Notice: The following account depicts homosexual acts between consenting persons and is intended for mature readers only. Exercise your own judgment, in consultation with the appropriate laws and moral standards of your community, in deciding whether or not to read this work. While this story depicts significant events in the lives of certain individuals, readers are cautioned not to assume that their experiences are in any way representative of those of most homosexuals. Any connection between persons named herein and real persons, living or dead, is vigorously denied. Comments may be sent to This story may not be copied or distributed without the express written consent of the author. Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved.

Chapter Eight. What Comes to a Head
Naked truths, unexpected discoveries.

I had no satisfying answers, try as I might. Outside of Paul, my life seemed without purpose, without meaning. Who am I? Nobody. What am I doing? Whatever Paul wants. Could I ever stop being what I am? Not even if my life depends on it.

Over the next couple of weeks, up through, I guess, about the middle of May, I saw Paul only at school, only in passing. Paul couldn’t stop by my house after school because, as punishment for being late to practice, his coach required him to show up early from now on and run laps around the bases to prove his enthusiasm for the team. It seemed harsh at the time—and it was harsh, I guess—but now it’s kind of funny to imagine Paul running laps as the other guys showed up. It must have been at least a little embarrassing for Paul, even if no one ever knew the real reason he had been late. But mulling that reason over in his mind probably had something to do with the fact that he didn’t call me, even in the evenings or on weekends, both times he didn’t have practice. And when I did see Paul at school, he rarely made eye contact, and then only for a split second. Once we passed in the hall when no one either of us knew was around, and he didn’t even say hello. I knew Paul had seen me, and he knew I saw him, but he refused to even glance in my direction as we passed, almost as if he was deliberately not looking at me. After that happened, I began to sense that something was bothering him.

Something new was bothering me, too. More accurately, someone new. I had been used to briefly seeing Paul with this or that girl in the halls, and I knew that on weekend nights he was often out on a date or something, but a few days later I began to see him with one particular girl, a new girlfriend and one of the most popular cheerleaders in the school. I really couldn’t overstate this girl’s qualifications for being titled the school’s most desired starlet. She was a sophomore, and Matt had simply gushed over her since she entered high school, as had most guys. I could see that she was a pretty girl, that she had the right parts arranged in the right way, but the way Matt talked about her, you’d have thought an angel descended. Being a fag, I don’t really know how to describe her in such a way that conveys the attention she commanded from nearly every guy in school, but she was definitely one of those girls who, when I was in the company of other guys, I had to pretend to be attracted to.

When Paul started dating her in the final weeks of the school year, he immediately ascended to the top of the otherwise rigid social scale. Being an attractive and accomplished athlete, he was already counted among the best. Dating the school’s most desired cheerleader, who had been relentlessly courted by seniors no less, made him the envy of even these. The whole thing made me envious, too, but for different reasons. The first time I saw them together in the hallway outside the cafeteria, Paul’s arm wrapped around her, pearly white teeth gleaming from both their faces, a gaggle of devoted friends arrayed in front of them, all laughter and adoration, they seemed to form a perfect tableau of the sort of untouchable “beautiful people” the social mores of our school encouraged us to emulate. I watched this little group step through the doors of the cafeteria with a mixture of jealousy, anger, shame, and horror, knowing that never, even in the most unimaginable of circumstances, would I share in the sort of eminence they enjoyed—the sort I hated, but couldn’t help but concede was “normal.” After a few minutes, Paul noticed me standing some distance away, looking like I’d been shot clean through and was only a moment away from falling in a slump to the floor, and I’m convinced he recognized the hurt my eyes undoubtedly conveyed. He glanced at me only for a second or two, as if an invisible but impenetrable barrier lay between us, then shepherded his little group in through the doors.

If I tell you I didn’t feel like eating for the next few days, I don’t think it will come as a surprise. When I asked Matt, casually of course, about where Paul met his new girlfriend, he had plenty to say about it, more, in fact, than what I was ready to hear. We had been to see a new movie one Sunday night—Oliver Stone’s “The Doors,” which I really liked—and we were sitting in his car in front of his house, in the dark, drinking a few beers.

“So, I saw Paul the other day in the hall. I guess now you’ll never get your chance with Kelly Aaronson.” Matt had recently broken up with his girlfriend—Sarah, I think her name was—and was kind of half-heartedly looking around, but I’d been hearing a lot from him about Kelly over the past few weeks.

“Yeah, that lucky bastard. Kelly’s the hottest girl in school, if you ask me.”

“So you’ve mentioned. Lots of people say that, though.”

“Yeah, well, lots of people are right. I guess I never really had a chance, anyway. If she’d decided to date a senior, I know I probably wouldn’t have made the short list. Besides, we’re graduating and moving on soon. We got us some hot college babes to look forward to!” Matt gave me a playful slap on my arm with the back of his hand, followed up by his award-winning smile. I attempted to respond in kind, trying to think of something to say, but Matt followed up with, “Hey, man, three beers left. Drink up, or you’ll fall behind!”

I quickly swallowed the last few gulps and accepted the fresh can Matt offered. He seemed not to realize that he was one up on me, that I’d deliberately been holding back tonight. Normally a strict equalitarian, he cracked open another for himself and continued to drink. We sat in silence for a few minutes before I got the courage to continue.

“So, how long has all that been going on?”

“All what been going on?”

I swallowed the hard lump in my throat. “Paul and Kelly.”

“Oh, fuck all that,” Matt said in mock annoyance, but then he continued. “I guess I should be happy about it, though. They’ve been together just a few weeks, I guess. No, wait. He asked her out on the twenty-sixth, I think. Yeah, cause that was her birthday or whatever”—I made a quick mental calculation and tried not to react: the twenty-sixth was two days before Paul was last with me—“but the really funny thing about it is that he never would have done it if not for me. Can you beat that?”

“Wha... what?”

“I mean that Paul’s really shy around girls, despite what everyone thinks, and he came to me for advice about it. I don’t think he would even have set his sights on Kelly if I hadn’t put the idea in his mind.”

I was amazed beyond belief and took several full swallows of my beer. “We’re talking about Paul, right, I mean, your brother, Paul? He dates girls all the time!”

“Yeah, but it never goes anywhere. They date a few weeks or so, and then they break up. I asked him what was the matter, he says it just never works out, I press him some, and he tells me he gets nervous. And would you believe Paul’s never been beyond second base with a girl? He said that when things get serious, he always gets performance anxiety or whatever and can’t go through with it. Can you believe it? It’s crazy.” He paused to take a drink. “Anyway, he’s worried it reflects badly on his manhood. I really laughed when he told me that.”

What the fuck? I was nothing but silent now and looked at him with utter disbelief. Matt just revealed that a great many things I’d assumed about my world and the people in it were totally wrong. He might as well have added that he thought Boy George was cool and his parents were Soviet spies. Have I been kidnapped by fucking aliens and been the subject of some evil experiment for the past year?

“Don’t look at me like that, it’s true! And don’t you say anything about it, because Paul would kill me!”

“I... I’m just really surprised, that’s all,” I stammered. “I mean, you know, the way he acts and all.” I drained the can in my hand.

“Yeah, most people would be, too, but it’s mostly what people think is true rather than what’s actually true that counts, you know”—yeah, that’s one thing I know for sure, Matt—“but Paul’s been worried that he’ll get a bad rep if he doesn’t find somebody to stick it out long term with. Kelly was ready for that, too. I mean, I kind of had the inside scoop on Kelly, cause I know her sister Laura. So we talked, and I put it in her head that Paul and Kelly would be a good idea. She agreed—you want to split this last beer?—and it only took us a week or so to prep them and arrange an opportunity for them to get to know each other. So far it’s worked out great. I just hope it lasts, but I think it will this time. Kelly’s a really nice girl, and you’d have to be a total fag not to want her for yourself.” Matt slurped the foam from the top of the can he opened and took a short swallow before handing it to me.

I chugged down a few ounces in quick succession. Matt’s words, though somewhat slurred, pierced me like an ice pick. The wound they left is that deep, sucking chest one called heartache. But heartkill would be more accurate. I forced myself to spit out a response. “Geez, I thought you and Paul didn’t get along, and now you’re telling me you’ve been playing matchmaker for him.”

“Hey, we may not always see eye to eye, but we’re still brothers, you know. There are some things we still talk about, and besides, his attitude has improved a lot this year. I may not know about everything he does, but I know all about his love life. And no matter what, if he needs me, I’m there to help.”

Matt the champion. His goodness would be my undoing. I could just see it all now. Because of him, Paul would end up leaving me forever. Nothing made Matt happier, it seemed, than having a project by which he felt he was doing good. Why, after all, had he been a friend to me all these years? Certainly not for my sharp wit and charismatic good humor. And now he had a new project to work on, one which, for once, his support had been invited. He’d be sure to see it carried through, no matter what it took, to his own satisfaction—and the benefit, approval, and undying thanks of all parties involved, of course. Now when I looked at Matt, my ever-loyal best friend, I felt not the limitless guilt to which I’d grown accustomed, but an invincible cloud of doom.

The wheels in Matt’s head continued to turn. I knew some perfect plan was brewing in that alcohol-clogged brain of his.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said, turning in his seat to address me face to face. In his somewhat drunken state, the normal dictates of decorum went on suspension, and he put one hand on my shoulder and the other—at first I thought he was reaching for the beer we were supposed to be sharing—on my wrist. Oh god, here it comes, I thought. “It’s our senior year, you know, and we need to go out with a bang. And I’d feel it personally remiss of me if I didn’t do something to help you get through first base. Laura just happens to be single, and I know this friend of hers, you know, Tracy Lockman, who I know you’d like a lot. We’ll round up a few other couples, including Paul and Kelly, and go to the Prom together! What do you think? It’ll be great! You’ll love it!” Matt had an annoying habit of sometimes answering his own questions when he got excited. But what could I say? Fate held me in its iron claws and was going to crush me like a bug. It seemed the drama of my life was going to play out like some kind of twisted Greek tragedy, so I might as well surrender myself to the grinding wheels of necessity.

“Yeah, sure. That sounds great.” I gulped down the last remaining ounces from the can in my hand, and felt far more sober than I wanted to.

The Senior Prom at our school was always held on the last weekend before graduation weekend, something I’ve come to find out is unusual among American high schools. Officially, it was known as the BSHS Spring Formal (yes, we went to BS High) and though it was always in mid-June, it was technically still during spring. Anyone could go, but among the students it was known as the Senior Prom, and its theme, music, and featured activities were considered to be under the exclusive control of that class. Compared to the intellectual focus of a graduation ceremony and the moral focus of a baccalaureate service, which in my town still retained all the religious overtones such things typically lack nowadays, the American senior prom is supposed to be the culmination and proving ground of all our long years of training in the wholesome ways of heterosexuality. Ours reinforced the idea with a “Moonlight Moments” theme, and had this picture of a couple kissing under the night sky, full moon and all, on all the promotional posters. The prom is something at which your attendance, though not mandated, is certainly expected, and I dreaded it with loathing. Going to the prom was a role I simply wouldn’t be able to play. I had no idea what I’d be expected to do or say, so I expected to expose myself as an interloper, like some hapless Actaeon stumbling into Diana’s bath. Surely here, it seemed, I would be torn apart once and for all, if not necessarily by a pack of hunting hounds, then by something just as powerful: the dogged social scrutiny of my peers. Even worse, I expected it would happen in front of Matt, the actual if unacknowledged conscience of the graduating class, and Paul, the boy I still loved with every fiber of my being.

As it turned out, my exposure didn’t happened in quite such a public way, but it did inevitably happen, and certain events surrounding the prom had a significant role in that. If you want to read further, let me be clear about something: things get much worse before they get better. Life is sometimes like that, is it not? What follows here and in the next few chapters is painful to remember and difficult to write about. I don’t know but that it might be just as tricky to read.

Well, dear friend, you have read the long prelude to my demise. See now the principal acts of this stage show unfold before you. Since I already know how this bit plays out, I’m just going to duck out into the lobby of our little theatre and get some Raisinettes and a Coke. Maybe take a piss and step out under the marquee to get some air. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be back by the end. Ah, I see the lights have dimmed and the curtain is going up. So begins “The Forbidden Fruit, a Deracination in Three Acts.”—Oh, and if you should decide you want your ticket refunded, don’t come to me. Take it up with the Management.


CHARACTERS (in order of appearance):

MATT, leader of the group, aged eighteen
PAUL, his devastatingly handsome and strikingly mature brother, aged sixteen
The FAGGOT, friend of Matt, erstwhile secret lover of Paul, presumed by most to be someone “nice,” aged seventeen
LAURA, Matt’s date, friendly and outgoing, aged eighteen
KELLY, her sister, Paul’s eagerly affectionate date, reputed to be stunningly attractive, recently aged sixteen
TRACY, friend of Laura, reluctantly set up with someone “nice,” aged seventeen
MARK, friend of Matt, darkly brooding, something of an Anglophile, appealingly muscular and impeccably dressed, aged eighteen

Other roles filled as needed: ONLOOKERS and COUPLES of various sorts

The main ballroom of a sixties-era, functionally “upscale” hotel in a large town somewhere in the American West, the sort of tacky establishment that over-starches the linens in guest rooms and smells of varying degrees of scented dank and chlorinated water, depending on how close one is to the indoor pool. The B— S— High School Spring Formal is in progress. The ballroom is cavernous and boxy, of about the same square footage as a large gymnasium, and carpeted in a red diamond pattern. A tasteless assortment of artificial ferns and palms flank the outer walls. At one end, opposite the main entrance, is a temporary stage on which a tolerably decent local band plays rock and roll hits from the eighties and very early nineties. In front of the stage is a temporary pressed wood dance floor, flanked on three sides by standard round flattops and padded chairs. The tables are covered in white cloths. On either side of the room are a buffet of greasy fried foods and a series of closely chaperoned punch bowls. The atmosphere is raucous and the music loud. Several hundred teenagers are engaged in dancing, shouting, laughing, or in many cases, making out, and all are dressed in formal attire of widely divergent taste, style, and disarray. The room is completely dark except for the jarring combination of an enormous disco ball over the dance floor, strobe and mood lights surrounding the stage, and electric candles on each of the tables. Action begins in medias res at one of the tables occupied by Matt and Paul in the center of the room.

MATT: (In mock complaint) The girls are gonna take forever in the bathroom, but I guess it gives us a few minutes to compare notes. So, tell me how it’s going with Kelly. Laura told me earlier about how she’s so (teasingly) in love with you.

PAUL: (Awkwardly enthusiastic and a little embarrassed) Yeah, she is pretty nice. It could definitely go somewhere. (His enthusiasm wanes at a new thought, which appears to leave him preoccupied.) I just wish things were better all around.

MATT: (Surprised) Paul, what’s the matter? You’re having a good time, right?

PAUL: (Looking through the crowd in the direction of the FAGGOT, who is at the punch table with three glasses) Yeah, I’m fine. I was just wondering if he is. The way he looks, you’d think we were at a funeral. He said hardly anything at dinner.

MATT: He’s all right. I think he’s just nervous about Tracy and all. I think she’s a nice girl, and I’m hoping he’ll get a little action. That’s why I picked her, anyway. She got him to talk and open up some on the way here.

PAUL: Yeah, I know. I just don’t think he’s cut out for this sort of thing, you know. I just hope you know what you’re doing.

MATT: It’ll be fine. He doesn’t need to talk to her now, just dance with her.

PAUL: Here’s hoping. I’ll bet the girls are talking about him right now, too.

MATT: Probably. (Thoughtfully) Sometimes I just can’t figure out what’s wrong, but at other times he seems okay. It’s always up and down with him, and I don’t know why.

PAUL: (After a silence) Well, here he comes, so...

(The FAGGOT approaches, carrying three large glasses in his hands. He looks as though shadowed in a cloud of doom, and his eyes have the distant vacancy of what could be either the resignation of a convict facing impending execution, or advanced intoxication. Weaving through the crowd, he makes eye contact with the two brothers, quickly glancing from one to the other, and surmises they’ve been talking about him. Upon reaching the table, he hands over their punch and, still standing, as if to mock the awkward silence with which they greet him, pulls a small bottle of whiskey, half full, from the pocket of his tuxedo, and in full view of everyone, empties the contents into his own glass.

MATT: (Angry, but with surprise and good humor) What the fuck are you doing? Sit down before someone sees you! You’ll get us all thrown out of here, you idiot!

FAGGOT: (To himself, somewhat slurred) Whatever... who the fuck gives a damn what they do anymore.

MATT: Give me that. (He reaches for the FAGGOT’s bottle and glass, who makes a half-hearted attempt to hang on to them.) I didn’t realize how drunk you are. (He hides the bottle in his own jacket pocket.)

(To PAUL) Give me your glass. (Taking PAUL’s glass, he proceeds to equally distribute the vodka in the FAGGOT’s glass between his own and PAUL’s, both of which contain red punch. The FAGGOT’s glass now empty, he stands.)

(To the FAGGOT) I’m cutting you off, partner. You and Mr. Daniels know each other a little too well tonight.

(To PAUL) Keep him away from ours while I go refill his... and see if he’s got any more on him. Fuck, I hope he doesn’t pass out on us before he’s even had a chance.

PAUL: (To MATT) Yeah, okay.

(PAUL and the FAGGOT suffer a long silence between them while MATT makes his way toward the punch line. After an increasingly uncomfortable period, during which he seems to become even more attractive than he already is, PAUL speaks.) Do you have any more on you?

FAGGOT: Fuck you.

PAUL: What?

FAGGOT: You heard me, asshole. Fuck you.

PAUL: (Challenging him) What’s your problem? I didn’t do anything to you.

FAGGOT: (Accusingly) It’s not what you did, it’s what you didn’t do that pisses me off. What you wouldn’t do, I should say.

(ONLOOKERS at a nearby table overhear only snippets of the conversation, but sense its tone easily. A female voice is heard: What’s wrong with them? To which a male one responds: Oh, he’s just drunk, I think, and Paul’s trying to calm him down. Come on, let’s catch this next dance.)

PAUL: (After waiting for the ONLOOKERS to depart) What the fuck’s the matter with you? (He leans in and reaches out a hand. Whispers) What do you mean what I wouldn’t do?

FAGGOT: (Looking away, deeply hurt by something) Don’t touch me, Paul. (Bitterly angry, but not wanting to discuss what is really on his mind) You said you’d call, but you never did.

PAUL: (Confusedly) What? What are you talking about?

FAGGOT: (Self-righteously) The last time we saw each other, which has been like seven weeks ago or something. Don’t tell me you don’t remember, cause I was fucking there, so I know you know what I’m talking about!

PAUL: (Thinks for a few seconds, then remembers) You’re pissed about that? Come on, you know things have been going on, that I couldn’t come by after school anymore.

FAGGOT: (His voice rising) Yes, I do know things have been going on! I know all about things going on! (Tears break down his cheeks, then quietly, as if painful to admit) I could smell the perfume... You’re supposed to be making love to me, not trying to fuck her. (He gestures to an empty chair next to PAUL.)

PAUL: (Defensively) What? You don’t now anything about that!

FAGGOT: (Loudly) Yes I do! You’re a virgin, Paul! You’re just trying to get yourself laid quick so you can tell yourself you are what you want to be! And aren’t what you know you are! (He wipes tears from his face. After a pause, he is quieter, and trying hard to make sense.) Well, I don’t have that luxury, Paul. I am what I am! You said so yourself, so I thought you understood that. I thought you accepted it, but maybe it’s that you wanted to take advantage of it, until it started to feel too good and you were thinking about it too much. Well it’s all I think about. You’re all I think about. As much as I hate you right now, I love you, and I’m in love with you. I know it’s not what you want, but you’ve got it anyway!

(They sit in silence for a minute or two, PAUL staring ahead with a shocked, almost frightened, look on his face. The FAGGOT continues to wipe away tears, but looks downward in shame and fear. He alternately wipes his eyes and cradles his head. When he seems to have calmed down a bit, he reaches out for PAUL’s glass and, unchallenged, drains its contents. There are no more words between them. Appearing suddenly through a break in the noisy crowd, MATT appears holding two glasses in his hands.)

MATT: (To both) What’s going on here? Somebody told me you were having some kind of argument or something.

(He looks at PAUL, who gestures with a sideways nod of his head toward the FAGGOT, who sees neither of them. MATT evinces a knowing look, nods, and speaks to the FAGGOT.) Here, take these. I want you to drink them both.

FAGGOT: (Defeated) All right. (He drinks.)

(MATT, still standing between the two, looks up and sees the approach of LAURA, KELLY, and TRACY. They have returned from the restroom and appear to be a little tipsy, but they are enjoying themselves.)

MATT: Come on you two, it’s time for the fun now, and (to the FAGGOT) that includes dancing. We brought these ladies out to show them a good time, and that’s what we’re going to do. Paul, stop looking like you’ve wet your pants. (To the FAGGOT again) And you, buddy, are gonna do all right. This isn’t as scary as you make it seem, so just relax. (Trying to encourage him) You’re doing fine, and I think Tracy kind of likes you, so just act like you’re having a good time.

FAGGOT: (Looking at PAUL) Yeah, okay. I’ll dance with her. (With biting sarcasm) And maybe later I can fuck her, too, just to prove what a man I am.

LAURA: (Approaching) Hey, boys, you ready to do a little dancing (she puts her arm around MATT’s waist) and shake that sexy thang?

MATT: (Still taken aback by the FAGGOT’s last remark) Uh... Yeah, of course! Let’s do it. (A little apprehensively) Guys?

(KELLY approaches PAUL and sits on his lap, clouding them both in the wretched scent of lavender. TRACY stands by the FAGGOT, who doesn’t acknowledge her.)

KELLY: Hey, sexy.

PAUL: (Glancing toward the FAGGOT, but addressing the girl) Hey, baby.

(She takes his head in her hands and kisses him full on the lips. It is a long kiss, full of the overworked passion of a nubile girl. The FAGGOT, disgusted, watches with gritted teeth.)

FAGGOT: (Standing and taking TRACY by the hand) You ready for this?

(The FAGGOT, stinking of drink, pulls her close, her waist to his, and wraps his arms around her. Surprised by his embrace, she tries to speak, but he pulls her even closer and forces a sloppy kiss in the middle of her face. The others look on with unbelieving surprise and shock. TRACY, most stunned of all, pulls back from the FAGGOT, but he continues to hold her next to him.)

TRACY: Good god, what have you been drinking?

FAGGOT: You should ask him (gestures to PAUL). But believe me, you really don’t want to know. Come on.

(He takes her forcibly by the wrist and drags her through the crowd to the dance floor, leaving the others behind. They watch awkwardly, then all turn to look at PAUL, who watches a few seconds longer before turning to meet their gaze. He knows but cannot speak.)

MARK: (Approaching through the crowd, drunk) Hey, lads, how’s it going? (Looking at MATT, then PAUL) Wow, what’s with the long faces? (Receiving no answer, his hand fumbles in his jacket pocket.) Say, I’m all smoked out. Chance either one of you has a fag?


The same evening, four hours later. The principal group, accompanied by five or six other COUPLES, have retreated to the Lockman residence. Tracy’s parents, who are inexplicably wealthy, are conveniently out of town. The house is large and sprawling, perched on a low ridge overlooking more neighborhoods below. The interior is adorned with the predictable accoutrements of a highly successful suburban lifestyle. Those present freely move about the various areas of the house. All are still dressed in formal attire, but sweaty and tired. The boys have removed their jackets, bowties, and cummerbunds, and unbuttoned the tops of their shirts. The girls feign the same radiance they possessed earlier in the evening, but all are somewhat intoxicated and their hair is starting to come undone. Action begins shortly after the group have arrived. They gather in the living room, seating themselves around a large coffee table adorned with highball glasses, rum, ice, two large bottles of Coke, and a large pitcher of water.

FAGGOT: (Drunk and to no one in particular) I’m going out to get some air.

(He retrieves a glass of ice and Coke, without rum, and steps through a pair of glass doors into the darkness of a porch beyond. He closes the doors behind himself. MATT watches the FAGGOT depart.)

MATT: So, Tracy, you having a good time?

TRACY: Yeah, I guess so, but he’s a little weird. Somebody owes me for this, you know.

MATT: Look, I’m sorry he got a little too drunk, but hey, who isn’t? I guess I could have kept a closer eye on him, though.

LAURA: (While mixing drinks) Well, you’re not his keeper, Matt. At least, you shouldn’t be.

KELLY: What’s the deal with him, anyway? It seems like he doesn’t get out much.

MATT: Look, he’s my friend, since we were little, and you shouldn’t be so harsh. His parents are divorced, and his mom works a lot, so I keep an eye on him.

LAURA: I didn’t know that. What happened to his dad?

MATT: It’s not really important. All that matters is that it’s a good thing he isn’t around anymore.

PAUL: Come on, you people act like there’s something wrong with him, and there isn’t. So he isn’t the most outgoing person you know. So what. He’s a nice guy once you get to know him, so just give him a chance.

MATT: Thank you, Paul. That’s just what I was trying to get at. Anyway, let’s pass out those drinks. I’m getting thirsty.

(The group breaks out into small conversations, and various COUPLES arrange themselves about the house, engaged in various activities—talking, playing pool, listening to music, dancing, and the like. MATT follows TRACY over to a large stereo CD player, over which hangs a family portrait.)

MATT: These your folks, then?

TRACY: Yeah. (With emphasis) And their baby. (She selects a CD and sets the stereo to random play. Tracks from New Order’s Substance album come on, beginning with “Perfect Kiss.”) I guess I was about three or four then.

MATT: You were a cute kid.

TRACY: Thanks.

MATT: Still are.

TRACY: Well, aren’t you a gentleman.

MATT: Yeah, I try. So anyway, except for the one right after we showed up at prom, has he kissed you yet?

TRACY: I knew you had a reason for coming over here. So what do you want?

MATT: Nothing. I just want to know how things are going, you know. (Jokingly) If I’m going to owe you for this evening, I just want to know how much.

TRACY: (Laughs.) Things have been fine, really. Dinner was nice, the flowers were nice. He didn’t grope me while we danced. And except for the little incident, he doesn’t act like he expects me to put out.

MATT: (Smiling) Yeah, I’m sorry about that...

TRACY: (Laughing) Shame on you!

MATT: No, really, I mean the incident. It wasn’t exactly a “perfect kiss,” was it. He and Paul were having some kind of argument, and I guess he just got carried away. You know how guys are when we get together, trying to act all macho and stuff.

TRACY: (With mock exasperation) Tell me about it. (Seriously) But that’s just it, you know, he doesn’t act all macho. I think he’s really sensitive and just has a hard time letting it out.

MATT: There you go, now you know him like I do. Once you give him your trust, he’ll give you his. You just have to get to know him a little, that’s all.

TRACY: Well, what little I know is not all that bad. And he is kind of cute.

MATT: Yeah?

TRACY: Yeah. You should tell him to smile more. I’ve seen it, like, only twice, but he has the most beautiful smile. And those eyes, they’re the darkest blue I’ve ever seen, so mysterious and vulnerable at the same time. Makes a girl wonder what’s behind them.

MATT: (Teasingly) Hmm, I think we may have something here. Am I to understand that love blooms? Answer softly, now. Cupid awaits!

TRACY: (Laughs) You know, Matt, though you’re trying to set me up, you might just charm me yourself instead. It’s a good thing that Laura found you first.

MATT: (Smiling) Yeah, well, speaking of that, I’d better not leave her alone too long. (He looks around the room.) Oh god, there she is speaking to Mark. Who knows what secrets he’s spilling.

TRACY: Got a few skeletons in your closet, do you?

MATT: (Joking again) Why, what did you hear? Those are strictly Halloween props, and the cops never proved anything. Conclusively, anyway!

TRACY: (Laughs again) All right, go. I’ll be fine.

MATT: Yeah, okay. Don’t worry, I’ll go find your lost Romeo and tell him to keep you company.

(MATT waves at LAURA and mouths something to her, motioning toward the glass doors. She gives him an understanding nod and continues to talk with MARK. He steps out onto the porch and finds the FAGGOT, alone, sitting on a wooden bench.)

MATT: Hey, buddy. What’s up?

FAGGOT: (Staring ahead) Just getting some air.

MATT: So you said. (Pause) I’ve been talking with Tracy.


MATT: You passed. She likes you.

FAGGOT: (Sarcastically) Wonderful.

MATT: What’s up with you, man? You could at least try to work with me here instead of being so sullen all the time.

FAGGOT: (Looks up, suddenly angry) I’m not your goddamn charity project, Matt! Why can’t you leave me the fuck alone for once in my life?

MATT: (Stunned) Well, fuck me for giving a damn about my friends! Maybe I should just cut you adrift and let you sink on your own!

FAGGOT: Oh, and you’re so sure that’s what would happen, are you? I don’t need your help, and I sure as hell don’t need your patronizing!

(They are silent for a few minutes, while the FAGGOT continues to brood and MATT takes a few deep breaths to check his anger.)

MATT: What’s going on between you and Paul?

(The FAGGOT opens his mouth to speak, but MATT cuts him off.)

MATT: Look, I know you were arguing and I’m going to find out from one of you sooner or later, so you might as well tell me now. You’re my best friend, and he’s my brother. This isn’t something you can keep from me.

FAGGOT: (Straightforwardly) There’s nothing, okay? Really. (As if speaking to himself) That’s it: nothing.

(Another long silence. MATT sits next to the FAGGOT.)

MATT: Okay, we don’t have to talk about it now. Look, I’m sorry for upsetting you. I just wish you’d tell me what’s wrong. I only want to help you.

FAGGOT: That’s just it, Matt. Why is there always something wrong with me according to you? No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, I’m never good enough for the Clements brothers. I can never measure up to the standards you and Paul set.

MATT: That’s not true, and I don’t accept it for a minute. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t change a thing of who you are.

FAGGOT: Don’t be so sure.

MATT: (Continuing) No, it’s true. And it’s not like we’re in competition, here.

FAGGOT: (His voice rising) Yeah, because I always lose. I always have, and I’m always going to. Why don’t you just face the facts, Matt. You’re betting on a lame horse that’s one lap away from being put down. Don’t you see? The race is over, finished. You and people like you, you’re the winners because the race was set up with you in mind. But me, I was thrown down into a race I’m not equipped to run, so it was over for me before it even started. (Looking away) I don’t even know why I try anymore.

MATT: Come here, man.

(MATT puts an arm around the FAGGOT’s shoulders, pulling him close and hugging him tightly. It is an unexpected, awkward gesture. The FAGGOT’s first impulse is to resist, but he crumples into MATT’s embrace, burying his face in MATT’s warm, muscled shoulder, and starts to cry.)

FAGGOT: (Haltingly) I just can’t do it anymore.

MATT: Shhh, it’s going to be all right. (Pause) Everything’s going to be all right.

(The two remain this way for several minutes, undisturbed, amazingly, by the partygoers within. The FAGGOT eventually stops crying. They hear muffled sounds of music [“Shellshock”] and occasional laughter. After a time, the door opens and LAURA appears. MATT waves her back inside.)

FAGGOT: (Sitting up and wiping tears from his face) I guess you should go back in.

MATT: She’ll be all right.

FAGGOT: No, you should go. I’m okay, now, really. I feel better. I just needed to get it out, I guess.

MATT: You sure?

FAGGOT: Yeah. Just give me a few more minutes to pull myself together, and I’ll come back in, too. (Cracks an embarrassed smile) I’m starting to feel sober, too, so I’m going to have to come back sooner or later.

MATT: (Laughs) All right, buddy.

FAGGOT: (Pause) Matt?

MATT: Yeah?

FAGGOT: Thanks. You’re a good friend. I’m sorry I don’t always see that.

MATT: (Smiling warmly) Yeah, well, you’re not so bad yourself. (Jokingly) But try not to let it go to your head, okay?

(MATT goes back inside, leaving the FAGGOT alone. He gets up and walks along the length of the porch, which appears to wrap around the corner of the house. Muffled sounds of partygoers and music [“True Faith”] continue to emanate from inside. The air is warm, and the night sky is brilliant with color. He looks up contemplating its sidereal inscrutability, and, inevitably, his thoughts turn to his own freakishness. But this time, instead of self-loathing, he feels a rising anger, directed at his unkind Creator, who, like some universal Dr. Frankenstein, seems to hold no compassion for the flawed specimen of his work. His mind wanders further, as it does on almost a daily basis, to suicide and the one thing, a vague hope in his beloved, that prevents him from such a course. He continues to walk around the porch, unexpectedly curious to see where it goes, and comes upon an open window. He hears voices inside.)

KELLY: It’s okay, the door’s locked. Don’t worry, we’ll be alone for a few minutes.

(Long pause)

PAUL: Oh god, that feels so good.

(His interest piqued, the FAGGOT silently sidles up to the window and surreptitiously peers inside. The room, a master bedroom, is moderately well lit, and the porch dark, so he is not in too much danger of being seen. Inside, PAUL and KELLY are arranged across a bed. He is on his back, and, kneeling over him, the top of her dress pulled down, she gives him access to her breasts, which he kneads vigorously in his hands. His trousers are unbuttoned and unzipped, and his erect penis, which she caresses lovingly with both hands, treating it to long, slow, aching strokes, juts upward in front of her hips. The FAGGOT, moved to revulsion by this scene of horror, is unable to look away, is unable to conquer the mysterious compulsion to gaze upon what, for him, is certain to bring so much misery. He stands full in front of the window now, but remains unnoticed by the occupants inside.)

KELLY: (Breathing heavily) Oh, baby, it’s so big. I love to feel it in my hands, so strong and powerful. (Moaning) Tell me what you want, oh, tell me.

PAUL: (Moaning) Oh, Kelly, it feels so good. (Pause) I think you’ll make me come if you keep that up. Oh, yes!

(The continue in the same manner for nearly a minute, the FAGGOT observing. What he sees is disgusting. KELLY finds her dress restraining and slips it off, while PAUL removes his shirt and trousers. They return to the bed, kissing and fondling one another, and, using his hand, PAUL brings KELLY to orgasm. She moans loudly, and, with renewed energy, continues her romantic behavior toward PAUL, kissing his body, rubbing his chest and legs, and, finally, fellating him to orgasm. He lies on his back, hands behind his head, which is thrown back and to the left, facing the outside window. He grunts with his climax, a familiar sound and a familiar look of pleasure on his face, mixed with an expression of concentration, but his eyes remain closed so he does not see the FAGGOT.)

KELLY: (Looking up and swallowing) How was that...

PAUL: (Moaning) Oh god...

KELLY: ...for our first time?

(She smiles at PAUL with a recognizable look of accomplishment.)

PAUL: (Watching her) It was... well, definitely unexpected! It was great!

(They settle into an afterglow, gently caressing one another with delicate fingers and gentle kisses.)

KELLY: I wish my family wasn’t going away for the summer... I’m going to miss you while we’re gone.

PAUL: Me, too. Where are you going exactly?

KELLY: Europe, somewhere. It’s all Laura’s graduation present. I think we’re spending most of the time in Italy at this place my parent’s rented, but we’ll go other places, too, I guess.

(She is about to continue but catches something out of the corner of her eye. She perceives that someone is standing at the window and screams.)

PAUL: (Startled) What the fuck! (Turns to look.)

(On being detected, the FAGGOT panics and hurries back around the porch toward the glass doors leading inside. Near the doors, he meets MARK standing at the rail smoking a cigarette.)

MARK: (Drunk) Hey, mate, I didn’t know you were out here. What’s up?

FAGGOT: (Continuing inside) I’m not your mate, asshole.

MARK: (Heavily slurred) Aw, fuck you, you fucking faggot...

(The party inside is in full swing. The FAGGOT enters the house apparently unnoticed and, still in a panic, makes his way toward a darkened hallway. PAUL, dressed, emerges from a hallway on the opposite side, his face red with anger and his clothes in disarray. He makes his way past the others toward the glass doors and exits. MATT observes his passing, notes his agitation, and follows. As MATT opens the door to exit, PAUL’s shouting voice is faintly heard: Did you enjoy watching that, you fucking asshole! The door closes.)

FAGGOT: (To himself) Oh fuck, oh fuck...

(Still panicked, the FAGGOT makes his way down the hall, searching for a quiet place to be alone. He picks a door at random and enters. It is a girl’s bedroom, predictably adorned. TRACY sits at a small vanity, touching up her lipstick in the mirror. She hears the FAGGOT enter and turns to face him.)

TRACY: I’ll be out in a sec, just...

FAGGOT: (Embarrassed) Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...

TRACY: Oh, it’s you. I’ve been wondering where you’ve been. (Knowingly) Did Matt tell you to come in here? (She rises, walks over to the bed, and sits.) Come over here, handsome, and let me thank you properly for a nice evening. (She pats the bed.)

FAGGOT: (Horrified) Oh god, when will it end?

(He drops into a kneeling position, clutching his abdomen. His breathing is heavy and labored. Suddenly, he crunches forward, vomits profusely, then passes out.)


PAUL’s bedroom, late afternoon a few days following the foregoing. PAUL sits at a desk deep in thought and seems always about to reach for the telephone sitting in front of him. Something prevents him, however. Frustrated, he stands, paces the floor a few times, picks up dirty laundry, organizes some books left out, anything to keep himself busy. Eventually, he picks up the phone and begins to dial, but he is interrupted by a knock at the door.

PAUL: Yes!

(The door opens.)

MARK: Hey, man, sorry to bother you. The front door was unlocked and nobody answered. Is, uh, Matt around?

PAUL: (Curtly) Yeah, he should be home in a minute. You can wait for him in the living room if you want. The TV’s down there, so make yourself comfortable.

MARK: Yeah, sure. Thanks. (He begins to leave.)

PAUL: Say, uh, Mark?

MARK: Yeah?

PAUL: Look, I’m sorry about the other night. I didn’t realize...

MARK: It’s okay. Matt explained the whole thing. Honestly, it wasn’t me. I had no idea what you were talking about, you know, though I was kinda drunk, so I don’t remember much. But really, it wasn’t me.

PAUL: Yeah, I know. Like you said, Matt figured it all out. Anyway, he should be home soon.

MARK: Cool. Catch you later, then.

PAUL: Yeah, okay.

(MARK leaves. PAUL resumes his pacing, looking out the window a few times. After a few minutes he returns to the phone, but is again interrupted by a knock at the door.)

PAUL: (to himself) Fuck. (He walks over to the door and jerks it open.) Yeah? Oh, it’s you.

FAGGOT: I, uh, got your message.

PAUL: Yeah. Yeah, good. I was afraid you weren’t going to come. I was just about to call you again and tell you maybe you shouldn’t right now, because Matt’s due home any minute. (Pause) Uh, come in.

(The FAGGOT enters. He is somewhat sloppily dressed, and his general appearance is unkempt, like that of someone suffering from chronic stress. He dumbly moves to the middle of the room, but sits when PAUL gestures toward the bed. PAUL sits in the desk chair nearby, so as to speak to him face to face, but the FAGGOT is unable to meet his gaze.)

FAGGOT: I always come when you call. You know that.

PAUL: Well, this time I thought you might not want to.

FAGGOT: I didn’t. (Pause) I guess you figured out it was me.

PAUL: Well, Matt did.

FAGGOT: I’m really sorry about it. The truth is, it just happened. I wasn’t intentionally spying or anything. It’s just that I happened to be there when you came in the room, and I... I don’t know, I just couldn’t turn away. I’m sorry, I really am.

PAUL: It’s okay now. I’m not mad about it anymore, not since I figured out it was you. At the time, I just panicked, and when I went outside, Mark was there and I thought it was him. Why did you run inside and hide?

FAGGOT: I was afraid you’d be angry—which you were.

PAUL: Not anymore, though, really. Still, I wish you hadn’t seen it. I mean, would you want someone to watch when we’re together?

FAGGOT: No, of course not.

PAUL: Still, if it had to happen, I’m glad it wasn’t Mark. That guy gives me a bad vibe sometimes.

FAGGOT: Me, too. (Pause) So, that was your first time?

PAUL: What?

FAGGOT: (Looking up now) With a girl, I mean.

PAUL: Yeah, I guess that little cat’s out of the bag. Yes, it was. She really surprised me. I didn’t think she’d do it.

FAGGOT: How was it? (Pause) No, don’t tell me. I’ve intruded enough already, and I don’t think I really want to know more than what I already do, anyway. Can I ask something else, though?

PAUL: What?

FAGGOT: Why? I mean, you’ve dated, like, half a dozen girls or so. Nothing ever happened with them?

PAUL: What can I say? I guess I always just ended things at first or second base, before they got too serious. (Quietly) You were the first, you know, to go all the way.

FAGGOT: I wish you hadn’t lied to me.

PAUL: Me, too. It was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.

FAGGOT: Why did you do it?

PAUL: I don’t know. I guess I... I just couldn’t admit that... I don’t know. I just wanted to pretend that things were normal, even if they weren’t. I was lying about it to myself, and I guess that meant lying to everyone else, too. Including you.

FAGGOT: (Breathing deeply and suddenly eager to change the subject) God, what a horrible night.

PAUL: Yeah, I guess it’s fair to say that. You won’t be seeing much of Tracy anymore, I can tell you.

FAGGOT: (Laughs a little) Yeah, well, I’m just glad I didn’t puke on her.

PAUL: Me, too. I don’t think Matt would have ever forgiven you.

FAGGOT: It’s going to be hard enough his forgiving me now.

PAUL: No, he’s all right. At least, he will be.

FAGGOT: He’s still angry?

PAUL: Yeah.

FAGGOT: What did he tell Mark?

PAUL: I don’t know, exactly, but things are straightened out between him and me.

FAGGOT: Matt figures out everything, eventually. (Pause) I guess he’ll know about us soon enough.

PAUL: I hope not. Why do you say that?

FAGGOT: Because he’s Matt. Sooner or later, he’ll put the pieces of the puzzle together and know everything.

PAUL: Well, he’s not trying to solve any particular puzzle here. He’s got no reason to look for one.

FAGGOT: Yeah, I guess so. I hope so, anyway. I’d like to stay friends with at least one of you.

PAUL: What do you mean?

FAGGOT: Well, isn’t that why I’m here, so you can finally end things with me? Isn’t this where it’s going to end?

PAUL: No. I mean, I don’t know. I just wanted to talk, that’s all.

FAGGOT: Really?

PAUL: Really.

FAGGOT: (Long pause) Well, here I am.

PAUL: (Laughs) Yeah, well now that you’re here, I don’t really know what to say.

FAGGOT: Just say what you feel...

PAUL: I guess I...

FAGGOT: I mean, that’s all I’ve ever wanted, you know, just to know how you feel.

PAUL: What do you mean?

FAGGOT: I want to know what you think, you know? What you really think. About us. About me. I’ve told you what I think, but I don’t know how you feel.

PAUL: (Long pause) This is so hard. I’ve never done this before or felt this, this whatever it is, before, so I don’t really know how to put words to it, you know? (Another pause) It’s like I’m living in two separate worlds, and I don’t know how to put them together...

FAGGOT: (Quietly) Welcome to hell.

PAUL: I guess what I’m trying to say is...

FAGGOT: (Interrupting him) Are you gay, Paul?

PAUL: (Surprised) What?

FAGGOT: Are you gay?

PAUL: I... I... I don’t know.

FAGGOT: (Matter-of-factly) You can’t not know. You either are or you aren’t.

PAUL: I don’t know that that’s true. I mean, there’s you and me, and then there’s Kelly and me...

FAGGOT: Which just started.

PAUL: Yes, which just started, but is there nonetheless. I can’t deny that I have some feelings for her.

FAGGOT: I don’t understand.

PAUL: Why?

FAGGOT: I mean, why her? Why is she any different from the others?

PAUL: I don’t know. She just is.

FAGGOT: But what has she got that I don’t?

PAUL: Well, she’s a girl for one. They’re not all that bad, you know.

FAGGOT: You forget who you’re talking to. I’m a faggot, Paul. Women are like alien creatures to me. I just don’t understand the appeal.

PAUL: I wish you wouldn’t use that word.

FAGGOT: Alien?

PAUL: Faggot.

FAGGOT: Oh. (Pause) Why? What other word is there? It’s not like what I am is ever going to be accepted. It’s not like I’m ever going to be “normal.”

PAUL: It’s an ugly word. You shouldn’t say it.

FAGGOT: You just don’t want to hear it, but there it is. I mean, you’re probably the only person I’ll ever meet that tolerates what I am, but even some small part of you, deep down, sees me as a worthless piece of shit.

PAUL: That’s not true.

FAGGOT: Yes it is, Paul. It’s what we’ve always been taught to believe, so that’s what all of us, even me, think about it. It’s just too bad for me that I happen to be one.

PAUL: You’re not a worthless piece of shit. This town is just full of closed-minded assholes.

FAGGOT: Yeah, well if that’s the case, then why don’t you ask Matt what he thinks about fags.

PAUL: Okay, so Matt’s not very open-minded on the subject, either. But once you get out of here, you’ll see that things are different elsewhere.

FAGGOT: Maybe.

PAUL: What do you mean maybe? Of course they are!

FAGGOT: (Disbelieving and eager to change the subject again) So you have feelings for her? For Kelly?

PAUL: Yes. I do. I know you don’t want to hear that, but I have to be honest with you.

FAGGOT: I just don’t understand it.

PAUL: Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen between me and her, but (trying to be encouraging) I can’t deny that I have feelings for you, too.

FAGGOT: Don’t make fun of me, Paul. Please.

PAUL: I’m not. I promise.

FAGGOT: I can’t handle it right now, especially from you.

PAUL: I’m not making fun of you. I swear to God I’m not!

FAGGOT: (Tears forming in his eyes) You have feelings for me?

PAUL: Well, yes.

FAGGOT: Really?

PAUL: Yes.

FAGGOT: More than just sexual?

PAUL: Well, yes. More than just sexual. (Pause) There, I said it.

FAGGOT: (Crying now) Please don’t fuck with me, Paul!

PAUL: I’m not, I swear! I have feelings for you, and I realize that I’ll never figure things out unless I admit that. That’s the reason I’ve been so withdrawn from you in the past several weeks. My feelings for you were growing so much, but I didn’t want to admit it. So I tried to ignore it or lie about it. It hurts me now to see how much I’ve fucked this up! I’m ashamed by how I’ve handled things almost to the point that I wish I’d never made you do it, because then I wouldn’t have caused you so much pain.

FAGGOT: What do you mean? Do what?

PAUL: You know, the first time. In Matt’s room. I mean, I pretty much forced myself on you, made you do it. I knew after what happened earlier that I could, but I realize now it wasn’t right. It wasn’t the right thing to do, you know? The right way to go about it, I mean. I wanted to do it, but I just ended up hurting you, you know, and I never wanted to do that.

FAGGOT: (Speaking through tears and sniffles) I don’t see how it could have been any different. Believe me, I wanted to blow you, more than anything, but it’s not like I could have asked you. Or like you would have understood. Please don’t feel bad. I don’t blame you for the way it came out. Besides, what happened between us would never have been if not for a mix of accident and your taking the initiative.

PAUL: Yeah, I know what you mean. Still, in a perfect world, it would have helped.

FAGGOT: My asking you?

PAUL: Yeah.


PAUL: Because then to me this whole thing would have been less about my using you and more about... I don’t know... about sharing something with you.

FAGGOT: (Quietly) Love?

PAUL: (Pause) Yeah, maybe—maybe (then, as if testing the word) love...

FAGGOT: (Wiping tears from his cheeks) Oh god...

PAUL: What’s wrong?

FAGGOT: It’s killing me. Oh god, it’s killing me, Paul!

PAUL: What is? What do you mean?

FAGGOT: (Sobbing and with difficulty) Being in love with you! It’s too much. It’s too hard. You think you live in two separate worlds. I feel like I’m in two separate universes, one where there’s just you and me, and another where there’s this echo of something that never really existed. First there’s desire and then there’s fear, and I’m trapped between the two, unable to move, unable to breathe. I’m paralyzed, you know? I can’t live in this horrible place, and I feel like I’m slowly dying, each day a little bit more!

PAUL: (Rising) Oh man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know!

(PAUL stands and climbs onto the bed next to the FAGGOT. Arranging a pillow against the headboard, he leans back and beckons the FAGGOT to come to him. PAUL wraps his arms and legs around him, holding him tightly and gently kissing the top of his head. For several minutes, the FAGGOT buries his face in the warm, thick muscles of PAUL’s chest, soaking his shirt with tears. The pent-up emotions of the past several weeks drain out of his battered heart, and he feels accepted once again. Wrapped in the solid bulk of PAUL’s body, so close once more to the rich smell of him, the FAGGOT feels safe, protected, at home.)

FAGGOT: (Almost finished crying, but still wiping away tears) I love you, Paul. As much as you don’t want it... don’t want me to... I do. I love you more than anyone else in the whole world.

PAUL: I never said I didn’t want it. I never said that.

FAGGOT: (Quietly) I know, but I can tell you feel that way anyway. And I don’t blame you for it. I mean, I understand. I don’t expect you to sacrifice everything else in your life just for me. I’m not worth it.

PAUL: (Tears forming in his eyes) Please don’t say that! Please, don’t. This is hard enough as it is!

(He draws the FAGGOT even closer, pulling him tighter and tighter into his body. Tears roll down his cheeks as he kisses the FAGGOT’s forehead. The FAGGOT begins to kiss PAUL’s chest, then his neck, and then, shifting his weight so as to better face him, his lips. Their embrace is intense, passionate, as though a means of saying what words cannot. As never before in the same way, an inarticulate understanding passes between them.)

FAGGOT: (Aware of a new sensation, he moves his hand down to feel between PAUL’s legs.) Are you hard?

PAUL: (Smiling sheepishly through his tears) I’m sorry, it’s just, well, the feel of you, the smell of you. It does things to me. I can’t help it.

FAGGOT: (Melting) Kiss me, Paul.

(They continue to kiss, while the FAGGOT rubs PAUL’s erection through his pants.)


PAUL: Yes?

FAGGOT: Can I... can I suck on you?

PAUL: (Moaning and nodding consent) Ohhh... yes...

(PAUL rolls his head back, eyes closed. The FAGGOT unzips PAUL’s pants, pulls his erection through the open fly of his boxers, and proceeds to fellate him, slowly and tenderly. PAUL encourages him with his hands, caressing his head, running his fingers through his hair. PAUL tastes as good as, even better than, he ever has before. The FAGGOT’s mouth feels warm and wet, as good as, even better than, it ever has before. The combined wetness of saliva and precum mingle between cock and mouth, and the FAGGOT swallows it all. The combined concentration of master and servant, dominant and submissive, fuses hearts and minds in perfect happiness, contentment, and mutual adoration. The only sounds are those of gentle slurping and the soft moans of desire.)

PAUL: (With labored breaths) Oh, man, you feel so good! You know... there was... always you. Even now... there’s you... the thought of you! (The FAGGOT moans in satisfaction and sucks with heightened vigor.) Oh god... I’m about to come! I’m about to... Look at me! Let me look in your eyes! I want to... see... oh...

(They quickly shift position so as to accommodate PAUL’s request. The FAGGOT holds only the first few inches of PAUL’s penis in his mouth, but is able to gaze intently into his eyes while PAUL thrusts his hips.)

PAUL: (Loudly) Oh yes, yes, yes! I’m... I’m coming! (Shouting now) I’m com... uhng ... oh... (Fighting to keep his eyes open) Oh, Elliot! I love you-ooo!

(The sound of his name combined with the feel of hot semen spurting onto his tongue causes ELLIOT to climax as well. Smoldering with the stored-up tension of the past several weeks, his body shudders uncontrollably at his release, as though liberated for the very first time. He manages to force PAUL’s throbbing manhood deep into his mouth, while drinking his precious seed.

There has never been for either of them, in their experience of love and sex, so spectacular a fruition. By ELLIOT’s finally asking for PAUL’s assent to worship him, and PAUL’s finally bestowing on ELLIOT not just his body but his heart as well, each performs for the other a service out of the ordinary, culminating in a fulfillment of purpose, a giving of happiness few may ever know or understand. They come to terms, briefly, with who and what they are to each other. They bear the seed of new life, anticipated for so many months, planted in an instant of perfection and, after so much mishandling and suffering, now budding, finally, with profound tenderness and fragility, as something new is cultivated between them, something unlikely, improbable, and some would even say impossible, but delightful and blooming nonetheless.

But after what seems like only a minute or so, perhaps as little as thirty seconds, there is a thunderous knock at the door. Both look up in a panic.)

PAUL: (Breathing heavily) Oh, fuck! (Shouting) Just a second!

(The door opens.)

MATT: Paul? (Looking inside, he is visibly traumatized by the scene before him.) Elliot? What the fuck is going on in here?


Well, there you have it, the whole freaking mess just as it happened. It does make for rather ridiculous drama in parts, but since I was able to negotiate with the producers to consult in the writing of the script, I can say it’s pretty faithfully rendered. I guess one important thing that did get left out is that Mark was standing in the hall right behind Matt, so he saw what was going on in Paul’s room, too. Another thing regarding Mark that’s probably important to know is that a few weeks before all this, he’d accused me of being gay -- in a manner similar to the night of my birthday party the previous summer -- and Matt had once again forced him to back down. But now, there they were, Mark and Matt, standing in the doorway with Paul and me arranged in rather telling positions on his bed, his cock shiny and glistening and my chin streaked with a thin line of cum. The seconds passed as we all looked at one another across a truly impassable divide. Eventually, Matt backed away and slowly closed the door, saying to Mark as he did so, “You were right. I didn’t want to believe it, but, Jesus, you were right...”

I guess all that really matters is that in that moment, the two worlds I had been living in—the two worlds I found out Paul had been living in, too—collided with cataclysmic results, like matter and antimatter coming together. I felt sure that Matt’s finally learning the truth meant the end of it all. The end of me and Matt, the end of me and Paul. And probably the end of Matt and Paul, who I recently learned had been getting along so well over the past few months. As I’ve explained before, to a guy like Matt, what Paul and I had done was simply unforgivable. It was a perversion against God, nature, and the norms of decent society. There was no way he’d turn a blind eye to any of this.

I felt horrible about it, naturally, but I felt worse for Paul. He seemed to have the most to lose. I at least had a means of escape, and that, in fact, was all that was left to me now. I would graduate in a few days and leave for college in a couple of months. My days in this town, this state, were already numbered, and the only thing I had to do was get through them alive. But Paul, poor Paul, had another year before he graduated. His life would be hell. Unimaginable hell, and I felt responsible for it. First he’d have to face his brother, then his parents, then his classmates, then people who knew him in the community at large. Life as he knew it was over, and what lay beyond was dark and ominous.

But maybe I am jumping the gun a little bit. I am only describing what came to me in the first few hours after Matt’s discovery. After he left Paul and me, who knows where he went or what he did. But I could be reasonably sure that he wasn’t on the phone spreading the news—Paul was, after all, still his brother. The real wildcard was Mark. What would he do? And if he had something sinister in mind, would Matt be willing, or able, to stop him? Well, maybe I should just describe first what did happen on that fateful day. While the previous events felt then and still feel like I was merely acting out some part in a play, what follows next is even now as real to me as the hands I’m using to type it out.

After Matt closes the door, I, of course, do nothing but panic, utterly useless in a crisis situation. Paul tries to calm me a bit, but he’s a little panicked himself. After pacing the floor a few times and trying to sort things out in his head, he turns to me and says, “Elliot, you’d probably better go home. That would be the safest thing right now. I need to go find Matt and figure out what’s going on.”

“Paul, I’m so sorry!” I grab his arm and hold it tightly. “Tell him it was my fault, that I made you do it. Tell him anything, just so you protect yourself!”

Paul takes me in his arms and looks directly into my eyes. “No, I won’t do that. I can’t. Elliot, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but whatever it is, just know one thing: I meant what I said. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Paul.”

Paul kisses me and hugs me as the tears continue to stream down my face. Then he takes me firmly by the hand and says, “Come on. I’ll walk you across the street. We’ve got to hurry.” As we leave his house for mine, things seem eerily quiet. Matt and Mark, it seems, have left. When we part, I see in Paul’s face a look of dread and fear I’ve never seen before.

After a few hours, alone and without a clue as to what is going on, I walk back over to Matt and Paul’s house, against my better judgment. I guess the not knowing seems worse than whatever will meet me if I venture out in search of Matt and Paul. I am absolutely terrified of what I will find. Knocking on their front door is either the stupidest or the most courageous thing I’ve ever done, I’m not sure which. How many thousands of times have I done this before in the years we grew up together? Who would think that this would be the last? As the door opens, I guess I realize it is neither courage nor stupidity that makes me act. I have reached the absolute rock bottom, and having nothing else to lose, I have nothing else to gamble. Whatever motivates me now is simply the necessity of fate, of facing up to events, come what may, that I am powerless to prevent.

Matt answers the door. The rage in his eyes when he looks at me is more than I can bear. After experiencing it internally for so long, I finally see the hatred I knew he would feel for me well up inside of him and burst out into an open fury. And to this day, I can’t imagine a look more terrible. Part of me fears for my life. But the rest of me just surrenders to whatever is about to come. My gut reaction is to reach out for the one thing that makes me feel safe.

“Where’s Paul?” I ask, looking past Matt into the house, and trying to get around him. “I want to see Paul!”

Not surprisingly, Matt’s gut reaction is to stop the thing that so threatens his world. He clenches his fist and punches me, hard, across the jaw. He puts his shoulder into it, so the next thing I know, my line of sight swirls around and then up into the blue sky as my head and body crash to the ground. I hear the thud of my skull hitting the cement walk, and though the pain is there, I can’t respond to it. I am so paralyzed with fear that I don’t know what is happening. I feel like a prisoner trapped in my own body.

But somehow I am able to look up, into Matt’s face. The rage, the sting of my betrayal, is still there in his eyes, and a line of tears runs down each of his cheeks. And then, much worse than hitting me, he screams the words that make me want to die. I hear in his voice a strange mix of contempt and disbelief, such as I’ve never heard before or since.

“You’re a goddamn faggot, Elliot! A fucking cocksucker! Don’t you ever, ever come here again!”


Look for “Chapter Nine. Confessions.”
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Author’s Note: My continuing appreciation to those of you who’ve written with words of encouragement! It’s nice to know that there is a core of readers out there following this story—it’s one of the more important joys an author knows. If you’re one of these, I hope you’ll continue to let me know how you’re doing. One of the difficulties in presenting a story in serial format, however, is keeping true to one’s original intentions: your responses inevitably shape decisions about certain points of emphasis and omission. For the most part, though, I’ve been able to keep true to my original design. Another challenge in writing this story has been leaving the speaker unnamed—after a point, it becomes implausible for others in the story not to address him by name, so I gave him one. It’s a name I’ve always liked, but many of you who’ve written to me will recognize that it’s not my own. At first, I was going to use my own name, but in subsequent chapters I want to put some distance between my flesh-and-bone self and the voice telling this story. I hope you’ll understand. Finally, I told some of you a week or two ago that I’d have this chapter posted in a few days. The process of revision, unforeseen technical difficulties, and the interpositions of life “offline” made for considerable delays. I’m sorry to make you wait—and certainly didn’t mean to mislead.