Please, read and leave a comment.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Wingman, Part 1

“Get Over Your Socially-Crippling Shyness”

I first saw the flier posted on the bulletin board in the psychology building. Below the heading, the picture caught my attention: a cartoon full of colorful, smiling stick figures standing in small groups or sitting around some round tables. There were symbols inside of the dialogue bubbles that suggested the topic of their conversations. Standing in the middle of this room (which looked very much like the layout of the dorm’s cafeteria) was this frowning black stick figure with a tear coming down one cheek. It was like the artist had sliced open my brain, pulled out the content of my worst nightmare, and splattered it down on paper and left it there for everybody to see.

For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the seminar that the flier was advertising. Like most decisions in my life, there were two parts of me always in conflict, two little mini-me standing on my shoulders, persuading me to take their side.

On one shoulder, I heard, “You’re never going to get far in life if you don’t become more outgoing. You need to go to this seminar. It is the most important thing you could do for yourself right now, and it will the most rewarding experience of your life.”

On the other side, I could hear, “A seminar for people who are deathly afraid of social situations. Hmm, who the hell would attend that? Isn’t that like taking a blind person to the Grand Canyon, or asking a deaf person to translate over the phone? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

It would take several more times of passing by those fliers all around campus (ten to be exact) that I finally decided to take the giant leap and go to the seminar.

The flier said we were supposed to meet at the conference room at the Student Union at 6 PM on Friday. I arrived at the building at 5:45. Afraid to be the first one and even more afraid to be the only one who showed up, I walked around the hallways, passing by the conference room several times until I saw people walking in. At six, I finally went in.

The turnout was pretty decent, exactly 15 people, 9 men and 6 women. Everyone sat around the large rectangular table; I sat at a corner nearest to the door. Already some people were striking casual conversations with each other; I had a hard time believing they actually needed this ‘support group.’

At 6:05, one of the person who was talking…an attractive lady in a greenish-gray pantsuit…stood in front of the room and introduced herself as Dr. Mary Lake, an associate professor in the Psychology Department. She talked a little about herself, about how she used to be shy too, and how through her research, she had learned a few things to overcome her public phobias. And now she’s hear to help us.

Soon, it was time to introduce ourselves. I considered walking out at that moment, but remained seated. Listening to the the stories, I was actually very touched and inspired to know that many other folks faced the same problems and are nagged by the same thoughts as I do when it comes to talking to new people. It was also interesting to learn how they came to the decision of going to this seminar.

When it was my turn to speak, I was shaking in my seat, “I…uh…went here because…um…I thought there would be cookies.”

Those who know me (those I’ve been comfortable enough around) knew that I don’t speak much. But when I do, I usually rely on sarcasm or wisecracking to draw some chuckles. Indeed, the comment was successful at that front.

After the introductions, Dr. Lake said, “Well, my philosophy has always been…if you go at something, you go at it all the way. We’re not going to take baby-steps here to help you guys overcome your fears; we’re not going to dip our pinky toes in the water. We will immerse our whole selves into that social ocean at once. That’s how we’re going to do it. So let’s all get out of this cramped room and go downstairs to the cafeteria…where, you guessed it, there are LOTS of people.”

As we walked, Dr. Lake explained her social experiment, “I’ve recruited ten people to sit or stand by themselves around the cafeteria. You have two options. You can either talk to somebody in this group, or you can walk to one of my stand-ins and strike up a conversation with them. Simple as that.”

My stomach turned at the thought of walking up to a complete stranger and awkwardly introducing myself and trying to find something to talk about. Some guy walking behind me asked what was on my mind, “What if we have nothing to talk about.”

Dr. Lake replied, “All of you are students at this university. So there, you’ve got one thing in common. You can talk about just the most mundane things…like what classes your taking, do you like our sports team? It doesn’t have to be a deep philosophical dialogue. Sometimes you’ll find that chatting about something as simple as the weather will lead to greater, more interesting topics. Just let the conversation flow naturally.” She pushed through the double doors of the cafeteria, “And here we are…”

Many of us in the group were surprised when we realized that there weren’t just ten people in the cafeteria; there were all the other hundreds of dorm students who were eating dinner as well. “How do we know which ones are the stand-in?” asked a girl who spoke my thought.

“Well, I can tell you they are supposed to be sitting by themselves and that they’re not supposed to leave until 7:30. Also, if you ask them about this experiment, they will pretend not to know what you’re talking about. So the real fun is just to get over your nerves and just talk to anybody. Preferably, somebody you don't know. Now go get your food and start mingling. Remember, I’ll be observing you.”

I stood in the longest line to get some food in hopes of delaying the inevitable. When it was my turn to order, I thought about what would be the longest, most complicated thing to make on the menu. From experience, I knew the answer was popcorn shrimp wrap. Because so very few people order popcorn shrimp, they never make it until it is ordered. So I knew that would be at least five minutes of thawing and frying time. Then they would have to wrap the seafood according to my choice of vegetables and sauce (which was everything)! It took no less than fifteen minutes for the wrap to arrive on my plate.

Now, I had to find someone to talk to. As I surveyed the eating area, I could spot some people sitting alone. Some were inhaling their food like air, so I knew they weren’t here to stick around. Other I’ve seen several times before eating by themselves, so they couldn’t be one of the recruited.

Frequently, my head turned towards the direction of this cute brown-haired guy sitting by one of the windows. He was sitting by himself, alright. And he was eating slowly, which was another good sign. And he kept looking around as if he was seeing if somebody wanted to sit by him. Perhaps the most important factor was that he was incredible good-looking…which meant that if he had a choice, he would probably be swarmed by girls and surrounded by his fellow fraternity friends.

So, here was the chance for me to talk to a guy way out of my league, with the comfort of knowing that he was probably getting paid to pretend to be interested in talking to me. As I walked closer and closer to his table, I could see Dr. Lake at the corner of my eye, looking at me intensely.

“Um, may I sit here?” I asked.

He smiled the most brilliant smile and nodded, “Yeah, sure. My friends ditched me for Pizza Hut, and I’m stuck here eating dorm food.” He extended his arm, “I’m Luke.”

“I’m Kenny.” I shook his hand. God, he had such a nice firm shake.

“You got the popcorn shrimp wrap too?” He asked.

“Yeah. I don't like it very much.”

He nodded, “Yeah, I know. This shit tastes horrible, but I love ordering it. Cuz it's too damn funny to see the cook's reaction when they read it the order slip."

“It’s a bonus when they cuss…” I interjected.


We laughed in agreement; I guess it helped break the tension. As our conversation meandered into other areas, including where we lived, what major and classes we were taking, the unseasonably cool summer we had, our hobbies, I was getting more and more comfortable talking to him. He was just an amazingly charming, easy-going guy. But when we got to the subject of what we liked to do downtown, I knew it would lead to a topic I didn’t want to talk about.

“I like to window shop, and watch independent movies at the Art Cinema.” I told him.

“That’s cool,” he nodded, “What bars do you usually go to?”

“I don’t usually go to bars.”

“Really? Have you ever been to a bar?”

“Yeah, one, once. But I don’t drink.”

“Wow, that’s cool…I guess." He nodded, "Can I ask why?"

"My dad used to beat me when he got drunk."

His eyes flared out for a moment, "Really?"

"No," I said, "But I've found that an abuse story actually sounds less odd to other people than saying I don't drink because I simply don't want to."

"You're right." He guffawed, "That does sound odder. So, what sports are you into?”

I resisted rolling my eyes, another topic I didn't want to go into, “As a casual spectator, I enjoy the major events like the super bowl or NCAA championship. But I don’t really follow it anything intensely.. And I don’t play any sports.”

From my experience, I knew that my lack of enthusiasm for sports was gonna kill the conversation immediately. Luke squeezed his lips tightly together and nodded, trying to find words as to not put me down, “Well, sports isn’t for everybody. I like it because it keeps me fit. But I’m not too competitive, really, I just play whatever ball I want to throw around that day.”

There was a lull in our conversation as he looked out the window.

After a moment, he blurted, “Damn, that girl is hot.” He pointed out the window, and I could see her. She was wearing a sports bra and black shorts, with an iPod strap on her left arm.

“She looks very fit,” I commented.

“Fit! Hell, did you see that booty? Lord have mercy, I wanna do so many things to her she won’t know left from right, up from down when I’m done with her.”

I efforted a slight chuckle. He studied me carefully, “Can I ask you something personal? You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

I gulped and nodded. Yeah, from all the cues I’ve been throwing out, I was sure he had an inkling about my sexual orientation.

“Are you a virgin?” he asked.

It was a question of sexual nature, but it wasn't the one I expected. I guess I had the same answer for both, “Yes.”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “I can tell. You’re very tense. You need to get laid, man.”

“Well, that’s not a great chance of that…considering everything about me.”

“What about you?” He asked, “I think you’re a cute guy. You just need a little make-over and a boost in confidence, and you’ll get all the babes you want.”

Did he just comment on my looks?

"Ya know what, why don’t you go to Fat Joe's tonight at 10 and I’ll hook you up. I know this girl who is crazy about virgins. And I know she’s gonna love you.”

"Um..." was my response.

"Or, you can just pick out a girl you want to take home and I'll teach you how to talk to her."

"Is this part of the experiment?" I asked.

"What experiment?" he chuckled.

"I really appreciate it, but why are you suggesting this?"

"Because man, you're a cool guy. I want to help you because I can help you. Cuz let me tell you...some guys, I just can't help. They're miserable fools who are gonna be lonely for the rest of their lives. But you have potential, lots of potential. So how about it, I see you at Fat Joe's at 10?"

I nodded slowly.

He checked his watch. It was 7:30. “Alright, I’m outta here. Take it easy now. I better see you there.”

I watched as he stood up and left. For the first time, I realize that he was not only pretty but tall. Probably 6 foot 3. Deep, crescent moon eyes gave him such a sexy, mysterious persona. I could see from his V-neck shirt that he had a perfectly fit body. And because he was wearing shorts, I could see his beautiful long, muscled legs. That jogging girl had nothing compared to the ridiculous ass on him. I didn't bother being discreet, staring at him until he disappeared completely around the corner.

Dr. Lake saw that he left and asked, “So, how was your conversation?”

“We hit a few rough patches. But it went well overall. He was very nice throughout, even when he realized we didn’t have much in common. He was never patronizing to me. I guess you should give him an A+ if he’s getting graded for this, or however he's getting compensated.”

“He’s not one of my stand-ins,” she chuckled.

I dropped my jaw. Holy shit!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Kissing Booth Part 1

*This story exists in Another World, where sexuality is not limited to any particular gender. Bisexuality is quite normal, especially for teenagers who are still exploring their mating preference. However, social rules still determines who people should or shouldn't date, and those rules are most strictest in the high school setting!*

I've waited for half an hour, yet nineteen people were still in front of me, countless more behind. We were standing in the school's auditorium. Waiting! Longing! Dying to have a chance to kiss Dean Riley.

Dean reapplied his chap stick. The girl at the front of the line stepped up to the booth and placed a dollar on the table. With a brilliant smile, he leaned forward and gently lifted her chin with a finger. He closed his eyes, puckered his lips, and kissed her. The girl's knees buckled upon the apparently potent kiss, but he held her steady in his arms. The fifteen seconds dragged on for everyone standing in line, but I'm sure for the girl, it wasn't nearly long enough.

The room seemed ten times brighter when he opened his eyes again, revealing the bright royal blues that had captivated me since the first day of my freshman year. Licking his lips, he greeted his next client with a smile that was both infectious and addictive.

Three more people stumbled away from the booth, intoxicated and satisfied.

Then it was Chelsi Riley's turn. She was one of the most popular girls in school, for many reasons. First of all, she was a hot blonde cheerleader with big boobs; even I found her attractive. Far from the stereotypical cheerleader though, she was also smart and genuinely nice to everyone. She had the respect and admiration of both geeks and popular kids alike. Yes, Chelsi Riley was very popular, but perhaps the thing that made her most popular was the fact that she was the younger sister of the most popular senior in school.

Dean chuckled, shaking his head, “I’m not going to kiss you, Chelsi.”

Chelsi grimaced, sticking out her tongue, "Don't make me barf!"

"Then what are you here for?"

“Doing everyone in line a favor. Hundred dollars to take your shirt off for an hour.”

The crowd roared with approval.

Dean ran a hand through his tussled brown hair, "I can't do that!"

"Why not? Did you see Jesse's and Jason's lines when they did this?"

Dean shook his head.

Chelsi continued, "Well, your line is like a dot compared to theirs. The only way you can catch up now is to whip your shirt off. You don't wanna lose face when they count your earnings, do you?"

That was a total lie. Jesse and Jason were Dean's friends and very popular jocks as well. But I saw their lines the other days. Their earnings for the two hours combined probably didn't even come close to Dean's in this first half hour. And they were shirtless the whole way through!

"You should know me better that. This ain't a competition to me. I signed up to help the charity."

"Well, if you're gonna be all Gandhi about it. Think if of it this way. A hundred dollars is twenty minute-long kisses, or twenty more bowls of hot soup for the homeless."

“You got me!” The gorgeous senior shrugged and pulled his sweater over his head, only to expose a tight white wife-beater underneath. “But this is the best I can do…”

Even though he wasn’t completely shirtless, we could all still see the hard squareness of his chest and the tightness of his abs and, of course, the length and tone of his amazing arms. It was a miracle I hadn't collapsed and knocked down everyone in front of me.

Being in different grades, I didn't really share any classes with Dean. But his Advanced PE class was at the same hour as my Freshman PE so we used the locker room at the same time. Though his locker was three rows behind mine, I definitely took a lot of walks to the bathroom just to take a peak at him when he's changing.

Five times I saw him in a state of undress!

Yes, I counted, five times! Totaling not more than fifteen seconds. But each of those five times was a whole new experience, as I discover more and more beautiful things about his sculpted physique.

"Guess my job here is done! I'll be helping Mrs. Pierce in the Chemistry lab if anyone cares to know! Ta-ta." With a little wave, Chelsi made her flashy exit off the stage.

When I was 10th in line, Dean said he had to take a quick bathroom break. We all groaned and whined; perhaps I whined the loudest. The thought of sneaking in the bathroom to watch him do his thing quickly fleeted across my mind. That wouldn't been a bad idea. The line was as long as ever, and I did not want to give up my spot.

When he returned, the line started moving quickly again. Nineth in line: I was more nervous than ever. Eighth: I was hot and sweaty. Seventh: I needed a drink badly, but getting one requires me leaving the line. Sixth: My head was going to explode!

Levi Sanders, a guy that I study with, approached me when I was fifth in line. He was pretty cute for a red-headed, freckle-faced bookworm. “You’re still in line?”


“You know how stupid this is?” Levi said, “You’re not just gonna be kissing him. You’re gonna be kissing everyone in this place. It’s a sick, fucked up idea. I can’t believe the school would allow such a thing. It’s practically prostitution.”

I rolled my eyes, “Don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed about kissing Dean Riley.”

“Fuck yeah I have. But I want my kiss to be special. Not something so artificial as standing on an assembly line.”

“Sorry, but I know I’ll never have the chance in real life…”

“Whatever…” He shook his head, "I don't think I can look at you the same way after this..."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

Levi left before I could get an answer out of him.

And now I was third in line, and I couldn’t help but think about what Levi said. There may be a great chance that I would catch herpes or mono or something, and it did feel way too unnatural to line up like this for a quick meaningless smooch.

Darlene, the big girl in front of the line had just put on lipstick, and now she was going to mess it all up on the face of that gorgeous hunk behind the booth. As Dean leaned forward to greet her, she clutched his face in her hands and started to snog him. From where I was standing, I could definitely tell she was forcing her tongue deep in his mouth. Dean's eyes were open the whole time as he was shock by the sheer will and guts of this strong woman. When she released his face, Dean almost fell forward, breathing heavily as he exclaimed, "Wow, Darlene. One thing's for sure! You took my breath away."

Dean looked as cute as ever with the lipstick smear around his mouth. I was now second in line. Charlie, the guy in front of me stepped up to the booth. He complained that he didn't like kissing lipstick. Darlene grumbled as Dean tried his best to wipe his mouth with a Kleenex. Charlie still saw smudges and had the audacity to ask Dean to wash his face in the bathroom. Always aiming to please, Dean agreed and excused himself once again.

As we waited, Darlene and Charlie had an argument, which quickly became heated with a lot of name calling and finger flicking. It only served as a blatant reminder that everyone had their ideal image of their kiss with Dean. And that my kiss with Dean would be much much more special for me than it would be for him.

When Dean returned to the booth, lip-stick-smudge-free, the two quickly stopped arguing. (They didn't want to show their bitchy side in front of Dean)

As Charlie got his perfect kiss, Darlene shook her head and made silly faces. Standing beside me, she whispered snide comments into my ears, "Look at Dean. He's too afraid to kiss that loser. Like kissing his grandpa, or something..."

I didn't think it was all that funny, but I nodded and issued a little chuckle just to stay on her good side. At six feet, 210 lbs, you really don't want to get on the bad side of Darlene. I wouldn't be surprised if Charlie came to school tomorrow with two black eyes.

The minute was up. As Dean pulled away, Charlie pulled out another five dollar bill.

Dean shook his head, "Sorry, you'll have to get back in line!"

And now, it was my turn!

Trying to ignore the evil eye Charlie was giving me, I walked to the booth as if walking on needles. “Hi…um…Dean,” I could barely get anything out, “I…here to…um…pay…I mean, receive…a kiss…I mean I would like you to kiss me…”

He smiled, “Well, it would be an awfully long wait just to say HI.”

I laughed nervously, topping it off with an embarrassing snort.

“Are you…um…Nick?” he asked.

That was almost too much. He actually knew my name!? We didn't have a class together, and he knew my name. He was a senior and I was a freshman, but he knew my name. He was the most popular guy in school, and I was a loser geek, and he knew my name!

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“Heard the coach called on you in the locker room…”


“It was really brave what you did…standing up to Jason Rogers. I respect that a lot.”

“Thanks, it was nothing.” Actually, it meant everything that he noticed.

Jason was a bully among the jocks; overly brawny and rough-faced, far from the natural perfection that was Dean Riley. Jason's prey were scrawny freshmen. He loves to drag them into the showers and turn on the hot water to drench their clothes. As they scrambled out of the showers, he would take their backpack and hide it. Fortunately for me, I managed to stay out of his radar and had never been his victim...that was until I stupidly decided to help out Joey, the most timid little kid on the planet.

Being picked on once for being a freshman nerd is pretty much a tradition or ritual at school, but Jason was always out to get Joey for some reason. It got to the point that Joey never changed after PE, unless we had swimming excercises.

As for the infamous incident, Jason was trying to push Joey into a dusty old locker in the back corner where nobody ever uses. Joey was asthmatic and claustrophobic so I knew this was very dangerous for him. After failing to stop Jason with verbal reasoning, I tried using force, pulling the bully away from the lockers. But of course, Jason easily pushed me to the ground with his humongous arm. I got up and tried to stop him again.

My PE teacher heard the commotion and came to check it out. At first I was relieved to see an adult who could put Jason in his place. But instead of yelling at Jason, my PE teacher began berating me. He said that I wouldn't receive my points for the day for trying to push Jason. I explained to the teacher what he failed to see, but he merely shrugged and quietly told Jason to get Joey out of the locker. He didn't reprimand the bully at all.

Jason was a wrestling star; my PE teacher was the wrestling coach. You do the math!

"I heard Jason swearing to get back at you." Dean said, "Did that ever happen?"

"No..." I said, "He gives me this ugly look every time he sees me, but he's never hurt me."

"That's good to hear," Dean smiled, "I guess my talk with him wasn't futile after all!"

"Wait?" I dropped my jaw, "You told him not to pick on me?"

He nodded. My eyes watered, and for the life of me, I couldn't hold back the single tear that streamed down. The most amazing guy in the world had done something so great for me, practically saved my life, and I didn't even know it until now.

With a thumb, he gently brushed away the tear. I closed my eyes; my heart melted by his touch.

“So what will it be?” he asked. “One or Five?”

I pulled out a wadded five dollar bill and laid it on the table. He smiled, leaned forward, and once again stroked the side of my face.

I closed my eyes and pursed my lips. The anticipation was too much. This would not just be my first kiss with Dean Riley; this would be my first kiss ever!

Dean chuckled, "Hold on. Your mouth looks parched. Would you like some water?"

I opened my eyes, blushed, and nodded. My lips were definitely dry and chapped; my mouth like a desert.

He handed me a bottled water and I took three big gulps.

Now, onto the kiss...

I closed my eyes again and parted my lips once more. I could feel his breath on me now as he slowly leaned forward. I felt his nose graze against mine. His hand running down my neck already sent shivers along my spine. My heart was beating so loudly; I wonder if it was still in my rib cage. My stomach churned; I thought I might hurl.

Just as I felt the slightest touch of his lips on mine, a hideous loud sound startled us. Dean quickly pulled away. I opened my eyes again, and could see everyone was cursing behind me. The principal approached the line and told everyone to walk out to the nearest exit. There was a fire alarm!

*I know I shouldn't make promises, but there is a greater chance that this story will be continued as I'm almost halfway done with the second part*

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Office Romance: Part One

*Please note, I'm using pictures of James Scott to give the readers an image of how I imagine the guy in the story. However, to stress that this is fiction, I am using a name that may be familiar to his Daytime Soap fans*

Fresh out of college, I was ready to take on the world. Graduating with honors at top of my class, with a degree at one of the nation's finest business schools, I saw Mr. Opportunity opening up all the doors and windows for me. I saw no limit in what I could do and how well I could do them. In ten years, I was gonna be a millionaire. In fifteen years, a billionaire.

I had many job offers even when I was still in school, though I declined all of them. I was a virgin in this world of business, and I was waiting for the 'right one.' I wasn't gonna just settle for any old position at any old company. No! If I were to give a lifetime of work to a company, I had sort through the mediocre opportunities to find that 'special something.'

Yes, I was a bit too proud of myself for my own good. When I finally came around to choosing, I was too late; all the companies had filled the available positions. Now six months out of college, with the student loans catching up to me, taking up a job I could gotten with just a high school diploma, I came to realize life just isn't as easy as I planned.

My shitty old car broke down one day, and I didn't have enough money to fix it. So for several weeks I had to commute to work on feet. Cutting across the local park didn't exactly save me time nor distance, but it was definitely a more scenic route than the other option: a walk through district marred with empty lots and rusty, abandoned factories. Besides, I did enjoy some of the major eye candy that the fresh air of the early morning often calls out.

One morning, while halfway to work, thinking about all those missed opportunities, my heart suddenly filled hot black lead. I legs wouldn't take me any further, and sat down on a bench to sulk, my head in my hands, my heart at the pit of my stomach. I was so not in the mood to go to work that day.

When I felt the wooden bench move slightly, I lifted my head and looked to my left and saw an incredibly handsome guy sitting at the other end. I had noticed him many times before. Of all the eye candy in the park, he was most delicious. Soulful almond eyes, a tall nose, sexy thin lips filled the structure of his long rectangular face, topped with a nice set of short brown hair. In that semi-open white shirt and tan pants, he was a hunk like no other.

Seeing me staring at him with my jaw to the ground, he grinned and asked, "Mind if I sit here?"

I shook my head.

"You're shaking your head...No, you don't mind. Or No, I can't sit here." With that deep voice and a British accent, this guy was robbing my heart with little to no effort.

"No, I don't mind."
Heck, you could sit a lot closer if you wanted...

As if reading my mind, he scooted towards me. His fresh scent intoxicated me. Putting out a hand, he introduced himself, "Ethan Wells."

"Hu...da...te..." was my exact reply. Clearing the lump from my throat, I shook his hand, "Levi Johnson."

Strong, firm, confident. If a handshake really told how a person is, well, this guy wast the best I've ever shaken.

"Mind me asking...why you're so glum?"

Usually, I wouldn't want to tell a complete stranger why I failed at life, but damn this guy was cute! I wanted him to stay near me for as long as possible. Taking a deep breath, and releasing all of it in a big sigh, I began to tell him my situation. He seemed to listen intently, nodding along, making a few comments here and there.

And at the end of my lament, he pulled out a business card from his wallet and handed it to me. I read it and almost fell off the bench. It was for a company based in the city, known for their state-of-the-art high-tech gadgetry production. It was one of the companies that had contacted me while I was still in school, a company I turned down because I thought I needed a whole other degree in engineering to be able to know what the heck I would be selling.

"I read about you in the newspaper. I was the bloke who recommended you to my boss last time," he said.

", you did?" Too many emotions rushed at my heart at once, "I'm so sorry. I can't believe I turned it down."

"Second chances don't come that often, especially in the business world," he said, "Well, go over there this afternoon...and tell them Ethan referred you...again."

With a wink and a sexy grin, he stood up, and I took in for the first time his staggering height. When I shook hands with him, thanking him over and over again, I didn't want to let go. I would kiss his hands if it wasn't too weird.

"Don't thank me yet," he chuckled, "You'll have to get through the interview first. And I swear, it's gonna be brutal."

With that, he took off, jogging down the wide open lane. I couldn't help admiring his tan calves, round sexy buttocks, and his overall stature as he slowly disappeared into the horizon.

*I'm breaking this story into five to six short segments. Check back in a couple of days for the second part*

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Boy Next Door

That fateful afternoon, the unbelievably cute boy next door caught me staring out from my bedroom window, drooling as I watched him play basketball with his friends. I thought my life was over when he crossed the street to my house and talked to my mother. To my surprise, he wasn't mad at all. Instead, he invited me over to shoot hoops with him and his friends.

Since then, I started to hang out with Parker a lot more, especially during the summer. Most of the time, that also meant having to hang out with his friends. They were all nice-looking, jock-type guys, but none could compare to the perfection that was Parker Gregory. Three of his closest friends...Bill, Bruce, and Brandon...seemed decent enough. They didn't bother to talk to me much, but at least they passed me the basketball from time to time and didn't laugh when I missed a basket. It was the fourth guy, Jimmy, that seemed to hate me. He never wanted to be on my team, always gave me this evil look, dissecting me with his eyes, and always found opportunities to 'accidently' knock me to the ground. It got to the point when I had to turn down Parker's invitations when I knew Jimmy was there.

It should come as no surprise...I cherished every moment I had alone with Parker, the dreamiest guy this side of heaven, to be closer to him than I dared with his friends around. He was always a friendly, outgoing guy, but he seemed to open up even more when it was just the two of us. On his return from the evening jog, I would always be waiting by his house with a glass of ice-cold lemonade. With the summer breeze, I usually smelled his sweet cologne before I saw him turn the corner to our street. Seeing me, he always waved and smiled...a smile that always thrilled my heart. Taking the glass, he chugged it down and exhaled a satisfied 'ahh.' Most of the time, he thanked me with a nudge to my cheek. But this time, he swept the bangs off my face and lifted up my head. I trembled and closed my eyes, ready to collapse in bliss as I felt his lips on my forehead.

I have no idea what went over me when I asked one day, "I only ever hang out with your friends. Why don't you introduce me to your girlfriend?"

He thought about it and shrugged, "Alright. I just didn't think you'd be interested cause all Michelle and I do is walk around the park, wasting time. There wouldn't be much for you to do."

And he was exactly right. I hated every hellish second of it. Michelle was a pretty girl, very friendly, and in every way, perfect for him. But I couldn't help feeling jealous when he gave her a piggy-back ride, or when they locked lips every other freakin' second. I wanted to scream every time they whispered lovey-dovey words into each other's ears. Every time he said something, she always laughed, even when it wasn't meant to be funny. Her cute soft laughter grew into the most irritating sound in the world. I thought of shoving an apple in her mouth to stop that incessant squeak. I kicked a few rocks at her feet, and if I had better aim, I'm sure she would've tripped and fall on her pretty-little face. I hated that I was practically invisible to him when she was around. After an hour, I had enough and ran straight home. I didn't think Parker noticed or cared.

The next afternoon, he came over to my house and apologized for ignoring me the evening before. This was his explanation, "Haven't you ever been with somebody you just can't get enough of? That you always want to have them in your arms, and their arms around you? Someone so great in your life you feel you'll crumble if you try to live one day without them?"

I looked straight into his eyes and nodded. YOU...I wanted to tell him, but refrained.

To make it up to me, he invited me to jog with him, promising to show me the secret scenic route he took along the creek. Parker had told me once that he only liked to jog alone; it was his time to think, to reflect on his life's fortune, to plan his future and set goals for himself. He's never invited anybody, not even his closest friends, to jog with him before. So the fact that he asked me was very much an honor. I accepted and immediately changed into running shorts and a fit white T-shirt.

Starting from our street, we turned a right down the main road of the neighborhood. If we kept going straight, we'd come to a major intersection. Instead, he veered off into a dirt path leading to the woods area surrounding the suburban neighborhood. This was the path I took to my school. I had never ventured any further into the woods in fear of the story about the rural farmer who hunts down people who trespasses his territory and skins them alive. But that evening, with the taller, stronger boy beside me, I felt totally safe.

Parker said the route was scenic, but I couldn't imagine it being this beautiful. The babbling brook to our right gleamed from the sunlight, shining onto the smooth stones at the bottom. The green foliage of the trees towered majestically above us, filtering out the intensity of the sun, allowing only the softest rays to warm our skins. As we ventured deeper into the woods, the stiller the wind, the stiller the surrounding, so it almost felt like we were running through a painting of nature.

At the end of the trail, we came to an open area, where the creek poured into a small lake. I welcomed the feel of the wind on my damp skin and admired the splendidness I saw before me. The myriad wild flowers that spotted the pasture with all the shades of the rainbow. The colorful birds hovering over us, chirping with such delightful tunes. Wow, I lived in the neighborhood all my life, and such beauty I failed to explore...all because of a dumb story probably concocted by those who wanted to keep this beautiful place a secret. I was so glad that Parker, whose beauty very well matched the scenery, had taken me here.

Something darted out from the the trees right in front of me, and I clung to Parker's side. Feeling quite embarrassed when I saw that it was just a deer; I still did not want to part from the comfort of his body next to mine. But I knew I had to let go of him before things got awkward, so I did, much to my displeasure.

Running around the perimeter of the lake, we were now heading back home. We entered the woods again, this time, on the opposite side of the stream, running against the current. The trail was much bumpier and hillier on this side, filled with at least a dozen ditches we had to jump over. I guess if you want to end your jog on a cardiovascular high, this would be the way to do it.

A deafening scream came somewhere from my right, sending shivers down my spine. My first thought was the homicidal farmer, or his victim trying to warn us to run away. Parker stopped in his track and squinted his eyes in the direction of the scream. He saw something I apparently didn't, and pointed in the direction that we followed. Cutting across the thick trees, dodging branches and thorns, I stayed close to him, fearing snakes and other creatures hidden in low-lying shrubs.

"Please, stop!" I could hear the guy pleading. It was a very familiar voice.
"Shut the fuck up, you bitch." It was another very familiar voice.

As we came closer and closer to the clearing, I soon realized this was it...this has got to be the back area of the farm in the scary legend. I tried to tug at Parker's arm and tell him to go back, but we kept on going toward the clearing.

As the victim continued to scream, I could almost hear the blood he was coughing up. Whoever was beating him up sounded more and more familiar with every curse. When I finally came close enough to see the incident, I saw the victim lying on the ground, shielding his face with his hand. Then I realized his attacker was not a cranky old farmer, but three teenage boys. It took me a moment to realize they were not just any teenage boys, but Parker's three closest friends.

"What the heck are you guys doing?" Parker shouted, pushing through Bill, Bruce, and Brandon. He kneeled down at their victim and slowly turned him over. "Hey, are you alright?"

Though the boy's face was red as grapefruit pulp, though I could barely see the slits in his eyes, though his jaw misaligned, I recognized the victim by his curly red hair. Jimmy. The guy who hated me, who taunted me whenever I came in five feet of Parker. The guy who farted on the ball the one time he actually passed it to me. I almost felt happy to see him like that, but I quickly became disgusted with myself.

"Jimmy, oh god, Jimmy. All you alright?" Parker asked.

Jimmy coughed up more blood and shook his head.

Parker shot his head up at the three Bs, "What the fuck, you guys? Why the fuck did you do this?"

"He's a fucking faggot...that's why!" Bill answered, "He's getting what he deserves!"

"Don't touch him Parker," Bruce said, "That queer has a crush on you!"

"Jimmy was gonna come out to you." Brandon explained, "He wanted you to dump Michelle for him. He was gonna catch you during your jog and make a move on you. Can you believe that faggot? We had to stop him before he did anything."

"So?" Parker shouted, "I could have turned him down myself. You did not have to do this!"

"Well, guess who else is a queer around here?" Bill pointed at me.

I stopped in mid-breathing. My heart stopped too. The world around me stopped as Parker turned his head towards me. "Is that true?"

I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

"Of course, it's true." Bruce laughed, "Jimmy told us. He saw how this kid was looking at you. Always trying to get so close to you. He even gets a little boner whenever you take your shirt off."

"Shut up!" Parker shouted, "I wanna hear from him! Is it true, Kenny, do you like me that way?"

Tears welled in my eyes; I fought to keep them from streaming down. Though my mouth ran dry, I manage to force out a "yes..."

Parker's face was unreadable upon my answer. A deafening silence stretched on forever. He looked down at Jimmy and shook his head. When he looked up at me again, a look of flabbergast frustration filled his face. Then he waved me forward.

Slowly, step by step, I approached him and Jimmy, trying to steer clear of the three Bs as far as possible. When I came close enough, he reached out and gently grab my wrist. "Jimmy and Parker are my friends. So if you want to hurt any of them from now on, you're gonna have to go through me."

"Dude! Parker!" exclaimed Brandon, "We fucking did this for you. Why the fuck are you doing this to us, man? We're your best friends since childhood. You barely even know those two for a year."

"I'd rather have them as friends than you three assholes. What you guys did was wrong. I'm calling the authority. Get out of here while you still can!" Parker pulled out a cell phone from his pant pocket.

"Shit man!" Bill yelled as he ran over to Parker, knocking him on the ground, and taking his cell phone. With that, the three of them ran and disappeared into the forest.

Parker picked himself up and kneeled beside Jimmy again, "We can't risk moving you if any of your bones are broken. I'm gonna run and get help, alright. Kenny will stay with you until I get back."

I expected Parker to ran through the forest, back to the neighborhood, but instead, he ran down along the edge of the field. I shouted, "What are you doing Parker? This is private property...someone might shoot you before you get a chance to explain..." But with lightning speed, he had already zoomed out of hearing distance.

"Don't worry," Jimmy coughed, "My grandpop owns this land. He knows Parker."

"Does your grandfather hunt down trespassers and skin them alive?"

Jimmy snorted, "Ow...laughing hurts. No, I started the rumor so people would stop tipping our cows in the middle of the night."

"So all this time, I've been afraid to explore the woods for nothing..."

"I'm sorry."

"It's no big deal. I rarely get out of my house anyway..."

"No, I mean, I'm sorry I was so rude to you when we were hanging out with Parker. I knew how much you like him...and I got jealous. You're a nice kid. You didn't deserve my torment."

"No, I understand." I really did. I thought about last evening, when I was kicking rocks at Michelle's feet, hoping she'd trip and fall ungracefully. It was all jealousy, and the mean-spirited things we would do to nice people just to vie for the attention of someone we liked. Though he was four years older, Jimmy and I were essentially the same....we both fell for a boy we could never have.

Parker returned minutes later with Jimmy's grandfather, and the ambulance arrived shortly after that. Jimmy's grandfather drove us to the hospital and we stayed with Jimmy in the ER. We talked to the police, and made sure that Jimmy was alright, and finally left the hospital at 10 pm. During the cab ride home, there was total silence. Parker didn't know what to say to me, nor did I to him.

"Bye," we said simply as we got out of the cab and headed to our respective houses.

When I walked in, my parents and sister immediately surround me and asked if I was alright. I said I was fine, and headed straight to my room. I didn't want to leave my room ever again! I cried into my pillow and fell asleep.

I woke up to the sound of tapping on my window. I looked at the was 1 AM. Wiping drool from my mouth and sleep from my eyes, I rolled out of bed and pulled up the blinds. There was Parker standing outside my window.

"What are you doing here?" I whispered, hoping my parents couldn't hear in the next room.

"I can't sleep!" he said.

"Why can't you? The doctor said Jimmy will be okay."

"It's not that," Parker sighed, "My tummy won't let me rest until it's satiated. And only your lemonade can do the job."

"You don't get lemonade," I stuck out my tongue, "Cause you ain't finished your jog yet!"

"Alrighty. I'll go run. By the time I get back, you better be out here." As he disappeared into the dark, I tiptoed out of my room, down the hall, into the kitchen and fetch the pitcher and lemons. When I saw his flashlight bouncing down the street, I was standing in front of his driveway with the glass of lemonade. When he stopped and stretch, I handed him the drink. He chugged it down in seconds and let out a refreshing 'ahh.'

"Thanks," he said, brushing the bangs away from my face. As he lifted my head, I closed my eyes, expecting another kiss to the forehead. Instead, his lips tapped my lips. The kiss wasn't more than half a second, yet it lasted much much longer in my heart. "If I were into guys," he said softly, "I know I would fall so hard for you."

"Really?" I asked dreamily.

He nodded, "Definitely!" In a world full of chaos and misery, hate and jealousy, Parker simply smiled and made everything better again.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

"Hurry your ass up, Carlson!"

"Yes, sir, Sergeant!" he shouted, but made no effort to hasten. Under the slow stream of cold water issuing from a small pipe, he leisurely lathered the suds off his well-defined arms and hummed Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back. Water streamed down his muscled back and swooped off his tight, round buttocks. If I didn't know any better, I swear he was making his asscheeks dance to entice me. Turning around to face me, he massaged his chest and abs with one hand, and with the other, rubbed his dick squeaky clean. I made little effort to hide the fact that I was watching. We were all pretty comfortable showering naked in front of each other by now. As long as I keep my eyes level with his, and didn't make a sexual advancement, and as long as my cock stayed flaccid, looking wasn't such a big deal.

"Seriously, Dave. Conserve water, will you?"

He laughed, "Will do, Kenny."

I hailed from a small town in Ohio, and Dave was from NYC. I grew up as one of seven children in a strict Catholic family; he was a rich only child living on the 27th floor of some apartment next to Central Park. I joined the army hoping to open many doors in my future; he joined 'cause it was his family's tradition to serve. Our backgrounds made no difference whatsoever when we met six months ago. We just hit it off; everything clicked. We became the inseparable duo. When placed on special missions, we always made sure we were assigned together.

"Meet you back at the tent..."

"Yes, Sergeant, sir, Johnson, sir. Sergeant Johson, sir!" he mocked. I was only promoted two weeks ago over him, so I guess repeating the title of my rank was his way of expressing envy.

I cleared my throat, "You know it's mail time, right?"

With big wide eyes, he shook off the last remaining suds, "Shit, why didn't you tell me?" He didn't even bother to dry off...just jumped into his pants and dashed out of the stall.

That did the trick, I smiled proudly at myself.

When I walked back to the tent, carrying the bag of letters, the men quickly stood up beside their cots, eagerly awaiting messages from their loved ones. Without calling their names, I just chucked the mails at them, amused at how the letters hit their chest and drop to the floor. "At ease," I laughed, watching each man stoop down to pick up their letters, and laughed even harder when one exclaimed, "You're an ass, Sergeant!"

"Hey, at least you got mail," I grumbled, watching the men rip open the envelopes like a Christmas gift.

As the men read aloud news of their engagement, a wedding, the arrival of a baby, a divorce, a death...I listened. Seeing some men laugh and dance around excitedly, I joined in the fun. Witnessing several tears, I had to console them. Mail time was always full of emotion, but I can't say I've experienced any of them first-hand.

A folding chair streaked through the air to the left of me and lifted some dirt where it landed. Turning around, I saw it was Dave. His usually cute, boyish face was now flaming red like the time we dumped a whole lot of chili peppers in his soup. "Mother fucking lying bitch!"

"What's the matter, Carlson?" I asked.

"Fuck this shit! Fuck this place, man," he growled, "No, fuck her!" He only continued to curse, but with the few things he said, it was clear his girl back home had been unfaithful.

I followed him as he ran out of the tent. Kicking over anything light that wasn't bolted down, he ran, eventually out of base camp, and he ran and ran some more, over the sand dunes, down the dry valley. He won medals for track-and-field; it was a wonder I hadn't lost him already. As he fell to his knees and buried his face in the sand, I finally caught up to him.

He was still shirtless. His face still red, but the crimson color had seeped down to his upper torso and still spreading. The usual proud and cocky Dave Carlson could not be seen in the whimpering, shaking body at my feet. Gradually, I sat down.

"Don't tell me anything," he warned, "Don't try to console me. I already know there's a million other fishes in the sea. I already know she's not worth getting upset over. I already know that. But I fucking changed my life for that girl. She told me to quit smoking, I did. She told me to do better in school, I got 3.0 every semester after that. I didn't want to go to this hell-hole, and she made a list of reasons why I should. Well, guess what, I'm here. And she failed to put on that list the chance for her to screw another guy..."

"Well, if those clich├ęs don't work on you," I said, "Then before we walk back, you should take out that anger out on me, and not on the expensive and dangerous equipments we got. Beat me up, shred me to pieces, but just a warning, if my dick gets hard, it's only a reflex..."

"You're a sick fuck..." he laughed, pouncing on me like a puma. Falling on my back, I grabbed his shoulders and felt the muscles twitch under my fingers. Sitting atop my chest, he stared down at me. In the fading light, I could still see those beautiful blue eyes; one of God's best work, I thought. Taking my hand, he placed it on his chest. I expected his heart to beat like a locomotive, but it was strangely slow. I could barely feel it at all. My eyes returned to his face and I saw the scared, confused look. I knew that look; I've seen that look. Heck, I've made that face several years ago when I was still struggling to understand my feelings for my best friend. I could tell he was fighting the urge to do something he might regret later.

His hand lightly stroked my cheek down to my chin. His dry lips quivered. His head jerked back and forth, up and down, in a tug-of-war between his brain and heart. I knew this scene all too well; I've been the one who sat atop my best friend's chest...I've been the one to fight my urges...I've been the one who lost to temptation.

I made the decision easy for him, pushing him off my chest...

When we got back to the tent, it was pitch black; I assumed everyone was sleeping. We relied on conditioned navigation to lead us to our beds. A light in the corner flickered on, and something smacked against my chest and fell to the floor. As my eyes adjusted, I realized there was a letter by my feet.

One guy snorted, "Looks like you got mail after all, Sarge!"

I picked it up and read the name on the return address. William Tyler Franklin. In the cold dry night, I began to sweat. My hands quivered; I fought the urge to to cry. I quickly made my way to my cot, else my legs would give way.

"William Franklin?" Dave read the name behind my shoulder, "Isn't he your cousin?"

Keeping up with the lie I had told several months ago, I nodded.

To be continued...