"Yeeehaaa!" Eric yells into the air as he
heads out the door. "Let's get some brews
going, boys." It's Friday evening, and he's
ready to do a little partying with the other
mechanics from his dad's auto repair shop.
The ritual is to hang out with his buddies and
get drunk. Kicking up dust with his '76
Mustang, he screeches out of the parking lot
and heads up the hill to Friends' Bar.
Midway through his third Jack and Coke, Eric
spots Janelle and her new boyfriend talking
and laughing at a corner table.
"Hey, Eric!" Jerry says as loud as he can.
Even though he's standing right next to Eric,
his words are barely audible over the loud
country music. "You okay, buddy?" Jerry has
a keen sense of knowing when Eric is too
deep in thought.
"Yeah, just thinking!" Eric shouts back while
staring at Janelle through the maze of twisting
bodies on the dance floor. He wonders if she's
talking about him as she bursts into laughter
again and again. And he's grateful that Jerry
is there to rescue him from the depression
that's been stalking him lately.
"You? Thinking? Well don't hurt yourself,
buddy!" Jerry warns. He grabs Eric in a
headlock and rubs him playfully on the head.
Their rough playing quickly ends when Eric
feels his buddy's warm breath on his ear. Like
many times before, he looks into Jerry's eyes
for a second, as if he wants to say something.
But the words are not there.
They've been best friends since grade school
and have become very good at knowing what
each other is thinking. That's probably
because they've always done everything
together -- wherever one goes, the other
goes. Even when Eric enlisted in the Marines,
Jerry was certain to visit him as often as he
could afford. And now, they work together
down at the shop.
Quicly turning away from Jerry, Eric wonders
if he'll ever be able to be himself. Not in this
town, he thinks. Former Pesotum High
quarterback, gung-ho Marine, and James
Howard's son -- that's how everyone thinks of
him. Sensing that his own sadness is about to
wrap its arms around him, Eric shoves his
hands into his pockets and tries to smile.
"Let's get out of here, man."
They stroll out into the darkness and across
the deserted road to Dairy Queen. The stars
swirl in slow circles as Eric and Jerry lay on
the outdoor tables and eat cheeseburgers.
For several minutes, Eric babbles on about
how he can get any girl that he wants. Jerry
listens silently but says nothing. Eventually
falling silent, Eric turns his thoughts to
She had come to Friends' Bar with a group of
other girls about a week after she graduated
from Pesotum High. Eric spotted her right
away as her tall, slender body squeezed
through the crowd searching for a vacant
table. He peered over his glass and told Jerry
to take a look as Janelle found an empty
booth in the corner. She acted as though she
had discovered a pile of money. And her
breasts swayed and bounced as she wawed
frantically for her friends to join her at the
back of the room.
Eric immediately began developing his
strategy to lure her away from the group.
Retiring to the men's room, he quickly combed
his hair and tried to brush some of the dirt off
his uniform. And once satified with his
appearance, he grabbed a wad of paper
towels to dry his sweaty hands. On his way to
the girls' table, he handed the damp towels to
his buddy and declared, "Watch this."
"Hi, can I like you?" Eric's calm, deep voice
flowed across the table. He watched for her
reaction as Janelle looked up to meet his
bright green eyes and warm smile. When she
fumbled to get her vocal chords to work, he
knew that she was his.
"Huh? What?" Her cheeks glowed a
spectacular shade of red and her friends
giggled all around her. It was a great start to a
brief, unhappy romance.
Janelle turned out to be no different than all
the other girls that Eric slept with. She
couldn't accept him for who he was. In
addition to being too needy and overbearing,
she couldn't stand to be without him for even
a few days. She was desperate for love. But
Eric only wanted a lover.
Thanks to her mom, Janelle was the last
girlfriend that Eric had in Pesotum. Her mom
told everyone who would listen about "that
little bastard." During the past few months, her
uncaring words spread like a virus among the
town's 2000 residents. Infected by the harsh
statements, even Eric's neighbors stopped
speaking to him. But his dad and Jerry
remained by his side through it all.
Fighting his way back to consciousness, Eric
hears the familiar sound of his buddy snoring
next to him. His inquisitive eyes peer across
Jerry's face, down to the dark hairs at his shirt
collar, and finally on down to the thick tanned
forearm that is radiating heat against his own.
"Eric," he thinks he hears his name and looks
up into Jerry's calm blue eyes, wondering how
long Jerry has been awake... wondering how
long his fingertips has been brushing back
and forth against Jerry's arm... wondering if
Jerry knows what he's thinking about.
Pulling his head away, Eric sits up and looks
across the road. The music has stopped and
the neon lights are dark. And as the people pour
out of the door at Friends' Bar, he wonders
how the night will end. A typically Friday night
usually ends with him inviting a girl home from
the bar. "Will this night be typical?" he
The sun glares into the kitchen as Eric stands
in the open doorway and says goodbye. He
shuts the door and turns around as his dad
enters the room.
"Who was that?" his dad asks with a knowing
grin. Eric has been inviting girls over since his
first night home from the Marines.
"What? Oh that was just Jerry. He was too
tired to drive all the way home last night. You
know he lives over in Danville. I thought it
would be okay if he stayed here," Eric
confesses with his hands in his pockets.
He watches intently as his dad pulls back the
curtain over the sink to see Jerry climb into
his truck and drive down the hill.
"Who else was here?" The solemn tone in his
dad's voice is unnerving.
"Nobody, just Jerry," Eric says as he quickly
looks down to stare at his bare feet on the
cold tile floor.
"Tell me somebody else was here." The red
appears in his dad's face within seconds.
"I told you. Nobody else was here." Eric's
voice cracks. "Jerry's the only person that I let
stay here. Don't go getting all upset." Then he
wonders if his dad may have been awakened
by the muffled sounds coming from his room a
few hours ago. And he feels a sudden urge to
go back to his room.
While his dad mumbles something to himself,
Eric scurries toward the hallway.
"What did I do, Eric? What did I do wrong?"
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Eric
replies but continues to walk away.
"I heard you."
"What? Man, you're acting weird. I'm outta
here," Eric says as he slips around the corner
out of sight.
With his face suddenly pinned against the
wall and one arm twisted behind his back, Eric
screams, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
He feels as though he might pass out as his
dad's forearm is pressed firmly against the
back of his neck.
"Tell me somebody else was here! You son of
a bitch! You think I didn't hear you last night?
You think I'm stupid or something?"
"What? Dad, you're hurting me!"
"I've been wondering about you two. And I'm
not having a pansy living under my roof. Get
your stuff and get out of here."
Eric looses his footing as his dad lets go and
then pushes him over a potted plant. He feels
like crying as he brushes potting soil from his
uniform pants. Then, stumbling into his room,
he slams the door.
For nearly twenty minutes Eric sobs into the
phone before Jerry arrives home to answer.
The plan is to go stay with Jerry. They can
figure out together what to do next.
Eric walks confidently into the kitchen carrying
most of his meager belongings in two trash
bags. Pretending to be in control of his
emotions, he looks rather intently at his dad,
who sits quietly with a glass of scotch. The
trek across the kitchen floor seems unusually
long as Eric approaches the table. He stops
only inches from his dad's side and tosses his
housekey onto the bare wooden surface.
Somewhat amused by his dad's startled
reaction, Eric refuses to look away when his
dad glares up into his eyes.
"I'm not a pansy," Eric declares, though
wishing he hadn't. And when he turns to reach
for the doorknob, his expects his dad to
pounce on him as has happened many times
in his life. And he's surprised when the fists
don't strike him.
Backing his Mustang out of the driveway, Eric
looks up to see his dad watching from the
kitchen window. The curtain is still pulled back
when he looks again from the bottom of the hill.
As the cold wind plays with his hair, Eric
stares blankly at the bright yellow lines racing
toward him. He's jolted out of his daydream by
the rough railroad crossing at the edge of
town. Pesotum is fading from his rearview
mirror when he looks up to see the auto shop
behind him, at the bottom of the hill. Then,
revving the engine, he screeches down the
road and heads toward Danville. And while
the radio sings him a love song, he wonders
what people will say. Will his dad even tell
No, I'm not a writer. And that's probably quite
evident. I just get into these moods at times,
and feel like jotting my thoughts onto paper.
This story was created by combining two
previous essays that I wrote about my friend
Eric. The overall story is based upon real
events, but there is some fiction thrown in as
When I ask people for their reactions to this
story, their answers are strikingly similar:
"How can Eric suddenly end up having sex
with his best friend? What happened after he
moved in with Jerry?"
"Did Eric have homosexual tendencies
when he was in the Marines? If so, then why
was he so intent upon having sex with
women? For that matter, was he homosexual
or was he bisexual?"
"How could that stuff happen? Wouldn't
people have known about Eric?"
"This story leaves readers wanting to know
so much more. There are just too many
unanswered questions about Eric and his
These statements tell me something very
important about my story - it's causing the
right reaction. The intent is to offer a small
glimpse into the life of a real guy, not a
fantasy. Like many other homosexual and
bisexual men that I've known, Eric is an
extremely private person. He's very likeable
and outgoing. But, the "real" Eric is not out
there for everyone to see. Most people have
no idea that he has such feelings for other
men. And people certainly would not expect
him to act on those feelings.
If you were to meet Eric on the street, you
would probably think that he's one of the most
'masculine and straight' men that you have
ever seen. That's just the way he is. You will
think that you know him. But, guess what?