When I get off the plane, no one is there to meet me. I wait, and then call Lydia; her number keeps having a busy signal. Finally, I take a cab, blowing some of the money Doug gave me. It’s past nine when I finally arrived home. As I walk in, Dad jumps up from the couch. From his expression, I know I am in for it.
“Where have you been, young man.”
“It’s a long story, but I was with Joey.”.
“Joey? What’s he doing here? I’ve been looking for you all day. Do you know what your friend has done?”
“I thought he was at Lydia’s all weekend.”
“That’s right. Do you know what they were doing there?”
“Why would I know?”
“Either you’re stupid or you’re lying to me. They were screwing. That’s right, your friend raped that poor girl.”
Oh, shit. They got caught. And I thought I was in trouble. I blanch on the thought of what Dad would think if he knew what I was doing all weekend.
“I knew they seemed to be getting pretty close,” I venture as an excuse for seeming stupid and not involved in this teen crisis.
“You think that’s okay, being close is an excuse to screw?”
“Dad, it’s none of our business.”
“None of our business?” He looks at me incredulously. “Young man, you convinced me to let him live under my roof. Who do you think is responsible for all this?”
“You can’t expect kids to not love each other.”
“Well, ask Lydia’s parents what they think. They blame me for not supervising all of you better.”
“You talked to Lydia’s parents?”
“They talked to me. I’m surprised the police haven’t been here.”
“Dad, this is out of control. So what if they screw. It’s no one’s business but their own. That’s why they haven’t told me.” Again I wasn’t exactly lying, but I did know.
“You have a lot to learn, young man. None of you is old enough to have sex. What if she’s pregnant.”
“Dad, Coach gave all of us the talk. I’m sure they wouldn’t take any risks.”
“You’re not to defend them. You’ve got to learn what’s right in this household. Now go upstairs and think about your responsibilities around here.”
“What about Scott?”
“I already told you that he couldn’t stay here. You ignored me. Now look what happened. I had his parents come over and get his stuff. There’ll be no more roommates for you, young man. Now move it.”
His military attitude just sucks sometimes. I go upstairs and lock the door. My exhausted nerves are on overdrive. The line is still busy at Lydia’s; they must have her receiver off the hook. I call the Watts and speak with Mr. Watt. He asks where I have been all weekend. I repeat my story about being with my cousin. He notes that my dad had no clue where we were and his concern that there is so little supervision in my house. Then he apologizes for seeming to blame me for what is obviously not my fault. He explains that Scott has to be punished for his actions; he is grounded for the rest of the summer; no swim team for at least awhile; and, no more staying with me. I ask to speak with him, but he also lost his phone privileges. I suddenly cannot breathe, gulping for air. Knowing I am about to cry, he puts Mrs. Watt on the line.
“Can I still call you Mom?” I manage to blurt out.
“Oh, Tim. Of course. You’re such a good kid. This is not your fault,” she tries to calm me.
“But it is. If I hadn’t gotten so serious with Tina, he wouldn’t have felt left out and gotten together with Lydia as boyfriend & girlfriend.”
“Dear boy. This is just what happens at your age, except we should have known he wasn’t being supervised. You all are too young for what they were doing.”
“Is it so wrong to love someone?”
“Of course not, but that’s why parents have to be so protective. I’m not ready to be a grandma.”
I kinda laugh and stop gulping for air.
“Can I see him. He’s my best friend.”
“Well, wait a bit. Everything’s too confusing right now. He has to be punished.”
“My dad said the police are involved.”
“Oh, my goodness, no. It’s up to the parents to settle this.”
I just sigh, about to really cry. I say goodbye.
“I’m sure you will be able to see all of us soon. You’re still a part of the family.”
I sit in my room, feeling totally abandoned. I have to do something. I go down the back stairs, get my bike and ride to Lydia’s. I know she is suffering the most and probably will be punished the most. Her window is dark, but half-open. I drop my bike on the lawn and quietly whisper to her. In a moment she is at her window. I see that she has been crying. She says nothing, just indicating I must be quiet. She goes into her room and comes back out the window. She gets on my handlebars. We ride to the trees by the library where we can talk.
“When did you get back?”
“About an hour ago. I knew something was up when you guys didn’t pick me up. My dad told me everything. This is so unfair.”
She almost smiles at my defiant tone. She does not want to talk about it.
“How was New York?
I go into great detail about our adventure in the Bronx. I almost blab about going to LA, but feel it would only confuse her if I tell her everything about what I did there. Then I figure, ‘what the hell.’
“I feel so bad about this. I’ve been doing far worse things, but I’m not the one in trouble. Promise not to tell anyone about what I’m going to say?’
“If you promise not to talk about me.”
“Of course. You know I don’t gossip.”
“Why do you think I would?”
Does a bear shit in the woods? I think.
“I just want you to promise.”
“Okay. You’re the only one on my side, Tim. Oh,” she moans, “when will I see Scott again?”
I put an arm around her and gave her a hug. This is kid’s hug day. We sit there awhile. Then I tell her how I got the airfare to help Tina. She’s shocked I would have sex with someone for money.
“What I did is far worse than you guys. All you did was be in love, like Romeo and Juliet.”
“Didn’t they die for their love?”
“That was just the play. What I mean is you guys were doing what is natural and getting punished because you’re young. What I did was way past weird. Nobody will understand it.”
We sit there awhile, until she starts questioning me.
“Then what Scott said about you and your cousin is true?”
“Yes, but I didn’t want everyone to think I’m a fag.”
“Does Tina know?”
“Don’t you want her to be your girlfriend?”
“She is my girlfriend.”
“Then you’ve got to tell her.”
“I will. We don’t have secrets. Our relationship hasn’t gone as far as yours.”
“Don’t you wonder if you really like girls?”
“You know I like you. When you and Scott became boyfriend/girlfriend, I was so jealous that it wasn’t me.”
“Really? Maybe you were jealous that Scott was with me so much.”
“Yes. I felt excluded.”
“You have Tina.”
“She’s fifteen hundred miles away.”
“So, you were jealous, huh?”
“Yeah, and I think you’re glad.”
She laughs for the first time, then looks at me weird.
“I’ve got to get back. If my dad finds me out of my room, he’ll kill me.”
“Friends?” I ask.
“The best,” she laughs.
I ride her home, and then go back to my house. As I pass the library, I hear the familiar whistle. I look up and see Robby, sitting in a tree, with a ‘cat who swallowed the canary’ look on his face.
“What are you so happy about.”
“You. What a little stud, moving in on your boyfriend’s girlfriend. I’ll remember not to trust you.”
“You were in the tree?”
“Like you didn’t think I would hear you.”
“You’re too conceited. I was trying to make her feel better.”
“Why didn’t you tell her you’ve been fucking her boyfriend?”
“You asshole,” then I start to laugh. “You really think I’m trying to snake her?”
“I remember not too long ago when you were shedding tears because she was getting between you and your bed-buddy.”
“Man, you make like it’s a soap opera.”
He swings down from the tree.
“Ride me home and we’ll get stoned. I at least deserve to hear about your big adventure.”
He gets on my handlebars. We ride the short distance to his house. Sitting in his room and getting high, I relax for the first time since leaving LA. I recount the whole story. He laughs his ass off about Doug and the tee-pee. I can see Robby with the whip. He even knows who Doug is and tells me he would never blow a chance to be part of the LA music scene. He reminds me of Tony’s hopes when he first came to Hollywood.
“Tim, my man, you love getting into shit.”
“You love hearing about it.”
He slaps me on the shoulder, “We’re going to be a team.”
We smile at each other, and I go home.
Morning workout becomes a perennial bitch. The easy laps in Doug’s pool did nothing to help my conditioning. Coach Diaz is all over my ass, which he notes is not unusual lately. Neither Scott nor Lydia are there. People ask if I know what is up, as team gossip remains relentless. I remember my pledge to dedicate myself to my swimming this summer. No matter how much I like Robby and his gang, I have to stop getting stoned and staying out late. A Spartan regime of training is what I need, or so I believe.
Like last summer, Stu and I are best buddies again. I ask him to tell Scott to call me. He says he will try, but their mom has Scott under her eagle eye. I go home and wait by the phone. There is no call. I sleep until afternoon workout. I’m really muscle-sore now but work through the pain. I ride over to Lydia’s. We talk through her window. We both really miss Scott. I make sure I am not flirting. We cut short the talk. She is too afraid to sneak out. I go home and go to bed early. My dreams remain scattered and fitful, but I feel better in the morning. I am able to handle the distance workout. Coach doesn’t mess with me for once. This remains my daily routine all week. On Friday, Stu asks if I will go riding with him like we used to do every Saturday. It sounds okay. About eight other younger kids say they want to go. We set up Le Tour de Dade Sud for the next morning. I feel like my old self.
That night, Robby shows up at my window sill, just after it’s dark.
“Hey, man, missed ya,” he announces himself. We sit in the window for a while. He pulls out a joint. I wave it off, although that doesn’t stop him from lighting up. I tell him my plans to go bike riding and, on a whim, ask him to come.
“How old are these kids,” he asks.
“Ten to fourteen.”
“You sure I won’t go crazy, tie them up, and torture ‘em?”
“It might be amusing. Take Mary along, too.”
“Sure. It’s no big deal. If she can stand a bunch of boys.”
Once he knows I am not going to get stoned with him, he is gone.
Next morning. up bright and early and feeling more cheerful than recently, I get my bike out and ride to Robby’s window. He is still asleep and yells for me to go away. I say we will come by later, once the kids from South Dade are gathered. He mumbles sure or something like that and goes back to sleep. It is only seven am, the best time of the day to ride in sub-tropical Florida. By the time I get to Stu’s, I have already picked up Mike and several other kids. Stu is anxious and ready to go. Mrs. Watt pulls me aside and gives me a lecture on being responsible for Stu and the other younger kids. I ask to see Scott. He is at his father’s office, cleaning up. I feel they are blowing the incident out of proportion. Soon the whole group of us is tooling down back roads. We visit Coach Earl, although no sodas this time. He looks happy that we are back on track. We pick up Dusty and go to his uncle’s for swimming and diving in the pond. By two o’clock we start to drop off kids and work our way back to the Gables. At Stu’s, I see Mr. Watt’s car in the driveway and figure Scott is home. I grab Stu and ask him to get Scott to sneak out and meet me at the local park. He looks at me funny, like I am asking him to rob a bank.
“Com’n, Stu, you gotta be on our side.”
“Mom’ll kill me if she finds out.”
“Has that ever stopped you?”
He laughs and agrees. I give him a slap on the back. Then I ride the rest of the kids home. Mike is the last one. He’s a quiet kid, already tall and good-looking for thirteen. Before we get to his house, he asks me about Scott and Lydia. I know it is not cool to talk about it. I feel he is honestly concerned. After having him swear not to gossip, I explain they were caught in bed together.
“That’s not too cool,” he comments.
“What, that they did that, or that they got caught?”
He thinks, then says, “Both, I guess. Why can’t they come to practice?’
“They’re being punished.”
“Why? I think workout is punishment enough.”
“Isn’t it weird that parents take away what we work so hard to do? They must think practice is like playing.”
“My folks just want to keep me busy.”
“Mine want me to get a job to pay the dues.”
“You’re kidding? Are your folks broke?” Mike is from a really rich family. He is like me in that he has no brothers or sisters his age; his half-brothers are already adults, all grown up and gone.
“They just want me to understand the value of money. If I have a job, I won’t have time to work out. They just don’t understand.
He gives me a sympathetic look and waves goodbye.
I hurry to get back to Scott’s neighborhood. I had told Stu to tell Scott to meet me at that time. I ride as fast as I can, sweating when I get there. Scott is sitting on a bench, waiting for me. He looks pretty miserable, but perks up when he sees me. I want to hug him, but he is hanging back. I let it pass.
“Get on my handlebars. We’ll ride over to Matheson Hammock.”
“That’s too far. I snuck out. We will get caught if we stay away too long. I know a school where we can talk.”
He jumps on my handlebars. We are there in a few minutes. Leaning my bike on a tree, we sprawl out under it. Nobody says anything at first. Finally, I break the ice.
“I know you don’t know what to say about you and Lydia, but first I have a confession. I knew you were doing it. It was no big shock to me.”
“You knew? I thought something was up with you. You’ve been strange lately.”
“I’ve been strange? Why couldn’t you tell me?”
He looks away, then turns back with more emotion. “I think I love her more than I love you. I’m so confused about it.”
“Well, so you’re not a fag, at least not a total one.”
He laughs. He reaches out. We hug for a long time.
“Tim, had you been around, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“That’s bullshit. You guys got caught, that’s all. If I tell you all I did last weekend, you’ll realize you’re pretty innocent.”
“Yeah. Tell me about New York. Did Tina’s problems get solved?”
I see how self-centered we all are; he’s forgotten about what Tina went through.
“Well, first I better tell you what Lydia said.”
“What? You talked to her?”
“Sure, man. I’m not grounded. When I couldn’t call her, I rode over there. She’s okay. But she’s afraid her dad will file charges against you.”
“Charges, What for?”
“I guess he thinks you raped her.”
He looks dazed and confused.
“Why can’t it be like in North Carolina?”
“You mean the sisters?”
“Yeah. Fucking was fun, not so serious.”
“Well, one of them was married, remember?”
“Sure, that made it even better.”
“You might have felt differently if old Sheriff Tom had caught us with his wife.”
“Yeah, but the difference is we didn’t get caught.”
“If you do the crime, be prepared to do the time.’”
“You’re so full of it.”
“Maybe that’s why I don’t get caught.”
He grabs me. We wrestle on the ground for several minutes.
“Why can’t it be like this forever?” he asks when we stop horsing around.
“It can be if you still love me. There’s room for me in your heart too,” I casually say, but hold my breath for his response.
“Lydia makes it different now. Why do we have to grow up?”
I feel my heart shudder.
“What we did with the sisters was kid’s stuff. You wouldn’t have said that while doing Lydia.”
“How is she taking it?”
“She was crying when I got there, but I made her laugh.”
“By telling her about you and me.”
“No, man, I wouldn’t do that. Your reputation’s safe. But I did tell her about this weekend, how I’d had sex with an old man to get the airfare to New York.”
“What’d she say.”
“Just brought up all those things you said last spring about me and Joey. That I need to tell Tina if I want her to really be my girlfriend.”
“When the time’s right. You guys know that Tina and I are special, but she’s not ready to have sex. Her father watches her like a hawk. The virgin bride thing.”
“You think you’ll marry her?”
“I treat her special. She’s still fourteen. Saving herself is a big thing for her.”
“Not if she meets my big thing.”
Now I jump him. It’s good to horse around. It is my day to just be a kid again.
“How soon you gonna get off being grounded?”
“Maybe all summer. My folks are really p.o.’d. They’ve already said I can’t stay at your house ever again.”
“Yeah, my dad said the same.”
We look at each other, accepting that things can never be the same.
“I liked being boyfriends, Scott.” After I say it, the feeling in my stomach tells me how much I will miss him, but I do not cry.
“Yeah. I never thought I’d be a fag. You’re something, Tim.”
“Good training for your girlfriend,” I joke.
We just think about it for a while. Then we get up and walk back to his house.
“Try to get your folks to let you come to practice. At least we can see each other there.”
“How about going to Ransom this year? Ask you dad.”
‘Yeah, that’d be great. I will.”
At the corner of his street, I wait, so he can sneak back into the house.
“Bye, Scott. We’ll work this out. Any message for Lydia?”
“Tell her I love her as much as I love you.”
I smile. “You’re crazy. You gonna tell her everything?”
“She should know.”
“There’s hope for you yet.”
“That’s ‘cause you’re my friend. And also, friend, she’s my girlfriend, so don’t try to scam.”
“You know me.”
“Love ya, Scott.”
“Me, too. I mean you.”
“Yeah, but also yourself, too.”
We laugh, and I ride off. Half a block away, I look back. He is still standing there and waves to me, when he sees me look. I wave back. I realize it will never be the same. I feel really sick. Riding slowly home, I review the day. The kids lifted my spirits, especially Stu and Mike. But I am different from them now. Things do not change in their lives. Too much is changing in mine. Change is inevitable. All I can do is to ride once it is set in motion. Years later I would surf big Pacific waves. You never think you control those waves; all you do is hang on and hope to survive. I ride home determined to survive. It is my first surfing lesson.
I ride directly to Lydia’s and tell her I saw Scott, passing along all the things we talked about that concern her. I stay outside her window where she can talk without being out of her room. She’s hurting about Scott. I wonder what would be different if I had been her boyfriend. It is the wrong attitude to have. Scott is her first and only; the pain and hurt are authentic. My strange experiences are making it hard to appreciate what is normal for others. More days like today, being with normal kids and riding bikes, will give me the confidence that things naturally turn out well.
I call Tina when I get home. Since getting back we have spoken several times. She is my ally in the soap opera of Scott and Lydia. When I try to get her reaction to Lydia having sex for the first time, she hushes me because her father is listening. She cannot speak about sex on the phone. His English is not great, but he knows she is speaking to a boy and is being hyper-vigilant. Also, she is not comfortable with the topic. She does want to know all the details about the swim team and all the kids. It is pleasant, easy conversation, but she is not touching my inner feelings. After hanging up, I sit in my window to contemplate my life and luck. Without me noticing, Robby sneaks up beside me. It startles me, as he has found a new way to come over the other side of the roof. He looks and acts like a monkey with almost simian expressions.
“Hey,” he glares at me, “you were coming by to get us for bike riding.”
I totally forgot.
“I thought you couldn’t go out into the sunlight.”
“Very funny. Want me to swallow holy water?” He takes out a small plastic bottle, half full.
“Where’d you get that?”
“The church, of course.”
“Which one, Dave’s”
“Right. I was lurking in the shadows until the sun went down. Then I filched it.”
“In Alaska, we say ‘ kyped it.’ Let me see it,” I grab the bottle and sprinkle a few drops on him.
“Ouch, that burns,” he mock-screams, jumping around on my window sill.
We sit there laughing.
“Give it back. I’m saving it for a trick I’m doing on Dave.”
“Whadya gonna do?”
“You been to Brooklyn or something?” he asks. “You sound weird.”
“I was in the Bronx last week.”
“Da Broinx?” he tries to fracture the word.
“No, man. Da Broonx.”
“What did..whadya do there?”
“Rescued my girlfriend’s brother from a couple of gangs.”
“Right. It’s Mighty Dick to the rescue.”
“Believe it or not, as you like. What makes you think I’m Mighty Dick?”
“Your boyfriend told me. Where’s he been anyway?”
I look at him quickly, and then say, “It’s pretty much over, man.”
“Why? Youse was da perfect couple.”
I laugh. “How come you’re so interested in us?”
“Take it from the Peeping Tom. You were the hottest thing going in this neighborhood.”
I get slightly red, “You actually watched us?”
“Sure, but what impressed me was when I was a jerk and said you’re a fag, you didn’t lie or deny it.”
“You just caught me off-guard. Nobody seems to care too much.”
“You don’t know what they say when you’re not around.”
“Well, I don’t care.”
We lapse into silence. Then Robby looks at me as if he’s been thinking too much. “I’ve fooled around, too, man. You guys act like it’s fun and you’re a normal couple.”
“We felt we were in love.”
“Then you were. Why’d it end?”
“Once we both got girlfriends, we weren’t so close. While I was gone, Scott got caught with his. Now he’s banned from staying here anymore.”
“You’re really not fags if you have girlfriends.”
“I don’t know what to call it. I really was in love and wanted him, so I know I’m at least gay. Who knows what will happen next?”
“You want to be my boyfriend?”
“What? You’ve got a girlfriend.”
“Yeah. I’m just goofing on you.”
He looks embarrassed, which is a first. I reach over and give him a hug, which makes him more uncomfortable. Then we both laugh.
“Your turn,” I challenge him. “Tell me how you fooled around.”
“I just let myself get picked up in the Grove.”
“So what happened?”
“I was riding my bike. This guy in a sports car drives by real slow, checking me out. He stops at the corner. I pull up next to his car and we start talking. He tells me he thought I was a girl at first, ‘cause of the long hair. He asks if I fool around, so I tell him I will for fifty bucks. We go to his place and do it. I get out of there as soon as possible. He wanted me to give him head, but I just let him do it to me.”
“You’re a pro.”
“You mean like a prostitute?”
“No. man, like a gigolo”
I see that he is nervous talking about it. It just seems cool to me. He is getting antsy, so I suggest he show me how to get from my room to his room through the trees. He makes me remove my shoes, so we are both barefoot. He leads me up the tallest tree in the neighborhood, where we stop at the top and survey the tree-top world.
“Check the other tall trees. They’re like a network for getting around. From each one you can figure how to get to the next big tree.”
I look around and plot several routes in my head, seeing the pattern of trees for the first time. He asks why I do not always go barefoot.
“I ride my bike everywhere. I need sneakers to ride.”
“So, if you learn to ride without sneakers, you’ll go barefoot?”
“What about when I’m going into a restaurant or somewhere.”
“There’s always a way, if there’s a will.”
“Isn’t it ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way?”
“Whatever, just try to always go barefoot. You’ll feel what’s going on around you.”
“Yeah, like dog shit.”
“If that’s what happening to you, man.”
He places his feet on mine. I can feel his warmth and the pulse of his blood. My face starts to blush.
“See,” He notes and grins, “I can feel your pulse get faster.
I am lying in the upper branches of a tree and getting a hard-on. He grins at my shorts’ bulge. He shifts his feet to my crotch, gripping my straining dick with the soles and heels of his feet. I do the same to him. Soon the tree branches were creaking as we rub each other off with our feet. I stare into his lecherous face and grin back at him. He takes one foot and snags the waist of my shorts pulling them and my Speedo down. With my big toe I unsnap his jeans and pull them down. Simultaneously both our dicks are freed from our clothes. Our feet go back to stroking our dicks. His dick is skinny, almost as long as mine. He already knows what mine looks like. He is intent on getting me to cum. I twitch mine several times which excites him even more. He slides down the branch he was on and grabs my dick with both hands and sticks his feet under my butt. As I slide to reach his dick, he sticks his big toe up my ass. It is such a surprise that my dick twitches and throbs five or six times. Robby dodges several wads of cum, but I hang on to his straining dick, until he goes rigid. I feel his orgasm coming. It is like a wave that keeps building and getting stronger, until it finally breaks free with a large wad of cum that arches out of him directly at me. I watch it come but I am helpless to avoid it. It lands on my chest and seeps down my stomach and into the pubic hairs already soaked from my random bursts. I feel another wave coming from him, building as before, with increased throbs. Finally done, I momentarily forget we are high up in the trees and collapse backward with no grip to keep me from falling. He grabs my flailing arms and holds me back. We laugh, looking at each other streaked with cum.
“I can see the TV report, ‘Two boys die after fall from a tree, resulting in one boy’s foot stuck up the other’s ass. Photos at eleven.’” I joke, breathlessly.
When I move to hug him, he moves away in disgust from all the cum that would smear on him. We both laugh and pull up our pants.
“Now you owe me fifty bucks,” he claims.
“Since you took longer, you owe me sixty.”
“No way, you got off better. I’ll pay you forty. You owe me ten.”
I scoop up a handful of slimy cum, “Here’s ten quarts.”
He rolls away and quickly descends. I follow him and the chase is on. It is not a race, as he knows every branch in the area. He keeps me just behind him. We start to laugh. The dogs in the neighborhood start to bark at the noise we make. He drops into a yard, but the growl of a German shepherd stops me. Up the tree I go to the top, where I look over and see him grinning back at me a hundred yards away. I give him the finger, which he returns. Then we wave goodbye and turn toward our respective houses. After I’m on my roof and seated on my window sill, he swings over my roof and sits beside me.
“You’ll never get around as well as I do.”
“I’m just following your lead.”
“In climbing and for sex.”
“I may have learned a few tricks myself.”
He leans over and gave me a quick kiss on my cheek, then is gone. I sit there stunned, until I see him waving from his yard. He puts his finger to his lips to stop me from yelling out. Then he goes in his window. My usual self-analysis takes over. Sex is getting to be too easy. And I had thought I had returned to normal. I let the cool breeze bring my body temperature down, staring out into my ever weirder world. I sleep like a log and feel great for Monday morning workout, five hours later.