On the more positive side of our experiences that term, one of the most mature members of the floor started spending more time with Rich and me. His name was Cal Davis and he happened to be Tom Bergman's roommate. We had developed a Thursday night ritual, where the three of us returned to Rich's room after dinner for a few cocktails before heading out to the bars, another Thursday ritual.
"So, Cal, I have to ask," Rich started one evening after we all had had a few beers and were listening to some tunes, unwinding from the week and ready to bolt into the weekend, "this is the second year you've lived with Bergman, which means at least one year by choice. How exactly is that possible?"
"One year by choice, you're right," said Cal. "Our first year was blind."
"Assuming you got to know him after the first year, how did you end up together for the second? You guys aren't exactly peas in a pod," Rich added, unnecessarily.
Cal smiled his great smile, the one that seemed to indicate he was the only one in on the joke, but was about to share it with you, too. "You mean, how does a dope-smoking, anti-religion black man live with a straight-laced, bible-thumping white boy?"
"Completely to pry, yes, exactly, how does that happen?" Rich asked, smiling, too.
"I think we're good for one another, that's the short answer."
"Okay," I said, "now give the long answer."
"Well, even though I grew up in a black neighborhood and went to an all-black high school, I still knew quite a few white guys...but I didn't think they were exactly typical. So I was curious to find out what I thought of as more mainstream whites were like. I figured once I got to college I could find out first hand by living in a mostly white dorm and not participating in the voluntary segregation that I knew went on.
"When I first met my roommate last year I thought I got a little more than I bargained for, but as the year went on I actually started to like and respect Bergman's consistency. Do you know the very first day we met he told me that he was an accidental racist, and that he would pray to overcome what he knew to be a personal weakness?"
"What the fuck is an `accidental racist?'" Rich asked, missing the underlying point, so visceral was his dislike of Bergman.
"It's someone who is a racist, not by design, but by the nature of a white-bread upbringing," I explained. "It's someone who is taught to think of different as potentially corrupting instead of potentially enlightening."
Cal studied me carefully for a moment or two, started to say one thing, thought better of it, and simply nodded his head. "Exactly," he said. "As a matter of fact, those weren't his words, but that was precisely his sentiment. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by your..." and here he laughed, presumably at his choice of words, "perspicacity, but still, that's a little dead-on, even for you. Just how well do you know my roommate?"
"I know his type," I said, somewhat modestly. "I've talked to him often enough. I ought to know how he thinks, since he's been trying to save me from myself for most of this year."
"Now we come to an interesting point," Cal said, approaching what he had hinted to somewhat cryptically a few moments before. "Why hasn't he bothered to try to save me?"
Rich rolled his eyes. "He probably thinks you're a voodoo-practitioning Haitian. No doubt he can't even imagine having the language to discuss where your roots are, much less figure out a way to share the truth with you."
"That's not what he means," I said, eyeing Cal thoughtfully. "Is it?"
Cal's slightly amused smile never wavered. "No, it's not."
Rich looked from me to Cal and back again. "Goddamnit," he said, "I hate being the only obtuse one in a conversation. Would one of you care to fill me in?"
"You mentioned knowing a lot of white guys, even though you lived in a black neighborhood and went to a black school. You also said you didn't think of them as typical white people. Is that because they were minorities, even though they were white?"
Cal's smile broadened; he nodded to Rich. "You see why I called your friend perspicacious?"
"No," Rich said, with some obvious relief at being afforded at least the chance to be clever, "why don't you be perspicuous and tell me."
"Because I figured out that Cal's gay without him telling us directly," I said.
We then suffered through a few seconds of deafening silence. Cal's smile never left his face, though it seemed to become nuanced with just a hint of sadness; Rich started to say something and stopped at least three times. I merely sat quietly, my face impassive as I waited for Cal to take up the conversation.
He did so, still smiling. "For three weeks now we've been having our little happy hour and you guys never picked up any vibe? Where's your gay-dar?"
"I knew it all along," Rich sniffed, lying obviously.
Cal laughed. "That was a hell of an acting job, the way your jaw hit your chest when Rick announced his deduction."
"I like to keep up appearances," Rich said. "One should always act surprised to discover deviancy in one's midst," he added, in a fair imitation of Margaret Thatcher's voice.
"How's it been with you?" I asked, meaning, without having to say it, The Whole Experience.
Cal reflected a moment, chewing his lip while he regarded the ceiling. "It hasn't been easy," he said, finally, "I'd be lying if I even tried to say that it's been overall pretty positive. Being black and gay has made growing up in America that much more difficult than being just one or the other, but I think it's also fostered in me a strong self-reliance. I don't have a lot of role models, as you can imagine. I learned at an early age to forge my own way. No one knew about me in high school, both because I was low-key, and because I hung out with the straight crowd. When I finally told my parents, my father disowned me, but my mother has been a great support. I've been active in my community, so I have a pretty good network. And now I have you guys. I have to tell you, you've been very inspiring."
Cal, as I knew him, was never ironic, so I took his compliment at face value. "Glad to be of service. Are you planning to follow our lead and get a little confrontational with our floormates and others?" I asked.
"I don't really have a plan," he confessed. "I've always played it pretty close to the vest. I suppose I should consider the next step, since you two have led the way."
"You better give that some more thought," Rich said, rather abruptly. "We have each other, and that's made it easier. You'd be flying solo, in a lot of different ways. Can you imagine how freaked out your roommate will be?"
Cal regarded us both for a moment or two. "Actually, he already knows," he said, his smile somewhat wry.
I wasn't quite prepared for that. "Come again? How can that be?"
"I told him," Cal said.
Rich and I looked at one another briefly. "What do you mean, you told him?" I asked.
"Well, after you two did your little show-stopper in the caf that day, our boy was feeling a little, shall we say, put upon. Back in our room he started raving about how the sodomites were poisoning the world, making it difficult for righteous individuals such as he and I to live upstanding lives without the taint of wickedness in our midst...some kind of fire and brimstone shit like that. I told him he had been living a fine life and hadn't been tainted by me, so he ought to be all right. He thought I was being sarcastic, referring to his initial reaction to my being black. So I told him he had been living with a gay man for almost two years and it hadn't had any ill effect on him."
Rich burst into laughter. "Holy shit, how did he take that?"
"About as well as you might expect. He told me he's moving."
"Christ, he can't do that," Rich said. "Who the hell am I supposed to antagonize for the rest of the year?"
I rolled my eyes. "I'm sure you'll find someone."
"So Bergman reached his tolerance level. What a surprise. Well, you know what this calls for, right?"
Cal and I exchanged glances. Rich was not one to gloat, and this was hardly any kind of victory, anyway. Cal's feelings would have to be a little ambivalent, if not downright hurt.
"I'm not sure this calls for any kind of..." I started.
"Road-trip." Rich finished.
"Road-trip?" I asked, smiling. Here was the man I knew and loved, coming up with just the right suggestion.
"Yeah, let's the three of us get outta Dodge for the weekend. Bergman can do his thing, and Cal can come home to his own space."
Cal was grinning and nodding. "I like it. Where to?"
The proverbial light-bulb went off over my head. "I've got just the spot," I said, reaching for the phone.
Rich and Cal regarded my silently as I dialed the number and waited for an answer. On the third ring, he picked up.
"Hey, bro," I said, "feeling like entertaining some visitors this weekend?"
* * *
That weekend was a ball, quite literally as it turned out. We left early Friday afternoon, taking a five and a half hour booze cruise. We walked into a massive jam my brother had thrown together at his apartment complex.
He was as popular as I imagined him to be, and then some. This group of friends was as about as eclectic and fun as any you would find on any college campus. There must have been seventy people spilling out of his apartment, into other rooms and out to the front lawn. I got a lot of warm greetings and "heard-a-lot-about-you's," which really made me feel good.
After we had been there for a few hours an exotically beautiful woman with dark eyes and straight, jet-black hair approached me on the front lawn.
I smiled warmly as she stared intently into my eyes. Before I could say anything, she spoke.
"I know you," she said.
"I don't think so. I'm sure I'd remember having met you. You're stunning."
"You're Dave's brother," she said, ignoring what I had said.
"He said you got all the looks in the family."
"He got the brains, I got the looks; it seemed like a fair exchange at the time."
She continued staring into my eyes, even when she took a drink out her plastic cup. She was obviously buzzed, but her concentration was unnerving.
"So, then, who are..."
"I don't think I've ever seen a more handsome man in my life."
"Um, thanks, I..."
She reached up and cupped her right hand around my neck, leaning up and pulling my head down. She kissed me hard on the mouth; her lips were thick and soft, her tongue gentle but insistent.
I pulled back to breathe, laughing. "Did my brother happen to mention that I was gay?"
"Uh-huh," she said, without the slightest hesitation. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
Right on cue, Rich walked up, threw his arm around my shoulder and planted a wet, drunken kiss on my cheek. "Hey, guys. What's up?"
"Hey, Rich. This is..." I paused, gesturing with the drink in my hand in a fill-in-the-blank manner to my new friend.
She stared at Rich without saying a word. She looked back at me, then back at Rich. "Oh...my...God," she said, as she let the drink fall from her hand. She practically flew into Rich's arms, greeting him with an even more ardent kiss.
His eyes wide, he looked at me with such awkward surprise that I burst into laughter. "I'd introduce you two properly, but I don't know her name yet," I said, still laughing.
She slid off of Rich's neck, breathless. "I'm Delilah," she said.
"Damn straight you are," Rich said. "I'm Samson, and this is my friend, ah, Jawbone-of-an-ass."
"Thanks a lot," I said, indignantly. "Can't I just be Phil Steen?"
"I don't care who you are," she said. "I want to sleep with you."
She was regarding us both, so I asked, laughingly, "Which one?"
"What are you talking about, which one? Both of you. I don't even care if you ignore me. I just want to be there."
That had me and Rich howling, slapping high fives. "You got it, Delilah. Have you got your own place?" Rich asked.
"I share an apartment here with a roommate, but we have our own bedrooms."
Rich looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "Beats sleeping on the floor of your brother's place, wouldn't you say?"
I was drunk, a little high, young and horny. I was up for anything. "Sounds good to me," I said. "But we still have a lot of partying to do yet. Round us up in a couple of hours."
"Round you up, my ass. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
And she didn't. Wherever either of us went for the rest of the night, one of us had Delilah wrapped around his waist. One minute I would be talking to someone by myself, and the next Delilah would sidle up, slide her arm around me and demand a long, wet kiss. I would oblige, continue whatever conversation I was having as if I had casually stopped to take a drag off of a cigarette, and she would stay with me for a few minutes before disengaging herself to go find Rich. The next time I would see him he would be likewise engaged in conversation, one arm fixed around Delilah's shoulder, the other casually gesturing with drink in hand. If he caught my eye he would chuckle and smile, offering cheers with his cup. It was some of the most fun foreplay of my life.
At one point I was talking to Cal, who seemed to have found a friend in a somewhat-nerdy engineering type. He was actually quite sexy, in a slide-rule kind of way. After I gave Delilah the attention she demanded and she wandered off, Cal's friend stared at me.
"I knew Delilah must've had a boyfriend like you," he said.
"Oh, no, I'm not her boyfriend," I replied, pointing in her direction as she, with perfect timing, grabbed hold of Rich across the room. "That's her boyfriend."
The two of them kissed deeply, after which I raised my cup to Rich, both of us laughing.
"Kids these days," I said, shaking my head with a rueful grimace, "ain't they wild?"
Cal threw his head back with laughter as his friend stared at me wide-eyed with wonder. I shrugged a what-can-you-do shrug.
By the time we got back to her place it was almost four in the morning, and the three of us had spent so much time kissing by two's that it seemed completely natural to start doing it by three's. Delilah made slight whimpering noises when Rich and I kissed, which I interpreted as noises of arousal rather than jealousy. I was right.
We stood in her bedroom, haphazardly ripping clothes off of one another. We fell naked into her bed, a tangled mass of flesh and desire. Rich and I became more focused on one another, but I was determined to at least try to reward Delilah for her good humor.
I reached between her legs as Rich and I pinned her head between our chests as we kissed. The more oblivious we seemed of her, the more frantic her movements became. She bucked wildly, sucking at Rich's chest as I brought her to climax with my hand. She slid away, down between our legs, and I thought she was getting out of bed until I felt the back of her head rubbing against my groin. She had Rich in her mouth, which he seemed to accept with bemused resignation. His kisses were mingled with what-the-hell smiles and I know he would have said, `Can you believe this shit?' if he wasn't such a gentleman.
When she took me in her mouth, I reacted with greater enthusiasm, probably because her obvious lust for Rich turned me on more than her lust for me did to him. She pushed me onto my back and straddled me, pulling my hand up to knead her painfully taut breasts as she thrust herself up and down, grinding me into her.
Rich kissed me deeply and I let myself go, ready to burst, when he shoved Delilah forcefully off of me and rolled me onto his chest. I kissed him hard, hungrily, as he guided me between his legs. I entered him easily, Delilah's wetness on me a perfect lubricant. Our eyes were wide as we felt the simultaneous orgasm build, my stomach rubbing and urging him as surely as his tightness urged me. The woman now forgotten, we erupted together, unaware of time or place, locked in a kind of cosmic embrace that allowed only total focus on one another.
I held him and kissed him as my hardness and his broke. "I am you, you are me," I whispered, hypnotized by his beauty.
Slowly, I became aware of Delilah's presence. She was smiling at us.
"Wow," she said, "you guys are totally in love. That was awesome. I want someone like that in my life."
Rich smiled back at her and brushed her hair away from her forehead. "That you should be so lucky," was all that he said.
We slept three to the bed, me curled onto Rich's chest and Delilah spooning me from behind. It was surprisingly comfortable, although after a long drive, an all-night party and some great sex I probably would have been comfortable sleeping on a board.
Later that morning we wandered back to my brother's place. It reeked of stale beer and cigarette smoke. The smell reminded me a lot of Red's place by the end of an evening. Since my brother was still asleep, the three of us starting cleaning up.
By the time he stumbled out of bed an hour later, all traces of the previous evening's festivities were gone.
"Wow," he said, rubbing his head and looking around, "can you guys come every weekend?"
"I know I could," said Delilah, smiling.
Dave regarded her. "Have you been corrupting my brother and his friends, Delilah?"
"If anything, they've corrupted me. I don't think I'll ever be able to sleep with a straight guy again."
The three men laughed, but Delilah never even cracked a smile; I think she thought she was being quite serious.
Soon after, Cal came in, a new friend in tow. I did a double-take when I realized it was the same guy from the night before. His glasses were gone, his hair, which had been razor-parted and slicked back, was now unparted and falling slightly forward, and he was wearing one of Cal's expensive rugby shirts. He was altogether...hot.
"Damn, look at you," I said. "What happened to that slightly nerdy guy I met last night?"
"Joshua just needed a little assurance that he could be whoever he wanted to be," Cal said.
Joshua put it more succinctly. "Cal helped me find my inner-brother," he said, to laughter all around.
* * *
That night we hung out at Dave's favorite bar. He seemed to know everybody, and everybody made Rich, Cal and me feel like we were old friends. Dave spent most of the night hanging out with Rich, making sure they were teamed up in pool and in darts. Dave didn't seem to be trying too hard, either. It seemed like he and Rich really hit it off. I was amazed how far he and I had come as brothers and friends in such a relatively short time.
At one point he and I were up at the bar together getting drinks. We stood silently a moment, smiling at one another.
"Thanks," I said.
"For all this," I said, gesturing with my arm. "For everything. For being so cool to Rich."
"That's no problem. I really like him. But did you have to bring Cal, too?"
That threw me back a little. "You don't like Cal?"
"He's a great guy, but it's bad enough standing around you and the underwear model. When it's the four of us, I feel like the fucking Hunchback of Notre Dame. I mean, do you gay guys wake up one morning and go, `whoa, obviously no chick could ever appreciate this enough'?"
I laughed and punched his arm. "What, you think it's easy being this goddamn good-looking?"
"Prick," he said, laughing too. Then he turned semi-serious on me. "Hey, you'll never guess who I ran into a couple of weeks back."
"You're right, since I won't even try, I'll never guess."
"Well now, it wouldn't exactly be much of a surprise if it was a Stacy you didn't know, would it?"
"Where did you run into her?"
"At a restaurant by her school."
"What were you doing up there?"
"Up by Stacy's school, you mean?" he asked.
"Yeah, you just happened to be in a restaurant by her campus?"
"No, I was meeting someone for dinner."
"Who?" I asked, knowing the answer as I asked.
"Stacy," he said, smiling.
"Now there's a coincidence for you. You call someone up, ask her to dinner, and then just happen to run into her at the restaurant you suggested."
"Freaked me right out," he said, laughing and shrugging.
"You think you might run into her again anytime soon?"
"I'm hoping to run into her a lot more frequently. Would that be too weird of a coincidence for you if I did?"
I thought about it a moment. I actually liked the karma of it. "I think that would be great," I said, honestly. "You might want to hold off meeting the parents for a while, though."
"Why do you say that?" he wondered.
"Ask Stacy about it sometime."
Rich approached us at the bar. "You figure if you make everyone wait long enough they won't want you to buy another round?" he asked, pretending to be peeved.
"I hate being this transparent," I said. "It doesn't help when your boyfriend is a dipsomaniac, either."
"I've never stolen anything in my life," he sniffed, reaching to help us gather up the drinks.
"That's `klepto,'" I said.
"Why? Haven't you paid for these, yet?"
"No, I mean...never mind."
Rich winked at my brother. "Fuckin' guy aces his SATs and you can never have a coherent conversation with him."
"I was incoherent long before I aced my SATs," I complained.
We rejoined our group to a loud chorus of cheers and jeers. The rest of that evening is lost in an alcoholic haze, except for the end when Delilah insisted we join her again at her place.
She had been hanging on Rich all night long, and his bemused tolerance of the night before had worn thin. Plus, he had confessed to me a slight jealousy of my apparent enjoyment of Delilah's charms. I found that to be so sweetly endearing I spent the evening ignoring her.
"Hey, Deli," Rich said, pronouncing it like a sandwich shop, which I knew was not a good sign. "One of the main tenets of the whole gay organization is that you don't sleep with women. If anyone finds out, we could get kicked out."
"Yeah, and I already got a warning for dressing like shit," I said.
But Delilah just couldn't let it go, and Rich was forced to be a little crueler than he ordinarily would have been.
"Look," he said, "it's not even that enjoyable for us with a woman who smells good. With you it makes it harder for us to be together the next day."
"You fucking cocksuckers!" she screamed as she stormed off.
"That almost sounded critical," Rich said, his bemusement returning.
"Like it was a bad thing," I said, shaking my head in disbelief.
We looked at each other for a few beats before cracking up.
* * *
The next day we decided to get on the road early. We all had work to do to get ready for classes on Monday, although I had a feeling that Cal would have just as happy if we had decided to skip class altogether and stay for another day. He and Joshua were reluctant to part.
We said our good-byes, and I was inordinately pleased by the warm, spontaneous hug between Dave and Rich. My brother and my best friend. I couldn't have been happier.
The other two piled into the car as Dave and I said goodbye. "I'm glad you're so happy," he whispered into ear as he hugged me tight.
"Thanks," I said. "Now go make yourself happy. She's a great girl and she deserves someone like you."
He stood back from me and smiled sheepishly. "The odds of us both turning out to be gay are really low, right?"
"Did you ever go see that hair-stylist I told you about?"
Playing it beautifully, he practically snorted. "Yeah, like I'm gonna pay twenty bucks to get my hair cut."
"You don't have anything to be concerned about," I said, laughing and climbing into the car. As he watched us drive off, I hoped I would see him and Stacy together the next time. The old proverb proved true: you should be careful what you wish for.