So Alan and I were no longer a couple. We were friends. Not a whole helluva a lot to be thankful for that Thanksgiving. I mean it was great that we could still be friends but when you considered how great our relationship was for two years... I guess I could be thankful that we were friends and we hadn't ended everything in a big nasty fight. Maybe the separation would help my feelings phase out easier. Right.
It's a tradition in Atlanta, or it used to be, that every Thanksgiving night Rich's department store held a tree lighting ceremony in its flagship store at the outskirts of Underground Atlanta. There was a sky walk (pedestrian bridge) that was three or four stories high connecting two buildings and on one level there'd be a choir singing Christmas carols, on another level there'd be some very cheery Christmas display. On top of the sky walk roof was an enormous Christmas tree and at the end of the ceremonies they'd throw the switch and light it up for the duration of the holidays. People would come from miles around and stand in the streets listening to the choir and freeze their butts off as they waited for the finale.
I was in less than a happy mood that evening but had agreed to go down with Glen, Teresa, George and a girl named Kim who also worked at the theater. I'd invited Alan but he had family coming in for dinner and wasn't able to get away. We finally found a parking lot not too far from the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. If you're familiar with Atlanta then you know how long it takes to walk from there to where Rich's used to be. We got down to Rich's just as they were lighting the tree and missed all of the hoopla beforehand. I made some cynical comment about how short that visit was and we all turned around to head back to my car. My parents still had the fat-ass Caprice Classic which I used all of the time then.
We were driving back to Stone Mountain on Ponce De Leon all goofing off and joking around. Well, they were. I just drove and listened, wishing to God I could rewind time and have Alan back. Glen and Teresa had made a crack or two at each other then all of a sudden she'd grown quiet. I couldn't tell you what the jokes were but she actually started it by bustin' on him. He laughed and made a comment back and that's when she got pissed. The two of them started arguing all the way through Decatur (about twenty minutes) and finally harrumphed. George and I just rolled our eyes. They started up again once we hit Memorial Drive and were getting close to the theater, where a couple of them had parked their cars.
I'm not sure what got into my head but I pulled the car over into the Krystal's parking lot and bitched them both out for ruining what was supposed to be a really nice evening, that they were always getting into arguments without giving a shit about the people around them, and that if they wanted to argue fine, but have the god damned decency to do it in private! You could've heard a pin drop and they avoided eye contact with me. I shook my head and headed back to the theater.
George and Kim were fine and headed off to their cars to go home. Glen and Teresa piled out and he walked her over to her car. I could tell they were still arguing. More accurately, she was still pouting and pitching a fit. After she drove off, Glen stood there for a minute so I got out and asked him if he wanted to grab a drink at Skip's, which was a bar right next to the theater. We headed in and sat at a table. Getting a drink wasn't a problem, even though we were just 19. We'd known Skip since he'd opened the bar and he was pretty cool to the college kids who worked at the theater.
Three hours and six jack and Cokes (each) later Glen and I were well beyond the point of being guarded about anything we said to each other. He'd found a confidant in me about his girlfriend. He'd asked why I was so damn moody the past couple of months and that week in particular. I had no problem, thanks to the whiskey muscle, telling him about Alan and myself. It was really kind of funny because I'd experienced the same "blinking moment" that I did when I told my parents that I was gay. But he was cool with it. I'm sure that I shocked him somewhat, although it was obvious to everyone with a pulse that I didn't have a girlfriend. Either way, that night, as disastrous and drunken as it had begun, was the true beginning of a friendship that has continued to last until this day. Yeah we'd hung out before and been out drinking a lot, but telling someone that you're gay either draws you closer to them or drives you apart. That's just how some people are.
During Christmas break I was able to hang out with Alan. It wasn't the easiest thing to do, believe me. A couple of times he, Glen, George, Don and myself would head over to either Applebees or Skip's to eat and grab a few beers. No drunk-fest, just some guys having fun. I was completely awkward with Don and Alan at the same table but Alan seemed cool with it. All the guys except George knew that I was gay. I'm not sure but for some reason I never had the compulsion to tell him. Don didn't know that Alan and I had once dated, though obviously Glen now did. I really wasn't wanting anyone to get real tanked, because with five drunk guys who knows where those kind of conversations could lead.
A few days after Christmas Glen, Teresa, Jessica and I took George to the hotel airport where he'd be staying before leaving for basic training the next day. It was a tearful goodbye - for all of us. He'd gotten under my skin in a good way and it was good to just have someone that you could cuss like a sailor with and not worry about offending or go out and get completely smashed with. What was cool about George was that at heart he was a really nice guy who wore his emotions on his sleeve.
My parents had surprised my brothers and me with the news that they intended to buy some property in North Georgia, near Clarksville, which is a couple of hours north of Atlanta. The day after Christmas they drove us all north to check out the land; they wanted to get our opinions on it before they made a formal offer on it. The story that they were told by their realtor was that some guy had purchased three hundred acres and had recently built a small hunting cabin on the property, but had to sell it due to a divorce settlement. The road leading up to the cabin wasn't a road as much as it was a very long driveway. He'd broken a couple of sections of the property into 10-acre tracts and the rest into larger parcels, with the hopes that it would be easier to sell the property piecemeal than in one big chunk. The lot my parents wanted to buy had the cabin on it and when we saw it we could tell that it was one of the best parcels around.
The road dead-ended near the cabin and the lot itself was diamond shaped, with the property sloping downhill towards the rear two sides. A creek bordered the rear two edges of the property and another mountain rose steeply from the opposite bank. It was fuckin' incredible! The cabin wasn't a huge thing, but it had a little kitchenette, a bathroom and a living area that stepped out onto a rear porch which overlooked the property down to the creek. A little flight of stairs took you upstairs to one big open loft where the rafters lay exposed to the sheet metal roof above. There were a pair of windows at each end of the loft. The cabin had a wood burning stove which was the only source of heat.
My brothers and I were really excited and thought it would be really cool to have a place like that to go to. Mom and Dad agreed and made an offer that was accepted, and the Lyons family soon owned a vacation house!
* * * *
I couldn't believe what I was about to do. No way on this planet would I ever, ever have guessed that I'd be heading to meet someone anonymous for.....
Let me back up. Don't worry, this isn't a flashback. But I'll warn you in advance that the shit that was going through my mind was like poison, what I'm about to share. If some of my commentary is less than pretty, well, hopefully the situation will explain itself and how fucked up my mind was.
Sex with Alan had been fan-fuckin-tastic. Sometimes we made love, other times we fucked like rabbits. Don't be surprised - we weren't even twenty years old and the testosterone coursed through our veins like a diesel train at times. It's what I like to think of as being "passion." When he went off to UGA and things had gotten....well, squirley, between us, sex was rare. I kept having to fight urges to check out and make passes at every good looking guy I saw walk through the theater lobby. When you're single, more and more people get better looking.
There's a free magazine in Atlanta called Creative Loafing and it's a great place to read articles about what's going on in and around downtown Atlanta, whether it's the police blotter or regular new items. The personals ads in it are a trip. There are separate sections for M/F, F/F, M/M advertisements and some of the people placing ads....well, can be quite inventive. Every Tuesday someone would inevitably pick up a Loafing and read it in box office between ticket sales. Between shows if we saw one in there we'd check out the ads and laugh at things like "Batman seeking Boy Wonder." Yes, that was an actual ad and I about puked from laughing so hard when I read it. There used to be a gay hot line in there and we'd make prank calls to it from time to time. Normally I'd be the one to make the calls because I can mimic any type of voice and I guess, stupidly, I'd use the voice that is typically associated with gay men. People would whisper questions to me to ask the guys. It was all stupid really.
One night we connected to this guy who said he'd graduated from my high school four years before I did. I was still trying to separate the boyfriend from the friend in my mind with Alan. I wanted sex. I wanted just....animal fucking. I was 19 and horny as hell. I wasn't using my phony voice and talked to the guy for a minute or two. I'd gotten his phone number and later on called him back from the projection booth upstairs. After talking and flirting with him ad nauseum I'd gotten his address. My shift had ended around six and I went home to change. I went through my old yearbooks to see if I could find the guy, and while I remembered his name I couldn't find anything in them.
Somehow in my bizarro world I had the twisted thinking that if Alan didn't want me, that was fine. We could be friends. Cool. But our former sex life was pretty active and I just wanted to get fucked....or fuck someone. The idea of making it with some anonymous hot guy was something that you fantasize about, but I don't know many people who are into consistent one-night stands. When put in the actual position to make a choice....fuck it! I thought and grabbed my keys off the hanger then got into my dad's truck. Hell, this would work, right? I could get Alan off of my mind and keep him in friendship mode if I just trivialized sex, right?
It was already dark out but not too cold for a mid February night. The apartment was down near the airport and I took the perimeter south to I-20, then east until I hit the connector where I headed south again. The whole way down there I was thinking, 'you dick, you're not gonna do this. You're not gonna do this...." Even though the cab of the truck was warm I had a problem keeping form shivering. I'd never done anything like this and was sort of freakin' myself out.
I pulled up to the apartment and sat there waiting. The guy said his mom was the apartment manager and he was sort of the handyman. I took a deep breath and my hands shook as I reached my hand up to knock on the door. A woman in her late 40's answered the door and I asked for Sam. She said that Sam didn't live there but her son Neal did. She seemed suspicious as this guy a few years older than myself came to the door. He stepped out into the hall and said that he wasn't really expecting me to come by and that his mom had come home early from her night job as a nurse. Neal opened the door and said that we'd be back soon and we left in my truck to head over to where he worked a full time job.
As we were sitting there talking in the cold I couldn't help but shaking, though not as much from the cold as from nerves. I was rock hard at the idea of nailing this guy. Suddenly he reaches over and grabs my dick through my pants so I did the same to him. He said he wished he could have the chance to give me head and I told him that's why I was there. Neal asked if he could see my cock before we headed back to his place so I unzipped and showed it to him, all the time thinking, what the fuck am I doing. But I was acting like an airplane on a train track. I was doing the unexpected but couldn't stop myself.
We got back to his place and he cautioned against doing anything there so we wouldn't wake up his mom, who'd just gone to bed. He went into his room and came back with a bag of magazines then we headed out of the apartment and went to the office for privacy. The whole time this son of a bitch was telling me how good looking I was. Please. He was obviously just as horny but didn't seem to get that I was a sure thing. In the office I started looking at the mags and about went out of my mind. Up until then I'd never seen gay porn and this got my attention. The whole time this skell was pulling at my pants button and zipper. I let him suck my cock as I looked at all the hot pictures in the mags. He was pretty good at it and had no problem deep throating me. He'd obviously "been there, done that."
He kept telling me bullshit that I was cute and hot and he didn't expect someone as good looking as me to show up at his door. This, after he'd been polishing my knob for ten minutes. I put the magazine down and told him to just shut up and catch. I wasn't interested in pillow talk. In my mind I was groaning and hating myself. I felt like I was cheating on Alan, even though we'd broken up. But the head Neal was giving was so damn good....
He pulled off and said that he'd love the chance to have me fuck him. I told him to go get some lube. He left and I looked through the rest of the magazines. At any time I could have zipped up and left but something animal inside of me wouldn't let me. Neal came back a few minutes later and started taking off his clothes. Definitely not Alan's body. Neal was toned but wiry. He wasn't even all that good looking. But instead of telling him 'no' I got down on the floor. He slicked up my cock with lube and squatted down over it. I was so out of control that I didn't even care about a condom. I popped in and he remained still for a minute before sliding down bit by bit onto me. Damn, his ass was tight. We started a quick rhythm and he slipped off of me, my dick popping out. He reached beneath himself to guide my dick, popping it just inside of him. 'Hold on a sec' he told me. 'Right' I said and I grabbed his thighs and slammed my cock so hard up his ass he lost his breath. It didn't seem to bother him too much as I fucked him as hard as I could for the next ten minutes. He moaned and groaned like the bitch in heat skell he was. Whoring himself on my dick.
Suddenly he choked out a groan then blew his load all over my stomach. Mother fucker. I didn't say he could do that. How fuckin' gross! His goddamn skell spunk sliding around on my skin. That's when I really threw him a grunge fuck. Again, it didn't seem to bother him as I nearly launched him from my lap with each thrust. He had this stupid fucking smile that I just wanted to smack off. Finally I came inside his ass. I hated to admit but it felt incredible and sure beat using my right hand all the time. Neal leaned down and while my eyes were closed and tried to kiss me. I jerked my head to the side. You've got to be fuckin' kidding me! No way was I kissing that mouth. I pushed him off of me and he got the message. Standing up he grabbed some tissues from the desk to wipe his grossness from my stomach. I couldn't fuckin' wait to get out of there.
We got dressed and Neal said something about getting together again and trying new positions. I snorted and said something like, 'yeah, sure.' I've never felt so far away from "myself" then at that moment. He walked me to my truck and as I got in patted my ass. I wanted to deck him. I told him I'd call him later. I hope he's still not waiting after sixteen years.
As I drove north on the connector towards I-20 all of the emotions hit me like a fuckin' freight train. I hollered out loud at the top of my lungs because I hated myself for what I'd just done. I had always prided myself on not being a guy into hook-ups or one-night stands. I'd let my cock take control over who I was. Some people might say, "Hey Paul, get a grip. It was just a fuck, get over it. Plenty of people do it." Yeah that's true, but I wasn't that way. I wasn't raised to just put out for anybody, let alone some guy I talked to on the telephone one time in my life. Shit, and to not even care about using a condom! What the fuck was I thinking? As easy as that guy was for me to get, I sure as hell wasn't his first experience. Who knows what diseases he could've been carrying.
I hollered out loud again, this time for Alan. At that moment I felt that I'd thrown everything I'd ever had with him into a black hole. We shared experiences and we shared each other's body. He and I had sex because we loved each other. We broke up because we cared for each other so much that even if we couldn't be lovers, we couldn't bear to be anything less than friends. That night in his dorm room I cried because I knew I'd miss him, not just because I was losing a boyfriend. What we had was special. At least we thought so. And then to denegrade those memories by picking up some horned-up pig on a gay party line....
What sickened me the most about Neal was that for a moment I was looking into a mirror when I thought about his face. I saw myself. In my mind I'd gone down to depths that I swore I'd never go. In Neal's face I saw that I was capable of losing control of myself. And I hated myself for it. In the context that I saw him as a pig, I was seeing myself in the same light. In the context that I was thinking horrible thoughts about him, I was thinking them of myself.
And sometimes that sort of self realization can be a bitch to handle.
I finally got home and it was late, but not too late to take a shower. Even if it were midnight I would've taken one. I turned the water on has as hot as I could stand and scrubbed as hard as possible every inch of my body that I could reach. I couldn't get the filth off of me. In my mind's eye his stuff was all over my stomach. That goddamn mouth trying to kiss me. I scrubbed until my body was red, as red as my eyes were from crying the night Alan and I broke up. When the water turned from hot to tepid I got out, finally. After I put on some shorts and a t-shirt I headed downstairs and rooted around the pantry but I didn't have an appetite, really. As I passed by where the phone hung in the kitchen I glimpsed the date on the calendar. February 14.
* * * * *
That March both Matt and George were home on leave for a long weekend. We all headed over to Glen's house to hang out. He had a finished basement with a pool table and pinball machines, along with a huge sectional sofa which was great for watching movies. Blake was there also and I'd also gotten Don to stop by for a while. I'd missed Matt but since I'd gotten to know George a lot more at the theater I ended up hanging out with him more. He'd be graduating from some Air Force school in Florida in July and we all decided that to celebrate we'd all go down and stay for a weekend in Panama City. Blake's parents owned a condo down there and he was sure that we'd be able to get it for whatever weekend we wanted.
The weekend came and went and both guys had gone back to their perspective services. Glen was still sitting out of school that quarter and I was now fully enrolled at Georgia State. Because of that Don and I ended up carpooling to the Marta station on the three days when our classes were at the same time. I enjoyed being his friend again. Being just a friend was much easier than opening myself up to the distractions of love. I'd gotten him out of my system, although I'm no dummy, the guy's incredibly good looking with a hot bod. What can I say? Some guys would do the Dixie Chicks, I dig guys.
Alan and I saw each other more now that football was over for the year. On so many occasions I'd wanted to tell him about my night with Neal but I thought it would just hurt him. Whoever said that the truth will set you free may have had a point in saying that, but oftentimes the truth can hurt someone else, and now was not the time for that. I felt myself pulling away from Alan a bit. Luckily it was sort of easy to hide because many times we'd be with a group of people so I didn't feel the need to talk with him as much. Looking back I realize that I was feeling guilty, I just didn't know that then. Growing older has that maturing effect on you.
By the time I'd noticed that the lump in my neck had moved it was late April. I'm sure it didn't happen overnight but for some reason it stood out to me one morning as I shaved. Remembering the advice of my doctor I called and set an appointment. She referred me to a surgeon who would actually remove the lump and have it biopsied. The surgery was scheduled for the first week after school was out in June.
A lot of things would come together at one time that summer. Some friendships would be strengthened. Some would just end.
A new era was right around the corner for Paul Lyons, and this time I could feel it in my bones.....