A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
|My cell phone went off, waking me out of my sleep. I blinked, trying to clear my head as I fumbled for the phone. I glanced at it, noting that it was 8:30 and that the call was from Tina. I touched the screen to accept the call and put the phone to my ear. “Hello?”
Tina’s voice seemed somewhat subdued. “Hi honey. I need a bit of a favor from you.”
I stifled a groan as I rolled over on my side. “I had a rather late night last night. Can it wait until later this afternoon?”
“Well, not really. I need you to come pick me up now. I’m at the police station.”
I made a face, thankful that she couldn’t see me. “Let me guess, another DWI?”
“Yeah. They put me in a cell for the night. They’re letting me go now, but I obviously need transportation.”
“Okay, let me get dressed. I’ll be there in half an hour. At least, I’m assuming you’re at the station downtown.”
“Well, of course!”
“Just making sure. See you in a bit.”
I ended the call and muttered to myself. I got up and looked around. My clothes from last night were still on the floor, so I put them on real quick. I glanced at Katie, who looked at me, thumped her tail a couple times against the floor, and then went back to sleep. I figured she’d be okay until I got back. I grabbed my car keys and headed out the door.
Tina was sitting on a bench outside the station when I got there. She spotted my car as I pulled up and walked up and climbed inside when I came to a stop. “Thank you so much!”
“Yeah, no problem. I take it you had a good time out dancing last night?”
“It was perfect until that cop arrested me last night. And I just got my license back a couple months ago, too!”
“He was just doing his job,” I offered.
“Maybe, but he could’ve let me slide. I mean, I was just over the limit when he tested me.”
“Possibly. But I think they have to log it and whatnot. It probably would’ve gotten him in trouble if he hadn’t arrested you and someone looked at his logs.”
“Well, he could’ve figured something out.” We both sat in silence. After a bit, he turned and looked at him. “Curt honey. You look exhausted.”
“Yeah, I didn’t get home until almost four when I got home. I was planning on sleeping in for another hour or two to make up for it.” I secretly hoped she’d at least feel a little guilty for disturbing my sleep.
“Wow, that’s really late for you? I take it the date went well, then?”
“I think so.”
“So, what did you do that you didn’t get home until that late?” Blood tinged my cheeks pink as I sat there quietly. “Curt! That’s so awesome! So how was it?”
“Um, good. No complaints on my part, at least.”
“Oh, come on, details!”
“It’s kinda personal, Tina.”
“Oh come on! I had to go out without you last night, which resulted in me getting arrested! The least you can do is share me some of the juicy details of your excitement.”
I drove in silence for a couple minutes. Did she really just blame me for her DWI?
“Yeah, I’d say she was totally blaming you for that,” Ted said. “Not that I’m surprised by that.” It was 11:00 and we were sitting together at the dog park. Katie was sniffing at a bush twenty feet away.
“You don’t like her very much, do you?” I asked.
“I think I’ve only met her a couple times, so it’s hard to say whether I actually like her. I don’t like how she expects you to take care of her rather than making better choices for herself, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, just look at this morning. She knew you had a date last night, and yet because she made a bad choice and found herself stranded at the police station, she called you early in the morning and goaded you into interrupting your sleep and coming to get you. Did she even offer to give you gas money?”
“No, but I don’t expect that.”
“It’s not a question of you expecting it. It’s a matter of you doing her a favor. You made a trip for her that you weren’t planning on taking and that benefited you in no way. In fact, I’m willing to bet she had you in such a rush that you had to drive back home, shower, and get Katie before you came to meet me. Had she let you take time shower first and bring Katie with you, you could have come directly here after dropping her off, which would have saved you a good chunk of driving.”
I winced. “Is that what this is really about, Ted? Are you upset because I got here later than you expected.”
Ted laughed harshly at that. “No. You actually texted me to let me know you were running late. You’re a good friend like that. And besides, given the late night you had, I would’ve totally understood if you had canceled on me altogether. So no, I’m not mad at you at all. I’m just sick of watching some of your friends take advantage of you while you make excuses for them.”
“Yeah, I know. But come on, Tina really needed the ride--”
“Because she screwed up last night and didn’t something that got her in trouble,” Ted interjected.
“Well, yeah. But she still needed the ride.”
“Then she could have at least waited for you to get around and get her on your terms. Or she could’ve taken a bus.”
“I don’t think she had any money. I think she spent it all at the club.”
“Another bad choice on her part.”
I sighed. What annoyed me most with Ted’s argument was that I had thought of most of his points myself. “Look, I know you mean well, but can we change the subject?”
Ted grinned slyly. “Sure. I’d much rather hear about your date, anyway. You seem to be in a pretty good mood, despite the nonsense with Tina.”
I smiled back as I thought back to the events of last night. “Yeah, it was great. Nate was funny, sweet, and incredible.”
“Including in bed, I take it?”
“Well, yeah. Especially in bed. But don’t tell me you’re going to push for details too.”
He laughed. “Not a chance. All I care to know is that you had a good time. And used protection.”
I smirked. “No worries there. He was pretty up front and insistent about that.”
“That’s good. We don’t need you going through another health scare. Or anything worse.”
I stuck out my tongue at him, then paused as I weighed my words. “The only thing that was a little weird was that he took me to his ex’s art show.”
Ted’s brow creased at that news. “That is a little weird. Did he tell you about it up front.”
“No, he didn’t. In fact, it was his ex who brought up the fact, then proceeded to lecture him about it when it became clear I had no idea.”
“Sounds like the ex is a smart and well put together guy. Did there seem to be anything between the two of them?”
“Not really. It seemed like Raph thought of Nate as a friend. If anything, Raph seemed delighted to see Nate with someone else.”
“That’s good. It could be that Nate just didn’t think things through about taking a guy on a first date to an event that was all about his ex.”
“Yeah, and I thought I made some dumb choices at times.”
Ted did a double-take. “Oh my word! Did you just poke fun at your date?”
I wrinkled my face in puzzlement. “Yeah, a small one. Why?”
“It’s so unlike you. You normally tend to idolize guys you’re interested in. Assuming you’re still interested in Nate, that is.”
“If we have another date -- and yes, another night of passion -- like our first one, then most definitely.”
“Good! And it’s good you’re not idolizing him. Granted, don’t start worrying about every possible problem or flaw, either. But it’s good to see you being able to look at him somewhat realistically.”
I smiled sheepishly. Ted had a point. I tended to get wound up over guys I was attracted to. That would then start feeding into my own insecurities, seeing the other guy as practically -- if not fully -- perfect and myself as hopelessly flawed. “Thanks. I’ll admit. I am a bit nervous.”
“Of course you are! That’s normal. I think all of us are nervous when were realize we like someone but don’t know how things work out?”
“Oh Curt, you should’ve seen me when I first met Zach. After our first couple dates, I just about had a meltdown because I was so concerned he didn’t feel the same way I did.”
I blinked. “Really? I mean, the way you talk about him, I always assumed that it was a match made in heaven from the start.”
“Well, that was foolish on your part, Pal,” he said as he playfully punched my shoulder. “We were like any other couple starting out. We had our awkward moments, and when I finally told him how much I was into him, Zach immediately breathed a sigh of relief and said, ‘Thank God! I was afraid it was only me!’”
I unsuccessfully attempted to stifle the laughter that bubbled up at the mental image.
“Go ahead and laugh. We both thought it was hysterical at the time,” Ted said, grinning. “But I hope it also gets the message across.”
“Yeah, it does. Thanks.”
“No problem. So, if you want to hear about my social life for a moment...”
I laughed. “Oh? So you’ve moved past Shawn already?”
Ted swatted me. “You know it wasn’t that serious anyway.”
“I know. I just can’t imagine how you manage to stay so unattached to these guys.”
Ted shrugged. “I just do. Though I will admit that Paul and I had a good time last night, and I hope to keep him around for a bit.” He smirked, then added, “Well, at least for a few weeks.”
“So the sex was that good, then?”
“I wouldn’t know. We didn’t have sex.” A feigned an exaggerated expression of shock, which he blithely ignored. “We had dinner at that nice Indian place near the dollar theater, then went to see a comedy. After that, he took me home, gave me a kiss, and then said goodnight. And yes, the kiss was intensely enjoyable.”
“So, why didn’t things go any further? You’re...not exactly prudish.”
Ted stared off toward the pond. Finally, he answered, “I guess we both just had such a great time talking during dinner and then watching the movie together that we didn’t see any reason to hop into bed. At least that’s how I felt about it. Sometimes it’s not about the sex. Sometimes, it’s just nice to spend a few pleasant hours with someone.”
I nodded. “But you hope to see him again?”
“More than hope. We have a date tonight.”
“Two nights in a row? This is unusual for you, isn’t it.”
“Yeah, I suppose it is. I don’t know, there’s something different about this one.”
“Well, I hope you have a good time.”
“Thanks. And I’m glad you had a good time last night.”
I smiled, thinking over my date and lovemaking with Nate. “Me too. I really needed it.”
“I noticed.” It was my turn to swat Ted. We both laughed and I called Katie over to me so we could leave.
I had just managed to get Katie back in the house when my cell phone went off. I picked it up and glanced at the screen. Nate was calling. I made a mental note to give him a custom ring tone as I answered. “Hey there! I just got home from the dog park.”
“Cool. Did you have a good time?”
“Yeah, my friend Ted and I had a pleasant conversation while Katie got plenty of exercise. What have you been up to?”
“Honestly? I’ve been a lazy git. I just got up an hour or so ago. I just finished cleaning up a few things around the apartment and figured I’d give you a call. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. It’s good to hear your voice.”
“Yeah, it’s good to hear yours too, even when you’re not moaning my name.”
I was thankful he couldn’t see how red my face turned. “Yeah yeah.”
“Okay, I’ll quit embarrassing you now.”
“You’re not embarrassing me,” I lied.
“Somehow, I don’t believe you. But anyway, I just wanted to make sure you were still well. And...well, I was wondering if you might like to go out again tonight.”
I silently pumped my fist, happy to have the reassurance there would be a second date after all. I pondered. “Well, I’d like to. But I can’t really stay out so late tonight due to church tomorrow.”
“You can’t skip?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Steve and Jessica are going to pitch me directing the youth pageant props and scene development this coming week. It’d probably be a good idea if I was in church to show I’m a dedicated member.” I also thought back to Steve’s observation from the other day. I didn’t want to keep up the pattern of avoiding church every time I had a date.
“Well, since it’s for such a good cause, I won’t push. How about we just go to the mall for a couple of hours? Or we could bowl a couple games.”
I pictured myself making a fool out of myself at the bowling alley. “Not with those awful shoes. But okay, we could go to the mall.”
“Great. Just one thing. Would you mind picking me up. Bus schedules are dicy on the weekend.”
I considered. It meant an extra twenty minutes of driving for me. It also meant spending more time with an incredibly good looking guy that was into me for some reason. I decided where my priorities lay. “Sure. I’ll see you in half an hour? That’ll give me time to take a quick shower.”
“Sounds great to me. See you then.”
We found a parking spot near the food court entrance and got out of the car. I started walking toward the mall slowly, giving Nate a chance to catch up. I had walked about ten paces when he came up beside me and put his left arm around my waist, resting his hand just above my right hip. I glanced at the ground, feeling a bit of color rush into my cheeks. “Does public affection bother you?” he asked.
I met his eyes, and was slightly surprised at the look of concern I found there. I spoke after a couple seconds. “No, I actually like it. A lot. I’m...just not used to it.”
“Past boyfriends were too afraid to show a bit of affection in public?”
“In a couple of cases, they were afraid to show any affection whatsoever,” I said. The memories of Randy, who refused to even kiss or give me a backrub, rushed into my mind unbidden. I tried to push them away again before the emotional pain surfaced too much.
Nate studied my face for a moment, then pulled me closer. “Well, rest assured that I have no problems showing affection, wether in private or in public.” He kissed my on the cheek and I smiled shyly. Then he moved his hand and squeezed the my buttcheek. “Granted, I also don’t have a problem showing a bit of sexual interest in public either. So be warned.”
I laughed. “Just as long as that’s not all you show.”
He moved his hand back to my waistline and squeezed me close again. “No problem. While I certainly like you sexually -- and I hope thats mutual,” he said, looking at me.
“I think my reaction last night speaks for itself,” I said, blushing again.
“True that!” he laughed. “But no, I do enjoy spending time with you in other ways. You seem like a pretty interesting guy.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some of your art at some point. Assuming you’re willing to show it to me, of course.”
“Yeah, that’s not a problem.” I was a bit surprised, as none of the other guys I had dated ever showed interest in my art. “Had I known you were interested, I would’ve brought one of my sketchbooks. Or my senior portfolio.”
“Had you known? You mean you’re not a mind reader?” He asked, his tone teasing.
“Ah well. There’s always next time.”
“Yes. I’ll try to remember.”
“If you forget, that’s okay. I’ll just keep pestering you.”
“Somehow, I believe you.” He pinched my buttcheek again. “What was that for?”
“Being a smartass.”
“Be thankful you’re not dating my friend Steve. You’d be pinching his butt a lot.”
“Do you think he’d enjoy it?”
“Considering he’s straight, probably not.”
“Fair enough. I guess that means I’ll just have to keep pinching yours.”
Nate laughed at that one as we walked into the mall. The food court was packed, mostly with high schoolers and college kids. We weaved our way through and were soon surrounded by the various shops. Nate made a left hand turn and I followed him. He led me into the Yankee Candle store and my nose was immediately assaulted by the assorted scents. I grimaced and said, “Gee, now I remember why I don’t come in here very often.”
Nate’s face became full of concern. “Are you allergic? I’m sorry. I never thought to ask you.”
I smiled. “No, nothing like that. I just have a pretty strong sense of smell and all the scents combined tend to overwhelm me.”
He nodded. “I understand. We won’t stay in here long. I just want to get an idea of what candles you like, so I can burn them the next time you come over. You know, for added ambience.”
I marveled at how detail-oriented and thoughtful he was. “Oh, well, I tend to like floral scents, to be honest. Something like jasmine.”
He kissed me on the cheek. “Can you be any more girlie?”
“Probably. Is it a problem.”
“Not at all. I think it’s adorable, actually.”
We spent a couple more minutes sniffing candles. I pointed out about eight different ones that I particularly liked. Then he guided me toward the exit.
“So, wait. You’re not actually going to buy any of them?” I asked.
“Not right now. I just wanted to get a few ideas. Besides, there’s a line and I’d rather spend my time enjoying the mall with you than waiting for a cashier.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Actually, do you like coffee or tea.”
“Great, there’s a nice little independent cafe down near Lord and Taylor I’d like to take you to, if that’s okay.”
“It sounds nice. Do they sell sandwiches, by any chance.”
“Yeah. So I take it I’m not the only one that’s hungry?”
“Nope. I haven’t eaten since I wolfed down breakfast on my wait to get Tina.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about that. I’ll fill you in over lunch.”
We sat in the small cafe. I had gotten an orange mango smoothie and a barbecue chicken wrap. Nate was sipping at a cup of mint tea and a veggie wrap. I had just finished telling him about Tina’s misadventure last night and my trip to get her this morning.
He shook his head. “She sounds like quite a trip. And not always a good one, at that.”
“You’re right about that. And I figure she’ll be pressuring me soon to meet you. So consider yourself forewarned.”
“That’s fine, I just hope she doesn’t press me for the details you refused to give her when we do meet.”
“Well, she probably won’t be so direct about it. But she does like to see how much she can wheedle out of someone.”
“Well, that’s going to put me in quite a quandary then,” he said, his face getting quite serious.
“Oh, why’s that.”
“Well, I’m clearly going to have to find a way to balance my desire to tell her more than she could ever possibly want to know with my desire not to traumatize my boyfriend,” he said, his face breaking into an impish grin.
I rolled my eyes. “You’re impossible.”
“And incorrigible,” he volunteered.
“And yet, you’re fascinated.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said, sticking out my tongue.
“You got plans on using that for something besides making faces at me?”
“Yeah. I need it to finish eating my sandwich.”
“What, you were hoping for something else?”
“Well, a kiss might be nice.”
“I can live with that.”
I pulled my car in front of Nate’s building at a little after 8pm. We had ended up spending the better part of four hours together. I shifted the car into park and turned into my seat. “Thank you for paying for our food. I had a great time.”
“Me too,” Nate replied, then hesitated before putting a hand on my shoulder. “Hey, I don’t want to pressure you into anything, and I know you can’t stay late tonight. But I just got my next DVD from Netflix and I was wondering if you’d like to watch it with me.”
I pondered this. The movie would be over by 10:30, which would get me home by 11. I figured Katie could wait that long. It certainly left me with plenty of time to sleep before church in the morning. “I could probably do that. What’s the movie?”
“The Broken Hearts Club.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I’ve never heard of that. And it strikes me as weird title for a date movie.”
“It’s quite good. It’s about a group of gay men trying to find love and live their lives. This will be the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen it. I think you’d enjoy it.”
“What the heck,” I said and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Just don’t try to seduce me into spending the night.
“Nope. No seducing you. At all. I promise. I just want to spend more time with you.”
I felt a little disappointed at that. I was starting to like feeling like he actually found me sexually desirable. “Fair enough. But no need to treat me like a monk, okay?”
He laughed at that. “That’s not going to happen. I’d like to think we can cuddle, at least.”
“I’d like that, actually. A lot.”
We parked the car car before heading into his apartment.
It was 11:30 when Nate walked me back down the stairs and out the exterior door of his apartment. We paused in the open doorway and he pulled me close to him.
“That was a great movie,” I said. “I’m glad I stayed for it. Thank you for asking me too.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it. And I’m sorry that I,” he paused, then finished, “got a little more frisky. I know I promised to behave myself.”
I brushed my lips across his. “It’s okay, Nate. I was just as worked up sitting there with you. And I wanted to go down on you.”
“I guess. I just don’t want you to think I’m only after your body.”
“I don’t. You’ve made it pretty clear you’re into me on a lot of different levels.”
“Good. And for the record, you’re amazing.”
I blushed a bit. “You make it easy by making it enjoyable. And besides, you did a pretty good job pleasuring me, too. And then the things you did last night.”
“True. Well, I better let you go,” he said, brushing my cheek. “I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”
“I’d like that. I’m thinking I might call you after church tomorrow, if that’s okay.”
“Well, by the time I get home and have lunch, it’ll probably be two or three.”
“Make it five? I need to run to the library for some classwork.”
“Sounds good. I’ll talk to you then.”
He kissed me again, pulling at my lower lip with his own lips. “Good night.”
“You too.” We broke our embrace and I walked to my car.