I've been dying to write this chapter for some time [it happened about two months ago], and I think it's fitting that I'm writing it today, Christmas Day, 1999. Christmas is all about being with those you love, and sharing love. In October, 1999, Mark was about to discover something that would profoundly affect his attitude not only toward himself, but also toward the dude who'd had such an impact on his life -- Kyle. If you haven't fallen in love with Mark yet, you've lost me.
It was about 11:30 by the time I'd finished my homework, mainly 'cause Steph had phoned me to tell me that Kyle had called around to her place. She was stoked, of course, but she also gave me a pasting for being too rough with him and Steve in the surf. "He looked like he'd had an argument with a steam roller!"
Next morning at school, we were told that a sexologist was gonna be giving us a talk in the auditorium. We'd had a few of those kinda dudes before telling us what we already knew, but this guy was supposed to be some kinda expert. Yeah, right. Why did adults always figure that they knew more than teens? Didn't they remember what it was like being a teen? Was it like you turned 21 and your memory was erased?
The lecture was timed before first break, and I guessed the reason for that was so we could all mix in the quad afterwards and discuss whatever the dude had said.
"Good morning, boys. My name is Robert Johnston. I'm a professor and a sexologist. I'm married with three children -- two boys, one of whom is in the same grade as yourselves, but at another school, and he's as hunky as they come."
Hunky? This dude was telling us that his son was a hunk? What the fuck?
"My elder son attends university, and my daughter is married and living overseas. There's something else I think you should know about me before I go any further. I'm a born-again Christian."
Jeez! Mine weren't the only pair of eyes to roll around in my head. There was no way that any kid in that room was gonna be awake by the time this prof had finished earbashing us about his interpretation of the Bible. Anyway, he began by talking about sex outside of marriage, and how it went against normal Christian standards. Was this guy for real? There was hardly a kid in that room who hadn't bonked some girl at least once! Then he went on about sex between teens, and what was required for two people to have sex. I felt like yelling "a dick and a cunt!", but I remained silent.
"The main thing is that you love each other. It's not just a sex act to get your cocks wet. Your cock is not just a dipstick for measuring the depth of a girl's sex organ."
Whoa! He said 'cock'! That woke everybody up. Once he'd gotten our attention, he talked about safe sex -- condoms and venereal disease. The usual stuff.
"OK, now let me ask you a question. Who amongst you has a best friend at school?" Almost all of the guys raised their hands. "Oh," he said, scanning the room, "so we've got a school full of homosexuals here."
Well, you could've heard a fucking pin drop. Nobody knew where to look. We were all totally stunned. Then the prof smiled.
"How many boys here hate gays?" Not a single dude responded. "OK, that's cool, but I don't believe you. At least, not all of you. My guess is that most of you hate homosexuals. Now, I figure you've all heard of the word 'homophobia'." He waited until we'd nodded. "But what about this word? 'Homophilia'? Is anybody here familiar with that word?" We all shook our heads. "OK, let me explain. Any guy who hasn't loved another guy, or is in love with another guy, must be a very strange and unique person."
Once again, you could've heard a pin drop. And, still, all eyes were focused on the prof. Nobody dared look sideways.
"Let me explain. It's very common as well as very normal for best friends to want to be together as often as possible. Best friends hug each other. Best friends sleep over at each other's houses, often in the same bed. Best friends phone each other because one misses the other's company. In all of those cases, what we call 'friendship' is actually a very deep, romantic love. Yes, you heard me right. It's a very deep, romantic love that best friends feel for each other. But!" He paused a moment to study our faces. "But, there's nothing sexual about it. It's called homophilia, and it's quite different to homosexuality."
The prof had obviously knocked everybody's socks off. He had every kid's full and individed attention. As for me, I had a feeling that this dude was taking the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle in my head and arranging them so that they made sense.
"Often, we see two boys who always hang out, to use your generation's expression. And because of what we've been told or are led to believe, we conclude that they must be gay. That's a huge problem amongst teens because they often associate homophilia with being gay. In some cases, a boy who has a deep, romantic love for another boy can become confused about his sexuality. He may consider himself gay because of the pressure brought about by his peers, when, in fact, he's not gay at all."
At that point, there was an obvious sigh of relief amongst the kids. You couldn't hear it, but you could feel it.
"When I was in varsity, I was madly in love with a male professor. We would hang out at every opportunity. We loved each other's company, and we even got down to some hugging and massaging, but we weren't gay, and our relationship never became sexual. All we wanted was to be close to each other. At the time, I had many girlfriends, one of whom eventually became my wife."
"So, basically, what I'm saying is this. It's perfectly OK to be close to another guy. It's perfectly OK to love another guy. When God told us to love our neighbor, he didn't specify which sex." Everybody cracked up. "And it's important to remember this: if you love another boy as a best friend, you're quite normal. Not only that, you're quite lucky. And so is he."
I couldn't wait to get together with Kyle in the quad to talk about the prof's lecture, but I couldn't find the fucker anywhere! Jeez! I got so damn mad searching the whole fucking school, I was gonna wring his fucking neck! Then, at the end of the first break, I remembered the one place I hadn't looked -- the comp room.
At second break, I caught up with my spiky-haired bud.
"Where the fuck were you?"
"Up in the comp lab doing some stuff."
"Writing to that cactus or fossil dude, or whatever the fuck you call him?"
"Well, you pissed me big time. Fuck, man, I wanted to talk to you about what the prof said."
"What did you think of it?"
"I thought it was pretty cool."
"Yeah, but I mean like what he said. Y'know, about how guys can be in love with guys and not be gay."
"First time I've ever heard anybody say that. But it kinda makes sense."
"If you heard that a guy was in love with another guy, what would you have thought?"
"That he's gay, I guess."
"Fuck, I'm confused. I guess after what he said, then no. Not if they aren't having sex. Why?"
"'Cause I used to think the same thing. That if a guy loved another guy, then he must be gay."
"So if I tell you that I love you, would you think I'm gay?"
"Only if your cock was up my ass at the same time," I laughed.
"So this dude's talk really got to you, huh?"
"You've got no fucking idea how much it got to me."
"Just the things he said."
"Really hassled you, huh?"
"No! That's the thing! Just the opposite! It gave me a really good feeling."
"So all the guys in school had better watch out now, huh?" he grinned.
"Nope," I laughed, "not all."
"Hmmm, sounds serious. You been to a doctor?" Damn Kyle! He couldn't help making jokes outa something serious. But I was glad 'cause he helped to lighten the situation. "Hey," he continued, "remember what I said about you being able to tell me anything?"
"Yep. You keep reminding me, over and fucking over."
"Yeah, well, don't forget. So, what did you mean by 'not all'?"
"Forget it. My mind's going crazy."
At that point, I changed the subject and talked about Carol and me going clubbing that night. That was a bad choice, too, 'cause Kyle had been grounded until the end-of-year exams were over. Apart from that, I was getting into foreign territory. I'd wanted so much to tell him things about how I felt, but when the sentences began to form in my brain, they scared the shit outa me despite what the prof had said. I was seventeen years old and had never expressed that kinda affection to another guy. How the fuck was I supposed to start now? Besides, what if I had told him that I loved him? What would he have done? What would he have thought? I figured Kyle liked me for the dude I was -- the dude he knew. I was strong, independent, invincible. If he'd suspected that I had a wussy side, he might've lost respect, and I wasn't willing to risk that. He was the first real buddy I'd ever had.
"You're in one of your moods again," Carol remarked after we'd arrived home from the club, and began to undress in her room. "You've been really weird all night. Is it because Kyle and Steph weren't there?"
"So what's bugging you?"
"Guy stuff. You wouldn't understand."
"Hey, we had this prof dude at school today. He's a sexologist. Anyway, he said a bunch of stuff about guys being best buds and how it wasn't gay or anything."
"Did he also tell you the world wasn't flat?"
"There you go being all fucking sarcastic. I told you that you wouldn't understand."
"When are you gonna loosen up? Are you telling me that you've had a major case of the guilts 'cause of how you feel about Kyle? Is that it? You think that 'cause you love him that there's something wrong with you? Am I right?"
"Jesus, Mark. What tree did you just climb down from? I love Steph. We're best friends. We're so fucking close you couldn't drive a nail between us. Just 'cause you love somebody…"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know all that stuff."
"You know it, but do you understand it? Do you accept it?"
"Hey, you're a girl. When was the last time you danced around in the ring and punched the shit outa some dude?"
"Is that what dudes are for? To punch the shit outa? Maybe that's your problem, Mark. When someone comes along and touches your heart, you don't know how to react. No, that's not right. You do know how to react, but you don't have the guts."
"Guts? What the fuck are you talking about? I'm not afraid of anybody or any fucking thing?"
There was a long silence while I tried to get my head together. I'd had a few drinks so it wasn't easy. "He told me something today."
"Can I guess?"
"He said if he told me that he loved me, would I think he was gay."
"If? Why did he say 'if'?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe he's afraid of something."
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