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Finding Family

A Gay Love Story
by
Alex Head


Copyright 2017 by Alex Head


Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is purely coincidental.



This ebook is licensed for your personal use. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.



Table of Contents



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

About the Author



Chapter One



Hey, man. Great job!”

Philip’s teammates crowded around him and lifted him to their shoulders, carrying him off the field in triumph. His arm hurt, but it was worth it. Coach seldom let one pitcher pitch the whole game, but he’d been hot, striking out batter after batter with only three pitches each. Not a single hit the whole game. True, the Hawks weren’t a very good team, but still, too bad there weren’t any scouts at the game. Of course, it wouldn’t be until next year when he’d be a senior that scouts would really pay attention. Class of 1984, no less.

As Highland Academy’s star pitcher and captain of the team, Philip Marbury was counting on an athletic scholarship to get him into a good college. No way could his father afford to send him without one. The only way Philip could attend Highland, arguably the best private school in the Philadelphia area, was because his father taught English at another school which had a reciprocal agreement with Highland for teachers’ children.

Philip had been scared, three years earlier, when his father told him he’d be going to Highland.

But I don’t want to,” Philip had said. “It’s too hard, and besides, those Highland kids are all stuck-up and rich. I’ll never fit in.”

You’ll be fine,” his father said. “You’re smart. You’re just coasting along in your school. Besides, you know I can’t send you to college unless you get a scholarship. Good grades from Highland will mean a lot, and their football team is one of the best in the area.”

To Philip’s surprise, his father had been right. The first year had been difficult; Highland was much tougher than his other school, but by the end of his first year, eighth grade, he’d been doing fine. This year, though, not so good. He was doing well in everything except math; he just couldn’t understand trigonometry. He’d been feeling edgy all year, too, like something was troubling him, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

In the locker room after the game Coach immediately started icing his arm. As soon as the ice pack was in place he took Philip into his office and closed the door.

Davis told me you’re flunking math.”

I’m not doing too good,” Philip said, “but I’m surprised the principal said I’m flunking.”

Well, he did, and he said if you don’t improve a lot he’s going to take you off the team.”

But that’s terrible! I’ve got to stay on the team. I need an athletic scholarship.”

I know,” Coach said, “so we have to fix this problem. Davis has arranged for Arthur Seebur to tutor you.”

Arthur? That fag? No way!”

Way! It’s that or off the team.”

Fuck!” Philip said, and pounded his fist on the desk. “Ow!”

Philip! Watch your mouth, and watch your temper. Get control of yourself. You’ve been flying off the handle a lot lately, and I won’t have it! I’ve heard you yelling in the locker room.”

I’m sorry, Coach. I’m sorry. I’ve just been having a hard time lately. A lot on my mind.”

Anything I can help with?”

No, it’s personal. And I’m worried about math too, actually.”

Okay. Let Arthur help you. And keep your temper under control. You have an appointment with him Monday in study hall to set up a tutoring schedule, twice a week, no less than an hour each session. Be there!”

Arthur! Why Arthur, of all people? He had come to Highland that fall, from California, Philip thought. Philip couldn’t remember ever talking to him. Arthur was undeniably smart, but he was the quintessential nerd. Philip didn’t want to be associated with him in any way, although, he had to admit, Arthur didn’t look like a nerd. At five foot eight, Arthur, with his curly blond hair and blue eyes, was strikingly attractive. Philip had seen him a few times without his shirt and he appeared to be in great shape, with smooth but distinct muscles like a swimmer and abs almost as washboard as Philip’s. Philip wondered how he kept in such great shape; he’d never seen him do anything athletic. Now that he thought of it, he seldom saw Arthur around school after classes were over. That was odd, since Highland required students to take part in athletics after school.

Most students shunned Arthur, assuming he was gay, even though he denied it. He was in most ways the exact opposite of Philip, although Philip too was, except for math, a good student. Philip didn’t know why he found trigonometry so difficult; he knew he needed help, but from Arthur?

Apparently the study hall teacher knew about the tutoring. As soon as Philip appeared in study hall the following Monday the teacher announced, loudly,

Philip, Arthur, you are excused to go talk.”

They went to a nearby empty classroom. As soon as they sat down Philip asked:

How come you’re the one to tutor me.”

I thought it might be interesting,” Arthur answered. “There’s no other way I could get to know the big man on campus. Why are you doing it?”

I have to. It’s this, or get kicked off the team. Believe me, I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have to.”

Why not? Don’t you need help in math.”

No! .... Well, yes, but not this way. Not with you.”

And why not me?”

Well, .... shit! I don’t know. It just feels uncomfortable.”

Because I’m smarter than you? Because you don’t want to need help? Because you don’t like me? If we’re going to work together let’s just clear the air. What’s going on here?”

Shit! Okay. Look, I’m afraid you’re gay. I’m afraid people will think I’m gay if I hang out with you. Shit! I don’t know. It just feels, .... I don’t know,  .... strange. I feel bad, saying this. I’m sure you’re an okay guy. I just don’t know anything about you.”

Are you willing to do this or not?” Arthur asked. “Unless you’re willing to really try to make it work, it’s useless. Your call. I’ll work with you if you’ll work with me, but if you’re going to fight me every step of the way, we might as well not start.”

Yeah, okay. I really do need help. I’ll give it my best shot, but are you, you know, gay?”

Philip, that’s none of your business, and it doesn’t have anything to do with our work together. You want me to ask if you’re a virgin?”

None of your fucking business!”

Exactly!”

They agreed on every Tuesday and Thursday after school.

Want to meet at your house?” Arthur asked.

Philip was not about to invite Arthur to his house. He was afraid of his father’s reaction to Arthur.

No, let’s meet at your house.”

Okay, but I live in center city Philadelphia. It’s a fifteen minute train ride. Actually, I kinda like the ride. It’s a reverse commute so the train’s never crowded, and the walk from my house to Suburban Station is short,” Arthur said.

Philip knew, of course, that the Merion train station was less than a mile from Highland.

That doesn’t sound bad. Sometimes it might be late in the afternoon, because of practice,” Philip said.

Okay. Just make sure I know ahead. I’m not about to sit around waiting for you. Do you have practice tomorrow?”

No.”

Okay,” Arthur said. “I’ll meet you at the front door after school tomorrow and we can walk to the station together. The train’s at 3:15.”

No, thanks. I’ll walk there on my own,”

Nope. I’m not about to be your guilty secret. We’re not pretending this isn’t happening. Come on, it’s only tutoring! I’ll meet you at the front door.”

Philip, startled by Arthur’s aggressiveness, agreed.

After supper that evening Philip went to his room to do his homework, but he couldn’t concentrate. His impending meeting with Arthur nagged at him.

Don’t worry about it,” he told himself. “So what if he is gay? That doesn’t mean anything will happen. It’s just tutoring.”

He went into the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. People said he was handsome; he guessed he was. Six foot one already, 180 pounds, all muscle, and, at seventeen, probably not quite done growing. Brown hair cut medium-short, green eyes, no acne, thank God. Clean shaven, not that he grew much of a beard yet, strong chin, long straight nose, kissable mouth, he hoped. Cindy seemed to like kissing it.

He took off his shirt and stared at his chest. Washboard abs, thanks to diligent working out. Not much chest hair yet. Good muscles, not over developed. Not bad, all in all, but still a virgin. He wasn’t too happy about that. He thought Cindy would be willing if he pushed the issue, but somehow he’d held off, he wasn’t sure why. The time never seemed quite right.

Tuesday was one of the longest school days Philip had ever had. As the day progressed his apprehension grew, but in the end nobody seemed to notice he and Arthur left school together. As Arthur had said, the train ride was enjoyable. Arthur turned out to be interesting and fun.

Arthur lived in a four story row house on Washington Square, far more elegant than Philip’s house. Arthur had the entire top floor, two rooms and a bathroom. His desk was in his bedroom; the other room was his workshop, full of electronic equipment. Apparently Arthur was into electronics.

Arthur took Philip right to his desk and they started the tutoring. Both of them were surprised how well the first session went; Arthur turned out to be a gifted and patient tutor, and Philip, Arthur discovered, was quite smart. With Arthur’s explanations he quickly understood things that had been confusing him.

Arthur’s parents were pleased with this turn of events. They’d been worried Arthur had so few friends, and liked Philip, who was on his best behavior with them. The next week Philip had practice and so the tutoring sessions were late. Arthur’s mother invited him to stay for supper. Philip’s father was not pleased.

It’s bad enough you’re spending time with that fag,” he said. “Don’t spend extra time with him. As long as you’re just doing the tutoring we have to go along with it, but don’t spend any more time than you have to. People will talk. You shouldn’t have anything to do with people like that.”

But Arthur’s actually a nice guy, and he’s really helping me. He’s not so bad.”

I don’t care how nice he is. From what you’ve told me, he’s got fag written all over him and you don’t want to have anything to do with him. If Principal Davis hadn’t laid down the law I’d never have agreed to let you work with him.”

Dad, I’m seventeen. You don’t get to dictate who I can see.”

Philip, this is important. The last thing you want is to be labeled a homosexual. It could ruin your life.”

Philip had never understood why his father was such an unhappy man, or why he was so vehement about homosexuality. Maybe his father’s unhappiness had something to do with his mother, but his father wouldn’t talk about her. She’d died when Philip was three; he had only the dimmest memories of her. He didn’t know how she’d died. He’d given up asking because his father refused to answer, just getting visibly upset at the questions. As for the fear, even hatred, of homosexuals, Philip had no clue why his father felt so strongly about it. Philip didn’t like gay people either; the idea disgusted him, but he didn’t hate fags, he pitied them.

Philip’s life fell into a regular pattern. School, baseball practice some nights after school and most Saturdays. Tutoring with Arthur twice a week. Friday night dates with Cindy. Despite his father’s objections, having supper at Arthur’s house on baseball days made sense, even to his father, who didn’t want to delay his own supper. So, almost every week, at least once, Philip had supper at Arthur’s. He came to enjoy these meals. He liked Arthur’s parents, and discovered he liked Arthur too, a lot. Arthur was kind, patient, understanding, interesting, and had a wicked sense of humor. He still seemed awfully faggy, though.

At first his sessions with Arthur had been stiff and formal, both of them sitting at Arthur’s desk, carefully not touching. Now, however, two months into the tutoring, they were quite relaxed, often lounging on Arthur’s bed as they worked, or just talking or listening to music. They shared several interests: music, books, even cars, which surprised Philip. Arthur, it turned out, knew a lot about cars and shared Philip’s enthusiasm for them. There were posters of several racing cars on the walls of Arthur’s room, along with a large poster of a handsome man in a tiny swimsuit.

Who’s that?” Philip asked.

Brian Goodell. He won gold medals in 400 and 1500 meter freestyle at the ’76 Olympics. He’s a wonderful swimmer.”

Philip assumed Arthur had the poster up because Goodell, almost nude, looked fantastic. Arthur seemed to have no interest in sports; Philip had never seen him in the gym at school, or playing any sport. All Philip’s attempts to interest him in baseball failed, although Philip several times saw him in the stands when Philip was playing.

Except for his time at Arthur’s house Philip was careful to have nothing to do with him. At school he knew some people were wondering about him and Arthur, but fortunately he had Cindy. She’d been his girlfriend since early sophomore year, and they dated almost every weekend. His friends all assumed he and Cindy had sex regularly.

The school year was drawing to a close. Philip knew the tutoring would end soon.

What are you doing this summer?” Philip asked.

I’m a counselor at a summer camp.”

Philip was surprised. Why would non-athletic Arthur want to be a camp counselor? It must be a science camp, he decided.

You’ll be away all summer?” Philip asked.

Yes, all summer,” Arthur said. “I’ll miss you.”

I’ll miss you too,” Philip said, and he would. Somehow, without his noticing, Arthur had become his best friend. Of course he wasn’t about to admit that to his other friends. He still was seeing Arthur only under the guise of tutoring, avoided him at school.

They were sitting side by side on Arthur’s bed, leaning on each other. Arthur put his hand on Philip’s leg, by now a familiar gesture, and asked:

What’s going to happen next year at school? Will we get to see each other?”

Shit, I don’t know,” Philip said.

Philip had been avoiding thinking about that. He was somewhat startled to realize how much he would miss his twice-weekly visits with Arthur, but he didn’t see how they could remain friends. By now he was pretty sure Arthur was gay, although Arthur had never said so. He couldn’t be friends with someone so obviously gay. He knew what his friends would think. Already there were occasional snickers, which he tried not to think about, even though he had a perfect excuse for going to Arthur’s house.

Suddenly he became acutely aware he was sitting on a bed with a gay guy, leaning into him, with Arthur’s hand on his thigh. It felt good, and it felt intimate; he realized he was getting hard. He looked over and Arthur was hard too. He jumped up.

I’ve got to go,” he said.

He gathered his things hurriedly and left, barely pausing to say goodbye to Arthur’s parents.

Philip lay awake most of Thursday night, trying to understand what had happened.

I’m not gay,” he told himself. “I can’t be. I hate fags. I liked Arthur; he wormed his way into my life, but I only liked him because he helped me. And he’s interesting. And fun. And his parents are nice, but I’m sure he’s a fag. He’s not my friend.”

The next day he went to see Principal Davis.

I think it’s time to stop my math tutoring,” he said.

I agree,” Davis said. “I’ve been wondering when you’d stop.”

Saturday Philip left a message on Arthur’s phone:

Thanks for the tutoring. It’s helped a lot. I don’t think I need any more. I’ve told Davis we’re stopping.”

Arthur phoned, but Philip didn’t take the call. Arthur left a message in which he was quite upset that Philip would end their friendship in a phone message, because it was clear to Arthur that Philip was ending not just the tutoring, but the friendship.

.... You’re a coward ....” Arthur said, among many other things. Philip knew Arthur was right.

The next Friday, as usual, he had a date with Cindy. He decided to make it a special one. He took her flowers, and they went to a nice restaurant for dinner.

Wow,” she said. “What’s the special occasion?”

I just want you to know how much I like you. You’re special to me. I love being with you.”

After dinner Philip said “Let’s go to Fairmount Park.”

Cindy had been waiting for this invitation. The park was well known as the place teenagers went at night for serious making out. Maybe Philip was finally making his move. She hoped so. She was ready to lose her virginity, with Philip.

After they parked, Philip said “Let’s get in the back seat.”

Cindy was happy to agree. Once there, it didn’t take long to get Cindy’s bra off and Philip’s pants down to his ankles, but to her distress Philip was soft. Despite her best efforts, nothing worked.

Philip, is something wrong?”

Philip had no answer. He was terribly embarrassed, which just made it obvious to him that an erection was not going to happen.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I guess I’m just too tired.”

That didn’t make sense to Cindy. He hadn’t seemed at all tired at dinner; in fact, he’d made a point of saying how well he felt, but Cindy said nothing. He drove her home in silence. She jumped out of the car when they arrived, slammed the car door, and ran up to her house.

In bed that night Philip tried to tell himself it was just a fluke, but he knew something was terribly, terribly wrong.

Monday Philip had baseball practice. He was off his game, but as it was just practice it wasn’t too obvious. In the showers after practice the guys were horsing around, as usual. Juan, a handsome, well-hung senior, was, as he often did, making sexual jokes. In the shower he soaped up his cock and balls and played with them, teasing the others. Philip could see Juan was partly hard. Juan could get away with it because everyone knew he was the school stud, boffing his girl friend several times a week. Watching Juan, to his horror Philip felt himself getting hard. That had never happened to him in the showers before. He was painfully aware that if he didn’t do something he would soon be fully, obviously erect. He turned the water on full cold, rinsed off quickly, and wrapped his towel around his waist. Fortunately his penis went down and, he hoped, nobody had noticed, but he was badly shaken.

Getting dressed with the others, Philip tried to be his normal, joking self, and he thought he pulled it off, but he was still quite upset and confused. “What’s happening to me?” he wondered.

As the guys were leaving the locker room, Arthur came up to Philip. Philip had been avoiding him all day, but finally Arthur caught up with him at the worst possible moment. Putting his hand on Philip’s shoulder, Arthur asked:

What’s going on? I thought we were friends.”

Well, look at that,” Juan said. “Looks like our Philip has a faggot friend. Like maybe Philip is a bit faggy too.”

Juan had noticed! In the showers Juan had noticed! Philip panicked.

I can’t be gay! I can’t be gay. I’m not! I’m not!” Philip said nothing aloud. He just acted. Without thinking, he punched Arthur, hard, in the nose. His fear became a full blown panic attack. He was aware of nothing except “I’m not gay! I’m not gay! I can’t be gay!”

Stop! Stop! What are you doing?” someone yelled.

Several of his teammates dragged Philip away from Arthur. Gradually he came out of his panic.

What happened,” Philip asked.

You hit Arthur, and you kicked him.”

I did?” Philip asked. He didn’t remember doing anything; he just remembered his panic. Then he saw Arthur, still on the floor, bleeding, a lot. Several students were trying to help him. A teacher rushed up, helped Arthur to his feet, and said to Philip:

Office. Now!”

Stunned, Philip stood there. Another teacher came up and led him, roughly, to the principal’s office.

Sit!” the teacher said.

The teacher knocked on the principal’s door and went in. A few minutes later he came out.

Stay there!” he said to Philip.

Philip sat for what seemed like hours, but probably was only twenty minutes, until Arthur came in with another teacher. He had a bandage on his nose.

Arthur,” Philip said.

Arthur looked away. He and the teacher went into the principal’s office. A while later they left and the principal called Philip into his office.

All right, young man. Tell me what  happened.”

I don’t know. I was upset. I was scared. I don’t know what happened.”

What do you mean, you don’t know what happened? You must know. You were there! Why did you attack Arthur?”

I don’t know. He put his hand on my shoulder. I remember that. After that I don’t remember. Next thing I knew he was on the floor, bleeding, and a couple of guys were holding me off.”

You don’t remember hitting Arthur? You don’t remember kicking him?”

No.”

Why were you so upset. You said scared. Why were you scared?”

I don’t know. I can’t say.”

Can’t say, or won’t?”

I .... it’s private. It’s confusing. I .... I don’t want to talk about it.”

Well, you’re going to have to talk about it eventually, but I’ll let it go for now. You’re in deep trouble. You must know that. You broke Arthur’s nose and you may have cracked his ribs. He’s at the hospital now having x-rays. For some reason he’s decided not to press charges, but unless you do exactly what I tell you the school will press charges, and there goes any hope you have of a scholarship or a good college.”

I’m sorry.”

Sorry doesn’t cut it. Here’s what you are going to do. The janitor is waiting for you in the hall where you attacked Arthur. When you leave my office you’re going directly there and you’re going to mop up Arthur’s blood and you’re going to scrub the floor until it is spotless. Do you understand?”

Arthur nodded.

DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”

Yes.”

After you clean up the blood you are going directly home, I mean directly, and you’re going to tell your father what you did.”

I will.”

Tomorrow morning at nine o’clock sharp you and your father will be at my office. No excuses. Do you understand?”

Yes, sir.”

Now go!”

The janitor was waiting for him, as promised, with a bucket, mop, and scrub brush. So were a gaggle of his classmates, whispering among themselves. They fell silent as he approached. Then one called out:

Way to go, Phil. You gave that fag what he deserved.”

Shut up, you idiot,” another onlooker said.

 There was a lot of blood; Philip was horrified. “I did that?” he asked himself.

He mopped up the blood. Then, on hands and knees, he scrubbed the floor while the onlookers gaped and snickered. Finally finished, he took everything to the janitor’s closet, emptied the bloody water from the bucket, and put everything away. When he was done he slunk out of the building and went home. His father was waiting for him.

Where were you? You’re late.”

I hit Arthur.”

And that made you late?”

I kinda hurt him, a lot. I had to go see the principal. I’m in trouble.”

You hit Arthur and hurt him? How bad?”

I broke his nose and maybe cracked a rib.”

You what???”

Philip started crying. He’d held himself together until then, somehow.

Why? Why did you hit Arthur? Did he hit you first?”

No. He didn’t do anything. I just hit him, and kicked him.”

Why?”

I don’t know. It’s like he came on to me, so I hit him to make him stop.”

I told you Arthur was a fag. I told you you were getting too friendly with him. He came on to you? No wonder you hit him. I’d have done the same thing. I knew you should stay away from him.”

Yeah, but now I’m in bad trouble. Principal Davis is going to report me to the police unless I do what he tells me.”

Police?”

Yeah, for assault. Arthur said he’s not going to file a complaint, but the school might. You and I both have to go see Principal Davis tomorrow morning at nine.”

Nine? But I have to be at work.”

He said if we’re not there at nine he’s going to the police. Dad, we have to go.”

It’s all nonsense,” his father said. “All you did was hit a fag. They all deserve it, flaunting their depravity. They should all be taken out and shot.”

Dad!”

No, no, of course I don’t mean it, but Arthur had no business coming on to you. You had every right to defend yourself. Okay, I’ll call in sick and we’ll go clear this up.”



Chapter Two



Hello,” Principal Davis said to Philip’s father, shaking his hand. “I’m Malcolm Davis. I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances, but we’ve got some serious talking to do. Have a seat. How much has Philip told you?”

After they were seated Philip’s father said:

Philip told me Arthur came on to him in a way that was completely inappropriate. Philip over-reacted, but not without provocation.”

Provocation?” Davis said. “I know exactly what happened. Arthur told me, and several witnesses agreed. Arthur came up to Philip, put his hand on his shoulder, and said something like ‘Why are you avoiding me. Aren’t we friends?’ Then Philip hit him, knocked him down, and started kicking him until two other students pulled him off. There’s no way Arthur provoked the fight.”

But he was coming on to Philip. Everyone knows Arthur is a fag.”

First,” Davis said, “we don’t use the term ‘fag.’ It’s derogatory and demeaning. Second, it is not true that ‘everyone’ knows Arthur is gay. He’s never said so. That’s just speculation. And third, even if Arthur was openly gay, just saying ‘aren’t we friends’ is hardly provocative. No. It’s clear the fault here lies entirely with Philip. His actions were inexcusable.”

Well,” Philip’s father said, “we’ll just have to agree to disagree, but you’re in the driver’s seat. What happens next?”

I’ve given it a lot of thought,” Davis said. “I don’t want to report this to the police; that would ruin Philip’s chances of a scholarship and good college, but we can’t just let it go. Here’s what I propose: Philip will go once a week to see a counselor I choose; I’ll chose a good, reputable one. Then, after getting to know Philip and understanding the situation, she will decide what Philip has to do to make restitution, and Philip will do whatever she recommends. Then, when, and only when, Philip has completed whatever tasks the counselor assigns, the school will let the matter drop. Meanwhile, Philip will apologize to Arthur, will let Arthur decide whether to continue their friendship, and will continue at school and on the baseball team. And his grades better stay up!”

All that because of a little fight?” Philip’s father asked.

That was not a ‘little fight.’ That was a brutal, unprovoked attack resulting in injuries that could have been serious. You’d better take it very, very seriously, Mr. Marbury! Philip, you have an appointment with your counselor, Ann Grover, at 3 PM tomorrow. Here’s her address and phone number. You have a standing absence excuse for your sessions with her.”

But we have practice then,” Philip said.

Philip, you better get it through your head right now: this is far more important than baseball. And don’t forget to apologize to Arthur, today.”

Visibly shaken, Philip left the office. It was almost the end of second period, and he knew Arthur would be in Advanced Math, so he went there and waited for the bell. When Arthur came out Philip went up to him.

Arthur.”

What do you want? Are you going to hit me again? Thanks for the broken nose.”

Look, I get it,” Philip said. “It was inexcusable. I don’t know what came over me. I don’t even remember doing it. I just lost it. I don’t know why. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

I think you know perfectly well why you did it. You didn’t like anyone else seeing the fag touch you. Well, fuck that. You’re an idiot.”

I know,” Philip said. “I was an idiot. I apologize. I’m really sorry.”

I swear,” Arthur said, “if I was gay and out I’d make you walk down the hall holding hands with me, but I’m not, so your secret is safe with me. Now go away.”

Arthur, forgive me?”

Maybe. I’ll think about it.”

Walking to his next class, Philip thought about what Arthur said: ‘Your secret is safe with me.’ What secret? Did Arthur think he was gay? Well, he wasn’t. He couldn’t be. What would his friends say? What would his father say?

The next afternoon, promptly at three, Ann Grover ushered him into her office. She was a middle aged, slightly overweight, motherly woman. Philip liked her immediately, even though he was uncomfortable being there.

So, hello. I’m glad to meet you,” she said. “I think you’re here because Mr. Davis said you have to be. Right?”

Yes.”

Since you have to be here, let’s do everything we can to make it worth your while. I’d like to set a couple of ground rules. Okay?”

Okay, I guess.”

First, you don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. I’m here to help you, not force you, but I do have one rule: don’t lie to me. If you don’t want to tell me something, just say so. I’ll respect that, but don’t lie. Is that okay with you?”

Yes, I guess so.”

Second, I promise you this. Nothing, and I mean nothing, you tell me will ever leave this room. As a licensed therapist I am legally required to never tell anyone anything you tell me, and I wouldn’t even if I could. If someone wants to know something you said in here, they’ll have to ask you. I’ll never tell. Never. You need to know this is a safe place.”

Oh,” Philip said, “but what about the job you’re supposed to give me, something I’m supposed to do to get the school off my back?”

That’s something I’m going to tell you,” Ann said, “not something you’ll tell me, so I can talk about it, although ordinarily I wouldn’t. In this one case I will need to tell Mr. Davis what you and I have decided you should do.”

Oh, okay, I guess, but nothing else? Nothing I tell you?”

Nothing,” Ann said. “Absolutely nothing you tell me will leave this room, unless you tell it to someone. I won’t, ever. So, in this safe place, why don’t you tell me what happened, why you’re here.”

Philip told Ann about the fight, leaving out everything that led up to it, and what he was thinking.

So, why did you attack Arthur?”

I don’t know.”

Okay, let’s try to figure it out. Tell me about what happened before the fight, what led up to it.”

It took Philip a while to trust Ann enough to tell her about his last time at Arthur’s, about his disastrous date with Cindy, about the erection in the showers, but by the end of their fourth session he was talking freely about what happened, and about his fears. He summed it up for himself and Ann.

I’m sure I’m not gay. I’ve never felt gay. I’m into sports, I’m not swishy, I don’t act gay. I think any man can be aroused by another man under the right circumstances. When Juan was almost jerking off in the showers, anybody might have reacted like I did. And that time with Arthur, it’s just because we felt so close as friends, and he was getting hard, so I did too. Maybe he’s gay. I think he is, but I’m not. I was just reacting to how he was feeling.”

Well,” Ann said, “you know yourself better than anyone else can, but remember what we talked about. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, and people who are gay were born that way. It’s nobody’s fault. Being with gay people can’t make you gay, but if you’re gay nothing you do can change it. All you can do is hide or deny it, or accept it.”

But I’m not gay.”

And that’s fine too,” Ann said. “By the way, I have news. Next week will be our last session. I’m sorry we have to stop seeing each other, but that’s all the school will pay for, unless you think your father would pay for more sessions.”

My father? No way. He thinks this whole thing is a waste of time.”

And what do you think?”

I don’t want to stop. You’ve been great!”

At the next session, the last, Ann came right to the point.

I’ve decided what you need to do to get the school off your back,” she said.

What’s that?”

I think you need to spend the summer as a counselor and baseball coach at a summer camp for young teenagers.”

Like that’s bad? I think I’d love that! But would it pay anything? I was counting on making some money this summer. We need it.”

Yes,” Ann said. “It doesn’t pay much, about what you’d make slinging burgers at McDonalds, but it does pay.”

So what’s the catch?” Philip asked.

It’s a special camp. Kids are accepted only if they are referred by a school principal or counselor or by a therapist. Same goes for the camp counselors, like you.”

So what’s special about the kids. Is it for disabled kids or something?”

No. Though it’s not called that, it’s really an athletic camp for gay teenagers, ages twelve to fifteen, or teenagers who are having a hard time in school because people think they’re gay.”

Gay kids? What about the counselors? Are they gay too? I’m not gay!”

Most of the counselors are gay, but not all. They’re recommended too, like the kids.”

I can’t do that! People will think I’m gay.”

No, no. The job doesn’t come with a label. To anybody not in the camp it seems like an ordinary athletic camp. Your friends will never know unless you tell them. They’ll be jealous of your great job, spending the summer coaching baseball.”

Really,” Philip said, “coaching baseball? I’m going to be a baseball coach at a summer camp?”

Not a baseball coach. The baseball coach. It’s a small camp, with four counselors who are also coaches, one each for baseball, soccer, basketball, and swimming. An athletic camp for kids who are not athletic. It’s great for them. Most of them stay for a month, and by the end of the month they’re better athletes and can fit in much better in school and with other kids.”

Will I stay for a month too?”

No, two months, like the other counselors.”

That’s the whole summer!” Philip said

It sure is. June 10 to August 14. You may find it a lot of fun. I hope you do. There’s another thing you should know. Malcolm Davis, your principal, runs the camp. It was his idea. He created it several years ago, and it’s been a grand success. It’s helped lots of kids.”

So it’s a setup! You and Mr. Davis arranged the whole thing!”

Of course it’s a setup,” Ann replied. “You knew that from the beginning. Mr. Davis told you so.”

June 10, Friday, at 2 PM the Camp Deerfield van met him and one other counselor at Logan Airport for the two hour drive to the camp in the Green Mountains of New Hampshire. The camp turned out to be in a beautiful setting in the woods on a large lake. Philip saw two large cabins that looked like they were for housing the campers, another cabin maybe for crafts, and a central lodge. He was directed to one of the large cabins to stow his luggage. The cabin had a central room with six double-decker bunk beds, a bathroom, and a smaller room with two beds, apparently for two counselors. One of the beds had luggage on it, so he put his things on the other bed and then went, as directed, to the lodge.

The rest of the staff were already there as Philip and the other counselor from the van entered. Philip was shocked to see Arthur sitting among the counselors. Arthur, non-athletic Arthur, was an athletic coach?

Welcome,” Mr. Davis said. “I’m Malcolm Davis. Some of you know me already, and I look forward to getting to know the rest of you. If past summers are any guide, you’re going to have a great summer, and help a lot of kids at the same time.”

After talking a bit about the camp and its goals, he got down to details.

We have four counselor-coaches, Carl for soccer, William for basketball, Philip for baseball, and Arthur for swimming. Each of you has made a name for yourselves in your respective sports. Most campers stay for just one month, but you’ll be surprised how much they can learn in a month. A few will stay for two.

We’re full both months with 24 campers, twelve per dorm. They arrive Monday, so you have two days to get oriented. Since two of you have been here before, I’ve asked the experienced counselors to help the new ones. Philip, Arthur will be your guide, and Carl for William. You’re also paired up that way in the dorms. Arthur and Philip, your dorm will have the older kids, fourteen and fifteen, plus two thirteen-year-olds. Carl and William, your kids will be twelve and thirteen. The dining room and kitchen are down the path to the left of this lodge. They are fully staffed - you don’t have to do anything there but eat.”

Philip was not prepared for this. He’d gotten used to the idea he’d be coaching a bunch of gay kids, but he hadn’t thought about living with them. And Arthur. It was too much! He wanted to run away and hide. And how would Arthur feel? Last time they’d talked, when Philip had tried to apologize, Arthur didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Well, he’d better get it over with. After the meeting he went up to Arthur.

Look,” Philip said. “I’m sorry about this. I had no idea you’d be here. I’ll bet you hate me, and you should. I don’t know why Mr. Davis thinks it’s okay to do this to you.”

No,” Arthur said. “it’s not like that. Mr. Davis asked me if I was willing, and I said yes. If I’d said no, he would have arranged something else for you. I know you’re not here by choice, but we’re here, so let’s make the best of it. To tell you the truth, I’m kinda looking forward to it. I used to like you, a lot. I know there’s a great person in there. I want to get our friendship back. I’ve missed you.”

Philip was shocked. He’d thought he’d lost Arthur.

I .... I don’t know what to say,” Philip said. “Thank you? I think I need to .... I’m .... it’s all so much.”

Why don’t you go take a walk, by yourself?” Arthur asked. “When you’re ready, come find me in our room and we can talk. I’m going to unpack and read.”

Philip wandered through the woods in a daze. They were beautiful, he noticed, and so quiet. He was used to the bustle of Philadelphia; he seldom got to the country. This could be great, he thought, except for the gay thing, and Arthur. He sat on a log to think. He was going to be rooming with Arthur for two months! Arthur’d never said he was gay, but Philip thought he was. Two months rooming with a gay guy? What if Arthur came on to him? He could always say no; he would, of course. Arthur was a good guy, maybe he could even be a good friend. He’d never push Philip to do something Philip didn’t want to do, but it would be awkward.

Strange as it felt to be rooming with a gay, probably gay, guy, Philip realized he was looking forward to being friends with Arthur again.

Even in mid-June the day was hot, and when he got back to the cabin it was even hotter inside. Arthur was lounging on his bed, reading, wearing only his jockey shorts. He sure was handsome, and ripped. He must do something to keep that body.

Hey,” Philip said, “you’re coaching swimming. Davis said we each were well known in our sport. You’re a swimmer? How’d you get here?”

Yeah, in California I was northern California division champion in freestyle. No biggie. It was just a division meet.”

Fuck! Sounds big to me! How come there are no medals in your room at home? How come nobody knows about it? I thought you didn’t do any sports.”

I swim three times a week, at least, at the Y; I’m excused from sports at Highland so I can swim. I love swimming, but when we moved to Philadelphia I decided to give up competition. I want to be a software engineer. I was trying to swim competitively and still do well in school and study programming on the side. It got to be too much. I decided to give up competing, but it was hard. I put my medals away; I didn’t like being reminded of what I’d had to give up.”

I hear you. I have to keep up baseball because I’m depending on an athletic scholarship to go to college, but I want to be a lawyer. That means a good college and then law school. I’ll have to play competitively in college to keep my scholarship; it’ll be hard, but that’s okay. I love baseball, just not as a career.”

A lawyer?” Arthur asked. “Sorry, but I’ve always thought of law as a sleazy profession. I can’t imagine defending someone I knew was guilty.”

Look,” Philip said. “We could debate that all night, but anyway I don’t want to be that kind of lawyer. I want to do public interest law. My dream is to work for the ACLU.”

Arthur was startled. He’d had no idea Philip had such depth. He’d thought he was just a baseball jock, albeit smart and a good student. He’d always found Philip attractive, but now more than ever.

Just then the dinner bell rang, Arthur got dressed, and they went to supper. The food was good.

Two days later the first batch of campers arrived. Philip had thought of them as kids but in his dorm, his and Arthur’s, the campers were only two or three years younger than him. As he worked with them, he quickly came to think of them as individuals, and as his peers. They were smart, articulate, and nice. Much to his surprise, they broke his stereotype of gay as effeminate and weak. True, many of them were pretty inept at baseball, but he saw it was, for most of them, just lack of opportunity to play and learn. They hadn’t played sports not so much because they were unwilling as because they didn’t feel welcome among the jocks.

A few of his campers were just plain inept. He could see they would never be able to play a decent game of baseball, but, to his surprise, he enjoyed teaching even them, coaxing from them as much skill as possible and praising their accomplishments. Most of his campers blossomed under his coaching, some turning into quite decent players in the short month he had to work with them. He loved coaching. He loved teaching his campers, and they loved learning from him. Maybe he should become a teacher.

Quickly Philip and Arthur fell back into their close friendship. Once again Philip thought of Arthur as his best friend, and Arthur felt the same about Philip. Every night after lights out they would talk, sometimes for a couple of hours, before falling asleep. They didn’t, however, sit together on the same bed, and they seldom touched. They never mentioned the gay issue, nor that moment of intense mutual attraction, back in Arthur’s room at their last tutoring session, that precipitated Philip’s crisis, but it was always there, unspoken.

At the end of the first month all but two of the campers in their dorm left. Philip and Arthur had a day off before the next batch arrived. Philip took a walk in the woods, and sat on the same log he’d sat on a month before, when he’d felt so confused.

Who’d ever have thought,” he mused, “I’d be so comfortable with a bunch of gay teenagers?” He seldom thought of his campers as gay any more, but at the same time he was aware they were different from other guys he knew. Even in the heat of a fiercely fought game they were less aggressive, less hostile, than his teammates at school. Showering after a game, they teased and joked like any other locker room talk, but without that edge of meanness, of put-down, that he saw back at school. Startled, he realized he liked these campers better than his teammates at school. The other counselor/coaches too. There were only three, so it was a small sample, but they were all great guys. He liked them a lot. They, too, had a gentleness combined with strength that was rare back at school.

That’s the kind of person I want to be.” he thought. Then he caught himself. “But not gay. I don’t want to be gay.”

Of the four of them, only William was openly gay. Most of the campers, too, were not out. He didn’t know which of them were gay; maybe many were not; there was no way to tell. How many people, he wondered, were labeled gay just because they were not aggressive, or not good at sports? Maybe it didn’t matter if someone was gay or not, unless you wanted to go to bed with them, but, he realized, he did want to know, at least about close friends. At least about Arthur.

It was now mid July and hot! Even with the fan running their room was uncomfortable. After supper Philip and Arthur would lie on their respective beds, wearing only their jockey shorts, sweating, and talking as they did every night.

Arthur, are you gay?” Philip asked.

That’s not a question I usually answer,” Arthur said. “Are you gay?”

No, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

Would you mind if I was?” Arthur asked.

No. I wouldn’t mind at all. I’ve learned a lot in this month. I like our campers, and I’m sure most of them are gay. I like William a lot, and respect him. In many ways I’d like to be like him, or like you. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had. I like you whether you’re straight or gay, but I’d really like to know. It’s an important part of you.”

Great answer!” Arthur said. “I’ll tell you, but it’s just for you. If anyone asks, say you don’t know.”

Okay.”

Yes, I’m gay. I’ve known since I was thirteen. My parents know, but I’ve never told anyone else. I don’t want to be judged on my sexuality. It only matters to me and to my partner, if and when I ever have one.”

You’ve never dated?”

No. I’ve never found anyone I liked and trusted enough, and found attractive enough.”

That’s sad.”

What about you?” Arthur asked. “You’ve dated, but was it ever serious? Are you still a virgin?”

Hey, that’s private!”

So is the fact that I’m gay!”

Yeah, good point. Yes, I’m still a virgin. I tried to do it with Cindy but it didn’t work.”

Wow, why did I say that?” Philip wondered. He’d never told anybody except his therapist, Ann.

In for a penny, in for a pound,” Philip thought.

Arthur, if I tell you about what happened, about why I hit you, will you promise to never, ever tell anyone? Nobody but my therapist knows this story.”

Yes, I swear.”

So Philip told him everything: about getting hard that day in Arthur’s room, about trying Friday night to have sex with Cindy, about getting hard watching Juan in the showers just before Arthur came up and put his hand on his shoulder. Told him about his panic, about his father’s homophobia, about his sessions with Ann, and finally realizing he wasn’t gay but was terrified people would think he was. Arthur sat silent through the whole recital.

Afterward Philip felt terribly exposed, vulnerable. He pulled up his sheet and curled up under it.  Arthur could see he was trembling. What to do? Finally Arthur did the only thing he could think of, knowing it might be exactly wrong. He went over, sat on Philip’s bed, and hugged him. Philip started crying, hard, snuggling into Arthur.

Finally Philip stopped crying. Arthur immediately went back to his own bed.

Thank you,” Philip said.

It was late. Arthur turned out the light and they both went to sleep.

Monday brought a new set of campers. That month Philip was as happy as he could ever remember being. His campers were fun; several of them were turning out to be quite good baseball players, but even the inept ones enjoyed their lessons. He loved teaching them. Mr Davis complemented him on the excellent job he was doing.

Philip and Arthur’s friendship, close even before that night when they shared so much, became much closer. Neither had ever shared so much of himself with another. Physically, too, they became closer. During the first month they had tried never to touch, the gay issue keeping them apart. Now they were quite relaxed with each other, as close friends usually are. It was Philip who brought up a sensitive subject.

I love this camp,” Philip said one night after lights out. “There’s only one problem. I get awfully horny, and there’s nowhere to jerk off in private.”

Yeah, I have the same problem,” Arthur said.

Would you mind too much if sometimes at night, after we turn off the light, if I jerked off?”

No. I promise not to watch. I need to too.”

Almost every night, after they turned off the light, Philip, quietly jerking off, would hear Arthur’s muted groans as he did the same. Finally he couldn’t resist turning to look at Arthur’s bed. There was enough moonlight for him to see, dimly, Arthur at work on a quite decent size cock. The sight sent him over the edge and he came explosively. The next night he watched again, and this time saw Arthur watching him. It became their nightly ritual, and finally not a secret.

I like watching you,” Arthur said, the first to admit watching.

Yeah, me too.”

Any time you want a bit of help, let me know,” Arthur said.

But I’m not gay.”

I know, but I am, so I’d enjoy doing you. I don’t expect anything in return. You can just lie back and enjoy.”

No, I don’t think so.”

Philip couldn’t get the idea out of his mind. What would Arthur do, he wondered. Jerk him off? Maybe suck him. Girls did that to boys all the time; it wouldn’t feel any different. He’d never had it done; the closest he’d come was that abortive attempt with Cindy in the back seat of his car. He wondered what it would feel like. He screwed up his courage, and that evening spoke up.

Arthur?”

Yes?”

Would you like to do me?”

Now?”

Yeah, if you like.”

That first night it was just a hand job, but it felt wonderful. He wanted more, and the next night asked for it.

You know,” Philip said as Arthur was jerking him off, “I’ve never had a blow job.”

Arthur needed no more encouragement. It was even more wonderful than the previous night.

I’ve never done that before,” Arthur said afterward.

You sure did it well. Was it fun?”

Yeah, I loved it.”

Me too.”

Philip felt bad that, after giving him such a wonderful time, Arthur had to go back to his own bed to finish himself. So, a few nights later, after a wonderful blow job, Philip went over to Arthur’s bed and, without saying anything, took over from Arthur, bringing him to an orgasm that had him writhing as he tried not to cry out. Philip found it incredibly satisfying, giving his best friend so much pleasure, but nothing they were doing meant he was gay, he assured himself. He and Arthur were just helping each other out, as friends should.

Summer camp was finally over. Mr. Davis called Philip into his office on the last day.

You’ve done a great job,” Davis told him. You’re the best baseball counselor we’ve ever had. We’d love to have you back next year, but no strings this time. You passed your requirement with flying colors, and I’m so glad you and Arthur are friends again. Congratulations!”

Back home, Philip and Arthur had two weeks before school started, and they made full use of the time. Philip went swimming with Arthur at the Y; he was an adequate swimmer, but Arthur was impressive. Arthur dove, too; Philip didn’t even try. They tried a bit of baseball, but Arthur could neither pitch nor bat, and didn’t much want to.

They went on long walks together, exploring the city. They went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but art wasn’t of great interest to either of them. They spent much more time at the Franklin Institute, and loved the planetarium. They also spent a lot of time in Arthur’s room, talking, or reading, or listening to music. Unlike most of their contemporaries, they both were more interested in classical music than popular. Arthur tried to interest Philip in jazz, but he didn’t get it.

Arthur’s parents encouraged their friendship, often inviting Philip for supper just as when they'd been tutoring. Philip’s father didn’t like Arthur, calling him “that fag,” but Philip refused to let him interfere with his friendship and, at almost eighteen, Philip got his way. Philip didn’t know what made his father so homophobic, so unhappy and self-absorbed. His father had almost no friends, spending most of his free time in his workshop, building furniture. He’d built most of the furniture in their house, and he did beautiful work. He even sold a piece occasionally through a small local furniture store.

His father seemed to have no romantic life at all. Philip thought he may have dated after his mother died, but he hadn’t had a date in years, and apparently had no desire to. He seemed reasonably content in his solitary life, but not happy. Philip thought something must have happened to make his father that way, probably something having to do with his mother.

Because of his father’s attitude towards homosexuals, Philip never invited Arthur to his house.

Once they’d returned from camp they’d stopped jerking off together. Somehow, at home, it seemed too gay to Philip, but he missed it. It felt so good, so much better than doing it alone. He missed the physical pleasure, and he missed the shared intimacy. It’s okay for good friends to be intimate, he decided. It strengthens the friendship. There doesn’t have to be anything gay about it. For Arthur, though, it was more than friendship, although he never said so.

One day after supper at Arthur’s house, back in Arthur’s room, they were having another of those intimate, deep conversations that seemed to happen only at night.

Stay here tonight,” Arthur said.

I’d love to, but my father would freak out. He’s already suspicious of my friendship with you.”

Tell him, .... I don’t know. .... I know! Tell him you ate too much pizza and have a bad stomach ache. Tell him my father said you should stay here. He’s a doctor.” Arthur suggested.

Philip did, and it worked.

It was unusually cool for late August, so they used the top sheet. Arthur snuggled up against Philip’s back, spooning him. Philip started to pull away.

Shh,” Arthur said, holding him tighter. “Relax. We’re not going to do anything you don’t like.”

Philip did like being held by Arthur, but it felt weird. Arthur was gay. He was being hugged by a gay man, but, after all, at camp they’d even jerked off together. That was just friendship; so was this. “This is what it feels like to have a real friend,” he told himself.

As he lay there in Arthur’s arms, he felt himself getting hard, and he felt Arthur’s hard cock behind him. Arthur, he understood. Arthur was gay, but he wasn’t. What was going on? Why was he hard? He started to pull away again.

Shh,” Arthur said again. “It’s okay. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just that our bodies know what we’ve done together, how good it feels.”

Philip did know. He remembered how wonderful it felt when Arthur jerked him off, so he relaxed. Lying there, spooned together, Arthur gently masturbated him to release. As Philip came he felt Arthur come too. That was too much. He pulled away and got out of bed.

I have to go home.”

I’m sorry,” Arthur said. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I promise I’ll stop pushing. Honest. Please stay. Let’s talk. Or just sleep if you’d rather. Whatever you want. Please stay. Your father will think it’s strange if you go home now.”

His father would think it strange. He was suspicious enough already. Philip crawled back into bed. Arthur stayed on the other side. Philip missed being hugged.

It’s okay if you want to hug me, just hug,” Philip said.


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