There I was feeling brave because Matt was in the hot seat when Dr. Walker suddenly turned to me and wanted to know how my week went. "It was great. Matt and I and a couple of other guys got tested for STDs just to make sure we were clean."
"Was that the highlight of your week?"
"No, thinking about tomorrow when we're getting together with some other guys and scoring a touchdown in our game on Friday were the highlights of my week."
"Congratulations on the touchdown. Is tomorrow still on?"
Matt and I glanced at each other. "As far as I know."
Walker turned to Matt. "How do you feel about that, Matt?"
Matt didn't say anything at first. He glanced at his feet, then at me, and then finally Dr. Walker. "I'm not sure. My life's so messed up I'm not sure what I should do. But to be honest, Dr. Walker, I was kind of looking forward to it."
"You sound like you have doubts," he said, and then turned to me. "Do you have any doubts, Andy?"
"Nope, not a one. It's just fun, Doc. No one gets hurt."
"Are you sure about that?"
I thought about it for a second. "Yep, I'm sure."
He looked at Matt, who was looking down at his feet again. "How about you, Matt?"
"I have my doubts, but I set this whole thing up in the first place. It was my idea. Well, Colt's and mine. Everyone got tested, and they'd all be disappointed if Andy or I changed our minds."
Walker smiled and looked at both of us. "So you're doing it for them?"
I should have expected that question. "In a way," I said.
"You too, Matt?"
"So you're not doing it for yourself, Matt. That's the impression I got when you said you were looking forward to it."
"I am looking forward to it. This past week has made me miserable, and I need this."
"What do you mean you `need this'?"
"You know. Sex."
"Will that make the next week better?"
I wanted to laugh. He had Matt on the ropes. But at the same time I was feeling sorry for him because I knew Walker was actually asking us both the same question.
Matt took a sip of water. "Maybe."
Shit, Walker is good. I wasn't sure how I'd answer that.
"I don't know. It will just be better."
Walker turned to me. Shit!
"How would you answer that question?"
Thank God I had a few seconds to think about it. "Well, Doc, I had a good week, and I'm not expecting to make next week any better. I'm just expecting to make tomorrow better." I gave Walker a big smile.
Then he asked, "How's that? How will it make tomorrow better?"
"Well...uh...uh. It'll be fun. I won't be horny anymore."
"Will your life be any better?"
Shit, he just couldn't leave things alone. "I guess so."
"That's doesn't sound very definite, Andy. Tell me how your life will be better."
The ironic thing was that while I knew the sex and the day itself would be awesome, I couldn't think of why my life would be better. "It just will," I said.
He turned to Matt. "How about you, Matt? Will tomorrow make your life better?"
"Yes. Like I said, this has been a bad week, and I need it."
Walker surprised me when he said, "I understand." But he didn't stop there. "You're avoiding the question. I want to know how it will make your life better."
Matt looked irritated. "I'm not sure why. And I'm not sure why I even came here. You always do this. I should have expected it. I don't have an answer, it will just be better."
"Do you want to leave?"
I had to respect Walker for his courage. But like he had said in the past, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."
Matt looked like he was going to get up, but then he slumped back down in the chair. "Uh, yes and no."
"I'm afraid you're going to talk us out of having sex tomorrow, and I don't want you to. At the same time, I know you're a wise man, and I need to be here. Can you understand?"
Walker nodded. "I do," and then he said, "Let me ask this in a different way. Will having sex tomorrow make you a better football player, will it make you more popular with your teammates, improve your grades, get you a scholarship, or make any significant improvement in your life?"
A smile broke across Matt's face. "No."
Then Walker turned to me. "Same question for you, Andy."
"Doc, I have to give you credit, and I'll have to also say no. But that doesn't mean I'll change my mind."
"How about you, Matt?"
"Me neither. But you know what, Doctor Walker, you helped put things in perspective. As much as Andy and I like sex, it doesn't move our life forward in any way. But at the same time, I don't think it moves us backward either. It's just fun."
"You bring up a good point, Matt. Are you sure of that?"
Matt paused to think. "Yes."
"How about you, Andy?"
"I agree with Matt. It's like going swimming in the summer or playing golf, or even playing football or basketball. It's just fun."
Walker smiled. "You're right about swimming, Andy, unless of course you're on the swim team, which requires a team effort. But can you actually compare having sex to playing a sport?"
"Yeah, why not?"
He smiled again. "Don't forget, I ask the questions here."
Matt and I looked at each other and smiled.
"Answer my question."
I wasn't sure how to answer it at first and kinda felt trapped, but then the answer came to me. "Yeah, the four of us are like a team. We have a common goal, and we practice every now and then. That's what we're planning on doing tomorrow. Practicing."
"Do you really expect me to believe that?"
"Yeah, because it's true."
He turned to Matt. "Do you agree with Andy?"
"Andy's right. We're like a team and in a way we're practicing."
Dr. Walker gave me a gotcha smile. "Do you belong to a league? Are there other teams involved? Do you have competitions with other groups of guys?"
"No, Doc, we're not in a league, and there aren't any competitions," I said with an irritated voice.
"So what are you practicing for?"
"Damn, Doc. You know what I mean. Quit harassing us."
"Harassing you? I'm just asking questions."
"Yeah, Doc, you're just asking questions and backing us into a corner. That's why I didn't want to come," Matt said. I knew he was pissed because he always called Walker Doctor Walker.
"Hold on, Matt. I know my questions make you feel uncomfortable, but I'm not responsible for that. Why do they make you angry?"
Matt stood. "Fuck you, Doc. I have better things to do than put up with this crap. I'm outta here." With that, he walked out the door and left me alone with Walker. We were both speechless. I didn't know what to do at first, but since we came in my car, I knew he'd be on foot, so I ran after him and caught up with him at the elevator. "Matt, what the fuck's the matter with you?" There were some people at the end of the hall, and they gave me a sharp stare.
"I don't have to put up with Walker's bullshit. Who the fuck does he think he is?"
I lowered my voice. "Matt, Matt. You know the game Doc plays. It's his job. Has he once told us not to have our foursome?"
"So what are you so pissed about?"
"I just don't want to deal with this shit. It's been a tough week."
I wanted to slap him. "Tough week? You don't know what a tough week is. I broke my leg one year, got the shit kicked out of me and almost died, missed two football seasons, and one basketball season. Thomas broke his ankle and missed a whole basketball season, and you're telling me you had a tough week. What bullshit!"
The elevator door opened, and he stepped in. The door closed, so I yelled at the closed door. "Matt, you're a coward. You're not the man I thought you were."
I started to walk back to Dr. Walker's office when the elevator door opened. Matt stood there crying, sobbing really. His whole body shook. I walked over, took him in my arms, and hugged him tight. "I love you, Matt."
He didn't say anything. He just sobbed in my arms as the elevator door closed again and the elevator stood still as if waiting to see what we'd do next. Suddenly, the elevator headed up two floors. The door opened, and an older couple stood there staring at us. I let go. Matt wiped his tears. They entered the elevator, turned their backs to us, and pressed one. I reached around them and pressed four. Matt cried silently, and when the elevator stopped and the doors opened, he followed me out the door and back into Dr. Walker's office. Doc was sitting there waiting as if he knew one or both of us would be back. We sat down again.
Matt wiped his tears once more. "Sorry, Doctor Walker. I should know better."
I couldn't believe what Doc said next. "And you thought the past week was tough."
Matt managed to break a smile through his tears and gave a gentle nod. "I see your point."
"Do you want to continue or stop, Matt?"
"Continue. Andy just called me a coward, and I have to tell you, I've been thinking the same thing for months. I don't have the courage to do what I know is right."
Doc was ready with another one of those hard questions. "And what is that?"
"To refocus. Commit myself to changing back to the Matt I used to be. But I don't know if I can do it."
"When you say `the Matt you used to be', what do you mean? How was that Matt different from the one you are today?"
"I wasn't always focused on sex. It's gotten so I picture myself spending my adult years hanging in gay bars, doing drugs, and having sex with every hot guy who will have me. It scares me. I don't want that." Matt looked at me. "Someday I want to settle down with someone. I just don't want to do it now."
Walker turned to me. "How about you, Andy? What does your future look like when you think about it?"
"Doc, I've never really thought about it. I guess in a way I'm afraid of the same thing. I say I want to be in a committed relationship, but I'm really afraid that even if I was, I might stray. I've been known to have a short attention span."
Walker smiled. "So you and Matt will be going to the gay bars together?"
Matt gave me a surprised look.
I went on. "No. That's not what I want at all. I have a lot of love to give, and I hope and pray that once someone has committed to me and I've committed to them, that I would never stray, but it does scare me a little."
"How do you feel about that, Matt?"
"The old Matt would have said, I'd never stray. But the new one might. It's really strange, Doc. I've become like the old Andy, and he's becoming more like the old Matt."
"He's more responsible. He used to have sex with everyone until Dillon came along, and most of the time since then, he's wanted to be with one guy. After losing my virginity, I've wanted to have sex with a lot of different people, including girls. I hurt one pretty badly. Her feelings that is. I've hurt Andy. I organized the foursome. Andy and Thomas didn't want to participate at first but agreed because they didn't want to be left out."
Walked jotted something down and just said, "I see." It sounded ominous.
"So what do you think we should do?" I asked.
"Don't ask me, Andy. The question is, what do you think you should do?"
"Well, Doc, if you want an honest answer, I think we should go ahead with tomorrow and then decide what we're going to do."
Walker turned to Matt. "How about you, Matt?"
"I feel the same. Do you think we shouldn't?"
Doc smiled. "It's not important what I think, only what you think. But I will tell you that people who go on diets often say they'll just have one more donut or dish of ice cream or whatever, and will start their diet after that. Is that what you're saying?"
"Doc, you have a funny way of putting things, but I think so," I said.
Matt looked more confident. "Yes, Doctor Walker. This will be our last time."
"Last foursome or last time having sex until you're married?"
"Whoa, Doc," I said. "Maybe we won't have any more foursomes, but we're not swearing off sex until we're married. That's asking too much."
"I'm not suggesting anything, Andy. I was just asking."
Matt spoke. "Doctor Walker, to be completely honest, we can't make any promises, but the one thing I know is that I need to take my life back, and if that means swearing off sex for a time, I'm willing to do that. I'd even be willing to wait until I'm married. I need to focus on football and school, and I'm not sure I can do that if I'm always thinking about sex. And after we graduate, I don't want to be spending my time at gay bars picking guys up or waiting for them to pick me up. But I have to tell you, it sounds tempting."
"I don't think giving up sex'll work, Matt," I said. "When you give something up, you think about it more."
Matt looked at Doctor Walker. "So what can I do?"
"That's up to you. Give me a few other suggestions."
Matt shook his head. "It's going to be hard. Andy and I could be exclusive. Just have sex between us, but not be a couple. Colt will want to get together again, and that's going to put pressure on me. Thomas is single right now, and Andy and I both like him. And if our foursome is awesome tomorrow, we might want to do it again. It's a balancing act. I guess I want my cake and be able to eat it too. I never quite understood that saying, but I finally realize that if you eat the cake, then you don't have it anymore. And if you don't eat it, you have the cake, but can't enjoy it."
"Damn, Matt. You're a philosopher," I said.
"No, it's just that you and I both want the cake, which is sex. But if we have sex, then the cake fills us for a time, but then we want the cake again and again and again. We always want more cake. Does that make any sense?"
"Yeah, Matt. We both want sex. We have it. There's that let down after it's all done. And no sooner have we finished than we want it again. But I don't see how any of that helps."
Doc Walker cleared his throat. "Is the cake really sex? Or is it your life. Is it doing well in football and school? Is it being respected by your teammates and classmates? Is it being respected by those you hurt? Is it having respect for yourself? Is it possible that when you are having sex and thinking about sex all the time, that you lose all that?"
Matt rubbed his right hand through his hair. "You're right, Doctor Walker, the cake might not be sex, but none of this solves the problem."
"Have you ever heard of displacement?" Walker asked.
We both shook our heads.
"Instead of trying to quit something you replace it with something else. You displace it, so to speak. A good example would be a jar filled with water. You start putting marbles into the jar until you've displaced the water. So in your case, Matt, you put all your focus on football and school, earning the respect of your teammates, making amends with the people you've hurt, and renewing your respect for yourself. That's the marbles. These things become your focus. And over time you displace sex, the water, with the things you feel are most important to your future. You've already pointed out that sex doesn't move your life forward. So you focus on the things that will move your life forward. And if you happen to have sex once in a while, so be it. After all, even after you've filled the jar with marbles, there's still a little water left in the jar. What do you think?"
Matt smiled. "I thought you never gave any answers."
"Well, Matt, there's a time for everything, and this happens to be one of them."
"I like it. I can live with that. I guess all I need is a plan. That's something Andy and I can work on together."
Walker looked at the clock. "Our time is up. That will be your homework. I want to see the plan next week. Agreed?"
Matt and I nodded.
I think it was President Franklin Roosevelt who said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." How true. My mom always liked telling me, "Face your fear and it will disappear." It's strange how we hear all this stuff and it means nothing and then suddenly it means everything. I was afraid of Dr. Walker, or at least what I thought Dr. Walker was going to do to me. Of course he wasn't going to do anything to me. He doesn't have the ability to fix me. I was the only one who could do that. And while he rarely told us what to do, he told us about displacement and gave a great example that made it all clear in my head. Andy's too.
We went to my house after the session and worked on the plan. Of course the foursome the next day was the elephant in the room, and we avoided it as we wrote the first few items in our plan down. Actually, it was more my plan than Andy's because he had tied fewer knots over the last few months than I had.
He finally asked, "What are we going to do about tomorrow?"
"What do you want to do?"
He laughed. "I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"I want to have one fucking great time."
"Me too. We can start our diet on Monday."
Be strong, believe in freedom and in God, love yourself, understand your sexuality, have a sense of humor, masturbate, don't judge people by their religion, color or sexual habits, love life and your family. - Madonna Ciccone
When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength. Thanks to the teachings of Buddha, I have been able to take this second way. -- Dalai Lama
Times of transition are strenuous, but I love them. They are an opportunity to purge, rethink priorities, and be intentional about new habits. We can make our new normal any way we want.
If you like this story, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I answer all emails.
I'd like to thank Lisa for taking the time to edit Knots 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. As the author, I take final responsibility for all parts of the story, including any errors.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales, is purely coincidental and no slanderous intent is implied.