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SUMMARY: The year is 1973 and Lane Bailey is a Teaching Fellow at Harvard University. A homosexual with ambivalent but often negative feelings about his sexuality, he also has a strong attraction to his brightest student, a Harvard junior named Paul. As graduation approaches, his conflicted feelings and despair grow and he tries to recall a time when he was not homosexual. That arouses powerful boyhood memories. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, one in which Lane eventually comes to a better understanding of himself and ends up learning much about life, love and sex in the process. 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. Unless otherwise indicated, all of the characters in the story are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. While certain places described or mentioned in the story are real, liberties may have been taken with the truth to enhance the story. This story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you don’t like or approve of such discussions or it’s illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
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NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.
“This can’t be right,” Paul said, looking up momentarily from the paper he had been staring at so intently and shaking his head.
Then he glanced down again quickly to see whether his eyes had deceived him.
Knowing they hadn’t, I remember wondering whether I had made a mistake; whether my plan to engage Paul in a discussion of the history paper I had just handed back to him was about to backfire and end up instead in a bitter exchange about the grade I had given him.
“This cannot be right,” he repeated, looking up from the paper again and staring into my eyes. “You gave me a B on this, Lane?”
He was confused.
You could see it in those eyes of his, those beautiful blue eyes that were so expressive, so entirely revealing of whatever he was feeling at the moment. More than confused, however, he was hurt. The expression on his face made that all too clear, as did his next words to me.
“I worked so hard on this paper,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief; “harder than any paper I’ve ever worked on at Harvard because I have so much respect for Professor Jeffords. I mean, I realize he doesn’t actually read our papers; that he’s too busy to do something like that. But there’s something about the man that makes you want to do your best even knowing that.”
“And it’s not just Professor Jeffords either,” he added. “I respect you too, Lane. You’re the best Teaching Fellow I’ve had at Harvard since I got here three years ago. I wanted to do well for you too.”
Looking down at the floor, he sighed.
“And I tried,” he continued. “I tried really hard. I thought this was the best paper I’ve ever written at Harvard.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” I responded, trying to reassure him; “and I understand what you’re saying about Professor Jeffords. If anything, his graduate students like me feel exactly the same way as you. All of us want to do our very best work for the man. More to the point, the truth is he does read all of the papers in a small seminar like this.”
“But he asks me to look at them first and suggest a grade. Then we discuss what I’ve suggested after he reads them. It’s his way of trying to help me learn more about grading. After reading your paper he agreed it was exceptional; one of the best papers, if not the best, either of us has ever seen from an undergraduate, Paul.”
“Excuse me,” I quickly apologized; “I meant to say Mr. Miller.”
Although Professor Jeffords refused to do it, Harvard still encouraged faculty and teaching fellows to address students by their last name in class or classroom-related settings; to treat them as adults, not the adolescents most of them still were.
From the beginning of my tenure as a Teaching Fellow, I had made it a habit to do that, to address students by their last name only in class; just like I had habitually chosen never to meet with students except in groups of two or more.
Of course, I had violated that self-imposed rule this evening in choosing to meet with Paul alone. But the end of the academic year was rapidly approaching and Paul was different after all; special in so many ways.
He lived in Winthrop House where I was a non-resident tutor for one thing. I often had lunch or dinner with him and his friends. In that kind of setting Harvard encouraged more informality, including the use of first names.
And yet here, in the small office Winthrop had designated for me to conduct meetings with students, it was hard to know which rule applied or whether it had been a mistake to meet with Paul alone.
But none of that mattered to Paul at the moment. He was focused entirely elsewhere; on the grade I had given him.
“I don’t understand then,” he finally replied. “If you and Professor Jeffords thought my paper was so good, why did I only get a B?”
“You shouldn’t worry about the grade, Paul,” I said, trying to reassure him. “You’re the best student in the course and that will certainly be reflected when it comes time to assign a final grade for it. But I gave you a B on this paper for a very specific reason and Professor Jeffords agreed I should do so.”
“Why?” he asked, staring into my eyes again. “I spent so much time researching it. I even went back and read transcripts of the original debates at South Carolina’s secession convention. It wasn’t easy to get access to those and it took forever to read them and do all the follow-up work. But I did it; and I think I did a pretty good job using those debates to support my conclusions.”
“You did,” I agreed, nodding my head. “I’ve never seen an undergraduate do something like that; so, yes, as a work of historical research, this is clearly an A+ paper. Your analysis of those debates based on the different geographic locations within the state from which the delegates came was superb; brilliant really. And the way you put the whole paper together was incredibly deft.”
“This is clearly a work worthy of an advanced graduate student in my opinion.”
“Why the grade then?” he asked, more confident now in challenging me again. “I’ve never complained about a grade in any of my classes, Lane. Never! But this doesn’t seem fair.”
“The grade wasn’t about what you put into the paper, Paul,” I replied. “It’s about what you left out; and I gave it to you because you would have tossed it aside and never given it another thought if I gave you the A the paper clearly deserves. I didn’t want that to happen.”
“Now I’m totally confused,” he said. “What did I leave out?”
“You left out the most important thing,” I replied. “You left out what you learned from your research.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, if anything, seemingly more perplexed.
“Let me ask you this,” I said. “When you were reading those debates and what the delegates thought about their property, their slaves, what did you think?”
“I don’t know,” Paul responded, shrugging his shoulders. “I was repulsed, of course. How anyone could think of human beings the way those delegates did was disgusting.”
“Exactly,” I said. “And yet nothing like that appears in your paper.”
“Of course not,” he responded. “I was writing a history paper after all, not a paper for some ethics course. It would have been inappropriate for me to express my personal views in a paper like this.”
“Why?” I asked?
“I don’t understand,” he replied. “You’re a graduate student in history, Lane. You’re about to graduate and I know you want to become a historian like Professor Jeffords. I thought the job of a historian was to be objective; to report the facts without taking sides.”
“Why do we study history, Paul?” I asked, challenging him.
“I mean, if you’ve heard Professor Jeffords say it once, you’ve heard him say it a million times. Americans are a famously unhistorical people. They like to look to the future, not dwell on the past; and that’s true of most of your fellow students at Harvard. The number of history majors here is tiny. Why do you think that is?”
“I don’t know,” Paul replied, floundering around for an answer. “I guess people don’t see the point of history.”
“Exactly,” I responded. “They don’t see the point of it. They see it as a bunch of useless facts that don’t have any relevance to the challenges we face today. But that’s not true, of course. The whole point of studying history is to learn the lessons it teaches and then bring them to bear on the challenges we face in our contemporary lives; to learn something from them hopefully so we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”
“But what’s the point?” Paul challenged. “That slavery was wrong? That secession was a mistake? That’s so obvious it’s not even worth pointing out.”
“To be sure,” I agreed. “It’s obvious to you and me today more than a hundred years later. But what’s less obvious is how those delegates to the secession convention could have been so wrong about all of these things. Why do you think that was, Mr. Miller?”
From there our conversation weaved back and forth as the two of us engaged in a genuine exchange of views, one from which both of us learned a great deal. We talked back and forth for well over an hour. It was a stimulating exchange, exactly what I had been hoping for when I had written the grade on his paper.
I learned a great deal from our discussion; about the subject, of course, but also about Paul. Why he had chosen the subject, what interested him about the delegates he had studied, which of them he admired and disliked the most, and, most importantly, what he believed.
That’s the hardest thing about teaching Professor Jeffords had told me on many occasions; getting the students to actually express a belief in something one way or the other. Once they do, you can engage with them and hopefully something productive will come from it.
It was why everyone loved the man. He made them think. But more than just think, he made them express themselves and learn in the process. I idolized the man; wanted to be just like him. That’s why my discussion with Paul was so satisfying.
It was the first time in my teaching experience at Harvard that I felt like I had broken through with a student and emulated Professor Jeffords in a way he would have admired. Like I said, it had been satisfying.
At least it had been for me and I hoped Paul would feel the same way when he looked back on our discussion at some point in the future. I wanted him to remember it; to remember me in a positive way, not as just another one of the many teaching fellows he had come into contact with over his years at Harvard.
I wanted him to remember me; Lane Bailey.
“Do you understand now, Paul?” I asked, realizing our discussion had finally played itself out.
“Understand what?” he responded.
“Do you understand the point of giving you a B on the paper?”
“No, not really; I can’t say I do,” he replied.
“Give me the paper,” I said and Paul promptly handed it over to me.
Picking my pen up from the desk, I crossed out the B and wrote in A+ instead. Then I handed it back to him.
“If I had given you that A+ to begin with, we never would have had this discussion and both of us would be poorer for that,” I said. “The reason Professor Jeffords assigns a paper like this is to give his students an opportunity to sharpen their research skills if they’re interested in doing that. But history is about more than just doing research. It’s about learning lessons we can apply in our everyday lives.”
“Hopefully our discussion this afternoon made you think, Paul. It made me do so; and that’s the point of college after all, isn’t it? Not to learn a bunch of useless facts about the debates in the South Carolina secession convention more than a hundred years ago. But rather learning how to think about facts.”
He thanked me, of course. Like most undergraduates back then, he was polite. But whether his thanks was for the conversation or the changed grade was harder to say. With most of my students I would have had little doubt.
But Paul’s different, I reminded myself; he’s a very special young man.
“Do you want to have dinner together, Lane?” he asked as the two of us gathered our things and prepared to leave. “I’m hungry.”
“Um, well, ordinarily I would, Paul. Thanks for inviting me. Hard as it may be to believe, I actually do prefer talking to you and your friends about less academic matters.”
“But, uh, I feel like I should be spending every waking moment these days preparing to defend my dissertation,” I added, lying.
“I’m sure you’ll do just fine, Lane,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious Professor Jeffords has nothing but the highest respect for you.”
“Uh, thanks, Paul,” I replied. “It’s nice of you to say that. I hope you’re right.”
And with that our conversation came to an end, much to my regret.
I would have preferred having dinner with Paul that evening, but by now I was embarrassed at the ordeal I had just put him through. I wondered whether I would have done it with any of the rest of my students.
Making my way to Widener Library, I spent the next couple of hours going over some of the questions I thought would be asked when I defended my dissertation. Then, satisfied I was prepared as I ever would be, I walked outside and headed north through the Yard.
Soon enough my mind returned to my earlier conversation with Paul. Just thinking about him brightened my mood.
And yet even now, as I walked back to my room in Conant Hall, I wondered whether my motives in all of this were as entirely noble as I had mentioned to Paul? It was the same doubt I always had when thinking about him.
To be sure, I genuinely wanted him to think more about his paper and I was glad I had forced him to do so. But I also knew I had another reason for what I had done; a less worthy reason.
I liked Paul.
I liked him a lot.
I liked most of my students, of course, but Paul was special; at least he was special to me.
He was an excellent student for one thing; without a doubt the best I had run into over the course of the three years I had been a teaching fellow for Professor Jeffords. Like his fellow undergraduates and the rest of us, he liked Professor Jeffords. But he also liked history, genuinely liked it, and seemed to know as much about it as some of my fellow graduate students.
But there was more to it than that, of course. I had a crush on Paul. He was so good-looking, the best looking undergraduate I had run into during my five years at Harvard. He was in excellent shape from playing lacrosse. I knew that from taking in virtually all of his games this past year and becoming friends with him in the process.
I had made a point of seeking him out and congratulating him after every game; hearing my words of praise, he would break into a grin and spend forever enthusiastically filling me in on the smallest details of what had just transpired on the field.
Soon enough the grin would dissolve into a smile; and, my god, what a smile it was! He had a killer smile, one that caused me to shudder whenever he bestowed it on me.
That was the first thing that attracted me to him the previous fall when he and fifteen fellow undergraduates were assigned to one of the three sections I taught once a week in Professor Jeffords’s introductory American history course.
It was the way things were done at Harvard. Graduate students like me provided a more personal touch in our weekly sections while Professor Jeffords lectured twice a week; if you could call it lecturing, of course.
Entertained was probably a better word for it; a back and forth in which the man forced the students to engage with him and to actually learn something from it in the process.
Like his fellow students, Paul couldn’t resist Professor Jeffords’ sense of humor. Whenever the waves of laughter rolled through the classroom, which was quite often indeed, I would look over at Paul and like what I saw.
His face drew you in at all times, but it was especially hard to resist when he was laughing, smiling, or grinning.
The eyes blue and perfectly accented by sandy brown eyelashes, the same color as the mop of hair that perpetually threatened to engulf his face. His skin was beautiful, fair and well-tanned; the nose perfectly centered and just right, neither too large nor too small for the face.
And those lips, those incredible lips of his; so inviting and yet so tight when he wasn’t smiling, as if concealing some secret. It was frustrating not being able to kiss those lips.
To me Paul was the embodiment of the all American boy and like the all American boy there was something genuinely wholesome about him as well. Unlike me, he always seemed honest, straightforward, and genuine; never dark, twisted or deviant like I knew I could be at times
He sported the wholesome look of someone who had spent a great deal of time outdoors back in Oregon, which is where he was from. I knew he was from Oregon because I had taken the time to check his records to find out everything I could about him.
What more can I say? Paul was athletic and ruggedly masculine and he liked being outdoors with the sun shining down on him as if paying tribute to his beauty. Like a flower, he flourished in the sun.
I liked being outdoors as well. Sometimes the two of us walked down to the Charles River and talked more after one of my tutorials. But I was less wholesome than Paul.
I was a homosexual.
I had known I was attracted to boys for a long time, but I had never actually had sex with a boy and I had worked very hard to control that impulse at Harvard. I liked teaching and interacting with young men. That was why I had eagerly sought a position as a resident tutor at Winthrop House when Professor Jeffords mentioned it to me.
But the House Master had apparently been less impressed with whatever talents, skills and abilities I possessed. In the end, he only offered me a non-resident tutorship.
I had accepted nonetheless and spent a lot of my time at the house during what I knew would be my last year at Harvard. I was determined to finish my dissertation and take my oral examination in 1973. It was a lot of work and spending time with the boys at Winthrop took the edge off of all the frustrations and tensions that came with being a graduate student at Harvard.
Until I met Paul I was convinced I had my attraction for boys well under control. Not living at Winthrop, most of my interaction with them came in the dining room at lunch or dinner; or from the small tutorials held in my office with five or six students at most, not all of them from Winthrop either.
Not being alone with the boys helped. It meant I had to control my urge to flirt; and the boys at Winthrop had a reputation as athletes, of course. Everyone knew it was the jock house on campus, perhaps part of the attraction for me. But that alone made it imperative to keep my less noble instincts intact.
They wouldn’t have liked me if they knew the secret I was concealing from them.
But then I had met Paul and everything became harder because it was so obvious I liked him. Not just liked him; that I was sexually attracted to him in a way I had never been attracted to anyone so powerfully before in my life.
I didn’t know he lived in Winthrop at the beginning of the fall semester. I had never run into him at lunch or dinner early on. I was certain of that. If I had, I would have remembered; would have deliberately found some way to join him and whatever students he was sitting with.
Instead, I had met him first as a student in the large introductory American history course Professor Jeffords offered in the fall; then recommended him for the much smaller and more exclusive Civil War seminar Professor Jeffords offered in the spring.
I had known I was attracted to him from the first moment we met and made a special effort to insure he was assigned to my section the previous fall. That he was also an excellent student, one genuinely interested in the subject, was a bonus.
Later, when I learned he was a resident of Winthrop, I had taken the time to figure out when he took lunch and dinner so that I could casually appear at the same time and join him and his friends.
But I had skipped dinner this evening. I was a bit ashamed of the little fraud I had perpetrated on Paul. I had known how he would react to my original grade and that I would eventually change it as well. But the reason for the fraud had been genuine enough; at least I thought it was.
I genuinely wanted him to think about his paper some more. It was good; very good.
But was that all there was to it I asked myself walking across campus?
Of course not, Lane; don’t try to fool yourself. You know the answer to that.
Entering Conant Hall, I ran into Ken. He was on his way out, probably on his way over to Radcliffe, but we were best friends so we stopped and exchanged greetings.
“How’s it going, Lane?” he asked.
“Good,” I replied. “I’m just back from discussing a paper with my brightest student.”
“Our discussion was quite stimulating,” I added, amused now as I felt myself beginning to harden just thinking about Paul.
If Ken knew just how stimulated I was, he would have been disgusted with me. He was a straight arrow, so much so there were times when I wondered whether he even knew homosexuals existed. If he did, they were definitely not something he would have had much sympathy for.
“I’m glad someone around here has conversations with undergraduates that are stimulating,” he replied. “Mine are almost entirely focused on grades and how unfair my grading is.”
“We did some of that as well,” I said, trying to reassure him.
“Glad to hear it,” Ken responded. “I was beginning to wonder whether I’m the only Teaching Fellow around this place who gets complaints all the time about grades.”
“You’re not,” I reassured him again. “I guess there’s just so much pressure on Harvard undergraduates. Here they are after all, going to the best college in America and having to compete with other students who were the best in their high school classes as well. The pressure on them to excel is hard to imagine.”
“Or maybe all of them are little whiners who’ve been given everything all their lives,” Ken responded. “I don’t see why we have to indulge them. There are far too many A and B grades handed out at this place if you ask me. I don’t remember ever questioning a teacher about a grade when I was at the University of Florida. Did you when you were going to Middlebury?”
“No,” I responded. “I didn’t. But then I imagine both of us pretty much got top grades back then. We wouldn’t be here as graduate students otherwise, would we?”
“No, we wouldn’t,” he agreed. “But I’m willing to bet we actually earned those grades as well.”
It wasn’t that Ken considered himself smarter than everyone else like so many of the rest of the graduate students I knew. He just had a hard time putting himself in the shoes of others.
“Maybe we deserved them and maybe we didn’t,” I replied. “But if you’re going to end up teaching, you better get used to students complaining about grades.”
“Speaking of teaching, how’s the job hunt coming, Lane?” Ken asked.
“Not well,” I responded. “I must have submitted my resume to ten or fifteen colleges by now, but I’ve only gotten invitations to interview at two; and neither of those went well I’m afraid. I just don’t seem to be very good when it comes to job interviews.”
“Plus they were for non-tenure track positions,” I added. “That was disappointing. We seem to be leaving Harvard at the very moment when the bottom is falling out of the teaching market, at least at the college level. Whatever the case may be, I’m down to one lead at the moment; a possible research position working for some fellow who works at the Library of Congress in Washington.”
“That sounds like it could be interesting,” Ken said. “At least you wouldn’t have to put up with students complaining about grades all the time.”
“Unlike you, Ken, I actually like teaching,” I responded.
“I know,” he replied, nodding his head. “You’re different from the rest of us that way; commendably so I’ll confess, but personally I’d jump at a research position. What’s the one you’re interviewing for all about?”
“I don’t really know,” I responded; “which is probably just as well in a way. It means I don’t have to spend the next week trying to prepare for the thing. I’m just going to wing it.”
“Well, whatever you do, let me know how it goes,” Ken said. “I had an interview at the University of Maryland about a month ago; not the main campus, the one in College Park. They’ve opened a new campus in Baltimore County. They’re trying to beef up their quantitative analysis capabilities, which apparently are pretty dismal.”
“Who knows?” he added. “If everything works out, we could end up in the same general area.”
“Maybe,” I responded. “In any event, I didn’t mean to delay you. I have a pretty good idea where you’re headed.”
He smiled at me.
“I bet you do. You should come along with me one of these days, Lane. A little female companionship would smooth out those rough social edges of yours.”
“But where would someone like you be if that happened, Ken?” I asked. “Without socially inept people like me, how would the girls at Radcliffe know how to focus their attention on guys like you?”
“You may have a point,” he added, smiling a bit too smugly.
With that I turned and headed up the stairs to my room. Closing the door, I quickly stripped off my clothes and lay down on the bed. Soon enough I found my thoughts turning to Paul again; this time much less nobly, however.
It was only a matter of moments before he was providing the relief I needed, at least in my imagination.
Enjoy it, Lane, I said to myself.
You’ll be ashamed of yourself in the morning for fantasizing about Paul while you masturbate.
Both of us know that.
But knowing I’d be ashamed didn’t change anything. I just closed my eyes and allowed my mind to focus on Paul, his body rugged and chiseled in a boyish way, his face so beautiful and now grinning at me from above.
Thinking about him kissing me, making love to me, only made the experience that much more powerful for me.
Oh, Jesus, yes! Do it to me, Paul; harder, faster!
I love it when you do it to me.
Oh, oh … yes!