I was 17 the first time I tried to seduce a boy from High School.
He was a year older than me. It was the summer between my junior and senior year, I was 17 and stupid, and callous, and beautiful. He had just graduated and it was his first summer free.
Tommy was a complete product of 80’s styles, bleach blond Billy Idol hair, effeminate (something that I saw as neither bad nor good), spoke with a drawly-hick southern Indiana accent, was always tan, bright blue eyes, always stylish in the best (which meant worst) MTV fashion. He wanted to be a hairdresser.
I wasn’t hopelessly attracted to him, or emotionally attached, but he was obviously gay (to my eyes) and I was just killing myself to be who I was without actually having to admit to myself who I was. I wanted to be able to connect to him somehow, to talk about it - to do more than talk about it. It wasn’t an emotional connection, he was a friend and I had thought that it was something that I really wanted to do. What "It" was wasn’t quite clear at the time.
Understand that, in Scottsburg, there was very little to do for anyone - especially two gay kids who had been treated horribly by just about every redneck asshole in town. Tommy and I would hang out and watch movies, we would sit around with our group of friends and talk or go look at stars, we watched lots of movies. My other friends were gamers but he was never into it like we were so being with him was usually separate from D&D.
I was a commodity, of sorts, in that I had a house that was 99% free of adult supervision, was out in the middle of the country, had an indoor pool and almost always had unaccounted-for alcohol. I’m not certain how I didn’t end up dead-drunk-drowned in the pool.
The pool also meant that I had the side benefit of getting to see the guys who came over- without their clothes. Granted, at the time, I didn’t make this connection consciously. In most cases I wasn’t even attracted to most of my friends - nerdy gamer types who kind of crowned me king of the dipshits. But I had already learned to build up a wall that forbade me from considering them as a prospect, let alone what they looked like when reduced to only wearing trunks. To be honest I can’t really name any other close friends I wanted anything to do with sexually.
Tommy was different. I perceived him to be so much more secure in himself than me. When he was out swimming he was open and talkative, with that silly hick accent, spoken from the back of his throat. He used to quote the movie Tootsie and cackle about it as he spoke the dialogue. He was pretty gay without actually being out per se.
I adored him but was afraid of him. I was afraid of what wanting him meant, I was afraid that he was effeminate and un-hidable - and that made him alluring. like standing next to a bright light. The guilt by association was always in the back of my mind.
I only knew that this feeling went away when we were alone. I knew what that meant, lounging in the shallow end of the pool, the sun gold on his wet skin, his hands as he drew them flat across his face as he came up from under the water, sweeping them over his nose and eyes, smoothing his spikey wet hair flat across his head, only to look back at me, a few feet away, with the light reflecting off drops of water in his eyelashes. I just watched him. He wasn’t muscular or particularly handsome, just average and skinny like me. He was cute and 18 and I wanted him, which meant he was impossibly beautiful. A boy behind glass.
I didn’t understand the rules of seducing anyone - not another boy - especially not one who I wanted as badly as I wanted him. Not even understanding why or what I would actually do with him if given the opportunity.
The problem is that I thought I knew what seduction was. I thought seduction was just making myself available and waiting for the result that I wanted. As if simply making myself available was all it was supposed to take. (Drapes hand across eyes and leans back, "love me".) Ugh, I was the WORST.
It was that method I had used to “seduce” a lot of girls in high school - I didn’t really seduce them. I just got attention and since I wasn’t intimidated and would just roll with it - they loved me. I was to learn later on that this would be the method that I would use to actually make close, non-sexual, relationships with many great women in my life. Well, mostly - it was more of not being the typical guy asshole than what they were used to.
Then, I was a terrible person, a fucking kid, and I simply let whatever happen with indifference because I didn’t know what I wanted, or who I truly was around them. I felt nothing, really, guilt perhaps, because I was just playing a part. I always call this a time when I learned to lie, I learned to lie and live a lie and perform on stage at every moment. It was terrible and it made me terrible for doing it.
It might have been one of the greatest mistakes that I made, a grand joke that I taught myself in that hole of a city in Indiana, covering myself with lies and mistrusting everything. Even now, I only trust a handful of relationships that I had during those days - mostly because they were having a friendship with someone they didn’t know, me, the liar, the fraud. Many of them think it's because of them - it's because of me, and not fair, but sometimes I get tired of coming out all the time, especially to people from the past.
Anyway, Tommy and I used to watch movies at his place, he had a video disk player, and we watched everything he had - I think he even had Star Wars but I *KNOW* he had Xanadu.
We rented all sorts of movies but eventually, since he was 18, we rented porn from the local video store. They were always those terrible 80’s overdubbed straight porn movies with hideous looking guys and overly breasty women. We did find and rave over this porn actor named Francois Papillon, after discovering one of his movies "by accident" - I don’t know which of us chose it but once we found that one he was all we wanted to watch. When we watched that, we lay in his locked room, flat on the bed facing the TV and watched that hot man fuck over and over. Neither of us admitting that he was the one we were watching so intently.
Still, I was only half watching every time.
Tommy was out of my experience, we were there in his room, door locked, porn on the TV, desperately wanting each other, fully clothed, flat on our stomachs, hard against the bed, close enough that the arms that we had crossed under our chins would have only required either of us to move a centimeter toward each other to finally touch. I remember that I could feel the heat from his body next to me and the bed sank under the weight of us, wanting us to move closer: “Get comfortable, boys, realaaaaaaaaax”
I hate the memory of that as much as I love it. It’s a sweet memory, to be honest, one of the good ones that I have of that time, in that era… but that’s all that the moment was: nothing moments of just wanting each other and not knowing what the fuck to do about it. Behind glass, both of us.
We called Francois “Muscles” and I didn’t learn his name until another time when I was able to look him up. I’m certain he’s like in his 70s now. He was so "80's" beautiful but I never really wanted him. Looking back through my adult eyes, he looks like the bully jock from some bad 80’s teenage comedy about the underdog who makes it big.
I had hoped that, somehow, Tommy would have more self-awareness than me. I was desperate for understanding, for experience, for anything that I could find that would make me make sense to me. In 1985, in bumfuck Indiana, there was no knowledge to be had for a kid desperately hoping for meaning or reason.
Finally, one night, I made grand plans (for a 17-year-old). It was late in the summer - almost fall - unusually cool outside. We had gone to see a movie or something. As usual, my mom was not there, she never came home before 3 or 4 in the morning each night when she was actually in the same state. I knew that I had nothing standing in my way.
Our pool, in that cold late summer night, was still and quiet. It steamed - I had even turned on the pool heater that morning so it would be extra steamy by the time night rolled around. There wasn’t any great lighting - like when I nabbed one of the spotlights from the stage at school the previous summer. Now, there were only two lamp posts at either of the far corners so the dim warm light only amplified the way the steam rolled off the warm water.
I wanted us to go swimming again, so I took him to the pool, standing close, wanting him to finally do something. I talked about the water, and how warm it was, and that it might be the last time we’d get to hang out- who knew when he’d be around next? I looked at him and just wanted to kiss him - I wanted him to kiss me.
He didn’t - I didn't -
Because so much was going on in my head. I had so many questions that I wanted to know, I needed to know: Who are you? Who am I? Who are we? Can you tell me? Do you want me? Will you say something? Anything? What are we? Can you kiss me? Will you?
I didn’t say any of it out loud. I wish I had - but saying out loud was hard so I didn't say anything at all.
He didn’t want to swim even tho I practically begged, fluttered around him like a moth, maybe it was because of that. Eventually, we just sat at the end of the pool on the concrete, in our clothes, and talked about nothing. I was too warm in the steam, sweating, afraid to even take off my jacket.
He didn’t want me. He never wanted me.
OK, that’s a lie.
I don’t know. I still don’t know if he did. I know that I didn’t try again and the summer was over. Me back to school as a senior and he went off to wherever. I’ve not seen him since the end of that summer. I don’t remember if I ever even physically touched him once, even by accident. I guess I can say that he was the boy I wanted so much that I was too afraid to touch him. Maybe that too is a lie. How can I, at this age, say I don't really know? It's obvious now that we were both too afraid, we were both afraid of what it meant, we were both afraid to try and see if the glass between us was even real.
In years afterward I had heard that he had died and I had completely pushed all of this aside as if it didn’t happen. As I put this together and wrote this, I needed to know more details, I needed to know how he died and when… and I found that he is alive and still in Scottsburg. Another memory and emotion and history that I put aside for unconfirmed reasons. Easier to let it go.
He’s 50. God, we age.
It does seem that the recurring theme of most of my relationships with guys is that I’m always left with the question of 'did he ever feel anything for me?' with the eternal answer of, "I don’t know". The ultimate answer, of course, for most of those is actually "yes, he did, you just didn't see it or believe it. But you were young. So, it’s OK."
I still go back to that night at the pool, trying to remember what we talked about but all I remember is being in his orbit for that time and wondering when he would try and touch me and me expecting, wanting, to melt into him. I was angry enough to forget him or push it all aside... in favor of what? Worse emotions.
He was good, really. He was. He was never mean to me, never carelessly cruel or angry. He was kind - which was unusual for a boy of 18 who had probably been bullied far worse than me. He was kind and young, but on the other side of the glass from me, now perpetually.