“If You Can Play, You Can Play” (by Grant Bentley)

“If You Can Play, You Can Play”

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.


A Christmas story that has nothing to do with Christmas? Well okay, it does mention Christmas and Blake’s big hockey tournament will happen during Christmas break.


Christmas break was coming and the biggest hockey tournament of the year was just around the corner. That being the Macs Midget AAA World Invitational Tournament. Twenty five teams from across Canada, the US, and Europe would be there, and I had every intention of leading my team to that championship trophy. I couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of it, and yes there is a story behind my being there … with my teammates, my friends, and … my boyfriend.

I totally loved hockey. From the day I was born I would be glued to the TV set every time there was a hockey game on. Dad even bought me this little yellow plastic hockey stick and everywhere I went it was in my hand. Hell, I even slept with it. As soon as I could walk I had my first tiny little pair of skates and all I wanted to do was spend forever on the ice. In fact I would throw a total fit every time free skating at the local rink was over. It didn’t take Dad long to figure out a little backyard skating rink was a good idea … in the winter of course, obviously. The rest of the year it was indoor rink … fit thrown.

When I was five years old, old enough to play in organized league games, it was Timbits, 5 to 6, then Novice, 7 to 8, then Atom, 9 to 10, then Pee Wee, 11 to 12, then Bantam, 13 to 14, and now, Midget. In fact I was playing Midget when most of this shit came down. Well I guess it started when I was still in Bantam but it came to a head in Midget.

You see by the time I was in junior high, when my buddies were chasing girls, and talking about playing with these or playing with that, I was wondering why. I wasn't the least bit interested in these or that. Then I guess somewhere around the middle of grade eight I started to understand why. I began to figure out I was far more interested in possibly playing with this or playing with that, but this or that belonged to my buds not girls … and I began to realize what that meant. Was I beginning to think I was gay? Uh, no. I was beginning to know I was gay.

Now if this had been what you’d assume the 21st century should be, and I could be true to myself, I probably would have come out, but it apparently wasn’t and I didn't. I was totally into league hockey and I wasn’t stupid, or I didn’t think I was, and I figured that if I came out, it would have meant the end of hockey for me. You see, the worst thing, from my teammates’ point of view, was to be a fag. Like if you got slammed into the boards, hammered with an awesome body check, or smacked in the head with a puck, and didn’t lose an eye or break a leg, you laughed and shrugged it off. If you didn’t, and groaned or moaned, you were a homo, a pussy boy, or a little whiny fag. Obviously I figured there was no way they’d accept me, so there was no way I was ever gonna come out, or let them find out I was in fact a fag, even if I wasn’t a little whiny one.

And as if that wasn’t enough, it was hard to miss all the hate directed towards gays. I mean God hated fags. Even my dad was right in there telling stupid fag jokes whenever the opportunity came up. Obviously there was nothing worse than being a fag so it wasn’t long before I actually started to hate myself. It got so bad that I even started dating girls and I forced myself to play with these and play with that. When I realized that wasn’t going to work and I couldn't change who I was, I began to simply avoid everyone. I did the locker room banter during hockey season, but other than that I kept to myself. It didn’t take long though for me to start sinking into a depressed state. I had always been social, fun-loving, and surrounded by friends. Now I was a nobody, and that was becoming harder and harder to deal with. I even thought of killing myself … more than once, but hockey was far too important for that to ever became an option.

Then when I was feeling at one of my lowest points, I knew I had to get help, some kinda help. I had no idea what to do. I just knew I couldn’t go on like this. Finally, in desperation, I texted the only person in the world I felt I could trust and count on, my big brother Greg. I asked him to meet me by the pond in the park. We just sat by the water in silence for the longest time, as I stared at my feet and he stared at me. He knew there was something really bothering me, but the question was what.

“Okay Blake, is this a girl problem?” he finally asked.

When I said no, he tried to jokingly ask, “Is it a boy problem?”

I looked him in the eyes, and after a minute or so and a tear or two, I said, “Yeah, kinda.”

For the next hour or so, we talked, we cried, we hugged. And yeah my big brother cried.

 “You’re still my favourite little brother kiddo, and I still love you, and I always will,” he said with a grin, as we finally got it together and he gave me one big final hug.

I have to say that that was more than seriously nice to hear, and it brought a big smile to my face. But then again, I had to admit, I was his only little brother.

The next day with Greg by my side, I told my parents. I hoped, well I was pretty sure, they’d still love me and support me. Well Mom for sure. There were my dad’s fag jokes lurking in the back of my mind of course, and they didn’t exactly help my confidence much.

They’d known for a long while that something was bothering me, but they remained silent as they looked at me, then at Greg, then back at me.

“I'm going through a really rough time and I can’t do this anymore,” I started.

“. . . I'm gay,” I was finally able to say after a very long pause.

The look on their faces was totally unexpected. It wasn’t a look of anger, or surprise, but a look of complete and total relief.

For the next hour or so, we talked, we cried, we hugged.

Mom said she never suspected I was gay, but thinking back, it made sense, because unlike Greg, I had never been girl-crazy. She said that if she'd really thought about it, she might have put two and two together, instead of simply attributing my past months of moodiness to just being a teenager.

And as we were kinda wrapping up out little talk, Dad said, “I’d definitely been concerned these past months. Then when you said you had something important to tell us, I was really concerned. I thought there was actually something wrong with you.”

Okay that last bit brought a smile to my face. Well actually it made me chuckle. And that was it. It was no big deal for either of them..

But even with all the love and acceptance my family was giving me, I still couldn't imagine taking the next step and telling the guys at school, especially my teammates. I just couldn't do it. I imagined the stares, the ignorant comments, the ‘fag’ painted in pink on my locker, fans at hockey games chanting fag whenever I hit the ice. And I feared the looks or outright hostility in the dressing room. So at school and in the locker room I still couldn’t be me … I couldn’t be … and I couldn’t help but feel almost like I was alone all the time.

I did of course have a Facebook page, like who didn’t. In fact I had two. In one I was Blake, the fake me that everyone liked. In the other I was the real me, except the real me couldn’t be me. He was Jason.

Then, at the start of grade eleven, I met Quinn. Actually Jason met him on Facebook. We said a few things like hi and whatever before we switched to instant messenger, got into chatting every day, and really hit it off.

He lived in town and was actually going to the same high school as me. Unfortunately he was out and proud. I of course knew exactly who he was and I spent a good part of everyday at school watching him. But being the fearful sad case that I was, and because I hadn’t even used my real name or picture on Facebook, he knew I was there wandering the halls, but he had no idea which of the guys he was looking at was me. Of course, we’d discussed my fears, and my absolute dread of coming out, without mentioning hockey or locker rooms obviously, and he said he understood. He didn’t like it, but he understood.

After a couple of months of being understanding, even though there had been a lot of begging and good natured whining, with the absolute promise that he would in no way shape or form ever out me, he finally got me to actually agree to meet him in person. And yeah, I was liking him a lot. Okay?

I was scared shitless, but I decided on lunch across town, like way across town, at a Denny’s. He didn’t care if it required a trip to the north pole, he wanted, no, needed to meet me face to face. And that day he did.

Okay, I’ve seen people look surprised, astonished, shocked, or whatever, but the look on his face when he saw me sitting in a booth near the back of the restaurant, made any of those looks pale in comparison. Obviously he knew he wasn’t looking at Jason Simmons, he was looking at Blake Robinson, the all-star centre of the Royals Midget Hockey Team.

He didn’t make a scene or anything, but I think a slight breeze from the door opening might have blown him over. He never took his eyes off me, and I don’t think he even blinked once as he walked slowly over to the booth. Then when he got to me, in almost a whisper, he asked, “Jason?”

I just sort of nodded and smiled, and after several seconds he sat down opposite me.

The first words out of his mouth, again after a rather long pause, were, “Oh my god, Blake?  … seriously?”

“Yeah … seriously,” I replied, “Hi.”

“My god, I kinda knew you weren’t Jason, but …” he remarked, “Like for real? You’re …?”

“Yeah I’m for real … I think,” I said.

Just then the waiter came up to take our order. Neither of us had even looked at the menu yet, so I asked what he would recommend. Apparently salmon it was going to be for both of us.

As Quinn was beginning to get over the shock, we were actually able to start a conversation. Mostly at first about, well not just about how surprised he was, but also about how happy he was it was me. He mentioned that I had no worries about him outing me. He laughed and added that even if he told everyone, no one would believe him, and he’d probably get his ass kicked … and that wasn’t what he wanted to have happen to it.

I think I turned fifty shades of red at his remark. And judging by the grin on his face I think he found that reaction more than a little bit amusing.

As we were finishing the last bit of our salmon, he grinned and said, “Do you know how many wet dreams I’ve had about you? Well the Blake you, before I met the Jason you of course.”

Okay I only turned thirty shades of red this time as he did what I thought was the cutest little laugh. And yeah, it seems he quite enjoyed making me blush. I had to grin as I looked at him, as I knew these wouldn’t be the only times he’d change the direction of my blood flow.

We spent the rest of the day together, walking the park, wandering along the river, and just getting to know the real each other. I told him about the whole gay jock locker room thing and how my teammates hated gays and how they’d hate me if they knew.

He thought about what I was saying for a bit, and then said maybe I shouldn’t be so sure. Just because the guys say homophobic shit in the locker rooms, it doesn't mean that they hate gays. It means they’re just saying what they think they’re supposed to say and that guys often say stuff they don't mean because they think it’s cool. Okay that was something I’d never even considered, and I sorta wondered if maybe he was right. I mean none of them ever hassled him.

But fears or no fears about his being out, Quinn and I saw a lot of each other after that Denny’s salmon. We often walked together between classes and chatted over lunch at school. I mean he didn’t make a big deal of it, but he was out, and the guys knew he was out. Hell everyone knew he was out and I started to think maybe he was right, cause surprisingly none of them said shit.

Not surprisingly though, Quinn and I became closer and closer over the next few months. I don’t think I could have denied I was falling totally in love with him even if I’d wanted to, or even if I’d felt my life depended on it, and to some extent I kinda thought maybe it did.

Then one day, in the spring of our grade eleven year, not long after hockey season was over, I‘m not sure what happened in that little brain of mine, but I decided I’d had enough of hiding, enough of lying, and enough of not being me. I decided that, yes, I truly loved that boy, and I needed to prove it to him.

I decided Jason had been around on Facebook long enough and step one would be to make him vanish. Then for step two, as the real Blake, I would change my status to “in a relationship,” and would post a picture of myself and Quinn … and then wait, hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.

I did exactly that, and went to school the next morning wondering how many of the guys would have noticed … well besides Quinn. I’d gotten a very excited post-midnight phone call from him. So yeah, he noticed.

There was nothing, no comments, no stares, nothing, until the break between the second and third classes. Jerry, one of the nicest guys on the team, poked me and grinned as we walked into English class.

As soon as we sat down in the back of the room, he said, “What you did, that took a lot of guts. I’m proud of you man. I talked to a bunch of the guys and they all say the same thing.”

“Really?” I questioned.

“Hey, we’re not all bigots you know,” he replied with a grin, “and Quinn is a totally cool guy. But then again, he’s also my favourite gay cousin.”

I just looked at him as he burst out laughing.

“What?” he asked just as Mr. Ross walked in and gave us ‘the look’.

As the day progressed I gotta say I was a little bit surprised at the number of positive vibes I got. Actually a lot more than a little bit as Jerry was far from the only one being supportive. Only one guy was sorta negative … I think. He offered to meet up in the washroom and he’d let me suck his dick. Okay, I don’t usually snort when I laugh, but I did that time. And do I hope I didn’t offend him … nope.

When I ran into Roland, our #1 goalie, he leaned over and looked at my crotch for a few seconds and said, “Yep, you got bigger balls than I do.” Then he grinned, punched me in the arm, and walked off.

Oh yeah, and I should mention that, except for English, Quinn was by my side all day long … and I do mean by-my-side. Then if that wasn’t enough, we made the five block walk home with the fingers of his right hand interlocked with the fingers of my left all the way. “In a relationship” was now out there for anyone and everyone to see.

On the way, one of my teammates, Tommy, caught up to us. As we were walking, he glanced at our interlocked fingers and grinned. Then he got into the so called jock bullshit of most sports teams and locker rooms. He even mentioned that he’d read an article in one of his sports mags that said an athlete's sexual orientation doesn’t mean shit. Well the article  didn’t exactly say it in those specific words, but that was his interpretation, and it worked for me.

“I mean seriously,” he said, “I read it a while ago and it kinda stuck with me. It had a quote from Brendan Burke. He came out in 2010 and as he said, ‘If you can play, you can play.’ … And like, what the hell else matters?”

So yeah, this Christmas break, with the best boyfriend a guy could ever have shouting encouragement from the stands, my team is going to kick ass, cause ‘If I can play, I can play’… and so can every one of my teammates.

 

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.


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This story and the included images are Copyright © 2017-2018 by Grant Bentley. They cannot be reproduced without express written consent. Codey's World web site has written permission to publish this story. No other rights are granted.

This story may contain occasional references to minors who are or may be gay. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG13 (in a more enlightened time it would be rated G). If reading this type of material is illegal where you live, or if you are too young to read this type of material based on the laws where you live, or if your parents don't want you to read this type of material, or if you find this type of material morally or otherwise objectionable, or if you don't want to be here, close your browser now. The author neither condones nor advocates the violation of any laws. If you want to be here, but aren't supposed to be here, be careful and don't get caught!