The Gulf Between Us
A Rick Beck Story
Editor: Jerry W.
Editor: Jerry W.
Making It Happen
We returned to the marina late in the day. After taking care of Kenny's needs, we ended up back at Ivan's house. Even before the afternoon was used up, we were all sleeping.
Sport fishing tired me out far more than the usual kind. A lot more than fishing was going on. The big boys could have the big fish and I'd stick to the stuff that rolled out of the nets onto the deck that I'd never seen before. I never got tired of that.
By the time we docked on Sunday, Ivan and Boris were back to being proper brothers, or so it seemed to me. I remembered what Mama said about brothers and I left it alone at that.
Boris continued trying to be friendly to me, but Ivan's view was the only one that interested me. I didn't know what was between them. I wouldn't ask Ivan. He'd tell me about it when he was ready.
I let the brother's Aleksa be whatever it was they'd decided they were to each other. I'd be cordial to Boris because I loved his brother.
After twelve hours of sleep, and several boxes of cereal, we were off and running. We started off with a swim in the gulf, romped on the beach, wrestling in the water and on the sand, and we spent a lot of time in the kitchen seeking nourishment.
We had fun. Ivan and Boris were at peace and that was good. Seeing them side by side was an amazing thing. Their beauty was only half the equation. Doubling it knocked my socks off.
Coming out of the gulf for the second or third time that day, we were about to scrounge for food when the radio began to crackle.
Dashing up the stairs, we all hit the radio closet together.
"Vilnius Two to Base. Clay there?" Mr. Aleksa asked, seeming to sense we were all within earshot.
"Right here, Dad," Ivan said, putting a finger on top of his brother's finger to press the button to allow me to speak to him.
"Your daddy tried to get you earlier, Clay. He couldn't raise you boys, so I answered. Your mama wants you to come to dinner tonight. She says Boris isn't to leave until she has met him and he's come to dinner. I assured him you'd be there at seven. She's a wonderful cook, Boris. You can tell her I said so."
"Got it, Dad. I'll tell her," Boris said, leaning toward the microphone.
"Get cleaned up. I don't want her to think I raised a couple of hellions. I want her to see my fine sons together," Mr. Aleksa said.
"Good as done, Dad," Boris said. "I'll make sure Ivan puts his pants on."
"You might want to make sure you wear a pair yourself, Boris."
'Ouch,' I thought in John-Henry fashion. 'Cut by his own father.'
"10-4, Dad. Base out."
"I love you boys. Vilnius Two out," Mr. Aleksa said.
Three boys in a closet made for a tight squeeze. We each had to touch the radio to talk on it. It was a guy thing.
I watched them from the deck as the brothers Aleksa began preparing to go to dinner. I'd put on a shirt once I got home. I needed to find my cutoffs. I could never remember where I took them off.
Nudity was small potatoes these days. Sleeping in Ivan's arms might raise an eyebrow or two at my house. Discussing my feelings for Ivan was too daunting to imagine. I didn't understand it. How would I explain such a thing to my parents? I wouldn't and to try was asking for trouble. It was love that would stay between the two of us.
Freedom meant not losing my head over the boy I loved. Not feeling was easy. Once you began to feel there was pain, and a guarantee of more pain if you dared to feel too much. It was a risk I would gladly take, because Ivan was worth it.
"That what you're wearing to dinner?" Ivan asked, letting the curtains at the sliding glass doors blow gently around him.
"Can't remember where I took off my cutoffs," I said, looking at Ivan. "If I sit here long enough I might remember where they are."
"Yeah, and you might starve to death in the meantime. Last couple of times they were under the kitchen table. I'd try there."
"I will. They know what I look like."
"Yeah, with your cutoffs on," Ivan said.
"You look nice," I said, thinking he always looked nice.
"Thanks, my mother picked this out for me," he said, not having put on clothes yet.
"I'll get a shirt at the house while they're busy with you two."
"They figure you'll get your clothes on and go back to being the good programmed kid they raised, once school starts. Time is on their side, Clay. You can't fight city hall."
"You believe that, Ivan? Is that what I'll do?" I asked. "I don't even know where city hall is."
"You're right. Once a wild child, always a wild child. You've learned to think for yourself, Clay. The man doesn't know anything about the wild child code. We go to school so they don't realize we've escaped the indoctrination. We roam free on our beach. They couldn't allow it if they knew."
"They wouldn't go for a lot of what we do," I thought out loud.
"Love! They don't think we can possibly know love. They're wrong, but that's nothing new."
"What's the code?" I asked apprehensively.
"There is none. That's why we're wild. It's why they can't see it. We don't exist in a form they'd understand. The code is in our hearts, Clay. The one rule, do right. You can't go wrong by following your heart. They try to convince us to ignore our heart and listen to them."
"What we said to each other," I said.
"From the heart. Proof we're wild. Love is from the heart, Clay."
Sometimes Ivan put things in terms that made me understand it and believing our freedom to love originated in our hearts said it all. I felt very good about what he had said.
"You amaze me sometimes," I said. "All the time."
"We're closer because we dare to think, Clay. We could have ruined it, but we didn't. That's what it means to love someone. You let go of the meaningless crap."
Love was the only word that fit what I felt for Ivan. I'd avoided that word until now. Sitting on the deck alone, watching the gulf, I knew I was in love with Ivan long before I told him I loved him.
The deck was a place where I could think. The deck was the place where thinking was best. With nothing but the beach, the sea, and the fresh air, there was no static inside my head.
My life had meaning. I was someone beyond an Olson boy.
I'd avoided thinking about having sex. Ivan and I, in not so many words, agreed we'd wait until we were ready to go farther. The kissing was farther than I ever imagined wed go. Kissing, real kissing, was incredible. I worried it couldn't possibly get any better.
If love wasn't so powerful, it wouldn't be so hard to find. I'd found it and I didn't want to let go of it, but I didn't want to hurry feelings that were already overwhelming.
At the same time my feelings for Ivan didn't stop me from being transfixed by Kenny and Boris in the galley. Whatever was going on between them, I felt more sexual than I'd ever felt being in the galley with them and their erections. It was hard for me to understand.
I wanted to stay, to watch, to see what may happen. It wasn't as innocent as they tried to make it seem. me think it was. Boris tried to make me think it was. Kenny was a wild child and didn't try to make me think anything. He was content with it being what it was.
Boris stood way close to Kenny until he saw me and he immediately went to get his pants on. I'd seen him naked. We'd been naked together and he had no need to put his pants on.
It didn't matter to me what they were doing or what they'd done. What mattered was how seeing them aroused and together made me feel. I knew Ivan and I got aroused when we kissed now. We didn't avoid it the way we had, even when I knew Ivan was erect when he held me. It wasn't the same thing and they weren't the same feelings.
The heat on our feelings had been turned up. Ivan and I were moving closer to the sexual side of our love. We were moving a step at a time. I didn't think that there could be many steps left.
Ivan's deck was a good place to think these thoughts. I usually wasn't out there alone. When Ivan was beside me, my thoughts rarely went beyond him or the discussion he started.
I didn't think about anyone else, when I was with Ivan. There was no one else, when I was with Ivan.
I needed to look for my cutoffs. It was getting late. Both Ivan and Boris were nearly ready and I was thinking about stuff.
When I passed a mirror, I was every bit the wild child. Recognizing the tall skinny drink of water looking back at me was impossible. Who had grown up in my body? I didn't resemble the boy who came here over a year ago.
As I walked by the bathroom, cutoffs in hand, I watched Boris and Ivan brushing their hair at the same time. Whatever had come between them had passed. Now they looked like twins. Both brushed their hair with identical strokes.
They were smiling at the others' image in the mirror. I smiled.
Boris' better upper body develop told me which face was which. The marks on Boris' face were invisible in the distortion the mirror created. His voice was only slightly deeper. He was completely mature physically, but I had to look out of the mirror to see that.
Boris was a man in all respects, but I could see where Ivan was heading. No one at the dinner table would see these differences. None would feel the butterflies I felt when I looked at the Aleksa brothers.
Looking at them standing side by side was like looking at a mirror within a mirror. Their similarities were striking. At one point Boris used his hip to bump Ivan away from their reflections. Ivan bumped his way back into the picture. They laughed. I smiled.
Boris put his arm over Ivan's shoulders the way Ivan did to me. Boris kissed Ivan on the lips. He created a distance between them, once he noticed my eyes in the mirror, watching. He could see the expression on my face. He saw me admiring them.
Like with Kenny, he didn't want me to see him naked with Ivan.
It was after six when Ivan appeared on the deck in a shirt rich in the colors that flattered him. He had on brown slacks and the penny loafers with the nice shine. He smiled as I admired him.
"I see you found your cutoffs?" he said.
"Yeah, I'm ready."
Behind him in the bedroom Boris was putting the quilt back onto the bed. The previous night was hot and humid and it had us kicking the quilt onto the floor.
Boris wore a baby blue shirt, dark blue slacks, and black shoes with laces.
"He looks good in blue," I said, remembering the baby blue story from before Boris came.
"He is baby blue after all," Ivan said, sitting beside me in the wicker chair where I usually sat. "Getting late, handsome."
"He's baby blue," I said. "Does he know the story about your grandfather christening him with that name? He dresses for it."
"I don't think he remembers. Boris isn't sentimental. I was the one who stayed with Pop Pop all summer. Boris stayed a few weeks. He liked it for a couple of weeks. He doesn't stick with much."
"You weren't born then. How many times did your Pop Pop tell you the story about baby blue?"
"A hundred. He talked about baby blue all the time. He regretted Boris never took to the beach like I did. My grandfather was a story teller. It's one of the things I liked about being with him. He told me about his life in Lithuania, his escape. How he came to our beach."
"You were smart," I said. "It's a good beach."
"I don't know. I'm different than Boris. He likes different things. I like the beach," Ivan said.
"It's a nice story," I said.
"You going to eat in that outfit?" Ivan asked. "You smell like fish."
"You've seen me eat in less," I reminded him.
"Not at your house I haven't."
"I'll do something when I get home," I said. "We'll have a few minutes if we go now. They won't even know I'm there once they get a gander at you two."
"I'll know you're there," Ivan said, kissing my cheek. "When I don't know where you are, I'm looking for you, Clay."
"I know," I said, looking at the gulf.
"You do?" he asked. "I do."
"I do love you. For a long time now. It's the wild child in me."
"I know. We sort of grew on each other, didn't we? I couldn't survive without you, Clay. That's the wild child in me."
He slid close enough to put his arm over my shoulder as our eyes locked together. He kissed me. I kissed him.
I blushed. Boris stood just beyond the curtain, watching.
"Come on you two," he said. "I'm starved."
"Nothing new there," Ivan said, and we stood up to leave.
I followed Ivan and Boris into the kitchen. I heard Mama's reaction before I appeared behind them.
"Oh my God," Mama shrieked. "There are two of you?"
Mama stood in the middle of the kitchen with a skillet in hand. The other hand covered her wide open mouth.
"I've been looking forward to dinner. Dad radioed us. He claims you are the best cook this side of Lithuania," Boris said, smiling and giving Mama all his attention.
Boris possessed the same charming personality as Ivan. He'd honed his style on the girls of Tampa, but it was working well at the Olson house. He was the center of attention over dinner.
"Thank your father, and thank you, Boris. I'm pleased to meet you. I can't believe you two look so much alike. You're almost identical."
Then Mama stepped into it with both feet.
"Is your mother a good cook?" she innocently inquired, making the kind of small talk Mama made.
Both Ivan and Boris practically rolled on the kitchen floor. My mother watched amused, until they were back under control.
"Sorry, Mrs. Olson," Ivan apologized. "What our mother does couldn't be confused with cooking."
They both laughed again, shaking hands on it. Mama looked on confused.
"I've got to go take a shower and I need to dress for dinner," I said, thinking I had time.
"What a fine idea," Mama said. "I washed and cleaned all your clothes, underwear, and socks, once school let out. I looked the other day. Nothing has been touched. I imagine wearing clothes will be a novelty for you, Clayton."
"I can take them to Ivan's and not wear them, Mama," I offered.
"Yes, you can, but no you won't. Dressing for dinner would be nice, Clay. You have ten minutes and after that, dinner will begin with you or without you."
"I'm going," I said. "I'll be back in five minutes. I don't want to miss anything."
"Clayton, you might want to ditch those cutoffs. While you have a lovely backside, it isn't something a mother should see."
"Oh!" I said, reaching to feel an ample amount of skin.
"I'll cut you a new pair before you go back to Ivan's."
I hesitated at the door to listen, and then started for my room.
"Dinner in twenty minutes," Mama said as Ivan came through the door behind me.
"You said ten," I yelled from the dining room.
"Got you moving, didn't I," Mama said, laughing at me. "You have plenty of time, Clay. Wash that fish smell off you."
When I stripped out of my cutoffs, both Ivan and Boris were standing in the bathroom door, keeping an eye on me. Our roles had reversed. I held up my cutoffs and saw an abundance of light.
"Why didn't someone tell me?" I asked.
"I thought it was kind of cute," Boris said.
"If I told you, you'd never have put them on and we'd never have made it in time to eat," Ivan said.
A shower took no time. The cutoffs were what smelled of fish. I didn't take time to look at myself in the mirror. With my hair still damp I brushed it back. With a pair of slacks and a polo shirt, I was ready to eat.
"Okay, you're pretty enough," Ivan said. "Let's go. I'm starved."
"Me too," Boris said. "About the starved part. We haven't eaten in hours. I'm surprised we made it this far without food."
John-Henry was out with his new girlfriend. Lucy sat in his seat. Boris sat where Lucy usually sat and Ivan and I sat next to each other. It put Ivan and Boris next to Mama. They were more than happy to tell her how good the food was.
"We eat out a lot," Boris said, letting his fork cool off.
"I'll send food up during your stay, although I like having Ivan and Clay down as often as they'll come. They're practically inseparable. I don't like interrupting their summer fun. I like to know they're eating."
"I don't think you have to worry about that," Boris said. "Dad bought a ton of food when I first came and again Sunday afternoon. We're trying to avoid fish, but that's our fallback food. Plenty of fish!"
"Are you too twins," Brian asked Boris, suddenly coming to life.
"Go back to sleep," Teddy said.
"Yes," Boris said. "I was born first. He cane right behind me."
There was laughter as Brian looked confused.
The meal was great after all the sandwiches over the weekend. There were no leftovers.
Neither of them could eat dessert. Mama wrapped up half the three layer strawberry cake with melted chocolate and walnuts between layers.
It was heavenly and didn't last the evening.
"Maybe I should stay here tonight," I said to Ivan as we stood at the kitchen door. "You can have the bed to yourselves. I've been with you guys almost the entire time Boris has been here."
"No way," Ivan said. "We're a team. Boris likes you. I like you. You aren't crowding us, and I want you at the house."
"No, you've got to come home with us. You might keep us from hurting each other," Boris said. "We aren't as rough with you around."
"Really," I said, remembering the day he arrived.
"OK, you talked me into it. See you Mama," I said as we slipped out the kitchen door.
I'd slept in the bed between Boris and Ivan the night before. We'd all gone to sleep before our heads hit the pillow. I wasn't looking forward to sleeping between them again. My best move was to keep distance between Boris and me.
So, I spent the night sitting on the deck. My thoughts were becoming more raunchy as my imagination got involved. I'd never done anything about those thoughts yet, well, almost nothing, but they kept flooding my mind since I saw Kenny and Boris in the galley.
Boris was the first to go to bed, and Ivan followed a half hour later. Once they were sleeping, I sat on the deck, where I felt safe. The fresh night air was nice. I could hear the gulf washing onto the beach. The stars were twinkling. There was loads of moonlight.
A few mosquitoes kept me company.
My own interior design gave cause for me to wonder who and what I was. While it hadn't been a problem, it was becoming one. The newest feelings were stronger and more sexual. I focused on things that scared me. Boris and Kenny scared me in a way I liked. They were nearly men. They knew what they were doing and I didn't know anything, but I had plenty of ideas. I couldn't stop thinking about sex.
My interior design was declaring its independence. The idea of growing up, being married, having kids, wasn't my design. Were Ivan and I simply going to stay together? How could we be a family?
Ivan stood in the bedroom where the curtain separated it from the deck, looking at me, as he held the curtain to one side.
"Come to bed, why don't you? I'm lonely," he said.
"In a minute," I said, putting him off.
The stars had begun to twinkle out, and I knew he'd go right back to sleep. Surprisingly I wasn't sleepy. I felt rather peaceful and at home. The deck was always a comfort zone. Even when Ivan was at his mothers, sitting on the deck made me feel close to him.
'Too bad we finished off that cake,' I thought.
I ate cereal with Ivan once he got up. He didn't mention me not coming to bed.
"Let's go," Ivan said, pushing his bowl to one side, standing up, and dashing for the door.
Ivan disappeared outside. I was too tired to follow. I'd catch up in a few minutes. Boris didn't move either. He stared at me for a minute after emptying his cereal bowl.
"You ever in your life known anyone with more energy than my brother? If we didn't look alike I'd wonder if he was adopted."
"No," I said, and he laughed.
I smiled and felt the arousal coming on.
"I didn't mean to run you out of the bed, Clay," he said, sounding sorry.
"You didn't," I lied. "I get restless now and again."
"You always sit on the deck all night?"
"No, just when I sit on the deck all night."
"You act different than you did. I know the first day was pretty far out there, but you seemed okay on the boat. I thought we'd be friends," Boris said. "For Ivan's sake."
"Why not?" I said, not liking the fact he wanted to pin me down.
My loyalties were to his brother. He was nice to look at but I didn't trust Boris. Daydreaming and the real thing weren't the same.
"I'm with Ivan. I don't know what is going on with you two, but I'm with him, Boris. Something about you worries me. I wanted to say that so we're being honest. I like you fine. We'll be friends because you are Ivan's brother, unless he objects, and then we won't."
None of what I said was a news flash, but I felt good putting my feelings on the table. Maybe Boris and I could be friends; maybe not. I knew I wasn't going to be able to get up for a while. My convictions weren't nearly as clear as my words. Then he threw Kenny in the mix.
"Kenny and I are friends. I've known him since Dad hired him. He'd been living under the dock at the fish warehouse. You know how he survived before Dad hired him?"
"No, I don't think I want to know," I lied. "You and Kenny can do anything you want. It's none of my business."
"Men picked him up and they gave him money to go out with them. You understand what I'm saying?"
"I think so. Why are you telling me about him? Kenny's cool," I said. "What he did while living under a pier isn't important," I lied again. "It tells me more about you then him. You telling me that."
"He told me what he did. He went into great detail explaining how a boy survives being on the street at twelve and thirteen. We're the same age. He needed someone to trust. He picked me. We're comfortable together," Boris said. "That's all."
"I got that part of it. What's between you and Kenny is your business. You don't need to explain it to me."
"No, but you didn't mind seeing us together. Your eyes give you away at a times like that and you didn't miss a thing. It may be none of your business, Clay, but I don't want you to have the wrong idea."
"I'm just a curious guy. It's how I learn. Keeping my eyes open."
"Kenny and I are open with each other, because of what he told me. We hadn't seen each other since we were young. What you saw is how we react to each other. It's nothing serious. I worry you got the wrong idea and that's what has changed between us."
"You don't strike me as a guy who worries," I said.
"Nothing was going on beyond two friends playing grab ass," Boris explained more carefully than necessary. "I like girls, Clay. I like Kenny, but not beyond a little boyish grab ass."
"Cool! That's all I thought it was. Old friends having a good time." I lied some more. "I didn't see anything but you standing around. I didn't think much of it. I looked because of that curiosity deal. I'm still young. You guys are grown."
"Oh!" he said. "That's true."
"Glad you explained it but to be honest, I'd forgotten about it. You seen one boy with a boner, you've pretty much seen them all," I lied to be consistent.
"Yeah, if you like that sort of thing," he said. "It's why I like girls."
"Ivan told me you were good with girls. We're still young. We'll probably do that later on."
"I thought that was why you stayed on the deck last night. You thought I might try to.... I wouldn't."
"Uh huh," I said. "Because I saw you with Kenny? No, I get restless sometimes is all. No point in keeping you guys up. I love the night sky, the sound of the gulf," 'and the mosquitoes,' I thought.
"We're OK then?"
"As right as rain," I said. "I like you fine. You're Ivan's brother. What's not to like? I wanted to make sure."
"Now you know. Don't you ever tell Kenny I told you that stuff. He'd freak out. It's not a confidence I've only told to Ivan."
"I'd already forgotten. It's not on my list of things I care about."
Boris looked unhappy with the answer.
"I wanted to clear the air. Ready to go swimming?" Boris asked, standing up and letting his half erection loose on the world and me.
"Sure," I said, looking him directly in the eye.
He went first. I hoped he didn't look back and discover my lie.
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