The following is fiction. It contains some scenes involving sex. If reading such material is against the law, please do not read this. The author expressly wishes all laws to be obeyed and does not encourage illegal behavior.
I have been enormously gratified by my readers’ response to my first two stories, 8th Grade and Prom. Your comments to me have been exceedingly generous and deeply appreciated. Many of you were kind enough to send along story ideas, and some of these ideas have been incorporated in Tim. I cannot thank you enough for your interest and suggestions, even if I cannot acknowledge your participation by name. There are too many of you and I used bits and pieces of what was suggested to the extent even I am confused!
Some gay sex is included in this story as it is a visceral part of and helps illuminate the whole. The story is not principally about sex, and if your interest lies in reading about detailed and abundant sexual activity, you will find this story disappointing and uninteresting to the extreme.
Those of you that have read my first two stories know that I like writing romantic tales of young boys learning who they are. This story has a somewhat darker and more troubling theme, and may have a message that is objectionable to some. I think the majority of you will enjoy it.
I love hearing from readers. It’s the reward I get for writing these stories. Any comments will reach me at email@example.com
T I M
The next day at school I was thinking about lunch all morning. Normally I didn’t think about it at all. Lunch could be a little awkward. If you sit alone at lunch, all by yourself, it looks strange. People notice. They start to wonder about it. They start to talk about it. Some people start to see it as an insult and get offended by it, even though it doesn’t have anything to do with them. They quickly attach a label to you: loser. Other people, nicer ones, see you alone and it starts to bother them. They start to think they should be including you somehow and after a while start approaching you, hoping to include you in their groups, or at least make an effort, invite you to join them, so they know they’ve at least tried. Most kids, of course, just ignore you. Those were the ones I liked best. I wanted to be ignored. But I couldn’t well do it by eating by myself, for the reasons just mentioned.
I’d cleverly resolved this problem early on. Our cafeteria had long tables and short ones, tables for up to 16 kids and some for only two. Many were for four or six people. I don’t know how seating arrangements work at schools other than this one and the one I came from. I suppose this school was sort of typical. Anyway, the way it worked here, a lot of tables had only girls sitting at them, a lot had only boys, and several had a mix of the two sexes.
I’d made a practice of watching people, generally having lots of uninterrupted time on my hands, and knew the characteristics of most of the kids. What I’d decided to do was try to hook myself up with someone about as antisocial as I was. I didn’t care why they were antisocial, whether it was shyness or misanthropy or a deadly disease or anything else, I just was looking for someone that wasn’t going to want to make friends when I sat down with him. And luckily for me, there was such a person in my lunch period. Eliot Barrenger. I’d watched Eliot. He never spoke to anyone. He always had a book in his hand and when he had any free time, the book was open and he was reading it. If anyone talked to him, he usually just shrugged, paid them no attention, and the person eventually walked away. Eliot was perfect.
He was in my lunch period and I’d spotted him sitting by himself, eating and reading, early on. Ever since, I’d made it a habit to wait till he was seated at one of the tables for two with his stuff spread across the table to discourage anyone else from sitting down with him. The first day I’d taken my tray to his table, pushed his stuff over onto his side of the table and set my tray down. He’d looked up at me.
“There’s an empty table right over there,” he’d said, pointing.
“This is OK,” I’d replied, taking the food off my tray and arranging it on the table.
He’d stared at me for a moment, not actively hostile but not welcoming either, then simply returned to his book. Perfect. Just what I’d wanted. That was the first day. For the rest of the year, I’d been eating lunch with him every day and neither one of us had ever spoken again. Perfect. I in fact never did learn if he was shy or misanthropic or diseased. He never died, so I thought I could rule that one out. The other two, I don’t know, but if I had to vote, I say him being a misanthrope was the more likely.
Today, I was thinking about lunch all morning. What was going to happen? Would Terry want me to sit with him and a group of kids, and then would they all start asking me questions? That wasn’t going to work at all. Was that his plan? Did he have a plan? I was nervous all morning thinking about it.
When I got to the cafeteria and had filled my tray, he met me at the end of the serving line, holding his own tray. He’d been waiting for me.
“How do you want to do this, Tim?” he asked.
“Uh, I guess, if we just want to talk and get to know each other, maybe one of the small tables would work best.” It wasn’t like me to be making decisions for other people. But he’d asked. And I suddenly found myself appreciating the fact he was deferring to me, probably intentionally trying to make me more comfortable. I wondered if he understood I was uncomfortable around other people.
“OK, come on, then. Follow me.” He led the way and I walked behind him toward an empty two-person table off to one side of the room. This was a less crowded part of the cafeteria. I thought he was probably choosing it because it was quieter, not because he didn’t want to be seen with me. I knew he wasn’t like that at all.
“Why don’t we sit here where we won’t be interrupted so much. I’ll apologize in advance––kids may keep coming over to talk to me, even sitting over here. But it’ll be cool.”
Now that made me think. Maybe he did realize I didn’t want a lot of kids around me, that I was that private a person. Was he implying he’d be protective with that statement? Wow. I didn’t think he knew anything about me. How could he know that would appeal to me? But then, maybe that wasn’t what he meant. Maybe he was apologizing just because he knew we’d be interrupted a lot, not because he recognized kids coming around and being sociable might be something that I wouldn’t like.
I glanced around the room and my eyes fell on Eliot. Much to my surprise, I found him looking at me. Staring at me might be a better way to describe it. When I made eye contact, he didn’t look away. Woops! What was going on here? He couldn’t be upset I was sitting with Terry, could he? He couldn’t feel I’d deserted him, could he? He never even spoke to me, other than a few words weeks ago! But I suppose he could have become accustomed to me being there everyday and taken some marginal comfort from it, even if there never was any acknowledgment of it. Did he feel abandoned?
No, it probably wasn’t that, I decided. Maybe it was the absurdity of what he was seeing that was affecting him. I’d gone from sitting every lunchtime with a kid who on the popularity scale at school was about a 1 and was now sitting with another kid who was a 10. And what was I myself? Probably a 0. That didn’t make much sense and was probably worth staring at, come to think of it.
After staring for a bit, Eliot made a show of shrugging, then burying his face in his book, an action he’d perfected while I ate my lunch at the table with him every day. I turned my attention back to Terry.
He was desultorily stirring together the corn and the peas on his plate while gazing at me. When I turned my eyes from Eliot’s to his, he asked, “Is Eliot a friend of yours?”
“Not really. We usually share a table at lunch, that’s all.”
“You do eat lunch with him every day, don’t you?”
I looked at him. “We eat at the same table. Saying we eat together sort of implies more than what’s going on. But how did you know that? You didn’t even know I existed till a couple days ago.”
He reddened slightly. “Once I noticed you when I was looking for someone to work on the assignment with, I started looking for you all over, wherever there were groups gathered together. I was curious because I thought I knew everyone and here was this guy, you, that I hadn’t even seen, so I started looking for you. For the past few days, I spotted you and Eliot together at lunch, always at that same table where he is now. So I guessed you always ate together. What do you mean, you eat at the same table but you don’t eat together?”
I felt my spirits fall. I had been a little excited, getting together with Terry, sitting down to eat lunch with him, talking to him. But here, in the first minutes we were together, he was already asking a question I found it difficult to answer. Maybe this was going to be a lot harder than I had been hoping it would be.
I had thought about this last night and come up with a strategy. I had decided on a couple ways to protect myself. I was going to lie to him when I absolutely had to, but do it as infrequently as I could get away with. Also, I was not going to tell him the full truth if holding things back would work to my advantage. I was going to attempt to answer honestly but maybe mislead him by not revealing more than I needed to. If he got a factually truthful but skewed picture of me, my life and my history, well, that would be fine with me. That would allow him to write his paper but not complicate my future. The other thing I’d considered doing was trying to distract him by asking him questions when I could so he’d be busy answering mine instead of asking his own.
I guessed this was as good a time as any to take this plan out for a test drive.
“Eliot’s not the most talkative kid in school and I guess I’m not either. He likes to read at lunch, and I don’t much care if I’m talking or not. So, he reads and I eat. I guess he eats too. I don’t hardly notice. You could say we eat lunch together, but it’s probably truer to say he eats lunch, I eat lunch, and it happens at the same table.”
“So why don’t you eat with other people so you can be part of a conversation? It’d be better to be eating with a bunch of kids you get along with and have fun with, and it has to be boring, being with someone everyday who never talks to you.”
“Ahhhhh, not really. I just told you, I’m not much of a talker. Sitting with him, I can finish any homework I didn’t finish the night before or start on tomorrow’s, or I can read a book too if I want to. I don’t mind it, really.”
“Man, I’d think that would suck. I couldn’t do that, sit by myself and just eat lunch with all these other guys around to talk to. That’d drive me crazy.”
“I’m used to it, and kinda like it, really.”
“So why is that. Don’t you like other kids?” He was giving me a strange sort of look, like I was some rare specimen of beetle or something he was trying to figure out. I realized I’d allowed the conversation to stray into dangerous waters. I should have been paying more attention. I should have started asking him questions. Now I was going to have to come up with some sort of explanation that would satisfy him and not give too much away. Hard on the spur of the moment.
“Oh, sure I like people. But I’m a little shy, I’m new here and I’m just sort of feeling my way, you know? I’ll get in the swing of things eventually, but I like to be careful, like to look around, see who’s who before getting too involved. You know how it is.”
“Actually, I don’t know how that is. Why not just start meeting people? Why all the caution? You just start talking to people. This doesn’t need any planning, any thinking through, any advance observations. Hey, why don’t I just introduce you around!”
Crap! This last was said with great enthusiasm, like he’d just hit on a miracle potion to cure cancer and couldn’t wait to start inoculating people with it. And that was the very last thing I wanted. I had to get him off this subject. I had to get back to my strategy. OK, what questions could I ask and get him going on something else?
He was looking at me expectantly, probably waiting for a high five, or at the very least some acquiescence to his great plan. Instead, I had to subtly change the subject and get him going on a different track. I paused, as though thinking about being introduced around, and instead of saying yes or no to it, said, “So you talk to a lot of kids. Sometimes just one, but often a group. I see you outside or in here and it seems you’re frequently in a crowd. Don’t you get tired of being surrounded by other kids? Don’t you ever want to be alone?”
He seemed to take the bait, or maybe he was just being polite and answering what I’d asked. “Why would I want to be alone? No, I don’t get tired of having other kids around. I love being around other people, talking to them, finding out what’s going on in their lives. That’s a whole lot more interesting that reading a book, or doing homework.”
“Do you know every kid at school? Do you make it, like, an assignment or something, to talk to everyone?”
“If I see someone I don’t know, I try to talk to them. It’s sort of a challenge, but I like doing it. Someone said, ‘A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet,’ and I like that. I’ve found it pretty much true, too.”
“How do you remember everything all these guys have to say to you. You must talk to 100 kids a day and they all tell you things they’ll expect you to know the next time you see them. How can you keep all that in your head, keep track of it all?”
He started to explain, and this time he began using examples of what this guy had said and what that one had said and his answer got a little complicated. I was listening to it, but also smiling inwardly. My ruse was working! He was so busy answering my questions he wasn’t asking me any, so I wasn’t on the hot seat. I didn’t know how long I’d be able to get away with this, but so far, so good.
I got in the habit of quickly asking him something else as soon as he’d finished talking, something his previous answer logically suggested. What with my questions and other kids starting to come over to either talk to him or just say hi when they’d finished their lunches, it was soon time to take our trays to the window. Lunch was about over.
He was standing in front of me as we were waiting to deposit our trash in the barrel and put our trays on the ledge when he turned back to me and said, “Dammit, Tim, I just realized I asked you almost nothing today! I don’t know what happened, but I need to get a lot more than this. Say, what about after school. Can we get together then? We could go back to the park, or even your house. Do you have the time? How about it?”
I was feeling a little cocky. I’d pulled off lunch perfectly. There’d been only one or two hurdles to leap and I’d soared over them without tripping at all. Also, I’d been able to spend some more time with Terry, which I really liked. I was beginning to feel comfortable with him. Spending the afternoon with him should be fun.
“Sure. What do you prefer, the park or my house? Either one of them is fine.”
“Let’s go to your house then. It’ll give me the chance to see where you live, see your room, maybe meet your parents, get to know you even better than I can just talking to you. Let’s meet by the front door right after school.”
We arranged that, then had to separate for our next classes. I was feeling good about the whole thing, feeling I had a good handle on getting to know Terry, spending some time with him, and still keeping myself pretty much under wraps. Isn’t it strange how, just when you’re starting to feel complacent, things always seem to blow up on you?