College Life

Tyler's words hit me like a ton of bricks. To say I was surprised would have been the biggest understatement of the year. I'd hoped that maybe he was gay but to have him actually come right out and say that he was just seemed unreal. Never mind that he had already known about me when I was trying to figure out just how to tell him. That didn't faze me a bit compared to his announcement about himself. No that was nothing compared to hearing exactly what I wanted to hear.

Fate seemed to step in once he'd told me that he was gay. Leo and Thad came back over to where we were sitting and talked about nothing in particular but effectively ended my conversation with Tyler. Under normal circumstances that would have allowed me to form an articulate response or at least get over the initial shock. These weren't normal circumstances though. I was dumbstruck. I was actually glad that Leo and Thad had come over to talk when they did. I had no idea what to say to his revelation.

The cook out turned into a pool party without any chance of me talking to Tyler about what he said. Instead I was in charge of watching Thomas so that Jeremy could get in the pool. Then I decided to find some things for Thomas to use so that he could get into the pool safely. I ended up having more fun than I expected watching Thomas delight in being part of the group. He splashed around and laughed. The expression of pure joy on his face nearly made me cry. I looked at him and thought about how uncomplicated his life really was. Sure he was disadvantaged and handicapped but to him life was as it should be. He was untouched by the real cruelties of the world around him. He was untainted.

Then it was time for Thomas and Jeremy to go home and I was sad to see them leave. Somewhere in all of that Tyler had said his goodbyes and left as well. I wondered if he'd left because he thought I was avoiding him. I actually wasn't avoiding him at all. Events had occurred that kept us away from each other throughout the party. I decided that I'd have to figure out how to get in touch with him at the dorms after work the next day. I liked the guy. I didn't want him to think that I was avoiding him for any reason.

Thad stayed to help us clean up the mess and I noticed that he and Leo were laughing about stupid things. It seemed that Thad wasn't as bad as I'd thought. Leo seemed to be making a friend and I liked that idea. I just hoped that Thad really wasn't a bad guy. I did realize that Leo had just made friends with another out and proud homosexual. Wonders truly never cease.

Greg talked about nothing but the party once we were back in our dorm room freshly showered and sufficiently worn out. He'd had a grand time and had liked everyone he met. He thought it was funny that I didn't know that Tyler was gay. He laughed uproariously over that fact. I seriously considered strangling him as I watched him hold his sides and laugh like a hyena.

"I can't believe you didn't know," he said, still almost in stitches.

"Well now that you're done cackling about my apparent ignorance maybe you'll explain how you knew," I said sarcastically.

"Start with the fact that the whole time he was there he watched your every move with a look on his face that was nothing short of lustful," he said. "Then there's the fact that I watched the boy move. Now I'm not saying he's obviously gay or anything but I do know how to spot them."

"Obviously," I said while giving him one of my best sardonic smirks.

"Oh come off it," he laughed. "You're just pissy because you couldn't figure him out on your own."

"Pissy?" I asked, looking at him evenly.

"What, too gay?" he asked before grabbing his sides and succumbing to another gale of laughter that shook the chair he was seated in.

"Right straight boy," I replied with another smirk. "You said that he looked at me lustfully."

"He did," he replied, getting himself under control.

"Well then maybe I'll really get know him better soon," I replied with a straight face.

"You like him don't you?" he asked, looking at me with his head cocked to the side as if really studying me.

"I do," I replied, thinking that if he liked me half as much as I liked him I was in trouble.

He laughed at that too but I just crawled into bed and turned off my lamp. I didn't want to talk about Tyler with Greg anymore. I had work in the morning and I still had to study for my computer exam. With no thoughts of Tyler, well not many, I closed my eyes and tried to block out the sounds of Greg's laughter and get some sleep.

The next morning I was up and showered before Greg had even opened his eyes. I was out the door and on my way down the hall when he was just getting out of the bed. All the way to the coffee house I tried not to think about Tyler. Of course I was unsuccessful. Tyler was just about all I could think about. I couldn't get the look in his blue eyes when he told me that he knew that I was gay and the he was gay as well. I really liked him and that actually made me uncomfortable. If I told him that I liked him would he expect an instant relationship? I wasn't ready for that just yet. I'd only been out of my relationship with Steve for a few months.

When I got to the coffee house Dean and Drake were waiting for me. I wondered at first if I had done something wrong when I saw them talking at the bar. Dean was standing behind the open register while Drake held papers in his hand. They stopped talking when I came in. They didn't stop and stare at me exactly though Drake was looking at me. Dean began to count the money in the drawer and even though I wasn't the one who closed the night before I was worried. I wondered if we were short or maybe not making enough money. Maybe they'd decided that hiring me wasn't such a good idea. Then I wondered where all of my insecurity was coming from. I hadn't worked the night before. If the register was short that would have been Jamie's fault. They were constantly busy with only the very occasional slow times. We were making more than enough money to support my employment. I decided to just stop worrying and find out what was up.

"Tommy," said Dean as I closed the door and walked to the bar. "Come have a seat."

"Let me clock in," I said, stepping around the bar to the back room where the time clock was located. I punched my card and put it back on the desk before walking back to sit at the bar with Drake and Dean. "What's up?"

"Well we've been going over the figures for last month," said Drake as he flipped through the stack of papers in his hand.

"We're doing so well that we've decided to give you a raise," said Dean. "One dollar per hour should do it. Don't you think?"

I didn't know what to say. I almost laughed. I'd been so worried when I came through the door and found them together looking at me that I'd expected to be fired. Now to hear that I was getting a dollar raise nearly made my eyes bug out. And Dean was asking what I thought about it as if I could argue for more!

"I think it's great," I said with a smile.

"We're also going to be looking for one other employee," said Drake. "With everything going on in our lives we just don't have the time to be here all the time anymore."

"So if you know of anyone who you think would be good for the position just let us know," said Dean.

"Sure," I said, wondering what Drake had meant by everything that was going on in their lives. These boys were strange but nice and I really liked them. I heard rumors about them from time to time but I never paid any attention to the talk.

That was the end of our discussion about raises and future employees. Drake left to have breakfast with Aaron and Dean helped me get the tables all set up and the coffee pots going. We polished cups and saucers and got all of that ready and we were putting them away when our first customer of the day walked through the door. That began a steady stream of customers that lasted all throughout my shift. Dean ran the cash register and waited on the customers at the bar while I circulated through the lobby waiting on the customers at tables. In four hours of work I'd made sixty dollars in tips and had managed not to have any problems with any of the customers.

I stopped at the house to chat with Andy after work but he wasn't home. Jeremy and Thomas were out with friends and no one else was around. Even Tom and Shirley were out doing something so I just went back to the dorm and studied. Greg wasn't in our room when I got there so I had peace and quiet to study. I got a lot of studying done before Greg came in all sweaty and panting. He'd been for a run it seemed and I smiled at him when he came in.

"You stink," I laughed as he closed the door.

"Thanks," he replied, turning to smile at me. "That means I ran my ass off."

"Now that would be a damned shame," I said, deciding to play with Greg a little. "You have such a nice ass."

"Hey now!" he gasped as his eyes grew large. "None of that. Eyes off gay boy."

"Scenery straight boy," I laughed. "Go take your shower. Then maybe we can study some before supper."

"Where are we eating?" he asked as he used the towel that was draped over his shoulder to wipe his face.

"No clue," I replied. "Think that over while you're cleaning up."

"K," he said, tossing his towel toward the basket at the end of his bed and missing by a foot.

He disappeared behind the bathroom door and I got up and picked up his towel to throw it in his basket. I studied a bit more while he was in the shower and then he popped through the door bare assed naked and shaking his ass. I stared at him in disbelief for a few stunned seconds and then he was laughing.

"Scenery gay boy," he quipped before wrapping his towel around his waist.

After I recovered from the shock and he got dressed we got down to studying. Two subjects in almost three hours and we were both studied out. I grabbed my keys off the desk and we headed down to my car to head over to the Campus Diner for a bite to eat. I was very happy that all through the meal he didn't mention Tyler even once. I'd been thinking about Tyler all day long but not obsessing. I wasn't quite ready to talk about him. I liked Greg a lot but I wasn't sure that I would talk to him about Tyler when I was ready.

We stayed in our room that night and watched a movie that I can't even remember. When I poured myself into bed that night the last thing I thought about wasn't Tyler. It was Leo. I wondered how he was fairing with his roommate. They'd seemed pretty friendly with each other the night before at the cook out but that didn't mean anything. I wondered if I still needed to worry about Leo and Thad.

I saw Thad in English as Greg and I walked into the lecture hall. He was seated at the top back row so we made our way up to him. Greg asked me why we were moving to sit with Thad and all I could say was that I wanted to at least try to be his friend. Thad showed us those pearly whites as his face split into that huge grin he was famous for. I had to admit that he was actually very attractive when he smiled. His entire face lit up and his blue eyes that normally looked cold and cruel sparkled with an inner light that made him look like a kid with his first dog.

"Hi guys," he said, still smiling at us. "I had a great time Saturday."

"I'm glad to hear it," I said, sitting in the seat next to him while Greg sat on my other side. "Thanks for helping us clean up."

"No problem, Bud," he said, and I felt my own smile freeze on my face. That nickname was mine from Steve. Hearing it come from Thad made me feel my heart thudding in my chest.

"Tommy?" Greg inquired after I'd been silent for a few minutes, staring at Thad. "You all right?"

"Fine," I sighed, shaking my head. "Thad, please don't call me that."

"Uh, ok," he said, looking confused. I knew I'd have to explain things to him soon but our instructor came in and class began.

Leo was waiting for me when I came out of the lecture hall. Thad said his goodbyes and we were off to meet up with Brian for our computer class. These were the only two classes I had on Mondays so I would be leaving after this class and headed off to work. Brian and Leo both had another class to get to. I had two hours off before my shift started at the coffee house and I spent the better part of those two hours sitting in the campus diner. That was where Tyler found me. He walked over and all I could think about was that we would talk about our sexualities.

"Hey," he said as he slid into the other bench of the booth I was sitting at. "I didn't get a chance to thank you for inviting me to your house Saturday."

"Don't mention it," I said with a smile, deciding not to get worked up. "I hope you had a good time."

"I had a great time," he said with a smile of his own. "Thanks for inviting me."

"Sorry if I acted weird after you told me you were gay," I said quickly. I must have sounded and looked like an idiot.

"You didn't act weird," he said with a slight chuckle. "Just surprised."

"Well I was surprised," I admitted. "I had no clue."

"Well now you know about me," he laughed. "I'm glad that you know. I would have eventually caused a stupid scene if you hadn't found out."

"What do you mean?" I asked as the waitress came over with my food and took his drink order. She smiled at us and looked at me for a few moments. I was starting to get uncomfortable as she looked at me. I thought that she obviously recognized me from the magazine interviews. They'd taken a lot of pictures of me at the time and I'd even appeared on a few news programs.

"Your lunch is on me boys," she said with a bright smile. Her blond hair was pulled into a ponytail with bright red clips on the sides of her head. Her name tag was faded so I couldn't read her name.

"That's all right..."

"No I insist," she said, smiling wider as she scribbled something on her pad and tore off the top sheet. "I shouldn't be doing this," she said as she handed me the slip. "Here. I get off in a few hours."

Suddenly I understood perfectly. She didn't recognize me from the magazines or the television interviews. She was hitting on me! I almost started laughing. It was the craziest thing that had ever happened to me. Tyler was laughing. He was laughing so hard that she started to look worried. I knew I had to say something to her. I couldn't let her think that I was interested.

"Uh thanks," I said, handing the slip back to her. "I think you should know that I'm gay though."

"Oh!" she said, looking from me to Tyler and back. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," said Tyler, beaming a smile at her. "I'm not."

Tyler was still laughing when the waitress walked away from us. I couldn't believe that she had hit on me like that. This wasn't something that I'd ever had to really deal with in the past. I wondered about that actually. I mean even before Steve and I came out of the closet none of the girls at school had hit on me. Wendy had expressed an interest in me but she'd been the only one. Maybe the girls just knew I was off limits or something. I guess it didn't really make a difference because I was never really interested in girls as anything more than friends.

"Why are you looking like that?" Tyler asked when he'd stopped laughing. "Are you ok?"

"I'm fine," I replied, picking up my burger. "She just surprised me."

"I can see that," he chuckled. "You shouldn't be surprised though. You're a hot guy. It's natural that she'd want to go out with you."

"Whatever," I sighed before taking a bite out of my burger.

"What?" he asked, looking at me evenly. "You are a hot guy Tommy."

"Ok," I replied, shaking my head.

"Well I think you are, ok?"

"Really?" I asked. So much for not being nervous. I could feel my heart beating faster and my palms were sweating. I knew that it didn't really mean anything if he thought I was attractive. I wasn't even ready for anything more than friendship anyway. That didn't stop me from getting excited at the thought that he might actually like me.

"Come on," he chuckled and then turned serious. "You're gorgeous. You know you are."

"Right," I said, shaking my head.

"You have to know," he said, looking at me hard. "My God Tommy I can barely talk to you without turning into a blubbering idiot."

"I'm having a similar problem," I said and then nearly died when I realized that I'd said it out loud.

He looked at me with wide eyes for a second but luckily the waitress arrived with his food at that moment. He dove into his food while I could only stare at mine. I wasn't sure what was happening. Was he trying to tell me that he liked me? That would be more than I'd hoped for but was I ready for it if that's what he was trying to say?

"Come on, you had to know that I like you," said Tyler, looking at me with hope filled eyes.

"I had no idea that you liked me," I said honestly. "I like you, too, Tyler. You just have to understand that I just got out of a relationship not long ago and we were together for a very long time. I'm not ready to jump back into a relationship right now."

"What are you ready for?" he asked.

I had to think about that one for a minute or two. What was I ready for? With Steve things had happened so quickly, and I'd loved him with all of my heart. He'd taken that love and killed it when he walked out on me without an explanation. Was I really ready to try again? Sure I liked Tyler. I liked him a lot but I didn't really even know him. I mean we'd only hung out like this twice so far. The other times that I'd even talked to him there had been other people around.

"We don't even really know each other," I said finally. "I would like to take the time to get to know you though."

"I'd like that, too," he said. "Trust me, I'm not ready to jump into anything serious right now either. I just got out of a relationship too."

"How long were you together?" I asked.

"Almost a year," he said. "I know that doesn't compare to you and Steve Sutton but I did love Loren a lot."

That shocked me. I couldn't picture Tyler with Loren. All I knew of Loren was that he was an asshole. Maybe there was another side of him that I hadn't seen. I wasn't planning to take the time to get to know him any better though. My first impression of Loren had told me all I wanted to know. I hated the guy.

Then what he'd said about Steve registered. How did he know anything about my relationship with Steve? Sure he'd been assigned to study with Steve on a project but how much had they really talked about?

"How do you know your relationship with Loren doesn't compare to mine and Steve's?" I asked.

"Well Loren and I were only together for ten months," he said. "It started very quickly and I was more overwhelmed at first than anything else. According to Steve, you two were together for the better part of four years."

"We were together for just over three years," I said. "Our relationship started very quickly as well. Before we were together a year we were living together. Steve and I were closer than most couples, or at least I thought we were."

"He's still in love with you," he said. "You're all he talked about when we were working on that project."

"His feelings mean nothing to me anymore," I said, trying hard to keep the bite out of my voice. "He gave up the right to have me care about him when he walked out on me."

"What happened there?" he asked. "Why did he do it?"

"I still don't know," I said. "We were going through a very difficult time in our lives. Bombs had been planted in our locker, an entire congregation threw stones at us and one supposed man of the cloth made us public targets with his bigotry. Once that seemed to be over so was my relationship with Steve. I got no explanation then, and I still haven't gotten one. Any time we're around each other we end up fighting."

"That really sucks," he said. "Steve must have been crazy to leave you after all of that. Just the fact that you stuck it out with him through all of that plainly says that you loved him."

"I loved him very much," I replied. "In all honesty I'm still hurt by what he did but I don't love him anymore. I pity him."


"Because he's alone," I said. "He chose to be alone and now he's miserable. Everyone tells me about it all the time. I have to hear it from friends as well as strangers that Steve is miserable. But he did this to himself. I would have never left him. He just didn't trust me enough to know that. Whatever his reasons were for doing what he did, they were more important to him than the love that he was getting from me. He had to know that I loved him. I'd practically walked through fire to prove it to him."

We were both quiet for a while. Our food was forgotten while we were both locked in our own thoughts. Mine were of Steve. I wished that things had turned out differently but they hadn't so I'd decided shortly after it had happened to just shove him out of my heart. Did I hate him? No. Pity was all I felt when I thought about him now. I didn't even let myself miss him.

Was I ready to go through it all again? Was I ready to set myself up again? If I trusted Tyler and entered into a relationship with him what was there to guarantee me that he wouldn't stab me in the heart the same way Steve had? There were no guarantees. I knew that but it didn't make things any easier for me. I really liked Tyler and I wanted to get to know him. Did getting to know him mean that I had to fall in love with him?

"Well I'm not trying to get you to believe that anything could happen between us," he said after a long silence had built between us. "I want to get to know you. I want to hang out with you and really get to know you. I know what I've read about you, but that isn't the real you. What do you say? Can we get to know each other?"

I was quiet for a moment while I thought about what it would be like to get to know Tyler. I really did like him so it wasn't as if I'd have to work on that part. What could it hurt? If I said no then what would happen next? I at least wanted to be his friend. Getting to know him wasn't dangerous.

"That sounds good," I said finally.

Storyville 3