19.  New Wave

"Okay, you're freakin' me out here, so I'm gonna have to fuckin' call 'bullshit' on you."

Trey searched my eyes with his, looking for any kind of sign that he was right.  He wouldn't be getting one.  I held his gaze; my face was locked in my best "you-think-I'm-kidding?" demeanor.

Trey was a down-home Tennessee boy, and he was my roommate and my teammate.  We'd known each other for two months, and had hit it off from the moment he'd first walked into our dorm room and thrown his suitcases onto my bed.  My play matched his in intensity, on the field and off, and he liked that.  He kept me laughing, and I liked that, especially after the summer I'd had.  Trey was congenitally unable to keep from saying exactly what was on his mind, and the results were often hilarious.

We had a lot in common.  We were both midfielders; we were both "full-throttle" personalities; we were both successful with the ladies; and besides all that, Trey had a brain on him.  His southern drawl and aw-shucks delivery style could sometimes make you forget that; but if you ever listened to what he said instead of how he said it, you realized right away that he was perceptive and analytical.

So we had plenty to bind us together.  We were cut from the same cloth; he was just like me.

Sort of.

"Sort of," because I loved his chestnut hair and his deep brown eyes and his smooth, muscular chest and his right-out-of-an-Abercrombie-and-Fitch-catalog face.

"Sort of," because every time he stripped out of his clothes, the lower regions of my torso tightened up, and I had to fight the urge to jump him.

"Sort of," because deep in the night, whenever I heard him lying in bed and jerking off in the dark, my head filled with desires and fantasies I'd have been ashamed to own up to in my high school days.

Trey knew none of that, though.  He just knew that I made him laugh as much as he made me laugh.

My thoughts strayed from the increasingly tense "discussion" we were having and wandered back to the night he and I and three other guys from the soccer team had gone to Sparks, a strip club not too far from campus.  We'd been in preseason training for two weeks and school hadn't started yet.  We were sitting at a picnic table behind the dorm one Thursday night, smoking a little weed and talking about women, when the idea had hit us to go check the place out.  During my college days it was pretty much obligatory for young under-21 jocks to have fake ID's, so getting in wasn't a problem.  I offered to pick up the tab that evening, and between the drinks and the lap dances, I'd done damage on my credit card to the tune of about $700.  I almost shit myself when I saw the total.

I didn't spend too much time thinking about it, though, because there was a stripper going by the stage name of Candy who took a clear interest in me and Trey that evening.  She decided she'd like to treat the two of us to a little free Candy after-hours.  So after we said goodnight to our pissed-off-and-jealous teammates, we got into my car and went to Candy's place, where the three of us pretty much went crazy.  I'd done over-the-top shit before, sexually, but up until then I'd never had sex with a total stranger, and I'd never been in a threesome.  Over the next hour, Trey and I drilled her in every available orifice.  I came three times, in three different places, and so did he.

The two of us never touched each other during that wild ride, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't turned on as much by his body as by hers.  At one point I was fucking her doggy-style, and Trey was standing over her, feeding her his dick.  I watched, mesmerized and flustered, as he fucked her face.  Gradually I realized that part of what I was feeling was jealousy.  Why couldn't I be the one sucking on his bone?  I knew I could do a better job of it than she was doing.  And I'd probably enjoy it more.  And so would he.

I banished the mental image of Trey's dick and pulled myself back into the moment.  Damn, how did we get so deep into this issue so fast?  Actually, I'd known the answer to that question as soon as I'd asked.  You know damn well how.  It's time to saddle up, boy. Show yourself you meant what you promised.

I considered what to say to him as I thought back on the conversation that had started all this.

The freakout in question, the one that resulted in his "having to call 'bullshit' on me," had gotten started just ten minutes earlier, after practice.  Trey and I were walking from the practice field back to our dorm.  We'd stripped off our t-shirts to let our sweaty chests catch what little breeze there was, and as we walked, we traded insults and discussed where to eat.  Halfway to the dorm, I noticed we were on a trajectory to cross paths with a guy I knew from my calculus class.  While Trey and I were busy dissing each other's lack of skill on the soccer field, I'd noticed, absently, that Damien was watching us as we drew closer.  When we got within hailing distance, he called out, hesitantly, "Hey, Andy."  I looked over at him and paused from insulting my roommate long enough to say "hi" back to him.  The three of us slowed to a stop and stood there looking at each other.  I jumped in and introduced the two guys to each other; they bumped fists, and we had some brief and inconsequential chatter.  After a few moments we said our "laters," and Damien continued on toward the student center.  Trey and I resumed our walk back to the dorm.

We'd walked about fifteen steps when Trey let out an evil-sounding laugh.

I turned my head sideways to look at him.  "What's funny?"

"That little faggot wants your sweaty ass," he grinned.

I flinched as if I'd been slapped, and I felt anger--and shame--well up in me.

The day Matt drove out of my life, I swore I was done with that shit; I'd lost him because of it.  I'd inflicted shame upon myself over my ambiguous sexuality, and I'd pushed Matt away before he had a chance to be the one doing the pushing.

I'd been totally fucked-up wrong, of course.  He never felt the way I'd imagined he felt.  He was never ashamed of me or disgusted with me.  That meant that I'd spent a whole school year hurting him, a whole school year making him feel rejected by his lifelong best friend.  By the time I realized it, it was too late.  I'd fucked him over, and I'd fucked myself over.

The days following Matt's departure had been among the most grief-washed and difficult I'd ever had in my eighteen years on the planet.  The day he left I'd realized, finally, what I'd been doing to myself--to us--to him--the past school year.  The enormity of that loss slammed into me during those final days at home every time I drove past his house, past the high school, past neighbors' lawns he and I had cared for together.  I replayed over and over bitter moments from what should have been the best year of high school for me.  Sure, we'd patched things up, on the surface, with that final hug and handclasp.  But now we were hundreds of miles away from each other.  The distance wasn't only geographical: I knew that it was likely that my cowardice and self-absorption had destroyed what we'd been for each other all those years.  He'd said, as he was pulling out of his driveway, that he'd always be my friend.  But I understood that I'd probably damaged his heart too much for him ever to let me be more than someone who used to be his best friend.  And anyway, our lives were moving on in different directions, apart from each other.  I'd squandered our final year together and trashed what we'd had.

Almost as ruthless as the grief of that last week in town was the rage that I began to direct at myself over having been such a coward.  Ever since I was eight, I'd seen my way through life by throwing myself headlong at fears and insecurities when they arose.  What the hell had happened to me my senior year that had turned me into the kid who crawled under the blankets and pulled them up over his head?  People like that disgusted me.

But it happened; I'd turned into one of those guys.  In spite of my liberal upbringing, in spite of a girlfriend who had understood and accepted, in spite of Matt's own declarations of affirmation and love--hell, in spite of the fact that, for a straight guy, he'd let me love him in a way that almost defied belief--my ambiguous sexuality became for me the ultimate monster-under-the-bed.  And when it crawled out and bared its teeth at me, I ran from it.  I hid.  I cowered instead of standing my ground.  In short, I turned into the very kind of person I least respected.

And now Matt was gone.

That last week, I couldn't wait to leave town.  I had to get away from the scene of my failure.  I had to find a new place to make a stand.

And, goddammit, stand was what I was going to do.

After that final desperate grip of Matt's hand, that anguished night lying on his pillow, I told myself that when I got to college I'd start putting on courage again, just as I'd had to when I'd been a scared little kid confronted with the grisly story of the murder of Matt's brother.  I was going to be who I was without shame; if anyone else gave me shit about it, I'd see to it that they'd come to regret it.

Invoking that new resolve was the only thing that got me through those final days in my hometown.  College would give me an opportunity to make up for my moral failure of the previous year.   If it ever came up--and I figured it would--I wouldn't lie about myself.  I didn't know if I could explain it to anyone, because it wasn't as neat and clean as it was for guys who are totally gay or totally straight; but I wasn't going to apologize for being who I was.  Not to anyone.  Especially not to myself. 

And something else followed from that: I wasn't going to let anybody disparage or shame anybody else like that, either.  Not in my presence.  Not about that.  >From this point on, I'd stand up against anyone who tried to humiliate a person because of his sexuality.  I hadn't seen much homophobia in my world, but I knew it was out there.  I knew the jocks from back home, but my new teammates...well, who knew how any of them thought?  I wouldn't sit quietly if someone ever started ragging on guys who were attracted to guys; I'd get in the face of anyone who threw down that kind of shit.  I owed it to the memory of my friendship with Matt, and to the memory of how I'd destroyed that friendship.

I just hadn't expected the first challenge to come from my roommate.  The best friend I'd made at college so far.

Furious, I nevertheless kept my stride even and my face noncommittal, and said, "I think you're wrong, but so what if he wants me?  What's it to ya?"

"Nothin' to me," he said, his voice dripping with dark mirth.  "I'm just sayin', if you ever want some fagboy swingin' on your dick, I guarantee that little queer's available."

"How 'bout we say 'gay' instead," I shot back, bristling a little.  "And how are you so sure he's into guys?"

"A'ight; 'gay,' then," he said.  "Whatever.  I didn't mean anything bad by it, so don't get all preachy on me; I got no problem with faggots."  He snagged a rock off the ground and tossed it.  "But I know that guy's gay.  He was starin' at your package practically the whole time.  And didn't you see the way he blushed when you said 'hi'?"

I could feel anger spiking the adrenaline in me.  Yeah, sure, you got no problem with it. That's what the sneer and the evil-sounding laugh are all about.

"So you think he likes guys," I said, trying to sound casual.

"Fuck, I know he likes guys."

As angry as I was, part of me still hadn't been sure whether or not I'd wanted to get into this.  But the smug expression on his face as he delivered that last remark decided the matter for me.

I wanted to knock that goddam smirk off his pretty face and bloody a lip or blacken an eye.  But, maintaining my cool, I asked, "You think you can tell who likes guys and who doesn't?"

"Absolutely," he said.  "Not that there's anything wrong with it," he added, laughing as he quoted the infamous "Seinfeld" line.

Yeah, you're fuckin' hilarious, I said to myself.  Asshole.  I guess if I'd only been angry, that would have been one thing.  But I was hurt, too.  And sad.  I felt I was watching our new friendship begin an ugly self-destruct sequence, and I actually began wondering if I'd be able to swap roommates with someone else in the dorm.

I gave myself a little silent advice: you're gettin' way ahead of yourself.  There'd be time to think about getting a new roommate.  Right now, since it looked as if our friendship might be circling the drain, I'd for damn sure see to it that he got a little dizzy from it.  We walked a few more steps, and then I stopped and turned to face him. 

Here we go.

"Damien's okay," I told him, "but actually you're more my type."  I arched my eyebrows, smiled suggestively, and reached out and touched his left pec.  Slowly, I let my finger glide down his sweat-drenched chest, all the way to the waistband of his shorts. Then I put my finger into my mouth, and made a show of sucking the sweat off.  I closed my eyes, licked my lips, and moaned.

I'd have given anything for a camera at that moment.  The look of shock on his face was priceless.

After a fifteen-second dumbfounded pause, he recovered, pushed me hard on the shoulder and muttered, "Fuck you."

"What do you mean?"

"Very funny, man, and you can stop now, 'cause I get it," he said.  "Seriously, dude, I mean it; nothin' wrong with f...with gay people.  Really, I don't care, man, I don't care if some guy likes guys; I'm fine with it."

We'd reached our dorm, and as we walked up the front steps, I smiled at him and said, "Good, then...'cause I think you're hot!"

Grabbing the handle of the door, he paused and looked at me, warily.  We stepped into the lobby and made our way down the hall to our door.  I watched his face for a response, but all I saw was a kind of tentativeness in his expression.  He put his key in the lock and shook his head.

"I said I get it already."

He walked in and threw his t-shirt on the floor.  Following right behind him, I stretched myself out on my bed.  "I'm glad you get it," I said.  "But that wasn't my point."

He grabbed a remote control, clicked his TV on, and proceeded to ignore it.  Standing at the foot of his bed, he looked at me and said, "Okay, dude, I'll play your stupid game.  What was your point?"

I put my hands behind my head and flexed my biceps.  "My point was, I think you're hot."

I noted with some satisfaction that Damien's blush had nothing on Trey's.

He sat down on his bed, looked over at me, and said, "Fuckin' bite me, dude.  No way you're queer, so go take your little comedy routine somewhere else."

"Who said anything about being queer?" I shot back.  "I didn't say I was gay.  I just said I think you're hot, and if you're talkin' guys who wouldn't mind swingin' on a guy's dick, I'd fuckin' swing on yours in a New York minute.  So before you go talking smack to me about guys who get off to other guys, you need to know who you're talkin' to."

When I heard the way I'd said those words, I was sorry. Now he knew I was pissed.  I'd spent my whole life around athletes and I knew that a display of aggression like that was likely to be met with the same.  I hadn't meant to put it quite like that, but the anger had taken over.  Still, I figured that since I'd lost my temper, at least he'd know I wasn't kidding.

No such luck; that's when he said he was "gonna have to call 'bullshit' on me."

After having geared up for a confrontation, all I could do with his disbelief was meet it with my own.  The hardest admission in my life and I couldn't even get him to take me seriously?  The last ten minutes had to count as among the weirdest, most tension-producing conversations I'd ever had.

It was probably the same for Trey.  "C'mon, man, it's not funny anymore," he added, almost pleading.  "You've had girls in here three nights a week since we got here, and I been locked out more times than I can count already.  I been meaning to talk to you about that anyway; you're not the only one takin' booty calls, and I don't get my fair share of room usage.  But, dude, that's my point!  Last night I was sittin' outside in the hall waitin' for you and that Michelle girl to finish up, and I could hear y'all goin' at it.  So I know you're not gay, asshole.  And anyway, that was me tag-teamin' the bitch from Sparks with you, or did you forget?  I'm sayin' don't even try to lay your bullshit on me."

He was at least partly right:  I'd definitely been into the women my first two months at college; nothing new about that.  But for the first time in my life, I was ready to face the fact that there was a little of "the other team" in me; hell, maybe even a lot.  Before I'd even left home I'd made peace with the realization that I had every intention of catching a game or two with that team during my college days.  And I wasn't planning on shouting it from the rooftops, but I wasn't going to lie about it either, if anyone found out.  Up to this point, a topic like this had never come up among my teammates.  But since Trey had opened the door with his remark about Damien, I figured I owed it to both of us to be upfront--now--about my wiring.

I sat up and made myself look him in the eye as I responded.  "I never said I didn't like the ladies.  I'm just saying, I like the goin' the other way a little, too."  I couldn't hold his gaze, though, after that admission.  As the silence grew between us, his facial expression grew stony, and my resolve buckled momentarily.  My mind went blank; after I faded back in, I realized I was staring at my hands.

Finally he said, quietly, "You're serious, aren't you?"

I took a deep breath and, defiant, looked into his face again.  "Yeah. I'm serious."

"What does it mean, then?"  He paused.  "So...like..you're what?  Bisexual?"

"I guess you could call it that," I said, "if you have to call it something.  I mean, I get harder quicker over the ladies, but good-lookin' guys do something for me."  This time I forced myself to keep looking into his eyes.

His blank face unnerved me.  I had no idea what he was thinking, what he was feeling.  I prepared myself for the hostilities to escalate.

Instead, he shook his head a little and smiled.  Almost.  Then he got up and starting pacing, first away from me and toward the door, then back in my direction.  After a few trips back and forth, he stopped at the foot of my bed and looked at me. 
"Were you kidding about thinking I'm hot?"

After all the gearing-up I'd done, I was uncertain how to continue.  I was in battle mode.  But I could tell he was more confused than hostile.  Gradually, I felt my anger at him beginning to drain away, and tailored my response accordingly.

"I'm not kidding.  You're hot.  Sorry if that fucks you up, but it's how it is with me."

His eyes narrowed and he took a few steps backward.  "Like as in, I-make-you-hard hot?"

"Like as in, that night we did Candy, I was kinda jealous that she was gettin' to suck your dick and I wasn't!"

He sat down hard on his desk chair and muttered, "Fuck."

This was clearly uncomfortable for both of us.  I hoped I hadn't said too much too fast.  Maybe he was speaking the truth when he said he was okay with guys who liked guys, but how was he going to handle knowing I was sexually attracted to him?  We were teammates, and we had to live together.  I didn't want to fuck that up.
I couldn't stand having us just sit there staring at each other again.  Finally I managed, weakly, "Dude...are we good?"

He studied me for a while longer. 

Our eyes locked, searching.  For truth.  For a meeting place.  For a path forward.

Gradually, a smile began to form at the corners of his mouth, as he said, "Course we're good."

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.  What he said felt to me like air rushing back into the room.  I tried to smile back at him.  "You have no idea what a relief it is to hear you say that."

"I know," he said.  "I'm sorry for acting all fucked up.  It was just kind of a bombshell, that's all.

"I don't think I ever met a guy who likes guys like that," he added.  "I mean, I'll be honest: I notice when guys are good-looking--like
you, for example," and he smiled and flushed slightly as he said it.  "But I never wanted to do stuff with 'em."

He sat down on my bed.  "Why'd you tell me?"

"We're teammates.  We're roommates.  This is me.  You need to know."

"Right," he said.  "You wanted to know if you'd have to get a new roommate.  A new friend, maybe even."

"Maybe," I said.  "Before we started talking this shit, I was getting to think I could trust you if it ever came up, I guess.  But then after we ran into Damien what you said stung me a little.  It was me you were talking about, at least partly.  Even if you didn't know it.  And I was pissed off, and all of a sudden I wasn't so sure about you.  And it made me sad."

"I'm sorry," he said.  "I really do mean what I said about being okay with it.  I don't feel any different about you.  I guess I feel honored you cared enough to trust me." 

"I do trust you," I said, "but at the moment it wasn't about trust.  It was about keeping a promise to myself."

He nodded.  It was clear he understood what I meant.  He stood up and started pacing again.  On his second pass in my direction, he stopped at the foot of my bed again, and said, "Can I ask you something personal?"

I thought I knew where this was going, and I wasn't crazy about it, but I figured I couldn't back out now.  "Sure, go ahead."

"Have you...I mean, did you ever...have you ever, you know...had sex with a guy?'

I couldn't even hear the question without feeling last year's waves wash over me.  Waves of love; of ecstasy; of guilt.  But mostly, waves of regret and loss.

But Trey wasn't asking about all that.  So I simply said, "Yeah.  Once.  Last September.  It was my best friend.  We were on the football team together."

"Man."  He sat down on my bed again.  "Was he bisexual too?"

"No," I replied.  This was difficult for me even to think about and still maintain any kind of detachment.  I needed a little distance, so I stood up and walked over to the window.  I stared out toward the horizon as I tried to stay in the here-and-now; as I concentrated on keeping my eyes dry.  "He's straight."

He must have seen my mood darken.  He walked over to me, put a hand on my shoulder, and pulled me around to face him.  Smiling, he said, "So, you'd really like suckin' my dick, huh?"

I pushed the dark cloud behind me and brought him back into focus.  "You bet," I said, grinning back at him.  "Why? Are you makin' me an offer here?"

"Fuck, no," he said.  "I was just trying to lighten it up a little; I kinda lost you there for a minute.  I mean, that would be too weird, don't you think?  Andy, you're the best friend I've made up here, and it don't make any difference to me if you swing both ways, but I don't know if I wanna mess things up between us with something that would prolly fuck with both our heads.  I...I'm not queer.  I'm not even bi.  I mean..."

He looked at me wide-eyed, blushed, and said, "Shit, I bet you know how to give a mean blowjob."

"Well, I don't have much experience, but since I got the same equipment, I pretty much know how to make it feel good."

"That's what I was thinking," he said, laughing.  "And dude, don't get me wrong, a warm hole's a warm hole; and you do have a pretty face."

That got me laughing too.

"But if we did that," he added, "I'd feel like I owed you something in return, and I just don't think I could ever suck a guy's cock.  Especially not that ugly monster of yours."

We'd reached a turning point in the conversation.  It was time to move on.  "You're just jealous," I taunted.  "But just so you know, I'm offering.  No expiration date, either, so if you ever change your mind, let me know in your usual subtle way."

He punched me on the shoulder.  "I say what's on my mind, dude."

"Did you hear me complain?"

"Well, don't be dissin' my style, then," he said with a smile.  "Anyway...I think I'll pass."  Turning serious, he added, "I hope you know I'll keep all this between the two of us."

I looked at him and said, "I didn't ask you to keep any secrets for me.  It's not something I'm ashamed of.  Been there, done that, and I'm finished with it.  I don't give a shit who knows.  I'm not goin' through life being ashamed of who I am.  That's cost me too much already.  I'm just not advertising it if it doesn't come up."

"What do you mean, it cost you too much?"

I grimaced.  "I don't want to go there.  Let's just say that being ashamed of myself made me pay a high price, and I swore I was done with that shit."

He thought for a bit, and said, "I'm sorry, man.  Whatever it was.  But I still won't bring it up to anybody.  It's just fuckin' gossip when it spreads like that."

He sat down on his bed and began taking off his shoes.  "Anyway, let's go shower and get somethin' to eat; I'm fuckin' starving."

"Me too," I said, shucking my shoes, socks, and shin guards.  "Hey, now that you know all about my perverted sexual urges, can I soap your butt in the shower?"

He pushed his soccer shorts down to his ankles and stepped out of them.  "You keep your damn hands to yourself," he laughed, "and if you behave, I'll let you watch while I soap myself up."  He slid out of his jock and stood facing me, naked, and began rubbing his hands all over his torso, mimicking giving himself a full-body lather.

"I don't know, man," I said.  "I may pop a chub from all that.  Are you sure you can handle me gettin' all excited over your manly form?"

"Any time, stud," he laughed.  "Hell, gettin' a big jock like you all hot and bothered?  I'd feel pretty damn sexy if I can even get a guy hard."  Fondling his crotch, he licked his lips and moaned, just the way I had earlier.

I grabbed his towel from the rack and threw it at him.  "Okay, cut the shit," I said.  "Now you're freakin' me out."

He laughed and wrapped the towel around his waist.  As we made our way out the door he said, "Payback's a bitch, ain't it?"

Copyright 2007 by Adam Phillips

Many of my Nifty readers know that Crosscurrents had disappeared for a while from Nifty.  I'm back for good now, and it's my intention to finish.  You're invited to join my Yahoo group, Adamstories, to keep in more regular touch so that you'll know when new chapters are coming out, or just to hang out and "talk."  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Adamstories/

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