Jerry turned to see what I was looking at and stopped short for a moment. I could see the side of his face as his focus on me expanded to his surroundings and to Brenda. He blushed as if he'd been caught doing something, then glanced at me and back to Brenda. She looked perplexed as we closed the distance between us.
"Jerry, what's going on?" she asked in a worried tone, just as the lunch bell rang.
"Uh, nothing. I need to talk to Danny about, uh... some tutoring stuff. That's all," he said nervously, looking everywhere but at her.
She wasn't buying it. "You have been crying!" she exclaimed. "Sharon said so, and that you and some stoner with a black eye almost got in a fight over Danny -- that y'all were talking about suicide and he told you to leave Danny alone. It didn't make sense. I'm really confused, Jerry. What's going on?"
She seemed almost scared. It made me feel sorry for her. If Jerry somehow wanted me back now -- though I didn't think I would go back to him, but if I were to -- what was he going to do about Brenda? I assumed that she was in love with him. I didn't want to see anyone hurt, and it seemed like she didn't deserve to be hurt any more than any of the rest of us. I wanted to tell her I was just as confused.
Jerry was squirming uncomfortably, trying to figure out how to handle this situation. "Umm..." he began. "Look, Brenda, I can't tell you anything until I talk to Danny." He paused to gather his thoughts for a moment, "I'm trying to work some things out. I'll call you tonight. We'll talk then, 'kay?"
He didn't wait for an answer. He started walking, glancing to make sure I was following, but never looked back at Brenda. I felt guilty. Brenda stood frozen to the spot, questions on her face. I had to nearly trot just to keep up with his long purposeful strides. I looked back at her a couple of times as Jerry headed towards the athletic and arts complex at the far end of the campus.
"Where we going?" I asked.
"To a private place we can talk."
"What about what Sharon said? If Sharon Ogilvie saw what happened, it'll be all over school before the end of the day, y'know," I cautioned him. I knew Sharon Olgilvie was a gossip fiend and a friend of Brenda's, so it had to be her she was referring to, even though I didn't remember seeing her there.
"I can't get into that right now," he retorted, picking up the pace. "I'll deal with all that later."
We were less than halfway there when the final bell rang, our footsteps echoing on the rapidly emptying sidewalk. Trotting to keep up with him, I kept looking around, hoping to see Tyson as we approached the athletics center. I felt so bad about letting him walk away upset and unsure.
As far as I was concerned, I loved him now. 'I sure am getting the feeling Jerry is about to try to get me back,' I thought, 'but I've committed to Ty now. I love him. Jerry had plenty of time to apologize and try to make up for what he did and try to get me back before I met Ty. But it's too late now.'
I had just needed so badly for so long to talk to Jerry, that I didn't want to miss the chance. I didn't know what I wanted to say to him now, at least not clearly, but I was at least ready to hear his apology and some kind of explanation. I felt like it would surely help me, to express how everything had affected me - and I might finally be able to get Jerry out of my head.
We entered the sprawling complex, which housed an enormous gym with a basketball court and bleachers, a smaller practice court on a second level at one end, open on one side overlooking the main one, the heated indoor swimming pool, the girls' gym, and of course, all the locker rooms, showers and coach's offices. The auditorium, band hall and theatre filled out the other side of the building, accessible from a separate entrance.
I was surprised that it was so deserted. We saw only the tail end of a freshman Phys Ed class exiting to the stadium, already halfway through their period after B lunch. I followed him through several doorways to the coach's office area. Jerry waved as we passed the window of one coach sitting in his office on the phone. He opened a utility closet and pulled a key off a little rack.
"C'mon," he took me by the arm and led me down a tiny hallway lined with pipes he had to duck under, to a door that led to a stairwell. We descended to the boiler room and walked through the rows of tanks with gauges and pipes snaking off in all directions. The room was dimly lit, the heat and humidity in the air was stifling, and the noise was deafening. The image of covert operations and secret agents came into my mind as we wound our way through the shadowy maze to some mysterious rendezvous point, which turned out to be a small maintenance room.
Jerry locked the door behind us and faced me. It was quiet in the little room and smelled of dust and grease. It was crowded with cleaning apparatus, jugs of chemicals, and parts laid out on a tall worktable. There was a small area between the worktable and a row of cabinets that we could stand in. And he just stood there, looking into my eyes for a long moment, his face blank and unexpressive. I didn't know what to think. I didn't get lost in his eyes -- for the first time ever. I couldn't tell what he was thinking at that point, so I just waited for what he had to say, determined to hear him out and go find Tyson. Finally he spoke, almost startling me.
"Did you really try to... to kill yourself?" He stammered quietly, averting his eyes as if he couldn't look me in the eye when I answered.
I looked down at the shop-vac beside us, fidgeting, embarrassed to admit it, "Well... yeah, I was about to. But a friend stopped me. I don't like to think about it," I mumbled.
He snapped his eyes back on me, "Oh, Danny -- I'm so sorry for how I treated you. I don't know what I would've done if you'd..." He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to get the picture out of his mind, then opened them and went on, "I'll never forgive myself for what I did, the things I said, for letting Mom twist my head around that morning." He placed his left hand on my shoulder and stared at me, a stern expression on his face, but sadness in his eyes.
I was kinda surprised at my lack of emotion at that moment -- or I should say, the evenness of my emotions. I saw the pain and remorse in his eyes, and I felt them in my heart, but I was somehow detached just enough not to fall into his eyes, to hold my emotions in check long enough to let him say what he had to say.
"I hardly sleep at night thinking of you," he continued, "of how I hurt you -- how stupid and cruel I was. I've come close to getting knocked down to second-string on the team 'cause I don't get enough sleep and can't function with a clear head. And Mom kept messing with my head -- like brainwashing me or something to be straight... to just forget about you," he said, shaking his head.
He took a step closer to me. "But that's all I could think about was you," his voice was thick with emotion. "I can tell ya, I tried not to! I tried to forget about you. I wanted her to be right! I tried to convince myself I wasn't gay, that I wasn't in love with you. Goddammit, my life would be so fucking much easier!" His hand fell from my shoulder as he slumped against the cabinet door to his right and looked down at the handle, absently tracing it with his fingers, shaking his head slowly back and forth,
"Everything's changed -- my whole life, the way I see things. I don't know what to do or what to think. I don't know what I am anymore, who I am, what I'm gonna do with myself." He looked so sad.
His voice quivered on the edge of breaking, "And I don't know what to do about you now. I mean, now I see you've already found someone else and -- God, I just blew everything all the way around. I don't know what to do, Danny, I just had to tell you how sorry I was, and... Well I wanted to know how you felt about me now; but when I planned to ask you, I didn't know you'd met someone."
His gaze fell back down as he covered his eyes with his left hand and started crying, shoulders jerking with his sobs. "I'm so sorry I hurt you, I'm just so sorry for everything!"
My shoulders sagged as my resolve to be detached and just listen crumbled. This wasn't going the way I thought it would. Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I touched his forearm tentatively. My heart was melting and all the emotions were flooding back in, wave after wave. The love, the excruciatingly intense love that I had for him that weekend, feeling like I was floating above the ground, the tingly euphoria that made the acid trip I'd taken later seem like a lithium stupor in comparison.
The pain was almost as physical and emotional as when he yelled at me and ripped my heart out in the car -- when he'd held me down in the grass and ground my spirit into dust, leaving my love to die a slow painful death. And I remembered the nights I'd spent dreaming of him. Hating myself, and dreaming of him, wanting to die, and dreaming of him, wanting to let go, yet still dreaming of him. All of it came back -- every bit as intense as it originally was.
Jerry's hand slipped from his eyes and he looked down at my fingers touching his arm, "Saying 'I don't love you' that morning was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life." He slowly looked up through his tears as he spoke. "It was the biggest and cruelest lie I've ever told," he paused, eyes drilling into my soul. "I tried to block you out -- to convince myself I didn't really love you, that it was all just some thing I tried -- like Mom kept saying -- that it was just experimenting. But I couldn't get you out of my head, Danny. I couldn't block out the feelings, the love. And I couldn't stop beating myself up for how I treated you."
He was talking faster and louder through his sobs, "I dreamed about you every single night and would wake up sweating. I saw your face everywhere I went -- and all I could see was the hurt in your eyes that morning in the car and that yard and it just kills me!" His voice was breaking every time he emphasized a word. "I hate myself for what I did to you and I still love you so much it hurts, and I don't know how to handle it and I don't know what to do now you've found someone else!" He turned his head down and covered his eyes again, embarrassed to let me see him crying.
I felt his pain to my core as he laid his emotions bare for me to see and feel. I didn't think I wanted to let myself feel it like that, but I didn't have a choice. I felt it just as strongly as I felt my own pain and confusion. I was drawn to him, to comfort him, to love him. I stepped in closer and he blindly reached out and grabbed me in a frantic embrace, squeezing me into his body, wracked with sobs, burying his face down into my neck.
"Please forgive me, Danny," he begged. "Please forgive me! I need you. I need you so bad. Please love me still, Danny, please..." He cried into my neck as I looked heavenward through my tears, trying to breathe as he squeezed me, trying to distinguish my emotions from his -- knowing that it must mean something if I had such a hard time doing that.
"I don't know how you feel about Tyson," he sobbed, "but there's no way he could love you more than I do -- no one could! I love you so much! I'll do whatever it takes to prove how much I love you -- anything. Just please take me back, Danny." He went silent, maybe waiting for a response, but it gave me a little time to think.
I was still trying desperately to be objective, to see things clearly, to not just give myself blindly back to him, to remember the vision of hell he'd put me through. I thought of Tyson: of what we had, of all he'd been through, how much he seemed to love and need me. I saw his eyes sparkling when he laughed, saw him leaning on my car the day I met him, hair blowing in the wind -- bucket seats and a gorgeous blonde. I saw his battered body when I kissed every bruise that night in my bathroom, and remembered how I gave my heart to him.
I thought of Celia and the things she'd said. I remembered the bleak feeling that stormy day as we were leaving Galveston, like my love for Ty was born under a bad sign, like it was doomed from the start. But I hadn't wanted to accept that, and Celia had said it could all work out...
I tried not to think of how it felt to be held in Jerry's arms again, to be squeezed so tightly against his muscular body, one hand gripping my waist and the other gripping my shoulder blade almost painfully in his agony. I tried not to feel his heat, to breathe in his scent, to feel the raw emotion streaming from him directly into my soul -- because I was scared of him, scared of the power he had over me, the ability to hurt me so deeply, so easily.
Even as he was opening up and making himself vulnerable to me, giving me the power to hurt him now if I wanted to, I knew I wasn't capable of doing so -- but he had proven he was. Logic told me to say no, to remember the pain, think of Ty, his embrace, his humor, his love...
Trying not to be abrupt, I slowly extricated myself from his arms. He raised his head, asking silently through his tears why I was backing away. I found it hard to look in his eyes as I struggled to form words.
"I'm... Jerry, I'm..." I looked for help at some kind of machine on the table that had been methodically torn assunder. I wanted to be direct and honest -- but not hurt him at the same time, "I love Ty now. He's good to me. I... I think he loves me too. I really do."
"Danny..." he started.
I cut him off as my pent-up emotions erupted. "Do you think I can just forget everything you said that morning? Do you really have any idea what that did to me?" Tears flooded down my face as I remembered in vivid detail every single word either of us said that morning in the car and the yard. "Jerry, you know I fell in love with you the day I met you, and, and I made you my whole world that weekend!" My voice was loud, but faltering in the small room.
I looked into his eyes, "You made me feel like I was someone beautiful, someone special -- like I could be loved. I never felt like that before in my life. Jerry, I worshipped you! I had never even dared to dream or fantasize I could ever have someone as gorgeous and strong and -- nice -- as you, fall in love with me. I would have done anything for you! In just that short a time, I already loved you more than life itself -- and those aren't just words! I gave myself, my heart, my emotions, my body -- everything to you."
Trembling, my eyes closed around my tears and my head bowed, "And then you ripped my heart out and just crushed me..."
"Oh God, Danny," he croaked, as he reached for me again, pulling me back into him. "Oh God, I know how bad I hurt you -- I KNOW! I do! I swear to God I know and I hate myself for it. I was..."
"But you looked me right in the eye and said it, Jerry!" I wailed into his shoulder as he held me tightly again, my arms hanging limply at my sides.
He whispered in my ear, "It was a lie, Danny. It was a cruel lie. I knew it was a lie when I said it. I was just so scared, and stupid," he cried into my ear. "I'm so sorry I hurt you. Please believe me. I love you and promise I'll make up for what I did to you. Please don't hate me. Please forgive me, Danny?"
"It's not that easy!" I pushed him away and regretted it, even as my anger and hurt were making me do it. He winced and his body sagged. "I thought our love was already strong enough that morning for you to be able to tell me we could go on, even if we had to hide it from her! But it wasn't!" I was flushed and trembling, equally in anger and pain, "And you were able to say you don't love me to my face!" I glared at him through my tears. "How do I..."
"I was scared, Danny! I was totally fucking scared - I didn't know what to do!" he pleaded, "I never had to deal with anything like this before. Can you understand how scared I was? All that shit she said had me so fucking confused..." He looked down at the space between us and sobbed, "If I'd of had time to think before she... I'm sorry I let you down - let us down, so completely." he said, barely more than a mumble. "If I could unwind that day and do it all over again... I'm so ashamed." He looked up again and spread his hands pleadingly, "I'm begging you to forgive me, Danny. Please give me another chance?" He gently reached for me and pulled me back into him. I didn't resist.
"I love you. I knew it then. I was just so scared..." he wrapped his arms around me again.
He was getting to me. He was getting through. My barriers were crumbling, washing away in the flood of both our tears. I fought it. `Ty,' I thought, trying to imagine my words radiating through the walls. `Tyson Harmon, I love you -- you know that, don't you? I don't want to let you go -- but Jerry Loring has this power over me. I don't know if I can deny him. I need your strength to resist him! Can you feel or hear my thoughts?'
I tried debating with myself, as if I thought that could change what I already knew, 'Whoa, I feel it physically, almost like a hum through my whole body, and getting these -- what do I call them? Love rushes? How foolish can I be? Why take the risk of Jerry hurting me again? I can tell he really is truly sorry and he means it when he says how much he loves me, but logic says to walk away, don't give him another chance to hurt me -- but I don't think I can! What is it about him? Look in those eyes and you'll see what. I'm smart enough to take an emotional step back and be objective here, aren't I? OK, this feeling is really powerful, but after what he did, I should not be willing to open myself up to that possibility again. And Ty -- am I willing to just walk away from him? It would prove Celia's initial feelings were right.'
The answer came to me in an instant, from inside my own head. 'I might as well face it; I don't have the ability to walk away from Jerry. I see now it's really pretty simple: I'm still hopelessly in love with him -- he's the one.'
Just as I came to that thought, Jerry spoke again, "I need you so bad, Danny. I was so stupid and cold-hearted. He might love you -- but I love you so much more! I've never felt anything like this in my life. I never thought I could feel anything this strongly -- anything that could make me be ready to change everything in my whole life, my future, everything. Please forgive me, please love me still," he sobbed again and again as he kissed my neck and ear. "Please love me still... please?" he kept begging.
I wasn't getting off on his begging -- it wasn't giving me any kind of power trip, ego boost, satisfaction or anything like that -- it was breaking my heart. It was making me feel sad for him, making me need to comfort him and take the pain away. The heat of his body and the room was making me sweat as I gave in to my heart -- it was useless trying to fight it. He had a power over me that I was simply unable to resist -- I loved him, and had, even from that very first day.
I spoke softly, "I never stopped loving you, Jerry. I couldn't make myself hate you when I tried. But I'm..." I searched for the words. "I'm scared of opening myself up to getting hurt again by you. I never dreamed anything could hurt like that. When I was gonna kill myself, I kept thinking it was a combination of things, but right now, I realize it was really only because I thought you didn't love me anymore -- but that just makes it scarier." My hands were now clinging to his back almost as tightly as he was squeezing me, "I just don't know if I could ever feel secure again, if I could trust -- it hurt so bad!" I sobbed.
He raised his head and looked into my eyes, "I know. I really do, Danny. I promise I'll never hurt you again. And I never stopped loving you either, Danny. God, I'm so sorry for what I did to you -- the look in your eyes that morning -- I'll never forget it as long as I live." Tears streamed down his cheeks as he swiped at them with the back of his hand, "I don't even know how to describe what it did to me way down inside, the little part of my heart that died at that moment when I saw what I'd done. All those nights I cried when I would see you lying in the grass with that wounded, hurt look in your eyes, burning in my mind and I hear myself saying those words and I just hated myself for being so cruel to you, so tender and sweet and trusting."
He buried his face back into my neck, kissing it between words, "If you'll just forgive me, if you still love me, I swear to God I'll never hurt you again. I'll never let anyone hurt you again, I'll protect you from all that. I'll kill anyone who tries to hurt you -- I mean it," he tensed his body. "I'll love you and take care of you and protect you always! Please just love me like you did before."
His kisses were making me shiver. The things he was saying were sending goose bumps all over me, "I do love you every bit as much as I did before," I replied. "It never went away, even when I tried to make it go away. When it came down to it, I knew it was you I loved, even after what you did to me." As I said those words, guilt flooded over me as I thought of my relationship with Ty, but I tried to block it from my mind.
He raised his head again to look me in the eyes, "Oh God, I'm so happy to hear you say that. I love you and need you so much..." He fixed his gaze on me, "Can you find it in your heart to forgive me, Danny?"
I shook my head back and forth, thinking about it, with the pain fresh in my memory showing in my eyes. He flinched as though I had physically slapped him -- thinking I was saying `no'. A strangled cry of anguish came from deep inside him as he turned his head away in tears and his hands fell limply to his sides. A stabbing pain went through my chest as I felt his heart breaking.
"Okay," he said in a hoarse, defeated voice. "I don't blame you -- but just know I love you and I'm sorry." Then he cried and covered his eyes again, turning himself away from me.
With all that had been said to that point, all the emotions that had poured out of him, it wasn't until that moment that I realized just how desperately he wanted me to love him and forgive him. It sent shivers down my spine. I put my hand on his chest to get him to look back at me and took a deep breath. He lowered his hand and looked hopefully at me through his tears.
"I want to -- I need to forgive..." I dug deep for my truest feelings, trying to let the words come directly from my heart -- to hear them at the same time he heard them, "I think I can..." I closed my eyes, "Yes, I can. I forgive you." I opened them back up, "I have to. I love you. I need you too, Jerry."
A powerful rush went through my body as I realized that was it. I'd just told him yes. Yes, I still loved him, yes, I forgave him, yes, I wanted him back... yes -- I was his.
Relief visibly flooded over him. "Oh Danny, thank you for giving me another chance," he put his hands on my cheeks and pulled me to him, kissing me on the lips, and then on each eye. He pulled his head back and brought his thumbs up to gently wipe my tears away, trying to just blink his own away, "Man, you've just made me so happy! I swear I'll..."
"But Jerry," I cut him off. I had things I needed to say, to clarify with him. I surprised myself with how confidently and smoothly all this came out, "I don't want this if you still have any doubts about being gay. I don't want to get totally wrapped back up in you, and then a couple of weeks from now -- or months, or next year -- you suddenly say, "Sorry, Danny, I just figured out I'm not really gay. It was fun, but it's over. Goodbye."
I watched his face. He listened intently, wondering where I was going with this as I continued, "I'm not going to do this unless you're sure that you-are-gay -- homosexual. It can't be 'bi', either; not for 'us' to work. It would drive me crazy to see you looking at girls and know you wanted them. I couldn't stand knowing it was only because of me that you changed everything in your life, but you still wanted those things later -- that whole scene with the wife and 2.5 kids and the picket fence. I know you've thought about all that, but have you figured out for sure what you really want?"
I fixed my eyes on his, trying to convey that this was a moment of truth, "You've gotta look inside yourself and KNOW the answer to this already. If you don't already know it, if you're unsure, then, as hard as it would be to do it -- I'm gonna walk away."
He looked at me, kinda startled. I really didn't know that I could walk away, but I had to find out how he looked at it, "I know what I am now, and I can't devote myself to you if you don't." He was listening intently, trying to reason my message.
"You see what I'm saying?" I continued, "Every day, I'd wake up wondering if it was gonna be the day some girl turned your head, or if it was the day you decided you couldn't live like this any longer, having to hide yourself and 'us' from much of the world. I mean... that's reality, Jerry. Things are changing, getting better for gay people, but slowly. Like, from what Rachel says, Anita Bryant has brought the gay community together, stronger than they were... but are you sure enough about yourself to accept living like that?"
Before he could reply, I added, "And you know, I don't want all of it put on my back, either. I don't want to feel like you've made all the sacrifices that come with this just for me -- and I don't want to be your 'experiment' with gay life." I pointed my finger at his chest, "It's got to be what you have to do for you."
I stood back a little to emphasize the point that this was about 'him' before it could be about 'us'.
"I need to be clear here," I pressed on. "What I'm demanding of you here is a major commitment, and a major life decision. You may not be ready, or you might not even want to make this big a decision at this point in your life -- and I would totally understand that, Jerry. It's a big step that I don't want to force you to take -- and that's why I said you simply must already know the answer deep inside -- it has to be what you've already come to. The worst thing you could do, is choose this just because of me and not already be positive it's what you have to do."
"Like for me, I know without a doubt that I am gay," I emphasized each word. "I have to live this way if I wanna be honest with myself -- it's my nature. I've had five years to come to this; you've only had a month. It doesn't seem fair for me to demand such a commitment from you, and I wouldn't have been like this about it before -- but I've had my heart broken now."
I let that sink in as he leaned back against the edge of the tall worktable, thinking. "I know how crazy in love with you I am. I know if we got back together and you suddenly changed your mind again..." I trailed off, then softened my voice, "I'm asking a lot, Jerry, but it's because now I know the consequences." I paused a moment, "Are you ready for forever?"
He didn't blink. "Yes." He adjusted himself on the table edge and held his hands like a frame to say 'picture this' and started, "That's what I wanted to tell you when I got to talk to you in private; but then, when I... uh, saw you were with Ty -- all that got me totally confused again. Man, it's been real hard to keep my head together through all this."
I nodded agreement, to say the least.
Jerry took a deep breath and continued. "I told you how I tried to forget about you but couldn't. So when I finally realized it was 'cause I was hopelessly in love with you, I got kinda depressed and went to our beach house in Galveston last weekend and sat alone to think... to decide if I was gonna do anything about it. I mean, I was still so fuckin' scared of being gay -- being different, y'know?" He looked for empathy from me, and got it.
He paused a moment, "I tried to decide if I would be gay if you weren't in the picture, but I couldn't picture myself wanting anyone else -- boy or girl -- but you see, that answered the question anyway. It comes down to the fact that I'm in love with you, Danny. The fact that I'm in love with a boy... well, that means I'm gay, don't it?"
I nodded, "Well, yeah, I guess it does -- but can you accept that and be happy about it? All of it?"
"Oh," he stared off, recalling the weekend. "I still wasn't happy about it, not till I went to sleep that night and had a dream, where I'm standing with this gypsy fortune teller and we're looking at you and me, sometime not too far in the future, and we looked so happy together. She says to me, 'You'll never be happy if you don't follow your heart. You have to live your life for you, Jerry, not for what others think. You know deep down he's the one, so take your love to him -- he'll forgive you.'" He looked like he was picturing the dream sequence and smiled, "Man, I woke up from that dream and it all just fit, y'know? It just took away almost all my fears and worries, and let me finally accept being gay and being in love with you. That's when I knew I had to get you back somehow." He stared at me, unblinking.
He took a deep breath. "So, yeah... I am gay. And yes, I am in love with you, Danny. And yes -- it's forever."
I glowed at him, and well... he seemed to glow too - hell, we were both sweating, so ya kinda glow, right? He clasped my head in his hands and pulled me into a kiss: a kiss like the ones we shared that weekend, where the love permeates the air around us and the matter within us. What gives so much power to a kiss? Is it because our minds are so close together that the energy builds to a sum greater than its parts? I know for us, it's a sharing, an affirmation, a mingling, a blending: being in love. All those things. Beautiful.
"Wow!" he exclaimed, looking at me as we came up for air, "God, I've missed you so much. I swear I'll make up for what I did. I'll make you happy, Danny -- I don't care about anything else."
I looked up at him. "I believe you, Jerry." Then I crinkled my brow, "But you said that dream calmed almost all your fears and worries. What did you mean by that?"
He grimaced, "Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared of how this'll change my life. I mean... this changes everything I've thought about, everything I've planned. I'm afraid of how people I know will react to it, the team, the swim team - oh man, my coaches, and of course, my family..."
"Believe me," I interrupted, "I'm scared about the future too -- real scared. But I feel a lot more courageous when I think of us facing it together." I grinned. "So... uh, what're you gonna do about your mom? I mean, I'd be real happy to never have to be face to face with her again in my life, cuz she scares the hell out of me, but we can't hide this from her. Not forever."
"Why not? Why does she have to know just yet?" Fear showed in his voice.
I glared at him. "Because I don't want to hide it from our families and sneak around. I don't wanna to be ashamed anymore. I'm not saying we have to be out to the whole world. I don't even want to come out at school -- but it looks like we just did anyway. But I'd be okay with pretending to everyone at school we aren't together for this last bit until graduation -- if you think you could somehow cover over what happened today. I mean, it's a matter of survival," I said with a shudder.
He didn't reply, but turned slightly away, as if he was trying to weigh our odds for survival.
My eyes narrowed as I continued. "I don't even want to imagine what would happen to us if everyone knew. I've been through kids' reactions when they just thought I might be queer. But anyway, school's almost over and my point is really your mom. Are you ready to face her honestly? You did that morning, and I was really proud of you for having the guts I didn't have. I probably would've tried to deny or rationalize my way out of it, I don't know. But you tried to stand up for us."
Jerry shook his head. "Whaddya mean, stand up for us? I caved in like a fuckin' house of cards! I'm ashamed of how easily I gave in to her that morning," he looked down at the floor.
I touched his arm consolingly, "I don't blame you for giving in to her, Jerry. After you left me in that yard, remember the neighbor who tried to get you to get off of me?" He nodded. "Well, he and his wife Rachel took me inside after I cried for awhile to her in the yard. They were so wonderful and told me her brother was gay, so they completely understood. But the thing is, Ron works for NASA and knows who your mom is, and he told me a story about the time he saw your mom take on some politician and shred him to pieces. I understood then that it was no wonder you gave in to her. He called her 'formidable' and said he thought the military had created her as a 'secret weapon'!" He laughed sardonically at that.
"I already knew she scared the piss outta me, so I had to try to understand what it would be like to be her son, and what kind of trips she could put in your head."
He sighed. "Some heavy duty ones," he said with a smirk. "I can tell you that much for sure. That morning, when I got back, she sat me down and got me drunk on scotch -- which I don't even like -- while she twisted my head around all kinds a ways. You were this evil little 'deviant temptress' who seduced me and tricked me into doing all this shit to get me in trouble with the law -- did you know gay sex is against the law in Texas? And you were still a minor at that point, too," he mumbled and looked down at his hands.
"Anyway," he continued, "she had fucking pictures sitting there, even yearbooks, of almost every girlfriend I ever had. She went on and on about what a stud I was with girls, and how she just knew I couldn't possibly want 'deviant' sex. She had magazine articles about how nasty and sick the homosexual lifestyle is, and case studies of gay guys molesting little kids and all this sick stuff," he said, scowling at the images in his mind.
"She talked about when I get married and have kids, how rewarding that would be and all that bullshit. And she laid some really heavy guilt trips on me about her and Dad - like she did before I took you home-- what it would do to their positions with NASA, and to our family if this ever got out." A sarcastic smirk appeared on his lips, "She even said if I was gay, that I couldn't get a security clearance if I wanted to follow in either of their footsteps at NASA." He chuckled derisively, "Like I wanna! But man, she had me all guilty and turned around for a while there. And, of course, I was so scared of being gay, it wasn't very hard for her to convince me..."
"But are you ready to stand up to her now?" I insisted. "I mean, I'm ready to come out to my parents. I just... I don't think we have a chance if you don't confront her. This is very important to me, Jerry. Maybe it's because she caught us together and her reaction so completely made 'us' bad, dirty, invalid, and I feel this strong need to prove to her that what we have is good." I thought for a moment, "Hell, maybe I'm the one that needs to say something to her. But I really don't know if I could pull that off though."
I shook my head, remembering her bone-chilling stare. "Man, I am one gutless wonder, ain't I?" I gave myself one of those general patton slaps for being such a wimp. I told myself, `Things've gotta change, Bud. Fucking grow up.'
"No," Jerry said with a sigh, "That would definitely be me. I've never really stood up to her before. Hell, there ain't been any big issues in the past to stand up to her for, though. My sister was the one who had all the conflicts with her all her life. But she's definitely controlled and manipulated me all my life. I started realizing that sometime last week, while she was saying how you manipulated me and tricked me into doin' all that, that it wasn't part of my nature -- when I knew deep down how much I loved you, and how I had wanted it just as much." He looked at me, a small trace of a smile flickering across his lips. "Hell, I was the one who brought you to my house hoping to have sex with you that day!" He chuckled.
"And I knew that me an' you don't think like the sicko's in those articles she showed me. I started thinking what would happen if we got back together and she found out. It was the first time I stopped and thought about how she treats me -- she plays me like a puppet and has for years. I'm such a stupid fucking jock -- I've always just gone along with her," he said, shaking his head, thinking back.
"She's made all my decisions for me, and I let her. I always thought I was strong-willed, and she made me think I was so strong. But I finally realized how I totally let her manipulate everything in my life." He looked to the ceiling and took a deep breath, "It definitely has to be me. I have to take over my own life."
I moved toward him again, and he pulled me by the waist in-between his spread knees where he sat against the very edge of the tall table. I said, "I'll be there with you. I'm scared of her, but not too scared to fight for us." I shook my head again and snickered, "God, that sounds like a line from some cheesy movie or soap opera. Y'know, most of my life, nothing much exciting -- then wham! All this. It's like it's all a dream. Does it seem real to you? I mean, sometimes it's almost like a cross between Days of Our Lives and The Twilight Zone," I said, laughing.
He smiled back, his golden brown bloodshot eyes boring into me, "Sometimes it seems like a dream, and sometimes it's just too fucking real. I never cried so much in all the rest of my life put together," he chuckled and sniffed.
"Yeah," I said, as I caressed his arm, "you know, I haven't always been such a crybaby either. Really, before I met you, I hadn't cried in years, since I was thirteen and realized I was actually gay. That was rough for me, and I never really let myself fully accept it until I fell in love with you. And I guess that's what's so scary... and yet it's also part of what draws me -- the way you so easily can make me cry, you know what I mean? I don't mean I like crying... It's the force of the emotions..." I couldn't figure out how to explain it, so I gave up. "I never imagined love could be this intense."
I shook my head, then waved my hand dismissively, "Oh, I always heard plenty of people went crazy over love, but you can't really imagine what it's like until it happens to you." I reflected on it all, "And boy, did it hit me between the eyes."
He pointed his finger at the bridge of my nose, "I promise I'll never make you cry again, Danny."
"You can't really promise that, Jerry," I stated logically.
He thought for a moment, "Well, I can at least promise to never consciously do anything to make you cry again."
"Okay." I leaned my head back to take in his whole face. "Just promise to love me long enough for me to finally believe I can have real happiness in my life -- for more than a few days at a time," I said with a smile, in all seriousness.
"I promise it'll be a lot more than just a few days -- I want you forever, Danny. I'm serious. I haven't been able to think of anything but you since the day I met you." He smiled at me, "Yeah. I'm ready for forever."
He drew me in for another kiss, "God, I've missed you so bad. I can't believe I was so stupid. I just hate myself for what I did to you."
"Shhhh," I whispered as I leaned in to kiss his cheek, "It's ok now, you don't have to feel like that anymore."
He ran his fingers through my hair. "I just need you to love me," he said softly. "When I thought I'd made you hate me, it felt like it was the end of the world -- and when I found out today you almost killed yourself -- oh baby, never again, I swear to God I'll never let you feel like that again." He squeezed me tightly into his chest and I could feel his heart beating behind his muscles and ribs.
"Shhhh, all that's behind us now," I whispered in his ear as he leaned his head down. "Think about how lucky we are to be back together -- or that we ever met in the first place."
I kissed the side of his head, just behind his ear, holding my lips there, eyes closed, feeling the short hairs laying against his scalp. I could feel his blood pulsing through a vein beneath my lips, breathing him in while endorphins flooded my system, getting me high on him again.
The beauty of life, especially the beauty of human beings, suddenly struck me, 'Isn't it glorious that we love? Isn't it incredible that we can connect on such a deep spiritual level, and that we can express that love physically with something as powerful and sublime as making love?'
I had a three-dimensional vision of our two bodies standing there embraced like an astral outline -- kinda like in neon -- and an absolute knowledge and understanding of what flowed between us, every fierce emotion, every subtle shade of feeling riding on the fierce ones, all the 'This is' and 'What if?' tagalongs, swirling comet tails behind them. I understood the connection on many levels; saw its beauty and science, and its power. My whole body vibrated and hummed with the awesome beauty of it all.
"Whoa! You just zapped me, baby," he pulled his head back and grinned.
"Huh?" I came out of my little trance.
"I got this zap of like, electricity from you. More like a flow than a zap, though. Whew!" His body jerked around in that pleasant, tingly way and he giggled.
"Oh, wow," I said, still reeling a little. "I think I just had an epiphany, I guess. Wow."
He looked puzzled. "What's an epiphany?"
I thought for a moment. "Umm, it's like... a moment of total clarity, or divine inspiration. It was awesome. It'd be kinda hard to explain right now, though, but it was beautiful-- it was us."
He ran his hand up under my shirt, caressing my back softly then firmly, smiling at me, "What's beautiful is you. Do you know what you do to me? Do you know what happens to me when I just lie in bed and think of you, or when I see you?" He pulled my hand to his bulging jeans, "Feel that? Feel what you do to me? It's never let up!" I looked down at my hand cupping his bulge and my heart fluttered.
He blushed slightly, "I confess, every time I'd wake up from the dream of you lying in the grass with that look in your eyes and I hated myself -- even then I would be hard as a fucking rock and couldn't get back to sleep until I beat off thinking of you... your tight little body, your kisses, your lips, your incredible, beautiful ass -- how you love." The cloth under my hand throbbed as he kneaded my ass cheeks, and I tingled all over; my breathing shallow and my heart racing.
"After I came," he continued in a dreamy voice, "I'd hold a couple of pillows like I held you those nights. Remembering holding you while you slept..." He let out a cherished memory sigh. "That was really the thing that would let me finally go to sleep, remembering holding you in my arms, backed up against me, feeling your heart beating, loving you so completely..." His eyes teared up a little again and so did mine.
He had a faraway look in his eyes. "I remember kissing the back of your head while you slept -- and how that was like: a tiny little thing just for me, to show my love for you, even though you'd never even know I did it."
I was touched, and my eyes momentarily filled with tears. "Jerry, you're making me cry again." I sighed, then chuckled, "Well, while we're admitting these things... when you held me down in the grass that morning, I had a hot flash at your incredible power over me. When I looked up at you I saw you as this, like, thoroughbred stallion -- don't laugh, I'm confessing here -- this power, your muscles bulging and your veins all tense, and your nostrils flaring... it just turned me on so much -- not the anger, just the sheer male power that like, radiated from you." I looked down at my hand resting on his crotch, then looked back at his face. "I felt like I must be so totally screwed-up, 'cause I was so hurt and scared and confused. But I seriously wanted you to fuck me at that instant -- right there on Sunday morning in that yard -- if you had wanted me then." I blushed. "I can't believe I just told you that -- it makes me sound so psychotic," I said, shaking my head in embarrassment.
"No! No, it -- well, it really kinda turns me on," he admitted, as he grinned an evil little grin.
"You know I'm totally putty in your hands," I insisted. "My real confession is, I've got no will power at all against you -- and that really scares the hell outta me." A shiver went down my spine as I realized once again how utterly vulnerable I was to Jerry -- and I did get terrified again. In that moment, knowing I had given myself back to him, even just having had my epiphany that showed me how true our connection was, I was scared of loving him so overwhelmingly, knowing how devastating it would be if something went wrong.
I pulled him close to me and looked deep into his eyes. "Please don't hurt me again," I said, my voice wavering and barely audible. "I couldn't take it again -- really. I'm not strong like you."
"Oh, Danny," he whispered, "I love you and I'll never hurt you again, I swear to God!" He wrapped me in his arms and kissed my face, my hair, my neck, my shoulders, everywhere he could get to. "I'm so sorry I hurt you, and I would kill myself before I'd hurt you again. Please, please believe me! Don't be scared, please. I just want to spend the rest of my life making you happy."
He held me tight for some minutes, mumbling Iloveyou's here and there, kissing me passionately while I absorbed some of his strength and found my comfort in his arms. I clung to him and decided I had to just trust him and believe he'd never hurt me again. The more I thought about it, the more comfortable I became with it. I had no doubt whatsoever that he loved me as much as he said he did, so I shouldn't worry about getting hurt anymore. A peacefulness spread over me as we held each other in the hot little room, unconcerned with time.
Then I thought of Tyson again and my heart sank. I really did love him -- but wasn't consumed with love for him like I was with Jerry. Not even close.
I dreaded seeing Tyson again, since I knew I'd have to tell him it was over, and I didn't know how I was going to handle that. It would hurt me so to hurt him. I felt so guilty, like I had led him on with false hopes while I knew deep down I still loved Jerry. But up until today, I'd been certain I could never have Jerry, that I would just have to get over him someday. And I honestly did feel love for Ty, so I knew I hadn't deceived him in any way. I just wished I didn't have to face that at all.
Jerry leaned back and stared at me, then raised an eyebrow. "You're thinking of him."
"Wha-?" I said, confused.
"You're thinking of him," he pulled his head back to look in my eyes, "Of how to tell him it's over. Think of that later, baby -- not right now," he said in a soothing tone.
"How did you know?" I asked incredulously.
"I dunno. I just felt it -- the change in... I dunno. Just felt it," he said quietly. He had an almost guilty look on his face, as if he thought being able to feel what I was feeling was wrong, or intrusive or something.
I stared into his eyes for a moment, "I thought I was supposed to be the perceptive and sensitive guy around here," I said with a smile, then furrowed my brow, "But... It's not just thinking about how to tell him it's over. I don't know what to think about how I feel about him, Jerry. I honestly love him, too."
His face fell, but I quickly continued.
"No," I said soothingly. "I don't love him even remotely as much as I love you -- I realized that in here just now. But, I do love Ty, and it kills me to think of hurting him. I don't know what I'm going to say. I really hate to have to have to tell him." I looked down at the floor and Jerry gripped my hands to get my full attention back.
"Danny, when I saw him today, and knew you and him were together..." He closed his eyes and made a face, "It threw me off like... it just ate my guts out! To think of you in his arms -- with anyone else -- I couldn't handle it." He looked me in the eye. "I gotta tell ya right now, Danny, I'm a very jealous guy. I mean, if another guy ever tries to get you..." I watched the veins on his temples pop up, "I'd kill him with my bare hands," he unconsciously balled his fists, emphasizing his point.
Now I admit, I kinda swooned. Intellectually, I had sneered at men who had this attitude over their women before -- guys who pounded their chests like Tarzan and such -- but I knew Jerry wasn't stupid. His nature was just very, very devoted and possessive. It sent shivers down my spine and I just felt so loved and protected, and that much more his. Look at it however you like, but it felt good, okay?
"We're together -- us. You're mine now. I'm yours." His eyes narrowed in absolute seriousness. "But if anyone even looks at you the wrong way... I'll fuckin' beat him to a pulp, baby. And I won't even think twice about it."
I gulped audibly and more shivers ran down my spine. "But Tyson and I only got together when..."
"I know, baby, I know," he said soothingly. "I'm not gonna hold that against him. I can see he's probably a nice guy, and I can tell you did... love him."
I watched his face muscles tighten when he said it. He looked worried, and blinked rapidly several times. "Can you let... you just gotta let him go, baby, you can't love him still," he insisted, his face creased with pain. "That'd drive me crazy -- I mean really, really crazy!"
I sighed. "Jerry, I'm sorry for how that affects you, but, man, Ty just about brought me back to life. I was walkin' around like a zombie, all strung out on you. I mean, I was just a bad dream away from goin' back over the edge, y'know?"
I needed for him to understand what Tyson meant to me, "And the thing is, you don't have any idea what he's been through," I paused, debating whether I should include something as deeply personal as his suicide attempt. I decided I wanted Jerry to know, because I hoped he'd somehow see more of the sense of identity Ty and I shared as well as our love. I didn't share his experiences of abuse and danger, but I shared his moments of despair, giving up -- and we shared love.
"Tyson has gone over the edge before," I continued, "but he lived through it, and he helped me come to grips with what I'd almost done. And like, him just being him, and loving me... that was what got me over it and ready to move on with living. And with loving," I added quietly, looking down at his stomach.
I looked back up. "And that black eye he has? That's his own dad's handiwork from Monday morning! Half his body right now is one big bruise. That fucker has broken Ty's bones before, and put him in the hospital a few times. He even once tried to rape him -- and did rape his sister."
"God..." he muttered. I could see him trying to fathom a painful life like that. But it was beyond his realm of experience -- mine too; but I had at least seen the immediate results of what it was like for Ty.
"Oh, there's a lot more, besides his old man," I continued. "Tyson's nearly been killed, living on the streets in Houston, just sixteen years old. You ever had a gun held to your head on the side of the freeway and told to get the hell out of Dodge or you're dead? Well that's the kinda shit he's been through."
My voice was thick with emotion, "But man, he's such a good and loving person even after all that. He just doesn't deserve to be hurt any more." I started crying again. "And I don't want to be the one who hurts him again!"
Jerry hugged me to him. "I'm sorry, babe. I see -- I understand better now," he rocked me gently side to side. "We'll work it out somehow." After a moment, he pulled back to look at me, "You know, you just make me love you more with every little thing I learn about you. You're so kind, so compassionate. The world's a better place 'cause you're in it." He paused, and a big grin spread across his face. "You get a 'Good Guy Gold Star,'" he said, then tweaked my nose. I had to laugh a little, and sniffle.
"So, is there anything I can do to help?" he asked. "You want me to be with you when you talk to him? I promise I'll be nice -- I mean, I don't hate him or anything."
I shook my head. "I don't know. No, I don't think that'd be a good idea." I pondered several scenarios, but none of them seemed better than the truth. "I just have to face him and be honest. I owe him that." I shrugged, "Like Celia said, 'be honest.'"
"Who's Celia? Tyson said her name, too."
"Uh... long story. I'll tell ya sometime. She's pretty special. I guess I'll tell you what I did at her house, too," I said, feeling my cheeks redden slightly.
Jerry gave me an odd look, "What? Something bad -- or naughty?"
"Well, no," I said nervously. "Not bad at all. Well, to a lot of people..."
"What? Tell me!" He smiled, all curious. He squeezed my ass cheeks playfully.
"No, I definitely don't wanna get into all that right now," I said. "I'll tell you the whole thing sometime, but right now..." I leaned into him and breathed in deeply. "I want..." I put my lips to his neck and held them there, darting my tongue out to taste him.
"Oh God yeah," he said through his teeth as he squeezed me into him again, hands roaming all over my backside. He moaned a deep "Mmmmm," and the vibration in his neck set my tongue to buzzing with the most wonderful flavor in the world: Jerry.
Better than chocolate, better than ice cream, better than cotton candy, better than cheesecake and brandied cherries, better than a napoleon, better than an éclair, better than Banana's Foster, better than a cappuccino shake, better than mud pie, better than chocolate-covered grahams and milk, better than a Dreamsicle, better than tiramisu, better than... well, you get the idea.