20.  Higher Learning

I could talk to you about the mind-expanding experience of taking on rigorous academic studies in the context of an institution committed to the liberal arts ideal; and I could talk to you about the joy of coming to a new place and making it my own; and I could talk to you about a dozen other things that were integral parts of The College Experience.

But what I really want to talk about is Sex Any Time I Wanted It.

If you don't get it...well, you haven't been to college.

When you're in high school, you have to be surreptitious about pursuing the things that make a young man feel alive.  You have to work hard for opportunity, and, above all, for location.  After all, nobody wants you doing those things.  No grownup, anyway.

But when you're in college...

...well, hell, everybody's after the same thing: higher education.  On all kinds of levels.

And the grownups go home at night and leave you to your studies.

All of them.

I had a couple of personal goals: to get to the end of my first semester with a perfect four-point grade average; and to get my physical needs met in such a way that I'd never need to masturbate.

In pursuit of that second goal, I wasn't experiencing total perfection, but I was getting damn close.  College life made it easy.  There was literally no one to set boundaries for you.  And it was a target-rich environment.

To be a successful snatch hound, it's not sufficient for you to be horny.  It's not even enough for you to be easy on the eyes.  I was both of those things, I guess, but those are just the prerequisites.  If you really want to use and abuse in service of your quest for sexual gratification, you have to have game.  And game requires smooth talk and a quick mind.  You have to be a student of the ladies.  You have to understand what makes them wet.  And you have to be prepared to give it. 

There was an intellectual challenge to it.  And isn't that what college is all about?

I reveled in the game.  I practiced it relentlessly, and got relentlessly better.

Weekends became all about using my big head in service of my little one.  Did the grind of academic life leave me feeling pent-up and stressed?  No problem.  Did soccer workouts get too intense?  Not to worry.  The weekend comes, and the focus shifts: Big Andy sets up Little Andy for a score or three.  I met, and used, large numbers of beautiful young women.

I assume that at least some of them had beautiful personalities as well.  But it's only an assumption; I can't really remember.  Neither Big Andy nor Little Andy was particularly interested in that.

It's no defense, but it's worth adding, I think, that my depraved path through my freshman year was hardly a solitary one.  It was standard operating procedure for my soccer teammates.  Hell, for all my male peers.  At least the attempt was.  And, truth be known, I think as many campus women as men were walking that road.

That first year of college, I steadfastly avoided anything that threatened to become a genuine entanglement.  Feelings?  Forget it.  Lovemaking?  Don't be ridiculous.  This was about getting off.  Getting off was ecstasy; it was easy and available joy.

I'd approached joy with other people before--the kind of joy that grabbed more of you than just your gonads, the kind that comes from loving--but its backside was pain.  And I was no masochist.  I'd learned from my mistakes.  So from here on out, for the time being at least, "other people" was just going to be about the hunt.  And about the singular, out-of-body moment when that little teaspoon of life-essence fires out of you into someone else, leaving you with a backwash of sensation so primal and powerful and pleasurable, you literally go a little crazy.

I was dead-set on pursuing that sweet insanity with men too.  Women had soft lines and sensuous curves, and there was something about their very "differentness" from me that impelled me toward them, aching to be inside them:  Bringing opposites together in an explosive union.  Fire and ice.  Leather and lace.  But deep inside I was also feeling a growing need to wrap my arms around strength, to lose myself in blood-and-muscle, in sinew, in the world-shaping urgency that characterized maleness and distinguished it from female-ness.

I just wasn't sure how to make those connections.  But I was willing to wait until I had it figured out.

* * * * * * * * * *

Kyle Kessler was an enigma to me. 

I'd never met a more talented backfielder.  I could always count on Kyle to feed me the ball.  I loved having him on the team.  But there was something.

The soccer guys had bonded with each other early.  We'd gotten to campus a few weeks before most of the rest of the fall student body.  By the time school started, we'd become a tight-knit group.  Kyle was one of a couple of dozen.  He ran with the pack; he told the same stupid jokes everyone else did; he drank with the boys and socialized with us; he bantered around like the rest of us.  We were brothers-in-arms. 

Sports teams are that way. You routinely put your body out there on the line for your buds.  It pulls you together.  Kyle was a part of that brotherhood. 

But Kyle had his quiet side.  Especially when the sex talk started.  If the conversation ever turned in that direction, he rarely had anything to say.  Usually there was so much cock-of-the-walk crap being thrown out by two or three in any given bullshit session that not everybody could get a word in edgewise anyway.  But I took note.

The rest of them did too.  Kyle came from a family of pretty devout churchgoers; most of us figured it had something to do with that.  It's an odd experience, conversationally, when you're joking around with someone and the talk turns to sex and all of a sudden your guy-talk is met with silence.  It makes you feel a little uncomfortable when the other guy doesn't join in.  You wonder if he's judging you, what his deal is.

But even running in a pack, every guy has his quirks.  Has to, really, or he gets swallowed up, lost in the crowd.  Kyle's quirk, the pack's conventional wisdom finally concluded, was his "shyness," especially on matters relating to sex, which contrasted with his kamikaze, balls-to-the-walls approach to soccer.  A number of my teammates had concluded that he was a virgin.

We all loved Kyle, though.  He took care of business.  So we didn't fuck with him much over his reticence to talk sex. 

A dozen of us or so were sitting around Brad Dennison's place one Thursday evening when the shit hit the fan.  Brad was a senior and the team captain.  He shared a three-bedroom house just off campus with two teammates.  We'd had a team meeting to discuss an upcoming road trip.  Rules, roommate assignments, other miscellaneous details.  After it was over, some of us had decided to hang out at Brad's.  They had a foosball table, two videogame systems, an indoor hoops game, a dartboard, and a pool table.  The team also chipped in regularly for booze, so they also had a fully stocked bar and a fridge full of beer.  All of it was in heavy use; weekends at college started on Thursday.

I was shooting pool with Brad when I heard my roomie call out.  "Hey, Mouth, you and me: foosball table.  I need revenge for last week."

"Nah, I gotta get back to campus," Kyle replied, smiling at the ironic nickname Trey had pinned on him a few weeks before.  "I got stats homework, and anyway, it wouldn't be sportsmanlike for me to kick your ass two weeks in a row.  Later, bro," he said, as he slapped Trey on the shoulder and headed toward the door.

Trey frowned.  "You're leaving?  To study?  C'mon, man, it's the fuckin' weekend! And anyway, me and the boys, we got plans for you tonight."

Kyle paused briefly, furrowed his brow, and said, "What kind of plans?"

I noticed that several of the boys had moved in closer and were grinning as if they were in on the world's funniest secret.

"Well, Mouth," Trey started, "you've heard about me and Andy and our little adventure at Sparks, right?"

Kyle nodded hesitantly.

"The women are fuckin' wild there, bro, and I'm tellin' ya, they love college dick."  Several of the guys laughed.  "We're headin' out there in about half an hour.  You're comin' with us, man.  You act like a guy who needs to get some real bad.  And Andy's buying lap dances for everybody."

Like hell I was.  I was still paying off the previous trip to Sparks. "Andy's buying shit for nobody," I said.  "And how come I didn't hear about this plan?"

Trey shot back, "I'm just fuckin' with ya, Phillips.  But I figured we oughta all treat Kyle to as many lap dances as he can handle.  And hell, maybe he'll get lucky.  I mean, now that we got Candy addicted to soccer jocks."  Shane Flaherty and Brad both hooted and high-fived Trey.  Shane said, "Deal me in for some of that."

Several of the guys started in on Kyle, teasing him and cajoling him to come along.  They were enjoying Kyle's discomfort, but I knew they really wanted him to let go tonight and have some fun; they probably figured if they applied a little pressure he'd cave and just go with the flow.

I looked over at Kyle.  He was blushing and smiling awkwardly, fending off the harassment with some light-hearted comebacks of his own. 

But I thought I saw something else in his eyes.

Trey and Shane grabbed Kyle by the arms, led him to the sofa, and forced him to sit down.  "You're not going anywhere, Mouth," Trey told him, "unless it's with us.  We're not takin' no for no fuckin' answer."  Kyle tried to get up several times, each time a little more forcefully than the time before.  But each time he did, Shane promptly pushed him back down into the sofa.  Shane had the muscle to keep Kyle there all night if he'd wanted.

By now, the whole apartment was in on it.  It seemed as though everybody had signed on to "Mission: Get Kyle Laid."  They were laughing and horsing around, so busy entertaining themselves that most of them weren't paying Kyle a whole lot of attention.

I was, though.  I was standing at the pool table, frozen in my tracks.  I couldn't stop looking into his eyes.

He looked into mine, too.  Searching; pleading, almost.  But I didn't know what he wanted, and I couldn't respond. 

Then his eyes narrowed, and something cold and determined seemed to rise in him.  I shuddered.

Shane noticed the change and backed off.  Kyle looked away from me and stood up.  "I'm not going," he said, quietly, the ice in his voice unmistakable.  It was plain he was done being fucked with.

The room grew quiet as Kyle headed for the door.  The change in his mood had been completely unexpected, and tension spread throughout the room.  Nobody spoke.

Trey was indignant.  "C'mon, Kyle, it'll be fun.  You're too uptight.  It'll be good for you.  We'd all have your back, bud.  Why the fuck won't you go?"

He looked into Trey's eyes with malice, then into mine once again.  I saw fright.  And steel. 

He turned to face the rest of the guys' stares.

And suddenly I knew what he was going to say.

"Because I'm gay."

He walked to the door and slammed it behind him.

Trey looked as though he'd been shot.  Our eyes met.  Regret was written all over his face. 

No one spoke.  Finally, after a full stunned minute, Shane broke the silence.  "Oh, great.  A fudge-packer on the team.  Jesus fuckin' Christ."

Trey walked up to him and gave him a shove.  "Shut up, idiot."

Shane, wide-eyed, looked at Trey and said, "What the fuck, man?  What's the matter with you?"

"You're talkin' shit," Trey said.  "Quit being an asshole."  He looked around the room.  "Does anyone know if Kyle walked here?  Maybe somebody oughta go see if he's okay."

Nobody moved.

Shane snarled, "Fuck Kyle.  Are you telling me you're okay with havin' a fag in the locker room with us?"

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm telling you," Trey said.  "How do you think we just made him feel?"  He shoved Shane again.  Shane fell back into the sofa.

He sprung from the sofa and grabbed Trey by the collar.  "You shove me one more time, motherfucker, and I'll fuckin' kick your ass into next week."

I grabbed Trey from behind, pulled him back toward the bar, and restrained him.  "Back off, Andy," he shouted, but I kept my arms wrapped around his chest.  Gradually he stopped struggling against my hold.  I let him go and he sat down on a bar stool.

The other guys looked shell-shocked.  Two minutes before, this had been a typical gathering of college jocks.

Shane walked over to the fridge, grabbed himself another beer, tore open the top angrily, and sat down at the bar.  Trey got up and went to the other side of the room.  After taking a few gulps, Shane said, "Don't be givin' me shit.  He's the one who left; I didn't even say anything to him.  But I can't believe none of you assholes are upset we have a goddam queer on the team.  People like that, they...they..."

"People like what?"

It was out of my mouth almost before I'd realized it.

Shane looked at me.  His faced softened.  "Dude...Andy...you know what I'm talking about.  It's fuckin' disgusting and you guys make me sound like the bad guy, just for saying what everybody already thinks anyway."

I walked over to the bar and sat down next to him.  "What's disgusting about him?  You liked him an hour ago."

"That was before I knew," Shane said.

"Knew what?  His personality sucks?"


"He's a bad soccer player?"

"He does fine on the field, okay?  You know that's not what I'm talking about."

I scowled at him.  "Are you afraid he's gonna come on to you when you're naked?"

"He fuckin' does that and he's gonna lose a dozen teeth," he said.

"As if," I mumbled. "Don't be ridiculous."

He glared at me. "I'm just sayin'."

I tried to sound patient as I asked,  "C'mon, Shane, what's it to you?"

"Are you kidding me?"  He took another swig of beer.  "For starters, it's not natural," he said.  "And especially for athletes.  How can you be a real teammate if you're always checkin' out the team?  It's a trust thing, man.  I don't want to think about how he's lookin' at me like that.  How can he be a real teammate?"

"A real teammate like me," I said quietly.

"Exactly," he replied.

I looked back over at Trey.  His agitation had quickly shifted focus from Shane to me.  Wide-eyed, he looked at me and shook his head a couple of times.

Brad cut in at this point.  "I know everybody's got different opinions on this kinda shit.  Andy's right, though.  We knew Kyle before, and we liked him before, and he's a good player.  Personally, I never had a problem with gay guys.  But whether you do or whether you don't, we're a team, and we gotta be a team.  And we're not gonna be a team if we start treating a player different, and start fighting among ourselves over it."

"He's gotta go, then," Shane muttered.  "We can get Coach to cut him if he's disruptive to morale."

"It's not that simple," Brad said.  "There are legal implications to all this, and he's not disruptive to morale."

No one said anything.

"Is he?"  Brad surveyed the room.  "This could be a real can of worms, boys.  I don't think you have any idea how big a deal this could become if we got Kyle cut because he's gay.  So we better fuckin' get the air clear right now.  How many of you have a problem with Kyle being on the team?  Raise your fuckin' hands."

Shane's went up immediately.  Two other guys, a junior and a senior, raised theirs, with some hesitation.

"How many of you are okay with it?"

Only four hands went up.  Trey.  Brad.  Me.  And another freshman, Josh Starnes.  Five guys didn't vote.

"I can't believe this shit," I muttered.  Trey glared at me from across the room and shook his head again. 

I stormed over to him. "Just what the fuck do you expect me to do?" 

He looked down at the floor.

"Phillips," Brad said.  "What did you say?"

I looked at the three who'd raised their hands against Kyle.  "I said, I can't believe that any of you still live in the fuckin' nineteenth century.  Even my high school buds were more enlightened than you dickless jerks."  I turned to face the others and added, "That includes you pansy-ass cowards who didn't vote. "

"Just because we don't like guys who like dick," Shane said.  "What the fuck is your problem?"

I looked back at Trey.  He was still looking at the floor.

A tiny spark of fear flared inside me.

I slapped it down, disgusted with myself.  I looked at Shane and said, "Okay, asshole, here's my problem:  I like dick!  That's my fuckin' problem."

Several pairs of eyes zeroed in on me, but Shane wasn't impressed.  "Yeah, right," he sneered.  "You.  A faggot.  I'm sure.  Fuckin' liberal-ass moron, think you can talk shit like that, just to run to little Kylie's defense, and you think we're all so stupid we'll just lick it up. You don't like dick, asshole.  Only thing you like is acting like you're better than the rest of us."

The rational part of me was done for the evening.  Rage, as red as Shane's hair, took the wheel.  I walked up to him and put my hand on his shoulder.  I moved my head in, close enough to his face to hear him breathing.  "I like yours especially, Flaherty," I sneered, "all nice and thick and long, with them pretty red pubes and all. I bet it looks awesome all boned up."

Several of the guys laughed.  They shut up, though, when they saw my face.

"Very funny," Shane said, knocking my hand from him shoulder.  "The biggest pussy-hound on the team..."


"Don't treat me like I'm stupid.  I see what you're doing," he said.  "You can't chase women like you do and suck dick on the side, and you can play all the stupid head-games you want, it doesn't change the fact that Kessler's a faggot and something needs to be done about it."

I pushed him away from me and shrugged.  "Asshole.  You're just an intolerant, clueless asshole."  I walked over to the fridge, grabbed a beer, and popped the top.  "You don't know shit about me or anybody else.  And you know what?  I don't give a shit about your stupid fuckin' ignorant opinion.  I'm just sayin' it's not only Kyle you're dealing with if you got a problem with guys who like dick.  You're gonna have to throw me off the team too."

I looked around the room, defiant.  Most of the guys were examining the color patterns in the carpet.  A couple were staring at me.  I wondered for a moment if I needed to leave too.

Trey looked at me.  A resigned smile settled in on his face.

He came over to me, grabbed my beer, took a swig of it, and put an arm over my shoulders.  "It's true," he said.  "He told me weeks ago.  Look, dammit, I'm his roommate and I got no problem with it.  What the fuck does it matter?"

"At least he likes pussy," said Dean, the junior who'd voted against Shane.  "It's kinda weird, I guess, but at least he...he...dammit, you know what I mean."  He paused and looked around.  "Guy who doesn't get turned on by women, now that's fucked up."

"C'mon, Dean," I said.  "I didn't choose to be wired like this.  But I got it easy.  I like women, so it's easy to hide, you know?  But Kyle, he can't hide.  He can't run off to Sparks like the rest of us and be a part of the guys because he's not wired like me.  He can't drill a different woman up in his dorm room every weekend.  He must feel like a fuckin' alien when we start talkin' 'bout women. And then he has to keep his mouth shut, because of what we might all think if we knew what he really liked."  Imagining  all that--how Kyle must have felt during all those bragging sessions--made me feel ashamed.

I pleaded with my teammates:
"How can you not feel for the guy? It took more guts to tell us than any of you have; you think he didn't know there were probably assholes on the team like Shane here?  How would you like it if you got hated because of what makes your dick hard?  Something he doesn't have any control over?"

"That's just my problem," said Dean.  He smiled a little.  "Him losing control.  What if he's overcome with lust for my magnificent body?"

I appreciated his attempt to lighten the mood a little.  "Well, speaking personally, I think you're overestimating yourself, there, buddy."  The rest of the room laughed.  "But really, Dean.  Has he hit on you up to now?"

Dean looked at me.  "No."

"Have I?"


"You're totally straight, aren't you, Dean?"

"Abso-fuckin'-lutely, bi-boy," he smiled.  "So don't even think about it."

"I wasn't thinking about it; you got lousy abs," I said.  A few of the guys snickered again.  "What I was thinking about was this: If you're totally straight, are you in danger of losing control and attacking girls against their will out of nowhere?"

Dean was silent.  Finally he shrugged.  "Okay," he said.  "But it's still fucked up."

Brad cut in at this point.  "Nobody cares if you think it's fucked up.  But we're a team here, and what I want to know is if you can set that aside to be a teammate, hundred percent, with Kyle.  I want a show of hands.  How many of you can be cool with Kyle on the team?  And Phillips, for that matter," he added.  He grinned at me.

The guys who had abstained before all raised their hands this time.  Dean's hand went up, too.  "Phillips doesn't even count," he said.  "He's not queer, he's just a pervert."  I shook my head as a few of the guys laughed again.

There were only two dissenters left. 

"Well, that's it, then," Brad said.  We can't kick anybody off the team, but Shane, maybe you and Jason need to decide if you can play for us.  It's not gonna work if you can't find a way to get over this."

Shane muttered, "I can't believe you guys.  And you, Phillips; you're almost more fucked up than he is.  Don't you have any goddam self-respect?"

"Damn straight I do," I said.  "No pun intended," I added, a little uneasily.  "Otherwise I'd have just kept my mouth shut."

Shane was still angry, but that's not what came through when he answered me.  What I heard sounded for all the world like a sense of betrayal.

"God made you to be with women," he said.  "What are you doin' that other shit for?"

Something bitter and wounded inside me laughed.  I wasn't doing that other shit.  "That other shit" was shoved back into an empty corner of my life, ignored, bleeding and crying for...

Well, for Matt. 

After all, I could have hooked up with a guy by now.

The shock of sudden self-understanding took me away from myself for a few seconds.  For just a flash, I was looking at myself from a distance. Cold. Analytical.

I saw myself in this room, in this crowd, standing up for a part of me that might never see the light of day again.  I'd been choosing to push it aside, to starve it out.  I couldn't separate my desire for men from my love for Matt.  And having failed at the love, I'd been refusing the desire.

I shook my head and shut my eyes tight, distancing myself from the razor-edged shard of insight that had just stabbed its way into my awareness.  Then I looked with fury at Shane.  C'mon, motherfucker, I thought.  Just give me one small excuse to blacken both your hateful eyes, and I'm there, asshole. I opened my mouth to start a fight, but this time it was Trey's turn to intervene.  He'd been watching me.  He got up out of his chair and grabbed everyone's attention before I had a chance to say anything.  "Okay, can we talk about something else now?"

It was apparently a welcome suggestion.  The room's tension level seemed to drop instantaneously.  Faces relaxed.  Eyes lifted up from the floor.

Dean nodded and laughed.  "Yeah, let's do that.  Here's a new topic.  You been lettin' Andy suck your dick at night?" 

Trey didn't miss a beat. Raising his eyebrows, he looked at Dean and asked, "How do you know I haven't been suckin' his?"

This time the entire group laughed, including the three guys who'd voted against Kyle.

As the room settled down, Shane said, "I still think this is fucked up.  But I can see I'm outnumbered here by all you queer-lovers."

He looked at me.  "I came here to play soccer.  I can handle my feelings about this.  Kyle does fine on the field and I can work with that.  I can be his teammate.  I won't give him no shit, either.  But I don't like him.  And if y'all are expecting me to change my mind, just forget it.  It's wrong, man.  And I'm not apologizing for thinking that.  From here on out he's no friend of mine.  And Brad, you damn sure better see he doesn't room with me on road trips."

"Done."  Brad looked at Jason.  "What about you?"

"I think it's against God's plan," Jason replied, quietly.  "I'd like it better if he was off the team.  I know he doesn't think he chose it, but that doesn't make it right."  He paused for a minute.  "But I won't go hatin' on him.  That's wrong too.  I don't want him to suffer over it.  I can be his teammate.  We can get along."

"All right, then," said Brad.  "We don't even talk about this discussion to Kyle, and if I see one of you jerks treating him bad, you and I are gonna have a little talk."

I was relieved, but somewhat numb: I wasn't even being considered as they thought through all this.  Not even Shane seemed to have an issue with my presence on the team.  Somehow my big admission was a yawner, not even worth discussing.  It made me kind of angry, in a way: Being attracted to women negated the fact that I was also attracted to men.  At least in comparison to how they all felt about a "really" gay guy.  I'd learn, as the years went by, that bisexuals often have to face that strange disbelieving, discounting attitude, from gay and straight people alike.

Before I could amp up my reflections into a full-fledged brood, Shane said, "I'm not finished talkin' with you, Phillips.  You and I are gonna get into it."

"Leave him alone, asshole," Trey growled.  "He..."

"Don't fuckin' tell me what to do," Shane snapped back.  "This is between me and Phillips.  You're not his damn mommy."

I waved Trey off and nodded at Shane.  "I'm not takin' no shit off you, Flaherty.  You got something to say to me, you gonna damn well have to listen to what I have to say to you too.  If you can't deal with that, then we just better keep it to soccer."

Shane glared at me but didn't reply.

Casey Morgenthaler, a sophomore forward, said, "Brad, this isn't even the whole team.  What about the others?"

Brad was walking around the apartment, grabbing empty beer cans and throwing them into the recycle bag.  "I'm not calling a team meeting about it, if that's what you're asking," he said. "I don't want to make that big a deal out of it.  But guys, until I say so, let's not talk about this with anyone who wasn't here today.  Soccer players or anybody else.  I don't think Kyle has come out yet."

"He sure as hell is out; now, anyway," said Aaron Spencer, our star forward.

"Maybe so," Brad said.  "But we oughta respect him enough not to spread shit about him until we know what he wants, okay?  Let me handle the rest of the team one-on-one."

Everyone agreed. 

After a little more discussion, Brad said, "Hey, it's gettin' late and I don't see much point in going to Sparks anymore, so I'm throwing y'all out, okay?"  We helped him clean up a little, and one by one the guys began heading out.  Except for the three who originally voted against Kyle, every one of the guys gave me a clap on the shoulder, or a grin, or a good word, as we were leaving.

Once we'd made our way out the door, Trey looked at me, smiled, and put his arm over my shoulders again, like he had earlier.  "Fuck, Phillips, you got big ones," he said, as we walked to his car.  "Funny, though, how they all kinda ignored you.  It's like you weren't even a part of the issue."

"Yeah, I noticed that," I said.  "And I'm not sure I like it."

He sighed.  "Don't go looking for trouble, bro."  We got to his car and stood there for a minute.  "I was thinking of something else, too, while we were talking," he said. "Hell, for all we know there could be someone else in that room gay or bi who was just too chickenshit to speak up."

"Odds are against it," I said.  "But thanks for havin' my back."

He pulled me in a little tighter.  "I wanted you to keep your damn mouth shut.  But I was glad to find out most of the guys didn't give a shit.  And I was proud of you."

I raised my eyebrows at him wickedly, and grinned.  "How proud?"

He took his arm off my shoulder, pushed me away from him, and laughed.  "Not that proud."  He unlocked his car and we climbed in.

The subject never came up again in a team setting.

* * * * * * * * * *

The weeks went by.  Things had settled into a routine.  Studying, partying, screwing around.  The soccer team was having a good season; we held our own with the other schools in our division.  In fact, we were in the top three in terms of win-loss record.  Life was good. 

I continued to date, and use, women.  I wondered if I'd ever explore my other side.  Jerkoff fantasies didn't count.

From time to time I'd think of Matt.  Funny; before the incident at Brad's, he'd faded from my thoughts some.  In the days following, though, it seemed as if I was always thinking about him. 

Again and again, I replayed in my head the discussion at Brad's house,  and thought about how it had made me realize that it wasn't lack of opportunity that had kept me from finding another guy to be with.  And as I walked around that insight over and over, playing with it, exploring its contours and its meanings, inevitably I was drawn into thinking about Matt and how he was doing.  I wondered if he was getting as much playing time on the field as I was.  I wondered how he was handling his academics:  I'd flash back to all those years when I sat with him, talked him through his studies; I'd remember the silent, private joy that flooded over me when his eyes would grow wide with understanding and he'd smile at me with sudden delight and, okay, with love, after I'd helped him work through a subject that was giving him trouble...

I wondered if he ever thought of me these days.  Or if I were just a set of fading memories.  With everything I'd put him through our last year together, I'd definitely given him enough reason to put me out of his head, out of his life.

Once in a while, agitated by these thoughts, I'd find myself fidgety with the need to call him or at least e-mail him. I needed to hear his voice, or to read his words; to touch him and be touched by him, at least over the wires or through the air.

But what could I possibly say to him?  And what would he say to me?

I couldn't begin to figure out how to answer the first question.  And as for the second, I didn't think I wanted to know the answer. So inevitably, whenever thoughts of him surfaced, I pushed them from my head. They led nowhere.

* * * * * * * * * *

There was never any overt conflict over Kyle.  Nobody tried to quarantine him in the locker room, and except for Shane, everybody went back to treating him like they'd treated him before, laughing and joking with him, including him in all the conversations.  I was proud of my teammates, and happy for Kyle.  He hadn't had to suffer, much, for his honesty.

He had to have noticed the change in Shane, though.  To his credit, Shane was never openly hostile.  But it was as though, off the field, Kyle didn't exist to Shane.  I was sure that had to have broken Kyle's heart.  But he never once said a word about it.

As for me, guys would actually joke about it in my presence, asking me what it was like to suck dick, asking me which teammate looked  the hottest naked; shit like that.  But the very fact that they'd talk that kind of trash with me indicated just how little it meant to them.  For them, it was just another quirk that defined me:  Andy the sex fiend.  So horny he'll fuck anything.  The truth of it was that they didn't even think of me as gay or bi.  They thought of me as "straight," like them, with a kink thrown in for color.  A regular guy.  And I was only seeing women anyway, so it was all academic for them, I suppose, and as such, boring.

After the meeting at Brad's, though, I made sure not to spend too much time in Kyle's presence in the locker room.  I had no intention of fueling any gossip.

But I found myself staring at him a lot more often.  Wondering.  Wishing.

Some two weeks after Kyle had first told us he was gay, I caught up with him after practice as he was walking from the field to his dorm.  I hadn't spoken to him for any length of time since the evening at Brad's.

"Hey," I said, falling in next to him.

"I heard what you did for me at Brad's," he said.  "Thanks."  He turned to look at me, his expression one of pure gratitude. 

He was bare-chested; the late-afternoon sun gave gave a sheen to his skin.  I was struck by how good-looking he was.  His eyes drew me into him.  I'd looked into them before, but I'd never seen them for the work of art they were. God, the intensity of his gaze; it made my knees go a little weak.

I came to a decision.

"Kyle, I...I'd really like to talk to you some time, about stuff."

"Any time," he said.

I looked around nervously, stalling for time, trying to figure out how to do this.  "I...when you told us...I mean..."

Damn; his eyes...how could they be so green, how could I never have noticed his eyes before?  My tongue, my brain: What the fuck was wrong with them?

"I...I just feel so damn alone here, sometimes."  Shit.  How pathetic.

The look he gave me wasn't sympathetic, but there was tenderness in his voice even as he challenged me with his response: "Yeah, and you got the other team to play for, too.  Can you imagine how I feel?"

We walked silently together for a while.  My face felt hot.  Nervous; so fucking nervous.

I tried again.  "Kyle."


"I...I fell in love with a guy once.  A straight guy.  My best friend.  I fucked things up between us because of my homophobic shit."  I sighed.  "I swore I'd make things different in college."

"I think you're off to a good start," he said.

"Thanks," I said.  "But what I meant..."  Thoughts, half-formed phrases, kept stumbling over each other in my head, falling over sideways and jamming the exits.

I told my brain to take five and decided to continue on pure gut.  "Okay, I'm gonna come right out and say it.  I think you're really good-looking.  Do you think..."

"Andy," he said, interrupting me, "I'm sorry, but no way, okay?"

My stomach hit the gravel.

Embarrassed, I backpedaled.  "No big deal."

We kept walking.  I listened to the sound of our shoes on the gravel.  One foot, then the next, in sync/out of sync with his.  It was all I could focus on.  The rhythmic asymmetry in the sets of footfalls.

Well past the point where the silence between us had grown uncomfortable, he took in a deep breath, exhaled, and stopped walking.  He got in my path and stood in front of me, forcing me to stop as well. 

"No," he said quietly.  "We're not gonna play it like this.  It
is a big deal.  Because now you're gonna get all 'rejected' on me."

Jesus, did we have to talk about this? 

"Forget about it," I mumbled.  "I won't break.  I've been rejected before."

"By a guy?"

"No," I muttered.  "I've only been with a guy once.  I just thought..."

"I know what you thought," he said, breaking in on my words.  "So I need you to listen close.  I want you to understand me."

"Sure, whatever," I nodded, trying to mask my humiliation, trying to lay down "casual," trying to prove to him that he hadn't hurt me.

"You're hot," he began.  "Part of me thinks I'm crazy for shootin' you down."

He looked off into the distance.  "But I have a past, too.  I grew up in Houston, man.  I came out in high school.  I been out there with the whole Houston gay scene.  It was bad enough dealing with my parents.  They think I'm going to hell.  But even the gay people I've met..." He looked back at me and sighed.  "I've had a chance to look at gay people, and I seen how fucked up so many of them are."

"What do you mean?"

He wiped the sweat off his forehead.  "How many old gay couples you ever hear about?"

"I don't understand," I said.

"What do you want to do with your life?"

I rolled my eyes.  "I dunno; how the hell should I know?"

"You don't have to map it out for me; just gimme the generals."

"Okay." I thought for a minute.  "I guess maybe...I guess I want a decent-paying job, a house in the suburbs, a wife, and 2.3 kids."

"Exactly," he said.  "Gay people aren't that different."

I looked at him.  "I still don't get your point."

He rolled his eyes.  "You guys with your women.  You can fuck around like crazy, then decide to get serious with one and it all works out."


"It doesn't always work that way with gay guys," he said.  "Hardly ever, in fact."

He grimaced.  "Gay guys fuck around like crazy too, and that's all they ever do.  Nobody ever thinks about the long-term. With you breeders, it's like some interior signal goes off, and you start finding one another and having babies.  But with gay guys, it's just one trick after another.  And somewhere along the road they get old and ugly and it's too late.  They're alone. You ask any gay guy over thirty-five how easy it is to find love if they haven't already found it."

I didn't know whether he was right, wrong, or indifferent. I was just shocked that he took things so seriously.  We were only nineteen.

"I'm flattered, bro," he said, "and you're beautiful.  But I want the same shit you do.  A nice, stable life someday, with someone to love forever.  Maybe someday raising a kid together, if it won't mess him up too bad to have two dads.  But I have to pay more attention to that than you do.  I have to start earlier.  It's too easy to fuck up if you're gay.  We don't get a lot of support from the world.

"When I go out with guys," he continued, "I take it serious.  I'm looking at each one thinking, 'Could you be the one?'  I have to, or I'll just get on the merry-go-round and end up like every other lonely fag.

"I don't do casual dating, and I don't do casual fucking," he said.  "I'll be honest, man.  When I heard what you did at Brad's, what you said about yourself, I started thinking about you that way.  I...you just..."

He looked around, scanning the area to see if anyone was nearby. 

He moved closer to me.  His hands were shaking as he placed them on my shoulders. 

He smiled at me.  It was an uncertain, unsteady smile.  Slowly he pulled me into him and kissed me.



I was hard instantly.  And emotionally unready.  I felt a part of myself cave in. 

But there was an urgency inside me stepping forward.  I returned the kiss, forced my tongue into his mouth. 

Understanding flickered between us.  Understanding...

And dancing. 

And something else?

Just as things began to get fierce--fierce and ecstatic--he pushed me away, violently.

"That's what I'm talking about," he gasped.  I watched him, dumbfounded, as his ragged breaths slowed and he tried to steady himself.

"I could fall in love with you," he said after he'd regained his composure.  "It would be so easy.  But where would it get me?" 

It was impossible not to hear the sorrow in his voice, impossible not to see it on his face.  But my head was reeling from the kiss; I couldn't process what he was saying.  I looked around, dazed, to see if anybody had seen us.

"I can't imagine what it's like to be bi," he said.  "You're confused in the head," he continued, "or maybe you're not.  But you're gonna end up with a woman, and your house in the suburbs, and your white-collar career, and your 2.3 kids.  And odds are, there'll come a time in your life when sex with men feels like it was a daydream or another life or something.  Even if you and I fucked around."

I looked at him and sighed.  He pulled me close one more time.  Staring deep into my eyes, he leaned in and kissed me again.

I felt his arms around me.  Strong.  Secure.  Solid muscle and oh god his lips so soft and the stubble on his face and the scent of him.  This is what I missed this is what I ran away from this.  A moan escaped me.

Slowly he pulled away.  He turned his back to me, speaking into the breeze.  Away from me.  Not facing me, not looking at me.  "We'd start something up, and we'd have great sex, and eventually you'd decide you didn't want to do it anymore, because it was getting too heavy for you, or because you were getting bored with me, whatever.  You'd never be serious with me.  And If I fell in love with you and you fuckin' rejected me...I..."

"Kyle," I interrupted, ignoring the tug on my feelings from deep within.  "Dude, you and me, we're too young to even be thinking all that.  I like you, and I just thought we could help each other out.  Why do you have to get all serious about it?"

I walked over to him and, standing behind him, put my hands on his shoulders.  He sighed, and I felt his muscles relax.  After a moment, though, he turned back to look at me and frowned.  "Did you not hear what I was telling you?  I can't look at it like you do.  I have to start thinking serious stuff about my life early.  There aren't enough gay guys out there to begin with, and the ones that are out there, hell, lots of 'em don't want to think beyond their next orgasm.  And that's a recipe for being alone.

"I know myself," he said.  "Andy.  God, Andy..."

He took my right hand and clasped it with both of his. I was trying to breathe underwater.  I needed some distance, some safety, some air.  But I couldn't force my eyes away from his. 

"I'd fall in love with you," he said, nearly whispering. "What's not to love?  And I...I'd feel like a total idiot, and it would break my heart.  Again."

He squeezed my hand, then let it go, and took a step back.  "I'm not fallin' in love with a guy who's not gay.  Been there, done that.  I almost didn't survive."

The determination on his face, the vehemence of his words, frightened me a little.  He shook his head and said, "Never again."

I looked at him and saw grief and utter seriousness.  I realized that regardless of what I might do in college, he was right; I'd end up in a place that was easier than anything he'd be facing.  I might have been like him in some ways, but in other ways, I had no clue how it felt to be in his shoes.  And in feeling sorry for myself over his rejection, I was being selfish.  It would be the worst kind of cruelty to use him just because I wanted an opportunity to be with a man.

I felt awful.  "Kyle," I said, "I'm sorry.  I wasn't trying to take advantage of you."

He smiled.  "I know, bud.  We're all horny here all the time.  You do the thing with the women and you figured you finally found someone with a dick you could do it with too.  Just a little sex, right?   I can't tell you how flattered I am.  And dude, I'm saying, it's not that I'm not tempted.  God, Andy, you..."  He blushed.  "You're a fuckin' wet dream.  And you're such a nice guy.  I hope someday I find somebody like you.  But it's not you, man.  It could never be you.  And we both know it."

He sighed.  "I hope you understand why I can't.  And I'm not mad atcha for trying.  I know it wasn't just about trying to get an easy fuck with the slutty queer."

We started walking again, side by side.  "I just wish I had the answers as clear as you," I said.  "And I don't care what you say, man, I don't think this shit's goin' away.  If it was, it'd be gone by now, with all the women I've done."

"I don't know what to tell you," he said.  "I barely have my own answers, much less anybody else's.  I don't know how you're gonna deal with being bi.  I'm not saying you're a bad guy if you fuck around with guys.  I'm just saying I'm not available.  You're gorgeous; if you need it, there's plenty of guys who'd fuckin' kill to get with you."

I couldn't think of anything to say.  I was embarrassed, hurt, and guilty all at the same time.  So I said nothing.  The rhythmic crunch of the gravel underneath our shoes stole my attention again.

Finally he said, "Dammit, Andy, would you stop it with the hurt-puppy shit?"

"I'm fine," I answered, a little too emphatically.

"I think you're ten times the man most of those guys are," he said.  "The way you stood up for me, and even came out when you didn't have to.  I want us to be great friends, okay?  Don't freeze me out just 'cause I won't fuck around with you."

I took a deep breath and tried to shake it all off.  "Okay," I said, smiling at him as we walked along together.  "I'll just have to pick my heart up off the ground.  You stomped that sucker flat, dude."

He laughed and slugged me in the arm.  "Yeah, right.  You'll have forgotten it by your second orgasm tonight."   He laughed and said, "You're with Caitlyn Stevens lately, right?"

I grinned.  "Yep."

"And you're seeing her tonight, right?"


"Scored yet?"

"Nope," I said, "but the signs are hopeful."

He punched me on the shoulder.  "Shit, boy, when she's chokin' on a mouthful o'your spunk tonight I guarantee you won't be thinking about me."

"Don't underestimate yourself," I replied.  "She prolly don't swallow."

That cracked him up.  I returned his shoulder-punch with of my own, and added, "Anyway, whatever; your loss." 

I grinned at him; I had to let him know we were okay.  "You remember this moment," I taunted.  "Don't be comin' to me changin' your mind when you've seen my dick one more time than you can deal with.  This was a one-time offer.  From here on out,  I'm just gonna have to be the one you let get away."

The smile lit up his entire face.  "I'm good at drowning my sorrows in alcohol," he replied.

We'd reached the dorm.  I said,  "Me too.  What say you and I head up to Sixth Street and get in some practice on that?"

"Let's give it fifteen minutes to get cleaned up," he said, "and you got a date."