After such an intoxicating weekend with my special boy, I didn't expect to really have such a sick feeling in my stomach as I was driving into work the next day.
But it was there. More than nervousness. A guilt. A 'shame'. Why? Because I was in love and 'other people' didn't understand? If I gave Dustin up...if I agreed to break his heart, breaking my own in the process...would those 'other people' show me any approval at all? Would they even care?
They sit on their high horse, carrying their brainwashed soapboxes with them everywhere they go, looking for opportunities to push their agenda and force their limitations on anyone who would dare to think differently than they do. Find beauty in a place where they can't. If Dustin and I broke up and our love was destroyed forever...would I get a medal? A parade? A certificate to say, 'good for you for not being a pervert'? Somehow, I doubt it.
I parked in the parking lot of the lot, and I waited in the car for a while. I actually let the tension within me keep me from going in early and spending time getting coffee and treats with Dustin like we usually did. As much as his youthful grin would have energized me for the entire time...as much as I hated to think of Dustin's pouty little face as he looked for me and didn't see his chosen sweetheart coming to spend time with him...I let the invisible gaze of countless judges and faceless moderators of society win. I let their unspoken voice rattle me into being afraid of love. LOVE! The one force that was put on this Earth to save us all.
I felt like crying, but I didn't. I stayed strong. And when it came time for the gates to open at work, I got out of my car, and I went to work as though nothing was wrong.
Obviously...something was wrong.
Jack and I had a seriously hard time talking to one another once we opened the store that day. I mean, we could barely look one another in the eye without being disgusted, or wanting to get into an argument that we obviously couldn't have in the middle of the store during a day shift in the local mall. There was a 800 pound gorilla in the room, and he wasn't going away. He just sat on the counter, keeping Jack and I from even seeing one another for a majority of the day.
It didn't help that Dustin was working across the hall today as well. It hurt my heart to downplay our relationship by not paying him as much attention as I usually do, but I felt like every exchanged grin that Dustin I shared in those first few hours of work, only made things worse.
I just...I didn't see what the hell any of this had to even DO with Jack at all! Why is he mad at me? More than that...why am I letting it get to me? If Jack decided to hate me for the rest of my life, would Dustin and I love each other any less? What does his hatred prove? What does it solve? Nothing. I hate being made to feel sick or 'different' for my attractions. I HATE it!
An invisible line had been drawn right down the center of the store. I stuck to my side. Jack stuck to his. If it weren't for the bare minimum level of communication needed to actually operate the store and complete our duties for the day...I doubt we would have spoken to each other at all this morning. there was just this really TENSE, really aggressive, mood in the air. One that lingered so thick and for so long that I'm surprised we were able to function for as long as we did. Especially when Dustin waved at me from across the hall with a smile, or called the store just to share a few giggles with me like he always did.
EVERY time...I had to watch Jack roll his eyes and grunt with a frustrated sigh, as though to give me a not-so-subtle hint to knock it off. It eventually got to be too much for me. I mean, enough was enough. Jack was my friend, sure...but if it turns out that he needs a fucking reality check, then I was all too glad to give him one!
At least...that's how the feeling in my gut started out...
Yeah...I was angry. Angry and hurt and ready to scream at him and try to force him to see my point of view if it KILLED me!
But...that's not what I did. That's not the conversation we had. And I'm glad that it went the way that it did. Whatever it takes. As long as we got the chance to finally clear the air so we can get on with our lives and get back to normal. You know?
I waited until the store was empty. It happens sometimes in the middle of the day as people make a mad dash for the food court for a quick lunch. I walked behind the counter and Jack was avoiding having to look me in the face. Fine. Whatever. "Jack, look...this is silly."
"My thoughts exactly."
"You know what I mean."
Jack turned around and gave me a glare. "You may think that this is all cute and cuddly now, but your messing with something that's going to land you in BIG trouble, Eric. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow...but one day this is going to turn on you. And I don't want to be anywhere near you when it happens."
Trying to hold my frustration back, I said, "I know what you're saying, Jack. And I know you're worried. But I'm telling you...we're being careful with this."
"Do you know how many people on the sex offenders list right now were being careful? Look it up. There's an app for it. That's you. A red dot on the pervert watchdog list."
"Stop it, ok? It's not like that."
"Really? Well, what is child molestation like?" He said.
"It's NOT child molestation! Alright? I didn't pull out a wad of money and buy him off of some pimp to make a whore out of him. I didn't snatch him off of a playground, or take advantage of him while I was babysitting. We were friends. The closest of friends. We talked every day for weeks. We had things in common. We laughed together and spent time getting to know one another. It's NO different from how any other two people fall in love. It happened. And I fought against for a long time. I fought it until we were both miserable because of it. But the truth is...I love him, Jack. Maybe you don't understand, and maybe it makes you feel uncomfortable, but that boy is the brightest light in my life. I've never been so in love. I swear...they may say that cocaine is better than sex, but it's got nothing on true love!" Jack rolled his eyes at first, but it almost looked like he was trying to open his mind just a LITTLE bit more. If for no other reason than to find a weakness in my argument.
"You can make all the excuses you want to justify it but...I don't know, dude. I'm not cool with this. This is too weird for me."
"I know. But...come here. Seriously. Look over there." I directed Jack's attention to the store across the hall.
"What are we...?"
"Just look." I said. It wasn't long before Dustin looked back at us. He looks over at our store all the time, just to see what I'm up to. Instantly, he smiled. His whole face lit up. And that's when I silently mouthed the words, "I love you"...and the poor kid nearly fell all to pieces. His forehead wrinkled up in the cutest way, his knees dipped a little in a moment of weakness, and he got so shaky that you could practically see him vibrating from a distance. It was too adorable for words.
Immediately, Dustin put up a finger to tell me to hold on, and he was trying to see if he could get a second to sneak out and come over and say hello! But I had to flag him down and tell him to stay still. Hehehe, I'm surprised it worked. Dustin was usually unstoppable when it came to being close to me. He craved the time we spent together. I never had to 'chase' him. Never once.
Dustin seemed so disappointed that he couldn't just race across the hall and smother me with kisses. He just gave me this pouty look, sticking out his bottom lip, and then secretly blowing me two or three quick kisses. Even with Jack watching. The whole thing just...it made him SO happy! And making someone you love happy is the greatest feeling in the world.
I said, "A feeling this strong, this amazing...I'm really surprised that it's free! Hehehe!"
With a sigh, Jack said, "I've got to admit, the little twerp seems to be enjoying himself."
"Of course he is. Jack, just because we weren't born in the same year doesn't mean that I'm just using him. I know what people think about this sort of thing, and you know...some people will ALWAYS think that way. I get it. Hell, some people still can't accept interracial relationships in this day and age. I hardly expect them to be open minded enough to accept something like this. But...what Dustin and I have together? We're not asking the world's 'permission' to make it happen. It's already happened. It's already real. We're in love, Jack. Whether people understand that love or not doesn't change what it is. We just want to be happy. That's all."
Jack was struggling with it. Maybe he wasn't ready to let go of the stigma behind it just yet. But that's ok. It's not like I wanted him to jump on a big ol' 'Yay, Pedophilia' float and lead a parade through the center of town. But hopefully...as a gay man, who's been hated and persecuted, mislabeled and misunderstood, thought of morally wrong and sexually deviant...he might find a slight relation to what I have to go through. Except...luckily for him...it's not illegal to be gay.
He sighed to himself, and we held our first extended moment of eye contact for the day. "You're really convinced that you two are just...madly in love. Aren't you?"
"There's no doubt about it in my mind, Jack. Not one."
"And he feels the same way?" He asked.
"Jack...hehehe, he is floating in the clouds 24 hours a day. I swear, I don't know how he holds himself together. Sometimes he makes me feel like I'm not excited enough! Hehehe!" Jack still looked like he was on the ropes though. I said, "I know that he's really really cute, and I won't lie by saying that it wasn't the very first thing that I noticed about him. He nearly gave me whiplash the first time he walked past the store. But...there's soooo much more to him than that. I see cute boys every day. They're beautiful, they're sweet, they may have a heart of gold...but I'd never touch a single one of them."
That seemed to surprise him. "No? Why not?"
"Not interested. In my MIND, sure. I see a hot boy and think about what it would be like to...well, I mean, you know. But I've got enough sense to not risk my freedom on propositioning a stranger. I don't just lose all self control every single time a piece of ass walks by. No more than you would. Dustin is more than just a cute boy to me." I think he was starting to get it. "Jack...I would NEVER pursue something like this if I thought it was just about sex. Or fantasies. Or if it was just Dustin using me to get his jollies and vice versa. My love for him is what got my attention...but it was his absolute and unwavering love for me that made it real. I couldn't break that heart if I wanted to."
We looked across the hall again, and Dustin was still glancing over every couple of seconds. Giggling, and sporting a blush that nearly overpowered the fluorescent lights above him. Hehehe!
Jack said, "I'm gonna trust that you know what you're doing, Eric. But I've gotta tell ya...I don't understand this at all. Sorry."
"What is there to understand?"
"Well...I just..." Jack tried to find the words. "I mean, he's cute. I can see that. He's gorgeous. But...how can you find a child sexually attractive?"
"He's not a child, Jack..."
"How do you find a teenager sexually attractive then? I just...I can't imagine it. You know? I'm trying, but...it just feels wrong to me. I don't see the fascination."
I tried to think of a way for it to make sense. Something that he could visualize. I said, "Do you remember the first time you ever feel in love? I mean, like...the first boy that REALLY got you going. The one that you would see in the hallway or in the cafeteria and suddenly feel like you were going to faint from the overload of utter joy and bliss being pumped through your heart at that very moment."
A little smirk appeared on Jack's face, and he said, "Brice Kittman. Oh yeah. I remember him."
"Do you remember what he looked like?" I asked.
"I memorized every last curve of him! Of course I do. Hehehe!" Jack actually got a little dreamy eyes as he thought back to him. "I was only 14 at the time, and he was a year older than me, but he was so nice to me. He took me under his wing like a big brother, you know? And I was SO in love that it was actually beginning to worry me. He was sooooo beautiful. He had this piercing blue eyes, and these really soft, puffy, lips...and dark brown hair that would sweep over his forehead in the cutest way. And his smile. And his abs...oh GOD, those abs. And an ass to DIE for...!!!"
"Hehehe, ok, I get the idea." I said. "So, can you visualize him right now? Your first love from high school?"
"And he's still 15 in your mind right? I mean...your attraction and your emotional involvement in that memory is still wrapped around him as he was back then." I said. "Well...that's how I feel. The only difference is it's not a memory and I'm not in high school anymore. That's all it is. Boys are cute. I mean teen boys around the world didn't stop being sexy just because I graduated school and made it past my 18th birthday. What you used to love and worship and drool over when you were that age, I still feel the same way today. Nothing's changed. If you showed me an old picture of Brice right now, I can look at it and honestly say, 'Damn! He IS really hot!' without feeling weird about it. Because...it's just the truth. Beauty is beauty. Period. Maybe some folks have a cutoff age for their attractions, and that's fine. It's just that...I don't. I want to hug and kiss and see Dustin naked just as much as any other teenager would. Luckily...Dustin chose me. And I'm proud. I'm SO proud."
"Proud of what?"
"Proud that I can find truth and beauty and love in a place where most people are afraid to look. That's all."
Jack rolled his eyes again, but playfully this time. He gave me a little shove and said, "I'm not saying that I'm jumping on your bandwagon just yet, but...as long as you're good to the kid, I guess I can't really complain."
"Hehehe, good to him? Jack...you have no idea just how easily that boy can wrap me around his little finger. You should be worried that he doesn't end up abusing me!"
I can't really say that Jack and I really resolved our differences that day, but at least we were able to call a truce. Even if we just agree to disagree, he was tolerant enough to leave it alone. And that's more than I could ever expect from most people. I think anyone else in his position would have totally shut down on me.
Having that conversation did make me feel better though. Being able to talk about it. Being able to define it. After so much struggling and self hatred, it made me feel good to have someone make an attempt to understand me before condemning the whole act itself, or instantly lumping me in with the John Wayne Gacy's of the world. If only they knew what it was like. The joy, countered by the burden. The love, countered by the 'secret'. It wears you down over time. Your heart aches for someone to see boys the way you do. Because without that community, without being able to feel accepted by a group of like-minded peers...life itself can be a very lonely place.
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