After escorting Valerie to her fifth period class, I had to run to my class in order to make it on time. It was a computer science class that I really didn’t need for graduation. I took it because there were no other classes available that period. Most of the material I had learned myself by the fifth grade.
As I worked on an assignment, I kept thinking about what Valerie had told me about Adrian. It seemed that he was deep into the closet- like I now was. She mentioned that his father was a minister. She said he would disown Adrian if he discovered he was gay. She even begged me not to tell anyone else.
If he was hiding his sexuality, then why did he open himself up to me? Again, everything seemed to return to fate. But that can’t be because fate doesn’t exist, does it? I’ve always believed that everything is subject to free will. We chose our destiny and make our own choices.
I guess that’s why this whole situation has bothered me so much. It’s as if I have lost control of everything. I lost control of me. Perhaps fate does exist and we can’t control it. Maybe things do happen for an unexplained reason.
Maybe that’s what has happened. Fate brought Adrian and I together. Maybe I had been gay all my life and I denied it so intensely that I refused to accept what was real. You don’t just wake up one morning and you are gay. Adrian staring into my eyes didn’t turn me gay. It had to have been there all along.
It could also explain why he took a risk and came out of his safe, secure closet for me. Maybe fate did play a hand. Maybe it was more than just two people flirting furtively with one another. Perhaps there does exist a book entitled, Fate. What if our names did appear side by side and our stars were meant to collide?
But that’s a fairy tale, right? Cinderella and Prince Charming. They only exist for children’s entertainment, right? Happily ever after is written at the end of a fairy tale, it doesn’t exist in real life, right?
The more I think about things the more confused I become. I feel like I am going mad. There is also something else confusing me. What if Adrian is my destiny and I deny him. Will I ever find love again? What if a book called Fate does exist and our names are etched together and I run away from it. Will there be someone else for me?
What if, again. What if Adrian isn’t my future? What if he is a temptation unleashed by Pandora’s Box, someone to divert me from my real future? What if Rachel had been my destiny and I screwed up? What if my future was a girl named Nancy whom I am supposed to meet six years from now? What if it is etched in the book of Fate that we are to meet, fall in love and live happily ever after? What then? What if I screwed up my life by not heeding the warnings associated with Pandora’s Box? What if I wasn’t gay and every thought I’d had the past few days was only a senseless fabrication that I manufactured within my mind?
What if? What if? What if? Isn’t there anyone who can give me a fucking answer to the what ifs that are tormenting me?
I was startled from my reverie when the bell rang. I looked toward the front of the room and realized that I had absolutely no clue what the class had been doing. I scanned the board for an assignment, but yesterday’s was still there. Perhaps he didn’t give an assignment. Perhaps I don’t give a fuck anymore.
I went to my last period, but the same tormenting thoughts wracked my brain. By the end of the day, my mind was a wasteland of senseless gibberish. I knew less about my life and myself than I had ever experienced. I needed someone to talk to, someone I could trust, but everyone I had trusted in the past had deserted me.
I thought of confiding in Billy, but he was only fourteen years old. He hardly had any pubic hair. How could he help me? He knew less about this than I did.
I couldn’t confide in my parents because... well, I just couldn’t. How could I possibly sit down with my parents and tell them about how one boy opened up a flood of self-doubt? I could hear Mom now. “That’s ridiculous, Zac. A boy looking at you can’t make you gay.”
And she would be right and I couldn’t offer a defense. Adrian didn’t make me gay, it was already there. He only opened the box and let it escape. How could I possibly make anyone understand that?
I couldn’t even make myself understand it.
I left class at the end of the day and took my book bag to my car before heading to the gym. I had decided that I didn’t want to run track any longer. I knew Coach Templeton would be pissed, but the decision was mine. You know- that thing about free will. Fate had nothing to do with this decision.
We had a very dedicated track team. I had grown up with most of the guys and I knew how much track meant to them. I would only be a distraction if word got out I was gay. You can’t keep something hidden like this forever. People talk about a friggin’ closet. There is no closet. A person’s life is like an open book when something as monumental as being gay exists. People may not say it to your face, but they think it behind your back. No, closets don’t exist. That’s only another senseless fabrication.
As I headed to Coach Templeton’s office, my worst nightmare appeared. Kenny. And he was walking with Adrian. They were walking side by side down the hall when Kenny looked up and saw me approaching. I can’t even describe the look that appeared on his face. It was like a combination of surprise, remorse and disgust all wrapped up into one look.
He moved to the other side of Adrian as they passed. He didn’t even acknowledge that I was in the hallway. We had been best friends for fourteen fucking years and he couldn’t look me in my face?
Adrian smiled, nodded his head and gave me a cheerful, “Hi, Zac.” Kenny put his arm around his shoulder and led him quickly down the hall. I turned as Adrian looked back and gave me a puzzled look. At least it appeared that Kenny hadn’t told him what had happened over the weekend.
My face was red with anger when I approached the coach’s office. I knew that the time wasn’t right to discuss quitting the track team. I was too upset and I was afraid what I might say. Coach Templeton was one of the nicest guys I knew and he didn’t deserve me taking out my anger on him. I turned and headed back down the hall with plans to come back when I was more levelheaded.
My plan didn’t work because as soon as I stepped away from his door, he opened it and came out. “Zac!” He shouted. “Come in my office. I have someone I’d like you to meet.”
“Uh, Coach,” I stammered, “Can this wait? I’m kind of in a hurry.”
“Nonsense,” he replied as he approached me and put his hand on my shoulder and led me into his office.
There was a man in his office, walking around and looking at the trophies on the shelves. “Very impressive, Walter,” he said as he turned and noticed me. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know we had company.”
Coach Templeton looked over at me and laughed. “Zac isn’t company. He’s almost like a son to me.” He walked over and picked up a trophy from last year’s state meet. “In fact, he’s the reason this trophy is sitting on the shelf.”
The man’s eyes widened. “Zachary Barnes?” He walked over and shook my hands. “You’re THE Zachary Barnes?”
“Zac, Sir.” I replied as my face began to redden.
He started laughing. “Zac it is, then. I’m Martin Gillespie. Most people call my Marty.”
Marty was a very attractive man for a guy probably in his forties. His body was very fit. It was obvious he spent a lot of time in a gym somewhere. His tee shirt appeared about a size too small on him, as his muscular chest seemed to want to burst through. He was shorter than me by about two inches. His face was chiseled and rugged. He had a dark tan, like someone who may work construction outside during the hot summer.
I immediately liked him. He seemed to have a lively personality and a cheerful demeanor. He reminded me of my mother- no one is a stranger. A simple hello and you are a friend for life.
Coach Templeton walked over and placed his hand on my shoulder again. “Marty is the guy I was telling you about who is going to help train the sprinters and hurdlers this year.”
Marty started laughing as he winked at me. “I don’t know how much help I can give you. I watched you run last year at the finals. You’re awesome.” He looked down at my legs. “It looks like you’re even more developed than last year. If you don’t win it all this year, then Walter needs to resign and bring in someone younger.”
“Hey!” Coach shouted defensively. “Don’t forget we’re the same age.” Marty leaned back and started laughing. His laugh was infectious. I started laughing too, and I didn’t even know why.
“Zac?” I looked over at the coach when he called my name. “Go put on your running shorts and meet us on the track in fifteen minutes. I want to get started right away.”
“But coach...” I was trapped. With Marty looking on and smiling, there was no way I was going to be able to tell Coach I didn’t want to participate anymore.
“No, buts,” said Marty. “Go get ready. I can’t wait to work with you.” He looked over at Coach. “This is just like the old days.” He gave me a gentle push through the door. I went to the locker room, put on my running shoes and shorts, and then met them on the track.
I have to admit that when we finished an hour later I felt good about myself. Marty kept telling me how awesome I was. After days of self-torment, it felt good to hear someone tell me something good about myself.
The more time I spent with him, the more I liked him. He was extremely knowledgeable about track. In just one hour, he gave me a better understanding about running the 100m than I had learned in three years. I almost felt like an Olympian being instructed by one of the top trainers.
I felt uncomfortable when he knelt down and ran his hands over my legs. Coach had gone back into the gym and we were alone. “I want to start some rigid leg lift exercises right away. You’ve got good muscle tone, but if you’re going to come out of the blocks faster, you need a little more muscle.” I tensed up when he gripped my calf and squeezed it.
“Relax,” he laughed. “I’m your trainer. I have to feel your legs. You can let your boyfriend do the arousing.”
“What!” I stepped back with an astonished look.
He looked at me and smiled. “Come on, Zac,” he laughed. “You do a good job of hiding it, but I’m an old pro at this.”
“You’re gay?” He laughed when he saw the astonished look on my face.
“And so are you,” he said knowingly. “Come on, sit down.” He sat down on the grass and crossed his legs. I hesitantly sat down in front of him. He folded his hands and rested them on his chin as he studied me for a minute. I began to fidget under his scrutinizing glare.
Finally, he clapped his hands. “Okay, I got it.” He studied me again before speaking. “You’re not out, to anyone. Am I right?” I didn’t know what to say. I just looked dumbfounded at him.
“And you’re having trouble accepting who you are.” He scanned my face intently, looking into my eyes. “In fact, unless I’ve missed my mark here, you’re going through a bit of a crisis right now.” I felt tears welling up in my eyes. It was as if was reading me like a book.
“Have I missed anything yet?” I wiped away tears as I shook my head.
“Why are you doing this?” I cried.
“Relax, Zac,” he replied softly. “I went through the same thing when I was in college. In fact, it was the main reason I missed out running in the Olympics. I was dealing with so much self doubt, it affected how I ran.”
“If you’re going to win the gold medal,” he explained, “then you have to have confidence, and not just about your ability to run fast. You have to know who you are and why you are doing it.”
“I was coming today to tell the Coach I didn’t want to run track this year,” I said as I wiped more tears from my eyes.
“I kind of sensed that,” he smiled, “but I didn’t want to be wrong.” He looked sympathetically at me. “You want to talk about it?” I nodded my head.
He looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. Do you need to talk now, or can we wait until tomorrow? I’ll stay out here all night with you if you want me to.”
I looked at him and smiled. “I made it this far, I guess one more day won’t hurt.”
“You sure?” I nodded my head.
Suddenly, panic swept over me. “You’re not going to tell Coach about this are you?”
“Anything we talk about will be between us,” he assured me. “You have my word on that.”
“And you won’t tell him I was thinking about quitting.”
“Was?” He looked at me and smiled. I nodded my head.
“Don’t worry about Coach, Zac,” he said. “Who do you think helped bring me back when I thought I couldn’t go on anymore? When I didn’t qualify for the Olympics, I considered suicide.”
“And Coach helped you?”
“He never left my side.” This time tears appeared in his eyes. “That’s what real friends do.”
He stood, put out his hand and helped me up. “Thanks, Marty.” He put his hand on my shoulder as we walked back into the gym. For the first time in several days, I felt that tomorrow just might be a little bit better.
My good feelings didn’t last very long, though. When I got home and opened up my email, there was one from Kenny. When I opened it, it read: ‘r u a homo?’
Billy and Lonnie entered the room just as I was deleting the email. They walked over and sat down on Billy’s bed. I looked over and Lonnie timidly threw up his hand and said, “Hi, Zac.”
They sat for several minutes quietly on the bed watching me surfing around on my computer. I tried to read an article on a runner in California, but I could sense their eyes boring into the back of my head.
I turned in my chair and faced them. “What?”
Billy asked shyly, “You got a minute? Me and Lonnie need to talk to you.”
“Lonnie and I,” I corrected him. He rolled his eyes.
“This ain’t English class,” he huffed.
I started laughing. “This isn’t English class.” He rolled his eyes again.
“Come on, Zac,” he pleaded as he looked over at Lonnie. “We need to talk to you.” I could tell by the worried look on his face that something serious had happened. I rolled my chair across the floor until I was facing them.
Billy looked worriedly at Lonnie before speaking. “We got a problem?” I looked at Lonnie to see tears starting to form in his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I asked worriedly.
It surprised me when my brother reached down and took Lonnie’s hand and held it. “Me and Lonnie are gay.”
I just sat and stared at them. I already suspected that they were, but I wasn’t sure how I should react. It’s not like making the winning shot in a basketball game. You can’t jump up, shout excitedly and give each other a high five.
Then again, I didn’t want to appear shocked. Billy trusted me and if he thought that I was repulsed by what he was now telling me, then it could seriously damage our relationship.
I kept looking into my brother and Lonnie’s expectant faces. I looked down at their entwined hands. I searched for a right thing to say, but I couldn’t. Then I looked into Billy’s face and smiled.
“Lonnie and I are gay,” I joked. “Jeez. Don’t they teach you guys anything in school anymore?” I watched as Billy looked at Lonnie and let out a sigh of relief.
“So you’re not upset?” he asked.
I looked at them and smiled. “What’s to be upset about?”
“I just told you that me and Lon…,” he starting grinning, “I mean, Lonnie and I are gay?”
“It’s not like you told me you murdered someone,” I said jokingly. “That may have upset me.”
“So,” he asked, “You’re okay with it?”
“You’re my brother right?” He nodded. I turned to Lonnie. “And you’re his best friend, right?” Lonnie nodded timidly. “Then what’s not to be okay with it? Besides, I already thought you guys might be.”
Kenny nudged Billy in his side. “See I told you,” he said as he looked at me and smiled.
I leaned forward and gave both of them a hug. “I’m glad you came to me and told me.”
Billy fidgeted on the bed and looked worriedly at Lonnie. Lonnie nodded his head. “We kind of got another problem and we needed to talk to someone about it.” I looked down as he squeezed Lonnie’s hand tightly.
“What’s wrong?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear what my brother had to say. I was dealing with enough of my own problems. I wasn’t sure I could handle my brother’s problems also.
Tears welled up in his eyes. “We think we may be sick.”
“Why?” I asked worriedly. They both seemed so distraught, I was beginning to panic. Sick? The two boys sitting before me looked perfectly healthy.
“Some guys at school were talking about catching AIDS,” Billy explained. His face began to redden. “They said that cock suckers always die from it.” Tears began to flow as he put his arm around Lonnie and held him tightly. Tears appeared in both their eyes.
He looked at me and cried, “We don’t want to die! We’re too young!”
I had to put my hand over my face in an attempt to stifle a laugh. I remembered all the misinformation I had received from outside the classroom. When I was Billy’s age, the rumor in gym was you could get a girl pregnant if you laid on top of her fully clothed and humped her. Jason Weller swore that if you had precum, it could go through a boy’s pants and enter the girl’s vagina. For months, several guys were afraid to make out with their girlfriends for fear of becoming a teenage father.
“Relax,” I smiled still trying not to laugh. “You’re not sick. You can’t get AIDS from sucking a guy’s dick.” They looked worriedly at me when I added, “Well, not usually, anyway.”
“So we can die?” Lonnie asked tearfully.
“No,” I assured them. “Okay,” my face started to redden. “You guys have put me in a spot here. I really don’t want to know too much about what you guys have done together.”
“We’ve only sucked each other,” Billy said quickly. “We haven’t done the other thing.”
“The other thing?”
“Yeah,” Billy face began to redden. “You know. Put our things in each others...”
“Wait!” I shrieked as I put my hand up. “I get the idea.” All of us seemed to relax as we looked at each other and laughed.
Billy looked hopefully at me. “So we’re not going to die then?”
“No,” I said assertively. “You’re not going to die.” They looked at each other and sighed.
“But listen to me.” They turned and faced me. “There are diseases you can get from having sex with someone, and you really have to be careful.” They nodded their heads.
“Okay,” I sighed deeply. “This is a hard question to ask, but have either of you had sex with anyone else?” They looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Good,” I replied with relief. “Keep it that way. As long as you do, then you don’t have anything to worry about.”
“So we don’t have AIDS?” Billy asked.
“No,” I assured him. “You don’t have AIDS. But just remember something.” They nodded their heads and listened intently. “When you have sex with someone, then you have sex with everyone they’ve ever had sex with.”
“That don’t make sense,” Lonnie said.
“What I’m trying to say,” I continued, “is that if you have sex with a guy and he’s had sex with someone who did have a sexual disease, then there is a risk that you too can become infected. Do you understand?”
They nodded their heads. “I think so,” said Billy.
I turned to where I had thrown the condom the night before. I walked over, picked it up and put it in Billy’s hand. “And if you ever decide to do that ‘other thing,’ then make sure you always use one of these.” I don’t think I had ever seen Billy’s face turn so red. He looked at Lonnie and then nodded.
“Now there are some other things we need to talk about.”
“What?” Billy asked.
I looked at my brother and asked, “Have you told Mom and Dad you’re gay?” He shook his head.
“I tried to talk to Mom a couple of weeks ago,” he said, “but when I asked her what she thought about gay people she changed the subject.”
“Changed the subject?”
“Yeah,” he replied. “She started talking about gardening.”
“Gardening?” I was becoming confused.
“Yeah,” he continued. “She started talking about planting flowers.” I almost fell out of my chair when I leaned back and roared with laughter. They both gave me a puzzled look.
“Did she mention pink carnations?” I laughed. He gave me a weird look.
“Yeah, pink carnations.” They looked at each other as I continued to laugh.
I reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “Billy,” I said. “I think it will be all right if you talk to Mom and Dad.”
“Really?” He asked excitedly. “I’ve been wanting to for a long time.” He looked at me as if he were ready to break into tears. “I’ve wanted to tell you but I was afraid you’d hate me.”
I opened my arms and he fell into them. I looked over at a tearful Lonnie and reached for him. I considered telling them I was gay, but I wanted to talk to Marty first. I had many unresolved issues I had to deal with before I came out to anyone. Besides, I didn’t want Lonnie to be around. I thought it should be something I shared with Billy alone.
“What about you?” I looked at Lonnie. “Do your parents know?”
“Kind of,” he replied.
“We talked last year about it,” he explained, “but they thought I might be too young to know for sure.” He reached down and took Billy’s hand. “But I already know.” They leaned in to kiss each other, but I loudly cleared my throat.
“One other thing,” I laughed. “I don’t want to walk into the room and find you two on the bed going at it.” They looked at each other and giggled.
“So, let’s come up with a plan.” They eagerly nodded their heads.
“If Lonnie is here and I want to come in the room,” I said, “then I’ll knock twice and wait thirty seconds before entering.” They shook their heads. Then a sad look appeared on Billy’s face.
“But that’s not fair to you,” he said. “Rachel never comes in our room, so I won’t have to wait thirty seconds.”
For a second, it felt like he had put a knife in my heart and twisted it. He had no idea what I had been through. He didn’t know that I was no longer going to date Rachel. For the past fifteen minutes, I had been so focused on my brother’s problems that I had forgotten about my own.
I leaned back and smiled. “Well,” I laughed. “You never know, I might be on my bed spanking my monkey. You wouldn’t want to walk in and see me doing that, would you?” Lonnie’s eyes widened and Billy started giggling.
“I’ve already done that.” Billy laughed. I got up and ruffled his hair.
“Like I haven’t seen you choking your chicken a few times.” Lonnie fell back on the bed and roared with laughter. He sat up, saw Billy’s red face, and fell back laughing again.
I headed for the door. As I was ready to leave, I turned and looked at the two young boys sitting on the bed. “Remember, knock twice, wait thirty seconds.” Billy smiled and nodded.
“I love you, Zac,” he smiled.
“Ditto, Little Brother,” I replied as I left the room.