DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving gay teenage boys who are trying to cope with love and homophobia in the American Midwest. Although no sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals or religious establishments nor school or corporate policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.
Please note that this is the twelfth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.
This is the second place winning entry in the Gym Incident writing contest. The events described herein are a prequel to those of the other stories in the Naptown Tales Series and are an alternative version to those described in the first place entry.
Jeremy and I were in his bedroom. We spent some time there when we could. We spent some in mine, too. We were boyfriends, and spent a lot of time together, but in our bedrooms, with no one around, we could just be us, be alone, and we both liked that. It brought us closer together. No, not doing that. Well, maybe we did do that, too, sometimes, but that wasn't what I am talking about, not what we were doing today. Today, we were doing something else. Today, we were finally discussing The Gym Incident.
Jeremy was embarrassed by it. We could, and did, talk about any and everything. But we still had our own embarrassments that were difficult to talk about. I had things that I didn't discuss with him, and I was sure he had those things, too. Things that were private, and that we thought would be humiliating if anyone knew about them. Things we thought cast us in a pretty poor light.
It was funny, though. When I did find the courage to tell him some of those things about me, I found that in the end, doing that simply made us closer. I found that when he didn't tease me about them, when he was supportive, when he just smiled and put an arm around my shoulders and squeezed, when he said small encouraging words, or big ones like, "I love you, Dave," I liked him even better then, and I felt some of my fears and worries about the things that embarrassed me, what they said about me, just sort of evaporated. It helped, him knowing about them and still liking me, it helped, him being kind about knowing.
So I wanted to help him that way, too. I wanted to show him I could be supportive the same way he could. And the best way I could do that was to hear about the Gym Incident, because I knew it bothered him. He never had spoken to me about it, and it sort of hung there in the past, like a background noise that wouldn't stop, wouldn't go away, that was just always there, even if we didn't always notice it any more.
We were in his bedroom. We'd been playing a game on the computer, and I'd won. I didn't often win, so I was feeling good about that, and when I was feeling good, the thing I wanted most was to make Jeremy feel good, too. There were a lot of ways I could make that happen, and the one I latched onto right then was what I've just been writing about: I wanted him to tell me about the Gym Incident, and then I could hold him, or discuss it with him, or whatever was called for after he was done. The thing was, I knew I could do it, I could take away some of whatever it was he felt about that. I thought, I was pretty sure, I could make the noise stop.
I walked over to the bed and lay down on it. I scooted over so there was room for him beside me. He looked at me, then got a grin on his face. He came over and lay down, too. I thought he might have the wrong idea, but then, it wasn't a wrong idea, just not what I was thinking at the moment.
"Jeremy, I want us to talk."
"Oh. I was thinking you wanted to do something else." Then he giggled. I love his giggle. I mean, I really love his giggle. It makes me giggle, too. So, I giggled.
He turned, leaned over, and kissed me. It's hard to kiss when you're giggling, but if you do it right, the kissing right, the giggle sort of stops and other thoughts come into your head. And believe me, Jeremy knew how to do it right.
So we kissed for a while, and that made my other thoughts, the ones about just talking with him, letting him tell me about the Gym Incident and me consoling him, sort of move to the background. But they didn't go entirely away. As much as the kissing was nice, and arousing, I still did have that thought in the back of my mind, and when I was thinking about something like that, I was good at maintaining my focus. It was one of the things that made me - me, I guess. Everyone always told me I was good at getting things done, and I think one reason that might have been true was I had a pretty good ability to not get sidetracked. And even with Jeremy trying his best to do that right now, that thought I'd had was still there.
"Jeremy," I said, when I could. I was breathing a little heavily, but I really wanted to do this. It wasn't just curiosity on my part, but there was an element of that, too. It was more that he'd shown me so much support, and it had brought us closer, and I wanted to do the same for him.
He giggled again and kissed me again, and oh I didn't want him to stop, but I wanted to do this.
"Dave!" He put the same tone of exasperation in his voice I had had in mine.
Damn but I loved this kid!
"Jeremy, I want to talk."
"Okay." He rolled away from me so he was on his back again, but parts of us were still touching. He made sure of that. I did too.
I just lay there for a moment, enjoying what we'd just done, enjoying being with Jeremy. Enjoying that he was my boyfriend, and that every day I felt a little more love for him. I'm not sure a teenager is supposed to have what I had, this love for someone else, this feeling of fulfillment, of satisfaction. I knew I was lucky. I knew I had something a lot of other kids didn't.
"Jeremy, I want to hear about the Gym Incident."
He could have responded in a number of ways. He could have pulled away from me. He could have just said he didn't want to talk about that. He could have just been silent, leaving me uncertain. What he did do, when I thought about it later, seemed to tell me that he trusted me as much as I trusted him. And loved me as much, too.
"Okay," he said.
That was it. No reaction at all. No shyness or fear or anything else.
He moved then, sliding backwards so instead of lying on his back, he was now sitting back against the headboard of the bed. He reached behind him and pulled a pillow out from under the top of the bedspread and pushed it behind him, getting comfortable. It felt wrong for me to be lying there while he was sitting, so I copied him. There was a little space between us when I'd positioned myself, and before beginning, he shoved himself over so our upper arms were together.
"First, you need some background. This was last March, remember," he began. "Actually, it was even earlier than that that it really began. You may remember, Coach Rodgers gave us all a speech the first day of gym in the fall. He was a hardass. He had us all sitting on the floor in the gym, and he's striding back and forth in front of us, laying down the law. We have to do this, we can't do that, he'll have our ass if we do such and such. Part of his talk is how we're to dress out every day. What we have to wear, what we can't wear. What'll happen if we don't wear what we're supposed to, or do wear what we're not allowed to wear. You remember. He was an asshole."
I remembered. Why do some gym teachers think they have to be so intimidating? What was their problem, anyway?
Jeremy continued. "So he'd given us the speech, and it had taken most of the class period, with him repeating himself several times. One of the things he had kept on about was we all had to have gray shorts and gray tees, we had to have sneakers and white socks, and we all had to wear a jock strap, we couldn't wear underwear, just the jock, and he'd be checking, and anyone not dressed out right would be running laps until the class was over or they died, and he didn't much care which. The way he said it, it sounded like he meant it.
"The school provided the shorts and shirts, and in the time left when he was through yelling at us, he passed those out to us, and gave us the combination of the lock on the locker he'd assigned. He told us the shoes, socks and jocks were our responsibility, and we had to have them by tomorrow. That seemed unreasonable to me. What if your mother didn't have time to go shopping today? What if she worked? I didn't say anything, though. Coach Rodgers wasn't someone you said something to.
"When my mom got home that afternoon, I told her I needed a jockstrap, and I had to have it before gym tomorrow. She said she didn't have time to run to the mall. I guess when I told her again I had to have it by tomorrow, she heard something in my voice, because pretty soon we were in the car, and then parking in the parking lot with all the other cars at the mall. She'd been grumbling all the way. She didn't like having her schedule interrupted, and had said some things about the coach that I was smiling about. Smiling to myself. When Mom is in a mood, it doesn't do to let her see me smiling.
"We went to Berman's, and to the boy's section, which embarrassed me because I wasn't a boy any longer. She asked the clerk where the jockstraps were. I blushed, which didn't help anything. But the whole idea of jockstraps was embarrassing, and talking to a strange man about them was awful.
"He pointed us to a rack and walked over to it with us. There were many jockstraps there, all packaged in plastic wrapping.
" `What size does he need?' the clerk asked my mom, and if I thought just her asking where the things were was embarrassing, this was a hundred times worse.
" `I don't know. Can he try them on?'
" `I'm sorry, ma'am. It's just like underwear. It wouldn't be sanitary.'
" `Well, he wears size 24 underwear. Do you have one that size?'
" `Yes, but see, the pouch has to fit, too, not just the waist. If the pouch isn't the right size, he won't have any support, and that's what the jockstrap is for. Or it'll be too tight, and it'll be uncomfortable. It all depends on how big he is.'
"My mom looked at me, and I'd have liked to have crawled into a hole. She was going to ask me, I could just see it in her eyes. She was going to ask me how big I was. Down there. She was!
"How I managed to make my brain work, right then, I'll never know. But I did. And I came up with a way to keep her from asking. I had to. She wasn't embarrassed by all this, and the clerk wasn't either. I was almost shaking I was so embarrassed. They were thinking about my parts. I knew they were. They were about to discuss them! But, it didn't happen. My brain saved me.
" `Mom, why don't we just buy a couple of them? They're not that expensive, and if you think they are, I'll pay you back. They have small, medium and large. Probably we can forget the large one. Get one of each of the others. Please.'
"I think she could tell, from my eyes or voice or body language, something of what I was feeling. She didn't argue. She just told the clerk that what I'd said sounded reasonable and asked for a size 24 waist in small and medium pouch sizes--man, did I hate even hearing that word, pouch!--and the clerk grabbed a couple of packages. We took them to his station where thankfully no one was around. Mom paid, they were put in a bag, and we were out of there. I was so happy we were done. I was thinking if my face stayed red any longer, I'd be stuck the rest of my life with a permanent blush."
Jeremy paused, and I took the opportunity to reach over and squeeze his bicep. This was what I'd been thinking when I'd asked about the incident. I'd thought I'd be in a position to be supportive. Even though I was sure we hadn't come to the worst part for him yet, I could tell he was reliving the embarrassment in the department store, and I took advantage of it.
When I squeezed his arm, he looked over at me and smiled. I smiled back, trying to put as much sympathy into that smile as I could. I also was trying hard not to laugh. I knew he'd been embarrassed, but thinking of him going through hell with a clerk and his mom discussing pouch sizes was hilarious. Laughing, though, would have been just what he'd have hated. I didn't laugh. I thought about it, but fought down the urge.
Jeremy moved a little, settling more comfortably against the pillow, then went on. "When we got home, I went to my room and opened both packages. I undressed and tried each on. They both fit fine around my waist, but the pouch seemed silly. It was just there. If the purpose was to support my balls, it didn't seem to do that much at all. It was just a piece of cloth covering me up, and not much more than that. The small one covered me a little closer than the medium one, but there wasn't a big difference. It was a little depressing, because I realized the problem probably wasn't that the jocks were too big; it was more likely my balls were too small.
"I could wear either one, however, and I thought that might be good, because alternating them would mean I wouldn't have to bring either of them home for washing till the end of the week, as long as they were being used only every other day.
"I'd brought home the shorts and tee-shirt I'd been given that day, and my mom had washed them. I had a gym bag, and put my shoes and socks in it. I thought about the jockstraps, and whether I wanted them loose in the gym bag. I don't know why I still felt a little funny about them. But it was the same feeling I had about people seeing my underwear, only worse. My underwear was private; so were my jockstraps. They shouldn't have embarrassed me, but they did. Finally, I simply rolled them up and put each one in one of the side pockets of the shorts so they'd be as invisible as I could make them. When I was changing in the locker room, I'd put one in my locker and put on the other, and both would be out of sight as much as possible.
"Dressing out the next day wasn't as bad as I'd thought it might be. We all had to take our underwear off and slip into our jockstraps. I did it with my face to my locker and assumed the others were doing the same thing. I left my shirt on while I slipped off my underwear, then grabbed a jockstrap out of my shorts pocket and yanked it on. It took only about 15 seconds or less being bare, with my back turned to the room. I put the second jock into my locker, at the back so no one would see it, and I then put on the rest of my clothes, locked my locker and went into the gym, feeling good about myself. I'd done it."
"I thought the coach would make a big deal out of us wearing jocks, but he never did. It pissed me off a little because I'd gone to such lengths to get mine and been embarrassed and all, but he never said a word.
"And that was the problem, that he never said anything after that. Because I was still embarrassed about having to put it on every day, and having anyone see me in it. I guess a lot of the other guys felt just as I did. The reason I say that is, after a while, I sometimes didn't bother to take my underpants off for gym. I just took off my pants and put my shorts on and left my jockstraps in my locker. When I'd turn around, I'd see some of the other guys doing exactly the same thing. As we went farther and farther into the year, I think most of us were wearing underpants most of the time and our jocks hardly at all."
He stopped then and turned to look at me again. "That's all background, Dave. Now we're ready for the Gym Incident. You ready?" He grinned at me. I was surprised. I'd thought this might be traumatic for him. That wasn't the vibe I was getting. I hoped that was because he was telling me, and telling me anything wasn't as bad as telling anyone else. That's what I hoped was happening.
I nodded at him. He shoved a little tighter against me. Moral support, I assumed. I reached over and touched his arm again, then settled back.
"Okay. So the year is passing by, gym is gym, with the coach still being intimidating and all and none of us liking him much. Finally, we're into March, the we can sort of sense the end of the school year approaching, but not fast enough, and one day, after gym is over and we're all in the locker room, the coach wanders in. He almost never does that. His office is just off the locker room and he leaves the door open so he can hear if anything is going on, like a fight or anything, but he just doesn't come in there when we're changing. This day, though, he does. And suddenly he's yelling, in that voice of his.
" `What's this crap?!' I hear him say. Then he says, `Martinez, where's your jock?' I look over, and Vince is standing there in his underpants, just pulling off his shorts. Next to him, Brad Templeton is doing the same thing, and he has just underpants on, too. Coach sees him, and his face turns red.
" `Listen up,' he shouts, and you can hear a pin drop it's suddenly so quiet. `I trusted you guys, and look at this. How many of you have not been wearing your jocks?' Of course no one says anything. He asks again, louder, and still there's no reply. So that's when he calls us all together.
" `Tomorrow,' he says, or shouts, really, `tomorrow, everyone wears a jock, and every day after that. You guys hear me? Huh?! Huh?! You, Martinez? You, Templeton? You hear me?!'
"He's looking right at them, and they both tell him, in sort of scared voices, that yes, they hear him. He looks around at the rest of us, and a bunch of us, the braver ones, say we hear him, too. He looks at every one of us, then turns and stomps back to his office. Just as he gets there, he turns back and says, `And they'd better be clean, too.'
"Oops, I think. I hadn't been wearing either of my jocks for a while, they'd both been lying in the back of my locker, and I decided I'd better take them home tonight and get them washed. So I throw them in my gym bag with my shirt and shorts and socks, and take them home for my mom to wash. She does and I do like I did earlier when I still was wearing a jock in gym: I roll them up and stick them in my shorts pockets. I still don't like people seeing them.
"The next day, the coach sticks his head into the locker room while we're dressing out. I get really nervous and get into my jock and the rest of my gym clothes as quickly as I can. I leave the locker room right away to get away from his angry looking inspection of us. Everyone gets out fast, and we all are in the gym, sort of talking to each other, milling around, or just standing. Coach comes out and joins us. He says in that voice of his, `Okay, line up over on the out-of-bounds line at the edge of the court. Now.' We all scurry over to the line. There are enough of us that the line is more than half the length of the gym. `Quiet,' he roars, and we all stop talking.
" `Are you all wearing your jocks?' he asks. No one says anything. He just has the personality that you don't want to say anything to him, even if he's asks you a question, and even this late in the year no one has warmed up to him at all. He's scary, and we're afraid if we say something, we'll attract his attention. So we don't speak. No one says a word.
" `We'll have to check then, if you won't answer,' he barks in the ensuing silence. `I'll start at this end,' he says, walking to one end of the line. `When I'm in front of you, pull down your shorts in front so I can see you're wearing your jock. Let's do this quickly, we don't have all day.'
"I'm sort of in the middle of the line. But everyone wants to see, and kids sort of move out far enough so they can see the end of the line. Coach stops in front of the first kid. The kid doesn't know what to do. He doesn't want to pull down his pants in front of everyone. But the coach isn't the kind of guy that has a lot of patience, and the kid being scared in front of him is just being a nuisance to him. The coach pulls down the front of the kid's gym shorts, half way down to his knees. The kid's white jock is on display. The coach doesn't stand and study it at all, just moves to the next guy. That guy has seen what happens if he balks, and pulls his shorts down, reveals a jockstrap, and the coach moves on.
"This all seems a little unreal to me. The coach is inspecting boys' jockstraps? Boys are pantsing themselves in front of him? Then another thought creeps into my head. It's that the boys in the front of the line are lucky. They don't have a chance to think about it. We boys farther down the line have to think about pulling our shorts down and being looked at. I'd rather not have time to worry about this, I think.
"I'm feeling a little nervous. But not so nervous I'm not aware of the kids around me. They're nervous too, I can see and feel it. Especially the kid next to me. He's sort of fidgeting, and as the coach gets closer, I'm starting to think he needs to use the john, he's fidgeting so bad.
"The coach gets to me and I pull down my shorts, and he moves on. To the nervous kid. That kid doesn't pull down his shorts. He's the first kid who hasn't since the first kid in line. The coach has been so used to moving, seeing, and moving again that he almost walks past the kid. He has to stop his momentum and take a half step back.
" `Drop `em!' he says, and he says it kind of nasty, impatient and gruff. The kid just stands there, looking at the floor. The coach only pauses for a second, then leans forward and yanks the shorts down. Only he yanks hard, and they fall all the way to the floor. The kid doesn't have a jock on. He doesn't have anything on at all.
"The kid's face turns bright red. He reaches down for his shorts and the coach yells at him to stand still. The kid freezes. All the kids in the entire line have moved so they can see. The coach starts yelling at the kid. He tells him everyone else was responsible enough to get a jockstrap, why was he different? Was he lazy or just stupid? He doesn't give the kid a chance to answer, just keeps yelling at him, berating him, asking if he's been going commando in gym all year and why and the kid is just standing there and we are all looking at him. He is so embarrassed, so humiliated, I think he probably wants to die. He's 13, standing with everything on show for all his peers to see, he's being belittled by the coach, and there's not a thing he can do about any of it.
"I start feeling sorry for him. I have a vague idea what it would be like to be in his position. I am very shy about my body, and am sure he is about his, too. And here the coach is making it so every kid in the room can stand and stare at him. I am feeling sorry for the kid, and starting to feel mad at the coach. That is a strange combination of feelings, empathy and anger together, but both feelings are getting stronger and stronger the more the coach goes on.
"The boys in the line are all sort of moving around, trying to get better looks at the kid. None of us has had much opportunity to see another boy naked, and we are all curious, and perhaps sort of morbidly fascinated at what's happening to the boy, so there is some jostling, trying to get in better positions to see. One boy next to me gets bumped, and he pushes into me. Into my side. And I feel a lump there.
"I know, even as I am thinking of doing it, that I shouldn't do what I'm thinking of doing. I've never much liked being the center of attention, having people notice me at all. But I have these conflicting emotions going on, and what seals it is the kid looks like he is about to cry, and I just do it. I stop thinking and I just do it.
" `Coach!' I say, and I say it loud. I am letting my anger control me, and there is no question, I am mad at that coach. Afraid of him, yes, but mad, too, and that is what is coming out.
"I am close to him, standing right next to the kid he's yelling at, and he hears me, and stops. He turns to me, and before he can say anything to me, I speak up. `Coach, it isn't his fault. I stole his jock strap in the locker room, just as a joke. I was going to give it back, but he came out onto the floor before I thought he would, and there wasn't time to give it back after that. Here it is.' I reach into my pocket and pull out the lump from there, the second jockstrap I meant to put in my locker but forgot about in my rush to get out into the gym, and show it to the coach, then hand it to the kid. `Put it on right now,' I say to him, as much just to him and under my breath as I can.
"The coach looks from me to him and back at me. When he turns to me, the kid slips into the jockstrap, then pulls up his shorts. The coach then starts yelling. At me this time. `What are you, some sort of fag? You take other kids' jocks? What kind of sick freak are you, anyway? What do you do, take `em and sniff `em, maybe sleep with `em? We don't need any fags in this class. We don't need `em in the school. Tell me you're not a fag. Tell everyone here. They don't want to be changing clothes in here with a goddam fag. You a fag, kid? A homosexual? Tell me!' He talks like this, and keeps going. On and on.
"I don't know what to say. I hadn't thought he'd react like this. I'm not prepared to answer his question, either. I am just getting a handle on myself, what I am, and have been thinking recently about whether I might be gay. I've thought for some time now about how cute other boys are, more than I've thought about how cute girls are.
"I am stuck. I don't know what to say. And I decide, right there, right then, with his harsh words pouring over me, I simply am not going to answer the question. He can't make me. If I don't say anything, what can he do? Sure, he might guess I am gay, every boy in the gym might think that, now, but if I don't answer, no one can know for sure, and I can keep my head up.
"I figure that out, standing there with him yelling at me. He yells for a while, then asks me again if I am gay. And stops, waiting for me to answer. I don't. I just look back at him.
"I don't know how long it would have lasted, but something breaks it up. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I still can hardly believe it. What happens is, while I am standing there, mute, and the coach is glaring at me, waiting for me to speak, the kid I just gave the jockstrap to speaks up, breaking the silence.
" `Coach, look, I've got a jockstrap now. But I didn't have it on before, so, do you want me to run laps? Or is it all okay now? Huh, Coach?'
"That breaks the spell. The coach looks over at the kid, who is standing with the front of his shorts down, displaying the jock. The coach sees that, glances back at me, at the kid, and then obviously reaches a decision, because he just moves on. He moves on down the line, checking jockstraps.
"When he is a farther down the line, the kid grabs my arm. I turn to look at him and he said, `Thanks. You saved my life. I took my jock home last night to be washed and forgot to bring it back.' I smile at him and tell him he's saved me, too. I say to him, `You did that on purpose, didn't you?' and he smiles and sort of looks down, embarrassed.
"Of course, from then on, I was labeled. The kids who liked to get on other kids had a target all set up for them by the coach. I was now considered a fag. Some of the teasing was pretty harsh, at first, and I was asked all the time if I was a fag. But I kept to my practice of never saying, one way or another. The ones who persisted in questioning me about why I had the kid's jock and refused to let me just shrug it off, I told them what happened was just an accident, I'd just picked his jock up off the bench by mistake, thinking it was my spare one, and shoved it in my pocket because the coach was staring at me and I wanted to get out of the locker room fast, and that's why I happened to have it. It was just an accident.
"A lot of kids didn't seem to care. The coach left me alone, too. I thought about that, and decided he'd thought about it too. He must have seen, when I wasn't answering his question, that he couldn't make me answer it, and if he took any sort of action against me, did anything at all and I complained, he'd be in trouble. His best course of action, if he didn't want to lose his job, was to just ignore me. And that's what he did."
Jeremy stopped. It was quiet for a few moments as I digested what he'd said. Then I rolled on my side and put and arm around his chest.
"And that's why everyone thought you were gay? Because of what the coach said?" I asked.
"Yep, that's why. That's the infamous Gym Incident."
"And you did this to protect some kid from embarrassment, some kid you didn't even know?"
"You had to be there, Dave. It was awful what the coach was doing to that kid. I realized I could stop it. Once I thought of that, I couldn't let it go on and on."
"But you got labeled yourself!"
"You know, Dave, I've thought about that. I've thought about, what if I'd known that would happen, would I have done it anyway?"
didn't say any more, and the silence grew. I was going to ask him, would he
have, and then didn't. Because I knew. I knew Jeremy. So I didn't ask. Instead,
I hugged him harder.
Because as well as I knew the answer to that question, I'd realized something else, too. He'd always been reluctant to talk about the Gym Incident, so much so always avoided it, changed the subject or did whatever he could to not address it. I'd assumed his embarrassment was because of the sort of thing that happens to kids in gym, being a spazz, being picked last every day, maybe popping wood in the locker room or showers, maybe getting pantsed, maybe some other kids saying something that Jeremy hadn't reacted to well enough to keep his cool. And it wasn't that at all. He was reluctant to talk about it because he had done something selfless, something to help another kid, and talking about something like that embarrassed him.
I'd wanted to hear about it so I could console him, hoping it would be a way he could see how much I cared for him. What a joke that was. What he'd said just made me see more clearly than ever what a great human being Jeremy was.
The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Trab in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.