Mike and Danny: Straight Crush
OK, so like he was reading my mind, Dayton paused and said, "You ever sleep with one of your students before?"
"No," I said so firmly that my whole body contracted around the word, and the bed trembled again.
"That's OK. You don't have to tell me," he said. "That girl in the front row in our class? The one liked to hang around after class and talk about her paper? I seen her once standing real close, pressing her boobs up against your arm." He turned his head to me on the pillow "I got good and turned on by her sometimes myself. Don't tell me you didn't take advantage of that situation."
Now I was wide awake myself. And once more, I felt this was some kind of test he was putting me through. A sly third degree.
"I kind of draw the line at that stuff," I said. "Not kind of," I corrected myself. "Always."
His body stirred as he put his arms behind his head. "A man of principle," he said, and I couldn't tell if it was admiration or irony in his voice.
"Don't know about that. But the college frowns on it," I said.
He was quiet for a while, and I had this suspicion that he – like Mike in the Camaro – was waiting for me to act on some higher principle and make the first move. This was way beyond a straight crush, I was saying silently to Barry, wondering where he had got such an idea. Not in any textbook.
"You know," Dayton said, sounding suddenly more serious. "I've never had sex with anyone I really cared for. I went steady in high school with one of the cheerleaders – well, two of them, counting the time my steady girl went to Colorado with her folks on vacation, and I took a chance on one of the others I had my eye on."
But he realized now he never felt much for either of them. And there had been the girls he'd pick up at fairs and rodeos. One of them nearly old enough to be his mother.
"She was a firecracker, I wanna tell ya," he said. "I had a go with her even after I found out she was married."
Listening to him, I was thinking of Mike and his experiences with women when he was still a kid like Dayton. And I kept waiting for the talk to make a move in another direction – one that showed signs of leading finally to me.
But it never did.
Except for one odd moment, so off-handed, I played the memory of it over and over the next day. And I still wasn't sure what to make of it when I told Mike.
Somehow Dayton had turned the subject around to the bulls on the ranch. He was making a point about himself that had to do with them. And maybe it was the sleep creeping up on him again that made it all a little fuzzy.
"I wonder sometimes if I'll ever be any different than the bulls when we put `em out with the herd." And he described how they sniff out the cows going into cycle and then after some stumbling pursuit finally mount them and in a quick shove have plunged their long cocks into them. "Like shooting from the hip," Dayton described it. "And one right after another."
He could make sex last longer than that, but the way nothing else mattered to the bulls, just "one right after another," made Dayton think of how the experience was for him.
"You hear a guy joke about being a sex machine," Dayton said. "Well, that's fine if you're a bull. That's their job. But I'd like to feel like something more than a machine," he said, letting out a big yawn.
"Yeah, them bulls gotta do their job," he said. "Of course, a guy wouldn't want the opposite either."
"What do you mean?" I said. I'd been lying on my back, like him, watching leaf shadows from the street lamp on the ceiling.
"I had this bull calf once," he said. "Raised him for 4-H. Don't know, maybe I coddled him too much, you know the old curry comb and giving him baths with shampoo, the stuff you do. I'd put a halter on him and he followed me around almost like a puppy. Didn't have a mean streak in him."
Well, the bull had got ribbons at the fair and was without doubt the best damn lookin', the handsomest, best-behaved bull anyone could remember laying eyes on.
Friendly to everyone who stopped by his pen in the livestock barns, friendly to the cats that prowled through the straw bales and walked along the fence tops, even friendly to the bulls on either side of him.
"That should have been a clue," Dayton said, and he'd begun to wonder about it. Then lo and behold, when breeding time came, the truth was plain to see.
"We had ourselves a queer bull," Dayton said, laughing ruefully. "My dad and my brother never let me hear the end of it. They said I'd made a sissy out of him." Then he fell silent.
"What happened then?" I asked him.
"Oh, he went straight to the sale barn. He was hamburger." Then he yawned again and turned his back to me, like story time was now over. And in a minute I could hear his breathing as he fell asleep.
Needless to say, sleep was slower coming for me. My heart was beating in my chest from what must have been a surge of adrenalin as I worried where Dayton was taking us with his long story.
Nowhere, I kept telling myself. All the time we were going nowhere. It was just Dayton holding my attention with his talk as he had done dozens of times before. And if there was anything out of the ordinary this time – lying next to me in bed – he was unaware of it.
But like you, disappointed that I didn't reach over and touch him, even after he'd turned his back – disappointed that this then didn't turn into a fevered, sweaty sex scene – disappointed that I didn't pick up on all his cues and – even out of the goodness of my heart, assuming there is any - release him from the prison cell of his own fears. Like you I wondered if I'd done the right thing when I did nothing.
As I lay there inches from him, there was only one feeling really clear to me. It was a wave of loneliness. More than anything at that moment all I wanted was Mike there beside me. Only that would have made my heart stop sinking into my gut.
"You wanna know what I think," Mike said. It was two days later, back at the farm, a sleepy Sunday morning, and we were standing together in the kitchen in our underwear, drinking coffee.
"I think he'd made a decision already," Mike said. "Before he showed up that day. Before he even came to town."
"To just accept the way his life was going to be for him – like it or not - and stop fighting it."
"I dunno, Mike. I keep thinking there was more I could have done for him."
He looked away and shook his head, like I wasn't getting something. "You gave him everything you had to give."
He set his coffee mug down on the kitchen counter and put his arm around my neck, his face next to mine. The front of his boxers brushed against my leg and he touched my bare chest with his fingers, feeling for a nipple.
"You hugged him like he wanted – like his dad had never done, I'll bet you anything – and you listened to everything he had to say."
"It wasn't enough. I can feel it in my gut."
"Listen, bud. You let him trust you like he's probably never trusted anybody, and you never betrayed that trust. A man can't do much more than that for another man."
But I still couldn't follow the point he was trying to make. Sometimes I think he just makes this stuff up – trying to help me feel better when I've fucked up.
So finally he just stuck his hands down the back of my shorts and started patting my butt. Then I set my cup down by his, and later that morning we found them still there, side by side, still half-full and now cold.
For days after, my thoughts went back to that night with Dayton and the morning after. The bedroom was full of bright sunlight when I woke up.
Dayton lay there on his side, and I could see what I couldn't see in the darkness of the night before. He had no underwear and was completely naked, his dick long and full with a morning hard-on.
I'd been right when I'd imagined him without clothes. The hair on his belly swelled into a thick curly thicket in his crotch, and from behind I could see it dark between his butt cheeks.
He was beautiful.
When I left for commencement, he was still lying there sleeping, his shirt beside him on the floor, his boots with their toes pointed under the edge of the bed, and his jeans where he had stepped out of them.
I'd called Barry, who came by to give me a lift to campus. I waited for him at the front of the building, where he wouldn't drive by Dayton's truck. I made up something about how my car got left on campus. I didn't want to explain to Barry about Dayton – protecting the boy, I guess.
When I got back to the apartment a few hours later, Dayton and his truck were gone. I looked around the apartment, half expecting a note, but there was no sign of him, only the place on the pillow where his head had been.
I'm not sure what I expected next. But the summer passed and there was not a word from him – not a card or letter forwarded to the farm from the post office in Kearney.
I missed him a little, yes. With his butt in a chair and his boots on a wastebasket, he'd become something of a fixture in my life.
Then I really began missing him in the fall, when he didn't come back to school, and I knew the ranch had consumed him again, as if he had never left it. The sadness I felt was over the turn his life had taken. It didn't seem fair.
Then one night, my phone rang. The moment I could hear the sounds of voices and music in the background, I was sure it wasn't Mike.
"Professor," I heard after a moment. It was Dayton calling from some bar somewhere. Still under age, he'd managed to put down some beers, from the sound of it.
The conversation made no sense, and with the noise where he was, he couldn't hear half of what I was saying.
"Hey, pipe down," he'd shout. "I'm trying to talk with my favorite teacher."
Whether he had anything to say to me, I couldn't tell. Mostly he just seemed glad to be talking to me. And then he said he'd have to go and hung up. He never called again.
Two-three years later, I was at Sears, looking for a new TV – the little black and white portable I'd had since graduate school was already half shot when I got it secondhand. I had my eye on one of the new color models and was watching the actors on an afternoon soap, trying to decide which set I could afford.
"Professor." The word came from behind me, and as I turned, surprised, there was Dayton. I hadn't seen him since that commencement morning, as he lay naked and asleep on my bed.
We shook hands, and he grinned at me like he couldn't believe his eyes. As we talked, part of me studied him, and I could see that he was older, his eyes a little worn, lines I didn't remember on his face. If anything, he was thinner than before, the belt in his jeans loose around his waist and riding his hips.
He was dressed as I'd always remembered him – an old cowboy hat, denim jacket, and a western shirt with a faded print of little prairie flowers across the front. His voice was rougher, from smoking and, I guessed, more than enough drinking.
"You still ranching?" I finally asked him.
"Yeppers," he said flatly, like what else?
"I thought you might think about finishing school when your brother got back from Nam," I said.
Dayton looked away over my shoulder for a second and then down at the floor. "He didn't make it back," he said, now looking into my eyes again.
"I'm sorry," I said. And, Jesus, it sounded so lame.
"Aw, it's water under the bridge," he said forcing a smile again. "He hated that ranch much as I did. Hell of a way to go, though."
Then he turned suddenly like he remembered something. "Hey, Kelly," he called out, waving to a young woman holding a baby. "I want you to meet somebody."
The woman – not much more than a girl – was standing in a row of washers and dryers. She didn't move at first, just looked over at us, then hiked the baby onto her hip and took a step in our direction.
"Washer broke down last week," Dayton said. "Can't keep a wife happy with a busted washer and diapers piling up."
I watched them coming toward us. "So you got married," I said, giving eloquent expression to the obvious.
"Yeah, I was gonna send you an invite, but we got kinda in a hurry."
I wanted to ask him, did you find some one you really cared for, but if he hadn't, I didn't want him to either lie or admit the truth.
"Here she is, Kelly," he said as they got to us. "And this is our little Angela."
Kelly looked uncertain – and the baby did, too, for that matter – searching my face for some clue about me.
"My professor from college," he said to her. "You've heard me talk about him."
Her face brightened then, and she took my hand, looking at my shyly. I could see now that she was barely out of high school.
"This is the man who taught me about sticking to principles," Dayton said, slapping me on the shoulder. "That's a lesson I never forgot."
For a while, I didn't know what he was talking about. It wasn't until later that I made the connection with that conversation we'd had that night in the dark.
Between the three of us – four counting the baby – we talked about nothing. I congratulated them for their marriage and for the baby.
"You know what my grandma said?" Dayton asked. "At least they came in the right order."
And Kelly turned away, blushing.
Meanwhile, there were a hundred things I wanted to know. There was no way to count the times I'd wondered about him. First students stick with you like that anyway, and then Dayton had found his own way to be unforgettable.
Before I knew it we were saying goodbye. The baby was starting to fuss, and Kelly was eager to pick out a washer.
Dayton stood with me a moment as she walked away. He looked at me smiling, like he was remembering something.
Then he put his arms around me and held me hard, crushing me to his chest. I could smell the cigarette smoke in his jacket and the faint sweet smell of hay and cow manure.
"Thanks, professor," he said in my ear. "I never really got to say thanks."
And then he was gone, disappearing into the household appliances.
Continued . . .