Everybody's Wounded - 3. Chapter 3
I worked hard to settle my life into a routine. I didn’t feel much like socializing; I had a single room, which made it pretty easy for me to be by myself. Instead I focused on sports and academics. Fall rugby season was in full swing, giving me the opportunity to channel all my physical energy into getting stronger and faster. And I was getting my sea legs academically as well, and did a lot of studying, which I was actually enjoying. I’m doing my degree in economics and political science, heading for a legal career like both my parents.
I also saw Josh. He made it impossible not to. Since he was a grad student and lived off campus, our ways didn’t cross naturally, but he kept calling me. He made sure we hooked up for coffee a few times a week, and every Friday night he’d drag me to the Rainbow pub for a couple of hours. The funny thing was, we’d mostly just sit at a table in the corner and talk. Unlike the Josh I remembered from before Thanksgiving, he didn’t even pretend to be cruising. He didn’t respond to anyone making tentative moves on him either, at least not while I was there.
Every now and then, he’d introduce me to someone. They were always nice guys, but they didn’t interest me. Sometimes, one of them would come on really strong. Josh would joke that I should just go with it – “ease the tension,” he said – but the idea left me cold. And for all his encouragement, Josh seemed oddly pleased with my lack of interest.
David sent me a few emails to see how I was doing, and included some of the pictures he’d been taking. He was building his portfolio for applying to the top photography programs in the country, and he’d developed an interest in industrial architecture. Ry had made a few connections for him.
Some of the pictures were amazing. I told him so – but with short sentences, single words. It was the best I could do. There was a distance to his words, a friendly formality that left me no room for hope. I knew, deep in my heart, that it was well and truly over, and that there would never be a way back to him.
It continued to hurt.
One night at Rainbow, a really cute guy ran his tongue along my ear as we were dancing. It surprised me, but it felt good, and I kind of went with it for a minute, until I felt his hand on my cock, kinda squeezing it through my jeans. I grabbed his wrist and pulled it away so hard he yelped.
“What wrong with you?” he said. “It’s not like you don’t want it. Fuck, you’re as hard as a rock.”
I was, but that had become a kind of semi-permanent state for me. I apologized and went home.
Later, I started to jerk off in the shower, thinking about David, and Josh, and the cute guy with his hand on my dick. I stopped myself before I came and turned the water to pure cold, just feeling totally lost.
Actually, there was one guy that I wouldn’t have minded getting to know better, though my interest in him was not sexual. I mean, I had no reason to think he was anything but straight, and I don’t go there.
His name was Luc Bedard, and he was in almost all of my classes. He intrigued me intellectually. He was the smartest guy I’d come across – and St. G’s is a very good school with a lot of very smart people. Ever since classes started, I’d been aware of him. I mean, this was a guy who really thought passionately and articulately about things.
That interested me because, well, so do I.
It always surprises people because of what I look like. Hell, in some ways being a big jock is the male equivalent of a blonde joke. But I’m smart too, and I was raised not be ashamed of it and not to hide it. My parents are both lawyers, and my sister and I were brought up to think aggressively and to articulate well. I did that in class.
So did this guy Luc. He had a deep voice and talked really fast, like it was hard for his words to keep up with his brain. He also had a slight French accent – Canadian French, not French French – which I thought was kind of adorable. Generally it was hardly noticeable, but when he got excited by an idea or by an argument, it got stronger and stronger, until sometimes French words and phrases would punctuate his speech.
He was, at first glance, pretty ordinary looking, kind of tall, kind of thin, dark curly hair, nondescript clothes. But his eyes – they just blew me away. They were an unusual pale blue, like a Siberian husky’s. That’s what he reminded me of. And it was more than the colour of his eyes; it was also the way he had of zeroing in on something, with this incredible ice blue intensity. When I spoke in class, I’d see those Siberian eyes focus in on me, and sometimes it felt like I was talking to no one but him.
Before Thanksgiving, I’d only seen him in lecture halls, where it can be hard to meet people unless they happen to sit near you. He never sat near me. But the week after Thanksgiving, he showed up at the study group that a few of us had started for our Economics class. There were eight of us in the group, small enough that I hoped we’d all get the chance to know one another a bit.
Every time I looked at him, he seemed to be looking back. I couldn’t help but think that he watched me as much as I watched him.
Maybe I intrigued him too. I hoped so.
The second Sunday after Thanksgiving, we had a home game against the number one ranked team in our region. We’d never beaten them. That didn’t mean we weren’t going to try. The coaches had been doing their best to pump us up all week. So had Brandon, the short, blonde fire plug of a scrum half who was team captain. He was good guy, Brandon. A third year kinesiology student with the long term goal of medical school. He was a little crazy, but then all scrum halfs are a little crazy. He was one of those true team guy, a natural leader very sensitive to the moods of his mates and powerful at inspiration and motivation.
Ever since I’d gotten back from Thanksgiving, I’d been killing myself at practice. It was my way of coping, sinking all my physical energy onto the field or in the weight room so that by the time I was done I was pretty much dropping from exhaustion. I was using it to avoid thinking, of course. I’d push myself to the point of physical exhaustion to make sure I slept. It wasn’t even certain that I’d be playing in this game; as a freshman, I was really an alternate, especially for critical games. But our regular flanker had come down with flu, and I was in.
Somehow, it all came together, and I was on fire. It was like all the pain and confusion I’d been feeling since David had dumped me were channelled into my legs and my hands, and I was unstoppable. Our guys knew it. Their guys knew it. The coaches knew it. When we won, I was named player of the game. After everything I’d been through, it was a real high – at least while we were still on the field.
But afterwards, in the dressing room, I crashed. All the other guys were so pumped, and they were all over me, but it was like all my emotions had just stayed out there on the field. I was drained. The louder they got, the quieter I got. I tried. I really did. But I just couldn’t bring myself to let go. Finally, I decided it wasn’t fair for me to be a wet blanket on their celebrations, so I made an excuse and left.
Brandon followed me out.
“What’s up, Scott,” he asked, falling into step with me as I headed from the Athletic Complex back to the residence. “You’ve been weird since you came back after Thanksgiving. Totally hot on the field, but totally absent off it. Did something happen?”
He took me by surprise. “Yeah,” I admitted. Might as well say it. “I kinda got dumped.”
He didn’t say anything for a minute, just grabbed my arm and squeezed as we kept walking. “
“Um, boyfriend, right?”
It was the first overt reference to my orientation from a team mate, but I didn’t mind. It was kind of a relief – and I had invited it. “Yeah,” I said. “Boyfriend.”
He sighed. “Me too.”
I stopped dead, and looked at him in surprise. He just laughed.
“Not the boyfriend me too. The Thanksgiving dump me too. By my girlfriend.”
We started walking again.
“I was kind of expecting it,” he said. “She’s two years older than me, and it was great as long as she was here. But she headed west for grad school this fall. Her emails had gotten really distant the last couple of weeks.”
“Same with David’s,” I admitted. “But I wasn’t paying attention. Took me by total surprise.”
And that’s how I found myself heading out to the Student Union for dinner and a long night of beer drinking with a cute, straight guy, commiserating about lost love. By closing time, pretty much the whole team had joined us.
One thing gay guys are always asking me is what its like hanging around all these jocks. You know, all that sweat and contact and shower rooms and stuff. The truth is, it’s like nothing. They aren’t about temptation. They’re just the guys on my team.
For one thing, I’m not especially attracted to big muscular guys. I don’t know why – I mean, it’s not that I don’t recognize that some of them are objectively hot, because I guess they are. Maybe it’s just because I’m so fucking huge myself. But on a strictly physical basis, I’m more attracted to smaller guys – both small, slight guys like David, as well as the lean, elegantly built guys like Josh.
Of course rugby’s not like football. There are smaller guys on rugby teams – the fly halfs and the scrum halfs especially. I mean, Brandon is only about 5’ 7, not much taller than David, though he’s probably fifty pounds heavier because he’s built like a fucking tank. But I don’t lust out over those guys either.
Actually, I don’t let myself think that way about team mates at all. I consider it a kind of discipline. As far as I can tell – and I usually can tell – all the guys on the team are straight, and I don’t think about straight guys. I don’t even fanaticize about ’em. I don’t let myself go there.
It know it’s a really common fantasy: doing the straight guy, especially the straight jock. But it’s not mine. It was something my uncle warned me about a long time ago, and I think it’s some of the most important advice he ever gave me.
Ben’s a big guy like me – in fact, I’m so much like him that when people see the two of us together, they often think we’re father and son. He was a jock too, way better than me. His sport was hockey, and he’d had scouts all over him from the time he was a kid. He was a 2nd round pick in the NHL the year he turned 18, and was playing in the minors when he met Ry. But being out wasn’t even a remote possibility then, and the pressure of being closeted was so intense that he couldn’t handle it, and he walked away from the game.
From the time I started playing when I was four years old, Ben coached my hockey team. When I was 15, I developed a bit of a crush on one of my team mates. It wasn’t obvious enough that he or any of the other guys noticed, but I guess it was obvious enough that Ben did. We were away for a weekend tournament, and on the Saturday night we were all fooling around together in the pool before curfew. Ben was watching us all, and I guess it clicked. When he got me alone, he called me on it.
“Scott,” he said, in his inimitable blunt way. “Don’t fall for the straight boys.”
I just stared at him, and felt myself go red.
“I mean it, Bud. It’s a no win game. And it’s not just a recipe for heart break. It’ll ruin sports for you. The guys won’t trust you. Most of ‘em can deal with a gay team mate as long as it doesn’t threaten them, but the minute they catch you lusting after one of them, it threatens them all.”
I didn’t know what to say. I had been lusting after Chris, our first line centre. To be honest, he was my favourite jerk off fantasy. Ben said it was just self indulgence. He wasn’t big on self indulgence.
“He’s your friend,” he told me. “He’s off limits.”
“But what if --.”
“No what ifs,” he said bluntly. “I don’t care what you read on the internet fantasy sites. The vast majority of your team mates are straight and straight boys don’t switch teams. Any more than gay guys turn straight after screwing girls. Even if you find one who will play for awhile, the chances are very good that he’ll regret it afterwards and then he’ll blame you. That’ll be the end of the friendship. Trust me on this.”
“No buts. Think of it like this. Do you have any close friends who are girls?”
As it happened I did. I’ve always had female friends.
“All right. Imagine one of these girls falls for you.”
“Exactly. But now imagine that you really care about her. That she’s a really good friend. And you’re curious about straight sex. So one night you go for it. Do you really think it will make you give up guys? And do you really think you would be fair to her? How are you going to feel the next day? What’s going to happen to the friendship?”
I thought about it. It made me very uncomfortable.
“Look, Bud. It may not seem like it in high school, but there are plenty of gay guys out there. Just wait; you’ll meet someone and it’ll be worth it. And you will be a lot more likely to keep your straight buddies, even when they find out you’re gay, if you respect the boundaries. It’s particularly important if you want to keep doing sports.”
And that’s pretty much how it has played out. Of course, I know now that it’s more complicated that that, and that there are other gay guys doing sports. Ben always knew that too. But he was laying it out for me bluntly and simply, to protect me. And it worked.
Which is why I was able to get piss assed drunk with my straight team mates and not have to worry about doing anything beyond what any drunk guy would worry about doing. And it’s why there were able to take me home to bed, laughing and giggling, and vowing to help me find a new man.
The weirdest thing I learned is that apparently it’s now cool for straight jocks to have gay buddies, and especially cool to have a gay jock buddy. At least on this team. Go figure.
A few days later, afternoon practice was cancelled. November was closing in and the weather was turning bleak; due dates for mid term assignments were rapidly approaching. I didn’t feel like going back to my room, so I headed over to the library to work on a paper. My favourite third floor reading room was surprisingly crowded. All the carols were taken, and there were at least three or four people at every table.
I looked around for a familiar face and found one at the far end, near the stacks. It was Luc.
“Hey,” I said. “Ok if I sit here?
He looked up from his laptop, fixing me with those Siberian eyes. Then he kind of smiled and shrugged. I dropped myself down beside him, powered up my own laptop, and dove in.
It was hours later when I refocused on him. The afternoon sun was low in the sky, shooting shadows across the reading room, and I was surprised to look around and see that it was almost deserted. Luc and I were the only two people left at the table. Luc was sitting back with his eyes closed, singly softly to the music from his Ipod. It must have been the soft, deep rumble of his voice that had pulled me out of my research.
I was sitting to his right, and found myself studying his profile. I hadn’t realized just how very good looking he really was. Black curly hair was pushed back from a high forehead. Perfect brows. Straight nose. Skin so pale it was almost translucent. And great bones, all planes and angles, the kind I knew that David’s camera would love.
I wondered idly what Josh’s artist would have made of him.
Slowly, I became aware of the words he was singing, the song that had pulled me away from my paper and into this intimate study of him.
Oh I want you, I want you, I want you!
On a chair with a dead magazine
In a cave at the tip of the lily
In some hallway where love’s never been
On a bed where the moon has been sweating
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand…
(from Take this Waltz Copyright © Leonard Cohen
and Sony/ATV Music Publishing Canada Company)
Leonard Cohen. Not what I would have expected. I watched him, fascinated, whispering the words to myself until the song was over, and he shifted and opened his eyes. He looked shocked to see me watching him, as if he’d been caught doing something bad.
“He was executed by the Fascists,” I said.
The confusion in those ice blue eyes was adorable.
“Federico Garcia Lorca. He wrote the words – well, the Spanish poem that Cohen based the song on.”
Luc just stared at me.
“He was gay,” I said. “Lorca, not Cohen. The poem may well have been written for a man.”
Luc flushed, and I saw his hands tighten on the edge of the table.
“Why are you telling me this?” he asked, his voice hardly more than a whisper.
I shrugged. “It’s one of my favourite songs. You seemed so into it. I thought you might like to know. Sorry.”
He just stared at me with those Siberian eyes. It was getting way too intense, so I changed the subject.
“So what are you working on?”
He relaxed as we moved into the safer ground of his economics paper, and gradually our conversation became friendly and easy. Half an hour later, my stomach started rumbling. Loudly. Which made us both laugh.
“I gotta feed it,” I said. “You going for dinner?” While I’d never seen him around, I assumed he lived somewhere on campus. Most freshman did.
“Yeah, I guess I’ll head home.”
“You don’t live in residence?”
“No. I’ve got an apartment. Condo actually. About 10 minutes from here. My parents have owned it for years. I’ve got three older brothers, and they all went here too. I’m the only one here now, though. All my brothers have graduated.”
A condo ten minutes from here. I looked at him curiously. There weren’t many condos in this small university town. “Out on South Shore Road?” I asked.
“Yeah. You know it?”
“I’ve got a friend who lives there. A graduate economics student. Josh Templeton.”
To my surprise, Luc dropped his eyes, blushing furiously.
“Do you know him?” I asked.
“Not really,” he said, staring at his feet. “I mean, we’ve met.”
Interesting. Josh was a TA and had a fairly high profile in the economics department. The fact that he was gay was no secret. I thought again about Luc’s reaction to my comment about Lorca having been gay. I’d never seen him at Rainbow, but I found myself wondering if it could be possible…
Suddenly, I wanted to find out.
“Why don’t you come over to the dining hall with me?” I asked. “I’ve got a bunch of guest tickets I’ll never use. Almost everyone I know is in res.”
Dinner was good. We talked about our classes and what we were working on and music and poets of all things. I guess the Leonard Cohen song got us there. He told me he played piano, jazz mostly. We talked for a couple of hours and then I walked him to the student parking lot.
“I did know,” he said with a shy smile, as he was climbing into his car. “About Lorca.”
The first thing I did the next night as Josh and I walked across campus to the Rainbow pub was ask if he knew Luc.
His mouth twisted into a little smile. “Ah. The sweet Quebecois boy. Adorable accent. Thinks he wants to be a lawyer.”
I nodded. “That would be him. So you know him?”
Josh actually looked a little sheepish. “A little. I helped Luc a bit when he moved in. I actually know his older brothers better. We were undergraduates together. Robert.” Josh pronounced it the French way… “Is in med school in Halifax, and Michel is in law school in Montreal. They’re twins, though it’s hard to believe when you meet them. Misha looks a lot like Luc: tall and dark and thin. Rob’s shorter and stocky, fair haired. There’s an even older brother as well, but he was in his graduating year when I started here, so I didn’t really know him. They all have those eyes. Why? What do you want to know about Luc?”
“Well, is he --?”
I stopped, realizing suddenly that this was a very odd thing to be asking. And not really fair. I mean, if Luc were gay, and if he wanted me to know, he’d have said something. Wouldn’t he? I mean, he probably knew I was. Most people seemed to.
“Batting for our team?” Josh asked.
“Well,” he said slowly. “He’d say not. I’d beg to differ.”
“Are you sure?”
Josh nodded. “I usually am. But with him, I’m certain.”
“How can you be?”
He was silent a moment, as if he were deciding what he could trust me with. “I kissed him,” he said finally.
For some reason, I felt a weird little stab of jealously at his admission. “And?”
“It was a very nice kiss,” he said thoughtfully. “And then – he just freaked out. He ran so hard he damn near landed in last week.”
I laughed, despite myself. “There could be a lot of explanations for that, Josh. Like maybe he’s straight.”
Josh shook his head. “No way, Big Guy. That was no straight run, let me tell you.”
“How can you be so certain?”
Again he was quiet for awhile. Then he said, “Look. I’m not normally one to kiss and tell. But it was a pretty hot kiss. And then he … pressed against me, and he was completely hard, ok?”
He grabbed my arm, bringing me to a stop.
“Look, the only reason I’m telling you this is that I want you to be careful, Scott,” he said.
I guess I looked surprised.
“Because I know you. You’re the quintessential romantic, a true-love, happily-ever-after kind of guy. You’ve been through a lot in the last while. You’ve only ever had one lover and he just dumped you. You’re not over it yet. I’m not sure getting involved with a guy like Luc is a very good idea. Be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt again. That boy’s so deep in the closet he’s found Narnia. He’s in deep denial. And he’s very, very scared.”
And then, to my surprise, he leaned over and kissed my mouth very softly.
Then he grabbed my arm and continued walking to the pub. I let him lead me. I felt very confused.
Luc was gay.
And Josh had kissed me.
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