Sammy was a young kid of 18 when he came to Athens to enter Ohio University. He was a farm kid from a little town called Meadville down south on the Ohio River. He was a big athlete in high school, 6' 4", nice big build for a high school kid, and run…how that boy could run. He had broken every record his high school had ever recorded. That was just it…his high school. He was a hero in Meadville, but the town was so small, no one else noticed. So, when he started making applications to colleges…you guessed it, no one was really interested. Everyone wanted the guys from Warren or Massilon or Cleveland or some of those other big time schools. A guy from Meadville? How talented could he be, really?
So Sammy decided to take his talent and go to OU on his own. He was disappointed, but as a walk on, he could prove himself to the coach. There was no telling how far he could go. But at OU? Was there a football program at OU? Had anyone ever heard of OU? Well, maybe not yet, but after Sammy got there…you bet they'd know about OU. Sammy was just as bright as he was talented, so he packed his bag, tucked his academic scholarship under his arm, got in his old beat up Chevy, and headed for Athens. It was about an hour or so away, so he thought he could walk it if the Chevy crapped out on him…a real possibility.
Sammy was the first kid in his family (there were six older ones) to go to college, so when he got to Athens, there were a few surprises. The main one was that he should have signed up for a dorm room in, oh, say, April. There were no rooms left, but not to worry. There was an extensive list of folks willing to take in a college student for the coming year. The coming year!!! Suddenly gone were all those visions of the busy dorm, a great roommate (all right, maybe a dork), staying up all night playing cards with the guys. All gone. Besides, how extensive could a list of rooms in Athens be? There was absolutely nothing extensive about Athens. It extended nowhere…in any direction. Granted, it was bigger than Meadville, but anywhere was bigger than Meadville. Oh well, what the hell. He'd have to give it a try. He was too old to cry, but he sure wanted to. One thing he was not going to do was call home. They thought he was nuts to try this in the first place. The farm had been good enough for the other boys and it should be good enough for him too. Something about fifty years of cows and manure, however, just didn't do it for Sammy. He'd find a room if he had to build one up in the hills and hike down every morning.
The first place he tried was really nice…and really expensive. There was no way he could have stayed there…none…not any. But it was sure hard to walk out that door and down that driveway to the old Chevy. The realities of life sure weren't much fun. The second place was certainly the right price, and wasn't really all that bad, but the woman had no teeth. She was nice and all, but she had no teeth…not one…anywhere. There was no way Sammy was going to come home every night to a woman with no teeth. There were just some things you shouldn't have to put up with in life, and that was one of them. He was ashamed of himself for being so "uppity", but people just needed some teeth, that's all. It was a fact of life. He ran to the Chevy after that one. He couldn't get away fast enough. He had visions of the lady putting him in the oven and cackling while Gretel tried to talk her out of roasting him.
He had one last address before it got too late to keep looking. If this one didn't work out, he would have to spend the night in the car, and, since it was loaded down with all of his worldly goods, the idea was not a happy one. This one was at 1301 Hillcrest. It was a nice section of town. He probably shouldn't even go there, but he was close and it would eventually have to be crossed off his list before he started construction on that cabin. Yep, it was a nice place all right. It was one of those big old houses so common in Athens…white, three stories, big front porch, huge front yard…high rent. Still, he'd give it a shot. He rang the doorbell and an older man came to the door.
"You have a room for rent?"
"Yes, I do."
"Before I come in and waste your time, how much is it?"
"You won't be wasting my time. C'mon in."
Sammy followed the man inside. Through an entry way, he stepped into a really nice living room, with a fireplace and one of those old mantels with all of the carved wood. There was nice wall paper on the walls and lots of over-stuffed furniture, and a huge large-screen T.V. against one wall. Yep, this was out of his league all right. He would probably sleep with his feet out the window of the Chevy tonight. It wasn't cold yet, and that way he could lean his head against the box that was in the passenger seat.
"Would you like to see the room?"
"No thanks. I've seen this one."
"What do you mean?"
"No offense, sir, but I can't afford it here. It's too nice."
"Sammy." Darn. He had wanted to become Sam in college.
"Look, Sammy, I'm not renting this room because I need the money. I'm renting it because I like the company and because it makes me feel good to help a student once in awhile. You look like a nice young man. Now, do you want to look at the room or don't you? We can talk about price after you've seen it."
"By the way, my name is Jack."
Jack took him up the stairs to an unbelievable room. It was huge. There was a double bed, a desk, a bookcase, plenty of drawer space and…a private bathroom. This place could make up for a lot of missed midnight poker games in the dorm. He didn't know what to say, so he just stood there.
"Well, Sammy, do you like it?"
"What's not to like?"
"Would you like to stay here?"
"How much, Jack? I'm on a limited budget."
"I trust you, Sammy. I'm a pretty good judge of character. You tell me how much you can afford, and that's what you can pay. I'd say what you'd pay to live in the dorm would be pretty fair. Does that sound okay to you? Then, if you ever get in over your head, you just tell me, and we can renegotiate."
"I can't believe this. Are you sure?"
"When can I move in?"
"You got your stuff with you?"
"Let's do it."
And they did. Sammy moved into his new place that very night with Jack's help. Sammy knew "too good to be true" when he saw it, however, and would be waiting for what was probably coming…whatever it was. There were probably several bodies of missing college students hanging in the basement. Until he disappeared, however, he had a roof over his head and a great room. It would do. It would have to do. Jack seemed like a great guy, but were people really this nice?
Sammy started the semester and was soon settled in with his studies. He talked to the coach who let him try out for the team and seemed to be impressed with what he saw. Sam would "red shirt" his freshman year, but there was a good chance he would be on the team in his second year and maybe even with a scholarship. There was a lot of work both on the field and off for Sammy and he generally came home so tired that he could hardly move. Jack had been truly kind and would always offer him something to eat. If he said no, Jack would never push it. He would always offer, but made it clear that his friendship was there if Sammy wanted it, but it was okay if he didn't too.
That was great for Sammy, and he gradually relaxed enough to eat a sandwich with Jack or to sit for a half-hour or so and drink a coke and watch some TV with him in the early evening. He really started to like Jack. He could tell that Jack liked him. Then it happened!
He was home alone one afternoon. He wasn't really snooping, but wanted to see what kind of music Jack was into. He had a great sound system, but Sammy had never heard him use it. Sam thought that it was probably because he didn't want to disturb his studying. Yes, Jack was that nice. There it was before him…the evidence. Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Madonna, and musicals, musicals, musicals. Jack was gay! Of course he was. He lived alone. He was a great decorator. His taste in clothes was impeccable, and now this. Jack was after his body! "Too good to be true." Boy, was it ever. What would he do? He couldn't afford to leave. Maybe if he just stayed in his room. Jack would never be able to overpower him. Jack was only about 5' 11", and he was old. He must have been about 52. He was really in shape for an old guy, but he was still old. Shit. This was such a good arrangement. Well, he'd only have to last one year, and then he could move into the dorm. One year as a prisoner in his room wouldn't be too bad. Thank god he had a private bath. Oh, and one more thing. It wasn't the gay thing that bothered Sammy. It was the wanting his body thing. Sammy had never told a soul…not a single soul…but he was gay too.
"Oh, hi, Jack. I was just looking at your collection of CD's. I hope you don't mind."
"I don't know if I do or not, Sammy. I don't think I do, but I would rather you'd ask before you go through my things."
"I'm sorry. I guess I didn't really think of music as being 'your things'. I won't let it happen again."
"I'm probably over reacting. I want you to think of this as more than just a place you go to sleep. It just surprised me. That's all."
"Forget it, Sammy. I knew I could trust you the minute I laid eyes on you, and you haven't done anything to change that opinion. Did you see anything you liked?"
"Well, I found out that we definitely have different tastes in music."
"I hope so. You're just starting out in life and I'm almost dead. I'd worry about you if you liked much of my stuff. Did you like anything?"
"Well, I have to admit that I do like a little Judy Garland…not Liza, just Judy. And you've got "Les Mis", I like that."
"Ah, such good taste in one so young. Hey, the Tonys are on tonight. You want to watch them with me?"
"Tonight? No. I'm sorry, Jack, I have a big test tomorrow. Besides, I never watch the Tonys."
Sammy had lied. He always watched them, but what a dead give away. Jack was gay all right…real gay, but there was no use in complicating things by letting him know that he was too. He'd turn the sound down real low and watch them in his room.
Sammy hated to watch the Tony Awards Show with the sound turned down so low. He loved to turn the musical segments as loud as he could get them. There was a scene from the revival of "Oklahoma" and he just had to hear it. He turned the sound up. Jack wouldn't hear it…he was watching it downstairs. It was great. The dancing in "Oklahoma" was unbelievable. There was a knock at the door. Sammy opened it.
"You were watching the Tonys."
"You said you weren't going to watch. What about the big test?"
"I was just taking a break. I thought I'd turn on the show to see what was happening."
"Would you come downstairs, Sammy? I'd like to talk to you."
Sam was dressed in cut-off's and a t-shirt. It's not what he generally ran around the house in, but he followed Jack down to the living room and sat facing him.
"Sammy, what's going on?"
"I think you're gay, Jack."
"And that bothers you?"
"Not that you're gay, but, well, the fact that the room didn't cost very much, the fact that we're here alone all the time, the fact that I'm young and…"
"Good looking? You are, you know…incredibly good looking. And you think at some point I'm going to make a move? Well?"
"Well, Jack, you have to admit the whole thing is almost too good to be true."
"Yes, I admit that."
"It was the Judy Garland CD's that clinched it for me."
With that Jack burst into uncontrollable laughter. He had a booming voice, and laughter just rolled out of him and filled the room. It took him quite awhile to stop. Sammy didn't know what to think, but he was forced to laugh a little bit himself when he thought about what he had just said.
"Sammy, I am gay. I make no apologies for that. But I assure you that you have nothing to fear from me. You're young. You have been filled full of stories of old gay men who are on the prowl for cute young college boys. I'm not saying there might not be one or two of them around here, but you have not stumbled into the lair of one of them, I assure you. You are perfectly safe here with me. I'm sorry you have been anxious about this, and even sorrier that something about me made you feel unsafe.
"No, let me finish, please. But I'd like you to stay on. I like you, Sammy. You're a great kid and I enjoy having you around and for all the right reasons. I have never ever even considered jumping your bones. I have noticed your looks. I make no apologies for that. You're a beautiful young man, Sammy…in every way. If that makes you uncomfortable, I'm afraid you'll have to go, because I can't stop finding you good looking. And, no, I don't think of you as the son I never had. That's a little cliché, don't you think? I just think of you as a great kid that I enjoy having around…a good friend, and I would be very sorry if you found it necessary to leave. I would be quite lonely, I think."
"Jake, I'm so sorry."
"Nothing to be sorry about. You either go or you stay. It's up to you. I'll feel the same way about you either way. If you decide to go, I'll help you find somewhere to live, if you'd like, and I hope you'll stop by to see me once in awhile."
"You're too good to be true, Jake."
"No, Sammy, I'm not. Some good things really are true. It happens. You can't mistrust everything good that happens to you. I'm a nice guy, and I really, really enjoy doing nice things for people. It's that simple. Now will you stay, please?"
"Yeah, I'll stay."
"Good. Now, do you have a test tomorrow or not?"
"Then will you get your ass down here and watch the rest of the Tonys with me? They're not much fun if you have to watch them alone."
Sammy ran upstairs and put on a sweatshirt. He had been cold in his light t-shirt. Then he ran back down and made himself comfortable on the sofa. Jack was in the big easy chair. He threw Sammy a quilt to wrap up in. They were just giving the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.
They sat silently, while cute, pretty boys in tight pants, and perky girls in short skirts, danced to loud and snappy music. Neither watched. Neither listened.
"Very much. I liked it very much."
"Have you told anyone?"
"You, ... just you."
More music…more dancing…someone was grateful to someone and couldn't have done it without them.
"What? Lonely? I don't know. Now, don't go feeling sorry for me, Jack. I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me."
"I feel sorry for all of us, kid. You okay?"
"I'm not sure."
"You want to come over here and sit with me?"
"Yeah, I think I do, but right now that seems really weird to me."
"Everyone needs someone once in awhile, kid. Nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to, I'm here."
More music…more hollow thank-you's.
"I think I want to."
"Then, come on over here."
Sammy had to go. There was a fatigue involved in secret keeping. The longer you kept one, the more energy it took. This one had taken a heavy toll. To release it…to get rid of it…. Sammy walked slowly over to where Jack was sitting in the big over-stuffed chair. He hesitated. There was more than enough room for both of them in the chair, but he would be crossing some sort of line…a boundary he had set up for himself, when he first knew…when he first understood. He stood there, motionless…unable to move. Jack held out his hand and Sammy took it. What was it, truth? Maybe truth, maybe relief. Whatever it was, Sammy responded to the touch of Jack's hand and willingly let Jack pull him down into the chair with him. Once there, it felt so warm, so safe, so right. He snuggled up close to Jack like the six foot, four inch little boy he really was inside. The only thing he didn't do was suck his thumb. Carefully he laid his head on Jack's shoulder.
"This doesn't mean I…"
"This doesn't mean a thing, kid, except that we're friends and that we understand something about each other. Relax. You took a big step just now. You needed to do it, and you did it. Just relax and enjoy the honesty, kid. Tomorrow it'll all be gone. You'll be out there again…surviving. I'm not the big bad wolf, kid. I'm Jack…your friend, your buddy, and I don't feel sorry for you, but I sure do want to. Sorry for me and you and everyone just like us. Boy, do I want to feel sorry, but I'm afraid that, if I ever start, I'll never be able to stop."
Jack pulled Sammy close. He didn't struggle. He wanted it. He needed it. He was twelve again, and he was oh so scared of who he was…who he was going to be…who he had to be. He fell asleep in Jack's chair, leaving Glen Close all alone to sing a wonderful tribute to the music of Marvin Hamlisch.
It was 3 AM when Jack led Sammy upstairs. He pulled down the covers, led Sammy to the bathroom, waited for the tinkling to stop, led him back to the bed, pulled up the covers and tucked him in. For just a moment… But a kiss on the forehead was still a kiss and might be taken the wrong way. Jack quietly pulled the door closed and walked softly down the hall. To himself he whispered, "Goodnight, Sammy. I love you."
Nothing changed much after that. The relationship was the same. Well, it was a little different. Sammy couldn't remember ever being so relaxed. The minute he hit the door at Jack's after school or after practice, he just kind of let out a big sigh and became a different Sammy…they gay one. It wasn't that he and Jack talked all the time about gay things. They didn't. It's just that for the first time in his life, Sammy didn't have to worry about it. If something gay came up, they just talked about it like anything else. That never ceased to be wonderful…and weird…to Sammy. The day that Jack asked, "Well did you see any great asses today?" Sammy nearly fell off his chair. As a matter of fact, he had seen some great asses that day…a lot of them…in the showers after practice. The thought of talking about them, however, had never crossed his mind.
"Any chance that one or two of them might be attached to someone gay?"
"The law of averages would say, yes, but I have no idea how to find out."
"You could ask."
"Yeah, and I could get beat to a pulp, too."
"They still do that?"
"Yeah, Jack, they still do that."
"Well, anyway, I'm glad you get to see a good ass or two once in awhile. You ever been in love, Sammy?"
"I don't think so. I never let myself think about it. Well, maybe I was in love with Brad Pitt once, but that was different."
"We have all been in love with Brad Pitt at some time or other, my boy."
"What do you mean, even me? Cary Grant and Gene Kelly are dead. God, I thought Gene Kelly was hot. Don't know why. I just did, that's all. That man would dance on the screen and my dick would dance in my pants."
"Too much information, Jack."
"Oh, sorry. We old men day dream a lot. Where were we? Oh, yes…you and love. So, you don't think you have?
"How would I? I've never really been gay until now."
"I thought you said you'd always been gay."
"Yeah, but you're not really 'gay' gay until you are 'out' gay. Otherwise you're just kind of pent up gay. Your gayness is just kind of stuffed up inside somewhere. I really haven't ever felt all gay until right now…here…in this house. I still don't feel gay outside."
"Even when you're checking out the asses in the shower?"
"Even then. I'm gay then, but I'm not. I don't know how to explain it, exactly. If everyone knew I was gay…if I was out, then I would say that I was truly gay. But as long as no one knows it and I'm keeping it a secret and I'm not acting on it in any way, am I gay?"
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it...."
"Wow. That sure is something to think about it. Whataya say we talk about those great asses in the shower instead. At least that doesn't make my head hurt."
And they did talk about the asses all through dinner, and laughed about them and about what it would be fun to do with them, and how great it would be if being gay didn't make any difference at all anywhere, and Sammy went up to his room to study with an amazing erection, thinking about all those boys and all those asses. He left Jack sitting at the table with a problem of his own to deal with, and unbeknownst to one another, they both took one more step towards blindness at the same exact time.
The relationship was tight. Sammy couldn't wait to get back to Jack's to talk about all those things he couldn't talk about during the day, and Jack couldn't wait for Sammy to get home to hear about them. Sammy had a friend named Jimmy who was also a freshman on the team who he thought might be gay, but he wasn't sure. He brought him home to meet Jack, but Jack wasn't sure either, so Jimmy just continued to be a good friend and nothing more. That was too bad, too, because Jimmy was really a hunk. He was tall like Sammy, but with a bigger build. He was a tight end, which proved to be fodder for endless rounds of stupid puns, with auburn hair and dimples and, well, just the right thing to keep a couple of hands in action on many a cold winter's night. Too bad he was such a great kid. Jack and Sammy thought the world of Jimmy. Neither wanted to risk losing his friendship and so neither said anything.
"Jack, I want to tell Jimmy."
"I think I'm sure."
"Okay, but you're risking a lot."
"I don't think so, Jack. I'm not going to tell Jimmy that I'm in love with him. I'm really not. He's a great friend and I love him a lot, but not a suck-your-dick, ream-your-ass kind of love."
"Sorry, couldn't resist. But I love Jimmy like a…well, like a friend, I think, and I want our friendship to be completely honest."
"What if you lose him?"
"Then I won't have lost a friend, will I?"
"No, I guess not."
"He's coming over here to study tonight, and I'm going to tell him."
"Jimmy telling someone else? No, he won't. I don't know how he'll react, but I do know that he'll keep my secret. Jimmy's just that kind of person."
"Well, if it doesn't work out, I'm here."
"I know you are, Jack, and, if it doesn't work out, that'll be me you hear blubbering in my room."
"You really think so?"
"I know so. Jimmy's friendship means a lot to me."
"Well, be sure to tell him after you've finished studying…no use losing a friend and a grade all at the same time."
"You're all heart, Jack."
Jimmy came over, said a quick hello to Jack and the two boys went upstairs to study. Jack sat down to watch TV, but didn't pay much attention to it. He was too busy worrying about what was going on upstairs and what he would do if the outcome was not a very good one. At last he heard a door slam, someone running down the steps, down the entry way and out the door, with a final slam…not good sounds. He wanted to jump up and run out to see what had happened, but knew that was not his place. He continued to not watch the TV. If Sammy needed him, he would have to come and get him.
Then, quietly, Sammy walked into the room and sat down on the leather sofa. He said nothing, but began not watching the program with Jack. Tears were running down his cheeks, but he made no sound. He was between boyhood and manhood and wasn't sure exactly what to do with the pain. He just sat in silence, while the tears rolled slowly down his cheeks. Jack didn't look at Sammy, but could feel his hurt, and soon those same tears moistened his face, as well. He turned his face away, so that Sammy couldn't see, and grabbed a Kleenex. He pretended to sneeze as he wiped away his tears. It would do Sammy no good to see them there.
"You need me to come over there?"
"Yes, but you can't come over here. I'm not a little boy, and this isn't the last time something like this is going to happen to me. I might as well get used to it. Just give me a little bit. I'll be okay. I wanted to stay up in my room, but I couldn't. I couldn't be alone right now. But I don't think I could stand your pity."
"It wouldn't be pity, Sammy."
"Yes it would. You wouldn't mean it to be, but it would be. Just being here with you helps. Let's just watch TV for a little bit and pretend that everything's okay for right now. I'll be all right in a minute or two."
"No you won't, Sammy. This will hurt forever."
With those words, Sammy began to cry out loud…not loudly…just crying with sound. The tears rolled faster now. Jack wanted desperately to go to him and to hold him, but stayed in his chair. Sammy's tears came not from weakness, but from heartbreak…from knowing that, no matter how good he was, or what he did in life, he would be rejected for who he was. The closet was painful, but Sammy wasn't sure that this pain wasn't worse…much worse.
Finally, he was able to stop crying. He wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve, and walked over to the table by Jack's chair to get a Kleenex to blow his nose. Jack reached out and grabbed his arm. Sammy pulled away. This was his pain. He could not share it…not even with Jack. He sat back down again. Jay Leno was in the middle of a monologue that would never be heard.
The Badpuppy.com model in these pictures is Ashton Lakes
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