I decided to start work on my Ph.D. during the summer, although I did feel some guilt about leaving Dad with all the work on the farm. He and Mom both must have sensed that I was torn between getting out of town and staying around to help on the farm. "Tyler, forget about this damn farm," Dad said. "I loved growing up on this farm, but as you know it isn't large enough for any kind of profit. I wanted it to be yours some day, but I realize that farm life isn't for you. You'd starve to death trying to make a decent living here anyway."
"Your father's right, you know," Mom added. "Besides, this town will always be full of assholes like Paul Baumann." Assholes? I couldn't remember my mom ever using a word much worse than 'darn'. She must've seen the smile on my face and added, "Well, he is."
I once again loaded my Jeep with the basic necessities and started the long six hour drive to Laramie. Well okay, I admit more like five hours the way I drive. Mom and Dad would be bringing my furniture when I found an apartment. I thought about driving through Chadron to see Matt, then realized that he wouldn't be there until fall.
As I drove, I thought of my future and what I wanted out of life. I knew that I wanted to find someone to love. I also knew that I didn't want the life of some of the gay men that I'd read about. I don't mean to imply that gay men don't have long lasting meaningful relationship. I sort of figure that gays are just like heterosexual couples, some good and some bad relationships. As much as I loved my parents, I knew that I could never go back home to live. That town was just no longer my home. I guess one could say that I was homeless. Well, not really, but it kind of felt that way.
I wondered what Laramie would be like, living there, then out of the blue I remembered that Laramie was where Matthew Shepard was killed for being gay. What in the hell was I getting myself into? I knew that I wasn't going to deny that I was gay. I decided after the incident with Jason and the football team that if a high school kid could stand up for what he was, then so could I.
I found an apartment that was nice, clean, and within my price range. Since it was vacant, I decided to just camp out there until my parents could bring my furniture. It would only be until the weekend and it would save me the cost of a motel room.
Needless to say, I was happy to see my parents arrive with my furniture. Dad and I unloaded the furniture while Mom arranged the things in the kitchen. She then insisted that we go shopping to stock up on groceries, and she bought enough groceries to last for at least a month. Mom soon had the place looking all home like. Of course I'd add the masculine touch after she went back home. I had my first meal in the apartment with my parents. I virtually had to take the keys away from dad to keep them from driving back home that night. The couch was very comfortable, especially after sleeping for almost a week on the floor in a sleeping bag.
After having breakfast with my parents, I had to push Mom out of the kitchen to keep her from washing the dishes. "Mom, the apartment does have a dishwasher," I said. "If you take the time to clean up in here, Dad will kill both of us." Mom then tried to slip me a one hundred dollar bill. "I can't take that, Mom, I have enough money."
"I wish you would take this, I'd feel better," Mom pleaded. "Well, I hear your Dad racing the engine to the truck, so I guess I'll use your bathroom and then go."
I hugged Mom goodbye, then suddenly felt lonely as I watched them drive out of the apartment parking lot. I decided to take a shower and then explore the campus. There was the one hundred dollar bill that Mom had tried to give me on the counter. 'That woman has to have her way,' I smiled. I showered and then went to my bedroom to get dressed and on the nightstand was another $100 bill. 'Dad,' I thought.
My faculty advisor, Dr. Patterson, just happened to be from the next town over from my hometown, and we seemed to hit it off right away. He was the type that could be picked out of a crowd as a professor. He wore those half glasses down on his nose and sort of peeked over them. He asked if I would be interested in becoming a graduate assistant, I'd get a stipend and gain some valuable experience. Of course I'd agree to almost anything to earn a few extra bucks. Dr. Patterson also explained that I could finish my degree in less than three years by going summers and taking a full course load, and I could possibly do it in two if I started my dissertation early. He even gave me ideas on that. Well, it wasn't like I'd have a social life or anything.
I soon developed a pattern of life ... it involved classes, study, doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, and thinking about guys. There were a few guys that I thought were giving me the eye, but this was Laramie and I wasn't about to make the first move. Allen, an undergraduate in one of my labs that I taught, seemed to be flirting with me, but I wasn't about to start an affair with one of my students.
I did make it through the semester without Allen raping me. He was kind of cute too. Evidently, he gave up on me because I saw him after another cute guy from the lab. I just wanted to get my Ph.D. and get the hell out of town.
I was in the apartment laundry room doing my laundry when this really hot guy came in. "Are you using this machine," he asked with what appeared to be a very friendly smile. He was about five feet nine, weighed about 160 and from what I could tell had a really great body. Oh well, most likely he's straight. I managed to respond that I was finished with my laundry.
I was putting away the last of my towels when I heard a knock on the door. It was the hot guy from the laundry room. "I think you left a pair of your jeans in the laundry room," he said.
I took the jeans and held them up to my waist. They came down to about mid-calf on me. "Nope, not mine," I said. "They appear to be more your size than mine. But thanks for checking." Then it suddenly dawned on me that he wanted an invite in. "Hey, I was just about to fix some coffee, would you care to join me," I lied, well about the coffee anyway. "I'm Tyler."
"Coffee sounds good to me, I'm Cody."
"Cream or sugar," I asked as I handed Cody a cup of coffee.
"Please," he said.
Cody loaded his coffee with cream and sugar. I take mine black. "You don't really like coffee, do you?" I asked when he added more cream and sugar.
"Not really," he admitted with a cute grin.
"Well, why didn't you say so," I asked? "Would you rather have a beer, coke, or something else?"
"I'd love a beer," he said.
I came back with two beers, I decided a beer sounded better to me than coffee also. Cody and I had several more beers and then I asked, "Would you care to stay for supper? I was thinking of grilling some steaks."
"Hey, I have some homemade apple pie that my mother sent when I was home, I could run down to my apartment and get it," Cody offered.
"Sure, pie sounds good," I said as I tossed the jeans to Cody. "You may as well take your jeans as you go."
"Oh, okay," Cody said with a guilty grin that said, 'I've been caught.'
I decided to have coffee with Cody's mom's apple pie. Cody, of course, declined the offer of coffee, but he did accept a glass of milk. The pie was delicious and Cody looked so cute drinking his milk with his pie.
"Are you gay?" Cody asked as he handed me his plate to put in the dishwasher.
"Do I look gay?" I asked.
"No, you look very straight, but I thought you might be when you caught me checking out your package and you only smiled," Cody laughed.
"What, do I look like the UPS guy?" I joked.
"Well, you do look good and it looks like ... oh, never mind," Cody teased.
"You're hot yourself," I said.
Cody and I had dinner with each other every night that week. The next Saturday after returning from my morning jog, I'd just showered and was finishing drying when Cody knocked on the door. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist. "Man, you're even hotter than I thought," Cody said.
Cody and I decided to share the expense of one apartment and he moved in with me. I enjoyed being with him, but to say we were in love would be stretching it. Yeah, he was hot, a nice guy, and fun to be with. But we both knew it wasn't love. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever fall in love. Meanwhile, Cody was good company.
Time at the University of Wyoming passed faster than I expected. I think it was mostly because I was really pushing myself to finish my Ph.D. on 'my' schedule. Cody would be going back home to manage his family's huge ranch and put his agriculture degree to good use, and I was exploring job opportunities in education. My goal was to teach chemistry at the college level.
My dissertation was being reviewed by Dr. Patterson, my faculty advisor. I felt confident that it would be approved by the graduate college, then I'd officially receive my degree. I had interviews scheduled at a community college in Liberal, Kansas, then two weeks later one in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"How did your interview go?" Cody asked as he kissed me before I could put my bag down. I had just returned from my interview in Liberal. I felt confident that the position was mine, if I wanted it.
"It went well," I answered as I took my lips from his.
"Will you take the job?" He wanted to know.
"I still need to explore my other options, it's almost as isolated down there as my home town," I replied. "I think I'm tired of small rural towns. The town itself isn't that bad though. I'm just not sure how it would be living there as a gay man. Wherever I go, I'm not going to be closeted."
"I admire that," Cody said with a sigh. "I wish it could be that way for me."
"Cody, it can be for you too," I said. "But only you can make that decision."
"Tyler, I'm not strong like you," Cody said with sadness. "My family isn't like your mom and dad either."
"Coming out is a decision that only you can make, so I won't try to talk you into it."
My interview in Tulsa seemed to go even better than the one in Kansas. Tulsa was larger than I expected. It appeared to be as large as Omaha. Of course I only saw what was between the airport and the college. I also learned that Tulsa Community College had almost double the enrolment of the University of Wyoming.
After the search committee interview, Dr. Pulaski, chair of the search committee, showed me my way out. I think he just wanted to chat with me privately. "Dr. Lucas, I have a good feeling about your interview. The other candidate is about a year away from completing his Ph.D., however, he does have more teaching experience than you." Dr. Pulaski said. "And I'm sure the committee will wonder why you only taught such a short time before pursuing your Ph.D." He called me Dr. Lucas. That sounded strange to me, but it also sounded good.
"Dr. Pulaski, please call me Tyler, and I have to be honest with you," I said. "I'm gay and was an assistant football coach. When one of the players outed another player, the head coach said he wouldn't have a fag on his team, so I resigned immediately."
"Tyler, do you mind if I share that with the committee, if it comes up," Dr. Pulaski asked? "I know these people on the committee and that's something they would admire. And I want you to call me Tom."
"Tom, I'm not ashamed of something I have no control over," I said. "I don't advertise that I'm gay, nor do I deny it."
I had a three hour layover in Denver on my way back from Tulsa to Laramie, so I had plenty of thinking time. By the time I arrived in Laramie, I had already decided that I'd take the position in Tulsa if it were offered.
"Tyler, telephone," Cody said as I was getting out of the shower a week later.
"This is Tyler," I said as I stood nude answering the phone.
"Tyler, this is Tom Pulaski," the friendly voice on the phone said. "I'm prepared to offer you the position, if you want it."
"Hell yes, I want it," I said with excitement. "Oh, I guess that isn't the proper way to respond to your offer," I quickly added.
Tom laughed and said, "Tyler, the committee and I liked your enthusiasm and honesty. That's why you're being offered the job. I'll be mailing you a contract that you'll need to sign and mail back. We look forward to your joining our faculty."
I was so happy that I grabbed Cody and planted a big kiss on his lips and was bouncing around like a four year old kid. I completely forgot that I was nude when our next door Mormon neighbor walked by and saw inside. "I wish I'd had a camera to get a picture of that look on his face," Cody laughed.
Following graduation, I sold my furniture, loaded my remaining possessions in my Jeep, and headed to Nebraska. I kissed Cody goodbye and we headed in our opposite directions, likely to never see each other again. I'd decided that since it was a new beginning, I'd just buy new furniture in Tulsa. I'd also planned on spending some time with my parents before going to Tulsa to find an apartment.
It was nice hanging out with Dad, we seemed to have grown closer as I grew older. Mom, of course, was Mom. She was the perfect mom as far as I was concerned.
I decided to drive rather than fly to Tulsa when I went to look for a place to live. Mom offered her Tahoe for me to drive, but I just felt more comfortable with my Jeep. I was in no hurry and Dad had suggested that I stop in Wichita, Kansas to see my Uncle Pete. Uncle Pete was my dad's brother and was somewhat of a loner. He was my other favorite uncle. I remember how he used to come by to read me stories when I was sick. He had moved to Wichita a year or so after he graduated from high school, and he rarely came back to Nebraska to visit.
Uncle Pete gave me directions to his house when I called him to say I wanted to stop for a visit, but I googled it anyway. He seemed happy that I was going to stop for a visit. I arrived at Uncle Pete's house a little before five. He lived in a nice neighborhood and his yard was the best kept one in the neighborhood.
"I'm sorry, but I must have the wrong address," I said when the gentleman who answered the door wasn't Uncle Pete.
He gave a friendly laugh and said, "You must be Tyler. Pete isn't home from work yet, but he made me promise I'd be here when you arrived. I'm Norman, but most people call me Norm. Could I get you something to drink?"
"Thanks, but I'm fine," I said. "Wow, I wasn't aware that Uncle Pete was gay too."
"Gay too?" Norm asked with a puzzled look on his face.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I just assumed that you was his partner, I'm gay," I explained with some embarrassment.
"I don't think Pete's aware that you're gay, and yes, we're partners. This is something I wanted Pete to tell you, but you've already outed us," Norm laughed.
I really liked Norm and he made me feel comfortable as we chatted for about thirty minutes before Uncle Pete arrived home from work. Uncle Pete grabbed me in a big hug and then said, "I see that you've met Norm. Norm lives here ..." Uncle Pete was obviously nervous about explaining Norm to me.
"Pete, for Christ's sake, Tyler's a smart guy and he's already figured it out," Norm laughed.
"Why would I care?" I said. "I'm gay too, but it wouldn't matter to me anyway."
"You're gay, too?" Uncle Pete asked.
"Yeah, I'm your queer nephew," I laughed.
Uncle Pete, Norm, and I chatted until well past midnight before going to bed. I could see that Uncle Pete and Norm loved each other, and I decided that I wanted what they had. Gay sex is definitely different than gay love. Those two obviously loved each other.
As I left my Uncle Pete's house I had a euphoric feeling. I had mostly stopped to visit Uncle Pete because Dad had suggested it, but I was happy that I had. There was a slight breeze blowing from the south, the winds seemed to be welcoming me to my new life in Oklahoma.
As I came closer to Tulsa, I noticed that there were more hills and trees than I'd anticipated. I hadn't noticed this when I flew in for my interview. I had no idea what area of Tulsa I should begin my apartment search, so I just starting driving, and ended up on Riverside Drive. There were apartments and houses on one side of the drive and a very nice park on the river side. The park stretched from just south of the downtown area for several blocks to an Indian casino. There was a bike/jogging path also. I looked at several different apartments before deciding on the best one for my money.
"We have two that will be vacant," Mrs. Harris, the apartment manager, said. "I have a one bedroom apartment and a two bedroom one that overlooks the river. The two bedroom apartment is $250 more per month."
I loved the two bedroom one, but I just couldn't see myself paying that much extra. I knew that I'd eventually have to replace my trusty old Jeep and would have those payments too, so I signed a lease on the one bedroom apartment. Mrs. Harris said that the current tenants would be out in two weeks, then they'd need another week to get it repainted. I went for lunch and then furniture shopping. I made arrangements for delivery of the furniture on my move in date.
I really wanted to just stay in Tulsa a few more days, but headed my Jeep back to Wichita, because I'd promised I'd stop by and spend a couple of days with Uncle Pete and Norm.