Mary gave me a wide-eyed look, then burst out laughing. "Kenny's a ... a …"
"Terrorist. Yup, it's true. He works for the Cuban government. Every time you see somethin' gettin' blown up on the news, that's when Ken'll be outta town. He practices in his own back yard. I've seen him."
She wasn't buying it. She was still laughing.
"It's true! Tell her, Tim. How many times we watched Ken making explosive devices? How many times?"
"Must'a been hundreds. He gets his friends to help, but they never know what they're workin' on."
"He even knows how to change the weather. Did you ever see it snow in July? Well, we did! Right in Ken's yard."
She was still laughing. "He told me about his snowstorm. What's he really like, guys?"
The agony of defeat.
"He's just a nice guy that works too hard and likes to have fun when he's home."
"And wastes too much of his time trying to straighten out bratty kids."
"And he's really good to his friends."
I guess it was enough for Mary. "Okay. Let's work on you and Timmy."
"Really? You don't mind?"
"Of course not. You're both here, so there won't be a better time."
"How do we work on it?"
"Easy. You each tell me what you think. I'll just listen. If I think you're missing something or leaving something out I'll give you a prod. You first, Tim. Tell me about David. Tell me where your heart is."
Tim told Mary essentially what he'd told me on his first trip to Vermont.
"And you had these feelings before you even met?"
"Yeah, I think from the first time I ever saw him."
"Nobody else gives you these kind of feelings?"
"Not really, not as strong anyhow. Not the whole person."
"What do you mean by the whole person? Do you mean you might like the way somebody looks, but not the way they act?"
"Not exactly. The girl that sat in front of me in English last year ... when it was warm she wore those dresses that only have little straps over the shoulders. I used to just look at her skin through the whole class. It really ... um ... turned me on. But that was all I liked about her. Just that one part."
"Interesting. Do you look at other boys like that?"
"No, not at all."
"I guess. I like to look at a lot of girls, I just don't know how to talk to them. I have a big sister and I could never even talk to her. It's like a language I don't understand."
"David is the only person you're really interested in? The only one you love?"
"He's not the only person I love, just the only one I have these feelings for. He's the one I want to be with. I can't explain it any better than that."
"You explained it very well. I know it's hard to express your true feelings, but I can see you've given this a lot of thought. Enough thought that you're past being bothered by how you feel, you just want to get on with it. Is that right?"
Timmy blushed, "Get on with it? I … well, I guess, but it still bothers me. Like, who wants to be gay and have to face all the crap that comes with it? Does loving one guy have to come with a price tag? It's only one part of me - everything else is pretty regular. When I'm with Dave I'm a normal person - I get along with everyone. When I'm not with him, I'm a hermit. It's like Dave is a part of me that was born separately. The rest doesn't work right if we're not together."
"Oh, my. You have been thinking. That was well put, Tim. You have a very good head on your shoulders."
Tim had been pretty relaxed saying all this, but Mary had that effect on you. I had always felt comfortable even when I was telling her awful stuff. She was like a listening machine, just absorbing what you were saying and bouncing it back once in a while if it sounded incomplete or at odds with something else you'd said.
It was my turn, and I told Mary the things I'd already told Tim. Mary had heard it many times before in our sessions.
"David, I still sense an apprehension in you. I think you know where it's coming from. You've taken a closer look at yourself since yesterday. Why don't you just let it out?"
"I don't want to be queer. If loving Tim means I have to be, then I can't do it." I think I made a face because that came out sounding meaner than I intended, but Mary pressed on.
"You already love him, Dave."
"I know I do. I'll have to stop."
"What if I told you that gay is just a label? A meaningless label at that."
"I'd still be gay, and I don't want to. I can't."
"Because my father would hate me."
"Your father hated homosexuals?"
"I don't know. He never said anything either way. I know he'd hate me if I was. He ain't here to ask, so I can't take the chance."
Mary looked annoyed, which scared me. "I'm glad we agreed that this would just be a friendly talk. It's my turn."
She stood up and pointed at me. "You, David, have a bone in your brain, and that was the most boneheaded thing I ever heard you say. You finally figure out enough things to start to understand your problems. Now you're conjuring up a new problem that never existed. Stop it! Stop it right now!"
She really got up close to my face. "It's you that doesn't want to be gay, or queer, or whatever you want to call it. Stop fucking labeling yourself, David. Take the damned cork out and leave it out! Be a good person. Do the good things you want to do. Love the good people you want to love. Stop dreaming up crap about what other people might think. You'll never be right about that."
She came over and hugged me. She had tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry, David. I see the love in you. You've got to let it out or you're going to choke on it. You have amazing friends. They'll help you, but you need to stop being afraid of yourself. It's good to care. It's not a weakness, it's a strength. Love and happiness are our best emotions. They're the ones that make you feel good. Fear, anger, hatred, sadness - they all suck. If you love people and let them love you back the happiness will grow inside you."
She sat on my lap and put her arm around me. "Your emotions are tools, David. They're your mental toolbox. Try to keep the love and happiness in your hands. Leave the others in the box until you need them."
"Why would I even want the other ones?"
"Good question. Fear is a handy fellow when you're facing danger. Fear increases your energy and your caution at the same time, if it's working right. You drop happiness and love and grab fear with both hands until you're done with it. Fear goes away by itself, then you pick up your old pals."
"What about sadness? Why would I want that?"
"Nobody wants sadness, David. Things happen that aren't what we hoped for and they make us sad. You have to set happiness aside for a while, remembering to hold onto love. Sadness never really goes away, but it withers and becomes part of happiness. Hatred's the guy you have to be careful of. It's okay to hate events or actions or things, but Mr. Hatred will try to convince you that it's the people involved that you hate."
"That sounds complicated."
"It isn't, really. You seem to love nature. If you went to your favorite spot and found it ruined you can hate the fact that it's ruined. You shouldn't hate the people that did it. If you see a truly ugly building it's fine to hate it, but you can't hate the guys that built it. Drop hatred on the ground and roll it at your target. Hold on tight to love and happiness."
"What's left, anger?"
"Yes. Anger's the trickster. Lots of things can legitimately make us angry. You can't drop kick it like hatred, you need to keep it close. Keep love and happiness in your hands and hold anger under your arm. He's another guy that goes away by himself when you're done with him. Use anger to deal with the people who damaged nature or allowed the ugly building to be built."
"So the only time I should let love and happiness go at the same time is when I'm afraid?"
"Only when you're in real danger, David. Not when you're afraid that you can't make your next car payment. Just when you're hanging ten stories up by your fingernails."
"You just got mad at me, didn't you?"
She started to tickle me, and she was good. I jumped so high that she went flying off my lap onto her butt. She was laughing. "I wasn't angry, mister. I was pissed off! That's what happens when I work hard to get somewhere with little punks and they go back to their old ways before the sun goes down. You and Timmy go discover yourselves. I've got a terrorist to find!"
Tim pulled Mary to her feet. She brushed off her behind and started walking toward the door. I was left with Timmy and a seriously deflated ego. I also had new things to think about, and I didn't feel like thinking anymore. I looked at Tim. "I hope you enjoyed that little scene."
"Hey, she shut you up for a minute. That's a skill I gotta learn. That bone in your brain ... is it a pig's bone or a mule's bone?"
"I got one of each. I must'a sounded like a real idiot, huh? Howcum you didn't get pissed off? Howcum you never get pissed?"
"I got too much to lose if I get mad. Are you really afraid to be gay?"
"I don't know, Tim. I don't feel gay ... not at all. Guys don't interest me, anyone but you that is. I thought if you were queer you'd want to rut with everybody that had a dick."
Tim laughed. "Rut? David, you have been in the country way too long."
"I'm serious, man. You said the same thing - that it's just me. Then you talk about looking at girls' parts and gettin' all horny. What's that about? Why does this all feel so weird?"
"I know what you mean. It is weird, I guess. Maybe we're just two weird people. Why not just do what Mary says. Go with the flow for a while and see if it changes how you feel."
"You mean have good thoughts, do good things, love good people?"
"Two outta three ain't bad."
"Lovin' good people and doin' good things sounds fine. I was kinda hopin' for a few evil thoughts."
"Evil thoughts, huh? You're the goodest person I know. Wanna help me practice?"
"You know what they say: Practice makes perfect. Let's do a good thing."
"Take a walk in the woods."
"That sounds good. Wanna do two good things at once - you know, kill two birds with one stone?"
"Sure. What else?"
"Let's hold hands while we walk."
Tim's lips turned up into a gentle smile and he held his hand out to me. We walked slowly out of the yard, side by side and hand in hand.
"It ain't gonna be easy, Dave."
"We gotta keep doin' this over and over and over 'til you get it right."Next Chapter Previous Chapter