Journey to Love
He Wanted Sex--I Wanted Romance
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
I swam to the area under the new diving platform and climbed out. I flipped on the underwater lights and those illuminating the dive platform before I started climbing to the five meter level. I did a few dives from it before I moved to the seven and a half meter platform. After several dives, I swam laps until I was pretty well calmed down. Then, I rushed into the small dressing shelter and got dressed. Levi and DeAngelo were right behind me. We were all silent on the drive back to the house.
When we arrived, only the nightlights were on in the house, a clear indication that any further discussion of the matter of DeAngelo’s remark and action had to wait until morning.
Levi and I went upstairs, showered and crawled into bed. Levi was a wise man and had, for the most part, remained silent after DeAngelo’s remark and its aftermath. Once we were in bed, he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me on the forehead. “Wanta talk about it, Derek?” he asked softly.
“Levi, I hate that what started as a wonderful evening with my dads turned into what it did. Only occasionally has there been reason for Sam or Brad to be upset with us--DeAngelo has to be admonished occasionally because he’s let his grades slip. I was reminded from time to time that Jeremy and I were too open in the expression of our affection for each other, especially at the Center. Nothing so forward as kissing, just long hugs, standing with our arms around each other’s shoulders, occasionally unconsciously holding hands. Tonight? What DeAngelo did and what he had done and his attitude toward it was enough, but what he said cut deep. I mean, he might not have gone as far as Pat Fallwell and called AIDS God’s punishment of us, but he certainly dismissed it as something he didn’t have to worry about because he was straight--setting himself apart from us. While I’m sure his string of sex partners engage in consensual sex with him, his utter disregard of them is not like DeAngelo. He has always been a kind, caring person. It’s like I don’t know him.” I started weeping--I couldn’t help it--and Levi just held me, saying nothing. I eventually drifted off to sleep, but slept fitfully. I felt sorry for Levi for I was sure I was keeping him from getting a decent night’s sleep.
I finally slipped out of bed at 7:30 the next morning, showered and got dressed without waking Levi. I went downstairs and discovered I was the only one up. I started the coffee and decided to cook breakfast. The dads had already taken the day off, so they would sleep late. Well, maybe not sleep, but be late coming down because they would spend time making love. Only the end of the world would interfere with their morning playtime when they had a chance because it came so seldom. They no doubt had been awake for some time, as Sam once said they loved to make love, then lie in the afterglow, cuddling and watching the sunrise. The sky was perfect for a beautiful sunrise which had come about five minutes before I’d slipped out of bed.
Very likely they would either make love again or just talk and be down between 8:15 and 8:30. I planned breakfast accordingly. I made biscuits from scratch and had them ready for the oven, cut slices from a Smithfield ham and cooked them. With the ham drippings and added butter, I would make cream gravy and scramble eggs later.
I was at the point of getting the kitchen table set--no question there would be more than breakfast going on around it this morning--when Levi came down at 8:00. He walked into the kitchen, wrapped me in his arms and kissed me. As I returned his kiss I wish I could say my heart skipped a beat and I knew I was in love, but it didn’t and I wasn’t. I was coming to see him as a friend on almost the level of Jeremy and at this point, when I thought of sex with him, it was what I’d had with Jeremy--stroking each other off--with much, much more kissing. Might that change? Of course.
When we broke the kiss, he asked, “How are you doing this morning, Derek?”
“I wish I knew, Levi. I am confused about the change in DeAngelo and about my feeling about it and his new lifestyle. After listening to DeAngelo’s idea of what sex is all about, I know at least for me it's different. There’s a line from a gay-themed movie I had downloaded from the internet, ‘He wanted sex, I wanted romance.’ That is a perfect description of DeAngelo’s and my attitudes.”
“Derek, I think I can understand, maybe, some of it. See, I told you about Edward, but that was at the end of a period in my life not completely different from DeAngelo’s. My senior year in high school, I started going to gay clubs on the weekend--fake ID was easy to obtain--and got into alcohol and pot. Since I was young and eager, someone was always ready to buy me drinks and weed for a good fuck and I was always ready to fuck. Never without a condom, a condom I supplied. By the end of the year, there was seldom a Saturday or Sunday I didn’t wake up in a strange bed, hung over and feeling like shit. Half the time I had never known names of the guys I had fucked and most of the other times, I couldn’t remember. Was I having fun? No, I was lonely and convinced no one gave a shit about me, just my cock.
“When I got to Norfolk, nothing changed until Edward came along. We met at a club and I went home with him. I wasn’t as drunk as usual and actually enjoyed the sex. The next morning, we had sex and he fixed breakfast. After breakfast, he suggested we spend the day on the beach and we did. We spent Saturday night at his place with little to drink and had great sex. To make a long story short, two weeks later, I moved in and thought we were good friends and fuck buddies. You know how that ended, but the point is, I understand escaping into drugs and sex. I guess for DeAngelo, just sex. But changing lifestyles? Think he might feel the same way about you? That you have changed?”
“I haven’t changed.”
“Derek, I haven’t known you long, but I suspect to those who have, you are much changed. Most obvious is you’re comfortable with your sexuality. I know you have to hide that here, for the most part, but I think those who know and love you can see that. Now you are the natural leader wherever you show up. Overall, you left Stanton last summer an unsure, well, in spite of the feeling among African-Americans, an unsure boy. You have come back quite the young man.”
“Don’t know what the discussion is about, but I heard your comment Levi, and couldn’t agree more,” Brad said as he and Sam entered the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Sam said, “daddies’ baby boy has grown up and daddies are proud of him.”
“Levi, well, Derek too, I want to apologize for my behavior last night,” Brad said. “I apologize and promise I am still working on channeling anger to constructive uses.”
“Apology accepted and, while I wish it had been different, it did show me how important DeAngelo is to you. Believe me, that makes up for a lot of stuff, even with the overriding anger. Compared to the indifference or rejection in my family, I’ll take your anger any day. Just for your information, Son Derek got pretty angry last night as well. We drove to the pond and he swam and dove his anger away. While he was doing that, I talked with DeAngelo. I think last night was a real wake up call for him. I know he is well aware of the fact that he may have both contracted and transmitted any number of diseases by his behavior--I really let him have it about that. When, as I just told Derek, I was being a common slut, I didn’t neglect protection, I told DeAngelo, but more than that, I reminded him that both of us may as well have been sticking our cock in a piece of fresh raw meat, because that was what we were doing. We were using a human being to replace our hand except we thought more of our hand. I know he was taught better because Derek was.”
“I suspect he will listen to you in a way he did not or will not listen to us because we're supposed to say such things,” Sam said. “And, Levi, I know what you meant as I had what I call my slut period also which sounds surprisingly like yours.
I had just started the scrambled eggs when DeAngelo appeared looking worse for the wear. Clearly he had slept little. “Dads, Derek, Levi, talk after breakfast?” he asked.
“Of course, DeAngelo, but maybe you need to talk with Levi privately first since he doesn’t know what you are asking.
“Sure,” DeAngelo responded.
Breakfast conversation revolved around what we would be doing today. I planned to show Levi around--the schools I attended, the roads we ran and biked, etc. “Change of subject. Has Sergeant Major said when Jeremy is getting home?” I asked.
“Thursday, I believe. I think he was going home with a classmate of the female persuasion, then she is coming here for the New Year’s weekend before they go back together. Sergeant Major doesn’t think it’s anything really serious. Who knows?” Brad said.
“I don’t,” I replied, “He has never mentioned anyone special. In his last email he did say he had a surprise.”
Breakfast conversation continued to revolve around ‘home’ and the changes which had gone on in the time I was away. When we finally finished, I told DeAngelo I would help with clean up so he could talk with Levi. Fifteen minutes later, we all had another cup of coffee and were seated around the table. Levi had been filled in on the fact that things got resolved there and DeAngelo asked that he be a part of it. I figured we were in for the long haul because DeAngelo was clearly in defensive mode when we were all back around the table with fresh cups of coffee.
DeAngelo began by apologizing for suggesting that HIV was a gay disease and admitted that he still was not comfortable with, “Well, the whole gay thing. I mean, I’m comfortable around my dads and brother, but I don’t think about them as gay. They are my dads and my brother. And I’m fine with you, Levi, but gay people make me uncomfortable with all that gay stuff.”
“Gay stuff? What do you mean ‘gay stuff’?” I asked.
“You know, you see it whenever there’s a gay character in the movies or on TV. I don’t like it when a bunch of guys start telling gay jokes, but you have to admit, gays ask for it. I mean, I have nothing against gays so long as they don’t hit on me and think because they are gay they . . . ”
“Yassa, yassh massa, I’s be knowin’ what you be sayin'. Yassh, yassh, Massa DeAngelo dem gays be thinking theys lack peoples lack we’s be peoples,” Levi was doing a ‘shufflin’ colored man’ which was Hollywood’s portrayal of African-Americans for many, many years. He didn’t drop the act for fully three minutes. Suddenly he dropped it and said, “DeAngelo, I assume I made my point. Gay men come in as many shapes, sizes, colors and attitudes as there are gay men. Most of the gay men you know, you do not know are gay. You have bought into the stereotypes because to make jokes and carry on about Sam, Brad, Derek or me would be difficult because we don’t do ‘gay things’, at least in public.
“Is the problem that you are repulsed at the thoughts of our ‘doing gay things’ in the bedroom? Surprise for you. Some of what we do is the same as you have, no doubt, done with a buddy--jerk each other off. But I don’t suppose that would repulse you. Kissing a man? Okay, I’ll grant that when I kiss a man, it’s usually way more than you would do. Going down on a male? Fucking? Another surprise for you, the idea of tits flopping around as some girl gives you a blow job or you humping away on a woman is just as repulsive to me.”
“And about being hit on,” I said. “Do you get upset when some woman hits on you?”
“Hell no! It means I’m ahead of the game in getting her in bed. Makes me proud I have the stuff it takes to attract women.”
“Then why are you not equally as proud when a man hits on you? Doesn’t it say, ‘Hey, I’ve got the stuff that a man appreciates and finds attractive’? What happens when a woman hits on you and you aren’t interested?”
“I usually say something like, ‘I’m flattered, but I’m with someone, but you are an attractive woman.' Doesn’t hurt because I might be interested later.”
“So why not say, ‘Thanks, but I’m straight.’ Would that kill you? Any possibility the reason you respond with repulsion is because you are not too sure about yourself? Not saying that’s true for you, but it is for some.”
“DeAngelo, be a man,” Levi said. “The next time you find yourself with a bunch of gay-bashing--verbally if not physically--assholes, just say, “I’m glad my gay dads or brother didn’t hear that or you’d likely be eating dirt right now,” Levi said.
“Son, you have been given a lot to think about. Derek and Levi have said things Sam and I would not say mainly because you wouldn’t hear them coming from us. I hope you will give some real thought to what you have been told.”
“A final word, DeAngelo. You are the big brother, but you’ve a hell of a lot to learn to catch up with your baby brother, but I have been where you are and know what it’s like to feel rotten about who you are and try to prove otherwise by fucking anything available. I’m sure the university has counselors who will work with you, but you’re going to have to ask for help and then take advantage of it. It’ll be neither easy nor painless, but growing up never is,” Levi said.
DeAngleo clearly did not like what Levi said, but remained silent.
“I couldn’t say it better, Levi,” Sam said. “DeAngelo, you know my work life is devoted to medicine. A part of the answer to where you are going is figuring out where you are and that includes your status in regard to disease. I will make arrangements for STD tests and an HIV/AIDS test today. When was the last time you had unprotected sex?
“Well, the woman I was with the day I left Harrisonville wanted to go bareback. Said the smell of a condom made her sick, but I pulled out.”
“Man, have you ever had any kind of sex education?” I asked. “First of all, how many times have you been told precum may contain a few sperm and I guess you know that just one does the trick, so one is all that’s needed. Only one and you’re Daddy DeAngelo. Second, precum may contain the HIV/AIDS virus. So you pulled out and I guess shot all over yourself and the dumb bitch you were with. You accomplished nothing, nothing, so far as AIDS and pregnancy are concerned. When you stuck it in bare, you were asking for a whole bouquet of STDs.” I was really pissed at my stupid brother.
Calmly, as was his nature, Sam said, “DeAngelo, we could all continue to lecture you and you could continue telling yourself you’re special and safe. You’re not. In fact, as an African-American male entering his twenties with multiple sex partners, you are entering the group with the largest increase in STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Further, you can be sure if you’re not infected now it will happen if you continue as you have been. But lecturing you is probably not as effective as your getting the straight scoop. Spend an hour or two looking at the CDC’s--US Centers for Disease Control--reports on STDs. Then decide if bareback is the route you want to continue on.”
“Or if fucking any woman who will be still long enough is the route you want to continue,” Brad added.
“You will be tested for STDs as soon as I can get it set up” Sam continued the discussion. “No ifs, no ands, no buts. The tests will include a quick HIV/AIDS test, but it will not be definitive since there is a window period of three weeks or longer from the time you are infected before anything shows up. I assume you had at least one sex partner in the past three weeks, probably more.” DeAngelo hung his head and nodded. “DeAngelo, I cannot lock you up and I cannot have you watched every minute, but I am asking you to have no sex until the test results are back and any curable STD is properly treated as indicated by a clear test. With the two tests really required for HIV/AIDS, that looks like a month.”
“A month! I’ll die!”
“You keep following the path you have been on and that is a very real possibility,” I said. Sam and Brad gave me a sharp look as if to say, ‘Don’t kick him while he’s down.’ I thought kicking him might be just the right thing to do. I wasn’t sure he was taking any of this seriously.
“I assume your hand still works,” Brad said, but did not smile.
“We’ll talk more after you get the results of the first tests back, but your opportunities for any kind of sex may become very limited because the ladies might not lie down and spread their legs once word gets around you’ve been spreading one STD or another. If you test positive for HIV/AIDS or any STD for that matter, you’ll be calling some girls you have had sex with and telling them they need to be tested,” Sam said.
DeAngelo grinned and said, “You’re kidding of course.”
“Does he look like he’s kidding?” Brad asked with some heat. “You want to be responsible for the men--or women--they infect by having unprotected sex after they contracted an STD from you? You will be, you know.”
“Look, someone gave me anything I have and no one’s called me,” DeAngelo said, “so that must mean I’m not infected and don’t have to worry.”
“Have you called anyone?” Sam asked.
“Why would I? I’m not infected with anything.”
“You know that how?” Sam continued.
“Well, I only had unprotected sex like maybe six or eight . . . well, no more than a dozen or so times and no one’s called.”
“Asshole,” I practically shouted, “how many times does it take to get infected with a disease? How many times have we been told, ‘One time is enough.’ DeAngelo, you are doing the same thing again. Your attitude says you think you’re invincible and women are disposable. Fuck ’em and leave ’em. They are not even worth the price of a condom which, by the way, I bet you can pick up for free at the health clinic or one of the organizations on campus. You disgust me.” I stood to leave the table.
“Derek, we are not finished here.”
For the first time since I had known my dads, I defied them. “I’m finished until I know DeAngelo is ready to be a man. I don’t know how to talk to the spoiled, self-centered asshole brat my brother has become. I’ll be back later. Right now I have got to get out of here. Levi, will you go with me?”
“Go with him, please, Levi. You drive,” Brad said. I could hardly stand the sad look on their faces.
I was hurt; I was angry; I was ashamed; I was confused. I thought about going to the pond, but didn’t feel like it. Same with the Center. I sure didn’t want to go see Mom in my condition. I thought of Ms. Bianchi and Mr. Malik, but we had never been very close except as swimmer/diver and coaches. We almost never talked about personal matters except as they impacted my swimming or diving. After I left R. E. Lee, I lost contact with Mr. Carroll who I had been my counselor.
I just told Levi to drive and he was driving aimlessly. We were both silent. I don’t know why he had not come to mind at once, but suddenly I remembered Mr. Manning. He had not only helped me at R. E. Lee, but we talked a lot after he came to Fort Defiance. Once I thought of Mr. Manning, I was anxious to talk to him, then I realized I didn’t have his phone number or know where he lived. I had Levi drive to Fort Defiance High School hoping someone would still be around even though school had closed for the holidays last Friday.
I was in luck. Just as we drove up, Mr. Vince, the head janitor, locked a side door and headed for the staff parking lot. I had Levi stop the car. I hopped out and yelled, “Hey, Mr. Vince, Derek Wilson. Got a minute?”
He looked toward me as if he wasn’t sure who I was, then got a huge smile on his face and called back, “Sure, Derek. You home for Christmas?” I ran across the grassy strip separating the students’ parking lot from the staff’s, extended my hand and said, “Sure am. Good to see you Mr. Vince, and my good luck. You doing okay?”
“I’m fine, real fine. You?”
“Doing well. College is rougher than high school, but I’m doing well.”
“Knew you would. Still diving I hear.”
I nodded, “And it’s paying the bills. Say, do you know where Mr. Manning lives or have his phone number? I really want to see him, but I never really knew where he lived or had his number.”
“Not supposed to give out that information. Silly rule if you ask me since there are ways of finding out. I know he’d like to see you. Keeps up with your team down there in Norfolk. I have it in my Blackberry. County was giving out awards for years of superior service to the school system and was surprised when I was due one same as some central office people,” he laughed. “They kinda suggested I’d probably like money more, but I got stubborn ’cause it seemed to me they thought a janitor was too dumb to use one. Can’t live without it now,” he laughed. “Here it is.” He gave me Mr. Manning’s phone number and address. “Got a GPS?”
“Sure do,” I replied.
“Well, I’ve kinda made a hobby of collecting coordinates. In Mr. Manning’s case, I’m not sure the address will be a lot of help. He lives in the middle of nowhere up in the edge of the mountains. This’ll get you to his door step,” he said, giving me the coordinates.
“Thanks, Mr. Vince. Merry Christmas.”
“Same to you. Send us some pictures next time you’re diving.”
“I will. Give me your email and I’ll send you loads.” He gave me the address, we shook hands again and I headed back to the car.
I had told Levi how DeAngelo and I came to live with our dads, but never much about why. I did as we started the twenty-mile drive to Mr. Manning’s place. I also told him why it was my English teacher I had turned to.
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