A Special Place--Part Forty-six--Luke
I hit the snooze button on the alarm clock three times and, before it went off again, there was a knock on the door. Recalling having been caught with my pants down--actually off--the night before, I yelled, "Just a minute". I crawled out of bed, grabbed a towel and tied it around my waist. "Come in, it's open," I yelled.
Janet opened the door and came in. "Don't you ever lock your door?" she asked.
"Forgot. Never lock it at home," I replied, still half asleep.
"Well, you better remember. You never know who might come in and catch you in your birthday suit. And now you better get a move on if you expect to eat breakfast. We have to be in the studio in an hour."
I dashed into the bathroom--thank goodness we each had our own--took a very quick shower and shaved. Maybe I'd leave off shaving while I was here. When I finished, I tied a towel around myself again and went looking for something to wear. "Better look the other way unless you want to appreciate my glorious body--which you can see, but not touch," I laughed as I snagged a pair of boxers and pulled them on. When I was dressed, I grabbed my sketch pad and my pencil box as we had been told we'd begin work with pencils. Then Janet and I were off.
After breakfast, we went to the studio where we were to meet our instructor and get the details of the program. The dark-haired instructor who had sat with us last night was head of our group. "I'm Rich Smith, but call me Rich," he said, "You are all high school students--actually most of you have just graduated, congrats on making it--and probably had minimal art training and study. Accordingly, you will spend your first half of the program with me working on drawing and painting. We will begin drawing using pencil, charcoal, the usual. Then those of you who are ready will move to painting, going from acrylics to oils and, finally, watercolor."
"I've looked at the work you submitted as a part of your application and know that all of you are talented or you wouldn't be here. That's the good news. The bad news is that you range from pretty good to pretty bad so far as technique is concerned. Within reason, you will work at your own pace, beginning where you are and moving ahead. For those of you who are pretty advanced, you can be on your own, doing whatever you like after the morning session. For those of you who are not so advanced, you will be here in the afternoon as well. Questions?"
A guy with red, green and orange spiked hair and a nose ring asked, "Do you mean that if we're good enough, we are free all afternoon?"
"Glad you asked that. You are ...?"
"... because that's not what I mean. I mean that if you are advanced enough and complete the assigned projects in the morning, you are free to create and work on your own projects in the afternoon. You can paint, sculpt, whatever, but you have to be working on your art. All studios are open to all students in the afternoon. Just be sure to identify yourself when you go to another studio and make sure I think it's ok for you to do so."
"As I said, I looked at the work you submitted with your application and have a general idea of how good you are, but I want to have another look at what you can do. I want a pencil drawing of your hand--the one you do not use drawing of course. When you finish, I will have a better idea of where you are in your art. Questions? Then go to it."
I had done pencil drawing ever since I could remember so I flipped open my sketch pad, put my left hand, palm up, beside it and started drawing. As I worked away, I saw Rich walking about the studio, looking over the shoulders of the artists at work. When I first started working with Mr. Stephenson he really bugged me doing that, but gradually I got to where I seldom knew he was there. So it was when Rich came by. He passed by without comment. I had just about finished my drawing--I was using a very soft pencil and smudged the lines with my finger to give texture and shades of gray to the drawing--and when I was satisfied, I turned my hand over and started drawing the back. Strange, my hand was always there at the end of my arm but, as I drew it the second time, I realized I was seeing things I had never noticed before--a blood vessel, a small scar, a broken nail. I was fascinated.
I had just about finished drawing the back side of my hand when Rich said, "When you finish, you may take a break. Be back at 10:45 for the critique." I finished in about five minutes, stood up, stretched and headed for the restroom and grabbed a Coke out of a machine. I looked at my watch and saw I had half an hour before I had to be back, so I decided to go outside. I sat on a bench in the shade knowing what the bright Florida sun would do to my skin. I needed to use sunscreen every morning or I would end up a mess because I wasn't about to stay inside all the time.
Janet came out and joined me a few minutes after I sat down. I was deep in thought and I guess she sensed it because she didn't say anything for a while then said, "A penny for your thoughts".
I smiled at her and said, "I bet you'd never guess. I was wondering if Matt had reached Sewanee yet. He had to check in by noon today so he should be there. I was just hoping he is safe and sound. This is the first time we have been separated and I miss him so much. I guess I miss him especially because I know he's so far away."
"Where would you like to be with him right now--I mean other than in bed!"
"I'd prefer not being in bed, thank you! I'd like to be with him at the falls, swimming, playing around and maybe making love."
"What's so great about the falls?"
"It's a special place," I replied and started telling her all about the falls--from the time the family discovered them until our skip day. "The falls are a special place in a thousand ways, but they are very, very special because Matt and I made love--all the way--for the first time there." I didn't go into detail about our love making, but I did tell her about the candles and making love as the sun rose. "God, I miss my Dark Angel, my Sarang Hanun Pomul," I sighed.
We almost forgot to go back to class, but managed to rush in at exactly 10:45. "There's a table in the center of the room. I want all of you to put your drawings on the table and gather round it so we can talk about them," Rich said as soon as we walked in.
When everyone had gathered around the table, Rich asked, "What sticks out in your mind about the exercise?" I was surprised when students started talking about how hard it had been or how easy. I hadn't thought about that. I don't think I ever do; I just draw. Finally I said, "What really struck me was how I had never seen my hand before. I mean, of course, I had seen it, but not really. I saw things I never noticed."
"Anyone else feel that way?" he asked. A couple other students nodded their heads.
"One of the things which separates good artists from poor artists is the ability to observe, to see, and to see things in the familiar you have never seen before. Open your eyes and you will be surprised," he laughed. "Now look at the drawings and tell me what you notice."
"Some people drew the back of the hand--most in fact--some drew the palm side and that guy..."
"I'm Luke," I said.
"Luke. He drew both." It was Douglas speaking.
"Trying to impress the instructor?" Rich asked. I didn't know what to make of this guy. Maybe I was being thin-skinned, but he seemed to want to make sure I knew I wasn't very good.
"Just following instructions," I replied with more than a note of sarcasm in my voice. "You said draw my hand and it has two sides."
Rich ignored my remark and started talking about the drawings on the table. "Notice," he said, "each of you have a style and a particular technique. Some are very realistic while others are highly stylized--here's one bordering on cubism. Some look like anatomical drawing. Luke's looks more like a charcoal approach than pencil due to his using his fingers to smudge the drawing." He continued to point out things about the drawings then said, "For the second half of the morning session, I want you to team up in pairs and draw your partner's hand. Again, draw the one he or she is not using so both of you are drawing at the same time. And, this time, use a different technique. Go to it. Try to finish by 12:30 so we can have a critique before the session ends at 1:00. During the critique I'll tell you whether or not I want you back this afternoon.
Before you could say "scat!", Janet grabbed my hand and said, "We're partners, Luke."
Try drawing with one hand and holding the other still. It's not easy. This time I selected a harder pencil and drew Janet's hand in a style that looked like an engraving, very detailed. It took much longer than the previous one and I had just finished when Rich said, "Take two more minutes if you need them. As soon as you finish, put your drawings on the table and return to your places." Janet finished a minute later and we put our drawings on the table.
Rich moved the drawings around and asked the class to compare them with the previous ones and decide which drawing belonged to whom.
Matching some were easy--the techniques and styles showed little change. Three, however, kept being shifted around. "Ok," Rich said, "if your two are not together, make the changes. Douglas, Janet and I all changed ours. Douglas had used the same technique I had used on my first one although his style was clearly different. Janet had done a much more abstract piece than her first which was like an anatomical drawing. "Clearly the three drawings which were confusing illustrate an important point. Each artist has a style that is his or her own. However, each of you needs to have a pallet of techniques. If you will look closely at the six drawings which were confused, you can see the artist's style even though the techniques are vastly different. Well, that concludes today's session. Several of you mentioned the fact that you arrived late yesterday after a long trip so why don't you take the afternoon off to get settled and get some rest? Tomorrow we'll begin the afternoon sessions.
As we were leaving, Douglas asked me and Janet, "How'd you guys like to spend the afternoon at the beach? I live in Crescent Beach and am staying at home so I have my car here."
"Sounds great to me," Janet said. "I need to work on a tan if I'm going back to school next fall after six weeks in Florida."
"I'd love it provided we can get some sunscreen on the way. Otherwise I will be burned to a crisp. A tan I have never had and never expect to have."
Douglas went to the dorm with us and we picked up towels and swim wear and soon we were on our way to the beach. Douglas had picked out an isolated stretch--I was surprised that such existed--and had a beach umbrella. I had pulled on some long pants and a shirt, knowing what would happen if I got too much sun. When I stripped to my trunks and started putting on sunscreen, Janet said, "Let me do that." I may be gay, but the way she was putting on the sunscreen got my attention! I noticed Douglas giving us a funny look and thought I might need to speak to him and definitely I needed to talk to Janet. She was coming on very strong and while it was not a temptation--well, not really--someone rubbing your thighs all the way up to your equipment is bound to get a rise out of a horny eighteen year old.
We had a grand time even though I spent most of it in the shade of the umbrella. Even after that and the sunscreen, I was a bit pink from the reflection from the water when we got back to the dorm.
It was time for dinner by the time we had changed and I asked Douglas to eat with us and he did. We talked a blue streak through dinner and on the way back to the dorm. Janet thanked us for a great afternoon and went down the hall to her room. I invited Douglas in for a Coke.
When we were inside, I told him I wanted to apologize for thinking he was a nut because of the hair and nose ring. "No need to apologize," he said. "You have to expect people to think you're weird if you look weird. I don't, really, in my school. I come here for art classes and am an artist, and students in my fine arts magnet school are going to look pretty much as I do--or worse! But I want to ask you a question--well, it's kinda personal..."
"Feel free," I said.
"How long have you known Janet?"
"I met her on the plane. Why?"
"I find her very attractive, but I thought she was your girlfriend. I mean she acts like it."
"Yea, I know. She sure is coming on strong. It's kinda embarrassing and puts me in a hard spot."
"A spot wouldn't be the only thing hard if she gave me a massage like she gave you with the sunscreen."
"You don't have to tell me about that!" I laughed.
"I really wondered because I couldn't help but notice that when I came in with you earlier," he said, nodding toward the photo beside my bed.
"That's a photo of a painting from the exhibition Janet and Rich were talking about last night."
"If I'm wrong, tell me, but I don't think you'd have a photo of a painting by your bed unless the subject was important. I mean..."
"You mean you think the subject is special."
"Well, you're right. That's a painting of Matt Greywolf and there is no-one on earth more special than Matt. To answer your question--which you haven't asked--I'm gay and Matt is the love of my life. Hope that doesn't mean we can't be friends, but that's the way it is."
"Hey, so long as you don't hit on me, I'm fine with it. But what's with this Janet chick? When are you going to tell her?"
"She knows. That's the reason I can't understand her coming on so strong--and she is, isn't she? I mean I am not totally inexperienced around women and I think I know when I am being hit on."
"Take it from one who is very much into women. You're being hit on big time."
"What do you think I should do about it? I mean she knows I'm gay. She knows I am so in love with Matt I tried to kill myself when I thought I'd never have his love and she still comes on strong."
"Suspect she is testing you. Lot of women believe a guy who claims to be gay really wants a woman. You'd be a feather in her cap if she could make you straight or maybe just make you! I'd love to take her off your hands, but I don't know what you should do. Maybe talk to her and tell her you'd like to be friends, but can't if she keeps hitting on you." We talked a while longer about the Janet situation and then the talk drifted to usual teenage things. He was surprised I didn't know the music he liked and even more surprised at what I liked. We talked about school and our fears about next year. All that kind of stuff.
When he left, I went downstairs where there were two computers in an alcove and wrote a long e-mail which I sent to everyone about the trip down, our first session and the afternoon on the beach. I didn't say too much about Janet in that, but I wrote Matt a separate one:
"Dark angel, My Love and My Life,
I miss you so much! I want your arms around me. I want to be in that special world you create for us with your hair. I want to smell the fragrance of my Matt. Only one day has passed and already I am ready to come to you.
Janet, whom I mentioned in the general letter, seems to have taken me on as a project. She wants my body! She knows about us, but is still coming on strong. Not to worry, she's no competition for my Sarang Hanun Pomul!"
The rest of the e-mail was just an outpouring of my love for my Matt.
I went back upstairs, undressed and slipped into bed. I lay there thinking about the day and about what I was going to say to Janet. Finally, I went to sleep to dream of my Dark Angel.
I woke up in the middle of the night without knowing why at first, then I realized I had had a wet dream. It had been so long I almost forgot about them. I cleaned myself and the bed, then went back to sleep to be awakened by the damn alarm clock. This time I got up right away and was dressed when Janet knocked on my door.
That second day Rich had us drawing a series of still-lifes he had set up. Again I thought he was overly critical of my work, and also that of Janet and Douglas. It was surely obvious by the end of the morning session that we were by far the best students he had so I didn't understand what was going on. I'll admit I was getting more than a little pissed.
After the final critique, he told most of the students he wanted them to return at 2:30. Others he told about other studios where they could work. Then he said, "Luke, Douglas and Janet, I would like to speak with you before you leave".
Everyone grabbed their materials and dashed out the door. When they were gone, Rich said, "How would you three like to have lunch with me? I'd like to discuss some things with you."
We all nodded and picked up our materials. As we left the building, Janet reached out and took my hand again. This time I nodded to Douglas and he took her other hand. I didn't want to embarrass Janet, but she needed to know that I wasn't interested--which she should have known anyway.
As we walked, Rich pointed out other buildings and studios. I asked him about sculpting and especially casting using the lost wax process. He promised to introduce me to someone who would be willing to help me with my interest.
As soon as we had gotten our lunch, Rich led us to a table that was a bit isolated from the general noise in the cafeteria. "I wanted to talk with you three because you are by far the most advanced in the class. Janet, you and Douglas are good, very good, so don't get me wrong when I say I don't expect anyone in the class to reach the point where Luke is starting. Maybe you two - you are very good, but Luke is light years ahead of all of us--myself included. That doesn't mean I can't teach you a few things, Luke, it just means you have had damn good teachers ..."
"Teacher," I corrected him.
"... a damn good teacher, and have worked hard at your art."
I decided I'd discuss my bruised ego and asked, "Sunday night you said you had seen the tape of my exhibition and I had some fairly good stuff. That didn't sound like you thought much of it. Then yesterday and today you have been very critical of our work and especially mine."
Rich laughed, "Bruised your ego did I? You did have some fairly good stuff. Most all of it was excellent. I guess I was a bit jealous and a bit frightened. This is my first year teaching and when I saw the tape I was a bit up-tight at the idea of teaching someone who could put that together. Friends?" He extended his hand.
I smiled, shook his hand and said, "Friends".
"I'll repeat myself. It's not that I don't think I can't teach you something. I know I can. But I also know that I will never be the artist you are at ... how old are you?"
"Eighteen. I was eighteen the last day of May."
"One question I'd like to ask--you don't have to answer if you don't want to--but the painting of the Indian in a room all by itself ..."
Janet looked at me. As she did, my mind was racing a mile a minute. Did I want to answer or not? Did I want to be honest or not? I didn't know.
"... was really something. There was something very special about it. I actually borrowed the tape to look at your 'fairly good stuff' and focused on the series of paintings called "The Family" and the sculpture. It is very obvious to me that these are people you love very deeply. I was struck by the fact that the same person appeared in those two and then, unless I am mistaken, is the subject of the one by itself. Care to say something about him?"
Janet started to say something and I shot her glance. Did I want to out myself to Rich, as I had done with Janet and Douglas? I wasn't sure. "He's my brother," I said. "Well, not a blood brother." I then started telling him about the Family.
"That explains the series and the sculpture. Hope what you have just said was in the catalogue," Rich said.
"It was," I told him.
"Well, it's a marvelous painting. Did any dealers see your show?" he asked.
I told him they had and how much had been sold. When I mentioned how much I had earned, all three whistled.
"Did the painting of the Indian--Matt, you said ..."
"Luke, tell them his name," Janet said.
"Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf," I said. "His middle name is a Korean one given to him by his father," I laughed. "His mother is half-Korean and has never told anyone whether it is good Korean or not. It means 'Beloved Treasure'."
"Did the painting of Matt sell?"
"It was not and is not for sale," I said.
"Oh," Rich said and dropped the subject. "There was a montage in the exhibition. Now that would be what I call fairly good stuff."
I had to laugh. "Didn't rate it that high but, damn, you know what? It sold."
We all four laughed. "Well, no-one said taste and money go together," Douglas said. "You should see the trash my mom and dad have spent thousands on. I mean real trash. The worse it is the more they are convinced the artist is a misunderstood genius. Luke, do you have the tape of the exhibition?"
"No, but I do have a CD of the concert held in conjunction with it. Like to hear it?"
"Don't let him kid you, he has a stack of them," Janet said. "And he has a video of it as well.
They asked about the concert and when I was about halfway through talking about it, I noticed Rich half-smiling and maybe nodding his head.
"Well, back to why I wanted to talk with you three. First of all, I'd like for you to be kind of assistants to me. If you don't mind, I will announce to the class that you will be willing to work with individuals when you are not working on your own projects. The second thing is that I want you to know that I will often use your drawings to point out things I believe could be improved because you are good and, Luke's ego aside, take criticism. Many of the students in the class would probably be discouraged by too much criticism, but could learn from my critique of your work. If I say something with which you disagree, disagree. I'm not asking you to just accept what I say, but do know I may appear to be picking on you. Ok?"
We all nodded.
"Rich, I'd love to see the video of the exhibition if I could," Douglas said.
"Even if Rich could get a copy, I haven't see any place to play it except in the lobby of the dorm and I don't think that would go over with the others in the dorm very well. They're into chick flicks or blood and guts and the VCR has been in use every time I've gone through the lobby," I replied.
"What do you have planned for Friday evening?" Rich asked. Seems none of us had given that any thought. "I'd like to see it again and the video of the concert as well, if it's not just the usual high school kind of thing," he said.
"It was good enough to be broadcast by the local PBS station and an audio of excerpts--actually two original compositions--played nationally on 'Performance Today' on PBS. I think it's good--but I'm prejudiced."
"Would you three like to come over to my apartment for pizza Friday and watch them? My room-mate would certainly enjoy the concert as he is a musician." We agreed and he gave us directions--it was just off campus--and we said we'd be there at 7:30.
Rich went his way and the three of us started back to the dorm. Again Janet took my hand. I was getting very anxious about what she thought was going on. She knew I was gay, so what was her problem?
When we got back to the dorm, I asked Janet to come to my room after she had gone to her room and put her things away. Old cool Luke was not at all cool. I didn't know how to start or what to say. Finally I just said, "Janet, I think we need to talk".
"Talk," she responded.
"Please don't get me wrong and if I am out of line please tell me, but I am becoming very uncomfortable around you."
"Why? What's the problem?"
"I don't know how to say this without appearing to be a complete egotistical ass, but I know no other way to put it. You seem to be coming on to me--holding hands and all that sort of thing. You know I'm gay. I'm not interested in women. Well, that's not true. I love women as friends, but that's it. I have never thought about women other than as friends. Never once. I haven't even wondered what it would be like to... you know... well, have sex with a woman.
"Didn't seem that way at the beach," she said. "I know you got hard when I was putting sunscreen on your legs."
"Janet, I'm a horny eighteen-year-old. I suspect a girl ugly as sin playing around Little Luke would get his attention. But if you have anything other than friendship in mind, you need to forget it. It's not going to happen. And even if I did want to give women a try, I wouldn't, I couldn't. There is one love in my life and our pledge to each other is faithful until death do us part. I hope I haven't read too much into your actions or hurt you. I don't want to do that, but I want you to know exactly where I stand."
Janet was silent for a while, her head down. When she looked up, there were tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry Luke, I really am. To be honest, I guess I was hoping you weren't sure about being gay and in love with Matt because I do find you damn attractive. I really lied about breaking up with my boyfriend. I was and am crushed by the break-up. He dumped me for another girl. I loved him and he played with me until he got tired and moved on. When I saw you and talked to you on the plane, you seemed like a dream come true. Six weeks with you and I was sure we'd have something going. I was wrong and knew it from the start, but I was grasping at straws. Now I have messed up. I'm sorry."
"Janet, I meant it when I said I like having women friends. I enjoy talking with you, being with you, but as a friend. If we can keep it that way, I'd be pleased, but that's as far as it ever goes--ever."
"I understand, Luke, and I'm old enough to know that most love at first sight is lust at first sight. So ... friends?"
"Friends," I said and hugged her.
As I did, she laughed and said, "But I still think you have a bod good enough to eat with a spoon! Well, I think I'll go and drown my broken heart in a Coke. I guess I need to write my mom as well."
"Don't want to push but I'll tell you Douglas, underneath that green, red and orange hair seems like a great guy and he could really go for you. Might want to give that some thought. I'm sure he'd be fun and, hey, you have six weeks here."
"Thanks, Luke, for being so understanding. I want you as a friend and, when you write that Korean Indian, tell him he's a damn lucky man." Janet kissed me on the cheek and said, "Thanks for taking me seriously enough to set me straight and not let me make a complete fool of myself".
"That's what friends do," I said and gave her a hug.
Before going to bed, I went downstairs and sent e-mails to everyone and a special one to Matt. I decided I wouldn't tell him about my talk with Janet. There was no reason to as far as I could see--and in a letter it might not be clear that she was no temptation. As I wrote, I asked myself if that were really true. I mean, had I really no interest in getting it on with a girl? If I did it was buried so deep that I couldn't find it. No, there was no temptation at all.
The evening at Rich's was great fun. His room-mate, Josh, seemed really nice and made some ego-boosting comments about the exhibition. All three of them raved about the painting of Matt. When I told them it had been slashed, they wanted to know why and I thought I did a careful job of not giving the real reason.
"I hope it can be restored," Douglas had said and I told him it had been.
That brought up Uncle Michael and when I said he was my agent, Rich said, "Michael Sanders is your agent? I know artists old enough to be your grandfather who would give their right arm to have him represent them. He is one of the best-known in the country."
We took a break for the call of nature and then Rich put in the video of the concert. I thought Josh had been looking at me kinda strange when the painting of Matt had been shown and now I knew he was every so often. The concert was long and we took a restroom break again at the intermission. When the second half started, Josh said, "When Rich told me about a video of a high school concert, I tried to think of an excuse to be elsewhere, but those people are great, all of them. The organist is the guy in the painting, isn't he?"
"Yea, he is," I answered. Before each selection, Larry had done a close-up of the program and when "Yonghon Tongmu" came up, Rich asked about the name. How was I going to get out of this? "It's Korean--at least it's supposed to be--for heart's companion or soulmate," I said. As the piece played I unconsciously started singing "More" when a singable version was playing. I guess I got carried away because I suddenly realized all four of the people in the room were looking at me.
I stopped singing and when the tape ended, Douglas said, "I don't know an awful lot about music, but that was good. And, Luke, you really seemed to get into that last piece."
"'More', on which it is based is a kind of theme song for the three families that we call the family--those in the sculpture and the series of paintings."
"Ok, I'm not going to beat about the bush any longer," Rich said. "Luke, it is very obvious that the painting of Matt is very, very special--you even said it was not for sale and never would be. Then there is an original composition called soulmate. I wish you could have seen your face every time Matt was shown in the video and especially while he was playing that last piece. How off base am I in saying Yonghon Tongmu is none other than Luke Larsen?"
I could feel my face turning red. As I blushed, Janet laughed and said, "You definitely are a victim of a MGTD".
"Meaning just what?" Douglas asked.
"Matthew Greywolf transmitted disease," she laughed, "blushing. Luke told me yesterday that anyone who stayed around Matt long caught the blushing disease."
"Yes, I am Yonghon Tongmu," I said. "Matt and I are soulmates. Hope that is no problem although I'm not sure I give a damn because if it is, it's your problem."
"No need to be defensive," Josh said. "Rich and I have been a couple for almost two years now. Lots of gay men and women here."
"Well, it was a problem for me," Janet said. "I saw this gorgeous hunk on the plane and found out he was coming here and decided he was mine. So it was a problem. He turned me down flat."
"No problem here. I'm not gay, but I can see if I were I'd go for this Greywolf character. Even I can see he's some handsome dude," Douglas said.
"Be glad he's not here," I laughed--more out of relief than anything else. "He'd crawl your case for calling him a dude." I looked at my watch and saw it was late and said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I need my beauty sleep". Soon Douglas, Janet and I were walking across the campus, holding hands as I taught them the words to "More".
When I got to my room, I brushed my teeth, undressed and slipped into bed. I lay awake for a while wondering just what I had done by outing myself--I had even done it not knowing it. "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, you're just going to have to realize you love that Korean Lakota so much you can't hide it. Only five more weeks and I'll be with my warrior," I thought and on that thought drifted off to sleep and to dream of being in Matt's arms.
A Special Place--Part Forty-six--Matt
The alarm clock woke me at 7:30. I was confused at first, not knowing where I was, then remembered. I showered, got dressed, and checked out. I found a place nearby for breakfast and, while I was eating, looked at the map. I still had two-and-a-half or three hours to drive, but plenty of time to make the noon deadline.
I reached the campus of the University of the South at 11:00 and had no difficulty finding where I was to check in. A very pleasant woman welcomed me to the campus and the conference then gave me my room assignment. "You are the youngest participant we have so I have put you in a two-person suite with another young man. He's twenty or twenty-one I think. You're an organist?" I nodded. "So is he, so you'll have something to talk about."
When I got to the dorm where my suite was located, I grabbed some of my things and went looking for my room. I found it, put my things down to unlock the door and when I opened it, a very blond, tall, very good looking guy was standing in the living area. "You must be Matthew," he said, extending his hand to help with my things. "I am Lucas. Understand we are the young dudes this summer and both organists. I took the room on the left of the bathroom. If you'll give me your key, I'll unlock your door."
When we got inside, I put my things down and as we shook hands Lucas asked, "Something wrong? You look like you saw a ghost!"
"It's just that you remind me so much of my best friend it's amazing, and his name is Luke."
"Maybe we can be best friends too," he laughed. "This is your first time here, right?" I nodded. "I've been coming for three years. Started when I was eighteen. That's your age, right?" I nodded again, still in something of a state of shock over how much he reminded me of Luke.
Recovering somewhat, I said, "Man, I can't get over how much you remind me of Luke. Anyway, since you've been here before, maybe you can teach me the ropes."
"Not much to it. That is, unless you get upset over being called the baby organist. Some of the older folks get a kick out of that. You know, 'Young buck doesn't know shit' implied, but never said. This is Sewanee you know, the University of Southern Gentlemen and Ladies. Well, I'll let you get unpacked. Guess you were told there's a reception at 7:00 with dinner at 7:30 and it's coat and tie--every night. This is Sewanee, you know. And you will hear that until you are sick of it. But as the two young bucks, maybe we can find a way to have some fun. Glad you're here."
"Me, too," I said as he turned to leave.
I called Mom and Dad to let them know I was safe and heard about Millie. I was really pleased to learn Jason and Eugene had met and were hitting it off so well. That finished, I unpacked and put my things away. I took out a photograph of Luke--it was one of him standing beside his painting of me--and put it on the window ledge by my bed--probably not a good idea if someone saw it, but I didn't care. I looked at the photograph a long time before I showered--how I missed Luke's being with me, playing in the shower, washing and drying my hair, loving me--and left my hair loose when I had dried it, then dressed. When there was a knock on my door, I saw the time was 6:40. "Come in, it's open."
Lucas stepped into the room and this time I was prepared. On second look, he didn't look all that much like Luke--just very blond with a mop of curly hair. He, as Luke, was built well but definitely not Luke. "Ready to go and meet the old boys?" he asked.
We walked across campus--it was so British I expected to see a Beefeater or some such--as the quarter-before-the-hour chimes sounded.
The reception was noisy, especially in light of the fact that there were less than a hundred people present. When we walked in Lucas said, "I'll get your drink and you get food. Don't have a problem with alcohol do you?"
"No, but I don't usually drink. Just wine occasionally."
Lucas came back with two short glasses with something and ice. "You're in Tennessee now, Matt, so you have to at least try Jack Daniels."
I took the glass, raised it and said, "Here's to Millie".
Lucas tapped my glass with his and said, "There's a story there".
I laughed, "One hell of a story." To tell the truth, I drank some of the sour mash and water, but didn't really like it. Anyway, we snacked a bit, but there wasn't a great deal of time before dinner was announced and I put the glass down, still half full, and thought, "Millie would kick my butt".
There was a sizeable gathering for dinner. There were place cards and I guess someone decided to put the "young bucks" together because Lucas and I were at the same table. There was wine and, since no one asked my age, I enjoyed it with my dinner, recalling the great times the family had wine together.
After dinner, the vice chancellor of the university welcomed us and turned things over to Dr. Camp, head of the summer's music programs--there were several including one for high school students. After his welcoming remarks, he said, "This is Sewanee, you know, and we have traditions. Well, you know what everyone says, 'Do it twice at Sewanee and you establish a new tradition'. But there is one of much longer standing among this group--at least among the organists in this group--and that is recognition of the baby organist. Lucas Garrett, stand up." Lucas looked a little puzzled, looked at me and stood up. "Lucas has been baby organist for three straight years but even organists grow up. Lucas, you are now retired as baby organist."
Everyone applauded and cheered. Lucas bowed and sat down. "We have a new baby organist this year. Matthew--I must confess, I called his father last week to find out what to do with his middle name, well, actually names--and still forgot so I called him back and recorded it. Probably will still butcher it but, anyway, the new baby organist is Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf. Stand up Matthew."
I stood and started to sit down when Dr. Camp said, "No, no. I'm not finished. Now you all have heard 'Small stature, large organ'." The place cracked up and got worse as I turned redder and redder. "Well, we all know that's not really true and Matt's not small, but St. Mary's--where he is organist--is pretty small, a middle-sized parish, but it has a big organ. You'll learn more about that later." I was still standing and still very, very red. "I think one of the reasons you old organists designate a baby organist is because you know you'll have someone to pick on who isn't quite as good as you are. Wouldn't be making too many plans in that direction this summer. Matt, a quick quiz and I want quick answers. You get a call Sunday night saying the Bishop is paying a surprise visit. What's your music?"
I decided I would have some fun too. "How hot was my Saturday date and when did I get home?"
"As hot as you like and you slipped in after 2:00."
"Prelude, 'Sheep May Safely Graze', offertory, 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring', postlude, 'Gig Fugue'. But if I hadn't been lucky and the date wasn't that hot and I got home at midnight, guess I'd play the 'Toccata and Fugue' for the prelude. It seems very appropriate for a Bishop's surprise visit since it was the theme for 'Dracula' and we all know why Bishops pay surprise visits." To say I won an audience would put it mildly! The whole place went wild.
"You need to keep Mr. Greywolf's responses in mind, ladies and gentlemen, when you decide to give the baby organist a hard time. Well, it's 8:00 and as you know, we always open with some sort of concert. That's a tradition. But this year it has a new dimension. Guess you might think I'm a cheapskate--you can let me know afterward--but there's not a live concert tonight. Well, there may be a bit of live stuff later, but the official opening concert is a video tape." Groans all over the room. "Save your groans until later. It took a bit of doing, but I have a video all of you--regardless of your instrument--performer, choir people and directors will appreciate. If not, we'll have a live concert before the week's over. Ok?" Well, what could we say?
"This better be good," Lucas said. "It's definitely not the tradition."
"I could have seen a video at home," I said, very disappointed. While we were talking, a screen came down at one end of the room and a video projector dropped from the ceiling in the middle of the room. "Lucas, look at those speakers! There's speakers there to handle just about anything."
"You're damn right. If the music's any good, it should sound great."
The lights dimmed and the video started. "Holy shit!" I practically shouted. It was the video of THE concert!
Larry had opened the video very simply by showing the front of the program. Someone in the darkness said, "Edward Camp, your ass is grass and I'm a lawnmower--for inflicting a high school concert on us!"
Lucas said, "Matt, did you know about this?"
"Shit no!" I was learning to be a foul mouth quickly. "Man am I in for a rough four weeks! These guys will eat me alive!" The program slowly opened, the first selection was highlighted and the concert began. I wanted to crawl under the table.
About the middle of the first selection, the woman sitting on the other side of me leaned over and said, "I think there is a whole room full of people saying 'holy shit' under their breath right now and I know the guy grousing about high school concerts would like to slip out. This is unbelievable." Lucas was pounding my arm and bouncing up and down with excitement. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all!
As the highlighted name of the second selection faded and the music started, there was an audible intake of breath. I couldn't believe how these people were reacting. They were professionals for the most part and we were just three high school groups performing. I was surprised myself at the video because I was seeing and hearing it with fresh eyes.
When it came time for the intermission, the lights came up and Dr. Camp said, "Well, it's just a high school concert; some of you must be tired because of a long trip--or age--so we'll just stop it here".
"Like hell you will!" It was the guy who had made the comment about high school concerts. "We're taking a ten-minute intermission and coming back." There was loud agreement and Dr. Camp laughed.
I was ready for a piss and, as I stood, Lucas said, "This way or you'll be trapped". He quickly led me down a hall and into a restroom. As I was pissing he said, "Uncut".
"Hair and cock," I replied. "My dad's doing." Checking another man out is common practice we all know, but you're supposed to pretend you're not. That's the man's rule so I was surprised, but I had been surprised all evening.
While I was still at the urinal, Dr. Camp came in. "Hope you're not too upset, Matt, but when I heard your compositions on "Performance Today", I called Millie--who is an old friend--and when I learned a video had been made, asked about getting it. She had me call a fellow named Larry, I believe"--he looked at me and I nodded--"and he said he had one with excellent sound and he would send a copy. I could use it provided you didn't say no. Well, I learned long ago, if you don't ask, no-one will refuse you. How is the old bird, Millie, I mean."
I told him what I had just learned this afternoon and he started laughing when I told him she had fallen in the river while skipping rock. "Some things never change and Millie is one of them." He was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. "The tales I could tell you about Millie! Well, we better get back to this terrible high school concert."
When the video was over, people were all over me. It was downright embarrassing--and very enjoyable! After thirty minutes of listening to people and answering questions, I was worn out. Lucas finally said, "It's time to put baby organists to bed. Sorry folks."
An old fellow was standing near and said, "I'm the grand-daddy organist, Son, and if I am still up, a baby organist still has some juice left. I want to see the kid in action. Edward told me about the video last week and I insisted on sampling it. Just heard the first piece because I didn't want to spoil this evening. I did tell him to get something in here for you to play and there it is. In one corner of the room was a Rodgers, just like mine. That accounted for some of the speakers placed around the room. "You gotta play for this old man."
"'Sheep May Safely Graze', maybe?"
"Yea, then something exciting. Keeps the old ticker going."
Good thing I memorize music because so far as I could see there was none to be had. Of course, I could do "Sheep" in my sleep but, when I finished, I opened the organ up and did the Widor. "Think that might hold you?" I smiled at the old fellow.
He really was old and walked with a slight limp as he came over to the organ. When I slid off the bench, he hugged me to himself and said, "I have dreamed of this day, Matt. I really have."
"Thank you Mr.--I don't know your name."
"Woods, George Woods, but call me Woody. All my friends do and I hope we will be friends."
Lucas and I were finally able to go to our suite and as we walked across campus he said, "You know you have a wonderful talent, don't you? And your technique is unbelievable. You are a great organist, Matt. At eighteen you are great. And I bet Woody takes you on to mentor. Hope he does." We talked more about music and organs as we walked.
When we reached the dorm, I asked, "Any place around here I can get and send e-mail?"
"There are computers off the lounge on the second floor where our suite is. You want to send some tonight?"
"Got to," I said.
I went upstairs, took off the coat and tie and went to find the computers. I wrote a long e-mail telling everyone of the events of the evening and telling Eugene he was in my thoughts and prayers as his days in court approached. I also told him I was glad he got to meet Jason and to hug Larry and Millie for me. I just added a postscript to that for Mom and Dad and thanked them for letting me take organ from Millie.
Of course I wrote Luke an additional letter. I had told him about Lucas and had written, "Man, if anyone had designed a tempter, the only thing they would have added to Lucas would be to make him gay!" I had second thoughts about what I had written, saying to myself, "That's true, Luke Babe, but you don't need to hear that." But I typed it again. I didn't want to deceive Luke at all. Then I wrote, "But I'm yours, all the way, all the time." I made sure he knew that I was his and I loved him more than life itself and I missed him like crazy. "Yonghon Tongmu, right now I'd give up sex if I could just have you with me." And I poured my heart out to the only man in the world for me.
I sent the e-mail, went to my room, undressed and slid into bed. What a day this had been! The only thing which could have made it more perfect was to have shared it with Luke. I had much to give thanks for as I reflected before falling asleep at the end of the first day of six weeks without Luke's arms around me. But he did hold me in my dreams.