New town. New life. Opportunities afresh. Only thing is, you’re still you.
Working with Chip, I realized early on what a responsibility I had. This kid could be great. Not just a good high-school player. Great. Certainly college great and maybe beyond that, but only if he learned the fundamentals. He had the drive to learn, and I had the knowledge, but I was very afraid his drive and talent would outmatch my knowledge and teaching ability.
The practice sessions I had with Chip were some of the best and worst times of my life. I got to be with him, close to him. I got to talk to him about basketball, sure, but about other things, too, while we took rest breaks. During the teaching moments, I got to touch him. All the time, I got to see him, mostly without a shirt on, just short athletic shorts and sneakers. My God!
We were working together in that barn—that hot, humid sometimes almost unbearable barn. Right off the bat, he was working out shirtless. He also wore about the briefest athletic shorts available. So, his sweaty skin, his whole, mostly unclothed body was my constant companion. He was tanned from the outdoor shooting, outdoor dribbling he’d done. What perfect skin he had. There were times when, as a coach, the quickest way to explain something is by putting your hands on your student. You hold his arms to put them in the right position. You hold his torso to move him bodily into the right position. You tap the back of his knees or thighs to get him to lower his stance. All the time you’re right there, right with him, and he’s sweating profusely, and so are you. You smell his hot scent—a clean, marvelous smell that’s all boy, all exciting, all erotic.
Those things comprised the best times—and the worst, of course, because I couldn’t reveal my feelings to him. I had to hold them in check. Oh, was that hard. I was, too, some of the time, and that was also difficult. He couldn’t know. It might ruin everything if he knew.
But it wasn’t that cut-and-dried. Wasn’t black and white. No, it was very gray. Because as much as I liked him, had a crush on him, wanted him to like me, I thought there was a good chance that he did have some of the same feelings for me. I could see it in his eyes, those eyes that he’d drop whenever mine met his. And in his reactions when we bumped and rubbed and collided with each other as one will when playing one-on-one basketball. Sometimes those collisions seemed intentional. I mean the ones where he collided with me. Of course, some of the times I collided with him were intentional. No way I could help myself.
I wanted so much to tell him what I felt. I could imagine him looking at me and not dropping his eyes, looking at me and saying, “I feel the same way about you, but even more so. I love you, Dave. I always have since that first day.” Yeah, it’s quite an imagination I have. But when your longing is as strong as mine was, that’s how you think. You think it all the time, really.
But you also think about what would happen if he didn’t say that. It was so easy to picture that. I could imagine him giving me a hard stare and blurting out, “I thought maybe you felt that way. I don’t, and now that it’s out in the open, I’d be too uncomfortable continuing to work together with you like this, knowing how you feel, knowing what you’re thinking when we touch, worrying about that instead of basketball. Sorry, but I’ve got to go now. Thanks for the help you’ve been. You’ve been so kind to help me; I really mean that. But . . . well, see you around.”
Even in rejecting me, he’d be nice, polite, considerate. But it would just about kill me if he’d do that. He’d become my world. I got up in the morning thinking about him, about practicing with him after our games that day with the other guys. I went to bed thinking about seeing him again the next day, practicing with him. Taking rest breaks with him where I could learn his personality—how he was so non-aggressive, so nice, really. A nice, honest, low-keyed, easygoing, respectful kid. And so beautiful it almost hurt my eyes to gaze at him. But too painful not to.
But I thought about us getting together, about him actually feeling the same things I felt. I just didn’t see how it could ever happen, how I could tell him what I thought, or vice versa, if that was the case. If he felt what I did, we’d both have too much to lose if it went sideways when our feelings were revealed. I thought about it a lot, wishing I could come up with a way to tell him how I felt without chasing him away if my feelings weren’t reciprocated, and I never came up with a way to do it. I didn’t have the courage to risk losing what I now had with him, and if he felt the same way, he didn’t have the courage, either. But then, maybe he simply did not feel like I did.
Maybe he wasn’t suffering like I was.
Man, oh man, was I smitten. Every day, being with him, his sweat adding a sheen to his lithe teen body, the small gestures he made, the grins he’d throw my way, how he’d sometimes touch me, rub against me when he didn’t need to.
And then everything changed. It’s said that life is a primal force, that it finds a way to persist against all odds. Maybe it’s the same with love.
We were alone that day after playing our games with the other guys, working on things like we did most days. The thing we were working on that day was rebounding.
Rebounding isn’t about who’s tallest. Well, not entirely about who’s tallest. Being tall helps, but if you’re 5-8 and your opponent is 6-1, and you know how to block him off the boards—meaning getting between him and the backboard with your back pressing into his front so he can’t go up for the rebound without fouling you—you’ll control 90% of the rebounds that come in your direction.
“You’ve got to get position.” I told him. “You’ve got to move, got to get between your man and the boards. Then, when you’ve got that position, you’ve got to push back into him. Back into him so you’re up against him. If you’re up against him, you can feel when he tries to go around you, left or right, and move with him to hold the block. Lock him up. If he’ll allow it, keep moving back into him, pushing him farther away from the boards. Let’s try it. I’ll take a shot with you standing next to me, and while I’m shooting, you get into position and prevent me from going where I want to go.”
We worked on it. The first couple of times, I shot, missed on purpose, but then got around him and got the rebound and made a lay up. But he got the idea. His ability to learn any and everything I could teach him about the tactics and intricacies of the game was amazing. He saw that he had to watch me as I shot, move as the ball was in the air, and then reach back and feel where I was, where I was going, move to stay in front of me. Sometimes he’d jump to try to block my shot and then learned if he didn’t block the ball, it was best if he could twist while still in the air and come down backing into me, already blocking me from the rebound. In either case, he learned to press his back against my torso so I couldn’t work my way around him.
Of course, this didn’t happen immediately. This was teaching and learning, and we were friends by now. What happened that first day of rebounding drills was: after I’d gone around him on my first shot and then scored easily after securing the rebound, on the next shot I took, he grabbed me as I tried to go by him. Grabbed me by wrapping his arms around me and holding me back. I started laughing, and he did, too, and I quickly thought about how this was more than funny, how it was sexy, and had to say something to stop thinking that. I guess he was thinking the same thing because he beat me to the punch.
“I didn’t know rebounding could be so much fun,” he said.
We continued with the drill. We were both practically naked and hot and sweaty, me pressing my body against his back or him doing the same with me, and sliding off each other unless we used our arms to hold our positions, holding each other. So, we’d slide off or hold on to each other, and doing all that sliding and holding and, well, with our bodies sliding around on each other, how long can you imagine two hormonally charged teenagers can do that without, well, you know.
Sometimes, we’d say something. Sometimes, I’d swear he said what he said so it seemed like he was flirting. Just a little bit but flirting nonetheless. He’d done stuff like that—stuff that seemed to be maybe flirting—before. I had, too. Both of us had been so, so, so subtle that the flirting might have been imagined. Or maybe I’d just done it and he hadn’t meant his comments—all the one’s he’d made before—that way. I didn’t know. But I liked to think, to hope, that’s what he was doing. Maybe that’s what falling in love is all about: a lot of hoping.
That grabbing me and all the thoughts that followed, all that had been the beginning of what came next—it set the mood.
I’d been silly. I hadn’t thought where this exercise would lead. I should have but hadn’t. My bad.
What happened was, as we ran the drill over and over, he’d move into the correct position, and that meant his butt would end up pressing into my crotch. When you’re playing a game, you don’t even notice. You’re thinking about holding the other guy back, and just where your body parts are doesn’t enter the equation. When you’re practicing with a boy you have feelings for that surpass anything you’ve felt before, one you have strong feelings for and you’re 16 and he’s cuter than all get out, cuter than any other boy you’ve ever seen, and he might, just might, have been flirting with you and just might feel something towards you that you feel for him and all that sliding against each other is going on, well, as I said, you don’t have to just imagine what happens. It does happen. Especially when his butt keeps rubbing against where his was rubbing against me.
Perhaps flirting subtly is one thing. Letting him feel my boner as he pressed against me, that was something else, something I had to prevent as much as possible. That wasn’t flirting. That was letting the cat too far out of the bag with no subtlety at all.
It happened much quicker than I could imagine. I realized it was happening, as a boy does. You feel it beginning. And if the situation is right, there’s basically no way to stop it.
I had to do something—and right away. If I didn’t, it would be a question of whether he’d feel it or see it first, because my shorts would be sticking way out in front. Well, ‘way’ might be overstating it but certainly it would be far enough to be noticeable.
I did the only thing I could think of. I bent over so my condition couldn’t be seen. “Cramp,” I groaned, “stomach cramp.” I moved my hands to my stomach or what I hoped would look like my stomach when my back was turned to him. I swiftly slipped one hand into my shorts and moved my horizontalness to a verticalness, trapping it under the broad waistband of my jock.
And then I got a shock. Because, when I stood up after feigning the cramp, saying it had eased, I saw him bending over, and I was sure that he was duplicating what I’d just done.
My emotions went through all sorts of gyrations, and the one it ended up with was humor. I used humor as a crutch all the time, and it seemed appropriate right then, because the tension of doing anything else might have overcome me.
I snickered and said, “Seems like we both got a cramp at the same time.”
“In the same body part, too,” he said without missing a beat. He always was more of a risk taker than I was.
I laughed full out then. And took the risk of my lifetime because laughing made it become possible, and because he was laughing too, and his eyes were looking at me like they often did, with that look—it had to be love, didn’t it? It had to be. So I did it. I made a comment that would give away the ballgame.
“Yeah, and we both needed to do something with that part to avoid embarrassment. And,” I took as deep a breath as it was possible to take, let it out, and said, “this isn’t my first time and maybe not yours, either. And what I hope is that it’s for the same reason for us both. I can’t hide it any longer. It’s too difficult, hiding it, and has been for a while now.”
I saw the best thing in the world then: I saw relief in his eyes. Those wonderful, deep, sensitive eyes. Relief.
He took a step toward me, then another, and I found I was doing the same toward him. “You, too?” he said, his voice breathy.
“Me, too,” I said, and then we were together, and our arms were around each other, and we looked into each other’s eyes, stared into them. He was trembling, or maybe that was me. We leaned forward at the same time.
I’d never kissed a boy before—and only a couple of girls. Those few kisses hadn’t touched me at all. Chip’s kiss transported me. It was magic, what I remember of it. I think it must have been the same for him, because my next really lucid moment was of us sitting on the floor. Somehow, we’d gone from standing to sitting, sitting awkwardly, sort of side by side with our hips together, because we still had our arms around each other.
“Oh, my god,” he said. “You don’t know how I’ve dreamed of this.”
“Me, too,” I replied, not realizing those had been the same two words I’d last spoken; it seemed hours ago. Maybe a lifetime ago, because suddenly the life I was living now was so different from the one I’d led before.
I told him how I’d been so smitten by him for so long, and he said the same things to me. We kissed again, and again. Then I was on top of him, and he on top of me, and neither of us felt the need to hide our hardness.
We didn’t do anything but kiss, but kissing was enough. We were showing each other how we felt just through hard, and soft, and in-between pressure of our lips—and with our tongues. I think we could have gone on for another hour or so just doing that, but I heard footsteps on the stairs and was immediately on my feet, pulling him up with one hand and repeating my early horizontal to vertical tuck I’d practiced earlier. As did he.
We were standing a foot apart, and I was apparently showing him the proper defensive stance against a dribbler when Roger came through the door into the court. “Oh, good, you guys are still here. Your mom called, Dave. Wants you home.”
I don’t think my feet were actually touching the ground as I walked home. Roger had asked Chip to stay and rebound for him as he took some shooting practice. I was kind of glad. I needed some room to think about all this. Hard to think clearly when your head is so busy thinking about too many things all at once, and all the while you’re in a libidinous fog.
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