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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 was stunned to hear all of this. In fact, I couldn’t believe it. Bruce Donnelly, the best player in Little League, the most popular boy in high school, and the person I wanted to be just like as a boy when I grew up was . . . was . . . .
Was what, Lane?
Is that even possible?
The whole thing was hard to believe.
“But, um, are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, when I was a boy, you were, uh . . . perfect, Bruce.”
He laughed and suddenly I realized just how stupid that question was; not just stupid, insulting as well.
“Yeah, I’m sure, Lane,” he responded. “Does being homosexual make me less perfect? Not that I’m perfect, of course; no one is. I’m far from perfect, that’s for sure.”
“No, of course not,” I said. “It was stupid of me to say that, Bruce; I apologize. That’s not what I meant; not at all. It’s just that, uh . . . .”
“It’s just what?” Bruce asked as my voice drifted off into silence.
“It’s just so hard to believe,” I said. “I mean, that would mean we’re the same way, Bruce; at least I think that’s what it means if I’m interpreting what you’re saying correctly.”
“You are,” he replied, staring ahead at the road.
Suddenly I realized he was telling the truth and it dawned on me what that could mean. Knowing that, I could feel myself becoming aroused.
“And if I understand you correctly and we are the same, we could . . . we could, uh, you know . . . .”
“We could indeed,” Bruce interjected. “But I’m pretty certain we won’t. Don’t get me wrong though. In some ways there’s nothing I’d rather do, especially with you, Lane. But even now, all these years later, I don’t see it in the cards for us.”
“Why, Bruce?” I asked, incredulous. “We’re not boys anymore. We’re adults. Maybe we’re not entirely happy with being . . . with being, you know . . . with the way things are; at least I’m not entirely happy.”
“I realize that. I think I’ve gone through just about every human emotion I can think of as I’ve tried to come to some acceptance of it; grief, anger, despair, you name it. I’ve experienced all of them.”
“But I’m twenty-seven years old, Bruce. It’s not going to change. This is the way I am and I think I deserve some chance at happiness in life.”
“You do,” Bruce responded, softly. “All of us do.”
Then, realizing what I had just said, I remember being ashamed of myself.
“Oh, God, I apologize, Bruce,” I said. “Please forgive me. I’ve never told anyone about this and I’m being totally presumptuous. Knowing someone else I respect and admire so much is like me, I just assumed you might be interested in . . . in . . . oh, God, I don’t know. I thought you might like me as much as I’ve always liked you.”
“I do like you, Lane,” Bruce said. “It isn’t a question of whether I like you. I do. It’s a question of what would come next if we decided to do what you’re suggesting. North Adams is where I plan to spend my life, Lane. I want to teach. I want to coach; and, yes, if I’m being honest with myself, I would like to find someone to share my life with too.”
“But you’ve already told me you’re planning to move to Washington; that you have a job there and want to teach at the college level someday. I don’t think someone as smart as you are would be happy in North Adams, Lane. It isn’t the right place for you. It probably never was the right place. It just happened to be the place you were born.”
“I could change, Bruce,” I said, pleading with him. “I haven’t started my job in Washington. I could tell them I’ve changed my mind. I wasn’t scheduled to start until September in any event. It’s not like I would be leaving them high and dry. They could find someone else to fill the job.”
“And then what, Lane?” he asked. “Suppose you did that; what’s the next step?”
“I could move back to North Adams,” I said. “I was born here. As you said yourself, it’s a beautiful place to live. I could find some kind of job; perhaps at Williams College or North Adams State or even one of the colleges in Bennington or Albany if need be. I could even teach at one of the prep schools in the area if push came to shove.”
“That would be a waste,” he responded. “But let’s assume you could find a job you liked in the area. Are you prepared to live in the closet the rest of your life, Lane? Because that’s what I’m planning to do and you’d have to do that as well if we were together.”
“I could never continue teaching and coaching at St. Joseph’s if it became known the two of us were in a relationship. The Church doesn’t like scandal. I knew that when I signed up for the job.”
“Perhaps I could live somewhere nearby,” I replied, desperately trying to cope with the objections he was tossing my way; “Williamstown or Bennington or even further away if need be. We could spend time together on the weekends; maybe some weekday evenings as well.”
“I’ve lived discreetly up until now, Bruce. I would never put your career at risk, at least not deliberately. I love you too much to do something like that.”
“Listen to yourself, Lane,” Bruce said. “You’re twisting yourself into knots in an effort to convince yourself it could work; and for what? Is that really the way you want to live your life? Hiding? Skulking around?”
“Things are different for homosexuals in big cities,” he continued; “that’s where you belong, somewhere you can live more openly. In small town America, however, life is different for homosexuals, Lane, a lot different; harder, more frustrating. In an effort to end one frustration, you’re setting yourself up for another; and, again, I ask for what?”
“Are you really certain you love me, Lane; or could it possibly be you’re in love with the memory of me you had as a boy? You don’t know very much about who I became as a man. All you know is what I’ve told you this evening and I haven’t told you everything, of course.”
“But I want to know, Bruce,” I said. “I want to know everything about you. I loved you back then and still do. All I want is the chance to love you.”
“I don’t think so, Lane,” he replied. “You’re right; you loved me back then as a boy. I was your hero and maybe you could love me again now that we’re grown up. But what you want right now is an end to the pain you’ve been feeling all these years and I can appreciate that. That’s what all of us want. But you still have a way to go, my friend.”
“What does that mean?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”
“What I mean is simple in some ways, hard in others,” he continued. “And, again, the reason I know is because I’ve covered exactly the same ground you’ve traveled, just three years sooner. But here’s the point, Lane.”
“Before you’ll ever be able to genuinely love another man, you need to learn how to love yourself; because right now you don’t. You’ve internalized all the hatred directed at homosexuals; made it part of yourself. You hate yourself; not completely, not entirely, but in important ways you do hate yourself.”
“Like all of us, you grew up believing homosexuality is wrong; that it was a sin, maybe even a mortal sin. Until you can accept that it isn’t, that it’s just the way you were born, you’re going to have problems building a life with anyone; let alone someone like me who plans to live out his life in rural America.”
“From my experience, most homosexuals never overcome the guilt and self-hatred. Some kill themselves. The ones that don’t make adjustments. They mask the pain with booze or drugs. Some get married and have families and then visit a larger city occasionally, convincing themselves they’re bisexual or their wife doesn’t understand them or whatever.”
“They find other men to have sex with in restrooms or spots off the beaten path. Believe me, I know all about that. It’s a very hard thing to deal with, Lane, that internalized hatred we’ve programmed ourselves with and I’m not pretending I’ve done that entirely myself. I still have problems with it.”
“But I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve thought about myself as well. I don’t think I was fooling anyone when I was younger, pretending to be something I wasn’t. What I told Sandy that day I believed. You don’t pick on your teammates when they make a mistake and all of us are teammates in life.”
“I think I am a genuinely good person; a caring person; the kind of person who could walk away knowing you would have done whatever I asked because it was the best thing for you.”
“That I also happen to be homosexual is another part of me, an important part. But it’s not the whole me. And it doesn’t change what I believe. I believe love can be a beautiful thing and not just for people who happen to be heterosexual.”
“But love isn’t just sex either, Lane; and sex is what’s been on your mind this evening. I don’t blame you. I’m as big a fan of sex, loving sex, as anyone; and if I thought there was any chance things could work out between us, I’d jump at the chance to have sex with you.”
“I’d pull the car off the road right now and we could do it in those woods over there,” he added and now he was smiling. “You don’t have as much self-confidence as you should, but you’re a very good looking guy, Lane. I just don’t see you spending your life in North Adams, however.”
“I see,” I said, wondering for the first time whether perhaps he was right. “I’m happy for you, Bruce; at least I guess I’m happy. You seem so much more comfortable than me with being homosexual. But I have to tell you I’m sad for myself. You may be right, but you were my first love and I don’t think anyone gets over a first love easily.”
“You’re right about that, Lane,” he said. “They don’t.”
“Could I ask another question, Bruce?”
“Of course,” he said.
“If things had been different back then, if you had made a different choice all those years ago and we had gone for that walk in the woods together back then, do you think things might be different now?”
“I don’t know,” Bruce said. ”Maybe. But I don’t think they’d be better or that we’d be having this conversation tonight.”
“At the time I was pretty certain you would do whatever I asked and it was hard not to ask, believe me. It was very hard. I was definitely oversexed when I was younger. But I also think I would have been ashamed of myself for asking and that probably would have made all the difference.”
“Why, Bruce?” I asked. “You said yourself you think I would have done whatever you asked and I think you’re right about that. Being your best friend would have meant everything to me back then.”
“But what kind of friend would I have been, Lane?” he countered. “I wasn’t the saint you’re trying to pretend I was.”
“I knew by then I was going to be drafted by some baseball team the following summer; that I would have to pick up and leave town if I wanted to pursue my chance at the brass ring. I would have been using you to gratify myself sexually, Lane; and perhaps that wouldn’t have mattered to you at the time given the pain you were in.”
“But it would have mattered to me. Going into the draft, I knew baseball was going to require big sacrifices from me; and because baseball was the most important thing to me back then, the way I dealt with my homosexuality by showing everyone how masculine I was, I would have sacrificed you to the gods of baseball. That would have made it hard to live with myself.”
“And it’s not just that either,” he added. “School was about to start up for both of us. I would never have been brave enough to spend time with you in school once it did. For one thing, I was a senior and seniors didn’t acknowledge the existence of freshmen back then. But it goes beyond that.”
“There were those rumors about you, Lane, and I couldn’t afford any rumors about me. It would have ruined my chances of being drafted by a major league team if that was floating around about me.”
“I mean, heck, even later on when one of my friends asked why I spent time with you that day at the lake, I feigned ignorance. Just like Peter denied Jesus, I denied you. I told him I didn’t know you were a homo; that you were just someone I played Little League ball with a couple years earlier and you were the first person I saw at the lake so that’s why I sat down next to you.”
“Perhaps I would have acknowledged you with a nod as we passed in the corridor at Drury if I felt I could do that safely. But have lunch with you? Hang around with you? Tell people you were my friend?”
“I was a coward, Lane; all of us are cowards at one time or another. And you were too smart not to realize that. I wouldn’t have been a hero very long once you did. I would have been just someone who was using you for my own selfish purposes.”
By now Bruce had made the turn on to Davenport Street. The house was dark. It was obvious my parents were already in bed.
“This has been hard, Bruce,” I said. “You’ve given me a lot to think about. Could we do this again before I head back to Cambridge?”
“If that’s what you want, Lane, sure. I would be happy to see you again. It wasn’t a one way street back then. I liked you too. Maybe not exactly the same way you liked me; purely, innocently.”
“But I liked you, Lane. And I think I like you a lot more as an adult; maybe more than you can imagine. Hard as it may be to believe, it’s even harder not asking you to go for a walk in the woods with me today than it was all those years ago.”
I guess it’s not really surprising I had trouble getting to sleep that night. I tossed and turned. I even gave in and masturbated in the hope that would do the trick. But nothing helped. I was too wound up by what had happened; too wound up by our conversation and what I had learned.
Not just about myself, of course, though I had learned more about myself. But I had learned much more about Bruce and was having trouble coming to grips with that. Finally, somewhere much closer to dawn, I fell asleep. I knew I would be able to sleep late in the morning and that’s what I did, never waking up until well after noon.
Climbing out of bed, I made my way to the bathroom where I showered and shaved. Looking into the mirror, I posed a question to my silent companion.
Maybe Bruce is right, Lane. North Adams is a nice place to visit, but I probably wouldn’t be happy here like he seems to be. And he was right about what I was interested in last night. I was mostly interested in having sex with him.
I mean, yeah, sure, I still have feelings for him; maybe I even still love him. I’m not really sure he feels the same way about me, but what if he did? If we had done something last evening, it wouldn’t have been because we loved each other. It would have been for the sex.
Would that have been wrong? I asked the face staring back at me in the mirror. God only knows, the society we live in makes it pretty damn hard to find each other. It wants us to live hidden in the shadows and we comply like the sheep we are.
Is it any wonder we want to strip off our clothes and make love when we’re lucky enough to run into someone who’s the same way?
How many shots at happiness do we get if we have to live in the shadows?
And then the moment passed and I realized I was wasting my time.
No one cared how many shots at happiness I would get in life. No one cared if I was miserable or lived my whole life miserable; if anything, they would probably have been happy to know I was miserable because then they would know they had succeeded in making me marginalize myself.
If I didn’t want to be marginalized the rest of my life, didn’t want to be miserable, I was going to have to take charge of my own life; make my own shots at happiness. No one was ever going to do it for me. No one was going to help.
I was on my own and it was up to me.
Walking back to the bedroom I rummaged around in the chest of clothes my mother had never disposed of. Finally, I found what I was looking for. Stripping off the pajamas I wore at home in deference to my mother, I tried it on. The swimsuit still fit.
It wasn’t the same one I had worn to the lake when I was fourteen. I had bought it later, sometime when I was home from college and wanted to go swimming. But it still fit. Returning to the bathroom, I looked in the mirror.
Not too bad, Lane. It may be a little tighter, but not much. No one will be shocked if they see you in this at the lake.
That settled it. I wanted to go to the lake and the sooner the better. I wanted to see it again; to finally put to rest the demons that had haunted me all these years.
Grabbing a towel, I walked downstairs to the kitchen.
“You’re up,” my mother said, her back to me as she tended the bacon she was making because she knew how much I loved it.
“Yeah,” I said. “I had trouble getting to sleep last night. Even with the window open, the room was hot. But that’s the nice thing about being home. I know you’ll let me sleep as long as I want.”
“Did you and Bruce have a good time last evening, Lane; was the game good?”
“It was,” I replied. “The food and conversation were better though.”
Turning around, she brought the plate of bacon over to me.
“You’re in your swimsuit, Lane,” she said. “Are you going swimming today? It’s still pretty early in the season. I doubt the water has warmed up enough to make swimming very much fun.”
“I want to spend the afternoon at the lake,” I said; “work on getting a tan. I may not go swimming, but I need to spend some time at the lake before I head back to Cambridge.”
“When are you going?” she asked.
“Originally I was planning to leave next Wednesday, but I may head back tonight. My room at the residence hall is available. I should probably get myself settled in before summer school starts.”
“So soon, Lane?” she asked. “It seems like you just got here. We hardly ever see you anymore, your father and me. It would be nice if you visited more often. You’re always welcome here.”
Am I, Mom? Would I be if you knew the truth?
“I know that, Mom,” I said. “I’ll be back for a longer visit before leaving for Washington at the end of the summer.”
Soon enough I was on my way to the lake. I didn’t drive. I wanted to go the way I did when I was younger; up Davenport Street, south on Church Street until the last homes loomed into sight, and then across to the hidden trail few people knew about that would lead me up to the lake.
I had discovered it was the best way to go as a boy. You avoided the steep climb up Bradley Street for one thing. More importantly, the path led you to the lake through the woods that surrounded it; that was important during the summer because the trees shaded your journey and you would arrive at the lake refreshed, not all hot and sweaty.
I climbed the path swiftly and soon enough arrived at the rock; my rock. It was my rock because I had sat there often as a boy thinking about things; important things like why I had been born and what I should do with my life to make it a worthwhile life, a life that would make a difference for the better.
I stopped and sat down on it now.
If you’re going to go back to Cambridge tonight, you’ll need to write a letter to Bruce when you get home. Explain why you left. Tell him how much you care for him. Ask him to think about things so we can talk about them when you come back at the end of the summer.
After that I didn’t think about anything. I just took in all the familiar sights, sounds and smells. Unlike me, they seemed unchanged by the years, still the same. And after I had filled myself with appreciation for them, I resumed my journey and soon arrived at the lake.
There was hardly anyone there. My mother was right. It was too soon in the season to go swimming and so the place was largely abandoned except for a few people like me interested in getting a start on their tans.
Placing my towel down on a familiar spot, I sat down and looked at the lake. Like the woods, it was completely unchanged and I was happy about that for some reason.
Having taken in the familiar sights, I rolled over on to my stomach, folded my arms, and then rested my head on them. If nothing else, I was going to return home a few hours later with the beginnings of that tan I had mentioned to my mother.
I think I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I recall someone was spreading a towel next to mine and lying down next to me. Opening my eyes, I was surprised.
“Bruce,” I said. “But how . . .”
“When I finally woke up this morning, which was actually this afternoon, I called over to your house because I wanted to see how you were feeling today,” he interjected. “Your mother told me you had gone up to the lake so I said to myself why not.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but now that I am I need to remind myself to come here more often. North Adams doesn’t have a lot going for it, but this lake has to be one of the very best, if not the best.”
“You’re right about that,” I said.
“So how are you feeling today, Lane?” he asked.
“Okay,” I said. “I enjoyed going to the game with you yesterday. I enjoyed dinner and our conversation last evening even more.”
“So did I,” Bruce replied.
Then he pulled off the shirt he was wearing and let out an audible sigh.
Looking over at him, I was surprised. He had seemed to be in excellent shape the previous day, but now I realized just how much I had underestimated that.
He was ripped. My eyes were the first to take it in, but another part of my body responded almost as quickly.
Thank God you’re on your stomach, Lane.
“So what do you think?” Bruce asked. “Should we go for a swim and risk a heart attack?”
“I was actually thinking of something else, Bruce,” I responded.
“I was thinking of asking you to go for a walk in the woods with me,” I said. “If I asked, would you?”
Biting his lip, he looked at me for a moment, then turned his head and stared out at the lake.
“Uh, maybe,” he finally said. “I probably would if you asked. Are you sure you want to after our conversation last night?”
“I am and I’m asking,” I responded. “But the reason I’m asking is because I want to show you some of my special places before I head back to Cambridge later this evening; nothing more.”
“Nothing more?” he asked, and it was hard to know whether he was disappointed or relieved.
“Nothing more,” I responded, less certain now than before.
“I see,” Bruce said. “Uh, well, if they’re special to you, then I guess I should go.”
“Would you like me to go first, Bruce?” I asked. “Then you could follow along in a couple of minutes and meet me without anyone being suspicious. I’m not sure whether I’ve outlived those rumors from years ago.”
“No; I think we should go together,” he responded. “If someone wants to be suspicious, I’m not going to worry about it.”
So that’s what we did. We got up, left our things there, and walked back to the hidden path that led into the woods. We stopped at my rock first and I explained to Bruce why that rock was so important to me. And then we walked down to the point where the trail diverged.
Instead of following the path down to Church Street, I turned left and followed the one that led deeper into the woods. Bruce followed behind me without a word being exchanged.
It was perhaps a ten minute walk to the other place I wanted to show him, the hidden spot that no one except me ever visited and then I explained to Bruce why that spot was important to me; how it was the spot where I came to be alone with my homosexuality.
Finished, I turned to another topic.
“Look, Bruce, I want you to know I understand everything you said last evening. When I got home, I thought about it a lot; and while I’m not sure I agree with everything you said, I did come away from our conversation even more impressed, if that’s possible, with you as a person.”
“What you did that day at the lake is hard to believe,” I continued. “I don’t think very many of us would have done the same thing. I think most of us feel we’re entitled to be selfish when it comes to some things because the opportunity doesn’t come knocking all that often. That you didn’t do that but put me before you is incredible; if for no other reason, I would love you for that.”
“To me you’ll always be my first love, Bruce. I’m not ruling out the possibility you’ll be my last love as well, the person I end up spending my life with. I’m willing to take a little break this summer and let both of us think about that. We can talk about it if you want when I come back at the end of the summer.”
“Sure,” he responded. “I would like that.”
“But there is one thing I’m not willing to do, Bruce,” I continued.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I’m not willing to go back to Cambridge tonight without telling you that I loved you years ago and still love you today. And there’s one other thing.”
“What?” he asked again.
Leaning in, I pressed my lips against his. He hesitated momentarily, then allowed his lips to surrender to mine. I think I could have taken it further at that moment; could have pressed my tongue through his lips and into his mouth and then progressively forced him to surrender the rest of his body. But having tasted his lips, I pulled back and smiled at him.
“Thanks, Bruce; as a teacher you should know you’re a student as well so here’s the final exam question I’ll be asking you at the end of the summer when I come home.”
“Was that kiss dessert or just an appetizer?”