It Canít Gie Better Than Thes (by Grant Bentley)

It Canít Gie Better Than Thes

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Miles and Rhys didn’t.

My parents were career parents. My mom was a high school principal. My dad was an architect and construction engineer. I saw my mom every day for maybe ten minutes. My dad I saw once every month or two for maybe ten minutes to a half hour. Dad was almost never home starting the day I was born. Mom was home and was actually a mom until she became the principal of a two thousand student high school. That happened when I was fourteen.

Soon after I turned fifteen it was decided that, even though I was in an accelerated program in L.A., and about to start my senior year, I apparently wasn’t being challenged enough in the regular high school. I was transferred to the Federation School for Boys which was a leading boarding school for high achievers; boys with an IQ of 135 or higher. My IQ is 143 so I fit right in. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to fit right in. I didn’t want to go there and I made that very clear. But I had no say in the matter. I had an IQ of 143, but apparently I wasn’t smart enough to know what was best for me. Obviously Mom and Dad did, though.

So, on the 28th of August I was living in a dorm room in the Federation School for Boys. On my second day I met my roommate. I didn’t think about it, but I may have had a few things working against me when I became his roommate. First, I was five feet ten inches tall and weighed all of a hundred and thirty-five pounds. And second, I was openly gay, complete with a rainbow flag over my bed.

When I heard the key in the lock and watched him appear in the open doorway, I will never forget the look on his face. He just stood there and stared at my side of the room. Then he stepped back and closed the door. That was definitely not the reaction I had hoped for. In fact it scared the hell out of me. In the few seconds that I first saw him, he appeared to be at least six feet tall, about a hundred and eighty pounds, and was obviously very not gay. My first thought was, ‘Why did I have to get a homophobe for a roommate?’ and ‘Why the hell did he have to be big enough to crush my skinny little body using only one hand?’ Needless to say, several scenarios flashed through my mind and none of them were good.

After about five minutes, there was some clattering and box-moving outside the door. I just sat there trying to breathe normally and waited. I heard some muffled voices but I couldn’t really make out what they were saying, except I thought I heard a voice say something about getting the right key. I waited a few more minutes as the noises in the hall silenced. After about five or ten more minutes, the door opened and again my roommate was standing there. He was looking directly at me this time though. Then he glanced around the room again and burst into uproarious laughter. Okay…this was not one of the scenarios I had contemplated.

“Jesus man,” he managed through his laughter, “You wouldn’t happen to be gay would you?”

“Uh, yeah,” I replied, as some sense of relief flowed through my body; although I was still a little in shock from his reaction.

“I’m Brendan Richardson,” he managed as his laughter began to subside, and he reached out to shake my hand.

“Miles Cameron,” I replied, as I relaxed even more, shook his hand and asked, “What gave me away?”

“Let’s see,” he replied, “Was it the rainbow flag over your bed or the two guys kissing on your computer screen? Nope, I think it was the blond hair with the blue streak on the right side.”

“So you think maybe I should have gone with the blue streak on the left instead?” I asked.

“Somehow I don’t think that would have made a difference,” he replied.

“Really, you don’t think so?” I asked.

“No, really I don’t think so,” he replied.

“Good,” I said, “I won’t have to get it re-dyed then…so money saved.”

“It was a bit of a shock though when I first opened the door,” he said with a grin, “Not just your hair either, the whole image.”

“I have to say, your reaction kind of scared me, with your shocked look, stepping back and closing the door,” I commented, “I figured I was in for the year from hell.”.

“Sorry, but I had to, to keep my folks out. If my dad had walked in here he would have had a heart attack and I’d be on my way to a military academy. He already thinks I’m being pussyfied attending FSB,” he said still grinning.

“Sorry. Should I take all this stuff down in case they come by sometime?” I asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” he responded, “My dad’s based in Texas so there’s no chance of seeing them here in Cape Coral any time soon. The only reason they decided to fly over with me this time is my sister lives here and just got a divorce. She’s moving back to Texas, so dad had to come up and help his favourite offspring find her way home. Usually they just put me on a plane and forget about me.”

“I think my folks decided to forget about me too,” I replied, “This is my senior year and I was doing just fine where I was. Then, all of a sudden, they decide to ship me off here. I had to leave all my friends behind, my home, everything familiar, everything.”

“I know exactly how you feel. That happened to me freshman year,” he replied, “I was devastated. It took me more than a month to get over it. That’s when I realised I hadn’t heard my dad barking orders at me like I was a private in his personal army.”

“It still sucks,” I said, “Like why here? I could have done just as well at home.”

“My guess is they want you to be able to flash an honours FSB diploma in the faces of prospective universities,” he said, “We’re good to go at any university in the world, Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Princeton, you name it.”

“I can think of a few that wouldn’t want me,” I responded grinning.

“Well maybe not if you take your flag with you,” he said, laughing. Then, after looking at his watch, he announced we better get to the cafeteria if we wanted to eat dinner.

When we got there, we saw about sixty kids who were there already. Some of them didn’t look any older than about twelve. There seemed to be every personality type from the ultimate nerd to the ultimate jock, including more than a few conceited dickheads who treated the staff like they were morons. There also seemed to be every nationality represented as well. 

Brendan and I got our food and joined a table of five other guys. Brendan introduced me to them and they all seemed quite normal and, thankfully, so did our conversation. Unlike the guys at the table next to us, we found things to talk about other than atomic physics. Also, thankfully, I wasn’t the only one on the slim side. Nor was I the only one with some colour in his hair. Maybe it wasn’t going to be all that bad attending FSB.

After dinner, since I didn’t have a clue about the school, we decided to go for a walk around the campus. I was a bit surprised when Jason and Roger held hands as we wandered around. That wouldn’t have happened at my old school. Alex, Jonny, and Max spent a fair bit of time tossing a Frisbee around and generally just being kids. Brendan, Jason, and Roger stayed close and pointed things out to me, like the library, science labs, classrooms I would be going to, and so on.

When we got back to our room, I got a similar reaction from the other guys as I did from Brendan…the laughing part that is.

“O geez, not another one,” was Alex’s reaction once he stopped laughing.

“Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it,” Max responded.

“Not gonna happen,” Alex replied as he gave Max a little push.

“Oh my God,” Max exclaimed as he gave Alex a little push back, “Homophobic violence.”

“Okay before these idiots get going and make a mess of your room,” Jason said, “We have a fridge full of sodas and a cupboard full of snacks in our room.”

“Well what the hell are we waiting for,” Alex responded, “Let’s go.”

It was interesting when we walked into their room. First of all they had pushed their single beds together to make one big double bed. Second, their room was like a miniature art gallery. The walls had some of the coolest art pieces I had ever seen. I soon learned that painting was Roger’s passion, besides Jason that is. There were also some really amazing sculptures around the room. I probably don’t need to mention that sculpting was Jason’s other passion…but I will anyway. By the time I’d finished admiring their work, everyone was enjoying all sorts of snacks and had a drink in their hand.

Jason handed me a Coke. I promptly found a place to sit next to a big bag of taco chips and I was set for the evening. Much of the early conversation revolved around filling me in on where we were from and how they all ended up in FSB. I already knew Brendan was from Texas, Dallas to be exact. Jason was from San Jose, California and Roger was from San Francisco. Alex was from Vancouver, Canada, Jonny was from Portland, and Max was from Las Cruces, New Mexico. They did mention one other friend, Chase, who was from Perth, Australia. After that, our conversation was all over the place, except no one talked about family or school. One thing for sure though, I had stumbled upon the best bunch of guys to become friends with, thanks to Brendan. 

When we got back to our room about midnight, Brendan filled me in a bit more. He, Alex, and Jonny were not gay. Jason, Roger, and Max were gay. He mentioned I’d meet Chase, who was also gay, when he returned from Perth tomorrow. He also mentioned that Max had spent most of the break in Perth and had been Chase’s boyfriend for the last three years…so much for that thought. I did meet Chase and I have to tell you, there are few things sexier than an Australian accent. Oh my God. The fact that he was gorgeous didn’t hurt either.

Once classes started though there was little time for anything but school work. If I wasn’t challenged enough in my old school, I sure as hell was here. I couldn’t believe how quickly four months can go by when you’re up to your ass in school work, but suddenly we were counting down the days until Christmas break. Mom and Dad were flying to Puerto Rico for their Christmas break. I was staying in Cape Coral…yea for me. The only bonus was that Brendan was also spending the holidays here at school. However, by the 20th of December I think we were two of eight stuck here at school. I did receive a nice cheque to cash so I could go out and buy myself a Christmas present. I felt that was very thoughtful of them.

Then, two days after Christmas, we had a new student arrive from Aberdeen Scotland. He would be sharing a room with Lenny. Lenny gave a whole new meaning to the word nerd and yes he did have a pocket protector for his pens. In fact he had one to match the colour of each of his shirts. Thankfully Brendan and I got to him first and I have to say his Scottish accent outdid Chase’s Australian accent as a turn on. Fortunately or unfortunately, he had not spent half his life in boarding schools, so unlike Chase, he had not lost any of his local colloquialisms which was totally cool.

“Hi and welcome to FSB,” Brendan said as we met him struggling with all his luggage, “Would you like some help with that?”

“Jist a wee help woods be braw,” he replied.

We figured that meant yes, so between the three of us we managed to get all his stuff to his room in one trip.

“Mah name’s Rhys,” he said as we made our way down the hall, “Rhys Buchanan.”

“Brendan Richardson,” Brendan replied.

“Miles Cameron,” I replied.

“Braw tae meit ye baith,” he said with a grin.

“Likewise,” I responded, hoping I was saying likewise to a good thing.

“Och mah God,” were the first words out of his mouth when he opened the door to his room. The three of us just stood and stared at the pictures of Einstein, Rutherford, Bohr, and half a dozen other famous scientists. A shelf full of models of atoms and molecules…and a green duck. The three of us burst out laughing at about the same time.

“Belter. That’s pure dead brilliant…a Blithe Yule an a Good New Year tae me,” he said.

“Sorry,” Brendan said still laughing, “But your roommate is a tad scholarly.”

“Shite,” he said grinning, “Thenk me God I’m nae a nerdophobe.”        

As we were helping him unpack, he stopped, looked at us and said, “Ye seem loch reit braw lads…right good lads, sorry. It's gonnae tak' me a while tae drap mah haem slang an' learn yoors.”

“I like it…and I think we’re doing just fine figuring it out,” I replied laughing, “And, yes, we’d like to think we are good guys. Thanks.”

“Hoo acceptin’ ur th’ lads haur ay different lifestyles?” he asked.

“Very,” Brendan said, “And if you don’t believe me you’re invited to have a look at our room...well, Miles’ side anyway.”

We spent an hour helping him unpack and put everything away, including some very interesting-looking DVD’s. The conversation was interesting as well, to say the least. One thing we discovered is he wasn’t from Aberdeen, but had moved from Dornoch to Turriff, not far from Aberdeen. His mom taught school and his dad was a doctor. Also, apparently his life was pure hell and he was bullied constantly. The other students didn’t take to his sexual orientation very well. After a few months, his parents knew they had to get him out of there. FSB came through with an excellent reputation and was their first choice.

Once we were done, we decided to head for our room for some snacks and sodas. When he walked into our room and looked at my side of the room he nearly peed himself laughing.

“Thenk God, finally. Ah dornt hae tae fash yerse abit bein’ meself haur, dae Ah?” he said still laughing, “Oaps, I mean, I dornt hae to worry abit bein’ meself here, do I? ….how’s that….better?”

“We got it the first time,” Brendan said with a grin, “But, yeah…better.”

We spent the rest of the day lazing around our room, telling our stories, joking, imitating each other, and quickly becoming close friends. Of course I had been in love with him since, “Jist a wee help woods be braw.” The fact that he was my height, very slim, had amazingly red hair, the most gorgeous freckles, and a smile to die for, had nothing to do with it. Oh yeah, and the most beautiful light green eyes I’ve ever seen.

The three of us spent nearly all our time together over the next couple of days as kids slowly began to return from their very brief holiday. I thought it was cute when Brendan always made sure he was on the outside so Rhys and I were always next to each other. He had become a very close friend and always looked out for me. This was no exception as he tried to work his matchmaking skills, such as they were.

By the day before New Year’s Eve, there were about twenty-six guys back on campus. We all got together, and after introducing Rhys to everyone, we set out to plan a New Year’s Eve party. Thankfully, the head chef, Roland, was among the group, so any ideas we had for food, etc. he jotted down or, in some cases, shot down. But, when we were done, we had a dinner and party all planned. One of the guys even offered to DJ for it if we all gave him our iPods or whatever and told him what songs we wanted, as long as they were rock, techno, house, or something similar…no Beethoven, Bach, or crap like that. Not that it’s crap, but it’s hard to dance to.

As we were leaving, Rhys came up to me, and somewhat shyly, asked, “Will ye be mah date oan New Year's?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” I replied with a grin, “There’s nothing I would like more.”

That got me a great big grin and a quick peck on the cheek as he laced his fingers through mine and we continued back to Brendan’s and my room. My heart rate went up by at least double I’m sure, and all I could do was think, ‘yesssss’.

“Ye hae nae idea hoo guid thes feels tae be able tae hauld openly th' hain ay th' bloke Ah loove withit onie fear,” he said quietly as he looked me in the eyes, grinned, and squeezed my hand.

‘Oh my God,’ I thought, ‘he just said the bloke I love…to me.’

I couldn’t do anything more than return his grin, squeeze his hand, and pull him closer. I almost pinched myself to make sure this was for real and not just a fantasy or dream. When we got back to the room, he sat back on my bed and leaning against the wall, pulled me down beside him, never letting go of my hand. We looked into each other’s eyes and a small tear escaped his left eye and rolled down his cheek. Before it could fall, I leaned in a kissed it. I now had his tear on my lips and it almost sent me into tears. However, his lips gently pressing against mine removed any desire to tear up.

Leaning against the wall soon became stretched out on my bed with him half on top of me as we made out gently but passionately. After about fifteen minutes, he looked me in the eyes again and said, “Dae ye believe in loove at first secht?”

“I do now,” I replied as I gave him a quick kiss.

“Ah didne until Ah saw ye,” he said as he returned the kiss.

There was a quiet little knock on the door at that point and a quiet voice asked if it was ok to come in. We responded in the positive and Brendan slowly opened the door. His grin couldn’t have been bigger when he saw us.

“I’ve been hoping you two would get together,” he said, “I’m really happy for you.”

“Thanks,” we both replied as we grinned back at him.

“Are we going to have to do the underwear on the doorknob thing now?” he asked.

“We're nae thaur yit but we'll lit ye ken,” Rhys replied.

“What he said,” I added.

“Good, cause I’m not ready to sleep on the floor in the hallway yet,” he responded laughing, as he flopped down on his bed.

Rhys and I rolled onto our sides facing Brendan. Rhys spooned me and wrapped his arms around me as the three of us chatted back and forth until it was dinnertime. We slowly made our way to the dining room, found what we wanted to eat, found a table, and continued our chat as we ate. I think it was the most relaxed either Rhys or I had felt in years. We were happy, in love, accepted by our friend Brendan, and like Jason, Roger, Max, and Chase, knew we would be by our other friends and classmates as well.

New Year’s was upon us and Roland had outdone himself and cooked up a feast for royalty, well teen male royalty anyway. He even had a number of bottles of alcohol-free champagne. As we all sat down to eat our favourite food, one of the boys appeared to be a little lost, standing with his plate looking around the room. Rhys immediately waved him over to join us. We got a big smile as he sat down and introduced himself as Jamie Gray, a new freshman from Halifax in Canada. As it turned out, he was a lot of fun and added to our enjoyment of the evening. His only problem was the ‘all boys’ part. I won’t mention how he described his apparent sex life for the next few months, but you get it.

When the music started, four couples immediately hit the dance floor, including Rhys and me. Then, about the middle of the second song, we saw Jamie leading Brendan onto the dance floor. It was both funny and cute to watch two straight guys dancing together. Buy hey, as Jamie said, they don’t have girls in all boys schools, so sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got. All in all, the evening was a huge success and everyone had great fun welcoming in the New Year.

As Alex, Jonny, Jason, Roger, Max, and Chase returned, one or two at a time, to say they were surprised at our latest development would have been an understatement. Of course they were happy as they could be for us and they all loved Rhys. I mean who wouldn’t. Jamie quickly became a part of our group as well, and even though he was a freshman and we were seniors, he was included as one of us without question. Of course he spent time with other freshmen as he knew in a few months, we would be gone.

It was no time before Rhys’ rural Scottish colloquialisms began to disappear. It was funny sometimes because some of the guys would throw one or two his way every once in a while just to get his reaction. I think Jonny had a written record of them all in his notebook.

“Ye silly bugger,” was not an unusual response from Rhys…with a grin of course…and it didn’t require translating either.

School work didn’t get any easier and Easter break was very welcome. It was a lot like Christmas except 18 guys were left at school. We decided we were going to have some fun and get some games or competitions going this time. We played some 9 on 9 basketball and volleyball, got some Frisbees out, and did a few swimming contests, just to name a few. Of course Rhys and I made sure to get in some alone time as well, as did Max and Chase. But then they were roommates so theirs didn’t count.

Every one of us probably worked harder on out school courses than ever before. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun, make a number of lifelong friends, and make a lot of memories to carry with us throughout our lives. After graduation, we ended up at universities all over the world, from Oxford, to Harvard, to Hong Kong, to you name it. We did stay in touch regularly though…thank you texting, and Skype, among others. We do get together at least once a year as well. We found a rather nice central location for all of us. You just have to love Hawaii.

Although his unique colloquialisms have mostly disappeared, the accent hasn’t, and it will always be a part of his charm. However, his gentleness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, and all-round sweetness make him the person I love more than anyone else in this world.

So, laying here in the sun with Rhys in my arms, watching the River Cherwell as it flows past Oxford University, I have to smile and think, ‘It can’t gie better than thes.’

Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.