Journey to Love
Love on a Diving Platform
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
Jeremy would have had to move his jeep so I could get the car out, so he suggested we just drive it. “Where are we going?” he asked as he started the vehicle.
“Thought we could talk on the way, but this seems like a Mr. Manning situation to me,” I responded.
“Sure does. Think he’s home?”
“Yeah, I called him while I was in the library where I went to call Auntie. She, by the way, is OK with your coming. Well, she did have some concern about my falling in love with you again.”
“She’s not the only one, Derek. I guess it sounds conceited, but I worry about the same thing.”
“Not your problem, Dude,” I said.
“I’m not sure about that, Derek. See, one time when I talked to the chaplain, I said something about how much I loved you and how much I must have hurt you trying to show it by kissing you. He agreed and asked if I realized that if I crossed a line--one you drew and might not even be conscious of it being there, it could destroy our relationship. For me the kisses were just a special way I could show you how very deep my love for you as a brother goes. That’s what they were, Derek, I wanted you to know how very much I loved you. Nothing sexual. No, Derek, I’m not sure that is entirely true. I guess most of us are not entirely, 100% straight just as I’m sure very few are through and through 100% gay. That coupled with the fact that males especially are wired to show affection physically gives the possibility that a kiss can slip over a line. I’ll admit that when I kissed you it probably wasn’t pure unadulterated platonic love. Am I gay, turning gay? No, I’m sure of that. Could we ever let a kiss develop into intercourse? No, I don’t think so. I’m almost absolutely certain that wouldn’t happen. Might we cross a line that leads you to believe a sexual relationship might be possible? Maybe. I think it might be easy for you to feel more in my expression of love than exists and for me to encourage that without the intent to do so. I guess I’m not making myself very clear, but what I really want to say is, you are wrong when you say it’s not my problem. It’s our problem. And the difficulty comes from something really wonderful, our deep affection and love for each other. Any of that make sense?”
“Yeah,” I said, “it does.” We both fell silent, each in our own thoughts.
When we arrived at Manning’s place, he was standing on the deck, waiting for us. “Welcome, Derek, Jeremy. Come on up.”
When we reached him, he grabbed Jeremy in a bear hug, then me. “You know that would have gotten me fired last year,” he said. “Too bad the world has come to that point as I think a lot of kids’ problems could be solved by a hug. Come on in. Jeremy, I want you to meet Stu, my soulmate.”
After Jeremy had been introduced to him, Stu excused himself and we sat down with Manning and Jeremy sketched out the whole situation for him. He was not surprised Jeremy had decided against a military career, felt Jeremy had gotten off easy by not telling Deborah about his decision and suggested that he at least write her, which Jeremy agreed to do. After all that, Jeremy said, “Mr. Manning . . .
“Drop the mister, please Jeremy.”
“Manning, you know us pretty well and we really need an outsider’s view on something.” We then told him about the possibility of Jeremy going to OCU and living in my place and why we were concerned about it.
After our talking for an hour, Manning said, “To be honest, I think it could go either way. You are about as close . . . no, closer than any gay/straight friends I have ever known. You are so close that I think one would do just about anything if he thought the other needed it. Derek, you talk about the possibility falling in love with Levi, but at the present you call him your best friend. He is not, and you know it. Or if he is, then there is another level of friendship above it, the kind of friendship you and Jeremy have. Therein lies the danger as I see it.
“There is another side to the question. Derek, you are gay and even with Jeremy around, or maybe because he is around, you are going to be looking elsewhere for boyfriend material. I gather you have a fuck buddy in Levi.” He paused and I knew expected an answer.
“Well, not exactly a fuck buddy since we don’t fuck. I guess in my mind, that’s where playing around becomes sex and I reserve that for lovemaking,” I said. “We have sucked each other, but that’s the limit.”
“Not sure I agree that a BJ is not sex, but I’ll put that aside,” Manning said. “So, at least for the present, any playing around you do will be with Levi which should take any sexual pressure off and that cannot but help keep a line between you and Jeremy, but no three ways.”
“No problem there so long as three guys are the participants!” Jeremy said.
“Had I not known about Levi and the possibilities for boyfriend materials in Norfolk compared to Stanton, I would be pretty worried about you two living together. As it is, I suspect your friendship, deep as it is, will grow deeper, but remain friendship. Just stay in touch with your feelings and make sure you communicate with each other about your feeling and what is acceptable and not acceptable.”
“There’s one thing more,” Jeremy said. “Levi is a little jealous of me.”
“Come on, Jeremy,” I said, thinking he was imagining things.
“Not surprising, Jeremy. It would take a complete idiot not to realize that any other friend plays second fiddle to you with Derek. As Derek and Levi’s relationship develops or doesn’t, that problem will solve itself unless Levi falls in love with Derek and Derek doesn’t reciprocate. In that case, jealousy would be a problem and you would likely be blamed for the lack of reciprocation, but we’re all hoping that doesn’t happen. Guys, love, friendship, human relationships are always complicated and you just have to try to be true to yourself and to those you love. And talk. Let each other know what you’re thinking and feeling.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy said, “and that means I need to write a letter.”
Manning called Stu and he came down from their loft office and we had a nice visit. Stu and Manning were definitely another gay couple which gave the stereotype of random fucking and no commitment a kick in the teeth.
On the way back to Grace House, Jeremy and I talked about the things Manning had said and agreed we were much more comfortable with the possibility of his living at Auntie’s place.
When we were all getting ready for the Midnight Christmas Eucharist, I asked Levi if he’d like to go with us and he responded, “Is religion going to be a problem for us?”
“Not unless you make it so.”
The service and music were beautiful and when we got home at 1:00 in the morning we opened Christmas presents while we had cookies and hot chocolate. It was almost 3:00 before the four of us tumbled into bed and no one was up before noon. There had been a few flakes of snow flying around when we came home, but no accumulation was expected which meant that the three inches of fresh snow was a bit of a surprise.
After breakfast, I went into Stanton and picked up Mom and when we got back, she went inside and I joined the others who had decided to build a snowman. It was to be humongous and was. We had almost reached the point where we could not roll the ball for the bottom of his body when Jeremy arrived. We were six physically fit men, so we were able to roll the snowball for the bottom of the body until it was almost five feet in diameter before we could not move it. The upper body ball was over four feet in diameter and finally we rolled the ball for the head and realized while with the help of a couple ladders, we had gotten the second ball atop the first, the headless snowman was almost nine feet high. Getting the next three and a half foot ball atop the second looked impossible until Brad brought out the tractor with a front loader and we got the ball in the loader. Jeremy and I rode with the ball and Brad’s expert handling of the loader got the ball to where we could maneuver it into position. Inside, Mom had hot chocolate waiting and it was certainly welcome.
After we had recovered from the snowman adventure, Brad said, “It’s definitely skinny-dipping weather.’’ Mom and Levi looked at him as if he had lost his mind, but the rest of us gave a resounding ‘yes’ to his suggestion. Ten minutes later we were diving into the warm pond as naked as the day we were born. We stayed in the water for over an hour and when we got back to the house, there was a message for Jeremy to call his father. After he had talked to his Dad, he came back into the living room, a huge smile on his face.
“Well, don’t keep the excitement a secret, Jeremy, Baby,” Mom said.
“Well, I had a long talk with Dad after Derek and I talked to Mr. Manning and he agreed I should apply to OCU if I wanted to. I did the application online, but certainly never expected get any response until a day or two before classes resume. Dad just called to say it was unofficial, but I was now a student at OCU and registered for next semester. Dad knew a fellow retired sergeant major in Hampton who not only had some influence at OCU, but also was a personal friend of an admissions officer. The old boy Army network went to work and things were starting to move a bit when Sergeant Major mentioned the situation to a retired merchant seaman captain. When he learned I would be living at Auntie’s, he gave her a call and asked about the situation and she told him. Dad said Auntie said she’d cash in the IOU she didn’t have to use to get you in, Derek. The captain said he had a couple he wasn’t using. The long and the short of it is I have been accepted as a second semester freshman--with AP credit, almost a sophomore--and already registered for next semester.”
After everyone had their say about the whole situation, Jeremy asked, “Derek, didn’t you get credit for your AP classes? Aren’t you just a few credits short of being a sophomore?”
“Yeah, after next semester, I’ll be two credits short of being a second semester sophomore. I’ll get those in summer school.”
“You won’t be home this summer?”
“No, I’ll still have responsibility for Auntie. While it’s no burden, really, I don’t have a free ride at Auntie’s. If I didn’t have that, I’d look for some kind of job or internship to really look into with medicine. I’m very much leaning in that direction, but I’d like a chance to get some hands-on work before making a final decision.
“So, you’ll be going back with us?” Levi asked Jeremy, I suspect thinking of the New Year’s party for four we planned in Richmond.
“Afraid not. Dad is buying a new jeep and giving me the old one. He wants it gone over and anything needing repair or replacement taken care of. It won’t be completed until New Year’s Eve morning and Dad doesn’t want me on the highway that afternoon and evening and I understand why. I’ll leave New Year’s day.” I could see relief on Levi’s face. We left the day before New Year’s Eve for Richmond and arrived in time for dinner.
Philip and Peter had prepared a wonderful meal--they had the house to themselves as Peter’s parents were on a cruise and Peter’s brother was living with his girlfriend. After the meal, we sat and talked about the holiday and I told them about Jeremy moving in with me. “What do you think of that, Levi?” Peter asked.
“Honestly? I’m not thrilled about it. Had it been my choice, I would have preferred he live somewhere else. After all, the only reason he and Derek aren’t a couple is because he’s not gay. I’ll admit it. I am jealous of the closeness the two have, but after all, I‘m the one who invited him to move in.”
“Into Derek’s house?” Philip said in an ‘I can’t believe you said that’ voice.
Levi blushed. “I did and was roundly trounced upon for doing so. I guess I was thinking I was inviting him to live in our house. Anyway, I spoke out of turn without considering the consequences and now he will be living with us.”
We talked about that for awhile and then about the next semester. Peter said, “Dad and Mom gave Philip and me a cruise for Christmas. We set sail the day spring break begins and get back the afternoon before classes resume.”
“Fantastic,” I said. “I suspect I’ll be in Norfolk for spring break.”
We went to a gay club for New Year’s. Peter had secured tickets and the promise was attendance would be limited. He had also gotten us fake IDs so we did have something to drink and danced half naked and approached being shitfaced when we finally left--by taxi--at 2:00.
New Year’s Day I awoke with a hangover and Levi suggested what we needed was cum for breakfast. “I’ve heard it’s a great hangover cure.” After some hot kissing and light stroking, we were in sixty-nine position. I was still pretty much an amateur at cock sucking, but I was learning and had an excellent teacher.
We brought each other near climax and backed off three or four times before I said, “Levi, this is it,” as I exploded in his mouth. My eruption started his and soon we were both swallowing like mad. If cum was a hangover cure, we would soon be over the one we had and could have taken care of another one.
After exchanging some passionate cum flavored kisses, we drifted off to sleep again and slept until two when Peter tapped on our door and said, “Last stroke. We’re ready to eat.”
After we had eaten, Peter took us to see some of his work at the School of Art. He was working on a project which required him to design the interior of an executive’s office. He had been given guidelines and a color scheme. He had done some very impressive sketches and was working on a model. We then walked around the campus and looked at a couple of exhibits in buildings to which he had key cards to open.
We went out for a late dinner and finally got in bed about 11:00 in time for some serious play. I discovered Levi liked to have his ass played with while being sucked and I finally ventured far enough to stick a finger inside. When I did, he said, “Derek, I’d love to have your cock inside me.” I thought we had agreed that was something well down the line. For me, it was something I wanted to save for the man I loved and, at least at this point, that was not Levi.
“Levi, I’m not ready for that. If you would like for me not to play with your ass say so, but for now, I’ll not be fucking you nor will you me.” I didn’t add, but thought, “I’ll make love, but not fuck.”
“Understand,” Levi said, but I wasn’t sure he did. In any event, that was the last time Levi suggested I fuck him and he never asked to fuck me.
We left for Norfolk the day after New Year’s, arriving shortly after noon. Eloise and Auntie were sitting down to sandwiches, chips and salad. “Care to join us?” Eloise asked and we did.
A couple hours later, Jeremy arrived, announcing his arrival with his horn. After speaking to Auntie and being introduced to Eloise, Levi and I went out and helped him unload and carry his things upstairs. There was plenty of closet and drawer space so everything was soon stowed away. He put his sleeping bag atop a shelf in the closet and he was home.
For some reason, classes started in mid-week. Before they started I found Louis and introduced Jeremy to him and asked him to check his schedule. “I don’t know who’s watching out for the kid, but I couldn’t have done a better job selecting classes myself. He’s got a great lineup.”
Classes and practice started, study groups were organized and second semester was underway. Things were going well, we had an established routine and all was good. The last Friday in February, at dive practice, I was doing great dives and Levi was looking like he had never been on a platform before. He was climbing to the platform when the coach blew his whistle and called out, “Gentlemen, we have another new man on the team.” Standing beside him was a gorgeous young man. He had a perfect swimmer’s body, but those were in abundance; after all we were at dive team practice. What were not in abundance were many other men that looked like he did. He was beautiful. “This is Telvin. He was struck down by the flu and had serious complications. He managed to do classes online, but you can’t practice dives that way. He’s here now, so introduce yourselves to him.”
Levi had climbed to the platform and was standing there, mesmerized. I sure hoped Telvin was gay because Levi had just fallen in love or at least major lust. “Okay back to work, ladies,” the coach called out. Levi stepped to the edge of the platform and, I was sure given his dives so far, this would be at best a belly buster he was so entranced. Man, did he fool me! If he lived to be a hundred, he’d never execute a better or more beautiful dive. He barely made a ripple as he entered the water, his body in perfect form.
As he crawled out of the water, Telvin extended a hand to him and said, “Damn, if you are my competition, I am doomed. Beautiful dive. I’m Telvin.”
“Ah . . . ah . . . Telvin, Telvin, I . . . I’m Levi.”
“Again a beautiful dive, Levi.”
“Yeah, Levi, what happened?” I laughed and winked. Levi blushed! “Telvin, Derek,” I said, extending my hand. “What are you up to after practice?”
“I guess I’ll look for food. I am on a high protein diet trying to build back muscle mass I lost while I was ill.”
“Care to join us--Levi, Jeremy, our housemate, and I planned on going out for dinner tonight.”
We di . . . ?” I gave Levi a kick, unseen by Telvin. “Ah, we're going to a steakhouse I know so you should have no trouble with your diet. You’re my guest,” Levi managed to get out.
“Thanks. I’d love that,” Telvin said and gave Levi a smile that, I’m sure, practically made him cum in his Speedos.
“Ladies, we are waiting,” Coach yelled and I climbed the tower. Now it was my time to miss. My dive wasn’t as much a disaster as Levi’s BT--Before Telvin--one had been, but it was not good. When it was Telvin’s turn, he did a decent dive, but I could see he lacked the power he really needed for a good push off, and I was sure that would return as he continued recovering from his illness.
Jeremy had been watching divers while waiting for practice to be over. As soon as I was in the locker room, Jeremy rushed in and pulled me behind a locker and said, “Derek, I saw Levi when he was mesmerized by Telvin. I’m your date tonight, Okay? I want to clear the way for Levi.”
“If my gaydar is working--and it seldom is--our team--diving and otherwise--has a new member and they seem interested in each other, so yeah, I’m your date.”
When the two came into the showers, they were chatting away like they had known each other for years. As soon as we were dressed we headed for Jeremy’s jeep. I pulled the seat forward so Levi could crawl in and as he did. I whispered, “Go, Tiger,” and he grinned.
I had barely settled in my seat as shotgun when Jeremy reached over and pulled me to himself and planted a quick, but hot, kiss on my lips. “Levi, you’re my GPS. Remember I’m new here,” he said as he started the jeep. Levi directed us to a nice steakhouse--not upscale, but certainly not cheap either. This was probably going to bust my eating-out money for the entire month, but I guess helping a friend on a journey to love was worth it.
We took our time at dinner, first finding out all we could about Telvin. We had been talking for half an hour before he said, “Guys, don’t get me wrong, but I think I’m on target when I say you’re all gay.”
“Okay, I don’t believe you can build a friendship on a lie. Two of us are and one is straight,” Jeremy said.
“Given that kiss you planted on Derek, I guess Levi is the odd man out.”
“Odd man?” Levi asked.
“Yeah, the straight man.”
We all three burst out laughing. “Actually, I am gay,” Levi said. Telvin looked relieved.
“But I’ve never seen a kiss as hot as the one Jeremy gave Derek unless it was twice as long.”
“It’s a long story, but Derek and Jeremy are closest of friends from high school. One is gay and one straight,” Levi said.
“Okay, Jeremy looked as if he knew what he was doing kissing a guy and Derek looked pretty surprised, so Derek is straight.”
“You sure dive better than you determine sexuality,” I said. “Jeremy’s the straight one. He’s just into kissing, so I get one occasionally.”
“And you’re comfortable with that?”
“Not at first. Now I am,” I said.
We invited Telvin back to the house and ended up talking until 1:00 in the morning. Fortunately, few juniors had 8:00 classes and neither Levi nor Telvin was one of them--we learned Telvin was transferring in as a junior from a small private college which had canceled his scholarship when it appeared he’d not be able to swim anytime soon. Levi borrowed Jeremy’s jeep to take Telvin back to his place. When he came to bed at 2:00 I thought he’d soon be sleeping elsewhere and that was fine with me.
Telvin became part of one study group, but he and Levi had several of the same classes although different sections. They frequently used the game table as a two person study group table. A week after he met Telvin, Levi asked if it was okay if we did not play around any more. I knew I’d miss that, but it was a small price to pay to see Levi’s happiness. Two weeks after that, Levi asked Jeremy if he could swap beds for the night. Jeremy agreed and as soon as the last member of the study group left, he went into the living room, transformed the sofa into a bed and made it up with clean sheets, a blanket and pillows. I guess he remembered this was my place, not Jeremy’s and asked me if he could speak to me in private.
We walked into the bedroom and Levi said, “Sorry, Derek, but I did it again. I asked Jeremy to swap beds with me without thinking about asking you if it was okay for Telvin to stay over.”
“No problem, Levi. I guess this means you’re into more than being fuck buddies.”
“Derek, I have never felt like this before. I thought people who said it was love at first sight were liars. I mean, I think Mr. Manning is great, but when he said he fell in love with Stu the first time he saw him, I thought he was at least exaggerating. I now know what he meant. When Coach introduced Telvin and I saw him, I was ready to marry him on the spot. We both have had a very bad relationship in the past and are moving carefully, but we felt the same electric charge when we laid eyes on each other. My feeling for him has grown every day. He says his for me has as well and I believe and trust him. I hope you are as in love one of these days, Derek. It’s wonderful.”
“I take that to mean yes, you are more than fuck buddies,” I laughed.
“Hell, yes!” Levi practically shouted, grabbed me, swung me around and kissed me.
I guess that night was a test for me and Jeremy, but we just snuggled together and went to sleep, a pattern we followed in the weeks ahead.
Spring break was approaching, but I had no plans since I would have to be in the house with Auntie. Levi was going to Europe, a trip made necessary by something to do with his mother’s estate. He got enough from his trust fund to take Telvin with him. Jeremy was going to Cancun with a group from OCU. A week before spring break, DeAngelo called. He had another negative HIV report as did Joe. He had won a week in a condo in Key West and two tickets down. Joe’s parents were buying his ticket and DeAngelo invited me to use the second ticket. I thought I might prevail on Eloise to be with Auntie until I remembered she was working now, executive secretary to a man in a shipping company. “Can I give you a call tomorrow?”
“Sure”, DeAngelo said.
“Good news about the HIV test.”
“Believe me, Littl' Bro, I learned my lesson, not only about safe sex, but about what sex is all about, but I’ll not complain if I get laid a few times on spring break. Talk to you tomorrow.”
I saw no hope of being able to leave so even though I thought about asking Auntie, I decided not to. She would have said for me to go ahead as Eloise would be around. ‘After all, you go to class,’ she’d say. I didn’t point out that that was never all day and I was fifteen minutes max from being home while it took Eloise half an hour at the very least.
When I went down to start supper, Auntie was on the phone. “I’ll call back tomorrow, but make it a tentative ‘yes,’” she said and hung up. “Derek, what would you do if you were free spring break?”
“Well, Auntie, I wouldn’t know how to answer that until an hour ago.” I then told her about DeAngelo’s call.
“Would you be willing for someone to use your space for a week?”
“I guess it depends, but if it’s someone you approve, of course.”
“That call was from a granddaughter who needs to do some research at the university and asked about staying here while she does it. It would be the week of spring break. If you’re for it, I’ll give her a call and tell her okay.”
“Hey, that’s great!”
“Call DeAngelo now,” she said, “before he offers the ticket to some sweet young thing.”
I called DeAngelo and he gave me the details. I was going to Key West for a week!
Special this week: Two chapters
Key West Adventure
A week later, I was aboard a plane touching down in Key West. Winter was hanging on tenaciously in Virginia and now I was stepping out into balmy weather. DeAngelo’s plane was arriving fifteen minutes after mine, so he’d told me to wait for him at the baggage claim carousel. I learned the trip DeAngelo had ‘won’ was an under-the-table gift from three Monroe alumni who had been college baseball players and had made it big in the business world. The ‘prize’ included a car for the week and the man bringing it would meet him at the carousel. He was waiting for DeAngelo’s arrival, helped us get the luggage in the car and we were off. Since DeAngelo’s plane actually arrived a few minutes early, we were on our way to the condo less than half an hour after I arrived.
In the car, DeAngelo and Joe were talking about the wild week they anticipated. I hoped most of it was just talk. I had finally had enough and said, “Ok, guys, I hope a lot of that is empty talk after the last holiday when we were all scared shitless.”
“You know how it is,” Derek,” Joe said. “Guys get together and all start talking about fucking every girl around.”
“Maybe in your circle,” I said.
“Well, don’t you guys talk about all the guys you’re going to fuck?”
“Not my bunch of guys. Remember, they are a mixture of straight and gay and we seldom get together as men without women present, so no, we don’t.
“Got a boyfriend? What about that Levi fellow?” DeAngelo asked.
“Levi does, I don’t. Last week he fell for a guy the first time he saw him and the guy did the same over him. The two plan on living together next year. There is no way they could find a place mid-semester when they became boyfriends and no refund to Telvin, Levi’s boyfriend.”
“How’d you take the breakup?” Joe asked.
“You and that Levi guy.”
“We were just very good friends and still are. We were never boyfriends. I am delighted that Levi found someone as fantastic as Telvin and they are as happy as they are.”
“So you are still single,” Joe said.
“Yeah, and this time I plan to stay that way for awhile. For some guys--gay and straight--sex partner after sex partner without love and commitment is okay. One thing Levi taught me without knowing it is it’s not my way. I want very much what my dads have, what Mr. Manning . . . ”
“Mr. Manning is gay?” DeAngelo exclaimed.
“Shit! Yes, he is DeAngelo, but please keep that to yourself. He and his partner have been together since college and his partner is as great a person as Mr. Manning, but you know if people found out he was gay, they would destroy him.”
“Not to worry about me,” DeAngelo said. “Mr. Manning was great support when I needed it. He’s needed where he is, gay or straight. Anyway, you were saying?”
“I was saying I want a relationship like our dads and Stu and Manning have. Maybe having fuck buddies until Mr. Right comes along is all right for some, but I don’t want that. Not again. That isn’t me.”
The condo was right on the beach and it was not as much a party beach as some. Still, there were plenty of people around and Joe and DeAngelo were having a blast. Their motto was girls, beer, more girls and more beer. The condo was full of women day and night. Our second afternoon there, I asked about the car and DeAngelo told me to take it. He and Joe had made a beer and food run earlier and were settling in for another twenty-four hour party. I took the car and drove around, finally parking and walking around the marina. As I was walking along a pier, I spotted a brother working on a large, very nice boat and walked over to where he was working, “Give me a hand with this?” he asked.
I had no idea what he was doing, but said, “Sure, but you’ll have to tell me what you are doing because I haven’t the foggiest idea.”
“I’m replacing a bilge pump and can’t seem to get it in place without messing up something else. If you could operate the chain hoist for me, I’ll buy dinner. Name’s Antwon.”
“Okay, Derek, I’ll climb down and guide the pump and you operate the hoist. Know how to do that?
“Matter of fact, I do.” I grabbed the chain which would raise or lower the pump and as Antwon called out directions, I gradually lowered the pump. Twenty minutes later, it was installed and tested.
Antwon climbed back up, wiping his hands. When he had them relatively clean, we shook hands. “Your boat?” I asked.
“Mine and my partner’s or will be when we get the loan paid off. We do deep sea fishing trips, excursions to pay for it. You new to the area?
“No. I’m here from Old Commonwealth University in Norfolk, Virginia. I’m on spring break with my brother and one of his friends.”
“And you’re not out raising hell with the girls and trying to drink Key West dry?”
“Just not my thing.”
“Hi, Babe.” When I looked over my shoulder, I saw a white guy was coming toward us.
“Hi to you too, Babe,” the guy said, and kissed the brother.
“Sharky, this is Derek, a student from Old Commonwealth University in Norfolk, Virginia.”
“And you are wandering around a marina rather than chasing women and getting drunk?”
“As to the former, I suspect Antwon and I are brothers in more ways than one and drunk has never made sense to me. A nice buzz occasionally is great, but the major boozing going on down on the beach is not for me.”
“So you’re gay?”
“Yeah, as gay as I can be.”
“Well, there’s not a lot of excitement for us during spring break since most sensible people stay away until the parties are over, but we do have a short cruise this afternoon. Come along if you like. I’m sure there’ll be something you can do. We’re just going out for a few hours. A few elderly ladies want to watch the sunset from the gulf side of the key so we'll go out until they can barely see land, drop anchor and they will have dinner while the sun sets, then we’ll come in. You have to be back any certain time?”
“No, I’m really on my own while my brother and his friend fuck if they can get it up after all the alcohol they consume this afternoon.”
“If you like you can just hang out with us,” Sharky said. “We’ll be getting things set up and then just laze around.”
The cruise was delightful. A caterer brought dinner to the boat and when they were ready, I served it. When they finished, one of the ladies urged us to finish up the food. We were three men, not elderly ladies, so the food was kinda funny in that it was all fancied up, but it was delicious. When we got back to the dock, the lady who had organized the cruise gave each of us a sizable tip and said she would be telling her friends about the cruise and suggesting they do one as well.
Sharky and Antwon invited me to their place for a drink and we talked until almost midnight. When I got back to the condo, Joe and DeAngelo were flaked out across one of the sofas, bare assed, on their stomachs and an arm across the others back. I was surprised that the two macho guys were actually 1) asleep, 2) together, and 3) without women. I’d have to find out what was going on tomorrow because Sharky and Antwon had invited me to go out with them when they took a group on a day-long deep sea fishing trip. They were leaving the pier at 7:00. They were not exactly looking forward to the trip as it was eight college kids on spring break. “They’ll drink much and fish little,” Sharky said, “and half will be hung-over and seasick before we clear the marina, but a day trip pays well.”
I crawled into bed and thought about my time with Sharky and Antwon. It was obvious the two were in love by the ways they found to touch each other as they worked; how they smiled when their glances happened to meet; in the way they worked as a team to make their life together work. One thing they had that I would never have in Norfolk and even less in Stanton was the generally accepting attitude toward gays and gay couples in Key West.
Sharky said they would swing by and pick me up on their way to the marina. “Be ready about six so we can get breakfast before the frat boys arrive.” I wondered if I should wake up Joe and DeAngelo to see if they wanted to go to bed and decided I wasn’t their mother. I set the alarm for 5:30 regretting I wouldn’t get even five hours sleep. Fortunately, I was out like a light when I crawled in bed.
When the alarm went off at 5:30, I hopped in the shower my room shared with an unoccupied one and thought I heard the shower for Joe and DeAngelo’s room going, but was sure it was my imagination. I showered, got dressed and was downstairs ten minutes before Antwon and Sharky were due. I was surprised to see Joe sitting in the living room. “Good morning, Joe. Aren’t you up early?”
Joe laughed and said, “I was about to say the same thing and I know I was asleep before you came in.”
“Yeah, met a couple of guys and went on a sunset cruise with them, well, they own a boat and do that sort of thing. They’re picking me up for breakfast then I’m spending the day with them. More women and beer for you today?”
“Nah, to tell the truth, DeAngelo and I have been pretty good boys since the Christmas break. I think we learned a pretty important lesson. We were lucky, simply lucky, not to have paid more than a pain in the ass for our irresponsibility. What we saw yesterday was irresponsibility mixed with free beer or stronger stuff. Two guys we met earlier were rushed to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, but the party went on.
“DeAngelo and I were invited by six guys from Virginia to join them in an adventure today away from the women and the alcohol. They had prepaid for eight, but two decided they’d rather party on the beach. We’re leaving at as soon as DeAngelo comes down to grab some breakfast and meet the guys.”
“Have a good time. Thanks for telling me you and DeAngelo are thinking with the big head these days.”
“Well, the little head does have his say,” Joe laughed.
“Yeah, he does.”
Sharky and Antwon showed up at a few minutes of six and we went to a breakfast place they knew and had breakfast and were making a final check of the boat when an SUV pulled up. It looked like a clown car as eight guys, most as large as DeAngelo started piling out. The last two were Joe and DeAngelo!
“So your adventure is a day long deep sea fishing trip,” I said as the two approached, neither of them having noticed me. “If you’ll follow me.”
“Derek, what the fuck you doing here?”
“Taking you on an all day deep sea fishing trip.”
DeAngelo turned to his friends, who were all watching us. “Guys, my little brother is something else, but a boat captain he is not. I’m not even sure why he’s here. My little brother, Derek,” he said, indicating me with his hand as he introduced me.
“He’s in charge of order and discipline,” Sharky said. “My partner is the enforcer. Antwon, show yourself. Antwon and Derek are my Nubian crew. I’m Captain Sharky. Okay, guys, we want this to be a fun day for you, so some precautions. First, sunscreen. Use it. Skin cancer will wait a few years, but sunburn will make you miserable in a few hours. Don’t ruin the rest of your break with sunburn. I see some of you have already been careless about that. Alcohol. We are not the police so we’ll not ID you. However, a word of advice: Some of you are likely to get seasick unless you have prepared with the behind-the-ear thingy or the OTC pills. If you’re half drunk, the likelihood of seasickness increases. Fully drunk? You deal with Antwon. Horsing around. Watch it. ‘Man overboard’ is not something I want to hear. Enjoy yourselves. We’re here to help you fish and to do what we can to make the day a pleasure for you. By the way, Derek is as new at this as you guys, so questions should probably be directed to me or Sharky unless it’s something like ‘Where’s the head?’ Questions?” There were none. “Then we’re on our way.”
Soon, we lost sight of the marina and were headed well out to sea. I was surprised at the guys. It was just as Joe had said: they’d had enough party and were out to enjoy a new adventure. Half of them were just along for the ride and not really interested in fishing, but lay in the sun, talked, and a couple even read. Joe and DeAngelo were among the fishermen and DeAngelo caught the blue ribbon fish of the day. When he asked about eating it, Antwon suggested a place that would prepare it or as much as the group wanted and that fish became supper. They asked Antwon, Sharky and me to join them and we had a grand time. I was also surprised when the fellow who organized the fishing trip included me when gave out very generous tips.
After supper, with Antwon and Sharky’s instructions, I helped clean and secure the boat. They had a half day fishing trip the next morning and would provision the boat for a two-night excursion to Dry Tortugas. They invited me along as they only had four passengers. “With what it’s costing them, they’ll be pretty demanding and there will be plenty you can do to earn your keep,” Sharky said. “We’ll be back the day before you leave, so don’t worry about that.”
Joe and DeAngelo came in half an hour after I got back, accompanied by two attractive women. “Derek, Angelica and Katrina. Ladies, my younger brother Derek. Where have you been, Derek?” DeAngelo asked. I told him about the excursion and that I was going and had been helping prepare the boat for the trip and all four said, “Wow!”
“Do you have any idea what that is costing?” Angelica asked. I indicated I did not. “A group of us were interested and with the maximum number allowed in our group, the cost was pushing a thousand each with nothing special. I suspect since there are only four, there will be extras.”
“Well, the food looked pretty special and there were very expensive wines and liquor, including a lot of champagne,” I said.
We talked awhile and I was surprised that the women were not airheads, but quite the contrary. Angelica was pre-med and the Katrina was pre-law. I did neglect to learn where they were in college, but that was no big matter. I was sure Joe and DeAngelo would have long moved on by the time I got back and the two women a mere memory.
The excursion was wonderful. The four people expected a lot--it was just what they were used to--but were very nice and did not treat us, for the most part, as servants. We were free to share their food and drinks. We ate well and had all to drink we wanted. When we got back to Key West, each of us got a thousand dollar tip and a promise that others would be seeking out Sharky and Antwon for a similar excursion.
Antwon and Sharky had an invitation to have supper at La Casa with Mrs. Crandall, the owner of La Casa, the estate where their cottage was located. They invited me along after they called La Casa. Both assured me the call was unnecessary, but I had insisted.
Supper was a very relaxed affair and I liked Mrs. Crandall at once. She obviously doted on Sharky and Antwon. During the meal she told them the ‘Elizabethton Tarheels’ would be coming down after graduation for a week. She wasn’t sure of the date because it seemed school was out a week after graduation or something strange like that. “Anyway, that’s a couple months away.”
As we were leaving, she said, “Derek, I hope we see more of you at La Casa in the future.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Crandall. I hope so as well.”
When we got back to Antwon and Sharky’s cottage, they asked me what I would be doing the coming summer. I told them of my year round responsibility to Auntie. “Well, in case you have any free time, I think we can find enough for you to do to pay for your keep and we’d love to have you back for as long as you can make it.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that, guys, but unfortunately, I doubt it’ll happen.”
“Well, remember, the invitation is there and open.”
When I got back to the condo, DeAngelo and Joe were just leaving with Angelica and Kristina. “We’ll be back shortly,” DeAngelo said. “We’re taking Angelica and Kristina to the airport. Their plane leaves in a couple hours. Want us to bring you anything?”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Just be careful. From what we saw driving in, the DUI fines will keep Key West going until next year if they get half of those who are more than a bit tipsy.”
When they got back, DeAngelo said, “Derek, we saw what you meant about DUI. At times it was like dodgem cars, but the state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and city police were busy. I guess they are torn between the tourist dollars and public safety.”
“No question as to where I come down on that issue,” I responded.
“Joe and I agree with you on that and, by the way, on what you said about getting to know someone. Before, when we hopped in bed so quickly, we never knew who we were fucking half the time. I had a great time with Angelica and the most we did was some pretty hot making out.”
“Same with Kristina and I am looking forward to getting to know her better and her getting to know me.”
“They go to Monroe?”
“No, Derek, actually, they are closer to home. They are students at Martha Baldwin. We plan on seeing a lot of them,” Joe said.
“Provided we have time. Between baseball and studying. . . . ”
“Studying? Why the sudden change?” I laughed at the idea the two would put aside pleasure to actually study.
“Derek, if we plan on seeing those two, which I would like very much to do, we’re going to have to stop fucking around, figuratively as well as actually. They are smart. . . .”
“So are you two.” I interjected.
“Yeah, I, we, know that, but anyone looking at our grades would decide otherwise. I’m serious, I plan to really buckle down. Don’t get me wrong, if Angelica asks me to bed her, she will be bedded royally, but until she does, it’s Rosy Thumb and her four sisters, and then only on study breaks.” To say I was skeptical of the Road to Damascus experience in regard to fucking around--actually and figuratively--would be an understatement.
Unlike coming down, my flight left before DeAngelo and Joe’s. When we said goodbye at the airport, I thanked DeAngelo for making it possible for me to come down. He dismissed my thanks with a ‘no thanks necessary’ comment, but his smile said he was pleased that I had enjoyed the trip. He did add that it was a pity I hadn’t found a boyfriend.
When I got back to Norfolk, Auntie’s granddaughter had left on a morning flight. When I commented on it, Auntie reminded me that Mrs. Jackson who lived down the street a block was on her ‘call in case of an emergency’ list with the push button emergency people.
“So I want to hear all about the trip. Meet any potential boyfriends?”
I told her no boyfriends, but two new friends, Antwon and Sharky. She wanted to know all about them, their business and the excursion. She agreed that DeAngelo and Joe would likely fall back into old patterns, but hoped not. After we had talked an hour, before I went upstairs, I put my dirty clothes down in the washer. Upstairs, I cleaned the place before settling down to work on assignments due in the near future. Spring break was over.
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