13. Golden Days

I skipped most of school Friday. I'd gone to math class first period, because I told my parents we'd be leaving after I got home from school. I hadn't told them we wanted to make sure we made it to the beach in time to soak up a little sun the first day. I figured that since I went to school for an hour, technically I hadn't lied to anybody. And anyway, it was an hour more than the rest of the Posse put in.

We'd be on the road seven and a half hours, so Cole had told me he'd be by at nine. When I got home, I ran upstairs to grab my already-packed gear: Clothes, stuff for shaving and showering, a couple of condoms for good luck. As I was making my way down the stairs, I heard someone practically leaning on the doorbell. Shit, I thought; he must be in some fuckin' hurry to get moving.

I opened the door and found myself face to face not with my Varsity Bro, but with Brad, his older brother. He grinned, and reached for my hand. "Damn...look at your ugly face. The Jock Posse's takin' in spares these days."

"Spare chaperones, too," I shot back, grabbing his outstretched hand and laying some skin on him. "Thanks for coming along."

"Haul your shit into the back of the van," he said. "I lost the coin toss with Cole so I'm drivin' down. You can ride shotgun with me and we can get to know each other better."

I was pleased at the thought of that. I'd never talked to many college guys. Brad looked a lot like Cole, only a little older and little more muscular, and his hair was dirty blonde like mine, instead of Cole's deep black.

Cole was stretched out in the back seat.  I took the shotgun position.  Brad climbed in behind the wheel and we began the drive south.

As the miles went by, the conversation between us was smooth and easy. We talked about the freshman football team's season. We talked about Cole being my Varsity Bro. We talked about Brad's years playing high school football. We talked about what he was doing in college. We talked about his girlfriend. We talked about a few of the girls I'd dated that year. And we talked about my birthday party. Cole had given him a play-by-play breakdown, right down to the part about me leaving the used condom in the back of his van. From the first mile to the last, the conversation never lagged. Now and then Cole would speak up from the back seat, but he was mostly in his own little world with his headphones and his GameBoy.

Talking to Brad was as easy as talking to his brother; warmth and a wicked good humor came off both of them in waves. And I felt cool beyond words to be getting serious attention from a real grown-up college guy.

We got to Mustang Island after nearly a day's worth of driving, and stopped at one of the designated camping areas on the beach. It was about four-thirty in the afternoon. The rest of the Jock Posse arrived during the next half hour. Once everyone was there, we parked the vehicles in a circle, and several guys set up tents.

Jeff Blizzard, our varsity quarterback, gathered us together and started going over a few basics for the weekend. Nobody swims alone; nobody leaves the general campsite area without letting somebody else know; nobody drives anywhere drunk; everybody signs up to take a shift at meal prep times; nobody does any substance stronger than weed. I raised an eyebrow at that one--did somebody actually have that illegal shit along? We tossed coins to determine who got to sleep in the tents and who was sleeping in the back of the vans. The latter was actually preferable, if you left the doors open; sleeping in a tent at the beach is a gritty proposition.

Brad and I both won our tosses, so we'd be sharing a mattress in the back of Cole's van. When the arrangement fell that way, I wasn't sure if I'd won or lost. The thought of sleeping next to that good-looking college man unnerved me a little.

After Jeff finished covering the items on his list, I changed into some beachwear and walked down to the surf.

I was feeling fine; the day was perfect. The late-afternoon sun gave a bronze cast to the scenery.

Walking in to ankle-depth, I stopped and stood, facing the Gulf and staring out across the waves toward forever.

God, the vastness.

It made my head spin. A yearning for which I had no words welled up inside me.

Transfixed, I closed my eyes for a few moments, listening to the waves crash against the shore.

I flashed back to the night with Staci the previous summer and felt, distantly, a stab of loss. So much had happened to me in a year's time. But this place was still, and always, the same. Relentless. Overpowering. Sensual. I thought back on the night that I put aside the innocence of my boyhood and entered a girl's body for the first time. Mine was not the only conquest in the sand that night; I'd been entered and claimed myself by this incredible place.

There was a difference, though; my passion for Staci was mixed in with my deep feelings for her. But this place...its depths contained a whole world of life that knew nothing of me, and it cared nothing for my little ecstasies and confusions. It had been here for ages, and would be here when I was dust.

I liked that a whole lot.

But it was here for me now, at any rate, to flood my senses with its primordial seductions and to overwhelm my heart and to capture me and take me for itself.

I shook off my reverie. Mindful of the agreement we'd made not to swim alone, I walked back to the group and got Ruben and a senior, Danny Prescott, to come out into the deep with me. Out there in the waves, with my buds next to me, the ocean called to depths in me that I hardly knew existed.

We swam out until the water was several feet over our heads, then let the waves bring us in a few dozen yards. Over and over we repeated the process, moving closer to the shore with each cycle.

The turbulence pulled us away from each other, bit by bit. The energy of the waves toward the shore was dampened a little by a crosscurrent carrying us eastward. Danny and Ruben fought the push and counteracted it with some steady westward exertion of their own. I'd been deep in my own thoughts and feelings and hadn't noticed my drift.

They ended up on shore about where we'd first waded in, but the east-pushing current had carried me off by myself. I hit the shore hundreds of feet to the east and had to walk a pretty good distance to join up with everyone else. When I got back to our campsite, Jeff laid into me a little about swimming alone. I hadn't really meant to; I'd just gone where the current had taken me. I told him I'd be more careful next time.

We swam a lot that afternoon and evening. Some of the guys rented boards and tried to surf, never an easy proposition on the Texas coast. Others swam in groups of three and four. One or two sat on the shore and stared off, dream-like, toward the horizon. It seemed clear to me that all of us felt the pull of this place, and we responded, each in his own way.

After we'd had enough water, we played football for a while. Then someone suggested an impromptu wrestling tournament. Jeff drew some boundaries in the sand and sketched out a "tournament schedule," and we went at it.

I did all right for a freshman, and ended up beating my classmate Ruben and a couple of upper classmen. Eventually the schedule determined I would have to wrestle Cole in order to advance.

The two of us took our places on the "mat" and got ready. Just before the word "go," Cole looked at me, threw me a mock glare, and said, "You know you're goin' down this time, don'tcha?"

I glared back at him. "Don't be talkin' it before you be walkin' it, bro." But I couldn't keep my game face on; I broke out laughing.

Cole knew what he was talking about. He wasn't a huge guy, but damn, he was strong. Fairly quickly he got me pinned. I probably could have broken the hold, but as he began tightening it up, my face ended up under the top of his left arm.

Dazed by this close-up view of his armpit, I couldn't keep my head in the game. The sparse dusting of hair there, its jet-black set off against Cole's pale skin, distracted me. Recovering a little, I began struggling to break free, and in response he tightened his hold. The adjustments left my nose pressed into his armpit.

Instinctively, I inhaled deeply. Sweaty; but something under that. Powerful and compelling. I didn't know anything about pheromones back then, but I did know that it made me think about tightly chiseled abs and muscular thighs.

And sex.

I also knew that, for a few eternal seconds, I was effectively paralyzed.

The distracted part of my brain was thinking, "Yeah, this is okay; I just want to lie here like this."

The engaged part of my brain was aware of potential trouble, and on a couple of fronts. That snapped me back into awareness.

I realized I was done for, so I tapped out, and Cole released his hold. But not before he scowled at me and said, "Jesus, Phillips, you just rolled over and let me have it. I was expecting more from you."

"No way..." I stood up and dusted off, hoping that I looked nothing like I felt. "You're just too much man for me, bro," I deadpanned. Then, to add the finishing touch to the diversion, I flashed him a big grin. Always kidding, right?

Cole laughed, pushed me out of the ring, and went on to his next opponent.

I wasn't happy over what had just gone down. What had just gone down, anyway?

For the next few hours, the experience of having my face buried in Cole's armpit played back over and over in my head. I didn't like it, mainly because I did. Jesus, Phillips, you haven't been gettin' enough lately, I tried to reason with myself. It's making me horny over random, weird shit.

Yeah. That's it.

Thinking about it in those terms settled me down some. There was a voice inside struggling to talk back to that assessment, but I pushed it out of my awareness and resolved to find me a new girlfriend when I got back home.

Cole ended up winning the tournament. He got lucky and pinned Jeff, the presumptive favorite, to take the championship. Jeff recognized the accomplishment by pouring a bottle of warm Gatorade in Cole's face while Danny and Eric Wesson held him down.

I was relieved when evening fell. I'd been walking around with some half-assed sense that everybody was looking at me because of how I'd reacted to Cole in the wrestling match. I knew it wasn't true, but what I knew and what I felt weren't interested in talking with each other. Watching the sun set, though, allowed me to relax. We started a campfire and the "kitchen crew" grilled some burgers and hot dogs. Brad pulled an ice chest out of the van and set it down. It was full of beer and sodas. "You boys better handle your suds, now, or I won't be lettin' y'all do this anymore."

Everybody cheered and started passing around the bottles. Soon the food was ready. I had a couple of beers with my burgers and got a little buzzed.

We were all sitting around the campfire, enjoying the evening. As the stars came out, Jeff went to his pickup and put an old Bob Marley CD on its stereo system, and came back with a bong and bag of marijuana. Several of the older guys laughed and high-fived. Jeff looked over at me and Ruben and said, in a terrible attempt at a Jamaican accent, "Okay, freshmen, time to feel de power of de weed, mon."

I'd never smoked marijuana before and I didn't know that I liked the idea of blazing up out here in public. The beach wasn't too crowded, but just down the way there was another group of teenagers hanging out. What if it was some church group and they were downwind of our smoke? I looked over nervously at Ruben. He looked back at me, shrugged, and mumbled, "What the fuck, let's just do it."

So we watched everybody else and copied, taking our own hits on the bong.

For all my misgivings, the night began to feel smooth like glass, and given my earlier state of mind, that was a good thing. I was already drunk, and now superimposed on that, I got slowly baked. As I did, the uneasiness of the previous couple of hours literally went up in smoke.

Some time later in the evening, a blonde and a brunette from the other group of kids came over to us, introduced themselves as Suzanne and Alison, and asked if we wanted to party with them. Their bikinis were so skimpy they might as well have been naked, and all of a sudden twelve hard-ons were paying rapt attention.

Jeff, as usual, spoke for all of us, lowballing the encounter at first:

"I don't know, Suzanne, what's y'all's deal?"

"No deal, guys," the blonde answered. "We're just townies from Port A up the road. Drinking and smoking a little, playing some music. Kickin' it at the beach. Y'all look like jocks. Are you jocks?"

Jeff smiled. "Ladies, you are looking at the best of the best. We are jocks. Football players. And in fact we are the baddest, most extreme group of jocks on our team."

"Awesome. Where are y'all from?"

Cole had strolled up to get a piece of this little encounter, and answered for Jeff. "Dallas, basically."

"Cool, we love Dallas Basically. And we love football players. Come party with us."

Jeff frowned. "Yeah, your dudes will love that, if twelve boys show up and start flirting with the local girls."

Suzanne said, "There are more girls than boys in our group; it'll be fine."

By now the entire Posse had bunched up around Jeff. "Shit, yeah, let's go," was the prevailing sentiment.

Jeff turned back to Suzanne and Alison. "All right, girls, we're in." So we all walked over to their campfire and the Jock Posse started zeroing in on unattached females.

I think it's safe to say that our first night at the beach was a success. How much closer to perfection can a teenage boy get than a little sport, a little booze, a little smoke, and a little action? There was a cute blonde there named Lori who didn't mind me being stoned and stupid; we walked off together toward the dunes and spent some time talking and making out a little, but it was clear that between my wasted head and Lori's amusement at it, I wasn't getting much beyond some French kissing and a handful of tit. I saw a couple of our guys go off into the dunes with blankets, so it looked like some of them had a little better luck than I did. No matter. I was mellow and happy and horny all at the same time.

Eventually Lori and I came back to the campfire and sat around for a while, listening to one of their guys play the guitar and sing. He did a cover of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose," and as I sat there listening to him, I thought about the couple of times I'd listened to Matt play during the previous months. Man, I wish he could be here to hear this, I said to myself.

Around 2 a.m. most everybody decided to get some sleep. Brad unlocked Cole's van and as I got closer, he tossed me my stuff and quipped, "Well, kid, I hope you got you some with that girl, 'cause I don't put out on the first sleepover."

"I don't want what you got anyway," I shot back, not-watching with determined disinterest as Brad stripped out of his board shorts down to buck naked. I was resolutely apathetic about the fact that his dick was as big as his younger brother's. I also found it absolutely not worth noticing that my dick was starting to get hard.

He put on a pair of boxers. I concentrated on cock-wilting thoughts and stepped out of my wet board shorts and into a pair of boxers. He climbed into the van and I stepped in a minute later. We left the back doors and the windows open; there was a decent breeze and the mattress wasn't too crowded, all things considered.

I thought about my previous experience in the back of Cole's van as I stretched out, and I thought about the college guy lying next to me.

Brad said, "Damn, I'm tired. 'Night, Andy."

"Me, too," I said, yawning. "'Night, Brad."

I lay awake for a long time, though. Brad had fallen asleep in record time.  As I listened to his steady breathing and watched his chest rise and fall, the moon shone down on his sleeping form, and I wondered about half-understood things I'd never have admitted to anyone.


The rest of the weekend held more of the same for the Jock Posse. We cooked and ate, smoked and drank. Swam.  Surfed.  Played football.  Tried to pick up local girls. 

Jock heaven, Cole called it.

Better yet, I could feel the group pulling me and Ruben into a brotherhood that would shape my experience of life for the remainder of high school.

I was sad when it was time to pack up and go home, but I reminded myself that we'd be doing more of this.

And the next time Matt would be able to come.

When I got home Sunday evening, I went over to his house. He was shooting hoops in his driveway. I shot a few with him and then we sat on the lush grass of his back lawn, talking and laughing, as I gave him the play-by-play of our trip. As I talked about the hookups and near-hookups with local girls, Matt grimaced and said, "Damn. All I did all weekend was clean out and rearrange the fuckin' attic and wash all the windows."

"Dude, you gotta go next time," I said. "It wasn't the same without you."

He looked up at me, a question forming in his eyes and directing itself toward me. I felt my face flush, and added, "I mean, you...I...you know what I mean; we needed more freshmen to represent."

His expression held, and my uneasiness grew.

Finally he spoke.  Slowly.  "Oh. I thought..."

There was a long pause.

"Yeah, I'll be there next time. You know I'd have gone if I hadn't promised Mom about the attic."

I nodded, mumbled a goodbye, and jogged home. White noise filled my brain, blocking sights and sounds and thoughts. When I got inside I took the stairs two at a time, shut my room door behind me, and immediately called Claire Billings, a girl I'd been flirting with for a while. Pretty soon colors and contours began to assert themselves again, and I was enjoying laughing and kidding around with her. I asked her out on a movie date for the next weekend and she accepted. It got late, so we hung up and chatted with each other on IM for a while. I went to bed and slept and slept, untroubled.


The rest of the year went by quickly. The freshman baseball team had a winning season but not a stellar one. On my soccer team we'd gotten a hotshot new forward, so I was able to go back to center midfield. We won first place in the Classic League's spring season, and I was beginning to get some city-wide notice as a reasonably talented midfielder. When school let out in May I got a fast-food job. Between that and the ongoing lawn-care commitments Matt and I had, my summer income looked like it would be okay. Life was good.

In June I took a Driver's Ed course and the day after my sixteenth birthday I got my driver's license. My parents had told me years before that if I'd put two grand in savings and leave it there, they'd spring for half of a car when I turned sixteen and cover the additional insurance. I'd have to pay for the other half, and I'd have to buy my own gas. So the next week my dad and I went out and we bought me a 3-year-old silver Honda Civic. It wasn't exactly a Porsche, but as far as I was concerned it might as well have been. I dated a lot of girls the coming year and scored with a good number of those, but my car was my only real love that year.

We went to the beach five times that summer, and for the rest of the summer we got to do it in style: Ruben's parents came through and let us stay at their condo. Matt made the rest of those trips with us. Sometimes the girls we hung out with back home would manage to get a group to go along in separate vehicles; sometimes we'd just try our luck with some of the local girls on the beach. But regardless of who came along and what sort of good times I had in their company, the beach always sang its strange and seductive song to me.  And with each visit I responded with awe, and ecstasy, and love.


Summer faded and gave way to our next year of high school. Matt and I moved up from the freshman teams to the Varsity teams. Boiled down, this basically meant that Matt and I rode the bench.  A lot.  In every sport we played, there was good depth in the upperclassmen, so we didn't get near as much playing time as we were used to.

I don't think Matt had ever had to play backup quarterback in his life. It was a year where we had to sit and watch a lot, and that ratcheted up our restlessness. We went 6-4, and of course Matt was convinced we'd have been 8-2 if they'd have let him start.

He and I got a lot accomplished, in school and personally. I'd gotten bored with Student Council and wasn't particularly interested in running for sophomore representative. Matt was pretty much okay with that; he'd managed to make his mark on school leadership and didn't need me as his wing man quite as much. He went to a national student council convention in New Orleans over Christmas break. When he came back, inspired by one of the convention workshops, he laid the groundwork for establishing a school mediation team that helped students who were having problems with teachers or other students.

I was sick of my dad cramming Great Books down my throat. Just to spread the misery around more than anything else, I went to Mrs. Trammel, my sophomore English teacher, and asked her if I could charter a student Great Books club that met once a month to shoot the breeze about Dead White Authors. She was pretty enthusiastic, and pretty impressed; what she didn't realize was that it was a move of desperation. I mean, come on--misery loves company. And, surprisingly enough, I got about twenty kids involved. A fair number were the theater freaks who always considered themselves intellectuals anyway; then there were the overachievers who figured it would look good on college applications; then there were a few who just wanted to say they hung out with me. Matt was right; if you were popular among your peers, you could tell them to roll in the mud and make noises like a pig and they'd do it, if you were there with them.

He ought to know, I reasoned. He was arguably the most popular guy in the whole high school, and he was only a sophomore.

Matt never abused his popularity, though. It was incredible. He wasn't some arrogant jock who made fun of all the lesser beings. And he wasn't some ass-kissing politician who sucked up to people just so he could have their vote. He genuinely liked people, and could always see something in every person that was worth appreciating. He made good on his old campaign promise to reach out to kids at the margins, and to everybody else, and as a result, most of the student body literally adored him. I was proud to be his best friend.

It was also kind of infuriating. Being in the presence of that much constant kindness bugged me a little. Matt never seemed to get pissed at anybody, never got impatient with anyone, never got annoyed by the losers and geeks who always circulated just outside our perimeter, waiting for a brief moment of benediction from us. In my own mind, I didn't come off well by comparison; I had a little bit of a temper, and on occasion I lost patience with people. The competitor in me didn't like it that Matt had me bested in the "people" department. From time to time I'd let my irritation loose on him with a roll of the eyes or an unkind crack. That never seemed to faze him, though. He knew me. And I'm sure he knew damn well that I struggled to be as generous of spirit as he was. He never gave me too much shit about it when on occasion I lost it and launched into someone for no good purpose.

At noon one Monday in September I walked into the lunchroom to eat. I scanned the hall and saw a high school cliche unfolding, like something you'd see on those old John Hughes flicks.

Matt was at the far end of the lunchroom. Seated at the table next to where he was standing were several of the other guys we hung with, athletes all of them. They were already seriously into lunch and were more or less oblivious to the scene that was unfolding.

Matt was leaning into the physical space of Aaron Spencer. Standing a few steps back, in clear distress, was a nerdy-looking little freshman named Mark Tollefson.

Aaron was a first-class asshole, a thief and thug who got his enjoyment in life out of terrorizing younger and smaller kids. He'd been shaking down Mark for his lunch money since school had started, and the week before, Matt had gotten wind of it.

The three of them hadn't attracted a whole lot of attention, and I was still too far away to hear what was being said, but it was clear to me that some kind of drama was being played out.

Aaron's typical tough-guy bearing was in full play, but as I made my way to the jock's tables, I saw a remarkable transformation.

The closer I got, the more Aaron's body language made him look smaller. About the time I reached Matt's table, Aaron backed completely away from Matt, turned around, and began slinking off to another section of the lunchroom. As I sat down, Matt traded daps with Mark and said, "It's all good, bro. Aaron's decided you prolly ought to keep your money. And dude, I got your back, so don't worry about him." Mark mumbled out a "Thanks, Matt," and started to walk away, but Matt said, "Hey, I save your lunch money and you're not even gonna eat with me?"

Mark looked in disbelief at Matt, then at the rest of the jocks dominating the area. "You want me to eat with y'all?"

"Sure, why not?" came the reply, as if it were the most natural scenario in the world. "You can meet my crew and hang with us at lunch; it's cool. And not just today; any time. Okay?"

I watched the kid's eyes light up with hero-worship, and smiled to myself. Damn; he's doing it again. Matt introduced Mark to the guys, and following Matt's lead, they treated Mark just fine. For the rest of the year, he showed up once a month or so at the jocks' tables in the lunchroom. He got to be friends with most of the athletes; we all ended up taking Mark under our collective wing. With our encouragement, he got on as a team manager for the varsity football, basketball, and baseball teams. All of which, of course, increased his cred with his friends.

And all because Matt didn't want to see a nerdy, skinny kid made miserable by a two-bit thug.

That kind of stuff came as naturally to Matt as throwing a football. If he had a dark side to him, I had yet to discover it.

The months rolled. That year for Christmas I got an electronic keyboard, which made my music reasonably portable for the first time; so in the following months Matt and I began jamming together every once in a while. Matt had some pretty decent guitar licks down, and while I'd never done much pop stuff in piano lessons, having an electronic keyboard gave me a chance to play around with some different kinds of sounds and different styles of playing. We never spent a lot of time with it, but occasionally if I spent a night over at his place or he spent one over at mine, we'd do some musical stuff together.

He'd gotten brave during that year and started singing a few tunes along with his playing. I was stunned to discover what an incredible singing voice he had. It was rich and masculine, but not particularly low. Matt's speaking voice was a solid baritone, but he had an incredible upper register singing, and probably sounded most in his element in the lower tenor range.

I asked him once what made him try singing.

"Pussy," he said, smiling. "Makes the ladies all wet and ready."

I understood why it worked. Any edge you could come up with to get them just a little starry-eyed and off-balance emotionally. And it struck me more than once as I listened to him sing, touched in some hidden place I didn't know how to acknowledge, that in that state I'd do anything he asked of me, however unreasonable, immoral, or foolish. When it occurred to me to wonder about that, I told myself I was proud of his growing musical talent and touched that my best friend, who struggled with academics, really had some aptitude in music.

Sophomore year played itself out and segued into the summer seamlessly. The Posse beach trips started up again in late March.

Cole and Jeff graduated that spring. Cole was headed off to the University of Texas to study architecture, and Jeff got a football scholarship to a Division 2 school in the Midwest. We spent our final months together hanging out with them on and off all through the summer, on the playing fields and in the gym, at the beach, in their homes. And Matt and I spent a fair amount of time listening to them tell us how to take their places as team leaders after they'd graduated.

It struck me how much I was going to miss Cole. He'd taken me in and shown me the ropes. I didn't like thinking about being in school without having him around. It was the first chill wind of reality that injected itself into the sunshine of my teenage years, and unlike Matt, until then I'd only had relatively minor encounters with loss and impermanence. The days where I'd been haunted by the vision of Matt's brother being murdered were long past. Life lately had been one perfect wave after another, one sunny day followed by the next. There was the occasional subterranean murmur from some odd current in my sexuality, but I was effective in shouting that down. And I was so busy soaking up the rays of youth, doing my high school thing, that it had never particularly registered that time goes by and that boyhood friends eventually go their separate ways. As I spent that summer hanging with the seniors and finding my own ways of getting closure with them, I glimpsed in those long goodbyes the end of my own high school road, and the magnitude of my impending loss began to weigh in for the first time.

Not that those thoughts ever occupied much attention; there were still miles to go before then. That fall Matt and I became upperclassmen. At his request, I ran for student council representative again, and got elected. Just as Jeff had been, Matt got picked as starting quarterback his junior year, since there wasn't a senior competitive for the spot. Each of us was given a new freshman for whom we were to be Varsity Bros. I got a slightly geeky wide receiver named Jackson Parsons. Matt mentored the freshman quarterback, Brad Dennison. Life was smooth and easy and good, even though fall football season could have been better. We went 4-6. Matt played well; he and I still had the old magic on the field, and the rest of the receiving core was capable. But our lines, offensive and defensive, just weren't big enough; we couldn't stop anyone. As a result, Matt got intimately acquainted with turf. Still, it was football, and as far as I was concerned, win or lose, sport was a thing of beauty.

We stayed up with our studies; did our bit for school pride; made nice with the student body; hung with our boys. And there were always plenty of girls willing to pay us some attention. I made a game of seeing how quickly I could score with girls I'd dated. I had a couple of steady girlfriends, but mostly I was enjoying the variety.

And that spring brought with it the return of the Jock Posse beach trips.

I smoked a good bit of weed and drank my share of beer on those trips, but no drug could match the combination of sea, salt air, and beautiful bodies that surrounded me. Occasionally in my stoned shoreline reveries, I could almost hear the sea whisper promises to me about my life.  Promises of endless summer days and nights;  promises of perfect waves and smooth sailing; promises that if I gave life everything I had, in return life would support me, lift me high, give me a ride to remember and a golden sun to wrap me in its warmth.

Concerning rip tides, undertows, and crosscurrents, the sea was mute.  And hearing only the call to ride the wave full-throttle, I was clueless about the treachery hiding in that silence.

So I rode the wave. Full-throttle.


A few weeks before finals time in early May, I was feeling a little uptight. I hadn't been as diligent studying in the spring as I should have been. Even though we were finishing out our junior year, I had a premature case of senioritis, and I was dreading exams this year.

Matt and I were up in my room studying one afternoon. I was at my desk and Matt was sitting on my bed. I was wrestling with some Pre-Cal. Pre-Cal was winning. Exasperated, I broke my pencil in half, threw it against the wall, and growled, "Goddammit."

Matt looked up from his book and said, "Jesus, Phillips, don't have a fuckin' stroke."

"This is driving me batshit," I said.

"You need to chill," he smiled. "Wanna hit the bong?" He'd inherited Jeff Blizzard's bong before Jeff graduated, and we'd used it on occasion.

"Yeah, right," I scowled. "That'll just make it worse, moron. I gotta get this shit down."

"Well, you're not gonna get anything done all stressed out," he said. "Anyway, I know what your real problem is, and it's not finals."


"You're not gettin' any."

I was in between girlfriends, and hadn't been on a date in about six weeks. I'd been out with a lot of girls, and I decided I needed a break from the emotional roller-coaster-ride that girls always seemed to be on.

"I don't need the freakin' distraction right now," I muttered.

"Seems like you're pretty distracted already," he said. "And anyway, you're growing hair on your palms."

"Such a funny man," I said. I picked up a racquetball lying on my desk and threw it at him, pegging him on the shoulder. It was one of my favorite moves with Danny, my little brother, and I'd gotten to be a pretty accurate shot. He fell back, miming a gunshot victim, and lay on his back on my bed.

"No, really, dude," he said, staring at the ceiling, "You're turning into a fuckin' hermit." He stood up, walked over to the other chair in the room, and sat down on it. "Why don't you ask somebody out?"

"Who? Some o' your sloppy seconds?"

"Naw, man, I keep telling you, bro, you need to ask out Angie. Y'all are fuckin' made for each other."

The thought intrigued me. Angie was a cheerleader, but she was brilliant. Blond hair and blue eyes that flashed fire. Always said what was on her mind. Passionate but always sensible. And she wasn't afraid to try anything.

I liked her. But she'd always been a little standoffish toward me, and I'd been used to long periods of not having to work that hard.

Still...that might make things more interesting.

I reached down below my desk and grabbed the phone book. "I'll bet she needs a study break."

"I'll be she could teach you a thing or two about Pre-Cal," he cracked.

"Fuck that," I replied, dialing her number. "I'm talking a study break, and I'm fuckin' gettin' her in radar lock."

"Awright then," Matt said. He got up and high-fived me, then went back to his history notes.

I waited, listening to her phone ringing, and I decided I'd make hooking up with Angie my special project for the remainder for May. I made a commitment to myself that I'd seal the deal by the end of the month.

I had no clue that pre-Cal was going to be easy by comparison.


Copyright 2005 by Adam Phillips.

Thanks for reading.  A number of you know that Cross-Currents has had a long and somewhat convoluted history at Nifty, but that it's still the same story it's always been.  Eighteen chapters have already been written, and a number of you have seen those eighteen.  After Chapter 18 has been (re)posted, I'll be getting on with some new chapters.  When all is said and done, this story will run about 30 chapters, I think.

As always, I appreciate email.  Some of you have been reading since the beginning; some of you are new to the story.  New or old, if you email me I'll do my best to get back to you.  You can reach me at aaptx28@yahoo.com.