Two Boys

Rocco Paperiello


This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.

If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.

Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.

Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.

Rocco Paperiello

PLEASE NOTE: This story is finally coming to a conclusion. However, much to my dismay, the NIFTY editors declared that all the included photos must be eliminated. Even the photos of the two boys themselves which I included near the end of the story. The entire story, including the last Chapter 104, plus the Epilogue, AND ALL THE PHOTOS, can be found at and at . I hope you enjoy it.

PART IV -- Graduation and College

Chapter 103b -- Back Home and Revelations (part b)

I'm not quite sure where I got the courage, maybe it was total exasperation about not knowing things about my own family for so long, but I saw an opening and I took it. I suspect that my growing relationship with my aunt and uncle and feeling so at ease around them also had something to do with it. But Uncle Bill and I were in the kitchen getting out the steaks for today's barbecue while Jade and Valley had just gone through the open patio glass door.

"Uncle Bill, I need to ask you an important question."

My uncle looked up at me and I guess saw that this was something much more important than some steaks and potato salad.

"Go ahead. No time like the present to get things off your chest."

I looked through the door and could see Jade turn around. He obviously could hear us but for me it didn't matter.

"Uncle Bill, do you know why my Dad hasn't talked with his own father since I was a baby?"

Uncle Bill started out: "I can see that you need to know about this. Let's sit." He then did something that both surprised me and scared me. He asked me to get Jade in also since it probably concerned him too. What was that all about?

Then Uncle Bill began: "Carmen, I mean your Dad, has always been the pig headed one of the family." (Mom has always called my Dad Carl, but Carmen is his actual name). "So anytime there's been a disagreement among us and our own Pop, he gets like he can't ever budge. And that's what happened a few years after he and your Mom got married. Our Pop sure never liked him not marrying an Italian, and he made some harsh remarks, but that wasn't the real cause of the bad blood between your Dad and Pop. That happened a few years afterwards and for another reason altogether. Though they were already having lots of disagreements about a woman's role in the family. You know that our Mom died when you Dad was just eight. So a lot of pressure was put on your Mom, and your Dad didn't like it. Your Mom has a good mind of her own and had her own opinions and voiced them. Our Pop didn't like that. So after a while things just kept getting worse and worse. And I always thought it too bad that they lived just around the corner from each other."

"Well when you and your sister were born, things got much worse. Just taking care of you two was a round the clock job and our Pop couldn't understand why your Mom wasn't helping out at our house anymore. It was expected. So by the time your Dad found out about your uncles, things were already bad."

"What about my uncles? Which ones?" I asked.

"Your Uncle Rocco and Uncle Walter. The second and third oldest boys in our family. I was the youngest and your Dad was just a year older, and he always looked up to his brother Rocco. You were named after him. But then we all found out about your Uncle Rocco. I don't intend to tell just how it happened, but your Dad, and the whole family in fact, found out he was a homosexual."

A part of me was quite shocked but I had been suspecting this past year that the problems between my Dad and his family were much deeper than just them not quite accepting my Mom because she was not Italian. But nonetheless the revelations hit like a ton of bricks. Or like a ton load of hardwood flooring. For all of my life it was just one of those things that you never really thought about too much. Our family simply never even talked about my Dad's family except for Uncle Bill. And I guess it was just habit or something but I never really questioned it very much as I grew older except to just think it had something to do with Dad's father being the one, along with his older brothers, who would have nothing to do with us after some big family fight way back when. Then another question suddenly came to mind.

"Oh my God! Did my Mom know?"

"Of course. Everyone knew."

"But she never let me know. Even after she found out about me and Jade." And I realized that I had just admitted to Uncle Bill about Jade and I. "I . . . oh damn!" I had all I could do to stop an overpowering need to flee the kitchen. My uncle then did something that my own Dad had not done for years. He stood, came over next to me and put his hand on my shoulder.

"Look, Rocco, I don't care about what you and Jade do together. It's not really my business. And I can see from your expression you maybe didn't know I knew about you two."

I was still not able to look directly at my uncle. He patted my shoulder once and returned to his seat. And continued.

"It's been pretty obvious Rocco now that I knew to look. And besides your Mom and Valley talked about it last Winter when your family was visiting at Christmas time. I wondered how come you were home from college but not living at home for the duration. I remember asking your Dad and Mom where they were hiding you and your Dad almost exploded saying something like he didn't know where you were and didn't care. I thought that pretty harsh. I already know that there was some bad friction from the summer before but at least you were visiting home from time to time. So this had to be something much worse. Your Mom was quite upset. Valley dragged your Mom to the shopping center near here, and Valley sure gave me an earful later that night. Your Mom had unloaded everything."

Jade could see that I was quite surprised by all this and had gotten somewhat emotional. He stood and sort of hugged me from behind. I asked my uncle if we could be alone for a moment. I was maybe more than surprised. I felt poleaxed. We talked. Well, Jade talked and I just held on for my life. I finally kept saying things like I'd never suspected, and wished I had known. This seemed to change everything.

Ten minutes later Valley came in and left two brandy snifters on the side table. I picked one up and smiled noticing a straw in the other. I almost choked on the first swallow. Except when I was about 10 years old and trying to impress my cousins, or for that drink at the Websters' last Christmas time, I'd never before had anything stronger than wine.

Fifteen minutes and a brandy later I felt almost able to communicate rationally again. I smiled again at the seeming incongruity of Jade holding a stemmed glass in the crook of his left hook and sipping brandy through a straw. My uncle came back and after asking about how I was doing, we started in again.

I asked: "This is startling. Absolutely NOBODY talks about my grandfather or Uncle Walter or Uncle Rocco at our house. EVER. But I never knew why. I thought that it had to do with my Grandfather and my Dad's family not accepting my Mom."

"Well, that caused problems too but only made the situation worse. It was your father's reaction that caused the big rift. He had always admired and looked up to his big brother Rocco, and now his world came crashing down. He could not accept that his own brother was that way. And they had one horrible argument and they even fought. It was Walter that broke it up, and defended your Uncle Rocco. And it eventually came out that Walter was that way too. Your Dad couldn't understand how our own Pop could just accept that. But you've got to understand something that your Dad couldn't accept. Our Pop was from the old country, and in an old fashioned Italian household, blood was stronger than anything. And there's even one more thing I don`t think your Dad realized. Our Pop came over here when he was about 16 years old. And his family came from one of the poorest areas of Italy and many of the men worked in the sulphur mines in the southern hills where they grew up. It was close to slave labor, but more importantly, most of the men worked and lived right there in those hot tunnels all week and came home only at week's end. And while they were away, with no women in sight, a number of them slept together in the mines. So relations between men didn't seem to faze Pop that much. He spent five years in those mines himself. His own father indentured him to work in them when he was just ten. And also there was no way he was going to abandon his two sons. Your Dad couldn't accept that and after that big fight, he's never talked with any of them since."

I had all kinds of questions. I eventually asked: "But how about you? How come you and my Dad are still on good terms? Did you agree with my father?"

"Well, at first I did. But soon I got to talking with Walter and Rocco, and I guess I mellowed out some. I was the youngest and became sort of like a bridge between all the family. I see Pop and my brothers including your Dad. But your Dad and I have had our own big disagreements and arguments over the years. Your Dad's the most pig headed person I've ever known. But don't think he don't love your Mom. In his own way he's a good person. But he's too rigid to bend. Another thing you have to also understand about your Dad. He was probably the most religious one in our whole family. And he simply could never accept his brothers the way they were. Especially his brother Rocco whom he had idolized."

I was almost thinking out loud: "And now not only do I have the same name, but I wind up being gay too. I wonder if my Dad suspected I was that way for quite a while? Maybe that's why he never really could relate to me all through High School."

"Well, knowing your Dad, I think if you did anything that seemed to show you weren't shaping up to be a real man like he thought a guy should be, he would start to have real problems with it. And he more likely would define part of that by being independent and capable of succeeding without any help from other people. That's how your Dad grew up. He had a lot of courage and determination. Did you know that that broken leg he had when he was eight years old put him in bed for almost six months? And he fought through that. That had to affect how he thought in later years.

I looked over at Jade and he spoke up: "Rocco never could figure out just why his Dad seemed to mostly ignore him. But hell, neither of us could have expected this."

Uncle Bill replied to that: "And also about your father. Later in life he used that same indomitable will and determination to care for his family. So don't be too hasty to judge someone on only one aspect of themselves."

I was still thinking about my Dad never really talking about the huge ordeal with his leg. I said: "I knew that my Dad had broken his upper leg when he was little by jumping off a high train trestle. And that it had gotten gangrenous before he let on to anyone that it was broken. I heard that story, but I never realized how serious it had been. Not to this extent. Nobody ever said anything too much about it. He was in bed for a half year? He never told any of us about that."

"Well, remember this was before modern drugs. All they had back then was sulfa drug to fight infection. They had to constantly open his leg up and drain off the infection. But he would never give up and neither did his brother Rocco. Rocco was 13 then and always helping him. I think it was then that they first got so close. It was almost a miracle that he never had it amputated, let alone walk on it again. But your Dad did much more than that. He was probably the most mentally tough person I'd ever met. Not only did he walk again, he eventually became the most talented sportster in our family. He excelled at everything physical. Sure he had a lot of talent, but a lot more of it was his amazing ability to succeed through sheer force of will. I always admired that about him. And believe it or not I see a lot of that determination in you."

I was like my Dad? I wanted to deny it. Even if it was something positive. Eventually we got to a question I know had been burning in my mind. "But how about your accepting me and Jade? You're OK with that?"

Uncle Bill now was the one to stand and walk around. "Look, I don't think it's right. But that's your decision. I don't have no right to tell what you can and can't believe. And from knowing Rocco and Walter I figured that you can't help yourselves. Some people say it's some kind of sickness. But that don't jive either. So I don't know. But I guess I'll let God judge things. I won't take you to task." And then he smiled. "Except if you screw up at work."

Then my uncle looked over at Jade who was now sitting at the table. "And Jade, I know one thing watching you and my nephew. I love Valley with my whole heart. No two people could love each other more than we do. But seeing you two together, I think you two love each other almost as much, and that's sure a mystery." He thought some more and added: "God never blessed us with our own kids, so maybe I feel that any kids we see, both Valley and I want to help out any way we can."

Valley must have been close enough to have heard much of our conversation. She came into the room and almost took up the conversation like she had been a part of it. "Rocco, we've always enjoyed your family's visits. You and your brother and sisters seemed at least a little bit closer to us because we never could have kids of our own."

Uncle Bill then added: "Another thing that happened was that my family could never completely accept our being married outside the Church. Valley is Lutheran. But I believe we did nothing wrong. So I'll let God judge us, and I'll let Him worry about you two."

Just after I had tried to surreptitiously wipe away a few tears and was about to follow Jade and my Uncle Bill outside to see to the grill, Valley put a hand on my shoulder and turned me around to face her. I could see that she herself had not been any better fighting a few tears herself.

"Rocco, I'd just like to add a bit of advice from someone who looks back at much of her life and can see things a bit differently than a lot of younger people. Your Uncle Bill is fond of saying that as one gets older time goes faster, gravity gets stronger, and light gets dimmer. I'd like to add to that. Love and relationships also become more important. I am so grateful that I heeded this advice. If you truly love this fellow Jade, don't ever allow anyone or anything come between you and your relationship with him. I've worked with him for two Summers and again several weeks now. I don't understand it, but that boy loves you."

I smiled at how that came out.

"So you don't see how he could love me?"

Valley took a swipe at me with a hand towel. "You know very well what I mean."

Valley went outside to see how the grill was doing and then returned a couple of minutes later and said everyone else was showing up. I followed her back outside and my uncle smiled: "Let's just have a good time. We got real steaks waiting for us out here."

And we did have a good time. And the steak wasn't the only thing I was trying to digest. But I felt somehow relieved. I had a better understanding of my Dad and even things I could admire about him. I just wish . . . Oh well. All this was still quite a shock and I knew that Jade and I would be talking about it for quite some time to come.

Later that evening, Jade and I were sort of just holding each other feeling real close. And a thought came to me. "I wonder Jade. You know I keep saying God made us this way, but there's always that tiny bit of not quite certainty that you shove deep down. But two uncles and now me. And even your own Dad, his aunt Alisha, and you. Maybe it really IS genetic. Or at least a good part of it. Being gay I mean."

"Sometimes you think too much White-boy. What does your heart say? Does our relationship bring out the good in each other in our loving commitment? That's the question you have to ask yourself. Or maybe a bit further, do you believe that our relationship can bring us closer to Christ?"

"I know Jade, but I feel like there has to be more somehow. In many marriages there's also the sharing of that love with children that the parents bring into the world and raise. We can't bring any children into the world. Of course, just like Uncle Bill and Aunt Valley, neither can many heterosexual couples. But I really wish somehow, we could maybe raise children. There are so many out there that so desperately need loving parents. I'm remembering what you said Tim told you quite a while back."

"I remember, but we have to be realistic. Nobody's going to let us raise kids. Never in a million years."

"Well, I can't believe that God's plan for us ends here."

Jade was quiet for a while. Then finally replied: "Well White-boy, maybe we just have to wait and see if more of His plan can eventually be unfolded." I could read Jade's mind. I bet right now that he was hoping I would not let this bother me too much.

"And one more thing, Rocco."

"What's that?"

"Stop worrying. This is not something to get too fired up about."

"Don't worry Jade. I'm not about to let this bother me. It's just something I will be thinking about from time to time."

We fell asleep content in each other's arms. I fell asleep thinking: "Thank you God. I hope that maybe some day we can show our thanks in a more concrete manner."

A few weeks later, I tried to get in touch with both of my uncles, Walter and Rocco. And even my grandfather. Unfortunately, the first time I called their house -- they all still lived together -- my grandfather answered and kept speaking in Italian. A couple of days later, my uncle Walter answered. He was polite enough, and was astounded to realize that it was his nephew who was calling, but it never progressed from there. It seemed Uncle Walter had no desire to "get embroiled in some disagreeable fracas with his younger brother all over again." (His younger brother meaning my Dad). And worse, Uncle Rocco refused to even talk to me.

I later complained bitterly to Jade that no matter what I said to my uncle, all he could think about was how his own brother -- my Dad -- had so hated and castigated them all those years ago, and refused all attempts at reconciliation.

"Jade, I never got the chance to say that things with me would be so different. And I never had a chance to bring up what I really wanted to talk about!"

By the end of the summer, and a few hung up phone calls later, I finally gave up the idea of getting to know my uncles -- at least for now. By that time, so many other things demanded our attention. Like getting back to school.

One thing Jade and I did accomplish, however, was getting my Mom to visit us at the Webster's. I was still a bit surprised that I was able to talk her into it. But of course I wasn't satisfied.

"Jade, wouldn't it be so great if our two families could just sit down say at dinner and just be two normal families whose two kids were married? Just the in-laws getting together?"

Jade must have realized this wasn't a question that needed answering. But I was happy that Mom agreed to an afternoon over at the Webster's. Mrs. Webster baked so many cookies and cakes we could have fed half the neighborhood.

"I just wants to make sure that I have somethin' she really likes," she said.

Well, Billy and Tim made heavy inroads into the bakery shop inventory the next day. And Mom did eat some of the cake, commenting on how good it was. She even stayed and talked for a couple of hours, even if the topics of conversation never got close to anything that had to do with our intimate relationship. Sure college, and even future plans were discussed, but nothing of a real personal nature. But that was OK. Just the fact that she was there and talking to the Webster's indicated that she thought of them as somehow part of some vague extended family. One nice thing that happened was that Billy and Tim showed up near the beginning and acted so `normal' that the rest of us started to relax.

Later that night I told Jade that this was some kind of milestone for my mother. "I hate to put it this way, but it seems that she is at least resigned to the fact that we might actually stay together. I think for such a long time, she still had the idea that maybe `I'd come to my senses.' She also mentioned that she couldn't believe that our relationship could last. But I think I`m starting to convince her that for us it's every bit as real as any other marriage."

I did eat at my own house a few times, but more out of some sense of duty since the atmosphere was so upsetting. And perhaps in defiance of my Dad but I wasn't sure of my own full motivation. But one thing, I was able to look at my Dad and remember some of the things Uncle Bill had mentioned. And I was starting to think of people differently. Everybody had their faults. But I was starting to realize that both my Dad and my brother Carl, now that I could see them with a bit of distance, and a bit more objectively, were in fact basically people of good will. That made things a bit easier.

About these few dinners I mentioned to Jade: "Mom makes sure that nothing is said that could get people rancorous with each other. She must have talked with Carl enough to make sure he didn't make any of his usual nasty remarks. The only one there that seemed not phased at all was my little sister. I'm starting to appreciate her more. She's the only one of my family who seems to act naturally with me any more. Although I guess Dolores has also decided that she at least wants us both to be happy. Strange but I feel more like I`m with family at the Webster's. And Tim feels closer to me than my own brother."

We visited with Dan and Allen a couple times. Allen was quite busy with his job at Sears and Dan was pretty excited as he was in his last year at Temple for his own degree. Allen was able to provide him with enough money for tuition so that he didn't need to stay on the Work-Study Program his Senior year.

Consuela was not just her usual self but seemed quite pleased with herself about something. When we later caught Jason with her it was quite obvious why. They were quite obvious. Jade asked when was the wedding but both Jared and Consuela kept saying they weren't engaged. Jade said that something about a rose by any other name etc.

Twain had a good year at U of P and we were quite happy to use his swimming pool several times that summer. But he was no longer with Marla. "Not enough time with so much school and other commitments."

I tried calling both Szamborski and Jerry Price few times but neither was ever home. Jerry's father said he was in New York City for the summer and I finally found out that Szamborski was in Europe on vacation. Nice to be rich.

Finally in September I got hold of Jerry. And eventually we were invited out to Szamborski's place again. It was to be just five of us including Jim Jabloski. John Edell was on the west coast for now.

And I got to see Szamborski's father. Polite enough but totally uninterested in what we were all doing. It was Jerry who provided the `entertainment.' We could tell he was quite excited about something and after a short time getting ourselves caught up with each other Jerry said he has something special to show us.

Soft drinks and snack food was passed around and before any serious discussion got under way, Szamborski surprised everybody by getting out his high school year books. This delayed things while everyone was intent on seeing how everyone looked several years ago. I couldn't help looking every time Jade's picture was shown around. But at the same time I tried not to show too much interest because I was always so self-conscious about how young I looked back then. Heck! Even now I still looked like a "little kid." But sure enough it was Jabloski who found a very close picture of myself that was taken near the end of my Sophomore year. At least then is after I started growing a little. Everyone made the usual "cute" remarks and I weathered the assault in quiet "martyrdom." (And I couldn't believe that jacket and shirt I was wearing).

Copy of picture of Biology Club, Sophomore Year, 1961

Finally the yearbooks were put away, more snacks and drinks were proffered, and Jerry then regained the 'floor,' after getting something out of a leather briefcase. There were several copies of the same pamphlet. He passed them around. Jerry started explaining: "Last Christmas Ted brought up that crap about homosexuality being a disorder and I eventually decided to do some research. Here is a copy of a magazine put out by the Mattachine Society. They are pretty unorganized but the west coast group puts out this magazine."

First of all Jerry had to explain to us just what the Mattachine Society was. (Heck, I couldn't even figure out what the word `mattachine' meant). But that magazine he passed around astounded me. I never knew there was such a thing. Looking over Jade's shoulder I saw that it was an actual magazine devoted to gay issues! It's layout was pretty primitive. It was called ONE. But the stuff inside was amazing. Then Jerry interrupted the free for all talk that had burst out.

"That magazine is pretty primitive and you do NOT want to be on their mailing list if that is what you were thinking about!"

He had read my mind. In fact I was in the process of writing down their mailing address.

Jerry repeated himself trying to get above all the other talk. "You definitely do not want your name on their mailing list unless you also want to get on some FBI list somewhere too. But this is what I really wanted to show you guys. That magazine was useful this past Summer because it advertised a talk given in New York."

Jerry held up a mimeographed paper, and explained that it was the text of a talk given last Summer. "I got this last Summer in New York at a meeting of the New York group of the Mattachine Society. A guy named Frank Kameny gave a special talk there back in July. This is the most important thing he said right here."

Jerry then stated reading from part of the paper.

The entire homophile movement . . . is going to stand or fall upon the question of whether homosexuality is a sickness, and upon our taking a firm stand on it.

. . . until and unless valid positive evidence shows otherwise, homosexuality per se is neither a sickness, a defect, a disturbance, a neurosis, a psychosis, nor a malfunction of any sort.

Frank Kameny

We all heartily agreed. And although I never heard the word `homophile' before it was easy to figure out. Jerry started reading off other portions of this guy's speech but I now had a copy and was reading on my own. And then I read something that actually flabbergasted me. "Hay Jade look at this." I guess I wound up yelling it so loud that everyone looked at us. I went on in a slightly lesser decibel level: "This guy Kameny talks about Evelyn Hooker! Talks about the stuff she's been doing! Wonder if our names're here too?"

The last I just said as a joke but it got quite a reaction out of Jerry Price!

"You guy's actually read some of Evelyn Hooker's research? That's what I was getting to. I have copies right here. I think she's probably the single most important person in the country battling for us right now!"

Jade looked up and smiled. "Nah. Rocco was just joking. We've actually never seen any of what she's written. We just sort of know about her that's all."

"Know about her?" Jerry was excited.

"Well just sort of." Jade then explained more about Dr. Krazenski again and the stuff he was writing about us for some psychology paper. "I guess he mentioned about us some when he wrote to her. But this was last Summer already."

That got a whole lot more discussion going. Especially Jade mentioning about Dr. Krazenski and Dr. Evelyn Hooker knowing each other.

Then I mentioned: "Yeah. She was supposed to see us last Summer but her plans got changed."

"SEE YOU!" I'd never seen Jerry so excited.

Jade explained: "Don't know exactly why. I guess Dr. Krazenski must have exaggerated about us some to the lady."

"Wait a minute. You're telling me, that the one person in this whole country really doing research which can really benefit us was coming out here just to talk with you guys?"

It never seemed like such a big deal at the time and I told Jerry this. "I guess Evelyn Hooker mentioned to Dr. Krazenski that she would like to talk to us. I guess."

Jerry exclaimed: "Holy shit! I've been trying to figure out how to get her to even write to me."

Jade then gave Jerry Dr. Krazenski's address and phone number. He explained: "Look. Maybe you can try to get Dr. Krazenski to help. I know as a fact that they write to each other."

The rest of the day was filled with all kinds of speculation about when maybe the laws in the country would be changed so we didn't have to hide anymore. Jerry brought up Wolfenden Report which recommended the de-criminalization of gay sex acts, and which I barely remembered hearing about. At the time I was too busy with school and besides the report was for England and not the U.S.

It was right near the end of our Summer `vacation' when both Teague and Joey finally found out about our relationship. Although I suspect that Joey had already suspected that we were more than just good friends. It happened when we met Teague and Joey and a number of other guys from his neighborhood at the park playing basketball. It was one of the rare days that Jade and I were able to just relax doing almost nothing. Just wandering around. We met and everyone started talking about their plans for the coming year. Teague we already knew about. In one of Joey's infrequent letters last year we had learned that indeed Teague HAD gotten a basketball scholarship to Drexel. And although having a difficult time, at least was keeping good enough grades to keep his scholarship. He was majoring in Phys Ed. (Not a shock there). Joey, we were happy to find out, had gotten a job at the local newspaper, the Holmesburg Times. He was quite thrilled about it. It was Teague who then started asking Jade questions about his previous year at school.

"So Jade," Teague mentioned, "I hear you got yourself a scholarship to go to college just like Rocco here. Someone said you and Rocco were even roommates out west somewhere."

So we mentioned about both of us going to college in Washington and that got a whole lot of new questions. Teague, I could see, was wondering about something, and didn't say much. But he finally asked point blank how come Jade thought he needed me to keep "nursing" him along. I was instantly hot. But being the coward I was, I tried to just make some excuse and leave it at that. It was Jade who just came out and said it. I was quite surprised.

Jade said something to me that it would have to come out sometime. And I immediately knew what the `something' was. Jade waited a moment to see if I was going to stop him and then continued. "Teague, I don't know how you will take this. Or you Joey. And I hope we can all still be friends. But Rocco and I plan to be together all our lives."

It was Joey who replied: "What the hell you mean 'all you're lives'?"

Jade seemed frightened but continued: "Exactly what the words mean. Rocco and I are a couple."

At this point all the guys there started making some comments, mostly pretty bad. There were a lot of words like "queer" and "faggot" and "fairy" thrown about, plus even a bigger lot of swear words. I got worried that the anger shown might erupt into something more than words. I started backing away. Then Teague told Jade that he was a traitor. He was betraying all his people. That he didn't want anything to do with us again. Teague then looked at me with a strange expression. I wondered just what he was thinking. He didn't even seem that angry, more like disappointed which was possibly harder to take. But maybe that wasn't completely accurate either. It was more like he was caught up in a big question mark. I had come to realize that Teague had more to him than just a big mouth and a big ego. He somehow commanded a lot of respect and was a natural leader. And I was sad to see a friendship that had so strangely developed between us, suddenly end.

A few more hostile remarks were thrown about and I could see Jade was genuinely hurt. After all, these were people who he was a part of, and who were now rejecting him. All except maybe Joey. Understandably Joey didn't really say much. I could understand him not wanting to be caught in the middle. That he wasn't saying much gave me hope. He was just staring at Jade.

That evening Jade and I talked about how we both felt and we finally realized that we'd have to get used to it so to speak. It would happen a lot more. But we at least had each other. Two things did happen later that week that helped to take the sting out of the rejection. Jade called Joey's house that very evening and though Joey wasn't there he gave someone a message asking Joey to call him. Joey finally came over to the Webster's the next evening, where we were at the time, and Jade and he talked quite a bit about what had happened that past weekend at the park. I didn't say much myself, but I felt this was more between Jade and Joey. Fortunately Joey said he still wanted to be friends, but that he also didn't want the rest of the neighborhood to know he sided with us since then he would have his own problems. And he had to stay living there. Jade said he understood, even if I could tell it hurt Jade a lot.

It was the following weekend, however, that we got a different surprise. It was Teague himself who came over. I first thought he was here to cause trouble. Jade was suddenly very defensive and told Teague he wanted no trouble. We felt at least some security in that we were right outside the front door.

Then I noticed that Teague had a strange look, and it didn't seem to hold any real anger, or at least not to the extent I had expected. "Look you guys, I came over since I had to find out some things. I think I've grown up some. And I'm not interested in making any trouble."

We parried back and forth a bit not saying much but eventually Teague looked at me and asked: "Rocco, you're the first white kid I ever felt some real respect for and I feel like I've been betrayed. I don't understand how you and Jade here can be the way you are. In spite of your size, I got to believe you were a real fighter and would never give up. You've always thrown yourself into being the best you could be, 100%. Always battling no matter what. So how can you throw that all away and be that way. . ." Teague hesitated, like we has trying to figure out just what he was thinking. "I mean not being a man. I mean being queer and all? I just need to know?"

I didn't know whether to cry or laugh. Except for the obvious things, I wasn't sure just what to say. How could I convince that being gay had nothing to do with being a man? Or rather nothing to do with not being a man.

"Teague, I'm the same person that you've known these past years. And I was gay the entire time. I have the same hopes, and desires, and I will keep fighting as you put it to be the best person I can be. But somehow you've confused two different things. Being a man has nothing to do with being queer. And being queer has nothing to do with being a man. I suspect some of the most macho guys you might know are also queer. It's more common than you might think. And it's also something a person doesn't choose. It's something we find out about ourselves. And one more thing; being a man is a hell of a lot more than just being macho too."

We all talked about it some more but I could tell that Teague just couldn't somehow understand that being a homosexual wasn't the same thing as being a woman. Or a person who wanted to take on a woman's role. Both Jade and I were disappointed when Teague left a while later, and we could tell wasn't really convinced. But at least he wasn't openly hostile anymore. He even said he would think on it some more. Maybe there was a bit of hope there after all. And it was the very last thing he said as he was walking away that surprised us the most. He looked back and said: "And by the way, I told the other guys not to bother you two."

He never waited for a reply.

And, in spite of Jade saying he didn't expect any better from the guys in his neighborhood, he was in a blue mood for quite some time after that. Fortunately, as the summer came closer to Fall, and to our going back to school, the promise of the future got both our moods on the upswing. And for Jade, Joey stayed a good friend. My particular worry was about my family and especially my Mom. But it seemed that VERY gradually she was getting at least used to the idea that Jade and I were indeed a couple. And from a few things she mentioned I think she was finally realizing that we really and truly loved each other. There was hope.

Copyright 2008 by Rocco Paperiello