Luke

I am a man of some integrity, I suppose. And of some morals. Certainly not all my mother intended, but I’m not entirely despicable.

You know, you tell yourself something long enough, you begin to believe it.

Now, Steven. Steven’s a good man. He’s my best friend, and ever since that time at the Black Rose I’ve tried to be his best friend. That’s where the “some” comes in. I really did try. It’s just not in my nature to wholeheartedly devote myself to a cause. I always feel I’m putting blinders on; like I’ll miss something vital to my existence. I think it’s good I can recognize this because it’s something no one else would be able to see in me. Except if they spent nearly every waking hour with me. Like Steven used to. Oh well. What can you do?

I remember when I met him. Kelly dragged me down to the bar around the corner from our apartment. She wanted me to be exposed to her friends. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Kelly annoyed me enough; 1 didn’t want to spend the night watching her pals get stupid drunk. I relented, of course, to shut her up.

We played pool while her friends slowly trickled in, which is kind of a pun. Kelly’s friend Patsy was on the arm of a very under-the-weather Steven, apparently against his will. As the night wore on, everyone got pretty wasted except Steven, who progressively looked more miserable, and me, who was trying to stay on a budget. Patsy had ditched the dead weight Steven in the first half hour and Kelly was spreading herself thin socially, so I rambled over to the wretch. I asked him if he was taking anything for his cold. He said he would have liked to, but Patsy would surely scold him if he asked to go home. I offered him free reign of my medicine cabinet, and we left the drunkards to their own demise.

After taking a full dose of my extra-strength cold remedy, Steven was out like a light. And after the late night movie, so was I.

I woke early the next morning, and Steven was still asleep. I watched cartoons on mute, wondering who was the lucky guy who got to take Kelly home with him. Steven made little snuffling noises while he slept. A particularly loud snuffle caused him to wake with an expected look of disorientation. After profusely apologizing, he asked if had eaten and offered to make breakfast. Of course I hadn’t eaten; Kelly wasn’t home to make anything.

So we ate and talked. And laughed and talked. Steven tells the funniest stories! We went to the park and talked. We ate lunch and talked. Sat in his living room and talked until the sun went down. I called my apartment to find out Kelly had her latest man there, so Steven offered to return my favor of the night before. We watched Marx brothers’ movies until daybreak, then slept all day. That evening I went home to a very snotty Kelly, locked myself in my room, and left early for work the next morning.

I didn’t see or hear from Steven for almost two months after that. I nearly forgot him. Nearly.

I work as a legal secretary at a fairly prominent firm here in my adopted hometown. It’s a field dominated, I think, by women. This is probably why I chose it. I’m not exactly sure what my parents wanted me to do with the college education they were giving me. All I know is that I spent the better part of my adolescence seeing their dreams for me fulfilled. I guess I wanted to try disappointing them for a change. The college I attended didn’t even have a football team. Unless you count the intramural touch football league. I couldn’t escape completely; I was the captain of the top-rated team on campus. (For you, Dad.)

My job could be very rewarding. It is pretty exciting at times. I have lots of opportunities to learn. Lost opportunities, mostly. I put in my forty hours and get the hell out of there. I really love my job, though. It’s my chosen field. There’s nothing else I’d rather do. But sometimes I really dread going in to the office.

In the five years I’ve known Steven, I had three and a half girlfriends. The half is Kelly. At the time I met Steven, we hadn’t formally dissolved our relationship, but it was obvious to everyone that it was in advanced stages of decay. Anyway–those were official relationships. I dated many more women than that.

This was probably the cause of a majority of mine and Steven’s arguments. He knew I was only using them, that my girlfriends were those I considered to be little more than just good fucks. It’s like we were in competition to see who could convince my; subconscience of their argument. I was winning for the most part because I had more time alone with my brain. He had stronger arguments, however, and he gave me a good fight. Moreover, he had ulterior motives which I was aware of and denying, also.

I still don’t fully understand why I fought it so hard.

I suppose if I mention my history with women, it’s only fitting I mention my history with men. I’ve been in various types and levels of relationships with men since early high school–so I guess that statement would have to include boys. Since I first began to discover my sexuality I’ve been very open about it. I don’t know what my influences were in this respect; I just never really went through that contusion stage of puberty. Lucky me, I get to be an adult for that one.

I was one of the most popular guys at school. Active politically, scholastically, athletically, and socially. Not to brag, but I had my pick of girls. And pick I did. If I were a girl, I would have been called a slut. I was always game for a cheap thrill. It’s harder for the quarterback to find a boyfriend in high school, however. Although I didn’t attend a totally narrow-minded school, one still had to be careful on whom one cast his eye.

I let my “guy scope”extend past the school yard. I went to clubs. I went to college parties. I got into the right crowds for boy love. Still, I was always finicky when it came to boyfriends. I have to respect them. I have to like them. I didn’t just jump into relationships with men. OK, so I didn’t weigh heavily the pros and cons of each one, but I was less prolific with the boys than the girls. I took almost every one of those relationships seriously, no matter how short-lived.

Maybe he loved me too much. Or in a way I couldn’t accept or understand. My parents had seemed to love me for my accomplishments: my high ranking in my graduating class, my athletic scholarship, my raise at the law firm. Steven always told me he loved me for my failures: my boy scouts who used their knowledge of fire making more aptly outside the campgrounds; my long-sleeved, always rolled-up shirts because I can’t sew the buttons back on; my never fully-performed college play because more than half the audience left before the second act.

I guess I didn’t know what to do with someone who so totally and fully accepted me for who I was and will be. He was wholeheartedly devoted to US and I was frightened. I couldn’t live without him, but I treated him like shit half of the time.

Hey. Didn’t I say I wasn’t despicable?

I was probably always attracted to Steven. Even when he was dripping snot and feverish. It’s not as if at first notice of him I knew I wanted to have sex with him. He’s kind of like a teddy bear; you can’t help but hug him. It’s some indescribable quality. Or at least I don’t know how to describe it. I just feel it.

At the same time he was mentally soliciting warm embraces he always seemed to send me signals to warn me that he was way out of my league. It never occurred to me until sometime after we were already “dating” that it was even remotely possible for him to be attracted to me. Lying naked with him in the wee hours of the morning, I felt not like I was myself, but like I was a figment of his imagination. Like I was someone he created for his pleasure. When he was done with me he could easily destroy me, and I’d become myself again. My self. The one unworthy of him.

In my unworthy state, he’d still treat me as that near-perfect creation. Only, of course, it would just be me, wanting and undeserving.

Sometimes I would try to explain this to him. He couldn’t understand how I could feel that way. He couldn’t see me in any way except deserving of his love. He would get frustrated when I’d try to convince him what a worthless piece of shit I was (and still am). It was inconceivable to him. I would get angry because I couldn’t love him as completely as he seemed to love me.

The first of these “arguments”, as I called them–I don’t know what silver-lined word Steven would use, occurred the summer after my sophomore year. Early in the summer, right after I had had enough of girlfriend number 1.5. I hadn’t done very well in school that spring and Sara didn’t take my dumping her very well. I had been pretty slimy to her, and I was feeling guilty. I became reckless and irresponsible. No budget this time around; I drank to my heart’s content. I had a lot of sleazy dates–girls and guys.

One Sunday morning Steven woke me with the smell of banana pancakes and amaretto coffee. No doubt I was hungover, scrufly, sticky, and all sorts of bad stuff Nonetheless, there I was, shuffling to his side like a little boy to his mother. With a smile and a good-natured jest Steven sat me down with a steaming mug and plate. He sat down with me, and between my nibbling and his scarfing, we engaged in light, pleasant conversation. Slowly, he worked his way to his intended subject.

He said he was worried about me. My running around. My drunkenness. My slut behavior. He wanted me to tell him what was wrong. He didn’t want to condemn me. He wanted to help me. If only I had my Suicidal Tendencies cassette. I would have played “Institutionalized” for him and stormed from the room.

I was hungover and couldn’t make such sudden movements. So I sat. And I glared. I tried counting the fragments of banana in what was left of my pancake. There was nothing wrong as far as I was concerned. I was just being, and there’s no reasoning involved in that for anyone. If he wanted to help someone, I told him, he should volunteer somewhere. Yeah, I put him in his place.

He just pressed on with this sort of objective cross-examination. I was silent and increasingly angry. What right did he have to care about me? No one gave him a badge and a lollipop and said, “Here, Steven, go make sure Luke feels okay.” It was the worst time for someone to care about me. How was I supposed to pity myself? I couldn’t say I had nothing because there was Steven telling me what a worthwhile guy I was. I blew up at him, yelling at him to let me wallow in my misery, to get a dog if he wanted to coddle someone.

I always had the good life growing up. I wasn’t starved for attention. I didn’t have to work for anything. I had friends and family constantly by my side. I didn’t have to pay for anything. Not my mistakes, not anything. I decided I needed a little suffering. I needed to appreciate my good life. I didn’t realize that I was being unappreciative of Steven at the same time. Live and learn.

Anyway, it was a bad scene. Furniture was pushed around, coffee was spilled. I raised my voice as loud as my aching head would allow me. Don’t get me wrong, Steven expressed some anger as well. Carefully chosen, precisely cutting, and almost polite words oozed from his damn beautiful lips. It was heartbreaking, believe me. I kept telling him over and over how right he was about my sleaziness and degradation. And he told me over and over that he was pointing out these things because he loved me and didn’t want to see my life continue to decay.

When I’m feeling low. I usually harbor this intense desire for emotionally and physically exhausting sexual encounters. After the Sunday morning battle I was experiencing a substandard sensation. Having pushed Sara out of my realm of social contact, and having no steady dates, Steven became the object of my desire. It was strange and unexpected. I tried to deny it. Best friends aren’t supposed to fuck each other. It had to be some sort of incest. And so I sunk even lower.

Then Independence Day came around. I was a drunken fool, of course. Steven and I spent the day at the beach with lots of friends and frolicking. After sundown I lost all my scruples and began to hit on anyone and everyone. I came across Steven on a dune, gazing wistfully at the waves. I leered at him like one of my barstool conquests. I threw my best lines at him. He kept a poker face through it all. At the end he told me I was full of shit and then kissed me.

So I let him take advantage of me the rest of the summer. The tun ended with the beginning of his senior year. We remained friends and roommates, and I became even more confused.

Steven’s senior year was pretty demanding, so I, trying hard to be his best friend, made an effort to make it easier on him by spending as much time possible away from the apartment. Basically this meant that I spent most every evening at the library, doing homework and research for personal gain. I became a regular. The librarians knew me, the student workers knew me, the custodial staff knew me. It was almost like a second home, or third, maybe.

There was this girl, Lauren, who worked in the library Wednesdays and Fridays. She was really sweet and kind. Beautiful chestnut-colored hair swirled round her head. She always had a smile for me, and she showed genuine interest in my research. She was a freshman–innocent and naive. Conversations with her were a refreshing change of pace from the sex/drugs/rock ‘n’ roll talk I got from my friends. It was nice talking with someone who didn’t think I was a geek for liking some stupid movie, watching some stupid show, or listening to some stupid music.

She was just so–nice.

We started dating gradually. It was a wholesome relationship of the likes you’d have in a “Father Knows Best” highschool atmosphere. Not so pure, but not deviant, either. We met each others’ parents. We went bowling and fishing, watched goofy movies and chatted. We had a great time. I was just adjusting to the idea of having a decent, stereotypical whitebread relationship when she broke up with me.

I was quite startled. Then I was angry. She found out about my bisexuality and was not very tolerating. Turns out she’s one of those brainwashed Christians who don’t practice, but cling to some of the most inane, and perhaps incorrect, dogma of the faith.

Being with Lauren lifted me out of my melancholy. I was temporarily happy, just peachy. Naturally, when she ditched me I was not ecstatic. I continued to spend my evenings at the library, but I sat in the least trafficked areas. I dove head first into my studies. That semester I got my highest GPA. Loneliness can do wonders for your scholastic endeavors. As long as you don’t let it drive you crazy.

I also did quite a bit more research. I read dozens of religious books–scripture and discussion. Surprisingly enough, I could not find conclusive evidence that bisexuality is evil. It is, however, pretty universally accepted that passing judgment on your neighbor while you yourself are not free of sin is not a keen idea.

I don’t hold it against Lauren. She was, after all, as I said before, brainwashed. It can take years to deprogram prejudice. I worry about her, though. Sometimes I wonder if she was at all angry at herself for being involved with me. Maybe she felt like I lied to her. Perhaps I’ve increased her distrust of men. Then again, maybe she found a hot cunt to lick and wanted to pin the break up on me. Water under the bridge.

I didn’t date anyone after Lauren that spring and on into the summer. Steven’s graduation brought on an interesting turn of events, though.

I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone as much as I love Steven. So then why am I so afraid? And what am I afraid of? I wish I could give a dissertation on the subject. It sure would help me out. As it is, I am totally at a loss.

After Steven’s graduation things got a little odd. Not right away. At first it was like any other summer vacation. I had my summer job. Steven put his trust fund to bad use. We tried to have as much fun as humanly possible.

One particularly tun evening Steven had a kitchen accident so I took him to get stitches. Going to an emergency room can be quite an adventure in itself. Ever the optimists, we laughed and giggled our night away. We returned home, stomachs aching and tears in our eyes, and collapsed on my bed for some fairly passionate lovemaking. Laughter can be a powerful aphrodisiac. And so it became a sort of recap of the summer before.

Until one evening, during a commercial break, Steven said quite casually, “You know what we’ve got here? We’ve got ourselves a full-blown relationship.” I don’t think it would have hit me harder if he had sat me down with that all-too-frightening request for a serious talk. He was right, though. And it had just sort of snuck up on us, just like his question and answer had done to me.

It was a good idea, I think. Who better to fuck in an official capacity than your best friend? The person who knows all your ins and outs in the figurative sense should have equal autonomy over your physical ins and outs. It makes perfect sense. Grab a few women’s magazines and read their advice for good marriages. They’ll all say you’ve got to be best friends.

So there we were playing grown-up. I had another year to graduate, and Steven started teaching in September. And my two bedroom apartment became a one bedroom with a study. How so very quaint.

People can be disgustingly cruel and evil. Take Kelly for example. Vile, vile creature. As I mentioned before, about the time I met Steven, she and I had hit the skids. As the autumn of my sophomore year wore on,our fights got more violent and more personal. Toward others we could be a couple of Mother Theresas, but toward each other we were Charles Manson. I believe Kelly was getting mental about it. You may wonder why we didn’t just go our separate ways. That damn apartment ruined everything. I couldn’t afford to kick her out and at themoment she had no place to go. We had to stick it out until December or die fighting.

One night in December, after Kelly had moved all her things out,a group of my friends and her friends showed up at the Black Rose to sort of celebrate our freedom. Everybody was happy and drunk, and somehow Kelly got my apartment keys away from me. I tracked her to the restrooms in the back corridor of the club and found her holding both sets of keys over the toilet. I started toward her, and her latest man grabbed me and pinned my arm behind my back. That’s almost the worst thing someone can do to me physically; I practically cry. She probably told him. She dropped the keys with a chilling cackle. Then, one by one, her friends took turns voiding themselves in any which way in that toilet. It caused a slight commotion, which caught Steven’s attention. So he got pinned, too.

When everyone was through, they left Steven and me alone in the corridor. I just stood there dumbfounded. I didn’t move until Steven told me to hold the door while he went to get something to get the keys out with. I shuffled over a few steps and gazed in horror. In a few minutes he came back, apologetic. There we sat, excavating with cocktail straws for my apartment keys. That was the night Steven became my best friend, and the night he became my roommate.

Reminiscing is one of my favorite pastimes. I don’t know how we get into the groove, but sometimes my friends and I can spend hours musing over the past. It’s odd how things seem while you’re experiencing them compared to how they seem months and years later. Looking back now on my five years with, and without, Steven, I am affected by the most insignificant things. Like the fact that he knew the exact proportions of sugar and creamer I preferred in my coffee. And the way his hand felt in mine. And the way he watched TV. I think about it all now in a new perspective. Perhaps I’m clinging to him. But it all seems so much more meaningful in hindsight. I suppose it always does.

I was such an asshole to him. I didn’t really do anything blatantly wrong to him. I didn’t put key scratches in his car or kill his cat. I didn’t put lotion soap in his toothpaste. I just treated my relationship with him as I would any other. Only it wasn’t any other. It was a commitment worthy relationship. Steven knew it. He was very content with me as his significant other, his one and only. I, on the other hand, just didn’t know how to say no. If I saw someone I wanted to go out with, I went out with them. It was just the way I was. I didn’t sleep around or anything. I just enjoyed myself

Sometimes I try to justify my behavior by saying that I didn’t know it was an exclusive relationship. I try to blame Steven for not discussing this with me. That doesn’t hold water at all. He was always getting on my case about dating other people. I guess he said it in such a non-confronting way that I convinced myself that he was telling me for my safety. I don’t really understand why I refused to commit to him. He means more to me than anyone ever has. Many times I told myself, “He could be the one.” Maybe that’s what scares me. I really do get scared when I think of being with him. It gives me the same type of chills I get when I think of being forty years old, in a house, with a work-a-day schedule, trudging through waiting to die. My relationship with Steven seemed so, I don’t know, final.

I broke up with him before because of my fear. It was the end of my senior year and I was stressing in a major way. Who wouldn’t? Soon I wouldn’t be a student. I’d be embarking on a career and supporting myself totally. I just freaked. When we got into one of those arguments again, I took the opportunity to just end it. I told him it was hurting me for us to be more than just friends and, of course, it would be easier on both of us if we lived in our own rooms and had our own little separate lives. Steven, being the agreeable person he is, agreed.

It was quite pleasant. We were best friends again, hanging out, passing the time. I made it to graduation, started work at the firm, and started dating a cute little intern. In the long run, she wasn’t who I wanted, so I ended up crawling back to Steven. I make it sound like a bad thing. It wasn’t. I was very happy with him. I just couldn’t accept us being a singular unit.

We lasted for almost a year after that. Then Steven couldn’t deal with my philandering anymore. He gave me what could be called the “Marriage Ultimatum” in more traditional situations. I freaked again. I just couldn’t commit. The lease for my apartment came up for renewal this past December, as it always does. I signed it alone for the first time.

July 3, 1994

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