Sometimes things happen that you think you’ll never be able to live down.
But is that really true?
Note: Explicit language and graphic descriptions.
I didn’t sleep with Gary till the weekend. The week was pretty uneventful, which was a relief. I was able to settle in at ‘home’, Gary’s house, and I guess mine too, now. It took no time at all to get comfortable with his parents. My mom had always been judgmental and would criticize me for almost everything I did. Mr. and Mrs. Jenks were the opposite, praising me for the littlest things, and wanting to hear what I had to say. I’d never said much at home because whatever I said was scoffed at, ignored or belittled. Here, it was listened to, and often discussed, and my opinion mattered. Man, was that ever a change!
I could see why Gary had so much self-confidence. It came naturally to him because he lived in an atmosphere where what he did and said was respected.
We slept together Friday night and of course fooled around. When we were done and recovering, lying next to each other, I sighed and said, “I really like this. I’m really happy.” He sighed too, then said, “Keith? You do remember that I said I wasn’t gay, don’t you? I’m not. In fact, I’ve been sort of afraid to tell you, but there’s this girl at school I’m interested in, and I spoke to her today, and, well, we’re going to go to the movies tomorrow. I don’t want to hurt you, you’re my best friend. You OK with this?”
No. I wasn’t. But I’d sort of been waiting for it, too. I knew he was straight. He’d told me that. I suppose I’d been hoping maybe he’d change, like I was trying to change by standing up for myself, but I’d known he was straight from the beginning. So I was a bit disappointed—hell, I was quite a bit disappointed—but I’d been trying to keep my feelings for him from getting too hot. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed, and upset, too. I was. But mostly, I understood.
“I’m OK,” I finally managed to say. I forced my voice to stay even and took a deep breath. “I’ve been trying really hard not to fall in love with you. I know you aren’t going to fall in love with me. If you find a girl, or girls, you like, you have to go for it.”
He squeezed my leg, then reached higher and squeezed there, too. “I don’t think I’ll be having sex with a girl for a long time yet. I’m just getting started dating. So I think I’ll still be practicing with you for a while yet as long as you’re willing.”
I smiled, and rolled over just a bit so his squeezing would be more comfortable for him.
On Sunday, when I was alone with Mrs. Jenks helping with the breakfast dishes, she told me we’d be going out to dinner at their country club that night, and asked if I had a sports coat or suit jacket to wear. She said I didn’t need a tie, but decent slacks and a jacket were the rule in the dining room at the club.
“I’m sorry. I never needed one, and don’t have one. You can go without me, though. I can make myself something to eat here. You guys probably need some time without me around anyway.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Keith. You’re part of the family now! A very important part. We wouldn’t go out to dinner without you. I suppose one of Gary’s jackets he’s outgrown might work. We could go up and look.”
“I don’t have any suitable pants, either. Just jeans and one pair of khakis, and they’re both getting a little small.”
I hung my head. I shouldn’t have said that. But my clothes were starting to be a problem, and I didn’t know what to do about it. My mother had already left, and she didn’t leave me any money. I had the impression I might have started a growth spurt, because almost overnight, everything was a little tight or short on me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but didn’t want to bother the Jenks about it. I was thinking of trying one of the thrift shops in town, and maybe finding a way to make some money. I’d overheard kids say how hard it was to get a job at 14, especially when you’re still in school, but I hadn’t even looked yet.
Mrs. Jenks was watching me. Then she did what she was so good at. She hugged me. I melted into her like I so often did. She picked the times I most needed a hug, and this was how I responded. I suppose I should have been embarrassed, but there had been an enormous deficit of hugs in my life, of support and parental kindness. At 14, getting hugs probably should have embarrassed me. They didn’t.
“Keith,” she said, still hugging me, “something’s on your mind, and you’re not telling me. What is it, honey. Out with it.”
She was trying to act stern, but stern wasn’t something that she was good at, and her act was so obvious I started giggling, and she did too.
When she let me go, I said, “It’s really embarrassing.”
“Then it’s good there’s no one to hear it but me. Tell me.”
I did. “I think I’m outgrowing my clothes, and I don’t have any money to buy more.” I blushed, then finally stuttered, “Uh, maybe, well, could you lend me some money till my mother comes back?”
“No, I can’t do that. But I can give you an allowance. Gary gets one, and so you will, too. And, as long as you’re living here, we’ll take care of your needs. So, I just figured out what to do this afternoon. We’re going shopping!”
“But it’ll be expensive! I’ll pay you back when I can, but it’ll take me a long time.”
“Keith!” Just that fast, she was showing me a side of her I hadn’t seen before, commanding my attention. “Let us do this for you. We have more money than we’ll ever use. We donate a lot to charity every year. I’d rather spend it where I can see the good it’s doing. Whatever we get you today, whatever we spend, we won’t even start to notice the cost. And you need better clothes.”
She took my hand and led me into the living room. She sat on the couch and sat me down next to her, and looked me in the eye. I could see the depth of her compassion in her face. “You have self-esteem issues, honey. You’re a wonderful boy, but you yourself don’t believe it. Well, now you’re going to be living here with us, and you’re going to have nice clothes, and you’ll have an allowance, some spending money of your own, and you’ll have the independence to do whatever you want to do without any criticism, and maybe all that’ll help. But it’ll only help, not solve the problem. The main problem is your lack of understanding that you have real value as a human being. You have to accept that inside yourself. But new clothes that fit, and living here, might be a physical reminder, a nudge, to help you get started.”
I didn’t know what to say to all that. It took me completely by surprise. I was smart enough, though, to realize there was one thing I had to say. “Thank you, Mrs. Jenks.”
She smiled, and the forceful presence was gone, just that quickly. She hugged me again, and kissed me on the forehead, and said, “It’s my pleasure, Keith. It really is.”
We went to the mall, which was filled with kids, but I wasn’t embarrassed or trying to hide myself for once. I was with Gary and his mother and we were there for a purpose, shopping, and man, did she shop. When we got home, I was exhausted, and my few clothes in my closet weren’t lonely any longer.
I was resting when Gary came into my room, then proceeded to get naked. I watched, he grinned. Then he pulled on his swimming suit and told me I had one minute to do the same.
We swam, and my energy returned. Seems odd it would work that way, but it did. Then we showered and dressed and went to dinner.
I’d never eaten in a place like that before. They had a Sunday buffet, which meant all you could eat, but it was the most incredible food: huge bowls of chilled shrimp and crab, platters of shaved ice holding oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon, clams in a wicked sauce, more kinds of salads than I ever thought possible and cold plates to put them on, three kinds of soup, all of them rich and absolutely delicious, several casserole-type main courses, a huge ham and roast beef and turkey that chefs in immaculate white jackets carved to order, steam trays of barbecued ribs and fried chicken—just an amazing amount of great food.
And I haven’t even mentioned the desserts, or the men wearing tall white hats flambéing some of them!
I was so stuffed when we left I was surprised I could walk. Gary was sort of staggering, too, and his parents were laughing at us.
Even though I was too full and too tired to mess around with Gary that night, it was still pretty much a perfect day.
I worked hard on my essay the next week. It meant something to me, something much more than my usual school papers. I was writing it more for myself than for Mrs. Gallagher. Writing it forced me to focus on just what my life had been like, and how I’d felt, and the message really was obvious.
Of course, implementing the change I was writing about was harder than simply understanding that I needed to do this, or how important it was. But the paper made it very clear why I had to do it. And outlining specific steps I was going to take gave me a plan to put into practice.
I was eating lunch one day when, to my surprise, Darryl Cane approached my table holding his tray. I glanced up at him, and saw he looked nervous.
“Uh, would it be OK if I sat here?”
I was surprised he was so tentative. I was usually the one who had a difficult time talking to anyone. No one had a problem talking to me. And they rarely asked my permission, either.
“Sure,” I said, but I wasn’t sure I meant it. He’d been involved in pantsing me, and I didn’t know him at all. He was bigger than I was, but then, so was most everyone. He was tall and thin, and still had a sort of baby face with chubbier cheeks than most guys our age and a perfect, rosy complexion. It looked to me like puberty was working elsewhere first and would attend to his face last. He was actually kind of good looking, with long dark hair that came down over his ears and long bangs that were swept back to the side, and very dark green eyes that showed concern right then. I’d never really looked at him much, even though he was in a couple of my classes, but that was probably because of the guys he chose to hang out with.
He set his tray on the table and got settled in the chair, then looked up at me. He started to open his mouth, then dropped his eyes back to his tray. I almost smiled.
He picked up his fork and toyed with his home fries for a moment, then looked at me again and cleared his throat. “I want to apologize for what happened,” he finally managed to say.
Oh, that’s what this was. “OK,” I said, putting no inflection at all into my voice.
He was staring at me now, not dropping his eyes, and I could see that he was doing here meant something to him.
“No, I mean, I really am sorry. I didn’t want to do that. We shouldn’t have done that. I’ve felt bad about it ever since.”
I nodded. “Well, it’s over with now. I wish you guys hadn’t done it either, but things happen. I’m a little surprised, though.”
“Surprised? About what?”
“That you’d be this concerned about it. You hang with Tony. He likes to bully kids, and you guys help him. So why would doing what you did to me bother you?”
He dropped his eyes for a moment, then said, “We don’t hang together. Not anymore. Not since we did that to you. I told him afterwards that what we did was wrong, and he got mad. He doesn’t like people telling him he’s wrong. We got in a fight. I don’t mind not being with him anymore. He’s a jerk.”
It took a moment to process that. Then I asked, “You got in a fight over me?”
He laughed, and all the concern left his eyes for a moment, and he became just another kid my age. “No, dummy! We got in a fight over how he treated you. But actually, it was more than that. I’ve known for a while now that I didn’t like what we were doing, but I’ve been friends with him a long time, and he wasn’t always like this. But what we did to you simply wrong, and was the last straw for me. I could see how you felt, how we made you feel, and I knew I was part of that, and I just had to stop being involved in things like that. I didn’t want to be a person who’d do that anymore.”
“I don’t know what to say.” I was watching him, and he’d dropped his eyes again. “Thanks for telling me, I guess. You know, I was watching you a little, when that was going on. I saw you looking uncomfortable. Seeing that made me feel better, actually.”
He looked up. “Well, good then. Uh, OK, I said what I said, so if you want, I’ll go eat somewhere else.”
“You don’t have to. I always eat alone, but it’s not because I want to. If you want to eat here, it’s fine.”
He smiled. “Good. I don’t really have any friends anymore.”
So he stayed, and we talked a little. He wasn’t a bad guy. We had things in common. Lunch went a lot quicker that day than it usually did. I was sorry when it ended, but excited the next day when he came right over and without asking plunked his tray down across the table from mine, looked up and grinned at me.
I now had a lunch partner. It’s difficult to express how great that felt. When you’re alone in the midst of hundreds of kids, you feel so left out and isolated that it sort of eats at you and strengthens your conviction that there’s something seriously wrong with you. Having him sitting there changed things. My physical circumstances were different because he was sitting there, and that was all it took for my perspective of myself to change, too.
He was in my English class, and on Wednesday he asked me how I was doing on my essay.
“I’ve finished it. Well, I’m done, but every time I read it over on the computer, I add a word or change a word or mess with it a little. I can’t seem to help myself. But I’m finished and ready to print it.”
He poked at the mystery meat on his plate, frowned, and asked, “What did you write about?”
His eyes were still on the theoretical food he was prodding, so I couldn’t get a good idea of why he was asking me that. I had the impression it was just curiosity, nothing more. He looked up when I hesitated. I wasn’t sure what my eyes were showing, but I looked away so he couldn’t really see them anymore.
“Uh, well, it’s kind of personal. What did you write about?”
It was his turn to look away. “Yeah, you’re right,” he said after a moment. “It is personal.”
“I guess we’re all writing about something we don’t like about ourselves. Probably no one wants to admit what that is. Are you finished with yours?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t started it yet. I’m not sure what I want to say. There’s a lot wrong with me that needs fixing.”
I smiled at him. “There’s one less thing wrong with you than there used to be. You don’t hang with Tony any longer.”
He looked up, and I saw he had a wicked smile. “Hey,” he said, “that’s what I’ll write! About pantsing you and realizing I had to stop doing things like that, and that I’m now going to work on that, and it was seeing you lying there naked that woke me up!”
My eyes widened and I about froze. An essay, for Mrs. Gallagher, about me lying on that lawn with my parts exposed for public viewing? He saw the expression on my face and stopped smiling.
“Hey, I’m kidding! I’m sorry. It was a joke! I’d never embarrass you like that.”
“Oh.” My heart slowed back down. “Well, good. I didn’t think you would, but embarrassment’s been my middle name recently.”
He paused, one of those pregnant pauses I’d read about, and lifting his eyes to mine, said, “You really don’t have anything to be embarrassed about.”
What in the world did he mean by that?
Friday night, I was lying in bed with Gary. He was a happy boy. He’d gone to the movies with Amy, the girl he kept enthusing about to me, and said they’d kissed a little bit before she’d gone inside for the night.
He felt he had to show me how they’d kissed, and since he didn’t need to worry about Amy’s father coming outside with a baseball bat and because I was eager to get in some practice to improve my osculatory talents, we went at it pretty good and somehow ended up doing a whole lot more than kissing.
Then he decided he had to give me a blow-by-blow description of their date, which could have ruined my happy mood, but because of what we’d just done, it bothered me less than it might have.
“. . . my hand in the movies, and she kept squeezing it, like she wanted me to remember I was holding hers. Girls are funny. I’m not sure she was watching the movie at all, and it was pretty good!” He was telling me more than I wanted to know about his date. I’d have been happy just to doze off at that point. “But then she moved way over in her seat and sort of put her head on my shoulder. Well, she tried to, but the armrest was in the way. So I pushed that up, and there wasn’t anything between us now, and then she did put her head on my shoulder and took my hand, and then she laid both of them in my lap, with hers on the bottom and sort of moved it around a little. And you can guess the effect that had!”
“Yeah, I know, or can imagine. I don’t really need all these details, you know.”
“Sure you do. You’ll go on a date someday, and you need to know what to do, how it works.”
“How do you know I’ll ever go on a date?”
He sat about halfway up then, propping himself on an elbow, and looked down at me. “Why in the world wouldn’t you?”
“Well, you might not have noticed and all, but I’m gay, I don’t have a boyfriend and I’m sure not going to be dating any girls. I don’t know any gay boys, and I’m not sure I could ever in a million years do what you did tonight in public.”
“Nonsense! You’re 14. It’s time you started dating! Why don’t you form one of those gay clubs at school? All the gay kids will join. Then you’ll know who’s who, and you can take your pick of the cute ones.”
“Yeah, right! You’re talking to me, Gary. Mr. Nobody with zero personality. How am I supposed to start a club? And there’s something else.”
“Mr. Johnson. He’s homophobic. He’d never let a club like that get started.”
Gary thought about that, then nodded. “You’re probably right about that. But wrong about the rest of it. There are lots of gay kids. I don’t know how you find them, but the first step is to start making friends. I know that’s hard for you, but you need to work on that. To actually do it. Isn’t that part of that essay you turned in today? Standing up for yourself means just that: not being so shy that you’re afraid to talk to people. If you believe in yourself, you can talk to people.”
I had to think about that. He was right, I knew that instinctively. But it was so hard for me! He had no idea about that, because he wasn’t shy.
I had to say something. So, I told him, “I do have a friend now. Sort of. You know I’m eating lunch with Darryl. I like him, friend-like him, and he must like me enough to keep coming over to my table to eat lunch with me.”
Gary lay back down again, and dropped his hand onto my stomach, where he started making little circles with his middle finger lightly, just above my bellybutton. “Well, there you go then. Anybody who’d take the time to get to know you would like you, Keith. That’s the truth. Is he gay?”
“Darryl. Is he gay?”
“I don’t know. I doubt it.”
“Does he know you’re gay?”
“Why don’t you tell him?”
“Gary! I can’t do that!”
“Why not? You say he likes you. If he does, your being gay won’t bother him any.”
“You don’t know that, and anyway, I don’t want to lose him as a lunch buddy. And stop with the finger. Stop! You’re getting me hard again.”
He ignored that. “You worry too much. You have to take some chances, sometime. Do you like him like him?” He did stop with the finger, but only to slide it down just below my belly button and start up with the light circling again.
“Well, he’s kind of cute. And I said stop that!”
“Cute is good. A good start. Is he smart?”
“I think so. He talks OK.” I wriggled a little. He was driving me crazy. My breathing was starting to come faster, making it difficult to keep up my end of the conversation without my voice going all raggedy.
“So, if you don’t want to tell him you’re gay, or ask if he is, just go with the fact you two are friendly and ask him if he’d like to hang this weekend. Call him on the phone tomorrow, ask if he’d like to come over for a swim, or go to the movies, or get pizza later.”
“Uh, maybe.” That’s all I could get out, because he’d gently taken hold of me, and was stroking easily, lightly, casually, almost like it was an afterthought, something he was doing almost unconsciously, and I was just about going out of my gourd.
“Not maybe,” he said, “tell me you’ll do it.”
He slowed and loosened his stroking even more. I became desperate.
“I’ll think about it,” I gasped. “Uhhhh.”
“No, tell me you’ll do it.”
“Tighter, and speed up some,” I begged, “and I’ll think about it after. Ohhhh.”
He let go altogether, then started just sort of lightly tickling the end of it, and started humming. Humming! I started thrusting my hips up towards his fingers, trying to create more pressure. “Tell me you will,” he insisted.
“OK, ahh-ahh, OK, ahh-ahh, I will, I will,” I grunted, then sucked air sharply into my mouth through clenched teeth while thrusting up as high as I could, my back arching toward the ceiling so I looked like I was advertising McDonald’s. I was desperately trying to reach his hand.
“Tomorrow?” he said.
“Tomorrow!” I gasped. I’d have promised him I’d leap off the Golden Gate Bridge right about then. He took hold of me properly at that point and resumed a more effectual rhythm. “I’m holding you to that,” he said, and then, to my sheer relief, finished what he’d started.
In the morning, he wouldn't stop pestering me, so I got Darryl’s number and called him. He sounded really happy I was calling him, and also implied, just with the enthusiasm of his response, that swimming at Gary’s house was the greatest idea I’d ever had. He said he’d come over right after lunch.
I was nervous all morning. Gary saw it and sat me down and told me this was just two friends getting together and not to make more of it than that. A friend didn’t get nervous when another friend was coming over to hang out, he told me. It’s what guys did. I told him yeah, other guys, but not me. He said it was about time to join the crowd, then. He asked me if I wanted him to be there or for the two of us to be alone. I didn’t have to think about that. Having Gary there would mean, if I couldn’t think of anything to say—a problem I had about as often as the wind blew in Wyoming—he’d be there to help fill in the gaps.
I opened the door to his knock. Darryl looked a little nervous. Good. I was too.
He came in carrying his bathing suit wrapped up in a towel. I was already wearing mine. I took him outside to the patio and introduced him to Gary, then showed him one of the downstairs bathrooms and told him he could change there.
When he came out, he was carrying his towel and draping it casually but, if he was anything like me, probably purposefully, in front of him.
“Uh, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m on the swimming team, and I’m used to Speedos. It’s all I own. I see you guys are wearing regular suits. I didn’t want you to think. . . .”
He petered out there, and I could see he was blushing a little. “That’s OK,” I said, hoping to lighten his mood. “When I first swam here, I didn’t even have a suit.”
His eyes opened a little wider. “You mean, uh, you skinny dipped?”
I laughed. “No, Gary loaned me one. He could lend you one, too, if you’re embarrassed. You two are about the same size.” I sort of looked him over, then said, “Suits, I mean.”
With me laughing, he did too, though he was blushing. “I’m fine if you guys don’t mind. I actually prefer a Speedo. Once you’re used to them, they’re great. I just didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression.”
Gary smiled at our exchange, then got up and jumped in the pool. Darryl and I did too. We splashed around a little, then Gary said to Darryl, “Swim team, huh? Let’s have a race. Four laps. Keith can be the starter, and the judge.”
Darryl looked a little skeptical. I didn’t know if it was because he didn’t want to embarrass Gary in his own pool, or if it was for some other reason. It suddenly occurred to me that Darryl might be feeling a little cautious. He didn’t really know either of us well, and could be worried that Gary might have an ulterior motive, perhaps because of what Darryl had been part of with me.
Then I thought again, and wondered if this competition was Gary’s way of getting to know Darryl better and trying to make him more comfortable. That was just the sort of thing Gary would think to do.
Both guys looked a lot like otters in the pool. I was a much better swimmer, now that Gary had been working with me, but I couldn’t hold a candle to those guys. Gary kept working on Darryl to get him to race and finally, as only Gary could do, cajoled him into accepting his challenge.
I lined them up in the shallow end, then yelled, “Go!” They took off, and, man! They shot through the water, and were very close to even at the deep end wall. There, to my surprise, they both did perfect flip turns and then were coming back toward me. I jumped up onto the pool deck so I wouldn’t get in the way, or get killed, whichever happened first.
Making a flip turn in the shallow end, where the water was only three feet deep at the edge, was pretty much impossible. They both seemed to know that because neither of them tried. They both just swam to the wall and touched it, then turned and kicked off from it.
They continued, neck and neck together, until the fourth lap, going back. Then I could see Gary start to edge in front, only to be overtaken by Darryl in the last couple of strokes. He touched the wall about a half-second before Gary did.
They both came up grinning, both swung their heads sharply back and forth, letting the water in their hair spray to the sides. Darryl raised his hand, and Gary reached up and slapped it.
We fooled around some more, then got out, dried off and sat in the patio chairs. It was a warm day and sitting there in just our suits, a soft breeze occasionally wafting across us, felt wonderful.
A little later, Gary went in and got us some cokes and a couple of bowls of mixed nuts. We sat and talked. I was surprised how easy it was. I wasn’t a bit tongue-tied. There was a lot of laughing, and teasing, and why it seemed like we’d all known each other for a long time, I had no idea, but it did.
Darryl’s Speedo suit was mostly white. Our school colors were white and dark green, and his suit was all white except for a dark green stripe down each hip. He sat sprawled on his chair, and I couldn’t help but peek at that suit now and then. Couldn’t help it. Those suits are pretty spare, and I was curious about what was under that micro-thin layer of cloth, and I could almost see it because the suit sort of formed around it as the material dried.
I couldn’t be obvious, though. He looked at me when I spoke and looked at Gary when he spoke, and I used those opportunities, when his eyes were on Gary, to perv on him. Yeah, that’s what I was doing. I’m not proud of it, but I’m gay, and Darryl was attractive, and the more I got to know him, the more I was getting to like him, and mostly, there he was, about two feet away, wearing almost nothing, and, yeah, I was perving on him big time and trying hard not to get caught.
The problem was, the more I looked, the more I wanted to look, and once I got concentrating on staring at Darryl’s midsection, I sort of lost the thread of conversation that was going on between him and Gary. And so, I got caught.
I was only sort of listening with one ear when I heard, “Keith?”
I glanced up from looking down at what was holding my attention and Darryl’s eyes were on me, and he was frowning.
“What are you doing?” he asked. He didn’t sound mad, particularly, only curious, but I thought I heard some humor in his voice, too. I noticed the frown didn’t look angry as much as bemused.
It was pretty obvious what I was doing. I was looking at his dick. He was looking at me looking at it. He knew what I was doing. But he’d asked, and I had to answer, and what could I say?
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. I’m sure I looked like a deer in someone’s headlights, frozen, unable to move, or in my case, speak.
Gary saved the day. He answered. “I think he was looking at that bee on your suit,” he said.
Darryl quickly looked down. I looked where he was looking. Sure enough, a honeybee had settled on the suit, on the white part, actually precisely on the part I’d been directly staring at.
Darryl looked at it but didn’t brush it off. Instead, he smiled at Gary, then at me, and said, “This happens a lot. I think they’re attracted to the bright white color. The thing to do is not bother them. They’ll fly away on their own. I have a friend on the team that panicked and swatted at one and it stung him, right through the suit, right on the end of his dick. You should have heard him yell. I don’t want that to happen, believe me.” He laughed, then said, in a softer voice, looking at me, “He told us he couldn’t jack off for a week afterwards. Damn, that’d be tough!”
“Yeah,” I said, “that’s why I didn’t want to say anything, why I just froze, watching it. I was afraid if I said anything, you’d react, and then I had to imagine giving you first aid. That would be nasty!”
Gary couldn’t leave that alone. He just couldn’t. “Yeah, sucking the venom out would be a bitch!”
I started laughing, and the others did too. I thanked my lucky stars Gary’d been able to come up with something to divert Darryl’s thinking to something other than me staring at his dick. I was a little late off the mark, but Gary saved me, even if, as the saying goes, it was better late than never.
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