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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.
I spent Saturday and Sunday in Widener Library preparing to defend my dissertation the following Thursday. I had been going over the same ground for weeks now and found it hard to concentrate given how beautiful both days were. Spring had finally arrived in Massachusetts; like everyone else, I wanted to be outside.
At some level I also realized the decision had already been made; that by signing off on the final draft of my dissertation, Professor Jeffords had signaled his approval. Having done so, I was confident his approval would carry the day with the other members of the committee before whom I would be conducting my defense.
And yet I didn’t want to embarrass Professor Jeffords in front of his colleagues. He was vouching for me with them after all. They would defer to his recommendation as to whether I should be awarded my degree, but I didn’t want them to walk away from our meeting shaking their heads at his judgment.
I wanted Professor Jeffords to be proud of me.
Finally the big day arrived. Nervous as I was, the committee did its best to put me at ease, tossing what seemed like one softball after another to me. I had dreaded this day for weeks, but now I remember shaking my head and wondering why.
It all seemed too easy.
When the session finally concluded Professor Jeffords asked me to wait for him in his outer office. Within fifteen minutes the other members of the committee departed and Professor Jeffords emerged from the conference room in which in which we had been meeting.
“Congratulations, Dr. Bailey,” he said, smiling at me while shaking my hand and patting me on the back.
“I hope I didn’t embarrass you, sir,” I blurted out, relieved.
“Of course not, Lane,” he responded, laughing at the suggestion. “Why would you think that? The committee was quite impressed with your dissertation and with your response to their questions; as was I, of course. The decision was both prompt and unanimous.”
Wrapping his arm around my shoulder, he escorted me outside to the Yard.
“It’s a fine dissertation, Lane,” he added. “Put it aside for a year and then come back to it. With some additional work I’m sure it’s publishable.”
“Thank you, sir,” I responded. “That means a lot coming from you.”
“So how does it feel?” Professor Jeffords asked, staring intently at me.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “I, uh . . . I don’t know what to think right now. I seem to be numb.”
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “I’ve seen many others react the same way.”
“You know, as fine as your dissertation is, Lane, the thing I’m most proud about is that you’ve taken teaching seriously,” he continued. “Not all graduate students do.”
“Unlike so many of your peers, you actually like students and enjoy your time in the classroom with them. That’s impressed me; that and the fact you’ve made great strides understanding how to help them learn these last three years.”
“Thank you, Professor Jeffords.”
“The ability to help students think critically is really something quite rare, Lane. You should be proud of it. You’re going to be a terrific teacher.”
“I don’t know about that, sir,” I responded. “I can only teach if someone offers me a job and no one has.”
“I understand,” he said, frowning. “I’ve made a ton of calls recommending you, but the job market for the coming year is quite dismal indeed so you may have to do something else for a year. I got a call from that fellow at the Library of Congress who’s looking for a research assistant. I recommended you highly to him. When’s your interview?”
“Next week,” I replied.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine, Lane. In any event, I should let you go. I know you have a section to teach shortly. Once that’s over, you should go out and do something fun to celebrate. Indeed, you’ve got the rest of the semester to celebrate now. Take advantage of it.”
“Have some fun for a change. If you have any fault at all, it’s that you work too hard and take things too seriously. Even graduate students are allowed to have some fun every once in a while.”
And that was it.
Turning, Professor Jeffords walked back to his office, leaving me alone.
I remember sighing.
Five years of hard work had come to its conclusion in a two hour meeting. My dissertation had been accepted. The degree would follow in a matter of weeks. I had expected to feel relieved once the ordeal was over. Instead, I remember feeling a sense of despair.
Five years ago you arrived here alone, Lane, and now here you are; alone again.
Soon enough you’ll be graduating, but you still don’t have a job. Soon enough all the familiar haunts you’ve grown accustomed to here in Cambridge will be gone.
Is that all there is to life? Work hard and end up alone?
Looking around the Yard, I could feel tears welling in my eyes.
Don’t go there, Lane. You need to keep yourself busy.
So that’s what I did the rest of the day.
I held my section and went thru the motions of teaching. After that I spent a couple of hours cleaning up my carrel in Widener Library. It wasn’t easy deciding what to keep or to toss, but I didn’t need the space any longer.
When I finished, I thought about having dinner at Winthrop.
“Do something fun to celebrate,” Professor Jeffords had said. “You’ve got the rest of the semester to celebrate now. Take advantage of it.”
But for some reason I wasn’t in the mood to celebrate or even to have dinner at Winthrop. Returning to my room in Conant, I lay down on the bed. Soon enough I found myself thinking about Paul again and his surprise visit the previous Friday evening.
He had some very nice things to say about you, Lane. He seemed genuinely fond of you. He said he was going to miss you. He could have been elsewhere doing something a lot more fun on a Friday evening, but he had a question and came to see you because he respects your opinion.
For most of the year I had assumed Paul and I were defined by our roles as teacher and student; perhaps somewhat friendlier than most, but still separated by years and by the nature of our relationship. But now I found myself questioning that.
Why does it have to be that way? Why does it just have to be student and teacher? Why can’t it be a genuine friendship?
You know the answer to that, Lane, a voice from within whispered.
It’s not really just about friendship, is it?
I remember sighing.
I liked Paul in so many ways, mostly ways that were fine and appropriate, but there was one way I liked him that was less admirable; not because liking him that way was necessarily wrong. Homosexuality was not a choice and I had little control over who I was attracted to.
There were probably even some circumstances in which two homosexuals might genuinely love one another in a way not morally censurable. But the voice had reminded me again that my feelings for Paul were different.
They were rooted in lust and that’s what made friendship so difficult.
You can pretend all you want, Lane, but let’s be honest. You have a lot of bright students. The difference is that you want to have sex with Paul; not because he’s bright or personable or all the rest of those noble motivations you cloak your affection in.
You want to have sex with him to satisfy your lust; not to improve his mind or to be a genuine friend. It’s all about your own selfishness; your own desire for sexual gratification.
If you were really Paul’s friend you wouldn’t be wishing he was homosexual. You know how hard it is being this way. Why would you wish something like that on Paul?
Frustrated, I stood up, walked across the room to the full-length mirror hanging on the wall, and looked at the face staring back at me.
I don’t wish it on him, I replied. You’re not being fair.
Yes, I’m homosexual, but I’m not a pervert like Anderson thinks. What if I was heterosexual and liked one of my female students? Would you be so quick to condemn me then?
I understand it’s never appropriate for a teacher to love a student sexually. That’s true for all teachers, homosexual or heterosexual. A teacher is in a position of authority over a student; no matter what a student might say, it’s a relationship based on power and that trumps any claim it can be based on consent and love.
So what’s your point? the voice responded.
My point is I’ve never crossed any boundary with Paul. I’ve never attempted to seduce him; never tried to bribe him into providing sexual favors in exchange for a grade. There are other teachers and graduate students around this place who have with their students.
Both of us know that.
But I never have. It’s just a matter of being strong; of controlling your less noble instincts. I’m not a monster. I didn’t choose to be this way, but I’ve done my best not to hurt anyone.
Satisfied with the defense I had made, I walked over to the Graduate Student Union to get something to eat. The place was quiet and I found a corner off by myself.
As I sat there alone, I recalled my conversation with Professor Jeffords.
“You’re going to be a terrific teacher,” he had said.
He believes in you, Lane, I recall thinking. You need to believe in yourself for a change.
There are always temptations with any job, but you need to stop doubting yourself. You’re not some kind of pervert.
There’s nothing wrong with being friends with your students. Professor Jeffords is.
Besides, the semester is almost over. You’ll be graduating soon and Paul will be heading back to Oregon for the summer. You’ll never see him again after that. There’s no reason the two of you can’t be real friends these last few weeks.
Later, when I finally climbed into bed, I found myself resisting the urge to masturbate while thinking about Paul as I had done so often in the past.
Determined to prove to myself it was possible to be friends with a student without crossing forbidden boundaries, I eventually fell asleep feeling much better about things.
It was Friday morning and his teaching fellows had just finished their weekly meeting with Professor Jeffords. As I was preparing to leave, he pulled me aside.
“Lane, I wanted to mention I’m not going to be able to attend the Red Sox game this Sunday. I’ve known that for some time and had given the tickets to a friend of mine, but now he’s suddenly had to cancel at the last minute as well. Would you be interested in them?”
“Consider it a little reward for your outstanding performance yesterday. It should be a good game and there’s no one I’d rather give them to. Would you like them?”
My first instinct was to decline. Ken was the only friend I knew well enough to invite on short notice, but I knew he and his girlfriend had plans for Sunday.
But then another thought occurred to me.
“Maybe,” I responded. “But, um, I’m wondering . . . uh . . . do you think it would be appropriate for me to ask one of my students to the game, Professor Jeffords? I mean, I’m not certain he would accept. You know how crazy it is this time of year for undergraduates; for any of us really. But I think it would be nice to reward one of my students if you think that’s appropriate.”
“Absolutely,” he responded. “I’ve taken students before and I’m delighted you’re taking me up on the offer. Unlike the rest of my Teaching Fellows, you’re from Massachusetts so I can be certain you’ll be rooting for the right team.”
With that he promptly handed over the tickets.
“Thanks, Professor Jeffords; I appreciate it.”
Later that morning I approached Paul after class.
“Uh, Paul, could I speak to you for a moment privately,” I said as the rest of the students piled out of the classroom.
“Sure,” he replied. “What’s up?”
“I was wondering whether you might be interested in taking in a Red Sox game with me on Sunday,” I said.
“You have tickets?” he asked, surprised.
“I do,” I responded. “Professor Jeffords gave them to me. He’s a big fan of the Red Sox and hardly ever misses a game. But he has some kind of scheduling conflict this Sunday so he asked me whether I’d like them. I asked him whether it would be appropriate to invite an undergraduate and he said that would be fine so I decided to invite you.”
“Don’t feel compelled to accept, of course,” I added, not wanting to put Paul on the spot. “I know how busy you must be at this time of year. You probably have better things to do on a Sunday.”
“Not really,” he responded. “I don’t have any plans for the weekend and I’ve never been to a Red Sox game either. It sounds like fun, but surely you have someone better than me you could invite; one of your fellow graduate students perhaps?”
“Or, better still, someone special you haven’t told me about?” he added, grinning.
“Wrong on both counts,” I replied. “I live a pretty boring life I’m afraid.”
“I see,” Paul said, and by now the grin had engulfed his face; “and that being the case, I seemed to be the perfect choice. Is that it, Lane; am I really that boring?”
I remember blushing.
“No, of course not, Paul; I’m not suggesting that at all.”
“I’m just kidding,” he replied. “I’d be happy to go to the game with you. What time is it?”
“Uh, well, the game starts at 1:05 p.m. Sunday,” I said. “I haven’t thought about it, but I suppose we could meet at Harvard Square around 12:30 p.m. and take the T into town. That should get us to Fenway Park in time to buy some hot dogs for lunch; assuming you’re willing to pollute that athletic body of yours with traditional baseball fare, of course.”
“If you’re willing to risk it, so am I,” Paul replied. “But I’ve heard they charge an arm and leg for food at ballparks. Maybe the smarter thing would be for you to meet me at Winthrop a little before noon. We could have a quick lunch and then walk up to the station together. That would save us some money and be a smarter investment in our bodies, don’t you think?”
“Probably,” I said. “If you don’t mind, that is; I seem to be having lunch with you and your friends a lot lately and don’t want to impose.”
“It’s not a problem,” he responded. “I like having lunch with you and so do my friends. We seem to learn something new every time we do; though Anderson may not be your biggest fan, at least since that run-in the two of you had last week.”
“I guess I’ll just have to count that among the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as Shakespeare would say,” I replied, much to Paul’s amusement, as he started to giggle.
Oh, God, Paul, please don’t do that. In addition to being irresistible, seeing you smile like that does things to my body that totally embarrass me, I said to myself as I felt the beginnings of movement in my groin.
“Okay; it’s settled then,” I continued. “I’ll come down to the house a little before noon. We’ll have lunch and then walk up to the T. Should we meet at the dining room?”
“Why don’t you come by my room instead?” Paul replied. “That way I’ll be able to study up until the last possible moment. I should probably do that Sunday morning considering I’ll be taking the afternoon off.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ll stop by your room and pick you up there.”
“See you then,” Paul replied.
As he walked away, my eyes were drawn to Paul’s butt. It was perfect; small, round and tight, everything one could want in a butt and want it I obviously did as I felt the pressure in my groin intensifying.
Oh, please, Lane, I chastised myself. Does it always have to come back to that when Paul’s involved? You’re supposed to be doing this to prove to yourself you can have a close relationship with a male student that isn’t sexual in nature.
Ashamed of myself for permitting my gesture of friendship to degenerate into something else, I quickly turned and walked in the opposite direction.
Sunday arrived soon enough, but for some reason I was running behind schedule. By the time I reached the Yard I realized I was going to be late. Picking up my pace, I broke into a jog, only slowing when I reached Massachusetts Avenue and the traffic hazards it posed.
Finally, safely across, I raced south on Holyoke Street, dashed into the courtyard and then turned right. Entering Standish Hall, I quickly made my way up the stairs and toward the corridor where Paul lived. Racing down one corridor I turned left on to another and barreled into someone coming from the opposite direction.
“Sorry,” I apologized, grabbing hold of him in an effort to prevent either of us from falling.
It was only then I noticed I was holding on to Paul.
I was breathless now from running; my heart was pounding, my lungs struggling to suck in the air my lungs so desperately wanted. But what I recall most of all was touching Paul’s body.
It was exciting.
“I knew I was late,” I said, releasing Paul from my grip reluctantly. “That’s why I was racing, but I apologize for being so clumsy. I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No; I’m fine,” he responded. “I figured maybe you forgot and went directly to the dining hall instead. I was just headed there to check that out.”
Making our way to the dining room in Gore Hall, we quickly moved through the line with Paul in the lead.
“I guess we should sit with Anderson,” he said, over his shoulder as he surveyed the room. “As usual, no one’s sitting with him.”
That wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he was one of Paul’s roommates and I could understand his decision.
Approaching the table where he was sitting, Paul quickly sat down.
“Hi, Paul,” Anderson said, his face brightening.
Then, looking up, he greeted me somewhat less enthusiastically.
“Don’t you have any life at all, Lane,” he asked; “anything better to do than to spend every waking moment of your existence hanging around this place?”
“And good morning to you, too, Anderson,” I replied, brushing aside his rebuke.
“Yeah, sure, good morning,” he continued. “I’m not trying to make you feel unwelcome, but sometimes it creeps me out seeing you around here so much. It’s like you’re the phantom of the opera or something.”
“Oh, well, we won’t be staying very long,” Paul interjected, coming to my rescue. “We’re just going to have a quick lunch before we head off to Fenway Park for the game this afternoon.”
“You’re going to a Red Sox game and didn’t invite me?” Anderson said, turning his attention to Paul.
“Lane only had two tickets and I’m his guest so it’s not like we could have invited anyone else,” Paul replied.
“Now I’m even more creeped out,” Anderson said, looking over at me. “Since when do graduate students invite undergraduates to ball games?”
“Professor Jeffords has season tickets,” I explained, nervously. “He had a scheduling conflict today so he offered the tickets to me Friday morning. Paul was the first person I ran into after that so I offered him the other ticket.”
“I see,” Anderson said, nodding his head. “None of my Teaching Fellows ever did something like that for me.”
That’s because you’re an obnoxious twit and a bigot to boot, Anderson, I replied, silently.
“Oh, well, keep the faith,” I responded. “With that sunny disposition of yours I’m sure your day will come soon enough, Anderson.”
He stared daggers at me momentarily, but then quickly turned his attention to Paul.
“You must feel very special, Paul, to be so popular with one of your Teaching Fellows,” he continued, refusing to drop the subject.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Paul replied. “By the way, have you finished studying for that economics course we’re taking? If so, we could go over some of the material now if you want.”
That proved to be a good topic changer and I did my best to let the two of them talk without injecting myself into the conversation.
Soon enough we had finished lunch and the two of us prepared to depart.
“Have fun this afternoon, Paul,” Anderson said to his roommate.
“And be careful too,” he added, looking at me; “you never know what kind of creeps you’ll run into in Boston. Like this place, it’s another cesspool of liberalism.”
I decided to let it go and soon enough Paul and I were on our way.
“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” I said to Paul as we headed north on Holyoke Street. “I don’t want to be a cause of friction between you and your friends.”
“Anderson’s one of my roommates,” Paul responded. “He’s not a friend. You are; at least I consider you a friend even though you’re also one of my Teaching Fellows. Is it okay for the two of us to be friends, Lane? It doesn’t violate one of those many obscure Harvard rules and traditions Professor Jeffords is always talking about in the classroom, does it?”
“No; not that I know of,” I replied. “But, then again, I’m just one of the inmates here like you; I don’t run the asylum.”
That caused Paul to laugh; seeing him laugh, I began laughing as well. Soon enough we had put our unpleasant encounter with Anderson behind us and were on our way into Boston.
Our afternoon together at Fenway Park turned out to be quite pleasant indeed. The weather was perfect; blue, cloudless, skies, a sun that provided just the right amount of warmth, a light breeze, and no humidity.
If anything, Professor Jeffords’ seats made the whole experience even better; they were right along the first base line and immediately behind the Red Sox dugout so you could actually hear the home team players chatting with one another.
Best of all, the game was close and exciting; the kind of game that held your attention from beginning to end.
It was Carleton Fisk, the Red Sox catcher, who won it for the Sox when he slammed a hanging curveball over the Green Monster in the bottom of the tenth inning. In the ensuing chaos, Paul and I made our way out of Fenway and toward the nearest transit stop.
By the time we got there, the crowd was already backed up to the top of the stairs waiting for the trains to arrive.
“Are you up for walking further on?” I asked Paul. “It’ll take forever to get on the train here.”
“Sure,” he replied. “We’ve been sitting most of the day. I could use the exercise.”
So that’s what we did. We walked east toward the Boston Common and that gave me the excuse I needed. Knowing I didn’t want the day to end quite yet, I suggested we stop and get something to drink before heading back to Cambridge.
“That works for me,” Paul quickly agreed.
“I really enjoyed today,” he finally said once we were settled. “Thanks for inviting me, Lane.”
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
Then, staring across the table, he looked directly into my eyes.
“Do you ever get lonely, Lane?” he asked.
Coming out of the blue, the question surprised me.
“Uh, well, I suppose,” I replied, doing my best to evade a question I knew the answer to all too well. “But I try to keep myself busy so that usually does the trick. I’m a little surprised to hear a question like that from you though, Paul.”
“Why?” he asked.
“You have so many friends for one thing,” I responded. “They admire you very much, as do I and Professor Jeffords. You seem to be one of those fortunate people who have everything going for them.”
Paul didn’t say anything in response. He just sat there staring at me intently and that made me uncomfortable because I had no idea what he was thinking.
“I suppose being so far from home can be difficult,” I added, in an effort to end the silence. “Being from Massachusetts, I can always hop in my car and drive back to the Berkshires if I need a home cooked meal or a little support from family. I realize you can’t do that so I guess it doesn’t surprise me you might get lonely at times for family and friends.”
“Did you know I applied to Stanford and got accepted there?” Paul replied. “That’s where everyone thought I would go to college. Being on the east coast so far away from everything, they were surprised when I chose Harvard instead. But that’s why I chose it, of course; because it was so far away from everyone and everything I was familiar with.”
“I see,” I replied; “or perhaps I don’t. Why would you go so far out of your way? I mean, Harvard’s a fine college, of course; all of us know that. But Stanford is an excellent school as well. If I lived in Oregon, it would have been a difficult choice for me.”
“It wasn’t for me,” Paul quickly responded. “The moment the acceptance letter arrived, there was never a moment’s doubt in my mind where I was going.”
“Was there some special reason for that?” I asked, curious.
“There was,” he said, without further elaboration.
“I see,” I responded even though I didn’t. “I won’t pry by pursuing it further, but perhaps I could ask whether you’re satisfied with the decision you made. You’re three years on from when you first made it. Are you still happy with your decision?”
“Sometimes,” he said. “I mean, as far as the school goes, I’m satisfied. It’s been quite challenging and I’ve had doubts at times whether I belong here; whether I fit in academically. This past year has been good for me that way. Both Professor Jeffords and you have made me feel more confident I do.”
“You do, Paul,” I replied. “And you’re certainly popular with your coaches and teammates on the lacrosse team. That’s apparent to even the most casual observer. And like I said before, you’re quite popular and have many friends among your peers at Winthrop. There’s no reason someone like you should be lonely.”
Paul just sat there staring me without saying anything. It was hard to know what he was thinking.
“Maybe you’re confusing loneliness with being concerned about what the future will bring,” I suggested, still baffled. “You’ll be a senior next year, Paul. It’s not unusual for students to begin worrying about what comes next after college. God only knows, I’ve spent much of the past year worrying about that myself.”
“And what’s the answer?” Paul asked, shifting the conversation from himself to me. “You’ve mentioned a couple of times you’ll be graduating this year. But other than saying you were looking for a job, you’ve never mentioned what you’ll be doing next year.”
“That’s still to be determined,” I said. “I’ve applied for a ton of teaching positions, but haven’t had any offers. Next week I have a job interview in Washington for a non-teaching position. But at the moment it looks like I may end selling pencils in Harvard Square for a living. Will you buy one from me if I do?”
That caused Paul to laugh.
“I’ll have to think about that,” he replied. “I’m a struggling student after all and pencils are expensive. It may depend on how much you charge and whether I can get a better deal from one of the other starving graduate students who hang out in the Square.”
He said all of this in a deadpanned voice that would ordinarily make someone wonder whether he was kidding or being serious. But by now I was on to Paul and burst out laughing at his answer.
“That’s one of the things I love about you, Paul,” I finally replied when I had regained control of myself. “You have a weird sense of humor like me.”
“You see,” Paul responded, nodding his head. “That’s still another similarity between us. What is that? I must have pointed out a hundred similarities like that between us by now.”
“Who knows what others there might be,” he added, looking intently at me again.
Caught by surprise, I didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, Paul came to my rescue quickly.
“But as for being worried about what comes next, I suppose I should be, but I’m not,” he said. “I’m not going to spend my senior year panicking about that. I may apply to law school like my father wants me to do; or join the Peace Corps and try to save the world before Nixon destroys it with his murderous bombing campaigns.”
“I might even get a real job and see what that’s like. Who knows? I may even open my own pencil business in the Square and undercut your prices, Lane,” he added, facetiously.
That did it.
Paul had succeeded in making me laugh and that took the edge off the conversation. Whatever Paul might have been thinking when he raised his initial question, he had moved on now. The shadow that had crossed his face momentarily was gone and now he was back to his usual self.
That made me happy, just as the thought of Paul being lonely had earlier made me sad. I had been lonely for a long time myself and wouldn’t have wished that on anyone, not even Anderson.