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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.
A loud scream from one of the residence halls across the Yard suddenly shattered the silence. Whether from too much to drink or the pressure of finals was hard to say, but someone was letting off steam and his cry quickly set off a round of responses from nearby residence halls.
Being interrupted like that in the middle of such a powerful memory was annoying, but eventually the cries died away and soon enough I found myself engulfed in silence again.
Wow! What a sad memory, Lane, I thought, trying to summon Billy again. But what’s the point?
Why are you thinking about Billy Reid all these years later?
I had been sad when Billy died. I liked him. We were teammates, but more than teammates we were friends and I was sorry we would never get to play baseball together again. My parents reassured me Billy was in Heaven and would probably be playing baseball with angels all the time now.
That had made me happy at the time because he liked playing baseball and was at least as good as me before he got sick; maybe even a little better for all I knew.
But he isn’t playing baseball all the time, is he, Lane? the inner voice volunteered. He’s just dead, isn’t he?
Not believing in God anymore made Billy’s death hard to swallow; and even if I was wrong about that and there was a God, I couldn’t understand why he would let someone innocent like Billy die at such a young age.
The whole thing seemed pointless.
You should visit Billy’s grave the next time you’re home, Lane. You haven’t been there since the funeral.
Realizing it was getting late, I started to stand up. That’s when the question suddenly occurred to me without warning.
Is that where it started, Lane? Is that why you had that memory?
It had been a long stroll down memory lane, but thinking about Billy had caused me to think about Bruce and now I wondered whether that’s where my mind had wanted to take me all along.
Sitting down again, I found it easy to recall his face; so good looking, so mesmerizing with that devilish smile of his. It was impossible to resist Bruce’s smile.
I was in awe of Bruce back then. To me he was everything any boy could ever want to be. It wasn’t just that he was a terrific athlete, one who excelled in every sport he played and he played all of them. But it was more than that.
Bruce was nice to everyone, not just Billy. You didn’t have to be someone special to be his friend. Bruce liked everyone and treated everyone exactly the way he wanted to be treated himself.
And, yes, now that I thought about it, he was good looking. More than good-looking, really; he was drop-dead cute. Like I said, it was the smile that attracted everyone to him in the first place. He had the best smile in the world and shared it with everyone, making you feel special in the process for having received it.
Thinking about it now all these years later, I realized we weren’t really close friends. He was three years older than me and there was no reason we should be.
But when we were together at our Little League games he took an interest in me. He would ask me how I was feeling and what was going on in my life and did I need any help with anything. He did that with everyone and everyone felt special because he did.
But there was that time at the lake, of course. That really was special.
I was fourteen and sitting on the hill overlooking the lake by myself, alone and depressed. I was debating whether to go home because the rest of the boys were keeping their distance from me and not having any friends was frustrating.
And then the next thing I knew Bruce was there, putting his towel down next to mine and joining me.
He could have sat next to anyone that day at the lake. He was popular with everyone and could have picked anyone; and yet just by sitting next to me, he made me feel special that day and that helped dissipate the gloominess I had been feeling for reasons I didn’t quite understand.
I don’t recall what we talked about if we talked about anything at all, but he spent the whole afternoon with me. We went swimming together; even dove off the diving board tower together and horsed around in the water liked boys usually did back in those days.
I had tried to pull down his swimsuit at one point, but he just laughed and pulled mine off instead.
But he wasn’t mean about it. He handed them back to me quickly before anyone even knew what had happened.
It was a fun afternoon, one of the last days I recall being pure fun in my life.
Drying ourselves off, I remember looking over at him. He was more muscular than me, better developed, and he had the perfect tan, the one everyone wanted.
I liked looking at Bruce and liked his body as well. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.
Was it sexual, Lane, I asked myself; an early hint you were homosexual and just didn’t quite understand that yet?
Is that why you tried to pull off his swimsuit?
I thought about that for a while. In the end, however, I didn’t think so.
I mean, sure, there were times when I would have liked hugging Bruce back then, but that was all; just hugging him. Bruce was someone I admired so much in so many ways. I don’t think I had sexual feelings for him, at least not feelings that were consciously sexual.
It was only later I realized I was sexually attracted to boys.
Or was it, Lane? Are you sure there wasn’t something sexual going on that day?
So there I was, alone in Harvard Yard and now back to my original questions.
Why was I homosexual? What caused it? When did it happen exactly?
I just sat there shaking my head. In the end, I didn’t know why; that’s what made the whole thing so frustrating.
If there was a God and he loved us and had made men and women because he wanted them to be fruitful and multiply, why had he made people like me who had no interest in doing that?
If God hated sin so much and being homosexual was a sin like everyone said, why had he made me homosexual; made anyone homosexual for that matter?
It didn’t seem fair.
At the beginning I told myself it must be part of God’s plan; that he must have something in mind for myself and people like me. What the plan was might not be clear, but there were things you had to take on faith everyone said, at least until God revealed himself.
If you were patient, they said, God’s purpose would be revealed in time.
But God had never revealed himself; never revealed why I was homosexual or why Billy had to die of leukemia for that matter. At some point I had begun to question whether there was a God after all.
Everyone said their relationship with God was the most important thing in their lives, at least they said that on Sunday.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t have any relationship with God. He never spoke to me personally. There was always some intermediary doing the speaking for God, whether a priest, a nun, my mother or someone else.
And how did they know what God wanted after all; not just wanted for everyone generally but for me specifically?
Sometimes they would talk about the Bible and I had actually read the whole Bible at one point early in college hoping it would reveal something important about God in the process. But a lot of what I read was nonsense; long recitations of someone begating someone else who begat someone else in turn; fathers willing to kill their sons if that’s what God wanted.
What kind of God created people like that?
There were a few stories that seemed to have a point. But the God that emerged from the Bible was a strange God indeed. He could be cantankerous and wrathful at times; at other times distant and uncaring.
And then at some point it occurred to me that perhaps there wasn’t a God after all. That perhaps God was an imaginary creature human beings devised because they needed a purpose in life and, perhaps more important, something to cling to that promised a better life in the future; indeed, life everlasting.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized there wasn’t any way to prove God existed; or didn’t exist for that matter. To be sure, people made all kinds of arguments, some better, some worse. But in the end you had to take the whole thing on faith and by now I didn’t have very much faith in some all loving, all just, all purposeful and forgiving God.
You just had to study history to see how many people had been slaughtered in the name of God. What kind of God would permit something like that? What kind of God would refuse to punish those who killed in his name?
I had never tried to impose my views on others. If a belief in God helped someone else get through the night, I was fine with it. I was different that way from Ken who was an atheist and couldn’t understand why people deluded themselves into believing in God. He liked challenging them whenever he could; shooting down their arguments and taunting them in the process.
And yet even Ken had made his own compromises. Amelia was a believer. She wanted to be married in a church by a priest; and because he loved her and wanted to marry her, Ken had agreed. They would be married by a priest the following morning in the church whose steps I was sitting on.
I remember smiling. I could have called him on that; rubbed his face in it. But I didn’t. Like I said, everyone is different and needed to find their own way in life. If believing in God and going to church helped others, so be it. But by now I realized it didn’t help me.
And yet the question remained. Why was I a homosexual? If anything, the whole thing seemed random.
I recall sighing and looking around the Yard. My silent companion across the way was still there on the steps of Widener.
I hope he made more progress solving whatever problem is troubling him than I did tonight, I said to myself.
Standing up, I took one final look around. Then I headed off toward Conant, this time choosing the longer route rather than the more direct one. Hopefully the walk would clear my head of all these troubling questions that could never be answered; all the memories, all the sadness I was feeling.
Walking toward Littauer Hall, which housed the Government Department back then, my thoughts drifted back to Paul. I was going to miss him, no doubt about it. I had enjoyed having him as a student. He was a serious student, a little intense at times, somewhat like me at the same age; but cuter, of course, so much cuter.
Having had lunch and dinner with him so often, I had gotten to know a lot about him this past year. And yet I had never been able to work up the courage to tell him how much he meant to me.
Maybe Paul was right after all. Maybe without a God who laid down the law about what was right and wrong, good and evil, everyone just had to decide for themselves. Oh, sure, there would be a few things everyone agreed on, or at least most people.
Killing people without a good reason would be considered wrong by just about everyone. But even then you had that qualification, of course; without a good reason. What was a good reason? Everyone would have to decide for themselves; or, more likely still, the law would spell it out for them.
But there were tons of laws after all and hardly anyone abided by all of them, of course. Most people might think homosexuality was wrong if for no other reason than the law said it was, but why should I care about what most people thought after all?
Ah, but there’s the irony, Lane; you do care, don’t you? You haven’t told anyone, have you? You haven’t told your parents, your colleagues, your friends like Ken and Amelia, or those you care about most like Paul.
Both of us know the answer, don’t we? You haven’t told them the truth because you think they won’t like you anymore, won’t respect you; or, worse still, will be repulsed by you even on the off chance they pretend it doesn’t matter.
Isn’t that right, Lane?
For the first time I began to realize I had internalized all the hatred for homosexuals that existed in the world; made it a part who I was as a person. I was letting others decide how I should live my life.
What kind of life is that, I thought to myself; always living in fear, always trying to please someone else?
And yet I also realized I wasn’t very brave at some level; that I had deliberately chosen to live in the shadows because I wanted others to like me.
Face it, Lane, you’re a coward; always have been, always will be.
I’m not sure exactly when, but at some point after passing Littauer on the way toward the Law School I sensed someone following me. I hadn’t noticed it in the Yard or even as I approached Littauer, but now glancing back I could see someone behind me, perhaps ten yards back.
Slowing down deliberately, I waited to see whether whoever it was would pass me. But he didn’t. As best I could tell, he just slowed down and adjusted his pace to mine.
I didn’t feel threatened. This was Harvard after all. I wasn’t concerned about being mugged or robbed. And yet I was confused and in my confusion I stopped abruptly, bent down as if I needed to tie my shoe, and waited to see what would happen.
He stopped when he reached me and just stood there without saying anything.
Looking up, I saw another young man about my height and perhaps just a bit younger than me. I wasn’t positive by any means, but it seemed to be the same person who been occupying the steps of Widener across the Yard from me.
Whatever the case, he was just standing there, staring down at me.
Standing up, I looked directly at him.
“Are you following me?” I asked, trying not to pose the question in a confrontational manner.
To be honest, I was more confused than anything; maybe I was misinterpreting the situation.
“Do you think I am?” he responded.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I just have the sense you’re following me.”
“Does that bother you?” he asked, refusing to answer the question directly and putting the burden back on me still again.
“It doesn’t bother me, I guess,” I finally responded. “I just don’t understand why. I don’t know you after all; at least I don’t think I know you.”
“Do you want to?” the fellow asked.
“Want to what?” I responded, uncertain what he was asking.
“Do you want to know me?”
By now I was more confused than ever.
“Why should I?” I asked.
“Oh, come on,” the guy responded, rolling his eyes. “Both of us know why you’re out here wandering around the campus at this hour on a Friday evening. You’re looking for the same thing as me.”
“I saw you sitting on the steps of Memorial Church having the same tired conversation with yourself that people like us always have. And I can see it in your eyes now; the same hunger I’m experiencing.”
“Don’t try to pretend you don’t know what this is about,” he continued. “I know why you’re out here and you do as well. Are you going to invite me back to your room or not?”
Hearing him say that surprised me.
How could it be so obvious to a stranger, someone I didn’t know, what I wanted and yet not obvious at all to the people who knew me best?
More to the point was his question.
“Why should I invite you back to my room?” I asked, stalling, still unwilling to concede he had pegged me correctly but unwilling to end our conversation.
That caused him to roll his eyes at me a second time and then shake his head.
“Look, I don’t have all night,” he said. “You have to decide. Either you want me to come back to your room or you don’t, but don’t pretend you don’t know why you’re out here wandering the campus at this time of night.”
Suddenly I realized he was right; not about why I was out at this hour but about who I was. He was right about that and I realized he was also right about one other thing.
I had to decide what I was going to do and had to decide right now. For all I knew, this might be the only chance I would ever have for a brief moment of happiness in life.
“If you want to come back to my room, I guess that would be okay,” I responded, shrugging my shoulders. “I live in Conant. We could talk, I suppose; get to know one another better.”
“Lead on,” he replied.
Turning right, I headed down the sidewalk toward Oxford Street. He didn’t say anything; just fell in line next to me. Soon enough we reached Conant. Climbing the stairs, I walked toward my room and opened the door. He followed me inside without hesitation.
Once inside, he closed and locked the door and quickly sized up the place. Then he stripped off his shirt, exposing his chest. There was nothing special about it, but I sensed he was waiting for me to respond to his gesture.
Reaching down, I started to unbutton my shirt, just very slowly. As slow as I was, however, it was off soon enough.
Walking over, he positioned himself directly in front of me.
“Now you can take off my pants,” he said.
Reaching over, I started to fiddle with the top button. Then I stopped.
“I can’t,” I said, looking at him. “I can’t do this.”
“Why?” he demanded to know.
“Uh, well, I don’t even know your name for one thing,” I said. “I thought we were going to talk and, uh, you know, get to know one another a little better before, uh . . . before . . .”
“Ron,” he responded. “My name is Ron. What’s yours?”
“Lane,” I said.
“Glad to meet you, Lane,” he replied, “but what’s there to talk about? You know why you invited me here and it wasn’t to talk. So are you planning to take off my pants or what?”
Fumbling slowly, I managed to open the button, unzip his pants and pull them down to the floor with his help.
“Now my briefs,” he commanded, and I could see they were concealing a bulge.
By now I was breathless; I couldn’t say anything, couldn’t do anything.
“Oh, never mind,” he said, pulling the briefs down himself and revealing what they concealed.
“You should do me first and then I’ll do you,” he said by way of explanation. “That way I can be certain you won’t chicken out. But you don’t have to worry; I’ll take care of you once you’ve done me.”
I didn’t say anything; didn’t do anything.
“Come on,” he added. “Down on your knees. You know this is what you want.”
I just stood there, frozen.
“Is this your first time, Lane?” he asked. “If so, you’ll enjoy it; it’s fun.”
Reaching over, he placed his hands on my shoulders and tried to guide me down to my knees. But I stepped back instead.
By now I realized he was right; knew that if I got down on my knees and did as he said I might have a good time, a very good time indeed. But for some reason I couldn’t do it.
“No,” I responded, “you’re wrong about me. This isn’t what I want. Not here, not like this; you’re wrong about that.”
He stared at me coldly. Finally, shrugging his shoulders, he quickly pulled on his clothes, turned and walked toward the door.
“You’re going to be sorry, you know,” he said. “Later tonight you’re going to be sorry you missed out on having some fun. You would have enjoyed it. I know it and you know it as well.”
Then he opened the door and walked out of my room.
For a moment I thought about running after him; telling him he was right, that I had made a mistake and wanted him to come back to my room.
But I didn’t.
Instead I collapsed on to the bed and began crying.
Soon enough I fell asleep.
It was only later when I woke up in the middle of the night drenched in the semen I had ejaculated involuntarily all over myself that I realized just how right he was.
I was sorry.
Not for missing an opportunity I would probably never have again.
I was sorry I had ever been born.
Graduation day arrived soon enough. Like many students, I would have preferred skipping the ceremony. You had to do it for your parents though. Knowing that and that I planned a career in teaching, I had even purchased my own robes.
Standing there in crimson and black, my parents were proud of me. No one in our family had ever received an advanced degree, let alone one from Harvard. In a small town like ours, it was a point of pride for them.
Having sold some of my things, stored others temporarily with acquaintances, and packed a few to take home, I found my way to Route 2 and headed west the next day. It was a drive I had taken many times. When I finally reached the beginning of the Mohawk Trail in Greenfield, I deliberately slowed my pace.
Knowing I wouldn’t be traveling this familiar route very much anymore, I wanted to take in the many beautiful views it offered. I wasn’t disappointed as the weather was excellent and the drive to the top of the mountains easy.
Beginning the descent to North Adams, I rounded the Hairpin Turn with its vistas of Mt. Greylock, the Taconic Mountains and the Hoosac Valley in the distance. As always, it was a breathtaking sight, but by now I was jaded and anxious to complete the final leg of my journey.
Soon enough I was home. I was planning to vegetate the next two weeks; to do absolutely nothing at all except sleep, eat the home cooked meals my mother was delighted to put before me, and go for an occasional swim even though it was still a bit early in the season for that.
As with the best of plans, mine soon fell apart. Within a matter of days I was bored. As I had known all along deep inside, there simply wasn’t very much to do in North Adams. At dinner one evening it occurred to me to raise the question.
“Do you remember Billy Reid, the boy I used to play baseball with in the Little League when I was growing up?” I asked my parents.
“Of course,” my mother responded, looking over at me; “such a sad story. Why do you ask?”
“I want to visit his grave while I’m home,” I said. “I don’t know why, but I was sitting in Harvard Yard a couple of weeks ago and suddenly recalled him for some reason. I promised myself I would visit his grave, but I don’t know where it is.”
“I do,” my father responded. “We can drive down there later this evening if you want.”
So that’s what we did; we drove to Southview Cemetery, one of several cemeteries in North Adams. It was a local joke that there were more dead people in the city than living ones, but by now, with population loss as young people fled in search of jobs, it was no longer a joke.
With a bit of effort my father was finally able to locate the marker for the Reid family. Getting out of the car, I stared down silently at the stone above his grave trying to visualize Billy again. But this time the only vision I could recollect was the one of him in the casket.
I was sorry about that. It wasn’t the way I wanted to remember him.
How are you doing, Billy? I silently asked.
Do you remember me; Lane Bailey?
It’s been a long time, Billy. I’m sorry I didn’t come to visit sooner.
It went on like that for several minutes as I tried to carry on a silent conversation with Billy. But there was no response from the ground as I stood there staring down at it and that made me angry.
Is it too big a problem to let the kid take a break from worshiping you and let him talk to me for a couple of moments?
We were friends. Maybe he’d like to talk to me for a change, not you.
Are you so desperate for love that you can’t give the kid a break and let him have a couple of minutes with me?
Eventually it was my father who broke the silence.
“That’s such a tragic story,” he said. “Billy was their only child and his parents took it hard. His mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was confined to her bedroom for weeks on end. She didn’t even attend the funeral. She never recovered either and she was dead within a year of Billy’s death.”
“His father took to drinking. He was a nice fellow, but when he drank he could get pretty morose. No one liked to be around him when he drank; and he drank a lot after Billy’s death. He also died fairly young.”
“So what’s the point?” I said, turning to face my father; “that one tragedy breeds another until it consumes everyone in its wake?”
“I don’t know what the point is,” my father replied. “Billy’s death always seemed pointless to me. But, then again, maybe the point was to remind us that life is precious and much too short. I know you and the rest of the boys took some kind of lesson from Billy’s death. I never saw you boys play harder than you did the rest of that summer; and it paid off too.”
“You won the championship for Billy. Don’t you remember?”
“Not really,” I replied, even as my memory came alive and tried to recall that summer again.
“You know, Bruce Donnelly was always a great pitcher,” my father continued, “but he didn’t have that killer instinct like some of the other boys early on. If you were his age, eleven or twelve, he would strike you out without any problem most of the time. But if you were eight or nine, he would toss soft balls to you; let you get on base deliberately.”
“The parents of the younger boys loved him for that, but that changed after Billy died. My God, it was unbelievable, Lane. He was a terror that summer. I never saw anyone pitch like he did; not then, not ever.”
“He challenged everyone with that fastball of his; intimidated everyone is more like it. He practically won the championship single-handed. But, then, again, all of you boys elevated your game that summer.”
“I’m sure Billy would have been proud of you.”
All of this was news to me. I hadn’t recalled winning the championship, but now I realized my father was right. We had gone on a tear the rest of that summer, never losing a game. All of us had played well, but Bruce had played at a level beyond comprehension. He had put the rest of us on his shoulders and won the championship for us.
“Do you think Billy knows we won the championship?” I asked, curious to hear what my father would say.
“I don’t know,” he responded. “Maybe; maybe he does. Maybe he’s looking down on us right now and thanking us for coming to visit him. I would like to think so.”
I remember sighing.
I’d like to think that too, Dad. But I don’t.
“What ever happened to Bruce?” I asked. “The last I heard he was off in some small town playing for one of Boston’s minor league affiliates.”
“He’s back home now,” my father replied. “He’s teaching at St. Joseph’s High and coaches several of the teams there as well, including the baseball team. They’re very good. They beat Drury every year for the city championship and most years they win the Berkshire County championship as well.”
“Bruce is an excellent coach. His players love him and somehow he manages to get the most out of every one of them. He’s really quite talented that way.”
“I guess he never made it all the way to the top then, did he?” I asked; “never got to the major leagues?”
“No; you’re right about that. He kicked around in the minor leagues for seven or eight years, something like that; got his college degree along the way somehow. I guess he realized at some point he was never going to get called up to the majors. In any event, he came home eventually and has his own apartment not too far from where his parents live.”
“Who did he end up marrying?” I asked.
“He’s not married,” my father replied, “at least not yet. I probably wouldn’t get married either if I was him. He’s still as good looking as ever with that baby-face of his. All of the girls in town still love him, including most of those who are already married. I guess he can get a date with whoever he wants.”
“He’s still young. He’ll probably settle down in a few years and get married. There isn’t a girl in town who wouldn’t marry Bruce if he asked and not just because he’s so good-looking. He’s a genuinely nice person. Everyone likes him.”
“Do you think he’d be interested in seeing me if I called him?” I asked. “I’d like to see him; kick around some of the good old days and find out what he’s been up to.”
“Maybe,” my father said. “Although, now that I think about it, he was older than you; I don’t recall the two of you being friends except for the couple of years you played on the same Little League team together. If you decide to call, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t remember you. It’s been a long time, Lane, hasn’t it?”