This story is a continuation of the story of Kevin Foley, Rick Mashburn, and their "sons," Tim Murphy, Kyle Goodson, Justin Davis, and Brian Mathews that started in "Tim," continued in "Justin" and "Kyle," and now continues in "Kyle, Part 2." It is about gay men and gay boys living and loving together as a family, and it contains descriptions of sex, but the sex is never intergenerational. If you are offended by descriptions of gay sex, or if the law in your area forbids you to read them, please exit the story. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy it. I appreciate feedback, and you can send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kyle, Part 2
The next morning everyone was up by 7:30 to get ready for our adventures at the Audubon Nature Institute, which is the collective name for the aquarium and the zoo. The plan was to go to Mass at St. Louis Cathedral at ten, have breakfast at the Cafe du Monde after Mass, and walk down to the Aquarium of the Americas on Canal Street after breakfast. Almost everybody was Catholic. Kyle and Justin weren't, but they had been to Mass with us almost every week for the last seven months. Gene and Rita weren't Catholic, though, a fact that had escaped my attention as we were planning that outing.
As usual, my mother saved the day by offering to go with them for breakfast if they preferred not to attend Mass. They were perfectly fine with going to Mass, though, so that was taken care of. Craig and Cherie were going to meet us at the Cathedral. We packed up everyone in our vehicles, and we took off. Jeff would be riding with us on a regular basis now.
"How does everybody feel this morning," I asked, mainly because of Jeff.
They all said they felt good.
"I can't remember ever feeling any better," Jeff said.
Rick, who was by then in on what had happened with the medicine, and I looked at one another and smiled.
It always amazed me at how much traffic there was on the Interstate leading into downtown New Orleans. One would expect Sunday morning to be a slack time, but one would be wrong. We passed the Super Dome, and the boys were all awestruck by it.
"Can we go in there," Kyle asked.
"Maybe tomorrow. There's a Saints game today, Bubba," I said.
"Have you been in there, Kev," Tim asked.
"Yeah, and Rick has, too. In fact, we were in there at the same time once, but we weren't together. We both went to the Sugar Bowl game when FSU played the University of Florida for the National Championship."
"Who won," Kyle asked.
"They did," Rick said with obvious contempt.
"Yesssssssssssssssss!" Jeff said. He and Kyle tapped knuckles.
"Tell them your Super Dome bathroom story, Babe," I said.
"Okay. After the game I went into the men's room to take a leak, and the place was packed. It was literally nuts-to-butts."
"Nuts-to-butts? What does that mean," Kyle asked.
"That means it was so crowded I had my nuts up against the butt of the guy in front of me, and the guy behind me had his nuts up against my butt," Rick said.
"Whoa! I bet you liked that, didn't you, sweetie," Justin teased.
"Shut up and listen," Rick said. "I stood in line in front of the urinal for a good ten minutes. It was a stainless steel trough instead of an individual urinal, and I was at the very end. A guy came up on my right and tried to nudge me down, but I was already pressed against the guy to my left. There was just no room for him.
"Instead of waiting until I was finished, that joker decided to stand at the end of the trough to pee. He was pretty wasted, by the way. The only problem with him standing there was there was a concrete box that protruded out of the floor about a foot high. It had plumbing stuff in it. That didn't stop him, though. He stood right up on that box, unbuttoned his jeans, and pulled out the biggest dick I had ever seen in my life."
"Was he hard," Tim asked.
"He might have been half-hard or something, Tim, but he didn't have a full erection. Anyway, that thing was about five inches from my face. He turned loose a stream of piss that looked like it was coming out of a fire hose right over the streams of everybody else. I didn't know what to do. I looked up at the boy. He grinned at me and shrugged. I started laughing. He started laughing. He slipped and fell off the concrete box he was standing on, piss flying everywhere. Some of his friends were right there, and they picked him up. The guy was real good natured, and he laughed along with everybody else."
"Then what did you do," Kyle asked.
"I finished pissing and got the hell out of there," Rick said.
"Is that it," Jus asked.
"Yeah, that's it," Rick said.
"I don't get it. What's the punch line," Jus asked.
"There isn't a punch line. It's just a funny story," Rick said.
"Oh. I hope I don't start thinking about it in church and have to be taken out because I'm laughing so hard," Justin said in total deadpan.
"They give tours of the Dome," I said. "We might be able to get one tomorrow. If not, we'll do it the next time we come here."
"When we go on the tour, Rick, I want you to rub your nuts on my butt, okay," Justin said.
That made us all crack up.
"Is anybody keeping score on this," Jus asked.
"Yes, and you got me last at least three times," Rick said. "Very good. For you."
"Uggghhhh, he got you last on that one, Justy-boy," Jeff said.
"Get your damn finger out of my ear, Jeffy-boy," Jus said.
"That wasn't my finger," Jeff said.
"It had to be. It was too big to be your dick," Justin replied.
"He got you last, Bubba," Kyle said to Jeff.
"Yeah, I guess he did. I'll wait in ambush," Jeff said. "I'll get him when he least suspects it."
I loved it that Jeff was finally able to participate in the fun.
We were turning into the parking lot that is next door to the Jackson Brewery building. We'd park there all day while we were at church, the aquarium, and the zoo.
It was going to be a beautiful day, but all of the morning fog hadn't yet burned off the river. We were in jeans and tennis shoes for the day, and we all had light jackets. The temperature was probably in the mid-fifties, and it would warm up into the seventies as the day wore on. We all had on the baseball caps we had bought the day before at the Fair Grounds. We probably looked like a scout troop or a church youth group or something. We made a handsome assemblage, though.
Kyle had his camera, of course, and he ran ahead to take pictures of us walking. He also took some of the Cathedral and of Jackson Square, a scene that is probably as much of a logo for the city of New Orleans as there is.
"You're not going to take pictures in church, are you," I asked him.
"Well, I guess it's okay. One or two during Mass, though. Not a lot. It'll distract the priest."
"From what I've heard, just seeing Kyle will distract the priest," Justin said. "Try to get a picture of the tent in his robes, Kyle."
Rick and Jeff, who was also Catholic, as it turned out, laughed.
"Justin, slow down and walk with me, okay, Bubba," I said.
"Oh, shit. Another little private talk with Kevin," Justin said. The others laughed, especially Kyle, who certainly got his fair share of "little private talks with Kevin."
I slowed down to talk with Jus. I put my arm over his shoulder.
"Justin," I said, and then I paused. "That was funny, man. You've given us a lot of fun already this morning." I was being as serious as I could. "That can only mean one thing, Bubba."
"I have not been smoking, Kevin. I smoked four Marlboro cigarettes yesterday, and that is it, man. Don't say that, okay? I don't fucking smoke." He was agitated, just like I wanted him to be so I could set him up.
"I didn't say anything about you smoking, and that's not what I meant."
"You said the way I was acting could only mean one thing. What does it mean, huh?"
By then we were across Jackson Square and entering the Place de Jean Paul II immediately in front of the Cathedral.
"It means you got laid."
"You shithead!" He was laughing so hard he could hardly talk.
"Not so loud; we're about to go into church, man," I said.
Rick and the others were ahead of us. They stopped and turned around to see Justin and me laughing our asses off and goofing around. They were all grinning, and I knew they were dying to know what we were laughing about.
"You got me last big time on that one, Kev." He hugged me tight.
"What's going on," Rick asked when we caught up with them.
"None of your damn business. Now let's go in here and pray to God for Kevin," Justin said.
I laughed with delight at that boy, who truly had been on a roll that morning.
The people in the other car were already in a pew, and we took the pew right behind them. There just wasn't enough room for fourteen people abreast. Kyle got busy with the camera, and I saw George and Gene, who were sitting next to one another, beam and nod to each other when they saw him.
We weren't there long before the Mass started. It was the principal Mass of the day, and the celebrant was a bishop.
"Why does he have that hat on, and why is he using that big walking stick," Jus asked.
"This guy is a bishop. I think he might be the archbishop," I whispered to Jus. My mom was right in front of us, and she turned around when she heard me say that.
"No. He's an auxiliary bishop. He's not the archbishop," she said.
The choir sounded like a professional chorus, and there was more pomp and circumstance than the boys had ever seen in church before. The bishop blessed the congregation with holy water, and there was incense. They lit the Advent Wreath with great ceremony, too. There was another priest and three deacons, in addition to the bishop.
When it came time for the homily, it was obvious the bishop was at least a little effeminate. Maybe even more than a little.
Jus whispered, "That boy plays for our team."
The boys smiled, but the seven adults in the pew ahead of us started laughing. It wasn't out loud, but it was obvious they were laughing hard. My mom got out of the pew and walked to the back to pull herself together.
"What did I say," Justin asked innocently.
"You know what you said. Now shut the fuck up and listen to him," Rick said. Rick was grinning at Justin, and Jus was grinning right back.
After Mass, in the Cafe, we discussed the Mass. Everybody had enjoyed it.
"Justin, I went to high school with the bishop," my dad said. "And I've always agreed with your assessment. I think he does play for your team."
"I saw him give you a hug after the service. He seemed to like you a lot, Ed. He told me he thought you were a very handsome man. He also said he hoped he would need heart surgery soon so you could see him naked," Jus said.
I could not imagine any circumstances under which anyone would even think to tease my dad about being gay, much less in front of my mother and a dozen other people. That was exactly what Justin had just done, though.
"I can't believe my own grandson just outed me like that," Dad said.
We all laughed.
Kyle was all over the place with the camera. He finished eating quickly, and he and Tim went up on the levee to take pictures of the river, Jackson Square, and the Cathedral. The fog was still hovering over the water, and we later learned he got some spectacular shots.
"Kyle seems really interested in photography, and his work is really very good," my dad said. "That slide show last night was really impressive. How long has he been taking pictures?"
"Since this joker gave him that camera for his birthday on November 13th," Gene said. George grinned.
"You're kidding," my mother said. "Some of those pictures last night looked professional."
"What happened last night? Where were we," Craig demanded.
"You and Cherie had already gone home, son," Dad said. "Kyle and Tim put together slide shows of the pictures of their trip so far. They used our two laptops, so they're saved on the hard drives. You'll be able to see them."
"Is there any artistic talent in the family," Cherie asked.
"Yes. My nephew, Kyle's cousin, is an artist," Rita said.
"And he plays for their team, too," Gene said. Everybody laughed at the way Gene said that, obviously continuing the metaphor we had been using about the bishop.
"Maybe Kyle will become a professional artist, too," Cherie said. "As a photographer."
"Cherie, Rita and I will support Kyle in anything that he wants to do that's honest , but I have a very large business he's going to own one day. I'd like to see him in that business, frankly," Gene said.
"Do you see Tim in that business, too, Gene? I think they're in it for the long haul," Cherie said.
"I hope you're right, Cherie, and I see them in the long haul, too. I think Tim wants to be a doctor, though. He's got the smarts for it, for sure. Kyle can work for some company while Tim is in school. They can be together. There are hotels everywhere, you know?"
"That's pretty incredible of you, Gene," she said.
"I'm forty-three years old, Cherie. I plan to live and work for at least another twenty years," Gene said.
"If they leave home for college and medical school and such, they'll be back home by then, Gene," George said.
Justin, Brian, and Jeff had wandered off, no doubt for Justin to smoke. They came back to our tables just as Kyle and Tim got back there from the river.
We walked down to the aquarium and spent about an hour and a half in there. Then we took the riverboat up to the zoo. We ended up spending about three hours there. Kyle took lots of pictures in both places, and on the boat as well.
The two things in the aquarium that got the most attention from the boys were the display of multi-colored frogs and the albino alligators. Tim, Kyle, and Justin had been swimming with dolphins and stingrays in the Gulf, so those creatures didn't offer them much. Rick and Kyle had both told us stories about being on a surfboard out in the Gulf and looking down at schools of sharks and other large fish. Sharks were old hat to them, too. From time to time Gene had had to call the Florida Fish and Game Commission to come get alligators out of his home pool or a pool at one of the properties, so gators didn't really interest the boys, either, except the albino ones. The smaller fish were beautiful, and they took time to look at those.
"We could have us a fine fish fry with those catfish," Justin said at one point.
Tim and Brian were pretty interested in the Caribbean fish because they were so colorful. Justin kept making comments about the potential edibility of each species, and Kyle took pictures.
"Justin, do you know the difference between a northern zoo or aquarium and a southern zoo or aquarium" Rick asked.
"No, sir. What's the difference," Justin asked.
"Well, at a northern zoo or aquarium, they post the common name of the animal and the Latin name. At a southern zoo or aquarium, they post the common name, the Latin name, and a recipe."
George thought that was absolutely hilarious. Everybody else laughed, too.
Jeff was more or less in the Tim and Brian school of thought when it came to the creatures in the tanks, but it was pretty obvious he wanted to identify more with Rick and me, and Craig and Cherie, than he did with the fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds. He was doing so well, but I knew he felt like a fifth wheel in that group of partners.
We ate lunch on the boat ride up to the zoo. It wasn't a long ride, but we did have time to suck down several hotdogs each, and a load of French fries. We also watched the barge and ship traffic on the river. We passed a fire boat at one point, and it was shooting out gigantic sprays of water.
"Look at that," George said. "I grew up in a big port city, but I've only ever seen that on TV and in movies."
Kyle got lots of pictures of the fire boat.
"Did you get some pictures, Flash," Justin asked Kyle.
They were out of the view of everyone but Rick and me, and Justin grabbed Kyle's crotch when he said that. Kyle held his camera right up to Justin's face and took a picture. I hoped Jus had closed his eyes in time to avoid retinal damage. They both laughed hard. They were, more and more, becoming best friends.
The Audubon Zoo had been in Audubon Park for a very long time. The people of the city had gotten excited about their zoo in the seventies or eighties, and a whole lot of money had been plowed into that place. Supposedly, it was one of the five best zoos in the country, or maybe even the world. The animals were in natural habitats, for the most part. That was probably great for the animals, but a lot of them slept during the day when people were at the zoo. A fairly large number of them also hibernated, or became sluggish, in December and the other winter months. The result was we didn't get to see too many animals doing their thing in their natural habitats.
The bird house was an exception, and we saw some brilliant birds perched on resting places and flying through the air.
Another exception was Monkey Hill. That was my favorite place when I was a kid, and we spent a good thirty minutes that day watching the monkeys.
"Kyle, get some pictures of Justin with his cousins," Brian said.
"Don't worry. I'm getting plenty," Kyle said.
Kyle took a whole bunch of pictures of the monkeys and of us. Later, when we saw the slide show, he had matched up at least one monkey with every person in our party. I thought that was a talent in itself.
My second favorite place when I was a kid was the sea lion pool. There was an island in the middle of that pool, and the sea lions, or seals as I thought of them, were in and out of that water in a continuous flash of motion. Like the monkeys, they were funny and cute. Kyle took pictures of them, but he also took video. Their speed was awesome.
Everybody loved the elephants, too. There was a young one that had been born at the zoo. His name was Christopher.
"Rick, show him your dick so he'll get a hard-on," I overheard Justin say. "Kyle wants a picture of it. Come on, man. Help us out here, dude."
Rick started laughing, and I walked a little closer.
"Kevin, make Rick show the elephant his dick so ole Christopher will get hard," Jus said.
Kyle was listening and grinning, too, but he was too busy to get involved.
"Jus, your incorrigible, man," I said.
"What does that mean," he asked.
"That means you can't be corriged," Rick said.
"It means you never give up," I said. "You can't be corrected."
"Come on, Ricky. Show Chrisy your dickey. The famous Ricky dickey." He was rubbing his hand on Rick's arm in pretend seduction.
"Cut it out," Rick said through his laughter. "I'm not showing him my dick. Besides, I know for a fact that he ain't gay."
That made us all laugh even more. My parents, the Goodsons, and George were looking at us with half smiles on their faces, like they were enjoying watching us play around and like they wished they could be part of the fun we were having, too.
We had a second lunch on the boat ride back to the aquarium. It was about 4:30 when we got into our cars to go back to Mom and Dad's house. Craig and Cherie were going home to dress for the theater, but they were coming back to my parents' house to ride in with us.
The fall semester was the worst time of my life. When Clay was alive, I was the happiest I had ever been. After he died, I was the saddest. I suddenly went from having a life with a man I loved above everyone, including myself, to having nothing again. I was totally devastated. I would come home from class expecting him, or at least signs of him, to be there, but that was all gone. Mr. and Mrs. Goodson were unbelievably good to me, especially Mr. Goodson. He put me on his payroll, even though I didn't work. He gave me Clay's car. He set up a memorial scholarship and made me the first recipient. But they were grieving, too. Mrs. Goodson took it as hard as I did, or harder.
Kevin Foley and Rick Mashburn have got to be two of the greatest men on this earth. They basically took me in. I didn't know them, and they didn't know me. I had met them only one time before when I had gone home with Clay for a weekend. We had gone over to their house, and Clay and Kyle had had a big set-to because Kyle had found out Clay was gay from some guy he had met in a coffee shop. They patched that up pretty quickly, and I could tell Kyle worshipped Clay.
Anyway, Kevin and Rick basically gave me a home. They had two foster sons, Justin and Brian, both of whom were gay. I felt good being there with them, but Clay was like a specter that was with me every hour of every day.
My first reaction was anger. I went to see the student legal services people to see if I could sue Shands Hospital, the doctors, and the University of Florida over his death. I didn't want, or even need, the money. I just wanted revenge. I just wanted them punished for my losing Clay. They listened to me respectfully, but they basically said I had no standing, no basis for a suit.
Then I went through a period of guilt. Clay had had his headache for three days before I insisted he go to the student health center on campus. Why did I wait so long? Why didn't I take him in immediately? Why did I trust the doctors on campus and then trust the doctors at Shands? For two weeks, at least, I thought the whole thing was my fault. I finally realized, though, that there wasn't anything I could do about what had happened.
Then I went into a period of denial. It didn't happen the way they said. Somebody was out to get Clay, and they succeeded. That's how I was feeling when I went there for Thanksgiving. I met Kevin's parents, and his brother and sister-in-law. I loved his sister-in-law. She seemed to understand me, to really feel for what I was going through. Kevin's mother was incredibly nice, but she seemed to focus most of her attention on Justin and Brian. Tim was fine with anything and everything, and I didn't think Kyle had much interest in anything but Tim and sports. He got a boat for his birthday, and he named it The Clay. That made me think a little more of him, but Kyle was a jock, a non-person in my life at that moment.
And then the depression started right before exams. I felt listless; lifeless, almost. I didn't talk much; I never laughed. I didn't have a lot of friends in Gainesville, but the ones I had didn't interest me. I cried a whole lot. In fact, I cried pretty much all the time. I lost twenty pounds from the day Clay died until I went to the Emerald Coast for Christmas, and I thought that most of that weight loss was water loss from my tears.
I made it through my exams somehow. When I got to the Panhandle, all I wanted to do was sleep. Sleep. Cry. Sleep. Cry. That was me. I felt like a little kid. They said "we're going to New Orleans," and I got in the truck, not really caring what was going on.
I suffered through Friday night. The dinner was probably wonderful, but it didn't taste like anything to me. Kyle made me learn how to shuck oysters. I knew Kyle liked me and cared about me, but he had his gang of boys there with him. I couldn't have been less interested in oysters. We went out that night to look at Christmas lights, and I couldn't have been less interested it that, either. Then we went to a karaoke bar. Kyle sang. They all danced. I stewed in my depression.
The next day we went to the racetrack. They were all so excited about placing bets, looking at the horses in the paddock, watching the races. Kyle was taking pictures everywhere with that damn camera he had. He and the others seemed so happy. I was numb. I was someplace mentally that was totally removed from where I was physically. I don't really know where that mental place was, but I knew it wasn't at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
When we got home from the racetrack, everybody more or less took a nap. I went for a walk, and I discovered this magnificent cemetery just a few blocks from their house. I had to jump a fence to get in, but it was worth it. It was all pure white stone. There were buildings that looked like little churches, and some of them even had stained glass windows in them. There were huge monuments. One had a deer on the top of it, and one had a Grecian porch with what looked like a bathtub. There was one made of black marble, in total contrast to the rest of the place.
I thought about what it would be like to be dead, and, for the only time in my life, I thought about suicide. The pain would be gone. The loss would be gone. Clay and I would be together again. Our love would be complete. "Till death do us part." We hadn't said those words formally, but we both knew that was the way it would be with us. I walked home slowly.
When I got home it was time to get dressed to go out to dinner. We went to a pretty fancy place to eat, but I just more or less picked at my food. That was what I had been doing for weeks, at the meals I hadn't skipped all together, and that was probably the real reason I had lost so much weight. Not the crying.
On the way home from the restaurant, Kevin stopped at a drug store. He wanted me to get out with him. I didn't want to move. I had no energy, and I didn't care if he was going to buy that store and give it to me. I was so numb and so sad that I couldn't move. But I did move. I went into that store with Kevin, and that's where I got my life back. Jeffrey Martin came back to life because of a little round pill Kevin's mother had prescribed for me and I had taken in the store with some bottled water.
Riding home, I felt myself regaining my life. In thirty minutes I was laughing for the first time in weeks. Kyle, bless him, had insisted we look at more Christmas lights. Gradually, almost block by block, those lights began looking good to me. I started laughing at jokes, and, pretty soon, I started making wisecracks. It was like a miracle had happened, and I was the receiver.
Beth wanted to talk to me when we got to their house. She and I went into the kitchen by ourselves and sat at their breakfast room table. I poured out all my sorrow, all my pain, all my sense of loss, both because of Clay's death and because I no longer had my family. That woman was wonderful. She listened to me, and she held me when I cried. She wanted me to call my brother, but I had no idea how to get in touch with him.
Beth suggested I call my mom, and I did. It was good to hear her voice, but mostly she and I cried on the phone. She had no idea that Clay had died, and I heard the unmistakable sound of anger and bitterness and sorrow in her voice. Why didn't she leave my father, I asked her. She couldn't do that, she said. She did tell me how to contact my brother, though. I called the number she gave me, but it was no longer in service. I guessed it had been a while since they had talked.
Eventually, I settled down. The medicine was working. I still had my sorrow and pain, but at least I could function like a quasi-normal human being again. I went to bed before Kyle and Tim got up to our room, and I masturbated for the first time since before Clay's death, thinking about him.
After our day at the nature exhibits, we were pretty tired. It was five o'clock by the time we got home. We had snacked all day long, but we really hadn't had a decent meal. We had stopped and gotten a load of Popeye's Fried Chicken and a host of side dishes, one of the basic food groups in New Orleans, and we all ate pretty well from that. The red beans and rice had to be heated in the microwave, but that was par for the course with Popeye's.
"What time are you guys going out tomorrow night, Kevin," my mom asked as we were eating.
"I don't know. Probably 9:30 or ten, something like that. Why?"
"I'd like us to have at least one more family meal while you're here, and we have presents to open. We can do that tomorrow night, don't you think?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said. "We can make it a point of being home whenever you want us home."
"If we're home by six, that should be plenty of time," Mom said.
"What are we wearing tonight," Jeff asked.
"Suits," I said.
"You boys look so good dressed up. Don't you agree, Beth," Rita said.
"Yes, they do, Rita. This is a very handsome group of young men, and they look especially good dressed up. I felt very special going out with them all dressed up last night," Mom said.
"I'm going to try tying my own tie tonight," Kyle said. "I'm old enough that I should know how to do that."
"If you have trouble, let us know, Kyle," Rick said.
"Fellows, the theater we're going to is the Saenger. It's quite an institution in the city," my dad said. "It was built in the 1920's, and it's really quite elaborate. There are tiny lights in the ceiling in the shape of the constellations of stars in the sky. You have the illusion of being outside under a sky full of stars when you're in there. The pipe organ is one of a kind. It's been undergoing major renovation for the last five or six years. I doubt they'll use it tonight, but it's really supposed to be something. Where are our seats, Beth?"
"We're in the first balcony, or the dress circle," Mom said. "Orchestra seats were available when my secretary called for tickets, after Kevin asked me to get them, but the orchestra seats weren't very good ones. They were spread out all over the place, and I wanted us to sit together. We're in the first two rows just right of center. They should be excellent seats."
"Is everyone familiar with the music from Cats," Dad asked.
All the boys indicated no.
"Let's listen to it, then," he said. He put the CD on, and chills ran up and down my spine with the opening notes of the overture.
"Dad, put it on all over the house. We all need to clean up," I said.
That house was rocking out to Andrew Lloyd-Weber that night. We finished up with dinner sort of one at a time, and the boys drifted off to shower and get dressed. Every time I heard that music I wanted to sing along and dance to it. I knew that it was fashionable to joke about Cats and that it was considered a faux pas to take a first date to see it, but it was one of the great achievements in late twentieth-century culture, in my opinion, combining superb music with the words of our greatest poet. I was thrilled to be able to see it again, and I was thrilled the boys were getting to see it.
The curtain was at eight, and we got there around 7:30. Rita, my mother, and Cherie were dressed to the nines, and they looked stunning. The men were all in dark business suits, and I thought the boys had truly cleaned up nicely. I thought my Rick looked gorgeous, but I knew I wasn't exactly an unbiased judge of that.
The boys were not prepared for the splendor of the Saenger Theater. I knew Kyle and Tim had been in nice theaters in other cities and in Europe, but I was sure they were too young to remember or care about what they had looked like.
"What is this place, Vatican South," Justin asked.
"It's nice, isn't it," I said.
"I'll say. But they have other stuff here besides plays, it looks like. The program says Patti Labelle and Garth are both going to be here. And Jerry Seinfeld. That isn't exactly high culture, is it," he asked.
"Well, yes and no. It depends on what you like," I said.
"Patti Labelle is a black lady singer, right," he asked.
"Right. She might actually be from here," I said. "But maybe not. I really don't know. But black performers are honored here, now. It didn't used to be that way. Now the mayor is a black man."
"Is the mayor here tonight," Jus asked.
"Why? Do you want to talk to him," I asked.
"Yeah, I would like to talk to him," he said.
"Why? Have you got a beef?"
"No. I want to tell him what a good job he's doing. This is a great city, man. I think more people should know about this place," he said.
"I think more know about it than you might think, Bubba."
Justin was sitting to my left. I had such good feelings about him. Ever since his little walk on the wild side with Kyle Friday night, Jus had been wonderful. He had been the life of the party that day, and I still couldn't believe that he had teased my dad about being gay and that my dad had responded by teasing him back about his outing him.
After the curtain went up, the boys were all dead still. They were obviously listening to the songs. They laughed at the appropriate times, and they kept big smiles on their faces.
"Is this going to be all singing," Jus asked about a half hour into the play.
"Cool," he said.
At the intermission, the adults, except Rick, each got cocktails. That included Jeff. I saw Kyle work his way up to the bar and order four drinks for his guys. The bartender gave him the drinks without so much as a "by your leave," and he gave them out to his boys. I only hoped that after the day we had had the drinks wouldn't put them to sleep in the second half of the play. They didn't.
The cast got their usual thunderous ovation from the more than 2,700 people in that theater. All five of the boys, and most of the rest of us, as well, had cried when Grizabella had been chosen to go up to the Heavyside Layer, but we were all happy again by the time it ended.
"So, what did you think of that, guys," I asked when we were all in the car. We were headed to a restaurant for a late-night supper. Actually, it was only 11:30.
"I thought it was totally awesome," Kyle said. "It was the best thing I've ever seen in my life. I want the CD, and I'm buying it tomorrow."
"I thought it was the story of my life," Jus said. "It was the story of the lives of a lot of us. Me, Brian, Jeff."
"What do you mean, Bubba," Rick said very gently.
"Hell, we've all been reborn. Thanks to you and Kevin, and Tim and Kyle, and all these other wonderful people. Grow a brain, dumbass," he said.
"I thought that's what you meant," Rick said.
"Rick and Kevin, Kyle and Tim and Brian, thank you for saving me, guys. I didn't deserve it, but you did it for me. I love you guys. There's fixing to be some major crying now, but I can't help it," Justin said.
I knew he was crying happy tears, just like I was at that moment.
We had wiped away tears by the time we had gotten to the restaurant, but it was obvious we had been crying. When we met up with the adults in the second car, it was obvious they had been crying, too.
"Kevin, you look like you've been crying," my mom said in the parking lot.
"I have been. We all have been," I said.
"It was that play, wasn't it? That play is about your family, isn't it? About you and Rick and your sons?"
"In a lot of ways it is," I said.
"You and Rick can't give birth to children, but you can and do give rebirth." Rick was at my side to hear her say that. She hugged us to her. "I am so proud of you, my sons."