After we'd seated ourselves on the lawn, and started hoeing into the sandwiches, which were fucking humungous, I decided to do a bit of investigating into Pop's past. "So what was it like when you were a teen, Pop? Apart from the dinosaurs."
"Cheeky bugger. Not so different. Fashion was different. Music was different. Sandwiches were certainly different... back then, you could get your mouth around one. But they're superficial things, anyway. We had the flower-power thing happening. Woodstock. People trying to rid themselves of society's unnecessary constraints; trying to break free; trying to express themselves. I remember my mother coming into my room one day in 1963 and saying, "They've shot the President." We were all in shock. The unthinkable had happened."
"Yep. He was a living legend. The leader of the free world. People idolized him."
"So when your mom said they've shot him, who did she mean? Lee Harvey Oswald?"
"The communists. People back then automatically assumed that it must've been the 'Reds'… a Soviet plot. Have you seen any of the old James Bond movies? They were all based on the idea of east versus west… the cold war… the threat of a nuclear holocaust."
"It never happened, though."
"Not that I've noticed," Pop chuckled. "And you're both eating with your legs open."
"Were there any gay guys back then?" Paul asked, spreading his legs even further apart, obviously enjoying Pop's embarrassment.
"Of course. Homosexuality didn't arrive with the current generation, y'know. It's always been around. It wasn't as conspicuous as it is now… we didn't have gay marches or anything of that sort. In fact, homosexuality was against the law. But gay individuals made themselves known to others if they detected a mutual interest."
"So guys hit on you?"
"They were a little more subtle than that, Paul," Pop grinned. "But, yes, they made certain advances."
"And you got off with them?"
"No. I was far too naïve. I wasn't sure how to go about it, or how to react. The attraction was there, the desire was there, even the opportunity was there, but I didn't have the nerve to take that final step. Mind you, I suspect that those other guys weren't as pathetically idiotic as I was. I'm sure they were getting up to all kinds of tricks… even though I was unaware of that at the time… or preferred not to think about it."
"So they were fucking and sucking or whatever, and you weren't?"
"I suspect so. But, again, I don't think all that much has changed. Not all teens are like you guys, y'know… willing to express yourselves the way you do, which, by the way, is making it very difficult for me to concentrate on my sandwich. I'm pretty sure there are lots of young Neds in the world today, guys who can't deal with their sexuality, who feel intimidated by various pressures brought about by peers or society or religion or politics or whatever."
"How come nobody's raved about my killer sandwiches?" I pouted. Yeah, well that little reminder did a lotta fucking good, didn't it. Pop ignored my question and continued his speech. He obviously thought that what he was talking about was way more important than any gastronomical contribution on my part.
"I think the problem stems from ignorance, either on the part of the gay guy himself, or on the part of his friends, family, teachers, whoever… those people in his immediate circle of acquaintances; people he looks to for advice and guidance; role models." Pop took a bite of his sandwich, but immediately resumed his soliloquy even though his mouth was totally chockers, causing his voice to sound muffled. "Ignorance is really about intolerance… an unwillingness to allow or accept other points of view. All of us feel that we have the right to our own opinions, but we're not always prepared to allow others an equal right to theirs."
"So everybody should be like me and Daniel?"
"No, that's not what I'm saying, Paul. And these sandwiches are fabulous, Daniel."
"Thanks." Finally! I bit of recognition!
"I'm not saying that people should be clones of each other, or sheep that blindly follow a leader. Quite the contrary. That kind of mentality stifles individualism. On the other hand, if the world was full of Pauls and Daniels, well… the mind boggles. You two scallywags are part of a whole range of human divergence. As the French say, Vive le difference! We need variety, we need individuality."
"Like grumpy old dudes in towels," I laughed.
"Exactly. And outrageous exhibitionists. But that's my point. You can't have two exhibitionists trying to out-exhibit each other. That would be like two comedians shouting over the top of each other… nobody would hear the jokes. Laurel and Hardy. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Abbot and Costello. One was the straight guy, and the other was the fall guy. Two opposites, complementing each other's talent. That's the way life works. That girl next door, for example. If she'd been flaunting her breasts while you were waving that… that... thing around, neither of you would've succeeded in your mission, which was to shock the other person. But I'll bet you shocked her."
"Is that bad?"
"To shock? Depends. If you're not hurting anybody, I don't see anything wrong with it. Besides, we all love to be shocked."
"Well, maybe you went a little to far on that occasion. But he's OK now, isn't he?"
"Yeah… he chilled."
"Anyway, exhibitionists like you... and don't deny that you are one, Daniel... need an audience, just like any 'performer' does. It's all about getting a reaction, whether it's a comedian making his audience laugh, a dramatic actor reducing his audience to tears, a horror movie causing its audience to scream in terror… whatever. Shakespeare said something about all the world being a stage, and all of us being players. And we are. We're constantly behaving in a certain way, or saying certain things, to get a reaction, hopefully favorable, from our audience, which can be a group of people or an individual. We're all actors."
"So when I brown-eye you and stuff… yeah… you're right. And that Shakespeare dude was right. But I'm not sure about this exhibitionist thing. OK, so I do rad stuff, but it's not like I wear a trenchcoat and flash my dick."
"True. You dispense with the trenchcoat altogether," Pop cracked, then he and Paul dissolved into hysterics.
"Hey, fucking chill, you guys. You're making me sound like I'm some kinda weirdo."
"My sincere apologies, Daniel. It's just that the vision of you wearing a trenchcoat and roller blades…" Another few moments of laughter ensued before Pop managed to catch his breath, and continue. "Anyway, you would be a weirdo if you did wear one, but you don't. And your motives are quite different to those of a middle-aged flasher. You're a teen, and teens have some kinda natural permit to behave in a 'rad' fashion, as you put it. You won't always behave this way, just as you won't kick an empty soda can down the street on your way to the office as an adult. You'll change. Meantime, you're at liberty to behave like a teen… albeit a rad teen. And a lovable one, I might add."
"Do you regret not being a rad teen?"
"No point in regret, my friend. The past is impossible to change. The present is where we live, and the present is all that we are capable of dealing with."
"But if you had your time over…"
"The most important thing is you… and your friend Paul. Your time is what's important to me… your present, not what happened to me decades ago. My past's only consolation is that I've learned certain things from experience, which I can pass on to you where appropriate. But, at the end of the day, you two scallywags will learn from your own experiences. That's the way we all learn."
"Sounds kinda like you're saying your life was wasted," Paul interjected.
"Wasted? No. Nothing's ever wasted. Admittedly, I could've done things differently, but, if I had, I might not be sitting here on a lawn that was up until recently an embarrassing jungle, and chatting to a couple of rascals…"
"I'm trying my best not to notice."
"You're not doing very well," I cracked.
"The point is, the road that has led me to this current stage of my life, and this particular situation, may have been potholed, meandering, and somewhat convoluted, but it got me here neverthless… and right here suits me just fine. I suppose you could say that the end justifies the means."
"But you live alone. You don't have somebody."
"I've got everybody. Lemme tell you something, Paul, and you, too, Daniel. When I look at your fresh, young faces, I don't need to be Freud to see the happiness radiating from your rosy cheeks, and the sparkle in your eyes. And where does that radiation go? It's absorbed by me, so it makes me happy, too. It's very easy to focus on what we don't have, and to feel sorry for ourselves. But it's also very easy to focus on what we do have, and to be grateful. It's simply a matter of making the choice… negative or positive."
"So you get a buzz outa us being here?"
"Do you get a buzz outa my being here?"
"Can I ask you a personal question, Pop?" Paul asked. "How come you haven't hit on Daniel?"
"And what do you think would have happened if I had?"
"That's what I mean about being aware of what we do have, and being grateful for it. Greed is one of the eight deadly sins."
"I thought there were seven."
"Stupidity is the eighth. And I've been guilty of it more times than I care to remember."
"Hello?" We all turned toward the sound of the voice, which was coming from the other side of the fence. Then we saw an upraised hand holding my shorts. "They're dry."
I sprinted to the fence, grabbed the top of the palings, and hauled myself up so that I could see over. "Hi."
"Hi. Here's your shorts… all washed and dried."
"You wanna bring 'em over."
"No need. You can take them here."
"Maybe they've shrunk or something. You wanna be here when I try them on?" I turned to ask Pop if it was OK for… hello? Pop had vanished. "Where did Pop go?"
"Inside," Paul answered. "He said something about locking himself in his room."
"Damn!" I returned my attention to the girl. "Pop said it's OK if you wanna come over."
"That's not what it sounded like to me."
"Hey, Pop's cool. I'll meet you at the front door."
On the way up the hall, I paused to knock on Pop's door. "Pop?"
"Can I come in?" I tried the door knob.
"The door's locked."
"Jeez, Pop… what the fuck is this bullshit?" Then I answered the knock at the front door. "Hi. Thanks a bunch for washing my shorts. You wanna come in? My bud Paul is out back. You can see the stuff I've done on Pop's yard. It rocks. I'm Daniel."
Well, Rachel didn't show much interest in the garden, but she was sure as hell interested in the two teen boners that were bouncing around in front of her bug-eyes. She blew me first, then Paul, swallowing both our truckloads of boy juice like her fucking life depended on it. It was kinda weird, though, 'cause she didn't say much, or try to be friendly… apart from wrapping her lips around our throbbers, that was. I got the feeling that all she was interested in was blowing us, then getting the hell outa there. Strange.
After I'd seen her to the door, and thanked her for washing my shorts, I tried Pop's doorhandle again before entering his room.
"Your door's unlocked."
"Which explains why you're in here."
"Hey, Pop, did you see what went down with me and Paul and that girl? Awesome!"
"I was here all the time... writing"
"Then how come you're as red as a fucking beet?" I laughed, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You're a fucking hopeless liar, Pop. So what did you think?"
"I didn't leave this room."
"Yeah, right. Did you hear all that noise Rachel was making when she was…?"
"Daniel, I went out to the kitchen to get a beer, then I came straight back here."
"And you didn't peek through the window?"
"For a split second."
"If you get any redder, Pop," I cracked, "you're gonna fucking ignite. Hey, don't worry about it. I was hoping you were watching. The thought of you peering through the window while Rachel was blowing me kinda turned me on. Now be honest, Pop. You're always telling me to be honest. So?"
"Well, it could've been a bit longer than a split second."
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Diary Part 164