"I can't do this right now. I'm sorry… Please, just call me tomorrow. I'm so sorry, Tony; I just can't do this tonight. God, I'm really sorry. Just not right now…" and he hung up.
He hung up on me.
I didn't understand what the hell was going on. He'd never shut me down before. In the three years since we met, Marcus had always been there when I needed him. I had no idea why he wouldn't talk to me. I couldn't help but wonder if I did something. I hoped nothing was wrong with him?
I remember the first night we met. There was a bit of irony in the fact that had my life not completely imploded, we never would have met. He was there to pick up the pieces then, but I needed him again, and he shut me out. Sometimes it's hard to believe it was just three years ago, considering everything we have gone through…
I had just graduated college and was headed to upstate NY with my fiancèe, Jen. We had been really lucky to get accepted at the same university. I had earned a degree in education, while she majored in biology. It had been difficult to find a school we both wanted to attend that offered a Speech and Language Pathology program for me, and a medical school for her. When we got the news, I took her out to dinner to celebrate. It felt like fate. What a wonderful night, great Italian food and wine. The merlot was not my favorite, but this night was all about Jen. The real magic happened when I got down on one knee. With my grandmother's ring in hand, I asked her to marry me. Jen cried and said, "Of course."
We met at a frat party. It was the first night away from home, and my roommate was thinking about pledging, so I was dragged along. I had no desire to be in a frat. It just wasn't for me. I was sitting on an ugly couch, miserable and thinking about calling it a night, when some random girl somehow managed to pass out in my lap. I heard this warm laugh behind me. "Girl problems?" she asked.
"Yeah, the problem is I have no idea who she is!" She laughed even louder. At 6'2", 160lbs, I always felt like a bean pole. Jen made me feel attractive. She was funny, smart and always smiling. Jen was blond and had sparkling blue eyes. We were great together, both of us serious about our studies. I felt really lucky. All my dreams were coming true.
We moved to New York just after the fourth of July and found a cute one bedroom apartment within walking distance of campus. The living and dining area was just big enough to add a desk for a study area. The kitchen, on the other hand, was barely functional. We couldn't both be in it at the same time, but we made it work. Classes would start at the end of August. We hoped it would give us time to get settled before then. The one big difference between us, Jen made friends so easily. Almost immediately, she made several friends with other girls in our building.
As August rolled around, Jen spent Wednesday night out with the girls. I was sitting on the couch, reading, when I heard Jen and her friend, Sarah, walking down the hallway. Sarah had been an undergrad with us in New Hampshire, and the two would be in med school together as well. For whatever reason, Sarah and I never seemed to hit it off.
"I can't believe you're engaged to him now. I've told you what I think about him. You have so much going for you. Why are you settling for him? I mean, you said yourself the sex wasn't all that great. Why would you agree to marry him?"
"Shhh! Keep your voice down, someone might hear you. Tony is a nice guy, and I'm very content with him. I know you think I could do better, but I'm fine with what I have. You keep looking for Mr. Right. Plus, I have no intention of marrying him before I finish my residency."
"Fine, do what you want. I'm calling it a night. I had fun, I'll see you later."
Content; she was fucking content? I thought we were great together. When she walked into the apartment, I pretended I hadn't heard them talking. That night in bed, I tried everything I knew to deliver some passion, but she didn't seem like she was there with me. Finally, I gave up and asked. "Hun what's going on? I've tried everything to get things going tonight and you seem to be somewhere else. What's wrong?"
"I'm sorry… Sarah just pissed me off tonight, and I'm stewing about it. Look… let's just call it a night. I'll make it up to you this weekend. I promise." Without another word, she rolled over and went to sleep. I didn't even get a goodnight kiss. I moved to my side of the bed and I started to stew. I couldn't get Sarah and Jen's conversation out of my head.
That was the beginning. Doubts began to creep into my mind…
The next night, I attended a lecture given by my future advisor, Dr. Jonathyn Miller. He had emailed me a few days before and suggested I attend. He also asked me to stop by his office afterwards so we could meet and get to know each other a bit, since we'd be working so closely together for the next few years. I was glad he did, because it seemed perfect for my interests. The title of the lecture was "Mainstreaming the Unmainstreamable: Using Facilitated Communication Techniques to Foster Inclusion". With my background in education, I was hoping to use my master's degree to help students with speech impediments and hearing impairments succeed in the classroom.
As I entered the lecture hall, I was still feeling a little depressed from the previous night's revelation. I was one of the first to arrive and settled into the center of the second row. The hall began to fill with students, professors and what appeared to be local teachers. I looked around, and not surprisingly didn't recognize any one else. For school being out of session, the lecture was very well attended, and the room was close to half full. As the lecturer walked in, I was stunned. He looked barely older than I was. My first thought was that he was far too young to have any experience in this topic. As soon as I thought that, I realized I was probably screwed to have him as my advisor. Then he spoke… His baritone voice was rich and captivating. I had to force myself to pay attention to his words and not just lose myself in the sound of his voice. When I did, I was floored to realize he clearly had a tremendous grasp of the subject matter. I remember thinking-- his wavy dark hair and deep chestnut eyes had me mesmerized, No, enraptured. No get a grip. I was completely engrossed in his lecture.
The night flew by and before I knew it he was thanking the crowd for coming. I was still stunned by him. I moved out of the lecture hall on autopilot. I found myself outside his office and unsure if I should knock or not, but suddenly remembered he was expecting me.
I knocked on the door. Immediately, he called out for me to come in.
I opened the door, but just stood in the entrance for a moment. He looked at me for a second, before rising from his seat and walking over to me. He stuck out his hand.
"Dr. Jonathyn Miller. Are you Anthony Wallace?"
"I'm sorry; I'm horrible at introducing myself. Yes, I'm Anthony Wallace, but please call me Tony. It's nice to meet you."
"Thank you for stopping by tonight. I hope you enjoyed the lecture. I'm very excited to get started on this project. Are there any questions?"
"I'm really looking forward to working on this project. It seems right up my alley, and I would love to get to know you better. I mean get to know your plans." God, I was babbling. What had come over me?
He seemed taken aback, so after a moment of hesitation, I added, "This project really speaks to me on a number of levels." To myself, I thought it didn't hurt that he was so attractive, only to kick myself for allowing that thought to enter my mind. "I can tell how passionate you are about this and I am excited to start working with you."
We chatted for a few minutes, just casual getting-to-know-each-other stuff, before he said, "Well Tony, please meet me here at the office tomorrow morning at nine. I have a schedule drawn up. You are right, this project is incredibly important to me." His eyes sparkled as he spoke. "I'm feeling a bit burned out at the moment and would appreciate moving this conversation to tomorrow, if you don't mind."
"Oh ok, I will see you in the morning... Have a good night, Dr. Miller."
To clear my mind, I took the long way back to the apartment. As I wandered aimlessly down the street, passing tiny restaurants and surprisingly noisy college bars, I couldn't get him out of my head. I kept trying to convince myself I was just excited about the project. When I finally made it back to the apartment, Jen was already in bed, so I lay on the couch thinking. I must have fallen asleep. My dreams that night were incredibly vivid.
I was in the lecture hall again, only this time; it was just me and Dr. Miller, who looked like he had just come from the gym. He stood almost six feet tall, wearing a tight white T-shirt and silky running shorts; he was sweaty and flushed. I felt drawn to him. I climbed up on the stage and approached him while he continued to speak to the empty room. As I drew closer, I could feel the heat radiating off his body. Finally I moved in for a kiss…
I awoke in a cold sweat. I thought to myself, "What the fuck was that? This couldn't be happening. Those feelings were gone. I couldn't be thinking like this again."
I got up from the couch and was suddenly aware I was painfully erect. I changed clothes, and crawled into bed with Jen. Fortunately, no more dreams came, that night anyway.
The next morning, I walked back to his office. He had a schedule and a set of DVDs for me. I glanced at the schedule and was slightly intimidated.
"Tony, I know the schedule looks daunting, but it's just two weeks until classes start. Your time commitment after that will certainly need to diminish due to your class work, but I just want to get you up to speed before we settle into a routine. I also gave you a couple DVDs to show you what I've done so far. These are moments in the classroom with a couple of my successfully mainstreamed students. Please look them over," he said with a pleading look in his eyes.
"I won't be able to watch the DVDs until Monday. My fiancèe and I are going home to New Hampshire for the weekend. If it's alright with you, I will meet you Tuesday morning to kick things off. You can count on me Dr. Miller. Just one other thing, my fiancèe and I have our Fridays scheduled to be together. Can we fit that into your schedule for me?"
"Tony, please call me Jon. We will be spending far too much time together for you to keep calling me Dr Miller. It won't be a problem to hold off until Tuesday, and giving you your Fridays should be easy to rearrange." He smiled.
"Sure, Jon it is. I'll see you on Tuesday," I replied, smiling back.
For the past three years, Jen and I always worked to make our schedules align for Fridays, and made a point to spend them together. We spent the rest of the day hiking cross-country ski trails at a nearby resort. The difficulty of the terrain forced me to stay out of my head. Jen noticed I was a little off, but didn't press the point. We had a quick dinner and called it a night. I pulled her in close to me as we drifted off. Thankfully, I had a dreamless night.
Bright and early Saturday, we drove back to New Hampshire for a visit with our families. Our parents lived just a couple of towns over from each other. I dropped her off at her folks, said a quick hello, and continued on to see my parents. Mom was thrilled to see me. She had finished her last round of chemo the month before, and was considered cancer-free for the first time in two years. Her smile warmed my heart. She always seemed so strong to me until this battle. Now I saw her frailty and it scared me.
Dad was in great spirits. "Where's my future daughter-in-law?" He peered over my shoulder.
"I dropped her at her folks, Dad. You'll get to see her tomorrow." I think the little doubt must have come through in my voice.
"No trouble in paradise is there?"
"Just a little tired, Dad."
It was a great visit. Dad was getting ready to start teaching math at my old high school when the school year began. His six foot frame towered over my mother, but they seemed to fit together. Being with my parents helped me forget all the turmoil in my mind. It was great to see Mom laughing, and Dad was too cute trying to help her with everything. I'd never seen that side of him before the cancer.
I told them about the new project. Dad could see my excitement. "Don't take on too much, Tony. We know how you get sometimes. Remember you need to keep a balance."
"Don't worry, Dad. Dr. Miller is also my advisor. He knows my course load and already assured me things will settle down after classes start, I promise."
Sunday, Jen's family and mine met for church, followed by brunch. Our parents had become friends, even though they didn't share many interests. Her folks were both doctors. They loved to travel the world. Mom chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and didn't even like to drive to Boston. But the four of them seemed to bond, especially during Mom's cancer fight. Jen's father, an oncologist, was always there to translate a diagnosis or explain treatments.
After everyone had finished eating, my father proposed a toast. "Here's to Tony and Jen. May the next few years be even more successful than the last four, and may happiness be always yours." "Hear, hear." Glasses clinked around the table. I moved to give Jen a kiss and felt a tap on my shoulder…
It was my best friend from high school, TJ. He said he had just gotten into town that morning. He had two weeks of leave from the army. He had driven past the restaurant and recognized my parent's car in the lot. I jumped up to give him a big hug. It was good to see him. I gave him a quick back slap. He pulled Jen into a hug, "How did you get such a great girl to agree to marry you?"
Toby Jones and I had been friends for as long as I could remember. My dad gave him the nickname TJ when we were ten. He joked one afternoon. "Tony and Toby is making my head spin. Toby I think I need to call you TJ to keep you guys straight."
Somehow the name stuck. TJ caught me up on his army career, and I told him about our plans. He was in a hurry, and we promised to catch up again soon. Suddenly, it dawned on me that all of our meetings had become just that superficial. I missed the old TJ from school.
Soon after brunch, Jen and I said our goodbyes and drove the five hours back to our apartment. I promised Mom I would try to get back again soon. I think I held on a little longer to our hug, not wanting to leave and go back to the turmoil in my head. I found myself wishing this visit could last longer than just the weekend. I didn't want it to end.
When we got home Sunday night, we both crashed, the promise of a passionate night forgotten. I had dreams again that night, only this time TJ was front and center. And not really dreams, but rather memories.
TJ and I were nine years old, tossing the football behind the school waiting for Dad to take us home. We were racing our bikes down the dead end to our favorite fishing spot just after my thirteenth birthday party. TJ was falling into the lake, laughing and then pulling me in after him. We were camping in the woods behind my house, almost every weekend during the summer. Fleeting images until my thoughts focused on one night just before senior year.
We were camping, lying on our sleeping bags. It was one of those sweltering summer nights, where the air just hung with humidity; we had stripped down to our underwear to remain comfortable. The two of us started talking about his new girlfriend. He just started dating one of the Donnelly girls. Looking back, I always seemed to cheer after a break-up. I wanted TJ all to myself. Girls just got in the way.
"She's killing me," he whined a little, "She won't even let me touch her tits. What a cock tease; she gets me all worked up and then no action. I swear, I've got the worst case of blue balls ever."
I laughed, "TJ, I can't believe you; Mr. Stud striking out? You had the last one sucking you off on the second date. Give it a rest."
"Damn, a blow job would be so fine right now."
I couldn't help it, I moaned a little, and I hoped he hadn't heard. I froze.
"Damn that moan sounds like you want to blow me. What the fuck, you wanna blow this?" He whispered as he grabbed his dick through his boxers.
"No way TJ, I'm not gay… that's too sick!"
"That's right, homos are sick, I could never be friends with a fag." He paused for a minute, thinking, before adding, "But maybe this wouldn't be gay. You'll just be helping a friend. C'mon I'll do you too. I need this bad. I can't keep jerking off."
Here was my fantasy coming true, but I was scared of his reaction. He was my best friend. He had no idea I had lusted after him for years now.
"No way, that's gross"
"Jesus, Tony, it would just be two friends helping each other out. It's not gay."
My voiced cracked when I said, "I don't know, it still seems kinda gay to me."
He put his hand on my shoulder, "You gotta help me out here. I said I'd do you. And I'm sure as hell not gay."
Then I relented, "Fine, but you do me first…."
I took off my boxers and he started to rub my dick. It was too much. I couldn't believe the object of my wet dreams was tugging on my cock. I was shocked at what was happening. I wanted it to go on forever, but just the thought of TJ touching me made me explode after just a few strokes.
"That was quick, now do me," he whispered. I took his briefs off. I sucked in my breath. The sight of his rock-hard abs had me light-headed. I thought I was going to lose control as I exposed his hard dick. I had his thick cock in my hand and started stroking him, afraid to do any more than mimicking his actions.
"Oh yeah, that's great, but use your mouth."
I hesitated; I didn't want to seem too eager. It was now or never. As soon as my mouth touched his dick, he started moaning. I was in heaven. I grabbed my still rock hard cock with my right hand and started stroking myself. I started sucking just the head. It didn't take very long and he was tensing up. I quickly got my mouth off his cock, as he shot all over his stomach and chest. I shot all over his leg at the same time. I was disappointed it was over so quickly.
"Fuck, I told you she had me on edge." He sighed.
A few minutes later, after we both came down from our orgasms, he looked at me. I thought I saw a flash of disgust.
"This never happened, it will never happen again. I'm not a fag we just needed relief. If you tell anyone I'll fucking text the whole school that you sucked me off. Everyone will hate you. You will never have another friend. I've got to go home."
He packed up his stuff and left. I was devastated. I just ruined the best friendship I ever had. I cried for hours. What the hell was going to happen now?
I was scared to face him again. Monday at football practice, he acted like nothing happened; he was maybe a little cooler towards me than normal, but still TJ. Joking and kidding around. Then he whispered in my ear, "Never again. Forget it ever happened. I swear I will make your life a living hell if this ever gets out. I could never be friends with a faggot." I took his reaction to heart. I would never do anything to risk TJ's friendship. I buried those feelings as far down as I could. I could never be gay, I just couldn't….
I woke up in tears. Why is that memory coming back? All these thoughts recently and this memory... I convinced myself I wasn't gay and could never be. What's happening? Why is this battle going on in my head?
By the time Jen was up, I had composed myself. She had plans with her friends, and I had videos to watch.
I popped in the first disc and was amazed. Jon was incredible. No, I had to think of him as Dr. Miller. He seemed to sense the needs of the students and was fascinating to watch. He was patient but also firm. He guided the students without effort. You could see in their faces when things clicked. The best part, it was seamless to the rest of the class. I was getting very excited by this project; my only trepidation was Dr Miller himself. I was reacting to him and that needed to end. I wasn't sure why or how I had lost control of myself but I needed to get it back.
After dinner, I reminded Jen of her broken promise from the weekend by slowly kissing her neck. I needed this. "Not tonight Tony. I'm still really tired from the weekend. I'm sorry." She walked towards the bedroom leaving me standing there, flustered and frustrated. I barely got any sleep that night.
I walked the long way to Dr. Miller's office the next morning, giving me a chance to clear my head. When I got there, I felt centered. I knocked on his office door, he answered with a smile. "Are you ready to begin this project, Tony?"
"Absolutely, what's our first move?" I felt in control.
"I want to review the DVDs with you this morning. I also have some more discs showing some of the early sessions with those same students. This way you can compare and see the progress each student has made. Eventually, I think you will get an idea about how I hope to train staff in each school to use my techniques. It's really a simple touch technique, which I feel allows the student to focus better on the information. I'm hoping to show that the touch seems to direct most of the brain's attention to the class work and away from the distracters that affect autistic students.
"Let's start with Adam; he was among the most challenging students. He is very light, sound, and touch sensitive, like many autistic students…" Jon said, before delving into details.
We spent hours reviewing various stages of Adam's progress. It was incredible. Dr. Miller finally stopped the disc and told me it was time for me to practice some of his techniques.
"Remember, when you need to redirect a student's energy, simple pressure usually does the trick. Each student has a different focal point. Adam, for example, demands a light touch on just his wrist. Just like this." He barely put his fingers on my wrist, but for whatever reason, it felt so erotic that I lost control and moaned. He stepped back.
"Tony, you have to remember this will always be a professional relationship. I could never think of you in that way, it would be completely inappropriate…"
"Oh God, No, I'm straight. I have a fiancèe. I don't know what you mean," I yelled.
"Relax, I misunderstood. I'm sorry. We can take a quick break here and grab some fresh air. I need coffee. Why don't you come back in ten minutes, or so, once you've cleared your head."
I stepped outside and took a deep breath. What the fuck was going on? My head was reeling. There I was moaning over a light touch from Jon, no Dr. Miller, and flashing back to that night with TJ. I needed to get out of my head and stop this train of thought. After a couple of minutes, I walked back into his office.
"I'm fine. I'm ready to do this. I'm really sorry."
He went back to showing me the light touch needed to work with Adam. I was trying to stay in the moment and focus; we kept at it until almost five that evening.
Before I left, I apologized. "I'm sorry. You were right I needed to calm down. We are good… just a misunderstanding. I'll see you tomorrow, Dr Miller."
I know he took my use of his full name as a change in our dynamics. He just nodded at me.
The rest of the week with Dr. Miller flew by. I watched the progress of a few more patients, learning about each student kept me distracted. At home, it was a completely different story. I was getting more and more withdrawn. Jen noticed how quiet I was, but I convinced her it was just stress from working. She let it go. Every night I had vivid dreams. TJ was becoming a nightly visitor. Sometimes I relived the past, other nights TJ and I did things I had only fantasized about, but had never actually happened.
Suddenly it was Friday, the day Jen and I always spent together. I was so depressed I couldn't get out of bed.
"C'mon, Tony, let's get out of here and do something," she pleaded. We went to the movies. It was mindless drivel. I couldn't get out of my funk.
After dinner, she sat me down. "We are not getting up until we get to the bottom of this. I can't take this mood of yours. I know it's not work, the only time you ever smile anymore is when you leave to work on your project. Please tell me what's wrong. You are driving me crazy."
I sat there for a minute, trying to convince myself it would all pass. I worked so hard, and for so long, to bury these feelings. I couldn't lose control now. I looked deeply into her blue eyes, which were pooling with concern.
And then the dam burst.
"Jen, I don't know what is going on in my head. I think I might be gay. I don't want to be. I love you. Maybe if I get some counseling I can fix this. I'll do anything to fix this…"
She laughed. Not that warm laugh I recalled. This was bitter and ugly.
"OH MY GOD, Sarah was right all along, she's going to have a fucking field day with this… Four years wasted, I can't believe you led me on like this. I want you out of the apartment by Monday" She jumped up yelling even louder. "I don't care where you go; I just want you gone... I can't fucking believe Sarah was right. I'm so fucking stupid." She was still ranting as she left the apartment.
The door slammed. I sat back stunned; there was no other word for it. I left the apartment with just my backpack. I stuffed it with my notes for the project, and crammed all the clothes I could. I got into the car and drove aimlessly for what seemed like hours. I didn't know or care where I was going. I was on autopilot. When I came to a stop, I was surprised to see I was sitting in the parking lot of Noah's, the only gay bar I knew about. Not like I had been to any gay bars before. On a whim, I left my stuff in the car and walked to the door. I paused, took a deep breath, and walked inside. The bouncer asked for ID. I was immediately surprised by the music and the colorful lights. I really expected a dark, depressing and quiet place where gays went to hide from the rest of the world. There were people dancing behind a half wall to the right. I saw guys hanging around a long bar, with shirtless bartenders pouring drinks. Tables scattered around the room were full of men just chatting and drinking. I kept looking all around trying to take in all the surroundings as I was walking towards the bar for a drink…
I walked right into this guy. He stood about six feet tall with dark, closed cropped hair and these incredible blue eyes. I rubbed my shoulder and said."I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to run into you; I wasn't looking where I was going. I'm really sorry."
He smiled. It was so warm and friendly. And then he shook my hand, "I'm Marcus. You need to watch in front of you if you don't want to run into people. Your head was going about 100 mph trying to keep up with your eyes. Hey, if you want to make it up to me, dance with me. C'mon I won't bite. Let's dance."
I was so stunned and out of my element, I just let him lead me. For some reason, I felt comfortable around this stranger. I couldn't explain it, even to myself, but his aura seemed safe and friendly.
He pulled me onto the dance floor. I took another look around. Reality and expectations again were miles from each other. Some guys were grinding on each other, but most of the dancers were just letting loose. I started moving tentatively and then let go. Dancing was pure escape. I could just lose myself in moving. Song after song, we just danced. I wasn't even paying attention to the songs. I just felt the bass line, and moved in time to it.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and Marcus yelled, "Let's get a drink. I need a break."
We moved over to the bar. I noticed Marcus seemed to know everyone. While we waited for the drinks, I looked around the bar again. It was just like a club back home, except instead of a mostly-female clientele, there were maybe four women in the whole bar. Before I knew what was happening, my hand had a drink in it, and I was being lead to a table in the middle of the room.
"Guys, this is… I'm so sorry; I never caught your name…"
"Guys, this is Tony. Tony, meet everyone. C'mon, let's go someplace quieter where we can talk. Follow me."
Again, he grabbed my hand, leading me to a circular staircase and the second level. I just let him pull me forward. It was quieter up here.
"At the risk of uttering a really bad pick up line, you look like it's your first time here. I'm sure there's a story. You really seem like you need to talk. Trust me; I'm a really good listener."
I don't know what it was; he just made me feel safe. I burst out in tears and felt like I was foaming at the mouth. I told him about everything that was screwed up in my life. He just kept listening, never speaking. I kept rambling on, occasionally resting his hand on my arm, and finally moving around the little table, putting his arm around my shoulder when I completely lost it. He just listened. I couldn't stop once I started. It was so cathartic.
Finally I sighed, "I'm sorry. You must think I'm an idiot; or worse. I'm sorry I took you away from your friends. Thanks for listening, but I should be going…" Then it hit me, where was I going? There was no home for me to go to anymore.
"Look, Tony, the bar is closing soon and I bet you are hungry. I know I am. Let's go grab something at the diner around the corner. I love breakfast, please join me. I don't usually take no for an answer." Again he smiled, and his blue eyes twinkled.
"I guess… I have nowhere to go right now, anyway." I almost started crying again.
"That's the spirit; you know how to keep a party going… Come on let's get out of here."
So there's Chapter One! Any comments appreciated contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I need to throw a few thank you's out there…
To Ray, for your patience and understanding
To Kate and John, for your friendship and support
To David, for your editing skills
To Fitz, for being a mentor, cheerleader, teacher, and friend