Copyright © by Driver
On the Sunday before my first appointment Rafe and Brian had come up with Barry. I drove back with them, my things in a little gym bag. We went to Ken's. Nothing had really changed. There were a bunch of people there and everyone seemed happy to see me and told me I looked good. We drank some beer and ate some food. Ken was busy with his July 4th preparations, so there were cases of fireworks every place that wasn't occupied by cases of beer. It was just like always except Tim wasn't there. People were being nice to me but I somehow felt like an outsider, like I didn't belong there anymore. I went to bed early, sleeping in the kids' room. I woke up to Ken banging on the door and telling me to get ready. I took a shower and got dressed, then we just had some toast and juice for breakfast. My appointment was at eight-thirty, one town away. He dropped me at a modern building and told me to find Dr. Winslow. Somebody would be there for me when I was done.
Dr. Mary Winslow was nothing like I expected, which was some tall stern woman with stiff hair and big glasses. Mary, as she wanted me to call her, was very pretty and quite tiny. No more than five feet tall. And she was young, or at least looked very young. The first session wasn't much, just a little life history. I told her about my immediate family and the relatives that I spent any time with. We talked about my father, but not a lot. Then she wanted to know about my friends and I spent most of the rest of the session just saying who they were, how I knew them, what we did together. That took up all the rest of the time. For the next session she wanted me to take the lead about what I wanted to talk about, and to give it some thought during the week.
I left and went outside. Nobody was there to pick me up. I heard some tires squealing and a blue Camaro drove up. It was an older car, but looked pretty cool all jacked up in back. A tall blond guy got out. I had to do a double take.
He looked me over, like really stared at me. I think he tried to smile, but his lip quivered.
He took off fast and headed toward the highway.
"You're bringing' me back? I can't believe it! How've ya been? Is this your own car?"
"I'm ok. I got your letter and I need to tell you some things, and yes, it's my car."
I looked hard at him. He seemed pretty much the same except you could tell he was shaving now and the hair was a little shorter. His voice was deeper. He had a pretty serious expression and I didn't know if it was because he was driving or because of what he was going to say.
"Tim, I ... I'm so totally sorry about ...."
"Not now, Dave. When we get there. I need to think too hard about things, and I don't wanna crack up the car."
"It's gonna take two hours."
"Wanna bet? You can talk about stuff. What's Vermont like?"
I talked about Wes and Judy and the farm. About all the old stuff there I thought Tim would like. He told me about his jobs, how he really thought he'd love the bookstore but it turned out to be boring. He liked the gas station better, but couldn't get more hours. I admired his car out loud for a while, and he told me how much work he'd put into it.
He drove really fast and it took well under two hours to get to the farm. We talked with Wes and Judy over lunch, then left to sit by the brook.
We didn't say anything for a while. I wanted to, but Tim kept looking like he was going to talk, then he'd just put his chin on his chest and stay silent. Finally, "Davy ... I didn't want to read your letter when I saw who it was from. I almost threw it away, but I kept it. I didn't look at it for a week, but it was always there. I finally read it last week, and I think I know where you're coming from, but you said some wrong things in it. It made me think."
"Wrong things?" I was trying to remember what I'd written that could have been wrong. Or did he mean I wrote it the wrong way?
"Yeah. Shit ... this is gonna be hard." He was sitting with his knees up and his elbows on them, his hands knitted together. He was hanging his head and looking at the ground, "Dave, you said I was totally honest with you, and that's wrong. You said I looked for you and that was wrong. You said I never did anything to you and that was wrong. You take all the blame and that's wrong, too."
"I don't get it, Tim. You never did anything to me."
"That night ... at the motel. I wasn't looking for you. If I knew you were there I wouldn't have gone in a million years."
"I'd been in love ... I got dumped." He started to get a real quiver in his voice. "Dave, I'm sixteen and never had sex. I didn't have anybody. Nobody. I was so frustrated ... so desperate. I heard about that place. I had some money and I finally went. I just wanted to do something with a real live person. Just once. Not just a jack-off vision. I wasn't looking for you at all. I gave up on you months ago. I just went for sex." He choked back a sob. "I'm so ashamed of myself - that I could do that, even think it. What a loser."
I couldn't think of a thing to say.
"You say you told me two lies. I ''am'' a lie. Just a big lie. If I told you at the beginning you wouldn't have got all fucked up. We would'a never been friends and you'd be okay now. I'm the damn liar, Dave. You just told a couple of fibs so I wouldn't feel bad. Now look at what I did to you."
"Tim! You never did anything to me. You were always good to me ... great to me. I don't get what you're saying."
He was crying a little. When he quieted down he asked, "Remember the first thing I ever asked you?"
"Like, why'd I beat you up?"
"The other part."
"Why'd I think you were queer? I told you that."
"But you never asked me if it was true, Dave. One question could've avoided all this. I wouldn't have lied. I never told you a lie; I just never told you the truth. I been livin' a lie, Dave. And you're payin' the price."
"You tellin' me you're gay?"
"I am, Dave. Oh, God! I am. If I told you, you could'a just hit me and walked away. But, no! Kenny had you on a mission to make friends, and you were so nice to me. Then we're like real friends and I could never tell you. I wanted to so many times, but I just couldn't. I couldn't tell ya, Dave. I couldn't stand not havin' ya there."
"I still don't get it. You're gay ... Check! If you told me that at first I'd have taken off ... Check! You never told me ... Check! I never guessed ... Check! I'm surprised ... Check!" I looked at him, "That's all I am, Tim. Surprised. You never hurt me. If I never knew, how could it bother me? And I don't think it would'a bothered me ... not after we were friends, anyhow. I'm the one that got into drugs. You tried to stop me. Drugs are why I took off. The only reason."
"You got into that because I scared ya away."
"What? What are you talkin' about? You didn't scare me away."
"You never put two and two together? That last time at Ken's I couldn't keep my hands off you. I couldn't leave it alone and just be with you anymore."
"I don't know what you're talkin' about. You hugged me a couple of times and had your arm around me a couple of times. I always liked when you did that. Why would that scare me off?"
He finally looked up and stared at me. "You ... you liked that?"
"I loved it, Tim, from the first time you did it. It was like ... special. The way you did it. From behind with your chin on my head, your arms around me. It made me feel ... safe."
"Yeah. Like, protected. You really thought that's why I got into dope? I don't think so, Tim. If you never let go when you did that I prob'ly never would'a gotten up. I could'a sat like that forever."
"I can't believe it! All this time I thought that you thought ...."
"That I was queerin' ya." He laughed a little, but it was humorless. "I was, ya know."
"Yeah. Just trying to be close, to feel you, be near you."
He stood up with his back to me and watched the water tumbling across the rocks in the brook. He picked up a handful of pebbles and started tossing them in the water one by one. He was quiet for a few minutes. "I loved you, Dave. I still do. So much it hurts."
I fell back on one elbow and stared at Timmy's back. I wondered how tall he was, must be about six feet. I looked at his clothes, just jeans and a blue shirt, but not the wimp stuff he used to wear. I looked at his hair - still long, just not over his shoulders anymore. I looked at his physique and wondered why Rafe didn't go for this beeg str-r-r-ong Man. I was thinking about Tim, but not what he'd said.
"You gonna say somethin'? Anything?" Long pause. "Davy?" A longer pause. "''Please''?"
I didn't say a word. Tim stood there. I could feel his sadness even looking at his back, but I couldn't think of a word to say. Not a single miserable word. For the best friend I ever had. I could tell he was crying and I just looked at him. He let out a body-wracking sob and started to walk away. He had his hands in his pockets and was hanging his head just like the last time he walked away from me. I watched him until he was almost out of sight.
Then I remembered Jerry telling me I was scared. Afraid to show myself. Made believe I didn't care, couldn't care. Couldn't give a shit. I'd just gone through two weeks of hell thinking of what I'd done to Tim, and I was doing it again. I was just watching him walk away, trying to tell myself what difference did it make. I needed help. Serious help.
''Think'', David, ''think''! "TIMMY! WAIT!"
I jumped up and ran after him. He never turned around. He was almost to the barn when I tackled him, catching his legs near the knees and bringing him down in a face-first sprawl. I pulled myself up beside him and looked at his face. His eyes showed fear and there were tears pouring from them. I just looked at him. I took my finger and scooped up a tear. I put my finger in my mouth, tasting his sadness.
I whispered, "Don't go, Timmy. Stay here. We'll figure this out, just please don't leave." I rubbed his shoulder. I tried to smile but I was too nervous. "Let's go back to the brook. We can talk all day if we hafta, but we gotta work this out. I ain't gonna let ya go again thinkin' I don't care."
"There ain't much left to say."
"Oh, there's plenty that never got said. Lots of stuff, believe me. Come back over, Tim. You gotta wash your face, anyhow. You're a mess."
His eyes were searching my face, trying to figure me out. He rolled onto his side and reached out to brush my cheek with the back of his fingers. "You really think we can fix this? Do ya really want to?"
"It's all I want right now, Tim. We gotta at least try. Come on back to the brook. Give me another shot at it?"
He didn't say anything, but he pushed himself up on his knees, then stood and started walking back to where we'd been. I walked behind him. He knelt by the brook and scooped some water to his face.
"Jesus! Fuckin' COLD", but he kept doing it. He turned around. "Better?"
"Much better. Feel like queerin' me for a while?"
"Can we sit like that ... you know, the way we used to?"
He gave me a puzzled look, then sat down with his legs wide apart. I scooted over between them and leaned back into him. He wrapped his arms around me just like he used to, put his chin on my head. I felt comfortable ... safe. Maybe safe enough to say what had to be said.
"Tim, I never talk about my feelings, so I might fuck up a little when I'm sayin' stuff. Don't get mad, okay?"
"Okay. I never said how I feel, either. Want me to go first?"
"Go for it."
"I told you I'm gay and I'm pretty sure I am. But I'm only that way about you. I never thought about anybody else, never looked at anybody else. And it was that way even before we had the fight. I used to watch you all the time. There was just something about you - the way you looked, the way you acted, just the way you were. Even when we were fighting I wasn't thinking about getting beat, I was thinkin' that you were touching me. You had me on the ground, tossin' me around and I liked it. It didn't matter that it was a fight. I liked you touching me. Is this spooky?"
Then you started actin' nice. I already kinda loved you; at least I thought I did, but when we started talkin' and doin' things I really fell. Fast. When you got lost in New York I almost died I was so scared. I was just gettin' friendly with you and then you're gone. When I found you and you were cryin' I thought I'd melt. Then you let me hug you and hold onto you and I didn't want to let go. But you beat me up once for bein' queer and I knew I had to let go."
"Anyhow, we got to be better and better friends. I wanted you to know what I felt, I really did. I was just too afraid to tell you, afraid you'd go away. At least you were there all the time. I was happy just bein' with you. Then you fell asleep at the campfire one night and I held on to you for hours. I was really' tired, but I made myself stay awake just so I could do it, could know I was doin' it, could hold onto you. I kinda did feel like I was protecting you."
"From the bears?"
"Yeah, heh, I guess. From the big mean bears that were only about five hundred miles away." He laughed a little. His voice had gotten deep, but the laugh was still nice. He kissed my hair. "Shit. Sorry 'bout that."
"It's ok, Tim. Keep going."
"Anyhow, then somehow we're like best friends. I guess it came on slow, but it was kinda sudden when I realized it one day. We were both so different with each other than everyone else, like mind readers or somethin, knowin' what the other one was thinkin' or gonna do. And I would'a done anything for you. Anything. And I knew you would'a for me, too. I guess we should'a talked about this stuff around then. But it was weird - you never said what you felt, but I knew it just the same. We were so connected I guess we didn't have to talk. You were never good talkin' about personal stuff anyhow, but I knew you cared about me and I didn't have to hear you say it. I'm like that, too, so I never said anything either. I mean, you knew I cared about ya, didn't you?"
"I knew. I ain't gonna have much left to say here. I was gonna tell you almost the same stuff."
He kissed my hair again, then pulled me a little tighter against him. "Yeah, almost but not quite. Davy, you were my best friend for like three years. I had so much fun. You helped me change from a loser and a loner into a regular guy. I felt so good about myself, about you. You got way better too. You stopped lookin' at the bad side of everything and started taking things for what they were worth. You were havin' fun, too."
"I know I was, Tim. It was the best part of my life, then I ...."
"I gotta finish, okay?"
"But I had my secret. I wanted to tell you. I wanted to so bad, but I was afraid. So many days I'd say 'This is It' and chicken out before I said it. It was so unfair for you not to know, and I thought I was lying to you by not saying it. I was lying, I guess, and I hated it. But I knew if I told you I'd have to let you go, and I couldn't. After a while it got hard to be with you, but it was harder not to. I just wanted to grab you and never let you go. I wanted you all to myself, to spend every minute with you. The night you brought pot to Kenny's - I took off, but I would'a come back. I would'a ''had'' to come back. For you. Then you came after me and dumped the shit - it was like you were scared I was really gonna go. I should'a told you right then. You were doin' somethin' important just to make me happy and all I said was thanks. Then I started puttin' my paws all over you, knowin' I shouldn't. After that you stopped talking to me and coming around. I was positive that I weirded you out and you guessed about me."
"I'm sorry. You went around with that in your head all this time."
"I guess it's my own fault. Anyhow, I think that's about it. I'm sorry it's this way, but I can't change it. I would if I could, but I can't. Want me to let go?"
"Don't let go, Tim. Just don't, okay? I gotta tell ya some awful stuff and you're gonna hate it. I won't be able to look at ya anyhow, so let's just stay like this."
"Dave, you don't hafta. It's okay."
"I need to tell you, Tim. Just please don't let go of me."
I went through the whole degrading saga, from the drugs to the pictures to the films to the paid sex in the motel. It took a long time, not because I was giving him all the details, but because I kept choking up and finding it hard to talk at all. I knew Tim was crying because my hair was getting soaked. I stopped at the point where I woke up at Doc Forrester's house. We didn't say anything for a while. Tim's hands were in front of me and I took them both in mine.
"I'm sorry Tim ... sorry that I'm such a piece of shit. You deserve better people than me for friends. You'll find somebody someday; you're too good not too. I'm not even gonna look for anyone. I'm better off alone. The world's better off if I'm alone."
"Don't say that. You're too hard on yourself."
"I guess I'm not done yet. I still didn't tell you how I feel about you, Tim. Let me up. I gotta pee and think about this, but I want to see your face, too."
We'd been sitting for quite a while and I was pretty stiff. I was so tense, I wanted to laugh about something ... anything. I pushed myself up, then helped Tim to his feet. We picked trees and peed on them. "Tim, can you stay tonight? I'm gettin' hungry and I need to think anyhow."
"About how I feel about you. I mean, I know inside, but I gotta think how to put it in words."
"I'm hungry too. Can I call my Mom? I don't have work until Thursday. Wes and Judy won't mind?"
"I don't think they'll mind. Just tell Wes how to find your Mom so he can show the pigeon."
"Yeah. This is Ver''mont'', man. They haven't invented the phone up here, yet. Just got electricity last week."
"Why can't I tell the pigeon myself?"
"You speak bird? You never told me! I am like totally impressed! Did you hear what you just asked?" I broke up laughing.
I could see his laugh coming on. And it was a good one. God, I always loved his laugh.
We walked back to the house to find Wes sitting on the step. He looked up at us, then smiled. I'd introduced Tim earlier, but not said anything about him. "Tim's the one, right Dave? Your best friend?"
"Uh, yeah he is. How'd you know?"
"I don't know how, kid. Some things you can just tell. Work everything out?"
"His half, I guess. We still gotta get through my part. Is it okay if he stays here tonight?"
"Fine by me. Just tell Judy to set an extra plate. I'll fix up the sofa after dinner. You guys gonna be ok?"
"I hope so, Wes. I hope so. I guess it's up to me now."
"Have a couple of beers. It'll loosen your tongue."
"Good idea. Can Tim call his Mom?"
"Go ahead, Tim. Just remember it's long distance."
"I will. Thanks."
I showed Tim the phone, then went to tell Judy he'd be staying. I grabbed some beers and sat with Wes and Tim until supper was ready. It was another great Judy meal, and we spent a while afterwards talking with her and Wes. Tim and I put some beers in a bag and walked back to the brook.
"Do it to me, Dave."
"Sit like that. I want to know what it feels like."
I sat down and spread my legs and Tim sat between them, leaned back into me. It wasn't going to work.
"You're too tall! I'm lookin' at the back of your head."
"Use my shoulder, then."
Good idea. I did, then put my arms around him. "How's this feel?"
"It feels good. I like it."
"You like gettin' queered?"
That got one of his mirthful laughs.
"I didn't really think about what I want to tell ya. It's only good things, Tim. If it doesn't sound good, just keep listenin', ok?"
"I don't know how to start. I remember ya hangin' around and never joinin' in on anything. I remember our fight ... my fight. When I saw ya didn't know how I kinda laid off, I mean I just wrassled ya for a while. I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"No ... just my pride."
"That was when ... I was pissed off when my Dad died. I was hittin' anythin' that had a shadow. Some kids said you were a faggot and I just went after you. Dumb, huh?"
"It doesn't matter. I always used to get that."
"Anyhow, Barry made me talk to you one night, and I liked you. I liked your laugh. Did I ever tell you I like your laugh?"
"I like your laugh, Tim. I love it. Your little laughs are so happy. Your big ones get everyone laughing. Just like tonight. Even if people don't get the joke they laugh with you. You're laughin' before any sound comes out, and it's really funny. People hear you laughin' from across the yard and they start too."
"That's it? You like the way I laugh?"
"Not hardly. There's a lot more. I had to start somewhere. When we first started to be friends I just thought you were so smart. Not snotty smart, but you were really interested in things. You loved finding all that old stuff, but then you had more fun finding out what it was and all about it. I learned a lot, but it was fun with you. It was real ... not like in school. I was learnin' stuff and havin' fun at the same time. I loved it."
"You got pretty good at it, too."
"Because of you. Then you started touching me - like we're doing now. Nobody ever did that. I wouldn't let them. I mean, I guess I sat on laps and stuff when I was little, but you'd hold me or put your hand on my shoulder and I just got this feeling that everything was ok. Tim's here. Everything's fine. You always let go, but I didn't want you to. I loved it every time you did something like that."
"You should'a said something."
"That's what I'm gettin' at. I never said squat. There's more stuff, too. You were quiet, but you could scare the bejeezus out off me in the dune buggy and you could outride everybody on the bikes. You were always the first one to jump off the cliff. I might'a been tough, but you were brave. Fightin' don't take anything except knowin' how. The stuff you did, you could'a got killed any second, but you just went for it. And you were always grinnin'. I always meant to ask. Are you related to Ken?"
"You just look like him a little. And you're exactly like him with the motors and stuff. I just wondered. Anyhow, what I'm trying to get at ... what I want to say ... damn, why's this so hard for me? Timmy ... I never figured why we liked each other. We just did. We're so different. When you ever said I was your best friend I felt so ... like wow! This is hard for me to say. How'd you say all you did? I can't get the words out."
"Want me to ask questions? It might make it easier to say stuff."
"Okay, but I need to stretch. How'd you sit like this for so long?" Tim pushed himself up and I followed. It was getting dark. I peed into the woods, then got a beer from the brook where we'd put it to stay cold. I looked at Tim and he gave me a half smile. I smiled back at him. I was having a hard time with words. I wanted to make things right, but I didn't know how to say it. I still couldn't describe how I felt to myself. How was I going to tell him? Honest answers to questions sounded like a good idea. We sat down facing each other.
"Go ahead, Tim. Fire away."
"Okay. How do you feel about me?"
"Dammit! A little more specific, please."
"Okay. Do you like me, Dave?"
"You know I like you, Tim. I like you a lot."
"Do you like the way I look?"
"Definitely. You're cool."
"Do you care about what I think?"
"Yeah, I do. And I like the way you think."
"Do you care about how I feel."
"You don't usually say what you feel, but I can tell anyhow. Yes, I care about that."
"Are you gay, Dave?"
"I just asked ''are'' you. You just told me about havin' sex with lots of people. They were all men and boys. Are you gay? Could a straight guy do that? You had to have a hardon, didn't you?"
Boy, talk about a loaded question! All I could think was to wonder why he'd asked that. The last question in the world I ever expected to hear. Did I have to be gay to do what I did? I thought I just had to be stoned. I had never given a thought to my sexuality, much less questioned it. I liked to look at girls. But all my friends were guys. I'd never been involved with a girl. None of us ever talked much about sex at all - Ken usually kept us too busy for that stuff. I had to say something.
"Tim, I was stoned out of my gourd all the time. I never thought about it. I was doing it to stay in drugs. I didn't give a shit what I was doing." I was averting my gaze.
"Did you get off? I mean, did you ever um, pop a load?"
"I don't know about you, Dave, but I can only cum when I'm pretty turned on. Don't freak on me here. I'm just askin'. I wanna know ... I need to know. Ok?"
"I just never thought about it. I thought hardons just happened when you were gonna have sex. Tim, I can't give you an answer here. I never got asked that, and I never thought it."
"Let me try a different way. Were you grossed out by it?"
"Not really. Sometimes. But you gotta understand where I was. I was doin' whatever it took to keep the drugs comin'. I never thought about the sex. I just did it."
"But you got off with other guys and it didn't gross you out. I ain't tryin' to push you into sayin' something you don't want to. But you should be askin' yourself some questions. I love you, Dave, I really do. And I love havin' you back in my life, no matter how it turns out. I just have to know ... how you feel about me. If what I want can ever be. I gotta do somethin'. I'm a wreck, but at least I know where you are now. I just need to know if I should try to move on. I've been in limbo with you gone. Now I have to figure what I'm gonna do. I can see you can't tell me now, so let's just drop it. Okay?"
I was sniveling again. I felt so bad about Tim and how I'd hurt him. I was embarrassed about what he was asking me. I didn't know what to think. Tim came and sat behind me, pulled me into him, wrapped his arms around me. I could feel his breath in my hair.
Softly. "I didn't come here to make you feel bad, Davy. That's not what I want. I just want everybody to be happy, kinda like Ken always does. Don't try to give me an answer if you don't have one. I can wait."
"Thanks, Tim. I ... I ...'' shit''! Timmy ... I do love you, just maybe not the way you want. I just don't know. I don't know. I really don't know. How'm I gonna figure it all out?"
"You're seein' a shrink. Ask him."
"Her? Can you talk about this with a lady?"
"I guess I have to. Timmy - I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna figure out my monster. Barry says it has two heads. I'm gonna figure it out if it's the last thing I do. Just stick with me for a while?"
He pulled me a little closer, tightened his arms a little. "I'm here, man. I'm right here."
"Wanna go to sleep or ya wanna get drunk? I feel like gettin' blasted."
"There's only a couple of beers left."
"I got more. I just want to empty my head right now."
"Of what? There's really something in there?" He hit me twice with his knuckles. "Still sounds hollow to me. I think gettin' snockered sounds good."
I laughed a little and Tim did, too. We drank the two beers we had left while walking back to the house. I went in and got more, and we drank at the picnic table. The dog was there, so we kept our hands busy tossing the ball. I kept going in for more beer and it didn't take too long before we were, to use Timmy's favorite word, snockered. It describes that condition that's just shy of drunk. You might get a hangover but you wouldn't be falling down and throwing up.
We didn't talk a lot, just reminisced about some of the things we'd done. There were some pretty long silences where I thought about what Tim had asked. He had to be thinking about something too. The only thing I was sure about was that our connection was still there. Maybe even stronger now that we'd said things that we had only felt for three years. We were sitting on top of the table and I laid back and looked at the sky. There were more stars than I'd ever seen.
"I wish Richie was here. Do you ever see him anymore?"
"Not in a long time. You miss him?"
"I guess. I was just looking at all the stars. If he was here he'd know every one of 'em."
Tim laid back and looked up. "Wow, I never saw the sky look like that before. Look at 'em all! Is it a special night or something?"
Was it? Was the entire cosmos on display for a reason tonight? "I don't know. You think maybe they all came out to see if we're ok?"
"That's a nice idea. ''Are'' ya ok, Dave?"
"I'm better. Way better. How about you?"
"I'm pretty happy, Dave. You said you loved me. Don't get all fired up ... I know how you meant it. I just wish I could hold you 'til you figure things out."
"Who said you couldn't? Ya wanna queer each other for a while?"
"Just a quick one. I'm tired." He came over to me and pulled me up into a hug.
We held it for a minute, then went inside. I showed him where he'd be sleeping and headed off to my own bed. I'd only gotten my shoes and shirt off when I started missing Tim. I went back into the living room. "Timmy?"
"Can I sleep here with you?"
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