We drove to the hospital parking lot in silence. I pointed out my car, a beat-up Volvo I’d inherited from my mother, and he pulled up beside it and waited silently as I got out. He nodded when I thanked him, but took off without saying a word.
I stood there and watched him drive away, the custom license plate mocking me with the letters PROUD2B framed with a thin strip of rainbow colors.
The inside of my car was a disaster; a rolling locker room filled with clothes, books, and fast-food wrappers. I made a mental note to get the shit cleaned up, even though I knew the likelihood of that happening was pretty slim.
The drive from the hospital up Telegraph Avenue toward the Cal campus was slow this evening. It was Saturday night after all, and the streets were clogged with bikers and pedestrians. I tried to rein in my impatience, but I was fidgety and angry; probably because the last hour of an otherwise pleasant evening had turned sour due to my fucking homophobic behavior.
He must think I’m the biggest ass....
I got to my building and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time, trying to blow off some steam. The look on Jody’s face when I pulled my hand away was stuck in my head. I got to my apartment and fumbled with the door, finally pushing it open and then slamming it shut behind me.
The light on my answering machine was blinking so I hit the button and listened to the message while I wandered over to the fridge to pull out a beer.
“Hey, Clark... it’s me.“ Nikki’s perky voice reverberated. “Call me when you get in. I’d love to hook up.“
No surprise there. She was my self-proclaimed stalker, following me around since I was in the eighth grade. Nikki had developed a thing for me years ago, and it continued to this day even though I told her it was going nowhere.
She was persistent and also very convenient. Somehow she always ended up in my bed, which had everyone thinking we were a couple when nothing could be further from the truth. The reality was that it meant nothing to me. She was a means of release, someone I was comfortable with who was always available.
Tonight I was in the mood to forget the hurt in Jody’s eyes so I hit speed dial, and she picked up after a second. “What are you doing?“ I asked.
She was at my place in no time since she lived about five blocks away. I heard the knock, pulled the door open, and yanked her up against my body, practically ripping off her clothes and carrying her to the bed. Foreplay was unnecessary because she seemed just as eager to get on with the main event, pulling me roughly toward her and rutting against me, grabbing my cock and moving it back and forth across her wetness, hissing at me, begging for it. The condom was on before I knew it, and I closed my eyes and pushed into her, feeling her stretch to accommodate my size, listening to her groans as she thrashed about.
I was on automatic, pumping in and out of her, waiting for the release I badly needed. My mind kept wandering though, the fantasy easily taking over, and the blond cheerleader with the angelic face wasn’t beneath me anymore. It was Jody looking up at me with his chocolate-colored eyes, his mouth stretched in a seductive smile, his tongue licking my lips, murmuring “fuck me“ over and over. I exploded into Nikki, our bodies shuddering at the same time and, when I was spent, I rolled off her and moved to the other side of the bed, hoping she wouldn’t do the cuddle thing because I didn’t think I could stand it tonight. Not when the only arms I wanted around me were lean and muscular and male.
I got out of bed and padded off to the kitchen, threw the condom in the trash, and pulled a Corona out of the fridge. “You want anything to drink?“
“I’ll have whatever you’re having,“ she called out. Of course you will, I thought. Whatever you want, dear....
I watched her as she stretched out on my bed looking like something out of Playboy magazine. There was no denying the fact that she was a knockout. Her hair was the blond that bordered on platinum, and her eyes were as blue as a summer sky. She sat up, and the sheet fell away from her breasts. She did nothing to cover up, exposing them proudly, the pink nipples made pinker by her recent orgasm. They were as beautiful as the rest of her, and I should have been madly in love. But I wasn’t. My heart felt dead.
I reached for the pile of mail that was sitting on the table. I’d left it to accumulate and there was a few days’ worth. It was the usual stuff, but one letter caught my attention. It had the Cal logo on the upper left-hand side. I ripped it open and saw that it was from the registrar’s office, with a list of my grades, class standing, and units completed to date. The English class was listed as incomplete with a note saying that I needed to take it and pass before I could graduate, let alone play football.
“What is it?“ Nikki asked.
“The English class again. It’s ruining my life.“
“Oh, come on, Clark. It’s not that bad.“
“Drop it, Nik. I’m not in the mood for a pep talk.“
She got off the bed and sashayed over to where I stood, rubbing up against me like a Persian cat in heat. I was starting to get hard again, so I let her lead me back to bed for another session before we both passed out.
The next morning I found that my mood hadn’t improved at all. Seeing her tousled head in my bed should have made me feel better, but it didn’t. I got up quietly, threw on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, grabbed a bottle of water and my car keys, and left for my usual morning run. Hopefully Nikki would be gone by the time I got back.
It would have been so simple if I could just fall in love with her. None of these nagging doubts would exist, and both our families would be ecstatic. Instead, I always felt guilty after we’d been together, knowing I’d used her to get off.
Her parents and mine were good friends, part of the tight-knit community in Folsom that had known each other for years. Our fathers worked together at the prison, and when they noticed Nikki’s interest in me, they practically set a wedding date, not even bothering to see how I felt about it. They just assumed the feelings were mutual, and after a certain point I didn’t think to set them straight.
The only one who really knew how I felt was Nikki. She knew that I didn’t love her that way. I cared for her as much as I cared for my brothers. It was a familial love, only with benefits.
The guilt weighed heavily this morning, thinking about all we’d done last night. The worst part was the fact that I’d been fucking someone else in my head. Someone who would probably never want to see or talk to me again after the little stunt I pulled at the restaurant.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, and I headed for the track, doing my usual five miles until the sweat poured off my body. It felt good to be doing something physical, banishing the demons that had resided in my head for more years than I could remember. Exercise had always been the best sedative for me, the endorphins coating me with a sense of calm.
After checking the glove compartment to see that my wallet was in its usual place, I decided to make a coffee stop on my way home, choosing to go to Andronico’s instead of Starbucks. My refrigerator was completely empty, so I headed toward my favorite store, mentally going over the things I needed to buy. I glanced up at the mirror and saw that I looked halfway decent, even though my hair was still wet and plastered to my skull. I ran my fingers through the bone-straight hair and fluffed it up a little so I didn’t look like I just got out of the shower. My eyes were more green than blue today, a phenomenon that I lived with. The ever-changing kaleidoscope of my eye color was always a good topic of conversation.
I grabbed a cart and headed up the aisles, picking cans and boxes off the shelves and tossing them in without thinking. I was hoping not to forget anything, but I knew better. I’d probably forget the most important thing.
I turned the corner, heading up to the food court, and almost ran into Jody Williams and a companion. The shock of seeing him up close after dreaming about him all night threw me for a moment, and I stammered out a greeting.
“Hi, Jody. How’s it going?“
“It’s all good,“ he replied, barely cracking a smile. “This is my friend, Lil Lampert.“ His lanky companion was Jody’s direct opposite in appearance, towering over him by at least five inches. While one looked completely straight and professional, the other could have been a poster boy for Castro Street and all it stood for. He was wearing a lime-green T-shirt and orange cut-offs with the requisite matching orange Crocs. His spiked brown hair had red, gold, and silver streaks, and, of course, the gold hoop in his left ear completed the picture.
“I’m a big fan,“ he said, sticking his hand out for me to shake it. It was surprisingly firm, not what I expected.
“You know football?“ I asked stupidly, wanting to kick myself again. I seemed to be digging my hole deeper and deeper with regards to Jody.
“Don’t look so surprised! Some of us Nelly queens actually enjoy sports,“ he replied, looking at me in amusement. He probably thought I was an idiot as well. God only knew what Jody had told him about last night’s dinner conversation.
“You guys live around here?“ I asked. “I don’t recall seeing you at this store before.“
“I do,“ Jody replied. “I live up the hill near the Claremont Hotel.“
“I live in San Francisco, but then I’m sure you already figured that out,“ Lil said pointedly.
“What brings you our way?“ Berkeley and San Francisco were worlds apart even though we were neighbors.
“Oh, I come out every other weekend to spend Sundays with Jody. If I didn’t do that, he’d shrivel up and die without ever seeing sunlight. All he does is work.“
“Shut up, Lil.“ Jody smiled at him, the accompanying dimple finally showing up as well. “Lil and I were roommates in college,“ Jody continued. “But now he’s decided he’s my mother.“
“Well, someone has to take care of this boy, since he won’t do it himself,“ Lil said, lowering his voice to a whisper, as if Jody weren’t there. “He’s all about taking care of others, you know. The great healer who ignores his own need.“
“Got it. Well, I’ll let you guys get back to your shopping,“ I said, trying to move my cart around them.
“It was nice meeting you, Clark,“ Lil threw out as I passed him by.
I walked away from them, feeling their eyes boring into my backside. I turned back for a minute and saw them walking off, Lil’s arm draped loosely across Jody’s shoulders, which were broader and more muscular than I ever remembered them to be. If fact, everything about his body was quite a surprise, once he removed his scrubs and other work attire. His legs were lean and well-formed, tanned a golden brown, despite Lil’s remarks about Jody not seeing any sunlight. He was wearing Spandex biker shorts and a skin tight T-shirt that left little to the imagination. I couldn’t stop staring.
Jody was at the checkout stand unloading his cart while Lil flipped through the pages of the National Enquirer. “He’s better-looking in person,“ Lil said out loud.
“I know! It’s criminal that anyone should look like that,“ Jody answered, stacking his groceries on the moving belt.
“You know he’s bent, don’t you?“
“Get the fuck out of here.“
“I saw him checking out your ass.“
“No, Jodes, you are.“
Jody looked at his best friend and frowned. “Do you really think so, because I was picking up a signal too, but I thought I might be imagining it?“
“Honey, you’re not imagining anything.“
“Well, if he’s gay, he’s got some major issues he needs to deal with.“
“I’m not wasting any energy on this.“
“Methinks thou doth protest too much,“ Lil said pointedly.
Jody stuck his tongue out at his best friend, and Lil cracked up, his raucous laughter heard throughout the store.