Meet Mason Hayes

 

Twenty-seven years ago

 

“MOM! YOU shouldn’t let him run around naked like that!”

“But Mason, it’s beautiful outside. Seriously, how many days do we get like this on the peninsula?”

Mason was oblivious to the gorgeous March sunshine on his little brother’s bare ass. “But Mom, his penis is showing!”

Janette Hayes had been in her early thirties when she started having children. Mason would always think of her as she was on this spring day, in her sundress, her bare, pale feet digging into the lushness of the lawn of their tiny Redwood City backyard. Her dark brown hair cascaded down her back with only a few strands of silver to mark the fact that her nine-year-old son had aged her worse than cigarettes and heroin—her own words, leveled at Mason for most of his life.

“I know his penis is showing,” his mother said gently. “He’s three—he doesn’t care if his penis is showing. He can run around the lawn and pee in the corners.”

“But Mom, he’s gonna get the flowers pregnant!”

Later he would acknowledge that this look on his mother’s face—mouth open and closing in shock, dark eyes wide as saucers—was something he saw a lot, but that day it sort of stuck in his mind. It was the first time he realized that he horrified people just by speaking.

“No!” she protested, gasping a little. “You can’t get flowers pregnant, honey—”

“But we had the puberty video,” Mason told her earnestly. “And the puberty video says that it’s the boy part that gets people pregnant.”

“Oh God, your father must have signed that. I do not remember that permission slip.”

“You signed it with my math homework and my English homework and the history test I got an A on and the science test I got an A on and—” Mason remembered everything. Sometimes his brain was so busy remembering things that he forgot that words, meaning, and people’s reactions all had a sort of car wreck whenever he opened his mouth.

“I get it, Mason, I have only myself to blame! Now what you may not have gotten from the fourth-grade puberty video is that that thing—”

“A penis.”

“That penis can only make a human woman pregnant if it is inserted into the vagina and allowed to discharge—”

“Touching it makes it feel good,” Mason said. “But the video didn’t say that—I figured that out for myself.”

“That’s awesome, Mason, but maybe you keep that to yourself for a while, okay?”

“But I don’t understand! Why does it get big when you touch it, and how come boys can’t be pregnant!”

“Because boys don’t have a place in their bodies to make babies,” his mother said, her voice indicating she was hanging on to her patience by a thread. “That’s why they have to put the penis in the girl’s—” She paused and took a breath. “—vagina.”

“But I don’t want to touch a girl’s vagina!” Mason wailed. “I don’t want any girls touching my penis! I only want boys touching my penis, but you just told me that boys don’t have any place for my penis to go!”

“Oh.” His mother blinked. “Okay. That’s a whole different story.”

“Is it a good story?” Mason asked urgently, trying not to cry. “Is it a story where the boy kisses the boy and gets his penis touched?”

“Sure,” his mother said, dazed. “That can be a story.”

“Then why wasn’t it in the video?” Mason demanded, furiously upset. “And where does the penis go?”

At that moment his brother Dane let out an excited squeal. “Penis go pee-pee!” he shouted, and then he proceeded to water his mother’s begonias.

“How did this happen?” his mother whispered. She looked like she had the night Dane had discovered chocolate syrup could be used to paint walls and the cat.

“He aimed and shot,” Mason said helpfully. “Just like Dad showed us with the Cheerios in the toilet. And how come he can touch his pee-pee outside and I can’t touch mine in my pants?”

“Because he’s three, Mason. Three. And you were in school, and all pee-pee touching needs to be done in private.”

“But what if another boy wants to touch my penis? How will I know?”

“Oh dear God.”

“But Mom, God doesn’t like it when we touch our penises. That gross girl in school said that in front of the entire class! Why would you bring him into it?”

“Mason, would you like some Kool-Aid?”

Mason smiled at his mother, distracted and happy about it. “Yeah. Do we have cherry?”

“I hope so. Watch Dane. Mom’s going to go get some Kool-Aid for both of us.” Mason would figure out later that Mom’s Kool-Aid had a healthy dollop of vodka, but then, who could blame her at that point?

After Mom got up and toddled unsteadily into the kitchen, Dane tilted back his head and laughed uproariously. “Pee-pee!” he shrilled. “Going pee-pee!”

“Yeah,” Mason said glumly, resting his chin on his hands. “You enjoy that now while you can, little brother. According to Mom, they have to get locked away in the dark when you get older, and the only time they can see the light is when they visit vaginas.”

“Ginas!” Dane crowed. “Ginas ginas ginas….”

“Gross.”

“Ginas gross,” Dane repeated happily.

Later, when Dane came out too (in a slightly less harrowing and more coherent confession when he was thirteen), Janette would turn to an ecstatic Mason and say, “I blame you.”

His father denied that there was alcohol involved, of course, but she’d had vodka and Kool-Aid that day too. Mason would start to wonder if the drink held some special significance. His mother certainly did drink a lot of it in the years to come.

 

 

Twenty years ago

 

“SORRY, MOM.”

“Mason….”

“He was kissing me and it just sort of slipped out.”

“That word slips out a lot, Mason. What were you doing kissing in the middle of school?”

Mason looked up from the slick gold-brown surface of the table in the conference room and tried to gauge his mother’s expression. She would have looked happier with a Kool-Aid in her hand. He went back to studying his fingers as he tried to erase Fuck Hope from the table with just his spit alone.

“Mason…,” his mother warned.

“It was lunch,” he said defiantly. “We were making out under the bleachers.”

“That’s nice,” his mother said, her voice dry. “Do we even know this boy? Have we met his parents? Do we have their phone number? Or, hey, his name?”

Mason fidgeted. “Kyle,” he muttered.

“That’s a nice name. Are we ever going to meet him?”

Oh God. “No,” he said, squeezing his eyes tight.

“Why not?”

Oh God. To his mother? “Because I asked to touch his penis and he punched me in the face.”

His mother let out a breath. “Uhm, was there…” He could hear her thinking. “…context for this request?”

Mason sighed. “He had his hand down my pants?” And it had felt good. Really good. Mason couldn’t lie—Kyle had been squeezing and stroking and… damn.

“Oh.” His mother sighed. “That’s not what he told Principal Curtis.”

“Yeah. I think he was okay with feeling me up, but I said the magic word and he freaked.”

His mother rested her forehead against her hand. “Mason?”

“Yeah?”

“How would you like to go to private school?”

“Do I have to hide the fact that I’m gay?”

Her sigh shook the world. “No, no—gay is fine. Just… maybe tell them you’re celibate?”

“God, college can’t come soon enough.”

“You are telling me.”

 

 

Seventeen years ago

 

TODD SLEZCYK was so damned hot.

Tall, but not taller than Mason, and rangy, with dark blond hair and eyes the color of a butane flame, he dressed casually in loose 501s and tight athletic T-shirts and often let his beard grow to an adorable stubble. He was a member of all of the civic organizations, including the newly formed GSA and the Tree Huggers’ Club and Young Liberals Are Us.

Mason followed him willingly into all of those organizations, because Todd’s reputation for putting out after a really stirring political meeting was legendary. Mason’s friend Corbin actually told Mason that Todd’s dick got bigger during the announcement of the winner of the presidential election, right up until he found out it was Bush, when he came prematurely and shriveled like a raisin.

Since Corbin started dating a guy from Stanford then—someone who didn’t get all limp and sad when Bush was on TV—Mason took that as license to move in. He’d play old Clinton footage if he had to, but he was going to suck Todd Slezcyk’s penis if he had to fail poli-sci to get his attention!

His move came in late spring, when he and Todd emerged from a meeting defending the need for the GSA to the dean of students. The dean had seemed like a nice enough guy—middle-aged and conservative, but once he met Todd and Mason and realized they were human and not the gay stereotype from every bad disco movie ever, he told them he’d accept their petition to be an official club during Rush Week for the fall semester.

Todd was stoked, jabbering all the way across the quad to the dorms, his body throwing off heat as he capered to the time of his driven political drums.

Mason nodded excitedly, throwing in his two cents when Todd would let him, but inside, his groin was buzzing and his cock was at half-mast and even his nipples tingled with excitement.

Oh glory be and hallelujah, Mason Hayes was getting laid!

He’d been waiting through two years of college for this!

“So,” Todd said, bouncing on his toes like he yearned for a soapbox, “did you see how that worked? The political process at its best—we followed the protocol and whoop! There you go, social change!”

“Yeah, Todd, you were awesome!”

“I mean, it was incredible, right? And with that one act, we can give a place for gay and bi and questioning students to feel safe, and for their friends to ask questions and not be afraid of censure—we did that, Mason! Wasn’t that a rush?”

It had bored him senseless. “Such a rush!” he agreed, wondering how often he was going to have to go to meetings like that in the course of his life. When he grew up and got a real job, he was definitely going to find ways to ditch out on meetings where one person talked and everyone else in the room tried not to nod off, because that was the worst.

But right now he’d just like Todd to stop bouncing on his toes because he was pretty sure that, like Mason, Todd was sporting a semi.

“So are you ready for next week?” Todd asked, his blue eyes sparkling in the light from one of the streetlamps.

“We have to wait until next week?”

“Well, yeah. That’s when we elect officers for next year’s student council—Mason, you’ve been helping me campaign all semester!”

This was true. Mason was actually a top-of-the-line banner painter—he could come up with a campaign slogan at the drop of a hat. He was, in fact, thinking of making a banner for his bed that read “Mason Hayes! Get him laid!” because nothing else seemed to be working.

“Oh,” Mason said now in a small voice. “I remember. In fact, you know, maybe you wanted to come up to my room and talk about the campaign?” He gave a flirty smile—or what he thought of as a flirty smile—and maneuvered so Todd was back against the wall of Mason’s dorm. They were kissing distance—kissing distance—away.

Todd looked away and blushed. “Mason, that’s really sweet, but, you know… I get really….” He bobbed his head and thrust his hips playfully. “Excited, you know?”

Oh yes! This was exactly what Mason had been hoping for! “Well, yeah,” Mason said, nodding, leaning, nodding. “That’s… you know… maybe we can go up to my room and… get excited together?” Please, Todd—please, let’s get excited together. Let’s touch each other’s penises together, oh my God, let’s lose my virginity together!

The look on Todd’s face was kind and tender.

And most definitely not yes.

“Oh, Mason—I’m sorry, man. But I’m bi-questioning, remember? I’ve experimented with men, and I have a woman waiting in my room to further the experiment.” He smiled like Mason should be happy for him. “This could really further my career as an activist, you know?”

Mason gaped at him, trying to put this all together. “But….” He reached down and cupped Todd gently, massaging, feeling Todd respond to his touch. “But… but you want me, right?”

Todd’s eyes rolled back in his head and he thrust forward, clutching Mason’s shoulders. “Well yeah, Mason, but I’ve got someone back at my dorms, man, and….”

Mason kissed him. He’d become the make-out king in the past two years, but somehow he just never seemed to get past second base. That didn’t mean he didn’t know how to kiss, though, and he pillaged Todd’s mouth with every bit of expertise he had.

Todd moaned and bucked against his hand, bringing his arms up and wrapping them around Mason’s neck. Oh, oh yes. His taste, oh! And the feel of their chests together, yes! And his cock in Mason’s hand… oh God… please….

“Mmm,” Todd breathed. “You are making it so very hard to resist.” He smiled coyly from under blond lashes.

Mason bit his lip, his stomach exploding into a nest of butterflies. “And isn’t a pole in the hole worth a cock in the bush?”

Under his hand, the promising steel of young lust wilted into revulsion.

Which was exactly how Todd looked at him as he pulled away and wandered dispiritedly down the path to his own dorm.

Mason moaned and banged his head softly against the brick wall. “I’m never going to get laid.”

When he got back into his dorm room, his cell phone tinkled in his pocket, so excruciatingly loud his roommate grumbled and fell out of bed. God, one day he’d figure out how to fix the settings. Face hot, he stumbled into the hallway and flipped open his phone.

“Hi, sweetheart—just wanted to see if you’re driving home over spring break.”

“Hi, Mom,” he said, both mortified and relieved to talk to his mother. Yeah, she’d seen every embarrassing moment in his life in living color, but yeah—she’d always managed to make them better. “Uh, okay. Sure.” Since he and Todd would obviously not be hooking up for the sex of a lifetime.

“So.” She cleared her throat delicately. “Will you be bringing any, uh, friends home?”

“No, Mom. Still a virgin.”

His mother’s sigh of disappointment gusted through the earpiece. “That’s too bad, sweetheart. Your father and I are rooting for you!”

He let out a helpless chuckle and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Good news is, at least I’m not using the word ‘penis’ anymore.”

He recognized her vodka-and-Kool-Aid voice. “No?”

“Nope. I scared this one away talking about the president.”

“Well, your father and I think he’s a dick too, if that helps.”

Mason couldn’t help it. He laughed. “It helps. You help, Mom.”

“Well, that’s my pleasure, hon. We look forward to seeing you.”

“Love you,” he said, knowing his voice pulsed with homesickness and not caring.

“Love you too.”

She hung up, and he leaned against his door, still chuckling. Well, yes, sex would have been nice, but you couldn’t beat family.

And later that semester, when Mason finally lost his virginity to Todd Slezcyk, he thought that sex was woefully overrated. He still loved his family, though—and his mother, bless her soul, told him to keep trying. Eventually the sex thing would live up to all the condom commercials.