ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Three--Larry
Ordinarily Gene was awake before I was, but this morning I was awake an hour before I would normally have even thought about getting out of bed. Maybe it was because I had gone to bed thinking about registering today and what surprises that would hold. Anyway, I was awake and turned to look at Gene lying beside me.
I don't know what made waking up beside Gene different these days. We had all the privacy we wanted at his place with Millie, and had slept together most nights for several months now. Here we had much less privacy than there, but waking up with Gene beside me was different. I think it might be that when we were at Millie's, it was always Millie's place, or maybe even Gene's place. This was OUR place and it was becoming more ours every day with every drop of sweat from working on it.
As I continued gazing at my sleeping love, I recalled the day we met and smiled. I had been struggling then with my sexuality, but didn't really know it. When he rescued me--the new kid on the block--from some school bullies, he immediately became my idol. He was big, taller by three inches than I was, and very well built. He wasn't then--and when I can be objective about him now--knockout handsome. His features are nice, strong, but he is pretty average-looking to someone who doesn't love him as I do. Gene isn't as dark as Matt, but he is dark with straight black hair and deep, deep brown eyes with gold flecks which have fascinated me from the first time I looked into them.
Now, I am taller and--unlike the runty kid Gene rescued--have a firm, hard body. Gene gave that to me by insisting I work out with him. While Matt and Luke are a study in contrast, Gene and I are a study in monochrome because I, too, am dark, but Gene is dark in an olive-complexion kind of way. My darkness comes from a more red--my mom says red brick--kind of complexion. I sometimes think the term red man could be applied to me. And unlike Gene's dark eyes, mine are... well, they are green when I wear certain colors and blue when I wear others. Don't know--or care--what the rest of the world thinks, but Gene tells me they are the most beautiful eyes in the world and I do not object when he says that.
While I idolized Gene after his rescue, and spent every moment I could with him, I refused to accept what I knew to be true--I loved him and I was gay. Even now as I thought about how violent my struggle to avoid admitting it became, tears formed in my eyes. Anyone less a man than Gene would have had my ass--a pretty poor expression it occurs to me!--for what I did to him trying to deny I was gay. I just hope I can love Gene as much as he loved and loves me.
With those thoughts still in my mind, I leaned over and kissed Gene ever so softly but, even with the barest touch of my lips to his cheek, his brown eyes opened, he smiled and pulled my lips to his for a passionate kiss. Breaking our kiss, Gene said, "How about our getting rid of dragon mouth and then making love?".
"Race you," I said.
"Only if you can be quiet," he laughed softly.
I slipped out of bed and waited until Gene slid his legs off the side of the bed, then swept him into my arms and carried him to the bathroom. I guess it was by common agreement but, aside from playing in the shower--and that was understood--there was no playing around in the bathroom, so there was no need to fasten the door to Matt's and Luke's room. I set Gene on his feet and we both grabbed toothbrushes after a morning piss. Teeth brushed, I reached for Gene but, as always, he was quicker and I felt myself lifted off the floor in his strong arms.
He kicked the bathroom door to close it, and I grabbed it just in time to prevent it slamming. When he reached the bed, he very unceremoniously tossed me on it and, quick as lightning, covered my body with his. His mouth found mine and his tongue invaded it, bringing with it the fresh taste of Gene and toothpaste. His kisses became more and more aggressive and his hands started moving over my body rapidly. When I tried to break our kiss, he reached behind my head and pulled my lips tighter against his and soon he was breathing through my mouth and nose. God, he was hot and so was I! I could feel his hardness pressing into my own as he continued to rub my chest with his free hand.
He finally moved his lips from mine and started kissing my eyes, ears--taking a nibble or two there--my neck, and when he moved to my chest, sucked a nipple--hard--into his mouth, and his tongue went to work on its hardened tip. One of his hands found my hard, pulsating manhood and rubbed the precum which was flowing freely from it over the white-hot iron rod. Stroking it slowly, he moved down my body and suddenly I felt his hot mouth covering my manhood, his tongue performing miracles on it. By this time, I had ceased moaning softly and was whispering, "Yes! Gene! Yes, Babe!" over and over again. Finally, I could hold out no longer and my back arched as my gift to Gene filled his mouth and skyrockets exploded in my head. When the last spasm of my climax shook me, I fell back on the bed, drained. But Gene was not finished.
I felt his fingers exploring, moving past my now-empty seedpods until he reached the entrance to that sacred place, a place he called his holy of holies--the place where we truly meet, he had said when I asked why that name. Relaxed, I knew he had reached into the bedside table drawer when I felt his now-slick fingers enter that place--first one then, after it had done its work, a second and finally a third. As they moved inside me I whispered, "I need you, Gene, Babe, I need you!".
Gene raised his head from where it had been resting on my chest, his beautiful, loving eyes looking into mine. He smiled and slid between my legs as he spread then raised them over my chest. He paused and I knew he was making sure his man's tool was well covered with lubricant, then I felt it at the entrance of my tunnel and he slowly, gently, entered me as I encouraged him. He buried himself in me all the way to the hilt, was very still for a few moments, allowing me to get used to and savor his being in me, and then started moving slowly in and out. I was in heaven as he filled me with himself and his overwhelming love for me.
I knew he was on the brink and encouraged him, "Deeper, babe, deeper. Give it to me, hard, now!" His movements became faster and more complex because he was not only moving in and out, but also making small circles with his hips as he thrust into me. Finally, he thrust as deeply as possible, his body became rigid and he started filling me with his man's seed and his love. After a final spasm, he collapsed on me and I wrapped my arms around him and held him close. God, how I loved this wild man, my Gene!
As he lay, his head against my heart, we both gradually relaxed, completely, filled with our love for each other. Soon, too soon, I felt Gene slip from me and, as he did, he rolled off my body and lay on his side, smiling, looking into my eyes. I pulled his lips to mine for a slow, gentle, loving kiss.
When I released him, he looked at me and then got a troubled look on his face. I knew what was coming and braced myself for it. "Lar, when am I going to have you inside me? Why won't you make love to me as I have to you? Why am I always--well, almost always--the one who has to start our love making?" The questions were purely what? Not rhetorical but unnecessary, because we both knew the answers. At least Gene no longer asked me if I loved him as he had done many times when we first got together.
I sighed, knowing that, while the questions were really unnecessary, I was expected to answer. "Babe, Gene, I want to, I really do, but I can't. Ever since that day..." Gene put his fingers to my lips to silence me, as he always did when I started to make reference to having raped him, but this time I would not be silenced. "Gene, there are times, many times, when I would like to be the one to initiate our love making. There are times, many times when I'd like more than anything to unite us, to be inside you, but every time I start, I freeze. You know, as well as I, no matter how hot I am and how much I want to be inside you, as soon as I see your rosebud--or if I don't see it, when I place my tool against it--I go limp." I was in agony and Gene knew it. He should have known I would be. "You know that, Babe," I said with pain in my voice, but also with a great deal of impatience.
In response, Gene pulled my lips to his and gave me an angel kiss. Breaking the kiss, his face was very close to mine and his eyes were looking into my very soul as he said, "Yes, Lar, I know. We have come a long way, but I needed reminding--and wanted to remind you--that we have a long way to go before we reach the place where you--we--are free to make love any way we want. We get started back in counseling soon, ok?"
"Ok, Babe, sure," I said without a lot of conviction in my voice.
Gene caught that and said, "Lar, it's not just for you, it's for me as well. Babe, I want us free of the past, please?"
Gene was right, of course. I don't know why I didn't want to go back into counseling. Well, I did too. It was painful and the old wound would be reopened again. I knew in my heart of hearts that it had to be drained, reopened so the poison I had placed there could drain away, but I wished that Gene would just take what I had to give now without putting us both through more pain. Well, that's what I told myself, but it was a lie and I knew it. I wanted us to be free and whole and I was sure that could not be without further pain. Having given myself a talking to, I looked into Gene's eyes and said, "Gene, light of my life, I guess I am just a coward but, of course, I want what you want. Not just for you, not just for us, but also for myself. Yes, as soon we get registered and can locate a good counselor, we'll start again." Gene's brown eyes sparkled, the gold flecks seeming to glow in the morning light, and a smile covered his dark face. "Hell yes, people who don't know him may think he's average, but he is the most handsome man in the world and he is mine," my heart sang.
Gene kissed me, not so gently, and said, "Lar, you are the most beautiful, wonderful man in the whole of my world". We lay entwined in each other's arms, exchanging butterfly kisses until the alarm sounded. As it did, I heard the shower in the bathroom stop and we lay together a few more minutes before crawling out of bed, showering, shaving and dressing for Oberlin.
When we got downstairs, Matt was fixing breakfast alone. "No partner?" Gene asked.
"Since I got a break yesterday, I told Luke I'd do breakfast so he and Paula would only have to worry about registration. I guess I forgot how early I'd have to get up," he laughed. "Did you hear any movement in Kent's room? he asked.
"In the bathroom," I replied, "and I heard Paula singing in her room. Man, it must be great to wake up and feel like singing," I answered.
"Would be nice. Well, since we've been here, I really have felt like singing when I wake up with Luke beside me."
"Know what you mean," I said. "And why do you think that is? I mean haven't you woke up with him beside you most mornings? I mean since you two got together."
"You forget, there were four weeks we were separated, then a week we were out of it and all the other stuff. But, now, I wake up and he's there and I know he will be there tomorrow morning as well. It's different."
"Actually, I was thinking the same thing this morning when I awoke with Gene beside me. While we have spent time apart this summer, I think that's not the reason. I think it's because we're here in our place. You know what I mean?"
"Think I do," Matt said, as he skillfully folded a delicious-looking omelet. "Yea, I think I do. Ok, the others are not down and you don't want a cold omelet, so sit down. This one will be ready in a minute."
Gene and I sat down, drank our juice and, as we finished, Matt brought each of us an omelet surrounded with crisp bacon and perfectly browned toast. It looked scrumptious. Gene and I bowed our heads briefly, crossed ourselves, made our thanksgiving, and dug in. When I used my fork to cut a piece of omelet, I saw that it was filled with red, green and yellow peppers, as well as a few circles of jalapeno, and at least two kinds of cheese.
We had just started eating when Luke and the other two from upstairs came down. "Kent, hot or not?" Matt asked as he prepared to do their omelets.
"Hot or not what?" Kent asked, a puzzled look on his face.
"Peppers in your omelet. Jalapenos or not?"
"I think not--well, just a touch," Kent said. "Never tried that."
"I'll put a tiny bit on one end and you can try it. If you don't like it, you'll still have breakfast. If you want more, I can give you a few bits. Luke will eat all the leftover. He thinks it helps his sex life," Matt laughed.
"You should know," Paula laughed back.
"Doesn't need any help," Matt grinned, "but if he thinks it helps, I'm all for it!" he said and, of course, blushed. I noticed Kent did as well. I needed to have time to talk to Matt before we left to tell him about Kent's situation, but I felt uneasy about it since I hadn't asked Kent if it was ok. I'd take care of that before we left for Oberlin.
"I'll take care of the dishes and all," Matt offered, as he brought Paula, Luke and Kent their breakfast. I noticed Kent looked a bit awkward when Luke and Matt bowed and, when they finished, crossed themselves. Paula, of course, did not cross herself, but it was obvious she offered thanks before she started eating. Something else we needed to talk with Kent about if he was going to be around, and I hoped he would be. As a matter of fact, I had started formulating a plan to make that happen. With all the help and support we had been given, it was time we passed it along.
"We'll at least clear the table," Gene said. "By the way, are Stinky and Woody leaving today? I thought I heard them say they were."
"Tomorrow. They're leaving tomorrow. They're taking us all out to dinner tonight to make up for keeping me all day yesterday," Matt said. They want to hear how registration goes. They will leave early tomorrow. Both have to get back and get ready for Sunday."
"Good morning, Sleepyheads," Paula said as Woody and Stinky entered the kitchen.
"Good morning," both replied.
"Hot or not?" Matt asked.
"Extra hot for me," Woody said.
"Not for me," Stinky answered.
Matt poured coffee for the two and refreshed our cups after he had started their omelets. When he served them, Woody took a bit and said, "I'm not going to be surprised when I come back and find all of you fat as pigs if this cooking keeps up."
"They haven't had any of mine," Gene laughed. "That will be a real weight-losing diet, for sure."
"Which reminds me," Luke said, "Matt, we haven't been running and I think we need to."
"Gotcha," Matt said. "Crew, we start in the morning, early."
"Do we have to?" I asked.
"Well, no, but it would be good for you. You know, once school starts we'll spend a lot of time sitting on our butts, reading and working," Luke said.
"Count us in," Gene said.
"Me as well," Paula added.
When we finished breakfast, we cleared the table, put the dishes in the dishwasher and the others went upstairs to make any final preparation for the trip to Oberlin but, before they left, Gene asked, "How's Mom doing, Woody?"
I swear, Woody did it again. He blushed like a schoolboy, then said, "She's doing great, Eugene. She sends her best to all of you. She also asked me to have you call her tonight and tell her how registration went."
Left alone with Kent, I suggested we go to the library, where I asked him about my talking with Matt since he know little or nothing of Kent's situation. "You certainly can if you like," he said, "but we'll be working together all day and I suspect we'll do some talking."
"Fine, that's great. I just didn't want to say anything without your permission. We all share just about everything, but never with anyone outside the group without permission. We'll talk when I get back."
"That's great," he said, and we returned to the kitchen for a last sip of coffee just as the other three came down.
Gene greeted us with, "Think we need to go in my car," and, after hugging Matt and the two priests, we patted Kent on the back and left.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Three--Matt
Five minutes after the others left, I was finished in the kitchen and ready to go to work after I brushed my teeth. I had put on work clothes when I dressed. Coming out of the bathroom, I met Kent in the hall.
"I'm glad we're working together today," I greeted him. "I feel a bit cheated since the others have gotten to know you and I haven't. But I do know it's good having you here simply from the way my brothers and sister have cottoned to you."
"Cottoned to me?"
"Southern, I guess. It means taken to you. They like you. That's obvious to me and, believe me, I know them so well and they know me so well, we can't fool each other for very long. And, aside from their liking you as a person, they sure appreciate your knowledge and skills. Luke, Larry and I grew up on farms, but I guess we never really learned to prune. That was David's--David Andrews..." I paused to make sure Kent had this, simple to me but confusing to others, family scheme in his mind--he nodded, "...bailiwick. Of course we often helped, but we were told exactly what to do and I guess, as a result, never really learned what we were doing and why."
"Yea, know what you mean. My dad did that for ages, but I finally got to take a horticultural course in high school, my sophomore year, and really got interested in it. A friend, who has moved away now, signed up for several night classes in the continuing education program at the local tech school after we finished the course at school. His dad offered to pick me up, so I started taking classes with him," Kent laughed, "I have taken so many now I have almost as many continuing education units as high school credits. Of course, I could have added them to my high school credits, but I didn't need to."
"Gee, I guess your dad must be proud of your doing that," I said.
"Hardly. Derrick, my brother, says I'm as good or better than Dad, but Dad doesn't see it that way. Sure, I do some things differently, after all horticulture doesn't stand still any more than anything else, but you'd never know that from talking to Dad. He can always find something wrong with everything I do. I used to help him when I was in the "cut this much here" stage, but now he doesn't want me and I'm happy because he'd be all over me all the time I'm working. I do jobs for neighbors and some of their friends--started just for the practice, but now I get paid some, actually, quite well--and have saved all I earned over the last year and a half for college--but if people ask Dad, he always tells them he can't trust my work and if I work for them it's at their risk. But I've been working all I cared to for two years now and people keep coming back and others keep asking. And I have really learned to love the whole horticultural business and want to go into it, especially into landscape design."
"Great!" I said. "I'm convinced loving what you do not only makes your work better, but your life better as well. I know it has for me. I guess we better get started because it looks like another hot day. Man, I thought Ohio being north would be cool. It's hotter here than in the North Carolina mountains."
"Now," Kent laughed, "but wait a couple or three months and you will find it colder than a witch's teat in a brass brassiere," Kent chuckled.
Woody and Stinky came into the kitchen, dressed for work, and Stinky said, "Well, are we working in the cool of the morning, or waiting until it's hot as the hinges of hell outside."
"We're going," I replied as Kent and I downed the last drops of our coffee and went to the orchard with the two priests.
When we reached the orchard, Woody looked over the trees pruned the day before and announced, "Kent, you obviously know what you're doing. Superb job."
"You have an orchard?" he asked Woody.
"Sure do. Seems a rector of St. Alban's some years back had a wife who believed you should plant an orchard when you move to a new place. Priests, at least in those days, often moved after a few years in a parish and she said planting an orchard made her feel permanent and the rectory a home rather than a temporary dwelling. They moved after five years and some of the rectors who followed took care of the orchard, others didn't. The one before me stayed seven years and did nothing for the grove. When I arrived, it looked very much as this one. I didn't know what to do, so I took a couple courses at the tech school and learned how to care for the orchard--at least for starters. I attended classes off and on and have a nice orchard now. The old way of pruning wouldn't have made the trees--especially old trees--as productive as the method you and I use. Of course, Stinky knows very little about what we're doing."
"Neither do I," I added quickly.
"Well, Kent, seems you and I have two jobs, pruning and teaching these two how to do it. I'll take Stinky because I can pull rank if needs be."
"Says he," Stinky laughed as the two went to a tree yards away.
Kent explained what we were doing and how, and we worked on the same tree so he could keep an eye on me and instruct me as I needed it. The sun was out and the temperature rising, so I pulled off my shirt. "Make yourself cool," I said to Kent.
"I would except I don't have sunblock."
"As tanned as you are you need sunscreen?" I asked, hardly believing what he said.
Kent pulled his shirt up, revealing a well-developed chest with huge scars. "The scar tissue burns," he said. "I need more than sunscreen for the scars. I need sunblock."
I wanted to ask what had happened to him, but didn't think I should. "I'll run and get Luke's," I offered.
"Thanks, I'd appreciate that.'
When I returned, I tossed him a bottle of sunscreen and a tube of block. He applied the lotion lavishly to his chest. I could see why his scars were so stark against a decent tan since he went over the scars with block. "Guess Luke told you how I got these," he said.
"No, he didn't," I replied. Kent then told me not only about his surgery, but his father's reaction to having a scarred, imperfect son. I'm sure Kent made an effort to hide the bitterness in his voice, but it was there.
As we worked, he talked more about his relationship to his father, his mother's efforts on his behalf, but most about Derrick's defense of him and his brother's impatience with him for not standing up to his father. "But Derrick's two years younger than I," he said "and I realized how futile it was to try before Derrick saw that I needed to. Now I'll be staying at home, but will be away all day at college--that is if I can arrange transportation. I think I have, but it means a friend who lives near here will have to drive out to my place then back. I'm fairly sure she means well and it will work for a while, but sooner or later I fear the extra miles will be too much. I think it would be for me. Of course, I'll pay her something, but not enough to make up for her expenses and the wear and tear on her car."
After that we talked about what he hoped to accomplish in college, what excited both of us about going to college, and what we feared. I could see why the others had been happy to have him around. After an hour and half working, Woody called over to us, "You youngsters may not need it, but Stinky and I are taking a break. Anything you need from the house?"
"Yea, something cold to drink," I replied.
"Done. Back in a few," Stinky said as they started walking toward the house.
As soon as they passed the garage, Kent asked, "Matt, mind if I ask some pretty personal questions?"
"Not at all, but reserve the right not to answer."
"Strange, that's what Larry said when I asked him the same thing."
"Not so strange. We all do it. It is a reminder that you are free to ask anything you like, but I am free to answer only what I like. So shoot."
"Well, we--all of us at one time or another--talked about being gay yesterday. I must confess I learned a lot and some of it made me very ashamed of myself. But I'm really trying to understand." He then told me about his dad telling people he was gay but, after the night before, he was sure of what he had always thought--he was not. "But I kept wondering how you and Luke and Eugene and Larry knew you were gay and how you found each other."
"That's a two-parter at least and I think really a four-parter," I answered. "But part of it I won't answer. I won't answer anything about Larry and Eugene. They'll have to do that if they want to."
"But you do know?"
"Sure, there are very few secrets among the Fellowship."
"Yea. Surprised the others didn't tell you, but I guess it never really came up." I then told Kent about the Fellowship and how it came into being.
"And Bill and Linda are straight? And Michael and Mary Kathryn?"
"You better believe it," I laughed. "Seems we almost split the Fellowship into gay and straight when we came up. Except for Paula, of course. How and when did I know I was gay? I guess in one sense, I have always known, but didn't admit it. I do know that I loved Luke as long as I can remember and it was always Luke in my wet dreams and I fantasized about Luke when I, well, you know," I said and blushed. "Luke has always loved me and knew he was gay, I just told myself I loved Luke and it was Luke who said, 'Yea, you're gay'. Took me a while to accept the obvious. How did we find each other? I found Luke in the river." I then told Kent about Luke's attempted suicide and the letter he had left saying he loved me.
"And you didn't know?"
"No, I never dared dream of Luke's loving me as I did him."
Woody and Stinky reappeared carrying a jug filled with ice and lemonade. It was really refreshing.
We worked another hour or so before the heat became unbearable. As we worked, Kent and I talked about our families, things which had happened to us etc., getting to know each other. We stopped working when Woody called a halt. "It's too damn hot to work," he declared. We put down our tools and all walked to the house.
Kent helped me fix lunch. He not only knew horticulture, but food preparation and presentation as well. Lunch was a simple affair, but nothing he prepared was just slapped on a plate. When I commented on it, he smiled and said, "Presentation, presentation, presentation. Even if it's only peanut butter and jelly. It only takes a few minutes to make food look good and I appreciate it. Mom says it's one way I show my love for the family when I cook or prepare food. Dad says it's a waste of time--of course--Derrick used to call it sissy stuff, but I have noticed he's doing the same when he's on meals at home. Well, are we ready?"
"Sure, as soon as I get water and juice to drink."
Just as we were ready to sit down to lunch, the phone rang. I grabbed it and, when I answered, someone asked to speak to Father Woods. "Woody, phone," I said and handed it to him. He talked into the phone for a few minutes and then came to to table where we were sitting. "Stinky, I guess we need to give the kids a raincheck on dinner and go as soon as we find out how registration went. That was the senior warden. Old Mrs. Gatsby died this morning. She was ninety-six and going strong, but just keeled over in her garden this morning--heart attack."
"In that case, we better go. Sure sorry, but we can make it up later," Stinky said.
Woody sat down and I asked him to say the the blessing and he did, mentioning Kent and his talent and skills. When he finished, we had before us a lunch which, thanks to Kent, looked as good as it tasted.
When we were about half through, I heard a car pull into the drive, and the four who had been to Oberlin came in. "I hope you four haven't eaten us out of house and home," Paula said. "I'm starved! And does that look good!"
Kent and I got plates, flatware and napkins, and set places for the latecomers and brought some additional food. "Well, how did it go?" I asked, as they each finished their own blessing. "Oh, and by the way, Stinky and Woody have to go. There was a death in Woody's parish. But how did it go?"
"See what time it is?" Larry asked. "That should tell you something. Seems all four of us had been assigned to advisors who are department heads, which I learned is almost unheard of, since they generally only have juniors and seniors and certainly not freshmen. Seniors, who should have preregistered either hadn't or changed their minds, have the privilege of going to the head of an advisor's line, so we did a lot of waiting."
"But it was worth it, at least for me," Eugene said. "Professor Taylor was really helpful. Had I had someone else, I'm sure I would have been stuck in a bunch of education courses which he said are a waste of time and energy. 'If we work carefully, we can avoid many of them. We'll work out an instrumental music major and an education minor which will require you to take some education courses--enough to get you certified, but avoid all we can and especially the really bad ones. You didn't hear me say that,' he said and laughed. So I think I was saved a bunch of boring classes and that gave time to take more music. And boy am I glad I took some AP courses! Heck, I'm a freshman with over a semester of credit."
"Truth be told, the same was true in my case--both about the AP and having a good advisor," Paula said. "I was guided so I would avoid courses which wouldn't really help, but I'll have to take some psychology courses at Case Western Reserve--most likely they will actually be graduate courses. The bad news is I'll probably be here at least five years. The good news is I'll graduate with both a B.A. in choral music and a masters in music therapy. Or I may do summers. By the way, Professor Roth-Batten is my advisor and suggested we might want to invite our advisors over for an evening soon."
"'I know I have a standing invitation, and I expect to take you up on that, but it wouldn't hurt to have all your advisors over,' she offered. She also wanted to know if we gotten much done. 'I suspect you've got the front lawns looking good by now.' I told her we had done pretty well, but the heat was getting us. Thought I'd save our work as a surprise."
It was Luke's turn and he said, "I heard some students talking about Professor Henry Pross. They thought he was too hung up on his department and his position, so I was pretty scared when I sat down with him. I mean he couldn't help me without knowing I was planning on transferring to the Art Institute next year and that was the first thing out of his mouth. 'If recall, you don't think Oberlin can give you want you want or need,' he said as I re-introduced myself. I thought I'd not beat about the bush and said, 'Professor, that was what I was told and, from studying the catalog, I think it's right'."
"'What do you mean?' he asked."
"'Well, I'm interested in studio art, not art history, and it seems Oberlin offers little in the way of studio art,' I responded."
"'Refresh my memory, just why did you choose Oberlin then?'"
"'Honest?,' I asked him and when he nodded, I said, 'Sir, remember my partner is studying organ here and we didn't want to be--weren't going to be--separated. I discovered the Art Institute requires students to live on campus their first year and most of what I would be taking I could get here and then transfer next year or even the year after. See, I am also planning on doing metallurgy at Case Western Reserve because I have become especially interested in sculpture.'"
"'I see,' he said. 'Seems a wise course of action to me and maybe we can work out an independent study each semester in studio art. And how is your partner? How is Matt?'"
"He had been playing a game with me! I wondered what would have happened had I been less honest. 'He's great. Got registration out of the way yesterday and is doing an internship with Holtkamp. And, by the way, we're married--well as married as two men can be--and had our union blessed by the church.'"
"'Great,' he said. 'you two are very fortunate that someone was willing to do that. Fr. Tom?'"
"'Yes, he told us he couldn't, but surprised us at the end of the Eucharist following the ceremony uniting us. It really pleased us.'"
"After seeing Professor Pross, I had to see Mr. Edison who heads up the cooperative program with Case Western Reserve to get a couple classes there. I hope we're not making a dozen trips a week into Cleveland, but the classes just fell where they would so we've got a lot of planning of schedules to do," Luke concluded.
"That goes double for me," Larry said. "I'll be taking liberal arts and basic required courses--what's left after my AP credit--here and about the same number at Case Western Reserve. Oberlin has little in the way of audio-video classes, but most of the theory and communications skills courses I can get here. And, by the way, we all have early classes three days a week but, thank God and unlike you, Matt, no Saturday class."
"Yep, we've got some major scheduling to do," Larry said.
"Well, we'll get to that soon, but right now we need to get these two tired priests on their way. Kent and I worked them pretty hard while all of you were at Oberlin," I said.
"Right," Woody said. "As much as we would like to stay longer, I have to get back to the parish. It's been great being here with you five--and you too, Kent."
"I enjoyed getting to know all of you after all Matt's talk about you this summer. Kent, nice to meet you. Hope you'll be around the next time I come," Stinky said.
"I hope so too, Stinky," Kent said.
Woody said. "I'll be in touch soon, I'm sure. Eugene, did you call your mom?"
"Thought I'd wait until tonight. It's cheaper," he replied. "Promise I'll call her tonight."
There were hugs all around and Stinky kept saying how glad he was to get to meet all of my friends, and how pleased he was with what we had done and were doing. Finally, the two were off.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Three--Eugene
As we turned to go into the house, Kent said, "I think it's too hot to work right now. Besides that, Woody is as good as they get at pruning, and with him working with Stinky and Matt and me working together, we got four trees done this morning. There are only two left and I wanted to check with you about one of them. It's an apple tree which has been damaged by a storm and is seriously diseased. It needs to come down to protect the others because I don't believe it can be restored to health at this stage."
"Then down it comes," Luke said. "we surely wouldn't know what to do about it."
"It was a grand old tree, I suspect here before the others, but it's doomed and really needs to go. And, hey, apple makes good firewood. Smells great. In fact, there are several limbs from the apples pruned which are large enough to keep for firewood, and you do have that great fireplace."
"Then it's settled. Kent, make yourself at home. There's a stereo in the family room and library, computers in the library, and if you can think of anything else you might want or need, yell and we'll see what we can do. Right now we need to get our heads together over a schedule for the house," I said.
"If you don't mind, I would like to check my e-mail and maybe write a couple."
"Sure, go ahead," Luke said.
"Might even turn the stereo on. If I do, do you want it turned up so you can hear?"
"Don't think so. Just set it at a level you enjoy and even close the door so you can have it as loud as you like and we can work without having to talk over it."
I looked around at the faces at the table and all were saying, "There's something strange going on here". Not that any of us blasted our ears off with the stereo, but we did like a bit of volume and it never bothered us before.
"Ok, what's up," Paula asked. "And don't tell me 'nothing'. I can smell a plot you guys come up with a mile away. What gives?"
I looked at Matt and asked, "Matt, did Kent talk to you today, I mean really talk?".
"Yea, he did. Did you see his chest?"
"Ok, what's the mystery here," Paula demanded.
"No, but he told me about his surgery and his situation. Are you thinking what I have been thinking?"
"I bet I am," Matt said.
"Will someone, PLEASE, tell us what is going on here?" Paula pleaded.
"Yea, pretty please," Larry chimed in.
"I'll start," I said, "and, Matt, fill in any details or add what needs to be added." Between the two of us, we told the gang about Kent.
"So, you see," Matt said, "he's rejected by his father for something he had nothing to do with--I mean being born with the heart problem as we were born gay. It's a situation, in one sense, at least three of us can appreciate. He's got little money, just what he's earned doing landscaping. He has transportation only because someone is willing to provide it--his girl friend, I think--and although he has a tennis scholarship--he was state runner-up last year--things are bound to be tough at best."
"He seems to have reconciled himself to the fact that he can never earn his father's approval and doesn't really try for that any more, but he really does live in hell," Matt summarized. "He has the support of his mom and brother, but I think his dad runs things."
"I can see where you are headed," Luke said. "We'll have to make some adjustments, but I don't think that's a problem. We surely know what helping others looks like from being helped." Paula and Larry nodded agreement without what Matt and I had in mind actually being mentioned.
"Amen to that," I said.
"Of course, he may not want to do it, you know," Paula said. "And another thing, if his dad has already decided he is gay, what will happen when--I said when, not if--he discovers Kent's living with four gay men?"
"I guess it's time we talked with him," Luke said. "I assume, of course, we are ready to make an offer and then work out the details. But I want to be sure of that. Paula?"
"I think we should."
"Matt and Eugene, you have pretty much made your position clear, but I want to hear it," Luke said, looking at the two of us. We both made it clear that we were definitely for it.
"That settles it," Paula said.
"No, it doesn't, Luke said emphatically. "Maybe some things we will decide by a majority vote, but nothing as serious as this."
"Look, there was no question about my being here with you four guys. I know you and know you well. You're gay and that figures into my thinking. Kent is not, I'm positive about that. So it's not so simple for me."
"I can understand that," Luke said. "Actually, even after our long talk last night, I am trusting Matt and Eugene's judgement because they have had some real time with Kent. He might have pulled the wool over our eyes last night, but I don't think he could have with Matt and Eugene."
"Actually, I'm all for it," Paula said, "it's just that I really don't know him as I know you four. Ok, I'm all for it, with one condition. If Kent comes on to me once, just once, he's out of here. Agreed?"
"Absolutely. Not only will he be out of here, but he'll be walking on busted legs, I assure you of that," Eugene said. "And I mean every word of it!"
"Are we all absolutely sure we want to do this? And that if there is a pass at Paula, Kent's gone? Absolutely sure?" Matt asked. There were four variations on absolutely sure from around the table. "Then I'll ask Kent to come in and we'll make some decisions." Matt walked to the library door and knocked. The stereo was turned down and Kent opened the door. "Kent, if you have time, we'd like to have you join us for a discussion."
Kent came out of the library, not surprisingly, looking puzzled. He walked slowly to a chair Matt indicated and sat down. "Kent, I think I need to begin by telling you two things. First, the five of us have very few secrets from each other. That's because we really do see ourselves as members of the same family and, second, because we absolutely trust that, except in very rare cases in which to withhold something might lead to someone being hurt, what we say among ourselves stays among us unless we ask, and get permission, to tell someone else. That's an absolute. Having said that, I need to tell you, we have been discussing the things you told me today, Eugene yesterday, and what you said last night. I guess we all thought that would be ok with you since you had talked freely to all of us at one time or another. Was it all right? Not that we haven't done it already."
"Sure. I was surprised last night when Eugene said practically nothing about what we had talked about, but I wouldn't have cared anyway."
I smiled when Luke mouthed "Greywolf" and I watched Matt transform himself into Greywolf. It was very obvious he was his father's son! "I'll attempt to summarize what we talked about. First, you and your father do not get along because of his rejection of who you are and what you can do. Some of us can sympathize with that from experience. Second, while you have a scholarship to pay for college, you have little else in the way of funds. Third, you planned to live at home while attending college because you can't afford to do otherwise and you live ten miles further from Case Western Reserve than we do. Fourth..." Matt suddenly stopped, because we were all laughing our heads off. Even Kent was laughing. "What the hell?" he stuttered.
"Matt, you are a carbon copy of Greywolf doing a family meeting," Luke laughed and, in a very Greywolf voice, said, "And, ninety-nine, my son sleeps with a beautiful hunk of a man." We all had tears running down our faces.
Kent wasn't laughing quite as hard as the rest of us as he said, in a Matt voice, "I thought you were a robot!".
"Well, it gets the job done," Matt protested.
"It sure does. Do continue, Matt," Paula was finally able to say.
I thought Matt might change his approach, but he went right ahead. "Fourth, your transportation is tenuous at best and puts a burden on you and on your friend." Then in his usual voice Matt asked, "She's your girlfriend, right?".
"Yea, I guess if I have one, she's it," Kent said.
"In summary," Matt was Greywolf again, "you have problems with your dad, with money and transportation. After discussing it thoroughly, we'd like to make an offer for your consideration. We'd like to invite you to live with us. It looks as though one or more of us will be going into Cleveland every day, so the transportation problem would be solved, not on an ideal schedule, but you would have a way to and from college. And you would be away from your father."
"There are some things you need to know and think about," I said. "First of all, there is one condition which is absolute. You make a pass at Paula and you are out of here."
Kent laughed and said, "I should be so lucky. To make it out of here, I mean."
"Probably true,' Luke said with a smile.
"Another thing," Larry added, "you need to think what it might mean in terms of your life to be living in a house with four gays. I know your dad has already said you were, but apparently only to his family. None of us are joining a Gay Pride parade or anything like that. We don't go 'round announcing we're gay. None of anyone's business, but you, yourself, decided that Eugene and I were a couple or at least that we had a special relationship. Others may well pick up on that so you need to consider it as a real possibility."
"We haven't discussed anything about money, duties and responsibilities yet," Paula said, "since we wanted to know your reaction to our proposal first."
If there had been any doubt about Kent's liking the idea, one look at his face would have dispelled it. He was grinning from ear to ear. "I told Eugene yesterday I wished I could be in a situation like you have here, but never, ever, would have dreamed it might be possible. As to the condition concerning Paula, I can accept that but, in doing so, I want you to know, Paula, that if I didn't respect your wishes, I might give it a try. You are one beautiful woman!"
Paula blushed and then said, "Thanks, Kent, flattery will get you a lot but, in this case, you can look but not touch," and both laughed.
"As to living with gay men, I've thought a lot about last night's discussion. Once I really realized that what you said about being gay was like my heart--not that being gay is a defect, but that it's just the way you are born as my heart defect was the way I was born--I had my eyes opened. If someone wants to make something of it, I think I can defend myself. I don't need time to think about your offer, so let's discuss details."
"The way we're operating, so far as household expenses are concerned, is to divide the bills by five. I think it would be reasonable to just divide by six," Luke said. "The house is ours. We paid for it so there's no house payment. When we leave, we can sell it and the money's ours. We have three vehicles among us and will use them as needed. So far as transportation costs are concerned, I guess we may as well just divide that by six. We can and will have to work out a schedule for their use, but I don't think any one of us would deny use of his vehicle if it is needed. Everything in the house is shared. We have three computers..."
"I have one which I would insist on bringing since I worked and paid for it. Dad will buy Derrick one if he wants one."
"Good," Luke said. "Same with the duties. We decided we all needed to learn to do everything but, right now, I am cooking with someone who's not good at it..."
"Lunch today showed you Kent's kitchen certified," Matt said. "So we'll have three teams to cook. Later, if we want to change team mates we can."
"And you can have your drawing board set up in the studio," Luke said. "If we find having each other around is a problem, we can hang a curtain or something."
"Could we install one of the computers there? I do a lot of CAD--computer aided drafting."
"Don't see why not," Luke said.
"Anything else? Matt asked.
"Yea, room assignment. Upstairs or downstairs?" Paula asked.
"I thought upstairs," I said. "But now that you bring it up, what made you think of it?"
"Bathrooms, mainly. But, also, don't you think it would be a good idea to keep you smelly men isolated," she laughed. "I mean, I'd be happy to move downstairs and all you guys would be upstairs and wouldn't have to worry about running around nude, not that you three have anything I haven't seen."
Suddenly Kent got a "what have I gotten myself into?" look on his face. Paula laughed, "Kent, you are looking at the world's greatest skinny dipping team. These four guys and I and the other five members of the Fellowship... you know about the Fellowship?" Kent nodded, "...are all major skinny dippers. Anyway, what do you five think?"
"Basically that makes sense, but what about furnishings and decor? Your room is a bit feminine for a man, I think," Luke said.
"No reason the furniture can't be changed. My room is painted beige which has a pink overtone, but that can be toned down with curtains, bedspreads, etc. Or Kent could take the other room we're not using."
"True and, in fact, it was thinking about that room which gave me the idea in the first place," I said. "It's done in a very soft gray with red and black decor. Very masculine, I think."
"And, if you recall, I chose the color and all for the downstairs room and I have always liked it."
"Done, then. Kent, you'll join the bull pen."
"I will make one request. Haul down the queen-sized bed and exchange it for the twins. And, Kent, if you have a full-sized or larger bed, you might want to try to get it. The twins are small if you're used to a large bed," Paula said.
"I have a king-sized which I bought and paid for. It's mine."
"Well, I guess that takes care of everything except the big hassle--the schedules. I know that is going to be one ass-busting bitch, so I suggest we put it off until tonight and get back to work," Luke said. "As much as I hate to say this, Kent, I think you would be more valuable keeping an eye on the four of us, and keep us from messing up, than trying to prune."
"I hate to hear you say it too, but I guess you're right. Let's go."
The pruning went much faster than it had the two days before, I guess we had learned more than we thought. We started at 3:00 and had finished the two remaining trees at 4:30. Kent and Paula pruned the remaining healthy tree. It would have been good to have found a chainsaw somewhere to tackle the old diseased tree, but we didn't. The tree was felled with ax and saw, both using manpower. It was good exercise and we took turns as we cut the old tree and larger limbs into firewood. The smaller branches were stacked to be hauled off later.
While the tree and limbs were being cut, those not working or resting took the compost from the bins and piled it in a heap to be covered with a tarp and then gathered up the weeds and put them in the bins. It was almost 6:00 when we went to the house. Luke and Paula again got dibs on the showers--of course Luke was joined by Matt, but it was obvious they didn't play around because Luke was ready to hit the kitchen by the time Paula was. Supper wasn't fancy, but it was good and we all enjoyed it. When we had finished with the kitchen work, it was 8:00 and Paula suggested we have an hour's down time. No-one objected. Luke, Kent and Eugene went to the studio. Paula took a book to the sun porch and Matt decided to get in an hour's practice. I took my video camera outside to record the 'after' picture of the garden and orchard to complete a 'before' segment.
ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Three--Kent
To say I was surprised when I got called into the meeting is a colossal understatement. I had lain awake for a couple hours the night before, just thinking about how great it would be to be in a situation like the Oberlin Five--I had smiled when I heard one of them call themselves that. When I asked, I was told more about the Fellowship and how it now had two divisions--the Oberlin Five and the Concord Five. When I mentioned it to Matt as we were cutting up the old apple tree, he suddenly got a strange look on his face and said, "I guess we'll have to become the Lorain Six, since you'll not be at Oberlin. Neither will Luke and Larry when they get settled. Yes, I guess we better become the Lorain Six. Or maybe... no, it's the Lorain Six."
"I don't think so, Matt. The Oberlin Five is connected with the Fellowship and the Concord Five. I'm sure their number will expand, but they will always be, for you five, the Concord Five. No, I think you are the Oberlin Five. It really speaks to your history, not the college."
"Man, you are so right. Got a head on your shoulders, Kent."
After dinner, everyone went their separate ways and only Matt and I were left in the house. Matt promptly went to the family room and opened the organ. When he started to put on the headphones, I said, "If you don't mind, could you leave them off. I haven't heard you play very much."
"Never turn down an audience," he laughed. Five minutes later I could have been the paint on the wall so far as he was concerned. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not in this universe. After he played for forty-five minutes, Matt took a pad of blank sheet music and started playing, then stopping, making notations, then playing the phrase over. I'm not sure he was aware that I left the room.
As I left the family room, it occurred to me that we were going to work on schedules and I didn't have mine. I called home and when Derrick answered the phone, I swore him to secrecy and told him about the offer. He was almost as excited as I was. "I'll probably be home tomorrow to talk to Dad, but I'll talk to Mom tonight. Now I have a favor to ask of you. I need my college schedule. It's in the Case Western Reserve folder on my desk. Would you please find it, scan it and, when I am off the phone, e-mail it to me? I'd appreciate it."
"Happy to, Kent. Real happy to and happy for you. I'm so excited that this has happened for you. I'll call Mom to the phone and get the schedule ready to send right now, hang on." About a minute later, Mom was on the phone. "Mom," I said, "I have some really great news!" I told her about the offer from the Oberlin Five and how pleased I was. She was too, and just kept on asking questions.
Finally she said, "Kent, I had some bad news for you when you got back. I have been bugging your dad to buy you an old car to get to and from college, but he was having none of it. 'He'll just have to find a way. I did,' he kept saying, and last night he did one of his final word announcements and said I was not to mention it again. I guess he'll just never see what's in you and I'm sorry."
"I am too, Mom, but I realize that will not likely change so I'm living my own life and no longer trying to prove anything to him... well, most of the time anyway. I'll be there some time tomorrow to talk with the two of you and get my things that I am bringing over."
"I'll see that your clothes are ready. I don't know how your dad will take this. I hope well. Come at lunch when he'll be here."
"I hope he takes it well, but I have made my decision."
"Well, I need to get off the phone so Derrick can send my schedule. Wish us luck tonight. We're going to try to coordinate schedules, duties and transportation. Wish we had a computer program to do that! Talk to you tomorrow. I love you, Mom.
"I'm excited for you, Son and I dearly love you. Bye."
I went into the library and turned on a computer. I almost panicked since I had just assumed I would be at my own computer and could get my e-mail. Just before I called Matt to get his address, I remembered Derrick would use my web account since he had one and knew how to use it. As I watched, the computer booted and the dialog box came up asking for a password for my login.
When I had gone into the library this afternoon--while the others were holding some kind of meeting--I wanted to check my e-mail and write a couple, but I was stymied by the same dialogue box and could not send or receive e-mail. I started to the kitchen where the rest were, but I saw they were involved in some deep discussion and didn't bother them. Instead, I just put on some music and relaxed.
Now, just when I thought about going to get Matt, I realized he was not playing and, when I looked up, he was coming in the door. "I thought about you needing a userid and password this afternoon, but we got so involved in our discussion I forgot it. When I stopped playing to ask you something, I discovered you had gone and thought you might be here. I'll set you up." In a few minutes, Matt had give me a userid--kent--and got up so I could add a password.
"You could do that, I wouldn't mind."
"You might. Luke outed himself to Michael, without knowing it when he left a file open, almost four months before he jumped in the river. No, we're friends and trust each other, but definitely don't share passwords."
I typed in a password and was logged on. I quickly checked my e-mail and Derrick had sent the schedule. I printed it out and then wrote a couple e-mails--including one to Christine telling her I would call tonight. I knew she had been working in a camp all summer, but should be back.
It was shortly after nine when we had all gathered in the dining room. I was surprised to find three large sheets of newsprint--each made from several regular sheets--taped to the wall, all with seven columns, labeled with the days of the week, and eighteen rows. I suspected Luke had done them when he went to the studio, since they were extremely neat. Matt was standing up, the rest seated, all with schedules in hand. "Kent, I'm sure you can't remember your schedule, but we'll do the best we can," Matt said in greeting me.
"I have it. Derrick scanned it and sent it by e-mail."
"Great! Before we get to class schedules, there are some things we can put in. Paula, temple Friday night?" Paula nodded and said, "7:00. plus the drive to and from. Make it 6:30 until 8:30." Matt wrote that in the proper blocks, using a red marker. I guess I looked puzzled, because Matt said, "Paula's Jewish".
"Luke, Eugene, Larry, mass?"
"Sure, but what about time? And where? I guess we go church shopping."
"I guess," Matt said. "But for the time being, and since it's Sunday, I'll just put in 9:30 until 1:00. That will cover a 10:30 mass, which is becoming common, or the usual 11:00 one. He used green, blue and purple pens to write their names. Kent?"
"I've always gone with the family, actually without thinking about it."
"You can go with us if you like or not go at all, that's your business. But if you have no objection to where your parents go, you can still go with them."
"That's about all we agree on. Dad gets upset over the welcoming of YOUR kind," Kent said with a laugh, "but I like my church. I even want to go, I guess. I'm very comfortable there. It's just that I have never thought about not going since it wasn't an option. It's at 11:00 so block me out 10:30 until 1:00." Matt wrote my name in black marker. I could see how the color coding was going to make a complicated chart a bit easier to read.
"Kent, I think that's a wise choice since it will be a sign that you are still a part of your family," Eugene said.
"I put 6:00 am on the charts because I have got to get back to running, but maybe that's a bit early," Luke said.
"It sure will be this winter," I said. "Anyone have an 8:00 class?"
My early ones are at 9:00," Matt said.
"Then if we run at 6:30 and have breakfast at 8:00, we could make a 9:00 class at Oberlin, but I don't think we could make Case or Holtkamp," I said. "I suspect it might be best to put the running in the evening."
"Everyone running?" Matt asked. Nods all the way around. "5:00 in the afternoon too early, Kent? I'm not sure about getting back by then from Holtkamp. I was thinking of being there from 9:00 until 5:00. And glad you are with us, I mean really joining in." Four nods of agreement.
"Everyone doesn't have to run at the same time, Matt," Paula said. "and it could be a different time on different days. Why don't two of us work at a time and put up our schedules? Then we'll see how other things can fit in?" We did and, when we had, Luke said, "Man, we're going to get little sleep if we have to prepare for class at night."
"Wait a minute," Eugene said, "Matt, you're going into Holtkamp twice a week. Look at when Luke and Kent will be at Case those two days. They have a whole afternoon free if you don't take two cars. That's an afternoon preparing for class. They can work in the library or somewhere. Same with those of us at Oberlin. If we make it a day at school, and not waste our time, we won't have to work at night, at least seldom." That was great news for all of us. Clearly we were thinking of high school where school meant classes every hour, all day every school day."
We were all looking over the charts when Luke said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul..."
"Whoa," I said, "what's this?"
Luke explained the name he used for Matt and told me his Korean name as well. "You'll have to hear all about those two jokers and their names soon," Paula laughed. "They each have a baby book full of names."
"Anyway, Matt, you have the only Saturday class, that's a rotten deal for you and all of us."
Everyone fell silent and then Matt practically shouted, "That's a performance class. It's studio time and I know I'll only be with my teacher every other week. I think she lives just down the road, from what I was told. If so, she might be willing to allow me to work here on my own organ..."
"That's my job you're talking about," Luke quipped and Matt blushed.
"Here on my RODGERS," he continued. "She might even prefer to come here since it would free up her day. Might even arrange another time. I'll check."
"That sure would be great," Eugene said. "This may be easier than we thought. Just takes some creative thinking."
It was midnight before we got all the schedules and the duty roster completed, but it looked good--at least on paper. It did mean a car to Cleveland every day, but one car would do it since the classes at Case for Luke and Larry were, by sheer luck, all Tuesday and Thursday when Matt went to Holtkamp.
When Matt wrote the last entry, Paula stood up and shouted, "Skinny dipping time," and started taking off her clothes. And I was supposed to keep cool around her? I could, I would, but a hardening in my jeans said it might not be easy! Five minutes later, the six of us were frolicking in the lake.
It was 1:30 when I finally slid into bed and lay there thinking just how quickly and wonderfully my life had changed today. I felt a sense of relief, happiness and thankfulness sweep over me when I thought of the kindness the Oberlin Five had shown me. I was finding out what they meant when, several times, one or the other had spoken of it being time to give after all they had received. In one sense, I felt that I had always known them and, in another, that I knew so little about them. Time would, I was sure, change that. In any event, I was happier than I has been since I couldn't remember when. It was one happy horticulturalist-to-be who finally had his excitement overcome by sleep and beautiful dreams.