September 9 2005
Life was perfect. After that day at Devil’s Lake three months ago, Derrick and I fell ever more deeply in love. Neither of us had still come out to our parents or anyone else for that matter. The one thing that hurt me the most about our relationship (and really it was the only thing I didn’t like) was how we still had to hide it. It was only late December and Derrick still had five months of high school to finish, and if “we” got out in the open, there would be many people who could make our lives a living hell.
There was no doubt that many of Derrick’s friends noticed a difference in his behavior. Derrick was always a naturally vibrant person, but he became ever more so when I would play in (and on a few occasions when Mr. Brenly was ill, conduct) the band. Derrick also began spending less time with his friends. On a rare occasion, I would meet Derrick some place for lunch, which he normally spent with his friends. If that hadn’t already suspected something was up, they would soon enough. Derrick told me once that Benny, one of his golfing buddies, asked him if he had a girlfriend yet, to which I am told Derrick simply shrugged off the question.
I noticed in the past few weeks that Derrick was becoming more nervous and edgy than he normally was. Finally, one night when we were eating at a restaurant in the Dells; he appeared very distracted, so I finally confronted him.
“Derrick, honey, is something bothering you.”
Derrick took a quick glance around the room and found it mostly empty, with no one that either of us recognized or were within earshot of before turning back to me.
“Tommy. People are starting to talk.”
I already knew the answer, but I asked anyway. “About what?”
This one word sent shivers down my spine. I always did my research, and when I was certain of my sexuality, I knew to make certain what I was getting into. I had seen many grisly photographs of gay people who had been discovered and brutally beaten, and sometimes even killed, often by “friends.”
Derrick continued, seeing the look on my face and knowing I wanted the details. “Apparently someone saw us at the movie theatre last week and again at Culvers after that.” Derrick and I saw a movie last week together, only this time we had become more risky and actually rode together, afterward we went out for dinner at a local fast food restaurant called “Culvers” in the Dells. “I overheard some people talking at lunch and I heard both our names. I could tell they were looking in my direction a lot. My friends seemed really edgy too when we were eating together lunch.”
This could be disastrous for us, not in the long term, but in the immediate future. When Derrick and I first started dating, I convinced him to really focus on his studies, I tutored him in a few subjects at night, and we found out a few weeks ago that he had been accepted to UW (University of Wisconsin) Madison. This was what I was hoping for, since I would be transferring to Madison next year. None of this would matter, though, if one of us ended up injured or worse.
One of the nice things about Baraboo was its small town qualities with large city conveniences. Baraboo had about 11,000 people, so you couldn’t walk downtown without recognizing a friendly face. One of the problems about being a tight nit community is that rumors travel fast, ridiculously fast. A rumor started before school could reach all 1,000 students by lunch. Baraboo was also surrounded by farms, most figures show that there are more cows than people around Baraboo, so we still has a “redneck” influence. The high school actually has a “Bring Your Tractor to School” day during homecoming, and believe me, they do.
So needless to say, I was concerned for our (mostly Derrick’s) safety.
Derrick continued, “So finally Benny came right out and asked me, or told me rather, after symphony band yesterday, ‘Derrick, meet me after school here.’ (I should probably do some brief explaining here. Benny and Derrick grew up being best friends; they play on the golf team together and hang out a lot, so there is probably nobody Derrick trusts more than Benny, except me. I knew Benny since I was lead chair tenor sax my Senior year, while he was second chair tenor, I could tell he was always trying to impress me with his playing ability and always seeking approval from me.) “So I came to the band room after school and, as usual, it was empty, except Benny was waiting in the back. I walked up to him and he asked me straight out, ‘What’s up with you and Tommy?’ I didn’t know what to say, so I paused for just a second and he quickly caught on. He said, ‘Holy shit, its true! Derrick, I never would have thought you would…and even Tommy, well, at least he acted the part.’ (I made a mental note to have a word with Benny about stereotyping). ‘But Derrick, damn! I never would have suspected it from you!’ I needed to know what everyone else was talking about, so I asked Benny what he had heard. He just said there were rumors about us being seen together, some stories just have us at the theatre, while some have me being caught blowing you in the middle of the movie. (This hadn’t happened, but I made another mental note under “future ideas”) So that’s all he’s heard.”
I saw the concern on Derrick’s face when he finished telling me, so I gently squeezed his hand and simply told him, “I promise you Derrick, it’s gonna be all right.” (Hey, I couldn’t think of anything better off the top of my head!) He just gaze me a shy smile and squeezed my hand back. I shouldn’t have made a promise that I couldn’t keep.
One last thing came to my head. “Derrick?”
“What is it that you fear most?”
I could see the puzzled look on his face as he pondered this question. “What do you mean exactly?”
The next week was pretty much a blur. I got plenty of odd stares whenever I came into the band room. I tried to keep contact with Derrick at a minimum at school to avoid any lingering suspicions.
Have you ever had a profound moment when you knew your life would change forever? I was about to have one of those. Have you ever woken up and known your day was just going to be a bad day. I was about to have one of those.
December 20th rolled around and today was the last day of school before winter break, high school that is, my college classes ended last week. The Christmas tree was set up in the dining room and all of our expected presents were wrapped and under the tree. When we were young, mom and dad started allotting us money to buy what we wanted for Christmas, although we would always find a few unexpected presents from “Santa.” One year my dad bought me a 20 gauge break action shotgun. I’m not sure if he consulted mom before buying this. It’s still sitting unused in our closet somewhere.
I went shopping that morning. Since I didn’t have school and Derrick did, this was an excellent chance for me to find him something. The problem came to me though. Despite the incredible shopping genes I had inherited from my mom, I had no clue what to buy him. Should I buy him something as a joke? Something practical? Or maybe something mushy and romantic? I decided to go with the practical and bought him a nice set of Titleist golf balls. I had one last urge though and went to our local J.C. Penney’s.
I was walking around the displays when I felt my homo sense tingling and decided to buy him a nice button up shirt.
I had to at least see him before school got out, since I was hoping we could make dinner plans. It was 2:00 and I passed an hour by catching up with some of my more favorite teachers, who were always glad to see former students pop in.
At 3:10, I started making my way down the hall to Derrick’s locker, when one of the school’s many red necks (who else wear a NASCAR hat around school with sleeveless shirts revealing the obvious farmer’s tan) walked past me. He stopped and grabbed my shoulder and spun me around so I was looking straight into his eyes. I could see all the hate and rage pent up and knew what was coming next. “You better watch yourself faggot, we don’t like your kind around here.” I stared straight in his hate filled eyes, showing no emotion in return. These were the kind that angered easily, but I didn’t want to show him fear.
He wouldn’t dare hit me right in the middle of the school. He may not have been bright, but he knew that much. He let go of my shoulder in a way that sent flying backward and doing a quick balancing act. He turned around and continued walking as if nothing had happened.
I continued down the hall as the bell rang and walked leisurely by Derrick’s locker. I slipped a little note into his locker that read “Meet me in the band room.” I waited and he showed up in a few minutes. He did a brief look around and gave me a quick peck on the cheek.
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Feel like dinner tonight?”
“Sure, you got someplace in mind?”
“I was thinking Fields.” Fields was probably the most expensive restaurant in the whole county, but I had good news and wanted to celebrate.
“Shit Tommy, can we afford that?” I like how he said “we.”
“Let’s just say I’m treating you. And watch your language.”
“Sorry.” He smiled embarrassingly as he said this. That beautiful smile still gave me shivers. “So what’s the occasion for such a big, expensive meal?” Derrick’s birthday was December 29th, but that wasn’t what we would be celebrating.
“I’ll tell you later. So can I come pick you up around seven-ish?”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“And remember, dress nice.” I should clarify more since Derrick doesn’t normally dress up. “Tie nice.” Have you ever felt like you were being watched? I did about now.
“Okay.” We shared a quick kiss before parting ways.
I already had my ensemble picked out. During the day, I neatly placed my suit coat and other clothing in the trunk of my car, so I could change after leaving home. I told mom I would be out at a movie, and of course she bought it. I stopped at a gas station to change quickly before making my way to Derrick’s house.
I arrived at 7:00 sharp, and as I expected, there he was, standing on the sidewalk in black pants, a blue dress shirt, and black tie. He looked stunning to say the least. The tie really matched his hair perfectly. I bet it was silky smooth too. He had to be gay if he had such good fashion sense.
I pulled to the side of the road, right in front of him and unlocked the door. He stepped in and greeted me with a nice long kiss. It was dark enough where no one could have seen us.
The drive to Sorrento’s was a short one, and neither of us said anything on the way. We arrived and walked through the door.
“Greeting’s sirs” said the host, or matre di as they were called here. “Do you have reservations?”
“Two for Stenson.” I said casually.
“This way sir.” I thought I saw him giving us a quick dirty look as he turned around to show us to out table, but I made nothing of it.
“Your waiter will arrive shortly.” He turned around and headed back to the front.
Derrick leaned in and asked, “So what’s the big secret, and how the hell can you afford this?” He had such an eager face; I couldn’t deny him the news any longer.
“So remember the sax choir piece we played for solo and ensemble, the one I arranged?”
“Yeah, we got a first and are going to state, how could I forget?”
“Well, Mr. Brenly told me about a sheet music company that specializes in woodwind arrangements of classical pieces. So I submitted it to them last month, and just four days ago, they called me and said they wanted to buy the rights to the piece!”
“That’s incredible! How much are they offering?”
“Well, its not a lot by composers standard, but it’s a good start…”
“Five thousand.” His jaw dropped as I said these words. “Plus 10% royalties on all the sheet music they sell for my arrangement!”
“That’s amazing Tommy! Congratulations! Have you told your parents yet?”
“No. I told Mr. Brenly as soon as I found out; you’re the second to know. And it gets better. They were so impressed when they found out how old I was and how many other pieces I had written, that they gave me the number of a company that specifically sells music for saxophone groups. I called them and they told me to send in some of my original pieces. They said they would get back to me in a week.”
“Tommy, I’m so proud of you!”
“What can I get you boys to drink?” The waitress almost sneaked up behind us.
“Coke or Pepsi for me, whatever you’ve got.”
“Same for me,” Derrick replied.
She gave us our menus and left to get our drinks.
“If we were old enough, I would’ve gotten champagne to celebrate,” Derrick looked at me and flashed that killer smile as he said this.
I reached over and we held hands for a while, holding our menus with our free hand. (P.S. not as easy as it sounds)
The waitress returned with our sodas. “Could I start you off with an appetizer?”
Dinner was of course overpriced, as one can expect from such fancy restaurants, but that didn’t matter. I couldn’t put a price on the time that Derrick and I spent together.
Derrick, being a perfect gentleman, covered the tip and we headed out the door. As we entered into the cold, late night, I had a shiver run down my back, but not from the cold. I noticed an old eat-up Toyota parked close to the entrance; not the kind of car that would be owned by the normal clientele of Fields.
The moon was full that night, so as I approached my car, could clearly read the writing spray painted on its side.
“Faggot,” the word exited my mouth without a sound as I read it.
I can’t describe how a single word could fuel such anger in me. But as I tried to control my own emotions, I was well attuned to Derrick’s. I looked over and saw the absolute dread in his eyes. Derrick was the kind of guy who looked like he wasn’t afraid of anything, and here he was, on the verge of tears.
I turned Derrick, his back to the car and hugged him tightly, his arms still hanging in disbelief. I whispered in his ears, “It’s gonna be all right.” I felt his tears run down the sides of our faces, pressed closely together. I began to whisper these words again, but they were muffled by an ear splitting shot.