The semi-fictional piece will be done in more than one installment. I am not a professional writer by any means, but I do enjoy writing about certain themes, most of which I will try to incorporate in here. If there is something positive you have to say, a brief message can be left at (SkiBunnySJerzey@aol.com).
Part 1 gives you some background and focuses on the transition between high school and college, but almost all future installments of this story revolve around the college experience. Enjoy!
I would say that from the outside, I appear to be just any other person you would meet out on the town. I spent most of my life up until college in a rich town in South Jersey, coming from a middle-class family myself but always feeling a little bit frustrated kids who got everything they wanted. A brand new Lexus or BMW was considered no big deal as a gift parents would give their seventeen year-olds. The only goal in life for most of the people living there was obtaining more and more expensive things and showing them off to other people. Maybe I didn’t get everything I wanted materially, but I lived a pretty comfortable life and always had a desire to find something more meaningful anyway. It technically had everything you could want; diversity, safety, comfort, etc., but the bottom line was that it was pretty damn boring, at least from my perspective.
You hear these horrible stories about guys who had to hide themselves so heavily in the closet or those who were open about it and completely shunned, but here things didn’t seem to work that way. I was myself to other people and that person was not really flamboyant. For the most part, I was quiet and pensive, but on occasion I loved being the class clown. After all, we are supposedly supposed to be entertaining, right? After four years, you are pretty much in the know about who is gay and who isn’t. This group consisted of a bunch of really different guys, and most of them were closeted. Taking that into consideration, you will understand why I was not with any of these guys, except for one at the very end. There was Paul, the extremely cute Hispanic raver who was popular with absolutely everyone. There was Aaron, a snotty spoiled brat whose life revolved around the school’s drama program. There was Steve, a star basketball player, who was dating James, one of the football players, both of whom would sometimes be wearing similar outfits. Hints, rumors and gossip spreads like wildfire in a high school, and most of these guys I could identify after having met them several times, or maybe sharing a class with them. I had gotten close with a few, but never to the level or solitude where the words could come out.
On top of that, I had such serious issues with my self-image that a relationship probably would not have worked at the time. My name if Christian Ziade (Chris for short) and I come from a mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean roots and so I had a health olive complexion, along with rich black hair and brown eyes, and the ability to sport a few days of facial hair without looking scruffy. I did not have the body of a GQ model that everyone claims to have, but I kept in shape by eating right and exercising daily. My self-images issues stemmed from the fact that I felt like I was perceived as ugly by other people. (Now I have managed to get over that) On top of everything, one of the things I inherited from my parents was complete lack of affection. Hugs, kisses and other acts of affection were extremely difficult for me or awkward. I spent the third year of high school in a deep suicidal depression, feeling that no one would ever love me and I would have to live my life alone. Thankfully, that difficult period of my life passed and once I started to smile more and change my attitude, I came to enjoy and appreciate life a little bit more. The issues remained there, but in the back of my mind, waiting to be dealt with. Considering the fact that I had gone out on one date all throughout high school, I don’t know what people made of my sexuality. By the end, a few of my female friends and acquaintances did start to ask and I told them, usually in some roundabout way rather than some weepy, emotional breakdown…”Oh my god, Jane! I’m….gay! I just don’t know what to do sob sob sob sob.” Things did not work that way for me.
As for my parents, they knew – I was sure of it. I lacked much of a relationship with them, so I gave a rat’s ass about what they thought. As far as I was concerned, no one had a right to tell me they disapproved of my decisions. If my parents ever gave me that attitude, I would have told them to go straight to hell. My philosophy is that my life will be lived the way I choose, and if someone has a problem with that (as long as I don’t hurt anybody), they were obviously never my friend in the first place. They knew about my secrets, and did not expect me to share them. I did not consider this part of my life to be any of their business, and that is where it was left. Wrapping up this portion of my life, I will tell you about the last memorable experience of my high school-college transition. Of all the guys I assumed to be gay, Alex Rocce was never on the list. I shared one class with him our senior year and we talked a few times in brief conversations, mostly related to classwork. He was friendly and pretty good-looking and smart. I will honestly say that I did not have some secret crush on him before we got together. For the most part, my main gay experiences were with friends during adolescence. Towards the end of high school, I did hook up with a few guys through the net, but for the most part I was not satisfied with it and did not let it happen much. Via chat rooms and the net I read about plenty of places guys went to get their rocks off, but in the end the idea of gloryholes and booths disgusted me and I never went near those places. I used my loyal right hand and the fantasies of a gazillion hot guys at school and let it go.
I had been accepted into Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. and although it wasn’t my first choice, (is it ever anyone’s first choice?) I had to consider cost and decided it was my best option for the time being. I graduated high school, and was spending my last summer before college working full-time and saving up some money so that I could splurge without worrying. It had been a while since I had been with a guy, so some time during early July I was in one of the chat rooms where guys in the area went to arrange hook-ups. I think that was my only real way to meet gay guys my own age in this place. He (Alex) sent me an instant message seeing that we were in the same age range and both lived in the same town. I told him that my name was Chris and he told me that his name was Alex, as we exchanged formalities. It did not cross my mind that he was the same Alex from school, since the guy I met in class was not even in my mind anymore. Now, my parents had departed for this particular weekend to go to a weekend, and I politely refused the invitation, as the thought of being questioned by a hundred relatives was not my idea of enjoyment.
Now, as some of you roll your eyes at the idea of inviting some total stranger off the net into my house, I was horny and that sometimes affects one’s judgment. And so far, I had not dealt with an unpleasant experience, because if any guy I got with really displeased me, I would have sent him off. This person seemed normal enough, so I gave him my address and phone number, just in case. I rushed off to the bathroom to clean myself up a little bit, and then I slipped into whatever look good in my closet. I settled on a blue t-shirt and a tight pair of denim jeans. After all, it would be coming off anyway!
I nervously and anxiously waited, as I always do before meeting these guys. Mind you, a few years ago most guys in these rooms did not have photos of themselves to share. Nowadays, it seems to be a requirement. A few months of sitting in the dimmed lighting in the living room and I heard a car come down the road. Looking out the window, I nearly cracked but it passed my house. It was about ten o’ clock at night that he agreed to come over. However, as anyone who has arranged this sort of thing before knows, half the time you get duped anyway and no one shows up. I began to think that I had been a victim of this practice, so while I felt a little bit pissed off and a little bit disappointed, I went about straightening up the room, so my mother wouldn’t go crazy upon seeing her perfectly sterilized home in “a state of mess.” (Or at least what she considered a disaster)
Suddenly, I heard the phone ring. I got the jitters but I quickly picked up the phone and answered. “Hello?”
“Hey dude, this is Alex. I was on my way but I think I took a wrong turn. I’m on my car cell phone right now. You think you can help me out?”
“It’s ok, just tell me where you are and I can help you get here.”
“I’m at the corner of Marmel and Poisson, right across from the Theater.”
I quickly thought about it and responded, “OK. You have to continue on Poisson towards the Starbucks you see ahead. Make a right a couple of miles ahead onto Carlton and then make the first left onto Baker and you’ll be in my development. Think you can take it from there?”
“Sure thing, I have the directions from there and I’ll see you in a few. I’m really looking forward to meeting you,” he replied, in the sweetest voice.
“Same here,” I said, almost in a giddy way. I hung up the phone, and I still had no idea who he was.
Past experience told me that it was so extremely unlikely that the guy I would meet was going to be someone I had met before, so I had nothing to worry about. I was probably not going to get to sleep with my dream stud from school. The guys I was with before came, did their business and left, and I had never seen them again. Once I came, I basically wanted them out and usually didn’t want to see them again. I started to think about the fact that this guy lived in a neighborhood close to the high school where I went and he was the same age as me. He mentioned being a high school graduate, and left it at that. In my mind, I was a little bit curious, but then I saw the lights of a car coming into the darkened driveway. I had seen Alex leaving from the school parking lot, and I recalled the Black Acura he drove, because it was the exact same car that pulled into my driveway, or at least that is what it appeared to be. I had forgotten to turn on the outside lights, so I could not make much out of the figure getting out of the car. I started to a panic a little bit and quickly threw on one of my CD’s, realizing that what was behind the door could certainly be more reality-based than anything I had done before.
I heard the doorbell ring once, and I didn’t get up. The light was on and the music was playing, so he had to know that someone was inside. He rang again quickly thereafter, and I got up, my heart beating faster and faster, my knees shaking and my palms sweating. I brushed myself off and unlocked the door, turned the doorknob and opened up to see HIM there. It was Alex Rocce indeed. Let me describe Alex to you: He was about an inch taller than me, with a cute sort of face, a little bit pale with silky black hair that he flipped up in the front. His body was no chiseled, but he was in decent shape. He stood there, smartly dressed in a tight-fitting t-shirt and a pair of khaki’s. I looked up quickly to see his face, and I knew the familiar, deer-lost-in-the-headlights expressions he had on his face, seeing me there in front of him. He obviously had spent some time getting ready to meet me. He opened his mouth to speak:
“Ummm….hi Chris - I think I came to the wrong address. Sorry….” He gave out a forced little laugh and started to back out from the doorway.
As he started to back out far enough, I grabbed his hand and said, with the straightest face possible “On the contrary, I think you are at exactly the right place at the right time, Alex.” I gave him a slight smile, realizing that I did not want him to go.
He opened his mouth and nervously began to speak again. “Look, I am sure you have figured out everything….so….well….I just don’t know….if…I’m really comfortable with the idea of doing this…..with you….and now.”
I understood and I realized that I was not too comfortable with the idea either. I put on my serious expression again and kept my grip on his hand. “Look Alex, you can leave right now and we can just pretend this never happened. However, I want to cut through the bullshit right here and now. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You know me, and I know you. As long as you came this far, you might as well come in….and believe me, you have nothing to worry about with me.” I gave him another reassuring smile, praying in my mind that he would stay. I never had any gay friends before, and I realized that there was a lot we could share with each other that it would be hard to share with other people….and I definitely needed some more support.
He considered it for a few seconds, and he stopped trying to escape. He smiled back at me, and I let go of his hand and made way to let him inside.
I shut the door and looked at him, still standing there nervously and waiting for further instructions.
“You know, you can sit if you want, and you can also try and calm down, maybe?”
“Sorry…..sure…this is just sort of weird for me,” he forced out as he took a seat on the other sofa, as I crashed down into the one next to me. He sat there, sort of like a tight little ball, totally afraid of where he was and who he was with.
“Well, you know, this is pretty surprising for me, but I think we’ve pretty much established that I am gay and you are gay and that is probably why we were both in that chat room trying to find someone else.”
“Yeah,” he nodded his head, still with the deer expression on his face. “I guess you weren’t expecting me behind that door.”
“No, not really. However, I am sort of glad it was you…I mean, someone real.”
He started to unravel from his tightness and even smiled a little bit. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
I looked at him straight in the eye to clear something up. “Alex, I realize this is probably not something you want getting back to your friends, family and so forth. I will tell you right now that you shouldn’t worry about that. What you want people to believe is your own choice, and even I don’t want to shoot it form rooftops, although a few people do know.”
He looked relieved and more relaxed, plunging into the couch a little bit more and smiling. “You know, when I met you in class I really didn’t even know what to make of you. A couple of people commented on you at one point, but I just figured you were just trying to entertain people and I didn’t really think about it much more than that.”
“I never got to really talk to you, so I don’t even think I bothered with that much thinking, and you are right, I am just myself and I don’t give a damn if anyone thinks something of that.” I let out a slight chuckle.
“Just so you know, I don’t exactly do stuff like this a heck of a lot. In fact, I was only with a couple of guys before that I met there. After each one, it took me a few months to bring myself to do it again. I always….you know….freaked out…that someone would catch me…that my parents or friends would find out” He looked over at me “That I’d meet someone I knew. Plus, both of them were pushy for me to do things I did not want to do and both were total creeps.”
“I know, it’s not my scene either, I do it once in a blue moon and then I can’t stand the thought of it until the urge REALLY hits me and I finally go against my better judgment. Afterward, I always feel like I made a big mistake and get out of the situation, hoping never to see THEM again in my life.”
“I would probably be more open with people about what I’m feeling, but what’s the use? After meeting those guys, I wasn’t exactly, well, left feeling optimistic. I stopped dating girls after I broke up with Missy in the winter, and just told my friends that I was tired of bad girlfriends and needed a break. They were fine with it for a while, but now they are pressuring me more than ever. I told my friend Melissa that I wasn’t in the mood to date and she posed as my girlfriend for a while, but they caught on and it is driving me nuts.” He cleared his throat. “Hey Chris I’m dying of thirst. Think you can get me something?”
“Sure thing!” I poured two glasses of whatever crap I found in the fridge and brought them back. I sat down on the same couch as him this time, feeling it was now appropriate, and I handed one of the glasses to him.
“Let’s have a toast,” I said, “to our secrets.”
“To our secrets,” he declared as we clicked glasses and downed the soda, totally de-energized by the experience we just had.
The night progressed and we had a lot to talk about. At several points, any stranger would have mistaken us for little kids, the way that we were acting about this newfound knowledge. We shared a lot about our personal lives, and at points we didn’t feel the need to discuss anything, because we knew that there would be plenty of time to talk about everything in the future. In just a few hours, we connected on different levels and realized that we had much more in common than we thought. Before we knew it, the red numbers on the clock flashed 2:00 AM. What? In my mind, those four hours had passed in what seemed like ten minutes! I was disappointed as I saw Alex making his way out.
“You know Alex, if you want you can stay in one of the guest rooms tonight.”
“That’d be great, but I think my parents expect to find me in my own bed tomorrow morning unless I give them advance notice.” He flashed his smile again.
“Thanks…I don’t ever think I’ve opened up to anyone like that before.”
He took my hand in his. “I had a wonderful time tonight and I can’t believe that I was considering leaving. I appreciate everything…and I definitely want to see you again, so that we can hang out or whatever. You are extremely different from anyone I’ve met before…and I like that.”
I gushed a little bit and scribbled by number on a piece of paper and shoved it in his hand. “Call me when you get a chance.”
“Of course I will,” he replied. At this point, we were standing on the porch, and I was unsure about the gesture that I would send him off with. While I was thinking, my question was answered as Alex wrapped his arms around me and pulled me in for a hug. It wasn’t really sexual or romantic, but it was comforting. It felt good to be held by someone who cares about you and to feel the warmth of their body. I wanted the feeling to last, but he removed his arms as I gave him a quick peck on the cheek. He walked off into his car and drove off as I stood there, staring. It was a hot July night and I sat out on my porch for a while, taking in everything that had happened. My bad experience with people left me pessimistic about human relationships, but I was ecstatic about this one. Life is never perfect, but I appreciated every little or great happiness that came through.