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by the way

Chapter Ten

Man oh man, what a night that was! I'm talking about prom night. I could make a ton of really crass comments like how funny I might have walked the next day, but it was so much more than just sex. For the both of us. Yeah we were seventeen and we had the world on a string, but we honestly believed that we'd be together for the rest of our lives, and that we could overcome any troubles, boundaries or distances. It's sort of funny how you look back and you think, shit on a stick how could I have been such a dope? I can't remember what it is that is supposedly wasted on the young, but whoever made that up knew what in the hell they were talking about. Sometimes optimism is also wasted on the young.

Alan and I were able to keep our relationship, or at least how deep it actually had grown, from everyone. Oh, Deanna would ask questions, always wondering if we had a "thing" going or not but I'd just insist that he and I were only friends, and that I was just pining away because of it. She probably had the truth figured out because she's just smart that way.

Like I had mentioned before I was hanging out a lot with the guys in the band. I felt an instant bond, mainly with Scott, Philip and Matt. Glen still wasn't talking all that much; just like I remembered back in the seventh grade. The other guys had some funny stories about him that they'd share. That never bothered him because he's always been able to laugh at himself. The band guys were really the most unpretentious group of guys that I'd been around. The other people I hung out with were still sort of into that high school cliquy sort of thing. Of course the jocks that I hung out were an obvious clique. Like in any typical high school, jocks usually hung out together or with the "pretty people." It was just a fluke that I had been included in that group by several guys. I guess I have my piano playing to thank for that. Anyway I was completely aware of the segregated groups in the school, but somehow I melded in with most types. Except for the smokers, maybe. I had friends that were into the punk scene, preps, the studious types, the jocks, you name it. But until I played for Adrianne I'd never been around the guys in the band when they were in their element. By that I mean in their musical element. The Music Hall in school was sort of it's own world and I had been accepted into it, without even having to try.

But that acceptance happened much too late, in my opinion. I'd been in high school for five years (not because I'm stupid but because when I was there our school was an 8-12 grade school) and some friends had come and gone. Some had come, gone and returned. And some just sort of fused into my life. I thought it bittersweet that I would be graduating in about seven weeks and yet for the first time I really felt like I'd belonged. Looking back now I see that I only really felt accepted when I started hanging out with the jocks. It was the band guys that made me fell like I belonged. There's a difference. But I knew that the "belonging" feeling would change during the second week of June when we finished high school. If I'd only had that type of feeling and those kind of friendships years earlier.

We all know, however, that the grass is always greener. I still had a blast and believe it or not I still have contact with several people from back then. Maybe it was the fact that high school was ending, but I could feel a change in the air, much like the night that Don and I climbed Stone Mountain. Normally I welcome change with open arms. This time was different. I felt that I had to grasp it tight and hold on for dear life. I didn't want to face the unknown. I was comfortable with my friends and in the place that I'd spent for five years. So much had happened to me during those five years. So much growing. Sometimes a little pain, but mostly a lot of great times.

So graduation was sneaking up, yet at the same time rushing up, on us all. Most of the graduating class had college plans and I was no exception. My hopes were to go to Georgia Tech for Architecture. Unfortunately my SAT's weren't all that hot, almost 1200, but still not good enough to get in. My alternative plan was to go to DeKalb Community. Fine with me. I knew I'd be paying for college myself and a small local college would be cheaper. Then after getting a couple of years under my belt I could just transfer into Tech.

The last several weekends of my high school life were spent with the band guys. I didn't leave Alan in the dust. He was there with us from time to time, when he could be. He and I definitely had a connection and had gotten so close so quickly that even silences were not awkward between us. A lot of times those silences were filled with moans and groans and I think you know what I'm talking about. The guy was starved for sex and I was more than willing. Sometimes he initiated sex, sometimes I did; other times we both did. I always bottomed, which was totally fine with me. I always had the belief that receiving him was the way that I could give myself to him the most. He had no problem with that but he was very active in reciprocating - he didn't just sit there like a bump on a pickle while I did all the "work." We discovered lots to do, sexually, and we did just about everything. Nothing gross or kinky. Let's just say that our mouths and hands were totally familiar with each others' body parts.

About four or five weeks before graduation the choir, which I was a part of, started practicing the two songs for baccalaureate (God I hope I spelled that one right). I don't remember what the first one was called but the second song was called "Like An Eagle." Let's see if I can remember the words after all this time....Like and eagle I will soar across the sky, I will spread my wings and fly into the sun. Like and eagle I will sail among the stars. I will fly to places yet unseen, go beyond my wildest dreams, knowing you are watching over me alone." We had one gal in our choir who was really a good singer and she thought outside the box when it came to music. During one of the first run throughs of the song she added some background "ahhs" and "ooohs" which the choir teacher ended up working into the song. There was some sort of sweetness to those simple additions that changed the tone of the song completely. About one third of the choir were graduating seniors and every morning this song reminded us that one journey in our life was about to end and another begin.

The last week of school the senior exams were staggered kind of oddly. We were to take our exams a week before the rest of the school. The non-seniors would have exams in periods 1,3 & 5 on Monday, then 2,4 & 6 on Tuesday. Each class was two hours long on those days. Really screwy. The seniors, on the other hand, had our exams a week before everyone else. Monday were periods 4,5 & 6; Tuesday were periods 2 & 3; and Wednesday was 1st period exam. I think they did it that way so the least amount of seniors would skip their other classes. Whatever. After 1st period exams were finished on Wednesday every senior from whatever part of the school they were in immediately ran into the cafeteria, which is in the center of the school, and started whooping and hollering. We were all clapping each other on the back, hugging, shouting, just going nuts as all of the underclassmen walked around us to their classes. Three hundred people hollering like that, well, it raised the hair on my neck. That year a quartet called The Nylons covered a song from the 60's called "Kiss Him Goodbye". You know; Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey hey hey, goodbye. While we were all celebrating I turned to one of the band guys, Tim, who played the trumpet, and just started singing that song at the top of my voice. Tim chimed in as did some of the other senior band members, Suddenly everyone was singing that song. It's a moment I'll never forget.

My high school days were unofficially over.

The next evening, Thursday, I helped the other choir members set up the gym for the baccalaureate. Basically this is where you have the class valedictorian and one or two other people giving long boring speeches. When it came time for the choir to hit the risers and sing a lot of the girls were tearing up. Some of us guys too. The guy that I met at the football game on my birthday party, Mike Logan, sang a duet with Adrianne in tribute to the girl who'd died at the beginning of the year in the car wreck. They both did a great job and how neither one of them cried during the song is beyond me. They sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story, and must've put their minds in "another place" in order to get through it. At this point with all of the energy and excitement of graduating more than a few seniors had tears rolling down their cheeks, myself included. Shit, then we had to sing "Like An Eagle." Oh, that was tough. I was standing in the middle of the choir with the other basses, and literally all the senior girls and the few other senior guys were either clutching my gown or my arm or my shoulder. I'm not sure how this happened but some sort of weird energy came over us all as we sang the song. It must have been such an emotional evening for us all that the physical contact put us over the top. We sang the song flawlessly, albeit tearfully.

Now is the time
To follow the wind
To walk alone
And a star will show the way
Above the clouds
Beyond the sea

And now is the time
And now and farewell
And as we part

You taught me well
You gave me strength
You showed the way
I'll not forget you

Like an eagle I will soar above the clouds
I will spread my wings and fly into the sun
Like an eagle I will race above the stars
I will fly to places yet unseen
Go beyond my wildest dreams
Know that you are watching over me

And all alone
I will follow the stars above
As my guide
As my guide
I trust in you
To show the way to me
Beyond the sea

And now is the time
And now and farewell
And as we part

You taught me well
You gave me strength
You showed the way
I'll not forget you

Like an eagle I will race above the stars
I will spread my wings and fly into the sun
Like an eagle I will race above the stars
I will fly to places yet unseen
Go beyond my wildest dreams
Know that you are watching over me

Alone, I can fly with the eagle to the mountain high
Race with the eagle so far beyond my dreams
Like an eagle I will fly

Like an eagle I will race above the stars
I will spread my wings and fly into the sun
Like an eagle I will soar above the clouds
I will fly to places yet unseen
Go beyond my wildest dreams
Know that you are watching over me

Like and eagle I will race above the stars
Like an eagle I will fly
Like an eagle I will fly

Finally the evening was over. All of the seniors in the band had been invited over to Philip's house for a party. The parents were also included in the invitation so liquor wasn't even a thought, but that was cool. We all had a great time. One final blast before the actual graduation the next day.

The class of 1987 graduated on the football field of the local college where all of our home football games were played. All of the families were up in the stands and a dais was set up for the principal and other school administrators. The senior class had seats turned to face the stands. What a strange view. Except for the time I went down to the field to talk to Alan on my birthday I'd never been on a football field in my life. I was used to being in the stands, buzzed out of my mind, screaming and hollering for our team (between yentering of course). I couldn't tell you rule one from football but suddenly I could see myself in the stands, running around acting like a total moron. For me the games represented the main social events in my life during high school. In some ways I love that sport.

Our class joke on the principal was that everyone handed him a piece of rice or a black eyed pea or some bullshit when we went up to accept our diplomas. He handled it very well, smiling and making the trade. Never blinked an eye. For some reason the actual graduation ceremony was not as emotional as the evening before. I'm sure it's because we were all mentally whipped from the exams and the business of practicing walking across the field, in whatever order, getting to our seats, blah blah blah blah blah. By evening's end I was just done. I was through dealin'.

I was sad.

My mom always used to tell me that as you get older the years pass you by faster and faster the older you get. I used to think that she was nuts. That evening I knew it was true. As we all milled around after the ceremony, talking with friends, making plans for the evening, visiting out of town family, I took measure of most of the people there. Even though I wasn't friends with the three hundred or so seniors we'd all grown up together in the same house, basically. I looked over at a guy named Richie. I remembered in 8th grade when he was a nerd like I was (and I remained for several years). Here he was buffed and gorgeous from four years of football training. And he guy was one of the nicest guys on the planet. Then there was a dude named David. He used to talk to me before he became the team's kicker. But he'd grown a lot. There's Chandra who used to wear a different ribbon or hairpiece in her hair every day in 8th grade and now she was always glammed out. But I was different too. I was no longer the timid and shy zit creature with goggles. My body had finally started to develop this past year, thanks to Don's training the year before. I wore contacts and kept my hair shorter - no more helmet head.

So many people. So many changes.

It was the end of another era, for me.

* * * * * * *

But when one era ends the next one rushes in like a spring shower. You can see it in the distance and hear the distant thunder rumbling; see the flashes of lightning on the horizon. There's no way to stop it. At first it's kind of painful, but then you welcome the release and the change. I didn't have time to feel sad anymore. I had to pack for my senior cruise!

Now that was an interesting trip. Ay-yi-yi. All year long I'd been paying for my room on the ship that I'd be sharing with Charles. While we didn't have any classes together our senior year we still worked together. He was a good friend and a fun drinking partner.

Our ship, The Emerald Seas, was to disembark from Miami one week after we graduated. The night before, everyone who was going, which was basically the entire senior class, had to meet in the local Mervyn's parking lot to board one of the many buses waiting to take the 13 or 15 hour drive from Stone Mountain down to Miami. Most of us were either drunk or buzzed before we even left the parking lot. Charles and I ended up sitting near the rear where some of my football player friends were. The two guys that I met on my birthday over at whatever-her-name's house were also on my bus. Mike was sitting at the front with some friends and Scott was in the back near me. Scott was drunker than an Irish sailor. Since my birthday I had been around him from time to time, mainly because he was a friend of Alan's. He was definitely pretty hot and Alan used to crack up when I'd tell him how good looking I thought he was. Then Alan would get me in the sack and just do me so hard that I'd forget completely about Scott. Now there's a smart guy.

I should say that when it came to other guys, neither Alan nor I were really interested. I mean, we'd point out hot looking guys to each other all the time, which is pretty normal. But I never really had the desire to be with anyone sexually other than him. Luckily, he felt the same way about me. I know when it comes to guy-girl sex in high school there are plenty of "players" as they're called now. Back then we used the term "ho" or "pig." Seems more descriptive. Alan and I weren't that way.

Unfortunately he wasn't a senior and couldn't go on the cruise.

An hour or so into the bus ride I got stoned. Not because I wanted to but because a bunch of people around me were smokin' some pot. At one point I noticed Mike walked back to use the restroom, which was completely overflowing with piss and puke - nasty. By now Scott was drunk and laying on top of the luggage rack over my head. As Mike walked by Scott reached his hand out and ruffled his hair and said something to him. Mike looked a bit nervous, like he did back at the party, but he laughed and said something back and went into the bathroom. Me, I was drunk and stoned so I didn't really focus that much on it.

The cruise itself was a blast. Charles and I got to hang out a lot, which was cool. The first thing we did when we were finally allowed on board the next afternoon (the buses left Stone Mountain at 10:00 the night before) was to hit one of the ship's bars. Someone had mentioned a Long Island Iced Tea, so I ordered one. It tasted like shit. The bartender tossed it and fixed me something else, something fruity. How appropriate. It was so funny watching my classmates come up and order beers or whatever, thinking how cool they were that they could actually order something at a bar legally. I had a good buzz going and I ordered a round for everyone in the bar on me. Duh. The drinks were free. That should tell you how nuts I was getting.

A group of us hung out a bit and checked out every bar on the ship. The casino was pretty cool but I didn't have a lot of money to lose. There were a couple of lounges with dance floors, and we hit those too. I was smart enough to keep snacking on chips and shit that first day so I wouldn't puke or pass out. Yeah, like that really works. We had to stop partying for about a half an hour or so while the ship performed it's life boat drill. The ship had finally left port and we were heading to Nassau, in the Bahamas. I'm sure y'all know where it's at. Everyone on the ship was a graduating senior from some school in the Atlanta (mainly DeKalb County) area. The chaperones were completely useless and really only there for the vacation.

I got so fuckin' sick of hearing "Margaritaville" I wanted to gouge my own eyes out. That song was constantly being played, whatever bar or pool I wound up at. Shit!

After having dinner that evening (I really needed to get some food into my system after the vats of alcohol I'd had to drink) I headed out onto one of the stern decks of the ship (that's "rear", to you and me). The whole ship was lit up, and the railings were stung with big fat white lights. It really looked beautiful. At dinner I decided to go light on the booze and only ordered one Tom Collins. What a rock star! After dinner I'd ordered another one and I was drinking it as I sauntered around the deck, passing other people (kids?) my age. A few I knew from Stone Mountain; still others had graduated elsewhere. I threw back the rest of my drink and ordered a jack and Coke from an outside bar.

Again, "Margaritaville." Fuck!

I walked back to the railing and looked down into the water which was illuminated by the ship's lights. It was actually kinda scary. I always have had this fear of machinery in water. I'm not sure why, but I always imagined falling into a body of water near the turbines of a dam or something stupid and getting sucked in. Christ, get me another drink!

It was really a gorgeous night. The ship was headed south and to the west the last rays of sunlight struggled to stay above the horizon, lost their battle, then vanished beneath the waves.

"Alan, I wish you were here," I said to myself. "I miss ya bud." Then I took another drink and leaned onto the railing, my chin in my hand. The breeze had drowned out most of the voices on deck and you could hear just the murmur of the ship's engines. Unfortunately it didn't drown out the chords of that fucking song. I let the breeze wash away any feelings of apprehension that I'd had at graduation. Breathing in the night sea air can do wonders for the head. Standing there a memory from way back when I was three years old came to me.

Yeah right, three years old, you're thinking. Today at 36 I couldn't tell you what I had for lunch, but I can tell you that the first song I remember hearing on my A.M. transistor radio was "Shambala" by Three Dog Night. We moved from one house to another that year, which was 1973, and I remember Barry Manilow's "Miracle" on the radio as we loaded up the Dodge Rambler (which was green) to leave. You older readers (my age or older) will remember when the popular radio stations were broadcast on AM and then switched to FM. Anybody remember the Radio Shack Toodle-loop? The round radio that you could open up into the shape of an "s" and adjust the station on the dial inside. There's a memory for ya.

But back to the memory I was having on the ship.

The house that we moved from (in 1973) had three bedrooms upstairs. It was one of those Craftsman style, built between 1907 and 1917. Most people in upstate New York didn't even have window a/c units, let alone central air. We always had our windows open and on really hot nights we had the little window fans that you'd pop into your window. That must be when I started having to have white noise to get me to sleep. Anyway, my two brothers and I took turns sharing rooms, and this particular night I had my own room (we'd change rooms every year or so according to my mom. This way one of us would always have a turn to have their own room) which overlooked the house next to ours. Two elderly sisters lived next to us and like many people at that time they would hang their laundry on a line in the back yard. I remember waking up one night and walking over to the window. As I looked down into their backyard there was a set of sheets on the line that was blowing gently in the breeze. I could hear the material flapping now and then and feel the night breeze on my face as I stood in the window. The moonlight reflected on the hanging linens. The air was so soft and fresh. It was probably one of the most peaceful moments that I remember in my life.

That's what I was thinking about as I leaned on the railing of the ship that first night.

"Boy, you're a million miles away," I heard a voice say.

I turned to my right and smiled. "Scott. How are ya?"

He rocked his head back and forth a bit. "Eh. I'm okay. How about you."

"Just okay?"

"I'm sort of worn out from that friggin' bus ride," Scott said.

"You mean you didn't relax from tokin' on the way down?"

"Hey," he laughed, "that wasn't me. That was John."

"Shit, man, I caught wind and I tell you what, before last night I'd never been high off of grass." Scott laughed at that. He really was a good lookin' guy. Now what are the odds of him being gay.

Plus I had Alan. And no amount of liquor could get me to lose that or fuck it up with him.

"So what'd you think?" he asked, smiling.

"Um, I think I'll stick to drinking. I'm Irish so it comes naturally."

"Oh shit," he laughed and shook his head.

He leaned on the railing as I did, a few feet away.

"It's incredible isn't it," he said.

I just sighed.

"You doin' okay Paul?"

I nodded. "I think this is finally kickin' in," holding up my now empty glass.

"What's your poison?" That was the most popular phrase ever since The Breakfast Club came out two years before.

"Jack and Coke."

He raised his eyebrows. "You are Irish."

I busted out laughing at that.

"I'll get'cha another one," and he walked over to the bar and came back with a beer for himself and my j-and-c.

"Thanks, man," I said.

"To the cruise and graduation," Scott said, tilting up his bottle to toast.

I didn't know what to say so I said something stupid. "Likewise."

I still was leaning onto the rail and he turned with his back to it, elbows propped up on the railing behind him.

"How's my boy Alan?" he asked.

I couldn't help but smile. I'd been drinking all damn day and didn't really care about how I looked or acted by that point. "He's just fine," I said. There were two meanings to that but I wasn't really sharing my personal thoughts on the matter.

"You miss him, huh?" he said quietly sipping his beer, not that there was anybody nearby to hear our conversation.

"Do what?" I made a confused face and laughed nervously. "What makes you say that?" I tried adding some machismo to my question, taking another sip of my drink.

"Because you just said it."

Gulp. "Huh?"

"A second ago. You said 'Alan, I wish you were here, I miss ya bud.' Just a second ago."

Oh shit. I must've been more buzzed than I thought because I could've sworn that I was just thinking those words. But Scott was pretty cool and I'd been around him several times, again because of Alan. I'd never known him to be an asshole; he came across as a pretty decent guy, albeit sometimes quiet.

"Um.....uh," I stammered.

"Hey," he smiled a bit. "It's cool."

"What's cool."

Scott took a pull off of his beer then put his arm back onto the railing. "Y'all. It's cool with me."

"What do you mean, 'y'all'?" I said. "What," I snorted, "you think we're....what?"

He scratched his forehead and gave me this look that said "dumb ass."

I'd try the brave bullshit thing one more time. "Dude, is anyone sayin' shit or somethin'? How many of those have you had?" I asked, pointing to his beer.

Scott laughed. "I think this is number seven, this evening."

"Well hoss, no wonder you're having crazy thoughts," I laughed, trying to get out of this conversation.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to make you feel funny."

"Dude, we're just friends. You make it sound like-"

"Y'all are an item?" he finished.

I was mentally being defeated. All of that fuckin' booze was taking the fight out of me. I rubbed my face with one hand and looked back overboard.

"Paul, like I said, it's cool."

My shoulders sagged. "What's cool?" I finally asked, quietly.

"Y'all spend a lot of time with each other-"

"Should I be worried about this talk we're having? You gonna throw me over?" I smiled weakly.

"No, dope." He took another pull from his beer. "He talks about you all the damn time. At least to me he does."

"Jealous?" I asked kiddingly.

Scott busted out laughing. "No. I'm too much of a loner to be jealous."

I laughed at that too. "Well you shouldn't be."

"Shouldn't be a loner or jealous?" he asked.

I thought about that for a minute. "Neither."

Scott smiled and took another pull of beer.

I stood there looking overboard. "I like Alan. He's a good guy and he's my friend."

"I'm sorry, man. Just a little beer muscle. Talkin' about things I shouldn't."

I shrugged. I wasn't really irritated but I didn't understand why two guys just couldn't be friends and hang out without everyone assuming that "something was going on" between them. Maybe we just gave off this vibe or something. I guess to a certain extent I didn't care anymore what people said about me because I was done with school, but Alan had one more year left and being a football player would only insulate him so much from ridicule. Well now I was gone so we wouldn't be hanging out during school and at least he wouldn't have to be opened up to what people may or may not think about him.

"He really does like you, though," Scott continued.

I rubbed my face with my hand and tossed back the rest of my drink. I turned to walk back to the bar and Scott held me back by the arm.

"Hey man, I'm sorry," he said a little more urgently.

"I'm just going for another drink. Be right back. 'Nother beer?" I asked.

Scott held his bottle up and looked at it, swirling around what little was left inside. "Please."

As I walked up to the bar the beginning strains of "Why Don't We Get Drunk And Screw" started. I swear right then I wish I'd had my Jimmy Buffet tapes with me so I could throw them into the ocean. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, especially "Come Monday" but enough's enough. I got Scott's beer and another j-and-c, tipped the bartender, then headed back to the railing.

"So where are your other friends? The dudes in the band?" he asked.

"They went on some fishing trip down in Key West. It'd been planned for a long time and I guess that's their 'cruise'."

We stood there silent for a moment or two. In my mind I kept sizing him up, and from what I could tell Scott was a really nice guy. He'd always been friendly to me when Alan and I'd been around him. Just one of those guys who never meets a stranger.

"Hey Paul, let's have a seat. Number seven's goin' right to my head," he smiled.

"Eight," I smiled.

There were a couple of deck chairs nearby and we walked over to them not so steady on our feet. I was on my way to getting tanked again. If I weren't with Alan.....mahhhhhh goodness! But then what were the chances of Scott being gay. Slim and none. He was a really good looking dude and the training from football had been sweet to him. He had the sort of body that one might expect to have in college. You know how a lot of guys in high school work out and all, but they haven't really filled out in a more bulky or mature way? Scott could've passed for someone in his early 20's, easily.

"So Paulie, where ya goin' to college?" Not really a topic I wanted to hit but that's okay, he and I hadn't really spent time alone before so it was cool.

"DeKalb. What about you?"

"I'm not really sure what I want to do, to tell you the truth. How 'bout you?"

"Architecture. Gettin' my core out of the way at DeKalb then I'll transfer to Tech," I said.

"Ahh, so you're stayin' here. Cool."

I nodded.

"Do you have a college in mind," I asked, "or you gonna just work for now?"

He nodded. "I'll probably just work for now, figure out what I want to do. I like building things, working with wood or on projects, so maybe I'll get into doing that."

"What, did you and your dad do a lot of that kind of stuff or something?"

He snorted. "Step-dad. I haven't seen my dad in years."

"Yikes. Shit man, sorry." Boy, now there's a fun topic to bring up.

"I started working with wood and shit at my uncle's house last year," he continued.

"Oh yeah," I sat up. "I remember you mentioning something about that."

"Yeah, my brother and I lived with my Uncle David for the year. Which was good because I was about to kill my step-dad."

"Damn son," I laughed nervously, "that would not be a good thing." By now I was starting to feel a nice warm buzz again. I think that Scott was too because his speech was slurring just a little bit.

"God, I hate that fucker," he muttered.

Just then the d.j. cranked up some disco. Great! A few people spilled out onto the deck from the lounge, and a couple of them were dancing like drunken fools. I recognized one of the fools.

"Yo! Mikey!" It was Mike from the party that night and on the bus ride down here. Mike looked around to see who'd called him. "Over here!" I yelled. He turned and caught my eye then looked at Scott, who just nodded at him.

"Hi y'all doin'!" he yelled to us.

We both laughed. "Apparently not as good as you are, dude," I hollered back.

"Get drunk - pass out and get no coot, baby!" he yelled, laughing the whole time, then turned back to the other people.

"That guy's had a few," Scott said.

"Ya think?"

I noticed that he kept watching Mike across the deck, who was dancing like a fool, waving his arms in the air and shaking his ass. "You know him or something?" I asked.

Scott took another pull off his beer. "Sort of."

"Sort of. Baby either you do or you don't." Yeah, the sauce was definitely in my brain now.

Another pull. "Man....I was a bit of a pain in the ass to that dude for a long time."

"I could only be so lucky," I thought.

Scott died laughing and looked over at me. "Y'all do have somethin' goin' on, don't'cha."


"You and Alan. Dude, you just said you should be so lucky."

Fuck! I'm thinkin' out loud again. I laughed and tried to pass it off on the booze. "Just fuckin' with ya, man," I said.

"Yeah, right," he smiled. "I told you it's cool with me."

I needed to end this line of questioning or whatever. "So why'd you go to your uncle's?" That worked.

Another pull off his beer. "Ahh, nothin' much. I used to be a real asshole, ya know?"

I shook my head 'no.'

"We just needed some time away from that asshole."


"My brother John and I."

"Mmm." I replied. "How old's he?"

"Sixteen. See the problem was that Frank treated us like shit. Don't need to get into all o' that, but the house wasn't a good place for us."

"Well, why'd you come back?"

He chuckled to himself. "You know, I don't know. I guess I wanted to graduate with everyone, all of my friends. Couldn't do that living with my uncle."

"Oh, so y'all came back?"

"No, John stayed at my uncle's. It was probably better. Hey, want another drink?"

"J and C, baby."

"You got it.." But he didn't get up at first.

"Uh, Scotty?" I asked. "Somethin' wrong?"

"Ya think I oughtta apologize to him?" he asked.


He nodded in Mike's direction. "Him."


"Ahh, for being such a son of a bitch."

I leaned over towards him and back smacked his arm. "Scott," I said whispering drunkenly, "I don't think it's bothering him right now. But, you can apologize to me for not getting my drink yet."

He laughed and stood up, then stretched (woof) and headed over to the bar. He came back with the drinks and handed me mine.

"Ya gotta love fermented potatoes!" I said.

"Why's that," he laughed.

" 'Cause that's where whiskey comes from."

"I thought that was where vodka came from."

"Shit, I dunno. Who gives a damn," I replied.

Scott died laughing. "Cheers, buddy."

We clinked glass and swigged our poisons.

I was really feeling warm and cozy at this point of the evening. Scott was obviously buzzed, too. We talked and shot the shit for a long time. It was kind of nice to not be in the mix of the people running around acting stupid. I preferred sitting down and acting stupid instead. The night wore on and more drinks filled our gullets. I thought I was okay until I went to stand and get another round. I knew I'd be paying for this in the morning. I was sure that Scott would too.

"So! Why is it you and I are on a great cruise but we're both just sitting away from all the action?" I said, pointing to the crowd of people on the deck.

"Cause I'm tired and you're gay," he said laughing at himself. I spit out my drink, also laughing. "What," he said.

"You're still on that," I kept laughing, mainly because I was drunker then cootie brown. "Well Scott," I said, "if I tell you something will you promise not to kick my ass? Throw me overboard?" I had a dopey drunk-laugh that I couldn't stop. Kinda like Dudley Moore.

"Yessss," he laughed.

"You're right. I am!" Oh shit, shit and another shit! I said it! Oh what was I thinking? There's an easy answer: I wasn't thinking. I was three sheets to the wind. Fuck!

"I knew it," he died laughing. Yes, we were roaring drunk at this point. "And Alan?"

"And Alan!" I said. I was too drunk to stop any talk at that point.

"And y'all?" he was still laughing.

"Oh yeah!" Someday I'll extract the drinking gene in my d.n.a. Oye vey!

"I knew it! I knew it! God, he talks about you so. Damn. Much! Paulie this. Paulie that. Paulie, Paulie, Paulie!" he sang, but kept laughing.

"Paulie wanna cracker!"

"Paulie wants somethin' else!" he went to sit back in the chair but went sideways and fell out. That was it for me. I stood up and started walking around in circles, absolutely laughing my ass off and pointing at him. He just sat there on his ass, wiping his eyes from laughing so much. Was any of this funny? Hell no. But that's what drinking does to people.

"Yeah, but he ain't here!" I was insane with drunken laughing and now we pretty much had an audience. That's okay, they were all drunk too.

After about five minutes Scott and I calmed down a bit and returned to our seats.

"Well," I finally said, "I guess you are cool with it after all."

"Oh yeah man. To each his own," and he held out his beer to toast.

We remained there a little while longer and calmed down some more.

"I can't believe I told you that. Please don't mention anything to Alan. Let me tell him you figured it out."

He smiled at me. "That's cool. No prob."

"Shit man, it's gettin' late. I'm beat and I'm ready for bed!" I said.

"Me too. I'll walk you to your room."


Scott and I stood up and everything was okay until we started to walk. The two of us looked like two booze hounds; we couldn't even begin to walk a straight line. Finally we got down to my room. It was on one of the lower decks and Charles and I only had one porthole to look out of. When we got down to the room I saw the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. It never dawned on me that it was after 2:00 in the morning and Charles might be asleep. I assumed that he had some chick with him.

"Fuck," I said.

"It's okay," Scott laughed. "You can stay in my room."

I nodded. "Let's go, then. I hafta take a wicked piss!"


"Yeah. That's what we used to say up north when I was a kid."

"Yankee," he laughed at me.

"Dick," I returned. "Let's go."

We got back to Scott's room and I pissed for an eternity. After I came out of the bathroom I looked around. We were higher up in the ship and there was a really big window looking out over the ocean. There were two beds but I noticed only one set of luggage.

"Nice digs. Where's your roommate?"

"Oh man, he bugged out a few months ago but I'd already reserved the room so I figured what the fuck."

"Nice! Dude, I need some water. A lot of water. Be right back."

"Hold on," he said and picked up the phone, dialed a number, then ordered a dozen bottles of water. Within five minutes a ship steward was knocking on the door, handing them to him.

"To the Bahamas!" I toasted.

"The Bahamas."

I drank a shit load of water, as did Scott, over the next twenty to thirty minutes. Alan and I weren't brought up again that night, which was fine with me. I was just glad that he was cool with it all. We talked a little bit more, then we each took another leak (separately) and crashed onto our own beds, still dressed. I woke up a couple of times during the night and remembered where I was. Then I drank another bottle of water and took another piss. Scott was lying on his back still fully clothed. He obviously had to take a piss because you could see the enormous bulge in his shorts. I shook my head to clear it then rolled back over to go to sleep.

I woke up later that morning and heard the shower just cutting off as I sat up on the bed and cleared the cobwebs. A few minutes later Scott came out wearing only a pair of shorts and was toweling his hair.

" 'Sup, Paulie."

"I hate mornings."

He chuckled. "You feelin' okay?"

I just nodded. "Need food." Scott laughed even harder.

"Me caveman. Need food," he mocked.

I'm really not a morning person. "Watch out dude or I'll throw you out that big pretty window."

He laughed again and went back into the bathroom then returned with a t-shirt on. What a view that had been, though. Nice bod, Scotty boy. And this time I did't say it out loud.

I put my head in my hands. "Oh God," groaning. "What did I do? What did I say last night?"

"Were you that drunk?" he smiled.

"Not really," I sat back up. "I know I admitted to you about....."

Scott shook his head slightly and sat down on his bed. "Paul. Really man, it doesn't bother me at all. I don't look at you weird or bad or anything. Your Alan's friend and that's all that matters to me. And hopefully you can be my friend too."

I was too tired to be scared or unsure of anything. So I smiled a bit and said, "Thanks man. Lookin' forward to it." I really felt at ease.

New phase of life, new era, here I come!

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in Mark's own words - I'm a great big goofball who loves music and loves to sing. I'm in the home building industry and have my own company. I'm not really into sports and am mostly a homebody; I like reading, watching movies and hanging out with friends. Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like to discuss my stories - or anything else for that matter. Markp>

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