Journey to Love
Chapter Seventeen:Philip's Story
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warning apply.
Next morning at breakfast I said, “Auntie, Philip . . . ”
“Something's bugging that young man,” Auntie said.
“He's ticked off because he didn't get to go to France for college and then his second choice, Montreal was out as well. Louis says the family suffered a financial reversal and Philip was left with a state college as his only option.”
“Maybe true, but that's not what bugging him. He's not fooling this old lady, but you started to say something.”
“Philip told me a fellow debater’s family owns a large design center and furniture store in Richmond. He and Peter Lee, the fellow debater, are close friends and he thought we could find some of what we wanted there and at a good price. He was going to check on our going up Saturday, but I told him I thought the trip might be too much.”
“Oh, I don't know. I think you could probably stand it, if not, he and I could select the furniture.”
Laughing, I said, “I get your point, Auntie. I'll give him a call.”
“Tell him to ask that handsome brother of his along as well and plan to stay overnight. That way you can get rested from the trip up,” she laughed.
Louis begged off saying he had to prepare for Professor Simms' classes for next week. The professor was in the psychiatric unit of the hospital and wouldn't be released until the following weekend, if then.
Auntie insisted on climbing in the backseat when we left the house Saturday morning. Getting out was too much of a struggle so when we got to Philip's, I called him from the parking lot and asked him to come down. When he reached the car, he asked Auntie if she wouldn't like to sit in the front and she reminded him that ladies never ride in front with the chauffeur and laughed. It is almost impossible for someone in the back to join in conversation with someone in the front and Auntie didn't try. She simply relaxed and, maybe, went to sleep.
Philip was quiet until we were leaving Norfolk. As I settled down to drive, he glanced back at Auntie and said, “Seems Auntie's enjoying a nap.” I wasn't sure, but said nothing. “Derek, I need to apologize again about the other night. Louis had just told me why I ended up here rather than in France or Montreal. It wasn't the money. I suspected as much because I had been told my grandparents had established a trust fund for each of us grandchildren to go as far as we wish educationally. The object was to separate me and Peter Lee, my friend in Richmond. I guess I may as well say it, my boyfriend.
“We met almost two years ago at a debate. I'll be honest, I thought love at first sight only happened in romantic novels. Not so. Five minutes after I met Peter I would have said yes if he had asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Of course it was pretty shallow, I guess, but we were both in love. I lived in Alexandria and he in Richmond, so, unlike the straight couples I knew, we did not see each other between classes, date every night on the weekend or do the other things high school lovers get to do.
“I worked, saving money to buy a car, but there was never enough. There really was the money crunch Louis mentioned. I had two more years of high school and anything beyond the necessary—prom, awards banquet, travel to debates, etc.—I had to pay for myself. Fortunately, our debate teams were doing very, very well and along with regular contests, there were several invitational tournaments. As a result, we saw each other every couple of months or so. Of course, expressions of our love and affection had to be very discrete and amounted to touching and a rare stolen kiss.
“Unlike my family, which was keeping up appearances, but skating on thin ice financially, Peter's family was well off, very well off. He had a car and the months we would not have seen each other we found excuses to be out of town—doing research, going on field trips. There are lots of ways to get together if your heart's set on it. We made good use of the time we could be alone. We never advanced beyond bringing each other off with our hands until we went to Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate the end of our junior year and discovered the joys of sixty-nine.
“Thanksgiving of our senior year, Mom and Dad were invited to spend the week at Mom’s sister’s in North Carolina. She wanted the family—her siblings and current spouses or significant others—to spend the week together. Dad fussed—too many Democrats in the bunch—but Mom reminded him they had not had any time away in almost two years. Although I would soon turn eighteen, they were afraid I couldn't be trusted alone and insisted Louis come home for the holiday, which he did. Louis and I planned on having Thanksgiving dinner at a local cafeteria.
“Peter called and I told him my parents were in North Carolina for the week. ‘You and Louis alone?’ he asked. I told him we were. ‘I’ll pick you up Tuesday and bring you to Richmond for the rest of the week. You shouldn’t be alone Thanksgiving.’
“When I told Louis, he thought it was a good idea. ‘I’ll program the phone to transfer calls to Richmond and no one will be the wiser.’ I gave him a big hug.
“Tuesday Louis had just left to get food for lunch when Peter arrived. I figured Peter and I had time to get in some making out before he returned. As soon as Peter walked in the door, I grabbed him and gave him a passionate kiss. He dropped his gym bag to the floor and we really got into kissing, running our hands under our shirts, kissing necks and nipples. I finally broke a kiss, grabbed Peter's hand, picked up his bag and we headed toward my room. We lay on my bed, Peter on top, rubbing against one another, both streaming precum. I finally said, ‘Peter, we better cool it. Louis will be back in any minute.’
“‘Don't want to,’ Peter said in a spoiled child's voice, then in the voice I love, he said, ‘Babe, we have tonight to make love and I mean to do that,’ and gave me a quick kiss. I knew exactly what he meant. We managed to get our clothes straightened and cocks deflated to half mast before Louis came back.
“As we ate lunch, Louis asked Peter the things you would expect an older brother to ask his younger sister’s boyfriend and not for the first time, I wondered if he suspected something, but I really wasn't worried about Louis' reaction when I came out to him.
“One of his best friends in high school had been gay and Louis had been a true friend to him including pulling him from the river when he tried to drown himself. On the other hand, Dad and our two older brothers had constantly been on Louis' case about associating with fags and queers. Mom? Whatever Dad said, that was her position. Louis once said Mom would have more freedom in Saudi Arabia.
“We planned to get up early Wednesday to head for Richmond so there was an excuse for going to bed early. Peter and I went up at 10:00 and were naked seconds later. Cocks standing straight, pulsing with each heartbeat and streaming precum called for hot mouths, which soon found them. We hadn't seen each other for almost two months and had agreed to save a week's love, so no way could we go long without cumming. With cocks enjoying the mouth and tongue of our lover, we both were soon swallowing copious amounts of love juice.
“We licked each other clean and started another hot make out session, both becoming hard again in minutes. ‘Philip, tonight, I want you to make love to me,’ Peter whispered in my ear.
“‘You mean . . . ’
“‘I mean . . . ’ he said as he reached for his gym bag and took out condoms and lube. ‘We've talked about it and I want it. I've prepared for it.’
“I had been anticipating that moment as well, having read about being both a top and bottom and how to get your lover to relax and open to you. I had only practiced on myself, but I put what I had learned into practice. Our foreplay was long and tender and finally Peter said, ‘Philip, I'm ready; make love to me.’
“We took things slow and easy as Peter mounted me cowboy style. Since we had just cum, even with the wonderful feeling of being inside, united, with Peter, I managed to stop twice just before going beyond the point of no return. After the second time, Peter said, ‘Babe, take me doggie style.’
“I had thrust into Peter very few times before we heard Louis say, ‘I guess you're not playing leap frog,’ and laugh.
“I immediately pulled out of Peter and went soft. Peter collapsed on his stomach and said, ‘Shit!’
“‘Get dressed and I'll be back in a few minutes,’ Louis said.
“As we dressed, I was crying like a baby. Peter took me in his arms and said, ‘It'll be okay, Philip, it'll be okay.’
“‘Never’ I said. ‘Peter, you don't know how much Dad rants and raves about queers trying to take over the world. He still talks about how Pat Fallwell was right about AIDS being God's punishment for men who butt fuck. Once in a fit of rage I heard him say Matthew Shepherd got what he deserved. It was only later that I learned what that meant. No, Babe, it'll not be OK.’
“Louis had been standing outside the door while we dressed and heard our conversation and asked, ‘May I come in?’ even though the door was standing wide open. I nodded and he came in and said, ‘Philip's right, Peter, it'll not be OK if Dad finds out Philip's gay. I have watched my little brother grow up and when he was twelve going on thirteen, I hoped what I saw was a phase he was going through. No doubt in my mind that if he was not just going through a phase, he was gay. By the end of the following summer, I knew it was not a phase and set about trying to find ways to protect him. After Philip met you, I watched the growing relationship between you and worried more. Now I'm faced with what I hoped would be deep in the closet until Philip was well away from home.’
“‘Peter, I know my dad,’ Louis continued. “I have seen him lose control completely. When our brother André was playing one of his last basketball games, he missed a shot which would have won the game. The game went into overtime and we lost. Dad was pissed at him already because he was out past his curfew the night before and, Dad said, came home smelling of sex. He had a date after the game, but Dad went to the locker room and told him he was to be home in thirty minutes. When he walked in the door, Dad slugged him, knocking him to the floor. He then kicked him until he was unconscious and had to spend a week in the hospital. Dad told the doctor he had been beaten by some guys from the visiting team and got away with it.”
“André and Daniel, our oldest brothers, are every bit as bigoted as Dad,” Phillip said. “They are so far to the right you can't see them on a foggy day. All three feel the church has become too liberal and worldly. Dad says the church is wrong when it says homosexual feelings are not sinful, just homosexual actions. ‘Fags will burn in hell. It's a pity they don't burn here,’ I have heard him say many times.”
“Daniel asked Louis if I wasn’t a faggot and Louis told him I wasn't. That didn’t satisfy Daniel. He said he suspected that Peter fellow was a faggot and he and I were fucking each other. ‘I’ve warned Dad,’ he told Louis. Dad mentioned it to Louis and said he didn’t think I was gay because Peter was a Lee and a Lee couldn’t possibly be a faggot.
“I had hoped to go to France for college where I could be me. Peter was going as well. Suddenly there was a money problem and I was told I'd have to go to a Virginia state school. I didn’t suspect something more was going on. Peter said if I had to stay in Virginia, he'd would as well and would stay at home. Dad told Louis that Daniel insisted I was gay and while he didn’t believe Peter was, he would make sure if anything was going on between us, he’d put a stop to it. He insisted I apply to UVA-Wise, over six frigging hours from Richmond.
“Louis managed to waylay the UVA-Wise application and get me a scholarship and enrolled in OCU. He told Dad that way he could keep and eye on me and Dad bought it,” Philip said, with a sigh. “I had suspected something like that was going on and Louis had just confirmed it before he insisted I go to the freshman party. All that really came down on me and I was an ass when we met. I apologize again.”
“Accepted,” I said. “But why did you tell me all this?”
“I needed a gay friend I could talk to.”
“And what makes you think I'm gay?”
“My gaydar has never been wrong before and I'm positive it's not this time. Do you act gay, look gay, seem gay? No, I just know.”
“Well, now maybe Auntie knows.”
“Shit! Shit! Shit! I never thought.”
“No, you never thought. This time it doesn't matter because she does, but you need to learn discretion for your own sake as well as that of others.”
When we arrived in Richmond, Auntie and I checked into the motel while Philip called Peter. “Peter will meet us at the design center where you can look over styles, fabrics, etc. If you find what you want, we’ll go to the warehouse to see the actual furniture or at least the same style since fabrics could be changed.”
When we reached the design center, Peter grabbed Philip and pulled him to one side and unabashedly gave him a full, open-mouth French kiss. Realizing what he had done, he blushed and said, “I hope you will excuse me, but this French Virginian kinda makes me wild. I guess I don’t need to say, I’m Peter Lee.”
“Peter, you’re impossible!” Philip said, still red from blushing. “Peter . . . Sorry, I just realized I don’t know your name, Auntie.”
“Auntie will do fine,” Auntie replied. “I’m amazed. I didn’t think a Virginia Lee would have had a lot to do with a Frenchmen these days.”
“Guess there’s some impure blood mixed in somewhere or maybe it’s just some wicked French magic.”
“And this is Derek Wilson of the famous Stanton Wilsons,” Philip laughed.
“Ah, more mixed blood, I see. Anyway, Philip told me you are furnishing your off-campus housing. I was surprised when he said you had definite ideas about what you wanted. Any photos?”
“Sure,” I replied. “Philip insisted on photos of the whole place, but we’re only in the market for living room furniture,” I replied, handing Peter a CD with the photos.
“Philip insisted you have a decent designer to assist you and since I’m about the best available . . . ” Peter smiled deprecatingly, showing he was joking, then said, “Actually, I’m the only one available today, but once we get the general idea of what you’re looking for, I’ll give my dad a ring. He promised to drop in on us when you know what you want. Now, let’s get to a studio.”
In the studio, Peter popped the CD I handed him into a computer. The first shot was of Auntie’s house. “Some rundown house just off campus, inside subdivided into cubbyhole rooms for students I see,” he laughed. “Auntie, how long have you lived there?”
“Almost fifty years. Harry bought it when he spotted it once when he was home from the sea. It was in a very rundown section of Norfolk at the time and he could pass, so the real estate agent never questioned him. When we moved in, some of the neighbors tried to cause trouble, but we made sailors welcome, providing cheap housing and meals between their times at sea and they made sure the neighbors got the message I was to be left alone. The neighborhood started turning around in the late sixties and by the mid-seventies was one of the places to be.
“Once we moved in, we had sailors who were experts at all sorts of trades and hobbies, so things got repaired, improved, renovated as guys looked for things to do to occupy their time between voyages. Long before the neighborhood started on the way up, our place was in perfect condition and a garden spot; but enough history.”
The last photos before we looked at the living room were of the study/library. “Wow!” Peter exclaimed.
“Yeah, Louis says it looks like a junior lord’s library.”
“I agree, except for the lack of books, but I’m sure that will change. Gives me some idea of what you might be thinking about for the living room,” Peter said.
“Well, I was looking for a quiet atmosphere for the study, one conductive to reading, studying, and thinking, and that is definitely not what I am looking for in the living room,” I said.
“Understand. For example, you have dark and rich colors in the library—it’s too nice to be called a study,” Peter laughed. “But I see what you mean by masculine. Let’s look at some catalogs.”
Half an hour later, we were still looking and I was getting ready to compromise on something I liked but was not very excited about, when Mr. Lee came in. “Dad, Mrs. Amelia Kingston,” Peter laughed. “Surprised you didn’t I? Looked you up by your address. And Derek Wilson. Derek’s looking to furnish a living room and has a pretty definite idea what he wants and we haven’t found it yet.”
“Mrs. Kingston, Derek, welcome. Philip, how’s my son-in-law?”
“Dad. Guess I’ll just have to learn to like Old Commonwealth.”
“Sorry about that, but by the end of the year, maybe something will come up, who knows. But long term relationships can work even with long absences, right, Mrs. Kingston?”
Auntie looked surprised and said, “Well, I know one that did, but you seem to know that.”
“My mom’s baby brother was a Merchant Marine so as soon as I heard Amelia Kingston I knew who you were. I think he thought of your place as home more than his own. So, what’s the problem?”
Mr. Lee looked at the photos, listened to me try to describe what I had in mind, thought for a few minutes and said, “I think I have a very good idea of what you have in mind. Helped select furnishings for a place a year or so ago which seems to be about the same thing you have in mind. Peter, bring me the Grace House book.”
“Grace House? In Stanton?” I asked, astonished.
“Know it?” Mr. Lee asked.
“It’s home. My dads own Grace House.”
“You want the same thing?”
“No, but I want the same welcoming atmosphere as the living area there, but more lively and fun. But yes, definitely the same masculine feel as Grace House.”
“I think I have a ready made deal for you,” Mr. Lee said. “I have a custom-made sofa which is longer than most, a couple of recliners and four very comfortable casual chairs a woman ordered and paid for. When they arrived, she didn’t like the upholstery. She said she’d pay to have them recovered, but suddenly left town under pretty suspicious circumstances six months ago. I’ll give you a real deal on them if you like them, and I think you will, provided your purchase the accessories at employee’s prices. Interested?”
“Then let’s head for the warehouse.”
As soon as I saw the first piece of furniture, I wondered how anyone could have known what I wanted and matched it so perfectly. “Mr. Lee, I couldn’t have found anything closer to what I had in mind.”
“Fine, since it cost me nothing, you can have it for the furniture Mrs. Kingston gave my son-in-law and his brother.” Then with his help, Auntie and I picked out lamps and other accessories. Mr. Lee suggested we rent a truck so it could be loaded by his crew, otherwise we would have had to do all the loading ourselves on Sunday.
Before we went to rent a truck, Auntie asked Mr. and Mrs. Lee to join us for dinner. He called his wife and she welcomed the idea. We rented the truck and it was soon loaded and Auntie said we’d meet the Lee’s at a downtown restaurant they all knew at 7:00.
“By the way,” Mr. Lee said, “Philip and Peter will not be joining us.”
At dinner he said, “I wanted to explain why Peter and Philip did not join us. Took me awhile to get over the fact that I had a gay son, then that he had a lover, but the two are so in love, it’s obvious they intend to make a go of it. Since they have so little time together, we allow them to decide when they want to be with family and when they want to be alone. Can’t say I don’t wish it was different, but Peter is happy, happier than I have known him to be since he was nine. His older brother, whom he worshiped, died quite suddenly with meningitis a few days before Peter’s ninth birthday and Peter had never really gotten over it until he met Philip. Philip is a great kid with great potential. His dad’s missing a lot by alienating himself from his son.”
With the successful trip to Richmond, my place was furnished and it was, to be honest, elegant. One would have thought I was rolling in money instead of having nothing more than college scholarships and gifts from friends.
Philip was a regular visitor as Louis had a girlfriend and when they wanted to get it on, Philip was obligingly absent. Had it not been for my place, he would have been stuck in the undergraduate library. The library was, frankly, more a social gathering place than a place to study. He said he didn’t want to wear out his welcome and endured the library for routine study, but came to my place when he had more important work or needed to vacate his apartment.
When Peter decided to stay in Virginia, he enrolled at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Art in Richmond to study interior design. While he and Philip would like to have spent each weekend together, both were carrying heavy class loads and Peter worked in the design center two weekends a month, so they pretty much saw each other once a month. For that weekend, Louis spent the nights on my living room sofa.
Once the semester got underway, I understood why people had told me college was not high school. No one was on my tail about keeping up grades, turning in assignments on time, doing the assigned reading or taking notes in class. No one reminded me of the need to budget my time. I was on my own so far as the college was concerned. Well, a few professors would remind students of due dates, but not most. I had been given a syllabus and was supposed to be adult enough to pay attention to it.
The aquatics team was another matter all together. The coaches were forever on the team about eating right, getting in extra practice when needed, getting the necessary rest and above all, staying out of trouble. I was surprised to learn the athletes’ dorm was always in some kind of turmoil. Curfews were ignored; there were fights. Alcohol seemed to flow freely when no games were in the offing. Rules did not apply to most of the gods who lived on that Olympus.
One Monday after a group of aquatics team members had been hauled back to campus Saturday night, drunk, a combined meeting for aquatics team divers and swimmers was posted. Once we were assembled, Coach Anderson and Coach Rowe really went on a tear. They ranted, raved and carried on for half an hour. I’m usually pretty cool and laid back, but I had spent the weekend buried in my library preparing for a huge test Monday and finishing a paper for Introduction to Science, due the same day. I was tired, suffering from lack of sleep and really pissed that we were all having our time wasted by coaches who should be talking to the six culprit assholes, not the whole team. When I finally had had enough, I stood up and in my best Sergeant Major voice shouted, "All right, god dammit! You have made your fucking point ten times over. I was in my room all weekend working my fucking ass off, not out getting drunk, fucking or anything else. I am not going to listen to you two carry on any longer. So far as I am concerned, there should be you and six guys in your office and I’m not one of them. Good afternoon!" I turned and headed for the door.
"Get you ass back here!" Coach Anderson yelled.
I kept walking and heard another team member say, “The man’s right. Fuck this shit!" When I glanced back, over half the team was right behind me, walking out.
When I got home, I told Auntie what had happened. "l guess I'll get kicked off the team and lose my scholarship. I don’t know what came over me except I was tired and worn out from working my butt off and was being yelled at for something I had no part in.”
"Well, I will say you might have watched your language, but I think the sentiments needed expressing. We’ll see what happens."
Tuesday I was surprised when people I did not know smiled and spoke to me on campus. At lunch, the aquatics team—minus the six who were conspicuous by their absence—cheered when I walked in. I turned ten shades of red. When I sat down, Louis came over and asked permission to sit at our table a few minutes. Space was quickly made for him and when he was seated, he spoke loudly enough for all the team members to hear. "Guys, I was a fish when I was an undergrad here and I’ll tell you, Derek is the first aquatics team member to have balls enough to say what needed saying years ago. One of the problems our teams have always has is a lack of team spirit because a few members get by with all kinds of shit and the whole team gets an ass kicking. I hope you guys have balls enough to stand behind Derek when the shit hits the fan and I’m telling you, it’s on its way. Derek, your mom and dads have taught you well and will stand behind you. Thanks, guys, for letting me have my say."
When Louis left, the first thing said had nothing to do with yesterday’s event. "Derek, you have dads?"
I laughed. "Yeah, I have two white dads who are married to each other, not my mom."
Keith, a senior swimmer, said, "I want to hear that story, guys, but right now, I want to know how many of you are behind me because I am the first behind Derek, the man with the balls."
Levi, junior, was searching in his backpack. "Here it is", he said, as he placed a sheet of paper on the table. "Sorry, Keith, but you’ll have to take the second spot as I have the first one." He handed the sheet of paper to Keith who looked at it and said, "Second is not always bad," wrote something on the paper and passed it to the guy beside him.
The sheet went down one side of the table and up the other and was then passed to the next table. Finally it reached me. I read the two sentences at the top, "We the undersigned support Derek Wilson and the stand he took Monday and demand an apology to him and the team from Coach Anderson and Coach Rowe. Further, in the future the entire team will not be reprimanded because of the actions of a few." Every member of the aquatics team present had signed it.
There was a 4:00 to 5:30 practice scheduled for the divers. Swimmers had practice from 2:00 until three, but there was a note posted on the announcement board that it had been re-scheduled for 4:00. ‘Well,’ I thought, as I read it when I arrived for dive practice, ‘we now know when the shit is scheduled to arrive at the fan.’ There was a note that neither team was to dress for the pool until instructed. As I looked around, I was surprised to see Louis and several other people I did not know also sitting on the bleachers.
Promptly at 4:00, Dr. Haynes walked in, followed by Coach Anderson and Coach Rowe. As soon as everyone was quiet, he said, “Gentlemen. I am here to make very clear that events such yesterday’s will not happen again. . . ."
"Very good, sir”, Levi said, standing up. "That is the exact feeling of the aquatics team with the exception the six who were brought back to campus drunk and for which we all suffered a tirade only they should have heard. Since you now understand the injustice we suffered yesterday, I am sure you understand what we, as a team, now expect an apology from the two coaches who berated us at length yesterday." While talking, he was walking toward Dr. Haynes who was getting red in the face. He really got red when he read the sheets Levi handed him. He passed them on to Coach Anderson who looked ready to explode as he read them and was shaking all over he was so angry by the time he finished. Coach Rowe took the sheets, looked at them, saw the signatures and kinda hung his head.
"Who the hell do you guys think you are? You are team members, not the coaches," Coach Anderson bellowed.
Louis stood and said, “Coach Anderson, Old Commonwealth University has no use for coaches unless it has a team to be coached. I have checked pretty carefully and I can find only six names missing from the sheets you have in your hand, the same names which should have been on the Dean’s desk Monday morning awaiting his decision concerning their future. If you look on the blue sheet, you will see another list of names, beginning with mine, of former members of the team in support of the present team. Those above the line have signed in person. Those below the line were contacted by phone and they asked that their names be added. Letters from then attesting to that will be mailed to Dr. Haynes today. The question is one which should have been answered long ago. Dr. Haynes, are team members to be treated equally or are those who violate the rules going to bring down punishment on all? Actually, from those I have talked with, the question is whether or not there will be a team after today." Louis sat down.
"Louis, you seem to forget that most of the young men here are here because they are on aquatics team scholarships. They quit the team, they are dead in the water," Coach Anderson said.
Another man stood up. "l wish you hadn’t said that, Coach Anderson. You may remember me. I am Chad Willis, a diver while an undergrad here and now a law student. I just happened to look over the conditions of scholarship with my contract law professor and I’m afraid if the team simply disappears, the only one who will feel the pinch will be the coaches who will lose the stipend connected with their coaching a team."
Another fellow stood up and said, "I’m Everett Davis, a former member of the aquatics team. It’s all really very simple, Dr. Haynes, Coach Rowe, Coach Anderson. Coach Rowe and Coach Anderson apologize for their reprehensible behavior yesterday and Coach Anderson stops playing the ‘boys will be boys’ game with his favorites and all will be well. What a very courageous young man expressed yesterday and is supported by the signatures of the team members, we support. It should have happened several years ago."
Dr. Haynes was in shock and obviously had no idea what he should do. Coach Anderson looked ready to stroke out any minute when Coach Rowe said, "Gentlemen, I am a proud man. In my heart, I consider you, and especially the divers, my adopted sons while you are here, or so I have told myself. Yet, when I saw that paper and the names there, I realized two things; no, three. First, I realized I would never speak to one of my sons the way you were spoken to yesterday. Second, I realized that I would never dress down my three boys for one’s misbehavior. Third, as much as what Derek Wilson said yesterday hurt, I realized that he had every right to do so and was one damn courageous young man. Derek, I apologize to you personally and to all of you for my behavior yesterday. Finally, I want to add, I am damn proud of all of you."
The cheers, applause and whistles were thunderous, then the chanting started, "Coach Rowe, Coach Rowe, Coach Rowe . . . ”
Coach Anderson turned on his heel and left. Dr. Haynes still looked lost. He finally realized all had gotten quiet and were looking at him. He said, "Coach Rowe, you may take your divers to the pool. Swimmers, you are dismissed until your regular practice time tomorrow.”
Coach Rowe worked us hard for the remaining practice time, but nothing he asked of the dive team seemed too much. For the first time, we were a team and working our asses off for a coach we respected.
The next day we learned Dr. Haynes had announced Coach Andersen’s retirement and the appointment of Coach Rowe as his replacement. He would, of course, continue as dive coach. Dr. Haynes also appointed a graduate student acting swim team coach. The two teams were determined to make a go of it. For the rest of the season, divers and swimmers set records and brought home trophies.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, APFC’s aquatics team had a tournament at Old Commonwealth. Sam and Brad came down Tuesday and Sam announced he was fixing Thanksgiving dinner with Auntie's permission. She and Sam had great time in the kitchen.
Louis joined us for Thanksgiving dinner. Philip, of course, would be with Peter and his family. Jeremy would not be coming home so Sergeant Major and Mrs. Willoughby came down as well. I invited Levi from the dive team. His parents were in Europe somewhere and he would have been stuck in the dorm.
I knew Levi from the dive team, but got to other sides of him in a study group. He had put off Western Civ in his freshman year and was taking it this year, one of several of upperclassmen my class. About mid-semester we all realized it was a memory course more than anything else and started getting together, first at lunch, then at my place. Levi and I saw each other around the study table and at dive practice and became good friends. I found that while he was generally quiet, he could be a lot of fun.
I insisted my dads take my bed and I slept in the living room on the sofa. In the process, I discovered Philip didn’t have it too bad when he slept there to give Louis time with his current lady friend.
After the APFC aquatics team headed back to Alexander county Saturday evening, my dad’s and I sat up until 3:00 talking. Both were concerned that I had no real social life and insisted that change as soon as diving season was over. As to just how that was to happen they seemed as lost as I was. Sam’s social life had revolved around a frat until he met Brad and that was definitely out for me, and Brad, well, he was just hanging on with his fingernails, not a situation I was in thanks to my dads and Auntie.
The semester ended before the Christmas break, so a lot of time was spent at the round table after Thanksgiving. Study groups throughout the semester would have helped, we all agreed, but we never got around to forming one except for Western Civ.
Western Civ was my first final and the study group really burned the midnight oil all weekend before it was to be given Monday at 9:00. When we saw the exam, we were pleased we had spent time on it as it was a real bitch. Our study group all finished about the same time and went to the student center for a coke. "Damn! Dr. Peterson must hate students to design that mother," Gregory said. "I’m a history major or thought I would be, but if that’s a sample of the department, I may switch to nuclear physics or quantum mechanics, something easy."
"I know what you mean," Janette said, "but honestly, how do you think you did?"
“l'll pull a C, maybe a B," Gregory said. "Without the study group? My ass would have flunked."
"Oh, I don’t know about your ass," Levi said, “but the rest of you would be sitting right back in Western Civ with me next semester." We all agreed the study group had saved us and vowed to get in study groups for classes early next semester.
Turns out I should have been given Westrn Civ credit for onr of my AP courses, but it was too late after I had taken the course.
Fortunately, finals were spread out over a week and a half and I only drew two on the same day—Calculus and Freshman Lit. With Western Civ out of the way, my next exam, Freshman Lit, was Wednesday at 2:00. We had been given the choice of writing a paper or taking an exam. I elected to write a paper and had it well on the way three weeks before exams. I collapsed after the Western Civ exam until Tuesday morning. After I had a leisurely breakfast with Auntie, I went upstairs and completed my lit paper. The professor had urged us to take a contrary stance to a generally accepted position on a work or character.
I had always argued that Huckleberry did not show moral development in Huckleberry Finn, but was always argued down. This was a chance to make my case that Huckleberry was just as racist at the end of the novel as at the beginning. I had done my research--finding piles of material supporting moral development and practically none supporting my position. However, I didn’t think I needed much more than the novel itself.
The paper had definite constraints placed on it. It had to depend primarily on the work itself, use at least five secondary sources and not exceed three pages in length. When I looked at what I had written, it was seven pages long, but otherwise I felt it met the requirements. I worked on it two hours and was down to five pages when I realized I was piling secondary source on top of secondary source.
I put it aside and biked to the university for lunch—I pretty much ate lunch with the aquatics team everyday even when, like today, I didn’t have to be on campus. When I reached the table, Levi said, "Derek, I ran into one of Peterson’s TAs on the way over. He said Western Civ grades would be posted by 1:30."
After lunch Levi and I walked over to the history department and saw many from our Western Civ class crowded around Dr. Patterson’s office door. There was a lot of mutters of ‘shit,’ ‘piss,’ ‘fuck,’ ‘that motherfucker,’ and such. I also heard, "Well, a D is passing.” "Thank you Jesus for a C." When Levi and I could finally see the sheet, I got a real shock. A quarter of the class had failed, Ds were plentiful, but slightly less than the number of Cs. The study group stood out as none had made less than B and, in fact, accounted for almost half of the Bs and all of the As.
"Damn, look at that, Derek," Levi said, "a B for me and an A for you. That’s a magic table in your library."
I laughed, "Levi, my friend, it’s just like diving. The magic is in the work.”
"Yeah, man, and our gang did it! When exams are over, we celebrate." Levi went back to my place with me to study for a physics exam he had Wednesday.
When we got there, Philip was in the library, bent over a textbook. We all greeted each other and Levi was bursting with the good news about Western Civ.
Philip was a planning on a dual major in English and French, so after I had worked on my paper another hour and had it down to three pages and six lines, I asked him to read it and make suggestions. When he finished, he said, "First off, Derek, your argument is beautiful and really depends on nothing more than the primary text. You have a secondary source which you have used previously and which has essentially the same argument as the one just before it. Junk it and you are within the page constraints and, in my humble opinion, have at least a B plus paper. The only way it would be less would be because of the professor’s prejudice. Who do you have?"
“Good teacher,” Levi said. “Get her for comp if you can. She’s a comp teacher really, not lit. That could work against you, but she’s also a New Englander so less likely to be prejudiced about ‘you people’.” I had told Philip and Levi about Brad’s explosion the day I met him when Levi had I commented on what a laid back dude he was.
"I say junk that secondary reference and go with it,” Philip said, “now tell me again why I, an English and French major, am in a calculus class and how to save my ass?"
"You don’t save that ass, a bubble butt in Richmond will be mighty . . . shit, piss, fuck." I said, realizing I had just outed Philip to Levi. "Fuck Fuck Fuck! Damn, Philip, I’m sorry."
Philip was looking at Levi, in shock. I wondered if he was recalling the dressing down I had given him when he outed me to Auntie--even though she, of course, knew--on the way to Richmond.
"You gay, Philip?" Levi asked.
“You?" Philip responded.
"One hundred percent," Levi said. "So you have a boyfriend in Richmond?"
"Yeah, I do and it’s the pits. You have a boyfriend?”
“No, and that’s really the pits. Had one the last half of my freshman year and first half of my sophomore one. Nothing serious, just fuck buddies, but we had agreed there’d be no outsiders. I was almost ready to give up condoms when something happened and I had to fly home. I came back a day early. He was in our room, on his all fours with three guys taking turns fucking him. I don’t know what they were on, but they were going at it bareback and his ass was already overflowing with cum. Bastard said he got lonely sometimes and needed a good fucking. Last I heard he was HIV+ and living at home, but still screwing around. Kinda took the edge off. Well, I’m sure one day the right guy will come along. What I want is what Derek’s dads have, but a good fuck or blow job now and then before I find that guy would be welcome.”
"Sorry, not available," Philip smiled. "I’m pretty sure I’m on my way to having what Derek’s dads have. So how to save my ass?"
“I’m as ready for my physics exam as I am likely to be and Derek’s licked lit, so let’s work on calculus. How are you on that exam, Derek?"
"I’m not worried about it, but helping someone is the best way I know to learn."
The three of us started a calculus review at 3:00 and worked until 5:00. "Philip, you are a lot better prepared than you thought," Levi said. “You know your major problem? You think English and French majors are supposed to have trouble with math. Forget that shit. Think of math as just another language with vocabulary, grammar, syntax, rules, all of which are there to express ideas, just like French or English. Remember that tomorrow. Let’s take a break. Maybe a walk along the beach."
Downstairs, Philip found Auntie in the kitchen, bowed, took her hand and kissed it and said, “Bonjour, belle dame.”
Levi kissed her on the cheek and said, "Howdy, Ma’am," sounding very much like John Wayne. "How’d you like a walk on the beach with this cowboy?"
"Why you fresh thing,” Auntie said, playing along.
Bowing my legs, I walked up to Levi and said, "Cowboy, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your distance from my woman and ride out of town by sunset.”
We were all laughing like fools and when we had calmed down a bit, Auntie said, "I take this bit as a sign exams are going well."
"Actually very well," Levi said. “I suggested a break and a walk on the beach. Had thought about going to a ‘toss it on the table seafood place for shrimp, shellfish, crabs and beer, then remembered these two are on the young side."
"Last week. Not only was my birthday after the school cutoff date putting me almost a year behind, but I was in a bad accident and missed a year. Got me into swimming and diving, so it wasn’t a total loss."
"Kinda how I got into it," I said.
“You know, if you went walking on the beach and happened on some shrimp and crabs, I’m sure they would fit right in a pot outside and if a case of beer got mixed up with them, I suspect no one would card the shrimp,” Auntie said.
So an hour and a half later, we returned from a chilly, windy walk on the beach with a tub of seafood and a case of beer. Auntie had a pot on the outside grill, with water and seafood seasonings boiling away. Minutes after we arrived with our bounty, we were sitting around the outside table, a pile of seafood in the center and bowls of sauce. Levi had suggested we limit beers since we did need to study a bit more.
Auntie, of course, joined us and we had a grand time, something which I needed.
The calculus exam was a breeze for me and Philip said he kept what Levi had told him in mind and thought he had made a solid C, "Better than I could have hoped for otherwise." He thanked Levi for his help and Levi said, "You convinced me a lot rode on the exam," and winked at him and gave him a slap on the butt.
After lunch, I walked to the English department and turned in my paper and got a stamp indicating I had done so and on time.
My last exam was the one I dreaded most, Intro to Science. It had both a written and a practical component. How do you study for a practical component when all you know is it will involve one or more of the sciences? Levi had finished his exams and asked if we’d like him to join the study group since he was a science major. He was a big help. We quizzed each other, he told us some of the practical components he knew about to give us some idea of how that part worked. We went over the review questions and discussed points where anyone was having difficulty.
"Remember, the questions vary in point value. Don’t spend too much time on questions which count little. You can skip five two point questions if you need to spend extra time and get a fifteen point one." We finally broke up at midnight. Philip and Levi stayed behind to clean up while I drove the three women in the group back to their dorm. The other two men had biked over. When I got back, I suggested the two guys stay over. “You can share the sofa or one of you can sleep in a recliner as it folds out into a bed.” I probably should have offered to share my bed, but I didn’t think that was a good idea for some reason.
The Intro to Science exam was from 9:00 until noon. As soon as I looked at it, I realized even the format was complex. Levi had been a big help in warning us to watch point value. A long question often has a simple answer, but counted only a point or two and it took time to read it. A short question requiring some thought might pay off well. We had three hours for the examination, two hours for the written part and one hour for the practical component. My practical component: "When a material is cooled, it contracts. How might you prove this? How could you prove this is not true at all temperatures for pure water? What materials would you need to accomplish your proofs?" I was relieved and wrote my answer in twenty minutes. Sometimes you get a break.
When I walked out of the science building, I was suddenly aware of the fact that, for better or worse, I had just finished my first semester of college.
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