Chapter 21: Tim
It wasn't until my second year of college that I saw Jeff again.
I had just finished the first semester of my sophomore year of college. I was so
excited for Christmas break. Jeff was going to be on leave and I hadn't seen him
in so long. We were all just thrilled that he was going to be home for Christmas.
He had less than a year until he got out of active duty and he had done two tours
in Iraq and was now stationed in North Carolina.
I rode with Mom and Dad to the Flint airport to pick him up. When he came through
security, I didn't even recognize him. He was big and buff and clean shaven, and
wearing his uniform. He looked very handsome and so grown up. He looked a lot like
Dad, actually. Mom threw herself around him and hugged him tight. She cried and
hugged and touched all over him. I was embarrassed, but Jeff was laughing and grinning.
Dad gave him a hug and Jeff did a double take when he looked at me.
I've had a little growth spurt since I last saw him, both up and out. The truth
is I have gained a little weight since high school. I wasn't fat, but I was soft.
I guess that happens to lots of guys when they go to college.
"Christ, little brother. You're all grown up!" he said. He pulled me into a bear
hug and I held on tight and started to cry. Here I was embarrassed by Mom's crying
and now I was doing the same thing.
"I missed you, Jeff," I told him. "I missed you so much."
I sniffled and wiped my eyes. He smiled at me and ruffled my hair. "I missed you,
Jeff got his bag and we walked to the car and headed for home. Jeff and I sat in
the back seat together.
"How tall are you now, Tim? 6 feet?" he said with a chuckle.
I rolled my eyes. "Stop making fun of me. I'm not that tall. I'm like 5'9."
"Well, that's what? Two inches taller than when I last saw you?"
"Yeah. I guess so..."
"Your shoulders have filled out and you've gained some weight. Where's that skinny
little kid I left behind?" he laughed and patted my stomach.
"Jeff," I whined and pushed his hand away. "You make me sound fat."
"Nah. You're not fat. Yet," he said with a laugh. "I'm just teasing ya, Tim. You
look good. You don't look like a boy anymore."
"I'm serious," he said, before adding quietly, "I bet you're beating the guys off
with a stick. No pun intended," he laughed.
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, right."
"You don't even know how cute you are, do you?"
I scoffed. "I'm not cute. Stop teasing me. You're being really mean."
Jeff frowned at me and opened his mouth to say something, then shut it in frustration.
I was uncomfortable talking about me, so I turned the subject back to him.
"What about you? You're all muscles now," I said.
I poked his bicep with my index finger and it was hard as a rock. He held his arm
up and flexed it in a couple of exaggerated body builder poses and we both laughed.
"How's school going?" he asked.
"Fine. I'm doing pretty good with my grades and my classes aren't too boring. I'm
glad I'm only doing a minor in accounting though. It kind of sucks."
"Eh," he said as he made a face.
"I know right."
"Hey, I talked to Hank on the phone the other day."
"Oh?" I said, trying to sound casual.
"Yeah. He's going to be home for a few days. He asked about you. He wanted to know
how you were doing, how school was, if you were okay."
I shrugged. "I'm fine."
I turned and looked out the window. I squeezed my eyes shut to hold in the tears
and took a deep breath. After all this time, I realized that I was still in completely
love with him. I thought about him practically every day and how much I missed him.
I still fantasized about him when I was alone in bed at night feeling horny.
Jeff squeezed my shoulder.
"God, I'm so fucking pathetic," I whispered to myself.
"Hey, don't be so hard on yourself, Tim," Jeff said and he squeezed my shoulder
I let out a deep breath and blinked the tears from my eyes.
When we got home, Mom made Jeff's favorite dinner, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
I didn't really like meatloaf, but I was happy to eat it because she made if for
We had an extra merry Christmas this year since Jeff was home. We got Jeff a lot
of nice clothes, socks and underwear, and other things he really needed. I got a
new laptop computer from Mom, Dad and Jeff. My old computer was on its last leg
and I was so grateful. It had a lot of memory and was very fast.
The Saturday before I had to drive back to Kalamazoo, Jeff got a phone call. He
told me to get my coat because we were going out for lunch. He took my keys and
got in the driver's seat of the Jeep. He lit up a smoke and backed out of the driveway
and sped down the street.
I laughed. "This is so weird. It's like we're in high school again."
"Shut up, Tim. You're making us late again," he said, imitating himself.
We both laughed and Jeff turned left and went two blocks and turned right. My heart
skipped a beat and I could hear it pounding in my ears as we pulled into the Ballatori
"Come on, Tim."
Jeff finished his smoke and stomped it out. I sat in the car for a few more seconds
and finally got out and followed him to the front door. Jeff rang the doorbell and
Mrs. Ballatori opened the door.
"Oh, my! Just look at the two of you, all grown up."
Mrs. Ballatori held open the door and invited us in and walked us to the family
room. Mr. Ballatori shook both of our hands and told us
"It's good to see the both of you," he said. "It's been too long."
When Hank came down the stairs and stepped into the room, I think I gasped a little
and froze. It felt like time stood still as he walked towards us in slow motion.
Hank was more handsome than ever. He was clean shaven, but had a couple days of
beard growth. His soft black hair was cut in a flat top. His blue eyes sparkled
brighter than I remembered. He was bigger and buffer than when I last saw him over
three years ago. There was no mistaking it. Hank was a grown man now.
His eyes locked onto me and I watched him as he walked up to Jeff. He broke eye
contact with me to give Jeff a hug and a slap on the back. He then looked at me
and smiled and pulled me in for a hug. I buried my head into his chest and took
a deep breath. I could smell his scent under his cologne and I stored it away in
my memory for future reference.
I pulled away and he held me by my shoulders and looked me up and down.
"Christ, you look so different. All grown up. What are you? 5'9" now? And you've
"Hank," I interrupted.
"Tim, you're not fat. You look good."
"Come on, let's go," Hank said.
He grabbed his coat and followed us out to the jeep. I climbed in back while Hank
took the passenger seat. He and Jeff both lit up smokes and I sat in back and smiled
as Jeff sped towards downtown. It was just like the old days.
The three of us went downtown to Gino's Pizzeria and ordered two large pizzas. By
the time we finished lunch, there wasn't any of either one left and I only had three
pieces. Jeff and Hank sure could pack the food away.
I was worried that it would be uncomfortable, but it wasn't. We talked and laughed
just like old times. I listened in wonder and amazement when Jeff and Hank traded
stories about Iraq. I laughed when they did. Then tears fell down my cheeks when
the stories turned sad and I could see the hurt in their eyes when talking about
When Hank looked me and then leaned forward and wiped my tears with his thumb, I
closed my eyes and leaned into his hand. I realized what I was doing and jerked
back and sat up straight in my seat.
"Sorry," I whispered and I took off my glasses and wiped my eyes. Hank smiled uncomfortably.
When the waitress dropped off the check, she was obviously checking out Hank and
she touched his arm before leaving the check on the table. Hank smirked and looked
her up and down before she left and she smiled and blushed before turning and walking
"Excuse me," I said as I got up to use the bathroom.
I was upset. He was flirting with that girl right in front of my face. I knew he
couldn't be out in the military and he probably went back to dating girls. The thought
really upset me. I went pee and washed my hands and splashed water on my face. I
took a deep breath.
After I composed myself, I walked out of the bathroom and saw them outside in front
of the restaurant having a smoke. I joined them and we walked down the street to
the coffee shop. Jeff and Hank both ordered a coffee drink and I got a hot chocolate.
We talked for another hour before we drove Hank home.
Hank invited us inside for a bit, so we followed him inside. We sat down in the
living room, Jeff in the recliner and Hank and I on the couch. When Jeff excused
himself to use the bathroom, I was suddenly nervous to be in the room alone with
"You okay, Tim?" he asked.
"Please don't be scared of me," he said quietly.
He put his arm around me and pulled me closer to him. I laid my head on his shoulder
and took a deep breath and willed myself to not start crying.
"I know, Timmy," he said. "Me, too."
Hank kissed the top of my head and everything felt good and right all of the sudden.
I wiped my eyes and sat up straight and smiled. Hank smiled back at me and we both
"I probably won't get to see you again before you leave tomorrow," he said.
"Yeah. So, what are your plans?" I asked.
"For now? Or after I get out?"
"I meant now."
"Ah. Well, the family is all getting together for dinner tonight. That should be
fun. I'm excited about meeting Vince's fiancée. I could do without Lor and his wife,
but eh, what am I gonna do?"
"You two still don't get along?"
"We never got along. And I still can't forgive him for how he treated you."
"That was so long ago, Hank. You should let it go."
"Tim, he's even worse now. Whenever I see him or talk to him, I can't do any fucking
thing right. I'm busting my ass in Iraq so he can sit around and get fat and make
babies with his bitch of a wife, but I'm still a worthless fag in his eyes."
"I'm sorry, Hank. It's so unfair."
"Yeah, well fuck him," he said bitterly.
"So, what about when you get out?"
"I'm thinking I'll get my associates in criminal justice, and that'll take a couple
more years. That with my MP experience, and I should be able to easily get a job
as a cop. Hopefully I can get a job here if there's an opening."
"That's great. Do you need the associate degree to be a cop?"
"Nah, but it helps. I just think I need to get some education, you know? Something
beyond high school. If I don't do it now, I will probably never do it and I think
I'd regret it."
I smiled at him. "Yeah, I understand."
I chuckled and shook my head. "You've really changed, Hank. I'm happy for you."
"Thanks. What about you?"
"Well, I got two more years. Dad has really been pushing for me to come home and
help run the business with him and Jeff. I don't know, though. I just don't know
if living in a small city in Michigan is where I want to be. I was kind of wanting
to move to Chicago."
"Aw, it's not so bad here, Tim."
Jeff came out of the bathroom rubbing his stomach. "Fuck, man. All that greasy pizza
didn't sit well with me."
"Gross. I did not need to know all that," I said.
Jeff and Hank laughed loudly.
Jeff cocked his thumb over his shoulder. "Let's roll, Tim."
I gave Hank a hug and whispered in his ear, "I'm so proud of you, Hank. Thank you
"Thanks, Tim. I'll see you around, okay?"
Jeff and Hank shook hands and we left.
I went back to school feeling better about life and about myself. I felt like I
had some closure with Hank. I was still madly in love with him, and I still thought
about him every day. But now it was happy thoughts about him instead of how much
I missed him.
And when I laid in bed at night touching and stroking myself and fantasizing about
making love with him, I was now with the grown up Hank: Hank the Marine, instead
of Hank the High School Jock.
Before the end of the year, Matt and I decided to move to a different dorm, one
on campus instead of down in the valley.
Next year was going to be awesome!