The drive back to college gave me plenty of time to think about my options. I'd been to Omaha a few times and that was a good possibility for my first teaching position. I'd never thought about coaching, but the thought of doing that intrigued me. But I also knew that going back home would never be the same. I'd left the farm a boy and would be going back as a man, a gay man.
Then there was Matt to think about. I enjoyed his company, but he was a sophomore and I'd be completing my master's degree. He would have two more years of college. As much as I enjoyed Matt's company, I still didn't know if it was love or not ... how does one know when they're in love?
I arrived at the dorm just before Kyle. He called out, "Hey, Ty, how was your weekend home?" As he entered the room.
"It was a good visit," I replied. "My high school coach wants me to apply for an assistant coaching job there."
"Coaching ... no shit!" Kyle exclaimed as he threw his bag on his bed! "You never mentioned that you wanted to coach. I always thought you wanted to be a chemistry teacher."
"That's the plus side," I said. "I would also be teaching chemistry and, since it's a small school, I'll be teaching general science too."
"Are you going to take the job?" Kyle inquired.
"It hasn't officially been offered to me," I explained. "I left my resume for my parents to give to Coach Baumann, but I still need to explore my other options. What are your plans for after graduation?"
"I'm looking into a few things," Kyle said. "You know that I'm not as smart as you, so I don't have as many options. Kendra's dad wants me to come to work with him in his construction company."
"Kendra's dad, huh, this sounds serious," I said.
"We're getting married," Kyle said, gigging like a school girl, "and I want you to be my best man."
"I'd be honored," I said. "When's the big event?"
"First week in June in Scottsbluff," Kyle grinned. "When are you going to find a good woman and tie the knot?"
"That's not going to happen."
"Why not, Ty? You're a good looking guy."
"Because I'm gay," I blurted out. Even to this day I don't know why I decided to tell Kyle. It could have been because I'd just revealed it to my parents. Maybe it was because I was just tired of the lies. But the look on Kyle's face made me think I'd made a mistake. He didn't say a word, he just looked at me with this blank stare, then suddenly left the room.
I suppose I should have been upset at Kyle's reaction, but for some strange reason I wasn't. I kind of figured it was his problem, not mine. I unpacked and then checked my E-mail. No, I didn't need a credit card, and no, I didn't need to make my manhood larger (thank you very much), and I damn sure didn't need Viagra.
I was tired from the weekend and decided to hit the sack early. I stripped down and crawled into my bed. Yeah, I sleep in the buff; but then so does Kyle. I was just about to doze off when Kyle came back into the room. "I didn't mean to wake you," he said when he turned on the light. "I thought maybe you'd gone out."
"Nah, but it's okay, I wasn't asleep yet," I yawned.
"Look, Ty, I'm sorry for reacting the way I did," Kyle apologized. "You just caught me off guard ... I wasn't expecting that."
"Can you stand sharing a room with a homo until the end of the semester?" I asked.
"You haven't tried to rape me during these past four years, so I guess I'm safe," Kyle joked. "I don't know why I was so surprised when you told me. Kendra told me a long time ago that you were gay."
"I guess Matt told her," I said. For some reason I wasn't pissed at Matt for blabbing. I supposed I should've been angry.
"Hell no, she told me that a long time before you started seeing Matt." Kyle laughed, "Kendra's a fag hag you know."
I was happy to see Matt after the weekend. Kyle had promised that he'd keep Kendra busy until at least eleven, but I really doubted that she would have cared what Matt and I were doing.
As I was leaving Matt and Kendra's apartment I met Kendra coming home. She gave me this 'I know what you've been doing' grin, so I gave her the 'I know what you've been doing too' grin right back.
It was near graduation and I still hadn't decided on the coaching job. I wasn't sure how long they'd keep it open for me. I had a few other offers, but I couldn't seem to make a decision. That wasn't like me since I usually was sure of myself. One afternoon I drove out to the same farm road where Matt and I had made out and just sat on the hood of my Jeep, thinking.
The prairie wind seemed to be trying to talk to me like it did back on the farm. When I was a kid I really believed that it was talking to me. Now, if it was talking, all it seemed to be saying was, "Noooooooooo." But no, what?
"Have you decided on a job yet?" Matt asked as we cuddled.
"I'm pretty sure I'll take the coaching job back home," I said. "So far it seems to be the best offer."
"I guess when you go we'll just drift apart," Matt said with sadness. "I'll still have two more years of college."
"You can come and visit me," I offered.
"I'd like that," Matt smiled. "What would your parents think about that though?"
They're cool with my being gay, but I've already decided that I'm not moving back home," I said. "I read somewhere that once you leave home you can never truly go home again."
Graduation finally arrived and I was more than ready to get on with a career. I would really miss Matt, and it wouldn't be just the physical contact, I'd become very fond of Matt. I still couldn't say that it was love. Strong feelings maybe, but I still wasn't sure about love.
"This is Matt," I said as I introduced him to my parents at my graduation.
Both of my parents were cool about meeting Matt. Mom smiled warmly at Matt and said, "I'm glad to finally get to meet you. I've heard a lot about you."
My Dad shook Matt's hand and said, "Any boyfriend of Tyler's is a friend of mine." He then laughed as if he'd told the funniest joke in the world. Mom of course just rolled her eyes.
After graduation ceremonies, my parents went back home and I decided to spend one last night in Matt's apartment. I guess you might say it was our goodbye night.
The next morning, Matt prepared a delicious breakfast before my departure and walked me to my Jeep, where we kissed long and hard without caring that we might be seen before I drove away. I thought about Matt, my new job, and going back home on the drive home.
I spent the remainder of the summer working on the farm, but when football practice began I rented a small house a short distance from the school. However, like Chadron, in this town everything is just a short distance. Mom and Dad 'just happened' to need new furniture and, of course, I got their 'old' furniture. This was the first time I'd ever lived alone. It was a surreal feeling knowing that I was really on my own.
My first phone call was to Matt to invite him to come for a visit before he started his junior year, and he enthusiastically agreed. I anxiously awaited Matt's arrival. It was now my turn to cook for Matt and that made me a little nervous. "This is really good," Matt said as he eagerly consumed the chicken casserole I'd prepared.
"We're going to my parents' for dinner tomorrow," I said later as I cuddled with Matt.
"Matt, what do you think it'll be like being separated for such long periods?" I asked. "We're both young and have needs."
"I've thought about that, maybe we should see other people," Matt said. "What do you think?"
"I think you're probably right, but it isn't likely I'll be dating in this town," I said. "We can still try to see each other on occasion."
My parents were gracious to Matt and I think he felt very comfortable with them. The conversation was friendly and soon we were all laughing and enjoying the atmosphere. In spite of Mom's protest, Matt and I cleaned up after dinner and did the dishes. Okay, we not only loaded the dishwasher, but everything else too.
"Who is this with you when you were young," Matt asked while looking at the many pictures in Mom's photo album.
"That's Tanner," I said. It's strange, I never thought I'd lose contact with Tanner, but I did. I suddenly had the feeling that the same would happen between Matt and me.
"You were both cute when you were young," Matt said. "Was Tanner your friend?"
"Hey, I'm still cute, and I'm not that old," I laughed. "Tanner was kind of a cousin."
"What in the hell does that mean?" Matt questioned.
"He was the nephew of my uncle's wife." I explained. "I guess she was my aunt by marriage. She married my Uncle Bob."
"How did you lose contact?" Matt inquired.
"We were about ten when he came to visit with my aunt," I explained as I thought about how badly Aunt Barbara had treated Tanner. "My aunt was mean to him and my mom talked to her brother, my uncle, after Tanner stayed with us that summer. Anyway, Tanner ended up going to Houston to live with a gay great-uncle. I guess at that age it's easy to lose contact."
After I kissed Matt goodbye the house suddenly felt empty without him. Yet, somehow, I felt that something had changed between us.
I really got into football coaching. However, my real enjoyment was teaching. That first year went by very quickly.
We were already a week into football practice the next fall when Jason came to practice. Jason's family had lived here before and had moved back from a small town not far from Denver. The rumor was that Jason had gotten into some sort of trouble there. Jason came with a lot of talent, but with a lot of attitude also. He was of the opinion that he was good enough that he didn't need to practice.
Jason was a good looking kid, and I know I would've had the hots for him had I been his age. We were a week away from our first game and Jason was putting absolutely no effort into practice. "He has a lot of potential, but he shouldn't get to start," I told Coach Baumann. "He half-ass practices and then bitches about it."
Needless to say, Jason was pissed about not getting to start. When he was sent into the game at the start of the second half he missed an easy block that would've allowed the running back to score. I think he was just pissed that he didn't get the ball. I pulled him out of the game and sat his butt on the bench. "Jason, you missed that block on purpose." I yelled at him. "I don't mind a missed block so much when you're out there trying, but you weren't trying. Apparently, you don't want to be part of this team. If you can't become a team player, you need to turn in your gear. Now, do you think you can play as part of the team if I put you back in?"
Jason nodded yes, apparently I'd made a believer of him because he had a great second half. "I don't know what you said to motivate him, but whatever it was it worked," Coach Baumann said. Yeah, he had a first name. I just couldn't bring myself to call him Paul yet. He was still Coach as far as I was concerned.
"Jason, could I speak to you," I said when Jason came to practice Monday. I wasn't sure what I wanted to say to him, but I thought it necessary to say something. "Jason, you have so much talent and potential. I hate to see it wasted because you're not a team player. Now, do you want to tell me what's bugging you?"
"It's nothing," Jason meekly replied.
"It's something when it affects the whole team," I said. "My guess is you're angry because your parents moved you away from your friends to this middle of nowhere town. You had to leave your friends and you don't feel like the guys here accept you. But, Jason, they'll never accept you if you don't try to become a part of the team. I know it's tough for you. I grew up in this town and I know how people here can be. But give them a chance and soon you'll feel like you belong. Okay, I've done all the talking up to now, do you have anything to say?"
"Thanks, Coach, I'll do my best," Jason promised. "But I don't want to talk about that other stuff."
"Fair enough for me," I said. "But anytime you want to talk, I'll listen."
Jason kept his word and became a part of the team. Most of the team accepted him to the extent they could, some would take longer. I did have some concerns about Chase Brownell's attitude toward Jason. It wasn't that he said or did anything, it was his body language, the one that teenage boys get when they have an attitude.
It was near the end of the season and Jason had won the game for us on a last minute 53 yard touchdown run. The team members were all over Jason congratulating him and patting him on the back. It was obvious that Chase didn't care for all the attention Jason was getting.
Most of the team had just come out of the shower when I heard a loud argument in the locker room. I went to investigate, pretty sure it'd have something to do with Chase and Jason. I arrived just in time to stop Jason from punching Chase. I grabbed him around his arms. Although just a teenager, he was almost as strong as I was. Chase must have felt brave while I was restraining Jason and tried to throw a punch. One of the other coaches then restrained Chase. Chase began yelling, "Yeah, take up for the faggot. Have him tell you how he had to leave Denver because he got caught with another guy in the shower." Jason tried to break free from my grip and it took all of my strength to keep him from getting at Chase.
"What was that all about?" Coach Baumann asked after some of Chase's friends had managed to get him out of the locker room. Some of the other players had already put Jason in his car and sent him on his way.
"Just a disagreement, but I'm sure it'll blow over," I told Coach. However, deep down I had my doubts.
"What was that I heard about Jason being queer?" Coach asked. "I'm not having some fag on the team."
At first, I couldn't believe what I was hearing; I'd always had the upmost respect for Coach Baumann, then it hit me that not only had he said it, but he'd really meant it.
"Then I guess you wouldn't want some fag coach?" I asked with an attitude.
"Hell no," he said. "I'd fire his ass."
"How about I save you the trouble. You'll have my written resignation Monday."
I could tell that I'd blindsided Coach Baumann, but I also saw that he wasn't backing down either.
"I understand you resigned your coaching position," Jason said as he came into my office.
"Yes, I have," I admitted.
"Then I'm quitting football," Jason said. "Do you believe those things Chase was saying about me? Is that why you resigned?"
"What Chase said has nothing to do with my resigning. It's a personal decision. Don't base your decision about quitting football on my not being there either. Do you really want to play?"
"I'm not sure, Coach," Jason said. "I think I'm playing mostly to please my dad."
"Jason, you have to please yourself before you can please anyone else," I said.
With tears in his eyes, Jason said, "What he said is true."
"What who said?" I asked, although I had a pretty good idea.
"I'm gay," Jason admitted. "That's why my family moved here."
"Jason, where you live isn't going to change what you are," I said. "I know because I grew up here."
"You're gay too?" Jason asked.
"Yes, Jason, I am," I admitted. "I don't hide what I am, nor do I go around wearing rainbow colors either. I only recently came out to my parents. I admire you that you can admit that you're gay at this time in your life."
"Thank you, Coach, and thank you for all that you've done for me. I hope I can be the man you are some day," Jason said.
"Jason, you're already as much of a man as anyone," I said. "If you ever need anything, just let me know."
"You have to do what feels right for you," Dad said when I told him of the incident with Coach Baumann. "Your mom and I will always support and love you."
I couldn't believe this was coming from my dad, and I loved him more than I ever had.
"What are your going to do now?" Mom asked.
"I've been thinking about getting my Ph.D.," I said. "I'll just have to figure out how to pay for it."
"Use your college fund," Mom said.
"What college fund?"
"Your mom and I started putting money away for your college when you were born," Dad answered for Mom. "You're football scholarship paid for your education, so that money is still there. We thought we'd turn it over to you when you bought your first house."
"What university have you considered?" Mom asked.
"I've thought about the University of Wyoming, it's not so far that I couldn't come back on occasion to check on you old folks."
"Hey, watch it, Son," Dad laughed. "I bet I could still take you out."
I was accepted to the University of Wyoming, and I finished out my school year teaching chemistry and general science, however, Coach Baumann and I never spoke to each other again.