This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.
Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.
Chapter 98b -- Home Is Where the Heart Is, But Where Is My Heart? (part b)
I couldn't believe it. With all the great things happening, and all the fantastic new sights, and people, and all the wonderful prospects, and all the success of our previous Fall Quarter, I got back into the rail car to notice my White-boy seemed to be brooding about something. He was sitting there on the wooden bench and I was surprised to see one of those science fiction magazines in his hand. It was one of the better ones,Analog. There was a picture of a big natural rock tower on the cover. But he had his finger where he had been reading but the book was down on his knee. We had just said our good byes to Kevin Matusak, from Chicago. He had to be one of the strangest people I'd ever met. One thing I noted was that not once in all our conversations over the past two days did he ever make a single reference to the fact I was a Negro. I don't think he gave it any thought, as if it was no more notable than the fact that I was left handed. (OK, left-hooked). And this intrigued me. I was wondering if Rocco noticed it. And he was also by far the richest person I'd ever met. Yet, except for his penchant for giving his money away, you'd never know it. Why was he even taking the train?
The sights through Idaho and Montana had been spectacular. Both Rocco and myself were riveted to the observation car windows, trying to look in all directions at the same time. Rocco mentioned that we should start talking about the coming summer and what we might do with it. We really didn't have to work. We just needed a place to stay. Rocco even mentioned the possibility of camping and taking in the sights but we didn't have a car and we probably couldn't wander too far.
And then we met Jim and Kevin. What a diverse combination. Yet they seemed like they fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. I got to really like them in just two days. I hoped we'd be able to keep in touch. It was also remarkable that someone so conservatively religious as Jim was, still didn't worry at all about associating with Rocco and myself even after we told him about our relationship. Rocco said he wasn't able to completely figure him out. And I think Kevin just liked the idea of us as a prod to poke his friend with.
So what was with my White-boy? This should be a time to just plain enjoy.
"OK Rocco, now what?" I asked, not a little exasperated.
He out the magazine down, looked up and smiled. "Don't worry, it's nothing serious. Actually that's not true. It is serious, but neither of immediate importance nor inimical. Those two boys just gave me a lot of food for thought."
I smiled with a sudden image of Rocco choking on some food. "Well I hope whatever you swallowed isn't giving you indigestion."
"You know Jade these past three months have been so different for me. You know there's many different kinds of freedoms. And for some reason I feel the need to branch out. To think about all kinds of new and wonderful things. And to NOT be so constantly trapped on just a few branches."
Now I was truly puzzled. Every time I think I knew the newest edition of my White-boy he does or says something to prove me wrong. I wonder if he really DOES have ESP even more than he claims and does this just to surprise me.
"OK Rocco, I know you want to explain so go ahead."
"Well talking about religion with Kevin and especially Jim I've come to a few new realizations. One thing is that so much of my life and so much of my thoughts and attention had been so completely focused around religion. But for the past three months I've been able to branch out so to speak. And allow my brain so many different perspectives. And I feel so good about that."
"But then why the somber mood?"
"Oh that. Nothing too serious but some of the things they talked about had me thinking. . . . Do I seem selfish to you?"
Oh boy. "Rocco, EVERYBODY is selfish from time to time. And it's not always a bad thing. But to answer your question. NO. You have aims and goals, but you always seem to include helping others within all those goals."
"I was just wondering. Both Jim and Kevin jogged my thinking a bit. I started wondering about a few other things besides even teaching. I want to help other people but I also so want to help kids like ourselves. It suddenly occurred to me that the worst thing I faced, besides losing my family, was in the prospect of losing my faith and my religion. And even my God. But I can't figure how I can help any."
"Well, I will answer with a question. Only a few years ago would you have been able to have foreseen all the stuff we now have going for us and the direction of our lives?"
"Of course not."
"Well, I suspect that in the next few years we will probably see dozens of things where we CAN help that we can't envision now."
Rocco, I could see, was pretty happy with my answer. He replied: "In other words, let the future take care of itself. If we want to help people we will see opportunities as they occur." But he couldn't give up without some resistance. So he brooded for a few more minutes. I stayed silent. Then finally added: "Not exactly what I was thinking but that will do."
After another minute I added: "Just make sure I'm one of those people you intend to help." I smiled.
Rocco pause a bit and said: "I was just worrying a bit about being so focused on my own wants and desires for the future, I seem to automatically expect you to go along all the time."
I could see where this was going and I had to figure out how to reassure him that I was being led just where I wanted to go. "White-boy, never worry. If I ever decide that where we are headed isn't exactly the direction I want to go, I'll say something. And the times you do push us in some direction, I usually LIKE where you're pushing. So stop worrying."
Rocco smiled and said: "You're getting pretty big to keep pushing anyway." Then he got that certain look. "And speaking of big things, we haven't had sex in almost three days. I never considered that negative aspect of train travel before we started out."
Unfortunately, we still had a day before we got home. I was really looking forward to Christmas with Mr. and Mrs. Webster and Tim. Mrs. Webster wrote that most of her children and grandkids would be visiting at one time or another during the holidays. I had only met the two oldest kids once, and I don't think their oldest son had ever even met Rocco. He and his family lived out in California, and didn't get back east too often. And I promised Tim and Billy, Rocco and I would take them on a real overnight trip somewhere. They changed their minds a few times already about where they wanted to go. Rocco had already arranged to borrow Dan's car. At least that was the plan.
From Chicago we took a different train to Philadelphia. I was disappointed it didn't have the observation cars that the first train had. But the views were still spectacular. I couldn't get over how beautiful Pennsylvania was. I had never seen the central and western parts before. A couple of times we seemed to be in a collision course with a mountain, only to be shunted through a tunnel. It was exciting. And beautiful. And there was a lot of it that Rocco had never seen before himself.
Across Indiana Rocco was reading that magazine he got at the train station in Chiago. There must have been something good in it. He was pretty well engrosed. We splurged on breakfast that next morning as we emerged into daylight and entered into the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania.
Then I remembered what he had been reading late last night. "Rocco, you spent 50 cents for a magazine you said you didn't like buying. How come?" He had previously stated that he didn't usually care for short stories. Not enough development of either plot or especially the characters. And if they published a real novel it was always in several parts.
"Well, I couldn't find any good paperbacks I liked. And the cover story seemed to start out pretty interesting. And I couldn't put it down last night. And I'm frustrated since there are two more parts which won't show up until January and Feburary. Which means I will wind up spending a dollar fifty for a 95 cent novel."
"It must have been interesting. Maybe I should read it."
Rocco started talking about the story and was getting animated. "Rememer your paper last month on science fiction and you said you were still waiting for that one great novel?"
"Well, if the rest of this story is as great as the beginning, this one might very well be it."
Now I guess I would have to read it. "What it the title, who write it, and what is it about?"
"Well, I was quite surprised. It was by Frank Herbert and the last thing of his I read was pure tripe. His character developement never got out of high school. I almost can't believe that he wrote this. The story is amazing and the characters have some real depth."
Rocco did this all the time. Start answering and then get diverted elsewhere. "What's the novel about?"
"Oh. Yeah. It's title is Dune World." And he started giving me the plot. I thought it had real promise. But a lot of books, especially science fiction, start out real great and then bomb by the middle.
Train Tunnel Pennsylvania
I read part I of the book and was also as excited as Rocco. It was so good that even through the mountains I kept reading it off and on. Now I too was anxious for the next two parts of the story.
The train finally got into the city and we took the el and then the trolley out to my house. It was difficult lugging our suitcases and those big coats and boots around. I was sure glad it was only a couple blocks from the trolley stop to my house. Mrs. Webster had fixed up my old room for the two of us. Rocco was welcome at his house but he didn't want to stay there with all the tensions with his family. And of course we wanted to be together.
We had barely gotten into my room when two whirlwinds breached the door. Tim literally jumped into my arms. Billy skidded to a halt just behind him. "Jade, you're home!" Tim yelled. Then: "Ouch! You hooked me!" I had accidentally gotten my hook caught behind his belt.
We then had to hear a full description of everything that happened since we had left. When Tim wound down, Billy took up the discourse. One adventure after another was described in detail. I was intrigued by the fact that a number of their tales could have described those Rocco and I had participated in ourselves several years ago. And throughout the narrative, I started to wonder if Billy lived at his own house anymore.
"Billy, I wonder. Are you ever home?"
He laughed. "As little as possible. I have too many sisters. I like it here better. Mom don't seem to mind. And Mrs. W's cooking is so much better. Especially her cookies and pies."
We eventually got to the subject of one of the Christmas presents we had promised them.
Tim was excited as he said: "We got it all figured out Jade. Billy and I decided we want to go to the Smithsonian Institute."
"Holy smoke. That's a great idea!" I said. "Who thought of it?"
Billy spoke up. "Tim said he liked museum stuff while we were in the library looking through a magazine. It had a whole bunch about nature things in a museum in Chicago. Tim said he'd like to see it some day."
Tim added: "Yeah. There was all kinds of neat stuff like a whole room of different gems, and also a huge meteorite, and a bunch of prehistoric skeletons."
"And then Tim suddenly asked about maybe there was a neat museum near enough we could get to. We asked Mrs. Webster and she said she thought there was a real big one in Washington. Mr. Webster said it was called the Smithsonian."
And they described their efforts to find out about what was there. They were surprised to learn that it had a number of different buildings.
Then Rocco asked Billy: "Your parents OK with you being away overnight with us?"
"Yeah. It only took me three weeks of asking, a dozen promises to behave, and a phone call by Mrs. Webster to my Mom." Billy then started describing all the things they were going to see. I almost wondered if he hadn't been there already.
We finally planed to spend overnight the Friday and Saturday after Christmas. Tim and Billy were so excited; Tim went back to his room and even started packing already. Rocco asked if we were ever so excited about things like this. As dinner time approached Billy left. He said he would start to pack too.
Dinner was great. Mrs. Webster had bought an entire leg of lamb. One of Rocco's favorites. And of course apple mint jelly to go with it. There was also grits for everyone and mashed potatoes for Rocco. (I still couldn't get him to eat grits; and he couldn't get me to eat scrapple). For desert was my favorite. Homemade white cake.
BJ was there and kept talking about the different jobs where he was acting as foreman. He said that next summer he would be made permanent foreman. Rocco and I were surprised to learn that they had gotten a contract on an entire housing development going in just past Valley Forge. Four hundred and twenty homes! It would be work for two years. Things were booming. Rocco's Uncle Bill had expanded his business into installing wall to wall carpet. It seemed fewer houses were putting in all hardwood floors. He had to diversify to stay in business. These homes had wall to wall carpet downstairs and hardwood floors upstairs. BJ said he was learning all about carpet installation since he thought that soon that's what would mostly go into new homes.
And then BJ pulled out a small picture from his wallet. "This is Jenny. She and I are getting pretty serious. She'll be here this Saturday. I have to show her off."
Rocco looked at the photo and said: "She's really good looking. How the heck she pick you?" It was meant as a joke, but I saw a strange expression on BJ's face. Nothing bad, more like curiosity. But BJ never said anything. I was curious now myself. What could have triggered that?
After dinner I pulled BJ aside and asked: "OK, why that look at Rocco when he talked about how pretty Jenny was?"
BJ looked a bit like he didn't know how to answer but finally said: "This' a black girl. How does a white boy know when a black girl is good looking, and even more, does he really thing she's pretty?"
I was surprised myself. I hadn't thought of that. "I just don't know BJ. Maybe he's been around us so much he knows what we consider a good looking girl. But I'm really not sure. Why don't you ask him yourself?"
BJ looked at me a moment: "I don't know. Think Rocco would mind the question?'
"Of course not. Just ask."
And he did, the next time we both caught up with Rocco.
Hearing the question, Rocco thought a moment: "BJ, I don't know exactly myself to be honest. It's not like I usually look at girls all that much." And he looked at me and smiled. I knew exactly what he was thinking.
"But I just thought she really looked pretty. Maybe I've been around black people so much, I just automatically started looking at them as I look at everyone else. And it seems natural to think about who is really good looking."
BJ thought a bit and then asked: "But how can a white-boy think ANY black girl pretty?"
"I don't exactly know BJ. It's just my reaction. I suspect a lot of white guys would think she was pretty. Don't you think some white girls are pretty also? I still think she's a really good looking girl. Besides, I always thought Jade really good looking too. Maybe I'm just weird for a white boy." Rocco looked at me and smiled. I poked him for the dig.
BJ groaned: "That last you really didn't have to say. But I guess I'll have to take what you said about Jenny at face value. And I think she's fine looking too. And she thinks I'm a good looking guy."
Afterwards, Mr. Webster broke out his special bottle of brandy. It was almost a ritual for big occasions. (He only winced a little when Jade drank his from a hard plastic cup). We had migrated into the living room. I was surprised when he offered some to me and Rocco. "You're adults in my book." He smiled, and even let Rocco get his slippers. Another part of the ritual. "And while we're sittin' out here, how about you two giving me the details of your western adventures?"
Mrs. Webster brought her coffee out with her and sat down also. This was quite a departure from routine. The dishes hadn't even been washed yet. Rocco and I wound up doing that chore later. And we described our few months of school and talked about our new friends and our more recent escapades.
After we finished, Mrs. Webster commented on how things were sure changing. "To think a colored boy going to college right alongside all those white kids. And nobody carin' one way or `tother what color you are!"
"Not quite exact, but close enough." I thought.
Mr. Webster asked us: "You two going to work for Rocco's uncle again next summer? You both can live here if you want."
Mr. and Mrs. Webster must have talked about this. Rocco made some polite `thank-you' type remark, then made some excuse and left the room. I thought I knew what that was about but didn't say anything. "Not unless we have to Mr. W. Rocco and I decided we were going to take a sort of vacation this coming summer. Maybe find a job in one of the National Parks, just so we have a place to live, but mostly just to enjoy ourselves. We've got it down to Yellowstone Park, or Glacier National Park. They hire college kids for the summer to help with all the hotel jobs for the vacationers. The pay isn't great but we wouldn't be going for the money."
Rocco came back in and after hearing our conversation went and got a couple brochures we'd gotten about the summer jobs. Tim asked where those parks were and we got out the Atlas to show him. Then Mrs. Webster got out the old encyclopedia. There were a number of pictures. Some even in color. Tim said: "Wow! Someday I want to see those places. All those neat mountains!"
Later that evening, when we were getting ready for bed I asked Rocco: "You left the room when Mr. W mentioned you staying here. It's what I think it is?"
Rocco answered. "Yeah. It just hurts so much that my family can't be as accepting. Even my Mom. She says she still loves me, and I don't doubt it. But behind all her words is still her not being able to really accept us being together. And it hurting her, hurts me. And of course there's my father. I hope to eventually to be able to talk to him about this. But who knows what will happen. My Mom says I'm not judging him correctly. But I can't believe that yet."
We made really tender love that night in spite of a three day abstinence. Nothing aggressive on either of our parts. My White-boy mostly needed to be held. He seemed so vulnerable about so many things. It brought out all my strongest instincts to protect him. If only I could.
Rocco went to his parents' house the next day. He said he had to go alone, even if he really wanted me with him. He couldn't predict how his father was going to react. I asked God to help him. Then I decided that I'd do whatever was necessary to help my White-boy. Now to think of how.