I'd just come from taking a shower and was standing in my room, rummaging through my bag in search of a pair of clean jockeys. It felt strange, familiar and very different all at the same time. It was the room I'd had as a kid in the only house, the only home I'd ever known until leaving for Oxford three and a half months before. Yet being back was like being in an alien world.
By John Yager
This is the thirtieth chapter of an ongoing series. I want to again thank everyone who has written to me about this story. I'm continually surprised and pleased by the response the series has prompted. All your comments are read and I try to respond promptly to each message. If there is a delay in my response it's usually because I'm traveling.
As I have said from the beginning of this series, my intention in writing Absolute Convergence is to deal with issues which have impacted and influenced the lives of gay people in the period between the 1960s and the present time, or put another way, from "Pre-Stonewall" days to the era of "Don't ask, don't tell."
Many of you have asked if this story is, at least in part, autobiographical. I wouldn't be honest if I said it wasn't. I do want to make it clear however that I'm not Rob, Rick, Steve, Sammy, Roger Bardwell, or any of the characters who will enter the story in later chapters. Readers have suggested just about every character in the series as my counterpart. I'm not any other specific character in the story and none of them, individually, is me.
Absolute Convergence has raised many more questions than it's answering and I certainly don't claim to know the answers. It's my hope that by raising questions I may prompt more consideration of issues facing gay people in the USA and throughout the world.
Andrew has continued to give much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful. I could not post chapters as quickly as I've been doing without his invaluable assistance.
This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. Except for the references to actual historical events, any similarity to actual persons or occurrences is entirely coincidental. This is obviously a work of gay erotic fiction. If you shouldn't be reading such material, or if such material isn't to your liking, please exit now.
This work is copyrighted © by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
All the stories I've posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent postings, please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
I stood there, bent over the duffle bag with only a towel wrapped around my still damp body.
There was a knock at the door, the three-two-three Ted and I had used since we were kids. Without waiting for a response from me, the door swung open and my older brother was standing there, grinning at me.
"Welcome home, kid brother," he boomed, his usual hardy greeting.
As I turned the towel slipped from my waist. I grabbed for it and missed and stood there naked in front of Ted. Well, what the hell, I thought, after all, he was my brother and we'd seen each other in showers and skinny dipping since we were kids.
"Hey, Ted," I said as I bent over for the towel which had fallen in a heap at my feet.
When I looked back over at him he was standing unnaturally still, his eyes glued on my body. "Holy shit, Rob!"
"What?" I said, looking down at myself, thinking there must be something wrong.
"You're a fucking stud!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Look at you, man. You're built like the proverbial brick shit house."
"I guess you're just seeing the results of a semester in the Ole Miss football program," I laughed.
As I looked back at Ted I realized that in the last few months, as I had put on about twenty pounds of muscle Ted, with the help of his beer guzzling fraternity brothers, had also put on about thirty pounds, most of it in the gut. I'd seen him some, of course, but not as often as you'd think, considering we were on the same campus. He was studying business and I was studying literature. He was living in an apartment off campus and I was living in a dormitory for athletes. Most important, I realized, was that Ted's free time was taken up by Betty, his girlfriend. I was so involved with my studies, football practices and physical training, and most importantly in my relationship with Steve that I had made little effort to maintain any regular contact with my own brother.
"Well," he said, still staring at me, "I bet Joyce will be impressed."
"I saw her about six or eight weeks ago, Ted. I don't remember her doing flips or anything."
"You saw her?"
"Yeah, she met me in Athens for the Ole Miss game there."
I reached for a pair of jockeys and pulled them on as Ted continued to look me over.
"I wanted to talk to you, if you've got a minute."
"Sure, Ted. What's going on?"
Ted and Betty had finished their exams and gotten home a couple of days before me so they'd had a chance to settle in. I'd sort of guessed what was coming so I wasn't at all surprised as Ted went on.
"Betty and I want to get married next summer, as soon as the spring term ends."
"I sort of figured," I said, grinning at him.
Everyone had more or less expected that they'd wait until after they finished their degrees but I knew they were together most of the time and Betty had more or less moved into Ted's apartment.
"I don't think mom and dad will object," Ted went on, "but we sort of think the Peters will be a little unhappy about it. They're really anxious for Betty to finish her degree before we get married."
"Yeah, you know, I guess they sort of think if we get married Betty might get pregnant and drop out of school to have the baby."
"I guess they don't know you guys are more or less living together already."
"If they knew were having sex they'd flip."
"But if they knew you were having sex and being careful they might relax about you getting married."
"You mean they'd think we should get married if we're already having sex?"
"Well, maybe that too, but I meant if they knew you'd been avoiding pregnancy they might relax and figure you'd get through another year okay."
"Yeah, but we could never tell them we were already doing it. You know how strict they are."
"Well, then I guess you'll just have to win them over to the idea of having a married daughter in her last year at the university."
"It's not like it's that big a deal. There are lot of married students at Ole Miss."
"And just about every other university these days."
I looked for a pair of jeans and pulled them on.
"Why are you so anxious to get married anyway? I mean you are getting all the sex you want and you don't want to have a baby yet."
"We just want to make it official so we can live
together and not have to be sneaking around all the time."
Ted watched me as I pulled on a shirt and then asked, "What about you and Joyce?"
"What about us?" I countered, figuring he was headed off on another sermon on marriage.
"Well, you know, are you still going steady? Do you think you and Joyce will be getting hitched once you get out of school?"
"Gees, Ted, I just got home last night. I haven't even seen her yet."
"But you know, you are thinking along those lines, right?"
I realized that it had probably never occurred to him that I was anything but a typical straight jock, maybe a little smarter than some, but still a jock. And all jocks thought about was fucking girls, right?
As I look back over the last thirty years I realize how the question of sexual orientation never entered into the equation of social life in the culture of Spring River in the late 1960s. The idea that any of us local guys, and especially a guy who was successful at sports, could be gay was simply beyond consideration.
"I don't know, Ted," I answered. "Before I even consider going in that direction I'm going to finish my BA and I may well want to go on and do a graduate degree."
"Man, I don't see how you can do it, Rob," Ted said. "Betty and I were fucking before we got out of high school. I'd go nuts if I wasn't getting any."
"Who says I'm not fucking, Ted?"
As soon as I'd said it I knew it was a mistake. Maybe I was just a little angry about his comments but without thinking, I'd said it.
"No shit? Who?" Ted was clearly impressed. His expression was almost worth the trouble I'd probably started.
"Nobody you know, but your little brother is being taken care of so you don't need to worry."
He wouldn't leave it alone. Every time we were alone over the rest of the Christmas holidays Ted was asking about or commenting on my sex life. I was tempted several times to just tell him about Steve and get it over with. As things worked out it didn't become necessary to steer clear of the truth, at least so far as what was going on over the Christmas holidays.
The real reason Ted wanted to tell me about the wedding plans was that he wanted me to be his best man. I was flattered that he'd want me, rather than one of his fraternity brothers, and told him I'd be honored to stand up with him. Ted also wanted me to be in on the conversation with our folks. I was glad to do that but was also very glad he didn't ask me to go along to the Peters' when he and Betty talked to them.
Over the two weeks we were home for Christmas Ted and Betty got everything settled. It was agreed that the wedding would be the first Saturday in June. They would leave for a week-long honeymoon and then come back to Spring River for the rest of the summer. Ted would work at the lumberyard again and Betty would be helping with a program for children run by the local park board. Even Betty's parents seemed fine with the plans and her mother and ours began planning for the wedding, even before the Christmas holidays were over.
Ted couldn't stop asking me about my sex life.
Once I'd said I was getting all the sex I wanted he just kept asking questions.
At first it annoyed the hell out of me but over the next few days it just
became funny. I don't think Ted ever realized I was amused by his constant
questions and he certainly never guessed that I had a boyfriend, not a
girlfriend. Two or three times a day, almost every time we were alone,
he'd ask a question or make some leading remark.
The morning after our initial conversation, when I was getting ready for church, he came into my room and asked me about one of the freshman cheerleaders at Ole Miss. He'd seen me with her in the library and wondered if she was the one I was fucking.
"Why do you think it's just one, Ted?" I grinned.
"Shit," he said as he left. It was clearly getting to him that I wouldn't tell all.
That afternoon Joyce got home. We'd talked by phone
a week earlier and agreed that I'd not come over to her house until Monday.
We agreed she should spend that first evening with her folks.
On Monday, about ten o'clock I was knocking at her door. She welcomed me with a warm hug and a big kiss, all of which Ted, who'd driven me over, saw from his vantage point in the car. I couldn't help laughing at what he must be thinking.
I spent all day at the Lynn's and didn't get home until after midnight. Joyce and I talked for hours, comparing notes on college and classes, friends we'd made and all the details of our lives, mine in Oxford, Mississippi, hers in Hartford, Connecticut.
Joyce's folks asked me to stay for supper and then tactfully retired to their own room, giving us privacy to continue talking together. We snuggled on the sofa and talked. Then touching led to soft kisses and then, suddenly, we were kissing repeatedly and deeply. As our passions rose Joyce moving her hands over my body as I fondled her breasts. I realized she wasn't just stroking me, but actually feeling my increased muscles, appraising my physique. She ran one hand down over my chest and then lower, feeling my stomach, which I instinctively tightened. We were kissing and our tongues were dancing in each other's mouths. Her hand moved lower, gently moving over my crotch. She grasped the muscles of my left thigh and then moved back again, shocking me by grasping the shaft of my hard cock through the fabric of my slacks and briefs.
I groaned involuntarily as she fondled me.
She broke our kiss and pulled back from me. We were both breathless and I know I was flushed.
"I've been thinking a lot about this, Rob."
I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know if
she meant necking like we were doing or if she meant she'd been thinking
about my cock. She couldn't mean that, I assured myself, but I didn't know
how to respond. To avoid words, I just moved in and kissed her again. We
again kissed deeply and long and her hand never stopped gently fondling
me as I fondled her pert breasts.
It was Joyce who stopped our necking, just as I realized she had also started it.
"That's enough for now," she said, pulling back from me and smiling a sweet but untranslatable smile. Did she mean that was all, or that she hoped we'd do even more another time?
I walked home in a daze, barely registering that it had gotten quite cool. I crept in the front door and stumbled up the stairs. I guess Ted heard me because he came out of his room and stood, leaning against the door jam as I topped the stairs.
"You look like hell," he grinned as I came into view.
"Yeah, right," I said, not thinking fast enough to come up with some smart reply.
"My, my, little brother, you look like you got laid in spades."
I turned into the bathroom and stared at myself in the mirror. My shirt was no longer tucked in and the top three buttons were open. My hair was in a mess, and worst of all, there was a three inch wide wet spot on the front of my rumpled khaki slacks.
"So," Ted grinned, "how is Joyce, anyway?"
He was standing behind me in the doorway, looking past me at my reflections.
I suddenly felt devilish and just grinned back. "She's great."
"I bet she is," he said with a chuckle and walked
back to his room.
The next morning when I came down for breakfast my mother handed me a slip of paper. "A friend of yours' called last night, Rob. I told him you were out on a date and he asked me to have you call him back today." On the slip she had neatly written Steve's name and his Jackson phone number.
I sat in a daze as my mother plied me with a huge breakfast, eggs, sausages, a pile of toast and two kinds of jam, both of her own making. The juice and milk kept coming as I ate. I was amazed at my apatite and amused by the pleasure it gave my mother. When I'd eaten all I could manage she sat down at the kitchen table and drank a cup of coffee with me as we talked about plans for the holiday.
"I know you want to spend time with Joyce," she began, "but don't forget your father and me. We've missed you so much and want to have time with you, too."
"I know, Mom," I said. "I waited `till yesterday afternoon to see Joyce. She needs to spend time with her folks, too."
We talked a little more and then I said I should go up and shower and dress. I was still in my robe and slippers.
"Well, when you're ready your father wants you to come down to the lumberyard. I think he wants to take you to lunch."
"Oh, he left to meet Betty a couple of hours ago. He said I should let you sleep in."
"Thanks, Mom. I guess I needed the rest."
She raised an eyebrow as she looked at me over
her coffee cup but didn't say anything more. I retreated up the stairs
to shower and dress.
At the lumberyard I had to make the rounds and shake hands with the office and yard staff as my father went on and on about me being on the Ole Miss football team. They all knew I was at the university at Oxford and they treated me like a returning hero, which I found rather embarrassing. I'd hardly played in a real football game yet but you wouldn't have known it from the way they all greeted me. You'd have thought I was a star quarterback already. The women in the front office smiled and the two youngest girls giggled and blushed as my father walked me around. The men in the yard shook my hand and many of them were forward enough to give my shoulders or upper arms an appraising squeeze. I must admit I was proud of my physique and I couldn't help wondering if a few of them had an interest in more than my athletic abilities.
When we made our way back to Dad's office he asked me if I could be ready to go to lunch in half an hour.
"Mom cooked me a huge breakfast, Dad. Could we wait a little longer?"
"Not much longer. I want to take you to the restaurant at the Van Dorn and show you off."
The Van Dorn was the oldest, biggest and best hotel in Spring River and it's restaurant was the mid-day gathering place for all the town's movers and shakers. I knew I had to go.
"Okay, Dad, but don't expect me to have much appetite."
"Good, son, great. I have to run back to the milling barn so you just relax. I'll be back in about half an hour."
"Is it okay if I use your phone to call a friend in Jackson?"
"Sure, son," he called back as he shut the door
behind him, giving me the privacy I wanted.
"So are you going to fuck her," Steve said when I'd gotten through to him and told him what had gone on between Joyce and me the night before.
I was still shocked by the idea but had to admit that I'd thought about it.
"I never thought she wanted us to have sex but after the way she felt me up last night I guess I need to think about it," I responded to Steve's amused query.
"Don't think, buddy, just buy some rubbers and go for it."
"Oh, shit, Steve, how can I buy rubbers here? Everybody in Spring River knows me and it would be all over town."
"Go to a filling station and buy some from one of those machines in the men's toilet."
"Yeah, that's safer."
"No, wait, I've got a better idea. From what you said about your conversations with your brother you should just ask him for some. He must have a good supply and he'd love it if you asked. It would be a real brother to brother bonding thing, Rob, and it would probably make your reputation as a real stud." As he said all this there was a clear undertone of mirth in his voice. I couldn't help think he was having way too much fun at my expense.
"You really think I should?"
"Absolutely. Tell Ted you ran out and need more. That will really impress the hell out of him."
"And you're really okay with me having sex with Joyce?"
"Of course I am. You need to broaden your education, so to speak."
"You won't be jealous?"
"Rob, I'll probably make it with a couple of girls over the holidays, too."
"Just girls, right?"
"Just girls. You're the only guy in my life."
"Thanks, Steve, I guess I needed to hear you say that."
"You know I love you, Rob."
"Yeah, I know, and I love you, too."
Luckily, I'd just finished the conversation and hung up the phone when my father came back into his office and swept me off to lunch.
Lunch was exhausting and it didn't matter at all
that I ate next to nothing. Dad and I had to make the rounds of half a
dozen tables, greeting the mayor, a table of lawyers and a bunch of men
from organizations my father belonged to. Once we were seated, other men
came over to our table to say hello as they arrived or left. I felt like
I was on display but I knew my father couldn't have been happier.
After dinner that evening as Ted and I were going upstairs to our rooms I asked him if I could ask a favor.
"Sure, Rob, anything for my little brother." He seemed to love calling me that, even though I was now an inch or more taller than him.
When we reached the top of the stairs he turned and tipped his head to the side, waiting for me to speak.
"Could we go in your room, Ted?"
"Sure. Is this that private?"
"Well, I sure don't want mom and dad to hear me," I said as I followed him into his room and shut the door behind us.
"Oh, shit," he whispered, when he turned to look back at me. I realized he'd gone white.
"What, Ted?" I asked, realizing he was suddenly really scared.
"Have you got the clap or something?"
I couldn't help laughing.
"No, big brother," I said, adapting his nick name for me. "Don't you think I listened when the coaches gave us all those lectures about having fun but being careful?"
"Well," he sighed as he sat down on the edge of his bed, "that is a relief." Then looking up at me he raised an eyebrow and asked, "so what is the problem?" I realized at that moment how much he looked like our mother.
"I'm going over to see Joyce in a little while and I've run out of rubbers." It was a bold faced lie, being out of rubbers. I'd never had any and wasn't even exactly sure how to use them.
My brother guffawed!
"So did you fuck her?" Steve asked first thing when I called him the next day.
"So let`s hear, buddy, I know you are dying to tell me about it."
"I don't even know how to begin."
"At the beginning, Mr. Ballinger, at the beginning."
"Well, I did ask Ted for some rubbers and you were right, it sort of made his day."
"I knew it would. Now he knows his stud brother is doing the dirty." There was an undertone of amusement in Steve's voice.
"When I got over to Joyce's house she told me her folks had been expecting her to go to the country club with them. She'd begged off, claiming a headache. Anyway, we had the house to ourselves and her folks didn't get home until after midnight."
"Were you still there when her folks got home?"
"No, I left about eleven-thirty, but I called her about half an hour ago. She said she was in bed and her mom just looked in her room to see how she was feeling. Joyce said she was better but glad she'd not gone out with them."
"Yeah, right," Steve laughed.
"So Joyce and I sat on the sofa and kissed and made out a while. When we started talking she pretty much said what I figured she say. She asked me if I'd still not had sex with a girl and I assured her I hadn't. She told me she was still a virgin but had been thinking a lot about it and about us and she figured we needed to do it.
"I guess she'd made up her mind and I just went along with it. I told her I'd gotten some rubbers, sort of figuring she was expecting we'd have sex. She laughed and said she'd gotten some, too. A girlfriend of hers at college had given her a pack."
"So you wouldn't have needed to ask Ted for some after all."
"No, but it was better to be prepared and anyway, it was worth it, just to see Ted's reaction."
"So, let's hear the good stuff. I want a full report."
"Well, we went up stairs and she asked me to wait in the hall while she got undressed. When she called I went in and she was in bed with a sheet pulled up around her. She asked me if she could watch me get undressed. I played it up, doing a sort of strip for her. I guess it broke the ice. We were both feeling sort of uptight and strange about it all and after my goofing around I could feel us both relax.
"I got in bed with her, still wearing my jockeys, and we got into some really heavy necking."
"Foreplay, Rob, foreplay."
"Okay, foreplay, but it was still necking."
"If you're going to be a lady's man you have to learn the terms."
"It's not going to happen, Steve. It was interesting, but I'm gay. I know that, Joyce knows that, and you must know it, too."
"No bisexuality for the boy from Spring River?"
"Well, I did it. I mean Joyce and I had sex. Actually, it was nice, but it's not what I want full time."
"I know. I guess I feel the same way. So anyway, let's hear the details."
"Well, we just necked a while and we were both really getting with it. I guess nature just took its course."
"How do you feel about it, now that you've done it, Rob?"
"Well, it was okay. I really do care about Joyce. I don't know if I could have done it if it had been with some girl I didn't know as well and liked so much. I kept thinking how different it was from being with you."
"I know what you mean, but tell me what you were thinking."
"Well, it's kind of hard to describe, but with you, it's my own male body against another male body, hard muscle against hard muscle. It's all about likeness, two of a kind. With Joyce it's about my masculinity against her soft, feminine nature, which was nice, interesting anyway, but not the same as with you, not what I'm used to."
"Did she come?"
"Yeah, she did, and it scared me to death."
"Yeah, Steve, it really did. When a guy comes you know what's going on. But with a woman it's so different. When Joyce came I thought she was having a seizure or something. I was really afraid I'd hurt her."
"I guess the real test is if you are going to do it again."
"Joyce wants us to. I don't know if we'll have another chance, but if the opportunity comes along I guess I'd be up for it."
"No pun intended," Steve laughed. "Now I guess I'm going to have a real pussy chaser on my hands."
"It was interesting. I guess I'm glad we did it but it's not what I want, Steve, but I guess you know that."
"Yeah, babe, I understand. I can't wait till we can get together."
"Yeah, I really miss you a lot."
In fact, Joyce and I made love two more times over the Christmas holidays. It was almost as if our families were plotting to give us time together. I'm sure that wasn't the case, but they seemed to realize that we wanted to be alone and, if not condoning it, they certainly did nothing to prevent it.
It was an odd experience, and I guess in a way it gave me some insight into how the straight world works. I'd so completely come to thinking of myself as a gay man that it was quite strange for me to be exploring another side of my personality. As much as I cared for Joyce I wasn't at all sure I liked dealing with the issues this new sexual aspect of our relationship was raising.
The other feature of that Christmas at home was spending time with Rick. We'd agreed to keep our promise to Ted and not spend time alone. He'd called me the day before Christmas to say that he and Deb were home. We agreed to go out to dinner together on the twenty-seventh, the Friday after Christmas, the two of them and Joyce and me.
We met at Clyde's, a sort of road house just south of town. It wasn't all that fancy and the food was more or less a choice of steaks, chicken or catfish, but it was about the best place Spring River had to offer, short of the country club. I could have suggested we go there, as both my folks and Joyce's were members, but I knew we'd run into a lot of people we knew, or who knew us. I also wasn't sure how comfortable Rick and Deb would feel there. So Clyde's it was.
We met them there and were only together while we were at the restaurant. I realized at once that the conversation was going to be a little strained. When I'd met Rick for coffee after the Ole Miss - Mississippi State football game we'd talked easily and there had been no apparent barriers. But with Deb and Joyce along everything we said seemed guarded.
I realized as the evening went on that I was trying to avoid doing or saying anything which would reveal the change in my relationship with Joyce. I don't know why it was important to me but I didn't want Rick to know that Joyce and I were having sex. I also felt that Joyce was doing the same thing and I didn't want to embarrass her by revealing more than she was comfortable with.
We did manage to talk easily about college and
classes. I was surprised at how enthusiastic both Rick and Deb were about
their programs. Neither of them had been more than average students in
high school and there had been some doubt about them getting admitted to
Mississippi State. But now that they were at the university, they seemed
to have gotten much more serious about their studies. It was nice to see
their excitement and it gave me real hope for their future.
My only other meeting with Rick that Christmas was when he and I got together with Ted Tucker at the church. Ted was excited to tell us that he'd been accepted a Sewanee, the seminary he'd listed as his first choice. He'd be starting there the following fall.
Ted seemed pleased that Rick and I had made an effort to see him and that we were keeping our promise to not get together alone for a year following Rick and Debbie's wedding.
We talked about Ted's plans and his friendship with Trent, his friend from Ole Miss, who was now in his second year at the medical school of the University of Mississippi, which was located in Jackson, not on the Oxford campus. Ted told us that he and Trent had managed to get together several times over the last few months and rather shyly admitted that their relationship had become sexual.
"You being at Sewanee is going to put you two even further apart for the next few years," Rick said.
"Well, it'll be okay," Ted grinned. "We'll have to be real careful and anyway, he'll be finishing medical school about the same time I'll be finishing seminary."
"Then what?" I asked.
"I don't know. Trent will probably go on to a residency and I'll have to spend at least a year as a curate. In the meantime we'll get together when we can. We're both pretty long-suffering guys." He grinned and went on to ask about our classes and then about how Rick was finding married life.
Nothing was said about my personal life at Oxford and I didn't volunteer anything about Steve.
The conversation ended with the three of us agreeing that we'd stay in touch.
The rest of that Christmas at home is a sort of blur. I think the celebration of the holiday itself and the time with my family have all merged with a dozen or more Christmases from earlier and later years. I have no memory of any gifts I gave or received.
Increasingly, as the days passed, I longed to be back in Oxford.
I longed to be with Steve.
To be continued.