As soon as I got downstairs, I sat down at the dinner table and wrote a quick note to Alex's parents telling them where he was. I didn't go into any details but invited them to call me when they got home if they were at all concerned. Then I ran over to their place, laid the note on the table in their entry hall, locked the house and was just opening our door when Mitchell's ride dropped him off.
"Hi Pop. What's up?"
"Not a whole lot. Jason and Alex decided to sleep over here tonight, so I went over and left a note for his folks. I was just getting back. You guys have fun?"
As Mitchell stepped into the light of our entry hall, I thought I could see a faint imprint of lipstick on his cheek. He must have noticed where I was looking, because he started to blush.
"Yeah, Pop. We did. I'm gonna get ready for bed now. OK? I'm kinda tired."
From the bulge I had seen just below his waist, I figured he wasn't so tired that he would be going to sleep right away. Oh to be 15 again.
"No problem, Mitchell. Try to be quiet, though. The boys are already in bed. Good night."
Behind the closed door of Jason's bedroom, the two younger boys were slowly and quietly working through this evening's experience. Jason's queen size bed gave them plenty of room, and they had left a lot of it between them. Their mouths weren't saying a lot, but their eyes were speaking volumes - mostly questions.
As they laid there on their sides, facing each other, their eyes moved over the other's face, searching for answers in each others eyes. They lay there quietly for a long time, each with his own private thoughts. Finally, Alex breaks the silence.
"Are you OK with what happened Jason?"
"I don't know Alex. What did happen, exactly?"
"I think you fainted, Jason."
"I know that, silly. But why? Did you really hear thunder, see sparks, like you said?"
"Yeah, I really did. Did you feel an electric shock when we kissed?"
They continued to lay there in silence for awhile before Jason spoke again.
"What's it mean, Alex?"
"Heck, Jason, I don't know. Does it have to mean somethin'?"
"I guess not... Was it like that when you kissed any of the girls at Pam's party?"
"Heck no! Was it for you?"
"You didn't catch me fainting at her house did you?" Jason said with a giggle.
Alex giggled in response. "No. I think I'd have noticed if you had."
After another period of silence, Jason reached over and turned off the light on the table next to his bed. When their eyes had grown accustomed to what little light came in from the night's full moon, each saw that the other was still staring at him. Alex thought he saw something sparkle on Jason's cheek and wondered what it was. Thinking it was something that might get into his friend's eye, he reached out and gently touched Jason's cheek.
"Is that a tear, Jason?" he asked, as he moved his fingertips gently across the boy's cheek.
"Yeah," Jason whispered, as Alex rested his palm on Jason's cheek and used his thumb to dry his friend's tears.
"Do you remember asking me if I really liked you?"
"What did you mean? I mean, what did you really mean?"
Jason wasn't sure what he had meant. The one thing he was sure of was that he wasn't ready to admit to himself what he might have meant, and he certainly wasn't ready to admit it to his best friend.
"I just meant, was I special? You know? Like something more than just best friend. Like special friend."
"Oh, yeah, Jason," Alex said, still whispering, his fingertips now resting gently on Jason's lips. "You're special alright. Very special."
"Thanks, Alex, you're special to me too."
And with that, Jason moved his hand up to cup Alex's hand, turned his head slightly, and kissed his palm. Then he turned onto his other side and sighed.
"Let's go to sleep now. OK?"
Alex sighed also, not sure what the future would bring but knowing that tonight had indeed been very, very special.
"Sure, Jason," he said, adding to himself, "I love you."
"You going somewhere this early?" I asked.
"No. I just feel better with clothes on when we have company, even if it is just Alex. Why did those guys decide to sleep over here, anyway? I thought Jason was going to spend the night at Alex's house."
He fixed himself a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice and waited for my reply. I wasn't positive myself just what last night's experience was going to mean for Jason and Alex, so I tried to keep things low key without actually lying to him.
"Well, I'm not exactly sure, Mitchell. But something happened to startle them, and they got scared. Alex called me and I suggested they come over here. I think the fact that his parents weren't home might have had something to do with it."
The younger boys arose and took turns in the bathroom. Jason took his shower first and then laid out a clean pair of Fruit of the Looms for Alex. When both had showered, they tromped downstairs in their briefs, as usual, to fix themselves some breakfast. I had finished my breakfast, but I stayed at the table reading the morning paper, drinking my second Pepsi of the day. I never could stand the taste of coffee.
"Did you guys sleep OK?" I asked conversationally.
"Oh, yeah, Pop. Great!" Jason answered as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened the night before.
"Sure, Mr. Bedinger. I always sleep good in Jason's bed."
I hated it when kids called me Mr., but that's what most of them seemed to prefer, and I was too old fashioned to let them call me by my first name. I decided to leave things alone for the moment. I knew Jason would come to me with whatever questions he had when he was ready.
All in all, the party was a big success. The friendship between Jason and Alex had continued to grow since that one experience just a couple of months earlier, but we hadn't talked about it, and I had seen no indications that anything more was going to come of it. Little did I know at the time what an impact that Karaoke unit would have on all our lives.
Jason's bedroom overlooked the pool, and I used to lay out there on a lounge chair or a raft and listen to him sing. Some of the stuff he did brought tears to my eyes. Now don't get me wrong. Jason was no Billy Gilman. But he could do things with those songwriters' words that could melt my heart. Scotty had been real good for him in that respect.
Just a week after his 14th birthday party, I was lying out on a raft soaking up some early summer sun when I heard Jason singing in his bedroom. I immediately recognized the song as one of his favorites. He was singing I think she likes me by G. Teren and B. Regan. But something was different this time, enough so that it caught my attention. As I listened more closely, I realized he was changing the words a bit, especially the personal pronouns. (For those who have Billy's CD, now's the time to put it in and play that tune.)
Jason's rendition went something like this:
I think he likes me, and I know I like him; it's kind of frightenin' 'cause it's too soon to be sure; I think he likes me, it may be even might be love. Should I be patient, or should I ask him straight out? That smile he gave me, don't leave too much room for doubt, I think he likes me, it may be even might be love. Our first kiss said more than goodnight, I bet I've relived it a thousand times. I can't predict what the future's gonna bring, but those looks that he's been giving me can only mean one thing. I think he likes me, I think he might be the one, and more than likely, the best is still yet to come. I think he likes me, it may be even might be love.
I listened as Jason sang that song over and over for almost 30 minutes, getting more and more choked up with each repetition. Each time he sang it, he seemed to put more of himself into it. I just laid there thinking to myself, my little boy is growing up and falling in love for the first time. I cared not a whit that Alex was the one Jason was thinking about. What difference did it make? (How naive one can be, even at my age.)
Any song, however, can be heard once too often. So eventually my reverie was broken and I glanced at my watch. Mitchell would be home soon, and I wasn't sure Jason was ready to spring this on his brother. I slipped off the raft and climbed out of the pool. After drying off and slipping into my swim trunks, I went upstairs, arriving just in time for one more rendition. He was wearing earphones, holding the mic in his hand and dancing around the room as though he had just won the lottery. Hands raised, eyes closed, and dancing a jig in time to the music. As I stood watching him, enjoying his happiness, sensing the love he truly felt for Alex, tears of love and joy leaked from my eyes.
"Hey, sport! That's some song you've put together," I said loudly as he finished the last refrain.
Jason turned to me with a startled look on his face, but he didn't seem embarrassed. He took off the earphones and turned off the tape before answering me.
"Oh. Hi Pop. I didn't realize you could hear me."
"See that window, son? Notice the position it's in? That's called o-pen," I said as I smiled at him. "I presume you were thinking of Alex?"
That made him blush. And it seemed to make him nervous, maybe even a little frightened.
"Yeah, Pop. How could you tell?"
"I'm may be old, sport, but I'm not blind, deaf or stupid." (We were always kidding about my age, me being older than dirt, etc.) "I can tell a he from a she or a him from a her, even all the way down there in the pool."
Jason blushed even more and hung his head a little. Then, looking up at me he said hesitantly, "Is that OK, Pop?"
I stepped over to him and wrapped my arms around him. That was one of the nicest things about Jason. He still liked to be hugged and to hug me in return.
"Of course it's OK, son. Why wouldn't it be? Love is a pretty wonderful thing, something to be enjoyed, and shared. But it can hurt sometimes, too. Does Alex know how you feel?"
"I think so. But we haven't really talked about it much. I see the way he looks at me when we're alone, and I look at him the same way, but we haven't done anything. I mean we haven't even kissed except that one time."
"Does Mitchell know?"
A look of fear came over him that I had never seen before. I felt a chill wash over me as I sensed that there was something they hadn't told me, even after all this time together.
"No, Pop! And we can't tell him. Not yet! Please?"
"Why, sure, sport. But why not? What's the matter? Surely you aren't afraid of Mitchell. He loves you!"
"Yeah, I know he loves me, Pop, but we just can't tell him yet. Please!"
I could tell he wasn't ready to tell me about it, so I let it drop. We turned off the sound equipment and Jason joined me in the kitchen to get dinner ready.
The next few weeks were wonderful. Now that I knew what was going on between Alex and Jason, I could watch their relationship develop with greater understanding. I noticed things I hadn't seen before and assumed that the boys had begun talking about their feelings for each other. Little things like hands touching as they passed each other in the house, smiles and secret looks that they shared, even some grins and winks behind Mitchell's back, as though they were getting a charge out of the risk they were taking.
And the boys were able to let their feelings show and grow now that they knew that I knew. When we were home alone, meaning Mitchell and Tammy were out on a date, the boys were comfortable being more intimate with each other. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that the show of affection to which I was privy didn't bother me. I don't mean they petted or anything like that. They wouldn't have done something like that any more than Mitchell and Tammy would. But they sat close, laid under a blanket together, leaned against each other, touched as lovers touch and even let me see them kissing once in a while. Once in a rare while.
And when the weather was nice, we continued to swim in the nude. I enjoyed being able to watch the boys' bodies develop because it made me feel special. I was convinced that most other fathers didn't share this kind of open and unabashed relationship with their sons. In fact, I hadn't had this kind of relationship with my own dad who always thought the body should be covered, as though it were sinful or dirty.
When we swam alone, the boys frequently seemed to forget that I was even there. Once in awhile I would catch one of them grabbing the other in forbidden places. These touches weren't blatantly sexual in nature, for if they had been, I would have stopped them. Instead, they were just lovingly playful touches. I was moved that they felt comfortable enough in my presence that they weren't embarrassed to display such an open show of affection. And they always stopped when an erection resulted from their playfulness.
A surprising result of this newfound freedom for the boys was that Alex stopped addressing me as Mr. All of a sudden I became Uncle Pop. And he used it often enough that their friends picked up on it. Soon I was Uncle Pop to all of the boys' friends and even with the kids at church.
Jason and I talked about his growing sexuality some, too. I was thrilled that he could talk about things that I had always been too embarrassed to discuss with either of my parents. Things like erections (stiffies, in his words), wet dreams, the mess and smell of semen, the differences between his body and Mitchell's, the similarities between his and Alex's. I avoided coming right out and asking him if they had begun experimenting with sex, although I was tempted. But from the questions he asked and the comments he made, I sensed that their relationship had not yet grown into that particular area of interest.
One Sunday afternoon while Mitchell was at the public library doing some research for an English term paper, Jason and I were having one of our discussions and the subject of privacy came up.
"You know, Pop, with school work, wrestling, and everything else, Alex and I really don't get much private time."
"What? You guys aren't happy being with me?" I chuckled and Jason grinned.
"You know what I mean, Pop. Mitchell and Tammy can kiss anytime they want to. But Alex and I can't do that in front of Mitchell, and we're not really comfortable making out in front of you, either."
"Well, Mitchell and Tammy don't make out in front of me, either, ya know."
"I know that, Pop. But we're not talking about Mitchell and Tammy. Maybe they go park somewhere when they're on a date. Maybe they can kiss and make about and stuff at Tammy's house. I don't know and I don't really care. We're talking about Alex and me."
The kid was getting serious on me here.
"I'm sorry, son, I didn't mean to make fun of you."
"Oh, I didn't mean that. You weren't making fun of me. It's just that Alex and I get frustrated that we're never alone. I mean we're too young to drive, his mom doesn't work, your work as a consultant gives you plenty of free time, so you're usually home. We never seem to have time to ourselves. You know, when we can make out... and stuff."
"And stuff?" I said with raised eyebrows and a grin. "What kind of stuff?"
"Come on, Pop. You know what I mean. A lot of our friends fool around with each other. You may be old, but you aren't that old. Alex and I haven't even done it together yet."
Now I was getting a little nervous. My parents had ignored the "birds and bees" discussion and my wife had taken care of this type of thing with our daughter. I was entering uncharted waters here. I was forced to ask the question.
"Just what do you mean by it?"
"It, Pop, the big JO."
With some relief, for I had feared worse, I said rather stupidly, "Oh! You mean masturbating."
For a kid who had been able to discuss just about everything concerning his body's development and his bodily functions six months ago, Jason was suddenly shy and embarrassed. It was so cute, the way his face turned red from the neck to his hairline. He looked up at me out of the tops of his eyes, his face turned down towards his lap, and answered quietly and with a shy grin.
"Why, Jason, I know you've been masturbating for quite some time now. I've seen the evidence in your underwear."
"Well of course, Pop! I may be little, but I'm not ignorant!"
We just sat there and grinned at each other for a minute. He was just so cute. I never imagined having a son and being able to talk about this sort of thing could be so wonderful.
"But Alex and I have never done it together, or with anyone else for that matter."
"Oh. (Pause) How come?"
"For lots of reasons, I guess. I mean, there've been a few times when we could, I guess, if we didn't mind being sneaky and hurrying to get it done. And we've each been invited to do it with other guys. But once we realized how we felt about each other, we just sort of agreed not to. Like, it's fun putting it off. I mean, he's all I think about when I do it by myself, and he tells me the same thing. And it's not like we haven't touched each other down there like we do out in the pool. And we've seen each other's stiffy plenty of times."
"Yeah, me too!" I said, laughing. This made him blush and grin again.
"But we're gettin' to where we don't want to put it off any longer."
"So? What's wrong with the next sleep over? Just don't leave a mess. And stop using your t-shirt to clean up with."
I could see his face light up with excitement... and with relief, I guess.
"You mean you won't mind? It's OK if we do it together?"
"Son, I didn't know you were waiting for my permission, if that's what it is. Obviously I had assumed you were already doing it together, so sure it's OK. As long as it doesn't go beyond the big JO as you so eloquently put it. Just make sure you always have your door shut so you don't get caught by Mitchell or embarrass me."
We had long ago established a policy that doors were left open in our house. A closed door was a sure sign that privacy was desired and needed, for whatever reason.
"So, Pop, did you ever do it with your friends?" he asked with a grin.
"Sure. I may be old now, but I was young once." This conversation was rapidly going from being fun to being embarrassing.
"So how do we do it. To each other, I mean?"
"Whoa! Stop! Let me off this bus!" I said, grinning at my younger son. I was constantly startled by his innocence.
"That's part of the joy, son, figuring out how to do it, what feels good, how to make the other one feel good. Most guys just jump to it and do it without thinking about it. But for them, it's just a release of hormonal build up. Gettin' rid of the old DSB. But you and Alex have decided to wait until the time is right. That's not just unusual, Jason. It's awesome! And a sure sign that somewhere deep down inside, you want it to be something special, something that results from your love for one another, not just playin' around. I'm not going to steal any of that joy of discovery by telling you what to do or how to do it."
He thought that over for a minute and then gave me a quizzical look.
"DSB? What's that mean?"
"Dreaded Sperm Buildup!" I said with a laugh as I lunged at him. He and I toppled off of the stool he had been sitting on as I began tickling him without mercy. I loved to hear his laugh. His was one of those high-pitched infectious ones that made you laugh along with him.
When I thought he might die from a lack of oxygen, I stopped and just cuddled him, his face against mine, both of us gasping for breath.
"I love you, Pop," he whispered into my ear.
"I love you too, sport, very very much."
... to be continued
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