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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. This chapter is told from Hunter’s perspective.
I was tired when I woke up the following morning just from thinking about everything.
I wonder what would have happened if I had kissed Ethan?
I knew he was only kidding, but I had actually thought about doing it for a moment just to see how he would react.
He would have been shocked at first, of course; then he would have started laughing uncontrollably like he did sometimes and that would have given me the perfect escape.
“You see,” I would have said. “If you can still laugh like that, everything is going to be fine.”
And then he would have joked about what a terrible kisser I was and how he was going to blackmail me for the rest of my life for having done something ridiculous like that; and I would have laughed and told him to be careful what he wished for.
That would have been the end of it, I suppose, but at least it would have taken his mind off of the draft. And yet it wouldn’t have made it any easier for me to get to sleep that evening.
I had tossed and turned all night just thinking about everything Ethan and I had talked about at Louie’s. I had been trying to block it out of my mind for a long time now, but deep down inside I knew he was right, that everything was about to change for the two of us.
It seemed to me they were about to change for the better for him. He was going to be drafted by a major league team and get a big signing bonus to boot; and while it wouldn’t happen immediately, he was going to make it to the major leagues sooner or later. He was going to end up playing a game he loved on the biggest stage possible and playing it there was going to make him financially secure for life.
Along the way he would make lots of new friends. Eventually he would settle down and marry some girl and have a family and live happily ever after. I wanted to be happy for him. No one deserved it more than he did. But I wasn’t very happy for some reason.
It wasn’t as if things weren’t going to change for me as well, but seeing the path ahead was a lot harder for me.
What do people who are average like me do when they grow up?
I mean, yeah, I had just graduated from high school with Ethan and I would be heading north to Newark in a couple of months to attend the University of Delaware.
But what happens then, Hunter? Ethan won’t be there with you like we had planned all these years. Hell, you don’t have a clue what you want to do with your life.
Four years of college and then what?
The whole thing was too depressing to contemplate. Maybe that’s why I didn’t head over to Ethan’s house right away that morning. It was his big day and I wanted to be there for him. But there was a part of me that didn’t want any of it to happen and I guess staying away provided the illusion that nothing was going to change today.
I took a walk on the beach that morning. Usually it was something the two of us did together and I remember thinking I would be taking a lot more walks like this by myself soon enough.
Come on, Hunter, I said. Stop bumming yourself out.
If you’re bummed out, he’ll know and today he needs all the support he can get.
Bracing myself, I took one final look at the ocean and headed over to his house. I think it was about 11:30 a.m. when I arrived. The place was mobbed, both inside and out. I had never seen that many people in his house before and it took five or ten minutes before I was able to wedge myself through the crowd into the house.
“Hunter, I’m so glad you’re here,” his Mom said, hugging me. “I need you to do me a favor.”
“Sure, Mrs. Williams,” I replied. “Anything; how can I help?”
“Ethan was having a little trouble coping with all these people,” she responded. “He decided to go for a walk and he’s been gone a while. But he needs to come back. Mr. Jennings said the draft will be starting soon and Ethan needs to be here when the call comes in.”
“Could you find him for me and bring him back? He said he was going to his favorite spot on the boardwalk and you would know where that is.”
“No problem,” I responded; “assuming I can find a way out of this place.”
“You can go out the back, Hunter,” she said. “The crowd is smaller out there and that’s how Ethan escaped. It’ll be less crowded when the two of you get back in any event. Mr. Jennings is about to get everyone boarded on to the buses for the high school.”
“Thanks,” I responded.
I walked back to the kitchen and opened the door. There were still a lot of people back there, but it would definitely be easier going this way. Slipping through the bushes at the back of the yard, I turned north and then east. That brought me to the boardwalk where I headed south.
I was pretty certain where I would find Ethan. He had never really explained why the place was so special to him. To me it was pretty much like the rest of the boardwalk, just further away from the crowds and closer to where the whole thing ended down within sight of Poodle Beach. We used to spend a lot of time down there just sitting on the fence railing staring out at the ocean.
I could understand why Ethan didn’t want to be surrounded by that mob at his house. Allowing my mind to drift off, I tried to walk slowly to give him more time alone.
It’s funny I remember thinking; funny how everything seems to stay the same growing up even as everything is changing around you. It can be deceptive actually. Walk down to the ocean every day during the summer and it seems the same as the day before. The beach looks much the same as well; and your friends? They seem to stay pretty much the same too.
It’s only when you go back to the shore after fall, winter and spring have passed that you begin to notice all the little changes that have taken place; how the sand has eroded in one spot and filled in somewhere else, changing the ocean’s wave patterns ever so slightly. Because most changes happen gradually and are easily overlooked, you can miss a lot if you’re not paying attention.
Take me, Ethan and baseball, for example. I knew from the very first time we lined up to play T-ball I wasn’t as good as him. But that never seemed to matter to either of us. The fun was playing the game together and that never changed whether we were playing T-ball, Little League or for our elementary school team.
With each passing year the gap in our skill level grew bigger and bigger. And yet because it all happened so slowly and never seemed that important and didn’t change our mutual love for the game, I didn’t really think twice about going out for the team when the two of us reached high school. When I didn’t make it, Ethan consoled me, told me how the coaches had made a mistake and that he wasn’t going to play for the team either if they were that stupid.
The truth is they had been right to cut me. I just wasn’t good enough to play at that level. But Ethan was. He was already better than anyone else on the team, including the seniors. As much as I appreciated his effort to support me, I told him I didn’t want him to quit; that he was too good to quit and, besides, he wasn’t a quitter and I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who quit.
So he didn’t quit. He played; and because I still loved the game as much as he did, I volunteered to become an assistant coach on the Little League team we had played for and I liked that a lot. It was enough to know I was helping others become better players and being Ethan’s best friend helped me to do that. The kids knew how good he was so they listened when I tried to show them the right way to play the game.
When one of them scored and taunted the other team with some stupid little dance he had made up, I would take him aside.
“Ethan would never do something like that,” I would tell him. “The players he likes are those who are modest and professional, not the hot dogs constantly trying to draw attention to themselves. Ethan told me once you show your game on the field, not off it with your dancing or mouth. Think about it.”
And they would. It was like magic invoking Ethan that way.
It was the same with a lot of things between Ethan and me growing up. We went from swimming in the public pools to swimming in the ocean, from boogey-boarding to surfing, from playing in the sand to spending most of our time just sitting on the boardwalk watching people go by. He would give these weird names like Virgil and Bessie to those passing by because he knew it would make me laugh; and then he would concoct these bizarre stories about them and spend hours just sitting there telling them to me.
I was in stitches all the time just listening to him. I loved those stories so much even though they made no sense at all. There were times when I would deliberately ask him some sensible question that called into doubt everything he had been telling me; and then he would concoct some even more bizarre set of details to explain away the seeming contradictions in the story he was telling.
I could never win when he told me those stories. They were funny as hell.
I guess I didn’t notice at first, but our bodies were changing as well. Ethan was getting taller, putting on weight and all of the sports and gymnastics he was playing were turning it into muscle, not fat. Me? Not so much. I was keeping up with him in terms of adding inches, but I had more trouble putting on weight. I was thin and the guys at school use to rag on me about that. But Ethan just told me everyone was different and he liked me the way I was and I shouldn’t worry about it.
I had my first ejaculation when I was twelve and I found myself thinking about sex a lot after that. By then some of the girls were starting to pay attention to me. Not as much as with Ethan, of course; they all wanted to go out with Ethan. But some of them were interested in me, the ones who were average like me, and I never lacked for a date.
But somehow I seemed more focused on Ethan.
I had read enough about sex to know I might just be going through some kind of phase. The articles I read online had explained how boys usually went through a period in early adolescence where their sexual interests, while still hidden in various ways, were focused on other boys; and because I didn’t see any reason why things would be any different for me, the thought occurred that perhaps it was just a phase for me as well.
Two years later, when I turned fourteen, it was becoming harder to believe I was just going through some kind of phase. If anything, I was more interested in Ethan than ever. It made me wonder at times whether maybe I might be gay; but most of the time I just figured we were best buds and sometimes everything got a little confusing when you were best buds like that. You know what I mean?
Honestly, I wasn’t really sure what to think.
It wouldn’t have bothered me that much if I was gay, I suppose. There were a lot of gay people in our town and Ethan was always telling me how important it was to judge everyone for who they were, not the color of their skin or their age or their sexual orientation.
If the thought of being gay didn’t bother me, it did make me feel a little different because a lot of the guys were getting into girls by then. Not so much Ethan. The dude was just so busy with everything going on in his life that he didn’t really have time for a girlfriend. But some of the rest of the guys did and I figured maybe I should as well.
I suppose that’s why I had gone with Mary Ellen in the first place. But now, thinking about it, there were times when I wondered about the whole thing. I hadn’t been with Mary Ellen in years; and while other girls had taken her place and I liked having a reputation around school as a ladies man, I had never had sex with those girls. For the last year or so I hadn’t even been dating that much.
I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it just didn’t seem that important anymore to prove to Ethan there was something I was better at; that I was a bigger stud with the girls than him. The more I thought about it, the more the whole thing seemed stupid, especially now that Ethan was about to be drafted and leave Rehoboth Beach and I might never see him again.
Just thinking about that was depressing.
“Stop, for crying out loud! Jesus, Hunter, stop,” I muttered. “You’re bumming yourself out; and if you bum yourself out, that’s going to make Ethan feel lousy and he doesn’t need that from you, especially today. He needs you to be there for him.”
In the distance I could see a solitary figure seated on the fence railing staring out at the sea and knew it was Ethan immediately.
“You can do this, Hunter,” I said quietly. “You can be there today for Ethan.”
It only took a few moments before I was there. I looked over at him and smiled. I knew exactly what he was thinking.
“You have to actually get the money in the bank first, Ethan, before you can think about running away.”
That made him laugh and I was glad I had said it because he seemed kind of forlorn.
“How are you doing this beautiful morning?” I asked.
“Okay,” he said. “Maybe a little bummed out. There’s a hell of a crowd over at my house.”
“I know,” I said. “I was just there. But I think they’ll be gone by the time we get back; and there’s really nothing to be bummed about, dude. This is it. This is draft day, the day everyone finds out just what a great player you are, the day you and your Mom get rich.”
“When we get back to your place, I expect you to man up and let the good times roll; and if you start acting like you’re being led off to your execution when we get to the high school, I’m going to rush the stage and kiss you in front of everyone.”
That brought still another laugh from Ethan, a nervous one, not a guffaw.
“Well, you know what, Hunter? I’m thinking maybe I’ll behave exactly the way you don’t want me to just to see you pull a stunt like that. That would sure get a lot of attention around town, wouldn’t it; you kissing me? The team that drafts me might even revoke its decision immediately and then we could go to college together.”
“Not a chance, Ethan,” I responded; “don’t even go there. In any event, we need to get this show on the road. Your Mom wants you back at the house and she sent me over here to get you. Let’s go, dude.”
By the time we got back to the house the place was empty. Everyone had moved on to the high school, leaving Ethan’s mom, Mr. Jennings, and the two of us alone. Mr. Jennings was pacing back and forth so I tried to pull an Ethan.
“Look at Homer over there pacing around, Ethan,” I said. “Why do you think that man is so nervous?”
Ethan laughed and did his best to play along with me. But as with a lot of things, I wasn’t as good at telling weird stories like that as he was.
Fortunately, it wasn’t very long after I had started that the phone rang. Looking over, I saw Mr. Jennings pick it up, exchange a few words with whoever was on the other end, and then stare at Ethan.
“Be polite, soft-spoken, no clues,” he whispered. “Betray no emotion; okays, uh-huhs, a thank you or two.”
And then he handed the thing to Ethan.
“Oh, hi, yes; this is Ethan . . . thanks . . . oh great, that’s terrific, thank you so much . . . I was really hoping you guys would be the one to select me . . . thanks . . . yes . . . sure, of course . . . we can get together whenever you want; I’m looking forward to it . . . thank you . . . thanks again . . . I appreciate it.”
Hanging up the phone, he looked over at the three of us. The room was totally silent. You could have heard a pin drop.
“It’s Baltimore,” he said. “They drafted me in the fourth round.”
“Yes,” I screamed, rushing over and hugging him, then releasing him to his mother who did the same thing, just not with the same effect it was having on me.
The next thing I knew the four of us were in Mr. Jennings’ car driving down to the high school. When we arrived, we headed to the auditorium. Ethan, his Mom and Mr. Jennings walked toward the stage when we got there. I had already told Ethan I didn’t want to be up there with him so I found a place off to the side and leaned back against the wall.
Looking around the auditorium, I could see hundreds of people had turned out. I guess events like this gave everyone who had ever wanted to play major league ball or had some similar dream a chance to be young again, to dream again. This was their chance to experience what it’s like to be young and to see the future opening before their eyes again.
The place had exploded the moment we entered and it was still going strong by the time the three of them took their places on the stage. It was packed to the rafters and everyone was standing and applauding and cheering. Finally, when they reached the stage, Mr. Jennings took his place at the lectern.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Avery Jennings and I’m here today as a friend and adviser to Ethan Williams and his mother; an unpaid friend and adviser I might add. But I’m glad to do this for free because this last year has given me an opportunity to get to know a truly outstanding young man, someone blessed with a lot of talent when it comes to playing baseball.”
“And yet I’ve learned there’s a lot more to Ethan than just playing baseball. He’s a truly outstanding young man and I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know him this past year; which, I might add, I can’t say about all of the young men I’ve advised over the years or even all the ones I’m currently representing as an agent.”
A ripple of laughter ran through the room at that last remark.
“But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to do this afternoon is to tell you a little about the major league baseball draft you’ve been watching so you can better appreciate what’s just happened.”
“The first draft was held way back in the 1960s and over the years it has grown and expanded in various ways. But at its heart the draft is still very much the same today as it was back then.”
“I like to call it the end of the beginning. It’s the culmination of thousands of scouting trips that a bunch of older men have taken over the last year to watch much younger men, boys really, play the same game they played in their youth. They’re paid to figure out which of those young men are good enough to play baseball professionally and it isn’t an easy job.”
“There are literally thousands and thousands of young men who play the game of baseball every day across the United States and throughout the world, especially in Latin America. Some are playing T-ball, Little League, Cal Ripken, or Babe Ruth ball; or they may be playing for their elementary, high school or college teams, their American Legion post, whatever.”
“Think about it, ladies and gentlemen; tens of thousands of young men playing baseball at any given moment, but less than a thousand are playing professionally because there are only 30 major league teams and the rules only allow them to suit up 25 players at any given time except September, when they can keep up to 40 on their roster.”
“How do these 30 teams decide which of those tens of thousands of young men should play at the major league level? The draft is the first step in the process. By today teams have administered thousands of psychological questionnaires to the young men they’ve been chasing in the hope of gaining some insight that will give them an edge in the draft.”
“They’ve visited thousands of those who know the young men they’ve had their eyes on this past year; teachers and high school guidance counselors, coaches, local ministers, perhaps even the guy who runs the general store in the small town the kids live in. There’s really no one they won’t talk to in an effort to gain some insight that will make the decision today easier for them.”
“And now, having completed the task they set themselves a year ago, they’ve begun making their final decisions. The draft takes place today and tomorrow, thirty major league teams making a selection every two minutes over many, many, rounds these next two days.”
“At the end of this process, between 1000 and 1500 high school seniors and college players will have been selected; and having been selected, the next task will be to get them to sign a contract. But making those selections in the first place is never easy. In deciding who they want, teams can’t just choose who they think is the best player available to them at the moment they’re called upon to decide. They have to think about a lot of things.”
“Who do they already have in their minor league system? Are those young men progressing the way the team thought when they drafted them originally? Who among those they’ve signed in previous years are going to make it all the way to the top, position by position? And they also have to assess whether they’ll be able to sign whoever they choose today and tomorrow. They might want someone very much. But if they don’t think they can sign him for a certain price, they won’t draft him at all.”
“What the teams can offer is money and a dream, the dream of playing professional baseball. It’s an enticing dream; but if they don’t offer someone a fair deal or if the person they select doesn’t want to play for them, he can decide not to sign and go on to college instead and then enter the draft again at a later time. So the teams have to decide how much money it will take to get someone to sign and whether they can afford to spend that much on him because the amount of money available for signings isn’t unlimited.”
“But the players also have decisions to make.”
“Now I said this was the end of the beginning and you already know the outcome for Ethan. It’s an ending for the teams, one team in particular, because they’ve used one of their precious draft choices to select Ethan. But this is only a beginning for Ethan.”
“If he decides to sign with the Baltimore Blues, he’ll begin his career in professional ball; and all of us in this auditorium will wish him the best and hope he’ll make it all the way to the top. It’s a long journey to the top and not many young men make it all the way there; and if they don’t, that’s okay too because hopefully they’ll have had a lot of fun playing a game they love very much.”
“The thing about the journey is that Ethan is pretty much on his own on this particular journey. A lot of people have helped him get to this point and we’ll still try to help in the future. But this is an important turning point, the point where he separates from us and is left pretty much on his own.”
“We can’t swing the bat for Ethan. We can’t field the ball. We won’t be with him on those thousand mile bus trips he’ll have to take to play three or four games, only to have to get back on the bus for the next trip to another city for still more games. All of this Ethan must do alone.”
“We’re here today to commend him for what he has already accomplished and to wish him the best on the journey that begins today. So I think that’s enough of an introduction; and with that I give you your fourth round Baltimore Blues draft selection, Ethan Williams.”
It had been a powerful introduction, one that had me choked up at points. At the end, when he talked about Ethan setting off on his own, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I didn’t want him to be alone. I wanted to be there for him like I had always been. I can’t say for sure, but I think Ethan was feeling pretty much the same because his eyes were glued to me the whole time and I could tell he was having trouble keeping it together by then.
I remember thinking back to all the times the two of us had talked about attending college together. In a couple of months I would be headed up Route 1 to Newark and the University of Delaware. It was the right decision for me and I wanted to do it. But doing it by myself, without Ethan, that was going to be hard; and for some reason I was sure Ethan was thinking the exact same thing at the moment.
He knew entering the draft was the right decision for him because he wanted to help his Mom and he loved playing ball. He knew going for the brass ring was the only real choice for someone like him. But Mr. Jennings was right. He was going to be doing it alone and I wondered whether he would miss me.
Looking around the room, I could see hundreds of people standing, applauding, and cheering. It was total pandemonium in there. People were embracing one another, shouting encouragement, while Ethan just stood there. To me he seemed stunned by the whole thing. And then finally he looked over at me and I gave him a thumbs up.
He smiled for the first time that afternoon and it was a beautiful smile and I remember thinking I wanted to kiss him.
Okay, yeah, maybe that’s kind of gay; but this is special. Who gives a shit?
I don’t care what people say. I love you, Ethan. You may never know that, but I do. And even if this means never seeing you again, it doesn’t change anything.
I love you and always will.
For a moment, it seemed like Ethan didn’t know what to do. He just stood there staring out at the crowd like a deer frozen in some car’s headlights. Finally he walked toward the lectern. For the first time I had ever seen in his life, he looked awkward, unsure of himself. When he got to the lectern he gripped it tightly, as if he had been wrecked at sea and was holding on to some piece of flotsam for dear life.
People in the audience were beginning to sit down now and that’s when I heard it behind me. It started hesitantly at first, but quickly gathered steam as more and more voices joined in.
“Ethan! Ethan! Ethan!”
I looked back and there were the guys from his team standing toward the back of the place chanting his name.
“Ethan! Ethan! Ethan!”
They were into it now and I remember smiling. A part of me wanted to join in, but just from looking at Ethan up on the stage I could tell he was embarrassed.
“Stop,” he said, softly at first. “Guys, please, stop. You’re embarrassing me.”
“Ethan! Ethan! Ethan!”
I knew he shouldn’t have said it. It only encouraged them to continue chanting, to pick up the intensity of the thing, to repeat his name over and over. And then, as quickly as it had begun, it stopped and they sat down. All of the eyes in the place were on Ethan now and he shifted back and forth, as if he didn’t know quite how to begin.
“Um, well, thanks everyone; I appreciate it. They told me weeks ago I would have to say something today and I actually did sit down and try to write something out. But I was never able to do it. I don’t why, but maybe it was because this whole thing has been so unreal, so unbelievable.”
“There was a part of me that knew today was coming; and yet there was another part of me that thought it was all just some weird dream I was having and I would wake up soon and realize I had been dreaming the whole time.”
“Sometimes I have weird dreams like that,” he added, his face suddenly freezing.
He stood there like that momentarily; and then whatever he was thinking passed and now he was back to normal.
“But here we are, I guess; and if this is some kind of dream, it’s a pretty cruel one because I still have to say something to you and I’m not really prepared,” he continued.
“I just want to thank some people; first, all of you for being here today and for all the encouragement and support you’ve given me, not just the last few weeks but my whole life really. I’ve never, ever, wanted to live anywhere except Rehoboth Beach. I love this place and I love all of the people who live here with me.”
“I want to thank all of the coaches who taught me the game of baseball over the years, especially Coach Lodge, and all of the guys I’ve played with for making it fun. I wouldn’t be standing here today except for you.”
“I also want to thank my adviser, Mr. Jennings. Once he explains it, the baseball draft probably seems real simple, but I can tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than it seems and Mr. Jennings has done a terrific job helping me understand the whole thing and getting me through it.”
“The most important person I want to thank today is my Mom,” he said, turning toward her.
“I wouldn’t be here today except for my Mom. I mean, literally, I wouldn’t be here.”
At that remark laughter spread across the auditorium and Ethan looked up at the crowd, startled, realizing only too late what he had said.
“Well, that too,” he continued, smiling. “But what I was thinking was this. Of all the sports I’ve ever played, baseball is uniquely a sport of fathers and sons.”
“Fathers learn the game from their fathers and grandfathers when they’re young and then feel compelled to teach the game to their sons and grandsons. And so you can go anywhere in this town or any other town in America for that matter and it won’t be long before you see some boy tossing the ball back and forth with his dad; or fielding ground balls or pop flies being hit to him by his dad; or trying to hit a ball being thrown to him by his dad.”
“As most of you know, my Dad died in the war before I was even born so I never had a father to teach me the game like other boys.”
His voice cracked and he fell silent for a moment.
“But I had a Mom and what a Mom she was,” he went on, regaining his composure.
“She would work hard all day and come home tired and make dinner for me; and then when dinner was over, she would go outside and toss the ball with me for hours and hours.”
“My Mom did everything for me that a Mom does. But she also did everything a Dad does as well and it was from her that I learned to love the game of baseball.”
“My Mom is the most terrific person I know in the world,” he added, looking over at her again. “And I want you to stand up Mom and take a bow because none of this would have happened except for you.”
It caught her by surprise and she rose only hesitantly. Everyone in that place was on their feet before she was and they were applauding her and I could see how moved Ethan was by the whole thing. Finally, the applause died down and everyone sat down once again.
“There’s one person I forgot that I shouldn’t have,” Ethan said, resuming his talk. “That’s my best friend, Hunter Allen,” he added, pointing to me.
“I’m not going to say very much because it’s hard to put in words exactly how I feel about Hunter. Everyone in this place knows him. But I know Hunter better than anyone else. We’ve spent our whole life growing up together, playing together, learning together, growing together. Whether swimming, baseball, or something else, everything I’ve done in life I’ve done with my best friend, Hunter. We’ve done everything together; everything.”
“Oh, really, have you?” a voice from behind bellowed.
It was one of his teammates.
And with that everyone started laughing except Ethan. Looking at him, I could see he was totally flustered, totally caught by surprise; and then he did something I had never seen him do before in his life.
He blushed big time and his face seemed to grow redder and redder with each passing moment; and that only made people laugh even more.
They weren’t laughing to embarrass him. They were laughing because they thought it was cute to see him blushing like that and it was. But the more they laughed, the redder he got.
And then finally, somehow, he composed himself once again.
“Um, well, maybe not everything,” he said, “but just about everything.”
It was at that moment I finally realized I wished I had been a better best friend, maybe even something more than just his best friend. I tried to shake that thought off because I knew it was wrong, something he would never have wanted; but right at that moment it was something I knew I wanted, wanted more than anything else, just as I knew it could never happen now that he had been drafted.
“Like I said, Hunter’s my best friend and I’m going to miss him a lot if I do sign a minor league contract and have to leave town. And I just wanted him to know how much he means to me.”
With that Ethan walked back to his seat abruptly and applause rang through the auditorium. I was still on my feet, applauding with everyone else. But I couldn’t get what Mr. Jennings had said out of my mind; and even though I was happy for Ethan, I was sad for myself and what I was losing.
Now, too late, I realized I had squandered our last couple of years together. Ethan was my very best friend in the world, someone I loved as much as anyone. He didn’t know how much I loved him. He just knew we were best friends. But I knew something more.
I knew I was losing more than my very best friend; I was losing someone I genuinely loved. And if that meant I was gay for thinking that, well, to hell with what anyone else thought; Ethan was worth being gay for if only just for today. On this day of all days and knowing I couldn’t be honest with him, I could least be honest with myself and admit it, if only to myself.