I awoke the next morning feeling rough. I could feel the sunlight coming through the window on my skin, but was afraid to open my eyes. I’d tried, but the room tried to spin away from me and my stomach began doing flips. I felt rough. My mouth was dry and it tasted like I’d slept with an old dirty sock in it. I thought about the previous night, and knew I’d made a complete ass of myself, but felt too bad to be embarrassed. There would be plenty of time for regrets later, when my body and mind were more cooperative.
I finally was able to open my eyes in a squint. I could tell it was late in the morning by the amount of light. I looked at my watch and immediately tried to sit up, but quickly laid back down, when my head felt like it was going to explode. It was almost one pm. I looked towards where Jeremy should be but he was gone. Sitting on the milk crate was a small thermos and what looked like a bottle of Tylenol, and under it, I could see a note.
I gingerly made my way over to it with as little movement as possible. I unfolded the note and read:
“Good news, Wino, If you’re reading this, you’re not dead, but I’m willing to bet you feel like you may be at any minute. I thought you could use some juice and Tylenol. Mom got me up early. I have to go and redo some tests. I’ll be back sometime this afternoon.
PS: There’s an envelope for you on your keyboard...read it!”
I poured myself some of the juice and used it to swallow a couple of the pills. It was cool and felt good going down, but as soon as it hit bottom, it started back up. I barely made it through the door and to the balcony, before the juice, pills, and some vile, unmentionable stuff went spewing through the air. Sixteen years old, wearing only a pair of Sponge Bob boxers, leaning over the balcony of a tree house built for two preteens, and spewing my guts out at one o’clock in the afternoon. I was never touching alcohol again!
I stood there looking out over the neighborhood, waiting for the waves of nausea to go away. I was amazed at how ‘the same’ everything looked, even though so much was changed. I think change sneaks up on you. I think white could turn to black without being noticed, if it were a gradual enough change.
I went back into the tree house and looked around. It was a mess, but there would be plenty of time later for me to put it back right. I didn’t even bother getting dressed. I just dropped my shoes and pants through the trap door and climbed down the ladder. I picked up my clothes and walked up to our house. I needed a shower. I needed my toothbrush. And I needed a gallon of mouthwash.
When I walked into my room, I saw the envelope from Jeremy. I picked it up but didn’t open it. I’d wait until I was cleaned up and then read it. I brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth several times, while waiting for the shower to get nice and hot. When I thought it was hot enough, I climbed in and scrubbed myself good. When I finally felt clean, I just stood under the hot spray, letting the spray wash over me, and thought about last night.
It was all fuzzy to me, from about the second glass of wine, and the part after he kissed me was the fuzziest of all. I could remember vague images, but I wasn’t sure if they were from a dream or reality. I was unsure of what happened and even if anything happened. Did it really matter, I wondered? My whole intention was to give Jeremy happiness, if even for a little while. It was going to be his first and probably last time to experience sex.
I felt a cold chill as I realized what I had just thought, and now I knew what had been causing the nagging doubts for the last week. I realized I had given away something important. I had given Jeremy his first time, but I had also given him my first time. You only get one first time; there are no do-overs.
I got out of the shower, dried myself off, and went into my room to find clean underwear. I was putting them on, when I remembered the envelope from Jeremy. I took it and sat on the edge of my bed to read it.
I realized I hadn’t answered one of your questions last night. You asked what was wrong with you. Nothing,Tony, nothing at all. When you look at yourself, you don’t see what everyone else sees. You think you’re ugly and geeky-looking but nothing could be further from the truth. You do have a geeky-looking haircut, but it can grow out and you can do whatever you want with it. If you like it the way it is, then don’t change it. It bothers you that you wear glasses. You look great in them. You can always get contacts, but why do it, if the glasses work for you? Sure, you have braces, but they’ll be coming off soon. And Your head is not big. Your body is perfect. Take it from someone that has been examining male bodies for a long time!
Someday, the right girl will say hi to you and your world will change. The girl that manages to steal your heart will be the luckiest girl in the world!
About last night. I’ll never forget what you did for me, and you may never realize how much it meant to me. We didn’t have sex. We made love in a way that most people will never get to experience. We joined our hearts and souls! It was such a perfect night that I don’t want to change the memory of it by talking about it. Okay? It’s personal, private, and only ours.
Love you, Bro!
Well, that answered that question: “we made love.” I thought about it. Was it worth it? Was it worth giving up my first time? Hell yes, it was! Would I do it all over again? Hell, yes!
I heard a car door slam and looked out my window. Jeremy and his mom had just gotten home. Jeremy looked over towards our house, and I thought he was going to come over, but instead, he turned and entered their house. I figured he was hungry and going to get something to eat and then come over. I laid back down and soon was sleeping again. Some time later, I felt someone gently shaking me. “Wake up, Honey.”
I opened my eyes and Mom was standing beside my bed. “Are you awake now, sleepyhead?” I nodded and was happy to see that my headache and dizziness were gone. “Dinner’s ready if you’re hungry.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
She paused at the door, as she was leaving and looked back at me, concern apparent in her eyes. “Are you okay, Tony? It’s not like you to sleep all day. Are you feeling ill?”
I almost laughed aloud but managed to control the urge as I thought, “More than you’ll ever know, Mom.” Instead, I managed to just say that we were up late and didn’t get much sleep last night.
She nodded, “Gloria said Jeremy had been laying around napping all day too. You two be careful, I don’t think it’s good for Jeremy to tire himself out too much.”
After dinner, Silvy and I started clearing the table and loading the dishwasher like always. I was pretty proud of my baby sister but would never tell her that, at least not until we were both old and gray. She was almost fifteen now and turned into a beautiful young lady. No longer the bratty little sister, she’d become a friend and sometimes confidant. She was extremely popular with the boys and had already had several boyfriends; most of whom, I didn’t much care for. The boy she was seeing now though, seemed to be okay.
While we were working, she asked quietly, “How’s Jeremy?”
“So far, so good. Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
“I can’t. Every time I think about him dying, I start crying.”
“I know, it’s hard but we can’t do that in front of him.”
“That’s what Mom and Dad say too. Are you going over there this evening?”
“Why don’t you go ahead now, I’ll finish here.”
“Yeah, you never do it right anyway. If a woman just wants something done, she can ask a man, but if she wants it done right, she has to ask another woman or do it herself.”
I laughed and gave her a hug, “I love you, Silvy.”
“I love you too; now go, before I change my mind,” she said, after returning my hug and pushing me away. I started out the back door when she stopped me. “Hey.” I turned to see what she wanted. “Tell Jeremy hi for me and tell him he’s still my favorite brother!” Then, she stuck her tongue out at me, just like she did when she was younger.
When I walked into Jeremy’s kitchen, his mom told me he was upstairs lying down and she didn’t know if he was awake or not. She asked me, if he was asleep, to not wake him. She looked like she’d been crying. “Is something wrong?”
“This just has been a bad day for us, Tony. Tomorrow will be better for us.”
I went upstairs and went into his room without knocking. He was laying on his bed with his eyes closed. He looked like he was asleep, but rather than leaving, I went over and sat down in the chair by his window. I wouldn’t wake him, but I’d just sit and watch him sleep for a bit.
“How did you know it was me?” I asked in surprise.
“Do I still stink? I took a shower.”
He gave a small smile and said, “No, Doofus. Everyone has their own smell and, over eleven years, I’ve gotten to know yours. Try it. Just close your eyes and tell me what you smell.”
I closed my eyes and tried it. “Well?” he said, “Do you smell me?”
“It depends,” I said. “Do you smell like dirty socks?”
“You are so hopeless, Tony!”
“So, how did the tests go?”
“They just redid some from earlier in the week.”
“Why did they have to do them over?”
He looked at me with sad eyes, slid over on the bed and said, “Come over here,Tony.”
I walked over and laid down beside him. I knew this wasn’t going to be good news, so I avoided looking at him. “The tests I took this morning were just to confirm the results of the earlier ones. The earlier ones weren’t very good, Tony.”
“How bad were they?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“Pretty bad. Four to eight weeks.”
I gasped involuntarily and looked at him, “So soon?” I could feel the tears beginning to roll down my cheeks. “This is so unfair!”
His mom and dad had come in while we were talking. They came over to the bed. Jeremy and I sat up, side by side, on the edge and they sat beside us. His mom sat next to me and his dad next to Jeremy. We all held on to each other and silently cried.
When the tears were all cried out, Jeremy looked at the three of us. “Mom, Dad, Tony, can we not do this again? There’ll be a time for the tears later, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life crying over something none of us can do anything about.
It took us a couple days to get over the funk we were in after the bad news. Monday evening, our dads asked us if we were ready for another golf lesson. They had been trying for years to get us interested in the game, but Jeremy and I found it boring. We were always teasing them about it being an old man’s game, and we weren’t old enough to appreciate it yet.
Jeremy’s dad had taken a leave of absence from work, and since dad owned his own business and could take off whenever he wanted, we agreed on one condition: We’d play their game on Tuesday, but they had to play a game of our choosing on Wednesday.
Golf is harder than it looks. We’d never made much progress in our skill level, but that was mainly because it was boring. Hit a ball, walk. Hit it again and walk. There’s just not enough action in golf. It does take skill, but 95% of your time is spent walking, 3% in looking for a tree to pee behind, and 2% showing off your skill. Our dads said video games had ruined America’s youth, but we countered that video games had increased our intelligence and we didn’t want to waste it by chasing a little ball around.
Jeremy and I had decided on Pit Ball as our game. We’d played so much, there was a place in our back yard where grass would no longer grow. We took the garden hose and hooked it to a sprinkler head and soaked the ground where we’d play, basically turning it into a mud pit.
Mom and Mrs. Palmer had gone to the beauty parlor and Silvy had gone with them. We all got dressed in shorts and old tees and got ready to play. It was a lot like football and in fact we used a football to play. There were few rules and the few there were, were subject to change as the game progressed and, even more importantly, the rules were governed by the main rule. The main rule was that there are no rules. It was a heller game!
We were in the third half when Tommy Danvers came around the house. We were all pretty muddy by now, and he looked at us like we were nuts. “I rang the door bell,” he said. “I’m supposed to go to the mall with Silvia. Is she here?”
“She went to the beauty shop with her mother,” Dad said. “She should be back soon, if you want to wait.”
“Okay,” Tommy said. “What are you guys playing?”
“It’s called Pit Ball,” I said.
“It looks fun. Can I play?”
“Not dressed like that,” I laughed. “Do you have any shorts with you?”
“If you want to play, look in the second drawer in my chest and there’s some old shorts and tees in there you can use.”
“Cool! Thanks, I’ll be right back.”
Tommy came running back down, minutes later. “How do we play and which side am I on?” he asked.
“It’s kind of like football,” Jeremy told him. “You can be on the old guys’ side; they can use all the help they can get.”
Tommy was quick. On the first play, he managed to get by Jeremy and I to score, in spite of the fact Dad was also trying to trip him up. “Good play,” I told him and then turned to Dad. “He’s on your side, Dad, you’re not supposed to tackle him.”
Dad turned to Tommy, “Have you been kissing my baby girl?” he asked in a mock stern tone.
“Foul!” I yelled. “Questions like that are against the rules!”
“Then I invoke the main rule,” Dad said.
“What’s that?” Tommy asked.
“That there are no rules!” Dad laughed as he grabbed Tommy and dragged him into the mud.
It soon developed into a five man, mud pit free for all. We were all so mud covered we looked like mud men. I was about to rub a handful of mud on Dad’s head. “It’ll make the hair grow back,” I told him, but he suddenly stopped struggling.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
We all looked up and there were our moms and Silvy standing there with their arms crossed. “Uh-oh, indeed,” Mom said. “Just what are you men doing?”
“Nothing,” we all answered, nearly in unison.
“Hi, Silvia,” Tommy said, pulling himself from under Mr. Palmer.
Her eyes bulged out. “Tommy?” she asked in a horrified voice. “Thomas Allen Danvers! We’re supposed to meet Duane and Cindy at the mall, and look at you!
“It’s all Tony’s fault,” he said, pointing at me. “He said if I wanted to keep on being your boyfriend, I had to play.”
“What?” I asked incredulously. “You were practically on your knees, begging to play!”
“Well, you could have said no, so it’s still your fault,” he laughed.
We all laughed, except Silvy. “He has clothes in Tony’s room. He can take a quick shower and the two of you can be on your way,” Dad told Silvy. “You better be quick, son,” he said to Tommy. “Or it may be a long time before you get to kiss her again.”
Silvy wasn’t finished with us, however. After Tommy had gone to get cleaned up, she turned to us. “You four should be ashamed of yourselves. I almost get him trained, and he spends a little time with you, and you turn him into a wild animal rolling around in the mud like a pig!”
“Honey,” mom said, putting her arm around Silvy, “you’ve learned an important lesson pretty early. No matter how well trained you think you have them or how tame they seem, when they get together with no women around, they revert to the wild state pretty quickly!”
Our dads hosed most of the mud off themselves and went to get cleaned up. Jeremy and I hosed down too, but then laid back in the grass and let the sun dry us. “I’m too bushed to worry about a shower right now,” Jeremy said. We laid there in silence for quite a while. The warm sun was making me sleepy, when Jeremy spoke again. “I can feel it happening, Tony.”
“What?” I asked him.
“They told me that I’d become weaker and tire more easily as time went by. I can feel it happening. Every day, I feel weaker and just don’t have the stamina to do this kind of stuff every day, any more. I don’t want to give it up, though.”
“Then we won’t. We can do whatever you feel like doing. If you’re too tired to do something, you have to tell me, though. We can always find something else less tiring to do.”
“Yeah,” he said.
I looked up and Tommy was walking towards us. “Hey, Tommy,” I answered. “Looks like you got the mud off.”
“Yeah, but now I’m getting the silent treatment,” he laughed. “This was a lot of fun, guys. Maybe we could do it again?”
“Sure,” Jeremy told him. “But not for a few days. We old dudes need time to recuperate.”
“Cool. Do you care if I ask Duane if he wants to play?”
“My best friend.”
“If he’s not afraid of getting down and dirty, then the more the merrier,” Jeremy laughed.
“Cool, see you guys later. I have to go play the obedient boyfriend now.”
We all laughed at that. “See you, Tommy.”
After Tommy had left, Jeremy said, “I like Tommy. He has my approval to date Silvy.”
“Yeah, I agree, but since when has she cared about our approval?”
“That’s true,” Jeremy laughed.
“Have you seen TJ lately?” I asked.
“No, not since the party last Friday, but we’ve talked on the phone a few times. He says he’s pretty busy with football practice, but will be over to see us when he gets the routine under control.”
Over the next three weeks, we did fewer and fewer active things. I could see the change on almost a daily basis, in Jeremy. You could see the fatigue in his eyes. Tommy and Duane came over a couple times a week. We played Pit Ball a couple times, but they seemed to enjoy just hanging out with us if Jeremy wasn’t up to anything strenuous.
TJ did come around, but if I was around, he never seemed to have time to stay. I was beginning to get the distinct feeling he was avoiding me. He was staying in touch with Jeremy, though, so if I saw his car there, I’d stay away until he’d leave so they could have time together.
The summer melted away, and before we knew it, it was Labor Day weekend. Jeremy, Tommy, Duane, and I were sitting in Jeremy’s back yard. “I’ve been thinking,” Jeremy said. “We need to do something big, and I have a plan.”
“Oh no,” I groaned.
Jeremy gave me a dirty look and Tommy asked, “Oh no, what?”
“That’s what he always says, just before we do something stupid and get in trouble,” I said.
“Well, this isn’t stupid, and I have a good plan this time. I hate whistle blowers and I think it’s time to launch an attack on them.”
“You want us to go out and beat up on little kids that narc out their friends? And that will keep us out of trouble, how?”
“Tony, if you can’t add something constructive, just sit there and listen and learn.”
“You know how, every time you find something fun to do, someone always blows a whistle and points at you? You know, like on the playground when we were younger or if the crossing guard sees you crossing in the middle of the block on the way to or from school. Well, today, I’m striking out against the worst of the worst of these.”
He laid out his plan, and I could see the strong possibility we’d end up in trouble, but I didn’t think it’d be too much trouble. “Count me in,” I said.
“Us too,” Tommy and Duane echoed.
“We need to see if TJ wants to come,” Jeremy said. “Tony, do you think your dad would run you to the sports store to get the things we need?”
“Good, I’ll call TJ and see if he’s in or not while you’re gone.”
“You guys want to go along for the ride?” I asked Tommy and Duane.
“Do you think your dad could run us by my house first?” Tommy asked. “I need to get some money. We didn’t bring any with us.”
“No need,” I told them. “Since this is your first time in one of Jeremy’s plans, it’ll be my treat. I’ll pay for everything you guys need...including your bail.”
“Our bail?” they asked meekly, as they followed me into the house to get Dad to take us to the sports shop.
We got back and Jeremy was sitting on our front steps, waiting. “TJ on his way?” I asked.
“Nah, his parents are having a cookout today and he needs to hang around there to help. He’s going to miss the raid of the century,” Jeremy said sadly.
We only lived five blocks from the park, and started to walk over there. We’d made it about a half block when a car pulled up beside us and honked. It was TJ. “Hey, street urchins,” he yelled over at us. “Want a ride?”
Jeremy was beaming as we walked over to the car. “Hey, you decided to come after all, huh?”
“I got to thinking about it, and haven’t been in trouble for a while, so I figured, what the Hell.”
Jeremy climbed in the front with TJ and Tommy; Duane and I climbed into the rear seat. “Do we have equipment for the new recruit?” Jeremy asked me.
“Yeah,” I said and handed it to Jeremy, who gave it to TJ.
It only took a couple minutes to get to the park. TJ found a parking space close to the pool and we all got out. We walked to the entrance to the pool and stopped. “Ready guys?” Jeremy asked. We all took a deep breath, nodded, and went in to buy our tickets. We never went to the changing room, but entered directly into the pool area, walked to the edge of the pool, and lined up.
“Last chance to change your minds,” Jeremy said. We all stood firm. “Okay, here goes. – Can I have your attention?” he yelled. Nearly everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at us. “The revolution against the tyrannical whistle blowers has commenced!!” The five of us then pulled out the cheap plastic whistles I’d bought at the sports shop and started blowing them, and as we blew them, we would point at each of the four life guards stationed around the pool.
Everyone was stunned at first, but soon, a few started laughing and joined us in our finger pointing. We stopped blowing our whistles and Jeremy asked, “Ready troops? Attack!” and the five of us stepped off into the pool. We’d just committed the cardinal sin at a public pool: we were in the water, wearing street clothes!
When we broke the surface of the water as we came up from our plunge in, it was pandemonium! Mothers were grabbing their small children to protect them from the crazy guys, and all four lifeguards were now pointing at us and blowing their whistles. “Get out of the pool!” they’d yell at us and then start blowing their whistles again. We had to defend ourselves, so we started blowing ours again and pointing right back at them.
The lifeguards on break heard all the whistles and came out to see what was going on. Soon, there were seven lifeguards blowing their whistles, and the five of us blew right back at them. The pool manager came running out and was yelling something, but no one could hear him because of all the noise from the yelling back and forth and the whistles blowing.
He went over to the group of off-duty guards and said something. They dropped their whistles, and he turned and yelled at the rest of us, “I said to stop blowing those fucking whistles!”
Everyone heard him this time. Mothers and fathers looked shocked. I’m not sure if they were shocked at the word he used or at the fact their little kids were giggling as if they knew the word. I have a feeling there were a lot of conversations between parents and their kids that night.
“Get out of the pool!” He told us angrily. “You five are banned from the pool for the rest of the summer,” he told us as we climbed out of the water.
“Uhhh, sir?” Tommy asked.
“What?” the manager snapped.
“Doesn’t the pool close this weekend until Spring?” The manager glared at Tommy but didn’t answer. Tommy raised a clinched fist and shouted, “The revolution will continue after a short winter break. Long live the revolution!”
The other four of us raised our clinched fists and repeated, “Long live the revolution!” We marched out of the pool amid scattered shouts of “Long live the revolution!” and lots of laughter.
When we got out to the grassy area before the parking lot, I patted Tommy on the back. “Nice touch, dude. You got the hang of this pretty fast, but he’ll probably remember you next year and ban you for next summer.”
“I never come here anyway.” Tommy shrugged and said, “We have a pool at home, so at least I’m swimming in my own pee.” This struck us as a lot funnier than it probably was, and we were rolling on the ground in laughter.
After a few minutes, TJ said, “I hate to break this up, guys, but we need to get going. I’m going to have a hard enough time explaining why I’m coming home all soaked, when I was just running to the store for some gum. I don’t want to have to think up another excuse about why it took over an hour to drive a half mile to the store and back.”
“You go ahead, TJ, we’ll walk home. There’s no sense in getting your seats all wet.” Jeremy told him.
“You sure, Jeremy?”
“Yeah, we’ll be fine.”
Before TJ reached his car, I yelled, “TJ, hold on a minute.” He stopped and waited for me. “Thanks for showing up today, it meant a lot to Jeremy.” He looked at me like he wanted to say something but couldn’t. He merely nodded and got in his car and left. “Yep,” I thought to myself. “He’s avoiding me.”
We were almost home when Duane said, “Damn!”
“What’s up?” Tommy asked him.
“These jeans are killing me. Here I was all worried about going to jail, and I should have been worried about how to ask mom to get me something for the diaper rash these wet jeans are going to give me.”
Naturally, we all thought this was hilarious, and so had to stop and roll on someone’s grass while we laughed. There was an old man sitting on the front porch with his little dog. He kept giving us funny looks, and when he nervously picked the little dog up and went inside, it made us laugh even harder.
Jeremy was going to go home and change and meet us in my back yard. Tommy and Duane were both about my size, so I was going to give them some clothes to wear while ours dried. As the three of us walked around the house and to the rear door, Dad was sitting there looking over some blueprints for a job he was going to bid on. He heard us squishing and swishing as we walked by him. He looked at us, all dripping wet still, and asked, “Do I want to know?” We all just smiled at him. “I guess not,” he said, grinning back and going back to checking out the blueprint.
Later that evening, Jeremy and I were lying on our backs in the grass and looking at the stars. “I wonder how many people have laid on their backs like this and tried counting the stars?” Jeremy asked.
“Probably as many as there are stars,” I answered.
“Do you think anyone will ever be able to count them all?”
“Nah, there’s too many to count, and I don’t think there’s a number that big.”
“Yeah.” We laid there in silence for quite a while, each of us lost in our own thoughts. “Tony? Thanks.”
“Everything. This was a fun day, wasn’t it?”
“You’re welcome, and yeah, it was.”