though he wasn't totally ripped. He was still without
chest hair, but he had a bit of a dusting around the top of his
shorts. I made quick work of looking busy by searching for the
matches. "Dude, just get on dressed in the middle of the place,
why don'tcha," I laughed, opening and closing drawers around the room.
"Hell, it's just us, man. What are you looking for?"
My sanity! "The damn
kitchen matches," I muttered, looking into a
cubby hole beneath one of the end tables.
"How about...the kitchen?"
"Huh?" I stood up, looking at him. Fuck! I'd thought that
physically, no one could even come close to Alan. I gulped
inwardly as I realized how wrong I was. Alan! my head screamed at me again.
"Check the kitchen?" he said, with a 'dumb ass' tone to his voice.
I smiled and walked past him. I know it was my imagination, but I
could feel some sort of weird vibe from the whole situation. Don
wasn't gay. I knew that he'd dated girls from time to time.
Yet he'd recently become very touchy-feely when I was around at
work. There was that whole thing on moving day, that look in his
eyes. Not to forget him kissing the top of my head, albeit trying
to act like a dope. Then out on the porch his comment
that "we" could figure out how to live in a cabin. And now he's
in the middle of the
cabin, shucking his clothes and putting on a swim suit with me just
outside the door. Why in the hell didn't he just go into the
change? Man, if I'd only walked in five seconds earlier...
Alan!!! my mind screamed even
"Here they are," I said, pulling the box of matches from a low cupboard.
"Surprise. Hey, you gettin' in the hot tub?"
"Not right now. I'm gonna fire up the grill and cook the
"I forgot to check the temperature of the water." We'd filled the
hot tub earlier, put the chlorine tablet into the floating container,
and then turned the heater on. I stepped out onto the deck and
lifted the lid on the hot tub. "Well, it's not that bad. A
"Hell, that's damn near perfect," he said, and took the cover
completely off the tub. "Just like at the gym." He slowly
stepped in and
winced when the hot water touched his feet. "Not bad," he hissed
a bit through clenched teeth.
I couldn't help but laugh. "Sounds like you're about to turn into
He shook his head quickly and stepped completely into the tub. He
was tall enough that only the bottoms of his trunks were in the water
and he took a moment to get used to it before slowly sinking
down. I stood there, rooted to the deck, watching the man that
I'd once had a crush on becoming fully submerged in the steaming,
roiling water. Then Don looked up at me, his hands and arms
gliding slowly back and forth over the water's surface. "You sure
you don't wanna get in?" I could've fallen into his brown eyes at
that very moment. I swear, they never looked deeper. And
talk about guns! Criminy, the guy had an awesome set of biceps on
him, and his pecs were flexing every time his arms would glide back and
forth. Oh man, I would love to just...
What about Alan, you fuck!!!
my head screamed at me.
Quickly, I snapped out of the "Don-mode" that I was finding myself in a
lot more, lately. "Uh...naw...gonna get the, uh...grill
started." I turned and walked off the deck, all but feeling his
eyes on my back. I thought they were on my back.
I hoped they were on my back.
This was a bad idea, you moron,
coming up here alone with Don! No shit, I answered my own
brain. Especially now that I was experiencing some pretty intense
feelings for the guy again. I pushed those feelings back down
into my brain and lit the charcoals in the grill. I listened to
the motor humming and the water bubbling in the hot tub, as the breeze
of the early evening mountain air wafted through the pines. I
stared at the fire and asked myself what, indeed, was I doing up here with only Don
in the first place. I sill loved Alan. I was waiting for
....waiting for Alan. Why was I waiting for Alan? He
couldn't commit to me unless I was in the next room? What kind of
bullshit was that? I mean, here's Don in my hot tub...half
naked....with that body...and he's so fuckin' nice! Such a damn
Yep, that's him. He's a good friend, I said, mentally shaking my
head. Only problem was that I couldn't shake it hard enough to
clear thought of him.
Clear the thoughts of who? my
Of Don, stupid! I responded.
You sure? Aren't you trying to
clear your mind of Alan?
I stood there transfixed by the fire curling around the
charcoals which were slowly graying around the edges.
"Waitin' for a strong wind to blow ya over?" Don called from the hot
I turned and headed up onto the deck. "Nah. Just thinkin',"
"It looked like you were gonna fall into that fire, for a second there."
I smiled. "Just relaxin'. Hey, pal, you wanna'nother beer?"
I headed into the cabin.
"Ohhhhh, alright," he said.
I fixed another J and D, and grabbed Don another beer, then headed back
outside. "Here ya go, bud," I held the bottle and he leaned up
and out of the tub a little bit, the water running in rivulets down his
thick arms, towards his chest...
Stop looking at him like that,
asshole, he's not looking at you that way...
I handed him his beer,
agreed with the voice in my head, then sat down on the porch swing, my
feet propped on the railing. We sat there in silence for a while,
each drinking our drinks. Finally, Don spoke up.
"So, man, what's this r.a. training that you mentioned before?"
"Oh. The housing department was looking for a buncha new r.a.'s
during Spring quarter of last year, for the upcoming school year.
I applied and was hired, but for now I'm to be sorta on stand-by,
in case someone quits or whatever."
"Cool. Does it pay?"
"Well, I wouldn't'a signed on if it didn't. I mean, it sounds
like there's hardly any work involved, plus we get a larger room than
all of the others, so that's kinda cool, too."
"Cool. If they make you a full-time r.a., will Greg still be your
"How is he as a roommate? You don't talk about him very much."
"Well, he's really cool and all. We have the same type of
"He a geek too?"
I laughed and went to check the coals. They were gray, but it was
going to take a while longer before I could throw the meat on.
Returning to the deck, I said, "Yeah, kinda...I guess. I know
that he's had it rough with his parents. At least, his dad's an
asshole, but his mom is an absolute sweetheart. Anyway, he laughs
at the same idiotic sense of humor that I do, and we both impersonate
person and every goofy sound that we hear. I'm kinda glad for the
summer break, though."
"Well, we have studio together, which probably ends up taking up a good
fifty percent of our day, plus rooming together. I dunno, I guess
it's just having someone that's constantly with you...can get a little
intense after a while."
"Maybe that ain't the right word, but I think that basically we needed
break from each other."
"Interesting," he said, taking a sip of his beer.
"Well, if you ever start seeing someone, or get a partner, or
married...or whatever it is you gay guys do nowadays--" I burst out
laughing at that, "you'll be around someone full-time, right?"
"True," I said, still laughing. "But Greg and I ain't
datin'. It's nothin' that's a big deal. I like the guy a
lot, and he's a good guy. I was just glad for the break that's
all. Anyway, back to the r.a. stuff."
"We have a week of training where we have to watch all of these dumb
videos and become familiar with whatever campus rules are relevant to
dorm living, whatever."
"How in the hell can that take a week?"
"Pshhh. Ya got me, man. There are several new r.a.'s and I
think that the director sets up the end of each day set up with some
of social activity."
"Sounds really gay," he smirked.
"Fuckin' tell me about it," I smiled and went inside to grab the
burgers. When I stepped back outside, Don was just lifting his
head out of the water, and sat up out of the tub onto the ledge behind
him so that his legs were still in the water. "Hope you're
hungry," I said. "I've got a burger with your name written all
"Yeah, 'cause a big boy like you will only stop at
one," I said sarcastically.
"Yep. I've been known to go for two. Sometimes even three."
I looked at him, and he had this dopey grin on his face. Then he
busted out laughing at his own double entendre.
"Well, if it takes three times for the other person to finally enjoy
it, then I guess you do what'cha gotta do," I joked back.
"Ouch!" he laughed.
I threw four fat burgers onto the grill and I heard him splash back
into the water. It was funny. On the one hand, I felt like
a grown up cooking burgers on the grill, drinking my adult drink,
looking around the woods that surrounded the cabin. And on the
other, I was still feeling like a love-sick dork from high
school. Part of me thought that if I'd made this trip with Don
so that I could prove to myself that how I'd started to feel about him
again was just temporary. Yet his comments and his actions lately
just kept adding up to an equation that I couldn't prove wrong.
Another part of me thought that if I was around Don in an environment
like this that it would make me realize how much I was missing Alan,
and I could throw Don totally out of my mind.
Not as though it mattered,
because Don wasn't gay.
I knew I had to be taking his comments, gestures and looks wrong.
Perhaps he's curious.
Yeah. He's curious, I answered myself, checking he bottom of the
burgers. That's it. I rolled my eyes at the thought.
But where's Alan now?
Dumb ass, Alan's training....
Training for pro ball? Where he
can spend more time away....
up! I yelled at myself. Alan does
love me, and he does want to
But when? Why wait? Don's
right here. In fact, he's half-naked in your hot tub....
the fuck up! I didn't want Don. I wanted Alan. And if
he wanted to wait...well...I felt I loved him enough to wait as
well. I mean hell, the first year of studio was tough enough, as
far as how much time I had to spend working on projects. Who knew
how hard the next four years would be. If by some extremely rare
chance that he was drafted, then those four studio years would be a
great distraction during his continued time away, right?
There's more to Don than you
know...than you want to...admit?
More than I know? And what don't I want to admit. I
checked the burgers again. "Hey bud. I hope you want yours
well done," I said.
"D'you burn 'em?"
"No. I only know how to cook the meat all the way through."
Don laughed out loud. "I ain't sayin' a word!"
I chuckled to myself. "Shut the fuck up, fag hag." He died
laughing at that. "Well, that's what you are," I kidded.
"You hang around with a fag."
He was still laughing a bit. "Cut it out, Paul. I don't
like you talking about yourself like that."
"Hey," I turned towards him, "I'm into that self-deprecating humor,
didn't you know," and I smiled at him.
"Whatever," he chuckled.
I turned back to the grill.
What you don't want to admit is that
if you want Don then maybe...you don't want Alan--
I slammed the lid down on the grill and walked away from that
"You burn yourself?" Don asked.
"No. I need more to drink," I grumbled and slammed the screen
door behind me as I went inside. This time I fixed a straight
whiskey on the rocks. If I couldn't shut that voice in my head
up, I'd damn well sedate it a little bit.
"Hey dude, you'd better check those burgers," Don called in from the
"Yes, highness." I went back outside, turned and winked at Don to
let him know I was kidding.
"You're damn right, my majesty."
I shook my head and rolled my eyes.
"Well, you at least should worship me."
"Have another beer. You're obviously not drunk
enough, if you think I should worship you." He laughed out loud.
As I took the meat off of the grill and put it onto a plate, I'd
resolved that I would just have to get Don out of my head any way I
could. I knew that deep down I wanted Alan. No matter what
how the moronic voice in my head conflicted with my heart, even if I'd
wanted to have any kind of dating relationship with Don, I knew that
wasn't gonna happen. It just wasn't in the cards. I'd been
three years without Alan and I hadn't died, so I knew I could take a
couple more years waiting for him.
Four more? You can take four
more years? Don't you think you need someone...deserve to
have someone in your life?
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried very hard to get all thoughts
of life without Alan out of my head. I squeezed really hard to
get all of the doubts about him to go away. I knew what I wanted,
dammit, and right now what I wanted was about two hours away in Athens,
slamming into other two hundred-plus pound guys between the
hedges. I smiled at the
thought, but when I turned and stepped up onto the deck, my smile
faded. Don had stepped out of the hot tub and had his head buried
in a towel, drying his hair. He was still in his trunks, and you
know how guys always pull their shorts away from their bodies when they
step out of a pool? Well, he hadn't, and for the first time in my
life I got a glimpse of what was beneath them. My imagination was
screaming through my head like a tornado, and watching the water drip
off of his body, I knew that I was completely physically attracted to
the guy. Blood was quickly rushing from all parts of my body to
one part in particular.
It seemed like I was staring at his crotch for ten minutes, when
in reality it was more like five or ten seconds. I had to get
the cabin, and fast, before what was on my mind became physically
obvious to him. By the time I opened the door he'd finally taken
towel off of his head to dry off the rest of his body.
It's just the two of you up here....
It took everything I had not to throw the plate across the cabin in
anger. I was being so fuckin' stupid. I kicked my ass
mentally for being mad at myself for trying to chose between Alan and
Don. In reality, there was no choice to make. Alan was who
I loved. He was who I wanted more than anyone else. It was
with him that I wanted to share my life. Don was just hot,
and yeah, he might be distracting, but the guy wasn't even in the
running. In my separation from Alan, and in my longing for him, I
seeing things in Don that really weren't there.
I fixed another drink and tossed it back down my throat. "Ya
ready to eat?" I called out.
"Yeah, I'm comin'," he said, stepping inside. He crossed over to
the bed, grabbed his clothes, then went into the bathroom to change.
I told myself that I was imagining things in him that didn't really
exist. The alcohol that I'd been drinking all afternoon seemed to
hit even harder, and I stared at the closed door to the
bathroom. I was breathing deep and steady. I wanted to
cross over to that door, open it and step inside. But that was
just the guy in me that wanted sex, badly. I knew that if I
opened that door, it wouldn't be the man I loved standing there, it
would be a friend that I lusted after. And besides, I chuckled to
myself, even if you didn't want it to be Alan, Don doesn't want you in
You know...at one time you had no
idea that Alan was gay....
* * * * *
* * *