Greg is driven to succeed on the football field.
What begins for him as a simple attempt to win a starting position on the team
ends up as a journey to discover who he really is.
Two months later our football season was over. My playing career was, too. No more football. I liked the game and had really enjoyed my last season, but I wasn’t fast enough for the college game. I knew that. I’d made up for lack of speed by recognition of what the other team was doing and getting in the proper place to stop plays because of that early recognition. I wouldn't be able to do that in college. The kids playing there were all fast enough that recognition wouldn’t be enough.
Donnie would be fast enough to go on if he wanted to, but he still had a year left of high school. I didn’t know if Whitmore would play again or not. He was out of the hospital by now, but he was still doing physical therapy. And bitching about it. But he wasn’t bitching at me. He’d gotten past that. Mostly, I thought, because of Brent.
Whitmore had been impressed when he heard from Donnie what I’d done for Brent. Donnie had been, too. But that’s not why I’d done it. I’d done it because I’d been mad about what Rocco was doing to Brent. It had surprised me that I’d felt so much anger about that because I hadn’t had that kind of sensitivity to how another kid was feeling in the past. Something about Brent had made me feel that way about him from when I’d first seen him.
And too, to be brutally honest, I’d done it for myself. To feel better about myself after what I’d done to Whitmore. And after it was over, I did feel better.
I hadn’t become close friends with Brent. Well, that’s stating it badly. We had become friends of a sort. I sat at lunch with him once every couple of weeks or so, if no one else was. But he had friends now, and I was a senior and he was a freshman, and unless they were brothers or there was some other long-time relationship between them, guys as far apart in years as we were just didn’t hang together. They have different classes, different circles of friends; they simply don’t have much in common. But I liked Brent, and he was grateful to me, and so there was nothing wrong with us getting together during lunch on occasion.
As I said, he had friends. After Rocco was out of the picture, Brent’s personality bloomed. He no longer was the sad, depressed, defeated and lonely kid he’d seemed when I’d first known him. He was much more outgoing than that, and pretty quickly he had kids eating at his table with him. He was bright and friendly and cheerful, and his being cute didn’t hurt him at all, either. I guessed being gay didn’t keep kids from wanting to hang out with him. It seemed to me like the younger kids were much more accepting than the older ones about that. I knew some seniors who still weren’t happy with the idea of gay kids.
One time that I did sit down with him at lunch—he’d come in late and his usual group was already seated at full tables—he had something to tell me.
“Hey, Greg. Know what?”
“Now how the hell would I know what?”
He laughed. He looked even cuter when he did that. “OK, I’ll just say it. I’ve got a boyfriend. You know Jason Palmer? The kid who usually sits across from me at lunch?”
“Yeah, I know who he is. Really ugly kid with a scar running down from his forehead to his chin, pimples all over and a purple birthmark on his neck.”
“Fuck you! He does not! He’s really cute.”
“He is, and I asked him if he’d be my boyfriend. Well, I had to stop kissing him to ask, but I did, and he said yes.”
“Ewwww! Don’t tell me that shit. That’s gross.”
“Not when you’re with Caitlyn, I’ll bet.”
OK, that was the other thing. I’d managed to find a girl who liked me. Well, she said she did. She was on the girls’ volleyball team. She was almost as tall as I was, and probably a better athlete because I couldn’t jump as high as she could. She was good looking, much better looking than I was. She came up to me in the library when I was doing homework there one day, all by myself. She sat at my table, just the two of us, and she spoke to me.
Now, see, I’m not a bit shy, but talking to girls wasn’t something I’d had much practice at. Not something I was good at, either, if truth be told. I still remember how that conversation went.
“You’re Greg Meyers, aren’t you?”
I lowered the book that I’d been reading since she sat down—well, OK, the book I’d been hiding behind, and looked at her. She was pretty. Not gorgeous-gorgeous, but more than just attractive. Pretty. Long, dark-blonde hair in a ponytail, tall, small breasts—which I found kinda nice; some guys like really big ones, but small ones can be really attractive if they’re on a thin body; they appeal to me, OK?—she was a perky kind of girl who I’d never spoken to before. Actually I didn’t really talk to many girls. I wasn’t all that sociable to start with, and then I wasn’t very attractive, either, and since my dad had been much more vocal in raising me than my mom had, I probably didn’t have the best social graces in the world, either. I was much more comfortable in the gym or the locker room with the guys than in a pizza joint with a girl, or on the dance floor. Just the thought of that had me beginning to shiver.
Oh, I liked girls just fine. Looking at them. Fantasizing about them. But talking to them? I know, I was a senior and you’re supposed to get over that in middle school. Well, some of us don’t. Just accept it.
Now she’d sat down at my table. Just the two of us. And, this being the school library, there were plenty of empty tables she could have chosen instead. That’s when she asked me if I was Greg Meyers.
“Yeah,” I said.
She nodded. Then said, “You’re much more handsome with your football helmet on.”
I jerked my head back, and she let out a very unladylike roar of laughter. Then she said, “I’ve been stalking you.”
Man, she had me feeling like I was on rollerskates at an ice rink.
“Um,” I said. I mean, what do you say to two comments like that?
“I’m Caitlyn Hollins,” she said.
“I know,” I said. “How could I help but know?”
That got another laugh out of her. But of course I’d known. Everyone knew who she was because of how she dressed. Weird was the best description I could give. Like today. She was wearing jeans, which were universal, but she also had on a long-sleeved tee shirt, one sleeve of which she’d cut off at the shoulder. And she had one hoop earring, not two. Her shoes were lace-up boots. With one green and one orange lace. And this was a less eccentric day than most.
As noted, she laughed when I said I knew who she was. I’d learned she laughed easily and at most everything. She laughed, and I didn’t quite know what to make of her. My face must have shown it because she said, “You’re kinda cute when you’re flustered. You probably didn’t know that, huh?”
I finally knew how to answer that one. “The only way I’m cute is if I’ve got the covers pulled up over my head and the lights are out.”
“We’ll have to wait awhile before I check that out,” she said, and gave me a lascivious smirk before winking at me
OK, that’s enough of that. But it gives you a taste of what Caitlyn was like. I thought about it a lot as time passed, and I realized it would have to be a girl with that sort of sense of humor, total self-confidence, and a no-holds-barred, irreverent attitude, maybe even one with a slim, muscular and athletic body, who’d ever get to me. And that was her, and she did.
Anyway, that was all an aside. I was going on about eating lunch at Brent’s table, and when he told me about his boyfriend.
We talked awhile, as usual I made sure he wasn’t getting hassled by anyone, and then he asked me something. “Greg, you told me once that you have some weights in your basement. You still have them?”
“Yeah. Even though football’s over, I still lift three or four times a week. Keeps me in shape, and after you do it awhile you get to kinda like it. And how you feel afterwards. Why?”
“Well, Jason lifts. He’s stronger than I am, and, see, we haven’t done much more than kiss and hold hands, but at some point we will, and when I take my shirt off, I don’t want to look puny like I do now.”
I tried to erase the vision of him taking his shirt off with Jason and concentrate on the rest. “So why don’t you lift with him?”
“Because I want to look good before we do that. Once I look a little bit more muscular, we probably will. Hey, I’ve seen videos of people lifting and being spotted. Have people spotted for you?”
“And did you look up their shorts? And see anything?”
“Brent! Come on, guy! Jeez!”
“Why are you blushing, man? It’s a fair question.”
“Maybe for a gay guy. We straight guys wouldn't do that!”
He gave me a look. I don’t think he believed me. Anyway, moving on, I asked what was on his mind.
“Well, I was wondering. If you have weights, and you use them yourself, well, it’s imposing, I know, but, well…”
“Stop with the ‘wells’ already! You want to use my weights?”
He grinned. “Yeah. I want to work out privately, just the two of us. I don’t care if you see my scrawny self. But you can spot me and show me what to do and all that and it won’t be embarrassing like it would with Jason. Not as embarrassing as it would be if any gay guy was looking. But I know, this is asking a big favor.”
“Not that big. Brent, we’re pretty much friends, aren’t we? Friends help each other. Besides which, it’s kind of lonely, lifting alone. I’d be glad to have company, even if he’s weak as shit and a wimpy runt.”
He laughed. “Not for long, though, if you’re any good at teaching.”
The first time Brent came home with me, he was all excited, eager for our first workout together. We went up to my room right off the bat and shrugged off our jackets. We both were wearing school clothes, which wasn’t surprising as that’s where we’d come from. He’d brought gym clothes with him. I had what I needed in my room.
“You can change in here or in the bathroom,” I said while pulling off my shirt. I noticed him glance my way, and when I’d tossed my shirt onto my bed and was bare-chested, saw it was no longer a casual glance; his eyes were fixed on me,.
“Wow!’” he said, then blushed. “I… That’s what I want to look like.”
I laughed. “This has taken four years of lifting plus numerous football practices. Lifting a few times a week isn’t going to change you overnight.”
“When will I see the difference?”
“Hard to say, Brent. Depends on genetics as well as effort. Is your dad thin? Your mom?”
“Yeah, both of them.”
“Then you looking like Arnold probably isn’t going to happen. But right now, you probably don’t have much definition in your arms or abs. You should see some difference within a month if you work hard. Then, if you keep going, you should see more. That’ll depend on your determination and whether you enjoy or hate the workouts.”
He didn’t respond to that but finally looked away. He opened his athletic bag and started rummaging around. I kept stripping till there was nothing left to strip, then walked to my dresser and took out a jock, a pair of shorts and my socks. I pulled up the jock and the shorts, then walked to my bed to put on the socks. As I did that, I saw him watching me again. He was still dressed.
I wasn’t sure what to say. All my life, my dad had hammered at me about gays being sexually obsessed, being sexually predatory, lustful, perverted. Now I’d just been naked and a gay boy had been watching—was still watching.
Yet Brent was a nice boy. I liked him. I certainly wasn’t scared of him. He’d watched me undressing. I’d known he was watching. But that was who he was, a gay boy, and he freely admitted it. He wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed by it. So the question was, how did I feel about him looking at me like that?
A lot of boys my age, especially jocks, seemed to feel a strong revulsion if another boy felt any interest or excitement by looking at them. A lot seemed to feel threatened. A lot seemed to want to hurt the one who was looking at them. They seemed to think it was OK, even their right to do that.
This seemed a very prevalent attitude among jocks. And it was one that had been encouraged in me by my father.
When other boys in the locker rooms I’d been in had shown this aversion, when they’d spoken scathingly about fairies and queers, I’d gone along with them. I’d said the same things.
But it had been just that, merely joining in with the crowd. I’d never really felt hatred for anyone. I harbored no deep dislike of gays. I didn’t really know any. There hadn’t been any in those locker rooms that I knew about. Until Donnie had changed that.
So I’d gone along with the crowd. But, I hadn’t felt what I assumed many of them had. Now, here in my bedroom, I was experiencing the looks firsthand, and they were from someone I knew was looking at me with more than casual interest.
I thought about how I felt about this. And I realized, it had no effect on me at all. Even with my dad’s preaching against gays, having a gay boy in my room with me, seeing me naked, it didn’t have any effect on me at all. He was just a kid I liked; he was Brent, a gay kid, and he was watching me, and, so what? So the hell what?
I guessed my dad was simply wrong. I guessed talking about someone or people in an abstract way was very different from knowing someone. Maybe especially if it was someone you liked.
I pulled my socks on and turned my head. He was still watching. “You going to change?” I asked.
He blushed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have…”
“Hey, I don’t blame you. How often do you get to see such a prime specimen of Adonis-like young maleness up close and personal?” And I laughed. He paused for a moment, his blush not lessening at all, but he saw I wasn’t mad, wasn’t bothered at all, and then he laughed, too.
“Do you want me to leave?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “You just showed me how this should be done.” And then he stripped to his briefs, pulled on a pair of shorts and a gym shirt.
While he was doing that, I wondered if I should wear a shirt. I never bothered with one because the basement was warm and I sweated a lot when lifting. I’d always jump in the shower afterwards, and a shirt was just one less thing to take off before doing so. With Brent being with me I wondered if I should wear one, but then realized that was being sexist. Was that even the right word?
But should I not wear what I usually did because he was gay?
That somehow seemed wrong to me. He was just another kid. He found other boys attractive, but how did that affect me? It didn’t. So I should wear what I wore. Period.
I didn’t put on a shirt. And when he was ready, we went to the basement.
“A little wider apart,” I said.
He grunted and moved his hands another inch apart.
“Move your elbows in closer to your sides. Your arms need to be straighter when you lift.”
He didn’t bother to grunt this time but complied.
We’d been working hard, and we were both sweating big time. I’d concentrated on form with him and talked about repetitions. I’d tried hard not to overwork him. I’d had him spot me when I was bench pressing so he’d see how it was done. Then I’d done the same for him.
I warned him he’d be sore the next day, but hopefully not too sore; that’s why I’d used mostly light weights with him. I asked him if he wanted a shower before leaving, and he blushed again and said no. Then I had an idea.
“You know, you asked how long it would take before you’d look different?”
“OK, well, I just had an idea. Why don’t we take pictures of you? Once a week. Then we can actually see your progress. You know, from featherweight to Hercules in five easy lessons. Except it’ll take you longer than that.”
“Ok. Yeah. Good idea. You got a camera?”
So we went up to my room and I grabbed my digital camera.
“Take your shirt off,” I said, and he did. He really didn’t have any physique to speak of, but what he did have was thin, pale and shiny with sweat. “How ‘bout the shorts?” I asked. “You’re going to be building thigh muscles as well, and those’ll show up better with just your briefs on.”
So he shucked out of those as well, and I took four shots of him. He came over to look, and nodded. “Now you see why I wanted to do this in private,” he said.
“Hey, you look OK. You look like a kid who hasn’t done much physically, that’s all. Actually, I admire you for starting, knowing how far you have to go and how much work you’ll have to put in.”
After he’d gone, I printed two of the pictures, a frontal view and more of a profile one, because I’d had another idea. I was going to make a scrapbook for him of his progress. He might like to have that someday. Then I grabbed a shower and began on my homework. All the time thinking of what he’d said when he’d left:
“Did you look up my shorts when I was spotting you?”
“Of course not!”
“Liar!” Then he’d laughed and run off, leaving me in the doorway looking after him.
Brent came home with me three times a week, Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’d have preferred Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays because having a recuperation day between lifting days allows muscles more recovery time. But sometimes Dad came home early on Fridays and I didn’t want Brent meeting him. I hadn’t told Brent about him. I guess I was ashamed of Dad. Not entirely, but certainly ashamed about his bigotry concerning gays. But the not wanting Dad to meet him was just instinctual. No one could tell Brent was gay by looking at him and lifting weights to get stronger wasn’t an activity that would brand him as gay, so there’d be no reason for Dad to think he was anything but a friend working out with me.
Except for two things. One, Brent was dead cute, and two, he was three years younger than I was. I thought that combination, along with Dad’s paranoia, might just be enough to cause Dad to start asking questions. And Dad wasn’t tactful. He could well ask them in Brent’s presence. Then what would I say? If I denied Brent was gay, wouldn’t that be insulting? And if I didn’t deny it, well, the explosion at having a gay kid in the house, in the basement with me, both of us mostly undressed—let’s just say I never wanted to have that conversation.
Brent kept coming over, and we kept up the workouts. He was taking more weight on gradually. He was dedicated to what he was doing. He never missed a day. I was developing a closer relationship with him, too. Hard not to with us thrown together like that.
The shit hit the fan a month later.
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