Chapter 02

First Love, First Time

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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.

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 or fictional places 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’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so.

FIRST LOVE, FIRST TIME

Part 1 – Lane’s Story

Chapter 2

Still feeling guilty about my session with Paul and what I had done once it was over, I deliberately avoided Winthrop the next day. But now it was Friday evening. Realizing I’d be spending the weekend alone in my room or at Widener Library, I made my way to the house to have dinner there.

It wasn’t much of a social life, but it was better than nothing.

I had timed my arrival in the dining hall perfectly. Paul and several of his friends were sitting at a table off in one corner. Quickly filling a tray, I wandered in their general direction. Pretending to be surprised when they signaled for me to join them, I quickly did so and thanked them for the invitation.

I knew the three other boys at the table with Paul fairly well. Mark Simmons was a respected member of the Harvard football team and a good student; popular with just about everyone, especially the girls at Radcliffe, he had a reputation for being a campus lothario although he was too much of a gentleman to ever talk about the girls he dated.

Bill Emerson was legendary for the practical jokes he liked playing on his peers, but was also an excellent student. Although he loved playing the clown, he was into serious acting as well. You could usually find him performing in the different theater productions held throughout the school year.

I liked both Mark and Bill very much.

And then there was Anderson Blair, someone I had never taken a fancy to. His parents were reputed to be major donors and Anderson himself a legacy. He was also one of three boys who shared a suite with Paul.

Having joined them, it quickly became apparent they were discussing their plans for the weekend. Mark had a date and plans to take in a movie with one of the many young ladies he dated from Radcliffe. To my surprise, the other three seemed as adrift as me. They were trying out different possibilities on one another, but nothing seemed especially compelling to them.

Maybe you’re not the only one, Lane, I recall thinking. Maybe even the undergraduates find themselves bored on the weekends in Cambridge.

I remained silent as the conversation drifted in one direction, then another. Across the way I spotted Tim Reardon, a student I had tutored the previous semester. He seemed to be trying to find somewhere to sit.

“Would you like to join us, Tim?” I asked as he passed by.

He looked down at me, then around at the rest of the group I was sitting with.

“Thanks,” he said, nervously, “but I’ll pass. I have to be somewhere soon.”

“The men’s room at Lamont presumably,” Anderson interjected.

“What did you say?” Tim asked, startled.

“I was just thinking you probably had an appointment at the men’s room in Lamont library,” Anderson repeated, smirking in an especially nasty way.

“No,” Tim responded, grimacing visibly and then walking quickly away.

“Thank God,” Anderson said. “I would have had to leave if he accepted that invitation. I can’t believe you asked him to join us, Lane.”

“Why?” I replied, confused.

“You don’t know?” he responded.

“Know what?”

“That Tim’s a pervert?”

I remember being shocked, partly because the idea itself seemed unlikely but even more because of the word Anderson had used to describe Tim. Looking around the table, I noticed Bill rolling his eyes while Mark coughed and Paul looked away. The three of them were obviously embarrassed by what Anderson had said.

Let it go, Lane, a voice whispered.

Even though I wasn’t happy being homosexual, something about the way Anderson had said it bothered me. He was deliberately trying to be cruel and I decided to call him on it.

“Pervert is a rather harsh word, don’t you think?” I said, trying to conceal how irritated I was.

“Maybe,” Anderson replied, shrugging his shoulders, “but an entirely accurate one in this case. That dude is as queer as a three dollar bill. Everyone knows that; except you apparently, Lane. Pervert is exactly the right word for someone like him.”

I remember being even more annoyed and wondering again whether I should drop the matter; and yet something about Anderson made it difficult for me to let go.

“You’re right,” I said. “I don’t know whether Tim is homosexual and it’s none of my business in any event. Even if he is, I don’t see how that justifies using that particular word. Calling him a pervert is cruel; it’s designed to hurt and implies there’s something wrong with him. While homosexuals may be different, that doesn’t mean they’re perverted or evil.”

“You’re kidding,” Anderson replied, staring at me intently. “I realize Harvard is just a gigantic cesspool of liberalism, but homosexuality is so . . . so . . . unnatural. I can’t imagine anyone defending something that sickening.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why does it bother you so much?”

“It just does,” he retorted, shrugging his shoulders. “It’s a sin for one thing, one condemned by the Bible.”

“The Bible condemns a lot of things, Anderson,” I replied, “including that ham sandwich I saw you eating at lunch the other day. The Bible says Methuselah was 969 years old when he died. Do you believe everything you read in the Bible?”

That caused Bill to giggle and Mark to smile.

“I hardly think a bunch of two thousand year old stories are the final word when it comes to right and wrong,” I added, encouraged by their response.

“The Bible is the word of God,” Anderson countered, “at least it was the last time I checked. It’s the only solid foundation we have for our judgments of right and wrong. I know that’s not the received wisdom here at Harvard, but the Bible carries more weight with me than the opinion of some Teaching Fellow trying to show how politically daring he can be.”

“Not that I believe in God necessarily,” I responded, ignoring his insult, “but wouldn’t God be all powerful, loving, and good if he did exist?”

“Of course,” Anderson said.

“Then why would God create homosexuals if they were somehow as morally deformed as you seem to believe?”

“God doesn’t create homosexuals,” Anderson responded. “He creates human beings and gives them free will, but some people abuse it by choosing to become homosexuals so they can go against nature.”

“Be serious, Anderson,” I replied. “When did you choose to be heterosexual using that free will of yours? Was it a long, difficult, debate for you or simply a mindless choice?”

That caused Bill to laugh and Mark to smile again, encouraging me.

“People don’t choose their sexuality any more than they choose their skin color,” I added. “I realize a lot of people still hate African Americans for the color of their skin, but I doubt most students here are racists like that; at least I hope not.”

“That being the case, I would also hope they’re not bigots either; that most of your peers recognize homosexuals don’t have a choice in the matter and shouldn’t be condemned for something they have no control over.”

“This conversation is way over my head,” Mark interjected, “but I’m not sure skin color and sexuality are exactly similar, Lane. Your skin color, eye color, and hair color are determined by your genetic makeup. Do we know for sure sexuality is genetically fixed in precisely the same way?”

“Exactly,” Anderson said, nodding his head. “It’s a choice; and even if it wasn’t, a homosexual doesn’t have to have sex with someone after all. They can control their depraved urges if they try. They just don’t want to.”

“No one has to have sex,” Bill interjected, “but most people seem to like doing the deed; at least that’s what I’ve surmised from the world’s ever increasing population.”

“Look around this dining hall, Anderson,” Bill continued. “Every guy in here is trying to figure out how to get off tonight. If two guys want to have sex, I don’t see how that’s a problem for me. It’s not what I’m into; but like the song says, different strokes for different folks.”

“I can’t believe you said that,” Anderson responded, shaking his head. “I can understand some graduate student taking an extreme position like that. Everyone knows graduate students live in a different universe. But normal people like us don’t buy shit like that. Do they, Paul?”

“Uh, well, I don’t know,” Paul replied, hesitating. “It’s something I’d have to think about more, but I do think calling Tim a pervert was pretty harsh. I have too many failings myself to pass judgment on others.”

Both Mark and Bill nodded their heads in agreement.

“That figures,” Anderson said, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “First we have all the crazy liberals defending homosexuals; and then perfectly sane people like you, Paul. Why do so many people at this place feel compelled to go along with that kind of nonsense? I guess it’s only the rest of us who know the truth; and the truth is homosexuals are perverts.”

By now I was becoming more and more irritated.

“You wouldn’t know the truth if it was staring you in the face, Anderson,” I interjected, “but then again you’ve never been an exceptional student from what I’ve heard.”

He was flustered by my response and I was embarrassed. I had found his arguments so weak and annoying I had given into my instinct to just slap him down for spouting such foolishness.

“I’m sorry,” I added. “I shouldn’t have said that. That was a personal attack, every bit as unwarranted as your attack on Tim. It’s important to keep discussions like this on an intellectual plane; to explore the different arguments and see which of them have merit.”

“Yeah, well, it’s your opinion against mine,” Anderson responded, shrugging his shoulders. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I don’t like homosexuals. They’re creepy; at least they’re creepy to me and most people. But feel free to defend creepy people if that’s what you want to do, Lane.”

By now I realized everyone around the table wanted the conversation to move on. It was an entirely unsatisfactory ending, but I should have known better than to pursue it in the first place. There was no way someone like Anderson would ever be persuaded. Like most people, he considered homosexuality a choice.

He didn’t have a clue how impossible it was for someone like me to change who they were attracted to even though I had tried my hardest for years and still found it difficult accepting my homosexuality.

And yet I was glad I had called him out despite the unsatisfactory ending. In the future, perhaps he would be less inclined to attack someone different from him. Perhaps Paul, Mark and Bill would be encouraged to think about all of this more carefully; at least I hoped they would.

Within a few moments we were finished with dinner and each of us headed off for the weekend.

****

As I headed north through the Yard, I remember being depressed and not just by my failure to persuade Anderson he was wrong.

I would be spending the weekend by myself in my room at Conant like I always did. That alone would have made me depressed.

Being a single, it was a small room, drab and cramped, with little space for much except a twin bed, a clothes bureau, a small desk and folding chair, and the bookcases I had made from old boards and concrete cinder blocks and filled the remaining space with.

The aging concrete walls and linoleum tile flooring added to the charm of the place.

Despite that, I enjoyed the privacy that came with living alone. I had shared a room with a fellow graduate student in Perkins Hall across the street my first two years. He was a pompous ass and I had eagerly accepted when offered the chance to move to Conant.

As a Teaching Fellow, my income was limited, but a couple of months earlier I had splurged on myself by purchasing a tiny black and white portable television set with twin antennas that did a pretty good job picking up the Boston channels, especially late in the evening. Although a luxury, it helped ease the boredom when I needed a break from studying.

I can’t recall what I was watching after returning to my room, but sometime around 10:00 p.m. I heard a gentle knock on the door and wondered who it could be.

Normally I would have guessed Ken because he was the only graduate student I considered a friend, certainly the only one interested enough to stop by to see me. But these days Ken was spending most of his time over at the Radcliffe compound where his girlfriend resided. At this hour on a Friday evening, I was pretty certain it wasn’t him.

Jumping off my bed, I walked to the door.

“Who is it?” I asked.

There was a muffled response I couldn’t make out. Opening the door, I was startled.

“Paul,” I said. “What a pleasant surprise. But how did you know where . . .”

“One of the resident tutors at Winthrop mentioned you lived in Conant Hall last fall when I asked,” Paul responded before I could even finish the sentence. “He was surprised at the amount of time you spent at the house given how far away this place is. That’s how I knew where to come; once I got here, I just asked the first person I ran into and he pointed me to your room.”

“I see,” I replied. “Uh, well, that was very enterprising of you. I wasn’t expecting anyone, especially at this hour, but come in.”

“No one ever comes here so excuse the mess,” I added, quickly surveying the room and trying to tidy up the few things that seemed out of place.

I didn’t want Paul to think I was a sloppy person.

“Why don’t you sit here,” I said, leading him over to the folding chair in front of my desk. “Or perhaps I should sit here and let you sit on the bed since that’s more comfortable?”

“This is fine,” he said, sitting down in the chair.

“This place is small,” he added, surveying the room. “It’s smaller than mine, but I also have the common area I share with my roommates.”

“It is small,” I replied, smiling. “Most of the rooms in Conant are doubles. I was on a waiting list for two years before this single became available, but I was happy to exchange space for privacy.”

“But that’s neither here nor there,” I quickly added, not wanting to bore Paul to death. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Several reasons,” Paul responded. “I, uh . . . I want to apologize to you for a couple of things; first off, for questioning that grade on my history paper. I shouldn’t have done that. And then after dinner this evening I got to thinking about the conversation the five of us had. I was ashamed of myself for not coming to Tim’s defense like you did and want to apologize for that as well.”

“You don’t have to apologize, Paul,” I said; “certainly not for questioning the grade since it was so obviously the wrong grade. I was deliberately trying to provoke you so we could have the discussion we did. I was trying to emulate Professor Jeffords and probably didn’t do a very good job of it.”

“No; you did,” Paul responded. “Later on, when I realized what you were doing, I recall thinking Professor Jeffords has found an excellent disciple in you. It’s nice to have teachers who are actually interested in us as people.”

“That’s very kind of you, Paul” I replied. “As for what happened earlier tonight, I was pretty stunned by Anderson’s choice of words so it’s not surprising you, Bill and Mark would have difficulty knowing how to respond to something like that. I wondered whether I should say anything myself.”

“But that’s the point,” Paul said. “You did speak up for Tim and I realize now I should have as well. I’m sorry I didn’t. I, uh . . . I allowed myself to be intimidated by Anderson. He has some pretty strong views about things and can get fairly intense at times.”

“I understand,” I replied, trying to reassure him. “It’s not your fault; and I’ve been known to have some strong views myself. I probably should have ignored the whole thing.”

“No; I’m glad you stood up to him,” Paul said. “Anderson is used to winning arguments by silencing everyone with the obnoxiousness with which he expresses his views. He likes bullying people into agreeing with him. But you didn’t let him do that; and, uh . . . the way you stood up to him reminded me again why I admire you so much.”

“Well, thank you very much, Paul,” I replied, embarrassed now because I realized belatedly how poorly I had made my case.

“And just thinking about that also reminded me you’ll be graduating soon and I’ve never really thanked you for all the help you’ve given me this year,” Paul continued.

“My junior year has been the best of my three at Harvard and most of that has to do with Professor Jeffords and you. The two of you have forced me to think in a way I’ve never had to do before in my life; and while that’s been scary in some ways, it’s helped me to understand myself better.”

“But even beyond forcing me to think, the personal interest you’ve shown in me has been pretty unbelievable, Lane. Up until this year I felt really isolated and alone at Harvard; like no one around this place cared about me as a human being. That changed this year because of you.”

“Unlike my other teaching fellows, you’ve treated me like an adult. You’ve been there for me whenever I wanted to talk about something. You’ve shown an interest in me outside the classroom. People are amazed when I tell them you’ve taken in almost all of my lacrosse games.”

“On top of that, we seem to share a lot in common, including a fondness for being outdoors. The bottom line is it’s going to be tough not having you around next year. I feel like I’ve grown and matured incredibly this year because of you; and I’m going to miss you. I’m going to miss you a lot.”

I was surprised to hear all of this. Paul had always seemed popular with his peers to me and he seemed to have many friends; certainly far more than I did.

More to the point, I had never had a student tell me something like that and was moved by his words. That I could have had that kind of impact on a student was hard to believe; and yet there was a part of me that was ashamed as well because I knew much of the time I had spent with Paul was rooted in something far less worthy of the praise he had given me.

“I don’t know what to say, Paul,” I finally responded, struggling to find the right words. “There have been times these last five years when I’ve wondered whether I made a mistake coming to Harvard. What you just said erased all those doubts. And I’m going to miss you as well; more than you’ll ever imagine.”

It was an awkward moment, at least for me; and I remember being glad when Paul finally spoke up again.

“But, uh, I had another reason for coming here as well,” he said. “It’s about something you said during the conversation that got me thinking. I don’t want to impose, but I was wondering whether we could talk about it?”

“Of course,” I responded. “You’re not imposing at all. I always enjoy talking with you, Paul. What’s on your mind?”

“Uh, well, at one point you said, at least I think you said . . . or maybe you just implied it . . . but you said something that made me wonder whether you believe in God; and, uh . . . I was wondering whether that’s true or whether you were just exaggerating to make your point?”

“I’m not sure,” I said, trying to evade the question. “Did I offend you? If so, I apologize; ordinarily I avoid discussing religion with people. Doing that usually causes too many problems.”

“No, I wasn’t offended,” Paul replied. “Maybe I should have been because I’m Catholic, but I was more surprised than anything else to hear you say that.”

“Well, you may be even more surprised to know I was raised Catholic as well,” I responded. “Not that I’ve been to church in years. I haven’t been since I was a freshman in college; except when I go home, of course. I go to church when I’m home to make my mother happy. She’s quite religious and would be disappointed with me if I didn’t”

“It’s funny you say that,” Paul replied. “I do the same thing. I haven’t been to church very much since I was a freshman at Harvard, but I always go dutifully when I’m back home in Oregon. That’s another thing we share in common. But up until now I still kind of believed in God. Given what you said, I wonder if I’m just clinging to some kind of childish foolishness?”

“You shouldn’t let anything I said change your mind, Paul,” I responded. “I’m a historian, not a theologian. My views on religion are just that; the opinions of someone who’s never studied the subject.”

“I understand,” Paul said. “But I take your views seriously, just like Professor Jeffords does. I mean, the way he uses you as a foil in class to get a discussion going when none of the rest of us want to volunteer an opinion. He respects your views and so do I. That’s why I’d like to know whether you believe in God?”

“If pressed, I guess I would say I’m an agnostic, Paul, not an atheist,” I replied. “I don’t know whether God exists. But I’m inclined to think not; at least not the kind of personal God who takes an interest in everything we do as human beings, which is the kind of God most people want to believe in and probably the only kind of God that matters for all practical purposes.”

“What about Jesus?” Paul asked. “You’re a historian. Are you telling me he didn’t exist?”

“No; I suspect Jesus existed and was likely crucified by the Romans,” I said. “Did Jesus rise from the dead three days later and then ascend to Heaven eventually? That part of the story seems implausible to me.”

“I see,” Paul responded, nodding his head; though it was hard to know whether he was agreeing with me or just indicating he understood what I was saying.

“But like I said, Paul, I’m not a theologian or a religious historian so what I think isn’t important in the scheme of things. What’s important is what you think. That’s something I’d like to know; assuming that’s not too personal a question, of course.”

“The thing I worry about is whether we could ever have any basis for making moral judgments if God didn’t exist?” he replied. “That’s the only part of Anderson’s argument that made any sense to me.”

“If there’s no God, then it’s all just a matter of personal opinion, isn’t it? Anderson believes homosexuality is wrong. You don’t. But without an authoritative view from God, what difference does it make? Everyone has to decide for himself.”

By now it was becoming clearer why Paul had come to see me. That made me uncomfortable because he was raising something I wasn’t certain I could offer much guidance on. And yet what choice did I have?

It was obviously troubling him and I was the person who had raised the issue in the first place; as such, I didn’t have much choice except to engage with him, no matter how ill prepared I was.

“Why does not believing in God invalidate all of our moral judgments?” I asked. “Wouldn’t murder still be wrong even if God doesn’t exist?”

“I don’t know,” Paul responded, challenging me. “Where does the prohibition on murder come from? I assume it originates in the Ten Commandments; thou shall not kill we’re taught. But if God doesn’t exist, what validity do the Ten Commandments have?”

“I see your point,” I said. “But murder was considered wrong long before the Ten Commandments appeared in the Bible. It seems to be considered wrong in every culture, even those not rooted in Christian traditions.”

“But what difference does that make?” Paul said. “It’s considered wrong in other cultures because it’s seen as a violation of God’s laws, even if the God in question isn’t a Christian God.”

“I’m not sure about that,” I said; “but even if you’re right, I still don’t see why murder becomes a matter of personal opinion just because there’s no God. In the end, human beings end up having to interpret God’s meaning. God may have said thou shall not kill, but human beings have come up with lots of exceptions to that.”

“We don’t consider killing in war or self-defense wrong,” I continued. “How did those exceptions arise? It’s not because God told us, but because human beings used their reasoning powers to develop them; and if we can use those powers to make exceptions to God’s rules or to interpret them, why can’t we use them to come up with rules not based in religious tradition at all?”

“But they would still be just opinions,” Paul responded, pressing his point. “I mean, Hitler didn’t consider murdering the Jews wrong; nor did all the Germans who participated in those killings.”

“There will always be those with different viewpoints, Paul,” I said, “but civilization as a whole didn’t consider the murder of the Jews a matter of opinion. They judged it wrong and condemned those who carried out the Holocaust following World War II.”

“But that’s only because they won the war,” Paul retorted. “If Hitler had won, we’d be living in a world where killing Jews was considered perfectly acceptable. Only God can provide an objective basis for right or wrong.”

I remember wondering whether I had taught Paul too well. He seemed to be eviscerating me in the discussion we were having.

“I don’t agree with that, Paul,” I countered. “Look at slavery, for example. At the time of the Civil War all those good Christian people you studied in your paper believed the Bible justified slavery; that God had designed slavery as a means for the advancement of the human race.”

“So even if one concedes the existence of God there will always be arguments over exactly what God believes is right and wrong. Positing the existence of God doesn’t resolve the problem you’re worried about, which is how do we objectively determine whether something is right or wrong?”

“To put it another way, you’re looking for an easy way out, Paul,” I added. “You’re looking for a set of rules that’ll tell you what’s right and wrong; that makes it possible for you to hold opinions without having to think about them.”

“Maybe I am,” Paul conceded. “What’s wrong with that? Why does everything have to be so complicated in life?”

“We find ways of simplifying them, Paul,” I responded. “They may not be perfect, but they’re good enough in most cases. Take the golden rule, for example; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I doubt Hitler could make a case for his treatment of the Jews using the golden rule.”

“But why should he have to?” Paul asked. “If there’s no God, why can’t he just make up his own rules?”

“He can and he did,” I replied; “and he did so in spite of the fact that the Germans were a religious people who believed in God. But civilized people called him on it. They said the rules you invented aren’t just wrong; they’re evil. And they fought a war because they knew Hitler was wrong.”

“I don’t know,” Paul said, shaking his head. “I’m not trying to be difficult, but in the real world there are lots of things that aren’t as clear cut as the Holocaust or slavery. Is it just majority opinion that decides? If that’s the case, I guess Anderson must be right because most people think homosexuality is wrong.”

“Do you think Anderson is right?” I countered.

“I don’t know,” Paul responded, suddenly standing up and pacing back and forth across my room.

He was agitated now; clearly bothered by our discussion.

“What am I supposed to think except that it’s wrong?” he added. “Everyone says it is.”

“This is why we have brains, Paul,” I replied, “whether given to us by God or by some mysterious evolutionary process we don’t fully understand. But we have brains and we’re supposed to use them to think about problems like this. Perhaps you should take a course with Professor Rawls in the Philosophy Department.”

“I took several courses with him when I first got to Harvard,” I added. “Like Professor Jeffords, the man is brilliant. He could certainly do a much better job than me in helping you work through an issue like this.”

“Thanks,” Paul said. “I’m planning to take his introductory ethics course next fall. I’ve held off up until now because I felt like I wasn’t smart enough to take a course like that.”

“You should,” I said, encouraging him. “It’s not an easy course and it may leave you with more questions than answers, just like our conversation this evening. But you’re certainly smart enough, Paul. You’re the smartest student I’ve had in my years teaching at Harvard; and smart people know a world without questions would be a very sad world indeed.”

“Socrates liked to say the only thing he knew was that he knew nothing at all because knowing nothing meant he got to spend his life conversing with young men like you every day trying to discover the truth. Was that a great life or what?”

“I guess,” Paul said. “But sometimes not knowing the answers can be frustrating, at least for me.”

“Understood,” I replied. “But think how frustrating it would be to have all the answers like Anderson and have nothing to think about. It’s not a good thing for a student; or for a wannabe history teacher either.”

****

We talked back and forth like that for a long time. Finally, given the lateness of the hour, Paul apologized again for bothering me and took his leave. It was well after 2:00 a.m. when he did.

Walking him down the stairs and out the door, I turned and looked at him.

“I’m glad you stopped by this evening, Paul. I wish I could have answered your questions better, but this is the best Friday evening I’ve spent in a long time and it’s all because of you. I hope we can do it again.”

“Me too,” Paul said.

And then, to my surprise, he stepped forward, hugged me and then quickly turned around and walked away. Stunned by his gesture, I just stood there watching as he retreated into the distance.

Returning to my room, I spent much of the next hour replaying our conversation in my head. I remember being upset about how poorly I had done addressing his concerns. But mostly I recall thinking how much I liked Paul and would miss him once I graduated.

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8 thoughts on “Chapter 02

  1. I’m beginning to think you are an agnostic. This was an interesting chapter, the question one could draw is there really is no answer to life’s questions unless one adheres to a philosophy that can answer their questions. Whether that philosophy is correct or not isn’t a factor in the discussion.

    1. I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, calvin, so I’ll have to think about that some more. But thanks for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed the chapter.

      Of course, he didn’t actually say he enjoyed it, Kit, only that he found it interesting.

      True enough, but that’s good enough for me for tonight. It gives me something to fall asleep thinking about 😀

  2. A very good chapter indeed. I think you have the feeling of the times down pat. I lived them and it was not an easy existence if you were undecided about how you wanted to live your life. Keep the faith and hopefully there are lots of readers out there that will get to this story sooner of latter.

    1. I doubt it’s possible to ever capture an era completely because there are so many different stories one could tell; so many different stories people lived. I always thought Harper Lee captured what it was like to live in a small town in the American South back in the 1930s, but America is a big country, of course, so she wasn’t capturing it all in To Kill A Mockingbird.

      But, wow, she really captured the part she did capture well.

      In any event, thanks for taking the time to comment, Captain. I’ll keep at it.

  3. Kit, I’m already liking this story very much. If I were in Lane’s shoes I wonder if I would behave so honorably. I suppose that may not continue for long but it quickly earned my admiration. Your protagonists are usually honorable, strong of character, even heroic. I expect we’ll come to think of Lane and Paul in the same way while Anderson will push our buttons and make us angry. Meanwhile, the philosophical wrestling is engaging. All in all, your readers are lucky benefactors of your affinity for writing and the affirming messages with which you minister to this flock. Thank you for both.
    Dean

    1. Thanks, Dean. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

      Though I wonder if Lane is being honorable or is just too afraid to reveal to anyone, including Paul, that he’s a homosexual? It is 1973 after all. From what I’ve been told, most homosexuals back then were quite circumspect about their sexuality.

      Or perhaps there is some other reasonable entirely he’s concealing the truth?

      Whatever the case, there are probably still a few surprises to be revealed in this story so we’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s definitely nice to see you back and reading. Tell your friends.

  4. Enjoyed Chapter 2. I can’t see that Lane would come out to Paul. Or anyone on campus unless he happened to come across them in an environment like a gay bar or somewhere else where it would be a common fact that one was gay. He could easily lose his job if found out. Hell, it still happens today. Only employers won’t say its because your gay that you are losing your job.

    1. All good points, m.b., and I appreciate having them. You’ll definitely be interested in my introduction to Chapter 4 when I finally get around to posting it next Monday, March 7.

      From the historical research I was able to do for this story, it’s clear there was an active adult scene known as the Combat Zone in downtown Boston in the 1960s and 1970s. The Combat Zone was the site of many strip clubs, peep shows, X-rated movie theaters, and adult bookstores. It also had a reputation for crime, including prostitution.

      One Boston Globe article from 1973 noted that “now it is almost 3 a.m. and the gay bars have closed and the fags and hookers and pimps and pushers roam the streets.” In a 1974 Boston Herald article the Combat Zone was referred to as “Satan’s playground” and “a malignancy comprised of pimps, prostitutes, erotica, and merchants of immorality.”

      From what we know of Lane, it doesn’t seem like the kind of place he would have visited. While Lane would been at risk in many ways if he came out, his intellectual recognition that he cannot control who he is attracted to seems no match for his fear of what others will think if they discover his secret.

      Not every gay person at the time would have felt the same way, of course. But many did and struggled to overcome the lack of self-esteem the larger society instilled in them.

      Some still do even today.

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