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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.
FIRST LOVE, FIRST TIME
I woke up later than usual the next morning. By the time I showered, shaved, and had something for lunch, it was already afternoon.
Now what, Lane? What are you going to do for the rest of the day?
What did you do when you were younger when you were bored like this? the inner voice asked.
Usually I’d go swimming.
It’s too cool to go swimming today, the voice responded, but you could go for a walk in the woods like you used to; you know, see if anything has changed since then.
It was a good idea, better than anything else I could think of, so I started with the woods across the street from the elementary school I attended; Mark Hopkins. Scrambling up the steep slope, I eventually reached the trail at the top that ran east to west.
Turning west, I followed the trail to my destination, Kemp Park. It was the same place I had played Little League ball years earlier so I wasn’t surprised to see a bunch of boys engaged in a pick-up game when I arrived.
Leaning against the chain link fence in right field, I watched for a while as their game progressed. They seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as I had years earlier playing the same timeless game.
Hearing the crack of the bat, I watched as a smaller boy playing right field raced back in my direction, but could tell immediately he had no chance of catching it. Stepping back several feet, I braced myself and caught the ball with my bare hands as it soared over the fence.
“Good catch,” the younger boy said, having reached the fence that separated us. “I bet that stings though.”
“It does,” I said, smiling, then tossing the ball to him.
“Thanks, Mister,” he said, turning and throwing it back into the infield.
“Did you use to play here?” he asked, turning around again and returning my smile.
“I did,” I replied, “but that was a long time ago.”
“I bet you were good,” he said, before racing back toward the infield and resuming his position.
I’m not sure how good I was, but I was happy back then. Unlike life, baseball’s a simple game.
Making my way forward to the road that bordered the field, I headed east. I knew where it would lead me eventually and soon enough I was at Windsor Lake.
We called it the Fish Pond back then, I recall thinking as I stood there staring at the crystal clear water.
I wonder why? I never actually saw any fish back then.
A few hardy souls were trying their best to get an early start on their tans, but no one was swimming. The water was still too cold for most people early in June. The place only came alive toward the end of the month once school was out and the temperature warmer.
Finding the lake unchanged, I turned around and headed for the woods that surrounded it. A small, overgrown, opening led me on to the hidden trail few people knew about. Heading south, I reached the rock I was looking for and scrambled atop it.
It seemed smaller now somehow, but it had been one of my special places when I was younger. Back then I would retreat to it whenever I was trying to answer all the big questions. Why was I born? What was the meaning of life? Indeed, was there any meaning at all or was meaning just something we imposed on life by the choices we made?
Believing in God back then, I had always assumed I had been born for some reason. Figuring out what was harder though. Even now, as I sat atop the rock, I found myself asking all the same questions again even though I no longer was a believer.
Funny, isn’t it, Lane. Four years of college and five more at Harvard and you’re still trying to figure life out, aren’t you? I’m not sure you know any more now than you did back then.
I’m not sure how long I sat there, but eventually I heard the sounds of someone approaching. Looking north, I saw a young boy, perhaps fifteen or sixteen. He spotted me at the same time and slowed down. When he was finally in front of the rock he stopped and looked over at me.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hi,” I responded.
“Whatcha doing?” he asked.
“Uh, well, when I was younger, about your age, I used to come here a lot to think,” I replied. “But that was a long time ago.”
“Yeah; I do the same thing myself,” he said. “I live over on Walker Street, but lots of time when I’m at the lake I come down here to think about stuff. It’s really quiet here, secluded. I like that. In fact, that’s why I’m here today. I had some stuff I wanted to think about.”
“Well, this is the place to do it,” I said; “no doubt about it. I don’t live in North Adams any more, but when I was your age I thought this was the best place in the world to think about stuff. But I’m not thinking about much today. Today was mostly about just seeing whether anything had changed; and since nothing much has, I think you could make better use of this rock than me.”
With that I climbed down and walked over to the path where he was standing.
He smiled at me, then took my place on the rock.
“My name is Lane,” I said, once he had done so. “What’s yours?”
“Jimmy,” he replied. “My name is Jimmy.”
“Nice meeting you Jimmy,” I said.
Then I turned and started to walk away.
“Hey,” he said from behind.
Turning around, I looked at him.
“Did you ever find the answers you were looking for back then?” he asked.
“No; not really,” I replied. “I’m still looking for them now. I guess I’m not very smart.”
“Me either,” he said. “We sound kind of alike that way.”
“Thinking about stuff is okay,” he continued, “but doing stuff is more fun, don’t you think?”
He was staring at me intently now, grinning; and then he began rubbing his thigh slowly with his hand.
“I don’t know; maybe,” I agreed, startled for some reason by his gesture and the intensity with which he was looking at me. “But, uh, I need to be on my way. Good meeting you, Jimmy.”
Walking south, I turned left on to the path that led deeper into the woods. There was one other spot I needed to visit, one that was barely accessible. Like the rock, it looked pretty much the same when I got there.
Funny, Lane; this place meant so much to you back then, but what’s so special about it?
Realizing it was getting late I retraced my steps. When I got back to the intersection with the trail that led south to the street, I looked north.
I was hoping Jimmy would still be there with his smile, but the rock was abandoned. I was sorry about that for some reason I didn’t quite understand.
Turning around again, I made my way down to Church Street and soon found my way home. It had been an interesting afternoon and it was comforting to know the routines of life I had experienced as a boy somehow remained unchanged.
Later that evening I settled down on my bed with a copy of the 1961 Drury Yearbook. That was my freshman year at Drury, the public high school in town. Opening it, I quickly found my way to the section where they featured photos of the seniors and brief capsules of the activities they participated in at school.
Flipping a couple of pages I found the spot I was looking for.
BRUCE LAWRENCE DONNELLY
51 Bracewell Avenue, City
“He looks like an angel and acts like one too;
But you never can tell what an angel will do.”
J.V. Football 1;
J.V. Basketball 1;
Varsity Baseball 1, 2, 3, 4 (Captain);
Varsity Football 2;
Varsity Basketball 2, 3, 4 (Captain);
Varsity Club 1, 2, 3, 4;
Track Team 3, 4;
Freshman Hop Committee 1;
Driver’s Club 3
And then there was the picture, of course. It was the picture that told you everything you needed to know about Bruce. Staring at it now years later, it was hard to know where to look first.
The eyes made a strong claim, being impish, as did the chin, strong and firm. The hair was a little different than I recalled from memory. You could tell his parents had made him have it cut before posing for the picture. The forehead and shape of the face were perfect, the ears a little larger than I recalled in real life.
But in the end, of course, it was the smile I settled on; the smile somehow both angelic and devilish. They had captioned the picture perfectly for Bruce. He did look like an angel, but there was a hint of something naughty in that smile of his too. He liked playing pranks on people and he was good at it.
I remember sighing.
So good looking, Lane; Bruce was so good-looking back then, wasn’t he?
Is it any wonder you had a crush on the guy?
Interesting choice of words, Lane, I said to myself. I don’t recall using the word crush back then, but it seems so appropriate now. I liked Bruce. I liked him a lot. Crush is probably exactly the right word given how you turned out.
Turning the pages quickly, I sought out the various photos of the different sports team in the right order; first football, then track and basketball, and finally baseball. He was best at baseball after all, but the cap shaded his face in the picture and you couldn’t see it very well. I remember being disappointed.
In the end, it was the basketball picture I was drawn back to because the team was posed in their shorts, which were very short indeed back then.
The picture had been taken from above and it seemed to me the photographer must have deliberately focused it on Bruce. Along with two others, he was standing tall at the back of the semi-circle the team had formed; and yet somehow your eyes were drawn to Bruce immediately.
He wasn’t smiling. None of them were. The photographer must have told them to put on a more determined look, one that suggested the team was focused solely on winning. But the reason your eyes were drawn to Bruce was because of the hitch in his stance; one that accented his hips while also calling attention to how muscular he was.
That was surprising to me because he didn’t come across as especially muscular when you walked past him in the hallways. He was taller and looked perfectly put together, but not as muscular as the picture revealed.
Not that he looked less than perfect in the basketball picture; if anything, he looked even more perfect, at least to me.
Closing the yearbook, I set it aside and closed my eyes. I could see him better now, the way I recalled him as a freshman. In high school, as on Kiwanis, I wanted to be exactly like him. The only difference was that somehow I believed that possible as a ten year old. Did I still believe it four years later?
Not really, Lane. You weren’t as athletic for one thing. Were you even as innocent by then?
What I was trying to decide now was whether that crush I had on Bruce as a ten year old was still as sweet, innocent and pure four years later when he sat down next to me at the lake? Or was I already a homosexual by then experiencing something entirely different; a sexual attraction to him?
I recall the feelings still being there although by fourteen they seemed more powerful, more intense and compelling. My heart was pounding, my emotions racing; knowing he could have sat down next to anyone, I couldn’t believe he had chosen me.
No one liked me by then. At least I was convinced no one liked me; that I was alone and friendless in the world. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what exactly. I was experiencing things I didn’t understand; mood swings most notably.
One moment I would be happy and laughing, the next filled with despair and crying. One moment on my knees praying for forgiveness from God for sins I didn’t even realize existed but somehow sensed I was guilty of; the next cursing God for not relieving the torments that afflicted me.
I had gone to the lake that day because there was nothing better to do, not because it offered any promise of relief. But then suddenly everything had changed. Bruce spread his towel next to mine and lay down beside me and in that one simple gesture made everything better for me.
Now, years later, I found that confusing.
Why did that make everything better, Lane?
Why do you even remember something so trivial?
It made me feel special somehow is the only answer I could give.
Bruce could have chosen anyone to be friends with that day, but he had chosen me. And for someone who felt alone and friendless, I guess that meant everything at the time.
Is that all, Lane?
Are you sure there wasn’t something more?
What about later when the two of you swam out to the raft and dove off the tower? Why did you try to pull down his swimsuit?
Was that sweet, innocent and pure; just a boyish prank?
Or was that where it all began?
Is that the moment you went from being a boy to being a homosexual?
“I don’t know,” I whispered into the darkened room.
Why does it even matter? I recall asking myself.
Why is it so important for you to know the exact moment you became a homosexual? Does it even happen that way? And even if it does, what difference would it make if you knew the exact moment?
Would it change anything?
I must have fallen asleep at some point because the next thing I recall was hearing my mother knock on the door to the bedroom.
“Uh, come in,” I said, startled by the sound.
“Your father and I are playing Bingo tonight at the Church, Lane,” she said. “If you’re hungry, there are plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator. Is there anything you need before we leave?”
“No; I’m fine, Mom,” I said. “I’m just kind of tired from all the excitement of the last few weeks, but I don’t need anything. Good luck at the Church and have fun.”
“We’ll try,” she responded, “but we never win.”
Join the club, Mom, I responded silently.
Waiting until I heard the door close behind them, I climbed off the bed and walked to the bathroom. I splashed some water on to my face in an effort to wake myself up. Then I walked downstairs and retrieved the telephone book.
I had wanted to wait until my parents were out of the house; if I was going to do it, I wanted some privacy. Now, with them gone, I checked the listings and found his name in the book.
I reached for the telephone, then pulled back.
Are you sure this is a good idea, Lane?
I wasn’t sure, but after a moment’s hesitation I picked up the phone and dialed the number. It rang several times and then someone lifted the receiver.
“Hello,” he answered in a voice that sounded unchanged all these years later.
“Bruce? This is Lane; Lane Bailey. I’m not sure whether you remember me, but . . .”
“Of course I remember you Lane,” he interjected. “It’s nice to hear from you. I heard you were studying at Harvard. Is that right?”
“It is,” I responded, relieved to know he still remembered me but surprised he knew I was at Harvard. “In fact, I just graduated a few days ago.”
“Congratulations,” Bruce said. “That’s impressive, very impressive indeed; what did you get your degree in?”
“History,” I responded. “I got my doctorate in history and I’ll be heading to Washington at the end of the summer to do some research.”
“Wow,” Bruce replied. “I’m still trying to put together enough credits to get my master’s degree in education from North Adams State. I need it for my job, but it isn’t easy finding the time for something like that when you’re working.”
“I know,” I said. “I have a friend in the same boat as you. But I guess that’s why I called, Bruce. I, uh . . . I was wondering whether you might be interested in getting together with me over lunch or dinner sometime to bring each other up to date on what’s been happening the last few years.”
“I’ll understand if you’re not, of course,” I quickly added, fearing rejection. “I was a couple of years younger than you growing up and we probably didn’t know each other that well now that I think about it.”
“But we were on the same Little League team,” I quickly added, hoping that would mean something to him. “I’ll understand if you don’t recall because it was a long time ago and our team was pretty insignificant compared to the other teams you’ve played on over the years.”
“Good old Kiwanis,” Bruce responded, laughing. “Yeah; I remember Kiwanis. We weren’t the best little league team in the world back then, but we had fun; didn’t we, Lane?”
“We did,” I responded. “We had a lot of fun; and seeing how I’m home for a few days before heading back to Cambridge for the summer, I thought it might be interesting to catch up on everything that’s happened since then. I’m kind of a hopeless romantic when it comes to the good old days; or maybe a wannabe hopeless romantic is a better way to put it. I’m not sure the good old days were always that good.”
“Probably not,” he said, “but there’s nothing wrong with wanting them to be good in our memories. I don’t know whether anyone famous ever said it, but youth is kind of squandered on the young; at least that’s what I think now that I’m older. When you’re young, you’re having too much fun to realize it won’t last forever; that someday you’ll have to grow up and get a job and actually earn a living. When you finally do, that’s when all the memories come in handy.”
“Very true,” I said. “Although, like I said, it’s not all fun when you’re young, I suppose; at least that’s the way it was for me. There are times when things can be tough, especially during adolescence when everything’s changing so much.”
“Fair enough,” he replied. “But, then again, perhaps that’s one of the virtues of aging. You tend to recall the happier memories, not the sad ones; at least I do.”
“Me too,” I lied; “although sometimes memories can be confusing, at least they can be for me. That’s why I thought it might be interesting to get together with you. Some of the strongest memories I have involve you one way or another.”
“Is that right?” he said. “I sure hope they’re positive. That would make me feel good; but, sure, I’d be happy to get together with you. There was a time not too long ago when I was the town’s most talked about young person, but that’s long past and I guess the laurels have been handed to you.”
“There was a big article in the Transcript last week about you, Lane,” he continued. “I remember reading it and telling some of my students I knew you before you were famous.”
“Now you’re fooling with me, Bruce,” I responded. “There’s a reason you were known as a prankster in high school; and based on what you just said, I can see you haven’t lost the touch.”
That caused him to laugh; and hearing him laugh, I laughed as well.
“I’m not playing a prank on you, Lane,” he said. “That article in the Transcript got a lot of attention around town and people are still talking about you.”
“It’s a small town, Bruce; people don’t have a lot to talk about.”
“True enough,” he replied. “But no matter how small it is, people still like to read about success stories, Lane, and you’re one of the biggest. In any event, when would you like to get together?”
“My schedule is completely free,” I said. “Make it sometime convenient for you at one of your favorite restaurants. I’ll be happy to treat you.”
“You don’t have to do that,” he responded. “I may not be as famous as you, but I do have a job and can pay for myself; and I know how little Teaching Fellows like you make.”
Later I would recall wondering how he knew I was a Teaching Fellow.
“Listen,” he quickly added. “The Pittsfield Rangers have a late afternoon game this Saturday afternoon. Would you like to join me for that? It should be over by 7 o’clock or thereabouts. Perhaps we could have dinner after that in Pittsfield or North Adams; your choice.”
“That sounds great,” I said. “Being in Cambridge, you’d think I must have taken in a lot of Red Sox games, but I only attended one. That was a few weeks ago, but it reminded me just how much I love baseball. I’d love to take in a game with you.”
“Minor league baseball is more fun, I think,” Bruce responded. “The players work harder because they’re trying to make it all the way to the top. They may not be as talented as big leaguers, but you can count on them to give their best effort. I like rooting for them.”
“But that’s just me. Where would you like to have dinner afterwards, Lane?”
“Oh, jeez, I don’t know, Bruce,” I said. “You must know the area restaurants better than me. Why don’t you choose and then surprise me on Saturday?”
“That’s fine,” he said. “Are you staying with your parents while you’re in town; if so, do they still live over on Davenport Street?”
“Right on both counts,” I replied, surprised he even knew that.
“Why don’t I pick you up there around 3:25 p.m. on Saturday,” he said. “That should get us to the game on time without having to wait around too long.”
“Sounds good, Bruce,” I responded. “And, uh, thanks for agreeing to get together. I appreciate it.’
“It’s my pleasure, Lane. I’ll see you on Saturday.”
Friday the weather turned warmer, much warmer. We didn’t have air conditioners in our house; even leaving the window next to my bed open, I spent most of the evening tossing and turning before finally getting to sleep.
I got up late Saturday morning. After showering and shaving, I looked through the closet trying to find the right clothes; something informal enough for a baseball game, but with enough style for dining out afterwards.
Forget about it, Lane. You sense of fashion is pretty lame. Just wear a pair of jeans and one of your better t-shirts. Bring along a sweatshirt in case it gets cool after dinner. That should take care of just about everything.
Finished dressing, I looked in the mirror.
Not too bad, Lane, the voice said. You’re decent enough to be seen in company with Bruce.
I made a light lunch for myself and then sat down on the couch with a book, The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. It was still selling well and was kind of a guilty pleasure, but I had been careful not to leave it out where my parents might find it knowing how shocked they’d be if they knew I was reading something like that.
Time seemed to fly and soon enough there was a knock on the door. I had told my parents my plans for the evening, but still made sure I got to the door first.
Opening it, there was Bruce, standing there with a smile on his face.
Oh, Jesus, I recall thinking. He hasn’t changed at all. He’s still the same good-looking guy I had a crush on years ago.
My father had been right. Bruce still had the same baby-face the girls loved in high school. It was also obvious he had kept himself in shape over the years unlike some of the rest of the boys I had run into on my trip home.
“Hi, Bruce,” I said. “Nice to see you; do you want to come in?”
“We should probably leave now,” he responded. “The game starts at 4:00 o’clock and you can never be sure what Route 8 will be like between here and Pittsfield.”
“It’s 3:25 p.m. now and Wahconah Park is about a forty minute drive, but I’ve been told by more than one cop I have a bit of a heavy foot when it comes to accelerators,” he added, grinning.
Oh, God, don’t do that, Bruce; don’t lay that grin on me or I’ll have an erection right here for sure.
“I understand,” I said. “Mom, Dad; Bruce and I are leaving for the game now.”
“Have a good time,” my mother responded from the kitchen.
Bruce’s car was an older Chevy, one that had obviously seen better days.
He’s teaches high school, Lane, I chastised myself. It’s not like he’s making a ton of money.
“Nice car,” I said, climbing in.
“It’s kind of a wreck,” he confessed. “I probably spend more keeping it on the road than I would if I bought a new car. But I’m trying to save a little money so I can buy a house of my own.”
“Really?’ I said, surprised, knowing he was single.
“Why would someone young like you want to tie yourself down with a mortgage; unless you’re planning to get married and start a family, I suppose,” I added, curious to see how he would respond.
But he didn’t bite, offering a more pedestrian explanation.
“Ever since I graduated from high school, I’ve lived in apartments,” he replied; “and they all shared a few things in common. They were all small, run down and noisy. Early on when I was playing ball I shared apartments with tons of guys. You had to do that to save money given what they pay minor leaguers.”
“It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t like sharing a place with others. A bunch of guys living together? Forget about it! That’s a recipe for too much booze; too many girls spending too many nights at places that are already far too cramped; and too many deadbeats never able to come up with their share of the rent at the end of the month.”
“Now that I’m getting older, I’d like a place of my own.”
“I take it you’re planning to stay in North Adams then,” I replied.
“Yeah; I am,” he said.
“That’s kind of unusual,” I replied. “From what my parents tell me, more and more young people are leaving North Adams these days for larger cities.”
“They are,” Bruce agreed. “But it isn’t because they don’t like the place. A lot of them do. But it’s getting harder to find work these days.”
“General Electric has been scaling back in Pittsfield. Sprague Electric seems to be doing the same in North Adams. The job situation is bad and getting worse. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if both of those companies close down or move away eventually.”
“They won’t do it in the short-term,” he said; “at least I don’t think they will. But the handwriting is on the wall. It won’t be too many years down the road before one or both of them pull up stakes and leave. That’ll make things even tougher than now.”
“Fortunately, I have a teaching job at St. Joseph’s High,” he added. “I love it. I actually like teaching kids; better still, I love coaching them and the school is happy to let me. It brings in some extra money as well so that helps.”
“But it’s pretty satisfying too so I’d do it for free if I had to,” he added. “Just don’t tell Sister Ann Marie that. She’s the principal and principals are tight-fisted when it comes to money. She might take me up on that if she knew.”
“I heard from my father that you’re very good at it too, Bruce,” I said. “Coaching, I mean; he said your baseball teams rule the roost in Berkshire County.”
“We’ve been fortunate to have some good players at St. Joseph’s,” he replied, downplaying his own role. “Better still, they’re open to being coached and learning how to be a good teammate. That’s one thing I learned playing baseball. It’s a team sport; no matter how good you are as an individual, the teams you play for won’t go very far if you make the game all about you.”
“I’m not surprised to hear you say that, Bruce,” I responded. “You probably won’t remember, but back when we played for Kiwanis there was this one game where Coach Thomas put Billy Reid into play after he was diagnosed with leukemia.”
“I don’t think he was supposed to do that, but Billy begged him because he loved playing so much. And then a ball was hit to right field where Billy was playing and he dropped it. When we got back to the dugout, Sandy Alderson was all over Billy for dropping the ball even though I relayed it in and we got the guy out at third.”
“I still remember you coming over and telling Sandy we were a team and needed to have one another’s backs. That made a big impression on me at the time. So, you see, even back then you were preaching team play, Bruce.”
“Yeah; I remember that,” he sighed. “That was hard. I never understood how someone like Billy could die at such a young age. It bothered me a lot for a long time; still does now that you mention it.”
“I never understood either,” I agreed. “It never seemed fair that Billy didn’t get a chance to grow up.”
“Some things we just have to take on faith, Lane,” Bruce said. “God decided to call Billy home early for some reason we don’t understand. Maybe they needed a new right-fielder in Heaven. I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either,” I said, deciding not to pursue it further with Bruce.