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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.
THE OPENED DOOR
By now I realized just how hungry I was. I hadn’t had much to eat all day and a couple of slices of pizza sounded good to me.
You can stay another twenty or thirty minutes and still get home before Mom goes to bed, Sean. She’s going to be mad anyway; the later you get home, the less bitching you’ll have to put up with.
“Uh, well, sure; why not?” I responded. “I could use some food; what toppings were you thinking about?”
“Oh, I’m easy, Sean,” he said, grinning again. “Whatever you want is fine with me.”
Soon enough we settled on pepperoni and sausage. Pulling out his iPhone, Holden placed the order. Then, finished, he looked at me.
“They said it would be ready in twenty minutes. I’ll walk over there now and get it hot when it comes out of the oven. You can come along if you want, but I’ll understand if you’re tired and want to stay here. You’ve been working all day. I understand that.”
He was right. I was tired, but also surprised he was willing to leave me alone in his room. If the situation had been reversed, I wouldn’t have done the same thing.
“Uh, well, I guess I’d prefer staying then,” I said. “I am kind of tired.”
“That’s fine,” he replied. “Feel free to make yourself at home. When I get back, I’ll pay for that marijuana you promised to sell me and then you can show me how to roll a joint.”
“I don’t recall promising to sell you anything, Holden,” I said.
“Maybe not,” he responded, grinning. “But you will, Sean, won’t you? I mean we’re friends and friends help their friends out with things like that.”
“You’re almost as persistent as my little brother when he wants something,” I said, shaking my head. “But, sure, I can sell you some. Not by the joint though; I don’t sell by the joint. Do you want a nickel or dime bag?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he replied; “whatever’s convenient for you. Like I said, I’ll pay you for it when I get back from Pinocchio’s.”
With that he pulled on a jacket and left.
Jesus, he’s a strange one, I recall thinking; too trusting, that’s for sure, leaving me alone like this. I could rip him off if I wanted.
I wasn’t planning to do that. I was a lot of things, but I wasn’t a thief and by now I was mostly just curious about Holden. I remember thinking he was probably just lonely from being away from home. He had told me he didn’t have any friends the previous evening although that seemed kind of strange.
Who doesn’t have friends, Sean, especially someone like him with money? There has to be more to it than he’s telling you.
I just didn’t understand what.
It couldn’t be the pot; by now he had to realize I would sell him the pot if he had the money. We didn’t have to be friends for that.
He had mentioned again he wanted to be friends, but I still didn’t know why. Except for being lonely, which was the most likely explanation, being gay was the only other thing that seemed possible. He had told me he didn’t have a girlfriend the previous night and there weren’t any pictures of girls around the place.
He had also dropped a couple of hints along the way that made me suspicious.
“Oh, I’m easy, Sean,” he had said and it wasn’t just the words that had made me wonder. It was the way he said them; the grin on his face and the little shake he had given his hips to emphasize the point.
“Give it up, Sean,” the inner voice counseled. “You’re reading way too much into things.”
“Oh yeah,” I responded. “What about that picture of those two naked boys staring out at the ocean in his bedroom?”
It was only a picture of their butts, but it seemed kind of odd. My parents would have been all over my case if I put something like that up in the room I shared with Kevin; although Kev would have loved it no doubt.
What if he is gay, Sean?
How would you feel about that?
It wouldn’t be a problem, at least not for me. I was gay too after all and I liked him. He had done me a favor. He was a pretty nice kid; smart, personable, cute.
Is that it, Sean? Or is there more to it?
Last night when he was off in his own little world and you looked at him, you got a stiffy. That’s never happened before when you looked at a guy.
You must be really attracted to him for something like that to happen; don’t you think?
Maybe that was part of it; I mean, I loved his smile, loved it even more when his lips curled into a grin.
Maybe I am attracted to him a little. I mean, I’m gay. When did it become a crime for someone who’s gay to be attracted to another dude?
It’s not a crime, Sean; just don’t go thinking he’s interested in you. The two of you are completely different. He has money for one thing. You don’t.
So what? I responded. A lot of these kids at Harvard have money; not all of them, but enough to keep the place afloat. I mean, Harvard isn’t a charity after all. It charges serious money to go here and it’s put a few bucks away in the bank over the years.
Exactly, Sean; but why would someone with money like that be interested in you of all people?
Why wouldn’t he? I countered. Maybe I don’t have money like him, but I have other things going for me.
Like what, Sean? Take a look in the mirror, dude. You’re not as smart as he is; hell, you’re not even in college. Look at your clothes and compare them to his. He has a lot more and his are expensive and fashionable, not like those jeans and t-shirts you wear all the time.
So what? He doesn’t seem to mind what I’m wearing. He doesn’t even seem interested in what I’m wearing for that matter. It isn’t about clothes.
Maybe not, Sean, but have you taken a good look around this place. Does it look anything like that apartment your family rents? Does it look like that room you share with Kevin?
This place is tastefully furnished. It has artwork on the walls, not those posters Kevin loves so much; and just look at all the stuff he has. All of it comes from Apple and he has a ton of it; a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, an iPod, and an iPhone. None of that stuff comes cheap.
What’s the point? I asked. That he has more stuff than me? Who cares?
Come on, Sean; be real. Why would someone like Holden be interested in you? Stop deluding yourself, dude. Nothing good can come from this; both of us know that.
I remember sighing.
Thinking about it, I realized the voice was probably right. I was fooling myself.
I liked Holden and it would be cool having a friend who went to a place like Harvard. But even if he was gay and I wasn’t certain of that, we didn’t have much in common. He would realize quickly enough how little alike we were. Once he did, that would be the end of it.
You need to leave, Sean. You need to get out the hell of here and go home before he gets back with that pizza. There’s no sense getting invested in this dude. You’ll end up disappointed. You know that.
Walking down to his room, I quickly changed clothes and then headed back to where I had come from. Retrieving a baggie from the backpack he had given me, I set it down on the coffee table and rolled a couple of joints for him.
There you go, Holden. That should even everything up.
Strapping the backpack on, I stood up and took one final look around.
This is nice, Sean. It would be great to live in a place like this; to have a friend here. But something like that just isn’t in the stars for someone like you.
Heading toward the door, I spied the computer on his desk and could see he was working on something. Curious, I sat down and looked at the screen.
Thursday, May 16 . . .
Last evening was different from any I’ve had at Harvard; more interesting, more exciting, better. I met a boy from Cambridge who’s about the same age as me. His name is Sean and he’s very good looking, at least in that bad boy kind of way I’m attracted to. He was trying to elude campus security because he sells pot to help pay the bills. And I was the one that saved him!
It was apparently the beginning of the journal entry Holden had mentioned to me. He was describing what happened the previous evening and he had done a good job of it. His writing was clear and concise and he recounted the facts accurately, without editorial comment. And then toward the end the entry became more personal.
Even though I knew I shouldn’t be looking at it, I couldn’t stop.
Never having had a best friend, I wonder if anything will come of this. I like Sean. He’s different from anyone I’ve ever met in so many ways, but seems to resist friendship just like the rest. Is it their fault or mine? Why does telling someone you like them bother so many people? Why is asking to be friends such a crime?
To so many of my classmates at Harvard being friends means friending someone on Facebook. But is that all there is to friendship; just adding someone to your contact list?
When I look up the word friend in the dictionary, it lists almost thirty synonyms. But isn’t there a difference between the first, acquaintance, and the last, soul mate? Like everyone else, I have lots of acquaintances; even Roger’s an acquaintance, I suppose, but I would hardly consider him a friend.
I’ve never had a soul mate and that seems to be what I’ve been looking for all these years. Could Sean be the one?
Roger would consider Sean a slug. That’s his favorite term for anyone who doesn’t go to school here; who has to work for a living.
But I don’t care what Roger thinks. I like Sean.
Like so many others, however, he doesn’t seem to like me very much.
What is it about you that turns people off, Holden?
That’s where the entry ended and I remember being stunned. He hadn’t exactly said he was gay, but it was hard to avoid that conclusion. And yet even if he had said it, that wouldn’t have been the biggest surprise for me.
What surprised me the most was something else; he didn’t seem to be playing some angle like Warren and Tony or my friends; or even me for that matter if I was being honest about it.
He seemed different; genuine. There was nothing fake about him.
Jesus, Sean, maybe the dude actually likes you. I mean, why else would he write something like that?
By now I was feeling guilty.
You shouldn’t have looked at it, Sean, the inner voice whispered. You invaded his space; the place where he goes when he wants to be by himself.
It’s a little fucking late for recriminations, don’t you think? I responded.
Curiosity aroused, I decided to scroll down to the previous entry and look at that. It was much shorter, but even more shocking.
Wednesday, May 15 . . .
I made an appointment to see Professor Jeffords on Friday. I was amazed I could get in to see him so quickly. It would have taken weeks to schedule an appointment with any other adviser. But, then again, Professor Jeffords is pretty amazing. He’s the one person I’ll really miss when I leave Harvard, but I need to let him know I’ve decided to drop out.
I wonder if he’ll try to persuade me not to?
Not that there’s any chance I’ll change my mind, but it would be nice to think somebody around this place actually cares what I do.
I couldn’t believe what I had just read.
What the fuck is that all about, dude?
You’re going to drop out of Harvard, the best college in America?
Why the fuck would you do something stupid like that?
Hearing footsteps climbing the stairs, I returned the curser to the place I had found it, hit the power saving key, and walked back across the room. Quickly taking my backpack off, I sat down again.
“Back,” he said, opening the door and handing the pizza to me. “I see you’ve changed clothes. Were you planning to leave?”
It was almost like he could read my mind.
“Uh, no; I, um, I just figured it would save time later when I do,” I lied.
Then, changing topics, I moved on.
“Boy, that pizza smells good, Holden. How much do I owe you?”
“You don’t owe me anything. I told you I’d pay. I was hungry and I love Pinocchio’s pizza, but I hardly ever buy it because so much goes to waste. You’re doing me a favor by having some. I don’t feel so guilty about all the starving people in the world when someone shares it with me.”
“You could have invited your girlfriend over to have some,” I said, trying to draw him out.
Shit! Why are you doing this, Sean? Why are you trying to trick him?
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” he replied. “Didn’t I tell you that last night?”
“If you did, I must have thought you were kidding,” I said. “I mean, it’s hard to believe you don’t. You’re a good looking dude, Holden. You’re obviously smart because you go to the best college in the country. You don’t seem to be hurting for money. I would have thought girls would be falling all over someone like you.”
“Well, you would have thought wrong then,” he responded, sitting down across from me. “I don’t even know that many girls in my class; or guys for that matter. I haven’t made a lot of friends since coming here. I seem to have a problem making friends.”
Then he spotted the bag of pot and the joints I had left on the coffee table for him.
“Um, how much do I owe you for that marijuana?” he continued.
“Ordinarily it would cost you fifty bucks, Holden,” I said. “But being the nice guy I am, I’m going to cut you a break since it’s not even close to being an ounce. But it’s good stuff and I’ll sell it to you for cost; thirty-five bucks.”
Why the hell are you doing that, dude? You’re running a business here, not a charity.
For Christ’s sake, it’s only fifteen bucks. Give it a rest for crying out loud.
“I suppose you could be cheating me,” he responded, “but it doesn’t matter. I’ll pay whatever you ask.”
That made me wonder whether he trusted me after all; more than that, it hurt.
“Well, see, there you go, Holden,” I responded, annoyed. “You ask me to stay. You tell me you want to be friends and then you accuse me of ripping you off. What kind of friend does that? If I wanted to rip you off, I would have told you it was worth a lot more.”
“But you can have it for free,” I added, starting to stand up. ”That way you’ll know I’m not cheating you. I need to leave in any event.”
Holden was on his feet even quicker than me and I could see he was upset.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “Please forgive me; I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t know why I did. I’ve been on edge lately about school and stuff; and I guess it surprised me you were still here when I got back. I was pretty certain you’d leave. I was surprised when you decided to stay and share the pizza with me.”
“Why?” I asked. “Are you telling me you’re not an interesting person, Holden; not someone I should want to be friends with?”
“Um, well, I don’t know how interesting I am,” he responded. “I bore people to death most of the time, but it would be nice to be friends with someone who isn’t pretending to be something he isn’t like most of my classmates do.”
What the hell does that mean? I recall thinking.
“I’m not sure I’m catching your drift, Holden,” I said. “I mean, you’re the one going to the best school in America; not me. I’m the one who should be envious, not you. I mean, I like this place. It’s really nice: big rooms, hardwood floors, even your own bedroom and bathroom.”
“But what about the rest of it, the teachers, the courses, your fellow students; are they everything you expected when you applied to this place?”
“Um, I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t think I would get in when I applied to Harvard. My guidance counselor said my chances were iffy. But then the acceptance letter arrived; once it did, I didn’t have any choice in the matter. My parents were so proud of me and they were desperate for me to go here. I didn’t want to disappoint them by not accepting.”
“I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived,” he continued. “It was the first time in life I was on my own; the first time I ever had to make any decisions for myself. As for the professors, they’re very smart, very knowledgeable; at least as far as I can tell from the classroom. Like I mentioned, we don’t get much one on one time with them; none really. Mostly we interact with the Teaching Fellows.”
“I was probably too hard on them last night. As people, most of them are nice enough. As academics, some are a little too arrogant for my taste, but then again so are most of my classmates.”
“Like I said, everyone is pretending to be someone they’re not; all the students planning to concentrate in English literature consider themselves novelists or poets. The political science majors are all budding politicians; the economics majors all wannabe capitalists.”
“If you work at it, sometimes you can persuade a few of them to take off their masks momentarily and try to relate to you as a real human being; but, then again, sometimes when they let down their masks you find out they’re twits, bigots or worse.”
“The course work is hard, at least for me. I spend a lot of my time trying to keep up with the reading and papers or preparing for tests or whatever; not very successfully it seems. But I love the campus and the community, at least the little I’ve seen of it.”
“I haven’t really ventured out of Harvard Square very far. I mean, I’ve never even been into Boston. My parents don’t want me to go there; and being timid and obedient, I’ve done what they told me even though they’re miles away.”
“Maybe that’s why I want to be friends with you. You live in the real world, Sean, not some protected cage like me. You’re not afraid to take chances; not afraid to make decisions for yourself.”
Is that what he really thinks? I wondered.
“Could I ask you a question?” he continued.
“Sure,” I replied, still confused; still trying to figure out what he was trying to tell me.
“Um, well, I was just wondering what it’s like working at Fat Boys?”
“Are you serious?” I said. “Why would you wonder something like that?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I may have to get a job myself pretty soon and I was just wondering what it’d be like to work there.”
Dropping out is stupid enough, Holden; working for Warren would be even stupider.
“It’s a pain in the ass,” I said, doing my best to discourage him. “You wouldn’t like it at all. Being on your feet eight hours a day is hard and the customers are always bitching about something. There’s no way to please them no matter how hard you try.”
“And then there’s the freaking owner. He’s a slave driver; a cheap one too. He starts you off at minimum wage and you have to be there a year before he’ll even consider moving you up.”
“He only hires boys because he likes boy,” I continued. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but no one should have to worry about having some fat dude goose their ass whenever he walks by. Honestly, I hate the place. If they had a McDonald’s in Harvard Square I’d apply for a job there. But they don’t so I’m stuck with Fat Boys.”
“Why do you work there if you don’t like it that much?” he asked.
“Why? Because I need the money, Holden; that’s why.”
“That’s one of the things I’m confused about,” he responded. “I thought selling marijuana was what you did to make money.”
“I do; and I sell papers in the morning at the kiosk in Harvard Square before I go to work at Fat Boys. And on the weekends I’m usually down at Fenway Park scalping tickets to Red Sox games. Even that isn’t easy with all the cops around on the lookout for scalpers.”
“That’s a lot of jobs, isn’t it?” he asked. “When do you have fun?”
“Fun?” I responded. “What’s that, Holden? Seriously, I have to work for a living just like my parents have all their lives. And you know what they have to show for it? Nothing!”
“I don’t want to end up like that; working my whole life and never having anything to show for it. I work all those jobs because I’m trying to save enough money to go to community college in a year or two. But the jobs don’t pay very much and I’m not saving a lot.”
“Even selling marijuana doesn’t bring in as much as you seem to think; and now that I’m working, my father charges me for a bed in a small room I have to share with my brother.”
“Plus I have to pay for my food too,” I continued. “It all adds up and there isn’t much left at the end of the week, but I’m trying to put some aside.”
By now I realized I was getting a little hot under the collar the more I talked about it.
You need to calm down, Sean. It isn’t his fault you’re stuck in lousy jobs.
“What’s your brother like?” Holden asked, suddenly changing subjects on me again.
“My brother; oh, jeez, I dunno,” I replied, confused. “I have three of them. They’re a pain in the ass. I mean, not really; I love them. But sharing a room with Kevin means I have no privacy at all. There are six of us altogether, including my parents, and we live in a small place with just one bathroom. It’s a madhouse in the morning a lot of the time.”
“But you love your siblings, right?” he asked.
“Um, well, yeah, I suppose; especially Kevin. He’s my 14 year old brother. He’s kind of a pain in the ass, but incredibly smart; a lot smarter than me actually. He could be anything he wants when he grows up.”
“He could be a student at Harvard just like you, Holden,” I added, determined to let him know we weren’t stupid. “He’s smart enough. He could go here if he had the money, but he doesn’t. Sometimes I think maybe I’ll use whatever I save to send him to college instead of me.”
“Kev could be someone really important if people like us could ever catch a break; if he could get the kind of education people like you take for granted.”
Holden just sat there staring at me silently.
I wondered whether I had insulted him with my little outburst. I didn’t mean to. Yeah, I was mad at him for thinking about dropping out of Harvard. He was taking something for granted I never would have.
But I wasn’t trying to insult him; not really. I was just trying to let him how much some of the rest of us would appreciate the opportunity he had been given.
“That’s, uh; that’s very generous of you, Sean,” he responded; “I mean, putting your brother’s education before yours.”
“Hey, I’m not saying I’m going to do it, but I feel bad for him. It’s tough growing up poor; believe me.”
“Maybe I could help,” he said.
“Oh yeah, I kind of doubt it,” I responded. “How?”
“Um, I’m not sure exactly; but probably lots of ways, I suppose, now that I think about it. I’m going to be staying here in Cambridge this summer for one thing and I’m going to have my own apartment off the Square. My parents have already signed the lease for it. You could come live there with me for free, Sean. That would save you some money.”
“I mean, my parents are renting the place for me so it’s not like I need someone to help pay the rent. I’m a pretty good cook, too, so I could take care of the food as well. It would be fun living together, Sean; don’t you think that would be fun, you and me living together like that?”
By now I didn’t know what to think. I mean, it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard in my life. We had only known each other twenty-four hours and here he was inviting me to live with him for the summer rent free and to pay for the food to boot.
If he’s gay, you’ll be paying rent one way or another, Sean. You can count on that.
“Um, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know. It sounds kind of insane actually considering how little we know about one another. I’d have to think about that.”
“Sure,” he said. “I understand. But people keep telling me you have to be bold in life; to take risks, seize the moment, grab the bull by the horns or some other ridiculous cliché like that. And lately I’ve been thinking they’re right. Look how much more privacy you would have if you shared the place with me, Sean; a lot more. And you’d save tons of money by not having to pay rent at home and letting me do the cooking.”
“What’s not to like?”
“Yeah, but it would only be for the summer,” I replied, “and then I’d have to go back to living at home. I’m not sure I could do that after getting a taste of what being on my own was like. It would be like going to Heaven for a couple of weeks and then having St. Peter tell you someone in accounting had made a mistake and you had to go to Hell instead.”
“Really?” he said. “That’s, uh . . . that’s very interesting. I mean, do you believe in God and Heaven and all the rest of it, Sean? We haven’t talked about that. Personally I don’t believe any of that stuff. Do you?”
“I don’t know,” I said, confused as to how we had changed subjects again.
By now my head was spinning and we hadn’t even started smoking yet!
“I mean, I was raised Catholic and my mother instilled all that mumbo-jumbo in me when I was little. But, honestly, no; I probably don’t believe any of that. I was just trying to make a point; that sometimes after you’ve had a taste of something, it’s hard to give up.”
“It’s like pot that way, I suppose. You never had any before last night and, see; now you want to smoke some again tonight.”
“You’ll be an addict if you’re not careful,” I added, smiling at him.
By that time we had finished most of the pizza. He was right. It was good to have some food in my stomach.
“And speaking of pot,” I said, “I owe you that lesson in joint rolling. Not that it’s all that hard, of course. The main thing to remember is to roll your joints before you get high; once you get high, you’re all thumbs and you’ll make a mess of it.”
With that I demonstrated how to roll a joint and then let him practice rolling a couple more. By the third time he had the hang of it and he had enough to get totally blown away for the next several days.
I remember feeling a little guilty about that. I didn’t want him to smoke too much after I left. He was new to smoking pot and everyone reacts differently. I wanted to be sure he could handle it.
And yet I also realized smoking the stuff would lower his inhibitions and bring out the real Holden; by now I was even more curious than ever to know more about him.
I mean, I had been impressed with what he had written in that journal of his. He seemed honest, genuine even. He didn’t seem to be playing the angles like most of the people I knew.
If he is, he’s damn good at it. But either way you need to get home, Sean. You need to leave now.
“Listen, Holden, thanks for the pizza,” I said, “but I really need to get going.”
“Not yet,” he pleaded. “I mean, last night I told you a lot about myself and tonight I told you even more. But you haven’t really told me anything important about you. You need to stay and smoke a joint with me and answer some of my questions.”
“I would if I could,” I responded. “But it’s getting late and my mother is going to kill me if I don’t get home soon. She’ll be wondering where I was last night.”
“Just one joint, Sean; please? Just one joint and a few questions and then I’ll let you go. I promise.”
I remember shaking my head; no.
He’s just like Kevin, Sean. He refuses to take no for an answer and now he’s smiling and that smile of his is impossible to resist.
You know it, dude.
You know you’re going to give in.
“Uh, well, maybe one joint. But that’s it, Holden. One joint and then I’m out of here. Understood?”
“If you say so, Sean,” he replied, grinning at me still again.