Anyone who sings a tune so sweet is passing by
Ever since my web page first went online with just a handful of photos, I started getting email. Pretty much every day I'd find a number of mail files from people who had visited the site. Some were critical. Some were raunchy. Most were pleasant and complimentary. Some were from half-way around the world. Some were right here in my area. Of those that were from people nearby, they would occasionally ask if I was interested in getting together in person. I generally wasn't too keen on that idea. I've had my share of blind dates in the past, and I'd like to keep them in my past.
Then one day the following mail file arrived:
This one caught my attention. I knew that Ithaca College had a lot of photography and art majors, and I thought this might be an opportunity to do some modeling. I enjoy doing my self-portraiture okay, but I get the most pleasure from modeling when I'm actually standing in front of one or more other human beings. With a name like "Beau" I imagined the guy to be some corn-fed, rosey-cheeked Southern boy, so I didn't have any expectations of romance or sex. I sent the following reply:
We planned to get together to chat about it and decide after meeting in person if this was something we wanted to pursue. I had an office party that Friday, and I suggested to Beau that we meet at the local brew pup afterwards. He said he'd be there.
I had a couple cocktails at my office party and started getting a bit of a buzz. When it was about time to meet Beau I hoofed down to the pub. I went inside and got myself a pint. While I was standing around sipping it, I noticed this skinny young black guy sort of eyeing me. Whenever I catch someone cruising me my defense mechanisms tend to intervene, but this time I thought to myself, "What the Hell. He's kind of cute. Who cares if he's checking me out." Much to my surprise, he walked right over to me.
"Are you Toaph?" he asked.
A bit surprised, I hesitantly said, "Yes..."
"I'm Beau," he said in a deep, masculine voice.
Suddenly it clicked. Instead of some white chubby redneck, I was faced with an attractive, virile, young black man. Unfortunately he was so young, in fact, that he couldn't hang out in the pub. It turned out he was a nineteen-year-old sophomore. The bouncer only let him in because he said he had to meet someone and that he'd leave as soon as he found him. I suggested we step outside to briefly discuss the modeling thing.
I set my pint down and we went outside the pub. It was a cold November evening, and there were a few flakes of wet snow in the air. I knew in my head right away that I'd kill for an opportunity to model for this guy. As far as I was concerned it was just a matter of setting up a time and getting directions to his place. Beau, on the other hand, appeared to have somewhat of a presentation planned for me. I didn't really consider the fact that all he knew about me was from my web site. I think of myself as some joe who just likes to get naked in front of a camera and put the pictures out on the web. My personality doesn't have an ounce of artistic pretense or ego. But I think that Beau was rather impressed with my work, and I believe that he was trying to impress upon me that he was a serious artist too, and not just some guy who wanted me to get nude for him. He tried to pull out some charcoals he'd done and hold them up for me, but we were standing on the sidewalk outside a pub, there was nowhere to spread them out, the wind kept catching them, and wet snow flakes were starting to land on the delicate works. I could tell that he was feeling very awkward.
I told Beau that it wasn't necessary to show me his drawings right now. I'd be happy to model for him any time and we could look over his work then. He seemed a little surprised that I agreed to model for him so quickly. I said that he could email me any time and that we could set something up. All I wanted in return was a set of contact sheets of every roll he shot of me. He seemed relieved and a little more relaxed. He was also glad that I wasn't asking for any money for my services. I was thinking that I wouldn't mind spending some more time with him, but I didn't think it was my place to be making moves on a nineteen year old. I told him I was going to head back in the pub, but he asked me if I'd like to go out for a drink somewhere else. He said that there were bars downtown that he can usually get into. I said that would be nice.
I went back in the pub and chugged my pint in a few hefty gulps. I grabbed my coat and walked back out. Beau was surprised that I was back so quickly. He got up and we walked the fair distance to the downtown strip. We chatted casually as we walked. The whole time I was starting to wonder if he was gay or not. It dawned on me that I had no specific reason to assume that he was. He was an art major, after all, and they're accustomed to nude models of both genders. There was no particular significance in the fact that he asked a man to model nude for him. Art majors will generally take whomever they can find who's willing to pose nude. Certainly there was nothing in his gestures or vocalizations that gave me any reason to believe that he was gay.
We walked down to a local bar that Beau said he'd been able to get into. I felt a little like I was in High School all over again as we planned our entrance. I was to walk in first, and likely breeze right past the bouncer. Beau would follow me closely and hopefully blow past the bouncer in my wake. To Beau's credit, he did look much older than 19. If he hadn't told me his age, I would have guessed he was about 26. The plan came off without a hitch, and moments later we were ordering beers at the bar. We sat down in a booth and started talking.
His first question to me was, "I noticed that you're gay, but that you're very masculine. It's the same with me."
This wasn't really a question, but I knew exactly what he was asking. I was also excited to learn that he was, in fact, gay. I quickly went right into a monologue about my growing up as a masculine boy, and not having any similar role models when I started questioning my sexuality. I instantly felt a very comfortable mentor-like repoir with Beau. We talked for a long time about all manner of things. He told me about growing up in inner-city Gary Indiana. While all his friends listened to rap, he loved Beatles music. He attended an art school at a young age, where all the older students looked on him as a precocious "Gary Coleman" character. He then went on to a military High School, and was eventually invited to attend the Ithaca College film school. I told him stories of my past, peppered with my philosophical impressions. Later we chipped in to buy a pack of smokes from the vending machine. When we started running out of conversation we played the question game, where each in turn would ask the other a question about himself. We really started getting to know each other very well.
When it started getting a little late and I'd had just a bit too much to drink, we walked back up to my office. We decided that we'd get together to do a photo shoot the next day or Sunday. I gave him a ride back to his dorm so that I'd know where to go for the shoot. I gave him my phone number and we said goodbye. As I drove home I thought about the nice young man I'd just met. Little did I know at that time the depth and breadth to which he'd change my life.
The next day I was feeling kind of hung over and tired. I wasn't really in the mood to get all pretty and model for the camera. Beau called a little later than I expected him to, and said that Sunday would work out much better for him. I said that was just fine with me. We set up a specific time and I said I'd just show up in his room.
The following day I arrived just on time. His room was on the sixth floor of a high-rise tower, and he was lucky enough to be on the side of the building that looked out over the city of Ithaca and on to Cayuga Lake. It was a spectacular view, and this was just the dorm room he happened to land in. He had a chair on top of a dormitory desk with some fabric draped over everything, and his camera already set up on a tripod. He greeted me with a smile and told me a little bit about what he wanted to do. He also got a bottle of wine for us to sip while we were working. He drove the cork screw into the cork and started tugging on it.
"Uhhh," I said. "I think you have to take that foil stuff off the neck of the bottle before the cork'll come out."
"Oh," he said with a big smile. "That would help."
I watched him as he removed the foil and thought what a nice smile he had. I also noticed that he was wearing the exact same baggy blue corduroys that he was in the other night. Soon he had the bottle open and grabbed a glass. He was using rocks glasses, but anything beyond a plastic beer cup impressed me. I watched him as he poured the wine. His hands were shaking. I started thinking about what must be going on in his mind. Here he is just a kid, and he has this older guy in his room who's work he respects and admires. And he was in charge of this photo shoot. He was probably terrified of looking like an amateurish idiot. I felt bad for him, but I smiled. It was an endearing situation, because I knew he had nothing to fear from me.
I took a sip or two of wine, but I was rather anxious to get naked, so I pretty quickly stripped down to my skivvies. We sipped a little more wine as he talked about the poses he wanted. I warned him that I might get a little erect while we're doing this. Just then his roommate came in with girlfriend in tow. Beau was there with his camera and I was on the bed in my underwear. It was an awkward moment, but a good one. His roommate grabbed a book and they were gone. Beau and I laughed about it after they left.
Soon we started snapping pictures. This was interesting for me, too, as it was the first time I'd posed for someone else since back in Boston a year and a half before. Things were generally going well, but it was a little awkward. Beau had the camera on a tripod, and it was restricting him badly. Finally he just took it off and held it in his hands. At one point I was sitting on the floor, and a light that he had propped up and started falling towards my naked body. He lunged to grab it, but it fell harmlessly into my hands. He seemed kind of embarrassed about it.
We shot a couple rolls of film, and before we knew it it was over. He had budgeted more time for it, but now he was out of film. I remained naked for a while as we finished off the wine. Eventually the wine ran out and I got my clothes back on. As I was preparing to leave I was thinking about how I'd like to see him again, but once more didn't want to be putting the moves on a nineteen-year-old college student.
Just then he said, "You know, we could get together some time when we're not taking pictures, just to hang out."
I smiled and said I'd like that. We agreed we'd set something up over email.
Over the next week or so we exchanged emails more or less daily. I invited him to come out to Bare Chest Night at the local gay bar that Thursday. I knew they had some policy whereby underaged people could fill out a form and be allowed to enter the bar but not drink. As I was getting ready to head out, I was wondering what to wear. Halloween had been just the week before, and my costume utilized the most ragged, ripped jeans I possessed. I put them on and away I went.
I got to Beau's room, and he was a little shocked to see my apparel. I noticed that he was still wearing the same baggy blue corduroys that he'd worn every other time I'd seen him. He got his coat and we were off.
The bar was conveniently located just a couple miles up the road from the Ithaca College campus. We walked in, and I asked the bouncer about the form. He said yes they do have such a policy, but then just sat there. I realized that he didn't realize that Beau was underaged. I was about to just keep walking when he figured out what was going on and asked Beau for his ID. I said that he's underaged, which is why I was asking about it. He said that the form needs to be notarized, which can't be done on the spot. He gave Beau a form, but wouldn't let him come in. We got back in the car and headed back to his room. I asked him if he'd mind if I just dropped him off and went back to the club. He said that was fine. Just as we were arriving at campus I made some remark about how long it had been since I'd smoked pot. He said that if I'd like to come up to his room he could do something about that. I smiled, and when we got to his tower I followed him up to his room.
I started looking through his CDs as he found the dope and packed a bowl. I pulled out Wish You Were Here and put it on. We sat down on the floor and smoked. I thought to myself, "Here I am a 34 year old man, sitting on my ass in a dorm room listening to Pink Floyd and smoking pot." My second thought was, "There's no place else I'd rather be." This was something I'd dreamed of for a long time. One of the reasons that I continued traveling to my fraternity several weekends a year, year after year, was because I truly enjoy the college atmosphere. But the seven hour round-trip drives were beginning to wear on me, and whenever I was there it was always some bodacious party. I never got to just sit around like it was a normal day. Ever since I'd been in Ithaca, I'd tried to meet undergraduate college students. I met a number of Cornell kids through various LBG groups and activities, but whenever they learned of my age and that I was on staff and not a graduate student, they tended to shun me. They generally treated me like an outsider who didn't belong, and were probably suspicious that I was just out to score with a college kid. Perhaps it was the circumstances under which Beau and I met, but he was never put off by my age or the fact that I wasn't a student. I felt terribly lucky. At that moment I had beside me an attractive, gay, artistic college student who sincerely liked me and was enthusiastic about spending time with me. It was a dream come true.
After we smoked the pot I pulled my web page up on his roommate's computer. We went through many of the pictures and discussed the composition and use of light. I told him some of the tricks I used to achieve the results. I was enjoying myself very much, but I also really wanted to attend Bare Chest Night at the club. I told him it was time I should be going and I got my coat on. As I was standing by the door I came to that awkward crossroads of how to say goodbye. I didn't want to shake his hand because that was just stupid. I was afraid to give him a hug because it might be presumptuous. Void of ideas, I just said goodbye and turned to the door.
Then, in a instant, I spun around, stepped over to him, placed a hand on his shoulder, and gave him a quick peck on the lips. Unfortunately he didn't respond in any way. His arms stayed at his sides and he didn't pucker to the slightest degree. I kind of panicked. Having already said the word goodbye I just turned back around and walked out the door. I went back to the club, but couldn't really enjoy myself because I kept thinking about how I must have over-stepped the line Beau, and that I might have screwed up a really good thing.
The next day I sat down at my desk at work. It was a Friday morning. The first thing I did was to send off the following note to Beau.
A short while later my phone rang. It was an outside line. I picked up and it was Beau. He said he just read my email and wanted to call to let me know there was no problem with what happened the previous night. It turned out that the reason he was so still during the kiss was because he was in a bit of shock. In fact, after I left he remained frozen in the same position for some time. He had to run to class, but wanted to call me quickly and let me know that everything was cool. A little later that day I received the following note.
I felt really good, and more than a little emotional. I talked about it to a couple of co-workers. Unlike the preponderance of work acquaintances that I've had, these two were true friends and frequent, mutual confidants. They were accepting of my sexuality, although they occasionally winced at some of my stories, and this time couldn't help but be a little apprehensive about the whole situation.
"Toaph, what are you getting yourself into?" they asked. "This guy's 15 years younger than you. He's in *college* for crying out loud."
Even though they weren't terribly supportive, I felt better for having talked to them. I felt a little weird about the whole thing too, but I knew that I wasn't a predator and I decided that anything that happened between us from here on would be through Beau's instigation.
Unfortunately, Beau didn't see my ass the next day. I wound up staying at home the whole weekend and not doing much of anything. The next time we got together was the following Thursday. I brought over the two tapes of Pee Wee's Playhouse episodes I'd recorded back when the show was on the air.
Beau was very excited. He'd seen Pee Wee's Playhouse when he was a kid, but hadn't watched it in years. He put in the tape and we sat side by side on the floor with our backs against the bunk bed. We sat there as we watched the first episode. I thought again about how thrilled I was to be sitting on my ass in a dorm room with a college kid who actually liked me despite my age and station in society. I also felt lucky to have found someone who also shared my interests. Not all college kids like the old music and old TV shows, but Beau seemed to share my tastes right down the line.
As we watched the first episode, I started to think about making a move, but decided that a half-hour was a good warm-up period and just enjoyed the show. As the second episode started, Beau kind of shifted his position and made physical contact with my body. I shifted us around again, and we wound up with me leaning against the bed and Beau leaning against my body. We watched the second episode in that position. I thought again about making a move, but we were not in a good physical configuration for that. Instead I just felt his chest while we watched the TV. I could feel the definition of his chest muscles through his shirt. There was a low but distinct ridge running straight between them. I smiled to myself. The chest is the first thing I look at on a man, and the ridge between the left and right muscle is the first thing I look *for*. I was very excited about perhaps touching this chest for real.
By the time the second episode ended I was just as glad to have it over. I figured that if anything was going to happen it wouldn't be until the third episode started, and anyway I was getting a little sore from the position we were in. We re-arranged and went back to sitting side by side. As the episode started, I knew that a move was imminent. I had decided that if anyone made a move it would be Beau, but in truth I was a little too shy anyway. Here I was, 15 years older than this guy, and I had that same fear and insecurity I had back when I was younger than he was at that time.
I figured what I would do would be to open the door. As we sat side by side I turned and looked directly at him. I thought that if we made some eye contact that we would just slip into a kiss. But oddly Beau just sat there watching the TV. He wouldn't turn and look at me. I started to feel kind of weird after a minute or two, but I kept on looking at him. Suddenly he just sort of rolled over onto me and started kissing me. He went directly into an open-mouth deep kiss. We went on like that for some time. I started feeling his skin under his clothes. At one point my hand just sort of brushed past his organ, and he flinched a bit and gasped. I interpreted it as excitement rather than a negative reaction, but I stayed away from there for a while.
Before long our position got a little awkward. I asked him if he wanted to move up to the bed and he said yes. But moments later he had second thoughts and said he'd like to cool it down for a while. I obliged. We went back to sitting on the floor and watching Pee Wee. I said that I was sorry if I tried to move a little fast. He said that it was no problem, that I hadn't moved to fast at all. I wondered to myself that if this was the case, why weren't we up on his bed getting busy? But I just sat there, happy to have broken over to the other side at all.
It was probably for the best, because a few minutes later his friend Bill came in. He was excited to see Pee Wee and sat down to watch with us. When the episode ended I said that I should probably be getting out to the club. Beau asked if I could leave the tapes with him for the weekend, and I said okay. He was glad, because he wanted to invite all his friends over and have a screening of the Pee Wee shows in his room.
I left and felt good that I had been able to add some excitement to his weekend, and maybe even a little bit of prestige by way of the Pee Wee screening he now had planned. I also felt a little odd that he had backed off the way he did, but I wasn't really concerned that he would want to push me away now.
We didn't see each other that weekend, but we got together for drinks after I got out of work the following Monday. He had the contact sheets ready from the shoot we had done in his room. We went to the local brew pub where we first met. Beau got proofed so he just ordered a root beer. We sat in the back and talked and looked over the pictures. He said that the Pee Wee screening was a great success. He had so many people in his room, he had to turn some away for lack of space. We chatted for a while, but soon went back to my office to scan some of the photos.
We compared notes on which pictures we liked and which we didn't. He was more concerned about mechanical elements of the work such as light and exposure, but I was more concerned about how each picture made me look. I was gaining a little weight at that time, and was losing the definition in my abs. Beyond that, I hadn't been in the weight room in quite a while and was generally losing muscle tone. Some of the photos even made me look a little pot-bellied with a sunken chest. Beau wasn't concerned with that at all. He said he thought I looked fine in all of them.
Eventually we chose two that he liked, two that I liked, and I scanned them in. When we were getting done, Beau started asking me questions about if anyone was around at this hour, and how private the space was. "Hmmm..." I thought to myself. He then started touching me as I was finishing up the last scan. I still had to copy the images from the scanning workstation to my box in the other room. Unfortunately there wasn't a network connection in place on that particular computer at that time, so I excused myself from Beau and ran around the partition to try to find a diskette. Much to my surprise there was a guy working late just yards from where we had been. I don't know if he heard us or not, but he didn't reveal anything as he kindly found a disk for me. I copied the images and Beau and I went into the other room to my cubicle. After I'd copied the files to my hard drive, I made some remark about the privacy of this area. After the surprise we'd just encountered, however, Beau didn't seem too keen on doing anything there.
I was very frustrated because I perceived that he was interested in more, but we had no place to go. His dorm room had way too little privacy, and my house was 12 miles away in the opposite direction from his campus. Feeling a little sheepish about it, I remarked that my station wagon was right outside in the lot. He smiled and said he was into that. I couldn't believe what I was about to do as we got our coats on and walked out into the dark, November evening.
We climbed in the back of the car. I usually kept the back seat folded down, so we were immediately lying prone and making out. We started getting pretty hot and heavy in the cold car. Soon we both had our shirts off, but he was a little shy about going any further in the car. A couple of students had walked through the parking lot on their way back to the graduate housing across the street. I, on the other hand, was ready for anything at this point. Soon Beau had my pants down around my boots and was working me pretty well. Before long it was all over, and I found myself cold and shivering with wood chips and pebbles stuck to my butt and shoulders. I wiped my own semen off by body as best I could, and rubbed the debris off my bare skin. We were quickly back into our clothes. After we had wiped the condensation off the inside of the windshield, we were on our way back to his place. I dropped him off, and on the way home contemplated what I'd just experienced. Beau not only made me feel like a school boy, he had me acting like one too. But I thought it was great. Everything about our adventures so far had been like something out of porn magazine fiction.
By the following Friday Beau had his under-aged affidavit notarized, and we decided to go back out to the gay bar. But the strategy was that if they proofed him that he'd present the document, and if they didn't then that was their problem. Since I'm well known out there, I would walk in first and Beau would trail behind me. It worked fine. We walked directly in. We got some drinks and mingled around. I introduced him to some of my friends. He was a big hit, and people were envious of my new love interest. He started seeing a lot of kids from Ithaca College that he didn't know where queer. Later my ex-boyfriend Darnell came in and I introduced him to Beau. Darnell didn't hide the fact that he was a little jealous of my relationship with Beau, but in his typical style he was gracious and charming.
As the night wore on Beau and I hung out both together and separately, and basically just enjoyed the evening. Later on I saw Darnell again, and he told me that he had introduced Beau to someone at the bar. The guy's name was John, and although I had never actually met him, I knew of him rather well through Darnell's stories. He was a typical wigger. Although he was a pasty white boy, he was very concerned about black issues, he was involved with the black community, and most all of his friends were black. He also had quite a sexual appetite for dark skin. I try to judge people on how I witness their behavior, not through stories and rumor, but I didn't trust this guy one bit. I perceived of him as a predator of young black men, and with Beau being fresh, dark meat, I expected that John would find him irresistible. All indications supported this presumption, as Beau was dancing and talking with him for some time.
I found out Darnell and confronted him with my displeasure that he'd brought these two together. He said that John immediately wanted Darnell to introduce him to Beau, but that Darnell said no. Later they turned around and Beau was standing right there. It would have been rude not to introduce them. I was still pretty peeved about it, but I knew that I was Beau's friend, not his protector, and that he could take care of himself.
The night wore on and soon it was last call. I was about ready to get out of there, so I wandered the bar looking for Beau. Much to my dismay he was nowhere to be found. This gave me a bad feeling. We had left our coats in my car, so I went out to see if his coat was still there or not. I opened the passenger door and the seat was empty. I spun around to go back into the bar. It is an extremely rare event that I get truly angry, but in this instant I was on the war path. I was going to tear Darnell a new asshole. My breathing accelerated as the adrenaline built up in my system. I could handle Beau leaving with someone else, but John was totally the wrong person, and I blamed Darnell. As I approached the building in a trance of fury, Beau stepped out of the door.
"Where did you go?" he asked.
Instantly the rage I was feeling evaporated in a sigh of relief. It turned out that Beau had been sitting at the bar the whole time, watching me wander around the club, and he saw me walk out. As we got in the car and drove home, I told him that I thought he left with John.
"I'd never leave without telling you," he said.
"I didn't think so, " I replied. "But I don't trust that John character, and I was afraid that he'd manipulated you."
"Oh, he *tried* to get me to leave with him," Beau said. "I told him I was with you and he still wanted me to leave with him. But I told him no."
I smiled. I consider myself to be a good judge of character, and Beau struck me as someone who was mature and responsible beyond his tender 19 years. John, on the other hand, was on my shit list. I now had some actions upon which to judge him, and it looked bad for him. He reinforced my presumption that he was a dishonorable predator, and I wanted nothing to do with him in the future. Beau and I went back to his place. We fooled around a little, and then I went home.
The following week was Thanksgiving. Beau had already decided not to make the arduous bus trip back to Gary Indiana. His mother knew an older black couple in Ithaca, Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, who's grandson lived in an apartment upstairs in their house. Beau made arrangements to stay there over the holiday. Still, Beau and I made plans to hang out at my house over the weekend. He came by work Wednesday afternoon and we took off. After we had run a couple errands in town, we drove out to my house. He liked my place right away. I had told him that it was like a club house for grown-ups, and he said that was exactly what it reminded him of.
After we dropped off our stuff, we got back in the car to drive into Cortland. We stopped off at the apartment of a couple of Potsdam co-ed alumnae who were living, working, and taking classes at SUNY Cortland. They had been very curious about this nineteen-year-old black kid I was dating, and wanted to meet him. Beau was very quiet, but the meeting went well. I'm not sure what the girls were expecting, but they seemed to enjoy meeting him. They knew I had a taste for younger men, and I think they were concerned that I was using Beau, or that one or both of us would wind up getting hurt. After meeting him I don't think their concerns were entirely assuaged, but at least they had a face to put with this name, and could see him to be a self-aware young man and not some over-anxious kid who just wanted to get it on with an older and more experienced guy.
Soon the girls had to depart for the holiday, and Beau and I were on our way. We got a big jug of wine, some beer, and a mountain of junk food and went back to my place. We started drinking and smoking the pot that I'd managed to score earlier in the week. I handed Beau the printout of my video collection. He marveled at how I categorized everything and put it in my computer.
"Well, I *am* an information technology specialist," I said.
He leafed through the video listing as I made a bed on the floor in front of the TV. I lay down the cushions from my camper, and gathered all the blankets and pillows I could find. We then proceeded to watch videos and get drunk and stoned late into the night.
The next morning I awoke feeling pretty hung-over and crappy. Still, it was nice to have Beau lying in my bed next to me. I got up to clear the driveway of snow, and told Beau he could sleep as late as he wanted. After I struggled for about an hour with my shitty electric snow-blower, I came back in the house to find Beau leafing through some of my homo-erotic art photography books. We decided to do some photography of our own. There was something I wanted to try, but needed an assistant for. We got some equipment set up and shot the Flesh Canvas series. From then on it was pretty much more alcohol, more pot, more junk food, and more videos. But this was fine because it was exactly what both of us had planned to do the whole day anyway. Our Thanksgiving Day dinner consisted of spicy Buffalo wings.
After dinner I kind of wanted to take a nap, but Beau started getting frisky. I responded, but wasn't really into it. But once my little friend came out to say hi, my mood changed radically. We hadn't fooled around the night before, because we both got a little too drunk. Although I had been a bit sleepy, my body was now fully engaged and ready for action. Eventually I climaxed, and ejaculated all over Beau.
"You *came* on me!" he said. He was laughing, but he also sounded like he really didn't expect it. I started cleaning him up, and he reprised, "I can't believe you *came* on me."
I smiled, but said, "Well what did you think I was going to do down there?!? You knew what was on it's way."
Beau laughed. "It's just that no one's ever come on me before. This was a first."
I snuggled up with him on the make-shift bed and drifted off to sleep thinking again how this entire adventure continued to be like a story out of a gay porn magazine. That night we just lay around again watching videos, snacking, and getting fucked up. The next day I got him back to town pretty quickly before my hang-over made it prohibitively uncomfortable to drive.
Beau and I continued to get together occasionally as time progressed into the Christmas season. I was beginning to wonder where we were going with this relationship, and what Beau's expectations were. One day we were having a beer in some dive bar that didn't proof, and Beau brought it up. Once gain he impressed me that he was being more responsible and mature even than I was.
"I'll tell you the way I see it," I said. "I'd say that we're 'dating.' I'm not looking for any kind of commitment, or even an understanding of exclusivity. I just enjoy getting together with you whenever I can."
Beau smiled. "Yeah," he said. "That's pretty much the way I see it." He paused. "I'm certainly not looking for a *boyfriend*. At least not at this point in my life."
I felt just a little twinge of regret when he said that. I meant what I said, but I did harbor a small desire that we would become more seriously involved. Still, I knew in my heart that it could never work out between the two of us. It wasn't the chronological age difference in and of itself. Beau was as intelligent, articulate, and mature as any of my contemporaries. But it meant that we were at such different places in our lives that there would be no way to reconcile it. Beau was in an awakening stage. He was simultaneously engrossed in his studies, discovering and exploring his sexuality, and coming to grips with his place in society as a young adult. I, on the other hand, was getting older and more involved in my career, and was looking to build my home in the community. Beau and I were becoming very comfortable as good friends. I felt I was greatly enhancing the awakening experience for him, as I introduced him to new ideas and experiences. I knew in my soul that I was very good for him, and he had brought untold delight into my life. I was grateful to have him as a companion in any capacity.
As Christmas drew nearer, it was time to make plans for my fraternity's formal. I had attended every Christmas formal since I had pledged. It became the one time of year that I would be guaranteed to be in town, and thus never go more than a year without making the pilgrimage. I had always wanted to bring a male date, but I'd never had anyone to invite before. Beau would be perfect. He'd be with people his own age and love it, and they would all love him. He'd fit in from the moment he stepped through the door. Unfortunately it fell on the weekend before Ithaca College final exams, and there was no way he could swing it. We got together once or twice more before he left for break, but then he was gone.
I looked up the Ithaca College web page to see when the Winter vacation ended and Beau would be back in town again. It was a pretty long break. He called me once or twice from home, and I really found myself missing him. After New Years I started counting the days until he'd be back on campus. He would be returning to a new room, and a new roommate. Despite the stellar view from his tower room, it was very small and cramped. He'd be moving into a campus apartment, with it's own kitchenette and bathroom. I was curious about his new roommate. His previous roommate never had too much to do with me. For that matter, he was just never around when I was in the room.
On the night that Beau returned, I drove to campus to try to find his new place. Eventually I found the complex, then his building, and finally his room. I knocked on the door and there he was smiling from ear to ear. He had cut his hair extremely short. I thought it looked *very* sexy. I checked out the apartment. It was fairly spacious, but in a shambles at the moment because they were just moving in. They did have a sofa set up though, so we sat down and talked.
Beau and I chatted for a while about what we'd done on break. Then his roommate came home. My first thought was how cute he was. His name was Brian, and he instantly struck me as quite a character. The immediate comparison would be to Spicoli in "Fast Time At Ridgemont High." He had this "cool, dude!" voice, bushy hair pulled back in a pony tail, and grunge clothes. But Brian wasn't a caricature like Spicoli. He was a genuine person. More people started dropping by in joyous choruses of reunion. We opened some beers and sat around talking. I really hit it off with Brian. We chatted about all manner of things. He struck me as a very accepting and open-minded individual. I was actually starting to be concerned that Beau would be upset that I wasn't paying much attention to him, but he appeared to be content catching up with all his mates.
By the time people started disbursing, I'd had rather a lot to drink. Beau told me that I could crash there that night, and I said that worked for me. Brian and his girlfriend crawled up into his bunk above Beau's bed, and Beau went into the bathroom. I stripped down to my skivvies and crawled on Beau's bed. He stepped out of the bathroom to see me practically naked and getting under his covers. He was visibly shocked. I knew instantly that he had expected that I would crash on the couch like any other party left-over. I, on the other hand, assumed that I would share his bed as Brian's girlfriend was sharing his. I was a little concerned, but too drunk to do anything about it. I was also a bit resolved. I didn't want to force Beau out of the closet, but neither did I want the nature of our relationship to be a secret that had to be whispered about in the other room. It was perfectly acceptable for Brian's girlfriend to share his bed in our presence, and it seemed very natural to me that I would share Beau's bed.
Beau crawled on the bed and whispered in my ear that Brian didn't know he was gay. At least not until now. I asked if I'd caused him a problem, but he said that Brian was going to find out sooner or later. He just didn't plan it like this. I offered to go on the couch, but Beau said no and got under the covers with me. We pretty much just lay there, but eventually some hands got to roaming. We started getting busy, but then Beau stopped it.
"I want you," he whispered. "I want you real bad, but this is the wrong place and time." Then he started repeating "This is *beat*," progressively louder, until he was saying it out load. Brian didn't stir, though, and Beau and I eventually drifted off to sleep.
Over the next several weeks I became somewhat of a regular visitor on Friday nights. Their room was always the party spot. People would drift in and out over the course of the evening, and there was always beer and pot. I met more and more of Beau's friends, and began to value my interactions with them. I anticipated that I would encounter the same kind of suspicion that I found with the Cornell undergrads. I generally got raised eyebrows when people would learn that I was a 34-year-old Cornell staff person. They would ask how I fit into the group.
"I'm a friend of Beau's," I would say.
A relieved "Ooooooh" would always be the reply. I'd get comments like, "Yup, everybody knows everybody through Beau." Regardless, it was enough for them to let their guard down and treat me like one of the gang. The fact that I was a consistent presence gained me acceptance, as well as the way that I fit in so well. After more than a decade as an active Psi Phi brother, I knew how to interact with college undergrads, and had mastered a sort of charm that was very effective with that age group. I quickly gained their trust and respect. Beau's twentieth birthday rolled around, and I was an honored guest at the party.
Actually during this time I began to learn a lot about myself. I've always had a knack for looking at my life through the eyes of a dispassionate observer. By reflecting on my interactions with these kids, I got a glimpse into the kind of person I am and how I came to be that way. I've always had a strong desire to fit in and be liked. That's no surprise, as pretty much all of mankind has the same want. But with me it's always seemed very strong. I remember one of my fraternity brothers saying, "I figure if 50% of the people you meet like you, you're doing about right. It makes sense that half the people will like you and half won't." This had been one of the older members. I looked up to him and enjoyed to hear what he had to say, much as I assumed Beau felt about me. But here I totally disagreed with him. In my mind, my percentage should be more like 95%. If one person thought badly of me, I'd think badly of myself. I soon learned that this was unrealistic. There came people into my life for whom I didn't *care* what they thought about me.
This intense drive to be liked by everyone persisted. I'm overwhelmingly considered in the office to be a person who's pleasant to work with and easy to get along with. I began to understand why this was so through my interactions with Beau's friends. I was faced with a large group of people whom I was meeting for the first time. It was like starting from scratch in a sociological microcosm. I was also motivated to make a good impression on these young men and women, because they were Beau's friends. They were important to him, and he was important to me.
Part of me wanted to know if I could still fit in with today's youth, but that wasn't much of an issue. I've been returning to my fraternity consistently for the 15 years since I graduated, and have had ongoing "training," if you will, with getting to know kids of college age. I'd kept a close vigil on contemporary culture, and was happy to find that it hadn't changed appreciably from when I was that age. Phish had replaced the Grateful Dead, and there was a plethora of other new rock groups, but the hippie-dippy value system and behavior code was precisely the same as I remember, as it probably was for years before.
But by going through the process of meeting Beau's friends, it became apparent to me how I went about presenting myself to someone new. Meeting new people at my fraternity was generally done by getting to know each new pledge class. Without revealing too much about the relationship between pledges and members in my house, I will say that there were situations in which I had the pledges as a captive audience. They had a responsibility to meet and get to know visiting alumni, and this provided me with a unique social situation. I was the "alpha male" of the conversation, and no matter how much I made a fool of myself they were obliged to sit and listen to me, and always treat me respectfully.
I found myself in a pattern, as one semester led to another year after year. When I was in Jr. High and was about to attend my first big party, my mother gave me advice on how to meet people. She said that the best thing you can do is ask them questions about themselves, because people love to talk about themselves and you can learn a lot about them that way. At the time I was at a stage of maturity where I felt that parental advice was about as applicable as church sermons. But it must have sunk in on a subconscious level, because years later I found myself using exactly that technique. During these pledge "bull sessions," I would behave almost as if I was hosting my own daytime talk show. I would ask them questions about themselves, and if they ever asked questions about me, I delighted to give long, open-ended answers. I had a certain confidence in my conversation, because the social relationship between me and the pledges was well defined.
When I met other young men and women who were not affiliated with Psi Phi, I found myself behaving in much the same way. I learned that if I just took control of a social situation as if it was well defined, even if it wasn't, people would respond to that and I would make an impression on them. I would behave as the alpha male of the conversation, but dichotomously turn the conversation towards the other person. This was totally unconscious at the time. I knew that I was very confident and forthright in my social interaction, but didn't really stop to think how or why.
Beau and his friends were not only a convenient microcosm in which to study myself, but they were right here in my own town. My fraternity was a 7 hour round-trip away, and I only made the journey once every other month or so. Beau's room was like having my own Potsdam right in my back yard. At times I felt like I was main-lining pure experience directly into my system. It wasn't long before I started to make connections between what my mother had said, and how I went about meeting people, and really recognized the techniques I was using.
Without telling me a thing, these young people were teaching me so much about myself. I began to cherish the group with which I was becoming a part, and cherish Beau especially for bringing it into my life. For reasons beyond the fact that these young people tend to teach me so much about myself, their culture is the one in our civilization in which I feel the most comfortable. During meetings, office parties, and visits with my parents, I feel the need to behave in a reserved and adult manner. With college kids, anything goes. It's the one situation in which I feel I can totally be myself without being judged.
My experience in Potsdam must have been applicable to Ithaca College, because things were going splendidly. I was entirely liked and respected by Beau's friends, and he, in turn, appreciated me for my ability to embrace and be embraced by the people that were important to him.
There were two main reasons why I was accepted into Beau's group. The first was that I was a friend of his, and they trusted and respected him, so they tended to trust and respect me. There was also the fact that it was tacitly understood that Beau and I were involved, so there was no sexual tension between me and any of his friends. The second reason I felt so comfortable with this group was that I perceived a strikingly different personality among the Ithaca College student body and the young people I'd met at Cornell. In Potsdam, my acceptance had always been pretty much guaranteed, what with my relationship with the fraternity. Perhaps that was why I was so frustrated at being shunned by Cornell undergrads. But I'd come to see that Cornell students, in their Ivy League school, tend to be success-driven over-achievers. Ithaca College students, on the other hand, were largely artists, and tended to be much more curious and open. These are stereotypes, granted, but I believe they have merit. Certainly all of Beau's friends were pursuing artistic studies. Once I was accepted by them on a cultural level, I built a deeper repoir through a shared interest in art. This was something that was largely lacking even in my relationships with Potsdam students. I was becoming even more one of the "tribe," and my life was greatly enriched by it.
As time went on, I began to learn yet more about myself. I had recognized that interaction with this age group was vital to me, and now I began to understand why. My work acquaintances delighted in poking fun at me for my exploits with these kids who were so much younger than I. I must say that I encouraged such behavior by dropping remarks like I was going to a kegger that night. In considering that they didn't understand or share my desire to be engaging in the same activities, I began to understand why. I would look at them, and think about they ways in which they were different from the young people who's company I preferred. My contemporaries were concerned with their careers and families. The most important thing to them was making the mortgage payment, keeping the car running, and making sure everyone was clothed and fed. Learning something new to them meant watching the evening news, and engaging in controversy meant rooting for sports teams. I've observed the onset of this lifestyle many times in my friends from college, as younger waves of people, year after year, inevitably break on the shores of maturity.
Certainly, when people settle down and breed, there are behavioral changes. You can't just up and travel to a different party every weekend when you have two kids in tow, a lawn that needs mowing, and a job to get back to on Monday. But accompanied by that I witnessed a change in attitude. The curiosity about the way the world works waned, and was replaced by more material concerns. The energy and zest for living yielded to the drudgery of work-a-day life. I missed being surrounded by people who hold on to those values of youth. Beau had brought that back to me, and a greater gift I could never have received.
When I was with the tribe, I was again immersed that youthful curiosity and exuberance. I could actually carry on interesting, vital, fun conversations, rather than commiserate on the state of adult life. The fact that the tribe were largely artists made this even more interesting. Many of them were film majors, and I was particularly fond of learning all about the medium. They would sometimes work on their projects right in the room. On one evening we were sitting around sipping beer while Brian and another guy were doing clay-mation over on his desk. I felt like I was in a living documentary. There was always intriguing equipment lying around the room, and reels of unexposed movie film tucked away in the bottom of the refrigerator. It was a whole other way of living.
The tribe was also anxious to learn things from me. They were all generally born in 1977, and to them the Gulf War seemed like ancient history. One evening someone asked me what Watergate was all about. I started to explain about the break-in, and how it lead to a slush fund that was traced to the white house. As I was talking, more and more people moved closer to me to hear the story.
Unfortunately most of the interaction I had with the tribe was done while drinking. I had previously been sober for 5 years, and had relapsed barely a month before meeting Beau. I now found myself deep in my old habits. I got into the routine of stopping by the apartment Friday evenings with a 12-pack of beer. I'd have a couple and then go up the road to the gay bar. Sometimes Beau would go with me, but usually he was too engaged with his friends. I'd go out to the club and down several mixed drinks. Then I'd drive the short distance back to campus, park the car, and have even more drinks in the apartment. I'd party until all hours of the night, until I finally passed out on the couch. Many a Saturday was wasted during that time, as I lay at home in front of the TV nursing my hangover.
As Winter gave way to Spring, I started to revisit a goal I'd had for many years. I'd wanted to get involved with the local Public Access cable TV station for a long time. It was all completely free, but I never got off my ass to take the training. Beau never directly encouraged me, but being around him and his fellow film majors was a strong motivation. I wanted to create, and watching them film projects made the drive within me even stronger. One day a guy at work whom knew I to share my interest pointed out to me that the Public Access station was holding an interest meeting that very night. He suggested that we go together. We signed up for the courses they offered, and started taking the classes together.
When it came time to do my student project, I got the idea of having Beau play twins whom I would interview. One would be a real tough guy, and the other would be a ferrie. It would turn out that the tough guy was gay, and that the ferrie was straight. I checked out the camera and went over to the apartment, but he and Brian were just getting started cleaning it out for the end of the semester. I looked at the chaos around me and knew that they had a *big* job ahead of them, and wouldn't have time to help me out. Alas, I finished the course without Beau's participation.
After Beau moved out of his campus apartment, he moved into the upstairs of the Bailey's house where he stayed the previous Thanksgiving. This was to be where he would stay for the remainder of his years in Ithaca. The apartment was nice in that it was well separated from the grandparents downstairs, and his roommate James was a friendly and entertaining character. James was firmly entrenched in the black culture. Not that Beau wasn't true to his race, but a Beatles-loving artist isn't the first image that comes to mind when one thinks of a young black man. James would talk jive and listen to rap music, and was in every way the quintessential black youth.
Another advantage to Beau's new abode was that it was just around the corner from the Public Access studio, where I was spending increasing amounts of time. Once I was done with the training I still had to complete one project before I would be a fully certified producer. I scripted a short called Pard' Me. It called for a tough guy, whom I would play, and a fag who pursued him around a bar. My original intention was to use a very nice white young man I'd met previously and wanted to get to know better. Alas, he chickened out on me. I then approached another acquaintance whom I knew could play a good fag. Unfortunately he was just starting a serious relationship with a rather jealous fellow, and he was afraid that doing my video wasn't a smart thing to do at that time. At this point I turned to Beau. What I really loved about him was that he was entirely without inhibition. After being rejected twice, I was getting antsy about burdening friends with the favor, but Beau acted as if I'd asked for nothing more than to bum a stick of gum. I gave him a copy of the script and set up a time to get together.
When the day arrived, Beau met me right at the studio where I was to check out all the equipment. Being a film major, he was accustomed to handling tripods, cameras, microphones, and the like. I was immediately as comfortable with him as a capable technical assistant as I was with him as an actor. We got to the location, set up the equipment, and went through all the lines. In addition to performing wonderfully, he had many suggestions from his experience as a film major and aided in the production very much. When we were finished he helped me pack the equipment away and return it to the studio. After I had dropped him off and headed home, I began to think more about the impact he'd had in my life. His influence on me was so passive, and yet to profound. He wasn't one to actively encourage me to fulfill my dreams, but his effortless participation helped to make them come true.
Some time later I was over at his apartment for a brief after-work visit. We were chatting, and he mentioned that he was planning on joining the Army reserves. I kept my cool, but inside my gut was telling me that this was going to be trouble. I asked him to go on about it.
It turned out that he was having a rather hard time meeting the significant costs of Ithaca College, which I knew to be more expensive even than Ivy League Cornell. I had been curious how he could afford it, being the son of low-income inner-city Gary Indiana parents, but figured it was none of my business and never brought it up. It turned out he had been doing fairly well, but a dip in his grades caused him to lose a scholarship right at the same time he moved into the considerably more expensive apartment residence. Now he was in debt to Ithaca College, and they wouldn't let him register for the Fall semester. If he got his finances in order they would consider him for the Spring, but the Fall was out of the question.
I hadn't known that Beau was in this predicament. I was a little disappointed that he hadn't felt he could confide this in me, considering that the situation must have been brewing all Spring, but I respected his privacy. I was lucky when I was young in that my family could cover 100% of my educational expenses for me. I probably wouldn't have been able to offer much help, even if I had known.
Bobby, a friend of his from home whom I had met briefly during his visit to Ithaca over Spring Break, had concocted the idea. He told Beau of all the financial advantages, and it sounded appealing. Considering he wasn't enrolled for the Fall, and even the Spring was uncertain, the plan made a lot of sense. His future would be set. They had made some sort of pact to both go for it. As Beau was telling me this, I didn't like the idea one bit. I made a conscious decision, however, to keep my opinion to myself. I knew right off the bat that my motivations were not based in Beau's best interests, but in my own selfish wants. I feared that this would take Beau away from Ithaca, and away from me. We weren't "involved," but he had become very important to me and I didn't want to lose him.
Beyond my selfish reasons, however, I also had more practical objections. I saw him as a vibrant, creative young artist with a penchant for independent thinking, and I saw the military as a monolithic dynasty that valued blind loyalty over individualism. I'm not anti-military. I understand very well the vital role that it plays in the global civilization. But there is no shortage of young men and women who are stepping up to the job. I didn't see it as a good fit with Beau.
I kept my mouth shut. The next step was for Beau to take his physical in Syracuse a few weeks hence. I resolved myself to abdicate any advice on the matter and just let him follow whatever path he chose for himself.
As time passed, Beau and I went about our lives like normal. He continued to smoke weed with me on occasion as we had always done. He mentioned that when asked if he'd ever done drugs he answered honestly, and his recruiter, a bit taken aback, instructed him to lie on his application and cease the activity immediately. Beau filled out the application untruthfully, but continued in his old habits. As his physical exam drew nearer, I began to pray that he would fail his drug test and that all this would go away. In fact, as the date drew nearer, he said that he was going to postpone it for some time. I began to relax a bit, thinking that the whole military thing might fade from his plans altogether.
On the Monday after the weekend that he was to have gone to Syracuse for his physical, I stopped by his apartment for another after-work visit.
We chatted for a while, and then suddenly he said, "Well, I ship out on October 15th." I could actually feel the physical sensation of my heart dropping into my gut.
"I thought you were going to postpone your physical," I said.
"Nope," he responded. "I went up this weekend and got it over with."
I sat there with a blank stare as he continued on about the experience. I wasn't listening. Emotions were flooding in and out of my head, and it took all my resolve to keep a straight face. Within minutes I said that I had to be getting head home.
On my way out the door, Beau said, "You seem kind of bummed out."
I stopped and turned back to him. James was within earshot just in the next room, and although I knew that Beau was not out to him, the flood gates opened anyway.
"Well, *yeah* I'm bummed out," I said. "You're leaving me for the Army and I don't like it. I don't like it one bit. How am I going to get by without you?" I paused. He didn't say anything. I gave him a big hug. "I'll be all right," I said. "I just need to get used to the idea." We stood back from each other and looked deeply into each other's eyes. "I gotta go," I said. We embraced again, and I gave him a quick kiss. Then I turned and walked down to my car.
On the drive home, it became evident that my feelings for Beau went a lot deeper than I'd realized. As I drove along I had to fight back the tears. I hadn't cried since my mother died eight years before. Here I was, a grown man, on the verge of tears because my new friend, a kid 15 years younger than I, was going to move away. Losing friends to distance was nothing new to me. The strongest friendships I'd made in my life have been through my fraternity, and it was very common for important people in my life to move away in search of warmer climates and bigger paychecks. The more time went by, the more people I met, and the more left my life.
This was different. Not only were Beau and I more intimate than I'd been with any of my fraternity friends, I was losing him to the evil juggernaut of the United States Army. A messy, acrimonious break-up would have been preferable to this. I was absolutely miserable. I knew that he would have to move away from Ithaca sooner or later, but I thought it would be a *lot* later. And I expected that it would be less final. If he had moved to another city, it would still be possible to visit him. But the Army was going to take him away. They were going to take him away, isolate him from me, squelch his sexuality, and strip him of his individuality and everything else that made him unique. I went back to my home and my loving cat, made myself some miserable prefabricated dinner, and sat alone as I tried not to think about it.
In the following days I let everything settle in. "This is only the reserves," I thought to myself. "It could be a lot worse." He'd be away for the Fall in basic training, and then if all went well, it would be over. With luck, he could get stationed in the area, resume his studies at Ithaca College, have his financial woes under control, and we'd be back to normal except for the one weekend a month he'd have to report for duty. If anything it might mean that he'd be around even longer than he would have been otherwise.
There was still the matter of his drug test, as well. I knew that the ability to pass a drug test was based on three critical factors: the level of use, the duration of abstinence prior to the test, and the percentage of body fat (THC being a fat-soluble substance). Beau was not a chronic user, and he had the typical lean physique of a young black man, but he had been using up until days before the physical. The shortest period of abstinence I understood someone could sustain and still pass a drug test was on the order of two to four weeks. The more I thought about it the more confident I was they'd reject him on that basis.
After he had taken the physical but before the results came back, Beau told me that Bobby was going to come to Ithaca for a visit from Gary. On the day that he was to arrive, Beau invited me to join them for dinner. I didn't like the idea. To me, Bobby was the enemy. He was the scoundrel who gave Beau the idea to join the Army in the first place. I was concerned that I would wind up piercing him with my cold, steely gaze, and if worse came to worst there would be some kind of confrontation. But I decided to shelve those thoughts and attend as a polite guest. In the end I was glad that I did. Bobby was as charming as I remembered him, and it was a pleasant visit. A lot of my anger wore off too. He was just trying to make it in the world like Beau was, and I knew that he would never intentionally send Beau in the wrong direction.
As we sat around talking, Beau appeared to read my mind as he had done so many times in the past, and asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. We started talking about nothing in particular, but soon moved on to the topic that we were both thinking about. He told me that he'd passed his drug test. The Vulcan in me started to wonder how that could be chemically possible, but the Human in me was crushed. Then he dropped the bombshell. He told me that although he was under the impression that he had signed up for the reserves, he in fact had signed up for full active duty. I wanted to collapse on the sidewalk in mid-stride and wail out from the bottom of my soul
But I kept on walking.
He told me that he'd have to go off for basic training, and then he'd be committed to four full years of service somewhere, anywhere, far away from Ithaca. I wanted to scream, but in my unaffable fashion I merely stated that I was going to continue to bottle up my feelings and support him.
"Toaph," he said. "I want you to share your feelings. That's why I'm telling you this. I don't want you to hold anything back. Let me know what you're thinking."
That was the permission I'd unconsciously been waiting for. I prefaced my remarks with the caveat that it was largely based in a selfish need to have him in my life, but then completely unloaded. I told him how I perceived him as a vital, creative, artistic, talented, individualistic, free-thinker, and that the Army was the worst place in the world he could go. I painted a picture for him of the influence I believed the Army would have on him.
"The Army will change you," I said. "Make no mistake about it. You won't be the same person coming out as you were going in. There's no arguing that. What I'm concerned about is, will you be better for it or worse? Will your talents be enhanced or diminished? Will that artistic, individualistic mindset of yours be as vital as it is today, or will it be a pale shadow of what it once was? Are you selling your soul just to pay some bills? Is there an alternative you haven't considered? Is this dire action really necessary, or are you taking the 'easy' way out and costing yourself more in the long run?"
By the time my tirade was winding down, we were back at his house and had walked to the patio table in the back yard. He was responding to what I had been saying. I believe that he had a lot of fears and reservations in his mind, but that he hadn't expressed them because everyone to date had been unquestioningly supporting his decision. I was about to describe my experience driving home a few days before, and tell him that that was the point that I realized how deeply my feelings for him were founded. Just then Bobby stepped out of the upstairs back porch, and realized we were back and came down to chat. Beau was not out to Bobby, and I could not discuss such intimate matters in his presence. But the other topic of conversation did not change.
As Bobby came over and sat with us, I continued in my heart-felt explanation of why I didn't think the Army was right for Beau. I was willing to curtail the expression of my romantic feelings for Beau, but not of my gut feeling that the military was not the solution for him. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that Beau and Bobby had bonded as youths not so much through a mutual interest in British Invasion rock, as the fact that they both had a talent for drawing. Although I didn't consider Bobby to have the artistic mindset that Beau had, I could tell immediately that Bobby was responding to what I was saying to Beau. The truth be told, and God send me to Hell if this was a sin, but I capitalized on it. Bobby was the one who was the primary motivation for Beau to make this choice, and I felt that if I could sway them both that Beau would be saved. Actually, I sensed as much trepidation in Bobby as I had observed in Beau, and the more he opened up the more I dove in and grasped his insecurity.
As the conversation was frankly getting a bit repetitive, more dinner guests arrived and the focus of the event moved towards placing food on the table. Our discussion turned to matters of triviality, and my determination stepped backstage. Although I became more relaxed and was actually enjoying the repast, I had also been sipping more than a few glasses of wine. I knew I had to drive myself home before I became any more intoxicated. I said goodbye and drove home.
The next morning I arrived at work and immediately saw my voice-mail light blinking. It was a message from Beau. The time-stamp was very late at night. He said that he and Bobby had both decided that the Army was not for them and that they had already called their parents and told them. I breathed a sigh of relief, but somehow knew that it wasn't over.
There were so many things that I wanted to say to Beau, but with Bobby in town I never seemed to have an opportunity to express myself. Bobby stayed for weeks and weeks. He plugged into the temp service that Beau had been using that Summer to gain employment, and he was able to finance his prolonged visit.
When it was time for Bobby to leave, Beau accompanied him back to Gary as a prelude to a road-trip to Arizona that he had been planning for some time. A friend of his from high school had an old VW bus that they were going to drive from Gary to Arizona. Beau was only to be gone for a couple of weeks.
Time passed and he didn't return. So much time passed, in fact, that his Ithaca College friends returned for the Fall semester. One day after work I stopped by the house that Brian and others had rented. By chance I just happened to arrive at the precise time that they were all hitting town and reuniting. One of Brian's friends, Stinky, had bought a dingy old Greyhound bus, which was parked on a side street. I felt a little odd because for the first time I was there without Beau, but they were all happy to see me and continued to treat me as one of their own. I told them all of how close Beau had come to joining the Army. They thanked me for encouraging him not to. When it was time for me to leave they told me to stop by any time I wanted to. On the drive home I felt refreshed. I'd gotten the "young person fix" that I'd been missing all Summer. Hanging out with Beau was great, but it was the group dynamic that really brought out their youthful energy.
More time passed and still Beau hadn't returned. I was beginning to get concerned. Then one Saturday evening he called me. He said that they were broken down on the Arkansas border. Apparently the old bus had died just about everywhere they went, and Beau was getting tired of it. All he wanted was to get back home, but he didn't have any money left. He asked me to send him some bucks by Western Union. This was the first time that any kind of monetary issue had entered our relationship, but I didn't hesitate. I knew he was out on a limb, and I basically wanted to do anything I could to get him home again. He said he was going to head straight home to Gary Indiana, and then back to Ithaca. The next morning I went out and wired him the amount he had asked for.
Still more time passed and there was no word from him. I stopped by the Bailey's house on the day that he was supposed to return, but he wasn't there. I continued to patiently wait, while crazy ideas came in my head like he was back but didn't want to talk to me for some reason. Finally, over a week later, the phone rang and it was Beau. He said I was the first person he called. I smiled. He said that when push came to shove he just couldn't abandon his friend, so it took a little longer to get back. I said that I would be at the public access studio that Friday, and I'd stop by his place afterwards.
Friday came and I went down to the studio. I was checking out all kinds of equipment to start a major project I was to begin shooting the next morning. It took a lot longer than I had expected, and I was afraid of being late to meet Beau. I stepped out the back door of the studio to start loading up the equipment, and there was Beau leaning up against my car. His hair was a lot longer than it had been, rather sticking up in afro fashion, but there he was smiling at me with that handsome face that I had missed so much in the few weeks that he'd been gone. He helped me load up the equipment and we were off.
I was excited to see him and wanted to spend time with him, but it turned out that he was going to see Hamlet that night at Cornell Cinema with one of his Ithaca College buddies. I was disappointed, but I didn't make a big deal out of it. I asked when we could get together and spend some quality time. Besides just wanting to be with him again, I really wanted to hear all his stories about tooling around the South in a beat up old VW bus. He got out his date book and I started suggesting times. Unfortunately his schedule was already pretty well booked up. All his friends were back from the Summer, and he had a lot of catching up to do. Despite the fact that he wasn't registered for the Fall semester, he was still deeply entrenched in all the activities and projects his fellow film majors were now embarking upon. I was starting to get frustrated at this point, but my feelings were eclipsed by my happiness just to have him back. I knew we'd have time sooner or later. I dropped him off downtown and went back to my house.
I had a big day ahead of me on Saturday, what with the video project I was going to start. I didn't want to get drunk that night, but I had to go out to the local club and confirm with some people that they'd be by the next morning. I went out, had a couple drinks, and saw all the people that I wanted to see. I headed home (relatively) early to get a good night's sleep. On the way back, I had to pass right by Brian's house. I saw all the lights on, so I stopped and went in. The old gang was hanging out just like they did at the campus apartment. They had beer in the fridge, so I stayed for a couple more.
Then, to my surprise, Beau popped in. The movie let out, and he came straight back to Brian's house. He didn't expect that I'd be there, but he was very glad to see me. He told me later that he heard my voice as he was on his way up the stairs, and it really made his night. We had some more to drink. I was jonesing for a smoke, but the closest thing I could find was some tobacco snuff that some guy had. I hadn't done that since college. It was pretty beat, honestly, but I was drunk and it was something different.
Suddenly, out of the blue, Beau asked if he could stay over at my place that night. I enthusiastically said yes, and in minutes we were off. When we got back to my place I fell into my now-established habit of pulling out tapes from my video library and playing interesting clips. That went on for a while, and eventually we went to bed. We wound up having some of the most passionate and energetic sex we'd ever had. Too bad that due to the alcohol in my system I can barely remember it happening.
The next day I awoke to the sound of a voice downstairs calling out "Hello!?!?!?" I rolled over and realized where I was and the situation I was in. I had a number of people on their way over to help with my video project. I looked at the clock. I was supposed to have picked up my camera man at his mechanic's forty-five minutes ago. Beau was supposed to be at some activity that prevented him from helping me with the project, and he was now unrecoverably late. We leapt out of bed and threw our clothes on. I told the friend downstairs to sit tight, and I'd back shortly. On the way out the door another person was just walking in. Once outside I realized that it was cold and there was a constant drizzle. All the shooting I wanted to do that day was to have been outdoors. I was disappointed in myself for my irresponsible behavior the night before, but knew that it was likely moot because the weather would preclude us from doing everything that I'd hoped to accomplish anyway. Beau and I hopped in the car and I raced to my friend's mechanic. He was dutifully waiting as he read the book that he'd brought. I apologized profusely as I stepped out of the car, but he was most gracious. Knowing promptness to be conspicuously absent from his list of virtues, I didn't feel too bad.
I knew that the group of people at my house was now growing, but I still had to get Beau back into town. This was going to double the time of the trip, but there was nothing I could do. We went into Ithaca and I dropped him off downtown. My friend and I raced back to my house. It was now an hour after I had told everyone to be there. They all pretty much knew that we weren't going to get anything done that day anyway. We waited to see if the weather would clear, but by early afternoon everyone had left.
Over the next few weeks Beau and I would get together from time to time. He had agreed to help a friend out with his Fiction Film project. Beau himself would have been taking the same class that semester had he been able to enroll, and helping his friend allowed him to go through the experience vicariously. The problem was that his friend had chosen still-frame animation as the vehicle for his project, and it made great demands on Beau's time.
I still saw Beau a fair amount, though. I initiated an effort to help him find grants and other ways to finance the rest of his education. He was an African American, after all, and an intelligent, talented one at that. I knew that there had to be a lot of financial aid out there.
During this time he continued in his efforts to renig on his commitment to the Army. I would ask him about it as every time I saw him, but he never had anything conclusive to say on the matter. I solicited the opinion of a friend at work who was knowledgeable of the workings of the military. He was skeptical that in the age of an all-volunteer Army that they would force someone who clearly didn't want to be there. He said that one call to Beau's Congressman should put an end to it. I found the contact information just in case. In that time, Beau had received assurances from Ithaca College that they'd let him register for the Spring, and that if his finances were still a problem that they'd work it out somehow.
Soon I found out that the public access studio was looking to hire someone full-time. I suggested it to Beau not only as steady, albeit modest income, but that it was in his field and would be a great way to keep his skills sharp during his hiatus from film school. He was enthusiastic about it. Eventually it got down to the point that they were going to stop accepting applications. The next time that I saw Beau was to pick him up at the Bailey's house to spend a night out at my place. As he was gathering his things I started pressing him about it. He was making up bullshit excuses that he didn't think he'd stand up against the other applicants. I told him that was ridiculous, there's no harm in at least trying, and that we'd come up with a great resumé for him that night.
"I was going to wait until later to tell you this," he said, "but it seems like this is the right time." I think I knew what he was going to say. "The Army won't let me go," he said. There was a pause as I looked back at him. "They won't let me out of it. I have to go."
My first thought was that I wasn't surprised. I never thought that they'd just say, "Sure, fine you don't have to go." If nothing else, the recruiting officer had a commission riding on it, which was far more important to him than the best interests of a bright, talented, artistic young man. It was terribly disappointing, but by now I'd had a chance to come to grips with the idea. I knew all along that there would come a time when I would have to let him go. From the moment he told me he was looking into the Army Reserves, I began to prepare myself for the fact that the time would likely come sooner than I expected it would. That time had come.
I looked back at him. I saw his slight frame silhouetted in the one dim light bulb in his bedroom. I smiled. It wasn't a contrived, facile smile. In that one smile was summed up all the appreciation I had for the fact that he'd come into my life; all the gratitude for the myriad ways he'd changed me and expanded my understanding of myself and those around me; for all the new friends he'd introduced me to, and whom I knew would still be there after he'd left.
"I had a feeling that this is how it would turn out," I said.
I stepped over and embraced him. I could sense that not only was he concerned about the having to follow a course that he knew wasn't best for him, and that it would mean that he'd lose me, but that he was very concerned about my feelings over the fact that I'd lose him. As I held him, I said to him precisely what was going through my mind; that by now I'd accepted the fact that it was a very real possibility that things would turn out this way, and that although I'd miss him terribly that I'd be all right. He didn't say a word.
We released each other and he continued to gather the belongings that he'd need on the over-nighter at my place.
"The one thing that gives me solace," I said, "is that no matter where you are and what you're doing, you're a strong person and I know you'll always be okay."
He chose to speak. "Yeah," he said. "That's the way that I was looking at it too." I knew in my heart that we were right. We put it behind us and didn't allow it to distract us as we spent an enjoyable night at my place.
From this point on, Beau began to count down the number of days until he had to leave. There were only about three weeks. That may seem like a long time to a twenty-year-old, but I knew it would fly past in the wink of an eye. He soon realized that the efforts required to help his friend with his animation project would preclude him from accomplishing many of the things he wanted to do before he left, and informed him that he'd no longer be available.
He actually started to become very popular with his friends. Everyone wanted to buy him a drink, have him over for dinner, or otherwise see him before he was gone. He began to take stock in the number and quality of friends he'd made during his all-too short stay in Ithaca. In some ways I wanted to see him every waking moment, but in other ways I wanted to prepare myself for the time when he'd no longer be around. It turned out that I saw him about as much as I did before he'd made the announcement.
I was determined that he would have a proper going-way party before he left. Brian's house was the obvious location. I approached him and his house-mates, and although they had just had a major birthday party there the previous weekend, they were game.
The night before the party, Beau was out at my house. We were rummaging around in my junk room when I found a small leather mask that I'd bought years before at a Renaissance festival. I put it on and showed him how well it conformed to the contours of my face. He asked me if I would wear it at his party the next night. Actually, I had always wanted to have an opportunity to wear it completely out of context simply fore shock value, and this seemed to be a good time. We spent the night together, and the next day I dropped him off. I went home to chill out.
As I got ready for the party, I thought about how I could make it special. I was, after all, a party veteran, and I wanted to make these kids the beneficiaries of my years of experience. I decided to provide my all-time party favorites, MD 20/20 "wine," and rum and Jolt Cola. I picked up the maddog and rum at the first liquor store I visited, but had a devil of a time finding the Jolt Cola. It was not available at Wegmans, where I'd acquired it before, nor at the first convenient mart I tried. There was one other convenient mart where I knew it to be available in the past. I figured that if they didn't have it that I would just settle for ordinary Coke.
I arrived at the store and searched for the Jolt. There was none to be found. I grabbed two 2-liters of Coke and went up to the counter. The attendant went to grab the bottles, but I held them back.
"I'm really looking for Jolt Cola," I said. "Do you have any?"
"Yeah," the guy said. He had the other guy on duty escort me back to the rack. In one solitary slot that I'd overlooked were 12 ounce cans of Jolt Cola. I piled about 12 of them into my arms, grabbed one of the 2-liter Cokes for good measure, and checked out. It was one of the most expensive soft-drink purchases I'd ever made. I asked for a paper bag so that I could conceal my goodies until the moment came to reveal them.
Now armed with my party artillery, I drove directly to Brian's house. I hesitantly put on my mask, wondering what the fuck they were all going to think of me, grabbed my parcel, and walked into the house. There were only a handful of people there, Beau not among them, and they were eating Chinese take-out. Some people I recognized, some people I didn't. Austin, one of the ones I did know, stated that he didn't realize it was going to be a masquerade party.
"It isn't," I said. "Or it is. It's whatever kind of party you want it to be."
I opened my bag and began to display the wares I'd brought. I was greeted with more groans than cheers, but the Jolt Cola was well received. I quickly poured myself a strong one, and settled in.
Beau arrived shortly thereafter. He was gratified to see me in my mask, as I had promised I would be. I poured him a drink, and myself another, and settled in more deeply. My plan was to shower affection on Beau all night, but I rapidly became a sloppy drunk and interacted more with the people I'd met through Beau than with Beau himself. I had brought my palm-corder, and wound up handing it off to Brian to capture the event.
More than one person asked me what the mask was all about. I recited the explanation that I'd concocted earlier that day.
"It's to mask the true depth of my feelings towards Beau," I would say. "And to mask the void that his absence will make in my life."
They ate it up. The girls would go "Awwwww." In reality it was all bullshit. I mean, yes my feelings toward Beau were very deep, and his absence would indeed leave a void in my life, but that was not the kind of thing that I would mask from him. In fact, he knew very well how I felt. But this created an opportunity for me to tell other people what was in my heart, and to add a level of intrigue into his departure and final farewell. It turned out that he was very proud of me for having staged such a stunt.
Soon it came down to his final night in town before the soldiers came by to take him away. He would be gone by Tuesday, but had all of Monday to do as he pleased. We had planned to be together. I arrived at his house, and found that he'd given himself a hair cut. He trimmed it almost down to the skin. I'd never seen it that short before. He was concerned that it looked bad, but in fact I thought it made him look incredibly hot.
I didn't know what we'd be doing this evening. I had visions of taking him out for a romantic, fancy dinner, but it turned out that he had a million things he had to do and that he was running late. He had all his artwork packed up in large portfolio folders, and we needed to take it to his mentor, a local artist he'd been studying with for some weeks, who was going to store it for him. We tossed it all in my car and drove over.
We got to the place, and I was rather enthralled with the obviously artistic home and all the Apple hardware that the guy used to make his art. I didn't want to stand there like a mute, but it was kind of hard to work my way into the conversation when Beau and his mentor were engrossed in viewing and storing Beau's work. Later on when he realized I was a computer professional, we did chat a bit, but this was also their farewell and he had a lifetime of advice to give to Beau before he departed. I stood by patiently.
Eventually Beau said that he still had a lot of places to go and people to see that night, and that he should get going. They then went through a number of cycles where they'd start saying goodbye, but quickly the mentor would think of some other morsel of wisdom to impart. We moved from his workshop to the hallway, and then to the foyer, and still the final act of breaking away remained elusive. I was getting impatient, but kept it inside. Finally, after another flurry of goodbyes, we were out the door.
From there we went to the Ithaca College campus to meet up with the student Beau had been helping in the previous weeks. He had developed some of the film and was going to screen it for Beau. We got to the film school building much later than planned, and Beau was afraid that his friend might already have left. We caught him in the hall, however, and we went into a screening room while he set up the projector.
The film was rather interesting. It was black and white, and centered around a Burgman-esque figure who was perpetually waving his arms about. The animation doll was pale-skinned, wearing a heavy, black robe, and essentially without emotion beyond the dire despair his stark visage elicited. There were also forks in practically every scene, who's tines would constantly bend back and forth in eery undulations. This went on for quite some time. I was impressed with the animation, at least on a student film level, but it seemed rather aimless to me. After about a half hour it was over. We stood around and chatted for a while as Beau imparted gifts to his friend to distribute to whomever he deemed appropriate. They were school supplies that Beau figured would come in handy to younger film majors who were taking classes that he'd already completed. Before long we were on our way.
By this time it was starting to get later into the evening, and my usual bed time was drawing nearer. I still had to work the next day, and I wasn't getting the kind of quality time with Beau that I'd expected. I told him that I didn't know how much later I'd be able to hang out before I had to be getting home.
He stopped in his tracks. He was surprised, and visibly disappointed that I was going to cut the evening short.
"Well," I said. "There was one thing in particular that I'd hoped we'd be able to do tonight."
"What's that?" he asked, as he smiled with hesitant anticipation.
"I wanted to make tender love to you one more time before you were gone."
He smiled broadly. "That was what I was hoping to do too."
I decided to go for broke. From here we were going to drive to Brian's house to say goodbye to the gang. On the way, we stopped by my office where I checked my calendar to make sure I had no early meetings. Seeing that the morning was free, I wrote on the sign-out board that I'd be in late the next morning, and we were away.
We got to Brian's house, where he and some others were milling about. We put in the video tape that we'd shot at the going-away party just a few days prior. When it was over, Brian and Stinky said that they'd like to take Beau out for some beers. Beau asked me if that was okay. I told him that from here on I was open to anything he wanted to do. We all piled in my car and drove to a Collegetown bar that had Blues Night on Mondays. We got a pitcher and sat down. It was kind of a cross between a cavalcade of semi-pro bands, and open-mike night. Each group was on the stage for only about three songs, and a lot of musicians played in more than one band. I recognized one guy from another department at work, and someone else whom I saw in the locker room almost every day but had never talked to. The music was good, but it was very loud and we couldn't really carry on a conversation. It was an enjoyable time, but it would have seemed more appropriate to me to be at a nice quiet pub where we could make the most out of the last time we'd be able to spend with Beau for some time.
After an hour or so it was time to move on. Stinky decided to stay and listen to the music, and the rest of us got in the car and headed out. We dropped Brian off at his house, and then went on to Beau's friend Shawna's place. She was the first of Beau's friends that I'd met way back when he and I first started hanging out. This was to be our last stop for the evening before we retired back to my place. He said that he'd try to make it quick. I told him not to rush on my account. This was his last night with his friends, and I didn't want him to cut it short for me. This was *his* night, and I wanted him to be free to spend it any way he wanted to.
We got to Shawna's place to find a small group of people there waiting for us. We sat down and started chatting. They all wanted to see the video from the party, so we watched it a second time. People kind of drifted in and out as we sat and talked. This one girl put in some music and taught Beau some dance steps. Organized dance had always seemed like a frivolous activity to me, but Beau was interested in it. I must confess it was kind of fun to see him up there moving his body, and I was impressed by the speed with which he picked up the steps and how naturally it came to him.
Time began to drag on. At one point he apologized to me again that he was keeping me there. I reaffirmed that this was his night, and that I was happy just to be with him. Secretly, inside, however, I was getting a little bored and impatient and wondered when we'd finally get out of there. It was now well past midnight. As I sat there I reflected on where I fit into his large circle of friends. I was this thirty-five year old man whom he saw from time to time, and they were his contemporaries. They were the people he saw from day to day, and who were an integral part of his life in Ithaca. But then I thought about how he was going home with me. After all the people he saw, and all the things they shared on this, his last night, I would be the one he was with when it was all over. And I'd have him all to myself.
Eventually Beau told his friends that it was time he should be leaving. I got up and put my coat on, but then sat back down as he slipped into the same routine he went through earlier with his mentor. No matter how many times they said goodbye, there was still something else to talk about. They asked about the moment when he would leave, and he said that some soldiers were coming right to his house to escort him away the following evening. They were all going to be having a pot luck dinner somewhere. Beau had planned to be alone at the time, but they really wanted to see him off. Suddenly he decided that they could bring the food over to his place for a final farewell dinner, and be there to say goodbye as he was led away.
"You did it," he said. "You got the slot!"
He kind of chuckled. I smiled. I could have been jealous, but I wasn't. We had already decided that I wouldn't be there at the final moment, and truthfully I didn't want to be. Actually witnessing two uniformed soldiers taking him away and out of my life would have been more than I could bare. No, I preferred to be at home, alone with my thoughts when the moment came. I was gratified that he had others who were willing and anxious to be there for him.
Finally they gave each other their final hugs and kisses, and we got in the car to head out to my house. Ironically, now that I had him all to myself, we were both very quiet. I began to feel somewhat uncomfortable. I felt like Dustin Hoffman in the final scene of The Graduate. He'd just swept his true love away, and they were finally alone together. And yet they sat side by side in the sounds of silence.
I tried to make a couple attempts at conversation, but it wasn't going anywhere. Then I made a remark about how this was almost exactly a year since the two of us first met. Beau was surprised. He hadn't realized the coincidence. We thought back to when he had originally sent me that first email, and realized that the anniversary was exactly a week away. We then started to reminisce about those early days. The conversation started flowing. We talked about things we had never talked about before. We revealed to each other the things that generally remain unsaid in the early stages of a relationship, such as what our impressions of each other had been and what we were actually thinking in our minds.
I mentioned the time in his room when I spun around and gave him a kiss. He said that that was a major turning point for him, because he didn't know if I was interested in him in that way or not.
"Beau," I said. "I was interested in you from the moment I laid eyes on you." He was surprised. "Are you kidding?" I said. "You were an attractive, fit, intelligent, talented young man. It's every guy's *fantasy*."
I told him that I was concerned that he wasn't interested in me in that way. Here I was, getting older by the day, struggling to stay in shape, and afraid that I was losing my appeal. My experience when I'd met students, especially undergrads, was that they didn't want anything to do with me when they found out how old I was and that I worked a full-time job in an office. To have an attractive, eligible teenager interested in me was more than I could have dreamed of.
He said that he was way too shy to make any moves on me because he didn't think I'd be interested in some kid I'd met on the internet. I told him I didn't want to make any moves on him because I didn't want to be seen as exploiting someone so young, and because I was afraid of scaring him away. That one kiss was the turning point for the both of us.
We continued to recall fond memories for the rest of the drive to my house. When we arrived we went upstairs and I immediately put on Wish You Were Here. We stood in the middle of the room and kissed each other tenderly. I put in that particular CD not only because it was one of my favorites and was the first music we'd listened to together, but because the entire work expressed my feelings so deeply and accurately. As the music progressed we began to undress each other. Our lovemaking became coordinated with the sounds that were surrounding us. I explored my emotions as each song reminded me precisely what I was feeling.
Shine On You Crazy Diamond made me think of the light within him, and how I hoped that it continued to shine through the rigid confines of the military. Welcome To The Machine vividly portrayed an image of this innocent young man being sucked into a vast complex that wanted him for a cog in their mighty wheels, and not for a bright individualist. When I heard the line, "What did you dream? It's all right, we told you what to dream," I held him tightly and almost began to cry.
By this time we were naked. He knelt down before me, and as he was touching me I looked down at him. I saw his whole body of dark skin, his bald head at my groin, and his slender but shapely arms around me. A shiver went down my spine. To the end, my encounters with him remained like a story from a gay porn magazine. I practically had to pinch myself to confirm that this was real. In my own home, I had an unbelievably attractive, sexy, young black man making love to me. But it was a bittersweet moment, as the reality sunk in that this was something that would soon be missing from my life.
When Have A Cigar started playing, I thought about his recruiting officer who knew nothing of Beau, his hopes and dreams, and saw him only as an opportunity to benefit himself. By the time the first lovely guitar chords of Wish You Were Here started playing, we were lying down. My emotions really began to flow as I thought about the choices he had made, and where they would lead him.
So, so you think you can tell
I thought of the military, and how they were going to force him to make sacrifices against himself.
Did they get you to trade
I thought about how I'd feel after he was gone, and how he would have changed by the time I saw him next, and if he'd lament for the person he used to be.
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
I held him more tightly than I'd ever held anyone in my life. At one point he pulled away, and looking directly at me said, "I love you." He said it in a very deliberate way, as one would say, "the phone is ringing." But it was packed with emotion. This was the first time either of us had spoken the word "love" to the other. I felt that this was something that he had wanted to say that night, and had chosen this moment.
I wasn't really expecting it. I pulled him back close to my body and cradled his head. "I love you too," I said into his ear. "I love everything about you. I love you for your talent. I love you for everything you've brought into my life. And I love you for the person you've helped me to become."
The tender melodies of Wish You Were Here segued into the cold, Spartan tones of the reprise of Shine On You Crazy Diamond. I began to let go of him, both physically and emotionally. Once more I thought of the light inside him, and how I prayed it would continue to shine through the darkness he was about to enter. The music faded away into silence.
We lay on the floor in each other's arms. I leaned over and whispered in his ear. "Come to bed with me." We got up and walked to my bedroom, naked and hand in hand. We crawled under the covers and I turned out the light. I wanted to lie awake all night, savoring his tender touch and the warmth of his body for eternity. Eventually we drifted off to sleep.
The next morning I awoke with him lying beside me. The sun was shining in the window, but it was a gray day. I rolled over and he awoke. The emotion of the previous night had now given way to the cold reality that it was over. I got up, and he soon followed. We got dressed in silence, and he gathered his things. We went outside to find a dark, dreary day and a drizzling rain. We got in the car and headed back to town.
Again there was no conversation, but this time I didn't feel the need to speak. Our time had passed. We drove along in silence, until Beau spoke.
"I feel like a scared kid," he said starkly.
I had been thinking of myself, but at that moment I began to consider what Beau must be going through. The time he'd been counting down had come to an end. This was the final day he'd been trying to prepare himself for. By the time the sun went down, his life would have changed for ever. I thought about the fear he must have been feeling. After they took him away, those he left behind would still have each other. He'd be all alone. He'd be surrounded my thousands and thousands of people, all in the same situation, yet he'd be alone. He was facing physical pain, emotional degradation, and stark solitude.
I stared forward through the windshield. "You'll be fine, as long as you continue to have faith in yourself."
We rode in silence the rest of the way to his house. I shut off the car and walked him to his door. He set down his bag and we embraced for the last time. I could hear him sniffing as he started to cry. I just held onto him. With my hands on his shoulders, I stepped back from him and stared into his teary eyes.
"I'll always be with you," I said.
I turned and walked away. I wanted to look back, but I didn't. The vision of his sorrowful face was still in my mind, as it is today. I walked through the rain to my car, and drove to my office where I spent a solemn day at work. That evening when the soldiers came to take him away, I sat alone in my house in silence.
Over the next several weeks I would receive the occasional letter. As soon as he gave me his mailing address I wrote him as often as I could. On rare occasions he would be granted phone privileges. After he had called his family in Gary, he'd always call me next. It was nice to hear his voice, but his allotted time was very short and the conversation was always very rushed. He told me that he thought of me every day. When his platoon was being physically punished, or he was otherwise in physical or emotional pain, he said that thoughts of me would make him feel better. When a letter from me would arrive, he would not open it immediately but stash it away. That night, after lights-out, he would open the letter and read it under his covers by flashlight. Then he would fall asleep, and often dream about what I had written. We would always conclude each call by saying, "I love you."
At the time of this writing, Beau has just completed his basic training and is home in Gary for the holidays. He will come to Ithaca for just a couple days before he has to ship out for his technical training. I am anxiously awaiting this, our first reunion, but I don't know what it will bring. After we were separated, we did not drift apart but rather strengthened our bonds. Our feelings remain strong and true, and we feel even more serious about each other than we had before. Yet, we're farther apart than ever, and the distance will only grow. By the time he's released from the Army I'll be almost forty, and many things will have changed by then for both of us.
What becomes of us I do not know
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