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.
Chapter 93b -- "I Have a Dream" [MARTIN LUTHER KING, August 28, 1963]
Labor Day weekend was coming up. Thankfully that meant no labor. Both Rocco and I were tired from six day work weeks, and sometimes more than 10 hour days. The money was good, but we needed some time for ourselves.
I considered myself quite fortunate. Here I was, a gay colored boy with no hands and I was working at a job I liked, with people I liked and who liked me, and I even had the good fortune of being able to dream about a good future. I think that this summer alone has done quite a lot to help me mature and take responsibility for my own future. Or more properly for my future with my married partner. It has been largely his dream that has brought us to this point but I realize now that I need my own dream too. Rocco has had quite a rocky emotional time this summer but I can see him becoming more mature and sure of himself week by week. And those times he needs me I am there. I will always be there.
Earlier this day as Rocco was talking about our future plans, I was remembering parts of the speech recently made by Martin Luther King. A few of the things he said I couldn't seem to get out of my mind. He was giving hope to millions of people. He had a dream. And to think that maybe I was part of that dream. Going to college and all.
But I also had my own dream. For Rocco and I to find nice comfortable jobs, have a nice home, and most important, just to be left in peace. I imagined myself coming back home from a pleasant day's teaching at some small college somewhere, getting out of my brand new Cadillac, and walking up onto the porch of our small but nice home, with lots of garden and lawn around it. It was in a neighborhood where nobody thought twice about whether someone was black or white. I'd walk inside, past our brand new color TV set, and our brand new hi-fi, and continue into our combined office where we prepared classes and graded papers and all. I dropped my leather briefcase onto my fancy desk. Then I walked into the kitchen where great aromas were emanating. And I started helping Rocco with dinner. I imagined fixing up some fancy dish I had learned how to prepare, and then we would eat and talk about our students, or maybe our plans for the weekend, or maybe even some plans for so me trip somewhere. I really liked the idea of teaching and having our summers free. I then started thinking about all the places Rocco and I wanted to visit, like the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone Park (Rocco kept talking about visiting there sometime), or maybe even a fancy cruise somewhere. Rocco mentioned wanting to see the Galapagos Islands -- lots of huge turtles and lizards all over the place. He showed me pictures.
And then I started wondering if there could be any place in the world where we could even let other people know that we were a couple. I started fantasizing about a town where all the people there were like us. Even gay woman. And you could be yourself right out in the open without any worries. Rocco and I could even hold hands in public. And people there didn't care if you were colored. Or gay. Or whatever. They only measured you by how you much you cared for one other.
Then my thoughts were disturbed when I had to step aside as a funny horn tooted behind me. Rocco was bearing down on me with that huge forklift -- the one that could pick up an entire pallet of flooring, swing it sideways to move down the aisle, and then load it onto a truck. It was pretty quiet for such a large machine. It used propane gas so it could be used inside. I couldn't get over how easily Rocco seemed to handle that big machine, and to miss everything by only a few inches. He was in his glory when he used it. His uncle only let a few people handle it.
"Stop daydreaming on the job!" Rocco yelled over the noise of the engine.
I let out a big sigh. Well, even a gay Negro can dream, can't he? I went down the aisle to see just where five kegs of flooring nails could have been misplaced. These were the new kind that could be used in the new block nailers. We were supposed to have them somewhere. It said so right on the inventory card. I even looked up the old invoices to make sure all the entries had been correct. Twenty minutes later I found them under a pallet of kegs of finishing nails. How the heck did they wind up under there? Now to make sure that those were also correct.
Walking back to the office, I started thinking of our upcoming camping trip. Rocco's uncle hadn't been entirely happy when we told him we were leaving work a week earlier than originally planned, but we wanted a real vacation. And this was Rocco's favorite place in the Pocono's. It was less than two weeks away. We had planned a ten day camping trip in Rickets Glen State Park. This had been in the planning stage for almost a month. We talked Allen and Dan into accompanying us -- we needed a ride. They didn't take a lot of talking-into. They would be there for both weekends.
After just a couple of days, Rickets Glen was quickly becoming one of my favorite places too. As Rocco said: "There are waterfalls all over the place." Most if them were situated on two main streams that eventually met in the middle of the park. In all, there are 22 named falls and a lot of smaller unnamed ones. (If you don't count the smaller cascades). And there was one additional incentive this week -- my White-boy was there. Allen and Dan quickly succumbed to the fairyland effect of the area also. We all drove up here last Friday night in order to stake out a campsite. And it was good we did. Because it was Labor Day weekend, the immediate camping area on Lake Jean was completely full by very early Saturday morning.
Allen and Dan were returning to the city Monday evening, and would then meet us here the following weekend. Consuela and her boyfriend were also supposed to be here for that second weekend. She said she had to talk him into going camping; he had never done it before. A city boy. If you couldn't get to it by the PTC, he didn't get to it. He was her latest boyfriend, but this one seemed like he might be important to her. His name was Jason, and he came from North Philadelphia -- noted to be a `bad' section of the city. And dangerous for any white kid to walk through. She met him while going to Temple last June when they had a special day for visiting High School Seniors who were interested in going there. Since they both had scholarships, in their case it was definite. And in spite of what I had accomplished, I realized that a black kid with a scholarship was something remarkable. So this Jason had to have something going for him.
I remembered first meeting Jason last July at a barbecue given at Dan and Allen's. At least twenty people had been invited and I guessed that about six or seven were gay. About a half hour into the gathering, Rocco and I were talking about Jason's rather distant behavior. As a few of the obvious gay people were introduced, you could see in his eyes and his stance, his instant dislike for us gay boys.
I said to Rocco: "It think it shows what remarkable feelings he already has for Consuela. In spite of his antipathy towards gays, he still came. And he hasn't yet said anything that could be construed as bigoted. Just to please her."
Rocco replied: "Well, he sure isn't pleasing too many other people, just by the way he ISN'T mixing in. Consuela tried to warn him about her brother. And I think he was almost as shocked about him not looking black though, than him being gay."
I smiled remembering. "And did you see his expression as she introduced Allan as Dan's partner? I thought he was going to say something Consuela would make him live to regret. But he controlled his urge."
Rocco didn't know whether to be annoyed or amused. And he was just getting over the traumatic ordeal of his family's reaction from last month. That was why I was happily surprised when amusement held sway. Enough so, that he deliberately egged Jason on. Consuela hadn't made her way to Rocco and me yet, since we had been busy setting out all the food, and getting the grills started. All that while Rocco was paying attention to how Jason was reacting. Consuela said that he had limited experience socializing with white kids, and that he also harbored the attitudes of most black people toward gays. I tried to explain why we were more intolerant toward gays as a whole than white people but Rocco never could understand it completely.
And I sure wished they could do something to charcoal to make it easier to start. I used enough liquid fire starter to ignite ten bonfires. And I think I singed my eyebrows. And my left hook would have been in flames if it had been combustible.
And before I could react, Rocco went over to Jason and Consuela and introduced himself: "Hello, Consuela has talked about you a lot. Glad to meet you. My name's Rocco and I'm a close friend." He looked over his shoulder at me just as I walked up behind him. But I wasn't prepared for what he said next. "Damn, you're almost as black as Jade here. But at least you've got both hands."
For a tiny instant I was shocked that he had made reference to me like that. But it was when I saw the shock on Jason's face, and the surprise on Consuela's, and that certain expression of devilment on Rocco's that I couldn't help laughing. But I still intended to get even -- VERY even.
"Don't pay attention to anything this white-assed honky says, he don't know how to respect us colored folk." I rejoined.
Rocco was grinning. Jason didn't know what to make of either of us. Although one might think things like this, you'd best be very careful where and how you voiced them. I found our later that unlike many households in the north part of the city, he grew up with both his parents and was taught some respect for individuals, even white individuals.
And then Consuela's surprise turned into mild fury. (Mild for her). "Damn it you guys! And here I got Jason to promise to be on his best behavior and you do this to him."
Jason by this time didn't know what to think. And he hesitated before shaking my hook.
Rocco remarked: "Better be careful. Jade can take off a finger with that thing."
Jason said something polite and pulled Consuela to another area of the yard. They soon were talking animatedly. I wished I could have listened in. I couldn't understand why she apparently hadn't told Jason about Rocco and me. I'll have to ask Consuela later. But I saw by the way Jason reacted to us that he didn't have a clue.
And I should have known that Rocco was having too good a time, and wasn't finished. As soon as I had my back turned (I was back at the grill with the burgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst), Rocco went back into action. I don't know how he did it but the next time I turned around, he had Jason in another conversation. I swear this new edition of my White-boy would take on the Black Muslims. And I wondered how Jason and Consuela had gotten separated again.
As I moseyed on back toward them I overheard some of what Rocco was saying.
"Well, Jason, I know that I'm as white as can be, but maybe we should at least team up for the time being for self protection. See those two guys talking with Dan over there?"
Jason nodded and said something.
"Well, I happen to know that they're gay also. And that guy with the hooks, he's gay too. The straight boys here are almost outnumbered. So maybe the two of us shouldn't worry about white and black right now."
Rocco sometimes has that way about him. He appears SO innocent at times. Especially when he is at his most nefarious.
Jason I could hear say: "Well, it's a relief to know that not everyone here's a queer. I was startin' to wonder. My brothers would have pounded the hell out of `em. And I wouldn't blame them. I really don't know how people can be that way. But I promised Consuela, so. . ."
"Well you better be careful around Jade, those hooks of his can be lethal. And he's as gay as you get. Just thought you should know." Rocco looked over at me as I turned to talk to Twain and his girlfriend, and knew I had overheard.
I deliberately stayed talking with Twain, but stayed close enough to keep listening in. This was getting interesting.
"And loosen up. I don't know about your neighborhood, but where I live, whites and blacks actually mix on occasion."
Jason I saw had a very wary look. He didn't quite know how to react. "Well, it isn't like that in my neighborhood, that's for sure. But I'm tired of it. I want out. And I'm hoping to be the first one of all the people I know to go to college and get a degree."
Consuela was making fast tracks to his rescue. "OK boys, what conspiracy have you two been up to?" I turned around to face them.
Rocco put on what he thinks is his most innocent expression and answered: "Don't worry Consuela, I just been telling Jason here that whites and blacks mix sometimes where we live. I was trying to make him feel more at ease. He's as stiff as a board."
But Consuela knew something more was going on. "OK, Rocco, just what else have you been saying?"
Rocco answered with a straight face: "Just that Jade's as queer as Dan and Allen and that he can really be dangerous with those hooks of his."
Jason looked at Consuela to gage her reaction to this. But how she did react was not what he was expecting. She laughed. "Sorry, Jason, but you've just been had." And she turned to Rocco. "And YOU! I was trying to let Jason get to know you and Jade first before he found out about you guys, but you had to get whimsical."
By this time I was smiling myself.
Jason looked at us and then back to Consuela and asked the obvious question: "What ABOUT them?"
Consuela replied: "Rocco and Jade are a couple. They've even been married right in a Church. I warned you there'd be a lot of gay guys here."
Jason didn't look too happy. It looked like he wanted to say any number of things. He looked at Consuela, but it was a sort of an apology that won out. "Damn Consuela. Holy shit. I guess I shouldn't have said some of those things I did. Why the hell didn't you warn me?"
Consuela wouldn't let up: "Warn you about what? You keep saying you know your own mind. I'd thought I'd just see what was in it. And exactly what things did you say?"
Rocco took pity on Jason: "Just that he couldn't understand how us homosexuals could be that way. But he was polite about it." A bit of a lie, but Jason didn't seem relieved. "But I think it's a fair question. So I just got one thing to add, and one question of my own for Jason." Rocco continued as he looked at Jason: "First, Consuela is a great girl. And if she likes you, you have to have something special going for you. So I'm not going to worry about what you said. And the question. Exactly when did you decide to be a heterosexual?"
Jason looked confused. He looked at Consuela and then back at Rocco. "That ain't any question I can answer. I always liked girls."
Rocco smiled and said: "Well, I've always liked boys. Nobody gave me a choice either."
Jason was now pretty fired up. He said: "Consuela, I know you have to try to be on good terms with your own brother, but how can you put up with people like this who ain't even your own family?"
Consuela and Jason started talking at once. Consuela won out for now. And her eyes were smoldering. "Jason, we need to talk about this, but later. For now, let's just enjoy ourselves. You said you never get out much." After a bit of a pause she added: "And Rocco and Jade ARE part of my family."
Jason answered: "We sure do need to talk." Consuela made some parting remark and pulled Jason away. He didn't take much pulling.
Rocco looked over at me and said: "Trouble in paradise. But I'm not about to apologies even to Consuela's boyfriend about who we are."
"But damn Rocco, were you deliberately trying to make Jason hate you forever?"
"Not really, and I couldn't figure out why Consuela didn't clue him in about us. But I thought I'd take advantage of it to see what he really felt. And I found out. I wonder how Consuela puts up with it considering how close she is to her brother and all, not even mentioning us."
That was a couple of months ago. To Jason's credit he did eventually get up the nerve later on at that barbeque to come up to us and we talked about our respective college plans, and a number of other things. He steered clear of any questions probing our relationship. But I could see he was on edge.
I finally asked him outright: "Jason, I assume that Consuela has filled in some gaps concerning me and Rocco here. Consuela is one our closest friends, so we'd really like to be friends with you if you can put away your prejudices about gay people." Jason didn't seem to like how I used the word prejudice. And he seemed to act like I was a traitor somehow to all black people. Yet he really liked Consuela. Jason was clearly torn. And I thought it a shame. While we'd been talking I thought he was a basically good guy. He eventually said something about never really knowing any gay people before.
Rocco overheard and chimed in: "Of course you did. You just never knew it. There's lots of us around, but for obvious reasons we don't let too many people know. Usually." Rocco then smiled as if it were amusing. Rocco added: "Sorry about before, but I was just wondering what you really thought. Consuela can be pretty forceful and I wanted to see the real Jason, not the one just trying to please Consuela."
Jason gave some noncommittal answer and we migrated over to where Twain and Allen were talking and we got into other safer topics.
As I said, that was a couple of months ago. And Consuela and Jason were still seeing each other. A lot. Rocco and I have been so busy that we rarely even saw them though. So I really wondered about the coming weekend.
Well, here we were on our vacation, and Rocco and I were just having a time of taking pleasure in ourselves and our own small beautiful universe. At least for a few short days we were just enjoying our momentarily limited world, all the while ignoring all pressing matters and possible future problems. It was a great time of peace and pure delight. We had walked all the trails at first with speed and fascination anxious to see the entire area. Later we paced our selves often parking in one spot or another for as much as several hours.
Small things took on great significance, and significant things regressed into unimportance. We talked about some important things, but we didn't allow these discussions to disturb our hard won tranquility.
One topic that did come up was about our respective needs for some kind of security. I, of course, felt great need for obtaining some degree of financial security. I had been so consumed especially in recent years wondering how a person with no hands might provide for himself. Of course Rocco pointed out that now we were together, and that changed a lot of things. Our futures were so defined that we now spoke about OUR future financial security. I thought it amazing how that little shift of perspective made such a great difference.
Conversely, Rocco said that he was coming to realize that he had an immense need for some anchor for his emotional stability. And that, in a world so unsettled and so many relationships changing for him, I was that all important anchor. And I was coming to understand that great need in him. Rocco was an amazing whirlwind of energy and ideas, but without some bedrock of emotional stability, some anchor in an emotionally rewarding loving relationship, he would fall apart. And I was determined to provide it for him.
I suppose that it all came down to one obvious conclusion. It was our committed relationship which promised fulfillment to each other, and saw a future of possibilities and infinite hope. And I saw in Rocco an amazing capacity for empathy and loving sacrifice. And also understood a bit more when he insisted that for him, none of it seemed a sacrifice. And I renewed my own commitment to provide the strength that I saw him in need of.
Rocco had actually grown a bit this summer -- I mean physically. I believe now he had finally caught up to perhaps the development of a 15 year old. I kept kidding him that I'd married a perpetual kid. He was now a little over 5' 3" and just under a hundred pounds. And I knew as a fact that he ate almost as much as I did. He said that he couldn't even think about missing a meal without losing weight. And he kept bemoaning the fact that he was still so small in one other most important area. I thought him just right. It fit so perfectly in my hand, (private joke). . . and my mouth. And he said that I'd better not get any larger or he wouldn't be able to properly work on mine. And I sure liked the way he did. He's developed quite a technique.
During that next Friday night, we both understood that we had to let a little bit of the real world touch our own private one. Many of the people closest to us would be here early tomorrow. Dan and Allen, Consuela, and Tim. Even with Allen driving the station wagon, it would be quite a squeeze on the way back. Consuela had persuaded Jason to come with her, and we talked about how that might play out. I knew that Jason was at least growing used to Dan and Allen, but I was wondering about his attitude toward gays in general. I guess we'd find out. Rocco and I had not seen much of him since last July.
And after numerous discussions, assurances, and promises, Billy's parents finally allowed him to accompany Tim. Tim and Billy were both wildly excited about the trip. Two whole days away from home and a fantastic new adventure. And Rocco and I were really looking foreword to showing them the spectacular beauty of waterfalls and nature. Rocco said that it would make him almost feel like a dad for a weekend.
Dan and Allen picked up both Consuela and Jason right after their Friday morning classes at Temple. Their school year had already started. They next stopped to pick up both Tim and Billy after their school day at Crispin Public School, and then got just outside Scranton where they had rented a couple motel rooms for the night. According to what Tim and Billy told us later, they then got up in the middle of the night to continue on to Ricketts Glen. (In fact, they got up around 6 a. m.). They barged into our campsite while Rocco was fixing breakfast on our double burner camp stove.
Rocco and I had bought much of the old equipment we had from his own family earlier this summer including their old tent. We even provided sleeping bags and air mattresses for Tim and Billy. Rocco's trips home had been few and far between, and the strained relationship with his own mother I could tell hurt him. He even went to dinner at his own house a few times although he said his Dad virtually ignored him to the point of not even speaking to him. He mentioned that his relationship with his sister seems to have evolved somewhat. That they were talking again.
As I had mentioned we had the camping gear and a tent that could easily accommodate both Billy and Tim besides ourselves. They left the big tent with us last weekend, and we had re-erected it last evening. Consuela and Jason would be using our smaller tent and they also brought the rest of their things. I wondered how everything could fit for our trip back, but when Allen's old station wagon arrived in camp we saw that they had put a roof rack on top for much of the equipment.
I was wondering how long Tim and Billy would last, they hadn't stopped running around since they got here and we weren`t even on the trail yet. Presently they were trying to skip stones across the small lake. Consuela had been in the Pocono's a number of times though not here. And Jason had never been out of the city in his life except for a few trips to Atlantic City. He was almost as exuberant as the kids. And that entire first day, Jason never made a single remark about Rocco and I being a couple. At least until that evening. Nor did he try to avoid us. So maybe he has changed his attitude a bit about gay people. I hoped so.
After breakfast we all hastily filled our day packs and rucksacks, and headed to the Rose Lake Trailhead. Here we followed the exact same route that Rocco and I had taken our first full day here, visiting most of the main waterfalls. We headed down the steeper Ganoga Glen Gorge side first and had lunch at Erie Falls just before Water's Meet where the two main tributaries met. From here we followed down Kitchen Creek until we got to Murray Reynolds Falls. Then we backtracked a half mile or so and went back up the Glen Leigh Gorge side. We then went back to the original trail head by way of the traverse across the Highland Trail. Here all the rushing water and roaring waterfalls subsided to a complete still forest. An occasional bird was all we could hear. Halfway through the Highland Trail is the Midway Crevasse, a mess of rock seemingly split open for you to walk through.
Adam's Falls -- Ricketts Glenn State Park, PA
With the whole group of us we didn't get back into camp until almost 5 o'clock. After dinner Tim and Billy said they wanted to go back to "see more water falls." Rocco said he'd take them and of course that meant that I'd go too. But Jason surprised me by saying that he and Consuela would also come. Consuela drove Allen's station wagon and we decided to drive around to the southern trailhead to catch a part of Kitchen Creek they hadn't seen yet. We arrived at the southern trailhead and piled out. It was already past 6 o'clock so we didn't plan on going too far. But not far was Rocco's favorite, Adams Falls.
Ganoga Falls -- Ricketts Glen State Park
When Rocco and I first started hiking here we kept taking about which falls we liked the best. Of course Rocco kept changing his mind every time we saw another new falls. One time he said that his favorite was the one he was watching at the time. Eventually I did decide that my favorite was Ganoga Falls, while Rocco eventually settled on Adam's Falls with the spectacular rock formations around and below it. Here the water tumbles and drops multiple times down a series of magnificent grottos. We also both really liked Ozone Falls. The top part sort of just spilled out and then twisted to the right, then the bottom part was almost like a staircase.
As we started the short trek to Adam's Falls, Jason moved over to me and said: "I can't believe how amazing this place is." Jason was at least as enthusiastic as the two boys. Who were now running far ahead. Rocco ran after to make sure they did not get lost. Or drowned. Consuela had gone ahead also.
I answered while looking around at the small stand of climax forest that now surrounded us. "Yeah. This is Rocco's favorite place in the Poconos. He and I have already hiked all the trails and even places where we made our own trail, and I agree. The place is amazing. And being here with Rocco makes it that much more special."
Jason walked without saying much for a while before finally opening up. "Consuela's quite special too. I think I'm really falling for her. And she sure makes me think about things. She keeps saying that she don't mind me disagreeing but I'd better be prepared to argue." Jason looked at me with a big smile.
I chuckled. "I sure know how strong minded she can get. And she'll try to run your life if you let her."
Jason was trying to say something and searching for the right words. "You know she talked a lot about you Jade. She said she was starting to fall for you until she realized that you only wanted. . ." He stopped.
I looked right at him. I finished for him. "She was right. I only wanted Rocco. You don't seem so bothered by us now."
"I still don't want to think about what you guys do together, but Consuela's convinced me that you guys really have a relationship. And you guys yourselves have convinced me. It's not just a perverse sex thing. I guess it took me really seeing you as people."
"Thanks Jason. Most people couldn't have given us even a chance."
Jason smiled. "Well I like Consuela a lot and she can be quite persuasive. And I guess where I grew up in North Philly, everything is black and white. Both literally and figuratively. And it gets into your thinking that way sometimes. Consuela has me seeing a lot of things differently. I had as much trouble with Rocco when I first met him because he was white. I had a hard time understanding how he related to us. He was nothing you could expect. Like how he came right up to me and started talking as if black and white didn't matter. I had a hard time believing it but realize now that to him it didn't."
I was remembering back to when Rocco and I first met, and I smiled. I could understand.
Jason looked ahead now on the trail and could see Rocco and Consuela both interacting with Tim and Billy. He continued: "And look at him and Tim. You'd almost think they were brothers."
I was starting to see what Consuela saw in Jason as we talked about a lot of other things during that short hike and later over that weekend. And he was still smart enough and sure of himself enough that Consuela's bossiness didn't seem to faze him.
We all had a great week end. Even if Tim tried to get himself killed a few times and gave Rocco heart failure trying to climb up Ganoga Falls the next day. I smiled realizing that a few short years ago it would have been Rocco daring the same thing.
But when we got back to the city I realized that something more was really bothering my White-boy.