Matt and I were on the beach
by the campfire. It started out the same: he sang his song,
walked after me when I got up from the fire, and pulled me into a hug;
and as before, I kissed him twice.
And he pushed me away from
him, so hard that I tripped and fell.
He kicked sand at me and
yelled, at the top of his lungs, "Why the fuck did you do that? You've
ruined everything, you disgusting pervert! Now I have to hang out
with a queer-boy for nine goddam months; why don't you just fall off
the earth and fuckin' die?"
I looked at the beach sand and
grabbed a handful of it, and when I squeezed, droplets of water leaked
from it and dripped onto the ground.
Staring downward, I mumbled,
"I'm sorry. I love you. I can't help it."
"Well, that's your goddam problem, faggot," he
hissed. "Why'd you have to go and make it mine? You just couldn't
fuckin' leave it alone. I'm not like you, you queer fuck."
"Go away, then," I said,
wearily, standing up and walking away from him.
He walked over to me, got in
my face, and scowled as he said, "I wouldn't give you the satisfaction,
freak. You're gonna see yourself in my face every goddam day
until we're outta here!"
I pushed him out of the way,
and stormed up the shoreline, yelling, "Just fuckin' leave me
alone! Just fuckin' leave me alone! Just fuckin'..."
"Dude, wake up!"
I heard my brother Danny's
voice in the darkness. He was holding me by the shoulders,
shaking me gently, and looking at me with concern. "Andy...wow,
you've been having a nightmare. I was sound asleep and I heard
you all the way from my room. You're gonna wake the whole house,
After the fog had cleared for
me a little bit, I said, "I'm all right. Go back to bed."
He looked at me wide-eyed and
said, "What the hell did you dream that made you go off like that?"
I thought about the dream and
shuddered. "Half of me died," I said.
He look so startled that I had
to smile. Relieved to see that, he chuckled quietly and asked,
The smile left as I looked
into his face. "The only half that matters," I replied.
Still, the remaining half
still had to see Matt, had to hear his voice, had to talk to him at
least once in a while.
And on Friday evening I'd have
to stand under the stadium lights and make myself a target for whatever
he threw at me.
So Friday evening I suited up,
went into "game-time" mode, took the field, and went to work.
I worked well.
When it was all over, I sat
with my teammates, exhausted, in the locker room.
"Eight receptions. A hundred
seventy-five yards. Three touchdowns. I'd call that a
pretty good night, Phillips...so I'm thinking this belongs to
you." Coach Hayes tossed me the game ball.
He'd been making his weekly
after-game remarks, commenting on individual performances, when he'd
started in on mine. I'd been happy with my game, but I'd felt it
was a total team effort. I hadn't expected this.
My teammates went nuts with
applause and whistles. Ryan yelled out, "Fuckin' A!"
Several of the guys pounded me with slaps on the back.
"Andy was on from the first
snap," Coach continued. "He put it all out on the field
tonight. Out-hustling defenses, running good routes, watching his
quarterback, giving Price a target over and over."
"Thanks, Coach," I said, with
"I"m just saying it the way it
was," he said. "You boys warming the bench could learn something
from Andy's hustle out there tonight."
He set his clipboard down on
the nearest bench. "The Lions are a better team than we
are. Thank God they're a non-district team, because they're gonna
take their district without breakin' a sweat. But that didn't
matter to Phillips tonight. He had the fire and he wasn't gonna
be stopped. They came out flat and we exploited it. It's
about heart, gentlemen. That's the difference-maker."
He walked toward his office
door, then stopped and turned back toward us. "Okay, that's it,"
he said, dismissing the team. "See you Monday." Everybody began
undressing and heading to the showers.
I have to admit that I enjoyed
the moment. Who wouldn't? It was a night to remember;
I played far above my level of ability, and I knew the compliments
didn't track with my actual skills. I wouldn't have a night like
I was standing in front of my
locker, stripped down to my jock, when Matt walked over.
"Whoo-hoo," he yelled, as he high-fived me. "Twenty-one-zip,
boy. Three goddam touchdowns, you stud! You and me, we were
on all fuckin' night! Dude—I wanna have your babies!" He
put an arm over my shoulder, pulled me into him, and kissed me noisily
on the cheek. The locker room echoed with my teammates'
laughter. Apparently they thought Matt was a comic genius.
I winced, pulled away, and sat
down on the bench in front of my locker. I didn't want to take
off my jock with him right there. But his locker was next to
mine, and that was that. He started taking off his gear until he
was standing there next to me completely naked.
Staring at the floor, trying
to work through my discomfort, I picked up the thread of his previous
remarks. "You threw it right into my hands all night, Matt; it wasn't
He sat down next to me, arched
an eyebrow, grinned, and said "Yeah, I can give it just as good as I
can take it, don'tcha think?"
I looked around to see who
might have heard his remark, but our area had cleared out.
Quietly, I said, "Jesus, Matt—shut the fuck up." I stood up,
still not looking at him, pushed my jock down and immediately wrapped
my towel around my waist and headed toward the showers.
Matt threw his towel around
his neck and followed me. "Lighten up, Andy," he said, frowning a
little. "It was just a little joke, and anyway, the joke's on me,
So, I thought bitterly, when it's all said and done, it's a joke.
I looked at him and said,
"Let's just drop it, okay?"
"Whatever, man," he said,
shrugging, as we hung our towels on the hooks outside the showers and
walked in. He picked a nozzle close to the entrance and began to
try to engage me in small talk.
I tried to appear marginally
interested. We talked a little bit about the game, although Matt
was doing most of the talking. As he was soaping his armpits, he
said, "Hey, get Angie and come with me and Lindsey to Whataburger; we
haven't gotten to hang since the beach, dude."
"I don't know," I said.
"I think I'm just gonna go on home. I'm kinda tired, and anyway,
Angie said something about spending some time with Julie after the
game." Julie was a friend who'd just been dumped by her boyfriend
for another girl, and Angie wanted to cheer her up. "I think I'll
just go home and go to bed."
Matt's eyes searched
mine. I forced myself to hold his gaze, and tried to smile.
"Okay," he said. "Maybe
I stared at the water running
into the shower's floor drain.
"Yeah," I said quietly.
"Well, anyway," he said, with
enthusiasm, "You had it goin' on tonight. It was the most fun
I've had out there all season."
"Hey, you were the guy with
the arm," I said. "I just tried to be where you sent it."
And with that, I grabbed my bottle of shampoo, turned off my shower,
and walked back to my locker.
I tossed and turned in bed
again that night, as I had the whole week. I didn't like what my
dreams had been telling me lately.
I finally fell asleep around
four in the morning.
When I got up a few hours
later, I went down to the kitchen to grab something to eat. Mom
usually did grocery shopping on Saturday morning, so she was out. Danny
was watching TV; Beth had spent the night at a friend's house and
wasn't home yet.
I poured a bowl of Cinnamon
Toast Crunch, threw some milk on it, and ate it without a lot of
enthusiasm. I had something I needed to do this morning.
After I'd put my dishes in the
dishwasher, I went into the study, where I found my dad busy at his
He turned in his chair to look
at me. "Morning, Andy," he said, smiling. "Does it feel as
good this morning as it did last night?"
"I had a good game," I
said. "That'll stay with me until the next practice, anyway."
He laughed. "What's on
I stared into his face for a
long time. Finally I said, "I need to talk to you, Dad.
It's kind of personal. Do you have the time?"
"Of course," he
answered. He stood up, walked over to the door of the study, and
closed it. "Sit down," he said. "What is it?"
As I pulled up a chair, I took
a deep breath and said, "This is gonna be hard to talk about, so I'm
just gonna have to jump right in and not pretty it up, okay?"
"Absolutely," he said.
"I don't know any other way to do it when it's like that."
I thought for a minute, trying
to choose my words ahead of time. "Look," I began, "we don't really
talk about this but I know you and Mom know that I...well, that
I'm not a virgin."
My dad smiled a little, and
said, "No, that's not news. And we've talked about it before in
general terms. I know you remember both of us talking to you
about respect, and about how sex shouldn't be about using people."
I fidgeted in my chair a
little. "I think I've probably done more of that than I'd like to
"That doesn't shock me
either," he said. "You're a good-looking young man, and I expect
it comes to you pretty easy. And I know you haven't spent many
weekends alone since you started high school. There have been
lots of different girls on lots of different weekends."
"I know," I said, uneasy with
this topic. "But I'm with Angie now," I said in my defense, "and
it feels different. I'm not just f...I'm not just using her."
"You've been dating her for
several months now," he said. "That is a change for you."
I nodded, and went on.
"This isn't really about her,
Dad," I said. "I need to tell you about something that happened,
and I don't know if I can."
"I understand," he said.
"Take your time. You know how it rolls with me."
I did know; that's why I was
there. "Okay, Dad," I told him. "I...I don't know how else
to do this but to come right out and say it: on the beach trip
last weekend Matt and I had sex—I mean, we had sex with each other. And
it's freakin' me out."
My dad's eyebrows arched in
surprise, and he stared intently into my face for what felt like
Finally he said, "Let me say
this first, because we can't go further in this talk if this isn't
clear. Over the years you've done very little to disappoint, or
anger, or shame me, Andy. And if you're worried that this might be one
of those times, then let me put your mind at rest. I can't say
I'm not a little shocked. But I'm not outraged, or scandalized,
or angry, or ashamed. And a part of me is not totally
surprised. So—are we okay for starters?"
I felt my shoulders
loosen. "Yeah, we're good. Thanks, Dad."
"That being said," he
continued, "I'm concerned about you. I can tell it's something
that's troubling you. And I guess it puts into motion some
variables, some unknowns, in an area of your life that's been important
over the years. I understand why it's hard to talk about.
So would you mind if I took the lead and asked you the questions?"
"No, not at all," I
said. "In fact, I was hoping you would, because I don't even know
how to keep it from jumbling all up."
"All right," he said. "I
guess the first thing I want to ask is this: Andy, do you think
you're gay? Is that what's troubling you?"
"No, Dad, I'm not," I
said. "But I don't really know what I am, and I guess that's sort
of fuc—sort of messing with my head."
I hesitated, trying to find a
way to explain it. "Girls do it for me, more than boys.
Always have. But over the last few years, I...well, I've been
noticing guys some in that way."
I got up and paced. "I
don't know. I usually just shake it off and go on. It's not
like it's always on my mind, except when...Well, with Matt,
I...we...it's a lot of things that just came together. And it
just all got to be...I don't know, it's like something hit critical
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"You know what it's been like
with me and Matt over the years," I said.
"I know that you boys have a
deep love for each other," he said. "And you know that all of us
in this family love Matt. He's almost like another son."
"Right," I said. "Matt's
been a part of our family, basically. Well, we were drinking and
stuff," I continued, judiciously avoiding the reference to smoking the
weed, "and we were camped out on the beach, and all of a sudden it just
all washed over me that after graduation I may never see him again."
"I don't think that's likely,"
Dad said. "But things are about to change for you; for all of you
"That's right," I
replied. "Anyway, we were sitting around a campfire and Matt had
his guitar, and he started singing some sappy ol' song, and it
just...it just hit me like a truckload of bricks fell on me. And
I just kept thinking, 'This is the end for us. I may never
be at the beach with him like this again.' Stuff like that."
I felt my dad's eyes on me.
"I couldn't handle it any
more," I continued. "His stupid sad-ass song. And the stuff
I was thinking. I stood up and walked away from him. I was
gonna lose it and I didn't want him to see that. But he did see
it, and it's like he knew what it was about. He came up to me and
gave me a hug."
I felt my throat begin to
tighten, and my face got hot. "I...before I knew what happened, I
kissed him on the neck. Twice."
I frowned. "I don't know
how it happened, Dad. It just...it's like it just came out of
me. I was just so blown away, and with the beer and the weed and
He grimaced at the mention of
the weed, and I cringed inwardly. Damn.
"Dad," I said, "I know you
don't like me smokin' dope, but save it for another time, okay? I
just...it was all too much."
I stared at the floor for a
minute, then looked back up and went on.
"I pulled away from him and
started apologizing like everything; but he pulled me back to him and
said it was okay. Then he said he wasn't like that, but he knew
it about me for a long time." I could feel my muscles tighten as
I heard those words reverberate in my head again. "I told him I
wasn't gay; and he said he knew that, but he still knew that I wanted
I paused for a minute,
gathered my courage, then looked straight into my father's eyes and
said, "Jesus, Dad, he told me it was okay, and he told me he wanted me
to do it. He said he wanted to give that to me because he owed
me. So, I...well, I guess we...we did stuff."
I sat back down, closed my
eyes, and tried to get my breath back under control.
After a minute, my dad said,
"I don't want to get into crass details, Andy, "but I think you're
going a little over the top. You're not the only straight guys
who have ever traded hand-jobs, or whatever you did."
"Dad," I said, a little
annoyed, "that's not what this is about. It's not about what we
did. What's bugging me is..."
He interrupted me. "I
guess I'm actually surprised that it's something that's happened so
late with you. A lot of best friends go through periods of exp..."
I sighed with exasperation;
how could he be so fucking obtuse? Before he'd completed his
sentence, I blurted out, "Dammit, Dad, would you listen to
me? I fuckin' gave him a blowjob, and then I fucked him, okay?"
I stopped for a moment to look
into his eyes. I knew my dad; but this was scary new
ground. I smiled bitterly and said, "So, are you ashamed of
having a gay son?"
He looked at me. "You're gay,
"No, I don't guess I am," I
said, "but something's weird
He was quiet for a minute,
then he said, "Andy, don't tell me you've never heard of bisexuality."
"Yeah, I've heard of it," I
said. "I just never thought much about it because I mostly like
"Sexual orientation is much
more complicated than most people realize," he said. "In the
first place, even a completely straight man is capable of responding to
another man under the right conditions. But there's so much more
variability in a person's sexuality than just gay or straight.
I'll give you some things to read about it. But don't trouble yourself
so much about it. You talk like you already have a pretty good
sense of your sexuality. It doesn't sound like you've been lying
to yourself; it sounds like you've been slowly discovering something additional
"Yeah, that's right, I guess."
I said. "I never thought about guys in that way, much, but over
the last few years, I don't know, sometimes in the locker room and
shit...times like that, I'd...I'd see the guys and think...I don't know
what I'd think, really. I just had some reactions. And I guess I
mostly just ran from that. But it's not like I had to do much
running, because I was mostly always interested in the girls."
I stopped, searching for the
"But that other part was
there, and I don't know, it sort of got mixed into my feelings about
Matt. It's so damn complicated and confusing..."
My dad smiled. "As I
said, Andy, it sounds to me as though you understand yourself pretty
well. You're primarily straight; but you've been discovering that you
respond sexually to guys too. It's not that uncommon."
He walked over to his
bookshelf, and after searching a little, pulled two books off the shelf
and laid them on his desk.
"Researchers have tried
different methods of representing the variety of ways people experience
sexuality," he continued. "Kinsey back in the fifties. More
recently, Fritz Klein, and Michael Storms, and several others, have
added to our understanding of this material. Here's a book by each of
those last two," he said, pointing to his desk. "Take them and
He sat back down.
"People who study these things have come to understand that we all vary
widely in how we respond physically to the two genders. There are
many so-called 'straight' men who are capable of physical response to
other men. Guys just don't talk about it much; in fact, some men
who are sexually responsive to men can get through their whole lives
without coming into much conscious awareness of it. You just had
the misfortune of growing up in this household, where introspection and
reflection come right along with the weekly chores."
I laughed a little. What
he said made sense, and not just theoretically: I was living it.
And he was right; I knew who I was. I just needed to let it go.
Still, I told myself, what I was or wasn't--that wasn't the
issue. It was Matt, and what I saw in his eyes when he looked at
me now. That was the
issue. The day after, he'd told me it was all okay. The
days after that, though, his eyes told me something else.
And then there was the dream...
But dad had launched into
"professor" mode. "Beyond that," he continued, "there's a good
bit of literature in Western culture that portrays men who are good
friends in ways that have a definite sensual overtones. For one
man to be deeply bonded to another male, like best friends often are,
given that sexuality is such a strong part of us as physical
beings...well, it's not all that surprising that deep friendships
sometimes have sexual dimensions."
I thought about that.
"Dad," I said, finally, "you're probably right on all that. But
that's not what I wanted to talk about. I mean, it kinda freaks
me out, but I guess if I notice guys that way, well, I notice 'em that
way. Not much control over that. What's really messing me up is
that Matt said he's known for a long time. And he let me do the
second thing, the...the lovemaking...because he said he owed it to me
for being there for him all these years."
I was glad I couldn't see
myself in a mirror at the moment, because the anguish must have been
showing on my face. "I...shit! Why did I let him let
me? I just...I needed him so much that night. And now..."
I couldn't finish.
My dad put a hand on my
shoulder. "Now what,
Andy? It's important how that sentence finishes. Do you
think Matt regrets what he did? Is he pushing you away? Do
you think you've damaged things between you?"
"Well, I don't know what he
regrets or if he regrets anything," I said. "But I just think...I
just feel like every time he looks at me ever since we got back, it's
like he wishes he could be somewhere else, but he's got to hang around
me because he owes me, like he has to be loyal to his poor pathetic
Dad frowned. "Has he
said anything like that to you?"
I sat back down.
"No. He'd never do that. But if he's known it for a long
time...hell, how the fuck can he have known it? I fuckin' didn't even know it!"
"I hear that you're upset,
Andy," he said, "But I'll bet you can get through this without the
"Okay," I said. "Sorry,
Dad. But I guess it's that last part that's bugging me more than
what we actually did. He went out of his way to tell me he knew I
loved him like that; and he went out of his way to tell me he's not
like that. Jesus, Dad, I know he's not; he didn't need to say
it! Like that was news? The only reason he said it is
because he wanted to make sure I didn't think he was a freak like
me. And then he went and threw me a pity-fuck! I'm sorry,
Dad, that's what it was! I just...God, I wish I could take that
night back. Now every time he looks at me it feels like he's
examining some disgusting fuckin' virus under a microscope. And
if he ever gets to mentioning anything about it, he tries to pass it
off like it's this big hilarious thing. Poor Andy, the big queer
football-playing jock; ain't it a hoot? He
was even joking about it to me after the game!"
"I don't believe he'd be cruel to you like that, son," he said.
"To tell everyone a joke at your expense..."
I cut him off. "No, it wasn't like that. That's not what I
mean. It was just something he said to me. And it wasn't
cruel. It was just...well, it was like he wants to make like it's
this big funny joke and I'm some strange little...hell, I don't know,"
I said, trailing off.
My dad walked around behind my
chair and began massaging my shoulders. I took a deep breath and
clenched my entire body.
"Andy," he said. "Think
about what you're saying. If he's known for a long time, why
would he be thinking differently about you now? You're not
thinking logically here."
"It's because I gave into it,"
I said in anguish. "Now every time he looks at me, he's thinking
I want to jump him. And he's gonna resent me because he...he let
me do that."
Dad gave me a pat on the
shoulder and sat down in the chair next to mine. "I think you're
wrong, Andy," he said gently. "In the first place, I think you're
doing some projecting. And I'm not happy about what it says about
some of your own feelings about gay people."
"Dad," I began to protest,
"I'm talking about what he
thinks, not what I
think. You know I...I mean, y'all raised us not to..."
"Yes, we did," he interrupted,
"but sometimes attitudes get sucked up from elsewhere, and I don't like
what I'm hearing. If he said those things you say he did about
you being there for him all these years, then
what you're thinking about him is just wrong. It sounds to me
like you're projecting some feelings you have about gay people onto
He paused for a minute to give
me a chance to think about what he said, then went on. "But you
don't need a lecture on homophobia. What you need is a reminder
about your friend. Son, Matt thinks the world of you and I just
don't believe there's any way he's thinking those things you're
saying. If you made him as uncomfortable as you think you did,
there's no way he'd have let you get...get intimate with him like that."
He smiled and continued.
"Maybe he said what he said about not being like that because he was
afraid he would fail you, afraid he wouldn't be able to give you what
you needed from him, the way you've always given him what he's needed
"Dammit, Dad," I said.
"I don't want anything but what we've always already had. It was
perfect until this whole thing fu--messed things up."
His face grew serious.
"I'll say it again: I think you need to be very careful that you're not the one messing things
up. I think you're projecting some feelings and thoughts onto
Matt that just aren't there."
I sighed. This was going
nowhere. Dad was not going to get it. Something was
different with Matt. I don't care how much sense my dad was
making; he wasn't there with me to see it, to feel it, when Matt was
around lately. I needed him to help me figure out what to do, not
just to dish out understanding and tell me everything was going to be
But I appreciated that he was
to make me feel better.
He said, "You and Matt have
grown to love each other over the years. And for whatever reason,
you experienced a physical dimension to that. I know Matt's not a
rocket scientist, but he's an incredibly intuitive boy. And he
knows you like the back of his own hand, just the way you know
him. I'm sure he picked up on some signals you didn't even know
you were sending. When you made your move, Andy, I think all he
was trying to do was reassure you it was okay."
He looked at me with an odd
expression on his face, as if he were debating whether or not to keep
talking. Then he said, "I'll tell you something about myself that
you don't know. When I was in college I went through a
period when I was a freshman where I was doing some things with my
roommate. We had gotten really close, and were best friends that
year. It started after an intramural football game we were
playing. I never did anything like that before or after—and I was
dating a girl at the time--but it's not anything I'm ashamed of, and I
still look back on the memories as good ones."
My mouth must have opened wide
enough to drive Matt's van through. My dad smiled and ruffled my
hair. "I don't know whether there's a genetic tendency in these
things, and I don't know whether or not it's something most guys feel
at one time or another. But from everything I've learned, I know
it's not all that uncommon. And you know that if you were
totally, one-hundred-percent gay, I'd love you and support you.
But I think you shouldn't worry so much about the labels. You
know who you are; that's not what this is about.
"Matt may feel that you're
different from him, somewhat, on this matter of attractions. And
he's probably right. But think about what he let you do,
son. If the thought of it totally disgusted him, he wouldn't have
done it. He may not feel the pull of guys quite like you
do. But lovemaking with you, at least, is something he was
willing to do, so that means he's not completely unresponsive in that
way, at least not with you.
"And as for you," he
continued, "It's as I said. You know how you feel and you know
how you respond, and you need to let yourself off the hook. The
love between you and Matt is good and it's strong. You're
overthinking this. I'm sure you'll be fine."
I wasn't so sure. To me
it seemed clear that every time we were with each other now, Matt was
sizing me up, trying to figure out how to treat me. Trying to
figure out how to disengage without being the bad guy. Laughing
off the intensity of my feelings. Cracking gross jokes with me
about that weekend. Avoiding my feelings toward him.
But damned if my dad wasn't
trying to love me right out of my confusion and hurt. I
smiled--unconvinced and not feeling any better-- and said,
He smiled slightly, and patted
me on the shoulder, and said, "You need to let Matt off the hook, too."
I got up and gave him a hug,
and said--more to make him feel good than to convey any honest
emotion--"Thanks for talking to me. I feel better."
I just wish I had been able to
do what he told me to do.
Angie and I went out to dinner
that evening, and afterwards we went to our favorite park, grabbed a
spot of grass by the small lake, spread out a quilt, and sat down on
it, enjoying the evening breeze. She was enjoying it, at any
rate. I wasn't enjoying much of anything: I had something to tell
her, and the only thing I was feeling was dread. After tonight, I
thought, I might not have a girlfriend.
"Angie," I began, "I need to
talk to you about something."
I went through the events of
the last weekend. I was scared to tell her, but I knew I couldn't
keep it from her either. So I laid it all out, keeping my words
confined to the story. Not once did I try to reassure her that I
loved her, because I figured that was obvious. Not once did I try
to reassure her that what happened with Matt didn't mean anything to
me, because I figured that was a lie.
She listened quietly while I
talked. When I finished, she took my hand and said, "What do you
want me to say, Andy?"
I looked at her. "Do you
want to break up with me?"
"That depends," she
said. "Do you want to break up with me?"
"God, no," I said. "I
love you, Angie. I...it's just that I figured if I told you the
She smiled a little; there was
just the hint of a sad edge to her smile. "The truth--"
"Andy," she began, "I've known
for a long time that you're in love with Matt."
My stomach fell out and hit
the ground. My head grew light. I compensated by getting
"I'm not gay," I said, my
voice laced with indignation. "You of all people should know
"I didn't say you were gay,
did I?" she replied. "Words..."
She gazed off into the
"What I said was I knew you're
in love with Matt."
My temper began to escalate
even faster. "How can you say that? I'm in love with you."
Her expression didn't
"So," I said angrily, "if I'm
in love with you, and you know that, then stop talking shit about me
being in love with Matt."
She didn't miss a beat.
"Are you saying you're not in
love with him?"
Seconds ticked by; seconds
which told everything that needed to be told.
Finally I said, hanging my
head, "How could you know? How could anybody know? Is it
that obvious? God, do people think--"
"I'm not 'people,' Andy," she
said. "No, 'people' don't think anything. But I'm your
girlfriend. And you've been on my radar for longer than I've been
She leaned in and kissed me on
the cheek. "You work hard at your game face," she said with a
smile. "But I know there's something else under the big tough
guy. And I gotta tell you, I really, really like the big tough
guy, but it's the 'something else' that got me interested in the first
I laughed a little.
"Well, damn," I said. "I thought I had you totally fooled like
everyone else. Not."
"You don't have me fooled
about shit, tough guy," she said, grinning. "Anyway, I always
liked you and Matt. I always thought you were both a little
different. Now Matt's a great guy, but it was you..." her voice
"Andy," she began again, "all
those years where I kept my distance from you, I was interested.
Even while I was dating other guys, even through different boyfriends,
you were on my mind. I thought you were so smart, and so
strong. I didn't like the way you were all over the girls; I
didn't want to be played. But I still thought about you a
lot. And I made it a point to try to understand things about you,
and about Matt, because you two were always so tight. And I realized
some things. Not things that are a secret to anybody else, I
guess. I mean, everybody knows about Matt's brother, and about
Matt's dad leaving. But I put it together that you got something
from each other."
She smiled and took my
hand. "Matt depends on you. You've helped him through some
big-time hurt, I'll bet. And he's been good for you, too.
He pulls you out of your head. Otherwise you'd take life way too
seriously. A lot of love grows out of that kind of give-and-take."
I was about to say something
in protest when she went on. "That's nothing unusual. Look
at Justin and Ethan; Ruben and Ryan. Guys do that, maybe even
more than girls. Every guy on the football team, seems like, has
a best bud he feels closest to."
I nodded in agreement.
"But with you two there was
something else, something deeper," she said. "And it just came to
me one day, what it was. I never even really thought about it in
sexual terms. What came to me was that you two were in love with
each other. So I knew about the two of you before you and I ever
went on a date."
I thought back to those two
odd remarks she'd made that first time I asked her out. She'd
said in passing, "I like Matt a lot," and I'd said, "me too," and when
she responded, "I know," something in her voice suggested she'd made
more of the sentence
than I'd intended. Then, not two minutes
later, talking about him again, she'd said, "Matt, well, mostly he's
just a sweet guy. But I don't need to tell you that."
I shook off those memories and
protested, "But nothing happened before this, Angie. How can you say
you knew all this when there was nothing to know until last weekend?"
She looked at me as if she
were a mother having to explain something complicated to a
two-year-old. "Andy, last weekend wouldn't have happened if there
was nothing to know."
I didn't know how to answer
She kissed me on the cheek
again. "Sometimes I can see it in your eyes when the two of you
are together. That's all. It's nothing I could put my
finger on, and if I hadn't been so...if I hadn't been kind of
interested in you anyway, I might not have noticed. Also, there's
this: did you know that Kevin's gay?"
I was stunned. Angie's
brother was a sophomore in college and he had been a star wide receiver
on the football team back in high school.
I said, "No way! Nobody
thought he was gay when he was here."
"He came out in college," she
replied. "He has a boyfriend on the team with him up there.
They've been together a long time now and Kevin brings him here a lot
when he comes home. Mom was fine with it. Dad is too, but
it took him a while. I think he was thinking about the family
name dying out. Anyway, the way those two look at each
other—Andy, that's what I see in your eyes when you look at Matt."
"Look, Angie," I said
hoarsely, "you're making it sound like I—"
"Andy," she said, "you're the
one who's making all the assumptions, not me. Why do you have to
make it so complicated? I'm not trying to make it sound like
anything. I'm only trying to tell you that I knew it at some
level all along. And it doesn't matter to me. I went out
with you, didn't I? We're together. I love you. It's
okay. So let it go. Or are you trying to tell me you want
to break up with me and go
off and be with him?"
"Shit, no," I said. "I'm
trying to tell you that you are so off-base that the opposite is
true. I don't think he likes me anymore, and he's just putting up
with me and trying to be friends out of his stupid-ass sense of
She sighed. "You're
wrong. But let's drop that for now and focus on us. Do you love
I took her in my arms and
kissed her slowly, insistently. Then, afterwards, I said, "You
know I love you."
She smiled, put a hand down at
my crotch, and began running her hand up and down the bulge
there. "Do you like making love to me?"
I grinned and said, "I think
you know the answer to that; you got it right in your hand, in fact."
"Then I don't see why I should
want to break up with you," she said. "And I think you need to
stop torturing yourself about it. Answer this question, and be
honest. Did you like making love to him?"
"Yeah, I did," I said quietly.
"Did he like it?"
"I...I don't know," I
said. "He seemed to at the time. And he says it's
okay. It's just—"
"What did he tell you?"
I frowned. "He told me
he was glad I was there for him when he needed me. He told me he
was glad I loved him, even like that. He told me he'd known for a
long time." I paused for a minute, and shrugged. "But he
told me he's not like me," I said. "Like I'm some kind of freak
or something. I think I've fucked up everything, and he's gonna
look at me different forever. It'll never be the same."
"Is that what he said?" she
"No," I said. "In fact he said
just the opposite. He said nothing's changed."
"Then I'm happy for you," she
"But I don't think I believe
him," I said.
"Stop it," she said.
"You're the one with the problem."
"Oh, good," I said. "So both of you think I'm a freak."
Her eyes narrowed and she
scowled at me. "That's not what I'm saying and you know it.
I'm saying he doesn't have
problems with you: you have
problems with you."
"That's a crock of shit," I
said. "I'm no queer-basher, and anyway, I'm not gay!"
"Would you listen to
yourself?" she said. "You need to step back and take a hard look
at how you're reacting to all this. You are way off the deep
end," she said sternly. "And I don't think you're all over the
top about this because it means you're gay. What I think it means
you should think about what you really feel about people like my
I shook my head. I am
not a homophobe, I said to myself. Geez, she sounds like my
dad! Neither of them get it. Why the hell would I be so
upset unless I had something to be upset about? Can't she see I'm
dying here? I've lost my best friend because I allowed something
to happen that I never should have. And now because I let it
happen, I'm paying for it, and all they can tell me is "you're making
Softening, she said, "You
should be happy. There's not enough love in the world anyway,
Andy. Appreciate what you have with Matt. And stop what
you're doing and leave it alone; you're gonna make trouble where
no trouble to make."
I sighed, and kissed
her. I wasn't convinced; in fact, I didn't believe it for a
minute. But I couldn't think any more, and at least now it was
all out in the open with Angie. I couldn't believe how she'd
handled it; I had half-expected this to be the end for us.
It was dark, and the park was
empty. I took her in my arms and kissed her. We started
making out, and before too long, we were naked.
The lovemaking was good, and
it was strong.
I just wish I had been able to
do what she told me to do.
Copyright 2005 by Adam Phillips
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