High school is part wonderful, part wrenching for most everyone.
Along the way, for the lucky ones, personal growth occurs.
I leave the cafeteria, check my watch and head down the main corridor. Near the front office is the school’s trophy case. I take a look at the things inside, although I’ve seen everything before.
I see the trophies there that I had a part in. Bittersweet memories belong with each one. Everything comes with a price. We won a large trophy my freshman year. It gleams as I look at it catching streaks of dim light bouncing down the hall.
Not every memory is good. But more are good than bad.
We did well my first year at Madison, the football team I mean, probably better than anyone had expected. Jake was pretty much unstoppable. That was all good. What wasn’t so good was my instinct, my need, really, to be just one of the hoi polloi—just the same as any other kid—at school.
Jake and Beth both helped. They both knew me. Well, Jake did. Beth claimed to. Damn! I’m not being entirely honest there. She probably knew me better than I did. We just tended to hassle each other. She wasn’t the boss of me, no matter what she thought.
Very quickly, my popularity at school grew, and I didn’t know how to handle it. People were coming up to me to talk. Boys wanted to talk football. Girls seemed to have a different agenda.
At lunch, people wanted me to sit with them—the jocks, especially. They had their own tables of mostly football, soccer and basketball players. A few wrestlers and swimmers. They tended to be loud, brash and overconfident. They thought they could get away with most anything, that they were the kings of the school. They acted that way. A person like me who was trying to stay unnoticed, who wasn’t shy but wasn’t gregarious, either, didn’t fit with them at all.
I was uneasy saying no to them when they asked me to join them because you can look really bad when you do that. You can look arrogant or stuck-up or, on the other end of the spectrum, shy and weak, and I was none of those things. So, I wasn’t sure what to do when I was approached and asked. That’s where Beth helped. She did that from the outset, and then continued when she could see I needed extricating from situations I’d get into through no fault of my own. That happened more than once.
But the first time, in the cafeteria? “He’s sitting with me,” she said, a freshman speaking to the football team’s captain. He was about twice her size and a senior. Didn’t bother Beth at all. “We’re together, and we sit together at lunch.” Then she simply took my arm and pulled me to our table.
She treated girls the same way. It was fortunate that the ones who wanted to speak to me were all freshman girls. Maybe it was beneath the dignity of older girls to approach a younger guy. Maybe there was some status and shame involved if they did that. I wasn’t sure what the reason was, but I was spared. The young girls, however, they weren’t a bit demure; they were forward and brash. At least the ones who came on to me. Those were a different matter.
It wasn’t a problem when Beth was around. She’d link her arm through mine, give them a look, and we’d march off together. It was when I was alone or with Jake or some other guys somewhere that fending them off was difficult.
Jake was sympathetic. “If you liked them, you’d be loving the attention,” he told me one time.
“What do you mean? I like girls!”
He gave me a funny look. “Then what’s the matter? Schmooze with them when they go goggle-eyed over you. Let ‘em know you’re a player.”
I shook my head. “They make me nervous. I’m not like you are. You’re more outgoing than I am. I wish I had your social skills. I’d get embarrassed, trying to chat with them.”
He grinned at me. “You learn to make small talk by doing it, and this is the time of your life you learn. Just say what comes to you. Learn what works and what doesn’t. Some of them just want to get to know you. Some of them want to do a lot more, like earn a notch on your bedpost. Enjoy it all.”
I was shaking my head. “That’s you, Jake. I’m not you. I don’t want to use a girl and throw her away. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“A lot of them want to use you! I say, let ‘em.”
We had this conversation, or its cousin, many times. He didn’t understand my reluctance to play the field, and I thought he should be more faithful to Lanny, whom I’d really grown to like. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure he wasn’t staying true to her. I just knew he flirted with lots of girls. He only ate lunch with one, though, and he did that every day—with Lanny.
I did have a conversation with Beth after she rebuffed my lunch-table invite from the football-team captain.
“Together? Like a girlfriend?”
She snickered. “You didn’t want to sit with them, and this was something he couldn’t argue with.”
“Maybe I did want to sit with them.” I didn’t, but somehow with her I often ended up playing the devil’s advocate.
“You?! Come off it, Whit. You’d be miserable sitting there with everyone in the cafeteria looking your way. With them calling out insults to other kids, actually meaning some of them.”
She had a point.
The thing was, I don’t know that I was entirely ready for the social aspects of high school when I began there. Funny, because I was certainly ready for the physical demands. A lot of freshman boys weren’t ready for that. I was still signed up for gym class even though I wasn’t required to take it because of my participation in football. But I loved physical activities, more so than academic ones or any of the other softer activities kids got into—like band and art and drama and debate or that sort of thing. I looked forward to gym every day.
It was in the second month of my freshman year that there was an incident in the locker room. I should admit something here: when I said that I wasn’t ready for the social aspects of high school, what I really meant was that I hadn’t matured to the extent most boys had. And by that I mean, if I need to spell it out, I was still getting crushes on some of the boys. Sure, on some of the girls, too. I wasn’t gay. I could tell when a girl was pretty, was hot. But there were still boys I found attractive, too. I just hadn’t developed past that point yet like most boys do around that time. I knew I would; everyone did. Just not me yet.
So, I’m in the locker room. It’s noisy, steamy, sweaty, rowdy, and the newness of all that hasn’t worn off yet. I love the atmosphere. A lot of boys don’t, and I can see that. I like it because I have no fears in there, but I can see some boys do. I like seeing all the naked boys, too, and a few in particular. I’m hoping that no one can see me liking that.
Seniors didn’t have to take gym, but the other three grade levels did if they weren’t involved with any school sports. And, even with some juniors in the class, I was still one of the biggest boys in there. And by then everyone knew who I was. I was getting used to that, even if I didn’t like it much. I still wanted to be just a part of the pack, not the alpha dog. That wasn’t my personality, but if people start treating you that way, it’s difficult not to act that way sometimes, even if it isn’t you. That was why I was never scared in the locker room, where some of the older boys would harass some of the littler, younger, easily intimidated ones.
It was just talk. No one did anything physical. There were rules and there were consequences, although teens are famous for not thinking about the latter. They think about what’s happening right then and how much fun it is.
But that day, for some unknown reason—or maybe there was one—some older, larger boys started something with some of the freshman boys. I was out of the showers by then, drying off, and so wasn’t there when it started and didn’t know if there was a reason. I heard the noise from the shower room get loud, then louder, and I went to check it out.
I couldn’t believe it! Four freshman boys were being held by four juniors, and four other juniors were flipping towels into the crotches of the freshmen boys. They weren’t snapping the towels like they’d do to guy’s butts; they were trying to see which of the four would be the first one to have an embarrassing reaction.
Everyone was shouting and laughing. Even a couple of the freshmen who were being held. The other two, not so much. One looked stoic, like he just wanted to get this over with and back to his regular life. The other one? Well, he looked horrified.
The guy flipping a towel against him wasn’t paying any attention at all to his victim. He was playing to the crowd, looking at them and laughing and humping enthusiastically and theatrically, making sexual noises and grimaces.
Then he suddenly stopped. “Whoa!” he said, and stepped away from his victim. The kid had reaction. And the room suddenly got quiet.
Which is when I stepped into the shower area from the doorway. Kids turned to look at me. The junior who’d been doing the humping saw me and said, “Hey, look, Whit, we’ve got our very own fag in here!”
I still had my towel in my hand. I gave it to the kid who was looking like his world had ended, then stepped in front of the junior. I got my face right up next to his.
“What the fuck, man? You do that to him, his body reacts the way most any kid that age would; then he gets all embarrassed, and then you make it all worse by calling him names? You’re a fucking moron, you know that?”
The guy stepped back, surprised and suddenly uncertain of his status when being called out by a younger guy who was bigger than he was and obviously mad.
I glared at him a moment longer, then wrapped my hand around the back of his neck. I have large hands. Strong ones, too. I squeezed on the sides of his neck hard enough that he was wincing and trying to pull away, which he couldn’t do.
I turned to the kid who’d covered himself with the towel by then. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Brian,” he said, softly, looking down at the floor.
I squeezed the junior’s neck a little harder. “Apologize to Brian, asshole, and mean it!”
The guy did so, and I let go of him with a little push. He stumbled backwards and reached up to hold his neck. I put an arm around Brian and walked him out of the shower room. Slowly, the place became noisy again, but it was a muted noisiness.
I knew where Brian’s locker was and walked him to it. Okay, I’ll admit it. Brian was one of the ones I found attractive. He had the looks I liked: slim, cute, a little vulnerable, a little naïve-looking. Innocent. Young. Like he needed someone to look after him. Someone like me, maybe.
Anyway, he was one of the ones I watched and hoped no one noticed. I knew where his locker was.
He was looking down, and when we got to his locker, he just stood there. Then I saw he was shaking. Not a lot, but it was noticeable.
“It’ll be okay. They’ll all forget. You certainly won’t be the only boy to get hard in those showers, the way they talk and kid around. You didn’t do anything wrong. When it happens, the best thing to do is laugh about it. If they see you think it’s funny, they will, too, and no one will care.”
He finally looked up at me. “Thanks,” he sort of whispered.
“No problem,” I said. “I do need my towel back, though.”
He half-grinned, which I thought was great progress. He unwrapped it from his hips and handed it to me. I couldn’t help myself; put a naked boy in front of me, I’m going to look. So I did.
He was blushing now, but, strangely enough, he wasn’t hiding himself. Maybe he was in shock and didn’t know what to do and was past the point of cognitive thought. But he didn’t cover up with his hands. Didn’t turn away. Just getting hard again. And he was looking anywhere but at my face all the while.
What could I do? What could I say? He had to be mortally embarrassed—had to be. He’d already been scared and embarrassed in the showers; he’d even been shaking a moment ago when thinking about it. Now this, which he probably thought was worse yet or would when he had time to think about it.
I could only think of one thing, and it was spur-of-the-moment; I didn’t give it any thought. Maybe it was part of that acting like the alpha when I didn’t want to act that way, when that wasn’t my personality. Perhaps that was part of it.
Anyway, what I did was, I grinned at him, at his horrified face, winked, and said, “Hey, nice one!”
His horrified look turned to something else, not exactly confusion, not exactly a question, not exactly relief, but I thought I saw all three reactions flicker in his eyes for a moment. Then he looked down, and I could see his cheeks begin to redden, and so softly I could barely hear him, he said, “Thanks.”
A couple of days later, Brian approached me as I was leaving the locker room. He was considerably shorter than I was and in the noisy hallway, because he spoke so softly, I had to lean down to hear his voice.
He didn’t speak right away. He looked really nervous. I waited, but he didn’t seem able to get any words out. By then, everyone had left the locker room, most of them headed for lunch in the cafeteria. That was my destination as well.
I was hungry. I was always hungry, but hungriest when my stomach knew it was time. It was like a dog who knows what time his bowl gets filled at night and never fails to let you know if you’re a minute late. My stomach was just as timely as that dog.
So, to keep it at bay, I prompted Brian by steering him back into the locker room. “What’s up?” I asked, turning on what little charm I thought I had. Sometimes, with smaller kids, I had the impression my size intimidated them. Hey, I wasn’t all that big! But maybe they thought so. And then, there’s a natural fear in high school with the slight kids toward football players who seem to enjoy violence.
He finally looked up at me, then down quickly again. “Whit . . . can I call you Whit?”
“Sure. That’s my name. What else would you call me?”
I got a surprise then. He grinned at me, and though it was brief, it was a really great grin with just a little bit of devilishness, a little bit of daring, and he said, “I kinda feel like I should call you ‘sir’.”
“You’d better not! I get enough people looking at me funny, acting like I’m something I’m not. I want my friends to act naturally around me.”
His eyes opened a little wider. “Are we friends?”
I laughed. “Sure, if you want to be. But I’m hungry, and people at my table will be wondering where I am. What did you stop me for?”
He started to look really shy again, but I was able to nip it in the bud. “Come on, you want to ask me something. Go ahead.”
He sort of shuddered, then gathered himself, stood up straight and looked me in the eye. “I wondered . . . I wondered if I could sit with you guys at lunch. You all are freshmen and all look happy and friendly, and I . . . I want that. There’s a couple of empty chairs. I won’t talk much. I just—” He broke off, unable to say anything more and lay himself bare more than he already had.
“Sure! We’d be happy to have you join us. Come on, let’s go eat!”
So now it was Beth, Jake, Lanny, me and Brian.
I wished I wasn’t so uncomfortable with the notice I was getting from other students, but I was. They’d come up to me in the halls. Some of them acted like we were longstanding friends. I didn’t even know their names.
The girls tended to be flirty with me, some of them brazenly so. One day when I was at the drinking fountain in the hall before heading to the study hall I had that period, a girl stopped right next to me. I finished my drink and stood up, and she put her hand on my arm. My throwing arm. And she squeezed it as though testing my muscle.
“Hey, you’re really strong. I like a strong man.” Her eyes were staring into mine, looking up at me, and there was a devious glimmer in them.
I gulped. “Uh, thanks.”
He hadn’t removed her hand. “I’m Lucy,” she said, and her voice had taken on a throaty quality. “I’ve dated football players before. Never the quarterback, though. I’d like to see how a quarterback compares to a running back, or a wide receiver. I’d like to see your moves. Show you mine!” She gave me a little coquettish giggle, and squeezed my arm again.
“Uh,” I said, and was sure I was blushing.
She moved her hand to my chest, then slowly ran her fingers down it, not stopping when she reached my waist. She did change direction slightly, though, but not till she reached the top of my zipper. Then she detoured and ran her fingers down over my hip and down the front of my leg.
She was watching my crotch as she did this. I guess she was hoping to see a reaction. I’m sure she was disappointed when I didn’t react. I was too uncomfortable with what she was doing for that to happen.
I stepped back away from her. “Sorry, Lucy,” I said, “but with football practices and then homework, I don’t have much time for that. And besides, Beth would kill me.”
“Ah, don’t play hard to get. You’ll love it. Does Beth use her lips and tongue?” Her meaning was very clear. Her eyes were, too, as she glanced down at my crotch again, hoping to see a bulge. Ever hopeful, that girl.
“Sorry, I have to go. Bell’s about to ring.” And with that, I scurried off. Down the hall, walking fast. I could see the library ahead and ducked into it. I wouldn’t be called out for missing study hall if I were in the library.
I walked to the back of the stacks where a number of carrels were located. The place was deserted, as usual, except for a single guy, a senior whose name I knew because I’d seen him with Clay at times outside of school. He looked up as I sat down at one of the carrels.
He seemed to be studying me, then got up and came to where I was sitting. “Hey, Whit, isn’t it?”
I smiled at him, the best I could. I was still a little unsettled from my meeting with Lucy. “Yeah, and you’re Duncan. I saw you with Clay a few times last year.”
“That’s right! Hey, you look a little shaken up. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just that, well, I’m having to get used to everyone thinking they know me and act like that. I never asked for this. I didn’t want it. I don’t want it. It makes me kind of tense, every time someone goes overboard when meeting me.”
He was looking down at me thoughtfully. He paused for a moment, then said, “You know Clay and I were friends,” a statement rather than a question. He didn’t wait for confirmation, continuing with, “Well, he’d get tense and worried about things and upset about others, sometimes, and he’d come to me because I had a way of bringing him back down, of calming him. I used to do it for him all the time. Maybe you need the same treatment.”
He laughed. “I give massages. Been doing it for a couple of years now. They’re great for getting rid of tension and stress. If you’re being stressed by your newfound notoriety, a massage would be just the thing to relax you. I’d be glad to work with you. Clay will tell you how good they were. How about it? Interested?”
Which is how I ended up after school at his house. We went down into the basement where he had what he called his studio. Funny name for a massage parlor, I thought, but he was a senior and I a freshman, so I didn’t question the name.
He clicked on a machine and set some small bottles on it. “An oil warmer,” he explained. “It brings out the scent, and makes the rubdown feel really good. Now, take off your things and lie down on this table.” He motioned to a low table that had a sheet over it and a padded cutout for my face to lie in.
“You want me to get undressed?”
“I just said. I use oil to make the rubbing more comfortable and sensual. Can’t do it over your clothes. Don’t worry. We’re alone, and anyway, we’re both guys. I’ve done this with many of the football guys.”
I felt a little uneasy, but stripped down to my boxer briefs.
“Those have to go, too,” Duncan said, and handed me a towel. “If you feel better covering yourself, use this.”
He gave me the impression he thought my modesty was a bit silly. When he turned away to get something, I slipped out of my underwear and wrapped the towel around myself.
“Okay,” he said, turning back around, “go lie down face first on the table and untuck the towel. You can lay it over your butt if that makes you happy.”
His tone was jovial, which helped reduce the tension. I did what he asked.
He began by lightly rubbing and squeezing my back, butt and legs, getting a feel of me. “You’re right; you’re tense. You’ll feel a lot better after this.”
He poured some warm oil on my back. I didn’t know what the scent was, but it was spicy and enticing, a heady aroma that seemed to go right to my brain. Just that scent alone helped me to relax.
He worked the muscles in my neck, shoulders, arms and back, then skipped my butt and worked on my legs. He started around my ankles and worked his way up. I couldn’t help it: when he was working the insides of my thighs, pretty high up, I felt myself start to react. Warm hands working warm, slippery oil into my inner thighs, maybe a half inch from rubbing against my private parts—well, I was 14. Anyone that age would respond.
He finished there and took the towel off my butt, poured a little oil into his hands and began working the two globes. He was gentle and rubbed back and forth, up and down, and it began to feel more like caressing than massaging.
As he was working, even brushing across my butt, he began speaking, his voice soft and intimate.
“Clay always liked this part. The first couple of times, it took him by surprise, but then he got used to it and loved it. I hope you will, too. I’m going to ask you to roll over on your back now. I’ll do your front side. If I do anything you want me to stop doing, just say so. Clay never told me to stop. He loved it. I hope you’ll be the same.”
Then he gave me a soft slap and a sort of circular pat on the rump and said, coaxingly, “Turn over now.”
Maybe it was the scent of the oil which had been lulling my senses, or his gentle persuasion, or mentioning Clay had done this, or I don’t know what, but I simply did what he asked. I should have been embarrassed, but somehow, knowing he’d massaged others and they’d all reacted like this, it didn’t seem to bother me much, even if he was the only one other than Jake who’d ever seen me in this condition, and I was bigger now than when Jake and I had fooled around.
He didn’t comment at all, simply began again with oily hands, running in the same pattern as he had when I was lying on my stomach. Neck, shoulders, arms, torso, taking his time, in no rush at all. Of course, my anticipation was growing as he worked his way lower. Couldn’t help it.
He again bypassed my middle and worked his way up my legs. This time, though, when he was up inside my thighs, the backs of his hands touched what was there to touch.
I didn’t say anything. My heart was beating a lot faster, however.
Then he came to the front of my hips, and his hands were sliding all over, and one, then the other, touched me. I took a quick, deep breath.
He continued finished. He knew what he was doing; his experience showed clearly. He’d said he’d worked on lots of football players, and even Clay. I could believe him. This was no amateur; this was a guy who’d done this many times before and loved his work.
It didn’t take long, and when he was done he got a towel and wiped off most of the oil. I was so relaxed I couldn’t move.
“There’s a shower in the corner. When you’re able to get up, use that. I’ll be upstairs.”
He patted my leg, then left.
When I got back upstairs, he had a Coke waiting for me. I think I drank the entire bottle without stopping.
“I hope you enjoyed that. Clay had a massage at least every other week, sometimes weekly during practice and football season. I’m only telling you this because he told me you’d be the QB this year and you’d probably need one of my massages, and it was all right for me to tell you that he’d had them, too. I don’t tell anyone who my customers are.”
“I get paid for massages. But not you. Not Clay. Sometimes I just do them because I like the person. Clay was a great friend. But we were about the same age. I’ll help you out as often as you like because it would please Clay. Will you come back? I’d like you to.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe. I have to think about this.”
He nodded. “But you enjoyed it, didn’t you.”
I couldn’t help but smile, then laugh. “How could I not?” I asked, and he laughed with me.
I left Duncan’s place feeling really good. The massage had indeed relaxed me, and the last part seemed to have added a bounce to my step. I felt alive, refreshed and happy with only a single regret: that Duncan was a senior.
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