I arrived back home around midnight on Wednesday. I tried to be quiet, but Sally must have heard me anyway.
“I’m sorry I woke you Sally,” I told her, after seeing her peek through the crack in my bedroom door, as she tried to open it inconspicuously and see who was there.
“Thank goodness it’s you, Josh,” she sighed. “I was afraid we had a burglar or a boy was sneaking in or out.”
“Why? Have you had problems with them,” I asked, concerned by her comment.
“Mercy, no,” she replied. “They’ve been absolutely wonderful,” she added.
“Oh, all right,” I responded. “I thought you might have been hinting there were some problems while I was away.”
“Oh, dear, no,” she answered. “The boys have taken care of everything, including me. They’ve fixed all of the meals and taken care of each other, leaving me nothing to do. The household ran so smoothly and things went so well that I wondered why I was even here.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” I told her, “but maybe they don’t need me now either.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Josh,” she countered. “I could tell they missed you, but were also trying hard to impress you.”
“Well, thank you for all of your help,” I added, “but you go back to bed now. I’ll just grab a pillow and sleep on the sofa in the living room.”
“Josh, you shouldn’t have to do that,” she scolded.
“I know and I don’t have to,” I replied. “I could always find a place to sleep upstairs, but I don’t want to wake any of the boys. I’ll be fine on the sofa for one night.”
“Very well. Good night then,” she added, before going back inside the master bedroom. I grabbed a pillow and a blanket, before going into the living room. I fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning I awoke when I heard the boys beginning to come downstairs. They seemed happy to see me and the older ones immediately wanted to know if Aunt Sally had told me anything. I said she had and that I was impressed by her report. Of course their follow-up question was whether I’d trust them on their own the next time, to which I responded I would, as long as they promised to call Aunt Sally, Aunt Mary or Uncle Steve if there were any problems. They said they would and were happy that I was now willing to trust them and accept them as young adults. They were all puffed up by this announcement and decided to take the next step, asking me if they could have another driving lesson after dinner. I agreed, so the boys went to get ready for their soccer try-outs.
I dropped most of them off at the high school, like before, but Andrew, Sammy, Graham, Cole and Dion wanted to go with me to the middle school, so they could play on the playground. I agreed and they stayed outside, while I worked in my office. I accomplished a great deal in the three hours I was there and now had much more confidence that I was ready for Monday’s meeting with the faculty and staff, as well as Tuesday’s first day of classes. I went outdoors and yelled to the boys that it was time to leave, and they quickly ran over and hopped in the van. We drove to the high school to pick up the other boys, only to find my Romeos with the cheerleaders again. Kevin was looking a little more depressed this time and not as confident as he was the last time this happened. I figured I’d have to speak to him about it later.
Once we got home, everyone was busy doing his thing until dinnertime. During that time I spoke with Kevin. “Is something bothering you?” I asked, trying to get the conversation started. He looked at me oddly before he answered.
“I’m beginning to think Dustin likes the girls more than me,” he informed me. “We’re still close at night and he still does sex things with me, but no matter what I do to try to show Dusty how much I love him, he’s still anxious to see the cheerleaders again the next day. What’s worse than that,” Kevin emphasized, “is that Dusty also seems to have a favorite among the group… Aaaaaaaaaamy,” he sneered, while drawing out her name to emphasize his point.
“If that’s true,” I replied, “there’s nothing you can do to stop it or keep Dustin from following his heart. It would be like you trying not to be gay.” Kevin looked at me oddly, but I think he got the point. You are what you are, as far as your sexuality is concerned.
“Kevin, life can often be difficult to understand and cope with,” I stated, “and love can prove to be a very fickle friend, but we all had to learn similar lessons while growing up.”
“I know,” he agreed, but only half-heartedly, “but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I always expected Dusty and me would be together forever, so that only makes it’s more difficult to accept this might not be true.”
I could read the sadness on his face and saw the tears beginning to well in his eyes, so I hugged him. “I know, son,” I offered, “life has many painful lessons for us to learn, but I love you and will be there for you, whenever you need me.”
“Thanks, Dad,” he told me, before going off stoically, and not in a huff, as I was afraid he might. He was growing up and learning to cope with life’s bitter lessons.
After dinner, I took the boys down for their next driving lesson, this time planning to repeat the last class, before making them back up (go in reverse). Almost as soon as we reached the school, Dustin asked if he could wait by the school until it was his turn. I told him I would prefer he stay with us, since he could learn from the things I told the others, but he began to argue with me and then I realized why – over near the school stood one of the cheerleaders. I almost didn’t recognize her without the uniform. I thought about this for a few seconds and then made my announcement. I would let him go over with her during the first boy’s session, but only this once. He could explain to her he was busy and would see her another time, but in the future he would have to decide what he wanted more, to learn how to drive or time alone with her. He wasn’t happy with my announcement, but accepted it. He got out and ran over to the girl and stayed with her throughout Brandon’s lesson, which actually was much safer for him.
Although Brandon had learned some subtlety about using the gas and brake pedals, he seemed to forget it when we went in reverse. When I told him to start backing up, he hit the gas a little too hard, sending all of us inside the car flying forward, before he panicked and slammed on the brake, which yanked us all back against the seats again. He was totally embarrassed and apologized profusely, but I calmed him down and explained that was why we were practicing. Dustin was so busy talking to the cheerleader that I don’t think he even noticed what happened, although there was some squealing of the tires in the process. After Brandon’s turn ended, I called Dustin back to the car and he sat in the rear with Brandon, while Danny took his turn. He looked a little upset when he rejoined us, but I chalked that up to not being able to spend more time with his new girlfriend.
When it came time for Danny to practice backing up, I went over the fundamentals with him again, so Dustin could hear them this time. I told him to put the car in reverse, turn in both directions, beginning with his left, to make sure that nothing was behind him or in the way, and then he could begin to back up while looking over his right shoulder. Danny instinctively put his right arm on the back of the seat, using only his left hand to steer, which I told him was all right as long as he took it slow. Dustin didn’t appear to be listening and seemed lost in his own thoughts, so I decided I would not tell him these things again, when it was his turn. I would wait and see what he had learned from this before I decided what to do next. Danny went through his paces and then he stopped the car, put it in park and switched places with Dustin.
Dustin got behind the wheel and drove off, doing very well over the first part. Then, when it came to going in reverse, he just used his mirrors and tried to back up that way. I made him stop, chewed him out for not paying attention to what I had told Danny and then explained precisely what I expected from him. When he tried it the next time, he did much better, but his heart still wasn’t into it. We practiced a little longer, before he stopped the car and we switched places. As I drove home, he was very quiet. I wasn’t sure if it was because of my scolding earlier, about his not paying attention, or if he had an argument of some sort with the girl. Either way, Dustin wasn’t quite himself.
When we got home, the boys went to either their own rooms or the family room, so I took the opportunity to go to my room and do some work. It wasn’t long before there was a knock at my door and Dustin was standing in the doorway. As I looked up at him, he spoke to me. “Dad, may I talk to you?”
“Sure. Come on in,” I agreed. He came in and shut the door behind up. “What’s up, Dustin?”
He hesitated before he spoke. “Amy said something at the school tonight that bothered me. I really need to talk to you about this.”
“Go right ahead. I’m all ears,” I urged. He smiled weakly, before he got up the courage to speak again.
“Amy told me tonight that she was surprised that some of us were interested in her and her friends. She said everyone thought we were all gay.” He looked at me with a pained expression on his face, but I waited to see if he wanted to say more before I responded. He didn’t, so I finally broke the silence.
“Did she say why they thought that?”
He made another face. “Yeah, kind of.”
“Are you going to share it with me?” I asked, after a slight pause.
“She said it was because none of us ever dated and because everyone suspected Danny and Brandon were boyfriends.”
“I see. And what did you tell her?” I pressed.
“I told her we hadn’t dated because you always kept us too busy with things around the house and that Danny and Brandon were best friends, not boyfriends.”
“And how did she respond to that?” I followed.
“I don’t think she believed me,” he replied.
“So, how did you feel about that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he admitted, before looking down at the floor, as his body swayed from side to side. I waited to see if he’d comment further and he did. “I don’t want everyone at school thinking we’re all gay,” he said meekly. “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, but everyone will treat us differently, with some even avoiding us and others hating us.”
“What do you suggest we do about it?” I continued.
He thought for a minute and then looked up at me. “I think it will be all right if Pat, Ricky, Jay and I start dating some of the girls, but I’m worried for Danny and Brandon. If they don’t start dating too, then people are going to know for sure.”
“Have you told them that?” I wondered.
“No,” he stated, succinctly.
“Do you think you should?” I wanted to know.
“I’d rather you do it,” he announced, and I think I knew the reason why, but wanted to be certain.
“Why’s that?” I pressed.
“Cuz I don’t want them getting mad at me,” he answered, meekly.
“But I wasn’t told this directly,” I challenged. “So, wouldn’t it sound better coming from you?”
“Maybe, but I wouldn’t know how to tell them,” he countered, as he hoped this might be reason enough so he wouldn’t have to become involved.
“Why don’t you tell them just like you told me?” I asked, hoping to let him see it wouldn’t be so different.
“I could, but I think I’d be scared I’d hurt their feelings,” he confessed. “I’ve already hurt Kevin pretty badly, and it’s only going to get worse when he finds out I really like Amy, so I don’t want to have more of my brothers upset with me.” I was concerned with his comment about Amy and how Kevin was going to react, but that was another issue and one I’d have to deal with later. Right now, we still had this problem to iron out.
“What if I was with you when you told them? Would that help?” I asked.
“Would you do that?” he wondered. I was surprised he didn’t already know the answer to that question.
“Of course I would. Do you want me to get them?” He hesitated, before nodding.
“Okay, then you wait here,” I advised him, before leaving the room to summon Danny and Brandon. Once we were all together, Dustin told them his story and then we gave them time to think about it. Finally, I spoke.
“You two will have to decide how to handle this for yourselves,” I offered, as a way to let them know there wasn’t much I could do for them concerning this problem. “It’s your decision and no one, including me, can make it for you. I’ll support you, no matter what you decide, and I’m sure the rest of the family will too.” Both boys looked somewhat panicked and turned toward me, after looking at each other.
“What do you think we should do?” Danny asked me.
“That depends on what you want to accomplish,” I offered. “I can only see that you have three options. You can start dating girls, come out and tell everyone you are gay or you can do nothing and continue to let things go the way they’ve been going.”
“What do you think, Dustin?” Brandon asked him.
Dustin timidly looked at me and I nodded my encouragement to respond. “I agree with Dad, but if I had to make a choice for you, I’d hope you’d date some girls, even if you’re not really into it,” he suggested. “It’s not that I’m ashamed that you’re gay, I’m just afraid of some of the things people might do to you or say about you behind your backs. You know how mean and nasty some of those guys can be.”
“We’re very aware of that,” Danny told him, “but what if we start dating girls and people find out we’re gay because we can’t… you know… perform?”
“You don’t have to go that far,” Dustin responded.
“But what if the girls insist on it, to get us to prove ourselves?” Danny persisted. “You know neither of us is really interested in girls, besides as just friends. I mean, it would be awkward kissing someone you don’t care for and it would be even worse if they try to get us to have sex.”
“Can’t you guys pretend you’re kissing each other when you kiss one of them?” he asked. “Just close your eyes and make believe. And you can just tell them you don’t think you’re ready for sex yet.”
“Will you or the others be telling them that?” Danny pressed.
“Probably not. But couldn’t you just pretend you’re screwing each other, if you have to do one of them, at least long enough to pull this off?” Dustin asked, hopefully.
“Maybe,” Brandon answered, “but we can’t be sure until we actually have to do it.”
“Please, just try,” Dustin pleaded. “I’m worried if the rest of us start dating and you two don’t, then everyone will conclude you two are gay and things will get ugly.”
“Thanks for caring, Dustin,” Brandon reassured him, “and Danny and I will talk this over. We’ll let you and Pop know what we decide.” Both boys went over and hugged Dustin for caring enough to talk to them about it and then they both hugged me. We gave them the opportunity to decide this for themselves, but I know Dustin felt better, just getting it off his chest.