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SUMMARY: Two boys from dissimilar backgrounds, one trying to stay out of jail, the other privileged and seemingly destined for greatness. Thrown together by chance and only imperfectly aware of just how much they need one another, the boys struggle to connect across the many divides that separate them and slowly begin to recognize they may share more in common than they could have ever imagined. And yet whether they’ll be able to overcome their fears, doubts and insecurities and open up to each other remains to be seen. 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 noted, all of the characters in the story are fictional; any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. While some of the places described or mentioned in the story are fictional as well, others may be real. However, some liberties may have been taken with the truth to enhance the story. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is 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. October 5, 2015: Chapter 10 is narrated by Holden.
Walking back to Wigglesworth with Sean, I couldn’t recall having a better day since arriving in Cambridge the previous fall. I had thoroughly enjoyed my first major league baseball game at Fenway Park; by the end, I was rooting against the Yankees as hard as anyone. Having dinner with Sean that evening was just the final exclamation point on what had been a perfect day.
Entering the Yard through the gate behind Widener Library, I was shocked to see Roger approaching us from the other direction. He was the last person I wanted to see, but there was no way of avoiding him. All I could hope is that any conversation we had would be brief.
“Well, well, well; if it isn’t the devil himself,” Roger said, blocking our path. “I just stopped by your room to see whether you were around and wanted to do something this evening, Holden. You know what I’m talking about, love; wink, wink.”
Oh God, no, Roger; please don’t embarrass me like this.
“But you weren’t there, of course,” he added, looking over Sean from head to foot. “You were out here with this delicious companion of yours.”
Stop, Roger! Stop!
“If I recall correctly, I told you yesterday my weekend was already full,” I replied, trying to remain calm.
“You did indeed, dear boy,” he responded. “You’re right about that. But knowing how chance has a way of disrupting even the most well organized life like yours, I thought you might have had a change of plans. That’s why I stopped by. I hope you don’t hold it against me, Holden. I was just trying to help you cope with all the desperation and despair that accompanies life at Harvard.”
“I understand, Roger,” I said, “but nothing has changed and I do have plans for the evening. I won’t detain you further.”
I was hoping he’d take the hint, but he didn’t.
“What’s the big rush?” he asked. “Are you trying to hide your handsome young friend from me?”
Then he turned and directed his next words to Sean.
“You’ll have to forgive the poor child,” he said, smiling. “Sometimes Holden forgets the social graces his mother drilled into him as a child; the little things, like introducing two strangers to one another. But I always forgive him, of course. My name is Roger; Roger Hancock. And you are?”
“I see,” Roger said. “How very nice to meet you Sean; although I’m pretty certain I know everyone in the freshman class and I can’t recall anyone named Tierney. Are you new this semester?”
“No,” Sean replied, laconically.
“Perhaps an upper classman then; is that it?’’ Roger continued, relentless as always when he wanted something. In this case what he wanted was for Sean to engage with him.
“I’m not a student here,” Sean responded, “just a friend of Holden’s.”
“Really; how very fascinating,” Roger said. “I can’t recall Holden ever mentioning you before Sean, but then again I probably wouldn’t either if you were my friend. I’d want to keep you all to myself, just like Holden apparently does.”
“Where have you been hiding this lovely lad, Holden?” he continued, turning his attention back to me. “I mean, he’s . . . he’s . . . oh, what’s the word I’m looking for? Yummy, that’s it; he’s positively yummy.”
By now I was seething, but I tried my best to conceal it. It was what Roger wanted; to embarrass me in front of Sean and I didn’t want either of them to realize just how annoyed I was.
“We just met a few days ago, Roger. It’s not like I’ve been conspiring to hide him from anyone, let alone you.”
“I see,” Roger replied. “I shouldn’t really be nosy, I suppose, but you know how I am. Sometimes I can’t help myself, especially around someone as . . . ah . . . as interesting as Sean here.”
“If you don’t go to Harvard, may I be so bold as to ask where you do go to school?” he continued, turning his attention back to Sean. “MIT, perhaps, or one of the other trade schools like that?”
“He’s isn’t enrolled this semester,” I responded quickly before Sean could answer. “He’s taking some time off from school; working and trying to save a little money.”
“Really?” Roger said. “That’s so . . . so . . . so very plebeian. Where do you work, Sean?”
By now I was at my wit’s end. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but Roger was being a colossal pain in the butt.
“Really, Roger; he’s my friend, not yours, and it isn’t polite to pry like this. I don’t think your mother would approve of you prying.”
“Oh, well, be like that, Holden,” Roger responded, pouting. “It’s obvious you want to keep handsome young Sean to yourself.”
“Not that I blame you, of course,” he added, looking over and winking at Sean. “I’d do exactly the same thing if Sean was my, uh . . . my friend, is it?”
It was the way he said the word that finally sent me over the top.
“Why are you twisting everything, Roger?” I asked. “Why are you making it sound like there’s something sinister in my being friends with Sean?”
“No, no, of course not,” he responded. “You seem very defensive this evening, Holden. Doesn’t he seem defensive to you Sean?” he added, turning his attention to Sean once again.
“Not really,” Sean replied. “But you’re right; you do seem kind of nosy.”
Thank you, Sean!
“Et tu, Sean?” Roger said. “And here I was about to ask whether you’d like to be my friend some evening as well. I was just trying to be pleasant, to make conversation. But if you don’t want to talk about where you were going to school before you decided to take time off, that’s perfectly fine.”
“I don’t go to college at all,” Sean responded. “I can’t afford it right now. Like Holden said, I’m working to save some money so I can go to college someday.”
“Oh my goodness; are you serious?” Roger asked. “You’re not in school, Sean? Did Holden venture into Boston to find you; if not, what brings you to Cambridge?”
“I live here,” Sean replied before I had a chance to stop Roger’s relentless interrogation.
“Really; you live in Cambridge? Do you know what that means, Sean? It means you’re a townie; at least technically you’re a townie. Is that what you’re telling me?”
“I live in town so I guess that makes me a townie, at least to you,” Sean said.
“Oh, Holden,” Roger replied, turning his attention back to me. “You are being naughty tonight, aren’t you? I’m shocked; positively shocked. I never would have expected something like this from you of all people. But I forgive you, love. It’s been a long year and I realize the sap rises in the spring in New England. And I don’t want to detain you and your . . . your . . . friend, is it? Like I said, he’s positively yummy and I hope the two of you have a fabulous time this evening.”
“Well done, Holden! You have excellent taste.”
By now I was about to explode. I wanted to strangle Roger.
“I don’t know what you’re implying,” I said, my anger boiling over. “Sean and I are friends. That’s all we are. But then again you always put some sinister connotation on everything, even friendship. It’s why no one likes you.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Holden,” he replied, pretending to be hurt. “Truly I am, love. But like Queen Gertrude tells Hamlet, the lady doth protest too much, methinks. In any event, it was nice to meet you, Sean. Holden is a very nice boy and I’m sure the two of you will have a lovely time this evening.”
The lady doth protest too much, methinks?
God damn it, Roger, I’m not a girl!
I’m not Marilyn Monroe!
“Ta, ta, for now, Holden,” he added, turning back to me. “You’ll have to tell me all about your dalliance with your handsome young friend the next time we meet, love.”
Don’t hold your breath, Roger, you jerk.
Turning abruptly, Roger walked away.
The whole thing had been embarrassing; more than embarrassing, it had been the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. I felt totally humiliated.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled to Sean. “Roger is a pain in the best of circumstances. Tonight was worse than usual.”
“Forget about it,” he responded.
With that the two of us belatedly made our way to my room.
Try as hard as I could, I couldn’t forget it. If he didn’t know already, Roger had practically told Sean I was gay. I was angry about that; even angrier at the suggestion we were on our way back to my room to have sex.
That wasn’t true.
Yes, I liked Sean. I wanted us to be friends. But I hadn’t gone into Cambridge to hire some townie to have sex with me like Roger said he had done on more than one occasion.
He had made the whole thing sound tawdry.
“Look, I want to apologize again for what just happened, Sean,” I finally said. “When Roger’s being catty and snippy like that, he’s impossible.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Sean responded. “Everyone knows someone who’s a jerk; although I’ll admit he’s a bigger jerk than most of the ones I know.”
“Um, well, I hope you don’t think he’s right; that I was bringing you back here because . . . uh . . . because I had some ulterior motive. I don’t.”
“I know,” he replied. “I mean, I was the one who suggested we come back here, not you; as for Roger, it sounded like he has some kind of crush on you, but it was pretty obvious it’s not one you reciprocate.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I don’t. But you’re right about him liking me. The thing is, I realized months ago just how nasty he could be; how superior he feels to everyone, especially to anyone who doesn’t go to Harvard. I can’t believe he called MIT a trade school. I’m not like that, Sean. I hope you realize that by now.”
“I do,” he said. “Like I said, forget about it. He’s not worth getting your panties all in a bunch about.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, upset by his choice of words.
Why does everyone think I’m a girl?
“Oh, shit, I shouldn’t have said that,” he replied. “I’m sorry. It’s just an expression my friends and I use a lot. I wasn’t implying anything, Holden. Like I said, I apologize.”
It was obvious he was sorry and I had overreacted. I felt bad about that, but by now I was even more flustered than ever.
“Sorry,” I said. “I guess I’m just feeling overly sensitive tonight for some reason. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. It’s just that Roger can be such a jerk!”
“I thought we already agreed on that,” Sean responded; “that Roger’s a jerk. Forget about him. Why don’t you show me that math assignment you’re having trouble with?”
“Okay,” I sighed. “You’re right about ignoring Roger, but do you really want to look at the problem set? You don’t have to you, you know; it’s my problem, not yours.”
“I know, but I’m curious now,” he responded. “I may not be able to figure it out, but the challenge intrigues me.”
Walking over to my desk, I pulled out the folder in which I kept my math assignments. It wasn’t one of my favorite folders. Just looking at the grades on some of my previous assignments was enough to make me sick.
Retrieving the latest problem set, I handed it to Sean. He stared at it momentarily and then pursed his lips. I was sorry I had embarrassed him by even showing it to him.
“Oh wow, cool,” he volunteered. “This is pretty interesting. I’m going to need a minute or two to decipher this.”
With that he walked over to one of the chairs and sat down. Totally absorbed by the piece of paper he was studying, he seemed to be in some other world. Finally he looked up and smiled.
“Whoever put this together is pretty clever,” he volunteered. “He took something that’s basically simple and then surrounded it with a bunch of incredibly complicated nonsense that’s totally extraneous to the core problem. Here, let me show you.”
Standing up, he walked over to the desk and motioned for me to join him. Then, pencil in hand, he circled a bunch of different things.
“Forget about the stuff I circled,” he said. “Focus on the rest of it. Do you understand the solution now?”
Looking at the sheet of paper, it dawned on me I did know the answer, at least to the part of the problem set that remained if you ignored what Sean had circled.
Taking the pencil from him, I scribbled out what seemed like the most probable answer.
“Exactly,” Sean said, smiling at me. “You see? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
“But . . . but . . . I don’t understand,” I said, looking at him. “What about all the rest of this stuff?”
“It’s nonsense,” Sean replied. “It has nothing to do with the core problem. It’s been put there to lead you astray; to fool you. Like I said, whoever devised this problem set was clever; more than clever, diabolical almost.”
“That’s incredible,” I said. “How did you know that?”
“That’s a good question,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly. I just did. The parts I circled didn’t connect to the core issue in any way. Did you think they did?”
“I didn’t know what to think,” I said. “I mean, I figured everything had to be connected somehow. But I couldn’t figure out how exactly.”
“That should have been your first clue,” he said. “Math is pretty precise, Holden; if something doesn’t fit, you need to set it aside and move on to the other elements, not go in search of some grand design that ties everything together. So what else is causing you problems with this course?”
Sitting down at the computer, I pulled up the notes I had been taking in class and some of the required reading. The two of us went back to the couch, sat down, and spent the next couple of hours going through all of it. I would explain why I found something confusing. Then Sean would go over it with me, showing why it wasn’t.
When we were finished, I had a much better understanding of the material. It wasn’t like I had been struck down like Paul on the road to Damascus; that everything was perfectly clear now. But a lot more was clear than had been the case when we started and I realized I’d be able to get through the material with Sean’s help.
“You’re amazing,” I said, looking over at him and smiling. “How do you know all this stuff?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve always been good at a math, even as a little kid. I used to make other kids throw out a bunch of numbers and ask me to add or subtract them; multiply them, divide them, whatever. They would be using their calculators while I would be doing the whole thing in my head. Usually I had the correct answer before any of them.”
“But how I know the answers isn’t always clear to me, at least at first. I just do. Then I reverse engineer everything to figure it out the way the teachers want you to do it.”
“Unbelievable,” I replied. “Did you take the SATs in high school?”
“I did,” he said.
“What did you score on math?”
“800,” he responded.
I remember being astonished. It was the highest possible score.
“You’re kidding; 800 on math? No one scores 800 on math, Sean. That’s incredible. You’re a genius.”
“Yeah, right,” he responded, laughing. “That’s why I’m working at Fat Boys and you’re the student at Harvard; because I’m such a genius.”
“That doesn’t prove anything,” I said. “What about the rest of them? What did you score overall?”
“Um, let me think,” he said. “I think I scored 800 and 760 on the other two.”
“That would add up to . . . ”
“2360,” he interjected, smiling. “You see? I still like adding numbers in my head and showing off like I did when I was little.”
“Where did you apply to college?” I asked, curious. “I mean, I’m not trying to be nosy or anything, but I’d be interested in knowing.”
“UMass Boston,” he said.
“And where else?” I asked.
“I didn’t apply anywhere else; as a matter of fact, I only applied to UMass to see what would happen.”
“Why?” I asked, astonished. “I mean, I don’t know what your grades were in high school, but you could have gotten into Harvard or wherever you wanted with SAT scores like that. I only scored 2240 on my SATs.”
“It costs money to apply to college,” Sean replied; “more importantly, it costs tons of money to actually go to college. That’s why I only applied to one school. Even if I could have gotten in, which I doubt, there was no way I could ever afford a place like Harvard. Why apply someplace you can’t afford? If I got accepted and couldn’t go, that would be even more disappointing than not getting accepted at all.”
“Didn’t your guidance counselor tell you the best colleges and universities base a lot of their financial aid decisions on need,” I asked; “that if you got accepted, they might pay your way through college with SAT scores like that?”
“My guidance counselor was pretty old, Holden,” he responded. “She was mostly interested in retiring and she was counseling a ton of students in any event, not just me. We only talked once and then just for a few minutes. She knew I didn’t have the money for college and I told her upfront there was no way I was going into debt to pay for it either. On top of that, my father was bugging me to join the military and send my paychecks home.”
“Unbelievable,” I said. “But you must have gotten admitted to UMass Boston? Didn’t they offer you a good financial aid package?”
“Dream on, Holden,” he responded. “What they offered was a three part deal; one third scholarship, with the remaining two thirds split between work study and student loans. I wouldn’t have minded working, but there was no way I was going into debt by taking out a bunch of loans. I’ve seen what being in debt has done for my parents; no way that’s going to happen to me.”
“I don’t believe this,” I said. “Someone smart like you should have gotten a full scholarship.”
“Should have, could have, whatever,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders. “What’s the point talking about it? It won’t change anything; it’ll only make me depressed.”
“What about that history paper?” he continued. “Do you want me to look at that? I’ll need to call home first to let my mother know where I am and when I’ll be home; and it’s not like I know much about that kind of shit in any event. But maybe getting a fresh perspective would help.”
“Sure,” I said.
Walking over to the computer, I called up the file and sent it to the printer while Sean called home.
“It’s not supposed to be more than eight thousand words,” I said, handing it to him. “What you’re looking at is ten thousand words already and I have more stuff to add.”
Taking the paper, Sean sat down again and started reading while I busied myself with other things.
“This is pretty interesting,” he said when he was finished. “You’re a very good writer, Holden. You held my attention. But if you have to meet a word limit, it shouldn’t be all that hard. What I see is someone trying to impress his professor. One of the ways you do that is by making a point and then backing it up with a ton of examples.”
“You could eliminate a lot of words just by choosing the one or two best examples. Then you could take the rest and put them in a footnote. That’ll save you a ton of words and allow you to add more. But this is great other than that.”
“You really think so?” I said.
“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,” he responded. “I don’t hand out compliments just to make someone feel good. In any event, it’s getting late and I should be going unless you have something else you need me to do tonight.”
Suddenly I realized I had been fooling myself all along; that Roger had been right after all. It wasn’t just about friendship.
I need you to watch me take off my clothes and get naked for you, Sean; and then I need you to take me into your arms and kiss me and make passionate love to me.
Do you think you could do that, Sean?
“What’s the big rush?” I asked. “The night is young. There must be something fun we could do before you go home.”
“Fun?” he responded. “You’re a student at Harvard, Holden. You’re only allowed so much fun in a day and you used up your quota at the game today. Now you have to suffer to make up for that. Of course, being a masochist, that’ll probably actually be fun for you.”
“Very funny,” I said. “You never forget anything, do you? But you can’t leave now. We haven’t talked.”
“Funny,” he replied. “I thought that’s what we’ve been doing the last couple of hours.”
“But that was about math and my history paper and boring stuff. We haven’t talked about anything interesting.”
“Oh, jeez, I don’t know,” I said. “We could talk about your views on the war and income inequality or you and me; interesting stuff.”
“Oh, I see; that stuff,” he replied. “That’s easy. I’m against the war because young people die for old people’s stupidity; and as for income inequality, I’m against it. I’d be perfectly willing to take any money you and the rest of the rich people are willing to give me to help solve the problem.”
“And as for you and me, exactly what more do you want to talk about? Because my mother was pretty upset with me last night for staying away from home the two previous evenings; she accused me of whoring around with some loose girl in Harvard Square. You don’t look like a loose girl to me, Holden, but I was too embarrassed to tell her the truth.”
He was bantering with me and I should have responded with some witty retort about loose girls, but I didn’t. I was still too sensitive, especially after our earlier run in with Roger.
“Do you really have to go?” I asked. “I mean, you’re welcome to stay here. It’s nice having someone to talk to, especially when I wake in the morning.”
“Oh yeah, like the two of us had profound conversations those two mornings I was here,” he responded, smirking at me. “What I recall is you getting blown away on weed and me having to put you to bed; and then me having to rush out of here in the morning to get to my job on time.”
“Besides, are you really sure you want to me to stay? That dude Roger has such a hard-on for you it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s camped outside spying on us. What would he think if I never came out tonight?”
I realized now I had been wrong. Sean had understood Roger’s double entendres perfectly and knew Roger was gay however much he denied it. He probably knew I was gay as well.
That’s probably the reason he wants to leave, Holden. Not being gay, he’s afraid you might put a move on him.
“Why should I care what Roger thinks?” I replied.
“You shouldn’t,” he said. “But he strikes me as someone who’s nasty; he’s probably into gossip and shit like that. I could see the dude spreading rumors about you. I wouldn’t put it past him.”
“Well, you know, that you’re gay and that you had a townie over to your room and he stayed all night.”
“I don’t think many of my classmates would care if I’m gay,” I said. “I realize it’s a big deal for some people, but there are plenty of gay students at Harvard. But, okay, I understand why that might worry you; that you wouldn’t want people thinking you’re gay. If you don’t want to stay, I understand. But would you at least let me walk you home?”
“I’m not leaving because I’m worried Roger might think I’m gay, Holden,” he replied. “I don’t give a shit what that jerk thinks. I’m leaving because I promised to take my little brother and his friend to the Red Sox game tomorrow and it’ll be a lot easier in the morning if I’m home.”
“Kev’s even more fanatical about the Sox than me. He was all over my case when I told him I was going to the game with you today. He wanted to come along and kept pestering me. The only way I could get him off my case was by promising to take him to the game tomorrow. That’s why I’m going home. If you want to walk me home, fine, but I don’t see the point.”
It’ll give me more time with you, Sean; that’s the point. And maybe that’ll help me tell you the truth.
Grabbing a jacket, I ushered him out the door. The two of us walked north through the Yard and then east on Cambridge. He lived on Tremont Street. By the time we got there it was well after midnight.
“I, uh . . . I’m thinking I should tell you something,” I stammered, summoning my courage.
“Oh, yeah, what’s that?” he responded.
“What Roger said; I mean, I thought it was pretty obvious he was trying to tell you I’m gay. Would it bother you if I was?”
“No,” he replied. “Why should it?”
“Well, I don’t know,” I said, flustered by how calmly he had taken the idea. “If I was gay and I’m not saying I am, I know it would bother a lot of guys; I mean, what with you being Catholic and Irish, it wouldn’t surprise me if it bothered you.”
“That’s funny, Holden,” he replied. “I’m guessing you’d be upset if I told you I hated gay people and I can understand why. But apparently you don’t think I should be upset if you think everyone who’s Catholic or Irish is a homophobe. But, look, no; it doesn’t bother me. My younger brother is gay. Why would it bother me if you were?”
“You’re kidding,” I said, astonished. “Your younger brother is gay?”
“He is, Holden, and I love him very much. It isn’t any of my business whether you’re gay or not. You don’t have to tell me unless you want to. But just so you know, it wouldn’t change anything if you were; and as far as what Roger said, I’ve already told you what I think of Roger.”
I thought about telling him right then.
You should do it, Holden. You should tell him you’re gay right now. It doesn’t matter to him.
Yeah, that’s true; but we’re already at his place and he needs to go in. It’d be better to tell him when we have more time to talk about it; to help him get more comfortable with the idea of being friends with someone his own age that’s gay.
“I see,” I responded. “Well, thanks; I don’t know why I let Roger twist me up in knots like that, but there are times when he does.”
“I can see,” he responded. “But don’t get twisted up on my account.”
“Okay, thanks. And, um, have fun with your little brother tomorrow. I’d like to meet him sometime.”
‘Sure,” he said; “maybe you will. He was interested in meeting you as well to see if he approved.”
“Approved of you being my friend,” Sean replied. “He’s very protective of me.”
“I see. I wish I had a brother like him.”
He smiled at me, then turned and started to walk away.
“Sean,” I said.
“Do you still have a transcript of your high school grades?” I asked.
“Um, well, sure; I think so,” he responded. “Why?”
“If it’s okay with you, I’d like to look at them,” I said. “Not to be nosy; I just want to see how they compare to my own grades in school.”
“I don’t know why,” he responded, “but sure. I’ll try to make a copy and bring it along the next time I see you; which will be when exactly?”
“Soon; I’ll call or text you tomorrow if that’s okay,” I said.
“Sure,” he replied. “I’d like that.”