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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. September 28, 2015: Chapter 9 is narrated by Sean.
It had been another long day, but I was finally on my way home Friday evening. I had just finished making the last of my deliveries in the Yard and was tired. Selling marijuana had seemed like a godsend when I started; the answer to all my financial problems, my ticket to college and a better life. It didn’t seem that way anymore.
It had taken a while, but by now I realized my suppliers were taking most of the money while I was taking most of the risk; and while I doubted pot was as bad as the government claimed, some of the kids I was selling it to didn’t handle it very well.
I had been reminded of that earlier in the evening when some kid from Holworthy and I had gotten into an argument. He asked whether I sold cocaine and heroin. I said no; that heroin and cocaine were dangerous, not something he should be using. But he didn’t want to hear it.
He kept insisting it wasn’t my job to decide what he should use; that there were other dealers who would sell him the stuff.
“Fine; use one of them,” I replied. “I don’t peddle that shit.”
“I will,” he replied. “You’re fired.”
That bothered me and not because I was losing a customer. I had more than enough customers by now, but he seemed like a pretty nice kid and I worried about what would happen if he dabbled in other things. It made me wonder again whether I was doing the right thing.
Selling pot was becoming a drag.
You need to get out of this business, Sean. You’re not even earning enough to make it worthwhile and some of these kids just can’t handle it.
Surprisingly, I didn’t resist.
You’re right. There has to be a better way to make money than this.
There’s always Warren, the voice volunteered.
Forget that! I responded, emphatically.
Finally the house where we rented loomed into sight. Climbing the stairs, I looked around. The paint was peeling, the porch needed work. A lot of the boards were rotting or warped, but it wasn’t our house after all. It was just a place we rented and came home to every night. It wasn’t my problem; it wasn’t anyone’s problem apparently.
Opening the door, I was hoping to get up the stairs to the room I shared with Kevin without being noticed. I should have known better. She was a hawk and knew who it was the moment I opened the door.
“Two nights,” she said, jumping up and approaching me quickly from the living room.
“You’re away for two nights and can’t even take a minute to call your mother and let her know where you are? Do you think I don’t notice, Sean? Do you think I don’t worry when my first born stays away for two nights and never calls home to let me know whether he’s dead or alive?”
“I’m eighteen years old, Mom,” I replied. “I’m not a kid anymore. I work for a living. I even pay you and Pop a big chunk of what I earn to share a room with Kevin that I didn’t have to pay for before I graduated from high school. You don’t have to worry about me, Mom. I can take care of myself. I shouldn’t have to tell you everything I do.”
“I don’t need you to tell me everything, Sean,” she responded. “I already know; a mother knows what her eighteen year old son does when he stays out all night. She knows he’s hanging around Harvard Square and whoring around with all those loose girls who go to college up there. I know what you do, Sean, and so does Jesus.”
I rolled my eyes when she said it and she picked up on that immediately.
“You don’t think Jesus sees what you’re doing, Sean? You don’t think you aren’t twisting those nails on the cross even harder with all that bad language you use; all those girls you fool around with? He’s watching you, Sean. He’s watching you all the time and he knows what you’re doing, just like I do.”
I wanted to tell her she didn’t need to worry about Jesus; that if Jesus spent all of his time worrying about our sex lives, I was the least of his worries. I was still a virgin after all.
But I couldn’t tell her that.
The walls in our place were thin and Kevin was almost certainly listening. He would hear whatever I told her and that would be devastating.
He would be on my ass the moment I walked into our room, mocking me for still being a virgin, probably telling me even he wasn’t a virgin anymore; that he had already scored with his cute little boyfriend. He had never actually told me that, but I suspected he had and wondered whether the little perv had enjoyed it.
But mostly I wondered why I was still a virgin.
“Mom, I haven’t been whoring around like you think. I’ve been working. A friend offered to put me up the last two nights because he knows it’s easier for me to get to the Square from his place. I’m sorry I didn’t call. I didn’t think you’d be this worried about it, but I did ask Kevin to tell you I was okay.”
“I love you, Mom,” I added, playing my trump card. “You know that, but I’m tired and need some sleep. Can I go to my room now?”
“Of course,” she replied, happy to hear the magical words that absolved me of all my sins.
“You know I only worry because I love you, Sean. You’re my first born. If something terrible happened to you, I’d be devastated. I know how hard you work and how little you make. It wasn’t my idea to charge you rent. All I ask is that you let me know if you’re not going to be home in the evening.”
With that she gave me a kiss on my cheek.
“I will, Mom. I promise.”
“If you take a shower, keep it short,” my father piped up from the living room. “That money you cough up so reluctantly every week doesn’t pay the water bill or any of the rest of the bills around here.”
“I love you too, Pop,” I responded.
“And don’t be a wise ass either,” he added. “I can still toss you out of here you know.”
Climbing the stairs, I walked down the hall to my room and opened the door. The lights were off and the silence pervasive, but I doubted Kevin was asleep. It was a Friday night after all and he was hardly ever asleep at this hour; so I just waited there, waited for him to start ragging on me.
I didn’t have to wait long.
“Welcome home, Sean,” he began, trying to imitate Mom in a sing-song voice. “Can’t even take a minute to let your mother know where you are? Think a mother doesn’t worry when her first born child stays away two nights?”
“Very original, Kevin,” I responded. “You must have spent hours trying to come up with something witty like that.”
“Where have you been, Sean?” he asked, ignoring my effort to silence him. “Have you been up in Harvard Square whoring around with all those loose girls?”
“Like that’s any of your business,” I replied.
“Never mind, Sean,” he continued, relentless as always. “You don’t have to tell me. Unlike Mom, I already know the answer; I already know you haven’t been whoring around with the girls. I can’t believe Mom’s that dense; that she actually thinks you’ve been spending your time whoring around with girls.”
“How the fuck would you know what I’ve been doing, Kevin?”
“A brother knows, Sean; he knows things like that.”
“Well, guess what dude? It’s kind of like flipping coins. There’s a fifty-fifty chance you might be right, but you’ll never know, will you?”
“That’s where you’re wrong,” he replied. “I already know you’ve never had sex with a girl, but you don’t have to admit that to me if it embarrasses you.”
“Shut the fuck up, will you,” I said, annoyed. “It’s none of your business whether I’ve had sex with a girl, but keep running your mouth and I might end up fucking that ass of yours.”
“Oh brother, talk about being delusional,” he responded. “You wouldn’t have a clue what to do with my ass, Sean. It could be staring you in the face and you wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it. I know you’re a virgin.”
“Don’t press your luck, little brother,” I warned him. “You might find out you’re biting off more than you can chew.”
“I don’t bite, Sean. I’m gay; remember? I suck and at least I get something when I do that. That’s a lot more than you can say.”
“And just how the fuck would you know that, you little perv?”
“I know a lot more than you think,” he replied.
“Yeah, I’m sure you do. You know how to suck cock, Kevin; that’s what you know. That’ll take you a long way in life.”
“You never know, Sean,” he replied. “Maybe it will. At least I won’t be getting my ass goosed at Fat Boys or end up selling magazines to dudes into looking at girls having sex with dogs or whatever.”
Why do I ever tell him anything?
This is getting old, Sean. You’re never going to win one of these little tête-à-têtes with Kevin. You never have. You never will.
Why even try?
“Give it a rest, Kev; please?”
“Why should I?”
“Look, Kevin, I’m tired. I just want to go to bed. I’ve been working my ass off the last couple of days and I need some sleep.”
“You wouldn’t be so tired all the time if you didn’t sell pot, Sean.”
That stunned me. I had never told Kevin I was selling marijuana.
“How do you know I’m selling pot?” I asked, surprised.
“Try smelling your backpack sometime, dude. Do you think I’m an idiot, Sean? Do you think I don’t know what pot smells like? Like I told you before, I know a lot more than you think.”
“Do you?” I said. “Well maybe you can help me out then.”
“Sure,” he said. “Knowing how clueless you are, how can I help?”
“Okay, so there’s this dude I met the other night and I’m thinking maybe he’s gay. The question is how I find out for sure. Being a perv, I figured you’d know how.”
“Do I know him?” he asked. “What’s his name?”
“No; you don’t know him,” I said. “His name is Holden and he helped me out of a jam so I’m taking him to a Red Sox game tomorrow. But like I said, I’m thinking maybe he’s gay; not that it’s a problem, but it would be nice to know for sure.”
“You’re taking him to see the Sox without me?” Kevin responded, ignoring everything else I had said.
I could tell from the tone of his voice he was annoyed; seriously annoyed.
“Why the fuck would you do that, Sean? You know how much I love the Red Sox. I’ve been bugging you for weeks to take me and Bobby to Fenway; and you’re telling me you’re taking some dude I don’t even know to a game, some gay dude?”
He went on and on like that; ranting one moment, trying to find out more about Holden the next, all the while pestering me to take him and Bobby to the game as well even though I told him I only had the two tickets for Saturday’s game.
“What is he, Sean, your boyfriend or something? You can’t have a boyfriend without me meeting him first. I need to be sure I approve of the dude.”
“For Christ’s sake, Kevin, he’s not my boyfriend; how many times do I have to tell you that before it sinks in?” I replied, exasperated at being interrogated. “He’s just a dude I met; and I’m not even positive he’s gay. Help me out here, will you?”
“Why should I?” he asked. “I called Mom the other day like you asked and you told me you’d owe me big time for doing that; then you go inviting some other dude to a game with you. You need to make this right, Sean.”
“Okay, okay; if you help me out, I’ll take you and Bobby to the game on Sunday. Are you satisfied now?”
“It’s a deal,” he quickly replied before I had a chance to reconsider the offer.
Great, Sean; why don’t you just file for bankruptcy with all the freebies you’re handing out these days?
Unlike Holden, Kev knew how much those tickets were worth and smart enough to close the deal before I had a chance to withdraw it.
“As for whether the dude’s gay, that’s easy,” he said. “They have a drug for that now. It’s like that date rape drug your friends are always talking about. Slip it into whatever he’s drinking; all you have to do then is to ask the dude and he’ll confess.”
“Really,” I said, surprised. “Where would I get some of that stuff?”
I mean, I had heard about the date rape drug, but not about a drug to find out whether someone was gay.
“You are unbelievable, Sean,” Kevin replied, smirking at me.
“For being so smart, sometimes you’re incredibly stupid. I was kidding, doofus. There isn’t a drug to make someone confess he’s gay; so unless he’s wearing a dress the only way to know is by asking him. But you better be ready to answer a question yourself if you do.”
“What question?” I asked.
“What’s it to you? That’s the question I ask whenever people get nosey about stuff like that.”
“So you’re saying there’s really no way I can know for sure without asking him directly?” I said. “Is that it?”
“Are you deaf or something, dude?” Kevin responded. “What do you think I just said? You want another way to know how, Sean. Here’s another way.”
Climbing out of bed, he walked over to the bureau, picked up the mirror we used to check our hair in the morning, and handed it to me.
“Look in the mirror, Sean. What do you see?”
“What do you think I see?” I said. “I see an incredibly handsome dude; someone smart, charming and debonair, unlike his little brother. That’s what I see.”
“Oh, brother,” he snorted. “You need to look harder then because what I see is someone who’s gay; and being gay, your gaydar should tell you whether he’s gay.”
“Are you crazy, Kev?” I asked. “I’ve told you a million times I’m not gay. Why do you keep thinking that?”
“I don’t just think it, Sean; I know it,” he said. “I’ve known for a long time and so have you. You just refuse to admit it to me for some reason.”
“How do you know?” I responded, challenging him.
“Lots of reasons.”
“Name one,” I replied, pressing him.
“You don’t have a girlfriend,” he responded; “never have.”
“Unlike you, I was working when I was in high school, Kev,” I said. “Between classes, sports, working, and taking care of the three of you, I didn’t have time for a girlfriend.”
“Sure, Sean, I understand,” he replied, waving my answer off.
“But what about those sports you played in high school, dude; swimming and wrestling. Are those the gay sports or what? You loved showing that hot body of yours off at swim meets and having the other boys look at you half naked, didn’t you? Admit it; and you loved all that contact with other boys in your singlet.”
“Give it up, Kevin,” I replied. “Only a perv like you would think those were gay sports.”
“And what about all those studies, Sean; you know, the ones the Globe’s been running lately? The studies showing that dudes like me in families where the oldest brother is gay are more likely to be gay. What do you have to say about those?”
“That’s crazy,” I responded. “You can find some study to prove anything, Kevin.”
“Well how about this then,” he replied. “I’m your brother and I’m gay and I love you; and I think the two of us are pretty tight as brothers. My gaydar tells me you’re gay, Sean. You’re right; I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty certain you are. It hurts you won’t tell me; it hurts a lot.”
“I love you, Sean; it kills me watching Pop take all of the money you earn at those dead end jobs you’re working. It hurts even more knowing you’re on your own and still haven’t found someone to love. Finding someone to love is more important than those jobs you work, Sean; it’s more important than money. And one other thing; you need to answer a question for me.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Why is it okay for me to be gay, but not for you?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”
“Think about it, Sean. I’m gay and you love me and I love you for that. Why is it such a crime for you to admit you’re gay to me? Like I said, it hurts that you won’t. Think about it.”
With that Kevin rolled over so he was facing away from me. He seemed to fall asleep quickly enough; and yet tired as I was and as much as I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t.
What the fuck was that all about, Sean?
When he started, Kevin was ragging on me like he usually did. I was used to that. He did it all the time and most of the time I was able to hold my own. But toward the end something had changed. I could hear the change in his voice. We were never much for displaying affection in our family. But Kevin knew how much I loved him, just like I knew he loved me.
And he was right. We were tight. So what was he trying to tell me? Did he really know I was gay?
He was pretty clear about it, Sean. He knows you’re gay and he’s hurt because you won’t admit it to him.
I thought I had done a good job concealing it from him; that it was better that way. As long as my father believed I was straight, I could protect Kevin from the old man. But now everything was getting harder; more confusing.
Was I doing the right thing by Kev or just the easy thing? Was I taking Holden to a ball game just to repay a favor he had done me or was there more to it than I was willing to admit to myself?
The answers didn’t seem so obvious anymore.
It’s late, dude. You’ve been working too hard.
Get some sleep, Sean.
It’s just a baseball game tomorrow you’re going to, not some freaking date. Everything will make sense in the morning once you get some sleep.
There was something blocking the sun from streaming into my eyes like it usually did when I woke up the following morning. I couldn’t figure out what for a moment; then, belatedly, I realized what it was.
“Is that what I think it is?” I asked.
“It is,” he replied. “That’s my ass you’re staring at, Sean. Go ahead; kiss it if you want.”
“What the fuck is this all about, Kev?”
“Come on, Sean,” he replied, ignoring the question. “You know you want to. You kiss ass at work. Just go ahead and give it a kiss for me.”
“No fucking way,” I responded, emphatically. “I may have to kiss ass at work, but there’s no way I’m going to kiss yours.”
“You see what I mean?” he said. “I told you last night that my ass could be staring you in the face and you wouldn’t have a clue what to do.”
Reaching over, I goosed his ass playfully and that made him jump with surprise.
“That feels good, Sean,” he said, giggling. “Do it again.”
“You are relentless, little brother,” I replied, laughing. “But I’m afraid you’ll have to find someone else to play with your ass. I have stuff to do today. Right now I’m going to take a shower, get dressed and have something to eat.”
“Why don’t we take a shower together?” he replied. “Like Pop said last night, that rent money you give him won’t pay the water bill. We’d be doing the old man a favor if we showered together.”
“If that man ever found us showering together he’d kill me,” I said. “You know how homophobic he is.”
“Mom used to make us takes bath together,” he persisted. “I still remember that. That’s when I realized I was gay, sitting in the bath looking at your dick. It was so cute. So you see, Sean? You did turn me gay after all.”
“Well, knowing how much you like being gay, what are you going to do to thank me properly?” I asked.
“I keep trying, Sean,” he replied. “How many times have I offered to let you fuck my ass? I’ve been after you to do that forever.”
“You don’t think Jesus is watching, Kevin?” I asked, playfully. “You don’t think I would be turning those nails tighter by fucking that little ass of yours?”
He burst out laughing and that was the end of it.
I remember thinking I might just have won a round in our ongoing verbal competition.
Enjoy it, Sean; that’ll never happen again.
Walking toward Harvard Square, I thought again about what Kevin had said the previous evening. I still wasn’t sure what to think, but realized now I needed to tell him the truth and try to explain why I had been concealing it all these years.
If you want to protect him, Sean, you need to get your own place and get him out of that house. Kevin isn’t like you. He’s not going to put up with Pop’s bigotry much longer, especially now that he’s got a boyfriend.
If you do that, Sean, you’ll never be able to go to college, another voice chimed in. If you get your own place, there won’t be enough money for college.
Yeah, I know, I conceded, sighing. But it’ll be better for Kevin and that’s more important right now. He’s my little brother and I love him.
Holden was waiting for me when I arrived at the T.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hi,” he responded. “I was thinking of calling you this morning and cancelling.”
“Oh, yeah; why’s that?”
“I should probably be in the library studying,” he said, sighing. “There’s so much to do and not enough time to do it; assuming I could do it all, of course. I can’t. There are some things I just don’t get no matter how hard I try.”
“You study all week, don’t you?” I asked.
“Sometimes it helps to take a break for a while,” I said. “You know what I mean? Get away from the grind and just have some fun for a change? That’s what I’m doing today. But suit yourself, Holden. I’m not going to force you to go.”
“No; you’re right, Sean. It’s kind of funny actually. One of my professors told me the same thing.”
We rode the train into town and got to Fenway Park in plenty of time to watch the Sox warm up. It had been a while since I had been to a game, but I was glad to be there that day. The Sox were already off to a great start and it was a terrific spring afternoon. Winter was over and the heat and humidity of summer still far away.
This is the perfect day for a ball game, Sean. Even the Sun is shining; enjoy it!
Filling Holden in on the team was going to be fun. He was from somewhere in Virginia and hadn’t followed baseball very much. The kids he knew rooted for the Washington Nationals so that’s what he did as well.
“Do you want to get some food?” he asked. “I didn’t have anything to eat this morning and I could sure use some food.”
“Sure; why not?” I replied.
“Do you want to go with me to get it or just tell me what you want?”
“I guess I should go with you,” I said, smirking at him; “no sense letting you get molested.”
He giggled when I said it, but then immediately turned serious.
“That was a joke, right?” he asked.
He wasn’t sure for some reason and I remember shaking my head at that.
“I don’t know, Holden. You’re a good looking dude and there’re lots of weirdos in Boston. I feel like it’s my civic duty to protect you.”
“What if I don’t want to be protected?” he said, picking up on my bantering and grinning at me.
“Well, if you don’t want to be protected, then maybe I’ll molest you myself,” I added.
“Maybe you should,” he said, before I could tell him I was kidding.
“I would, Holden, but there are too many people around here watching. You’ll have to wait until later.”
“Fine; later it is then,” he said and for a moment I couldn’t tell whether he was being serious.
Why are you doing this, Sean? What’s with all the hints?
Either man up and tell the dude or let it go.
The two of us headed off and Holden insisted on junk food; the hot dogs with way too much mustard, the peanuts and sodas. It seemed like he couldn’t get enough of the stuff as the day progressed. He also seemed to enjoy my little tutorial on the Red Sox.
He said he knew some professor at Harvard who was a fan of the Sox and that the dude had suggested he propose an independent study in the history of baseball.
I remember thinking that professor must be a pretty cool dude. It was hard to believe Harvard would give you credit for something like that. It almost made me wish I was a student at Harvard.
I would ace a course like that.
In your dreams, Sean.
The Sox were playing the Yankees that day and it was a hard fought contest. Hating the Yankees as much as I did, my emotions were on a roller coaster for most of the game. It went into extra innings, but finally we won on a walk off homer in the bottom of the eleventh inning.
Seeing the ball fly over the Green Monster brought me to my feet. I was cheering like crazy and Holden was standing right next to me rooting as hard as I was. I was proud of myself for turning him on to the Sox.
He bought a Red Sox cap on the way out of Fenway and fiddled with it on the trip back to Harvard Square, trying to get the brim just right. After all the junk food, I wasn’t that hungry, but accepted his offer to have dinner together. For some reason I didn’t want the day to be over.
“So what’s on your schedule tonight?” I asked as we finished up. “I’m curious what Harvard students do on a Saturday evening.”
“I’ll probably end up studying,” he replied, sighing; “although why is beyond me since I’m planning to drop out of Harvard anyway.”
“Maybe we could do something together that’d be more interesting,” he added, smiling at me.
Don’t go there, Sean!
Even if I wanted to, I was focused on something else and determined to give him a piece of my mind.
“Why would you drop out of Harvard?” I asked. “I can’t understand why anyone as smart as you would do something stupid like that, Holden.”
“I don’t really belong here,” he responded. “Everyone thinks Harvard’s great and it is, but I’m not as smart as my classmates. I’m struggling with all my courses, especially my math course. That’s hopeless; I don’t have a clue about math.”
“But even my other courses don’t come easy; heck, even the course I like the most on the American Civil War is a problem. I’ve collected tons of material for the required paper, but it’s already too long and I have more to add. It’s frustrating trying to figure out how to get everything in.”
“Those don’t seem like very good reasons to me for dropping out,” I responded. “Wait until you have to get a job to survive; that’ll teach you something about struggling.”
“I can understand why that math course might have you bummed out,” I continued. “But the rest of your courses are hard? They should be, Holden. Why would anyone go to Harvard and take a bunch of courses that are easy? Where’s the benefit in that?”
“As far as that history paper goes, it sounds as if you like the subject too much. You should focus on the important stuff, what you would say to someone like me if you were trying to explain what excited you about the topic so much.”
“And as for the rest of it, the not belonging at Harvard and the other students being smarter than you, you’re wrong. The place may be intimidating; I can understand that. But I don’t think Harvard admits losers, Holden; that’s what you’ll be if you drop out. The only person you need to satisfy is yourself, not your classmates or anyone else.”
“Look, I sell pot to a lot of your classmates and part of my job involves listening to all their frustrations. I hear the same thing from all of them; how they feel like they don’t belong and their classmates are so much smarter. If you drop out, you’re going to prove your classmates are smarter, dude. They’re smart enough not to drop out. You shouldn’t either.”
“Besides, I’ll be pissed off if you do that. Here you tell me you want us to be friends and now you’re going to dump me and go back to Virginia? You need to stop with the self-pity and start working as hard as I do. And I’ll tell you what; being the nice guy I am, I’ll even help you out with the math. I was pretty good at math in high school.”
Holden just sat there staring at me for a minute or two after I finished lecturing him. I wondered what he was thinking and whether he was mad at me for getting on his case about dropping out.
I don’t care what he thinks. Someone needs to let him know he’s making a mistake.
“I, uh . . . I don’t know what to say, Sean. I’m surprised you care; I really am. And I appreciate the offer to help with the math, but this is a lot different from high school math. Like I told you, it’s really hard stuff.”
“What have you got to lose?” I asked. “We go back to your room. I look at the problem set. What’s the worst that can happen? If I can’t help, I’ll tell you and you’re no worse off than you are right now. It’s not like you’re taking me out of my way.”
“You’re more than welcome to come back to my room, Sean,” he replied. “Today was the most fun I’ve had since arriving in Cambridge; except maybe for a couple times when I jousted with Professor Jeffords last fall. He’s that Red Sox fanatic I mentioned.”
“But, sure, come along. I’m not going to hold it against you if you can’t help. If nothing else, maybe we can smoke some pot and talk. I like talking to you, Sean.”
“Fine; we can talk,” I said; “but no pot for you tonight, dude. I don’t want it becoming a crutch like it does for some of your classmates.”