A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
|I arrived at the church around 11am for the second morning service. I found a parking space in the church’s lot, then walked toward the entrance doors. Steve met me just inside the foyer and gave me a hug. “I’m glad you made it, buddy.”
“Thanks, I’m happy to be here.”
“So,” he said, lowering his voice, “how are you feeling?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you had a date this weekend.”
“Two actually,” I said with a goofy grin.
“Oh that’s cool.” He paused, “Um, was the second one...” he floundered.
I laughed. “Yes, it was a second date with the same guy. Nate.”
“Cool, so I guess things went pretty well, then.”
“Yeah, but I’d rather not talk about it right now.”
“Am I making you uncomfortable.”
“Only slightly. But yeah, I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing.” I mused that I hope Pastor wouldn’t be preaching on lust and cause guilty feelings to change that.
“That’s great! Anyway, Jessica has invited us to sit with her, if you’re interested.”
“That would be great.”
“Cool, follow me.” He led me through one of the doors into the giant sanctuary and down an aisle. I spotted Jessica who was waving cheerfully from the end of one row of seats as we approached.
Jessica stood as we approached. She and Steve hugged, then she turned and extended a hand to me. I shook it and she said, “I usually hug people, but I’m not sure if you’re comfortable with that.”
I shrugged. “I enjoy a good hug.”
“Well, in that case,” she said as she threw her arms around me and pulled me tight to her. Her grip was surprisingly tight and I blushed a bit. I squeezed her in return. “I’m glad you made it today,” she continued as the three of us sat down. I realized that I was sitting between Steve and Jessica and I briefly wondered if the two of them had conspired to put me in this position. Maybe they thought I was going to bolt or something. Or maybe they just wanted me to feel part of the group. “So, have you had a good weekend?” Jessica asked me.
“It’s been pleasant enough, yes,” I said.
“Did you do anything interesting?”
“Well,” I hesitated.
“He went on a couple dates,” Steve interjected. I blushed.
Jessica smiled. “That’s great. Did you have a good time?”
Jessica looked at me, her face showing concern. “You seem embarrassed. Am I making you uncomfortable?”
“Well, not exactly. It’s just, I’m not used to talking about this with people from church.”
“Yeah, I imagine not everyone meets that news with joy,” Jessica said.
“To put it mildly,” I admitted.
“Don’t get me started,” Steve said. I recognized the tone in his voice.
“The pastor’s already got a sermon planned, Steve,” I said, hoping to smooth things over.
Jessica nodded, “Though I suspect I’d enjoy hearing Steve’s as well.”
“We’ve talked about it before, Jessica. I think we’re pretty much on the same page,” Steve said.
“Agreed. Anyway, I’m glad you had a good time on your dates, Curt. And any time you want to talk about them, I’m happy to listen without judgement. No pressure, though.”
“Thanks, Jessica. That means a lot.”
“Well, if God’s willing, I figure we’ll be working a lot on the pageant stuff together. It’ll be good to be able to talk and get to know each other better. I like knowing the people I work with.”
“If God’s willing and leadership gets out of the way,” Steve said.
Jessica glanced at Steve and grinned at me. “I like that about him. He speaks his mind.”
“Yeah, he’s a good guy like that. He embarrasses me a lot, but I do appreciate him going to bat for me. I appreciate you doing so too. Especially since you don’t know me as well.
“It’s my pleasure,” Jessica said.
At that moment, the worship team walked onto the stage and we turned our attention toward them.
“Good morning,” said a woman in a purple dress suit, her dark hair in a French braid. “My name is Julia and I’ll be leading you in praising the Lord this morning. Please stand if you will.” We stood as the keyboard and guitars began playing a worship chorus.
The pastor finished the closing prayer and I opened my eyes. “That was an incredible sermon,” Jessica said as she turned around to take her coat from the back of her seat.
“Yeah,” Steve said as he retrieved his belongings. He grabbed my coat and handed it to me. “Pastor is quite the preacher.’
“Thanks,” I said as I took my coat. “And yeah. He really makes a guy think about the money he wastes on small things over the course week.”
Jessica laughed. “I’m glad to know it’s not just me who felt that way. I almost feel like going up and dropping another forty bucks in the offering buckets just to ease my guilty conscience.”
I grinned. “Hold up and I’ll go with you.”
“Jessica!” came a cheerful shout, we turned to see a teenage girl with brown curls hurriedly walking toward us.
Jessica squeezed past Steve and I to greet the teen. “Hey Becka,” she said as the pair hugged. “Good to see you here.”
“Yeah! Hey is that Curtis I saw you sitting with?” She said, looking in my direction.
“Yes. Would you like me to introduce you?”
“Duh!” Becka said, shooting Jessica a look I remember from my own teen years. I smiled. I also marveled that Becka was so keen to meet me.
Jessica smiled and put her arm around the teen as the pair walked toward me. Steve stepped aside so I could move out into the aisle. Jessica said, “Curt, I’d like you to meet Becka Smith. Becka, this is Curtis Harding.”
I extended my hand to Becka. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Not as much a pleasure as it is for me,” Becka bubbled. “Your drawings are absolutely amazing.”
I felt my cheeks getting warm. “Thank you. I’m told you’re quite good yourself.”
“Eh, I manage. So, my parents tell me I’m going to get to work with you on the pageant stuff? Is that true.”
“Well, that’s the idea,” I said somewhat uncomfortably. “It’s not a guaranteed thing yet.” I looked to Jessica, who nodded. I added, “There are still some administrative issues that need to be worked out.”
Becka snorted, “You mean Jessica and my parents need to convince Pastor and the other homophobes that you’re not going to turn all us kids gay.”
“Becka!” Jessica said, her voice scolding.
“Well, it’s true!” Becka protested.
“If we approach Pastor saying things like that, he’s not going to even give Curt a chance,” Jessica said, her voice strained.
“Which is a shame, because that’s exactly how I’d like to put it,” Steve said. Jessica shot him a look that I suspect would have caused a lesser person to wilt. Steve merely shrugged. “But yeah, Jessica’s right. We need to play nice.”
Becka snorted, “Too bad they probably won’t feel the same way.” I tried my best to stifle a laugh at that one. I’d be lying if I said I never thought the same thing.
“I’m looking forward to seeing some of your work, Becka,” I interjected.
“Only if you let me some more of yours, too,” she said.
“Fair enough. I’ll tell you what, I’ll bring one of my sketchbooks next Sunday. Do you have one you can bring, too.”
“A couple. I’ll just have to decide what one has sketches that don’t suck too bad to show you.”
I laughed. “I’m sure they’re all great. Besides, you’ll find plenty of imperfections in my work if you look hard enough.”
“If you say so,” she shrugged. She turned to Jessica. “Oh, I almost forgot why I came to talk to you.”
“You mean you weren’t just using it as an excuse to talk to your hero?” Jessica said, her voice teasing.
Becka stuck out her tongue. “Dad says he talked to the church secretary. He set up the appointment with Pastor for Wednesday at 1pm.”
Jessica nodded and glanced at Steve. “Does that work for you?”
“It should. Wednesdays are pretty slow at work anyway.”
“Good. Thanks Becka.”
“You’re welcome. I better get going. Mom’s waving impatiently and Dad keeps glancing at his watch. It was nice to meet you, Mr. Harding.”
“Please call me Curt,” I said.
“Okay, Curt. See you next Sunday. See you Jessica.” With that, she hurried off again.
Jessica glanced at Steve. “I’m sure she meant to say goodbye to you, too.”
Steve smirked. “Yes, if her heads weren’t in the clouds over meeting the drawing god.”
“She seems like a real sweet girl,” I said. “Not sure why she adores me so much. Surely the sketches she saw couldn’t have been that amazing.”
Jessica shook her head. “And I thought Becka was down on her own talent.”
Steve grinned. “Told you he can be pretty bad about that.” I rolled my eyes.
“Anyway,” Jessica said, “Are you fee Thursday evening, Curt? I’d like to meet with you -- plus Steve if he’s available -- that evening. That way we can talk about how the meeting went.”
I paused and ran through my schedule for the week in my mind. “Yeah, I think that’ll work for me.”
“I’m available to,” Steve said after studying his smartphone for a moment. “Did you have an idea on where you wanted to meet?”
Jessica paused. “I’m thinking we could do dinner someplace low key.”
“How about Roy’s Deli on Thurston Street?” I suggested. “They get mostly to-go traffic, but that have a few tables off to the side. We should be able to sit and talk there as long as we like.”
Jessica said, “I’ve never been there. How’s the food.”
Steve said, “It’s pretty good, really. They have a great shaved steak sub.”
“The soups are fantastic and I’d practically sell my soul for a bowl of their potato salad,” I added. Another church-goer was walking by and looked mortified. “Bad choice of words on my part, I guess,” I said sheepishly. Steve roared with laugher.
Jessica grinned and said, “Some people just need a sense of humor. I thought it was funny. Anyway, I best get headed home. I have few things I need to prepare for the youth meeting tonight. It was great to worship with you, Curt. Steve, I’ll see you on Wednesday.”
“See you then,” Steve said, hugging her.
“Take care, Jessica,” I said, hugging her in my turn. It felt a bit awkward. Steve watched her as she walked up the aisle toward the exit. “She’s really excited about working with you, you know,” he said.
“Yeah, she’s been trying to get more people involved with the youth. People who have skills the current leaders lack. So the thought of getting someone with your talents involved in guiding and encouraging teens is awesome in her mind.”
“I didn’t realize that,” I said, blushing.
“Anyway, I’ll quit embarrassing you. Do you have plans right now?”
“Not really. I need to call Nate at five, but that’s still...” I glanced at my watch, “over three hours away.”
“Want to go grab a cup of coffee?”
“Why? Is there something you need to talk to me about?”
He laughed. “No, man! I just thought you’ve had such an exciting weekend, you might want someone to talk to.”
I blinked. “You really want to hear about that.”
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “I care about you as friend. And that means I care about everything that’s important to you. And I suspect your love life is important to you. I know mine’s important to me.”
“Fair enough. Yeah, I’d love the chance to talk. I’m just not...used to it.”
Steve nodded. “I know. And it’s not right that you haven’t had the opportunity to get used to it. Anyway, the Expresso-ive Cup is only a few blocks from here. How about you leave your car here and ride with me.”
“Sounds good,” I said. I secretly enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t the one providing transportation for a change. We headed for the exits together, saying hello to people we know as we wound our way through the still dispersing crowd.
We sat at a table in the back corner of the coffee shop. I had just finished telling Steve about both my dates and was sipping my tea. I wondered what Steve was going to say. He had been mostly silent while I filled him in.
After a moment, he smiled. “It sounds like Nate’s a pretty cool guy. And it sounds like he’s really into you.”
“Yeah, I guess he is. I loved the art show on Friday, even after the whole weirdness with his ex.”
Steve rubbed his chin. “Yeah, that was pretty weird. Do you think that’s just a foolish mistake on his part from being so young.”
“I don’t know. I honestly try not to think about it too much. I get a bit unnerved when I do. Raph’s going to be a hard act to follow.”
Steve snorted. “I doubt it. I’ve known you for a couple years now. You are awesome, and I think Nate sees that. Raph probably does too. If he’s not over Nate, he probably went home crying because he know he has no chance of getting the guy back with you in the picture.”
“I doubt that.”
“I don’t. Besides, they broke up. There must be reason for it. But yeah, don’t think about Raph. You don’t need to get worked up and sabotage yourself.”
“You’re not the first person to tell me that.”
“Good. Maybe if more of us tell you that, you’ll believe us.” He took a drink of his coffee and was quiet for a couple seconds. “So, as you know, I went to your house Friday night at around 11pm to take care of Katie. You weren’t home, so I take it you and Nate had a late night.”
I shifted uncomfortably. I wasn’t sure he really wanted to hear about the more intimate parts of my dates. “Yeah, I ended up spending part of the night with him on Friday. We,” I hesitated.
“Had sex,” Steve finished for me.
“Did you use protection?”
“Good. I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself.”
I paused for a moment before asking, “Were you concerned that I’m not?”
It was Steve’s turn to hesitate. “I know you can be pretty down on yourself and that you’re not happy being single. I’m concerned some guy might use that to manipulate you into doing something risky despite your better judgement.”
I wasn’t sure whether I was more angry that Steve thought I’d risk my health for any reason or that I could see where his concerns might not be entirely unfounded. “Yeah, I see your point. Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do if a guy I liked pressured me into doing it raw. I guess that’s pretty bad.”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘bad.’ I’m not interested in passing moral judgement on your choices. I’m more concerned about your well being, both physically and emotionally.”
“I appreciate that, Steve. I also appreciate your willingness to talk about these things without judging me. I know it can’t be easy for you at times.”
“This conversation isn’t about me. Nor should it be about my comfort. You need people to talk to, Nate. People who will listen to all your worries and fears and not try to impose their own -- or their own objections -- on you. Besides, it’s not like I’ve lived a ‘pure’ life.” I just about snorted as he made finger quotes as he said “pure.”
“Well, the biggest thing I’m worried about right now is not screwing this whole thing -- is it too early to call it a relationship? -- up with Nate.”
Steve nodded. “To answer your question, I think that’s up to you and Nate to discuss. Though personally, it sounds like one from where I’m sitting. As for not screwing it up, it sounds like you’re doing a great job with things right now. So just keep going with the flow and being your incredible self. Who knows, maybe you’ll even forget your insecurities for a while,” he said, winking at me. I stuck out my tongue at him. “Yeah, you’ll get along with the teens perfectly.” We both laughed at that.
“Speaking of which, what do you really think the chances of Pastor and the other leaders approving of me working with the you are?”
Steve took another drink of his coffee and stared off into space for a moment. “I’m not really sure. Pastor and a couple of the others can be so hard to read. I’ve been trying to lay the groundwork for several months now by talking about how we need to get people more involved, especially those who tend to be ignored or pushed to the margins by our church.”
I looked at him quizzically. “Several months? You mean this isn’t a relatively new idea for you?”
Steve smiled, “The specific idea of getting you involved with the youth working on the pageant is something that came to me just a few weeks ago. But I’ve been looking for ways to get you and a few other people more involved for quite some time. And I’ve been pushing the idea that the church needs to do so among the leadership for several months, yes. I suspect some of them feel I’ve been downright annoying about it.”
“I can’t imagine,” I said as I winked. Anyone who spent any amount of time with Steve knew just how persistent he can be when he has an opinion or idea, especially one he feels strongly about.
Steve chuckled. “I hope you don’t feel like I’m turning you into some sort of ‘pet project.’ I’m doing this because I care about you as a person, but I know I can get a bit zealous at times.”
“It’s not a problem,” I said. In many ways, I appreciated the effort Steve put in on my behalf. Sometimes I wondered if I really deserved all he’s done for me, though. I mean, here he and the others are going to bat for me just so I can help out with a youth art project. Surely there were other, less controversial people in our large church who could do the same job. “I just hope you think it’s worth all your effort.”
“I suspect you mean that you hope I think you’re worth all my effort,” Steve said. My face flushed and I again marveled at his uncanny ability to practically read my mind. He gave me a few seconds to recover before continuing. “As a matter of fact, I do. I’ve been talking to you for quite some time now, and I think you’re an incredible person for a number of reasons. I’d like nothing more than to get Pastor, the other leaders, and the church in general to see all those things about you that I see rather than just seeing who you do or don’t sleep with.”
“I don’t think the sleeping part is where they have a problem,” I said quietly, trying to deflect the conversation from my growing embarrassment at Steve’s praise.
Steve smirked. “Okay, I’ll cut you some slack. Though I hope you at least take what I’m telling you seriously. Quite frankly, it would be much easier for some people to see how incredible you are if you started acting like you believed it yourself.”
I had heard this before, and not just from Steve. “Fair enough.” I glanced at the time on my phone. It was about three. “Hey Steve, I hope you don’t think I’m doing this just to get out of the conversation,” I began.
“You need to get going? Are you going to see Nate again?”
“I don’t have any plans to. Then again, I didn’t have plans to see him yesterday, either.”
“Spontaneity! I like it!”
“Yeah, thanks. As I was saying, I did say I’d call him around five. So I need to get home and take Katie out before too much longer.” I paused before adding, “Besides, I’m suddenly in the mood to draw.” The realization surprised me a bit. It had been months since I had worked on any personal art projects.
Steve nodded. “That sounds like a great idea to me. It’s good to get to work while the muse is speaking, right?” I smiled, wondering if he had read my mind again. We both gathered our stuff and prepared to leave.
I had been working attentively on a charcoal sketch of a woman in sorcerer’s robes when Katie brushed her nose against my thigh. I was wearing shorts, so the wetness shocked me out of my concentration. I patted her on the head, then looked at the cable box. It was already 5:20. “Oh crap,” I muttered as I grabbed my phone off the nearby end table. I punched the buttons and put the phone to my ear as it began to ring.
Nate’s voice came through. “Hey there! Your timing is perfect. I just got my backpack unpacked.”
“And here I thought I was twenty minutes late.”
“That works for me. I’m often more than twenty minutes late. It’s good to hear from you. How was your day.”
“Very good. I’ve been drawing.”
“Cool. That reminds me, when am I going to get to see some of your work?”
I smiled, inspiration striking me. “Well, if your classwork is done, how would you like to come over here for a couple hours? I can show you the piece I’m working on as well as a couple of my sketchbooks.”
“I’d love to, but I have no way to get out there. Unless you’re on a bus line.”
“There’s a bus stop just a couple blocks away, but the schedule is spotty at best on the weekends. But I’ll gladly come pick you up.”
“Sure. I’d love to see you again. Plus, there’s something I’d like to ask of you while your here.”
“Do you want to ask now and wait till I get there.”
“Well, I’ll ask now as long as you feel comfortable telling me no and still coming over.”
“Oh my. Maybe you should ask me now.”
“I was wondering if you’d let me draw you.”
“Oh, is that all? Sure!”
“Feel free to say no. I still want you to come over either way. And I promise not to pressure you to change your mind while you’re here.”
“Well, I’m kind of flattered. I just...will anyone see it.”
I was a bit surprised. This was the first time Nate seemed to actually be embarrassed or caught off guard. “No. I’ll put it in my private collection that no one ever sees.”
“Well, then the answer is probably yes. But can I give you my final answer when I get there?”
“Of course. I’ll come pick you up now. You’re at your place, right?”
“Yep. See you soon.”
I sat on one end of my couch, slightly bent over the table in front of me and the charcoal drawing in front of me. Nate sat facing me in the middle of my living room floor, naked. His left leg was extended straight out in front of him, while his right hip was turned out so that his thigh ran at a diagonal toward my dining room, his knee bent and his lower leg. He propped up his torso by putting his hands on the floor behind him. “Are you sure you’re comfortable, I asked.”
“I think I’m good for at least another twenty minutes. That should give you plenty of time to get the basics done, right?”
“Close to it,” I said. “Plus we can always take a break if you need to. I think you have more tofu with garlic sauce when you need it.”
“Yeah. I’ll probably want that in a bit. But I’m good for now. Besides, I’m enjoying the view.”
I blushed. Nate had agreed to pose nude for me on the condition that I got naked too. It seemed fair enough, if a bit unconventional. But then again, artists didn’t conventionally sleep with their models, either. “Thanks.”
“I just wish the table wasn’t blocking my view of some of the best parts.” I hadn’t thought it was possible for my face to turn even more red. I realized now that I had been mistaken. “You’re even cuter when you blush, you know,” Nate observed.
“Thanks,” I said as I tried to focus intently on the page before me.
“So tell me something, Curt. Why don’t you hang any of your artwork on your walls?”
I set down my charcoal for a moment and looked at him. “I don’t know. I guess because I’d rather display artwork I’ve bought or received from other people.”
“I totally get that, but it seems like you could put up at least one of your drawings.” He paused, then added, “Just not this one.”
“I don’t know,” I said teasingly. “It’s quickly becoming one of my favorites.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere.”
I grinned and picked up my charcoal again. “I guess the other thing is that it just strikes me as somewhat conceited. I mean, do I really want to be the kind of guy who decorates his home in a way that screams, ‘Hey, look what an awesome artist I am.’”
“Well, for starters, I don’t think it’s conceited at all to take a little pride in your work and show it off. And I’d say you’ve certainly earned the right to do that.”
“Thanks,” I said, trying to hide my embarrassment by focusing on my work. “I hope you’re not just saying that because we’re dating.”
“Not at all. If I don’t like something, I say so. No matter who you are. Raph could verify that for you, if you’d like.”
I laughed, though I secretly cringed at the thought of his ex. A thought occurred to me. “Speaking of Raph, I’m a bit surprised the two of you never did this,” I said, indicating the drawing in front of me.
Nate smirked. “Raph despised both drawing and painting, no matter what kind of medium he used. In fact, he took as few such classes in them as he could while still meeting the requirements for his major. He much preferred this abstract sculptures. So he never suggested it. And I certainly never thought of it, either.”
“Huh, I never considered that. I tend to assume every artist works with some two dimensional medium.”
“Not Raph. Of course, I’m just glad he does abstract sculpture. I certainly don’t need any naked statues of me floating around!”
I frowned. “Is doing this bothering you?”
“Well, I admit I’m a bit nervous and embarrassed. But I want to do it, anyway. You seem to be really into it.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” I hadn’t really thought about just how much I was getting into drawing him. Part of my mind had even been considering some other poses we could try if he was willing to let me do a second one.
“Any particular reason? I mean, are you just that into my body?”
I laughed. “Well, yeah. I’d think our...more intimate times would have made that obvious.”
“It’s one thing to have sex with me. It’s another to want to draw me in all my naked glory.” He paused, then added, “God, that sounded conceited.”
“Yeah, but I’m inclined to agree with your self-assessment, so I’ll let it slide.” He stuck out his tongue and I grabbed an throw pillow and tossed it at him. It bounced off his chest. And he feigned being mortally wounded. We both laughed. After I caught my breath, I said, “Seriously, though. I really do think you’re incredibly good looking and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t factor into my desire to draw you.”
“But,” he prompted.
“But it’s more than that. I’ve always liked drawing people, as you may have noticed from the sketchpads you leafed through while we ate.”
“I did. I think it’s cool. Though not all of them were nudes.”
“Well, no. For some of them, drawing them naked would be inappropriate. I mean, who rushes into battle in the buff?”
“Celtic warriors?” he offered.
“You’re lucky I don’t have another throw pillow.” He feigned relief and we shared another chuckle. “Anyway, not every picture with a human in it can be a nude. Plus I actually prefer to have a model to work from when doing my nudes. I guess you could say it’s extra inspiration for me.” I paused to ponder that, as I had never realized it before.
“So I’m good looking and inspiring. I really have it going for me, don’t I?” he teased.
“Yeah. Too bad you’re using up your leeway on the lack of humility thing at such an alarming rate.”
“Yes sir, message received,” he said, winking.
“But I guess I’m also feeling really inspired. Part of that is from how attracted I am to you. Part of that is just how great I’m feeling about our time together.”
“You don’t find the same inspiration when you’re not involved with someone?”
“Not really. I find those times in my life dull and uninspiring.”
He stood up and walked over to me at that point He pulled out the table a bit and stepped around it so he was standing beside me and facing the table too. I instinctive stood. He stared at his portrait for a long time and smiled. Placing his arm around my waist and resting his hand on the outside of my left butt cheek, he pointed at the drawing. “Curt, you created this.”
“It’s not done yet,” I said, shrinking at the compliment.
“Whatever. You’re creating this. And the fact that it’s done just emphasizes my point, because it already looks incredible.”
“Thanks,” I conceded.
“You’re welcome. But I’m not done, so don’t interrupt me. And don’t say you’re sorry. That would just be interrupting me again. You are able to create this incredible drawing not to mention all those drawing in your numerous sketchbooks. You create art. That in itself is inspiring. You and your life are far from boring.”
I rested my head on his shoulder. “You think so highly of me.”
“Yes, I do. I wish you thought more highly of yourself. You should, you know.”
“That’s what everyone keeps telling me.”
He turned toward me and took my face in his hands. He brushed his lips against mine for a few seconds. “Maybe you should start believing us.”
I placed my hand on his chest, enjoying the sensation of his skin beneath my hands. I started to speak, but he stopped me with another kiss. This one was more thorough, sensual and intimate.
“Wow, Curt. I’m really impressed with you,” Patty said, her voice filled with pride.
“For which part?” I asked.
“All of it. The fact that you went on the date. The fact that you gave yourself permission to have sex with him. The fact that you took the chance of inviting him over. The fact that you asked to draw him, nude no less. That’s all great stuff, Curt.”
I blushed. “Yeah, I guess. I was afraid I was being a bit too forward, to be honest.”
“I don’t think you were. And by the sounds of it, he didn’t think so, either.”
“I guess not.”
“So, how did the drawing turn out?”
“So far, it looks great. I think it’s actually one of my best pieces.”
“It’s a shame I can’t see it.”
“I know. There are a couple people I’d love to show it to. Yes, you’re one of them. But I promised Nate I wouldn’t do that. And I’m a man of my word.”
“My loss, but I support your decision. You said ‘so far,’ though. Does that mean you’re not done?”
I still need to work a bit on the shading. I can do that from the photographs I took, though. So he won’t be sitting for me again. In case you were going to ask.”
“You know I was. Thats a shame. Any chance you’ll do another drawing?”
“Are all of my friends mind-readers?” I said, somewhat exasperated. “As a matter of fact, I’ve considered one or two other poses I’d like to sketch him in. But I haven’t broached the subject with him.”
“Understandable. After all, I’m sure there are other things you’d like to do with his body than just sketch it.”
“Patty!” I said, scandalized. A couple coworkers shot us a look before turning back to their own tasks.
She just smiled calmly. “There’s no point in denying it, Curt. In fact, I think it’s good that you’ve acted on your desires so well this weekend. Though I’m a bit surprised nothing happened Sunday night.”
“I wouldn’t say nothing happened. I mean, we spent two hours cuddling naked on the couch. I mean, haven’t you always told me that not every moment of physical intimacy has to end up in a sticky mess?”
“True. It’s just that the ones that do end that way make for more entertaining stories.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about being your entertainment,” I said, winking at her.
“Well, don’t take it too personally. I tend to view everyone as my entertainment,” she said, winking back.
“Whether we like it or not, I’m sure.”
“Of course! If I started giving everyone a choice, I’d have to start keeping track of who I can view as my entertainment and who I can’t. That’s just way too much work for an unorganized woman like me.” I laughed, glancing at her precisely ordered desk. “So will you be seeing him again tonight?”
“No. He has some classwork he needs to do tonight. He said something about having to meet with a group to work on a project. Besides, I promised my parents I’d run out and have dinner with them tonight.”
“Yes, that would be nice. I’m sure they’ll enjoy having your company.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Still struggling with your relationship since coming out to them?”
I chuckled a bit. “That’s putting it mildly. There’s usually a tense silence whenever anything about my love life comes up.”
“So I take it you won’t be mentioning your new beau to them tonight?”
“Oh heavens, no. They’d just about flip out. Besides, I think it’s way too early for that anyway.”
She pursed her lips and stared at my screensaver for a minute. “Yes, I suppose you’re right. Though it sounds like things are moving pretty quick between the two of you.”
I shifted in my seat. “Do you think they’re moving too quick?”
“I think the more important question is whether you think they are, Curt.”
“The thought has crossed my mind.”
It was my turn to stare thoughtfully for a few seconds. Finally, i found the words I was looking for, or at least what I hoped would be a close proximation. “I’m a bit conflicted, to be honest. I mean, I don’t regret what happened at all. And part of me feels like I should feel more guilt about hopping into bed with him Friday night, and then fooling around again on Saturday. I mean, I’m worried we’re getting too physical.”
“So the two of you have just been fucking like bunnies?” I made a face at the cuss word and a coworker shot Patty a stern look. In her typical unapologetic manner, Patty gave no indication that she noticed either of our reactions. “You haven’t been talking or hanging out?”
“Well, no. I already told you that we spent all that time at dinner and the art show on Friday. Then we talked at the mall on Saturday. And we had some great conversations while I drew him on Sunday.”
“Yes, I remember. I’m just making sure that you remember, too. Because it sounds to me like you guys have been finding a great balance between getting to know each other and getting familiar with each other’s bodies.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I conceded.
“So what are you really afraid of? Because I don’t think this has to do with your puritanical upbringing,” she grinned and added, “for once.”
I stuck out my tongue at her. “Honestly, I guess I’m just afraid that I’ll mess things up and things will fall apart.”
Patty clucked her tongue. “Curt, relationships aren’t like fragile vases. They don’t shatter into a million pieces because you say the wrong thing or take things too fast, whatever that means. As long as both people are willing to work on things, most mistakes can be worked through.”
“But not all,” I prodded.
“No, not all. If one of you turns into an abusive asshole, that’s not likely something you can work around. If one of you decides you don’t love the other, that’s not something you’re going to work out. But those are pretty major things and not generally something you do by mistake.”
“Okay. But there’s no guarantee, right?”
“No. And that’s the other reason I think you do yourself more harm than good with all your fretting. There’s never any guarantee. No matter how perfectly you try do anything. You’re worrying about controlling something that is ultimately uncontrollable.”
“You’re not exactly encouraging me to go for it here, Patty.”
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Well, if there are no guarantees, then why should I take the chance at all? Why get more into this guy if it’s just going to lead to heartbreak.”
Patty drummed her fingers on my desk. “First of all, I never said it’s going to lead to heartbreak.”
“But it might.”
“Well, yes. But it might lead to happiness and a long time -- perhaps a lifetime -- of relationship bliss. We don’t know which you’ll end up with. But do you know what we do know?”
“If you don’t give it a chance, you won’t end up with either of those things.”
“So tell me something, Curt. Are you so eager to avoid the risk of heartbreak that you’re willing to give up any chance of relationship bliss?”
I sat there and turned the question and her whole argument over in my head. I couldn’t find any flaw in it. She was right, as much as it annoyed me. “No.”
“So?” she prodded.
“So I guess I better risk the heartbreak.”
She patted my hand. “It’s so wonderful to watch you grow up,” she said, her voice teasing. I stuck out my tongue at her again.