It was the day of the party; I woke in the morning filled with a frantic feeling. You know the kind, when you keep thinking you've forgotten something, and a certain anxiety seems to linger over you. I had tossed and turned the whole night and must have woken up every half-hour or so. I was glad when I looked at my bedroom clock and it was 6:00 AM, my normal wake up time.
I got out of bed quickly, not my normal routine of going back to sleep for just a few more minutes, a couple of times, before I'd finally jump out of bed with only a few minutes to spare. Nope, I got out of bed as soon as I woke, grabbed my favorite jeans and shirt, a clean pair of my silk boxers, and socks, then headed for the shower.
I decided I wanted to look super good and smell good too. So I'd planned on really primping myself. I had picked up some new Calvin Klein shampoo, shower gel, and body lotion, the day before at the Mall, so I'd have an irresistible aroma. I had my hair cut and had some blonde highlights put in. I was determined to look great. It was going to be Buddy's first time back in school, and after school he'd gotten permission to spend the night with me. He didn't tell his parents about the party; he didn't think they'd let him go to a party. I wanted to look and feel my best for him. The CK scent I'd chosen was my favorite: Obsession.
Dressed and feeling excited, I headed over to Grizz's; we usually walked to the bus stop together. It was a cold February morning, and the wind was whipping around. I was feeling totally excited with myself. I had someone who loved me, and he was beautiful, and that night was going to be the night I consciously lost my virginity. Nothing was going to make me feel bad. I reached the back door to the Grizzly Bears at about ten minutes to seven; he was already on the porch waiting for me.
"Hey, I can take my dad's car; he's not going into work today," he beamed.
"Cool," I said.
"You wanna stop at the bakery and grab a muffin and hot chocolate or something?"
"Sure, I'll even buy."
Griz's dad worked at a carpet factory and very rarely took time off work. There were rumors around town the company was closing down and everyone was going to be laid off. So I was a little surprised his father would take a day off work, he must have been sick I figured -- and real sick at that.
"So, is your dad OK?" I asked as we backed out of the driveway.
"No, my mom said he's feeling a little weak. I guess he didn't sleep too well."
"I hope he's alright."
"I'm sure it's just the flu or something."
We drove to the bakery listening to SUM41 playing on the radio. I'm not too in love with them, so I flicked the station to a more popular station playing Michelle Branch singing that Carlos Santana song. I liked it much better. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Griz making a face.
"Do you mind? That's their new song."
"What? You like those Blink 182 wannabes?"
"They are so not like Blink, it isn't funny."
"You've got to be kidding," I insisted.
He reached his hand to the stereo and switched the station back. It was obvious he wasn't going to let this one go. I decided not to push it. I had never seen him get so upset over something so silly before. It must be his father being sick that was upsetting him I figured. He pulled the car into the bakery parking lot, and we both got out.
I opened the door for him as the smells of coffee and baking doughnuts filled my nostrils. I quickly perused the glass counters looking for my favorites. I barely paid attention to Griz, even though he was right beside me. I was fixated on the Boston Cremes, with the deep dark chocolate glaze on the yellow doughnuts that looked so tasty. I could almost taste them as I stared into the pan on the shelf that must have held a few dozen of those freshly baked delights.
"So what time am I supposed to be at Debbie's tonight?"
"Well I was kind of hoping you could get the car and bring Buddy and me."
"I suppose I could drive over to his side of town."
I wasn't quite sure what that crack meant, but decided to ignore it, "He's gonna be sleeping at my house."
The rest of the ride to school he hardly said a word to me. I kept thinking his mind must have been on his dad. I didn't have much to say myself as my mind was reeling with thoughts of what Buddy and I were going to be doing after the party. I also mapped out my day and my classes in my head. I thought about having lunch with Shelly; I'd become quite comfortable with our little arrangement. I hadn't asked her to be my steady girlfriend, but we spent a great deal of time together and had taken to eating lunch together every day that Buddy had been in the hospital. I often walked her to her classes and spent time with her almost daily after school. She didn't seem to mind, either.
I love Fridays and `B' block, 'cause I have 84 minutes of Art during the first period. Today was really getting off to a great start. Mr. Murray is the teacher and is a real great guy. A lot of kids told me he was gay, and he seemed to act feminine; you know, the limp wrist thing. So I decided he would be the one with experience I'd talk to about my own sexuality. I was going to find out if I was normal. Well, as normal as other gay people -- or not.
I took my usual seat at my artist's table. We have these really cool desks, with tops that can be raised, almost like a drafting table, but beneath the top is a metal base that makes a place to store supplies, unlike a drafting table. The desks aren't nearly as big as a drafting table either; they're only about four feet by four feet square, and four feet high. My table was in the back of the classroom, closest to the windows. Mr. Murray was making his usual rounds of the classroom; he always stopped at my table last and seemed to spend more time with me than the others.
"Good morning, Joe. Wow, I like what you've done with your hair," he said as he stood over my shoulder.
"Thanks. I wanted to look special for someone. Does it really look good?"
"Oh, of course Joseph; you look quite debonair."
I could smell his cologne; it was nearly as strong as mine was, only his was more of a woodsy kind of scent. I guessed older men liked to smell rough or something. I kind of chuckled a little to myself at my foolish thought.
"What's so funny?" Mr. Murray asked.
"Oh, I was just thinking. Mr. Murray, could I talk to you about something real personal?"
"Certainly Joe. Do you mean now, or would you like to see me after class in my office?"
"Whichever is more convenient; I really need to talk to someone. I've been so confused about myself lately. I just need some help figuring some things out."
"What do you have next period Joe? I'm free until third block. Do you need a pass?"
"Yes, sir, if that wouldn't be too much trouble. I have music next with Mr. Autorino."
"No problem, I'll let him know you're going to be with me. You don't have a test or anything with him do you?"
"Ok, I'll call the office and have them let Mr. Autorino know you're going to be with me. I'll tell them you're working on a project. How's that?"
"Thanks, I really appreciate it."
"No problem Joe, you're one of my best students, and if something is bothering you I'm here for you."
He walked away. I felt so alone as he left me, but I was so happy he was going to talk to me. Now I was just so afraid of what I was going to tell him. I knew I could trust him; I felt deep inside that I could talk to him about anything. I just didn't know how to tell him all the things that were churning around inside my head. How was I going to ask him about my feelings for Buddy and my confusion over Mark? Not to mention using Shelly to cover up my sexuality, and why I couldn't seem to just accept who I was. I needed to talk to someone, and I had to find out about sex. I had no idea what to do in that department, and tonight was supposed to be my big night.
The rest of the class seemed to take forever. I worked hard on my sketch; we were doing a still life of a bowl of fruit that Mr. Murray had placed in the front of the room. I kind of thought it was funny, too; here I was drawing a picture of a bowl of fruit wondering how to be one. I mean, where does one go to find out how to be gay? Is there a right way to be gay, a wrong way? All I know is that just about everything I seem to see about it is negative. Whether it is a line in some television program or pictures in advertisements, usually these kinds of things are subconscious or subtle, but they do seem to be the rule and the exception. I thought about my favorite television show, `Malcolm In The Middle,' and a joke that was told in one of the episodes that was derogatory towards gay people. I had had a wicked crush on Frankie Muniz until I saw that episode, and haven't watched it too much since. I mean fuck him anyway and his rich ass parents. He'll never have to earn a living; he got it handed to him on a platter.
I even thought about poor Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and how he was such a cute boy. I loved to watch him on `Home Improvement,' when I was younger, but after rumors started that he was gay, he left the show and it was canceled. He did a couple movies about being a gay boy after, and he's seemingly disappeared from stardom now. Oh, I know it probably had nothing to do with the fact he's gay, or supposed to be, but it did seem a little coincidental to me. It certainly was another lesson that told me to keep my thoughts about other boys to myself. I worked on my sketch and wondered if Mr. Murray was going to have the answers to all my questions, as the minutes seemed to last for hours. Finally, the bell rang.
There was no turning back; I had made up my mind. I was freaking out, but it was now or never. I just had to be reassured I was OK. I picked up my book bag, walked to the front of the room, and stood by Mr. Murray's desk waiting for him to finish up what he was doing.
"Joe, you OK?" He looked up from his red grade book, and his eyes seemed to welcome me.
He dropped his pen and closed the book as he got out of his chair. He kept his soft blue eyes locked on me; I felt so much comfort. He reached his right hand to my shoulder and gently draped his long arm around me as he directed me out of the classroom towards his office. His woodsy aroma clung to my nostrils, and the warmth of his presence seemed to fill my voids. We walked slowly towards his office, and I didn't seem to notice all the people crowding the hallway.
"Have a seat," Mr. Murray said as we entered the small cubicle, and he pointed to a chair in the corner as he sat in his own behind his small desk.
I sat down, let out a deep breath, and looked at him. My face must have shown my concern. I felt so flush.
"You sure you're OK?"
"Yes...it's just...well, I don't really know where to begin."
"How about at the start, just tell me what's bugging you. I'm here for you, and believe me, whatever you have to say will remain between us."
I took another deep breath. I tried to relax, but my mind and body were having none of it. I was so tense; I could feel my palms sweating as I rubbed my hands together. I pulled my chair closer to his desk, so I could keep my voice low. I was scared to death.
"Ok, well, it's like this: I'm in love."
"That's fantastic, Joe. Lots of boys your age feel like they're in love. Are you sure it's real love?"
"Please, Mr. Murray, if I'm going to get through this, don't treat me like all the other kids."
"OK, Joe; I'm sorry."
"No, it's not you; it's me. I'm sorry. It's just that all you older people say stuff like that. I'm really in love. I can't eat; I can't sleep; I can't do anything without thinking about who I love. I'm totally consumed." I was on a roll now.
"I see. Well, who is this lucky girl?"
"That's just it, it's not a girl, I love another boy."
"I understand. It's OK; tell me all about it."
I had no idea where my courage came from; I spent the next hour or so telling Mr. Murray all about my feelings for Buddy. I even told him about my fantasies about Mark, and my comfort with being with Shelly. He told me that what I was going through reminded him of when he was my age. He even told me that he had the same struggles. He did say that things were better nowadays for people like us, but I didn't see it. I listened as he told me to follow my heart and not to give a second thought to what others told me. Mr. Murray was completely honest with me, and he made me feel so good about myself. He assured me that if Buddy really did love me, we would discover ourselves in bed that night, and he told me not to worry, just do what came naturally. It was just so awesome that he could be so trusting and supportive.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by. I saw Buddy as he approached me; the closer he got to me, the bigger the smile on his face got. So did mine. Tonight was the night; he and I were going to be with each other, totally.
"You ready to get out of here?"
"To be with you? Absolutely." His sweet voice rang in my ears.
To Be Continued:
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