Journey to Love
Chapter Fifteen--New Beginnings
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
I walked through the kitchen and saw Auntie in the backyard in the glider swing. The arbor over it was covered with beautiful cream-colored roses. As I approached, she pointed to the swing facing hers. When I was seated, she pushed against the platform with her foot and the swings began moving gently. “I love these swings," she said. “Harry, my husband, brought them from Thailand. They are made from old-growth teak.” She rubbed the arm of the swing in silence for a short time. She finally said, “I still miss him. We had so little time together since he spent so much time at sea, but our time together was good time." She again fell silent, then chuckled. “Old lady reminiscing, Derek.
“I wanted to talk to you about your rooms. I asked Beth Ann to do a special cleaning of the upstairs and she reported what I should have known namely, things are in bad shape. The upstairs had been pretty much unused for over fifteen years. She and I talked about the space and I had some work done. But you can see that later. First, tell me about the summer.”
I did, then said, “But the strangest thing happened today and I’m still in kind of a daze.”
“Want to tell me about it?” I told her about Jeremy’s kissing me at the airport and how he had kissed me at the beginning of his week at home. “Auntie, I am very confused. I know if he was gay, we would have been all over each other long ago. I think if he were bisexual he wouldn't have hidden it on our camping trip, but why does he keep kissing me? It’s torture. I do love him so much and want him so much and know it cannot be.”
“Derek, Son, I am way out of my element here, but I’m sure Jeremy loves you as deeply as any man can another except another gay man. He doesn’t know how to show that other than thinking how you would show him. That doesn’t make sense, I guess, but let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of ways American men are allowed to show love to each other. About the only way is a handshake or maybe a hug. A hug is not expressive enough for Jeremy so he is left with no models. If you really want him to stop, you’re going to have to tell him how his kisses torture you and that the two of you must find other ways to express your love. I know that offers little help, but it’s the best I can do.”
We swung in silence for a good long time while I thought about what Auntie said. It made more sense than I first thought and I said so.
“Son, back to your living space. You need to be comfortable and that includes liking your space. As you know, I checked out your schedule. Your time is crammed and you need a place to relax and unwind, but also one which provides a pleasant place to work. Additionally, you are entering college. It’s not high school. Your old support system is gone and you haven't yet developed a new one. You have me and possibly a coach or two, that's it. So, yes, you need a pleasant place to study and work with the proper furnishings, tools and, this is very important, lighting. You need a bedroom where you can rest and you need a space to relax and enjoy the little free time you do have.”
“Auntie, you know I have no money and you can‘t spend your money on me. You've already given me a place to live and transportation. What's upstairs will be more than adequate."
"First off, young man, it’s my money and how I spend it is my business, not yours. Second, you need to learn to listen.” Before l could ask her what she meant, a man dressed in neat work clothes walked in through the arbor separating the front yard from the back.
“Afternoon, Jake. Jake, Derek, my new grandson.”
“Derek," Jake said, extending a hand. “Well, you ready for the unveiling?" he asked.
"We are, Jake. Derek, we’re going upstairs." Upstairs, it was hard to believe that what I first saw last spring and what I was looking at now could be in the same house. The twins’ room was now the library and it was magnificent. Soft light filled the room. The two desks were in an L arrangement so it would be easy to move from the study desk to computer desk. Each had a lamp illuminating it in addition to the soft overall lighting. The wing chairs had been cleaned and looked new. A gooseneck lamp spread soft light over the game table and the chessboard laid out on it. True to its name, the room suggested quiet study or relaxed reading. It was perfect.
On the way to the bedroom, l peeked in the bathroom, not expecting any change. It was not the same. I don't know what you call a guy's powder room, but that's what it was. The room had been gutted and a wall moved, making it smaller. I went back to the library and saw the door to the closet was gone. The two closets had been combined and some of the space from them and the bathroom added to the bedroom. The half bath was certainly adequate for the library with its toilet and basin.
If possible, the transformation of the bedroom was more dramatic than the library. The closet was no longer walk-in, but covered the wall opposite the windows and had siding louvered doors which covered the wall and allowed access to all of the closet. The night stands, lamps and headboard from the twins’ room were now in place. There was a new door.
When I walked through the new door, I was stunned again. I had expected it to give access to the girls’ bathroom with, maybe, one of those fiberglass showers added since the other bathroom was gone. Not so. Again, a wall had been moved and part of the walk-in closets added to girls’ room. The new bath had a small hot tub on one wall and a large tiled walk-in shower beside it. The shower sported four shower heads, including a rain shower overhead. “Derek, you probably have the second nicest bath in Norfolk," Jake laughed. “l have the best, but then I have to accommodate a wife. Any women you have staying over will just have to suffer.” Auntie chuckled. “And don’t let anyone talk you into adding a hot tub on the second floor of an older house. Support for it had to be worked out by a friend who teaches engineering.”
We finally stepped through the short hall connecting the bath to the living room and giving access to the closet. It was, of course, bare except Jake‘s crew had built an entertainment center on one wall. A very large flat screen T\/ was centered in it and the surround sound speakers were nicely worked into the design. A cabinet below the screen opened to reveal a state of the art sound system, DVD player and slide out drawers for CDs and DVDs.
"We’ll be doing some shopping for furniture as you have time, Derek,” Auntie said.
"Well, you still have time to pick out paint colors if you’re not too bushed from the drive down," Jake said. “Have any ideas?"
“Sure, living with Brad and Sam, my dads, you can’t help but develop definite ideas about your space.”
"Well, let's go then,” Auntie said.
“To the paint store,” Jake said. “My paint crew will be here in the morning—early, so you'll need to be up by 7:00 to start work—if you can select paint colors, but don’t rush. We have work they can do tomorrow if you need more time. Just give me a call one way or the other tonight.” He then said goodbye and left.
I was too stunned to speak, then finally stammered, “Why are you doing all of this, Auntie?"
Suddenly Auntie was teary eyed. “Derek, you saw, I'm sure, how close the twins were. I even thought they might be lovers at one point."
“I wondered about that myself,” I said softly.
"Well, when I finally got the courage to ask, they both fell in the floor, laughing. When Jackson got control of himself he said, 'Not going to happen, Mom, unless one of our cocks drops off and is replaced by a pussy.’ Believe me, that put me in my place.
“On one point the twins completely disagreed: Jackson hated anything to do with the sea but Jason, like his father, dreamed of the Navy and got an appointment to Annapolis. Also like his father, he spent a lot of time at sea. He never knew that his middle son, Hank, was gay. His wife felt Jason would go ballistic if he found out, I guess because she did. She hounded him, allowed his two brothers to hound him and made sure the principal and teachers at school knew he was gay. One or more of the teachers let it be known and he was hounded at school. Nevertheless, he was still near the top of his class.
“Jason was on shore all of May and through early June the year Hank was a senior and he saw Hank graduate with honors. He spent a lot of time with Hank, but Hank never t old him his secret. He went back to sea and was barely gone before Geneva, his mother, had Hank in one of those gay to straight places. He hanged himself the night after he arrived. Guilt? Anger? I am sure those play a part, but when I saw you and heard of your situation, I knew you were going to have what I’d planned for Hank. Don't get me wrong. You are not Hank or a substitute for him. You are Derek, but if someone had supported Hank, he might have been alive today. How can you repay me? Make me proud of you and pass it on when you have a chance. So let's go to the paint store."
The paint store was located in an area devoted to renovation and restoration. I took awhile picking colors and finally selected two or three chips for each room. I was delighted when I was told the store carried small cans of paint so I could actually paint a spot and see it on the wall and not just have a tiny chip.
After we had handled the paint question for the moment, we just strolled through the area. Of course, there were abundant antique shops, some with very exclusive collections, others seemed to think junk qualified as antiques if you spelled it junque. One of those looked worse than the others, but in the window, covered with junque, was a round pedestal table. It was so covered up and dusty, it was hard to see, but before I could speak, Auntie asked, “Derek, do you see that table under all that junk? Would that work in the library?”
“l was wondering the same thing, Auntie.” We decided to 'think on it' and went back home where I painted splotches on the walls to try out the colors. There was no question about which colors were the ones for each room, so I called Jake and gave him the information he needed to order the paint.
Auntie and I talked about the table off and on during the week, but came to no conclusion. Frankly, I was being run ragged by the swim team, orientation and learning my way around. To make matters worse, my adviser left a note on his door saying he had come down with a summer bug and I was stuck. Every day I went to his office and there was the same note on the door saying he was ill. No suggestion as to what a lost freshman should do.
Wednesday, I got a break. As I turned to leave after seeing the note, I almost ran over a young man who was standing behind me. “Sorry," I said.
“You looking for Professor Simms?" I nodded.
"Good luck,” he said. “Man's a good teacher when he's among us, but more often than not, he's not. He's bipolar and once he feels better, he stops taking his meds and is out of it again. Maybe I can help you. What's your problem? Name's Louis, Louis Lafayette. Note the Louis is given the French pronunciation."
“Derek, Derek Wilson. It's my schedule. I thought it was all set, but I got an email from the registrar saying I needed to see Prof. Simms about some changes.”
“Well, come in. I'm his graduate assistant and maybe we can figure out what's what. You need it done since you start classes Monday.” He took keys from his pocket and opened the office door. I gave him the email and he typed in my student number and pulled up my schedule. “Man, the ducks got ahold of your schedule. Let me just start over.
“What do you plan to major in?”
“One of the sciences or math. I think I'd like to get into marine biology or do pre-med.”
“Then let’s head you in that direction. You’ll have to take composition, western civilization, literature and sociology. Says here you are on the aquatics team."
“l am. A diver.”
"So was I when I was an undergraduate. Well, that'll take care of your PE requirement. Okay, next, let’s see; oh, okay, You need to skip Composition this semester. The only section open has an asshole of a professor and he doesn't teach shit, just puts down students and makes their lives miserable.” He was silent for a moment, studying his monitor’s screen, then said, “Oh, wow! The best comp teacher in the university is teaching a freshmen lit class. Comp’s her real strength, but she’s no slouch at lit and besides, you’ll get a real jump on comp. Kinda odd she’s teaching a freshmen lit class. I guess she's writing a book. When she's working on a book, she takes an undergraduate class since prep's easy. I’ll grab that class for you. You’ll have one of her TAs—teaching assistants-—for classes, maybe often, but that's true with all classes. She rides herd on her TAs, so you'll have a good one. Now, you need to get your math. Wright's listed, but I know he's taken a surprise leave and Matthews will be taking his place. Wright ranks number one as the worst teacher I have ever had, but Matthews is one of the best.” He clicked some keys, then said, “Okay, that’s good. Now, Introduction to Science is still open. That's a welcome surprise as you have to have it before you begin your science. It’s a good course with a good professor. Going in blind, you have a fifty-fifty chance of getting a real winner or a real loser, but you are not blind, you have me, woof, woof, your faithful seeing-eye dog. You get the winner. One course and you'll have a full load with some of the best the university has to offer and even the less stellar ones are not to be sneezed at. Man, I wish I had had a schedule like this when I was a freshman. How about Western Civ? You‘ll never find it exciting, but there's a section open which will be as good as any.”
“Fine, and thanks a million. I didn't know what to do."
“Derek, as I said, Professor Simms is a great person and a fine teacher. Unfortunately, his health problem does affect his students and advisees. I’ll be around, so see me and I’ll take care of a fellow fish." We shook hands and I went to the pool to swim laps and ended up spending an hour working on my dives. My butt was dragging a bit when I showered and dressed.
I had ridden my bike to the campus since I needed the exercise and knew I could easily slip into hopping in the car instead of walking or biking. As I stopped, waiting to cross the street Louis rode up and said, “I caught your last dives. Man, you are good. Where did you learn to dive like that?” I told him about learning to swim and dive. “You started three years ago? I can hardly believe that. I’ve seen people who thought they were Olympic material and who have been diving almost as long as they’ve been walking who pale beside you.”
“You’ll give me the big head,” I laughed.
“Don't think so. Well, remember, I’m around if you need a helping hand." We both laughed when he said that. The light changed and we crossed the street and headed in opposite directions.
When I got home, Auntie was waiting for me. "Derek, Jake took me upstairs this afternoon. We need to check out that table. I think it was designed for the library.” Fifteen minutes later we arrived in the area, I parked and Auntie said, "Now just act casual. We're just window shopping." We walked right past the table with barely a glance in the window. We walked to the end of the block, turned around and walked back.
We looked in the window and then went inside and I saw Auntie in operation. She had the clerk take first one thing and then another off the table, inspected it, and instead of handing it back to him, she put it in the window, not on the table. When we could see most of the table, she said, “Derek, that table looks pretty sturdy. Think it would do for a worktable in the shop?”
“Maybe, if it‘s not too expensive,” I replied, going along with what I sensed she was doing. “I mean looks don't matter in a workshop and it does look strong and sturdy. How much for that old table,” I asked, turning to the clerk. I guess he thought about having to re- stack the junk Auntie had piled in the window, the fact that the table had obviously been in the window for years, and said "You can have it for a hundred fifty.”
"Oh, that’s way too much for a workshop table!” I remarked, acting aghast.
“Yeah, I was thinking more in the forty dollar range," Auntie responded.
The clerk saw a sale slipping away and said, “Well, I could let it go for one and a quarter.”
“Give you seventy-five.”
"Since you just want a worktable, you can have it for an even hundred.”
“Delivered tomorrow?" Auntie asked.
“Before 10:00,” he agreed.
Auntie gave him her credit card and a calling card with her address and we left. “Derek, you’ll have to clean up that table. It's nothing special so far as being an antique is concerned, so you’ll lose nothing by refinishing it. It’ll still be dark and right at home in the library. Now we'll keep our eyes peeled for chairs.”
On the way home, Auntie suggested I call Jake and ask what I needed to do to the table. I said he'd probably not like being disturbed at home. She replied he didn‘t mind when she called about him renovating the upstairs. I didn‘t have to call him as he arrived just behind us. He came to check on the cleaning crew that was just finishing upstairs. He said he had noticed the table in the shop window some time ago and thought I'd have a treasure when I finished, and made me a list of what to buy at the paint store and told me how to use it. “Well, you ready to check your place?" he asked as he handed me the list.
I scooped up Auntie and we three went upstairs. It was hard to believe what a little paint can do. The paint in the library and the cleaned and rearranged furniture practically whispered, “This is a place for study and relaxed reading.”
Of course, paint also improved the looks of the bathroom, but the transformation of the bedroom was ever more remarkable than the bathroom and the library. The draperies, bed covering and new paint I had selected transformed it into a beautiful room. Definitely a place for sleeping and, maybe, hopefully, lovemaking in the future. We finally stepped into the living room. Even without furniture, the room was alive and waiting for relaxing and enjoying friends. One Stanton boy was beside himself.
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