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Rated: GC · Book · Gay/Lesbian · #1890537
A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
#783464 added May 28, 2013 at 7:07pm
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After Meeting the Teens
Patty and I sat at my desk Monday morning enjoying our ten o’clock bagel and coffee. I had just finished recounting the weekends events to her. She noted, “Sounds like Nate is a class act.”

“He is, except when he’s a horndog,” I said.

“Then I’m sure he’s even more fun.”

“Patty! Anyway, isn’t your anniversary sometime this week?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.

“Indeed it is. Wednesday, actually. Harold is taking me out to dinner that evening.”

“Any idea where you’re going?”

“Well, I’ve mentioned a few times that I’d love to check out that little Thai place you told me about a while back. But knowing him, he’ll probably take me to Olive Garden instead,” she said somewhat sadly.

“You mean you don’t think he’ll get the hint?”

“As wonderful as he is in so many ways, Harold doesn’t always get hints like that. He tends to think that because I said Olive Garden was my favorite restaurant thirty years ago, it’s where I want to go whenever we go out.”

“So he hasn’t figured out it’s not your favorite restaurant?”

“Actually, it still is my favorite restaurant. I love the food there. I just also like to do something different sometimes. You can get tired of even something that you love if you overdo it, you know.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I know what that’s like. I hope the two of you have a great time, even if you do end up at the Olive Garden.”

“Oh, I’m sure we will. Despite his very few faults, Harold is a wonderful and thoughtful husband. I’m curious to see what kind of bouquet he has sent to the office this year.”

I smiled, remembering the dazzling display of lavender daisies and mini carnations he had delivered last year. “Yeah, I’ve noticed he’s not a ‘just send roses’ kind of guy.”

Patty laughed. “Oh heavens no. He told me once that he listened to his own mother complain about the fact that his father never sent gave her anything besides roses every year, and arranged the same way, no less. So he promised himself and me that he’d always endeavor to be creative and original when he gets me flowers.”

“That’s really cool.”
“Yeah. So it sounds like things went well with your teens yesterday.”

“Definitely! They’re a great group. Though I’m still not sure what to make of Becka’s near worship of me.”

Patty grinned. “Well, if she develops too much of a crush on you, you can always have Nate chase her away.”

“Like she’d feel that way.”

“What? You never had a thing for any of your teachers or other adults in your life when you were growing up?”

I paused as memories of my one math teacher in ninth grade popped up. “Well, yeah. But surely none of them would be attracted to me,” I protested.

“Why not?”

“I,” I said, then paused, frowning. “I don’t know.” Patty just sat there staring at me with that knowing smile. “Okay, I see your point. Though, she knows I’m gay.”

“Well, that doesn’t stop her from becoming infatuated. I mean, surely you’ve fallen for a straight guy or two, haven’t you?”

“More than I want to admit.”

She chuckled. “At any rate, it probably does mean she realizes that there’s just no way anything could happen between you two if she does develop feelings for you.”

“Um, there’s the fact that she’s underage too. That should be a big deterrent.”

“It’s a deterrent from you because you’re the adult. Teens, not so much. At least that’s the way it is with some teens. You have realized that one of the boys could develop a crush on you too, haven’t you?”

I winced. “Yeah, I have. A lot. And obviously, that’s somewhere I have no desire to go.”

“So, what are you going to do if it happens?”

“I’m not sure. I mean, obviously I’m going to turn down any advances if they happen. But, well, I don’t exactly have much experience in being the one spurning another person’s advances.”

“Ah yes, you’re usually the one being spurned,” Patty said, her voice full of sympathy.

“Pretty much.”
“Well, is there anything you can learn from the guys that have turned you down?”

I pondered that for a moment. “Well, a lot of them were jerks and pretty rude about it.”

“But not everyone?”

“No, there were a few who tried to be as gentle as possible. They made it clear that I was a great guy, but they just weren’t interested in me as a boyfriend.” I paused then added, “It still hurt, though.”

“Well, of course it did. No one wants to be turned down by someone they’re into. Even a kind rejection is a rejection and it’s going to hurt.”

I nodded. “I just hate the idea of hurting someone like that.”

“You survived when it happened to you, and so will they if it comes to that.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Is it okay if I hope it doesn’t come to that?”

Patty laughed. “Absolutely! I just wanted to make sure you were prepared for the possibility.” She stared at her coffee cup for a moment before continuing. “Of course, the good thing is that you’re already involved with someone. It gives you an additional reason to turn anyone down beyond the fact that the age thing would make it inappropriate.”

“Except I’m not supposed to talk about my relationship when working with the teens.”

“I think in that very specific hypothetical situation, you might want to break that rule.”

“Yeah, probably so.”

“So, I think you could use a subject change,” Patty offered. “Have you heard from your friend, Tina, since the club the other night?”

“No. I meant to call her sometime over the weekend, but got pretty busy and forgot.”

“It happens. Plus it sounds like she might have needed the extra time anyway. To sober up and think about what happened.”

I sighed. “Are you about to tell me I need to rethink my friendship with her too?”

“Who else has said something about it to you?”

“Well, Nate. And my friend Ted. And my church friend, Steve.”

“Have any of them talked to you about why what you’re doing isn’t really helping Tina out, either?”

I blinked. “Well, no.”

“Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about then. Because what you’ve been doing isn’t helping her at all. In fact, it’s helping her to keep doing what she’s doing and getting away with it. And take it from someone who knows, that’s a bad thing.”

“Someone who knows?” I asked, wondering if I understood her correctly.

“Ah yes, I’ve never told you about my past troubles with drinking, have I?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, let’s just say that I was a lot like your friend when I was around her age. It’s why if you pay close attention at the company Christmas party, I turn down all offers of anything stronger than Sprite.”

“You know, I always wondered why you raised your water glass whenever the boss proposed the annual toast, but didn’t think too much about it.”

She smiled. “A few people have asked, and I’ve told them the truth. It’s made for a few awkward moments, I have to tell you.”

“I can only imagine.”

“Anyway, when I was younger, I was out of control. And I had plenty of friends who tried to keep me out of trouble like you and Tina’s other friends are doing for her. And because I knew my friends had my back, I kept right on doing what I was doing.”

“So what happened.”

“I made a new friend, Michael. Michael was a real stickler and didn’t put up with bullshit. So when he saw what I was doing, he cornered me and gave me a piece of his mind. He pointed out just how awful I was being to my friends and scolded me for taking advantage of them like that.”

“I can’t picture you taking that well,” I said honestly.

“Oh, I didn’t. I was furious. I blew up at him. I attacked him. I said awful things about him to whoever would listen.”

“What happened.”

“Well, two things. First, Michael completely ignored everything I said and did to him. And my friends started realizing that Michael was right. Soon, I found myself facing a rather rude awakening.”

“Really?”

“Oh yes, I remember one time I got arrested, I stood outside the police station after one arrest, pumping quarter after quarter into the payphone as I asked friend after friend to come pick me up.”

“No one came?”

“No. Over a dozen friends gave me the same exact answer. ‘You found your own way there. Find your own way home.’ Eventually, I ended up walking home. It was a three mile walk. And all I had was the high heels I had worn dancing the night before.”

“And that actually helped you?”

“In time, yes. Sure, I was furious at first. I lashed out at my friends. I tried to manipulated them with guilt so they’d go back to the way they were before. But they held their ground.” She paused. “In time, I realized that while I was blaming them for all my troubles, I was ultimately the one who created them. They weren’t the problem. I was. So after a few months, I finally started seeking help.

“After about a month of attending AA meetings, Michael spotted me walking out of one. He pulled over and shouted to me. He asked me if I wanted a ride. We had a long talk on the way home. I told him about everything that had happened and that I was so sorry for treating him the way I did.”

“I take it he forgave you?”

“Yes, he did. He also started giving me regular rides to my meetings and hanging out with me. After a few months, he introduced me to his cousin, Harold.”

“Harold? As in?” I asked incredulously.

“The man I’ve been happily married to for seventeen years, yes. Michael was the best man at our wedding.”

“That’s amazing.”

“Yeah, it is. But imagine if I had met Harold before Michael showed my friends they were helping me stay a complete disaster.”

I considered this for a moment. “I suspect that Harold would have run for the hills, if you were really as bad as Tina.”
“I was, and yes he would have. So Michael really did me a huge favor.” She paused. “Okay, two. Introducing me to the man I’d marry was a pretty big one too.”

“Absolutely.” I finished the last bite of my bagel and thought back over my friendship with Tina. “Yeah, I think I see your point. Maybe I should change how I handle things with Tina.”

“I think it would be smart,” Patty said. She raised her voice and added, “Speaking of being smart. I’d better be smart and get back to my paperwork so Mr. Dalrymple quits giving me the evil eye.” I turned and saw our boss standing in the doorway of his office. He was leaning against the casing with his arms folded, smirking at us.

Dalrymple spoke in a tone of mock irritation. “Or I could just dock your pay.”

“Hmm, you might want to wait a few more days before you do that,” Patty said, her brow furrowed in thought. “I mean, I need something to keep me motivated to finish proofreading everything for the Tanner account by Wednesday. But after that, sure, dock my pay.” This last part, she said with a mischievous twinkle.

Dalrymple laughed. “You two are luck you’re some of my best workers. I think you’re actually more productive when you’re able to have your little gab sessions. But try to remember that others are still trying to work.”

Patty saluted him. “Yes sir! Back to work. Talk to you later, Curt.”

“Take care Patty. And remember, I before E, except after C.”

As she walked away, she shot back, “I don’t lecture you on proper artistic talent young man.”

Dalrymple spoke to me in an obvious stage whisper. “I’ve seen her draw. If she does try to tell you how to do your job, I encourage you to ignore her.”

“I heard that!”

“Good!” He locked eyes with me. “Do you have a minute, Harding? I want to talk to you in private.”

I gulped. “Sure.” I stood and followed him into his office. I sat as he shut the door. “If this is about too much talking on the job, I’m sorry.”

Dalrymple laughed. “Oh please! I have even less reason to worry about your productivity than Patty’s. Besides, I know your job involves a lot of downtime while you wait for the computer to do the graphics.”

“Yeah, but I still feel guilty about it. I mean, I could recommend some computer hardware that would speed things up. It’s kind of pricy, but still less than what you paid me last year to sit at my desk twiddling my thumbs.”

He nodded. “I may take you up on that. In fact, why don’t you put together a proposal or two. Nothing too fancy. Just an idea of what you might suggest we purchase and what you estimate the advantages to be in time saved. But actually, I want to talk to you about your own self-improvement.”

“Sir?”

“You’ve been working here for over four years now, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, according to my records, you haven’t taken any classes or training courses in that time.”

“Well, no sir.”

“Well, I’d like to explore the possibility of changing that. Surely there are classes that might help you get up to date on the latest graphics and modeling systems. Or maybe another drawing class. I know I don’t have you do very much art by hand, but I wouldn’t mind keeping that option open and up to date.”

I considered. “There might be a course or two at the local colleges that might have potential. My...friend can probably get me a list of courses from the school he’s currently attending.”

“Would this be the guy you and Patty have been discussing lately?”

I blushed. “Yeah, that’s him. I didn’t realize you had heard.”

“Your friend’s voice tends to carry at times. You’d be surprised what the rest of the office has heard and knows.”

“And more than a little mortified,” I admitted.

“Probably. But yeah, if you can get some course lists and let me know what’s available, we can talk about payment and schedules.”

“Sir?”

“It’s common for your employer to pay for work-related training, son. And if the classes you’d benefit from most aren’t night classes, we can work something out there too.”

“Thank you, Mr. Dalrymple.”

“You’re welcome, Curt. Oh, and Curt?”

“Yes sir?”

“I don’t mind hearing about how dreamy Nate is. But the first time I hear any details of his anatomy, I’m having your desk moved.” With that, he pulled a folder toward himself, opened it, and began to study its contents. I returned to my desk, my face beet red.

***

I had just gotten home and let Katie loose in the back yard when my cell phone rang. I glanced at the screen and grimaced as I saw Tina’s name and picture. I hit the button to answer and said, “Hello?”

“Hey Curt, sweetie! How have you been?” She seemed way too cheerful after Friday night and I was feeling cautious.

“I’m pretty good. I just got home from work. What’s up?”

“Not much. I just wanted to check in on you after Friday night. You know, to make sure you don’t hate me.”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t hate you. I was a bit mad at you that night, though.”

“I’m sure! I’m so sorry, honey! I hope I didn’t ruin things for you and Nate.”

“Not really. I think Nate was ready to leave anyway. After we dropped you off, we came to my place.”

“Oh? Did he stay long?”

“All night. Didn’t you notice his backpack sitting in the back seat next to you on the trip home? I kept telling you to move it so you didn’t puke on it.”

“Oh geez, did I really puke in your car?”

For a brief moment, I toyed with telling her that she had, just to ratchet up her sense of guilt. Then my sense of honesty got the better of me. “No. You only came close a couple of times.”

“Well, that’s a relief. I forgot most of the night, to be honest with you. The only reason I knew I needed to patch things up with you is because Kendra called me and told me what happened.”

“I see. Another blackout, then?”

Tina’s voice immediately sounded hurt. “You make it sound like I have them all the time.”

I thought back to the conversations I’d had lately with various friends. I took a deep breath before answering. “Well, not all the time. But that’s the fifth one since January. That I’m aware of, at least.”

“Well, I never!” she huffed. “If I wanted this kind of lecture, I’d have called my mother! And to think, I was going to ask a favor of you!”

“Um, sorry.”

“Whatever!” With that, she hung up.

I was a bit taken aback by her reaction. I knew she wasn’t going to take me pointing out her blackouts well, but I had never expected her to get so angry she hung up on me. I shot Steve a text asking if he had time to talk, mentioning that it had to do with Tina. I figured he’d understand and give me great advice on what to do now.

I let Katie in as Steve’s reply came back, suggesting we meet at the coffee shop a day early.

***

“Sounds to me like you were more honest with her than she liked,” Steve said, sipping his strawberry banana smoothie.

“That’s for sure,” I said. “So do you think I was wrong to say anything?”

“Absolutely not. If she’s blacking out like that, she needs her friends to really stress how serious that is. If she doesn’t want to face that fact, that’s her problem.”

“Yeah, Patty says that I’m not helping her when I cover for her.”

Steve tilted his head. “I hadn’t considered that, since I’ve been mostly focused on how it’s hurting you. But yeah, I think Patty is right.”

“So, do you think that Tina will stay mad at me for long?”

“It’s hard to say. If you’ll forgive my cynical side, though, I think that might depend on how badly she wants that favor she mentioned.”

I groaned. “The sad thing is, I think your cynical side is right. The weird thing is, part of me immediately wondered what she wanted when she started out the phone conversation being so sweet.”

“You don’t think that was just to make nice and smooth things out.”

I paused, weighing my words carefully. “Honestly? I sometimes feel like the only time she smooths things out after a fight is when she realizes she wants something.”

“Ouch.”

“What? You think that was too harsh for me to say?”

“No. I’ve known people like that, so it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re feelings are accurate. The ‘ouch’ was in reference to the fact that someone could treat you like that.”

“Um, thanks?”

“I mean it. I mean, no one deserves to have a friend that does that to them. But the fact that you’re such a kind-hearted guy makes it even worse that she takes advantage of you like that.”

“Maybe that’s why she’s friends with me,” I suggested. “Maybe she realizes I’m easy to take advantage of.”

“That thought has crossed my mind too, Curt.”

“Thanks. It’s nice to know I’m not just being oversensitive or something. So anyway, you think what I said to her was okay?”

“I think what you said was practically perfect. You were honest, and yet didn’t say it with any intent to put her down.”

“Yeah, too bad she didn’t see it that way.”

“Well, what you said was also a hard truth. You have to expect that to hit her hard, Curt. The thing is, it needs to hit her hard.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“So, when do you see Nate next?”

“I’m not sure yet. We haven’t made plans yet. I’m thinking we’ll go see a movie on Friday evening if he’s up to it. Actually, I need to call or text him tonight and see if he can get me a course listing for his school’s art department?”

“Oh? Are you thinking about taking some classes, then?”

“Well, I wasn’t. But Mr. Dalrymple talked to me about it today. He says he wants me to expand my skills. He told me to see what was available around here and provide him with a few suggestions on courses I can take.”

“That’s fantastic, Curt. It sounds like things are really going well for you on a lot of levels.”

“Yeah.” I hesitated, then added, “It makes me a bit nervous, though. Like maybe things are going too well.”

“So you’re waiting for things to fly apart at the seams?” Steve suggested.

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess I am. And I know I shouldn’t.”

“Yeah, but you’re not used to things going so well, so I think your fear is understandable.”

“Thanks.”

“Just don’t let it get to you to the point where you start making bad choices. And by bad, I mean self-sabotaging.”

“I’ll try my best. Thanks, Steve. And thanks for talking me down. The conversation with Tina really got me riled up.”

“I bet it did. But you feel better now.”

I considered for a moment and was a bit surprised by my answer. “Actually, yeah.”

“Good. You have a good night.”

“You too.”

I glanced at the time and dialed Nate’s number. On the fifth ring, he answered. “Hey sexy! What’s up?”

“Hey, Nate. I was wondering if you could do me a small favor.”

“Probably. What is it?”

“Could you run by the art department sometime this week and see if they have any course listings? My boss suggested I see what opportunities I could find to improve my skills.”
“Cool. Is he paying?”

“That’s the idea.”

“Very cool. I’ll be near the art department tomorrow for class. I’ll stop by and see what I can find for you then.”

“Thanks, hon. And then you can give me whatever you find the next time we see each other. Which brings me to my next question.”

“Well, here’s a funny coincidence. I’m having a couple friends over to play board games tomorrow evening. I’ve been contemplating whether to invite you, since I’m not sure if you’re into playing games. But since you brought it up.”

I chuckled. “Just as long as it’s not Monopoly.”

“Oh heavens no,” he laughed. “We’re all more inclined to play something like Settlers of Catan.”

“I’ve heard of that, but never played it.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you. If you’re interested.”

“It sounds like fun. Besides, his means I get to meet some of your friends.” I paused, then added, “Of course, after our first date, maybe I should ask you to clarify what you mean by ‘friends.’”

Nate burst out laughing. “Well, I haven’t slept with either of the friends coming over tomorrow night. Nancy and Melissa are just as uninterested in me as I am in them. They’re a couple, in fact.”

“Oh, that’s really cool.”

“Yeah, we met through the GSU here on campus. We’ve been having Tuesday night game nights for about nine months now.”

“Cool. And I won’t be intruding?”

“Heck now. They’re dying to meet you, actually.”

“Oh? So you’ve been talking about me?”

“Well, duh! Of course I’m talking about this wonderful, fun guy I’ve been dating for over a week now.”

“Thanks. But you’re going to make me blush.”

“And I’m not there to see it? Damn!”

“Alright, you!”

“Take a picture for me?”

“No.”

“Meanie.”

“I’ll make it up to you some other time, I promise. Though I better get around and have something for dinner.”

“Yeah, I’m getting ready to eat myself. Oh, that reminds me, make sure you come hungry. I’m cooking dinner for everyone this week.”

“I didn’t know you cooked.”

“Yeah, I’m the rare male college student who isn’t living on Ramen noodles. Though that’s what I’m having tonight.”

“That’s cool. I’ll see you tomorrow. And thanks again for that favor.”

“Oh please, that barely counts as a favor. You’re welcome though. I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

I hung up and headed to the kitchen. “I wonder what I have for leftovers,” I muttered, opening the fridge.
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