by Anel Viz
The teller looked at my deposit slip and asked, “Are you related to Arthur?” Not a far-fetched question in a town of under sixty thousand—ours is not a common last name.
“I’m his father,” I said. “You know him?”
“Oh, yes, I remember him fondly. He was such a good friend to Kevin. I’m Mrs. Bates.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. “I didn’t know all of Arthur’s friends. Didn’t really know any of them well.”
“They weren’t close friends, really, but Kevin talked a lot about him. Thought the world of him. The things he did for him!”
“To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to imagine Arthur doing things for people when he was a kid.” Little things, maybe. Not that he was selfish or anything. He just had this idea that people ought to fend for themselves.
“Then you didn’t know your son as well as you think you did. I wouldn’t call the things he did for Kevin little. How’s he doing?”
“Well… very well, in fact. He’s getting married next month. The whole family’s flying to Belgium for the wedding. He’s been working in Brussels the past two years.”
“How exciting! I’ve never been out of the country myself. His wife… the girl… she’s Belgian?” I nodded. “Will he be settling there?”
“For a couple more years, I think, and then wherever his company sends him. And your son? Does he still live here?”
“Are you kidding? Kevin got out as soon as he could. He’s in San Francisco now and happily partnered—”
Mrs. Bates broke off in mid-sentence, seeing the look on my face. She must have mistaken it for disapproval. It wasn’t, though; it was remembrance.
“You’re Kevvy’s mom,” I said. “It’s come back to me now. So Kevvy’s in San Francisco and has a permanent boyfriend. I’m glad for him. They get on well?”
She beamed and nodded.
It had been more than ten years, but I remembered Kevvy Bates, all right. I’d met him several times, a skinny seventeen-year-old, not particularly remarkable, blond, very round brown eyes, about five foot eight, with a shy smile and awkward in his movements. He was always polite and had a dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. It was hard to tell if he was joking or serious. I liked him, though, which is more than I can say for his friend Mitchell, who was by far the more colorful of the two.
“Arthur will be glad, too,” I went on. “I’ll have to remember to tell him the next time he calls. And Mitchell? Is your son still in contact with him?”
“That friendship ended years ago. Kevin only hung around with him because he was lonely. Mitchell wasn’t particularly nice to him.”
“I remember Arthur saying something to that effect. But they were kids then. Maybe Mitchell’s grown up.”
“I wouldn’t know,” she said, knitting her brows.
As a matter of fact, the last I heard, he hadn’t.
* * * * *
It seems odd when I think about it, forgetting Kevvy Bates. I first heard the name when Arthur had just started his freshman year in high school, and it was my turn to drive him to soccer practice. My wife and I alternated driving him to soccer and his little sister Elaine to gymnastics so we’d both be involved in the kids’ activities.
I can’t remember what we were talking about, but out of nowhere Arthur said, “I’d just die of embarrassment if you got AIDS.”
“You know someone with AIDS?”
My first reaction had been to say, “What makes you think I’d get AIDS?” Although a few hemophiliacs and women had come down with it, it wasn’t generally known and people still thought of AIDS as a gay disease. But my heart went out to those people, and I thought it more important to let Arthur know where I stood and maybe teach him a little compassion, so I quickly added, “I’d like to think that the fact that I was dying would upset you more.”
“Well, sure. I mean… Christ! That’d be awful!”
It seemed my answer had hit home, but I couldn’t be sure Arthur had put two and two together to make a lesson in moral values. “If you got it, I’d only care about you, not what people were saying,” I went on.
“Don’t you think I know that? Do you think maybe I’m gay or something? You think that’s why I said that about you getting it?”
“No, I don’t think you’re gay. I just wanted to let you know that it wouldn’t make one bit of difference in how I felt about you if you were. And I hope you feel the same about me.”
“‘Course I do.”
“Why did you say it?”
“I dunno. Kids at school are talking about it, that’s all. No one wants to sit next to Kevvy in the lunchroom because they’re afraid of catching it.”
“A kid in your school has AIDS?” With the scare at its height, I’d have thought the school would have let parents know.
Arthur shrugged. “He doesn’t look like he’s got it. It’s just because he’s gay.”
“He’s gay? How do you know? Has he come out or is that what everybody thinks?”
“You can just tell; it’s that obvious. No question about it.”
“How can you tell? You mean he’s effeminate?”
“Yeah, kinda. Not really nerdy or anything. More the sixties bohemian type.”
There were so many potential lessons here I had trouble deciding which to pick up on.
“Just about all we know about AIDS is you can’t get it from sitting next to someone in the lunchroom.”
“Yeah. That’s what Mr. Cantor said in hygiene class.”
“Do you think the other kids would want to sit next to… What’s his name?”
“Would they want to sit next to him if there were no such thing as AIDS?”
“Don’t you feel sorry for him?”
“Hadn’t thought about it. But it’s normal, isn’t it, not wanting to hang around with a queer?”
“Because of what the other kids will think?”
“That and because it’s creepy.”
“But you don’t know for sure, do you? You can’t tell if somebody’s gay just by looking at him. If you could, you wouldn’t have brought up the possibility of my getting AIDS.”
* * * * *
The subject of Kevvy came up again two or three months later when Arthur asked if I remembered him. I didn’t.
“The queer kid.”
“Oh, that’s right. The one you’re afraid to sit next to at lunch.”
“Who said I’m afraid to sit next to him?”
“Of course not. I hang with my friends.”
“Well, what about him?”
“He was checking me out in the lockers at gym.”
“Checking you out? Were you naked?”
“In the showers.”
“You in particular or all the guys?”
“Him ogling the other guys is none of my business. I just care about me.”
“So, do you want me to call the school and complain?” A rhetorical question—I knew how he’d answer.
“You wouldn’t really do that, would you? I mean, I can handle it myself.”
“How? You thinking of beating him up?”
“Nothing like that. I’d just tell him I saw him doing it and warn him to lay off.”
“I dunno. Maybe. I will if he keeps doing it.”
“You sure he was checking you out?”
“Sure I’m sure. I saw him.”
“How did you see him? Were you checking him out?”
“Well, why not? I’m not telling you to check him out; I’m saying that guys do look at each other sometimes. Unless things have changed a helluva lot since I was in high school. So maybe you were.”
“I wasn’t. And things haven’t changed. But you can bet I don’t look at him. I wouldn’t even if I had to force myself not to.”
“Force yourself, huh?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I know exactly what you mean. It’s hard not to look at someone who you think is looking at you. But why not?”
“I don’t want to give him ideas.”
“Look, not stare. Looking away can be as rude as staring sometimes.”
“What’ll my friends think if I look at him?”
“If you look natural, nothing.”
“What’ll he think?”
“Afraid he’ll hit on you?”
“He better not, or I’ll deck him.”
As far as I know, Arthur never confronted Kevvy for “checking him out” in gym.
At the time, I saw in our conversations only an opportunity to instill tolerance in my children. I knew it would be pointless, if not counterproductive, to lecture them, so I confined my “lessons” to seemingly disinterested, off-hand remarks. I’d never given much thought to homophobia. It wasn’t really an issue back in the eighties, and I didn’t see how anything relating to homosexuals concerned me directly.
* * * * *
It was another two years before my son became friends with Kevvy. They were brought together when Arthur took up with Mitchell. Kevvy was Mitchell’s friend.
I remember Arthur telling me that one time he’d told one of his friends who’d been picking on Kevvy to leave the kid alone. That was before Arthur took up with him. I asked if that put a stop to it and he said, “Not really, but they’ve toned it down some.” What he meant was his friends had quit ragging on him but still made nasty cracks about him sometimes, and Arthur didn’t drop them because of it.
Now his old set was drifting apart. They were growing up, their interests broadened and diverged, and Arthur tended more toward academics. I could understand what attracted him to Mitchell, although he wasn’t the studious type nor really all that much of an intellectual. To tell the truth, I found the boy a bit shallow. What drew Arthur to him was his air of worldly, bad boy glamour—not “bad boy” in the sense of petty crime; more something in his attitude. It struck me more as affectation than sincere, a kind of self-flattery he enjoyed, calling attention to himself through a display of bohemian nonconformity. Befriending Kevvy enhanced that image, and Kevvy worshipped him, thrilled to have “won” the friendship of a good-looking straight boy. Also, Mitchell’s scorn for the “petty bourgeois values” of the other kids insulated him from their thinly disguised cruelty.
Not that Mitchell couldn’t be cruel on occasion. He cultivated a sadistic streak as part of his persona, but he reserved his unkind cracks for Kevvy’s ears. To make them in public would have negated his reason for adopting Kevvy and aligned himself with the “in crowd”. For Kevvy it was a small price to pay. He may have rationalized it and taken it as a kind of teasing flirtation. I suppose it was, in a sense. The way Arthur explained it, Mitchell was flirting with himself, the only person he truly cared about.
I know because Mitchell’s cavalier treatment of Kevvy eventually came to eat at Arthur, and he spoke to me about it. I told him Mitchell was a sadist and a bully. He disagreed. He said Mitchell was just self-centered and callous—not his exact words, I can’t imagine him saying “callous” at seventeen. It was enough of a reason for him to break off with Mitchell after high school, however, and the couple of times their paths did cross, he told me that Mitchell had become “even more of a prick.” In other words, a sadist and a bully. The last time Mitchell called to leave his new number, Arthur tore it up.
Back in high school, Arthur didn’t take Mitchell’s teasing seriously. What annoyed him was his way of leading Kevvy on just to see how he’d react.
“Do you think he’s angling for a blowjob?” I asked bluntly.
“No, but he’d take him up on it if Kevvy offered. He won’t, though, much as he’d like to suck Mitchell off. Kevvy’s not that stupid.”
I remember wondering if Arthur would accept a blowjob from Kevvy or even ask for one. He wouldn’t tell me that, of course, but it wouldn’t have bothered me if he did. Kids do stupid things, and I don’t think there’s much harm in it. I decided he wouldn’t. Not because it was gay or because Arthur wasn’t curious. What guy isn’t curious about blowjobs at seventeen? Because it wouldn’t have been fair to Kevvy, and he’d have been behaving like Mitchell. I don’t think the likelihood that Mitchell wouldn’t have kept it secret if he found out had anything to do with it. Small-town teenage culture doesn’t see getting sucked as gay; only sucking was. At least that’s how it was then.
In any case, Kevvy wouldn’t have come on to him that way. He didn’t think Arthur would use it against him as Mitchell might have done; he just valued Arthur’s friendship too much. I’m sure Kevvy had a crush on both boys, but he must have been used to frustration, and it wasn’t in his nature to play the slut. I got the impression that in high school Kevvy was the kind of kid who’d save himself for Mr. Right. No doubt he put looking for him ahead of saving himself for him when he got to college.
Evidently my wife saw things differently, for one day she surprised me with a question. “Do you think Arthur might be gay?”
“Who, Arthur? Not a chance! What gave you that idea?”
“Those friends of his—Mitchell and Kevin.”
“Mitchell isn’t gay.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Arthur told me.”
“You spoke to him about it?”
“No, Arthur spoke to me. Kevvy’s gay and Mitchell isn’t. Frankly, I’m glad it doesn’t matter to Arthur whether someone’s gay or not.”
“Well, so am I, when you put it that way. Still, it worries me.”
“What exactly is it that worries you?”
“What his friends at school will think.”
“I don’t think any of them think he’s gay, and Arthur is more than capable of handling it if they did. I imagine some of them can’t figure out why he has a gay friend, but that’s even easier to handle.”
I mentioned my wife’s concern to Arthur. “There’s not one person in the whole school who thinks I’m gay, and my own mom isn’t sure!” he exclaimed.
“Does that upset you?”
“Maybe it would if it weren’t so off-the-wall funny.”
So at supper a couple of days later when there was a lull in the conversation, Arthur said, completely off topic, “I’m not gay, Mom.”
My wife was too taken aback to answer, it was so unexpected.
An embarrassed silence ensued. “Thanks for coming out to us as straight, Arthur,” I said. “We don’t love you any less for it.”
Elaine cracked up, spewing her milk across the table.
* * * * *
I haven’t told my story in order. The incident with my wife wondering if Arthur was gay occurred long before Arthur started complaining about Mitchell’s treatment of Kevvy. I heard a lot about that, because Arthur became more exasperated with him as time went on and it ended up by them fighting—words, not fists. Mitchell shrugged it off, but it continued to eat at Arthur. He didn’t stop seeing Mitchell, not until he got out of high school, because Kevvy was friends with both of them.
Anyway, that’s all I have to say about Arthur’s friendship with Kevvy. I had a good relationship with my son, but he didn’t confide in me much. He’d become pretty independent his last two years in high school, and as long as he kept up his grades and stayed out of trouble, I didn’t pry into his business. And he’s turned out well.
I forgot to tell Arthur I had run into Kevvy’s mother. It wasn’t until we flew to Brussels for the wedding that I mentioned I’d had news of his old friend.
I went with Margot to pick Dad up at the airport. She hadn’t met him yet. Mom and Elaine had come up by train from Switzerland a day or two before. Elaine’s doing graduate work at the London School of Economics, which gave Mom an excuse to fly out a couple of weeks early and tour Europe with her.
On the way to the hotel, Dad says out of nowhere, “By the way, I have news of your friend Kevvy. He’s living in San Francisco and has a steady boyfriend.”
Funny he should bring up Kevvy of all people the day before my wedding. “So he’s still gay?” I said.
“Does that surprise you?”
“Not particularly. He could have grown out of it. It’s a phase a lot of kids go through.”
“That’s not what you thought then.”
“What did I know then?”
“Who’s Kevvy?” Margot asked.
“Just a friend I had in high school.”
“You had a gay friend? Good for you! Did the other kids tease you for it?”
“Not that I remember.”
“Arthur used to stand up for him to the other kids,” Dad explained. “Kevvy really appreciated that. I met his mother at the bank. She works there. She says he hasn’t forgotten. I’m sure he’d like hearing from you.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“Were you big on human rights when you were in high school?” Margot asked.
I explained to Dad that Margot was a bit of a political activist and was on my back to get involved in issues, as if I could, living in a foreign country. Then I set Margot straight. “No, I was just a kid interested in sports. I took Kevvy’s side because he was my friend. A couple of other gay kids in school got picked on and I didn’t let it bother me.”
“It should have,” Margot said.
For a moment I thought we were going to have our first premarital argument about what I was like in high school, but she left it at that. She didn’t ask any more about Kevvy, either, and I saw no reason to tell her. I’d said what I did because I thought we had talked about it enough. I’d never asked her about the men she slept with before we started dating or spoken to her about my old girlfriends. Not that Kevvy was my boyfriend, exactly.
* * * * *
The first time I exchanged words with Kevvy wasn’t like exchanging words at all. I think it was in the spring of my sophomore year. I was having lunch with my friends in the cafeteria. Kevvy brought his tray to an empty spot at the far end of their table.
“It’s the faggot,” Craig said.
Kevvy ignored him and sat down. I would have overlooked the crack, but Craig looked as if he were about to say more and Dad had spoken to me about bullying more than once, I forget in what context. So before he could, I said, as if it was no big deal, “Gay guys gotta eat, too, you know.”
“Yeah, but why here?”
“Because it’s the lunchroom,” and I quickly changed the subject.
Craig had no intention of letting it go at that, however, and asked, “What’s with you, Art? Is he a friend of yours?”
“I don’t even know him.” Then on an impulse, I stood up, walked to where Kevvy was sitting, and held out my hand. “Arthur.”
Kevvy looked up, embarrassed, wondering if he was being made fun of, but I kept my hand extended, so he had to shake it. “Kevin,” he mumbled, and I went back to my seat.
“What was that all about?” Craig asked. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll catch something?”
“I dunno. A taste for guys.”
“Come off it.”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t seen him checking us out in the locker room.”
“I’ve seen you checking me out, too.”
Craig blushed. “Like when?”
“Like I’m supposed to remember when? It’s no big deal. You were sizing me up, comparing. You weren’t drooling. Kevin doesn’t drool either, do you, Kevin?” I called down the table.
I immediately regretted having said it. Kevvy blushed to the hairline and all but buried his face in his tray.
“Okay, so maybe I made a comparison,” Craig admitted. “Once. It’s possible. I’m not saying I did, just that it’s possible.”
“Who won?” Dirk joked.
Craig snapped back at him. “You’ll have to ask Kevvy that.”
“Or compare dicks again. I want to know.”
“Like, yeah, we’re gonna whip it out right here in the lunchroom. You’ll have to wait till we have gym again.”
“You see, Craig?” I said. “You and Kevvy there aren’t the only ones who like to peek at dicks. That is, if he does.”
“Do you, Kevvy?” Craig asked in a voice loud enough for the whole lunchroom to hear.
“Will you leave the guy alone for Christ sake? What the hell has he done to you?”
“Did he hit on you or something, Craig?” Dirk asked. You could tell by his tone of voice he wasn’t serious. Dirk was the joker.
“If he did, I’d punch his lights out.”
“So would I,” I said. “But he hasn’t.”
Kevvy evidently felt he ought to say something. “I don’t go around hitting on people.”
“That’s what I just said, isn’t it?” I asked, trying to be kind.
Craig imitated Kevvy, “I don’t go around hitting on people,” in such a girly voice it was obvious how un-girly Kevvy’s was. “See? He admits he’s a fag. He’d deny it if he wasn’t.”
“I’ve had enough of this shit,” I said and got up to bus my tray.
Kevvy was in my history class, the last of the day. When the bell rang and all the kids made a beeline for the door, he stopped me.
“Yes, what is it?”
He waited for the room to empty. “I just wanted to thank you for standing up for me.”
“I wasn’t standing up for you. I was telling Craig he was being a creep.”
“Why do you hang out with those guys if you don’t like the things they say?”
“They’re my friends; Craig’s been my friend since kindergarten. Would you drop one of your friends just because he was acting like a creep?”
Kevvy blanched. I realized my error: Kevvy had no real friends. Apologizing would only rub it in. “Maybe I can convince them to stop being creeps,” I said.
“To see the light.”
“I don’t know if I’ve seen the light.”
“You must’ve or you wouldn’t have spoken up.”
“I meant about this gay thing. It makes no sense to me. Are you gay?”
Kevvy hesitated. “Yes. At least I think I am.”
“You think you are? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I haven’t done anything, haven’t tried it.”
“Well, don’t think of trying it with me.”
“I’m not hitting on you. I was answering your question. You asked me. Please don’t tell anyone what I said. I never came out to anyone before.” Then he added, “And I don’t check guys out in the showers.”
“So what makes you think you’re gay?”
Kevvy blushed. It seemed he was always turning color. “Because I have to force myself not to,” he said.
“I force myself not to, too, and I look away if I catch myself doing it. I don’t think that makes me gay.”
“Look, I really don’t want to go into it, the feelings I have, the thoughts, why I’m sure—pretty sure—I’m gay.”
“I don’t want to hear them either.”
“But you asked.”
That caught me up short. “Yeah, I guess I did. I didn’t realize that was what I was asking. Look, I gotta run or I’ll miss the school bus. And you didn’t have to thank me. What I did was nothing special.” The words were barely out of my mouth when it hit me how special it must have been for Kevvy. He got ragged on a lot. “See ya around,” I said.
“You mean that?” I heard him call out behind me, but was already halfway down the hall on my way to the lockers.
* * * * *
I tore a ligament in my right knee early in the fall semester of my junior year. I was off crutches fairly soon, but the doctor said I shouldn’t run on it unless the house was on fire. Kicking a ball around the field was out of the question. That put an end to my days as a soccer player. I tried out for the school play and was given a bit part, the first and only time I centered my extracurricular activities on the arts. I made a lousy enough job of it to convince myself and everyone else I had no future in the theater. However, being in the play and away from the locker rooms threw me in with a different crowd. I made new friends, Mitchell among them, and Mitchell introduced me to Kevvy. “One of my groupies is dying to meet you,” he said.
“I’m not interested in having groupies.”
“Good thing, too. If you were hoping for a fan club after the play, think again. You stink.”
Mitchell was also involved with the play, but not as an actor. He worked the lights and was putting a tape together for background music. He did have groupies, though. While not especially good looking, he was the only boy in our class who had grown what passed for a mustache, and his lack of zits and his over-the-ears brown hair, carefully arranged to look unkempt, attracted the artier girls. He could be a smart aleck and enjoyed putting people down, and the girls ate that up, too. He cultivated an aloof manner that passed for sophistication. I admit that I was also taken in at first.
“Don’t turn up your nose at an admirer,” he went on, although he turned his up at all of his. Still, rumor had it some of them were putting out for him, and I couldn’t deny that none of the girls in the play took much interest in me.
“Okay, who is she?” I asked.
“Not she, he. He thinks you’re hot shit.”
I knew immediately who he meant. “Kevvy. I already know him.”
“You do? Then why’s he so keen on being friends with you?”
“You keeping your distance because he’s a fag? Half the guys in the play are.”
That was an exaggeration. One or two maybe. Three at most. “I don’t care about that,” I said. It wasn’t cool in the theater crowd to be prejudiced against anyone but jocks.
“I’m meeting him at the mall after rehearsal. Why don’t you come with us?” Mitchell urged. “He’s not as geeky as you think. He’s really a lot of fun once he opens up to you. And I don’t mean his ass.”
“Has he opened that up for you?”
“Don’t I wish! For the sake of comparison, you understand.”
“Comparison with what?”
“With girls, idiot.”
When I got to know Mitchell better, I found out the rumors were just rumors. I’m pretty sure he had asked Kevvy to bend over for him more than once, and equally sure that if Kevvy had, Mitchell would have had nothing to compare it with.
I did go with them. Hanging out at the mall wasn’t my thing, so I didn’t expect to have much fun, but I did, thanks to Kevvy. We hadn’t been there fifteen minutes and I knew I wanted him for a friend. He wasn’t at all geeky and opened up to me immediately. He certainly wasn’t self-conscious and timid as he’d been in the lunchroom. He’d go into stores and ask to try on the most outlandish things, from football uniforms to cowboy outfits to tuxedos, then come out and put on a hilarious act for us, mugging to suit the costume he had on.
It amazed me that Mitchell would allow anyone to steal the limelight from him, and I told him so when Kevvy had gone into a fitting room.
“I’m giving the kid a chance to impress you,” he said. “It means a lot to him.”
I didn’t know it then, but Kevvy unknowingly provided a distraction for Mitchell’s petty shoplifting. He didn’t care that he could have got us in trouble along with him if he was caught. Mitchell used people like that.
Kevvy stayed in the fitting room longer than usual, and when he emerged, this time in the get-up of a punk rocker—he’d spiked his hair to surprise us—I asked him why he wasn’t in the school play.
He explained, “Because it conflicts with orchestra rehearsals.” He played the trumpet.
“Isn’t he a riot?” Mitchell asked. “Thinks he’s a fashion model. That’s so gay.”
That was the closest he came to putting Kevvy down in front of me that day and for some time after. He made a lot of other snide comments, though, mostly about the people we saw there. His teasing Kevvy came later, I think because he was jealous Kevvy liked me more. It started with offhand remarks at the mall—we got into the habit of going there once or twice a week. Mitchell would point out some good-looking guy and say, “Wow, he’s hot! If I was gay, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off him. How do you do it, Kevvy?”
Kevvy ignored him, but it eventually got to me. “The same way he keeps them off you, asshole.”
Maybe my telling him off egged him to it, I don’t know, but at about the same time, Mitchell started making cracks about me and Kevvy getting it on together. Kevvy ignored it and said I should, too; answering back would just encourage him. I knew he was right, but I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.
* * * * *
We were listening to CDs in Mitchell’s room. Mitchell said, “So tell us, Kevvy, who has the bigger dick, me or Art?”
“He wouldn’t know,” I said. “He hasn’t seen mine.”
“Still not? Does he keep his eyes closed or something? Tell him how big I am, Kevvy.”
“I can’t,” Kevvy said, sounding bored. “I didn’t measure it.”
“You sized it up with your eyes, all right. You were drooling. But I wouldn’t let you at it, would I, Kevvy?”
“That’s not how I remember it.”
“Wanna measure them now, referee a contest? Got a ruler?”
“If you’re so keen on knowing how big everyone’s dick is, we can measure ourselves at home in the privacy of our own bedrooms and just tell each other how big our dick is,” I said.
“What fun would that be for Kevvy? And how would we know we’re telling the truth?”
“Kevvy won’t lie, so the only unknown quantity will be yours.”
“No, yours. Kevvy will vouch for mine.”
“I have nothing to hide.”
“Then why are you hiding it?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I bet he can vouch for yours, too, and he’s just not telling. I won’t believe him if he says you’re bigger’n me, though. He’d lie about that because he’s sweet on you.”
“C’mon, Kevvy,” I said. “Let’s get outta here.”
“Going to measure dicks?”
“You know, Mitchell? However big your penis is, you’re a bigger one.”
“You really see Mitchell’s cock?” I asked Kevvy after we walked out. “Hard?”
“He’s bigger than me.”
“I don’t care about his dick size. Did you have sex with him?”
“Are you kidding? So he can tell the whole school I gave him a blowjob? He wanted one. Whipped it out and waggled it in front of my face telling me how much I wished I could suck on it, but I wasn’t biting… so to speak.”
“Were you tempted?”
“Of course I was tempted! But I’m in no rush to lose my virginity, least of all with him, nice as it is. I probably would’ve if he wasn’t exactly what you said he is.”
“What’d I say?”
“That he was a bigger dick than the one between his legs.”
“I don’t know why you put up with him.”
“It doesn’t bother me. I suppose it would if he wasn’t like that with everybody. Why do you?”
I had no answer for that. “What about me?” I went on. “Would you suck me off if I asked you to?”
“You won’t ask me to, and I won’t ask you.”
“Why? Don’t you want to?”
“Look, I already said the idea of giving Mitchell a blowjob turned me on, so how do you think I feel about you? But you’re my friend, and I wanna keep it that way.”
“You think I’d dump you just because you sucked me off?”
“I don’t want to take that chance. Besides, Mitchell would figure it out if something had gone on between us. How would ya like that? I wouldn’t care if he knew, except he wouldn’t let up until I sucked him off too, and then he’d want it all the time.”
“And you wouldn’t.”
“Not with him.”
“Yeah, and with me you’d want it all the time, but I’d only let you do it once and I’d feel guilty that I led you on.”
“Quit it. You’re starting to sound like Mitchell.”
* * * * *
Once the idea of getting a blowjob from Kevvy had planted itself in my mind, it wouldn’t go away. I had become what they call bi-curious. I decided in advance there would be no encores and was sure Kevvy would go along with that. I knew he wanted to do it. He wouldn’t jump at the chance, but I could talk him into it. Only two things held me back. One was the possibility Mitchell would find out and broadcast it around the school, and I’d be labeled a fag. That didn’t bother me as much as the second, since I’d be graduating in a couple of months and going away to college where nobody would know about it. The second and real reason I didn’t go for it right away was that I felt I ought to reciprocate. Kevvy wouldn’t ask, but I’d feel I owed it to him, and the thought of taking anyone’s dick in my mouth gave me the willies.
We did it behind some bushes in an empty lot near the high school. I made Kevvy drop his pants, too, because I’d be embarrassed if I was the only one naked.
“Really?” he said. “You’re kidding.”
“No. I know it sounds stupid, but that’s how I feel.”
“I suppose you want me to show mine first.”
Although it had taken more convincing than I anticipated before he would believe I honestly wanted him to suck me off, having decided to go through with it, he immediately pulled his pants down to his ankles and got on his knees in front of me.
I just stood there. He looked up at me questioningly, as if he thought I’d chicken out. I might have, but before I could, he unbuckled my belt and unzipped my fly in a very businesslike manner. “Here goes,” he said, and yanked my boxers down around my knees.
I was already hard—had been since we’d started nosing around for a secluded spot. He studied it a little and said, “Very pretty,” then put his hand around it and squeezed gently, rubbed his thumb underneath the head, fondled my balls.
“What are you waiting for?” I asked. I wasn’t impatient; I was nervous.
“I haven’t done this before. I hope I don’t blow it.”
That cracked us both up. “Freudian slip,” he explained, and took me in his mouth.
I’m no expert, but I’d say he did a very creditable job; masterly, for a first attempt, as I believe it was. Now that he’s had a lot more experience, he must drive his partner wild, lucky man. It took him a while to figure out how to get the whole thing in his mouth, but even the first tentative licks felt wonderful, and once he began rocking back and forth on the whole shaft, I came quickly with a gasp of, “Oh, shit! I can’t hold it back,” and my knees buckled.
It was a long orgasm for such a short blowjob. When I was drained, I found I was clutching his head and had entwined my fingers in his hair. I released my grip, and Kevvy sat back on his haunches looking a little disappointed it was over so soon, my load still in his mouth.
“Aren’t you gonna spit it out?” I asked.
He smiled, shook his head, and swallowed it. “Savoring it,” he said.
“So you like sucking cock?”
“Thought I would, but I couldn’t be sure. If I ever had any doubt I was gay, I don’t anymore.”
“How does it taste?”
“Like mine. You mean you’ve never tasted your own?”
I hadn’t. I did the next time I jerked off, and it wasn’t that bad. Weird, but palatable. Had I known, maybe I would have been less averse to doing what I did next. “Okay, your turn,” I said.
“You don’t have to do this, you know, unless you really want to.”
“I want to,” I lied. “Might as well finish what I started.”
I didn’t. I went down on him, gave a few clumsy sucks, and gagged. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just can’t. I wish I could, but I can’t.”
“That’s all right. I wasn’t expecting it.”
“I’ll beat you off instead.”
“You don’t have to do that either.”
“No, fair is fair.”
“It doesn’t disgust you?”
“No, not at all.” And that was the truth.
He thanked me after he came. “We better go,” I said, hitching up my pants. “We’ve been here long enough. Too long, if anyone saw us go in.”
Kevvy looked as if he still wanted something. I returned his gaze, and he asked, “Will you kiss me?”
It hadn’t occurred to me he might want a kiss. For some reason, two men kissing struck me as gayer than a blowjob, but I thought, What the hell, if we’ve gone this far?
Ours was a long, lingering kiss, with tongues and everything, exchanged in a close hug. If anything could have turned me gay, it was that kiss. But walking back to car, he said, “By the way, Mitchell’s bigger.” He winked at me and added, “Some good it did him.”
I was annoyed and said, “I could’ve figured that out for myself since I’m the same size as you.”
I sulked on the drive home because of what he’d said. I couldn’t have cared less who had the bigger dick. “Some good it did him” sounded like Kevvy had used me. He didn’t mean it that way, of course. If anyone had been used, it was Kevvy. What I had done made me feel cheap, and I was turning my resentment on him. I realize that now.
Mitchell never found out about the one gay experience in my life. Only Kevvy and I know. I don’t regret it happened. In fact, I feel good about it. I suppose it’s something I would have tried once sooner or later, and I’m glad I did it with Kevvy.
Kevin talked with his mother for about twenty minutes. I could tell it was her because his Midwestern accent comes back whenever he speaks to her. Besides, I heard him say, “Cole’s doing great. You want to talk to him?” Nobody asks about me except Mrs. Bates.
After he hung up, he went and got his high school yearbook out of the closet, brought it over to me and pointed to a photo of one of his classmates, a good-looking guy with dark hair. “That’s him,” he said.
“Yeah, I can read. What about him?”
“Remember when we first started going together and you asked me to tell you about the first time I had sex and I said it was nothing special? Well, I lied. It was special. It was with him.”
“Why tell me now? Should I be jealous?”
“Of a guy I used to be in love with when I was kid? Anyway, we only did it once.”
“And for some strange reason, you suddenly want to give me a blow-by-blow narration of all the delicious dirty details. What inspired you?”
“No details. I just thought about him because my mom gave me some news about him. Something she heard from his father.”
“Let me guess. He was arrested for molesting teenage boys.”
“Hardly. He’s working in Belgium—”
“As a what?”
“She didn’t say. And he’s getting married.”
“A straight guy? Every gay man’s dream, and for your first time, no less. I’m impressed. Fucked by a straight man. How did you pull that one off? Pity you were so new to it. You might have converted him.”
“I wasn’t trying to convert him. And he didn’t fuck me. I sucked his cock, and he jerked me off.”
“I see. So he pulled it off. And it was that special?”
“To me, very special. I’d had a crush on him for four years.”
“And it took you that long to talk him into letting you go down on him? He must be very straight.”
“I didn’t talk him into anything. It was his idea.”
“He’s sounding less straight by the minute. That, or very open minded.”
“More than open minded. Everyone at school knew I was gay, but that didn’t stop him from being my friend. That’s why I had a crush on him. It’s also why I never would’ve fooled around with him if he hadn’t brought it up.”
“Why did he bring it up?”
“Beats me. Which he did.”
“When you start making puns like that, I can tell you’re keeping something from me.”
“Am not. You started it: ‘He pulled it off.’”
“So why did he? Bring it up, I mean.”
“I told you. I don’t know. As a favor to me, I think.”
“A favor, huh? What had you done for him to deserve such a favor?”
“Nothing. I was just his friend.”
“His best friend?”
“He was mine, but I can’t say I was his. Art had lots of friends; he was very popular. I only had him and Mitchell.”
He turned a few pages and showed me Mitchell’s photo. “Now he looks gay,” I said, “and like a smug bastard, too. Or is that just the picture?”
“He was a smug bastard, but he was straight.”
“I suppose he had a lot of friends, too.”
“No, he was too much of a smug bastard.”
I told him to stop deluding himself. Mitchell was as gay as a maypole and his heartthrob Art a closet queen who still didn’t have the balls to come out, since he was getting married.
“I think Mitchell hung with me to prove to everyone he was unconventional. As for Art, if he was so deep in the closet, why wasn’t he afraid to be my friend?”
“You tell me.”
He told me. Not the good stuff—meaning the sex—just about Art and Mitchell. I saw right off that it was a case of adolescent hero-worship and he wasn’t completely over it. I don’t mean he still lusted after him, but he talked about him as if his friend could walk on water. If it weren’t for Art, he said, his time in high school would have been unbearable. He would have been picked on a lot more, if not bullied.
Not so Mitchell. Mitchell treated him like shit, always making cracks about his sexuality, waving a hard on in his face, and angling for a blowjob, but I could understand why Kevin put up with it. I’m pretty sure Mitchell was gay, whatever Kevin says, or at least bi. I’d have given him that blowjob and plenty more and held our fooling around over him so he’d quit ragging on me. I bet he’d have gone down on me eventually, maybe in return for a fuck, which I wouldn’t have minded. Mitchell was eminently convertible.
Kevin says he didn’t have sex with Mitchell because Mitchell would have used it against him. That doesn’t make sense since it was no big secret Kevin was gay. If you ask me, back then Kevin was just a hopeless romantic who had the hots for Art and realized that if he were having sex with Mitchell, Art would never let him give him a blowjob.
When I gave my take on their relationship, Kevin said, “You may be right, except that I didn’t plan it.”
“I don’t mean consciously, but playing hard to get was the right way to go about it. And it worked, didn’t it? I admire your patience.”
“What patience? I didn’t have a choice. I never expected it to happen.”
“Because you were a kid. I’m sure I’m right about Mitchell.”
“It’s possible. As you said, what did I know back then? You know how it is. I thought I was different and everyone else was normal.”
“I have a theory about Art, too, and why he adopted you.”
I should have used another word, although adopt him is exactly what he did. Kevin flared up.
“I don’t want to hear it. You’re going to tell me he had ulterior motives. That’s crap. If he had, he wouldn’t have waited two years and would’ve dumped me as soon as he got what he wanted. I didn’t tell you about my first time so you could psychoanalyze everybody.”
“I agree. And I don’t think that because he got a blowjob out of it detracts one bit from his taking a stand against homophobia either. I’m not trying to out him ex post facto.”
“I still don’t want to hear it.”
I didn’t tell him because I knew Kevin would dismiss it out of hand. My theory is that he asked Kevin to suck him off because he wanted to be one up on Mitchell, in part, probably because he was attracted to him. Not that he wasn’t basically straight, but boys go through phases at that age, and he wouldn’t admit it to himself. He called Mitchell a dickhead, which he was, but he secretly worshipped him. Because Mitchell was a rebel, not for the same reasons Kevin worshipped him. If he’d had the nerve to come on to Mitchell, they would have ended up a threesome. Makes sense to me.
I asked Kevin if he had kept in touch with either of them.
“Not Mitchell; I was glad to be done with him. Art and I went to different colleges and exchanged e-mails for a while, then stopped. He got laid two weeks into the semester and wrote that it was a lot better with a girl and I should try it.”
Kevin gave me his don’t-be-stupid look. “You know the answer to that,” he said.