The rest of the cruise was really fun. I actually hung out with Scott a little bit here and there. I'm not really sure why Mike was so apprehensive around him; maybe some wounds don't heal easily. The next day we were docked in Nassau and Charles and I just hung out and did touristy crap. Twice I had guys approach me and ask if I'd like to "ho' de smoke, mon." Once was openly on the street, the other time was in the bathroom of the Burger King. I was surprised that there was a Burger King in the Bahamas. I wonder how many people started missing their dogs after it opened. But I turned down the grass offers; I was never really a burner and had only been stoned on the bus ride down to Miami. I'll stick with liquor, thank you very much.
That night Charles, Scott and I, and a couple of other people, headed over to some damn bar for the night. It was right on the water and was really pretty cool. As you entered they gave us all a ticket for a free drink. We went in and the place was packed. Right in the middle of it all was Mike Logan, leading a Congo line around the place and up the steps across the bar, then back down. What a goof. We all got a good laugh at him. If he noticed Scott he sure wasn't bothered that night.
The rest of the cruse flew by. We ended up in Little Stirrup Cay for two days and it was beautiful. I got well done in the sun along with everyone else. I bought lots of trinket shit and even bought some souvies for the band guys back home. While I was there some woman and her kid were selling these beads, "love beads, mon," and I bought a strand; then she gave me one for free. Wonder who I was gonna give them to.
After the cruise was over and we returned home I filled my folks in on how it all went. I was exhausted from the trip but still wanted to see Alan so I called him up at home. He'd taken a job at one of the movie theaters on the strip and was working when I called his house. After I showered I swung by the place and he was working box office, so I stepped into the place to chat for a bit. It was totally open to the public so no kissy poo. There was something that I wanted to tell him, though, and he was going to call me that night after he got off of work. He looked worried and I told him that everything was cool, chill out. I had something for him, "mon."
Alan ended up coming over instead of calling. I think he was nervous about what I wanted to tell him and I can't blame him for being worried at first. I took him up to my bedroom and made out with him for a bit just to ease his mind. I think he appreciated that. I mentioned to him that I'd run into Scott on the ship and that we were drinking the first night. This freaked him out a bit until I reassured him that all clothes remained on and that Scott and I had just talked. I let him know that after being questioned about my sexuality by Scott, who told me that he totally didn't care one way or the other, that after having many drinks I'd admitted to him that I was indeed gay. When I told Alan that Scott had suspected that he and I were a couple he seemed to get a bit edgy. I also wanted to let Alan know that I'd confirmed that he and I were seeing each other to Scott. This got him irritated and I felt really bad for it. I apologized and told him that it wasn't fair for me to blame the drinking; I wasn't really sure why I confirmed Scott's feelings but I was sure that Scott wouldn't say anything. After he calmed down a bit he just laughed saying that he was afraid that Scott and I had gotten drunk and banged each other. No such luck, I laughed back.
"But there's one thing....actually two things that I really need to get off my chest with you." At this point in the evening we'd gone back downstairs and were sitting outside on the back deck.
"Uh oh," he smiled.
"No, no. Nothing bad. Well, maybe." His smile was gone.
"I just want to tell you this." I tried carefully to find the right words. "You mean so much to me Alan. You really do. There isn't a friggin' thing I won't do for you. You name it, I'm there. You call me, I'm there." I leaned towards him a bit and whispered, "You are a really hot goddamn lay, too."
He busted out laughing.
"You are!" I said. "But you're a helluva lot more to me than that. You're my good friend. Hell, right now I'd have to say that you're my best friend. I know that friends come and go, and God help me if anything ever happens bad between us, but I want you to always feel like you can talk to me about anything. Anything at all. I don't care if you're hot for some other dude," he laughed, "or you want to try something new and maybe bizarre during sex," he laughed again, "I'm serious."
"I know," he smiled.
"I never want our friendship to end. Ever. I don't want to go months or even years without talking to you, wondering whether or not I'd done something to piss you off, or turn you off, whatever. Even if we stop seeing each other I want your friendship. Hell man, I need it. Without your friendship, nothing else between us matters. The sex would be just sex. You know what I'm saying?"
He smiled and looked a bit embarrassed. "Yeah. I know what you're saying."
"Now if you spot some stud that doesn't necessarily mean I'll let you go over to another pasture, but hey, I might like lookin' at him too." He laughed again. "I'm serious."
"I know," he kept laughing.
"Come on now, I ain't tellin' you nothin'!" I said with mock hurt.
"Hey, hey, I'm just teasin' you man."
He died laughing then.
"Paul look, I'm still not used to talkin' serious about....us....but the way you put things really does sound funny sometimes. And yeah, your friendship means more than anything to me, and I'd end 'us' before I'd end our friendship. But let's not count on that happening now, okay?"
"Hey, I'm not. I just want to be out in the open with you. I don't care how funny you might feel in coming to me about something, I just want you to know that....well, I guess I already said it. I want your friendship more than anything."
"More than anything?" he winked.
"Take it easy, now," I laughed.
He leaned over and kissed me. "I love you Paul."
"I love you too, man."
"So, what else did you want to tell me."
Here we go. Talk about wounds healing. I took a deep breath and blew it out. "I'm not really sure where to begin, so I'll just start talking. Stop me if you have any questions."
"Do you remember last year when Karla was killed in that car wreck?" He nodded. "Well, that happened at a really low point in my life. A very low point. That, added to Don sort of stepping out of my life altogether. He and I were really close, as I said before. At least, I thought we were. Anyway....." I paused and wondered if I should continue. But it wouldn't be fair for me to expect him to share everything with me if I couldn't hold up my end of the bargain.
"Well....um....I have these really unpleasant memories, as a kid. They're the kind.....well, I just wish I could....shake them." He sat back with his arms folded, looking like a rock. "Anyway," I continued, "it was like I kept remembering something that happened a few times to me....when I was little...."
He took in a deep breath and blew it through his nose. I was really starting to feel embarrassed. I'd never shared with anyone the things I was about to tell him. I sat there not speaking.
"Go on," he gently urged.
I closed my eyes and opened them again. Here goes. "When I was eight I was.....well, this is kinda hard to say," I said quietly.
He put his arms back down. "You were molested?"
I nodded and stared at the deck floor. "I hate that word. I'd rather say 'messed with'. For some reason it's easier.....anyway, for years I'd been thinking about what happened....back then. Every night I'd go to bed and I couldn't forget. Fuck! if I could just forget," I shook my head.
He sat there, saying nothing. Finally, he spoke. "Was it one of your parents?"
"No....it was......" I couldn't say the word. It so totally grossed me out. I physically could not get my vocal chords to continue. My mouth kept moving, but nothing was said. The tears started then. "I wanted out. I just wanted the fuck out," I mumbled.
"Out of what?"
I turned to look at him. "Living." He shifted a bit in his seat. "It's just that Don and I had gotten so damn close, I felt closer to him than my.....brother." I hung my head.
"Your brother," he stated. "Wait....your brother? He did...that?"
I barely nodded. We didn't speak for a few minutes.
"Do your parents know?"
I shook my head vigorously.
"So what did you mean that you 'wanted out.'?" Alan asked quietly.
"I wanted out. Simple as that. I'd had a person come into my life that made me feel, and treated me, like a real brother should. Then suddenly he was gone, for no reason at all. That feeling of protection, of a safe harbor, was gone. Shit, add that with Karla's death....I'm sure hormones, too." This got a chuckle out of him, but I didn't feel like he was making fun of me. "I just thought it would be easier to be.....not here. I was ready to walk the plank."
"Damn," he said quietly. "How long did you have those thoughts?"
I took a deep breath. My head was clearing. I was feeling better. "Oh, less than a minute. Then I started thinking that hey, I'm on this planet for a purpose, not to just give in to horrible feelings and memories. I changed my mind really quick and said 'fuck this' then left that idea behind. Far behind. Truth is there are parts of my childhood that weren't too nifty. Poor me. Life sucks. I decided I had to handle it, that it was an event in my life, not what my life was about."
"Wow," he said. "That's pretty.....admirable."
"And your brother......?"
I turned and looked him square in the eye. "He's been dead to me for years." Alan nodded.
"You gonna tell your parents?"
"I doubt it. Let me see....I don't know. Maybe," I muttered.
After a pause Alan asked, "Can I ask you something?"
"Why now? Why did you decide to tell me now? I mean, it's enormous of you to trust me and tell me something that personal, but why now?"
"Well? Hmmm. When Scott and I were on the ship he'd mentioned that he'd had it bad as a kid with his step-dad, and that he took a lot of his personal pain out on other people. As I saw it his pain caused him to push people away, in a shitty and bullying way. I started thinking about Don and how.....not right?....unhealthy? my relationship was with him."
"You mean about being closer than brothers?"
"No. I thought that I needed that sort of "brother" figure in my life. I've come to realize that I don't. I don't feel as though you're my 'big brother' like I had started to with him, replacing what I so totally lacked. I don't want a big brother. Lemme see if I'm saying this right......I feel like you're my equal. Not that I solely rely on you or you on me, but we....support each other, equally. Does that make sense?"
Alan smiled. "Yep. It sure does."
"Again, I wanted to share...everything with you. I always want us to know where we stand on everything, so we'll always be equal. And God knows I hope we'll stay together, but if for some reason we're not.....well, I know I'll always, always need your friendship. That's how strongly I feel."
"C'mere," he said, standing.
I stood up and Alan gave me a hug. He kissed me quick on the neck and said, "How'd I get so fuckin' lucky?"
"Hell if I know," I chided and he chuckled in response.
Standing back he said, "I can't imagine what you've experienced, or the pain that those experiences have caused, but don't be insulted if I want to be here for you. Be your protector."
Okay, that did me in. The tear ducts flowed a little bit on that and I lay my face onto his shoulder, taking in his scent.
* * * * * * * *
A week later Alan went with his brother and his parents to a beach house on St. George Island, Florida. It's off the coast of Appalachacola and his dad had a business colleague who owned a house there that he would let the Collins use for a week or so every year. I'd wanted to go but what can ya do. Alan wanted me to go too but I'd just started a new job at a bank in downtown Atlanta and my training was to begin part of the time they were gone.
However! Philip, Scott (jazz band Scott) and Glen had invited me to a party. Scott was dating this young chippie who was still in high school named Kim. Kim took dance classes with the daughter of one of the biggest water bed retailers in Atlanta. That name I'll leave out. Shit, I don't even remember Kim's friend's name, but who cares. Anyway , Kim's friend lived in a very wealthy area of the city. Scott had directions and I drove there as the d.d. We pulled up to the address and knew that we were in another league. It was like a house you'd see on 90210, literally. There were these huge stone lion gates at the front and an eight foot high fence ran around the entire property. I say "around" because the house sits on several acres with the roadway encircling it. It sits high on a hill and looks like a Tudor castle. Kim told us that it was originally built by a porn director. Yeesh! Lot of money in porn!
The four of us met Kim outside and she introduced us to her friend who gives us a tour of the.....mansion? Maybe not quite that big, but damn big! The main party was at the back of the house where the family room, sunken bar and elevated pool table were located. Glen and I found ourselves wandering around the house and the grounds checking things out. I might be a social butterfly and all, but for some reason I felt uncomfortable at that house. Philip doesn't drink at all and Scott had a couple of beers. I had none - again I was the d.d. Glen and I wound up in the formal living room where there was a grand piano. I fiddled around on that for a while and a couple of the girls there liked "Evergreen" and thought it sounded pretty. A little while later we teamed up with Scott and Philip again. Glen started drinking screwdrivers. Lots of 'em. Enough to start his own tool chest.
A few hours later I was bored (being the reluctant sober one) and thankfully the other guys were wanting to go home. First we had to find Glen. After looking all over the goddamn house we found him in the basement, which had been converted into a finished-out game room with pinball machines, arcade video games, the works. I really gotta get into porn. Either that or water beds. As I was down there checking out the play toys Glen vanished on me but I eventually found him again. He was in the swimming pool. Fully clothed. Talking to the other drunk people who were also fully clothed. Okay, shorts and a t-shirt kind of fully clothed. Finally, we were able to get him out of the pool and somewhat dried off. He and Scott sat in the back seat (I drove an '82 Caprice Classic, affectionately called the 'land yacht') and Philip rode next to me in the front.
Glen kept cracking me up. For the first time in about five years I actually heard him say more than one sentence! He and Scott were goofing off nonstop. Philip, who's never cared to be around drinking, seemed a little irritated. Whatever. But then the focus turned to me. From Glen.
"Hey Paul, how come you never liked me?" Oh God. Drunk-talk. It's usually funny when the person being addressed is also drunk, but I wasn't.
"What are you talkin' about Glen," said dryly.
"You've....never liked me."
"What the fuck are you talkin' about, dude?"
"I've always been nice to you....friendly...and you've never given me the time of day...." You know. That kind of drunk-talk.
"Bullshit, dude," I said. "Even back in seventh grade when we rode Miss Hamby's bus you'd never talk to me. Ever."
"Oh!.....That's 'cause I thought you didn't like me." Slurring. "I still can't believe that you didn't like me. I always thought you were cool."
I had to laugh out loud at that because even during all of those years we didn't have a whole helluva lot of contact. "Dude, I swear, I've never not liked you. I always thought that you didn't like me, because you never frickin' talked to me."
"Well, I ain't gonna have sex to prove it, dude." Yeah, sometimes my humor is inappropriate and stupid. "I'd love to hang with ya sometime."
Glen turned to Scott. "He'd love to hang with me sometime." Scott just laughed and Philip rolled his eyes.
The trip back home was a little bit like that. I dropped Philip off at his house and Glen was next. Scott had moved to the front seat when Philip got home and Glen was in the back alone. Just as we were pulling up to Glen's house we heard a burping noise; Scott and I looked at each other, then he looked back to Glen.
"Glen, what are you doing? Glen, what's in your mouth?" he asked.
Glen just shook his head.
"Open the door and do it out there, Glen," Scott said as the read door flew open. Unfortunately the projectile didn't quite miss my back seat, though most wound up on the blacktop in front of Glen's house. He and Scott went to get a towel and cleaned up the seat, which again wasn't that big a deal. I actually found it quite funny and Scott and I rode off laughing our asses off, imitating Glen who was by now probably puking inside his own home.
* * *
The next day a bunch of us, Scott, Philip, Glen, Matt, Steve and I were on our way to "Shoot the 'Hooch." For those of you unfamiliar with the Atlanta area, during the summer months it's a regular drunk-fest on inner tubes or rafts on a three hour trek down the Chattahoochee River, south from the Roswell area to inside the perimeter (I-285). At least I think that's where the starting and ending points are. It's been a while. Anyway, Scott was fine, as was Philip and myself. Glen just wore his shades and didn't talk a whole lot. Only this time the reason was because he was so damn hungover from the night before. The guys had some beers but as I said before I wasn't really interested in drinking beer. All of us got sunburned, but that's what you do when you slowly float down the piss and shit filled river. If you want clean water you have to go north of Lake Lanier into the base of the North Georgia mountains. Okay, so the river isn't that bad. But it isn't that good, either.
Glen did talk a bit more that day and took some good ribbing from the three of us. I especially enjoyed imitating his puking in the back of my car. That brought a smile to his face. Hey, at least I got him to smile!