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Friendship Panic
Eric Johanson

©2008
James R. Johnson

Attempted heterosexual relationships, or social contact with the opposite sex, are not the solution to homosexuality, since increased opposite-sex contact can do nothing to fulfil same-sex deficits. Relationships with the opposite sex are literally ... irrelevant to a problem of this nature. Such a mistaken solution in fact leaves the problem untouched, or even confirms it. The capacity for same-sex love is the natural healing process, and it is most unfortunate that the bypassing or blocking of this process has often been mistaken for the solution. In this way much so-called healing of homosexuality has in fact been the direct opposite.... HOMOSEXUALITY; A NEW CHRISTIAN ETHIC Elizabeth R. Moberly

...the learning of virtue is so painful and haphazard an affair, attended by such a wild profusion of good intentions, grievous falls, unrequited hopes, gnawing regrets, shame, and embarrassment that we are often of two minds about the matter. GOD IN THE WASTELAND David F. Wells

My Apology

Journeys start where we are. Everyone knows that...except when it comes to maturity. Then we want to start at the destination. Somehow, we expected the promised land of maturity handed to us. If we wait for a miracle or a sign, we will wander and wander years in confusion and despair. I have a desire for friends. Close friends. The very journey to friendship is full of dangers, fears, and times of defeat. But the traveling through all of these produces the very character that we need to enjoy the destination. This is the diary of some guys who started out a very long way from friendship. It is a record of the journey. I wish the trip had been instantaneous. I wish I could have started out more mature. I wish this world less resistant to my attempts to mold it.

Preface

This is a private diary. It was not my original purpose to go public with my struggles or my vision. But as I read over these pages I thought that maybe some could profit from my quest for friendship in a world that seems to have forgotten the joys of a companion. Some get married, some become gay, but is there a territory that is left unexplored? I have wandered through life looking for male companionship. This is a record of several months when I was conscious of that journey. There is always a temptation to edit a diary. But then it would no longer be a diary. And please don't think this is a dirty book. It is just a story of real guys trying to be real friends. It was a journey where there were few maps or guideposts. It is a record of dead ends and times spent on the wrong trail. I have left those parts in. Does that make this a dirty book? When does a life become dirty? Isn't friendship a great enough ideal that I can strive with all my

strength, even if I miss my goal on some attempts? I trust some of you will finish the journey with me and withhold judgment until the end. Looking back from current wisdom I can see paths I would not take again. But would I have my current wisdom had I not set out on this journey? If I had feared failure I would still be lonely, bored, and wondering what life was all about. This book will not please the politically correct, and it will not please those who are religiously correct. I just hope that I can provide a small map for those who desire male bonding and do not like the current alternatives offered by the two warring camps of fundamentalists and gays. So to those caught in no man's land, I give this diary to you. May it open up a man's land that has for so long been neglected. And if nothing else you may not give up hope. It is one thing to wander through life not knowing there is a land waiting to be discovered. It is another thing to wander knowing there is a destination. There are some who have gone on before and they are waiting for you there. I offer you then joys of friendship and hope. Do not give up. We live in difficult times. These are lonely days. We are conceived in imperfection. We are born imperfect into an imperfect world. The goal is neither to hide from imperfection nor to turn imperfection into a celebrated cause or identity. I accept imperfection. I strive for perfection. I must be honest. I must be bold. I must face the pain to attain the joy. I wish life had no tears, but the joy of wiping away another's tears surpasses the pain. I pity the man who must cry alone. This is a diary of imperfect guys striving for perfection and learning to cry on one another's shoulder. The road to perfection has imperfect moments. They are all here. I hope you see the goals I

have strived for and not the times those goals were temporarily overshadowed by immaturity. I have tried to think how I feel now that others will be reading my diary. I feel a little bit like a male stripper who walks onto stage only to see his mother in the front row. I am exposing my private life to public view. What do I do? What should the stripper do? The show must go on. I look back now over this diary and I become ashamed I pass it on with the hope that others may profit from my mistakes, and they will show me and my friends the same grace and acceptance we all desire. To those who share my pilgrimage, I dedicate this dairy to you.

CHAPTER ONE

Guys don't keep diaries; I do. I think that calls for an explanation. I did not want to go to college, but what else are you supposed to do at 18 years: Join the military? Get a job? Continue living at home? So college it was. But it was obvious from the first day that I was entering a new reality and at warp speed. I was immediately surrounded with people who were taking things seriously that I didn't. Everyone was asking me questions like: What's your major? Where are you living? Have you seen your advisor? Do you know where the restrooms are? At least that last question had a refreshing mark of reality. I could handle that. I wasn't sure where to piss at that point beyond the bushes of the administration building. Later I was to discover that act had a sort of poetic meaning. I would return there often to express myself and to make a public statement although in private. I am afraid that is the limit of my college protesting. Hence the diary. I needed a place where I could touch home and say to someone what I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. But everybody on campus was already shouting at every corner with global and private concerns. One time I thought of standing at the campus loop (center stage) and shouting: "I am lonely." Not just because I was. I just felt that everybody

else wanted to shout the same thing but couldn't communicate on such a personal level. Could you imagine the unrest that would cause if students started dealing with reality? Hence the following diary is my attempt to state what was real each day. It is so easy to forget priorities when the great campus machine demands total control of your time and thoughts. This diary is under my control. This is what is really important. If it ain't in here, it's not worth knowing. And as far as I am concerned, it didn't even happen. Or to say it philosophically: If a professor shouts from the mountain tops, and the students don’t care, did he really say anything? And isn’t college about differentiating the real from the shadows? This diary is about what is real in my life.

Orientation

Week 0

Day 1 Wednesday.

I don't think today could have been any different than if I had been one of those people who wakes up after being asleep for a hundred years or more. I am laying here on my bed in the dorm. My roommate hasn't arrived yet and I am surrounded by piles of cardboard boxes containing my entire life. Everything that didn't remind me of childhood I brought with me. And, oh yeah, I didn't want to bring anything that might label me "small town" or someone who was holding onto the past. It is one of those cool, fall days in the Pacific Northwest. The fog had not burnt off yet, but I opened the window because I can't stand the smell of cardboard. As a kid I would earn some money on Saturdays by helping people move. I don't care how nice of stuff you have, there is something so common about having one's life reduced to boxes. I kind of think that is how it is when we die: someone comes in and places our whole history in boxes and the world is ready for the next person. I think they should bury us in cardboard also. It’s only fitting. Life and death are just cardboard. I have been transported into a world where you are born at

age eighteen and die at twenty two. I have entered a world with no past and no future, and none of the traditions or signposts that have guided my life. It is a little bit like going out on my grandparents' farm back home and waking up to find that while you slept someone had moved all the fences. I feel disoriented. It is even worse because I am not sure there even are any fences in this new world. I have spent my whole life in Chehalis. But there is no future in a small town. There is a whole lot of past, but when you graduate from high school the thought of staying in town would be like admitting to the world that you have no dream--and no future. There's some kind of noise at the door--be right back. I had gone to door and there were two legs supporting a stack of cardboard boxes. Just what I needed to see. Someone else's life all wrapped up and ready to start over. He came in, set his boxes down on the other bed, looked at me, said hello and left. I think we each gave each other the once over and now we have retreated to make sense of the input. I tried to think of who he looked like back home. Maybe I could get a jump start on figuring out who was this stranger was. Some college administrator had assigned this guy to become part of my life--my first roommate. It is like an alien life form has invaded my world. God help me.

Week 0 Day Two Thursday. I found out last night my roommate's name is Steve. He brought in some more boxes, put away his life and left. But he did one thing that brought chills to my fantasy of having a roommate. On our bulletin board he put up a picture of his mother and father and two little sisters. His parents could pass for Aunt Bea and Andy Taylor in their Sunday best and his sisters

looked like something out of "Full House." Talk about ruining the atmosphere in a place. How am I going to act crazy and wild with that photo hanging on the wall? Aren't those the kind of things you are supposed to leave at home when you come to college? My old room at home is being kept up by my mom just as it was when I was a kid. It is like a womb, and we are supposed to leave that all behind. Ain't I right? I unpacked my new life and looked for a place to store my boxes. All they had was this machine that crushes and recycles them. Boy, I hated to do that. Once I destroyed those boxes I knew I was going to be here awhile. Talk about burning one's bridges. I had a real lonely, empty feeling as I crushed that last box. I don't even know how you go about getting more in this town. Another blow to security. In case this diary gets read someday, maybe I should tell you how I came to be at Seattle Pacific University. I grew up and spent my whole life in Chehalis. It is halfway between Seattle and Portland. I always figured in the old days before fast cars and freeways you needed a place to stop; hence a town. But since the freeway the town has more or less lost its purpose. Except people still need restrooms. The cars don't need gas so the most common phrase you here from tourists is: "Could I get five dollars of unleaded and the key to your restroom?" I always figure our town motto should have been: "It's our clean restrooms that put us on the map." Chehalis is like a lot of small towns in America. Once you pass the policeman and fireman stage, there just ain't one job in town that you could imagine doing for the rest of your life. It is a reality that you try your hardest to ignore. I see my father going off to his one-person insurance office and I think, "When did he quit living?" What a dead end job! Earlier this year, one spring morning my father was sitting at the breakfast table, reading the paper while I ate and making his usual comments such as: "They had seven inches of rain yesterday in Buenos Aires." He never looked out from behind the paper and I never made a comment back for fear of encouraging him. We never talked much and maybe he felt I needed some fatherly connection. That was

all he could do. Actually, not quite all. He had also mastered the art of the latent disaster in every event. (He is the kind of person who reads every warning label on every household chemical and follows the instructions precisely.) No matter what I did he told me all the things that could go wrong. From then on I was never supposed to make one of those mistakes. After all, I had been taught by one of the best. When I did fall off my bike, get a flat tire, or spend too much money on pizza, I developed the art of covering up. I developed this when I was very young and became very good at it. So naturally father thought he had the perfect son. Nevertheless, it came as a complete shock to me when he announced that fateful spring morning that he had bought some kind of policy eighteen years ago which would pay for my college. Of course I had to go to his alma mater. Well, why not. I can hear Steve at the door. Better put my laptop away. He may not know yet what a jerk I think he is. I think I'll just let him find out on his own and not from reading this. Well, why not? But then again, maybe not....

Week 0 Day Three Friday. We registered for classes today. I kept getting told it was a big deal. Keith, who thinks college is somehow on the order of St. Peter's Gate, came in from across the hall with his choice of classes and first alternatives in case any were not available. He had highlighted a map with all the registration points and numbered in order. He wanted to know what I was taking and I replied "No business before breakfast," and headed off to the cafeteria. It's not that I don't care. But I insist on being the one who sets my priorities. You are a slave to whomever can tell you what is most important in life. I choose breakfast. Later, I actually saw some guys buy a magazine in the bookstore that tells college guys what to wear. For those of you who don't know, here is my universal, timeless, once-for-all fashion scoop: Levi 501's, sweatshirt, and sneakers. There, I just saved you a

bunch of money. And as you can see, I also choose the clothes I wear. I am now registered. My life has just been planned for the next three months--more commitment. I am taking freshman Intro to Literature 101, Contemporary Problems 201 and Beginning Economics 100. I checked out the reading list, and at least that one looks like it has possibilities. Steve just came back, probably just to look at that picture of his family. Steve burped and said, "Wasn't that a great turkey dinner in the Commons." That's what they call the cafeteria. I think they call it "The Commons" to lower our expectations. I replied, "I don't mean to disappoint you but the vote at my table went 7 to 2 in favor of pork roast over turkey with one abstention." Steve, failing both to see the humor or the reality of the situation, just gave me a wrinkled stare and grumbled, "Smart ass." I think I found a weak point; this could be fun. Maybe next I can throw darts at that stupid picture. I swear Aunt Bea's eyes glow in the dark. I have a weekend to get organized before classes start Monday morning. Maybe Steve and I will find something in common. Actually there is one thing. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of him beating off. Why am I writing this? But I got to admit that there was a sense of closeness as I heard him enjoy himself. Even a little bit of a turn on. But I was afraid to join in for fear he would think I was kinky or something. It is the "something" I worry about. I think he knew I woke up but he didn't say a word. But I did look up to see if I could locate Aunt Bea's eyes aglow. * * *

In the middle of campus on the lower part of the hill is the student center where mostly off-campus students gather between classes. I went in there and met a guy named Brad, who was reading a "Playboy." This is a religious college of sorts and such behavior is best done in private. Got to keep up those traditions and rah, rah, and all that. "I like your reading material," I said, not knowing how else to start up a conversation. "Mostly I'm doing it to let the religious freaks around here know that I am not one of them. This place is scary. They come up to you and want to know what church you go to and all that Jesus stuff. I'm here because I live a block away and a degree from here means more than one from some large public factory." I tried to act wisely by saying: "My father sent me here and I have never thought much about religion. To get along, I just name some church in my home town that we used to attend on Christmas and Easter. I say a few religious phrases and that works pretty well. I get left alone." I thought I sounded like a wise old veteran, not a rookie from a small town. "You phony bastard. Why don't you just stand up and let them know what you believe? What are you afraid of?" His response caught me off guard. I replied the best I could, "Because I don't think I believe in anything except today. I am enjoying right now. Why do I have to believe in some intellectual stuff. I enjoy people and I just try to get along without setting anyone off." "Like I do?" "Exactly my point." "When in Rome crap, that's all your doing. For me, getting an education means being able to say 'fuck you' to anyone. And when

you really got it made, you can say it to the whole system. And when I die I want my tombstone to say, 'He did it his own fucking way.’” I was caught off guard by his lack of tack, and I got a little angry. "Brad you are forming new synapses in my brain. You're definitely not from Chehalis. I don't even know what to say. But I can't imagine anyone being your friend. And maybe I do believe in one thing. If you don't have a friend, you don't have shit. No matter what you do or accomplish, if there is not some person there to share it with, you really haven't done it. You have only experienced it. Life for you is no different than masturbating. You do it alone and experience it alone and nobody knows or cares. And when it is all over, all you have done is tickle yourself. Rather than working all your life to experience some solitary achievement, you can masturbate right now without really too much work and feel just as good." "Right now! Right now?" All I could think to say was "I don't think you heard me at all. You just make a joke to dismiss me." After that I had to get back to the Commons for dinner so we decided to meet again over a cup of coffee. I had surprised myself by actually discovering that I did believe in something: life is meant to be shared. Somehow, growing up in small-town America, I had acquired beliefs that I did not even realize I believed. It was neat in a way, but I also wondered what else I believed in from my past. Somewhere inside my head, is there a picture of Chehalis with mom and dad sitting in front of our house? I purposely left all those mementos in my room at home and now I find there is a locked room in my own head that I didn't even know was there. How many more locked doors remain? Well at least none for right now. I'm hungry and that is NOW.

Week 0 Day Four Saturday. It is my first Saturday morning and I was up early out of habit. Then it dawned on me. There is no yard to mow or flower beds to weed. I think I am going to like college. It is a kind of retirement for teenagers. I am eighteen and for the first time in my life I can sleep in Saturday mornings without being greeted by one of father's classic comments such as, "I almost called the doctor, I thought you might be sick," or "I didn't know we had any kings in this house." Then, for the rest of the day I had the choice of either working my tail off, or trying to enjoy myself under a load of guilt. I think now I am free, free at last. * * * I started thinking last night of the pictures that I have in my mind and how they affect me without my even knowing it. I think my ideas of friendship started in the spring of my senior year in high school. We were on a school outing to hike up the side of a mountain to get a good view of the famous Mt. St. Helens. We had scattered on the hillside meadow to eat our sack lunches in small groups. I noticed one of the quiet guys sitting by himself. I asked to sit next to him. "Quite a view, isn't it?" I started in my usual small talk. "My name's Bryce, yours?" he responded. "I'm Eric. I've seen you around school and eating at The Hut but I never really knew who you were." After a little more small talk, Bryce started getting very serious. Something I had never done much of. I had always thought of life as kind of a joke. The object was just to keep laughing through it all. Bryce started the discussion by pointing out some differences:

"We kind of move in different circles. I am quiet and like to read. I am not the type, like you Eric, who likes to hang around The Burger Hut. I just never know what to say when every one is standing around. No offense, but it seems so superficial, like everyone is trying to impress everyone else with macho talk.” I replied, "I never thought of it that way--just the telling of stories. Maybe we exaggerate a bit but it's fun just hanging around with my friends." I always thought it was the only normal think to do. "But you're not really friends, are you?" Bryce countered. "You mean are we close? No. If a guy wants someone to be close to, he is expected to get a girl he can talk to and be emotional around. . The only emotions you can show around The Hut are anger or lust. Anything else and they call you a fag. But I do remember last fall when I lost my starting position on the football team. I didn't dare go out that night because I just wanted someone to hug me and let me cry. If I talked about that at The Hut, I would be laughed at for sure. I was afraid of my friends." "But Eric, do you see how different we are? You're in the jock crowd and I am in the library 'crowd' and I want a male friend that I can be close to without being afraid. If I hung out at The Hut, I definitely would be laughed at. Even just walking by that crowd makes me frightened as I recall some of the names they have called me." “A year ago, Bryce, I would have agreed with you. But as you recall, after five games last fall, after going 2-3, I was replaced by a sophomore at quarterback. When I was playing, I would cheer everyone, and they would play hard. I was the team leader. But then the new kid led them to a 5-0 finish. It hurt seeing my team playing even harder for someone else. I know winning is the goal, but I wanted to be part of the winning. “The week after I was cut, I walked between classes with my eyes glued to the floor. It hurt. I was no longer the main man at the Burger Hut hang-out sessions. Getting replaced made me realize I

wanted something more than just being part of a team. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt so empty. I still hung out at The Hut, but it wasn’t the same. And it didn’t help hearing that kid talk about going 10-0 next season. He was the new center of attention. I was jealous of him, but it dawned on me that he also will in time be replaced. It all seemed so pointless. I, for the first time in my life, felt really alone.” Talking like this made me very nervous. I knew what I wanted, but I just never thought of that need being filled by a friend like Bryce described. I thought I was surrounded by friends, but now I was being challenged to open up, and I could already feel a sense of closeness and of being liked that I had never before felt. I felt good inside but I wanted to run. At this point Bryce put his around me and gave me a hug. I immediately remember looking around to see if anyone else was watching. I returned the hug. You may not believe this but that was the first affectionate hug I can ever remember–of course, visiting aunts don't count. I looked over to Bryce and we just stared into each other's eyes for maybe a minute without saying a word. From that time on, I never talked to Bryce that often in public, but we would call each other at least once a week and just talk and talk about serious things. That is a picture I carry. I don't know how to tell what it all means, but I know I believe in whatever happened between us. When Bryce left for college at some big Eastern university, he called and wanted to spend a weekend at Ocean Shores. [A resort on the Washington coast.] I wanted to go but I just got to thinking what a goodbye might be like. This may sound gross and I am reluctant to write it down, but I got so horny thinking about being alone in a motel with Bryce that I had to drop my pants and masturbate. I felt so guilty. But how the hell are men suppose to be close? I didn't know and I didn't want to make a mistake trying to find out. Not in Chehalis. When you learn how to ride a bicycle and fall off, nobody calls you a name. But fall off your goal of friendship and they call you a faggot. I fell off the water skis three times before I made my first run. That is how you learn. But when it comes to relationships (especially in Chehalis) you better do it right

the first time or you better be ready to move. I have Bryce's address somewhere but I haven't been able to put on paper the real reason I backed out of the trip. I am working on it. Because of Bryce, I could never become a person like Brad. Whatever you call what happened between Bryce and me, I believe in it. And I am looking for it. When I blew up at Brad, I was partly angry at myself. I saw in Brad an ugly reflection.. I was in some ways wrapped up inwardly without even thinking about it. After all, everyone is wrapped up in themselves. That is the Chehalis way. If you are not looking out for number one, who will? Aren’t other people there just to help you achieve your goals, or to help pass the time in amusement? When I played football, I saw others as just necessary so I could play Quarterback. Brad made me realize that inside me is a picture of another guy who can share my life’s adventure–but in Burger Hut culture that makes me a fag. I am confused. No team can have two quarterbacks. Or, if someone you like, is not blocking for the quarterback, you replace him. Egos stand alone. There were obvious several pictures I carried inside me. Getting away from home, and the culture of small-town American, I felt liberated in a way. But how I feel is more like a man who jumps from the Titanic proclaiming he is now free. I am free from the pressure of parents, The Burger Hut crowd, and the local rumor mill. I feel free only in the same way I was free when I was cut from the football team. I was free from losing, free from practice, and free from the coach yelling at me, but I I never felt free. I have jumped from the Titanic and am now free to drown!

CHAPTER TWO

Week 1 Day One

Sunday.

It's Sunday morning. This school is sort of religious and maybe one half of the students go to church. That may be the national average among all groups but it certainly isn't the average for college students. The dorm is quite empty and after all of the noise of a Saturday night there is a strange quiet. I still haven't seen my roommate much. I think he lives near the campus and he is spending as much time at home as possible. I have to help that kid. Tomorrow classes start. I feel a little bit like a refugee about to enter New York for the first time. Upon seeing Ellis Island there must have been excitement but also disappointment that he was about to leave his past, his traditions, his inheritance and his family and enter into the unknown we call the future. There is a large traffic loop as you enter the campus. The center has been raised and filled with flowers. I call it Ellis Island. I know it sounds crazy but even before any knowledge has been imparted I feel a little bit corrupted, a little bit dirty and not a little bit guilty. What is it about Chehalis that calls me to return. There is nothing there to go home to. I have something in me that I can only call roots. But I have been and am being transplanted. And it starts for real tomorrow morning. I did meet one person today after lunch. He lives next door in the dorm. His name is Tom and he is a religious fundamentalist in the caricature sense of the word. We met going down and I do mean down to the Commons. (I still haven't got used to living on the side of a large hill.) He was wearing a fancy three piece

suit and I was wearing yesterday's growth of beard. I never could see the point of shaving on Sundays. "So you are one of those bedside Baptists," he started out in his (I was to discover) usual sarcastic manner. I was in no mood for a substitute father so I said the first thing that came to mind, "So you are one of those self-righteous prudes." But he was ready for me and I fell right into his trap. "Our preacher said that when I went to college that I would have to suffer for my standards." Tom had a stupid grin on his face as he said this. I felt a sermon coming on or at least some Bible verses about not shaving on Sundays so I tried to back off a little and be friendly. "So what are you taking this quarter?" I asked in a manner I learned from my salesman father. "Actually I don't think it matters what we take because the Second Coming is so close that nothing really matters anyway." He actually said that. I bet if he ever gets married he will be quoting verses on his wedding night in bed. He has given a new meaning to "one-track mind." Maybe I can introduce Tom to Brad sometime. * * * It is late Sunday evening and Steve comes in just as I was getting ready for bed with his arms piled high with food sent from home. "Do you want any cookies? My mom just baked them," Steve said in an excited voice and I glanced over to the picture of "Aunt Bea" and tried to imagine what Steve's home must be like. "No thanks, maybe tomorrow, I just brushed my teeth." "Yeah, I guess if we are going to get up tomorrow we better get to bed."

I thought this is our second meeting and he is already saying "We better get to bed" as if we have been living together a long while. I get very defensive when a stranger acts like he knows me. Distant aunts can get away with it when they visit. But college freshman? He got into his pajamas (I didn't know anybody between 12 and 40 wore pj's.) I stripped naked and jumped into bed. "Don't you wear anything to bed?" Steve asked in a surprised way as if I was doing something immoral. But maybe I was just reacting to Tom from this afternoon. "No, I don't want to get sperm stains on them," I said to shock him and he was. He got red-faced so I said good night and turned the lights out. I pretended to be asleep and after awhile I could hear him masturbating again. I was so tempted to say something about sperm stains, but I resisted. I just laid there frozen. But I quietly joined in. I may have a smart mouth but I am at times shy. I didn't want Steve knowing that the sound of him stroking himself was a turn on. I could feel a bit of bonding with him as if we were sharing something personal and real and not just phony small talk. Maybe later I will bring the subject up. Maybe. But I wondered, was this male bonding I was experiencing or just plain old homosexual lust? I was afraid even to think about it. I thought, "Could I let myself feel right now or should I start thinking of car wrecks or the stomach flu--anything not to feel what I am feeling." I mean, how does a guy know what his feelings mean? And even worse, whom can I ask? Now that is a scary question. The answer, of course, is no one. My heart was pounding. Half out of fear, and half out of excitement. When you have two emotions as once, which one is real? Which one do you listen to? Which one do you act on? And even more mysterious, where do our emotions come from anyway? I didn't ask for them. Maybe it is just a carry over from man's hunting days. All the time Steve was masturbating, I kept hoping he would hurry up and finish. But I didn't want him to stop. I was going crazy. My emotions were fighting with the philosopher

in me. Note: philosophers make poor bedfellows. I think I beat off two or three times. Okay, four. Round one goes to the emotions.

Week 1 of 10. Day 2 Day 1 of classes. Monday. Zero hour has arrived. Being a senior in high school was so exciting you kind of wish life could stay at that level. Life was so perfect: attending ball games on Friday nights, eating pizza out on Saturday nights, cruising the streets and hanging out at the Burger Hut after school. I remember sitting around the school yard during lunch swapping stories that never seemed to end or never stop being funny. There were the semi-boring times from 8:30 to ll:30 and 12:15 to 3:00. But it wasn't a bad life. We all seemed to know each other and everyone had more or less had found a role he could succeed at or at least get a little recognition. But here, all that has been pulled out from under me. Already I sound like one of those senior citizens at the retirement home who look back to the good old days. Eighteen and already looking back. Does life have to be that way? Classes are over for the first day and so far all I know is that I have to buy a lot of books and then read them--all in ten weeks. As I headed off for college my parents had a going away party. ("Party" is used in the old peoples use of the word.) Relatives came from all over for a weekend of eating and talking. You'd think I was getting married or buried. Some of my religious relatives gave me bits of wisdom around the dinner table: "Now don't let college ruin you Eric," "College kids are so wild nowadays I hope you won't end up like that," "Remember your Christian heritage." That last one struck me as really funny. I mean how much heritage can you absorb at Christmas and Easter. But I am discovering that I do have a heritage, a little bit of Chehalis lives inside. And certainly even after not absorbing any knowledge, I already feel that life being challenged. Nothing

is expected of me but to pass my classes and pay the bills. I am free to decide how I want to live and the choices are wide open. Not even a week into dorm life and I am seeing things that we don't have in Chehalis. More on that later, but aside from the moral choices, or "lifestyles" as they call them here--I am thrust into a four year incubator. I am expected to mold myself using the tools and choices provided. I am to work on myself, not worry about anyone else, and not look to the past for any guidance. I am a new-born infant. I am my own father and my own mother and change my own diapers. I am Family. I AM. Yes that is it. Now, I AM. There is no other. This goes against my grain. It all sounds so solitary. But how do you have a community when after four years we all move on? Could you imagine living in a town where when you turn 25 or some other age, you are taken to the city limits and told to leave? Then what are other people for, I ask? These guys in the dorm that move in and out of my life, are they just there to provide escape from studies and the tensions of tests? If rule number one here is, "I AM," then rule number two is, "All is temporary." I think that with no future, reality is now. We all start over in four years. All is left behind. We become born or reincarnated at age 22. Just as I have left Chehalis behind, I will leave all of this behind. "NOW" is all there is and the only thing that is real now is emotion. So rule number three is simply this: "Grab as many feelings as you can." Last week I was worried because somebody moved the fences, but I am now out on the open prairie where there are no fences. I walk to highest point I can find and look out and as far as I can see. There is no one or any sign of human life. It is all mine as much as I can fence in. I have four years to claim as much of life as I can and call it mine and no one else's. Watch out world. I AM....This is what college demands. Something inside of me says this is not right.

Week 1 Day 3 Tuesday.

I read over what a I wrote yesterday. You can see, as I see now, that I was really pumped up. I had a lonely weekend to think about all the changes in the last week. Then on Monday, I think each of my three professors gave their version of the introduction to college pep talk. You could probably guess what they said: You have left your high school past; You have four years of opportunity, don't waste it; You can change society; You've got the whole world in your hands. It all sounds a little trite as I try to remember it but walking into those first classes with other freshman was a little bit overwhelming for this small-town kid. *** After classes today Steve and I happened finally to be in the same place at the same time and we started the process of finding out who this other guy is. Steve, I found out very early, is very religious and comes from a church-going family. They actually do all kinds of things together. They even planned a special outing for his last week at home. I guess that's why he wasn't here all weekend. You know what's funny? He asked who I was and I had never thought about that question. Everybody in Chehalis knew who I was. I gave him some crap about playing sports in high school and about how we all passed our time at the hut. Steve countered with a comment that he was Christian and he ordered his life around the Bible. I thought to myself, what's this crap about "ordering" a life? This all got me to thinking about plans and goals again. I had always thought of life as something that happens and you make a decision with the choices at hand. But how do you make a choice about something in the future? Isn't life just hanging out in different situations? And when you get enough situations one after another they call that life. Why should there be a pattern? Doesn't this boil down to what constitutes life? Who can answer such a question? I made a choice to go to college instead of getting a job. I made a choice to go to class. I made a choice to try and get along with my roommate. But I don't have any plan. How could anyone plan for a future with only the

unknown as a guide? One week here and I already have more questions than I ever had in my life...and the answers I am not sure are in the class room. I feel so lonely like I am adrift in a lifeboat and all anybody included in the provisions was the Works of Plato. When you are adrift without a sail or a rudder, the choice is to read or not to read Plato. But does it matter? I am not sure at this point that what Steve said means anything more than reading Plato in a situation where it doesn't relate. Steve says that God is, that He can be a sail and rudder, and that the Bible can be a map to guide us to a destination. But maybe he is just reading to pass the time in a world set adrift. Also, does that destination have any connection to a good life? Steve and I talked a lot more and I am beginning to see some things in him that are likable.(It is amazing how easy it is to talk laying in bed in the dark with our beds only two feet apart.) He has a natural laugh. I have trouble trusting someone who cannot laugh. Laughing not at others, but laughing because something is truly funny. There is also a naive honesty about him. He looks me in the eye when he talks and he even tried to get me to talk about my family and growing up. I found that embarrassing. He talked about his family doing things together and I couldn't think of really anything we did together in the eighteen years that I had experienced. Sometimes we all rode in the car to Disneyland or down the Oregon coast. But it was no different than taking the train except we had to stop for gas. Steve asked, "Well, didn't you tell jokes and sing while your dad drove just to pass the time?" "Steve, where have you been? I would have been so grossed out if my father laughed or sang or if my mother told jokes. I don't think I could have handled that." "But," Steve countered, "what did you talk about all day?" "Well, we talked about where to stop and eat or to get gas or where we wanted to spend the night. You know, reality stuff.

We made decisions on what we were going to do when we got to Disneyland. I cannot imagine just talking with my parents around. I could easily slip and say something that would get me in trouble." "Well, like what?" "You're not going to believe this," I started, "But I over slept the morning of a trip and just packed my suitcase in a hurry. I said I almost forgot to pack everything, and Mom says 'So what's so important for you to pack?' You see I almost forgot my copies of 'Playboy' to read in the bathroom. I felt myself get red and I had to really think quickly. But I handled it perfectly. I said, 'Oh, extra underwear'." "Eric, I have noticed that when we talk, the subject always ends up with you talking about sex. Why is that?" "That's because whenever I bring sex up, the conversation comes to an end, so there it ends up," I laughed. I had him. And then I added, "Maybe I have discovered a destination after all. Thanks Steve you have been a great help. I now have a goal. Sex it is." "Good night, Eric." "Good night, Steve."

Week 1 Day 4 Wednesday. When you grow up in a small town there is a difference in people, but the difference is in personality. There is a similarity

of fundamental beliefs. It doesn't matter whether you are religious or not, there is a certain accepted behavior. There are some real characters around town. But you know there is a certain honesty, trustworthiness, and patriotism and a sense of community that provides a stable environment to grow up in. It is just the opposite here. There is a sameness in personality. You don't show certain feelings that aren't acceptable or claim unpopular causes, but there is a great difference in lifestyle. What a college student gives up in personality, he gains in his clothing and image and in his freedom to perform sexually. I am enjoying the challenge of this new environment not because of the freedom, but the differences are bringing out of my inner depth a knowledge I didn't know I had. The reason I bring all this up is what happened in our dorm bathroom. I was taking my usual after lunch shower and I noticed voices coming from the stall next to me. I could hear Tony and Jack in the same shower and by the sounds I could imagine what I couldn't see. At that time our resident fundamentalist, Tom, came in and heard the commotion. He walked in the shower rooms and proceeded to start preaching to Tony and Jack. Tom started this way, "This school was founded by good Christian people and they never would approve of the kind of stuff you guys are doing. Don't you have any kind of respect for tradition or God's law? If I were you I would be so afraid of being struck dead. Don't you have any idea what a terrible thing it is to anger God?" Jack and Tony pulled back their shower curtain and it sounded like Tony saying, "Care to come on in Tom?" They then both embraced from head to toe and gave themselves a big loud kiss. I stuck my head out to watch and said, "Hello Tom, I haven't seen you since Sunday. How is class going?" I thought I would break the tension, but Tom just looked at me and then looked at my crouch (I guess to see if I was excited like Tony and Jack) and then just walked out.

"Thanks for getting rid of him," I could hear Tony say above the sound of running water. "No problem," I said but I have to admit that I was embarrassed by the behavior of all of them. I had never been in the middle of such a situation and the confusion within me was something I didn't understand. I could understand Tom's disapproval of Tony and Jack. (We all started calling them T&J for they always seemed to be together.) And I longed for the affection I saw expressed by T & J but the form it took went against something inside me. It is so hard to put into words when one's feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are all being challenged and brought out into the open at the same time. Later I could hear some of the more religious guys talking about what happened in the shower. Tom was leading the discussion. I stopped and listened from around the corner just to see if I was mentioned. I always prided myself on being able to get along with everyone and now I found myself being caught in the middle of a conflict. I hoped I could stay out of it. As I didn't hear my name mentioned, I continued on to my room. There was Steve studying, as he seemed to always be doing. I said, "Guess what I saw in the bathroom today?" "I heard all about it," he said without stopping his writing or looking up. I tried to make a joke about having pictures if he wanted to see them, but he never said any more. I sat down to study and started reading, but I couldn't concentrate. The life and conflicts seemed so real and so challenging compared to my classes. I knew that here was something I had to understand. But I didn't know who to talk to or what to say. How do you put ambivalence into words? One of my high school friends asked to me to go hunting with him and his father. My father didn't do anything that actuary tables said might be hazardous so I never got a chance to go deer hunting. And when you live in a small town near the woods and the mountains, you must be a hunter. Shooting your own deer is something you have to do once while growing up. Nobody can ever

call you a sissy if you can hunt and shoot and dress appropriate ly. You just have to do it once. I always resented my father for never taking me out and showing me the ways of passing from being a kid to being a man. I always tried to steer small talk at the Burger Hut away from hunting. So when I got the chance to go with Jeff and his father I just had to go. When it was time to shoot I was torn between doing what a man must do and the vision in my head of shooting "Bambi." I wanted to miss but I shot the dear. Jeff and his father shot at about the same time but they said it was my shot that brought it down. I think it was too. When I heard T & J in the shower, the picture that came to mind was a photo Jeff took. I was sitting next to the dead deer, holding my gun and wearing a big smile. I remember that picture more than the actual events of that day. I wish I had a copy of that picture to place on our bulletin board. I AM a MAN. At midnight Steve and I got ready for bed. I notice he didn't wear his pajamas tonight. He jumped into bed nude just as I do. I said, "Too many sperm stains on your pajamas, huh?" Steve gave a nervous laugh and said good night.

Week 1 Day 5 Thursday. It is Thursday night. This school is supposed to provide a classical education. You come out of here a real Renaissance man. So far I don't see what is the point of it all. It is not training me for a job. It has nothing to do with movies, rock music, television, or computers. And they call it an education; I am glad I am not paying for this. But I do wonder what I will do after I graduate. You are probably laughing that here is a freshman after his fourth day of class sitting in judgment over a whole tradition and institution. Why? I guess it is the fact that in the short time that I have been here, there has opened up a vacuum inside me. I have this hunger inside that I never knew I had. During class I sometimes

daydream as I plan my real education. I think about something I have read in my spare time or some conversation with the variety of fellow seekers I meet on campus. Being an urban campus with a religious heritage you get a real mix of students. Campus life still shows signs of the traditional past, but the off-campus students are the non-traditional modern urban variety of secular man. It is something I never saw growing up in semi-rural America. I did run into Brad again at the Student Union. I went down there after lunch with the purpose of looking for him. He is a junior and I love his urbane conversation. I don't agree with him, but I leave feeling more alive after a talk with him. (Modern education costs twenty thousand dollars a year to put me asleep and I can be intellectually stimulated for free outside of class.) We got into a talk about classes and he gave me some advice, "Don't get caught up in the race to graduate with honors and the constant worry that goes with that life. I get decent grades but I have no intention of being a monk for four years. I enjoy reading and doing a variety of things. That's one reason I hang around this place after classes." "But what about a job after college?" I asked. "Do you know what you want to spend the rest of your life doing?" Brad asked back. "You have got to be kidding, Brad, I don't even know what I want to do this weekend. I saw people in Chehalis do the same things all their life and it seemed that except for Saturday afternoon activities, everyone was into a routine--just waiting to die. Sometimes people would cheer like crazy at the Friday night games and go out to dinner afterwards, but I have come to see the slow death they all seemed to be living. I want to be able to die and say that I had fulfilled something inside that hungers for being filled. At times, life's like being hungry and sitting down to a big dinner and no matter how much you eat, you get more and more hungry. The older you get the less and less food there is on the table; it is getting bare and you are still just as hungry as when you sat down. And then there comes that time in life when fate asks you to get up from the table. But

you cry out, 'I'm still hungry. I'm still hungry, please wait. Please wait!'" Brad brings out something inside of me that I never knew existed. I have this picture of my father reading the paper every morning, getting older and nothing changes. I know that even though I am not living at home I know what the folks are doing every time I look at the clock. They aren't living life; they are just living each day over and over again. They have the same fears and worries every day and laugh at the same jokes. I used to joke with my friends that when they entered our house they entered the "Johanson Triangle" where all time stands still. I guess my parents have solved the riddle of life by freezing time. But each day they grow older. Each day they get closer to being asked to leave the table. I could see I had even managed to wake Brad out of a morning tiredness. "You, Eric, are paradox. In your young rebellion against classical education, you are already trying to answer the questions that people have been asking for thousands of years. I would say those lectures you have trouble staying awake in are actually having an affect, for you are not your typical freshman. Now I don't think you are going to find the answers in class, just the questions. You mention the vacuum inside you and I happen to think the answer is not intellectual but personal. We all want to connect with another person. When I am having sex with someone I have a sense of being fulfilled. The vacuum leaves.” "But," I interjected, "does the vacuum leave or does your hormone count merely temporarily erase the memory of the vacuum?" "That's a new one I haven't thought of before. I think you are asking a question no human can answer. Can a man fool himself? I don't think anyone in history has been able to stand outside of himself and evaluate his life from some absolute standard. Some claim it but they are only religious fools who claim experiences and visions, but they are only in another level of self-delusion. Personally, we all live in a delusion, so the goal is to find one that is fun. Look at religious people and see the strain on their faces. I reject religion for that reason.

They're not having any fun. Now when I am in bed with someone I am enjoying life. As long they're not some freak, I don't care whether they are male or female. Heterosexuality is just one of those illusions that people try to live by, but look what a sad state marriage is in. Can you say that is the answer?” I couldn't say anything is the answer right now. I see some guys in the dorm who either seem to have the answer or are living in their own illusion. I don't know how to tell who is dreaming or who is not. Maybe Brad is right. If we are living out our own personal fantasies, what does it matter anyway? In a hundred years no one will remember anything. So I guess my answer right now is that man is supposed to live for the first hundred years. That is enough for now. I'll have to fill in the blanks later.... It's time to go to bed, Steve's starting to yawn. Got to put this laptop away for now. Good night diary.

Week 2 Day 6 -- It's Friday. What a week. What a two weeks. I don't think I could have survived without this diary. I feel like I am doing something important, contrary to what happens in class which I haven't quite figured out yet. I am to pass the tests. That's really what it is all about, right? *** Steve is heading home for the weekend again. I'll have some time to study and think about what lies ahead. I am having a terrible time figuring Steve out. He is here and yet he is not. He is honest and yet I can't get him to talk about anything where his honesty would be challenged. I can leave my diary out and I know he won't read it or leave money laying around and it won't get touched. It is frustrating. I can get the kooks around here to talk but Steve remains friendly yet distant. I even think he is beginning to like me. When we talk he now gives me his

undivided attention instead of pretending to be busy or late for something. Once when he was leaving the room this week I gave him an affectionate pat on the back and he looked back and gave me a big grin. Now you have to understand, that is a lot of emotion for him to show. If you know fundamentalists, as I am beginning to a little bit anyway, they express their emotions in very controlled ways. They can get excited during church, go totally bonkers during a basketball game, or show intense hatred for the "enemies" of the church, but just try to get them to show deep love and affection and hugs in a very personal way and they dry up. They freeze. They start talking about the weather or anything. Anything will do but please don't pry inside. They talk about others being sinners but I am sure they are so afraid that if they look inside they will find a sinner there also. And they hate sinners. That puts one in a terrible bind. Despite what all the pop psychologists say I don't think many actually hate themselves. Sometimes I have this fantasy at night while laying in bed: I am going to jump out of my bed and jump into Steve's bed and fall asleep next to him and wait for him to wake up the next morning. He will either hate me or turn to me and start talking without his shield. I don't think you can lay next to a friend in bed with no clothes on and say, "Do you think it's going to rain today?" This is just theory mind you. But I am curious. If I get the courage to pull it off I'll tell you all. Don't look for it in the next couple of pages though, so there is no use skipping ahead.

Week 1 Day 7 Saturday End of Week 1. Part of the family heritage continues on. I got up early to head down to the commons for breakfast. There couldn't have been

more than a dozen there: nobody eats breakfast in college. At least I expected to see gung-ho Keith, the all-American college student, or Tom the college prophet. I walked back to my empty room and a little bit of me missed Chehalis for the first time. Saturday is a big day. Everybody is home. Fathers head down to the local Wal-Mart to buy garden supplies and work in their yards. Mothers bake something just in case someone drops in. Usually someone would. I enjoy the characters I meet here, but there is a certain stability and reliability that can be counted on at home. You can sure tell it is a quiet morning in the dorm. I'm actually longing to pull a few weeds and head to the Burger Hut for lunch. There were no soul searching discussions there, but we did know how to laugh and tell stories. Everyone here is so serious and the laughter is almost a cynical laughter. I remember one Saturday Bob telling us how his father was riding his John Deere mower and ducked for a tree. He fell off and the mower kept going right through the neighbor's flowers. Bob saw it all and probably remembered even more than actually happened. But I can see him now, laughing so hard while trying to describe the scene. I nearly choked on my fries. On the way home we all drove by Bob's house and honked our horns at Bob's father out replanting the neighbor's flowers. We didn't have any home videos back then, but I think the story does better when told by Bob. A true sign of a freshman is the nervousness about taking a crap in the dorm bathroom. I usually go when it's not so busy. There are two things in life I have never seen: a friend beating off and a friend wiping his ass after taking a crap. And of those, there is one I never wish to see. Guess which one. But I just returned from the can. Halfway through my business Tom walked in and sat in the stall next to me. You know what, fundamentalists are even more self-conscious than I thought. When Tom first sat down and started his business, he let out a large fart. He, without even knowing who I was, apologized. "Ploooooooooooooo" or whatever a fart sounds like. You know. "Sorry about that next store whoever you are."

"That's OK Tom, I did it once myself when I was little," I replied trying to have a little fun. There was some silence like he didn't know what to say. "Did you know it was me, Eric?" "I'd recognize that fart anywhere," I said as I tried to sound serious. Fundamentalists understand seriousness. But they don't understand when you are pulling their leg. I guess it is not a Christian virtue. "Actually," I continued, "You're the only guy I know who has such a strange sounding fart noise." Silence and Pause. And the sense of tension. Then... "Do you think it's going to rain today?" Really. He actually said that. I was through so I bid farewell. Besides, I had to hurry back to my diary. This was just too good.

CHAPTER THREE

The beginning of week 2 Day 1 Sunday. Sunday afternoons are kind of quiet. Being a urban campus, a lot of guys go home to do their laundry and load up on snack food. Most of the rest spend Sunday afternoons with their girl friends. It makes me kind of wish I had a steady girl but the only reason is that there are some really good looking, sexy girls here. Socially I'd rather hang around the dorm and play football or basketball or have water balloon fights. Sometimes people have labeled me gay, but it is hard for me to socialize with the opposite sex. I can fantasize about sleeping with them but if I want to talk with someone, I prefer the rough and tumble of a friend. I am sure this is why so much of this diary, as you have probably discovered by now, is about my struggles in the area of relationships. I have never had sex with anyone outside of myself, and if I were it would be a female. But if I were to live with someone I would much prefer a guy. There is something inside of me that wants male companionship. As you can see I am caught between labels. People want to know if I am either heterosexual or homosexual. I reply, "Is there another choice?" While studying this afternoon I heard a faint knock at the door. I yelled, "It's open." And Tony of T & J fame walked in. He asked if he could come and just sit for awhile. "Jack has gone somewhere for the weekend and I am not used to being alone." "Sure Tony, I need a study break. Have a bed." Our small rooms consist of two desks, two closets and two twin beds separated by about two feet. I walked over to my bed and sat down.

Tony sat right next to me. Normally the dorm thing to do would be to sit across from the person you are visiting. You know, the social distance thing. Tony is about 5'l0" but with a very frail build. He must not weigh more than l35 and his blond bushy, curly hair makes him look more like a "Q-tip." He was wearing a tank top with a few tears and holes in it and sweat pants cut off above the knee, and he was bare-footed. The thing you notice first about him is his puppy-dog eyes that make you just want to hug the guy. He has a sheepish grin when he talks that makes him very disarming. When he talks he makes you think you are really important. "So how's school going?" I started. A good question anytime around here. It is open-ended and lets the person talk just about anything that is on his mind. "So far I am a little home sick. If it weren't for Jack I don't know what I would do. He has been here a year already and he has shown me everything around campus. But sometimes he just disappears for awhile without saying anything and I don't know what to do." "Don't you have any other friends, Tony?" "Well I know you because you take a shower the same times we do. But I just am not very good at that sort of thing. I was never very athletic and I grew up all by myself. My father was always working long hours and I was on my own." "So how did you pass your time?" I could tell he wanted to talk so I just let him. Besides I was curious about what made him the way he was. Maybe I could learn something about my own problems of adjusting to college by listening to Tony. Also, he has a way of talking that makes a person feel good inside while you listen. I don't think he even knows he has this talent. "I hope you don't mind my taking up your time." "No Tony, just talk. I am alone today also," and that made him relax a little.

"Well I raised myself I guess you could say. I used to watch television, read quite a few books, and ride my bike all over Richland. [A town in Eastern Washington.] When I got real lonely I used to go to a store where they had all kinds of magazines. It was an area where the migrant farm workers from the surrounding farms used to hang out with their campers. That little store would sell anything to a kid and if they wouldn't, you could always get one of the workers to buy you anything. There was a large selection of skin magazines. I would look at "Penthouse" and "Playboy" mostly out of curiosity, but would always buy "Man Date" or one of those male picture magazines." "It sure sounds a lot different than Chehalis," I added in as there was a pause as if he were waiting to see if I was listening. "I have never been to Chehalis, but to continue, I would take those magazines home and study the pictures. I would compare my figure with theirs and compare erections. You know when I would do that I wouldn't feel alone. I felt like somebody was sharing his inner most secrets with me and I would masturbate and feel so warm inside." I noticed that while Tony was talking his sweat pants showed that he had developed a full erection. He obviously was not wearing anything under his sweats. But he just sat there and made no attempt to hide and he showed no embarrassment. I liked that, but it also made me nervous. When you talked to Tony, you could just sense he wanted to please. I knew he would do any thing I asked at that point. A normal relationship is a give and take. But as far as Tony was concerned, he gave and you took. I wanted to hug him and tell him I liked him a lot but I didn't know if he would misinterpret what I said or do something I wasn't ready to do. Growing up in a small town there were choices that I never had to make. In fact, I never even knew the choices were available. Oh, we might have joked about certain things and called

some zero a faggot but having to confront a real person brought the issue from the stratosphere down to ground level. And Tony wasn't stupid or fat or ugly. He was a contradiction and I just had to know more about this guy. He was a mystery to me. But I needed to back off some so I asked an innocuous question. "So tell me a little bit about Richland." "I don't know much about the town except from what it was like for me to grow up there and what my parents told me. My grandfather came to Richland during World War II to work construction in the building of atom bombs. Later my father worked in the construction of nuclear power plants. He was pretty busy and worked most weekends and I never remember much of him. I mother was into soaps on television so I pretty much reported home for meals and was on my own. I stuck to myself and of course to my magazines. I really looked forward to coming to Seattle as a chance to start over." As he talked he would scratch his crotch now and then. I don't know if he was doing it because he was nervous or because that was his favorite toy growing up. I thought I would bring the subject up so I said, "Looks like you're pretty well endowed there." "Thanks, if you measure it on the top side it comes in at six and three-eights," Tony actually seemed proud as he talked. "How about you?" "A little bit longer, almost seven I think," as I tried to act casual but I hadn't talked like this since I was eight or nine and back then it was no big deal. I was real nervous, but excited in a way. "Do you think we could compare? I mean just look at each other's bone. Outside of pictures I've never seen one longer than mine. Jack's is barely six." I wanted to but was a little afraid to where it might lead or who would find out. Could I trust Tony not to talk? What if

Steve came back early? But just talking about it was making my cock swell so I said, "Sure, why not." Tony immediately had his sweats around his ankles and his cock seemed to get even harder as if it was proud to be out. I pulled down by tennis shorts and then my underpants. I wasn't that hard at first but when Tony started staring at me I quickly joined the crowd of hard dicks. "Let's stand up, Eric." I stood up but I was shaking all over. "Must be kind of cold in here," I said as I looked down at Tony's creation. The kid seemed so proud. His cock pointed almost straight up while mine was at about a forty-five degree angle. He gave himself a few strokes as if he was going to masturbate. I noticed how caressing his strokes were. When I beat off I do it in a quick fashion with hard, fast stokes. Just then there was a pounding at the door. It sounded like bombs were going off. I quickly pulled up my tennis shorts and sat at the desk. Tony pulled up his sweats and laid on the bed on his stomach as if taking a nap. "It's open," I shouted but my voice cracked and Tony let out a little giggle. Someone stuck their head in and asked for Tom because he knew he and I talk sometimes. I said, "No, I haven't seen him all day." I was hoping he didn't notice but I was sweating and I could hear my heart beat. He closed the door and I let out a loud sigh. Tony rolled over and just started giggling. "You almost joined my crowd. People would think you, Jack and I are all pals." He thought it was really funny to see the scared look on my face. I just didn't know what to think. "I think I better go back to studying," I said. "Do you mind if I just take a nap on your bed? My room is so empty right now." "Of course not. Feel free to come in here any weekend. My

roommate seems to take off every weekend also." As Tony rolled over and started to sleep I tried to read but couldn't. For the first time in my life I felt as if I had broken the surface of somebody's exterior gloss. I just sat in my chair staring at the sleeping Tony and there was a warm tingle as I thought about him. So many questions started popping into my head but I tried not to think about that right now. I just wanted to enjoy that feeling of excitement that buzzed all over me. I really didn't know much about Tony but the kid was so open, unassuming and he had no pretensions. When you were in his presence he made you feel like a king. But I also thought, he and I share a secret. I don't know that much about him. Can I trust him? If I can't trust him, does he have some power over me? [Later] Steve is back from home with a pile of cookies. He gave me some. He didn't want to talk much so we headed to bed. Chock up another day away from home. But oh, what a day.

Week 2 Day 2. The second Monday of classes. I didn't think I would ever get through classes today. It is a good thing I took notes because I don't think I remember anything that was said. I kept thinking of Tony. I ran into him in the bathroom before class as he and Jack were shaving. He gave me that little grin of his but didn't say a word. I smiled back but all I could think of was, "Did I open a door and release a tiger that does not want to go back in? And now what do I do with the tiger?" I remember going through freshman orientation as I felt I had left Chehalis all behind. I was adrift socially. I could handle that. At least I knew that this was part of American life and I would handle it like anyone else. Being adrift socially gave me a sense of freedom after the anxiety had passed. But now I feel I am adrift morally. Where do Tony and I draw the

line? Maybe I should rather say, where do I draw the line be cause Tony doesn't have any lines. I kept looking for a label to put on my experience. My past doesn't have one. At least not one that I am willing to accept. I am in love with someone for the first time and I don't even dare call it love. When I was a little kid my father sent me to the post office to mail an important letter. He gave me a quarter so I first stopped for some candy. When I got to the post office I couldn't find the letter. I thought I had it in with some school papers but it wasn't there. I looked over the whole route I had taken but I couldn't find it. It was gone and how do I tell father? That feeling is a little bit like I feel right now: I had reached for some candy and lost something. And there is no way I am telling father or anyone. And that little internal guide I had picked up along the way is gone. I thought I knew the answer to every situation and I could just build upon my past. I can't. I feel lost. Where can I go for a new guide? I could never return to the Burger Hut and be satisfied with just telling stories. I want to know and to be known. I thought I would go to college, learn how to earn a living, and along the way pick up a wife like everybody else. But my memories of marriage are of my father and mother going through the routine of living. Every day the same; every week the same; and every year the same. Just killing time on planet earth. Now that past has suddenly been erased and I have entered the land of no categories. There are no road maps in this land and the streets have no names. But something inside me cries out for someone to say, "It's OK, just take my hand and we can walk down the streets to a destination called 'meaning'. I need to understand." One thing is certain. I am learning the wisdom of the ages in class, presented my professors who have lived with those truths of Plato and Aristotle and Kant, and yet they have no answers for me. How can I study when it seems like the food that the teachers are putting on the table doesn't satisfy? As I walked back to the dorm after classes for my usual noon shower I walked in a daze.

"What, you're not talking to your roommate now?" someone said. "Oh hi, Steve, didn't see you," as we almost bumped into each other as he headed off for an early lunch. I was a little bit afraid of the shower room because I knew T & J used that place because it was empty during the noontime. As I got into the shower, I could hear the two hugging and kissing. I peeked around the shower curtain and I could see Jack on his knees giving a blow job to Tony. My heart dropped. I got back in my shower and I felt sick. Even though I don't think I would ever do that with Tony, I felt violated. I almost shouted out from my shower, "Don't do that Tony, that's wrong." The same feeling of loss and ambivalence that I experienced when I killed that deer I felt when I saw my friend Tony getting sucked. I felt empty, and...jealous of Jack. Do you ever want to talk to someone who will listen, who will understand, will not laugh, and will send you on your way feeling good inside? Right now, I need assurance. I remember the story from childhood about the emperor who had no clothes. He thought he had the finest garments only to have his nakedness exposed. I grew up with a stable social environment and I had a moral view of life. I put on those garments and went off to college. I was so proud of my fine heritage. Then something happens or someone enters your life and they shout like, "Eric has no heritage. He has no past and no moral code. He is naked." Steve came back from lunch as I was getting dressed. He was his usual self. I was so afraid that he would see me a changed person. I couldn't handle any questions right now. He is so religious I don't think he would ever understand. I am sure by the way he talks he has never done anything that he would be afraid to have everyone know. I hate perfect people. Tom is so perfect that he has become a caricature of perfection to the point of being funny, but Steve is just an even-balanced, easy going, cheerful guy. If I ever revealed the volcano inside of me I am sure I would lose any chance of ever being his friend. Here

I am starting to like the guy that I first thought so weird. Wow, I am changing.

Week 2 Day 3 Tuesday. I knew Brad would be at the student union building after classes and all during the lectures I thought of what to say to him. I wanted to talk about Tony without revealing too much of myself. One thing about Brad, you could talk about anything with him. I mentioned how Tony and I had become quite close and yet I saw him having sex with someone. I felt violated. The following is how I remember our exchange: Brad: "You are free. Tony is free. And you expect Tony to live by your standards. Maybe he would like you to live by his standards. Ever thought about that?" Me: "But my standards are for love and friendship." Brad: "You think Tony and Jack don't love each other?" Me: "Rumor has it that Jack will have sex with anyone willing. Doesn't loyalty count for anything?" Brad: "Well, Tony is loyal to two people. That is better than most." Me: "But shouldn't friends share the same standards?" Brad: "I believe in diversity. You can agree to differ." Me: "I think diversity is a another word for conflict. And I think friendship should be a haven from conflict." Brad: "No, No. Friendship is enjoying yourself while you are with another person. Why bring extra baggage into a friend

ship? Enjoy your time with Tony and then go your separate ways until you get together again. Don't you enjoy your time with Tony?" Me: "Yes." Brad: "And Jack enjoys Tony in their time together." Me: "But he is using Tony." Brad: "And you don't?" Me: "Not in that way." Brad: "But in your way, right?" Me: "I am not using Tony." Brad: "But Jack does because he violates your standards!" Me: "I think we have come full circle. I'll need some time to think this over." Actually, I was confused and needed some time to think about what he was saying. Brad says friendship seems to be the mutual using of each other while you're together, and then ignoring the other times. But that goes against something inside me. Another picture from my past, I guess. But are all relationships reduced to a mutual using? Does a baby use its parents? Does a wife use her husband? Do parents use their kids? If that is true, then life is just a large conflict as I manipulate people to get mine. I know that isn't true, but once I give up my standards, is that the logical conclusion? I am laying in bed writing in my diary as Steve is getting ready for bed. As he climbed into bed, he didn't turn out the light. He rolled on his side and just watched me write. He looked up and he asked, "What are you writing about?" "I guess I am writing about friendship and how to know if

guys are friends. Do you ever think much about it?" Steve sat up on his elbow and for the first time I felt like we had something to talk about. He looked right at me and said, "Do you mean me?" He caught me off guard with that question and all I could think to say was, "Yeah, why not you?" I threw it back to him. "As you know, Eric, I grew up in a church and it was very difficult to have friends. You always had to be on your guard. The standards were so high and you had to reach them on your first try. I guess that is good in a way because it kept me out of a lot of trouble, but here I am eighteen and I feel only ten inside. I feel so lonely here at school but I don't even know how to get to know someone. The only people I know who are close are close in doing wrong. And I can't do that." I replied, "Do I scare you?" "Yes you do. When you joke about sex I don't know what to say because I have never talked about sex in my life. In church we don't have sex, just children. And when you open up around me I feel like I have to open up around you. I have never done that and I will probably come across as a ten year old ass." Steve was very tense and I could tell he had gone as far as he could at this time. He was trying so hard. He was so serious. But I felt a love growing between us that was a different kind of love than I experienced with Tony. I turned the lights off and just laid there and thought about Steve, Tony and what I was learning about friendship. I guess Steve was really tense as I can REALLY hear him masturbate tonight. Either he thinks I'm asleep or he no longer cares if I hear. I joined in, quietly.

Week 2 Day 4 Wednesday Steve got up really cheerful this morning. I didn't think we talked very frankly or opened up much last night, but I think it was a big step for him. For the first time he let down his image of super saint. I feel good about that. I got to thinking of how we all put on social clothes. We are all naked and must cover ourselves. No one wants to be seen in public as naked. In Chehalis our clothes are largely chosen for us, and we really don't give much thought to our outer garments. We just put on the clothes provided. We are all similar so it never really dawns on us that we could put on different clothes. And even if they were offered we wouldn't change. The thing that makes a small town fit like an old shoe is that we wear similar clothes. I am finding now that the clothes I brought to college and I thought I would wear for life are now a choice. I am free to pursue other "clothes". The clothes I wear are no longer garments but a statement and a choice. The physical clothes I wear are a reflection of the kind of person I am or of what I want people to think of me. Tom, the church fundamentalist, actually wears a shirt and tie to class. Jack, the gay activist, dresses in a lot of black leather and tight clothes. My roommate Steve, who is very family orient ed and has a personal religious faith, dresses conservative and always neat and clean. Brad, the off-campus philosopher, dresses very ivy league. Keith, the most likely to succeed, always wears a clean, ironed shirt. I even see him in the morning in the restroom already neat and clean. Tony, the lonely kid from Richland, dresses very seductively. Very tight sweats and tank tops are his usual dorm wear. There is another guy in the dorm I see a lot, Jason, who is constantly organizing ball games, always wears a sports logo shirt. It is to the point that when I meet someone here at school I now look at what he's wearing. Also I realize, for the first time, that the clothes I have always worn are a choice. A choice I never knew I made. It was made for me. Now I must decide what to wear for the first time in my life.

Steve and I came back from dinner and even though we had studies we started to talk. I think we talked for two hours. The experience I am having with social clothes, I think Steve is experiencing the same thing with his religious beliefs. He is becoming aware that his beliefs were clothes that his parents provided him. Now he is becoming alert to others like myself who he likes who are not religious. He has only known church people in high school or associated with his relatives. Also he was really not in personal contact with people who he would regard as sinners. One of the friends he has made so far is named Todd. Todd is a real ladies man. Girls here just naturally like him and he and Steve talked about Todd's relationships. Todd likes to brag about his conquests and even told Steve that he can meet a girl and within a hour can get her to take off some of her clothes. He parks his van behind the dorm and Steve has seen him take girls into the van quite often. Steve said, "I dated only religious girls in high school and the most we would ever do is a little light kissing and some girls wouldn't even want to do that. They felt that to engage in any physical activity would make it impossible to get to know your date. My professor today talked about the teachings of Plato and I began to realize that a lot of Plato can be found in the church. I was taught that only the spiritual was real and the physical and the body were temporary illusions. I grew up being ashamed of my body and its functions. And I thought this was being religious and now I find out that I was a Platonist. But I think I understand how it can happen for religious people. They see people like Todd and react by being the opposite." I could feel a certain camaraderie with Steve for we were both going through the same thing. We had been going through it separately and from different perspectives but we were both feeling the pressures of college way beyond our studies. I felt real bold after about an hour and brought up the subject of masturbation. I said that in high school I only did it once a week, but now it was at least daily. I don't know the connection, but all the pressures makes me really horny.

All that actually brought out Steve a little as he stated, "You think that is different. I almost always found release through wet dreams and only beat off about once a month. Now I do it at bedtime each night." "I know; I know, " I laughed. Steve got red in the face and grinned at me and said, "You know just talking about it is a first for me. I have never talked about sex with anyone in my entire life. In church it is the great silence. I have heard a lot of sermons that we don't do what the sinners do. But I never heard much about what we do. I can't believe how horny I am just talking about sex. I am nervous right now, scared, and yet my cock is so hard I can't believe it." "So that's while you're holding that blanket your lap while we talk. I thought you were holding it because you were cold, Steve." I had this great temptation to grab the blanket but I didn't want to scare Steve off. He has become such a different person in two weeks I hope we can continue to get to know each other. I don't want to force him to retreat into that earlier religious perfectionism.

Week 2 Day 5 Thursday I'm having my first college test tomorrow. I studied all day. I think this will only happen once. Once is enough.

Week 2 Day 6 Friday. It's Friday. What a week. College is such a great learning experience. It's too bad I have to go to class: it interferes with my education. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but the

studies do cut into my social life, and my quest. Yes, that's it, my quest. I have been struggling with the "why" of college and I have been using this diary to sort out this life. If you have read this far you might be saying, "This sure isn't the college I remember or am experiencing." I can explain that. I am being very selective. The selection wasn't even conscious at first. I just wrote down what was important each day. After awhile I discovered I had left out many events that were exciting or fun or entertaining but it never occurred to me to include those items. Also there are a lot of people I know in school here who are not included. They are just wallpaper on the dorm walls: just part of the surroundings. I look for guys who are engaged and seem to be wrestling with life and are struggling for some real goal. This Friday afternoon is a good example. Friday afternoons are chaos in the dorm. It seems that this is the time that weekends are arranged. Some want tickets to some event; some are packing to go somewhere; some are dialing numbers frantically trying to discover who is available; and some are just looking to get up a good card game. I am ignoring the confusion. I am using my diary to impose order on this chaos. Out of the multitude of events I pick ones that fit into my quest. You have undoubtedly noticed that class has not been a very important part of my college experience. Time wise it takes up most of my life, but my selective process has put most of that into the ash can of life. Today was an exception. Professor Bauer took what he has been saying about ancient thinkers and put it all together in a way that made them more relevant and understandable. He said that the non-conscious life is not worth living. That we live in a society where everyone is walking through in a daze with no thought about the meaning of it all. He had three main points: (1) Know what you believe.

(2) Evaluate what you believe. (3) Commit yourself to what you believe. This is what I think I have been trying to do here at college. There is a lot of talk around the dorm about future hopes and wishes and of course sexual fantasies. But the talk never comes down to what we believe. I guess it is all assumed. We all live in the world seen through "Time" magazine. We don't ask questions; we just try to make the best of it. In the midst of the picture painted by "Time" we try to weave a life that will be personally satisfying. We are all trying to find a profession that pays good, to find a wife that looks good, and to find a good place to live. "That's all folks," as Porky Pig likes to say.

Week 2 Day 7 It's Saturday. I am still in a thoughtful mood. Prof Bauer's lecture yesterday really got me on a roll. Last night I got into a great six or seven hour card game. Boy was that fun. The dorm was mostly empty and we were screaming and laughing so loud and long the time just flew by. I needed that. It gives me a chance to use my brain for what it was truly designed for--FUN! I woke up this morning totally refreshed. Tony just walked in. "Hey, Eric, I am alone this weekend again. Do you mind if I come in here and study with you?" "No problem. I enjoy your company." Tony had on his usual study clothes. Tight sweats cut off above the knee and his ragged tank top and walking bare foot. I

also have study clothes. A T-shirt and tennis shorts and stock ings on my feet. I have noticed most guys study in the same place with the same clothes. It is a ritual that I think helps. I always study at my desk. Tony comes in, lays on my bed and starts reading. I was surprised how well he could study on a bed without falling asleep. He read there for a couple hours without saying so much as a word. After awhile I noticed he put his book down and pulled a magazine out of his back pack. It was one of his usual male skin photo magazines. I couldn't help but watch him and his reactions. Tony is so uninhibited. After "reading" for about ten minutes he started scratching his crotch. I could see his cock start to swell almost instantly through those tight sweats. He was laying on his back on my bed with his head toward me. He couldn't tell that I was staring. I had heard Steve masturbate but I had never seen anyone do it. I was getting so excited that I had to start rubbing my shorts. Tony then just gently and slowly worked his sweats down around his knees. I think he was putting on a little bit of a show. But that is the way I do when I am alone so maybe he is just being natural. He puts the magazine down and really starts stroking his cock with his right hand and with this left hand he is massaging his balls. I couldn't believe that I was actually seeing someone doing it. I always wondered what it looked like. I couldn't control myself. I came right in my shorts. I gave a quick jerk and the chair must have moved a foot. I think Tony must have heard it for he started stroking faster and then he started shooting all over himself. His head kept popping up off my pillow as his whole body jerked in rhythm. Tony just laid there covered with sperm and said, "Boy, that was a good study break." "Yeah, I never thought of it as that way. I think you taught me some new study habits," I joked. "I am afraid I am a little more modest than you. Could you tell I soaked my shorts?"

"I was wondering what you were doing back there. I know you saw Jack giving me a blow job. I hope you don't think that I want you to do that. We only did it that once and I am not sure I want to do it again. I felt closer to you right now than with Jack in the shower. He is so mechanical in his sex and when he is not horny he doesn't really treat me all that well." This was the first time Tony had shown any depth. I wondered how complex he actually was. I stood up and went over to my dresser to get on some dry clothes. "At least you had enough sense to keep your clothes dry," I said. "You're obviously an amateur, Eric," and he gave that little innocent grin of his. "Stick around me and I'll make a pro out of you." "I'm not sure I want to lose my amateur status," I said as I returned his grin. He then proceeded to rub his sperm all over his chest and then pull up his sweats. I put on some clean shorts and I sat down on the bed next to him. All I could think to say was, "Thanks, Tony. Maybe this is common for you. But for me this is very special." "Being seen by someone is pretty common I'm afraid. But to have someone say they like me is not common. Thanks, Eric." "Do you think the study break is over?" I asked. Tony shouted back, "Get off my bed. You're ruining my study habits." "I suppose that is the only thing in your life that hasn't been ruined," I replied. Tony actually gave out a little laugh when I said that. It is difficult to get him to laugh and I thought that was important.

Gee, I hope no one in Chehalis reads this diary. Maybe I can get one of those cyanide teeth that spies have just in case.

CHAPTER FOUR

Week 3 day 1 Sunday. Sundays are especially quiet around here. I decided to walk around the dorm about church time to see who is here and who is gone. I can safely explore without the fear of running into Tom. After yesterday with Tony I do not care to get into a discussion with a fundamentalist. As I walked by Jason's room, I noticed he was alone and just sitting there typing or at least day-dreaming in front of the typewriter. "Hi, Jason, I notice you are one of the few without a computer. It must be hard to write a paper. I make so many mistakes I think I would flunk out using an antique." "Hello, Eric. Oh, it isn't too bad. I try to think before I type so I don't have to type too much. I have a computer at home, but I didn't have room to bring it with me when I drove out here." "I guess, the obvious question is," I asked, “ where are you from?" "Last year I went to Wheaton college outside of Chicago. I came out here because I broke off an engagement with my girl. We got in a fight at the end of the school year and I decided to come out here for a year," He said. "Sounds like a story here. Care to tell me much about it?" I asked. I could see he wanted to talk. "I suppose it is just one of those lovers' spats that couples go through before they get married. We still write some and talk on the phone some. It's just that I have always been one to play sports or go fishing with my friends. I feel that is

important part of my life and it upset her that I could still enjoy weekends away from her. I told her I wanted her to have girl friends also and that a marriage would be better if we each had other friends. She took that as rejection and it is a hurdle we will have to get over together. But I just don't want to get married and spend the rest of my life like my father. He just hangs around the house. He has no outside interests. He is active in church along with my mother, and that is about it. I don't want to live like that," Jason said and finally stopped for a breath. I thought I could change the subject a little so I latched onto the church thing. "If your parents are active in church, what are you doing here Sunday morning?" "Not much," he laughed. "No, I meant... "I know what you meant," he interrupted. "I grew up in a church and was very active. I taught Sunday School and helped out in the worship service sometimes. Then when my girl, Patty, and I broke up some people in the church started a rumor that I was gay." "Really, you are the last person I would suspect of being gay. I struggle with being close friends and sometimes I get afraid to get too close to a guy." I normally don't open up this quickly with someone, but Jason is one of those people that is so relaxed and open when he talks it is more difficult to be phony around him than it is to be natural. Also breaking down some of my barriers around Steve and Tony have really helped me progress beyond "hangin' out" talk. "I know what you mean. One of the things that changed me is when read how close people were in the Bible. When I read of David and Jonathan I decided to experiment when I went off to college to try and develop close, warm, affectionate and physical friendships. I made some mistakes, but I was blessed with some really great guys who were struggling along with me and we gave

each other some room for failure. With that room came a lot of successes. Once in church one of my closest friends accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. I got so excited I actually ran up to him and hugged and kissed him in public. That was a mistake." "The hugging and kissing part, or the public part?" I interjected. I was sitting on his bed next to his desk. He said, "Stand up.” I stood up. He stood up next to me, grabbed me and gave me a big hug and planted a big kiss on my cheek. I didn't know how to react. He just sat back down at his desk and said, "Does that answer your question?" He started to laugh and I joined in. "So is that when the stories started?" I asked as I wanted to hear more. Whenever I found someone who could relate as a real person, I liked to ask as many questions as possible. Especially when the answers might help me in my quest. "Not really. There was some talk. At least not that I could tell. But when Patty and I broke up the wild fire was loose. I left church four months ago and I haven't been back since. I am still a believer and I even tried going to another church. No one talked to me and I felt so inhibited for fear of revealing myself that it just wasn't church anymore. Just a ritual. How about you, Eric?" "Do you mean do I go to church or am I gay?" I joked. Jason just laughed and said, "Just answer any question you feel like answering. You probably will anyway." So I decided to tell Jason about my quest. I was struggling with just about everything at college. But I started by saying, "There are really two big questions that I have. One, what is life and what am I to do with it? And two, what are other people for?"

Jason just stared at me and said, "You sure are starting with the basics, and I think I counted three questions." I continued, "Anyway, I read about this guy named Descartes in one of my classes who tried to find the basic law of life and came to the conclusion that, 'I think, therefore I am.' I mentioned this concept to one of my friends and he said that for him the basic was, 'I fuck, therefore I am.' And from what I hear around campus this is basically the philosophy for many. But I am looking for what is really REAL. And I think it somehow involves people." Jason showed an interest that I hadn't suspected from a Jock type guy. He asked, "Have you come to any conclusions?" "Just one so far. I am not going to let college interfere with my education. But in a more serious vain I have only discovered how difficult my quest has become. There is something in me that wants to be different--different from the way I was raised and different from the world that the media present and is personified so much everywhere on campus. There are a lot of religious people on campus but I have noticed that the only difference between them and the non-religious is this: they pursue the same goals, though the religious people try to attain those goals by ethical means. But they're still the same. I can't be that way." "It's almost time for lunch," Jason said. "But I do want to continue this discussion later. Care to join me at the Commons?" "Only if you don't shave first," I answered. I had to explain the significance of that. He thought it okay, so off we went--just two hungry "sinners." I spent the afternoon playing touch football with Jason and four others. Another one of those great times. As I was getting dressed from the shower, Steve returned. "You're back early this weekend," I said.

"What did I do walk in on something important?" he joked. "No, she just left." I snapped back. "Well, then, you must be ready for some fresh cookies." "Okay, sounds good Steve, I'll put on a pot of coffee." As we were drinking coffee and eating chocolate chip cookies, Steve asked if we could talk. That kind of scared me. I thought of what happened with Tony this weekend and I thought word might have got out. The rule of the dorm is this, "The walls have ears." There doesn't seem to be many secrets around here. "What is it, Steve?" I started with a little bit of nervous ness in my voice. "I don't know what it is, Eric, but you make me feel guilty. I don't know if it is you or what. I know I never masturbated much until I was around you. Also, as you know I was raised in a very strict church. I was always warned about sinners and how they would seduce me." "I don't actually consider myself..." I tried to say. "Let me continue. I've been working on this speech all day." So I just tried to sit back and relax as much as possible, sipping coffee to break the tension. "I have only spent my time around church people and I have learned how to act around them. It is quite formal but it is a very secure atmosphere. You never get challenged except those occasional sermons about becoming more committed. But I can't act that way around you. You are bringing out parts of my life I never knew I had. I feel guilty when I laugh at one of your gross jokes; I feel guilty when we talk about our problems when we are laying in bed at night; I feel guilty when I get so horny

when we talk about sex; and here is the worst part--I am really starting to like you. I want to touch you. I want to hug you. I just want to be close. And when you undress for bed I think you are even neat to look at. You bring out feelings in me I don't know how to classify. I'm no faggot. I am pretty sure about that. But what am I?" I sat there and was actually speechless for a second. I reached for some more coffee. I was so nervous that I felt numb all over. I was able to talk to Jason about things because he was so relaxed, but the fear that Steve felt was totally covering me. I didn't know whether it was my own fear that Steve was bringing out or I was just able to sense what he felt. Regard less, it was now my fear and I started to tremble. I tried to steer the subject back to a little more tame level for a second. "I know I don't go to church like you or read the Bible every day as you do. But becoming a believer is not something I have ruled out. You have to realize the church I grew up in was such a formal, emotionless tomb. A bunch of old people celebrating the good old days when America was Christian. The few sermons I did hear were always talking about how God was going to judge America for her sins. It seemed like a 'me only' club. I never could see the purpose of sitting there for an hour each week. If I sat there I was a Christian, but if I didn't sit there I wasn't a Christian. Is that how it is?" Steve relaxed a little as we got onto a side subject. He started, "I can understand your confusion. Churches today seem to have lost the thing that makes them churches. I am struggling with that more than I let on. I get so bored each Sunday, but I do know that Jesus Christ is real. I just don't know what to with this reality." I could see it was getting late. As classes do start on time and so very early, I thought it was necessary to bring this to a close for awhile. I said, "Maybe we should just sleep on this for awhile. But maybe there is a force that in some way is bringing us into conflict. You are challenging me in an area I just as soon not deal with and I am challenging you in an area

you would certainly leave left alone. I think we might be good for each other." As I stripped for bed and was standing naked next to a naked Steve, he gave me a little pat on the back. I looked back and gave him a big smile. It was the first time I could recall he had really touched me. I felt good inside.

Week 3 Day 2 Oh, for Mondays. All during my three classes this morning I had a hard time taking notes. My off-hours quest really blossomed over the weekend. I looked forward to my meeting with Brad over coffee as usual. Sometimes it seems professors don't like Monday any better than I do. Maybe it is just me but all three seemed particularly boring this morning. Even Prof Bauer who was so intense last Friday just read from some old notes. I could even see that the edges of the notes were all dog-eared. I wrote in the column of my notes, "I wonder when he first gave this lecture.” I rushed to see Brad and when I saw him in his usual chair I had the feeling he was also glad to see me, but you would never get him to admit it. He has a reputation as the Student Union philosopher. I have never seen him let down that image. No matter what I say I can't gross him out or get him to show the least reaction. [Note: never play poker with Brad if invited.] "Haaaaaay, Brad. Good to see you," I said as I sat down next to him with a large mug of coffee. "Hey, Eric," he called back. "So what's today's topic going to be?" Immediately I said, "Friendship." "Like between guys?" he asked.

"Yeah. You got it." That is all it took to get Brad going. "I look upon friend ships as you might look upon a business. Except with friendship there is no exchange of money. It is a barter system. I have something to sell and you have something to sell and if what we are selling is equal there is no need to exchange money. You just exchange items for sale. For example, to be personal, I enjoy talking about life as I see it, and you do also. We each bring a different perspective to the exchange which makes it worthwhile. But when you go to class there is no exchange among equals. There can be no barter, so you must pay. The same when you go to a doctor. Whenever there is nothing of equal value to exchange, then there can be no friendship and you must pay for the services or product. "To be in an area you might consider gross, last summer I went to Hawaii and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I had to pay her to get to sleep with me. I wanted her but she did not want me. Now here at school there are plenty of girls that want to sleep with me and I with them. So it's an equal exchange. We both get it for free." "Whoa," I had to interrupt. "You are saying that 'friend ship' is just a label we put on a business deal to make it sound personal. There is no reality called friendship, just a label to disguise our true motives. I cannot buy that. I can't even barter that!" "I like your choice of words," Brad laughed. "But go on." "I assume you would say in the same vein that God does not exist. He is just a label for our hopes, fears, or aspirations." "You understand me perfectly," he said. "And love also is just a label to cover up our desire for something?" I asked. "When I paid that girl to sleep with me, she pretended to

love me. She was very good at it and I even gave her a tip. I am honest about it. But you don't want to admit that what we do we do for just ourselves and no one else. You don't want to admit that you are just as selfish as I am, so you disguise your real motives by calling it love or friendship. It is like when you go on a ride at Disneyland. You pay for the ride and you know it is all make believe, but for the sake of enjoying the ride you allow yourself to suspend reality and enjoy the ride as if it were something real. When you travel through the haunted house, you allow yourself to feel threatened by those mechanical ghosts. That makes it fun. The person who goes on the same ride trying to figure out how they do that doesn't enjoy the ride. And they're a bore to talk to and be with. Give me a man anytime who loves his illusions." Brad has a way of talking in a way that totally overloads you when you talk to him. He talks so fast and his illustrations make so much sense that I end up with nothing to say in response except to ask more questions. At times I feel almost under his power. He is smooth, good looking, and smart--and with no morals. He would make a good political leader. I think people would follow a guy like this. He is dangerous. "Brad, have you ever thought of becoming a preacher? I know you don't believe in God, but you sure know how to make people feel like sinners." "Can I continue?" he said in tone of joking sarcasm. "I haven't figured out how to stop you." "Good we'll continue with your education. Let's suppose you have a good friend on campus. You really think a lot of each other. But he changes. He no longer has much time to spend with you. When you talk he no longer opens up. Would you still be friends for long? Of course not." "I can answer my own questions," I interjected. "Of course not."

Brad continued as if I didn't interrupt, "What happened? He was no longer bringing his share of the barter to the relationship. Now if he could supplement his barter with such things as test answers, nice looking dates for you, or tickets to a concert, then your friendship would continue. Have I convinced you that friendship is based on barter?" "Like usual with our talks," I said, "You don't teach me so much of what to believe but what I don't want to believe. I think I'll nickname you 'The Evil Professor X.' You make me aware that the ways we act in society are based on self and self interest. And I agree with you that everywhere I go I see the barter system in effect. I cannot live though acknowledging what you say is true. I don't want to live with the illusion of relationship. I don't want to live in the conscious world of barter. There has to be a another way. I believe there is, and that is what I want to find." "Good luck, Eric. I have a feeling you are going to be needing it." "See you again Professor X," I called back as I left. I went back to the dorm and took my usual noontime shower. Only today for the first time there was no Tony and Jack next me. I wondered what had happened. Tonight was one of those nights that Steve and I had to study all evening. But even being in the same room with Steve is becoming enjoyable. Also in the past we would sometimes go to bed at the same time, but it was usually by accident. Tonight, Steve said, "What time do you want to go to bed tonight?" "I'm sorry, but I have other plans young man," I said in my fake effeminate voice. "You're going to make me sorry I ever confessed anything to you," he said. "How about midnight?" I laughed.

"Nude at midnight it is," Steve laughed back.

Week 3 Day 3 Tuesday. After classes I took my usual noon shower and I could hear the water running in the other shower. I got in my stall, but after a few minutes, curiosity got the best of me. I just had to peek around the shower curtain. There was Tony all by himself. "Tony, I haven't seen you in a while. How are you?" "You mean you didn't see me in here yesterday with Jack, right?" he said. "I guess that is what I meant but I didn't know quite how to phrase it," I said. "Well, Jack and I have had kind of a falling out. I didn't feel like hugging and kissing yesterday and he got all pissed off. He made me feel like I was just some whore to own," Tony said with a bit of a tear in his voice. He look so forlorn and discouraged, I said, "Need some help washing your back?" "You don't have to," he said. "You know me. I don't have to do didley. But I like you and I want to do it." He looked at me and stared into my eyes and gave that little contagious grin of his. I reached back in and shut off my shower and moved over to his stall. As I washed his back I could feel his back muscles relax. I think he almost fell back into me he was so relaxed. I was curious so I peeked around him and he had

on a super hard erection. As I wasn't exactly used to this kind of thing, I was getting pretty hard myself. But Tony got silly like he sometimes does. His flippant joking helped ease my ten sion. After awhile, he asked, "Can I wash your back?" "Sure, I think I'd like that," I replied. Tony really has nice hands. I just felt tingly all over. After awhile, I told him I had to get moving on. As I turned around, Tony gave me a discreet hug from the navel up. As I stepped out of the shower I still had a bit of an erection. Just then Tom walked into the restroom and saw Tony and me drying. He looked down toward my cock and said, "I see Tony has himself a new lover. Don't you guys fear God at all. The next thing you know we'll have guys with AIDS right here in the dorm." "Shove it up your ass," Tony yelled at Tom. And Tom just turned around and walked out. "I hope I didn't get you in any trouble, Eric." I just looked at him right in the eye and said, "Friends don't get each other in trouble. They just find out who they have for a common enemy." At this point I struck a chord in Tony for he gave me a hug from the knee caps up. Fortunately no one came in at this time. I might have had trouble explaining the context. While we were drying and dressing, Tony didn't say much. He just kept looking at me and grinning and giving a couple of his little silly laughs. Later that night I was studying when Steve walked in the room after having been to the library. "Did you know somebody wrote in shaving cream all over our door, 'faggot lover'?" he said. "I think I can explain that," and I know I must have turned bright red. I don't usually blush, but there are times it might be appropriate. This is one of those times.

"I can't wait," Steve said. "Can you wait long enough for me to clean the door?" "Smart move," he said. I didn't feel like I was ready or he was ready either for the full story, so I told him enough of the truth to make sense of the situation. I told him that Tony and I were drying at the same time and Tony was wearing an erection at the time. I told him what Tom said. Steve replied, "I know he is a fellow Christian, but I hope you don't thing all Christians are like Tom. I find his ranting around here quite obnoxious. I think he is a perversion of what a Christian should be. Unfortunately there are a lot like him." "Amen," I said. "Ah, I think the man's getting religion. Hallelujah. And I do think it's time for bed," Steve yelled in a mocking manner. He then jumped on top of his desk and started stripping. "We'll give that Tom something to talk about." I hadn't seem Steve let his hair down that much around me, but it sure came at a good time. He proceeded to whistle "The Stripper" until he had taken off everything and thrown his clothes all over the room. I started laughing and could hardly stop. I was laying on my bed just laughing and laughing. I don't know when laughter felt so good.

Week 3 Day 4 Wednesday. Another one of those days college is famous for. I actually have to study most of the day. No time to cruise for information. Other people cruise for dates, I cruise for pieces that

will fit into my puzzle. Every once in a while I read what I have written just to see how much change has happened to me. I get the impression when I read this that I am the center of attention on campus. The truth couldn't be further from the truth. Remember when I said I was selective. Well I really am when it comes to snubs and rejections. I never mention most of them. A good example of what I am talking about is Curtis. He lives in the room across from mine with his roommate Keith. Curtis is a sophomore and has everything going for him. He has good looks, nice car, adequate grades, and a great wardrobe. He uses it all to impress about anybody. Anybody who has connections, that is. I don't think he wants to get to know anyone in Chehalis, so I am on the outside. I swear he won't even use the same urinal after I have used it. I think he is a stuck-up ass. Everybody else thinks he is great. The vote is fifty to one that says he will be rich some day. I hope the "one," me, is right. He deserves a little humbling. So where do I find the people that make up this diary. To say the least, each one has a social flaw: one giant imperfection that prevents him from entering into the campus social life. I hang out with the lunatic fringe. That probably explains why I am part of the lunatic fringe. That Tom, the fundamentalist freak, well he helps run morning chapel. People think he is such a great speaker for being only a sophomore. I think he has been sitting on his pew too long. Another fifty to one vote. Hell, what to they know. I hope you are getting the temper of how things are around here. Now there are a lot of people on the fringes, but most are pretenders to the center. They look over the bushes wondering how to join that 'in' crowd. The guys that I hang out are not only outcasts for some reason--all different reasons--but they have no desire to change anything to make themselves more lovable to the Curtis's of this world. Tony likes to joke what he would do to Curtis if he had a chance. I don't want to say it here, but I do think that if Tony did it, Curtis wouldn't have to worry about using the urinal after me.

So, I end this diatribe by saying to Tony, Steve, Jason and Brad, YOU'RE MY KIND OF PEOPLE.

Week 3 Day 5 Thursday. At bedtime tonight, I said to Steve as we laid in our beds in the dark, "You know we never really finished our conversation the other night." "Never finished," Steve suggested, "I think we were both a little nervous about starting. You switched the conversation so fast I couldn't believe it." "I noticed you didn't try to bring it back on track," I said. "Well, I think I am ready to talk now." "Where should I start?" Steve asked. "How about the part where you say how much you like me? was my half-joking reply to break the ice. Steve started slowly, choosing his words carefully, "You have to understand that having a guy friend is a first for me. In church we did things together like ski trips, pizza parties, and swimming picnics, etc. But we did everything as a group. I had never been alone with a guy my own age. At first I didn't know what to make of you. But the more we talked the more I liked you. Then one night when I was masturbating, I could hear you doing it too. This may sound dumb, but I felt like we were sharing something really important and personal. In fact, after that when I would start stroking myself, I would pause now and then just to hear you. "I really enjoyed sharing those moments, but after we had both come, I got really depressed and felt so dirty and guilty. Sometimes I would lay there for an hour and ask God to never let

me do anything like that again. And as you know, the next night we would repeat the cycle. Again I would swear you off to no avail. Now it has got to the point that when I go home on weekends, when I am alone in my room, I masturbate thinking about you being in the room also. I even imagine what it would be like to see you do it. "I am a Christian and there is no way I would do anything wrong. But I have seen so many Christians so afraid of doing anything wrong, that they never end up doing anything right. The fear of making a mistake and not doing it perfectly the first time causes total inaction. They just sit in church and sing and pray and talk. I became convinced that I don't want to be that kind of Christian." Steve paused for a second and I couldn't believe this was the same guy I met just three weeks ago. I felt just warm all over as Steve talked. We were breaking down walls between us and the sight of another's baring his soul felt like pure joy. I tried to encourage him to go on by saying, "You know I am struggling through a lot myself. I have never met a real Christian before and I am a little scared of you. Because I don't have the same commitment you do yet, I fear you might reject me. Sometimes I feel like the sinner people say I am. I try to be on my best behavior around you as I am really starting to like you a lot." "You mean what I've seen is your best behavior? Boy am I in trouble," Steve said and then broke out in laughter. "Yeah, maybe you should tie me to my bed at night like they do in the movies so you wouldn't have to fear me in your sleep," I retorted. "But then you would have to fear me. I might decide to backslide from my Christian beliefs for a night." "So I guess we both have reason to fear each other," I said. "I think the only other option is to trust each other." "Yeah," Steve continued, still laughing slightly, "I guess

we have run out of options." At that point I rolled out of bed and sat on Steve's bed next to him. He turned on a small light and we just sat there looking at each other. I hadn't done anything like that since with Bryce when I was a senior at Chehalis. After what seemed like a visit to heaven, Steve reached down and pulled back his covers. He was fully erect. It was the first time I had seem him excited and he had a very large cock. Mine immediately went from mostly hard to totally hard. Steve started very slowly stroking himself. I twisted around and laid next to him. Steve said, "I guess I am losing my perfection." I replied, "Is that what you call the sticky white stuff?" "Come on, Eric, don't joke now. Try and be serious." "This is difficult for me too," I said, "and sometimes I joke to break the tension." "Let's just enjoy the tension," Steve suggested. I snuggled as close as I could to Steve and we just sat there and watched each other. Whenever one of us would get close to coming we would stop stroking for a minute. We tried to prolong this moment as long as possible. Finally Steve started shooting and his whole body jerked and he shouted, "Eric!" I followed in quick succession and said, "Thanks Steve." We laid there for awhile and then I went back to my bed. As I got back to bed I said, "You all right, Steve? No regrets?" "Only one. I was trying to hold on long enough to make you come first," as Steve laughed again. "Good night Steve."

Week 3 Day 6 It is Friday again.

This is the first time I regret Friday for I know it means Steve will be gone until Sunday night. Steve was packing his stuff for the weekend and I said, "You know I was looking into the dorm by-laws and I couldn't find anything that says you have to go home on weekends." "I'm glad to hear you say that. I want to stay here so badly, but I don't know how to break it to my parents. They are working hard to put me through college and they have this thing about being 'family' on weekends." "Maybe," I thought out loud, "you could start by just staying here on Friday nights. We could talk all night without having to worry about getting up the next morning." "I not sure," Steve replied in his usual laugh, "my cock can stand talking all night." "Go home Steve!" Being alone on Friday nights gives me a chance to do some more thinking about my quest. There seems to be two values expressed by the "in" crowd. These two values rule their lives and are the basis of all their decisions: Rule 1: I believe in my SELF. Rule 2: I believe in NOW. There is no community on campus. We are more like a bunch of billiard balls bumping into each other than we are any kind of social group. Education is merely the mechanical reproduction of future workers for the system. I get the feeling that education is a secondary function here. Students are separated from their families

and heritage and brought into a pressure cooker environment. Their studies merely serve as a diversion from the real purpose. Classes and studies keep a person so busy that the mind is not able to grasp the real re-education that is going on. (Re-education is another name for propaganda or brain washing.) The first sign that re-programming is going on is that all diverse backgrounds are dismantled and a common goal of hedonism emerges. When we have that feeling of being an alien, we feel like we have lost a part of ourselves. Actually we have, so the first thing we do is to reinstitute a feeling of self. The easiest way to feel our self is through pleasure. Pain will work also but is not near as popular. The military accomplishes a similar thing through the boot camp and then releases the recruits on a three day pass to pursue pleasure together. To have a college without drugs, sex, sports or alcohol would not be a college. The mind needs a diversion and release from the alien experience. The immoral experiences also reinforce the separation from community and home life. No separation, no remaking of the person. When I lived in Chehalis, I lived under one system. I felt no conflict. I recall something Jason said in our talk last Sunday: you discover God when you run into the fences that God has put up. The more I push and shove against those fences, the more I discover God. I didn't understand it then what he was saying, but now I see that college tears down all the fences. There is nothing left to bump into anymore. I have just my self and its pleasures. I am then left without a God and open to anything. Our society is moving into the 21st century. We need a new man for a new culture. College prepares us for that future by destroying the past. It prepares someone who is ready for any experience with no restrictions by any rules or laws from a foreign (past) land. I see my quest in this journal as a resistance. movement against this process. I am certainly feeling the pressures. I have never masturbated so much in my life as I do now. It is a substitute pleasure. I am trying to hold on to something inside of me. One part of me wants to go with the flow and release myself to pleasure and reprogramming and another

wants to resist the trend. I understand a little bit of what I am trying to do with my journal and friendships. I am attempting to set up a new and underground community in the form of my new friends. We are a resistance group to a university system of mind control.

Week 3 Day 7 Saturday. It's a Tony day. He is one of those guys that is both totally likable or a pain in the butt. I call him the velcro kid because he can be a little more physical than feels comfortable. He is so lonely he just wants to hug or be close all the time. If you leave the room he wants to go with you. But that hunger for friendship combined with his naturalness and openness makes him fun to be with. I really looked forward to seeing Tony today. I am much more confident with myself and with others than I was just three weeks ago. I know that I don't have to fear giving affection. I know that I can draw the line if someone starts to go against my standards. That was my big fear, that I would get so excited I would end up acting totally gross. I trust my emotions. Tony walked in with his study clothes and back pack. He threw the back pack on the bed and walked right over to my desk and threw his arms around me. He just held me for awhile from behind; the velcro has a tight grip on me. "Ready for a study break yet?" Tony asked. "You sure don't waste any time do you?" I asked back. "I figure we do the important thing first," he said. I stood up turned around and as Tony gave me a big hug, I yanked his sweats down. He just stood there hugging me from head

to toe. I sensed a tenderness that I hadn't noticed before. He would get either horny or silly during closeness. I feel a need to interject a note to whomever is reading this. You probably think it would be so easy to go too far in this situation, or you may think I have already gone too far. Two things keep me in line: one, I believe there is a reality called friendship; two, I believe it is wrong to use another person for our personal pleasure. But I do not understand why I hold these beliefs. That is why I am writing this diary. Tony is both so trusting and so vulnerable. He wants to please. He does not believe in something called friendship. He is just lonely. He has a vacuum inside him that he carries around with himself. I think he is searching for something to fill that hole. I have the same hole inside me but I am willing to work slowly for an answer and I do believe that life has an answer to my problem. Tony panics in his loneliness and he has no confidence that life has any answers. This leads to his velcro personality and his lack of limits. Believing in a destination makes me also believe that there are choices that do not lead to that destination. I believe in friendship as a place. I am just not sure how to get there from here. (So many roads and so few maps!) College leads to an intense loneliness. All are seeking in various ways to find an answer to the question of loneliness. For some of us, chasing after skirts doesn't seem to be the answer. I know for most this seems the normal thing to do. But there is so much emotional baggage in the dating game. It involves more than just dating: it is a power game and a competition. Also for the guys in my circle of friends, the families we grew up in provided no example of male-female closeness that we would want to copy. What Jason talked about is starting to make more and more sense to me. He talks about learning about life by bumping into the walls that God has provided. We all in one way or another have this vacuum inside of us. The temptation is to do anything which fills the vacuum right now. Jason says that in our quest

it is so important not to tear down any fences. Answers are only found inside the enclosed area. Going outside the fences will only bring more problems not less. Any satisfaction will only be temporary. I am trying to discover friendship by staying inside the lines. In the same way a guy dating a girl would be crossing over a fence if he engaged in intercourse before marriage. Obviously a lot of guys tear that fence down with girls, and as you are well aware a lot of guys tear down fences in their friendship. I think Jason is right and I intend to stay within the fences. I feel definitely in the minority. As we stood there hugging, I said, "Tony, let's go over to the bed." "Eric, can I undress you?" Tony asked. "Sure, I trust you," I said. Tony had me lay down on the bed. He was wearing just his tank top as his sweats were now completely off. He took off both of my socks. He then pulled down my tennis shorts and then my underpants. Tony was getting very excited and he just stood there looking at me. He then just sat down next to me and touched my chest and shoulders. He has such an affectionate touch. As he touched my neck and face he started masturbating himself with his other hand. I started stroking myself at this time. I guess it may sound gross but there seemed to be a bonding and a trust develop as we refused to use each other. We just were sharing ourselves--our private selves--with each other. After what seemed like a long time we each shot all over our shirts. As we sat there, Tony said, "When we study, let's just wear our shirts with their wet spots and nothing else." We spent the next four or five hours studying. When it came time for Tony to leave, he asked, "Can we trade t-shirts?"

"Sure, but does this mean we are going steady?" I joked. [Just a note: I have that tank top in my dresser to this day. It was a very special time for me.]

CHAPTER FIVE

Week 4 Day 1 Sunday I have this fear that in my quest I will find a resting place along the way and settle into the contentment of mediocrity. This is why life can be so boring: people reach the stage where life is tolerable. Rather than risk losing what little they have now, people try to freeze time. But I must avoid holding onto the little I have. I must let go to move forward. Even if life had some tested formulas--do this and you will successful--I could not be sure it would be right for me. I must explore and be awake to dead ends and the "good enoughs." It was Sunday morning and I went looking for Jason but evidently he was not back from breakfast. I went by Tony's room but that guy seems to be sleeping all the time. I have never seen a guy need more sleep. But this time of being alone in the quiet of a Sunday morning dorm gave me time to think over questions I wanted to talk to Jason about. I am afraid this journey that I am on is proving more than I can handle. But I just can't settle into the college routine like everyone else. I would rather go home to Chehalis and sell insurance. I can't believe I wrote that. Insurance? I heard the elevator doors open and looked out to see Jason returning. I picked up my note pad and headed for our Sunday morning talk. As I arrived Jason was making coffee anticipating our time together. It felt good to be anticipated. Jason looked up, smiled, and said, "Hey, Eric, are you ready?" That made me feel even better. Jason, being two years older than me, makes me feel like I am talking with someone who is a bit more mature. Sometimes if I bring up a touchy subject, Steve will revert to his fundamentalist shell and Tony can get totally silly if I try

too hard to pry into his psyche. "So what's on your mind this morning, Eric?" "How about sex," I whispered in mock embarrassment. "Where should we start? That is a fairly broad topic." I answered by saying, "Hormones and cocks." Jason laughed, and said, "Maybe you should ask the questions." So I started into my monologue I had been practicing all morning. "I have come to look upon sex as weeds in a garden. I want a garden where I can raise friends. I don't want to get married right now or get involved in the dating scene. I want friends. But I don't want to be gay either. So into this garden of friendship up pops my hormones. I want to just pull up that weed. But it just keeps growing back. I guess I am being vague here but it is hard to put into words. I know what I want to do but my body just won't go along." Jason looked puzzled and joked, "Have you considered cold showers? . . . Actually I have learned that any attempt to suppress that sexual part of ourselves only leads to other problems. I think you know Tom, our resident raving fundamentalist. He is a good example of what I am talking about. In order to be the kind of Christian his theology requires, he must deny his God-given human nature. But the result is that he loses part of himself and he becomes just a machine." "Yeah, I noticed," I interjected. "Also, I know that my roommate Steve is caught between his human nature and his fundamentalist upbringing. So far he has not denied either. He lives in two worlds. Sometimes they interact and he gets real scared. He tries so hard to be a friend at times. But sometimes his emotions will get the best of him, and he'll actually panic. He suddenly fears he might break a fundamentalist taboo. For example, we were out screwing around one night and I got a cigar and

started blowing smoke in his face. He grabbed the cigar and started smoking it and blowing smoke back at me. No big deal, but he then realized that if someone saw him and told his parents he would be in big trouble. He was so reserved and quiet the rest of the day. I am very careful around him. I really got scared this week. One night we watched each other masturbate. It was great. But all night I thought that I might have pushed him over the edge. I asked him how he felt. He said all was well, but I could hear doubt in his voice." "So I guess the question you have is how to have Steve for a friend without letting your sexual nature get in the way?" "Exactly," I said. "You can't," Jason returned. "I can't!" I said in surprise. "I take it you and Steve want to be really close. When we relate to most people we play roles. At work we reveal part of ourselves, at school we play a different role, at church we play a different role and on it goes. But the object of friendship is to lay aside the roles. The more we revert to one of our social roles then the more that friend is like a social acquaintance. Now here is where it gets sticky. With a friend you do not suppress your human nature, but you do not crash fences either. I believe there are limits to any relationship." "I think that is what I am trying to find out," I said. "If you want vitamin C," Jason continued, "you would eat an orange not a carrot. If you are looking for intercourse then you get married. And if you are looking for a god, you do not go to a friend." "I am not sure I follow your thought here," I said. "You are going to have to be a little more explicit. I don't want to know about gods, carrots, and oranges. I wanted to know about beating off."

"Well, sometimes it is easier to talk in analogies because sex carries a lot of emotionally charged words that interfere with our talking," Jason replied. "You're not going to bring up the birds and the bees, are you?" I said and Jason just laughed. "Do you think we should start there?" he said as he kept laughing. "I don't know where we should start." "Okay," Jason settled down and said, "you cannot ask Tony or Steve to be either a god or a girl. A friend is a separate category and can only be successful when kept within bounds. Now the boundaries are quite broad. But you don't have to hang out on the fences either, even if you do not intend to cross them. You know I am a Christian and that the Bible sets up the boundaries I am talking about. Now, for example, when a guy is dating a girl, the Bible forbids intercourse. Now some Christians see how close they can come to the fence without crossing. That may be all right in certain situations, but to stay around that fence all the time prevents growth in other areas." "Let me see if I can apply this. Stop me if I cross over any fences. To cross over a fence with a girl is to have intercourse, so to cross over a fence with a guy would be to simulate intercourse with a guy. Also, when Steve and I masturbate together, it is all right as long as that does not become the basis of our relationship?" I was really getting into our talk now. "I might add a little from personal experience," Jason continued. "I have talked about the boundaries or fences. Many seem to believe that they do not exist. They are regarded as social conventions. But when you cross over one of these fences you are both harming yourself and destroying another. You know the slang terms such as 'I lost it,' or 'she's been violated'. We may joke in such slang, but they really reveal a reality even if only in our unconscious. When we cross over a wall to use

another for our own purposes we actually tear down a portion of that wall. We have lost something or violated someone. And, if I might add more from personal experience, once a wall is broken it is so difficult to rebuild." That opened up a topic I was thinking of asking but not knowing how to bring up. "I noticed that when we talk," I started nervously, "you always sit at your desk and I sit over here on your bed. You keep a certain distance. You talk with a lot of feeling but your body doesn't show any emotions. I take it from what you say that you've lost some walls." For the first time Jason seemed to stumble over his words. It was difficult for him as he said, "I have made some mistakes. I have wanted to be close to people so badly that I have had sex with both a male and a female. It seemed so exciting and thrilling at first, I just didn't realize how it would affect the way I relate to this world. I became addicted to an emotional high. I wanted to crash walls in all areas of life. Being raised in a strict religious home, there were a lot of walls. I became one angry rebel. But after awhile I had used up most of the thrills in life and I was running out of walls to tear down. My whole life started to fall apart. That is when I became a real Christian. I found my past was forgiven but I have needed to rebuild the walls. One part of me wants to hug you as a close friend, but another part remembers wanting to suck cock." I had never imagined this side of Jason. It took me back a little bit and I wasn't sure I was ready for anymore. I noticed it was almost time for lunch and then football. But Jason had one more thing to say, "I know you and Steve are excited in your new found friendship. That is great. There might well come a time when both of you are a little down and it will be tempting to experiment with sex to lift up your spirits. But take it from a guy who regrets doing just that, it will destroy that joy and distinctiveness of being one person's friend. There is a reason that the result of breaking down another person's wall leads to multiple relationships. You keep looking for that original thrill with mister or miss right. You never find it. The greatness of friendship you desire comes from digging deep down inside

the fences, not by jumping over them." I was left speechless. I reached out and gave Jason a hand on his shoulder, and he put both of his hands on my elbow. He looked at me and I could see a tear it his eyes and I swear I could see pain in those eyes. No wonder they call eyes the window of the soul. Eyes seem to have a language only a heart can hear. I could hear his eyes speak. *** I think both Jason and I needed a rousing Sunday afternoon of playing football. We both played our guts out. I came back to the dorm, showered, and fell asleep on my bed. It was dark when I heard Steve at the door. He walked in with his usual box of cookies, and said, "So this is how you spend your weekends. I guess I better put the coffee on. I think you can use some." I looked up and through blurry eyes tried to smile and say "Hello, Steve, good to see you back." He put his stuff down on his desk and sat on the side of my bed. I just grabbed his hand and held it. I forget what he said but we just sat there close for awhile. Finally I started to wake up and shouted, "Where's those cookies? Where's that coffee you were going to make. Come on, how about a little service around here." Steve stood up, saluted and said, "Yes sir, right away sir." And he then started hitting me with his pillow. I grabbed my pillow and we proceeded to pummel each other until we were both tired, laughing, and in each other's arms on top of his bed. Steve was on top and yelled, "Give up you fool. You have met your master." "Yes master," I said laughing. *** I guess I put the above thing in this diary because it

just shows how things were progressing between the two of us. Neither of us had brothers growing up or fathers who were home much, so this kind of thing was new and exciting. I was eighteen years old and I just had my first pillow fight. Maybe I was just waiting for the right person to come along. This may sound obvious, but you don't have pillow fights with just anyone. I have been saving myself! Steve and I didn't say much that evening. We both had studies. Also I was worried that after Jason's warnings Steve and I would fall into an emotional rut and build a friendship on just watching each other masturbate or getting kicks talking about sex. I was glad we could be together without having to do anything special. I just enjoyed being in the same room with him and I sure hope he feels that way too. I think he does.

Week 4 Day 2 Monday. Obviously this is Brad day. I sometimes wonder what I find so captivating about him. I think it is his honesty. Despite all the press clippings, college students play roles just like people do in a factory or office. Maybe even more here. Because many are struggling for an identity, students try on different images to see if it fits them or if it sells in the marketplace. I see one guy in the dorm bathroom who is working on his third complete hair make over since I saw him at freshman orientation. In the mornings when I am a little tired, I am not sure who it is. I have trouble throwing away an old pair of sneakers. Walking into the student lounge in the Union building with my usual large mug of strong coffee, I spot Brad in his usual throne. He always picks one of the large stuffed chairs and I am forced to pull up alongside in a hard chair. "Good morning Evil Professor X," I started out. Brad replied, "You know I told some friends of the nickname

you gave me and now they are calling me that. I would hate to think it is a fitting description." "It is amazing how 'if a shoe fits' seems to work," I laughed. "So what's on today's agenda. Eric?" "I have trouble figuring you out. You have a reputation for wining and dining and loving and dumping. Why do girls still go out with you? I realize you are better than average looking, but it has to be more than that." It didn't take Brad but a second to start answering. I thought I might have stumped him with my question. He started, "I give girls visions. I know the type of romance myth that is used in grocery-store novels. Girls want to believe that is real life. I give them a myth to believe in. I act the part of the loving prince charming who has been looking for a woman like this his whole life." Usually I let Brad go on and on but I had to ask, "Isn't this using them?" "No. No. No. We live life in terms of myth. When you buy a season ticket to a football team, what are you buying? You are not going to watch a team go eight and eight. You are buying visions of a team going to a Super Bowl. They are not selling mediocrity, they are selling a dream. When you buy a car, you are not buying transportation, you are buying the envy of your neighbors. A junker with a new engine will get you around. But it won't impress. When you buy a dream, you know deep down you are being fooled, but it is fun being fooled. In a few days the car looks like every other car on the street. But you still want to believe the dream and the image. We live in a society where life can be intolerable without these myths. We need a social myth. I am just doing that on a personal level. It is no different. But because it is sex and not season tickets you get bent out of shape."

"Why is it," I had to ask, "you make everything I don't believe seem so reasonable? Every time I leave you I wonder why I believe as I do." "The reason is, student, that you are not aware of the system you are apart of. You think your morals and lifestyle are real rather than chosen." "But aren't other people real?" I asked. I thought here is at least one place we could agree. "Not in the sense you believe," Brad said. "People in order to be real would have to be eternal. These bodies are just temporary biological manifestations. They are intelligent enough to cloth this form of life with something called personality or human nature. It seems to be real because you want to believe in the myth of other people. It gives your ego a massage to think that something important is paying attention to you. But this 'something important' is only temporary learned behavior. "Go down to the park by the canal. [A ship canal runs by the campus.] Take some bread to feed the ducks. As long as you have bread they treat you like a king. Run out of bread and you don't exist. That is life and that is also human nature. As long as I have looks, money and a line of shit--that is myth--I have these female ducks looking for a handout. You talk about your friend Steve. How long do you think he would be a friend if someone offered him a big Hollywood contract? Would he say, no I want to stay here with my friends? ... By your expression I think you see my point. We are all passing through this little corner of Seattle right now because it is the best offer we've had. A better offer comes along and we're gone. I'm gone; you're gone; we're all gone. Are you that naive?" I felt I had to defend something, but I just wasn't sure what was left to defend. I had been reduced to a sophisticated amoeba. Not much was said after that, but I have to add I had a strange dream that night. I dreamed that I awoke in the night to look over at Steve. He was full of holes. I could see right through him. Big six inch wide holes all through his torso. I

became depressed in my dream and ran out to look at other people. I looked in every room. Every person had holes through them. Then the thought came to me. I will go to the greatest guy on campus. The person I dream would make the perfect friend. You know, mister right. I knocked on his door. He got up and answered the door. He was full of holes. Everyone was full of holes. I awoke at that point. You know how in some dreams you awake and you are so glad it is just a dream. You wake up and think, "Wow, that was some dream." But when I awoke this time, I felt that the dream was so real that it was true. Waking did not erase the image. It only seemed more real. I got a towel and went down to the shower room. I just stood there for nearly an hour trying to figure out why I shouldn't commit suicide. I had never even thought anything like that in my life. I wondered if my diary and my quest had driven me mad. Maybe life was like a rock we are not supposed to look under. You know the fairy tales from youth, there is always one door we are never to open. Had I opened that door? I just stood there in a hot shower shivering.

Week 4 Day 3 Tuesday. I returned to the dorm from classes for the usual shower. I hadn't seen Tony since Saturday. When I got in the shower I was the only one around. After awhile, someone pulled back the curtain, and Tony was standing there. "Can we talk?" he asked. "Sure, come on in, the doors unlocked," I joked. Tony didn't have that little grin of his so I suspected something was wrong. "You look down, something wrong?" I asked. "Yeah, a lot. You know last week Jack and I had a bit of a falling out. Well, this weekend he invited me to his weekend living arrangement. I guess he thought he would show me a great time. I went with him to a large house that three or four guys

were sharing. I will say this--they sure know how to party. A month ago I might have found it all very tempting. But I was grossed out. Jack and I actually got into a fight. It must have been funny to see--two wimps in a fist fight. The final line is Jack has moved off campus to live with his friends and I am left alone.” "Hey, don't I count," I said as I gave him a back rub. "Well, there is one thing. Well, at least one thing I have n't told you," Tony continued, "I get these terrible nightmares. I wake up terrified. Jack used to let me crawl into bed with him whenever I woke up in a sweat. I have no idea what my next roommate will be like. I am terrified of being alone at night." Of all the problems Tony seemed to have, this didn't seem that major to me. At first I just continued to rub his back, not knowing what to say. I finally thought of one possible solution. "Tony, I have an extra key to my room. Why don't I give it to you. Whenever you wake up terrified, just come over and crawl in bed with me." "Wow, that will be great Eric. But what will Steve say?" "I know what he won't say," I said. "What's that," Tony asked in a puzzled look. "Move over," I laughed. I even got Tony to laugh a little. "But I am a little curious. You lived with your parents all by yourself. How did you handle your nightmares back home?" "I had one thing that always seemed to work," Tony got serious again. "I would get up and stick an X-rated video in the VCR. I would sit in front of the TV and play with myself until the fear passed." "Does that work?" I questioned. "Most of the time," Tony answered. "The one problem I had was sometimes I would spill my wad on the carpet and I would

worry that my parents would get up and see a wet spot in front of the TV. But it never happened. I guess it helps to live in a dry climate." Tony gave me that little grin. He sometimes has a dry humor that I find delightful. "One more thing, Eric. You’re the first person I have ever been close to. You know when I told you how I used to read skin magazines beside the irrigation ditch with friends. Well, they weren't actually friends. They didn't even speak English. I met them because their parents were Mexican field workers. They would work with their family all day and then they would bathe in the irrigation water in the evening. I saw them swimming in the nude one day. I just sat there on the bank watching them. I pulled my shorts down. When they came out the of water they both had erections. We just sat there and started beating off. After that, we did it all the time. Afterwards, I would say 'gracias'. That is all the Spanish I knew. It was enough." As we stood in the shower, I started to cry. I could understand how lonely Tony was. Here was a guy living by himself and his only friends didn't even speak English. No wonder he latched onto my overtures of friendship. Tony continued, "I want you to know that your friendship means more to me than anything in the world." He turned around and we embraced. He could be so warm and affectionate at times. There are moments in a guy's life that seem to be etched into one's mind. This is one of those moments. *** That evening I tried to explain to Steve the new living arrangement. I didn't want him to think he was any less special. With friends I explained, each friend brings out a different aspect of our personality. Tony is almost like a puppy dog. He is so affectionate. With Steve I can get into serious talks and we can do things without having to reassure each other of our love. Jason is older, and he challenges my thinking and teaches

me things about what I am experiencing. I think of them as three distinct individuals and each one I love and could not imagine being without either one. Steve understood, but asked, "You are my only friend outside of church and family, is that okay?" "What do you mean?" I questioned. "Well, you can afford to lose one friend and still have two friends. I cannot afford to lose you. Sometimes I feel I have to be so careful around you or I will lose you. I want to be the perfect friend. And sometimes I'm not." "Ah, now that I know you're weakness, I am your master," I laughed. "I have this pile of dirty laundry...." Steve started swinging his pillow over my head. I shouted, "Steve, you're losing your perfection." He then jumped on top of me and started tickling me. I think he was laughing harder than me. He stopped in a few seconds and just sat on top of me and we shared eyes together. What is there about eyes? I asked, "Why do I get the feeling that I am stuck with you for the rest of my life?" "That's because you're not in Chehalis anymore!" he said. "I think that line has been used before," I laughed. And that ended a day that started with a nightmare and ended in a dream come true. Sometimes life is just too good to be true. It seems like a dream I am afraid of waking up from.

Week 4 Day 4 Wednesday. Both Steve and I had a light study day. We just sat down on our beds to talk. And, wow, did we talk. It started out with small talk about Chehalis and my background. I eventually

described the formal church our family would attend on holidays. Steve had an entirely different picture of his church. He described how he had experienced the salvation of Jesus Christ. I wasn't ready for that kind of talk. It sounded too much like magic and ritual. My quest involves the search for what is real in a world of pretense. I did not want to add one pretense to replace another. The subject naturally came around to Tom. Obviously, I say, because I cannot stand that guy and he stands for everything religion represents in my mind. I started out by saying, "Look what religion has done to Tom. Whatever Tom was he no longer is. He has adopted a religious position on everything. He no longer has an opinion of his own. He no longer has even a personality of his own." "I am religious," Steve asked, "do you think I am that way?" "Well," I replied, "when I first met you I thought you were just like Tom. But I think there is an honesty about you that won't let you deny your own personality. But I can see you struggle when something you feel to be right goes against what you were taught was right." "Like when I beat off?" Steve said. "Now that you bring it up. And notice I did not bring up sex this time," I grinned as I shot the discussion back to him. "But getting back to Tom, I want you to know that while I do not hate him as you do, I do find it offensive that he calls himself by the same name I do. I know that when I tell guys in the dorm that I am a Christian I get put in the same category as Tom. I wish I knew how to avoid that," Steve said. "The way I see it," I started "Tom acts as if God created him one way and now he must ignore the way he was created and act a totally new way. But I don't think you can erase your personality or your human nature. You will end up spending all your time trying not to act natural. Also you must constantly pay

careful attention to how you are expected to act." "I see what you're saying," Steve continued, "we are to express our human nature as Christians but not our sinful nature." "Yeah," I said, "not exactly the words I would use, but yeah.” Now it was Steve's turn to wax philosophical. "It is not easy being a Christian anytime, but maybe it is particularly difficult today. Our whole society is based on impressions. We learn to eat, talk, dress, and think the proper way. When you see guys with brand new clothes and a new car on campus picking up the chicks, do you think they are doing it with their honesty or with the image they're projecting? Those girls that jump into the cars aren't even thinking about the integrity of the person they are going out with. "It is very similar to all areas in life. You belong to one camp or another. When you join a group you are to take on the personality of the group you hang out with. There is just a socially expected way of behaving in all social groups. To a certain extent it can't be avoided. When I go to class I must act the role of student, not teacher. When I go to the doctor I must act the role of patient. I guess the problem begins when we take those roles into our private relationships. I struggle with you not to play the role of the perfect Christian or the perfect friend." "What about me," I asked, "do you expect me to be perfect or to act some role around you?" "No, Eric, and that is why I am learning to love you so much. You are both a friend, fool, idiot, and genius around me. I find that so refreshing, plus liberating. In church I teach Sunday School and I am expected always to set a perfect example. At home I am always to be the perfect son and older brother. Whenever I say or do something that is not approved, I am quickly reminded that I am not perfect. It is not that I want to be bad, sometimes I just want the freedom to be immature."

"Well, Steve, you have certainly exemplified that freedom around me." Steve started laughing and grabbed for his pillow. I shout ed out, "No more master. I won't do it again. I can't take anymore." At that moment we heard Tom and his roommate outside by the door. We knew they could hear us. We wondered if they had been listening long. We just started laughing. Steve jumped over onto my bed and started to tickle me. There was lots of laughter followed by one of the biggest, longest hugs.... Another great day. Later as we jumped into bed, I could hear Steve start to do his usual bedtime masturbating. I did my usual joining in. Steve had never said much while we did it. It was just a quiet ritual. Tonight Steve broke the ritual and said, "I guess we have pretty well given up counting sheep, huh, Eric?" I replied, "One, two, three, ..." We both broke out laughing, but never missed a beat.

Week 4 Day 5 Thursday. I got a letter in the mail today. It was from Bryce. I let it sit on the desk for awhile. I was afraid to open it. I hadn't seen him since I told him I didn't want to spend the weekend with him. I had changed a lot since then, but what had happened to him? I always had the fear that when I let Bryce stare deep into my eyes, I had allowed him to see deep inside. Too deep inside. I wasn't ready to open up yet. I am still working on it. As the letter sits there I am afraid that Bryce will remember what he saw. With Brad, Steve, Tony, and Jason, I have been in control. But with Bryce, I felt I was not in control. He was. He brought out a side of me I cannot face, the me that might lose control.

I finally opened the letter. Here it is: Hello Eric,

I thought long and hard about whether to write you. I guess you figured out I've got some things to work out. I was so ashamed of the way we left. If I scared you, I want you to know, I scared myself also. But I can't get you out of my mind. What happened between us on the trip to Mt. St. Helens was like a religious experience. It changed my life. For the first time in my life I felt I could trust someone. I wanted to become part of you and take that trust inside me to live within. Moving from Chehalis to Boston for me was like an aborigine going to Melbourne. I call this 'The land of hollow eyes'. Or I could call it 'Egos on parade'. Politics is religion out here. You are known by the political positions you take. But that is only a public stance. In private it is success all the way. Nothing must stand between you and success. I can handle the studies all right. But the people and the values....

Whenever I sit in my room and feel the isolation of living in a strange land with strange people, I think of us together or the talks we had together. I know I chased you away. I lived my whole life in the world of books and you were the first person I ever felt loved me. I thought what we had was sexual. I invited you to that motel to seduce you. I wanted to lose my virginity before going off to college and I wanted to lose it with you. If I were to pick one example of my shock in living here, it would be seeing sexual love carried to the extreme. Seeing the logical conclusion of what I was feeling last fall has made me do some reevaluating. Even though my feelings are still all messed up, I no longer want to make love to you, I want to be your friend. This is hard to say, but I want to learn how to be close without all the garbage I see around me. [later] This letter has sat in my desk drawer for over a week. I think I am finally going to mail

it. Please forgive me and please write back. I am so lonely for you. Your friend, Bryce This letter came as quite a shock. I never suspected Bryce’s intentions. It is the kind of thing that just isn't mentioned in Chehalis. Oh, we joked about it, but it was always those big city people. I thought I was at fault for breaking off our weekend together. I was so ashamed of myself for being afraid to be close to someone. I couldn't tell anyone. But what happened with Bryce was like waking up for the first time. I had been born into a world I didn't understand. I had gone through life just hanging out. When Bryce and I sat on the side of the mountain and just stared into each other's eyes, I realized for the first time, there is a person inside there. I mean something real. Other people had always been like birds and trees and sky, kind of the environment we live in. Bryce and I touched each other. I don't mean just physically, I mean real person to real person. A love was born that I had never experienced. Because of my failure with Bryce I decided to write this diary. I include his letter with my college experiences for he is the reason I am having these experiences. I didn't know Bryce was trying to seduce me. I didn't know he had ever had a sexual thought in his life. He lived in the library. As I sit here with his letter beside me, I am weak. I feel I have just run the marathon. I know I must write back. I am going to have to think about this for awhile. *** The one thing that bothers me more than anything about this whole situation is this: why is it that everybody I meet has problems with sex? Or better yet, why am I having problems with sex? And why do the religious freaks try to deny sex entirely? At times sex seems like an alien force that is taking over human

bodies and driving out the real person. Or you could say sex is like giving a six year old kid a sports car. He might try to drive it but the car seems to take him where he doesn't want to go. I want to be close to other guys, but the whole thing seems so out of control. It seems like I am playing a role where life itself is forcing a theme on me. Out of all the chaos an order is being imposed. I don't even have the ability to meet people that I think would be normal. When I walk on campus I will try to be friendly, say hello, or make eye contact. I feel like there is a brand on my face that says "Stay away." When guys see me walking toward them on campus they will stare at the ground, or look at the sky. I am not even worth a "hello." Do I have a reputation that precedes me? Do I wear the marks of my struggles? All that makes me feel so dirty and ugly. Sometimes I am ashamed to walk from class to class because I can sense the deliberate ignoring. When I go back to my dorm room, I have often just climbed into bed and pulled the blankets up over my head. I lay there dreaming of Saturday mornings in Chehalis. I even see myself pulling weeds in the morning, then dreaming of going to the Burger Hut for lunch. The Burger Hut meant a friendly hello and acceptance. I have that acceptance privately now, but there is also something about being accepted publicly. I hope that it is just me imagining all this. Maybe there is no public acceptance in the big city. In a place where anything goes, reputation ain't worth nothing. Even so, I still feel like I have entered a foreign land when I walk across campus where no one speaks my language. *** Steve just walked in. I think I need a cup of coffee with a friend. I wasn't in the mood for any serious talk. Maybe there is just something that reminds me of home in Chehalis in small talk. Life didn't seem nearly so complicated back there. Steve then went to the Library and I took a nap. Ah, wonderful sleep. Later that night, after Steve and I had finished "counting sheep," I felt the covers move and Steve just jumped into bed

with me. His body felt so warm and soft. Several weeks ago I might have panicked. But I am more and more able to understand my emotions and to separate the right from the wrong. I could enjoy Steve's body. I tried to delay sleep as long as possible. I could hear Steve sleep with his long slow breathing, but I just wanted to experience the closeness of a friend. I must have resisted sleep for several hours. What a lucky guy I am. Money could buy a body, but to commune in spirit with another person is a priceless experience.

Week 4 Day 6 Friday. When I woke up this morning, Steve was laying there with his arm around me. He just laid still and looked at me. Neither of us, fortunately, are morning talkers. He didn't say a word but he ran his fingers through my hair. I looked at the clock and realized reality was knocking at the door to my dream. I said, "Steve, it sure would be neat if you could stay the weekend here sometimes. So much of our time is taken up by studying and classes. I don't want to get out of bed but I have to." Steve answered, "It is very difficult to say 'no' to my parents. They plan something every weekend for the family. This weekend is one of my sister's birthday. I got to help with the party. And besides, this is such an expensive school to attend, and they are helping out so much. How can I say I don't want to go home. In a fundamentalist family, it is okay to stay away from home if you are dating your future wife. After all, the Bible talks about leaving mother and father to join in a new life with a wife. My parents can accept Biblical separation. But nobody in the Bible, I am told, left family to be with a friend. That is considered rebellion in fundamentalist circles. I love you so much, Eric, but I just don't know how this thing works into my family traditions."

For the first time I felt kind of lucky my parents were more or less indifferent. We were never close while I was at home and they have no fantasies of the perfect family. I think if I hadn't gone off to school they would have kicked me out of the house. My father would say something like, "We didn't raise you to sit around the house. It is time you got a job and learned what life is all about. There is an apartment available over on sixth street you might look at." My duties as a son are merely to show the proper parental respect and attend all family related functions such as Christmas, weddings and funerals. *** I spent Friday evening playing cards again. One thing about cards you don't have to know the people you play cards with very well, just so they take their card game seriously. The game broke up early, about midnight. I fell asleep thinking about Steve and his friendship.

Week 4 Day 6 Saturday. I woke up Saturday morning to find Tony snuggled up in bed next to me. I had forgotten about giving him a key to my room. I must have really been tired, I didn't even hear him come into the room or jump into bed. As I laid in bed thinking about the day ahead, Tony opened his eyes. "I hope you didn't mind my coming in last night. I still don't have a roommate. Also, Jack came by last night to visit and tried to get me to spend the weekend with him at his new house. I wanted to so badly but I don't want to live that life style. I have learned that I don't want someone to know my cock, I want them to know me. When Jack isn't horny, he just lives in his ego centered world."

I pulled back the sheets to see what Tony was wearing in bed. He had on his usual cut-off sweats. I also noticed he had an erection. Tony said, "Don't mind my dick. I won't come on you. Sometimes I think it is always hard. It gets embarrassing at times. Sometimes in class it will start to grow for no reason.” I said, "No problem, Tony. Actually, I like it. Now I don't have to feel like I only have to get one at the right time. I now have the freedom to have one anytime also." As we were talking about it, I started getting a boner. Tony looked down and just stared. The more he stared, the harder it got. I leaned over and pulled down Tony's sweats. He gave that little grin. We both were on our backs, resting on our elbows, just looking at each other. "Do you think it is too early for a study break?" Tony asked. "Yeah, I don't like to take a break too early. When I do that I have nothing to look forward to the rest of the day," I said. So we both just rolled onto our stomachs and sat close to each other for maybe the next hour. We didn't say much. Finally I said, "If we're going to make breakfast, we better go now." "I think I'll stay here and sleep for awhile. I am not used to getting up Saturday mornings," Tony said as I climbed out of bed and headed for my closet. When I got back Tony was still sleeping so I studied awhile in the lounge so as not to disturb him. Several hours later I went back to the room and Tony was reading in bed as usual. I asked him how school was going. "Actually, school is pretty easy for me," Tony answered. "I have always read a lot. I pretty well raised myself. I didn't have any close friends, so I just read all the time. My parents called me lazy when I read. I used to take my bike down to the irrigation canal and read in a grove of trees. That was my home away from home."

I was interested in Tony's life and it was often difficult to get him to talk about his past, so I asked, "Why did your parents call you lazy? My parents would have been glad to see me study" "My family has a history of being hard-working construction workers. Somehow I was never born with the strong burly build of my father and his brothers. I guess I picked up some gene from some forgotten past in my family. When I was younger, I was really skinny and frail. I have grown some in the last year so that I am almost 5' 9" but I still only weigh l30 pounds. My father always said that reading was for sissies and that if you read too much you would go crazy." "That must have been tough, Tony" "I don't know how much you want to know about me, Eric, but just stop me if I get carried away. I don't want to bore you. I really became afraid I would go crazy from reading. Also, one thing my father said didn't help much. The only sex education my father gave me was to tell me that I should never jerk off. He knew a kid in high school that did it and he had to be put in a mental hospital. He even said that if I couldn't find a girl, he would get me one. I didn't dare tell him that I beat off once or twice a day and if I were to have sex with someone it would be with a guy. "I lived in fear that the way I lived would come out into the open. I found an old refrigerator and hauled it down to that grove of trees and used to keep my books and male magazines inside it. Also that grove became my one area where I could masturbate freely. My father and I would never talk much, but sometimes he would say things like, 'When are you going to grow up, you little squirt?' That always made me feel so ashamed. One of the kids in P.E. at school heard my father call me that once and after that everybody called me 'squirt.' Now that I am here in Seattle I never want to go back to Richland again. I think my parents are glad I am out of town. Now they don't have to be ashamed of me anymore."

I moved over from my desk and sat down next to Tony. I lifted up his head and placed it own my shoulder and he just started to cry. He put both of his arms around me and just kept crying and crying. At first I was a little uncomfortable, but after about five minutes, I had to give in and I started to cry. This kid that I had always thought of as superficial and just sex-crazed had turned out to be a very complex and deep guy. There was so much there to know and to love. I could understand why in the past when I had tried to get Tony to talk about himself he had always become silly. I couldn't understand how his frail little body could hold so much pain and rejection. I just held him close. He squeezed me so tight I don't think he ever wanted to let go. When we finished crying, I took a tissue and wiped his eyes. I looked into those eyes. I swear I could see so much deeper into those eyes than I had ever seen before. Eyes are such a mystery. It is as if the tears had washed away something and there was a new depth I hadn't been able to see. There was a real person inside. There is something inside of us that is more than hormones and conditioned reactions. Tony and I were enjoying something called trust and comradeship. What is that? Right now, it is a mystery to me.

CHAPTER SIX

Week 5 Day 1 Sunday Today is the day I try to write a letter to Bryce. I have been sitting on it. I want to do it right. I feel guilty for the way I treated Bryce several months ago. We were just two lonely guys trying to find companionship in a world that doesn't care. It is also time for my weekly visit with Jason. He always seems to have a right thing to say. I hope he can help out with this letter. I want a second chance with Bryce. But I want it to be right. The first thing I did was photocopy Bryce's letter, covering up the name and address. I then let Jason read it. "Any ideas on how I can answer the letter?" I said as Jason put the letter down.

"Have you changed in the last several months?" Jason asked. "Of course I have," I responded. "It also sounds like this guy has changed a lot since last summer," Jason continued. "He wrote to you because he has changed and can talk about his feelings. He is beyond the mystical experience of just looking into eyes. The eyes cried out for a bonding. He thought bonding with males was similar to bonding within marriage. I think he is trying to discover the proper way to bond and he wants to bond with you. Let him know that you have the same hungers that he does. Let him know that you have failed also. Let him know you want to try again... and again... and again! You have told me of your mistakes in getting to know Steve and Tony. You probably won't make the same mistakes with this guy, but you can't hold back for fear you might make another mistake. You know your limits and you know how to recover from your immaturities. So write him a love letter. And try not to be full of fear and reserve when you write. Write a joyful letter." "I guess one thing I fear, Jason, is that when I do something stupid here in the dorm it is not on video or recorded. But when I make a mistake in a letter, it is preserved for all of time. It is one thing to act immaturely, it is another to write it down for someone else to read. I think I am really putting myself in someone else's hands. I want to be the one in control. I don't want to pass that control to another." "Listen, Eric," Jason said quite firmly, "it sounds like this guy has written a letter that really trusts you. He has put into print things that he wants no one else to know. I think you need to respond to him with the same trust." "I think you have hit the nail on the head," I said. "I don't fear mistakes. What I really am afraid of is trusting someone else. And not just trusting someone, but someone from my home town. I have a family image to protect back home. Everyone in Chehalis knows my father and his insurance business. We have a family name. I am free here at school because I know nothing I do here will get back home. If I should fail totally, I can

always go back home. There is always the insurance business. I am going to trust my security blanket with this guy. I have never trusted someone that much." "That's one of the problems of growing up, " Jason answered, "it is hard to control change. It has a way of invading every area of our life. I guess you know a little bit of how I blew my cover in a small town. The thing I never told you is that the girl I had sex with was underage. I met her in a park and she was really showing off her stuff. I was watching her dive off the dock where I was sitting. There weren't many in the park that day and when she came up out of the water she let her top slip down. Wow, she was so sexy. We went off into the bushes and had sex. She then told me she wanted to be my steady girl. I told her I had a steady. She said she would charge me with rape if I didn't go steady with her. I called her bluff and she actually went to her school counselor who called the police. Charges were never filed. I guess she had tried the same thing before in another town. But everyone in town and church and college heard about it. I was through in that town. I am still writing letters trying to win back my old girl. But I just don't know. So I can understand your fears. But I think you can trust your friend a lot more than some stranger in the park." "You kind of shocked me, Jason," I said quietly, "I have known you a month and I never realized this part of you. You seemed so mature and I thought the reason you were so reserved was that you are two years older than me. I never imagined you had a past other than the maturity I see before my eyes. You mentioned a little of your past, but I never imagined you were run out of town." "I guess I am learning to trust you, Eric." "Thank you, Jason. That means a lot to me," I said. It was time for lunch and Sunday afternoon football. But as I walked to the commons, I was overwhelmed by what I had learned about my friends this week. It was quite a week. It was a week in which I learned much about myself. I was not willing to share

with others as much as I expected them to share with me. I felt I had more to lose. I knew they could trust me, but how was I to know I could trust them? The time has come for me to learn something about trust. The best place to start, I guess, is in a letter to Bryce. *** So here is the letter I mailed today to Bryce:

Hello Bryce: I can't tell you how good you made me feel when I got your letter. I was a little bit afraid to open it because I thought you might be angry with me. I guess you think you scared me off because of your sexual intentions. But what scared me off was my fear of being close and honest and open around a friend. I was just plain scared to let my hair down, not my pants down. Your influence on me has been so great. Because of you I have started a friendship diary. What happened between us in the few short months we came to know each other tore down my facade. Whatever it meant to have a friend, I was willing to do. If having some sex together would have produced a bonding, I would have

done it. But what I am slowly beginning to learn is that the bonding I desire is not between cocks, it is between hearts. I think by the sound of your letter you are learning the same. I have seen the endless search for pleasure around me. I have seem so many who just want to satisfy an ego. You know what I really fear, it is not sex or AIDS-but becoming like those ass holes. [I think that is an appropriate term considering the part of their anatomy homosexuals use to express affection.] My idea of a friend is developing day by day. I quickly learned what it isn't, now I am struggling to see what it is. So far I have learned this much. Friendship involves trust, honesty, loyalty, and the bonding of one's hearts It is learning about sharing, talking about common goals, and sharing ideals about life. To share a bed is something anyone can do, but to share a life is rare. Egos do not share; hormones do not love. I do not deny the physical expression of friendship. There is a line I don't think should be crossed. Not because it is gross, but because

sex gets in the way of friendship. I sometimes think of you when I am laying in bed at night and cannot fall asleep. I think of you being close and of us falling asleep in each other's arms. But when I dream, I dream of us being friends not just through the night, but someone each of us can count on for the rest of our lives. Life is change. Not to change is to die. The miracle of friendship is that as we change, we grow closer and not apart. I have that feeling that if we can write and stay honest, we can grow together. Write as soon as you can. Your close friend, Eric *** Writing that letter left me exhausted. I decided it was time for a Sunday evening nap. It was about several hours later that Steve came back. I looked forward to him waking me up, but when I awoke he was quietly sitting there studying. I asked, "So how about some coffee and cookies?" "I am afraid it will have to be just coffee," Steve said. "I got into a big argument with my parents this weekend and I am afraid my mother didn't send any cookies back with me." "Anything you would care to talk about?" I asked.

"Maybe later," Steve said in a very reserved manner, "right now it is a bit much to talk about. Our family has always been so close. I never had a real disagreement with them before. It is just plain hard to deal with." I made some coffee and we both studied for the rest of the evening. At bedtime Steve was still very quiet so I didn't press him too much or try to force any closeness. We both went to bed and went to sleep without saying much at all.

Week 5 Day 2 Monday. It is time for my weekly meeting with Brad. He is one person who seems not only to believe the modern philosophy, he is willing to live it consistently. I keep searching for some area where he has imported an alien meaning. Most people that I meet do not actually believe and act on the same principles. I try to choose friends who are trying to bring their life and their ideals into congruence. Those kind of people are the exceptions. Most are content to talk and believe one way and live in an entirely different world. Take the extreme fundamentalists in the dorm for example. They condemn others for their sins but they are the most selfish people you will find. They live in their own little world and couldn't give a damn about anybody else in the dorm. If you are not in their church, you're a thing that doesn't exist. This is why I find Brad so refreshing. He loves, and hates, and sins, and swears, but you know if he gives his word he will keep it and if he says something he means it. What you see is what you get and that is so refreshing. There is no attempt to conceal or to brag. He is so transparent. I think he is transparently wrong, but we know where each other stands and

I can handle and respect that. As I sat down he looked up and waited for my first question. I immediately started in, "Why do I feel rejected when I talk to people on campus?" "I would think," Brad laughed, "that after a week you would come up with something tough. That's an easy one to answer." I tried to toughen up the question so I thought I would elaborate before Brad got into one of his monologues. I said, "I am quite serious. I am used to people being friendly. When I try and make eye contact here, and greet others, most look away or actually make some kind of face at me. I don't know if it is a conscious action, but many guys when I say hello will actually look away and spit. It is like they are telling me to bug off in no uncertain way.... Now does that make the question a little harder?" "No, not really,' Brad continued, "you are living in a different world here than the one you grew up in. In a large city you live and die by first impressions. It is like an advertisement on TV or in a magazine. The ad only has like one second to get your attention. After all, there are so many things competing for your attention here. You don't have the time to evaluate each item that comes across your consciousness. City life moves at lightening speed. You must be able to form instant judgments if you are not to overload your brain with input. "You, Eric, whether you realize it or not, are a walking advertisement. The person you are saying hello to will meet hundreds or thousands of people each week. Whether you are standing in line, walking the mall, or crossing the street, you are bumping into others constantly. You can't be friendly with each one or even greet each one. A sorting system must be developed. You have to make the right first impression if you want to meet someone. "An ad will not try to reach everyone. It will target an

audience and then find out how to grab that particular audience's attention. You must decide what kind of person you want to attract. I am sure you noticed that many of the fundamentalists wear crosses, that many of the gays wear clothes that emphasize their butt or groin, that many of the jocks wear clothes that identify them with sports in some way, or that many of the looser girls on campus can be easily picked out of a line-up. Your clothes, hair, car, and facial expressions are you. In the city there is no other you. "You have come from a small town. You, the person, are a walking context. You are from a family with a history, you are part of a living tradition. Your morals, lifestyle, and personality are all known more or less when you meet people. But that has all been left behind. You are not a walking living person any more, you are a neon sign. You have one second to project the kind of person you are. There is no past, there is only that one second. Until you realize that, you will be continually frustrated. You have actually targeted an audience whether you know it or not. You make very strong eye contact when you meet people. They cannot evaluate your neon impression by looking into your eyes. But you are communicating that you want a personal one-on-one relationship. Most do not want that. You have lost those in that one second. And to tell the truth, you dress more like a logger than a college student. You have definitely targeted a very small crowd: loggers who want personal contact!" We both laughed. But I could see his point, although I thought he laid it on a bit thick. I didn't like what Brad said, that was normal, but for once I had to agree that the values that I carried from my past did not fit in well with a big city environment. The consequences were enormous. There was no longer a sense of community, but each person was free to form his own private monastery that locked some in but excluded most. We are obligated to form islands of meaning in the chaos of the city. Can a nation or society exist in such a world? What are the long-term consequences for a nation? Is there glue to hold a society together or are we an expanding universe where we are becoming increasingly distant? Will it come to the point where we are all left alone to our fantasies and hormones?

* * * When I got back to the room after lunch I ran up to Steve and just put my arms around him and hugged him. "What was that all about?" Steve asked. "It's been one of those days where I have come to feel so thankful for knowing you," I said. Steve smiled back and just held me tightly close to him for a long while.

Week 5 Day 3 Tuesday In Prof. Bauer's class there is a guy who sits in front of me who doesn't seem to agree with anything said in class. I can hear him say to his buddy next to him, "Yeah, that's his opinion," or "Says who," or "Nobody believes that anymore." You get the idea. He also got me thinking how easy it is to disprove just about anything. We live in a world without authority. There is the Supreme Court for political matters, but the Court is not the final authority, it is just one's last resort. There is no one you can go to who can lay a foundation for any knowledge. Each field of study disagrees with each other field. Is man a political animal, a social animal, a psychological animal, an economic animal, or just another animal? When I meet with Brad there is no way I can argue with him. We live in different worlds and there seems to be no way we can find a common ground for debate. One kook I met on campus is into science fiction. He believes the only hope for the world is to find an alien authority. Truth does not exist on this planet but it exists on other planets. Our goal is to somehow to establish some form of communication. Earthlings did not evolve to think on their own, he says. We can only reason in circles. We

always prove what we assume to be true in the first place. If you start with God, all of life seems to point back to God. The universe declares His glory. But if you start with chaos, then all of life seems out of control and lacking in meaning. As I sit here today and listen to those comments they are having a devastating effect. Today he said, "Nobody can prove that!" And he is right. I think I shall try to strike up a conversation with that guy sometime to see what he believes. How can a total agnostic live? I would think if he were to live consistently he would have life reduced to the mind, its senses and whatever the imagination can make of those images. The brain receives information from five sensors and constructs a world out of it. But is each person we meet also free to do the same? Or are those others just a construction of our own mind who desires some fellowship? I am forced to believe that Jason, Steve, and Tony are real. And that when we love each other we are participating in something real. The universe has a foundation of love, but 'says me.' I have spent part of the afternoon sitting on a bench watching students walk by and writing in my journal my thoughts on their movements. I try to imagine what gives each one of these passing shadows a reason for living. One is dressed up in Seattle Seahawk garb. One guy walks by with his girl on his arm. Another drives up in his fixed-up street rod. Another must be in ROTC or something military. Another appears to have some physical deformity which makes walking difficult and slow. He has his book bag over his cane and stumbles along. Each one has a reason for living. But I think they are imported values. Why value a sports team, a hot rod, or a girl. Life will come to an end for each one in the same way--a body in a casket. One has war as a purpose, and another wars against his deformity to attend school. But in the end, they are all equal? I know this must sound depressing, but since the security of the small town world view has been destroyed, I am left without a unified world. Each one I watch has decided something is real and then molds his life around that view. "Says who?" "Says ME."

It is bedtime and I read what I wrote this afternoon to Steve as he is laying in bed. As I finished, I expected some deep praise for my profound philosophy. He just looked over at me and said, "Do you think this way often?" "What do you mean?" "I mean, Eric, what is the point of all your writing? Aren't you just doing what they are doing? You sit on campus and become the authority from Chehalis. They are not as deep as you, but each one thinks they are superior to your rambling." I felt sort of deflated. I asked, "So what does Steve use for an authority?" "I believe," replied Steve, "that the world we live in was created for us by God. That each of us functions in coordination with total reality because we were designed that way. The reason you and I can love each other is that love is the nature of God. Love is real. Our goal is to love according to the standards designed by God. Otherwise we are not loving, we are merely using someone else to satisfy our urges." "So God is your alien authority?" I asked. "Authority, yes," Steve said, "But alien, no. He is a personal God. Love cannot be impersonal. If love is real and God is the God of love, then He cannot remain detached. He must express that nature. In the same way we feel that when we express friendship we are expressing our true nature. We have that image of a loving God inside that demands expression. Problems develop when we want to change that nature inside and express a different kind of love. The Bible calls that sin or rebellion. If you and I were to express friendship in our own terms, then we would not be expressing the image of God's love in us, but we would be trying to create our own world where our ideas reign true." This was a first for Steve and I. I didn't know he had an

intellectual side. I felt a little deflated though. I decided to change the subject. I turned the light off and said, "It's time to do what's really real. Let's beat off." Steve laughed and started making exaggerated stroking noises and groans. Oh, for reality, it feels so great.

Week 5 Day 4 Wednesday. Today was one of those days that probably is necessary to life, but one we wish would never happen and would just as well wipe from our memory. Jason came by this afternoon and said he had a football game going in an hour. I talked Steve into playing. As we walked down to the field, I was excited. It was an unusually warm day for late fall--clear and sunny and about 60 degrees. We don't get many days like this in Seattle. I said to Steve, "You know if you would stick around here on weekends once in awhile, we could do this all the time. Plus it would give us some time to be together without having to worry about studies." Steve just remained expressionless, and said, "Yeah, maybe some time." The game was going really well and Steve seemed to be really enjoying himself also. I said again, "See what you're missing every weekend." "Just back off, okay," Steve said in a very angry retort. On the next play he gave me a real cheap shot. We were just

having fun, and all of a sudden he decided to hurt me. I got up and pushed him to the ground. He got up and took a swing at my nose, connecting. I responded with a hard right to his mouth. Jason immediately stepped in between us. Steve was bleeding from his lip and my nose was a mess. "Okay, game's over." Jason said, " I want to see both of you in my room, now." Jason is the only one who could have pulled this move off. Steve had also got to know him. Both Jason and Steve were Christians so Steve had a certain bond with Jason, although different than the feelings I had for Jason. As we were walking down the hall to Jason's room, Tony saw us coming, and asked, "What happened to you two?" Jason said, "They had a little disagreement out on the football field. We're going into my room to talk this out." Tony immediately perked up and asked, "Can I come into the room also? I won't say anything." Jason looked to Steve and me with a questioning look. I replied, "It's fine with me; Tony is family." And Steve just nodded approval. We went into the room. Jason sat in his desk chair. He placed Steve and I on the ends of the two beds closest to him, so we had to sit facing each other. Tony sat at the end of one of the beds furthermost from the action. He pulled his knees up to his chin, and put his arms around his legs, and just sat their watching. "So what started this?" Jason asked. "We were having such a great time together," I started, "that I wanted Steve to start spending some weekends here instead of going home. I can't figure out why he can't spend a little time with me. After all, we are supposed to be friends."

"Eric doesn't have any idea what's he's asking," Steve said. I couldn't believe it, he was actually crying. I looked at him and he started looking straight into my eyes. His face was bloody and his tears were mixing with his blood. I had been in many minor fights growing up, but his reaction was something I had never experienced. Usually we would just not talk to each other for a week or two and then something would happen to break the ice and all would be forgotten. But I had never talked after a fight. Steve continued, "My parents have this religious ideal of the close family. They have worked very hard to help finance my college expenses. Each weekend they plan something for us to do together. Then on Sunday we all go to church together and then to someone's house for afternoon lunch. Then back to church on Sunday night. I have been told this is how a family acts until I get married. Then my wife will join in these activities." "Steve, is this what your argument was with your family last weekend?" I asked. "You guessed it." he said. "I said I needed some time to stay at school to study. They said I could study at home. I then tried to explain my friendship with you, Eric. Their solution was that I should bring you home some weekend. I guess they somehow got the feeling that you and I were too close. I must have unconsciously talked about you too much. At church they warn us that we live in evil times and there are gays out in the world who would seduce good church folk. I have even been told that gays make it a goal to destroy church kids. Because you don't go to church, Eric, they think you are seducing me." I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes with Steve. I started to cry and I reached over grabbed his right hand and put both of my hands around it. But I also felt a little dirty inside, as if I had done something terribly wrong. I had met Steve's parents on several occasions and had no idea how they felt about me. I also felt so powerless because I had no idea of how to work this problem out. How do I fight the Church?

"Do you think I am seducing you?" I asked. "Actually," Steve said, "at first I thought you were. [Tony let out a little giggle. His first sound.] You were so a affectionate and when you used to walk around the room with no clothes on, I actually enjoyed watching you. And one morning when I got up you had thrown the covers off in your sleep. You were sleeping on your back with a full erection. I had never seen such a sight before. I climbed back into bed and masturbated. And then I was wondering if you had planned all this. "All of this went against my training. I was developing an affection for a friend and at the same time I was acting out sexual urges that I had never really felt before. At least, not on such a personal level. As you know, I became very regular at beating off. Actually, surprisingly, since you and I have started occasionally sleeping together, I have had less of an urge to masturbate. [Tony was following every word.] I want to spend so much time with you, Eric. I tried last weekend to get my parents to understand about friendship. Not the juicy parts, just how we laugh and sing together in the room. And how we just talk and talk and talk about everything. My mother actually all but accused me of being gay. I felt terrible. My father grew listless. It was like I had to choose between God and my family and you. I couldn't have all three." I just sat there overwhelmed. Jason suggested it was time for a shower to get cleaned up. Tony asked, "Can I get cleaned up too?" He had that little winning grin. I looked at Tony and said, "You look a mess." And Steve added, "Yeah, but I don't think a shower will help in Tony's case." He gave Tony a big hug as he said it just to let Tony know he was joking in friendship love. Steve also knew that because Tony grew up alone, he mistook friendly teasing for rejection and he didn't want Tony to get the wrong idea.

We were all standing nude and talking before getting into the shower and Tom walked into the bathroom. He looked at us and said, "Well, if it ain't the fag four." Tony fired back in a fake feminine voice, "We have room for one more." He paused and added, "I hate that fucking religious freak." Steve said, "Jason and I are religious, you know." In an unusually direct manner, Tony replied, "No, no, no. Tom is religious, but you and Jason are Christians. I know the difference." "And what about me?" I asked. "I think there is something inside of you, you are not even aware of," Tony replied. "Do you say that because I love you?" I wanted to know. Jason interjected, "This is a first for me--a totally nude theological discussion group." We all laughed, but Tony got serious quickly. He said with a lot of feeling in his voice, "I know I am not exactly good looking; I am not very talkative; and I don't relate well with people in general. I have had people fake love toward me because they wanted something, but this is the first time I have been loved because I am Tony. I can tell you I am an expert on phony love. I thought for a time that Jack loved me. He said I had a great looking cock. That made me feel proud. Then I found out that for him, any cock was a good looking cock. Now I am learning about love." Steve quickly added, "And, oh Tony, you do have a great looking cock!" This time Tony understood the good natured teasing and we all laughed together. Finally Jason said, "We came here to shower, let's do it."

As I climbed into my shower, Steve stepped in after me and just started washing the blood off my face. "I always believe in cleaning up any mess I make," he said. I started to return the favor as I washed his face as he was washing mine. At that time Tony stuck his head in the shower and said, "I read an old Irish saying that you can't really be someone’s friend until you have fought each other." Steve and I looked at each other and grinned. Steve then said to Tony, "Are you trying to pick a fight, boy?" "Anytime you think you're man enough," Tony shouted. Steve then gave Tony an affectionate punch and Tony punched back. Tony then said, "I have a little extra money. I would like to take all of you guys out to dinner. This is a special day for me. This fight has brought things out into the open. I have a family. I have a home. This calls for celebration." We all got dressed and went to a local pancake house. I have never seen Tony so happy. That little grin had turned into a smile that just wouldn't leave his face. There are snapshots we carry throughout our lives in our mind's photo album. Since that night I have carried that picture of Tony with joy on his face in my mind. [Added much later] Several times over the next several months during some real trying times I was tempted to go too far with Tony. He would have done anything to please his friends. I hadn't discovered any moral reasons. But I couldn't use that guy for my own personal gratification, a guy who trusted me so much. I couldn't violate that trust no matter how depressed I got. Tony had been stepped on his whole life and I had made up my mind, "The stepping stops here."

Week 5 Day 5 Thursday.

Steve and I had a long talk after studies and before bed time. I wanted to know more about his family, what it was like for him growing up, and what he was going through. Steve started out, "I guess my home is centered around the Church and my father. My father was god in our home. If he said something, it was law. He had laws for everything; laws on how to mow the grass; laws on which mower height setting to use during the different seasons; laws on how long a shower should take to save water; laws on times to eat and sleep; and I could go on and on. Our family was one well-oiled machine "A machine can run without any human factor. And that was our family. We ran smoothly with never a problem. We all knew the rules. And church was the same way. The church also had rules for everything. And the church was a machine also. Nothing human or Godly was allowed to get in the way of the functioning of the machine. Everything ran so smoothly that when I was growing up I thought I was the only sinner in the whole Christian community. I never could admit to anyone at home or church that I had a problem. Machines do not function well if humans have problems. And the machine ruled life. "I developed a lifestyle of hiding. I couldn't let my father or mother or church members see me as being anything less than perfect. To sin was to be exposed and to bring shame upon the fellowship of saints. I was the perfect kid. But you know, I was still always in trouble at home. There were so many rules it just seemed impossible to keep them all. Which reminds me, we didn't talk about sex. The rules were implied mostly. After all we all knew what the Bible said. The rules sprang up where the Bible was silent. The only sex education I ever got from my father was this: 'Don't ever play with yourself or you will bring God's judgment down upon yourself.' "You can imagine living with that rule. I really tried hard to keep even that rule, but at times I would grow weak. Then I would feel guilty for days on end. After four or five days the guilt would pass and I knew I would never do it again. I had

finally mastered self-control. But I would fall again and the cycle would start all over. I hated myself so much because I could keep all the other rules my father laid down, but this rule kept popping up. I was sure I was the only person in the world to do it. The sinners had their wild women. But the Christians were left alone without release, I thought. "That's when I met you. You were so casual about your body and your cock. You turned me on so much. I wanted your liberty to live without guilt. Finally I got to the point, and it didn't take long, where I could masturbate loudly each night." "I must say," I added, "you could put on quite a show." "I guess I just wanted to be accepted by you," Steve said, "and I thought that if you saw the one rule I could not keep, you would have no trouble with the rest of me. I mean I thought I was really righteous except for this one fault. You seemed to be saying by your actions that this big hang up of mine was all right. I felt really free around you. I also am learning that I know how to keep the rules, but I don't know much about loving. I have decided to love you, Eric, no matter how many petty rules I have to break. I don't want to break Biblical rules, but the rules of the church and the machine are up in the air right now." It was time for bed. I asked Steve to stand up. I stood up next to him. "It's time to break a rule," I said. He laughed and I started to undress him. I left him in his shorts and then he undressed me. He took me all the way down to my skin. I gave him a big hug and as we were hugging I pulled his shorts down. We just stood there hugging from head to toe and looking at each other. Steve finally said, "I think I am getting pretty horny." He reached down to grab his cock and his hand rubbed against my rod. I got hard immediately. We sat down on our beds facing each other. We just sat there watching each other come. Another great day for my diary has come to a close.

Week 5 Day 6 Friday. One of the things about Friday that I like is Prof Bauer. He will take questions or spend time on some issue that is important to him--even if it has nothing to do with what we're studying. Today was one of those days that made me think that maybe these old men might have some wisdom if they ever left those yellow notes. Earlier in the week, someone asked him what he thought was the defining characteristic of this age in which we live. We are constantly talking about daily life in historical times, what about daily life in this age? My reconstructed notes are as follows. "We live in the age of self-justification. I don't think we have ever lived in a time when the church or a religious group did not provide the backdrop to life. We are not in one of those periods. The result is that life is not just to be lived, it must be chosen. We are surrounded by choices. In the past some might choose to rebel against the church, but their identity was as least anti-church. If the church is white, I choose black. My identity is easy. It is just the opposite. The problem today is we are left with so little to rebel against. Even a rebel against the church knows who he is, but a person floating in a sea of change is nobody. "There were times when classes provided some form of meaning to a persons life. An aristocrat or peasant had his life choices partly made for him. To say 'I am an aristocrat' provided a person with a ready-made lifestyle. But today there are a thousand different classes, and if I don't like one I can always choose to start number one thousand and one. When I do choose, because it is 'I' who choose, I must justify that choice. "To stand apart from the crowd not only requires a choice, it brings with it a sense of guilt. We are still a herd or social animal. There is something basic inside of us that wants to conform to those around us. A boy wants to please his teach

er, or a son wants to please his father, and, yes, even students want to please their professor.[Laughter] We must somehow unload this guilt we carry around. The guilt of being different. We must justify. We must have a cause. You cannot stand alone without a cause. "This is more difficult than it sounds. Not only has the church fallen from it pillar on high, but so have all authorities. I can no longer say, 'I am not a follower of the church, but I follow Freud.' That is not possible. There are no authorities. . And substitute any name you want and the answer is the same. I must fall back on my own choices and say, 'This is what I am doing and this is why. It all makes sense to me.' One curious item that fills the vacuum in one's life is music. If I can't decide who or what I am, then I surround myself with a musical style. This is not a philosophy of life, but a philosophy of feeling. "The overall result of this whole world view is that we are all alone. In a world of a thousand and one lifestyle choices it is almost impossible to find someone to bond with for life. All friendships and relationships are fragile. All are temporary. We are constantly choosing and changing. Any one person we feel a camaraderie with today may be a stranger tomorrow. We live in times of Russian Roulette with people. We keep reaching out indiscriminately, pulling the trigger of relationship and hope we don't get burned this time like last. "You cannot have long-term relationships without something that doesn't change. Maybe in the past, the church provided an unchanging environment as a backdrop to lifetime friendships. But there is no fixed background and there are no fixed identities. We are all changing. We are fluid. We are all constantly evaluating ourselves and our situation and making the appropriate changes. I change the locations and the people in my life as necessary. "One final factor is time. To choose requires time and time seems to be the one thing we are lacking. Too many opportunities, and I can't do them all. I must narrow that focus, or I

will be like a starving man in a grocery store who died because he couldn't decide what to eat first; it all looked so good. When we lived in a small town a lot of those choices were made for us, but in urban America we must chose, without time to decide and live with that choice. And because life is never perfect, we feel cheated. No right choice leads to utopia. In a sense all our choices are wrong. What a terrible burden to bear, to have so much opportunity and to fail. What do we do, we must live a life of self-justification. There really is only one choice today--JUSTIFY." I sit here looking over this lecture and I am not sure what I learned, but I know this: I now see my diary as my justification of the choices I am making at school. I have been presented with unlimited opportunities. I have so many choices. I have felt so guilty over some of my choices. For example, I could actually be a better student if I didn't chase after affection so much. My parents want a great success story and I hang out with a bunch of rejects. If I showed them a picture of my chosen lifestyle, I am sure they would cry out in despair. Oh, the guilt of choices. But, hell, it's Friday night and time for another all night card game. Tonight I choose cards, to hell with tomorrow.

Week 5 Day 7 Saturday. Before I start studying I think I must reflect on my week. What a week it was. College is nothing but group therapy without a leader. The experience can be on the verge of overload. I sometimes wonder how Keith, and some of the other subjects of my study of institutional life, manage. He studies all the time and when I talk to him all he can talk about is his plans for life down the road. He has a map, but on the roads in his map, he is the only car on the road. Doesn't that get lonely? I don't have a map, but I do have three friends. I am not a

great student, but I do feel loved. I don't have a lifestyle, but I know I am accepted just as I am. But I do get scared. The name "fag four" has seemed to stick to our little group. Maybe in some circles that might be a cause to celebrate. I don't feel that way. I wonder if I am on the wrong track. And why don't they call us the "friendship four"? I am living with my choices. What disturbs me most is that there is no one to ask. "Hey, dad, how do I know if I am a fag or not?" I could just imagine him if I were to ask that: "You realize, son, you are entering into a dangerous lifestyle." And I would answer some smart remark, "That's right--what's right and what's dangerous are one and the same to you." I don't see one example anywhere of the kind of person I want to be. I think I am striving for something real, but there are only four of us that seem to feel that way. Another thing that is so hard to understand is the fear I can strike in other guys in the dorm just by being friendly. Last night I got into the elevator to head down to dinner. It was Friday and it had been a good week. I was excited and feeling great. When I got into the elevator, Kevin, who lives on the floor above, was already in the elevator. I know him from one of my classes and we have talked some. As I entered, I threw up my arms and shouted, "It's Friday night!" I gave Kevin a punch in the stomach. The guy like panicked. At the ground floor he went in the opposite direction of the commons even though he was going to dinner also. I saw him come in alone about five minutes later. I felt so rejected eating dinner. There are more stories like that. I don't even count the reactions of the fundamentalists. They would probably hate me for any number of reasons. Now there are some real immoral guys in the dorm--at least by the religious standards of the school. No one fears a guy who sleeps with his date. No one fears a guy who smokes a little grass. No one fears the petty shoplifter. But I am feared. I talked to Jason, Tony and Steve and they all have had similar reactions. I can't believe it is homophobia because we have done nothing sexual together. But we are openly affectionate with each other. That strikes fear into other guys.

The big question is, WHY? *** Saturday is Tony day. He usually sleeps late. I know he and Jason went to a ball game last night and they got home real late. It is almost lunch time as he enters wearing his study clothes and carrying his books. He sat down on the bed and said, "I have an important announcement to make. I have gotten rid of all my skin magazines." "Really? What brought that about?" "The magazines were never a sexual thing with me. I would fantasize being friends with the guys in the pictures and now I have real friends." "That's neat," I said. "How did you get rid of them?" "This is the part I like most about it," Tony grinned. "I was going to throw them in the dumpster behind the commons, and then I thought I could have some fun. So I scattered them under Tom's bed when he and his roommate were in the bathroom." "You didn't?" I laughed. "Every sperm-stained issue," Tony said. We both just laughed and laughed thinking about the reaction Tom and his roommate would have. "I can't wait to tell Steve and Jason," I said. "And beings we're talking about growing up, I know you have really been a big help in my maturity. I value your friendship so much Tony. High school seems like years ago." "I know," Tony replied, "I can't believe I am the lonely kid who used to hide in the trees by the irrigation ditch and read. I know I can still be a jerk now and then, but I feel like I am becoming something important."

"Boy, we sure are laying it thick this morning," I said. "I only have one question," Tony quickly added. "Yeah, what's that?" "We're not getting so mature we are going to stop beating off?" Tony asked. "Are you kidding?" I laughed. "Whew, that's a relief," Tony shouted. At that point he jumped up from the bed, dropped his sweats, and almost immediately he was fully hard. I broke out laughing and I saw a frown come over Tony's face. "Why are you laughing at me?" Tony said quietly. "I am not laughing at you. I just have never seen someone get hard so quickly," I said. Tony got a big grin and said, "Kind of neat, huh?" "You have a real talent there, Tony," and we both laughed. Tony continued on, "You know, I think my cock is actually getting longer. Do you have a ruler to measure it?" I got a ruler and Tony put both of his hands on top of his head and seemed to push hard as I tried to measure him. "This is the first time I have touched another cock. I'm a little nervous.... Now hold still.... Okay, that's it. Six and fiveeights." "Wow, that's great. Last spring it was only six," Tony yelled. "It must be your exercise program," I joked. "Now it is my turn." I dropped by shorts and started massaging myself to get

a good hard on. "Here's the ruler Tony." He took the rule and started to measure me. He treated my cock like it was a delicate piece of china. I said, "Don't worry, Tony, you won't break it." "Breaking it is not what I am worried about," he said. "I understand. I'll try to warn you if something is about to happen," I answered. "There, wow, seven and one-quarter," he said. "Very impressive." We both then sat down on the corner of the bed and finished what we had started. We both stared at each others' cock as we beat off. When we first did it together we were afraid to stare. We trust each other enough now that staring is okay. When we had finished, we both just leaned back on the bed next to each other. I said, "You know when you thought I was laughing at you Tony, I want you to know I will never make fun of you or laugh at you. You are too important to me. I know I tease you a little, but friends do that you know. But if I ever tease and you think I am hurting you, you let me know. Okay?" I could see Tony's eyes start to water. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek and just said, "Thanks." After awhile, Tony said, "Why don't we take in a movie tonight. Just you and me, okay?" "Only on one condition," I replied. "Yeah, what's that?" he said. "You have to spend the night in this room," I asked. "Do you think Steve will mind if I use his bed?" "I think he will mind a whole lot," I said with a grin. Tony then got a big smile on his faced and shouted, "Alllll, right!"

CHAPTER SEVEN

Week 6 Day 1 Sunday. I woke up with Tony wrapped around me. He is even affectionate when he sleeps. I laid beside him for quite awhile and just thought about how different life had become. My home was more like a bureaucracy than what people imagine a home to be. That is very similar to my three friends. We all grew up with rules, but little warm personal contact. As children we grew up in an adult world that was busy and preoccupied. The one thing that no one seems to have in an age of abundance is time. Jason jokes that he was raised in a bus station: there were lots of schedules, people were coming and going, and everyone seemed late for their next destination. The one thing the four of us all have in common is that we take time to be with each other. We will never be great students but we will be great friends. After about an hour of just listening to Tony breathe, he woke up. He opened his eyes, smiled a big grin, and said, "Good morning." And if possible he even snuggled a little closer. After he finally became alert, Tony said he read somewhere in his vast readings that a person who has a true friend can withstand any amount of criticism. (He said he wasn't sure whether he read it in Tolstoy or 'Popular Mechanics'.) We were sure going to be putting that theorem to the test. I am living in a world where I am feeling increasingly alone and yet never I have felt more love and companionship. When I told these thoughts to Tony as he lay there, he suggested, "If the pressure gets too great I know of a grove of trees by an irrigation canal in Richland we can head for.” Tony sets aside Sunday as a study and read day. He got up, put on his sweats and tank top and headed for his room. As he was half out the door, he turned around and looked back at me in bed and pretended to shout, "Thanks for the great sex, Eric!" I threw my pillow at him and he closed the door laughing. I sometimes think he would really shout it. He loves to egg on our fundamentalist neighbors. I had several hours to kill before my

Sunday time of talk and football with Jason so I decided to do a little studying. I really do study at times. As I got to Jason's door, instead of knocking I just threw open the door and shouted, "Caught you." He shot back, "People are going to think you caught me beating off, when all you caught me doing was studying." "That's right," I said. "I figure it would be much more difficult to catch you studying." "Not quite," he laughed, "About fifty-fifty." "You mean you study that much. I never would have believed." "Okay, so what is our topic about today?" Jason asked. "I would kind of like to know a little more about you, if you don't mind. You are still a little bit of a mystery to me." "So ask," he said as he sat in his usual desk chair. "I would like to know more about your first sexual experiences. Is that asking too much?" I asked with not a little fear. "A little, but I will try. I told you about the one girl in the park. She was the only girl. And there was really only one guy. It was one summer at camp. I was sixteen and a I met a guy who was fourteen. We became really close friends during that week. The last night of camp before we would return to different parts of the country, we snuck out of the cabin. We met in a place in the woods we had made into a place where we could go and talk. We had hauled some straw up from the barn and spread it over some pine bows to form a place to just lay and talk. "It was one of those hot summer nights and we had left for our meeting in just a thin pair of jogging shorts. You know the

kind, very light and very revealing. We knew this would be the last time we would ever see each other again. After talking for several hours, we started talking about sex, and we both could see in the moonlight that we were both getting very excited. He leaned over and started stroking my face. I got so hard I couldn’t believe myself. I started kissing him passionately. I felt his hand go inside my shorts so I did the same with him. We both then pulled our shorts down to our knees and I rolled over on top of him and started rubbing my rod against his hard rod. We did it until we had shot our wad all over each other. "The girl was very impersonal and had more to do with my mood at the time. I was raised in a very religious home and we had so many rules. I could be in trouble for not even doing anything wrong, just by being alive. I wasn't allowed to talk to my parents except on a formal basis. If I tried to disagree or assert my own opinion I was driven into the ground with shame. I was either called a rebellious son, a sinner, or someone who just cares about himself. I felt I had no life of my own. I was not appreciated. I was just something that happened because Christian families are supposed to have kids. "After getting chewed out by my parents for not getting the lawn mowed on the usual Saturday schedule, I drove to the park. That is where I met Patty. I was feeling so angry. I had this feeling that the only freedom I had left was with my cock. I just wanted to break some rules. I wanted to hurt my parents and what better way than having sex. If you are going to rebel you might as well enjoy the experience, right? You kind of know the rest of the story and how I just left town and family to start over. I have written a couple of times to my parents to let them know I am all right, but because I disgraced our family name, I am not exactly welcome." "Does it still hurt?" I asked. "A whole lot," Jason replied. "Is that why you are very reserved around me?" I wanted to know.

"Yeah," he said, "having gone too far once with a guy I lost the confidence in myself not to do it again. This time at school has been a time of regaining some confidence and learning to love without sex. Unfortunately it has also meant loving without touching. I have to learn how to touch again." "Well, let me know when you're ready. I want to touch you very much," I said in a way to sound accepting. "How about a little right now," he suggested. I opened up my arms and he nervously walked over to the bed. He sat down next to me and just laid his head in my lap, and looked up at me. I stroked his hair. He just laid still and didn't move or say anything. After about fifteen minutes, it was time for lunch and football. I said only one thing, "Thanks for trusting me, Jason." I had never thought about how beautiful the word 'trust' is. When I think of trust I think of things like trusts and Banks and insurance and wills. I think that is how the word was used in our family. After all, wasn't it some kind of trust that was paying for my schooling? *** Sunday evening--studying and waiting for the return of Steve. I was anxious to learn how things went with his family. After our fight last week, I knew he wanted to confront his parents no matter how difficult. When he finally did walk in caring his laundry minus any cookies, I walked up to him and started touching him all over, "No broken bones, no visible scars or lacerations, it must have gone all right." "Wow, it's good to see you, Eric," is all Steve could say. We embraced and he just held onto me for a long time and didn't say anything. There are times when words are unnecessary with friends. Finally as his grip began to loosen, I asked, "So tell me about your weekend." "Do you want the good news or the bad news first?" Steve

asked. "Let's start with the bad," I said. "Well, this may be my first, only, and last year of college all rolled into one. My parents said they promised to help me if I did well in college, but abandoning family and church is not 'did well' in their eyes. I told them I was getting good grades, but that is not really what they want. They think I have changed and that I am running around with the wrong crowd," he started out. "Is that all the bad news?" I tried to pry out more information. "No, not quite. My father said if I didn't want to come home, I had no need for the car he gave me. He took the car back and drove me here tonight." "You must have really let them have a piece of your mind," I continued to pry. "Not really. I just tried to explain that I wanted to spend time with friends on weekends and that I could come home once a month. I tried to explain that I was changing and having friends was very important to me. But there was no explaining. My mom just cried and my father sat there with a stoned look. What could I say? They laid so much shame and guilt on me. I almost backed down and agreed to continue on. But, I knew that wasn't possible. If I gave in now, I would always be a home boy until I found 'a nice church girl'--to use my parents phrase." "I think I am ready for the good news," I said. Steve answered back with a big smile, "I get to spend more time with you and the others." "Gee, what will I tell the girls that spend their weekend with me?" I joked. "Tell them you have a well-hung friend," Steve laughed.

"Oh yeah, who?" I said in a dead pan style. Steve just stood there, dropped his pants, and said, "How soon you young kids forget!" "Hummmmm, average at best," I said with mock disappointment. "Maybe you want to get the old ruler out," he said. "One of these days when you feel up to it. You're in such a good mood, I wouldn't want to ruin it," I said. "Besides, to help you with you're struggles, I wrote you a poem to memorize." Steve, as he pulled his pants up, countered immediately, "I will learn your poem if you learn a little song with me." "I am not very good with music, but I will try, just for you," I warned. "First, the song," Steve suggested. I nodded okay. "It is a simple little song we sing in church. I sing it whenever things are going wrong or going good. It seems to fit both my highs and lows. Here it is: Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Now you sing it with me." We sang it a few times until I got it down. And then I said, "Now it is time for the poem. I know how guilty you have felt for beating off so I wrote this just for you: There are times my hormones

are mightily surgin' And my theology denies premature mergin' But the questions arise as my maleness starts urgin’ Now some say there are ways you may do a purgin' But I don't think the answer's a trip to a surgeon So the choices for me as I struggle to stay virgin You either lose it or abuse it as I do my judgin' ...And you have to say it each night at bed time." "You wrote that for me?" Steve said in disbelief. "Yeah, I was going to title it, 'Steve's Theological Despair'," I replied. "Wow, just talking about it makes my hormones surge. I feel a bulge coming on," Steve said with a laugh. "Maybe now it is time for the truth of the ruler," I suggested. In a flash Steve was stark naked. He then shouted, "Get the ruler!" I noticed a new freedom and aggressiveness on the part of Steve. I could tell he was feeling liberated from the possessiveness of his fundamentalist upbringing. "Are you ready?" I asked. "If you wait any longer you will have a real wad on your hands," Steve laughed.

I put the ruler on the top of his cock with one end on his pubic hair. I yelled, "Now push. Got it. Seven and one-half. Praise God from whom all blessings flow." I sang the song's line. That brought a real laugh out of Steve. "Do I get to see how you match up?" Steve asked. I was in a very silly mood. I jumped on top of the bed and started doing a strip. I did a slow dance as I took off my clothes and threw them all over the room. The dance was a real turn on and I was ready. Steve got up on the bed also with the ruler and said, "Okay, the moment of truth. Ohhhhh, only seven and one-quarter. Sorry.... Maybe we should see who can shoot the furthest." "That's one contest I know I can win," I bragged. We stood on the edge of my bed and both of us started stroking ourselves. Steve who hadn't done it all weekend because he was home came first. I followed shortly thereafter. The tile floor is a spotted white so it was difficult to find our furthest splash. We both got down our knees and were feeling around for wet spots when Tony came into the room. He saw us both on the floor, nude, clothes strewn all over the room, and he just started laughing. Finally Tony said, "I just have to ask. I am sure there is a good explanation for this. You have both cracked from the pressure of school, right?" Steve just looked up, smiled, and then shouted, "I found a spot." He measured it from the bed. Twenty seven inches he proudly proclaimed. I doubled my efforts and finally found one spot twenty nine inches from the bed. Tony sat on the bed and just watched. Finally Steve and I looked at each other and grinned. We jumped over on Tony, stood him up on the bed, and pulled his sweats down. "Okay, Tony, your next," Steve said. "I'll show you guys how it's done," Tony bragged. It never takes Tony long to come and within a minute he had

shot his wad. Steve and I searched for a spot. I felt a wet spot. I measured it and feigned disbelief, "Thirty inches!" Tony raised his arms in triumph. He then jumped off the bed into our arms. We fell onto the floor and just laid there laughing. Steve and I then started singing the song he had taught me. Tony looked at us and grinned and grinned. Steve put an arm around each of us and proclaimed, "Thank God for friends."

Week 6 Day 2 Monday. All morning during class, I just felt warm inside. I kept thinking of Steve and the stand he had made in terms of our friendship. I tried to understand his situation, but I just couldn't figure out either fundamentalist students or parents. They both live in a world they have made to their own design and must hold onto at all costs. The real world with real people must not be allowed to invade. If someone upsets their world, they are branded a sinner or a heretic. That way they do not have to make any changes. As I was walking to meet Brad I thought more and more of how distant I had become from someone who had so attracted me with his revolutionary ideas. My relationships had taken priority over ideas. I, in fact, am using my friendships to mold my ideas. I am coming to believe we live in a very personal universe. Any philosophy must be first personal or it is not in connection with reality. Others have as their starting point the physical universe or the cultural universe we call civilization. Everything they believe must be in line with these worlds. But I don't think their world is a friendly one. It is the world of the solitary ego: the world I had seen in my parents, and the world I am running from. With a cup of coffee in hand, I head to find Brad. "Hey, Brad, good to see you again," I said as I encountered him in the lounge.

"There he is," Brad said as I approached. I sat down, started sipping coffee and threw out the first question: "What roll does friendship play in your life?" Brad sat down his notebook and slid down in the chair and started his lecture, "You are asking a question that really doesn't need answering. The evolving world we live in has moved beyond such primitive groupings. Our ancestors formed tribes to survive in the wilds of the jungle. There were no individuals at that time. If you were asked to leave the tribe, it meant you were being executed. There was no life outside the group. As the earth became populated, life spread out and the tribes became less structured. Things such as clans, families and friendships evolved. "The modern computer world is the world of the individual. Our connections are electronic. Fiber-optics is the new replacement for the path, street, or railway. Friendship has been dead for quite a while. How many people do you know who are close, intimate friends after puberty? The family is now dying. All the efforts you hear about saving the family are nothing but individuals trying to shore up a dying institution. They will have the same success as the buggy whip union had in the face of the automobile. No matter how much they improved the whip or lowered the price, no one had a need for one any more. We are left with the solitary individual. "Parents don't even want to raise their own kids any more. They farm out the raising process to day care, schools and other professionals. The only reason women still give birth at all is that we still have not developed the womb-less baby. It is coming. Children will be born into a factory, the product of only the best possible genes, and raised in a therapeutically perfect environment. Children will be raised in the techniques of maximizing their sensory and individual development. New drugs may also help in this process. Our brains and sexual development may actually be enhanced. Could you imagine being able to remember everything you read or to have each orgasm be the ultimate

experience? And being able to have as many orgasms as possible? "Each individual will be complete unto himself. Any needs outside of the self will not be fulfilled by the family or clan as in the past. Government will take care of our every need, replacing any use of other people in a personal way. Other people are merely obligations we no longer need. Also in such a world there is no need for church or God either. We are entering the world of total liberation. You, Eric, are still looking for dependencies. You are afraid to enter the new world and are making a mission out of holding onto the old world. "You condemn the religious fundamentalists, but you are a fundamentalist of the friendship belief. They are preserving a way of life that has passed them by. You are preserving something that the world has no need for. We are entering the world of the specialized encounter. If you have a need for sex you choose a partner of your choosing--have your orgasm and be on with your life. Why in the world would you want to hang around a person who helped you achieve an erection and ejaculation. That is a one time act and be done with it. The person you shared your moment with has problems of their own. Why would you want to enter into their situations and hang-ups? Get yourself off and get out of there. "Another area that is quickly becoming past is psychoanalysis. It tried to help humans maximize their life. The main belief is liberation through the understanding of one's past. Every detail is talked about in the hopes that some item will be revealed which will open up a window into our future. But that is just a part of our evolution. As we moved from animal to man we developed rules, regulations and traditions to teach us to be human even when we wanted to revert to animal behavior. "Our evolution continues beyond the primitive. You must be willing to join the new people, not bond to a false past. We have moved beyond protozoa, beyond animal, beyond human and are enter ing the age of becoming a god. We do not look into our inner psyche, but dream of a future. Gods do not have ancestors, they have futures. Gods don't analyze, they have destinies. Gods

act. Men are once again called upon to lose their chains. Man is now set free. You, Eric, in your fear of the future, are still trying to restore the small town in your day-to-day relationships. "In ancient times--as in Greece--men preferred the company of men. This gave way to the age of romantic love. Now is the time of self love." I had to interrupt Brad or I think he would have talked right through lunch. I replied, "You have done it again. Your reasoning is complete, but we disagree on the premises. And I don't think I can argue premises. But you do challenge me to discover the logical consequences of what I believe. I believe in a personal universe as a starting point and I intend to take that premise to its conclusion as you have done with your premise. The difference is I don't know where I am going to end up.” *** After dinner I could tell that Steve wanted to talk. The silliness of Sunday night had passed and he was beginning to think about the consequences of his estrangement from his parents. Steve started, "Why is it people look upon friendships as something subversive?" "Subversive?" is all I could think to say. "Yeah, subversive," Steve said ready to continue his thought. "I could spend my time in sports, studying, working, or dating and there wouldn't be any reaction. But I have chosen to spend my free time pursuing an in-depth relationship with three other guys. I am a Christian and I know that it is possible to sin in any endeavor. Nobody warns you not to sin in your work or cheat in your studies. But when you talk about your close friends, people ask, 'Is your friend gay?' Jason visited my church one Saturday night and, boy, did my parents give him the once over. I sure am glad he didn't wear anything offensive. I never would have lived that down." "I suppose your parents ask about me too?" I asked. I was anxious to know how Steve explained me.

"I explained you as a searching Christian," he said. "I thought I could hide you behind a vague phrase, but it didn't work. They immediately suspected that I was avoiding calling you a non-Christian. They wanted me to get a new roommate. I refused. That was two weekends ago. Then this weekend when I said I wanted to spend more time with you, they thought that you had converted me to unbelief. You would think they would know me better than that. But fundamentalists have seen so many fall away they look upon everyone as living on the edge of unbelief." "Maybe they fear friendship because of the freedom one enjoys in the relationship," I suggested. "I would think if there is anything a fundamentalist would fear it would be freedom. When you have formal personal contacts, image is every thing. Any behavior out of the ordinary can cause eyebrows to be raised. You and I can be silly and crazy and talk about anything without having to worry about rejection. When differences happen, we can talk and talk until we understand each other. There is not that option in your parents church world." "Exactly," Steve said, "for the first time in my life I feel totally free. I know it is the first time I have really felt loved. My parents said they love me and they really do in their way, but I always feel under pressure to conform. I still am sorting this out in my mind, but with you, Tony, and Jason I can say 'I love you' and really mean it. And when you guys hug me and tell me how much you love me I just feel good all day long. It gives me a different perspective on life." "I know one big difference it makes for me," I added, "I am able to resist social pressure. Because I know I have a love foundation, nobody can scare me or intimidate me. It seems so many guys are living according to either social, family or personal pressures. The four of us are under pressure of sorts. If one of us were to get out of line, I think the other three would love the one back in line. But it is not a 'what will people think?' type pressure, it is the pressure of 'why are you ruining our friendship?' It is the only kind of pressure I can respond to because it is personal and motivated out of a desire to

restore a relationship." "I think I understand it better," Steve said. "Friendships are subversive because it gives a guy the power to resist all power except love. That puts you beyond others' control. Society fears people who cannot be controlled. I would think that people with close friends are even resistant to sales pressure. I don't need expensive toys to make me happy. I have that happiness inside me. I can't be told to 'buy this for happiness' because I know happiness already."

Week 6 Day 3 Tuesday. This afternoon Tony walked into our room while Steve and I were studying. He wasn't wearing his usual grin. His eyes looked very red. I asked immediately, "What's wrong, Tony?" "I just got a phone call from my mother. She said my father had a heart attack at work this morning. He died on the way to the hospital." He just sat on the bed, stared at the floor, and started crying. Steve and I joined him on either side. We sat next to him for maybe fifteen minutes without saying a word. Steve rubbed Tony's back. I held his hand. Finally Tony spoke, "I don't know why this bothers me so much." "What do you mean?" Steve asked. "I mean my father was always ashamed of me. He wouldn't have much to do with me. We never went anywhere together. We never had a real talk in my whole life. But here I am crying my heart out for someone that hated me and what I am." "He was still your father," I inserted. "I guess," Tony continued, "I always wanted him to be proud of me someday. I just couldn't follow him in construction. I

wanted to graduate from college to show him I was good at something. I just couldn't go on and ignore him no matter how much he ignored me. I wanted him to come to my college graduation and tell me I did well. I knew we could probably never talk about much. We were so different. But I worked so hard to get good grades so I could hear those words. "Whenever I got tired and felt like giving up, I would motivate myself by dreaming of my father smiling at my intellectual accomplishments. As long as he was alive, I had this dream. You see--maybe I am being selfish--I am not mourning for the man who died that I never knew. I am mourning for the dream that died. There is no motivation left. There is no one left to please. I am like an actor that played for the audience who finds himself playing before an empty theater. Who cares if the play goes on if there is no one out there. Bring down the curtain.” I have never known what to say at those times. I just squeezed his hand even harder. Finally, Steve broke the silence. He just started clapping. I caught on and started clapping. Tony looked up at us. Steve said, "There IS someone in the audience." At that point we all started crying. Later that evening Steve got a phone call from his mother. I could only hear half of the conversation, but it sounded like this: Steve, "Hello mother." silence Steve, "No, I haven't changed my mind. I am not coming home this weekend." silence.

Steve, "Yes, I do like my roommate." silence Steve, "I know he is not a Christian. But I happen to think he is very close." Steve looked over at me, winced and raised his palms up. silence Steve, "No, he is not gay." He looked at me, puckered his lips as if to kiss, and silently laughed. silence Steve, "You have to realize I am no longer in high school. ( pause...) Yes, I am still your son, but I am also becoming friends with guys here." silence Steve, "No, I haven't met a girl yet. I just don't want to get involved in that scene right now. ( pause...) I know there are plenty of good church girls at home. I'm just not ready yet. (Pause...) I know other guys at church have steady girls and Gil, Larry and Fred are all engaged already. I am just not ready to settle down." long silence.

Steve, "I don't think you're being fair. I don't think I am abandoning you and the church. I have to make my own choices. I am not going to turn my back on God. You have to trust me. But I am not going to be a carbon copy of Dad or be exactly the kind of son you want. I have to discover the journey that God has for me. (Pause...) Now don't cry because things are not going to change. I will try to make it home once a month. I've got to go now. Bye." After the phone call, Steve looked really down. He said, "Why do parents have to be that way. They are pressuring me to be like everyone else in the family. My cousins are all nice church kids who will grow up to have a nice home with a nice wife and nice kids with a nice job. I don't want that. It all seems like that is just adding more rules. I finally get away from all the rules of home and church and my parents want me to take on a whole bunch of new rules. They think now that I am at college I am free from all rules. Without someone to tell me or some responsibility that demands obedience, they think I will end up with AIDS or marrying some divorcee with three kids." I said, "I am not divorced and I don't have any kids. Will you marry me?" We both laughed, but Steve got serious quickly again. "Eric, I just feel so guilty. I feel like I could never please my parents or even God. I just feel like going out and getting drunk or getting laid, or just turning into a bum. I feel like it is impossible to succeed at anything. Why try? Why work if no matter what you do you are either a slave to someone else's desire or you are a failure. That just doesn't leave much room for anything else. Why is there so much pressure to be like everyone else? Even by church standards I am a moral person. Then why am I treated like I am immoral for just going a different direction? "When I go to church I see sinners of all kinds there. There are people who substitute their jobs, their families, their food, or their looks for God. That kind of sin is okay. But to want to choose friendship instead of marriage or some glamorous career, that is a sin. I just don't understand. The Bible is

full of examples of male-to-male bonding. But the church thinks that friendships lead to sin. Besides the church isn't afraid of other sins. Not only is the pulpit and pew filled with socially accepted sins, they parade through churches people who found God in prison or repented of their drug use. Their goal in church seems is not to serve God or oppose sin, it is to create an organization for those who exalt the socially acceptable." "It sound like you are becoming more like me," I said. "In the sense of being frustrated with this whole world we live in right now, yes," Steve answered. "But I still think that God and the Bible are bigger than society and the Church. I still think that God is not only the creator of marriage, but the creator of friendship. I don't have to turn my back on creation to be your friend. I merely have to discover what God intended men to be. That is my goal. In a world concerned with such things as sex, money, prestige, and just about every enticement, I think there is something that doesn't need any of those things." I was beginning to realize that Steve's commitment to me was more than I had thought. He saw us not just a guys sharing a small room on a small campus, he saw us as sharing in something cosmic. That he and I (and of course, Tony, and Jason) were on a journey of discovery just as some in the past had pursued "The lost Dutchman Mine". In a world caught up in material and sexual values, we were trying to discover God's gift of friendship. I have a feeling that this is not going to be easy. There appears to be many who fear such a discovery.

Week 6 Day 4 Wednesday

I always wonder what to include in this journal. Are some things best left unsaid? I don't want to paint a picture that is false but sometimes I feel like a traitor. We all want to be seen in the best of lights. What gives me the right to tell this story? I must trust to the reader to keep things in context. I love the people I write about. But today something happened that was harder for me to handle than some of the other things I write about. I went down to see Tony this afternoon. He was laying on his bed, nude, playing with himself, reading a male skin magazine and drinking from a bottle of wine. When I walked in he looked at the surprise on my face and yelled, "What the fuck you looking at, you faggot?" I didn't know what to say. I sat on the bed across from Tony and tried to think what to say. At that point he threw up in his bed and over himself. He then started to cry. I grabbed a towel, wiped him off and led him to the shower. I pushed him in and went and got Steve. I explained the situation to Steve and he went down to the shower to keep Tony company. I went down to Tony's room and started cleaning up. If there is one thing I hate it is foul smells. This was a foul smell. I took the sheets to the laundry room, and I went back to clean up the smell. I borrowed some disinfectant from the janitor's closet and restored the room to normal and put on some clean sheets. Steve returned with Tony. He was crying all over Steve. I gave him some sweats to put on. I asked what was bothering him. Tony said, "My mother called and said the funeral is this Friday afternoon and she wants me to attend. I can't go back home again." I could see his fear. I suggested, "Tell you what, I'll drive you home on Friday. I'll skip class and we'll leave right after breakfast. Okay?" Tony looked at me with those big brown eyes and he stared right into my heart. He said, "That would be great."

"One more thing," I added, "is it okay if I throw out the wine and the magazine?" "Sure, Eric, I really couldn't get into those things any more.....really." Steve added, "Tonight, I want you to spend with us. No excuses. You are going to be with us." Tony just returned to crying. I had never seen him so devastated. The three of us returned to our room arm and arm. Tony laid down on my bed and went to sleep. It was only eight o'clock so Steve and I returned to studying. At midnight I led a very sleepy Tony to the bathroom to avoid any possible later interruptions and he returned to my bed and we fell asleep together.

Week 6 Day 5 Thursday. Jason came by this morning and asked Tony if the two of them could spend the day together. Tony couldn't believe all the attention he was getting. He said, "You know, after the funeral I expect the same treatment." Steve laughed and said, "Yeah, we've got some real special treatment planned for you." Jason added, "Boy, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes." He then gave Tony a big hug. Later that night Jason came by to talk with Steve and me. Jason said, "Tony decided he had some studies to do before leaving tomorrow morning for the funeral. We went to see a movie and then had dinner and talked about death a lot. There is something about death that turns philosophers into us all."

I added, "You have that right. I remember my first funeral. I was so scared. I was sure that body would sit up and talk at the funeral. I couldn't believe my grandmother was dead. It just seemed so unnatural. For everything else in life there is a sense that I or someone can solve the problem. It is just an obstacle. But with death I, or everyone, runs into a barrier. No way around, no solution, just acceptance. But we can't accept it. It is a riddle with no solution but life demands a solution. Wow, the frustration I feel at death." "I remember as a kid," Steve said, "asking my father about death. He told me all the trite stories but the stories did nothing to quiet my fears. I think now, looking back, it wasn't death I feared but not knowing when. There is no way to make plans or be secure. I was taught to pray, 'if I die before I wake' each night. That always seemed scary. Eight years old and I was worried about having a heart attack in my sleep just like my uncle. It never occurred to me that the heart attack may have had causes. I thought it was like Russian roulette where each night somebody died. I feared going to sleep at nights. I always needed a night light. In fact sleeping with Eric in the room at night is the first time in my life I am not afraid at night. That sounds silly but even in high school I used to sleep with the blinds open so the light of the street would fill my room. I was too old for a night light, but not too old to like a little fresh air. At least that is what I told my parents: 'I sleep better with the window open.'" I then started talking about my fears of death. I said, "Even now, the thing about death that I find so puzzling is that there is a sense of incompleteness. I want to accomplish something with my life. I just don't want to end up in a middle class rut like my parents. I want to be able to look back on my life and say I did something that made a difference." "As far as I am concerned," Jason added, "death is something that is a factor in more decisions than we would like to admit. We live in the glow of fear lighting up every corner of our life. We cannot hide. We try. We fail. It is still there."

Death is one those things we are experts on and Steve interrupted Jason to say, "In church, we have invented the doctrines of purgatory and the rapture to avoid death and its consequences. In the church I grew up in, every one was into the 'end times' excitement. I am sure the major reason people believed in that doctrine so much was that it offered them a chance to escape death." "And throw in purgatory and you have escaped the consequences of dying," Jason added quickly. "Exactly," I had to get a word in. "Also the rapture gave people an escape from responsibility in this world," Steve got right back in. "If the world is going to end any day you do not have to behave with an eye for the future. No need to save money, no need to study hard, no need to work for a goal, let's all live it up in a semi-moral way. It is a great doctrine for those who don't want to risk anything or work for any goal. I know my father was so excited about the end of world he felt no need to spend any time with his family. To raise kids calls for long term commitment. He came home, set down the law, and then was off to another church meeting." I saw a side of Steve that we hadn't talked about. Steve is very devoted to Jesus Christ, but I could see he had a lot of bitter feelings toward his father and his church. [It is a topic we would return to many times over the years we have been together.] Was the fear of death responsible for the damage? We came to the conclusion that it was. If we do not fear death and we live as if we are accountable and are going to be here for seventy or more years, our life takes on a different meaning. It hasn't been exactly easy getting the four of us together as friends. There has been some rough moments. More than I wish to talk about. That is not the theme of this journal. But there was a common belief that brought the four of us together: we were in this thing called friendship for the long haul. If we failed at many other things, we were not going to fail at this.

We all had this tremendous hunger that couldn't be satisfied with a one night sexual encounter. There was a cry for love, and a cry for something permanent. We, each in our own way, thought that love is eternal and anything short of that was to cheapen it. In fact, that was the one idea that kept Tony from getting any deeper involved with Jack than he did. He said he could actually look inside Jack and see 'temporary'.

Week 6 Day 6 Friday. Tony and I got up early. I suggested we get an early start and catch breakfast on the road. Tony was really nervous. In the early morning darkness, we went up to my car and threw our bags in the trunk. After we drove about a block, two arms came up out of the back seat and grabbed Tony. He jumped, hit his head on the roof of the car, and screamed. We all started laughing and Tony looked around to see Jason with his arms around him with Steve sitting next to Jason. "You don't think we were going to let you go through this without your whole family on board," Steve said. I don't think I had ever seen any body happier than Tony. He kept saying different versions of the phrase, "Wow, this is great," or "You guys, did you plan this all along?" After we had all settled down, Tony got a little serious and said, "You know, I came to college for three reasons: I wanted to get away from home; I wanted to prove I could make something of myself; and I wanted to find a male lover. As you guys know, I have given up on number three, but I have found so much love for the first time in my life. I don't think a person could feel any more loved than I am. And to think I had to wait eighteen years to have someone love me." Jason squeezed Tony and said, "It was worth the wait, wasn't it?” Tony just said how thankful he was to find love before he died. Tony added, "The saddest thing is I don't think my father

ever had anybody love him. I used to hate him for not loving me, but I am beginning to understand that he never could because he never knew how. He just knew how to work. He did have a good job and I had enough money to buy books and other things I need ed. The saddest part of going to this funeral is that I now understand how unhappy my father was. I didn't know what love and happiness could mean until I got to know you guys. I now know that there was no love in my father's life. He never got to feel what I feel today. He died thinking this is just one cold, hard world. That's sad." We were all a little tired from getting up early. We drove for about an hour without saying much more. Probably because I was the only one awake. I guess I was the designated driver. I got to thinking in the silence. This was the first time the four of us had done anything together. It was hard with Steve going home on weekends and Jason very reluctant to let his hair down and commit himself to another. Trust is coming hard or should I say returning hard for Jason. We have all learned to trust in substitutes for friends. Tony and I both have constant companions. He has a backpack that he carries with him everywhere. It is kind of like me and my laptop. I am always working on this diary and I am never without it. Last month I had to go the dentist and he laughed as he saw me typing away in the dentist chair as I waited for him. I never thought much about it, but he said it was a first for him. Tony says he is too old for teddy bears so he carries books everywhere. After about an hour I pulled into a Denny’s and woke up my traveling companions. Four Grand Slams and lots of coffee did a good job of waking everyone up. We sat there almost an hour talking and laughing. Tony seemed so relieved just to laugh and laugh. He didn't want to get back on the rode again. But we all knew what the journey held for us and we had to get going. None of us was looking forward to this. We arrived at the funeral home a little early. There was his mother in the lobby all by herself. When we walked in she just starting talking to us about what a hard time she was having making all the arrangements. She was a big woman and I could see

that Tony didn't get his build from his mother. She carried a monologue on for almost twenty minutes. Finally Tony's uncle and his wife showed up and she moved on to meet them. We went inside. The four of us were the first ones to be seated. The casket was a cheap gray version with just one bouquet of flowers laying on top. I leaned over to talk to Tony who was seated between Steve and Jason. I said, "I guess we should have stopped and bought some flowers." Tony replied, "It's okay." Finally it was time for the service to start and I looked around. Including us there were only ten of us. Tony's mom, Tony's uncle and his wife, two guys from the construction crew Tony's father worked on, and a woman who Tony said was a neighbor of theirs. In Chehalis the funerals I attended were all above a hundred or more. It was so lonely in this chapel. I think Steve and Jason sensed the sadness of the situation. Each grabbed one of Tony's hands and held on tight. The service was not much. How do you say good-bye to someone who just worked and watched t.v.? It was all over in about twenty minutes. One of the funeral directors walked over and opened the casket. I saw Tony bow his head. As we stood up to walk past the open casket, Jason and Steve put their arms around Tony. Tony just stopped for a few seconds to stare down at his father. He looked old beyond his years. His face was thin and wrinkled. His head was covered with gray hair. He had a thin build but you could tell he had knew how to work. We all walked outside into the sunlight. There was a public park a block away and we all walked over and sat on a picnic table. Tony started, "I don't think I could have faced this morning by myself. I would have had to be drunk or something. Your support this morning is something I have dreamed all my life about. I used to lay awake at nights and wonder about life and how desolate I felt. I used to think of myself as one star surrounded by millions of stars. I knew one day there would come a time when my light would cease. But with the closest star millions of light years away, who cares? I think of all the hardships in life that I have known or read about and I think one

of the worst must be to live a life where no one cares. "Look at my father. He died without knowing how to care or knowing that anyone cared. I never knew him to laugh or have any joy. He took some pride in what he built, but there was no sense of being important in anyone's eyes. I don't know how he held up. I see now I was just like him, but I had this dream. From the time I was little I dreamed about leaving home and finding a guy to love me. When I got old enough to masturbate, I would fantasize each night about having some guy hug me and stroke me. I figured that was what life was all about. In a very cold, lonely world I just wanted to be hugged and stroked." The three of us sat in silence. We just didn't know what to answer. Maybe we had already given the answer. I know one thing, Tony's reputation when I first met him as a silly, immoral, immature flake was just the surface of a guy who was carrying around a lot of pain. He still could revert back at times when he got really down, but he was mature enough not to do anything stupid during those times. But there was a depth inside him that surprised me. He had read so much he always seemed to have something to say on any subject. Finally Jason spoke up, "I just got to thinking. We don't have to be back at school until Sunday night. Let's take our time getting back. Why don't we head out toward the ocean and then back up to Seattle?" Tony immediately perked up, "That would be great. This is a special day for me. I was thinking during the service, my old family has died, but today I realize I have a new family. Let's make this like a 'honeymoon' for our family." Steve and I thought it would be a great thing to do. We headed back to the car with a renewed strength and the laughter had returned. As we closed the car doors, Tony yelled, "Boy am I horny." He was sitting in the back seat. He dropped his pants and showed off his super hard cock. Steve was sitting next to Tony and he then dropped his pants and started stroking himself.

I started to laugh, "I think we better get out of this parking lot. We don't want to get arrested." I drove out of town and got on a quiet farm road. Jason, seeing it was safe, also pulled his pants down. I had him hold the wheel for a second as I slid my pants down. I put one hand on the wheel and one hand on my cock and joined in the session. Tony stuck his head into the front seat to see how we were doing. I reached up and twisted the rear view mirror so I could see the back seat. Suddenly Steve shouted, "Wow, what a mess." "Keep your wad off my car," I laughed. "How about the ashtray?" he asked. "I knew there must be a purpose for those things," I said as I kept working myself and driving. "Don't run off the road," Jason added. "My reputation is bad enough without adding to it." I faked a swerve and scared Jason to the point his cock went soft on him and he had to start over. Tony came next followed by me and finally Jason. Beings Jason had not done it around us before he was last. We were all laughing and cheering him on. When he finally came we all cheered and did the wave in the car. I suppose this sounds gross, but you had to be there. In the context it was just one of those silly moments that friends share and yet never forget. After this, we cleaned up, headed for the main highway and searched for a restaurant. We drove all the way to Astoria, Oregon. We found an older motel that didn't cost too much. We settled in and made plans for the evening. Steve suggested we get some toothbrushes. Steve and I went shopping. Tony and Jason decided to stay behind and clean up as Steve and I walked to a nearby store. Steve said, "You know this is the first time I have spent a night in a motel with friends. I feel like I am doing something naughty." "You have already done something naughty," I laughed.

"That's what scares me," Steve said without laughing back. "In the car this afternoon, it was almost too much of a turn on. I could easily have gone too far. That scares me a lot. This is all virgin ground for me." "Nice pun," I again laughed. This time Steve managed a little laugh. I continued, "I know one thing. All of us want one thing above all else, we want to be friends. We don't want to do anything to hurt that love. If we go against love I know it will be a one shot deal, not a habit." "Nice pun," Steve said and laughed a little with me. "All I know, Steve, is that I don't want to hide behind fear. I know that if you fear losing a game you are not going to win. I get scared at times also, but I keep thinking of how far I have come in the last six months since I met Bryce on a Senior outing. I know I could have got side-tracked many times but the love just keeps growing. Believe me, it would be so easy to do just anything if I thought it would bring us closer together. But I have to think that there are laws of love just as there are laws in other areas of life." Steve brightened up. He said, "Thanks, I guess I am not as much a pervert as I thought." "Wait, I didn't mean that," I laughed and this time he joined in. I added, "I think it comes down to trust." "I am outside the protection of my family for the first time," Steve said. "I have been taught for so many years about guys going off to college and being seduced into a lifestyle bound for hell. I have this picture in my mind of myself becoming gay and hurting my family. We have been silly together...that's okay. But is it a sign of love? We are becoming bonded to each other. But what does that mean? There are no models to follow. We are on a journey that scares me." "It is a little hard for me to understand the position of yours and of being finally free from your family," I said. "My

family gave me quite a bit of freedom. I am just not to take chances or not to get AIDS, but the main thing is to keep my private life private. Morality or the fear of hell does not enter in, just the fear of making a public disgrace. But being around you and Jason has caused me to think in terms of right and wrong. Believe me, I want to love you guys so much. What scares me is destroying that love. And what I am beginning to under stand is that right and wrong have something to do with love. My commitment to morality has grown out of love." "That's funny," Steve concluded, "we have reached the same destination from different directions. I was more afraid of sin than I was of not being loving. I am now learning that doing right is aligning myself with love. Being gay is not just a sin against God, it is a sin against love and the laws of life instituted by God." We walked slowly back to the motel. It was a foggy Northwest early evening, but the warmth we felt made the time seem bright and warm, really. We had cleared the air in our hearts. When we got back to the motel we walked in to find Jason and Tony kneeling by the bed and praying. As they looked up I could see a big smile on both of their faces. I didn't know what was going on, but the great thing about our relationship is that I know that whatever makes Jason and Tony better friends will also make the four of us better friends. There is no exclusiveness or jealously. I know I will not get left out. Love wants to reach out, it does not want to possess. It was time for dinner so we all walked to a local pizza parlor. We just sat and talked about nonsense. I am sitting here later and I really can't remember one important or profound thing said. I got to get these guys to be more profound. They are ruining my journal.

Week 6 Day 7 Saturday. We drew straws for beds and Steve and I drew the two shortest so I woke up with Steve asleep by my side. I seem to need less sleep than the other three. I wake up with about an hour to kill so I laid there and composed my journal. I can feel the love that comes from Steve even as he sleeps by my side. The trust I feel as I sense his nude body next to mine just makes me feel good all over. I really am in no hurry for the others wake up. Jason and Steve talk a lot about the goodness of God and sometimes I think of all the good things that have happened in the last several months. I grew up in a formal and mechanical world. Because of that I tended to view life as formal and mechanical. I looked upon other people as scenery that I use in my life and the pursuit of my goals. I don't mean to sound cold. There was pain when my grandmother died. But it wasn't the pain of losing a loved one, it was the pain of learning to live life without part of the scenery. I would be working in the yard on Saturday afternoons and she would bring over a piece of cake and ice cream for me. She would then go inside to see my parents. She was kind but not warm. But that is what family life was like for me. We took care of each other, and that is what family life is about. We can't live this life without a continuity of generations. If there is one thing that scares me most about our friend ship, it is that there is no continuity. Just suppose none of us get married and we stay close our entire lives, what happens when we start dying? Is everything we accomplished or accumulated just gone? Everything sold at a garage sale? There is no one to carry on what we have. For example, Tony collects books as he reads. If he lives long enough, he will probably have twenty or thirty thousand. What happens to those books? Who would want them? Are all his notes and ideas just gone? I can understand why some societies place such importance on inheritance. It gives a purpose to one's labors, and one's accumulations. Steve just opened his eyes and when he sees I am awake he

slides even closer to me. He puts his mouth next to my ear and talks quietly. "You know, tomorrow will be the first Sunday I haven't been to church in years. It seems strange. I feel a little guilty. Even when we were on vacation, we would stop what we were doing and attend church. My father used to say, 'If we skip church some misfortune will befall us.' I am laying here a little afraid that we will get in a car wreck today." I replied, "We really can't get in a car wreck today because you haven't officially skipped until tomorrow." Steve just gave me this weird look. When we talk about religion, he doesn't know when I am joking or being just dumb. I bring a perspective so different from his. From what I am beginning to understand about love, if God is about love and He loves Christians such as Steve and Jason, He probably isn't looking for an excuse to punish them. I asked Steve if he thought God loved him. He said sure. I asked him if I loved him. He said sure. I asked him if he thought I was looking for an excuse to kick his butt. He looked at me and laughed. He said, "You know, for a non-Christian you show some insight." I replied, "All I do is compare situations with similar situations. That is how I understand things I don't understand. For example, you talk to me about your church being a family. I then think of different kinds of families to see what laws of life apply to this thing you call family. I ask what kind of family would get together for one hour a week and only the father would be allowed to talk? Isn't that dysfunctional?" "I get your point," Steve answered. "I can see that what I have learned about God and Church have maybe become ingrown. We just reinforce each other's twisted ideas without thinking about what we are really saying. We talk about love, family, friends, purpose, and more but we really don't know what the words mean. We worship the ideas without trying to find out what they mean in modern American society. I know recently I have been looking at church from a different perspective. I see that a lot of what we worship is nothing but an idealized past."

"I think we are getting closer and closer, Steve," I said. "I am seeing that what I see as true coincides with what you say is in the Bible. I just wish that this thing called love which comes from God and that the four of us are experiencing could be transferred to the Church and its people. Could you imagine if we used the Church as our example of love and carried on a very formal relationship? How boring. When we were together, we would be counting the minutes until we could be alone again." "There you go again comparing situations with common sense," Steve answered. "It makes reality at times seem like a show we carry on for each other's benefit." "Exactly," I said, "isn't that what this whole love thing we have going is about. We want to know what is real behind the facades we see all around us. We want to find the real in a phony world. We all come from situations where life was distasteful and without love. None of us wanted to live as we were raised. We all thought there was in this universe something more real and important than the realities we were raised with. There is a hunger that cries out for meaning, purpose, and love. This is bedrock. We refuse to settle for images of the real, we want the real." "I see your point, Eric. What brings us together is we refuse to accept substitutes for what is real. We have a faith that something real exists and that we can discover it. We are willing to make mistakes. We are willing to live on the edge of meaning. We are willing to be called fools. But we believe we will find something if we search hard enough. I am getting excited the more I talk about this." Steve finished and we decided it was time to get up. We noticed that as we were whispering back and forth, Tony and Jason had been whispering also. Steve and I headed for the shower as we left the other two more time to talk. Without even thinking about it anymore, we just climbed in the shower together and started washing. When we bumped into each other and I almost fell out, we started laughing. "I don't think they built this shower with us in mind," Steve said still laughing.

We drove out to the Pacific Ocean at Fort Astoria State Park. We walked through the old World War II bunkers and walked out on the jetty. But that is only the reality of what happened. There is a sense of thankfulness that fills the time and space between us. We all come from lonely pasts even though we may not have known we were lonely. I have learned that just discovering you are lonely is a gift. There is an permeating emptiness in our selves that hovers over our culture. Commercial solutions abound plus an entertainment industry that claims to fill that void. But whether we buy expensive adult toys like nice cars, homes, or clothes, there remains a yearning. No matter how many of our teams we cheer for win, we still feel frustrated. Feeling good about our winning team only lasts until the next game. I cannot tell you why we sought solutions outside the norm of social solutions, but somehow we all had this awareness that there was a reality to friendship that had been forgotten. Sex so pervades our thinking that people can have intense and satisfying friendships without engaging in some form of intercourse is often overlooked. I guess we have done things sexual but sex wasn't the purpose. It was just a sharing of something personal just like we would share any other personal thing. We never felt we had to hide the fact that we got horny and that we masturbated. We could joke about it. After all, there is just no way you can take away a man's hormones. The horniness is going to always be there, there is no choice. But we do have a choice how we give expression to those hormones. I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you how scared we were all at first. I think even Tony was scared but his desperation was so much greater I know he was willing to do anything to fill that hunger. I am so thankful he chose me for a friend instead of Jack. He could easily have gone off in all directions looking for something that would never satisfy. The joy I get just from watching Tony grow up into a loving friend makes any difficulty we have had to work out seem small. I have seen Jason start to recover from the rejection he felt in his home town. He had withdrawn from real personal contact. He is learning to trust.

Steve was so tied up inside with religious legalisms and was almost a walking robot with a rule for everything. Steve is discovering that the real rules are limits that keep us from destroying love, but within those limits there is incredible freedom. Of course, I was perfect from the start. Right? Not quite. It is just harder to see one's own hang ups and it is even harder to see one's growth. What is easy to see is the tears that I pour out when I think of the love I have discovered from my three friends. Looking back over the last several months I just keep thinking of my high school times. One thought keeps coming back. I left home and went to Seattle and I didn't miss one person. I mean it was like walking out of a movie theater and immediately moving on to the next thing on your schedule, pizza. And when you are eating, someone asks you about the movie and you had completely forgotten. You had to strain to remember. That is how I feel. I try to think of people I miss, I mean people whose absence causes a vacuum and I cannot name one from Chehalis. I know I should. I just cannot. That isn't right, I guess, and reflects poorly upon me, but it is true. We went back to our motel on a Saturday night after dinner and a movie. We drew straws for beds and tonight Tony and I are sharing the pillow. One thing I know from sleeping by Tony is that you better not try to roll over in you sleep. There is no way. You would have to pull l40 pounds along with you. But the closeness and the security it brings to you in the night makes up for any discomfort. I have always had this fear in the middle of the night of dying all alone. I remember people who lived alone and who died and were not discovered for maybe a week. I always thought that was the ultimate in sadness--to die and have no one notice. I know now that if I die I will be noticed and I will be missed. The fear has gone. Of course, when you sleep with Tony it might be quite a while before he discovers you haven't moved.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Week 7 Day 1 Sunday. I woke up early Sunday morning and as usual my second pillow was Tony. He was wrapped around me. But he was awake and silently humming. I could feel his tears fall onto my face. I asked him what he was singing. "Oh, I didn't mean to wake you Eric," Tony replied. "I woke up and so much has happened I started singing a little song that Jason has been teaching me." "What about a song makes your cry?" I wondered. "I can't tell you how happy I have become," Tony answered. "Don't laugh, but this old kid has become like Jason and Steve. I have started praying. I mean praying to a person I can know, not just some impersonal force. I can only describe it as a person who is dying of thirst. He discovers a trickle of water and it tastes so good he digs to find the source of this water. Imagine the joy when he uncovers a cool fresh spring that is the source of this life giving fluid. With you guys I have been thirsting for love and it satisfies. But Jason showed me that love flows from an infinite, personal source." I was beginning to wake up even more for I felt something special by the way Tony was talking. He was quiet but so excited and as he talked he held me even tighter. Man, he's strong. The first thing that came into my mind to say was, "I feel kind of on the outside looking in with you guys." Tony quickly replied, "Come on in, the water is fine." "You may find this hard to believe, Tony," I confessed, "but

I have never prayed in my life a prayer that I meant. Just those memorized prayers at dinner or bedtime. I don't think those count." "I don't know much more than what Jason has taught me. I have read the Bible a lot, but it was for information. I learned much about right and wrong, but I didn't realize that I could talk to the Author of the Bible." Tony was in a real talkative mood so I just let him talk. "Jason said two things were necessary. I had to understand that I carried a disease in me called sin and that when Jesus died he became a cure for that disease. I needed to accept that cure. And then I had to be willing to now restore my life to full health by allowing God's laws of life to gradually become part of me. Healing and restoration are the starting points to the source of love in friendship with God." "And what is that song you were singing?" I wanted to know. "I only know one Christian song but it is the story of my life of late," Tony went on. "It is titled, 'I Am Loved' and if you want I will sing it to you." "Can you sing?" I jokingly asked. "Not at all, but much better than you," Tony grinned. "So hear it goes:

I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you; For the one who knows me best loves me more. I am loved, you are loved, Won't you please take my hand. We are free to love each other, we are loved. I said if you knew you wouldn't want me; My scars are hid by the face I wear; He said, my child, My scars go deeper; It was love for you that put them there. Forgiven, I repeat, I am forgiven,

And free before my Lord I freely stand; Oh I am forgiven, I can dare forgive my brother, I've been forgiven, I reach out to take your hand. [William and Gloria Gaither/Gaither Music Co./ASCAP] How did you like that?" Tony said as he finished. "The singing or the song? I joked. "You know what I mean," Tony said. "I guess it is difficult to be serious right now," I said. "After all of the silly things we have done together, it hard to ask you to teach me how to pray. I think I am more scared now than when we first beat off together. But I want to be part of you and have friendship with God." Tony just told me to ask Jesus to heal my disease and to renew his Spirit inside me. I did that and I just started to cry all over Tony. He started to cry. He wiped our tears together. We started to sing the song together. I don't think I have ever been hugged so hard. Tony was so excited. When we finished singing, we talked about the new journey the four of us were starting together. I asked Tony, "Now that we are Christians, does that mean we cannot be silly anymore?" "I sure hope not." "I mean, I sure don't want to become like the church people in Chehalis. That would be terrible," I said. "Maybe we should start things out right," Tony suggested. "Let's stand up together and sing our song to wake up Jason and Steve. It will be our way of telling them we are all one." So that is what we did. We stood up in bed, stark naked, joined arms and started singing. Jason and Steve woke up and looked over. It took a few seconds for them to realize what was going on. Then Steve put his arm around Jason's head and started laughing. Tony and I then started high-kicking together, raising our legs first to the left and then the right. That was more

than the other two could take, they jumped up, pulled us over onto their bed and we meshed into one pile. "Jesus, thank you for answering my prayers," Steve said as he was laughing. "So this is my first prayer meeting," I said. "Are they all like this?" Jason just laughed, "I don't think so." Tony just rolled on top of this nude mess of laughing humanity and put his arms around the bunch of us and said, "I finally have the family I have always dreamed about. We're stuck together now, right? I mean this just ain't some one time experience is it?" Jason, our resident elder statesman said, "We all have been searching for this our whole lives. I can't imagine moving onto something more important." We just laid there laughing and crying together. I have never thought much about heaven, but I started to think that maybe I had touched a little bit of it. It made me envisage how much reality I had been missing. I felt really alive. There was no going back. I know it would now be difficult living around others who are so concerned with petty little things. What concern is status, success, class, or prestige if you are loved? I already have what they are trying to find. We broke up our little prayer meeting and as others headed to the shower and the toothbrushes, I just laid there thinking how lucky I was. I felt better than if I had won the lottery. I had security and love. Things not even a lottery winner could have. Another thing I had was the absence of fear. Being raised by my ever accident-conscious father, I was taught to see disaster in every situation. I could fear every little thing in life for I knew what could go wrong. But I felt a new confidence in my friends and in a God I was starting to know. While some things may happen that I don't like, there are no accidents with God. After we all got dressed we went out for breakfast. I don't think food ever tasted so good. We talked and laughed and drank

coffee until we were exhausted. We walked slowly back to the motel. I am sure Astoria was not ready for us. We walked slowly, sometimes arm-in-arm, and at other times punching each other affectionately. Tony asked, "How come drivers keep staring at us?" Jason replied, "Probably for the same reason they stare at us in the dorm." "Maybe we should all give them the finger or moon them," Tony joked. Steve not sure whether Tony was serious because Tony could be real impulsive at times said, "No, No, No. All I need is to call my parents from the Astoria jail asking for bail." "Just tell them you're with me," I said. "Then they will understand. They'll blame me and you'll get off scot-free." "After they castrate me," Steve said in mock seriousness. "Is that Biblical?" Tony wanted to know. "No, but it is fundamentalist," Jason laughed. "So that's why you look so funny, Jason," Tony laughed. We continued on with this kind of talk all the way back. I was glad to get back to the motel without being arrested. But when we did get back and settled back into the room, Tony looked out the curtain and yelled, "How come the cops are surrounding the motel?" We were in such a silly mood we just laughed and laughed. Writing it now it doesn't seem as funny, but it was one of those lines that really, 'You just had to be there.' I guess we all felt like we were doing something illegal. We had all crossed a line and there was no going back. The time came to check out and drive back to school. It was something none of us wanted to do. We all felt like we were being asked by God to return to earth after having died and gone to heaven. Like, "How can they keep us down on the farm after we've seen Purr-ee?" Jason seemed to be feeling the same thing. He talked about how empty and lonely he felt moving out to Seattle after having failed at home. He never thought he would

recover. Now he felt home at last. He said, "If I didn't believe God puts us here for a purpose, I would just want to run to the mountains and live with you guys away from everything. Life in modern America is a hassle. Who needs it? Why do we have to study our tails off just so we can make payments on cars and houses like everyone else?" Tony added to those thoughts by telling of his growing up in Richland. He said, "When I was in high school I would ride my bike all over the Tri-Cities area [Richland, Pasco, Kennewick] looking to find a friend. I used to say hello to kids, old people, and guys near my age. I am not the most cool looking stud. I know that. Plus I really didn't know what to say when someone would say hello back. All I knew was what I read in books. People today do not talk about books. Sometimes I would talk to somebody for a few minutes or have a neat looking guy smile at me. I would ride my bike back to my grove of trees by the irrigation canal. I would strip and dream of having that person for a friend. I would masturbate thinking of being hugged and hugged. I never really thought much about sex. I don't know why. But I just wanted to not feel so lonely. When I did that by the canal I felt like there was hope for being loved. Every Saturday and Sunday I would bike until I got somebody to say hello to me. The only people some weekends who talked to me were drunks. That grossed me out. I thought that maybe I was so ugly as a person that people had to be drunk to like me." Steve then imitated a drunk and put his arm around Tony. Tony didn't miss a beat. He said to Steve, "You know when you're drunk you're not a bad person to be around." Steve retaliated by saying, "Yeah, and when I'm sober I am too cool to be around you." We all had a good laugh, but the reality of Tony's pain and the joy he now felt made us all feel good inside. I am so glad that when Tony and I were getting to know each other we both resisted the temptation to go too far and to end up using each other in a sexual way to cover our pain. I can admit now that at times I was frustrated because I wanted to know Tony so badly and it would have been so easy to have taken a short cut to intimacy. When a guy is having an orgasm he feels so close to whatever is helping him, but the closeness passes as quickly as the wad is lost; a half dozen squirts and I am lonely again. Tony once said to me that it was so frustrating because he couldn't have orgasms all day long. His body forced him to

put his cock down and do something else. "But what else is there?" he asked me. I answered, "The dream of doing it again." Tony read how prisoners of war often when kept in solitary would masturbate and think of freedom and companionship. He said he thought of writing a book on the subject someday. He said, "It is the most neglected topic in the history of literature. I used to scour the library for something on the subject. Maybe there is some medical book on the subject, but I wanted to find out how masturbation fit into the history of the world. [I laughed and suggested he do a research paper on it.] I have this theory that when society breaks down people are thrown back on themselves and the last handle on reality is one's rod. Lose your orgasm at this point in your life and you are ready for suicide or insanity." I reminded Tony and the group at this point of our conversations on the subject of masturbation. Steve said, "You know we have been feeling so close today and laughing so much I haven't even thought about it. I know I will get horny again, but it will be a physical thing. I know I beat off most of the time not out of a physical need but because I had this vacuum inside that no one was filling. When I masturbated I had this hope that the world had an answer to my loneliness. I know it sounds insane, but the Bible talks about pictures pointing to reality: the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. For me, the fellowship I felt when I masturbated made me never give up hope that it pointed to the fact that there was something out there in the universe that would satisfy my need in a real way." Tony added, "Yeah I had some magazines that had pictures that pointed to reality." "That's not quite what I had in mind," Steve laughed. Tony shot back, "No I am serious. I know that the male porn I used to read was wrong, but the pictures for me were not porn. Sometimes there were just pictures of guys hugging each other and I would stare at those pictures for hours. I would never give up hope that I could be hugged some day." "I see there is so much in common for us even in our different

backgrounds," Steve said. "We had all lost close touch with a family or community. We had all never given up hope that there was something called love and friendship. We all had masturbated often dreaming of fellowship whether in right or wrong ways. And we all had made this a first priority in our lives." "And one more thing," Jason added, "we were all willing to make fools of ourselves and be rejected by the majority if that is what it took to find something to fill that reality." "Amen," shouted Tony. We all laughed and Steve said, "Tony, I think you have done and got yourself religion. Hallelujah!" We returned to the dorm with piles of studies to do and in total exhaustion. What a weekend. We knew we all had to study, but I can't tell you how hard it was. I had to go and find a place all by myself. I couldn't study in the same room with Steve. We kept wanting to talk. We kept wanting to hug. We kept wanting to get back in the car and just go. *** I decided to take a shower before going to bed. As I went into the shower I ran into Tony who had the same idea. I said, "That was sure some weekend, wasn't it?" "Yeah," answered Tony, "I have been having so much fun I just realized I haven't beat off since the funeral. I just figured out I missed six opportunities. I already do it as often as my body allows, so I will never be able to make up those lost orgasms. Six lost opportunities forever. I mean forever and ever. My word that's a scary thought." I said, "Tony, you know I can never tell when you're joking and when you're serious." "It's easy," Tony replied, "I never joke about important things." "Get in the shower," I shouted.

Week 7 Day 2 Monday After classes I headed for my usual talk with Brad. I was a little apprehensive so I decided to take a Bible Steve had given me to read with me. It was kind of a statement I wanted to make and I thought carrying it on top of my books would help break the ice with Brad. It didn't take long. He immediately noticed. "What's that you got there, sonny. I hope that is for a class you're taking. I would hate to think that you are reading that thing on your own." "I am reading it my own and loving it," I said. "I thought you had more sense than that. After all I have taught you about reality, I would hate to see you mess your mind up. I see nothing wrong with church and all the ceremonies that go with it. We cannot go through life's major events without ceremonies. I believe strongly in infant baptism, marriage, funerals, confirmation, and the celebration of holy days. We need those to mark the passages of time in our lives. The seasons mark the passage of earth time, and the church ceremonies mark the passage of people time. Without those events our lives can easily develop into a rut with no markings to memorialize time." "Don't you think just maybe there is a reality behind the messages of the church?" I asked. "The only reality is infinity and the speck of dust we live on for this micro second of time. We are dwarfed by the universe and the billions and billions of years that surround us on every side. There must be something to bring reality down to size that we can live with. We need a clock we can live with and the church helps us do that. As you know I am an atheist, but I attend church regularly. We need something to add meanings to the humdrum of daily life. We are exalted animals that want to be perfect and we feel guilty for being finite. The church's job is to help us deal with our finite accomplishments in an infinite world. We can be forgiven for being just an animal who has failed

to be a 'god' and then renew our attempts to be perfect again." "Don't you think there is a personal element at all? I mean, what if there is a personal God, then doesn't that put a whole new perspective on the church?" I said trying to redirect his focus. "The only thing that is personal is our ego and the choices it makes to create sense of this world and to make it livable. We are surrounded by a universe that confronts our ego in a headon clash. Everything we know about the universe says I do not exist. But that is a proposition I cannot accept and keep on living a normal life. I must create a universe that says my ego or my self exists and is just as eternal as the universe. If the universe is infinite and I am finite, then it wins and I am reduced to just a pimple that may pop at any time. I must believe that I am just as infinite as the universe. Then I am a person of significance that the universe cannot dwarf. I must believe in an eternal personal significance of life or life loses all significance. And it must have significance. So you see, the church is part of this myth, but don't get involved with the details. It will lead nowhere except personal guilt and useless rules." Our time was up as I needed to get to lunch and I could see we were not going to settle anything. There just seems to be no common ground that we can argue upon. In order for us to have a discussion, we must have some common assumptions. I haven't found any so far and until then I really have no answer for Brad. I was late getting back from lunch so I decided to skip my usual after lunch shower and start studying immediately. After about thirty minutes Tony came busting into the room and said angrily, "Where the hell have you been? I have been sitting under a hot shower for nearly an hour waiting for you. Now that you are a Christian, you don't want to share a shower with me? Are you too respectable now?" "Wow, Tony. I have missed a couple of showers over the last few weeks and I never thought to tell you I was busy. I guess I didn't understand how important the shower is to our friendship. Come on in and have a bed. I think we need to talk. I feel bad and I didn't mean to hurt you." Tony continued on, "This weekend was like a new birth into a

new family. I felt that the pain and loneliness of my first eighteen years was over. I would no longer cry myself to sleep feeling rejected. I would have friends I could count on. All during class this morning I kept thinking of how much I loved you. I couldn't wait to tell you and to just rub your back in the shower and share my hands with you. This would be a first time as brothers" Tony started to cry. I felt like crap inside. My conversation with Brad and the backlog of homework had totally shifted my priorities without my even realizing it. I got out of my desk chair and sat on the bed next to Tony. I asked, "Is it okay if I hug you, brother?" "I need it," Tony said through his tears. "I didn't mean to get so angry, but what happened this weekend was so important to me. It marks such a change in my thinking that I am afraid." "I don't understand. How can something so good make you afraid?" "I felt like someone who had just had the world's most beautiful woman fall in love with him. The problem, he didn't know what he did to win that love, so he doesn't know how to keep that love. His actions are frozen because he realizes at any moment he may do something and she will be gone. I don't know what I have done to earn my new family and I don't know how to keep it. I am sure I will be rejected. Why should you guys love me?" "I don't have an answer for you Tony. I don't know what brought us together. I don't know why I love you. I don't even know how to express our new love. All I can give you, Tony, is my promise. I will not reject you as long as you want to be my friend." I guess that was the right answer because Tony just started sobbing loudly and crying all over my shoulder. He squeezed me so tight it hurt, but I didn't want to ask him to let up. I think he needed to hold on. But this whole situation brought a new awareness to me. Tony and my new friends were somehow a new reality that matched the eternity of the universe. There was a significance here that dwarfed other man-made realities. As a child I visited a large cathedral in Seattle with my Aunt and Uncle. I was so small and had not seem a big church

before. I remember walking in and feeling like I had entered into a different world. I felt eternal beauty and I couldn't figure out what I was doing in this magnificent structure. I see now that when another opens his heart to me, it is just like I felt as a kid with that cathedral. I have entered into a new and private universe. I felt almost like bowing when I had entered into another's heart. I was inside a beautiful human temple. It was by invitation only. It was an honor. Why would anyone settle for just skin when you can enter into an eternal temple?

Week 7 Day 3 Tuesday I finally got caught up on my studies and Steve wanted to have a long talk about last weekend. We stopped studying about nine in the evening. We got ready for bed. We climbed into our beds, turned the lights out. That may sound crazy but almost all of our good talks have occurred at night. It just seemed natural to talk that way. We had always been much more honest with the lights out and with no clothes on. There is something about a bed that brings out the personal in us. I don't understand it yet. I am working on that, but it works. [I still feel to this day that if I can spend a night a person, we will be friends forever.] Steve started out by asking, "So what is different now after all that happened last weekend?" "I feel more secure. Before, the only thing that held the four of us together was our silliness and our anti-establishment views on sex. We had fun together, but fun doesn't guarantee any permanence. When the fun ends, the friendship can end. Now we have a bond that transcends today and its thrills. I feel like we are bonded together into something long-term," I answered. "And what is different for you, Steve?" "I am afraid I am not nearly as profound as you. I find I

can be more honest around you. In church and in our family we always had to hide our faults. The church may welcome exsinners, but you better be perfect after you join a church. Of course, that is impossible so everything is pushed underground. The most common expression of church unity is the unity of a common hatred or common enemy. The pressure I felt to always act by the rules made me a saint on the outside, but a real sinner in my fantasies. "Sometimes at night I would imagine some wild orgies and I would just throw myself into every kind of kinky behavior. I would wake up the next morning feeling so guilty. But I would immediately put on my church face and go through the day. Sometimes I didn't know what was more real, the daily routine I performed for everyone else, or my nightly escapes from the rules. In fact, I guess I can say it now, the reason I started beating off so much when we met is that I incorporated you into my dreams. I would dream about you at bedtime and I would get so horny with you just two feet away, there was no way I could control myself. "I sure hope I am not grossing you out. The first time we undressed in the same room I had to turn my back and jump into bed because my cock was hard. I was afraid you would see me. Then I couldn't even wait until you fell asleep, I had to shoot as fast as I could. I would dream that you would get up out of your bed and come into my bed and we would make out like crazy. We would kiss and rub and toss and turn until we had shot our wads all over each other. Every night it was the same thing, and each morning I would feel guilty. I was also afraid to be around you too much for fear you might act out my fantasies. "The amazing thing is that the more we got to know each other and to be silly and to talk, the less I could fantasize about you. The love we started feeling for each other was greater than the love I felt in my dreams. One real hug from a friend is much better than a blow job in your dreams. The closer and closer we have become, the less and less I have a need for these wild dreams. I still get scared at times that maybe we will go too far and do something really wrong. But I now know that even if we do make a mistake we won't stay on that level. I have found it is much easier to deal with real sin than imaginary sin." This was a side to Steve I had never suspected. It caught

me a little off guard. I didn't know what to say. I felt I just had to be honest no matter what I said. "You know, Steve, just hearing you talk the way you have has made me super horny. I think we need to take a break." I pulled back the blankets to reveal myself. Steve pulled back his blankets and revealed that he was just as horny as me. "All right, ready, stroke," I shouted. We started stroking and watching each other. It didn't take us long to lose our wads. Steve passed me a Kleenex and I wiped myself dry. I threw it on the floor and he did the same with his. I then climbed into his bed. We embraced. We just held each other for a very long time. Finally, we separated enough we could look into each other's eyes and talk. The first thing we did was pray. Steve started, "Lord, thank you for bringing me a whole new world of friends. As we try to learn about love, keep us safe from sins that will damage our growth in love. Keep teaching us more and more about love and friendship. If we stumble, restore us. Don't let our sins come between us. Help us to confess when we rebel against your standards." All I could think to say was, "Amen." But his feelings were certainly mine also. I didn't have quite the same fears as Steve. I did come from a tradition where sinners were symbolically lynched, but I knew from experience that selfishness could destroy a friendship. I also knew there was a self inside me that wanted its own way. I guess I was more afraid of that self, than I was aware of sin. Sin as disgrace wasn't much apart of my small town experience. Oh, the occasional girl got knocked up, but most of us were just plain respectable. But I had seem the affects of selfishness all around me. That scared me. I didn't want to end up as a small-town mind living in a small world with nothing to show for life except a paid-off mortgage. I wasn't so much afraid of dirty dreams as I was of not having dreams of some purpose in life. I feared boredom and insignificance more than anything.

Week 7 Day 4 Wednesday

I got a letter from Bryce today. The address on the envelope was scrawled as if written by an old person. When I opened the envelop the whole letter was written in the same arthritic hand. Here is the letter: My dear friend, Eric: I received your letter and at first it was a cause for great excitement. I wanted to be your friend so I too decided to dedicate myself to knowing you and being your friend. I had always thought of sex as the way humans communicate. If you have a girl, you have sex with her. If you have a friend, you have sex with him. I could understand what you were saying, but I knew from then on that we would not be lovers. I used to fantasize about you every night. I would masturbate thinking of us in a motel giving head to each other. When you said that we could be friends, I lost that dream. I no longer could dream of us being lovers. But I couldn't just let go of my dreams. I tried, but without hope, I was so lonely. I had to have a lover. The thing that kept me going in this school so far from home was the hope of finding love: love without the restrictions of home.

I finally found a guy in my dorm who seemed lonely also and had similar dreams. We talked and talked about our dreams and finally decided to act out our dreams. We selected a Friday night and reserved a motel room. We got there about six in the evening and both stripped and acted out our wildest fantasies for about six hours. We each had about seven orgasms. I thought I was in heaven. We finally fell asleep exhausted. I woke up about two or three. I was so sick. I actually vomited all over my lover. It was one bad scene. This guy about freaked out. He ran to the shower, came out, got dressed and left me there. I cleaned up the room as best I could and went back to the dorm. I saw this guy the next morning and he would not even talk to me. What an ass hole. The next night I woke up in the middle of the night. I was sweating. Then I started shaking uncontrollably. I took a shower, but that didn't help. I then ate a candy bar, but I was still shaking. The next day I went to the school infirmary

and I was hospitalized for exhaustion. That is the official explanation. That is what I wrote home. I said the studies were too much, but that was a lie. The studies were a cinch. But I want you to know the real reason. I guess I had a breakdown and now I have decided to head home as soon as I am released. I have got a job in my uncle's furniture store all lined up along with a small apartment. Please write to me here, and when you go home to Chehalis please look me up. It would mean a lot to me if I am still worthy of your love. I realize you were right, but I am still horny. I still dream about having a lover. I should have learned my lesson, but I have not. I don't know why. I guess because I cannot imagine any other way of living. I know as long as I live in Chehalis I will always have to keep up appearances. Right now, I know I face living in frustration, but I guess that is better than living on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I know you won't, but I must remind you to

keep my secret from anyone at home. You can tell your new friends, I know they will understand. But no one back home must ever find out. Thank you, Bryce

I just sat there staring at the letter. I was devastated. The first thought that came to mind was a saying Steve had taught me, "There but for the grace of God go I." I hurt for Bryce, but I was also so thankful that the guys that came into my life had something to teach me about goals and standards and friendship. I wanted to write a letter but I just sat there staring at my computer screen. I decided to go to Jason for advice. I walked into Jason's room and asked, "Do you have a minute?" "I don't think I can come that fast," Jason laughed. "Not you too. You have been hanging around Tony too much," I laughed back. "But seriously, I need some help with a friend who has had a nervous breakdown from homosexual panic. I am trying to think what to say but my mind draws a blank." I let Jason read the letter and waited for a response. He thought for awhile and said, "There isn't much you can say right now. He really doesn't want an answer. But I would tell him about last weekend and the times we had together. Tell him how much friendship you are enjoying and how much you wish he were apart of that. And let him know you will drive to see him his first weekend he is ready to accept visitors. The first trip you will want to go alone, but later, maybe we all can go to see this town where you grew up." "Maybe that is why I couldn't think of anything to say,

there is nothing to say at this point in time," I said. "And by the way, I haven't seen you since Sunday, how is everything going with you?" "Well," Jason answered, "Tony and I have become very close. We are thinking of trading roommates. I love his enthusiasm for everything he does. We are opposites in some ways. I am so quiet and reserved. He is spontaneous, and outgoing. I enjoy the contrast. We figure by this weekend we can have the details worked out." "That sounds great. That way I won't have to worry about your roommates being in when I want to talk." I left to return and write off a letter to Bryce along the lines suggested by Jason. As I finished the letter, I reflected on my other friends. Since returning from our weekend trip I was becoming increasingly aware of the problems in the lives of my three friends. I suppose that the security we sense right now allows us to open up doors inside of us that we had previously kept closed. Being loved means being able to open all the doors of our hearts that we have kept locked through fear. I thought back over the last several months and my quest for friendship. My quest has been complicated by other people who have problems. I dreamed of my imperfections being healed by a group of perfect friends. I think I am being healed, but by fools, idiots, and rejects--guys just like me. How can that be? Maybe there is something inside me that innately wants to seek perfection in another. We know we cannot heal ourselves. We know that imperfection cannot heal itself. We think this craving for a perfect one points to another person. But every person I meet is just as imperfect or more so that I am. Just maybe that is what has driven me to God. The search for a perfect friend is a right desire. Only that search is to lead me to God, not on an endless journey looking for Mr. Right. The strange thing about all of this is that now that I have met and been accepted by Perfection, the imperfect in my life is acceptable. I can love my friends totally because I am already being loved perfectly. They don't have to try to do that. They cannot. That frees us to be honest. That frees us to be fools, idiots, and rejects. In my dreams I always wished there was some easy way. Seeing the immaturity of my friends reminds me of my own imperfection. I don't like to think about that. I would

rather enlarge the trinity than admit that I am a fool, rebel, and sinner. I wish I could find wholeness in some other way. I haven't found it. But I have found what I am looking for. *** This evening Tony, and Jason came into the room with Steve and I to announce their "engagement." "We are becoming roommates this Saturday," Tony proudly proclaimed. "I thought it would be a hard thing to accomplish, but it turns out that both of our roommates were glad to get rid of us. They say we masturbate too much. "Speak for yourself," Jason quickly interjected. "I always told my old roommate you can never have too much of a good thing. He just never understood. I think I just made him want to do it. Some guys think they're too good to do it," Tony concluded. "By the way, how often do you get the urge? Inquiring minds want to know," I asked. “I figure once in the morning, once at lunch, once after dinner and once at bedtime. Sometimes once more in the middle of the night, but that sometimes is difficult." "Do you realize how many hours a year you spend beating off, Tony?" Steve laughed. "Yeah, ain't it great," Tony answered and shouted, "Whoop, Whoop!" While Steve and I continued to talk, Tony reached over and started fiddling with my radio. He found a local German radio station. It was playing polka music. Steve got up and said, "My grandmother used to listen to that station all the time. She taught me how to dance the polka. Come on, Eric, get up. We'll do this together." I danced along with Steve the best I could. Tony turned the music up and started clapping and yelling an occasional, "Yeah, ha." Jason sat on Steve's bed and just laughed. He didn't know what to make of this whole scene.

The two fundamentalists next door, Tom and Todd, came out to see what all the noise was. They looked in and saw Steve and I dancing. They both got a disgusted look on their faces. I think at that point Jason and Tony got up and started dancing together a form of the polka Steve and I were doing. Tom said, "You guys are sick. You don't even belong in this school." Tony just looked over at them, smiled, dropped his sweats and mooned them. That did it; they left. We heard their door slam shut, and we just danced and laughed and danced. Even Jason who was always the most reserved of us, laughed his head off. There is something about friends laughing together that is wholesome. I hope I never get too old to be silly. I hope I never get too old for friends. We sat together, two on each bed, talking of where our friendship would take us. Nobody had thought much of that. We each had a vacuum inside for companionship. We were so preoccupied with that need, nobody had thought of the future. I think Jason was the first to bring it up. It was a scary thought. We had been brought together because of our past. But we would be held together by our future. And we hadn't given the future even a thought. After all, in college, future is the next test or term paper due date. But we had to think of the future or we would just become a mutual admiration society. Those societies don't last long. Steve added, "The reason the Church has become so corrupt is that it has lost its mission and its hope for the future. These people gather just to celebrate each other's fine choice of companions. The early Church felt they were on earth to make it a better place. The American Church feels it must just wait for the end of the world. With no future to work toward, Church is just endless potluck dinners punctuated by weddings and funerals. It drives people to a formal ritual instead of real life." "And I suppose I should be the one to add," Tony said, "but our friendship cannot be built around beating off. It was a way to show trust and to let our hair down (and our shorts) around each other. But I don't want it to become a ritual just like a church ritual. I am sure we will always be free around each other and show no need to be ashamed. At least as long as we have a solitary hormone left in our body. But you can't build a friendship on symbols of liberation. I am an expert on this. We

have to find a way to grow close without becoming addicted to the quick high of sex." Sometimes Tony surprises me with his insights. He has often been our silly sidekick and when we wanted to just be stupid and have some fun we would depend on Tony to provide the leadership. He seemed to thrive on just letting go. Beneath that exterior is a surprisingly serious guy who doesn't want to do anything to destroy his new family. I added, "I hope this doesn't mean that we can't just do those little spontaneous sexual and silly games that I have found so meaningful." "No, no, no," Tony added as he stood up, dropped all his clothes to the floor and did his imitation of Tarzan. I don't know how he does it, but he was almost instantly hard. They guy just loves to show off. He then pulled up his shorts and sat down again. "Thanks, Tony, we needed that," Jason laughed. "I think I am beginning to understand a little what Tony is telling us," Steve started out. "We do these silly things and we all enjoy them. But the basis of our friendship has to be on a deeper ground. Silliness is a temporary escape from the routine of life. We all need that. And more. We need a bonding of purpose that transcends everyday life. Otherwise we will drift apart as our purposes carry us in different directions. The Church is full of people who are held together by their weekly serious ritual, but it is just that, a dead ritual. And being silly together once a week will become either a dead ritual or just plain boring." "And the thing about sex is that it cannot survive outside of a context," Tony added as he amazed us all with his seemingly well thought out philosophy of sex. "If you try to make sex stand all by itself, then you must introduce novelty in order to maintain the same level of satisfaction. This is why those who live for sex so often degenerate into all kinds of weird stuff. I know I used to scare myself in high school as I found myself starting to do things that I really didn't want to do just be cause I was searching for yesterday's orgasm." We all complimented Tony on his insights. He explained, "Actually, Jason and I have been talking about this a lot. We have combined our ideas and backgrounds. It is a good combination."

"Are you aware this is the first real serious and revealing talk we have had?" Jason said. "I didn't understand how difficult it would be. I am so nervous. I feel like we are entering in on new ground and I am so afraid that as we grow we will screw up and ruin the thing we have going. But I see Tony's point. We just can't sit around trying to recreate yesterday's fun and closeness. That will kill what we have. We have to constantly be willing to let go of yesterday and grow into tomorrow. In order to hold on you have to let go. It is not the fun that we had yesterday that will hold us together but the discovery of new areas in each of us. We must keep growing together or we will die apart." As Jason was talking, Tony started scratching his shorts and it was obvious he was really getting hard. We all noticed and Tony felt he had to say something. "When I get nervous I have always gotten horny. I sometimes will do it two or three times before I go to the dentist. It was the only way I could handle tension growing up." "I am glad you said that, Tony," I said. "Because I am so horny right now I can hardly believe it." Steve quickly added, "Don't leave me out." "Or me," Jason laughed. Tony as usual was the first. He pulled off all that he was wearing which was just his usual sweats. He started stroking himself. The rest of us started clapping in unison with his strokes. When he came we all started counting in unison the squirts. Steve was next, then me, and finally Jason. Jason was so horny by the end, it only took two strokes. And boy did he squirt. He masturbates the least of any of us so I guess he has more to give. We sat in a circle, nude, all wet, and all laughing. "I think it is time to head to bed." We actually joined in a short prayer together before parting. We all wanted to stay together and we realized it wouldn't be easy. As Tony walked out, he said, "Maybe the family that beats off together stays together!” Steve answered, "Tony, you're sick." We all parted on a prayer and laugh. It is good.

Week 7 Day 5 Thursday. As I typed yesterday's events on my laptop I stopped and read over what I had written. I almost hit the delete key. When I started this journal I wasn't sure where it would lead. Now I am not sure I want it all recorded. But maybe that is the problem. We all want to delete part of our past in order to be perfect. We all have that internal button that is pressed every time we make a fool out of ourselves or do something grossly immature or even wrong. We must protect ourselves. I guess the only answer is, "No deleting." I have made that decision about twenty times. The answer is always the same, but that doesn't make it any easier. I don't sit and write while events are happening, but reconstruct them at my first possible time. I have even done that in classes that were particularly boring. I condense the talks into what I think are the important points. My friends all know that I am keeping a record of our growth into a family. What I think is really great is not one has asked me what I write or has asked to see what I have written. I am being trusted. I like that. I don't think I could write as I do without their trust. After all, they have images to protect also. The four of us are different. We all know that. In fact, there are not many days at least one of us is not reminded how different we really are. Also, I still am trying to figure out why we are so offensive. Nobody attacks the fundamentalists, except maybe us, and nobody attacks other sub groups in the dorm. But we have been renown. Guys feel we are somehow a threat both to the religious and to the gays. Why is that? We are caught in a war where neither side wants to claim us as their own. We see ourselves as explorers. We are searching for the lost land of intimate friendship. But the question sometimes arises, are we explorers who are searching for a lost way, or merely fools who got lost along the way? I can truthfully tell

you, at times, we are not all that sure. But the love we have felt for the first time in our lives makes being "lost" one good time. *** Tonight, we got together for another little study break and some needed talk. The conversation eventually got around to the fact that we are even more known than ever as "The Fag Four." What started out as a cutting remark has become a title. Jason suggested that we all talk about the first time each of us got called a faggot. Jason started, "For me it was at camp the year that I had my one homosexual experience. But that experience was on the last night of the week of camp. I was not one to join into group activities like volleyball or football. I loved walking in the woods or hanging out with the horses in the barn. There was another kid who was like me and we met while I was up in the woods trying to find out where the stream started that ran through our camp. We sat besides the stream and talked all afternoon. We felt so similar in a camp that really wasn't designed for us. From that point on we had our own agenda. "It didn't take long for the other kids to pick up on the fact that we were not group oriented. We found security in each other's company in a world that didn't seem very friendly. When I am part of a large group I always feel I am the odd man out. But with a small group or with just one, I feel totally free. So the two of us were inseparable. About half way through the week we came back to the bunk house and someone had written signs and put on each of our beds, 'A faggot sleeps here. DANGER.' "When we walked in and saw the signs, everyone started laughing. I grabbed both signs, tore them up, and we both ran out. We walked up to the place on the stream where we first had met. We sat there and cried on each other's shoulder. But for us we never even thought of doing anything sexual. In fact, we were so afraid we never even did the sexual play games that go on at camp such as comparing cocks. Other guys could pants each other but we didn't dare do that. Other guys would shout from the shower, 'I just lost my wad.' Everybody would laugh or cheer. We couldn't do that.

"I don't know what led up to it really. Maybe because we couldn't joke like the others, but on the last night we decided to have our own sexual jokes. I don't think either of us expect ed we would end up giving each other a blow job. But we felt so lonely and such worthless rejects that we just wanted someone to make us feel like we mattered. When I saw that I could make my friend sexually excited and forget all about his problems, I decided to give him something very special. He did the same to me. Afterwards, both of us being very religious, we felt guilty and we never saw each other again. We exchanged home addresses during camp, but neither of us ever wrote. "What is strange, to this day, I still think and pray for that kid. And even though we went too far, I never forgot what it felt like for one week to be bonded to a friend. Also, I never stopped looking for an opportunity to try it again. This time I wanted to do it right. What we have going here together is that answer to my prayers ever since camp. I am loved; I am accepted; and I matter to another human being. I have come to the end of my rainbow.” I decided to go next. "My first time is not quite that dramatic. I was playing basketball with some friends. Two of us at a time had to take turns sitting out as we had too many guys show up for the game. My best friend and I were sitting on the bench watching the game. It was a good game. We were having fun. I felt close to my friend. I put my arm around him as we watched. He turned and yelled at me, 'What are you, a fucking faggot? Get your hand off me.' I didn't say a word. I took my hand off and returned to the game. But I was hurt. My friend could have just said, 'Please don't do that. You make me uncomfortable.' But he had to yell and he had to embarrass me in front of everybody else. “I knew from then on I had to keep all affection to myself. I never let feelings of friendliness slip out again until I met Bryce on the senior trip. That is why I was so afraid even to be friends with Bryce. Not because I suspected he had sexual intentions, but I feared being called faggot again. I didn't know how to handle such a label in a small town. There is no place to hide in Chehalis. In Seattle your neighbors don't know you, but in Chehalis your neighbors not only know, they make it their duty to know. I realized with Bryce that those feelings of affection were still there even though I had tried so hard to ignore them.

I knew from then on that I would find out how to express those feelings no matter what the consequences. And I mean no matter what the consequences. I wasn't a Christian then, so my only standards were the standards of the small town: Don't get caught." "I guess I am next. I'll let Tony go last. I think he wants it that way," Steve started. "I'll never forget my first time either. And like for you guys it was very scary. I didn't live in a small town, but I lived in a small community, that is a church. I was fifteen and when you grow up in a church like mine, you are very ignorant about sex. The church people didn't talk about it and the guys by themselves were afraid to talk about for fear of showing their ignorance. "I had a friend from church stay overnight one Friday. It was the first time I had shared a bed with another guy. We just laid facing each other and talking. I don't know why but I wasn't even aware that my cock had poked its head out of my pajamas and was extremely hard. Like most guys we joked a little about sex and I shot my wad without even touching my cock. It flew all over my friend. He got so angry and said, 'I didn't know I was sleeping with a faggot.' He got up, went to the bath room to wash himself and slept the rest of the night on the floor. "The next Sunday he refused to talk to me at church and I was so afraid he would tell someone. I mean I lived in fear for months. Whenever the preacher talked about sinners and confessions, I swear my friend looked over at me and made a dirty look. After that I made sure I never repeated the mistake. I was so afraid, I withdrew from close social contact for several years. I became sort of a loner. I was sure there was something wrong with me and my friend knew the secret. I wanted to make sure no one ever found out again." Jason did a fake drum roll, and announced, "Now, the one we've all been waiting to here. Hereeeeee's Tony!" We all applauded and whistled. I think we even made him blush if that is possible. "All right, you guys. I am afraid I have a disappointment for you. Nobody has ever called me faggot. [We all booed.] Well, maybe once. [Cheers] Maybe, even twice. [Cheers and

catcalls] The first time probably doesn't even count. I was only ten. I became aware for the first time that my dick would get hard. I didn't know any better, I thought it was neat. So when a friend and I were changing into our suits to run through the sprinkler, I allowed myself to get hard. I guess he had never seen anything like that. He stared in disbelief. He said, 'Gross, gross, I'm living next door to a faggot.' I didn't even know what it meant, but I got the message. "I think because of that, I was always afraid to be caught in situations where I might have to undress. There was another factor at this time in my life. My father from the time I was quite young nicknamed me 'little nuts.' As I got older I became so ashamed of that. He would call me that even in front of my friends. It got to the point I would never invite anyone over to the house. I became a loner and lonely. As I bicycled around the Tri-Cities areas, I said hello to everybody that would look my way. I always hoped someone would be friendly back. I tried even changing the tone of my voice to see if I could develop a friendly style. "Once, when I was about thirteen, my father and I went shopping one Saturday. As we went into the store, there was a group of guys standing in front of the store about my age. I said hello in one of my voices. My voice cracked, and I sounded totally effeminate. The guys all started to giggle and look at each other. I heard one say, 'Look, it's a faggot.' And then I heard more giggles. I was hoping my father never heard. But from that time on, we never went anywhere together. He started working a lot more weekends. Later, he started to call me 'little nuts' and his voice seemed to get choked up. He never called me that again. We never talked much after that. He might say, 'Tony, I need the lawn mowed today.' That's all. "That was the limit of our conversations. I always felt I let him down. I really wanted to be a son he could be proud of. I thought if I graduated from college, maybe he would come to graduation. Now all that is not possible. The one thing that made me break off my relationship with Jack as soon as it became sexual is it that I didn't want to end up like my father feared. I did it for him. If I hadn't met you guys, I could have easily have become gay. I had no moral reason to reject it. I was so lonely and I have to admit, that when I was giving Jack head, I didn't feel lonely then."

I guess because we all felt Tony's pain, we all gathered around him and just hugged him and hugged him. Jason even leaned over and gave Tony a light kiss on the cheek. We must have just hugged and cried for twenty minutes. It wasn't just Tony's pain we felt after awhile, we all realized that we carried around a lot of hurt in us all. We were so glad to have found a home where we could talk and be accepted. I don't think you realize how hard it is for straights who are 'fucking faggots' to find someone to talk to. We lived in fear. We lived without mirrors in the houses of our soul: anything that might reflect some effeminate side we didn't want to face. Steve finally started to talk with tears in his eyes, "I remember in high school going to football games. I would be sitting by myself. I would watch the players hug, jump onto each other, pat each other's butt, and then leave the field to dress and shower together. I used to sit there and wonder: why cannot I do that? If I do anything like that I am called 'faggot' and I wouldn't even be able to show myself. Yet they can hug and touch in front of thousands and nobody says that word. I would go home after the game and lay in bed, imagining that I was on the team. I imagined getting hugged. I used to masturbate just thinking about being part of a team. Not exactly a sexual fantasy, but I didn't feel like an outcast when I would do that."

Week 7 Day 6 Friday. I sat in class just taking notes and hardly being aware of what I was writing. Last night was like the opening of a door. I had kept that door locked, bolted, nailed, and glued shut. I forced open the door, and three friends walked in. They walked into my private room and said, 'It looks like a comfortable place to stay. We think we'll stay awhile.' What joy I felt last night. I just wonder why it took almost nineteen years of my life to discover that love is possible. What kind of world do we live in that we fear each other so much? Why do have to fear admitting our sins to one another? We are all sinners, right? Why do we want to cover ourselves with images?

Sometimes I don't understand this world. My father or mother never taught me how to love or told me I was loved. Isn't that what parents are supposed to do? When I went to school, I was confronted with duty. This is how you are supposed to act I was told over and over. Everywhere I went people were telling me how to behave. At home, my father would say, "Johanson's don't do that." At church, the preacher would say, "Christians don't do that." At school, the teacher would say, "Good boys don't do that." I became good at not "doing that" and became part of the community. But I felt like shit inside. I would cry myself to sleep at nights and not know why. You are probably asking, "Didn't you feel lonely, or dishonest?” How could I? I was taught not to feel. Feelings were not taught or allowed. When I had feelings I thought they were wrong. They got in the way of living. When I did hurt and feel lonely, I only assumed that it was some perversion in me that I had to conquer. I was so sure that I was the only one to feel the same way. If you are the only one on the earth to feel a certain way, you are certainly not going to tell anyone. Not anyone. Not in Chehalis. I remember the first time I had an orgasm that was self induced. I was sure as I walked the halls of the school, everyone could tell it one my face. I walked for a week looking at hardwood floors. Now here at school I am entering into an alien world that I never knew existed. Why didn't anyone ever tell me that it is okay for guys to be super close, intimate friends? Why? I have been asking that question over and over. Why the big secret? What is there to be ashamed of? There is a conspiracy of silence. Nobody is talking. And then there are times that I fear that maybe everybody else is right. These feelings will only do you harm. Maybe this is how gays get started. Maybe our loyalty to each other will get in the way of success at school and in our careers. In this world you have to travel light. You can't have three friends acting as an anchor on your future options. It is difficult to go against everything you have been taught, even if you know it to be false. Two hundred million people can't be wrong, can they? I sure hope so. I am going to find out. The one area where I am still not a reject is my Friday night, all night, card game. I guess because I am a good card player and there is no personal interaction: "Shut up and deal."

My three friends are not card players. I am so grateful that the news of my weird behavior has not harmed this event. There is something about screaming and yelling over something that doesn't really matter that is healthy. No matter how bad a night I have, I know I will do better next Friday.

Week 7 Day 7 Saturday. I woke up this morning and when I tried to roll over I couldn't. I am sure you guessed. Tony had gotten in late and just let himself in and went to sleep curled around me. I call him my puppy dog. It is an affectionate title. As he lay next to me, I studied his features. That skinny, bushy blond kid was becoming beautiful. It is funny how love colors our perceptions. What was once some weird guy is now part of me and I love him as myself. I ran my hand through his hair and he opened his eyes. He looked at me and my hand, and said, "How's a guy going to get any sleep around here if you keep loving me the way you do." He grinned and closed his eyes. He was still grinning as he dozed off. *** Today is the day Tony and Jason become roommates. Steve and I helped them get situated. I think Tony brought every book he ever owned to school with him. I didn't realize it, but his whole closet was stuffed full of books. I asked him how he ever found time to read all of these. He grinned, and said, "I can't beat off all the time.... Darn!" And that little grin turned into a big smile. After he finished, Jason suggested we go out to eat, take in some video games, and go to a movie. He said, "We have had quite a week. It is time to just have some fun together without getting too serious." Tony shouted, "Amen!" Steve responded, "Tony, there seems to be one part of religion you have had no trouble grasping." We got home late tonight. I am sitting in bed in the dark with my laptop. Steve has already nodded off. It is getting harder and harder to find time to write. At least my screen is lit. I feel like a modern Abe Lincoln studying by the fire light. I have been thinking about the difference between friendship

and being gay. That is an important distinction to me and I am working on an answer. The easy way out is to go to extremes. A married man with kids and his family as his friends doesn't have to stop and think about the distinction. A guy giving himself to his male lovers doesn't have to worry about it either. I worry about it. One thing I have learned so far is that friendship requires security. I have to know that my friend is going to be there tomorrow or he is not a friend. To have an orgasm with a guy requires only a now. There need be no tomorrow, for tomorrow there may be someone else to share an orgasm with. It is impossible to have one friend tonight and tomorrow night another friend. Friends require time and commitment. It requires self-denial and perseverance. An organism doesn't require any of these. It is not particular. That is why gays can be friends, I suppose, but if sex is their goal, which I think it is, their goal doesn't require one have friends. I am reminded of the movie "Groundhog Day." A guy lives the same day over and over again. A person who is looking for sexual gratification can live the same day over and over again. A friendship requires a common goal and progressing toward that goal. There is also a progressive delving deep into each other's soul--a gut-wrenching experience if there ever was one. As that process takes hold, we are becoming more and more like the person we admire and the traits in that life we value. Gays, I am told, often don't even want to know the name of their partner. That is irrelevant. Can gays be friends? I guess they would like to, but I think that is secondary. Are there exceptions? There has to be. I haven't met any, but the law of averages.... If there is someone, someday reading this who is gay who thinks I am condemning gays he is wrong. I am trying to discover a third way. The chaste bonding of guys into a lifetime of helping each other do whatever they were put on this earth to do. I am sure not many would like to do that. That is okay. But that is what I am searching for. The other options have been well spelled out by others. I am trying to figure out this third option. My friendships matter more to me than success at school, life, money, or any other goal. Friendship is not a means to an end. It is an end. And yet, friends bond for a purpose bigger than the friendship. But a purpose impossible to achieve without friendship.

*** Steve woke up, rolled over and looked at me and then at the clock. He said, "You know we forgot to beat off yesterday. How is that for being busy?" "Whatever made you think of that now?" I asked. He pulled back his blankets and revealed one horny young man. "It looks like you may have forgotten, but your little friend didn't," I said. "Little?" Steve mocked shock. "Only by comparison," I laughed back. He rolled on his back and proceeded to play with himself. I am trying to keep typing here. I am getting hard also. I think it is time to sign off. [Later] Steve and I spent the last fifteen minutes or so just kind of watching each other and sharing something personal. It seems important right now. We have spent most of our lives hiding the fact that we masturbate regularly or at least wanted to regularly. When we watch each other, it doesn't seem sexual. Maybe some will say it is. But for me, it is saying to Steve, "This is part of me just like eating and pissing. I trust you and I don't have to be ashamed of any of my humanness around you, friend." Will we out grow this phase? I don't know. I'll get back to you later on that one.

CHAPTER NINE

Week 8 Day 1 Sunday. We all decided to get together after lunch. A dam had been broken and a whole burst of years of secrets have been released. All of us share a life that has been different from the crowd. We were not able to live our lives in public, we had to live in the world of private selves. It is lonely in there. There is something natural about living one's life in open view of another human being. We all have to play roles in life. That is normal. Society breaks down when everybody refuses to play roles. Whatever we may be like in private, if we behave erratically in public, we will be called insane. If everyone is insane then that society will collapse. I think you know what I mean. As a student I am called upon to listen and take notes. I don't like it, but that is what is expected of me. Sometimes a student will disrupt class with attempts to play the role of teacher. The agitator may think he is being himself, but he is merely expressing anarchy. I know many feel that they are being phony by going along with the crowd. But every crowd must have rules. Driving one's car requires publicly accepted behavior. Playing a game requires rules. And when its raining, it may be convenient to play our touch football game inside the local mall. That is not freedom. That is mere anarchy. Driving drunk is anarchy. Cheating at a game is anarchy: the whole purpose of playing the game is defeated. It seems we live in a world where people who are prisoners

inside themselves, seek liberation by breaking those public rules of order and decency. It just does not work. The pain the four of us feel, is not the pain of having to behave orderly in public. It is the pain of having to carry that public self into private in order to have any close companions. The denial of our secrets in public is natural. The denial of our secrets in private is pain. We have carried that pain with us for eighteen years--always being afraid of letting our feelings out in the open. When a professor gives me a bad grade or I get stopped for speeding, I am being denied public expression of my views. I may be lazy or reckless, and those public traits will be rejected. But I don't feel rejected. When I am with a friend I need to express myself no matter how twisted, confused, corrupt, or sinful. I need to tell someone who I really am. I must have someone know me as I know myself. I don't need to be praised for every wrong I do, but I do need to tell someone every wrong I do. I would guess that as societies in the past have broken down, the Catholic Church instituted confession as a substitute for one-on-one intimacy. But today that has even broken down. I don't know how long our little group will stay in confession mode, but right now we all long to talk and talk and talk about all those things we could tell no one. The time has come. There is a certain anticipation, a nervousness in the air as we sit in our usual formation of two to a bed. Jason no longer has to sit in a chair by himself. That is a big step. We all behave in certain ways when we are nervous. Tony is the most obvious. He just can't keep from scratching his crotch. If he gets real nervous he gets quite an erection. Because he just wears sweats, it is all quite visible. Steve gets something to drink. He will sip a lot of coffee during one of our bull sessions. Jason just plain clams up. It becomes very difficult to get him to talk. Me, I am a wiggler. I just cannot sit still when I am nervous. I keep shifting positions when I have to open up a new area for the first time. I remember once when things were really tense in the beginning. We were all doing our little routine. It was quite a sight. Now we laugh about it, but then we all wanted to run away. Jason started things by saying, "I have been thinking about something to talk about. The one topic I have come up with is

our worst nightmare, dream, or fear. I know I had a dream my senior year in high school that was so real I woke up shaking and sweating. I had to take a cold shower I was so frightened. It was the week of the senior prom. I dreamed putting on a rented powder-blue tux and heading for the prom. The problem is I showed up stag. I acted like I didn't know you were supposed to bring a date. I walked the whole night by myself but I couldn't leave. I walked and walked and everyone was staring. "And it got worse. I then wore that same tux to class all week at school. Now I really stood out. Everyone in school was talking about me. I don't know why, but I couldn't take off the tux that symbolized my loneliness. Every morning I woke up to put on the same clothes. It sounds funny now, but the feelings that went with that nightmare probably expressed the feelings I carried around with me all the time but could never admit to myself. I was so alone. I think that is why as a freshman in college I proposed to a girl I really didn't know. We were just two lonely freshman and she was the only person I knew." There was a bit of silence as we really didn't know what to say. Tony was sitting next to Jason. He broke the silence and said, "At least you weren't nude. I mean a tux is better than being nude, right?" Jason answered, "Not for you, Tony." We all laughed, because we all expected that if Tony had that dream he would have been naked. The guy just loves to be unclothed or wear as little as possible. Even his sweats are one size too small. He doesn't hide much. "Tony, beings you broke the silence, you're next," Jason announced. "I didn't have profound nightmares, but I did have two images that used to stick in my mind. There were a couple of handicapped students in our high school. They got a lot of special attention and status. Everyone admired their courage in trying to make it through school without legs, or sight. I always imagined that I was a cripple inside, and that I had invisible crutches. I had to struggle each day, but no one noticed. I was hurting but I was not a hero. Each day was just as difficult as those with physical handicaps, but I had to survive all by myself.

"The other thought that used to plague me was that I had a warning label on my forehead just like you see on cigarette packages. As I biked all over town and tried to be friendly, people seemed to have a natural rejection for me. I tried changing my clothes and my style, but it was all the same. Strangers disliked me just as much as the people who saw me every day. I remember staring in front of the mirror with nothing on trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I used to do that all the time. The only attention I ever got was when I wore some revealing clothes. I got one of those Olympic-style swimming suits the guys wear. I wore that to the beach. I am skinny but my cock is normal, so in that skimpy suit I looked awesome. I used to parade around at beaches in that suit just for the attention." "I think you still do," I laughed. "Yeah, but only around you guys," Tony replied. "And you do look awesome," I said. Tony actually blushed. I didn't think he could. "How about you Steve?" Jason asked. "Huh, what are we talking about?" Steve joked trying to avoid the topic. "Actually, I had a dream just a couple of weeks ago that seems very picturesque and a symbol of reality. I was back in high school. I dreamed my father was Moses. My father would always be carrying around those stone tablets like you see in the pictures of Moses. But when I looked down to see the books that I was carrying, all I had were two miniature stone tablets. I would walk around and everyone would stare at me. I didn't realize they were laughing at me. I thought they were admiring me. "I carried those stone tablets everywhere I went. One day, I broke one of the rules on those tablets. Everybody started laughing and laughing. It got louder and louder. Even when I was alone I could still hear the laughter. When I went to school the next day, there was a sign above the school door which read, 'Moses is fallen.' I remember going home that night. My parents acted as if they had forgotten I existed. There was no place for me at the table, and my room had been turned into a storage room. I didn't know what to do. I was laughed out of school, and kicked out of home. I woke up feeling totally depressed. I had

a hard time convincing myself it was just a dream." "At least you didn't take your clothes off," Tony said. Steve laughed and said, "Tony, what are we going to do with you? What are we going to do with you?" "You could steal my clothes," Tony grinned. Tony had to talent to keep things from getting too tense. He always carried on a silly patter that helped. I was next. I sat there in silence. Finally I noticed they were all staring at me in a mock seriousness. I had the feeling I was in first grade again and the evil Mrs. Hatcher was staring at me with those big eyes. That was the first time in my life I remember being really afraid. She was big, old, gray and I always thought didn't like boys. She terrified me. I still recall that fear and for some reason that same feeling just came back to me. I started the only way I could. I had to be honest. "I am really scared," I said as I adjusted myself on the bed. The other three only adjusted themselves in unison in the same position. "You guys," I laughed nervously. I adjusted again and again they mirrored my moves. That helped break the ice: I started to relax. "I guess the reason I am having such a tough time is that my worst nightmare occurred in the last week. I was in the shower and I looked down at my cock and it had red spots all over it. I was sick. As I was examining myself, the rest of you guys came into the shower. You didn't know it, but you all had red spots all over your cocks too. I felt it was all my fault. "I woke up and started thinking about the dream. As you guys know, I came to college with the idea of pursuing friendship at all costs. I constantly looked for guys to include. It has been great. But there have been consequences. Steve and his parents are in a feud. Jason has decided not to go back home to Illinois. Tony has Jack threatening him because he left him for us. I somehow feel like I have brought trouble on us all. We have become rejects and notorious on campus."

After I had finished, there was no attempt at first to comfort one another. We all could see the pain in each other's eyes and hearts. Jason was the first one to speak, "Eric, I don't think you brought us together. It was pain that brought us together. You brought a deep hurt to campus with you and you sought out others who were hurting in a similar way whether they realized it or not. I think the trouble we are in is small compared to the joy of the healing that is going on in our lives. Sure, we all have tough choices to make. But that is what makes this group so important. No matter what the choices, we cannot fail. We have friends who are committed to each other." Steve was next, he started, "I grew up in a church that was always talking about love. My father always talked about love and family. I never felt loved. I felt observed. I felt condemned. I felt rejected. I never felt loved. I am now loved. And I am now free of a past that caused so much pain. I could go on and on, maybe someday I will, about how hard it is to grow up in a church that has a rule for everything. I was expected to be perfect the moment I was out of diapers." "This group of guys has been my first family," Tony then commented. "I have been alone my whole life even when I was with others. Even when I gave head to Jack, I was alone and he was alone in our own feeling worlds. My nightmares of being alone in a cold, indifferent world are fading away. Right now, I have no home to return to: my mother sold the house and moved into a retirement community. There is no place for me there. I think she did that on purpose. The message is clear--don't come home. She has as much taken my father's insurance and skipped town. Without you guys I would be ready to jump off the Aurora Bridge." [Seattle's jumping bridge. If you want to take the big leap, this is the bridge.] I concluded, "These last several months have been very difficult for me. I have entered a world where I have had no identity. I have had to look inside myself for direction. It has been confusing. I have discovered things about my life that I just couldn't admit before. I now see so many of my actions in high school were either to cover up my feelings or to pretend they didn't exist. I see now that I have always wanted a close friend--a buddy. I've always wanted to be hugged. I've always wanted a guy to think that I am the greatest, neatest guy alive. I have always wanted a guy who was proud to be with me in private

and public. "I know there are probably causes for the way I feel, but that doesn't matter. I cannot go back and undo life. I have to play the hand I have been dealt. There are no re-deals in life. The desires and goals that I have are my goals. I can't just say no to them because they are not what society wants me to feel and think. I cannot be like everybody else without being an actor who is playing a part--a part he doesn't like. "You see, I have always felt guilty for being me. I was ashamed to admit my desires. I always felt I was a poor excuse for a human being. I sometimes wondered if I had some disease that hadn't been discovered yet. I was sick inside and nobody knew it. I have struggled with the whole idea of friendship as if it were some evil. Right now, the biggest concern of mine is sex. "At first when I became close friends with you guys I thought I would never have another sexual thought. After all, I beat off mostly because I was lonely. I am no longer lonely. But, ye gads, those stupid little hormones are floating around inside crying out for some action. The thought of marriage is at least a very long way off. I have decided through reading the Bible with you guys that chastity is important in our friendship. "I have read in history how some Christians have tried to control themselves. Some sat in tubs of ice water. Some never looked at another person in the eye. Some wore scratchy under wear. [That brought out a lot of laughter from Tony. ] But none of it worked. Even if you live alone you are a sexual human being. God made you that way. We will always be sexual human beings and we have to live life in those terms--even if we are chaste." Tony interjected, "Would you get to the point quick. You are making me horny with all this sex talk." "What doesn't make you horny?" I joked. "But seriously, my point is that sometimes I have been ashamed when I get horny or beat off in front of you guys. I feel I shouldn't have such feelings. Or if I do, I should hide in the closet when I do and pretend I don't do it. What bothers me about having you guys see me do it, is not the sexual act. It is like I am admitting that

I still have feelings I cannot control. Maybe I will turn into a raving faggot and doing all kinds of gross things. Why can't I just be perfect?" "If anybody wants to know about perfection," Steve said, "I am the resident expert on it. I have been trained my whole life to be perfect. Perfect, perfect, perfect. I hate that word. I am constantly tempted to be perfect around you guys. Maybe some of the things we do around each other are totally immature. But what is wrong with totally immature guys acting totally immature. I have to keep reminding myself that maturity takes time. I don't have to hide or pretend I am not immature. I am sure our idea of love and honesty will grow and we will change. But what remains hidden cannot change." Jason then added, "I know I have struggled to pretend that I do not have sexual feelings. I know my two sexual encounters were caused because I pretended as a Christian I didn't have those feelings. Suddenly, when I was caught in a totally sexual situation after having been weakened by rejection, I fell and fell badly. I ended up hating God for giving me those feelings. I always wondered why he gave us something that is so difficult to control and that can find expression in so many wrong or immature ways. "When people started calling us the 'Fag Four' I really got scared. I knew I had sexual feelings toward anything with two legs. [Tony looked down at his legs and counted them and made a disgusting look on his face.] I could no longer hide. I had to admit that I was a human being just like everyone else. I knew I could no longer withdraw or hide. I had to admit that maybe I would go too far again, as much as I hated the thought. But I couldn't hide for fear of making a mistake. I know that I will no longer have intercourse outside of marriage or simulate intercourse with a guy. But how close can guys get without sinning against themselves and God. I am working on that. I know immaturity is not sin, only to remain immature is sin. Some of what we guys do together I suspect is immature and we will grow out of it. I know it isn't sin. But I still feel afraid, because I have seen so many in the church where I grew up, fool themselves into permanent immaturity. To see seventy year old teenagers is one sick sight. You see, it is not the sin I fear so much or the immaturity, I fear myself."

"Wow," Tony said, "I don't know about you guys, but I am still a student here. I think we should do a little studying. And just so you guys know [Tony stood up and pulled down his sweats to reveal himself and a half erection.] I don't wear scratchy underwear." Tony laughed. He seemed to think that was so funny. [Later that month for Tony's birthday, we took a pair of old boxer shorts, sprayed the inside with glue, and sprinkled sawdust on the glue. We gave them to him. He really liked them. He still has them hanging from the ceiling above his bed.]

Week 8 Day 2 Monday. During class, I kept writing in the margins of my notes things I wanted to ask Brad. I was dreading our meeting but also looking forward to it. I like his opinions because he is so fluent. I also disagree even though I cannot debate on his level. I enjoy the challenge. Later, as I walked over to his chair, coffee in hand, I was ready for our talk. He looked up, took off his glasses and put them in his pocket. I started by telling him a little about my growth into friendship in the dorm. "I see you are sitting there ready to talk, so let's hear your reaction," I asked. "I think you will tire of your new friends after the novelty has worn off. You will find yourself wanting more freedom and the group will keep you from spreading your wings. As the confinement grows, your sense of claustrophobia will grow. After all, if I am right, other people act as anchors on our personal growth. Commitments stifle our creativity. That is what abortion is all about. It is not about when life occurs as some argue. It is about whether another person has the right to keep me from being free. "That is also why marriage is also disappearing. On the frontier a person needed a companion to work for nothing. We don't need that anymore. I can make it all by myself. I need the occasional sexual expression so I just find a girl (My first choice.) who is also looking for a little one-night-only recreation.

We don't talk about love or any of that crap. We just get on the 'merry-go-round' together and when the ride is over we leave. I know you with your new found morals would reject that kind of behavior, but I think you would at least have to admit that morals limit my freedom and my expression of my true self. "Freedom and love are not compatible. When I am alone I am perfect. When I am with others I become corrupted. I have to deal with all types of situations which are complicated because I have to work out a decision for two. When I am alone, I make the choice without the drag of another person wanting to change that choice. You see, even your god which you describe as perfect is perfect because he is alone and separated from this world. When you are alone and in control you can be your own god. If you allow other people to enter into your world, your perfection will constantly be challenged by their standards or ethics. "I really think that what you are attempting is impossible. You are trying to restore a hunting band that bonds together to catch the game. That is the primitive part of us that needs to be rejected as we enter this modern, electronic world. And I can assure you of this, you will find that you cannot make a hunting band work in the modern world. It is like trying to take just one piece out of one puzzle and change it with one piece in another puzzle. It will not fit, and no matter how hard you push it will not fit. It won't be long until you guys realize that your group is destroying your chances for happiness in this world. "You guys are like the anti-abortionists. They are trying to change one part of the puzzle. Marriage is dead. Lifelong commitments are dead. Children are a poison that destroys one's happiness. These religious fanatics are trying to force an unwanted poison into people's lives. That is what it is about. I don't want to raise another delinquent teenager that is nothing but a drain on my limited resources. I would rather travel. The ideal of a happy home that gathers around a fire together was just a myth of the television age. It never existed. "The new life is not found in a grange or a church or a family. It is living in a condo in an active city. Fellowship is not found at some communion rail, it is the gathering of people after work at a local club, mall, restaurant, ball game or group activity. Friendship is having fun with others for a

night, and tomorrow night there will be others. I know each night where I can go and have fun with others. And when it is over, there are no questions and no need for divorce. I am still free and I have had all the fun of having a family without any of the hassles." "I guess only time will tell," I answered. "I think there are timeless truths, and that no matter how much our world changes, human nature remains the same. I agree that modern life does not support or encourage my kind of beliefs or lifestyle. But you see, I believe that those eternal absolutes stand above society and call it back to first principles. The absolutes do not cry out for horse drawn buggies, but for a love that must be the basis of any permanent society." Brad only looked at me in disbelief. He put his glasses back on which was the sign he wanted to get back to reading and it was time for me to get on with my life. As I walked away I looked back and he was staring at me in a far away look as if he couldn't believe somebody like me exists. I headed for lunch and then to the showers. Tony was already in the shower. I climbed in and just started rubbing his back and shoulders. We were both quiet. I think it has been difficult for all of us these weeks. Without saying a word, he just turned around and started rubbing my back. He could feel the tension in my neck and rubbed the base of my neck until he could feel me relax. "Thanks, Tony, I love you so much. I don't know how I could make it without you." I think I caught him off guard. He kind of giggled. "You know, I think that is the first time I have ever been called indispensable. It feels good," Tony commented. If I had to choose one person, which I won't do, to be my friend it would be Tony. He has a spunk and wit about him that is life giving. Steve and Jason grew up in churches and the spirit in them has been broken. Steve tries hard to show some life and I love him very much but it is always like he is afraid to feel too deeply. Jason, as wise as he is in some things, is still very much afraid of himself. I think he sees himself as just one step away from being a gutter-loving wino. But both guys are aware of the influence on them of their past, and both do want to change. I think Tony is a good example for them. He

sure is for me. He has an optimism about himself and life that just seems to be contagious.

Week 8 Day 3 Tuesday. It was time for another meeting of the 'fag four.' [The F-4 as Tony calls us.] We decided to meet in Tony's and Jason's room for a change. "Well, are you guys ready for another session of male bonding?” Tony joked. "That scares me, Tony," Steve shot back. "The only glue you know about is white and sticky and its not Elmer's." "And I've got a whole wad of it," Tony joked back. "All right, you guys, it is time to get down to business," Jason started out. "Today's topic I would like to talk about is to tell us about a person who has helped make you what you are today." "Can I go first?" Tony asked. "I wouldn't want to stop you," Steve replied. "Then its settled, I go first. This is one I can really talk about because there really only has been one person. So it is easy for me to pick just one. I have always been a loner. I really don't know why. Maybe because I could never see the point in conforming to changing fads. In junior high all the guys starting chewing tobacco. Then they all started turning their caps around. Then they all got a certain kind of shoe. I never could see the point of wearing the badge of the month. I guess that was the reason. I hated jumping because I was told to. I didn't like my parents ordering me what to do and I hated my peers telling me what to do also. "As a result I used to spend a lot of time on my bike. I would say 'hello' to anybody that would make eye contact. One

day when I was a freshman in high school I was biking down a quiet neighborhood in Richland. There was an old man working in a garden next to his house. He had such a warm smile I stopped and talked a bit. It turned out he liked to read and he asked me what I liked. I said I was reading some Sherlock Holmes at the time. 'Oh, yes, one of my favorites,' he said. After we talked awhile I found out his name was Mr. Jacobs. He then said, 'I think Mrs. Jacobs has some fresh lemonade. How about sharing a glass with me?' He went to the door and said, 'Mrs. Jacobs, we have a guest, could we get two glasses of lemonade?' "She was like a female carbon copy of Mr. Jacobs. She came out with some lemonade and some home-made chocolate chip cookies. We sat on the porch and talked about books I had read. I had never had home-made cookies before. Wow, they were good. After that every day I would ride my bike there after school and if Mr. Jacobs was out in his yard, we would talk. Always, after awhile, he would say, 'I think Mrs. Jacobs has some fresh lemonade, would you like some?' Mrs. Jacobs would always come out with a fancy tray with lemonade and cookies. She made me feel special. She always gave me a napkin like I was some adult. "As winter came I didn't see them much, but at Christmas I received a package in the mail. It was from Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs. It was the works of Robert Lewis Stevenson. From then on each Christmas I would get a book in the mail. One year it was the works of Jules Verne; another year it was Edgar Allen Poe. My parents would give me socks and underwear for Christmas, so this gift was extra special. And each year for my birthday, I received a gift certificate at a local bookstore. "This went on through the start of this last summer. Mrs. Jacobs eyesight started to fail, and sometimes the cookies were a bit overdone. But the love she showed in continuing to bake for me made them taste so great. My mother used to just watch T.V. so the only cookies at home were store bought. Over the years, I was kind of adopted by the Jacob's. I felt special. One week last July, when I hadn't seen them home for about a week, I asked a neighbor. He said Mr. Jacobs had a heart attack while in his yard and was taken to the hospital. I road my bike to the hospital to see him only to find out he had died. "I road my bike into the midst of some trees and just cried and cried. I cried when my father died because I would never get

a chance to show him that I could be good at something. But I cried when Mr. Jacobs died because I had lost a friend. The house where the Jacobs lived was put up for sale and I never saw Mrs. Jacobs again. I was told by a neighbor she went to live with her daughter in Oklahoma. Before I came to school, I rode by that house one more time. In fact, when the 'For Sale' sign was changed to read 'Sold' I stole the sign. I still have it in my closet." Tony was crying as he finished and the rest of us could feel his loss and his pain. Tony then added, "You guys mean a lot to me, but I am what I am today because of those Jacobs. I thank God for them. I have told God that when I get to heaven the first thing I want is some of Mrs. Jacobs' cookies and her fresh lemonade. Before I met them, I was one angry teenager. Their love took away my chip...with chocolate chips." "I really can't match that kind of story," Steve started out, "but there was also one person who helped liberate me from my parents' and church's influence. I went to a private Christian high school. The school was run by our church so the adults in the church made sure that the school had plenty of rules. I had one teacher who had a way of tempering the rules with grace. In fact the kids called the principle 'law' and called this teacher 'mercy.' He seemed to know that some of the rules were treating us like tiny children. "One rule that always rubbed me the wrong way was weekly locker inspection. We were actually graded by how neat our locker was kept. If you fell below a 'C' average you then lost privileges, such as playing sports. I was a bit of a rebel, and he applied the rules with a bit of grace. When he checked my locker, he would clean it up enough to make it passable. I would return to my locker and find a note saying, 'Steve, I just saved your butt.... Mr. Edwards.' Also, to miss an assignment was a cause for extra work. "One time one morning my dog actually did eat my assignment. I know it sounds like a lie, but it actually happened. When I told Mr. Edwards, he told me to be more careful in the future. When he was handing back assignments, he put a paper on each kids' desk. On my desk he placed one of those phony plastic dog turds. I laughed so hard. Also, I knew he believed me. That was important. In our school they treated us all like liars.

Another time he caught me smoking. He asked me what he should do. I was a smart ass, I said, 'If you don't say anything, I'll split the pack with you.' He said that sounded like a fair deal. As he was walking off, he turned and said that maybe he better hold my half until after school. He didn't want to see me get in any trouble. I gave them to him but I didn't go in and get them after school. "The next day he ran into me in the hall before school. He handed me a package and said I forgot to pick something up last night. I went over to my locker. I couldn't believe he would return them to me. When I opened the package, confetti exploded all over me. He had me again. His constant humor over the three years that I knew him took the edge off of my rebellion. I knew he took a liking to me. He helped me keep all those rules. How can you rebel against someone who loves you? I just couldn't let him down. "I wish that were the whole story. One day during my senior year, when I came to Mr. Edwards class, there was a substitute. Nothing was said. I later found out he was fired. Mr. Edwards was not married and some of the male students who were the super pious type complained he had been abusive. He was always hugging us guys. Sometimes he would give us a slap on the butt. He never did anything inappropriate in any other situation, but at that school he was guilty by suspicion. He was gone. For a short time I got very rebellious. I then realized that wherever he was, he wouldn't want me to be kicked out with only two months to go in my senior year. I faked it until graduation. I tried to forget about it all. Even talking about it now makes me angry." I was beginning to learn something that has stuck with me. We all have a story to tell. That guy Tony that at first I thought was some kind of weird faggot was so much more. And the Steve that I thought was so phony, was just holding in a lot of anger. He had reverted to being like his parents and church wanted, but underneath was a neat guy waiting to find release. And now it was Jason's turn and I just sat there in awe as I realized what a great bunch of guys God had given me for friends. "My turning point came in my first job at a local fast food place in Illinois. I was a good worker and I was trustworthy. I was put in charge of the night shift. It felt good to be trusted

one hundred per cent. The owner took a liking to me and showed me a lot about running the business. I learned about our suppliers, how to calculate supplies by the weather, time of year, and the closeness of any holidays. I made some mistakes. Once I ordered too much lettuce, and we had to throw out a whole crate. But Gary, my boss, would never criticize. "The real test came one night when someone paid for an order with a hundred dollar bill. I wasn't used to having that kind of bill so I put it in an envelope underneath the counter. That night it apparently got thrown out. The next day when the days' receipts turned up one hundred dollars short, I remembered immediately what had happened. I went to Gary and told him of the mistake. All he said was that I shouldn't let something like that happen too often. I knew he missed the money, but he never let me see his disappointment. "The reason I remember the story so well is that once at home I had accidentally put the ice cream back in the frig and not in the freezer. I ruined a carton of ice cream. My father yelled and yelled at me. He told me how irresponsible I was and that I was going to have to pay double for the loss. I learned from my boss, Gary, that I was more important to him than money and that he believed me totally. I have never forgotten the experiences I had working with Gary. He was so different from my home. I always felt like a jerk at home, but at work I was a 'partner' in a business. "What makes this story so important to me is that in the church where I grew up, they always talked about love. But that is all they did. It was talk. Gary showed me love for the first time. Gary put our friendship ahead of his business, as important as that business was. In church, I was constantly abused in the sense of always being subjected to rules and rules without love. Even at home, I was a good son only as long as I kept the rules. I think that is why I picked up that girl in the park. I was pissed off and I just wanted to break one of my parents fucking rules. Of course, I knew what the consequences would be. I am no longer accepted at home. I disgraced my family in front of the town and the church. There is no going back. "Looking back now, I can see that what I learned from Gary is that a person can be good without being full of hate and rules. It was his example that made it possible for me to hold

onto God while rejecting my church and my parents. I knew there was a place I could find love and acceptance from God and other Christians. I came here to start over and to discover a world I had experienced working at Gary's. He gave me hope. Without that hope I would have turned into just the typical American rebellious teenager." I was next. I was overwhelmed by the stories I had heard and I was trying hard to think about my life. Steve helped a bit. He could sense my tension. He said, "I have a feeling Eric is going to bore us to death. How about I make some coffee?" Tony who loves coffee as much as he does books, jumped up and grabbed the pot to get the water. That gave me time to think and to unwind a little. It is so difficult for me to open up. I would much rather masturbate together than show my past. I knew as soon as the coffee was done I had to be honest. I was scared. I mean I always am a little nervous. But I was scared. With a mug of coffee in my hand, I started, "My world in high school centered around the 'Burger Hut.' It was more than a burger place. It was a kind of church. We would gather around the picnic tables outside the place. All that showed up were accepted. I did not talk much. But when I did I was listened to. But just being part of that group made me feel important. At home, I would get lectured on what a jerk I was. But there, it was different. I guess we all went there for the same reason. We couldn't talk at home. Whenever I got down or felt rejected at home, I headed for the Burger Hut. It seemed like Dolores was always working there. She always greeted us with cheer. When she wasn't busy she would talk to us like a grandmother. "When I came to Seattle, I quickly realized there was no place for friends to meet. There was just too many places and too many things to do. There wasn't a whole lot of choices in Chehalis. But in a way, that was good. Whenever you needed to laugh with someone else, you knew where to go. There were no in depth discussions as we have here. I guess that is why I still get nervous talking like this. It is easier just to be silly around friends. But even the small talk we had made me feel important. I think we all understood deep down why we met there. We all needed the attention. "At home my father acted like an automatic wisdom dispenser. I suppose he felt he should raise his son to be a success. He

never wanted to spend any time with me. But a father is supposed to do something, so he taught me meaningless rules he had picked up from watching T.V. It was all crap. He warned me about AIDS, but he never taught me how to have friends. He warned me about other sexually transmitted diseases, but never taught me what love was all about. I guess all I learned from home was that a man was to get a job and somehow hang in there until you retire. I didn't want to wait until I was sixty-five to discover that maybe life has worth. "I suppose this isn't very dramatic but I managed to keep from feeling total despair. Just being around a small town provides enough stability to keep one with enough hope to plod through life. I have told you how my friendship with Bryce opened my eyes to a whole new world. However improper our ideas or intentions, there was a reality there that we both knew. We didn't know what it was. Bryce thought that reality was maybe sexual. I was either too scared or too naive to think in sexual terms, but for the first time I felt really alive. My heart had touched another heart. Bryce is hurting now and broken. He is still my friend and I owe him so much. When my heart was dead, he reached in and brought it to life. When he gets released from the hospital he is heading home to Chehalis. I want to be there to welcome him." We sat there in silence for awhile, just sipping coffee together. We are rookies when it comes to knowing what to say and at times our gang of four reaches a new depth. We have learned enough just to sit back and be with each other. Sometimes there is a growth in the glue of friendship in silence. Finally, Tony spoke up and said, "I have just realized that we can't say good-bye." "What's that?" Steve said with a puzzled look. "I mean we all have come from situations that helped us, but were all temporary. But I don't think we can handle another temporary. Friendship isn't an amusement ride we get on and then decide to get off one and head for another ride. Friendship to have any meaning must be for the duration. I don't want to sound like an amateur philosopher, which I am, but I think love demands eternity. There is something inside us that cries out for something permanent. By us becoming Christians we have discovered that love is forever. Take away eternity and you destroy

love. I mean, why should I sacrifice if this life is all there is. "I think we should start thinking about how we can serve God as a team in some way. Because we have forever we do not have to strive for all of the cultural trappings that lure those who are only here for a short time. We can be in no hurry. Maybe we will never have the perfect job, but we are already so rich that how could we ask for more. But I am also learning that the love that we are learning to express to each other demands an outlet. What we discover must be shared. Sex is private and solo, but love must reach out to others. For a married couple, their love reaches out to their children. For a group of friends, their love must find expression in a mission that bonds them together and reaches out to give away the crop of love that has been growing. "I grew up in a farming area. It would be stupid of a farmer to raise a crop and then just let it rot on the ground. I don't know what direction life will take, but I know two things. One, we can't keep love to ourselves, and two, we have to find a way to share that love that keeps us as a team..." Steve interrupted with an insight, "I think I understand what you are saying. The church where I grew up tried to discover love and maybe they did, but they kept that light of love hid inside their own little stained-glass world. Inside that world, they made up all kinds of rules to keep their love pure. But love died, and all they were left with was a bunch of rules. By the time I arrived in that church, there was no love left. I saw the stupidity of love without expression. Love is a crop that must be harvested or it really does rot. I could smell the rot as a kid. And believe me, love rotting is the worst kind of smell." "I guess the question for us as we grow will be how to find a field that needs planting with what we have to give," Jason concluded. None of us had the foggiest at that point. As usual Tony thought it was time to study. It is probably good we have one of our group grounded in reality.

Week 8 Day 4 Wednesday. At the mail box today, I got a letter from Bryce. I could see from the address on the front that his hand writing was restored. My hand shook a little as I opened it. I have so much love for that guy, but our love has yet to be established on a firm foundation. I fear I will lose his friendship. The more love I develop with my friends here, the more I want to have Bryce for a friend. Sex by nature is monogamous, but friendship is not. It calls out for just one more and maybe just one more. Ah, what the hell, and one more. Here is his letter: Hello Eric: It's Bryce. I am feeling a lot better. They have given me some medication. I feel better and I am heading home. I do not feel I am heading home from failure. I am heading home with a new sense of what I want in life. I know one thing. I want you. I realize I do not know much about what that wanting means. Having failed and made a fool of myself, I am just thankful I have a chance to start over. I sure hope you will find time to help me start over. My uncle has an apartment in an old garage behind his house in Chehalis. He says I can live there as long as I want. Also, he says I can go to work in his furniture and appliance store. I have to start at the

bottom, but hell, I am already there. I told him I have been well prepared for bottom work. I don't think I could get much lower than I feel right now. The thing it has provided is hope. I don't have to live at home with my parents. That would not only be bottom but it would mean total failure. I just couldn't handle that. I will be getting there this Friday. It would be great to see you there Saturday if you could fit it into your schedule. I know you are busy. But I want to see your eyes so badly. When I was laying in the hospital I imagined looking into your eyes. Crazy, huh? Well I was. Seriously, you are the one that got me through this. I love you old big eyes. Your friend, Bryce I stood there in front of the mail boxes reading the letter and Tony came up to get his mail. He could see the tear in my eye. "Good news or bad?" he asked. "Good news. Bryce is coming home." "Oh, yeah. When?" "This Friday. I am thinking about going down to welcome him home." "I would like to meet him," Tony said. "I have heard so

much about him, I really would like to meet him. Plus I would like to see where you grew up. Do you think I could come along?" "Sure, I think I would like that. The only thing I ask is that you remain in the car while I meet him for the first time. I don't know what to expect. I would like it to be between the two of us. After a few minutes I will invite you in." "Wow, I'm going to Chehalis. I can't wait," Tony said in a mocking way. He laughed and walked on to his room. *** This afternoon the four of us went to Woodland Park Zoo. We sat on an outdoor table and talked and ate fish and chips. Going to the zoo with Tony is a real education. He kept wanting the animals to have sex while we were watching. He would motion to them to get it on. He tried making suggestive motions to the monkeys. He seemed so disappointed. He said, "Why didn't you tell me we were coming to a children's zoo?" After talking and being silly for most of the afternoon, we stopped in a corner of the zoo that seemed pretty quiet. We found a picnic table and Jason started us into one of our talks. He started, "I think it is time we get down to some of the difficult issues we are going to have to face sooner or later." I said, "I thought it has been difficult. I cannot imagine it getting much tougher." "I think it will," Jason smiled as he started us out. "The issue is we are going to have to face the label that others have pinned on us. Are we the Fag Four? Are we attracted together by common desires, loneliness, or is it sexual attraction we feel and are unwilling to face?" "You're right," I laughed nervously. "It does get tougher." Jason continued, "I don't think there isn't one of us that hasn't fantasized what being gay would be like. Our fantasies during masturbation aren't always pure, proper, and exalted." Tony interjected, "Mine are." We all laughed because we all knew Tony too well.

"Anyway," Jason said, "is there something sexual between us?" Steve was the first to tackle the subject. "Actually, I have been thinking a lot about that. I liken it to a guy who all of a sudden wakes up to find himself in some remote jungle. He could be surrounded by food and yet starve to death. The reason is simple: he would not know how to recognize food when he saw it. There must be someone who knows who must teach him that not everything that tastes good is food and not everything that tastes bad is poison. My taste buds will not keep me alive. Once I know what will not hurt me and what is nourishing then my taste buds serve a function. Until I am taught, they are useless. All taste buds might do is enable me to die with a contented look on my face. "Some of my earliest memories are of a great hunger inside of me. I hungered for closeness and friendship. There was no one there to tell me how to have a friend or how to be a friend. I was surrounded by hundreds of guys and yet I was lonely. Real lonely. As a young kid I would make up imaginary friends to talk to at night. I would go to sleep talking with my friend and I would tell him all my secrets. We would then hug and fall asleep in each other's arms. I repeated this process for years. When I reached puberty, I naturally started beating off with my imaginary friend. After all, we shared everything. "It was a natural and long progression, but gradually my fantasies turned to mutual masturbation and then finally sucking each other's cocks. I felt a little guilty when I did that so I didn't fantasize that way too often. But you see, my dreams were never to have sex with a guy, I just fantasized that way because I felt so much closer to my imaginary friend if I was having an orgasm. It is much easier to fantasize about a person than it is a pillow or a tissue. So the pillow or tissue became another person. "When I beat off in that way, the pain of being all alone left for awhile. During the day, when I felt left out at school or on the playground, I looked forward each night when my 'friend' would join me in bed and tell me how much he loved me. And when I shot my wad somehow I knew he loved me. The dreams and the orgasm combined to become so real."

"But why," Jason asked, "do you think you fantasized about guys and not girls?" "I think the main reason is that from the time I was in diapers, I always dreamed about having a friend. You don't dream about girls when you are a little boy. I remember watching other boys walking with their fathers. I always walked alone. I used to wonder at night why I did not have someone to hold my hand. I found out years later my father worked in the church and he was always gone. He still is always gone. So at first I would dream about having a father. I would see a man on T.V. and adopt him. At night, I would dream of us doing things together. But as I went to school and saw other kids with friends, I did not know how to act. I had never been around other people. I just stayed to myself. "I would sit in the corner of the playground and watch the other kids play. At night, I would dream that one of them was my buddy and he would talk and listen to me. When you're six years old, girls are ugly. Without any hormones to direct my eyes to the young females, I naturally dreamed about boys. When I reached puberty it only seemed natural to keep dreaming about guys. I had done it my whole life. As I became active in high school and church I tried to put those childish things behind me. One morning I woke up and decided I needed real friends. But the real guys I met in church were never as real as the friends I knew in my dreams. I would revert at times to dreaming again of friendship while masturbating. "I felt so immature and sinful after each occasion of fantasy that I came to feel that there was something wrong with me. I was afraid to tell anyone else of my loneliness and I sure wasn't going to tell anyone in church of my dreams. I just went through the motions of hanging out around school and church and never letting anyone get too close. After all, except for the guys with steady girls, no one seemed real close to anyone else either. . I came to accept my situation as normal. Then I happened to be roomed with Eric, and he started trying to break down my wall. I would get so horny with Eric just being friendly, I started beating off every night thinking about Eric stroking me with his hand." "You mean," I said, "all this time you have been dreaming

about me and you never said a word." "Yeah, ...this hasn't actually been easy to talk about. For the first time I am letting it all hang out with you guys. I guess I trust you all enough I can be a totally mixed-up guy and I know I will still be loved. I know it. Because of that, I am free. Actually, scared and free. And maybe a little horny. I still can't talk about masturbation without getting an erection. My mind wants to talk, and my cock wants to play. See how messed up I am. My own body doesn't even know what it wants to do." Tony started talking, "I agree with Steve. I am getting horny also. All this talk has got me excited. I think it's time we head back. After all, it is getting dark." When we got back to Jason's van, Steve climbed in the back. Steve's van has heavily tinted windows so Steve just dropped his pants to show us how horny he had got talking about sex. Tony immediately joined him. I said, "Well, what the hell" and pushed Jason in the back. We sat there and watched each other masturbate. Tony said right in the middle, "Hey Steve, how about fantasizing about me for awhile." Steve laughed and replied, "Remember, I said I only fantasize about men." Tony picked up a pillow and pretended to strike a blow to Steve's cock. Steve faked pain, and shouted, "Okay, Tony, you win.... Oh, Tony, your hand feels so good. Keep it up. That's it. That's good. Now faster.... Now real fast....Oh, Oh, Oh." Steve shouted as he came. If it is possible to laugh and beat off at the same time, we did. We drove back to the dorm. We knew we had to study, but Steve made us promise that tomorrow after lunch, we would all get together and finish our conversation. "After all, I was only the first one to fess up today. Tomorrow, you guys have to come dirty. Tomorrow, I can sit back and watch you guys squirm as you tell your story." "Oh good," Tony said, "we get to beat off again.” *** I had some time to myself tonight. Steve was off to the library and Jason and Tony were studying. It had been a long

time since I had the room totally to myself and my laptop. I just sat back and thought about all that had happened to me. I know others have a hard time figuring out what our little group is up to. There are two theories about human nature that I have been thinking about. One theory says that we are plastic selves in a plastic world. I should be able to construct the person I want to be and the world I live in from scratch. That what I regard as my human nature is nothing but what my mind has chosen. If I want to change my nature, all I have to do is change the world my mind chooses to live in. A second view of self views it as something innate inside of us that we are born with. Society destroys or cripples that original self. Our job while we are here on earth is to discover what is really inside of us. Damn society and its stupid rules, I will be my true self, which is what I really want to be. The problem with these two views is the failure to take account of something called evil. It must be denied. The first choice says I can become anything I my mind wants. Fine. Okay. But sometimes my mind desires and wants evil. Why is that? At times my thoughts are lofty and beautiful, and at times they are in the gutter. But they are all my thoughts and desires. The problem with the second choice is that I must at all times be true to my inner self. But when I look inside to discover my true self, I also find a twisted, mixed up, and actually evil self. I know some would say the good I see inside of me is my self and the evil I see inside of me was put there by society and my parents. But I have no way of separating them. They have united into one self. At times I cannot even figure out which part of me is evil and which part is good. The evil inside of me seems so natural and so much fun, it feels real good when I do it. Very disturbing. I have come to the conclusion that there must be something outside of me that can either provide direction, or cure that evil tendency that lies within. I cannot determine what is right or wrong. And even if I knew, I wouldn't want to do it all the time. I guess that is why I am increasingly attracted to the Bible. It provides a standard to guide my self. I am able to see what is inside me and to separate the good from the bad. And it provides the power to accomplish what I want--after it has cured the 'I' that wants. It is like the supernatural planting

inside of me a new self different from the one that has been stumbling around. I don't understand all that is happening to me and the above seems a bit muddled. I am still learning. I don't want to be a Fundamentalist. I don't want to be another fun-loving college student. I am looking for another choice. I have recorded my stumblings. I sure hope things become more clear.

Week 8 Day 5 Thursday. All morning, again during class, I was thinking more about our afternoon meeting than anything that was going on in class. I kept writing notes to myself. I sure hope these notes never fall into enemy hands, I thought. The time had arrived. Tony arrived carrying a box of tissue. I said, "Looks like you expect some sad stories. You brought something to wipe our tears with." He looked at me with a mock shock and gave a scowled look of disbelief. I couldn't but laugh. Well, who wants to take up where Steve left off. Jason said he would like to go first. I was too nervous myself, so I immediately told him to go ahead. "I didn't even think about sex much at all until I had my first sexual experience at camp when I was sixteen. Actually, until then, I had managed to drive sex almost totally out of my life. I too grew up alone and in a church. Sex was treated as something dirty. I just naturally thought that if it is that dirty, I won't have anything to do with it. And I didn't. I just stayed busy in sports or studying. And boy did I stay busy. "In the midst of my busyness, I was so lonely. I was never able to tell anyone to just hug me and fall asleep in my arms. I mean, how can a jock say something like that. Somehow, at camp that summer my feelings of being alone came out from behind the shadow. It was a religious camp, and I just didn't fit in. Others didn't fit in, but pretended to go along with the crowd. I refused to participate in something I felt was dishonest and

phony. I was already at that time a committed Christian, but I couldn't see what they were teaching at camp had anything to do with Christianity. "That's when I met P.J. We were so similar and both so alone. We hung out together for the whole week. We talked and shared our true feelings. We did a lot of neat things together. We explored the woods, went skinny dipping in the creek, snuck out at night, and even built a tree house up in the woods. On that last night we started out just to hug. It was the neatest feeling. We were just two loners sharing something personal. We ended up getting pretty excited. "It was great. We eventually stripped naked and embraced each very tightly. We both got hard. It felt so good to know another person was excited to be close to me. We were two virgins losing it together--something you can only do once--something you can only share with one person in your whole life. We felt we were one. I am not trying to justify it, but I have tried so hard to understand what we did. As we stood and embraced each other, I felt such power flow through me. I had never been that excited in my whole life. I was being loved. I was being accepted. My whole body felt the warmth of his body in the cool summer evening. I felt his hot sperm wash my stomach in a baptism of energy. "This world can be cold and indifferent. I felt that at camp. But here was another person rubbing his hot cock against my skin and I felt warm all over--even on the inside. I had never been touched by anyone in a real way. Now I was being touched in a way that made me feel alive. I had to ask myself over and over why I shouldn't do that again. All through high school, while abstaining from all sex except masturbation, I felt so all alone again. I dreamed about someday finding a warm body that would love me in the same way as P.J. It just felt so damn good I just couldn't understand why it was so wrong. Could you imagine the public reaction if I had announced my desire for more gay sex? I mean, everybody else in school was doing what felt good. Why couldn't I do what felt good. I felt cheated by society's double standard--even in an immoral public high school. "I would go to the beach in the summer and look at other guys. I would look for a guy to notice me. But if someone did notice, I would look away. I figured, as he noticed me staring,

he must think I'm gay. Other times, I would start to talk to a guy on the beach and I would notice they would start to struggle to adjust their swim trunks. I would then see fear enter their eyes as they realized they were getting excited and their boner was starting to show. I have seen guys try to somehow conceal their excitement or make a quick excuse on why they had to leave. One guy looked down at his bulge in his swim trunks and just took off running. He left so fast that his towel and sun screen were left with me. "Whether at school, at home, or especially at night, I felt so all alone. I wasn't just lonely for another person, I was alone in my thoughts and feelings. I had this feeling that I would never be able to have a friend. I mean, what was I supposed to do? I longed for those feelings I experienced at camp. I didn't want the gay sex, but I wanted the feelings that sex produced. I was raised in a church so I heard numberless sermons against gays. But those sermons were just tirades of condemnation without any compassion for those hurting guys. There was no understanding. "I never dated in high school. I always had an excuse. But the real reason was that I wanted to date a guy. Nightly, I would dream and dream of having a friend. When I woke up in the middle of the night and wanted to go back to sleep quickly, I would imagine there was a friend sleeping next to me. I even prayed and prayed but no friend ever appeared. It seemed like I was caught in no-man's land. I believed in the morals I was taught in church, but I knew I had such a hunger for companionship. I was so desperate. "Part of the reason I screwed that girl in the park is to see if my cock would fuck a girl. I had no trouble getting my cock to respond to P.J. It worked in the park, but it was just two strangers rubbing each other. There was no love or acceptance or electric feelings. It was just like beating off except I was using a girl's body instead of my hand. "When I loaded up my van to come out here, I knew deep down that I wasn't ever coming back. But I had trouble admitting it. I even wrote several letters to that girl that I was temporarily engaged to. I was glad when she wrote back to say she had found someone else. As I drove out here, I knew I was free for the first time. Nobody could force me to do anything. I knew that hunger inside of me had to be quenched. I couldn't go on living in my on personal world of misery.

"At the same time I was terribly afraid. I couldn't turn my back on my religious beliefs. I really believed there was a God who made me and died for me and expected me to do what was right. But why did I still have these desires? Why as a Christian did I still long for more of what P.J. gave me? I wanted those feel ings so badly and yet I knew intellectually it was wrong. I knew I had to make a choice between misery and being right. Not much of a choice. "Do I have to say, God was no help. The more I tried to do right, the more miserable I became. I beat myself off to sleep every night--longing for a warm hand to replace mine. It got to the point where I thought God was just playing a joke on me. It is like showing a dog a piece of meat and then commanding the dog to sit just inches from the meat. That is how I felt. Here's happiness just out of my reach. Here is all I want out of life and God says 'sit'. I felt myself the object of a merciless, cosmic joke. I was so lonely, frustrated, angry and .... horny. "As I got to know you guys, I stayed aloof. I talked intellectually to you all. I pretended to be the worldly wise upperclassman. But when you guys left after our talks, I immediately dropped my pants and masturbated. I thought about you being all over me in your naked skins. I couldn't tell you guys how I felt until now. I was afraid of your reaction. Also because, I still wanted to make love sexually to each of you. "When we masturbated together, the reason I was always the last to come is I didn't want to appear too eager. I mean if I didn't think of car wrecks and other gory scenes I would have come before I even got my pants down. Now that I'm telling you this, I have decided to trust you guys totally with my feelings. I am so scared right now I can hardly talk. My mouth is dry as cotton. I'm scared, running out of words, and ready to come in my pants all at the same time." We just sat there and didn't know whether to cry or beat off. We did both. In that order. About fifteen minutes of each. We sat in the room with our bellies still wet and our pants around our knees and Jason found out he wasn't out of words. He said, "Now that everything is out in the open I don't have anything left to hide. I can't believe you guys still love me and trust me enough to sit around nude while I stare. My

whole mixed up history and you're not afraid." Tony joked, "What makes you think I wasn't afraid?" Steve shot back, "Because it only took you ten strokes to come." "Yeah, but they were long and good strokes." "Thanks, guys, you're really a big help," Jason laughed. "Really," I said, "just let us know when you want to talk some more. This is good for all of us." We needed to get a few hours of study in, so we went back to our rooms. Another great day. Another great day to be alive.

Week 8 Day 6 Friday. Tony and I planned to get up early tomorrow morning to head to Chehalis. I canceled my usual Friday night card game so I could get to bed early. I longed to be with Bryce and I wanted to be in a rested state. When I am tired I am not very talkative. Tony suggested we finish yesterday's talk. I got Jason and Steve together in the afternoon for some more guy-to-guy sharing. I think I am getting better at trusting my friends. I was more excited than nervous as we gathered together. I started by saying I didn't think I had much to add to what was already said. Steve chided me, "Ah, come on Eric, time to ‘fess up’ to your family." "Here, here," added Tony. "You're next after Eric, so get ready," Steve said to Tony.

"You're right, Eric, everything has been said," Tony said, joining in on my side. But I started, "I guess I am a little reluctant to talk about my sexual longings because I really didn't have many. I mean in high school I would have a wet dream or I would masturbate and I would quickly pretend it never happened. I am a little different in that I guess I had duel fantasies. I fantasized sexually about girls, but socially about guys. I never could imagine living with a girl, just having sex with her. And the girls I would dream about were always young junior high girls. I used to see them parade about town, so proud of their newly discovered virginity and so willing to lose it. Also they had no thought about a relationship, they just wanted to have sex. I never have had sex with anyone, but if I had it would have been with one of those girls. "When I met Bryce in the spring of this year, there was a lifting of a veil inside me. I experienced some kind of arousal from being with Bryce. I didn't know what it meant. Maybe I was naive, but I didn't even realize I had an erection from talking with Bryce until he told me months later I had one. I remember getting nervous and excited each time I talked to him, but I had never felt like that way before. Looking back now, I can see I was experiencing two emotions at the same time. I thought they were one. I didn't know the feelings could be separated. I experienced both friendship and sexual arousal from Bryce. The fact the two occurred at the same time made me afraid of having friends. "Much later, I started thinking about all that I had experienced. I came here to school with the goal of separating those two emotions. I wanted to experience friendship without having sexual intercourse with a guy. I did not know at the time if it were possible. I was determined to find out. I started my search from the very first day to discover guys who were willing to enter into the same experimental quest. I really cannot add much in the way of insight. I do know I was confused. I remember, after talking with Bryce, I would always head to my room and masturbate thinking about those junior high girls. I never really thought why the two should be connected. I guess I just didn't want to admit to myself that I not only had heterosexual feelings, I also had homosexual feelings. It is funny how good looking Bryce made those girls."

"Do I ‘boo’ now or later," Tony joked. "How disappointing. I thought you would shock us with some real stories. I even expected you would supply us a print out from your computer. After all, you are better at writing than you are at talking." "Would you quit stalling," Jason said. "You're on, Tony." "Was I starting to ramble. [Tony nervously started scratching his crotch.] It's just that my experiences of sex are pretty dull. I mean except for the one time with Jack, I have been a model boy. Not always out of choice. When you are a reject or an outcast, you don't have a lot of sexual options. In fact, when you spend most of your time alone, I think that only leaves one option. I guess I really have had only one love affair in my life. I fell in love with my cock. I treated it as a friend. I mean whenever I was lonely, I could pull it out and play. I could dream and as long as I kept stroking, my dreams seemed so real. I called my cock, 'my toy.' "Yeah, that's right. My toy. As long as I had my toy with me I was never alone. I took it with me wherever I went. Sometimes I would even joke with it. I would say, 'Toy, would you like to come out and play?' It always answered yes. Four or five times a day it answered yes. I never connected my cock with anything sexual. I mean, I knew what other guys did with theirs. But I didn't want to share my toy with anyone. It was mine and mine alone. I never thought of myself as either ‘hetero’ or ‘homo.’ I was just lonely. "The sex I had with Jack was just something he wanted to do. He convinced me it would be a lot more fun than just watching each other masturbate. It wasn't. What turned me off was how Jack treated my toy with no respect. I loved my cock and Jack didn't treat it the way I would have treated his cock. I guess that sounds weird, but that is how I felt. I wasn't turned off by doing something homosexual, I was turned off by Jack's lack of real concern for me. That's it. That's all I have to say. Now if you want to know seven hundred ways to masturbate, I could talk all day." "Maybe some other time," Jason said laughing. "I have been thinking about what I have learned about myself these last couple of years. I know that as I have struggled to understand my

sexual feelings, it is not just a question of saying 'NO.' I have heard that in church so often. I always was told that saying no builds character. I guess it does, but that 'no' has to be combined with understanding. "I have never been able to forget about P.J. I remember all the good thinks about him and how he made me feel. I wish I would have said no that last night together. But I have never forgot that I have feet of clay. I have never been able to get a big head about myself. I know that I am human with human struggles. I carry a memory of failure within me. But it is not a memory of self-condemnation. "I carry a memory of compassion for P.J. and all others like myself who fail. I have a tender spot in my heart for those with AIDS. I know how easy it is to get. I know you don't have to be weird to get it--just human. I am also learning that the longings for completion I harbor inside me were put there by God to guide me to marriage. That is a good desire. And yet I feel that even in a wife those feelings will be frustrated. "Those longings in us all point toward heaven. I think that is why even atheists talk about sex as being in heaven, even if only for seven minutes. I have become aware that not every desire we have within us was designed to be fulfilled in this lifetime. Some of our hopes and longings point toward an eternal future. The longing I have for total oneness with another, is a longing that points toward heaven. Whatever satisfactions we have on earth, and there are many, we will always be frustrated if we don't understand the heavenly aspect of all our desires. "I don't have to be ashamed of the fact that I tried to pervert God's gift of sex. It has made me realize that there isn't a good thing that God gives us that we don't try to pervert. I think three-fourths of the people in my home church knew how to pervert food. No one condemned that perversion. Just my perversion of sex. Some pervert knowledge. Some pervert laugh ter. Some pervert the gift of game-playing. I could go on and on. But I have learned to condemn all perversions, not just those in others. No matter what we do or where we go, we will try to twist the good things that God gives us and use them for only our own pleasure. Or we take that limited pleasure and try to make our whole life revolve around this or that gift of pleasure.”

"Wow, thanks Jason," Steve said in an excited voice. "I don't feel so bad admitting to you guys that I am a sexual pervert. I feel less guilty. I used to condemn myself for being different from everybody else. I now see myself as a fellow rebel against God and his gifts. I just happened to choose one particular way to rebel. I see myself as human." "Don't get carried away, Steve," Tony teased. "No. NO! I am serious right now. This is exciting to me. I can admit my the most shameful part of me. I can admit my perversion and my guilt but I now realize that for all of us, to pervert is our nature. We all struggle with this. We all want to hide this fact. One way we hide it is by jumping all over somebody's else particular perversion. That justifies our ways to ourselves. The first act of any church should be to admit that we all share in this common rebellion inside of us. We twist every good thing. And we want every desire satisfied totally and right now." I closed our little meeting by telling Steve and Jason about the trip Tony and I had planned for this weekend. I thanked my friends because so much of what we talked about this week would help me talk to Bryce. Just like Jason could never forget about P.J., I could never forget about Bryce. I might add that for most of our time together, except for when he was talking, Tony was laying on one of the beds on this stomach. Steve was straddled over him, a leg on each side and sitting on the back of Tony's knees. He kept giving Tony a back rub the whole time. When I think about all of us and our backgrounds, Tony is by far the loneliest. He can never get enough loving and attention and touching. Sometimes he acts like a five year old. He just soaks up so much attention. But I must say, he is learning to give back. He has come a long way. Jason says sometimes at night that Tony wants to be 'rocked' back to sleep. Tony will wake up Jason, and Jason will go over to Tony's bed. He will lay next to him and just stroke his back or his neck until Tony falls back to sleep. Tony says in the old days he would just masturbate himself back to sleep. That is one reason he did it so much.

Week 8 Day 7 Saturday. The day I meet Bryce. I felt something shake me, "Hey, Eric, it's time to go. Wake up. Let's hit the road." I woke up, rolled over and saw Tony staring down at me, "What time is it?" I asked. "Time to get rolling." "It's still dark out." "Not by the time you get ready. Roll'em" I sat up and Tony sat down next to me. He started to massage my neck and shoulders. Aside from coffee, I think love is the best way to wake up. Tony was excited about seeing my home town and meeting Bryce. I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect. It was about seven-thirty and the sun was just coming up as we headed out of the dorm parking lot. Tony loves to travel. He is always alert. He soaks up every detail and wants to talk constantly. "Why do you like me?" Tony asked. "What?" I yawned. "I mean, I have always been alone. Now I have three great friends. I don't understand it. Sometimes I think it is a trick. I can't think what is the difference between now and a year ago. I wake up at nights sometimes and think it can't last. I have never been this happy. It can't last." "I wish I could give you a good answer. I can't," I said as Tony looked back to me in surprise. "You see I can't figure out why you would want to be around me." Tony started to grin. "Love is something that strikes us as something totally mysterious. I sometimes think there is something about love that makes us feel we are entering a world of the mysterious. It shouldn't happen at all. The very nature of love humbles us. It is the experience of the totally undeserved."

"How can a person feel secure, then? I mean," Tony asked, "are we always going to wonder if we wake up, love will pass away?" "You may not realize it, but you are getting down to the very foundations of the universe. People for the entire history of the human race have been trying to discover the permanent among the temporary. We all want something firm to build our life on. Some have turned to philosophical reasoning, some to mathematics, but the core, I believe, is that we live in a personal universe. Deny that the universe runs on love and we are thrown up as debris left at high tide. We are left all alone. We have no security. We must try to discover a substitute for love. None will work." "I guess there is no greater security than trust," Tony said in an abnormally sensitive mood. "I am learning to trust you, Eric. I cannot find anything more secure in the universe than love or trust. I never knew love as a kid, just self-interest. I sort of feel insecure because I know how insecure self-interest is. I have never learned that love is different." *** We drove into Chehalis and Tony was all eyes. He kept asking questions. He wanted to see where my parents live, where my high school is, where the Burger Hut is, and on and on. Bryce had taken up residence in a garage made into a small apartment on the back property of his uncle's house. We parked in the alley that runs next to the garage. I asked Tony to stay in the car. He said he brought along a book to read for the occasion. I walked up a small moss covered sidewalk. The garage was a square, cement block structure. The garage car door had been boarded up. I knocked on the door and waited. I was nervous. The door opened and Bryce was standing there. His face was thin. He had lost weight. He gave me a little grin. He looked uncomfortable. I reached out to shake his hand. We shook hands and I could feel a firm grip. I then embraced him. He held me and squeezed me hard. He said nothing. He just held me and didn't want to let go. We must have stood in the doorway five minutes. Finally, I asked if I could come in. I walked in and couldn't believe the mess. I could see

boxes of Bryce's belongings. I could also see piles of junk. The garage apartment had been used for storage by his uncle. The place looked a mess. We walked over to an old couch and sat down next to each other. As we walked to the couch, Bryce lost his balance. He looked ashamed of his nervous demeanor. I looked into those eyes I had remembered so fondly. Those eyes looked very unsure. There was no longer that penetrating twinkle. Bryce looked at me, saying, "I guess I really screwed up." I tried to sound positive, saying, "You're back. We have a second chance to get to know each other. This time we'll get it right." "I don't deserve a second chance." "I don't deserve you, Bryce." "But I failed." "Hey, you're eighteen. It's only your first failure. There is a lot of time left." "But I can't undo the past." "You can do the future." "This ain't getting us anywhere, is it?" Bryce said quietly and gave a little grin. "Let's skip the formalities," I said. "Let's go right to the bottom of the page. I love you, you turkey. I really do. Now much more than last summer." "How could you?" "Dumb?" I said grinning from ear to ear. "No really, how could you?" "Do you love me?" "I tried but I didn't know how. I had some bad motives plus

I didn't understand your fear. Now, I wish I would have had some of your fear." "So where do we go from here?" I asked. Bryce's eyes started to look into mine again, and he said, "I want to try again." "That's why I am here." "How long can you stay?" "All weekend if you want. And in three or four weeks I'll be home for Christmas." "I want you all weekend. And as much during Christmas as possible." I then told Bryce about Tony and asked if Tony could come in and meet him. I explained that both he and Tony were bookworms and might have something in common. I brought Tony in and we went through the formalities of getting acquainted. Bryce asked if we could go to his house and pick up all of his belongings. I said sure. Tony asked to stay behind. It took about three hours to find boxes, pack them, and get back to Bryce's apartment. As we walked in we could smell the odor of disinfectant. Tony came out of the bathroom, covered with sweat. "I was going to read while you guys were gone but I noticed how dirty this place was. I went to your Aunt and asked if she had some cleaning supplies. She gave me most of what I needed. I bought the rest at the corner Safeway." We went into the bathroom and looked at Tony's work. He had the place shining. Bryce looked at me and smiled. He then put his arm around Tony. He was really touched. We talked for awhile. I explained to Bryce and Tony I needed to stop by my parent's house. I would try to get back as soon as possible. Tony decided to stay with Bryce. Tony said, "This place needs a lot more work." *** When we headed back to school on Sunday night, I asked Tony

to give me an account of the time he and Bryce had spent together. Tony gave the following account. "After you left, I told Bryce to go soak in the tub for awhile and I would make dinner. When I had picked up cleaning supplies, I had also bought the ingredients of pizza. I make a real mean pizza. I even make my own crust. Bryce left the door open to the bathroom while he soaked, so I felt free to walk in and talk. I sat down next to the tub. He and I seemed to really hit it off. I asked if I could wash his back. He said sure. He got real excited and his boner stuck up out of the water. He got real uncomfortable. He relaxed when I allowed myself to get one also. I pulled my sweats off and sat next to the tub in the nude while I continued to wash his back and massage his neck. I could really feel him relax. "I talked about what you have taught me about friendship and the difference between being really close friends and being gay. He soaked up everything I said. I then washed his hair. Bryce loved the attention. We shared more and more of our life stories. I even taught him to sing my theme song, 'I am loved.' We both sat in front of his black and white twelve inch t.v. wearing just our shorts. We had coke and pizza and watched old re-runs of 'Happy Days.' After awhile, he felt free to lean his head on my lap. I just watched t.v. and stroked his hair. He said he had never been so close to guy. It made me feel so good. "He invited me to stay with him during Christmas vacation. I explained that I had no home so he better be careful or I might adopt him. He also loves books as much as I do. We unpacked his books and set them on the shelves. He told me about his favorites. I told him how I had, in high school, to keep my library in an old refrigerator in the some woods. "A real bond grew between us. After dinner, he asked if he could return the favor and wash me. I said sure. I explained if I was going to be spending the night with him, I might as well be clean. He really enjoyed washing me. I allowed myself to get hard, which isn't difficult for me, as I could see his shorts start to expand. He also asked me how far friends should go. I replied I think we're doing it. He laughed, and I explained some of the silly games we've played at school. He asked if we could watch each other masturbate. I said, sure.

"I got out of the tub. I pulled his shorts down. I led him to his bedroom. I threw all of his junk that was piled on the bed on the floor. We laid next to each other and watched. We cleaned ourselves up. I went back to the tub and he washed my hair. He kept saying over and over, 'Thank you.' I told him what a difference God had meant in my life. He was so receptive. I'm going to mail him a letter, a letter with a Bible inside." *** I returned as Tony was getting his hair washed. Bryce was a different person. "Okay, Eric, you're next. Step into Bryce's massage and hair washing parlor. I'll have some clean water in a minute," Bryce said in a joyful mood as I walked in. "As long it is clean water, I'm game," I replied. Tony responded in his usual way, "You're right there. I mean this is really dirty water." I got in the tub. Tony sat next to the tub and just sang some of his silly songs that he had learned over the years. Bryce washed my back and hair. It was one of those great times that money cannot buy. For a bunch of lonely rejects, we were the happiest guys in the world. At bedtime, Bryce wanted to know who wanted to sleep on the couch. Tony said, "No one. The bed will hold three and you've been selected to sleep in the middle, Bryce." Tony and I fell asleep with our arms rapped around Bryce.

CHAPTER TEN

Week 9 Day 1 Sunday.

I woke up Sunday morning with Bryce wrapped around me. I could smell bacon frying. Tony had gotten up early and was cooking breakfast. He is quite a guy. A real friend. He is so unselfish. I shook Bryce, "Let's get up before Tony eats all of our breakfast." We both got up, put on our underpants and went into the kitchen. "I guess I'll have to share," Tony said in a mock disappointment.

Bryce just stared at Tony and asked, "Tony, are you an angel?" I laughed and said, "Hey, want me to tell you about his dark side?" But at that point I wasn't even able to recall that insecure, silly, immature kid from last fall. Tony laughed also and said, "Only my cooking is angelic." After breakfast, we worked cleaning the kitchen. We cleaned it from top to bottom. Afterwards, we watched football and cleaned up the rest of the apartment. Tony kept telling Bryce in two weeks he would be back, so he expected it to be kept clean or expect the consequences. We spent the afternoon just sitting around and talking. Tony and I taught Bryce how we had learned to open up around each other at school. Honesty, trust, and love. Bryce decided to share his story after Tony and I told him about our struggles. He started, "Eric told you about how we both were awakened from our slumber on the mountain top last spring. I had grown up in a house but it wasn't much of a home. My father and mother fought all the time. I couldn't stand to hear them yell. I would go to my room, turn the radio up, and read a book. That is how I got hooked on books. I started out just to escape the pain of real life. When I went to school, the kids who had great homes would talk about all of the things their families did together. I avoided people totally because I was so ashamed of my family. "It is such a feeling of despair never being able to tell anybody what is going on inside you. After all, I had been practicing hiding my whole life. I mean in a small town, family secrets are just that, family secrets. I just kept my loneliness and pain inside and studied all the harder. I got straight A's all through high school. I said I owed it all to my parents. That was true, I just didn't tell people how they had actually influenced me. I got a lot of recognition from the teachers which in some sense dulled the pain. I felt like maybe I could escape my home and its training environment. "When I went to Boston to go to school, I was determined to start all over. I was going to leave my past all behind me. I didn't realize how much we carry our past with us. Our character is learned over time and moving doesn't change much. We carry

the same habits with us. Even in areas where I wanted to change, I had no experience acting differently. All my attempts at being out-going were strictly amateur. I mean I was eighteen years behind my peers in social behavior. I quickly became 'that kid from the sticks of the Northwest.' "Sometimes other kids would make fun of my small town heritage. I didn't know how to make it an advantage. They could sense my embarrassment and they really rubbed it in. One of the things that really bothered me is that sometimes a guy would smile and be friendly and I wouldn't know how to act. I became more and more self-conscious. The other thing about school that made it difficult for me was that relationships seemed to be formed around political causes. People united for the silliest reasons. There was even a group that wanted to return Boston to the Indians. Like sure, that was going to happen. And like anybody cared. "One thing that surprised me is how quickly our past follows us. When things got really tense at home, I would hide in my closet with a flashlight and read. You know, when things got tense in school, I found I could relax by reading in my closet. Pretty weird, huh? I grew up with the voices of my parents always yelling at me. I couldn't wait to get to school, just to get away from the verbal put downs. I thought leaving home would cure all that. It didn't. I still had those same voices inside me. I couldn't get rid of the feelings I had at home. "It seems that every time I made a mistake, I could hear my parents telling me what a jerk I had made of myself. I just wanted so badly to hear a voice that would tell me I was all right. I wanted to hear that I was neat to be around. I wanted someone to touch me without hitting me. I got so desperate at school that I took to cruising the streets looking for someone to talk to. I couldn't even do that right. I couldn't even pick someone up. Finally, one kid in the dorm suggested we go to a motel some Friday night, I couldn't say no. I didn't care about any consequences. I just wanted to be told I was loved. "That night was a disaster. It was nothing like the masturbation fantasies I had of that night. It was impersonal. I felt cheap. I felt used. I wasn't loved. I was just some guys substitute for a pillow. I had visions of a male version of Cinderella. Somebody who would wipe out my memories of the

wicked stepmother. I was left feeling sick. I thought how I lost my virginity in a cheap motel with someone I didn't know who didn't care who I was. I started kicking myself inside just like my parents used to kick me on the outside. That's when I kind of flipped out. "Now I am back home. I am no hero returning from war. There were no bands playing, no parades. I got off the bus with nothing but my aunts phone number. I knew I could never go home again. I called from Boston and she and my uncle provided this place and a job. I really am thankful. I know it doesn't look like much. But I am alive, and thanks to you guys I think I can start over. [All the time that Bryce was talking, Tony sat behind him rubbing his back and neck. The kid is giving just how he was given to. Inside such a skinny kid is one big heart.] I have a job and a place to live and now I have two friends. Thanks. How can I ever repay you guys? "How about rubbing my back for awhile?" Tony suggested with a big smile. Bryce did and we watched the fourth quarter of the Seahawk game on that little T.V. As we stood up to leave, Tony whispered something in Bryce's ear. He smiled from ear to ear. He shook his head to indicate "yes." I later asked Tony what he whispered. He said, "I just wanted to let him know that I loved him very much. I wanted to leave a going away impression he would remember. I also kissed him on the cheek." We left for school at about four P.M. The three of us just stood and hugged and hugged for a really long time. Bryce went into his thank you routine. Tony promised to try and come back for a weekend in two weeks, and I invited Bryce to visit us at school anytime. Tony slept most of the way home. He was one tired guy. He had worked his heart out. I drove the freeway in silence. I kept looking over at Tony and listening to him breathe. I couldn't help but think how rich I was. I know a guy needs a job and money to live, but that is sure down on the list of priorities. We got back to school about seven and we each tried to tackle our studies. I kept thinking of the weekend.

Week 9 Day 2 Monday This was my usual day to meet with the Evil Professor X. I decided it was time to take the offensive. I was a little nervous, but I thought today I would take the offensive and see what Brad's reaction would be. I was no longer the timid freshman, I had friends. I had security. I was no longer afraid of criticism or condemnation. I need not fear what others think or say. I now knew what I wanted and I was not ashamed. I had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I was like a lottery winner. Nobody can give me shit anymore. Love has turned me into one cocky bastard. And I love it. I walked toward Brad. He saw me coming. I think even my walk was different because even he noticed I was different. "You look like a guy who just fucked his first girl, but knowing you, it wasn't that. So what hold's?" Brad asked. I had him asking me a question for a change. "I have finally started to find some of the answers to questions I have been having for the past year." "Oh yeah, sounds interesting, tell me?" "I guess you could say I have fallen in love but you might get the wrong idea." "I'm not deaf. I hear what goes around. You are famous in a perverse sort of way. So when you tell me you have fallen in love, I figure I know what's coming. You lost your virginity to one of those guys you hang out with in the dorm." "No, I still have that. It's not lost. I just can't figure out where I put it." "Hey, the guy does stand-up," Brad laughed. "Take my wife please!" "I am trying to get serious. I have been searching for the friendships I never had growing up. Sometimes I felt like the labels that people hung on me. I kept wondering why nobody else

wanted the same things I did. It is easy to find sex, but so hard to find love. Especially when the love you want is from another male. That complicates everything. But I believe that friendship is a real category just like marriage is a real category.” "I wouldn't even go that far, you know. They are just social conventions that have become habits over the centuries. Anything mankind has done for centuries appears as real. It is just a habit taught to us since birth," Brad interrupted. "I understand that point of view. Sometimes I wonder how we can talk at all. Everything I believe in you believe is a myth." "Not only a myth, but what you believe is like believing in Santa Claus. That is okay for little kids. And kids building a tree house believe in friendship also. It is just part of growing up in this world. A child needs to hold his father's hand. As he lets go of that hand, he grabs other hands to hold onto. He grabs onto his boyhood friends and talks about being blood brothers for life. It is a myth that only lasts until puberty. Then a whole new hand is held out and a whole new myth develops. A guy now thinks a girl will be a new Santa Claus. Junior high kids talk about love that will never die and it doesn't even last until high school. "You never had a father's love and a friend's love so you have never gone through those stages. You are growing up with the rest of us. You are only twenty years behind the crowd. You have cloaked your immaturity in glowing words, but it is still something that happens in grade school and is over by junior high. I have tried to show you how the world operates. I cannot believe you still hold onto the crap you talk about." "So you don't believe in love at all, then do you?" "I believe in reality. I do not hide from what is true. People are insecure and therefore they form groups to avoid standing by themselves. When you join any group, even if it is a very small group such as marriage, you lose freedom. You are less of a person. I don't believe I need to depend on anyone. I do things with others. I even have sex with others. But love? Get real. In fact, most of the problems come to this world because people form groups.

"Any time you join a group, that group requires defending. The history of the world is the story of one group fighting another group. If it ain't the Hatfields and the McCoys, it is Germany and England. It is all the same. The headlines are filled with national or ethnic groups trying to eliminate each other. Insecure humans band together for security and the next thing you know there is fighting or conflict. Modern society tries to divert loyalty to a group by promoting sports teams. Here we can identify with a group and cheer for its defeat of another group. Sometimes it works, but look at those English soccer matches. They have to literally put fences between the fans to keep them from fighting. That shows how the team on the field is nothing but a substitute for our natural hatred directed at someone who is not part of our little group. "Look at all of the hatred you guys have stirred up on campus. You guys have become renown for no other reason than the fact that you have started a group that is not part of anybody else's group. You are now a rival team. You must either be ridiculed or defeated. They haven't been able to defeat you, so you stand ridiculed. I bet you came here this morning to try to defend your group. You wanted to take me on. You have lost. I have shown you for what you are. Don't talk about love or friendship to me. Talk to me about the growth from the belief in Santa Claus to the belief in freedom. When you are free, there is nobody watching you 'to see if you've been good or not.'" "I guess my next line of defense is that friendship and love are eternal values. They are realities that survive life itself," I said as I tried to change the line of reasoning with Brad. "Okay, I'll grant you one point. If there is anything that survives death, then that is real. But there is no proof that anything survives death except the atoms of our body and those are recycled. But we now know that even this universe is dying. It is going to burn up into one fiery ball. At which point it won't matter much whether you were rich or poor, good or bad. All will disappear. Even any memory of anything you did will be gone. In a material universe there is only one reality, that is my own personal freedom. The only value that is worth defending is the value of the ego that demands satisfaction.

"Show me that something is eternal and I will believe in it. If there is such a thing as a soul, and that friendship survives death, then I would have friends. Even if I had to suffer now for a friend, it wouldn't matter. Anything that built up that friendship would be worth it. If you are going to build a building that is going to last forever you construct it differently than if you only plan to live in it a couple of years. Me, the building I live in on earth is strictly short term. Don't waste time, money, or effort building something you don't need." It was time to go. I left again. I had failed to take the offensive. I came away feeling a little depressed. I mean, this weekend seemed so real. So natural. It was as if when I was helping Bryce, I was participating in something that was more real than nearby Mt. St. Helens. The love that we experience between the three of us created a bond that seemed like more than just randomly selected molecules organized into a bundle called human beings bumping into each other. I mean if we had sex together it could be explained as just two bundles of molecules stimulating each other's hormone center. (But there was no sex.) There was a lot of hard work and a lot of caring for someone who was hurting. But I can see Brad's point, if Bryce is just a temporary manifestation of one life form that soon shall be extinct, then why waste one's time. And if there is nothing eternal, then to use my own good time and freedom to pursue what I want is really the only thing that matters. I cannot accept that. There is something inside of me that says I and all other "I's" are something special and something different from the matter that surrounds us. These material lumps of flesh we call home have been invaded by an alien life form, a soul. I can look inside my friends and see something eternal in them. I believe that. I live for that. I know it to be true. I cannot prove it to anyone. I just don't like the alternatives. *** I ran into Tony in the Commons at lunch. I really didn't run into him, I was hoping to find him. I asked him that even though we don't do our after lunch shower every day any more, if he would join me. I needed a warm, wet friend. Of course you know Tony. He never misses a chance to take his clothes off. We walked back to the dorm together. I told him about Brad and how he really had made me depressed.

We stripped and climbed into the shower. Tony just massaged my back and neck. I just let my feelings talk, "Do you ever wonder why you keep talking to someone? I would like to think I am right and I can convince anyone. It is frustrating to meet not only someone who disagrees with me but prides himself in his disagreement. His, also, is not the emotional rejection by the fundamentalists like Tom, his rejection is an intellectual rejection by someone who is intelligent and rational. There is no way Brad will ever be my friend or anyone's friend for that matter. Why do I keep trying? Why do I feel like I have failed? Why must I always have one more friend?" Tony just listened. We just stood there letting the hot water relax us. I thought of my friends. After about fifteen minutes I turned around and just hugged and hugged Tony. I started crying on his shoulder. It just kind of dawned on me that what I and my three friends were experiencing was something out of the past. Maybe Brad was right. This world has passed friendship by. We are all on our own. I am living in a different world from those on campus. I wouldn't trade my friends for anything. Yet I knew the forces of our society were set against us staying friends. I expressed some of the above to Tony. He said, "I am the richest man in the world. What could possibly change me? There is nothing out there I want more than what I already have." I could understand that I wasn't just crying for Brad, I was crying for a world that I didn't fit into. A world I may never fit into. The future looked bleak. I mean, I didn't want to end up living in a little cement-block shack like Bryce. I was scared. I came to college searching for the pot of gold and I had found it. I just didn't know that the path that led to that gold was a one-way path. There was no going back without leaving the gold. My dreams had come true. Great. But with every choice there were consequences. For the first time I was really seeing the consequences of my choice. I had somehow figured I could live in two worlds. I had decided that having close friends was more important than anything else in the world. But I never thought I would have to give up "anything else in the world."

My studies had become more and more boring as I became more involved with my friends. The studies were preparing me for a world I did not wish to join. This weekend I saw Bryce with all the time in the world to have friends and read books and not have to worry about deadlines that make no sense. My life is just one big schedule all planned out by someone else. I try to work things I enjoy in here and there, but the deadlines are always in the back of my mind. This weekend as I drove away from school, I realized I was feeling free for the first time in months. I felt a burden lift. I had taken a whole weekend to be with two friends and said "fuck it" to every deadline for two days. Maybe leaving was a mistake. I had tasted a world away from school. I knew I would continue to stumble along. I just had to find a reason to keep memorizing lists for tests for professors for ever. Maybe I had found my dream come true too soon. Maybe I had to enlarge my dream. All I know right now is the world I see at school is not the world I want to live in. In Brad, I see what the world is becoming. That is not the world I want to live in either now or in the future. I can see the Cascade Mountains from my dorm window. The snowy peaks and the dark green forests call out. Sometimes I just stare out at them as the morning sun is reflected back to my mind. It is as if I can hear the mountains calling to me. But trees and mountains can't talk and hug. I will stay here. I hate it here. I must keep the blinds on my windows closed.

Week 9 Day 3 Tuesday. After yesterday, I looked forward to meeting with our little group of reality seekers this afternoon after classes. Steve put a pot of coffee on. At two p.m. Jason and Tony arrived. I was excited. More than my usual excitement. I wanted something that seemed real. I wanted assurance that we were not just a modern version of a monastery. Were we just four monks trying to hold onto the past? I needed to talk. I needed my friends. I know this much--I am heading in a direction that leads away from the American dream. I know I cannot walk that direction alone. Tony said he wanted to talk first. Steve passed out the cups of hot, black coffee and Tony started. "This last weekend

started me thinking about security. I am discovering that the only security I can find in this world is personal. To chase after other forms of security will not work. It is chasing after a promise that cannot be kept. I am learning to trust you guys and my God. I am becoming more and more secure. Every other form of security can fail. We live in a world that is falling apart. Anything I try to lean on for support can be moved. Our commitments to each other are based on love, not on sex. It can't be moved. "Every other form of security requires a defense. You have in some way to protect it. Trust is invisible and is not subject to the laws of decay. False security only frustrates. True security provides rest. It is secure and cannot be taken away. Maybe because we were all psychological orphans, we can see the futility of things, or images providing security. All our futures are uncertain; our commitments are certain. I explained to Bryce this weekend that trust is more dependable than sex. I think he had already learned that the hard way "Our hormones sometimes fool us. We get the itch and think it demands another person. It doesn't. It demands release. Because that release is so exciting we often give it more power than it really has. When we associate that release with another person, we think that person who satisfied one need will satisfy all of our other needs. Love and security will never be found in sex. It is the other way around. Once you have love and security in marriage, sex can build on that foundation. It won't provide the foundation. "For me, friendship is also based on love and commitment. It is just that the expression of friendship doesn't lead to sexual expression. But it can be very physical. I know guys in the dorm confuse our physical expression of friendship. We know otherwise. I tried to show Bryce this weekend how to be physical without being sexual. The important thing is to realize that friendship is a real happening. It is not just mutual back rubbing. Two guys who are friends are actually entering into a real world. Once you regard friendship as simply custom or convention you lose security. If it ain't eternal, it ain't real. "I figure the same thing applies to marriage. It is an actual cosmic, eternal event. It is part of creation itself. It is not just the public announcement of the intention to have sex

in a socially accepted way. Eric has told me about Brad and his views about the future of this world. The world is material and all reality is material. The material can never provide eternal categories. Love, friendship, and security have no future in Brad's world. Hormones and orgasms do. No matter how hi-tech his world is, it is still a shadow of the eternal." I sat there amazed. I couldn't believe how much Tony had been thinking. Maybe living in the same room with Jason was having a good affect. Anyway you see it, I sure love that kid. He helped me understand my feelings with Brad. It wasn't the battle of past versus future as Brad sees it, it was a question of the temporary versus the permanent. Jason was next to bring up what was going on in his life. He was starting to talk more. When I first met him he was very talkative person, but it was all abstract. I never really got to know him as a person with a history. He is starting to trust all of us a lot more. I can see as he talks it is still hard for him. Jason started saying, "As I have told you guys, I have had two sexual encounters. Both acts had such negative consequences that I was left with a fear of sex. That's why I have been reluctant to talk much about sex, or even to beat off with anybody watching. "It just seems like sex is nothing but trouble. Even just beating off has given us a bad reputation. Sometimes I wonder why sex is such a powerful urge. Why is it so hard to control? I can't believe it is just hormones. Also, it seems that no matter what we do, how we handle sex becomes part of our permanent identity. I wanted to be asexual, but it is just not possible. I couldn't do that. The more I tried to ignore sex, the more powerful the urge became. It has been a difficult lesson for me to learn, but no matter what we do with our cocks, it will form our personality. There are no monasteries in modern America. Just look at all the trouble priests are having in this day and age. "So I have come to the conclusion, I must deal with sex and all that it entails. Sometimes I think sex contributes more to character building than it does to children." "Maybe you better explain that," Tony laughed.

"What we fail to realize is how right and wrong get totally mixed together into one drink. When I was in the woods in camp with P.J. there was right and wrong all mixed together in one experience. That is why it is so hard to understand some situations. I have learned that God is patient with us. I expected Him to zap me for my indiscretions, but I would have been totally afraid to ever have another friend. Actually some fundamentalists react that way. They fail to see the good that is often mixed with the bad. They reject the whole drink. "There was so much good that happened to me at camp. I had my first close friend. I trusted somebody for the first time. I found someone I could talk to. It was unfortunate that all that good got mixed in with the bad. Those who are self-righteous and proud, they only see the good in any of their actions. They do not see the evil that is mixed in with even their righteous acts. They do not see the evil pretensions, hidden motives, vain posturing, and pride that often goes with those good acts. "I only, at first, saw the evil in my act with P.J. I couldn't see the good that surrounded that evil act. When good and bad are bonded together in one act, it is very difficult to separate at times. If God would condemn us for every evil act, we would always be under condemnation. If we should feel God's good pleasure with every good thing we do, we would always feel his good pleasure. That is why it is sometimes so hard to under stand God's dealing with us. He is leading us on to maturity. He is training us to know right from wrong. He doesn't want us always looking over our shoulder fearing his reactions. "On the surface it is easy to say that sex is always wrong with a guy and always right with a girl. And it is right to say that. But there can be more evil involved in a man having sex with his wife than was involved between me and P.J. I don't want to justify what I did, but I do want to accept all the good that happened to me there. "I had learned that I can be loved. I can be accepted. I am not ugly. Friendship is possible. I learned then that close friendship is possible, and if it happened once, it can happen again. I learned hope. You see, good came out of that event. I thought the only thing involved was my hormones. But I learned ideas about having friends and what to do and what not to do. At the time, I condemned myself. I wondered why God let me live.

God saw the good that was involved in that night. I saw my failure. He saw the person I was going to become. "Also, I think He understood more than me, that I acted not out of rebellion for His law. I was striving for the good that God had created. God created friendship. I was longing for that reality. I fell short. Real short. Sure, I sinned. But I sinned striving for the good. God is much more understanding of that kind of sin than the sin that acts to promote self, pride, and rebellion." Steve sat there crying. He had put his coffee down and was just sobbing. He had carried so much condemnation around inside of himself. His church only taught him how to see evil in him self. He was never taught to see the good that God was working out. He lived in hiding from others. All his life he felt everyone else was perfect and he was warped. He could never accept himself because he could never see the good that God was working out in him. Tony walked over and sat down next to Steve. Tony just sat there crying along with Steve. And of course, giving Steve a steady massage on his back. One thing we all had in common was the idea that we were no good. We were rejected in one way or another. That rejection left a scar on us that made us feel evil in every act we did. I have recorded some acts in this diary that I am sure offend some. But out of those acts came some good. It would have been easy to withdraw into workaholism, or heterosexual behavior, or any other accepted lifestyle. But we were not scared off by our mistakes, we all kept striving for friendship. I am the richest guy in the world.

Week 9 Day 4 Wednesday. I ran into Tom in the restroom after lunch today. I tried to strike up a conversation. I think that is impossible. I guess I am too dirty in his eyes to warrant any conversation. I think I shall devise a plan for seeing if I can put a crack in that self-righteous exterior he carries with him everywhere he goes. That will be my project. I will see if I can get him to experience a genuine human emotion that hasn't been first

filtered through his fundamentalist censor that lives inside him. I will do it. There is a certain intensity with our recent afternoon meetings. We used to meet occasionally. Mostly not planned. We just hung out together. Maybe because the quarter is coming to a close, we all feel like changes are about to occur. Tony has lost the financial support of his father. Steve isn't sure his parents will continue to help him meet expenses. Our group may no longer be intact come the first of the year. There is a sense we have to hurry and develop roots into each other's soul while there is still time. I started our sharing time by talking about my feelings about Tom and his fundamentalist friends. I want to provoke some kind of confrontation. Steve said there was something more important he wanted to get off his chest. Steve started, “Yesterday's opening up by Jason really got me thinking. You see, sometimes the desire to have sex with a guy comes over me. I get super horny and super lonely at the same time. I don't know why it happens. I don't even know when it will happen. It is like a switch is turned on. "I had always thought this desire only meant one thing. It meant I must act on this feeling. After all, to have desire and not act on it is foolishness, right? Isn't that what Freud taught us all? I now see that there is more to a desire than the obvious and there can be two different desires in the same emotion. I can see that this emotion in me serves not one but two desires. By saying 'no' to sex I am saying 'yes' to friendship. It is not a question of suppressing desire. It is a question of saying no to one desire so another desire can grow. "You see, I have identified with my desires, not with my choices. But character is made by choices, not by trying to discover who I am by pursuing feelings. And acting on those feelings brings us no closer to what we really want. I have always thought emotional desires were more natural than mental desires. "I have been told that obeying mental desires as opposed to emotional desires makes you a hypocrite. But I am learning that mental desires are only hypocritical if they are someone else's mental desires. As long as my choices are my own choices, I am

being real. I don't have to fear my emotions anymore. I can experience feelings without the fear they will take over. Sometimes my cock would get hard at the wrong times. I had the idea that my cock had a better idea of who I was than my mind or choices knew. "I carried so much guilt and so much shame because my emotions were not perfect. I thought because they were not perfect I was a twisted person. I was so lonely for friendship, and yet my hard cock would betray my conscious thoughts. I withdrew into the shadows of the world for fear of being seen in the light. "Once in high school, I was hiking with a friend. We felt so close as we walked and talked in the woods. We came across a lake. We went skinny dipping. My cock got so hard I was afraid I was going to have to stay in the water all day. The rest of the day, I withdrew into myself. My friend, Lenny, said to me, "What's got into you?" I said I was just tired. But the truth was I was ashamed. I felt guilty. I faked having to take a crap so I could beat off and quiet down my active cock." After Steve's honesty, my anger at the fundamentalists seemed minor. I still wanted to get even. But the whole situation was put into perspective. Steve had grown up as a fundamentalist. He carried that pain inside of him for years. I had a hatred for Tom and all he represented. In Steve, I saw that there was probably pain inside Tom also. That pain was covered over by that righteous, angry front. If the amount of the anger was equal to the amount of pain, then Tom was one hurting person.

Week 9 Day 5 Thursday Everybody is off on various duties this afternoon, I am left alone with my laptop. I have decided to look back over my life and think about the changes having close friends has made. For the most part, my memories are of being with others and yet being alone. Sometimes I wonder now if life can actually be lived alone. With a friend, a cup of coffee takes on new meaning. Things that I've totally ignored, like the smells of Fall, or sunsets, or the joy of accomplishment are now exciting.

So much of life is designed to be experienced with others. Alone, I am left to my hormones. When I am with a friend, I rent a good drama or comedy video. When I was alone, I wanted something that would stimulate me. A good scary movie or a skin flick would do. Also, I am sure that without friends, I would have never come to believe in God. The church I grew up in was cold and formal and impersonal. There were no close relationships at church, just people putting in their time. The same was true of home, school, and other activities. I did them, but I was just putting in my time. Yet the universe is personal. There is a material structure, but standing behind all of those atoms is a personal being who creates personality. Now I had spent my whole life experiencing the atomic structure of this world. It was a lot like work, school, and church. It was dead. And of course, if this world is dead, then God is dead also. My parents, it seemed, merely went through the motions of living. No excitement. No joy. No disappointment. No anticipation. Just more tomorrow’s just like today. High school was no different. The media portray youth as alive. If seeing how many girls you get into the sack is alive, then youth are alive. If living and dying with every school function is being alive. Then okay. If feeling good for a couple of hours over getting an "A" is living, then we were alive. Maybe we felt alive when we made first team. At least when we told others we could claim to be alive. But the truth comes out in what we did with our free time. We would drive up and down main street. What were we doing? We were killing time. Oh yeah, we hung out at the Burger Hut. We laughed at things that were sometimes funny. We were told by adults over and over again that these were the best years of our lives. We were expected to live it up. We all had to keep up the front of being young and carefree. I acted that way. I didn't know why. It was just something I was supposed to do. I hated being told how good I had it or how easy life was for me or how ungrateful I was. Hell, all day long was just one routine after another. Some I knew resorted to drugs or alcohol

or various forms of sex. After all, how else do you wake up the dead inside your own soul. We used to watch "Night of the Living Dead" over and over. I think the reason is we identified with those corpses walking around like zombies. Some guys I knew got destructive just like those creatures. Why? I guess it's no fun to be a zombie. At least when you're destroying something, you don't feel like a fucking robot. Between after school jobs, school, home, and church our whole life was one routine programmed by someone else. At times I felt just like those guys who just drove around Friday nights randomly destroying property. It wasn't vandalism. It was a protest. But the protest was done anonymously. We all had to return to the system the next morning. I think the parents would have been surprised to discover what their good kids were doing on Friday nights. Hell, nothing mattered anyway. Something changed for me. For all of the imperfections of my meeting with Bryce, I discovered that there was something personal inside another's grouping of atoms. When I slowly discovered that this world was created to be enjoyed in fellow ship with friends and with God, I discovered a world with meaning. Maybe if there is one question in America today, it is this: how can life be made worthwhile without love? It is the great American experiment. Millions of solitary Americans searching for something that will make them feel alive. We do our routine and dream for the routine of the weekend when we attempt to break that routine. We routinely fail. I look back at last weekend. When Tony and I were cleaning up Bryce's kitchen, I was more alive than I ever remember being in my first eighteen years. Tony would sing silly songs, almost childish songs, and we all joined in. We laughed. We sang harmonies and different parts. We added words. We threw water on each other. We sat in the middle of the floor, drinking coffee, leaning on each other, and admiring our great work. We were alive. More alive than all those stupid things I used to do to make myself feel alive. Love has a strange side effect. Love is shallow unless that love is going to last. There is a reason all people talk of love as being eternal. The very nature of love demands eternity. Temporary cannot be called love. We don't always know why, we just know it cannot. Even our fairy tales demand that the lovers live happily ever after.

When a friend and I share life and pizza together, it truly becomes heaven. And that sharing demands an eternity. If that experience doesn't last forever, then reason demands intense emotional satisfaction in its stead. Meaning enters into life from eternity. Without forever, all we have left is our hormones. If my friend were not a personality that lives forever, then we might as well be getting stoned or be fucking each other. Real life cannot be enjoyed without eternity. When a society banishes eternity from its public forum, it also banishes love and meaning. Even past cultures that haven't believed in God have had to somehow incorporate eternity into their culture. Life descends into chaos if all there is what you see. My eyes can never be satisfied with just seeing, my taste with just eating, my mind with just knowing facts. Love must be part of all of these activities or we eat just to get fat, we know just enough to get on Jeopardy, and we see enough to watch skin videos. If there is one change friendship has brought into my life it is contentment or satisfaction. I never could get enough of anything I wanted. It didn't satisfy. I always needed more. Life was like those magician's glasses that no matter how much you pour into them, they never fill up. That is how I felt. Nothing satisfied. I became desperate. That led to me taking chances. That led to where I am now. I risked all of the good things I have to enjoy the friendship of others. This love is not cheap. If we were to spend the time we do with each other studying, we would be great students. We probably will never be great or highly successful. It is hard to strive for more and more, when you already have everything you could possibly want. The question I ask, how can I pursue the American dream when I prefer current reality to that dream? I stay in school, but it remains one of the last great imposed routines in my life.

Week 9 Day 6 Friday

I ran into Tom again today in the restroom. He started taking a piss in the urinal next to me. I looked over at him and said, "Can I peek?" "You're disgusting." "No, you are," I answered. The best way to confront a fundamentalist is to attack. It throws them off guard. They survive by attacking others from a position of purity. Attack their purity. "You walk around here with a superior attitude like you are a god." "My church teaches me that I am a little God. When I became a Christian, I became one with God. That means I am a part of the divinity." "Does that mean you no longer masturbate?" I asked and he quickly finished, buttoned his fly and walked over to the sink. I followed. "You're ignoring my question. Are you capable of being honest?" "I don't think I have to discuss anything with you. You are evil and do not understand things spiritual. The Bible says I am not to cast my pearls before swine." "You're avoiding my question." "Okay, I have periods of weakness. But I repent. I am not like you and your gang that enjoys it." "Does periods of weakness mean you masturbate." "Sometimes." "How often is that?" "It varies." "How about a number? Like how many times per week?" "Never more than seven or eight times. But I always repent and feel remorse for my sin."

"Is that why you are so miserable all the time?" "We live in sinful times. We live in an evil nation. We are surrounded by sinners. There is not much to be cheerful about," Tom said as we walked out the restroom together. I followed him to his room. I asked to come in. He said I could come in until his roommate got back. "Don't want to be seen with me, huh?" "If you want the truth, yes?" "Why is that?" "Because you represent temptation." "I don't understand. I would like to hear more." "School is a very tempting place. Sin lurks in every corner to entice us to stray. I must concentrate on what is right. I must not associate with sinners. I study. I go to church. I spend time with my roommate reading the Bible together. I must not allow my mind to become distracted. You are a distraction." "How do you think that I am to trap you?" "For one thing. You encourage feelings. I hear all of that laughter that goes on in you room. I can only imagine what goes on behind that locked door of yours. I see how you share a shower with Tony. If you do that in public, I can only guess what you do in private." "So tell me what you imagine?" "I think you guys are a bunch of fags." "Because of our friendship?" "Because you are not ashamed of our naked bodies. Somebody even said you guys sleep in the nude in the same bed. That is wrong." "Does the Bible tell you that?"

"It tells us not to lust or to tempt ourselves." "So you think you would be tempted if you slept with me in the nude?" Tom got red in the face. He started to lose his composure. I could actually see his hands start to shake. "My roommate is coming back in a minute. I think you better go." I left. But when I got into the hall and I noticed no one was around, I went back to Tom's door. I put my ear to the door. I could hear the springs of his bed bouncing. I was so tempted to knock. But I knew I would be met with more denial. I feel so sorry for that guy. I know he will be upset the rest of the day because he fell into temptation. He will condemn himself. He will study extra hard to punish himself for being a sinner. And what's worse, he will probably be that way the rest of his life. Steve came back to the room and I told him about my confrontation with Tom. He tried to explain Tom to me. "The first thing you have to understand is that Fundamentalists are angry. But they are not allowed to show anger. They must redirect that anger at some sin in holy anger. They are really angry at them selves. They want so badly to be perfect. They fail. They either have to deny that failure or they become guilty and ashamed of themselves. The easiest way to alleviate their guilt is to attack all others who fail in the same area where they are weak. "Strange things happen when you deny part of yourself. For one, you cannot live in the real world, of real people and of real problems. They develop a fantasy world. This world is the church. The church becomes their haven from a world they cannot deal with. The church sets up a few commandments to keep. Fundamentalists don't kill, don't commit adultery, aren't gay, don't smoke or drink, and they maintain a smiling public image. "Remember now, this is important. They must at all times protect the image of being perfect and holy. They must be worthy of God's love and others' acceptance. They cannot laugh at them selves, they can't be silly, they can't admit any shortcomings, and they cannot fail at anything. This life can be very frustrating. "They feel safe in the church away from temptation. In the

church they are not challenged and they protect each other's false front. It is a Disneyland of false problems and false solutions, where everyone pretends to be happy and joyful all the time. The worst thing you can do to a fundamentalist is to challenge their world. I can almost assure you certainly that Tom is very angry and very lonely. He and his fellow believers all sit in church and are religious observers. The minister performs the various church rituals. They all nod assent. Afterwards, they all return to their antiseptic lifestyles. The fact that they have put up with the tension of church for an hour has cleansed them. "Another thing to know about fundamentalists. You can learn so much about them by what they are angry at. The reason I think Tom is lonely is that he is so angry toward our friendship. It really bothers him. In his loneliness he craves companionship. The craving is so strong he fears he is gay. Now the ultimate sin for a fundamentalist is sexual sin. One reason is they refuse to talk about it. They are very angry at sexual sins. The result is that they end up committing more than their fair share of sexual sins. I hear that when they are away from home on business trips or vacation, they are no different than anybody else. One town held a fundamentalist convention and the sales of X-rated materials were up dramatically while they were in town. "You may not have realized it, but you acted as reality to me when we met. I lived in the world of my parents and my church. I came to school still living in that world. I was safe. But there was something honest and real about you that thrilled me. I had a hard time admitting it, but I totally enjoyed just being in the same room as you. You drew me into your inner self and opened up around me. "You introduced me into a different world when you looked into my eyes. I knew you were not just looking at me, but you were opening up your soul to my eyes. I had never experienced another person's naked soul before. It was both totally exciting and totally scary. I cannot tell you how afraid I was at first. You see, my first reaction to your totally open personality was to become very horny. I immediately went from masturbating occasionally to doing it as often as my cock would respond. I didn’t know whether it was you or me who was the pervert. "Once I was able to admit to myself that I was lonely, there

was no going back. I couldn't go back to the superficial smile and constant talk of being holy and perfect. I knew myself and my fantasies. I couldn't go on lying. I could see honesty in you. I wanted that. The superficial church routine became death. I had tasted life. I came to college alive spiritually. I did know God. But I was dead as a person. You came to college alive as a person but you were dead to God. Together we have become alive both physically and spiritually. I thank God so much for you. I know how difficult it was for me to change. I think that is the reason you don't see many fundamentalists change. Even when they fail as television evangelists have, they hurry back into the protection of the church world. "If there is one characteristic of the fundamentalist world it is fear. They fear themselves, they fear each other, they fear God. But most of all, they fear sin. They fear sin as if there were no cure. They fear trying anything for fear of failure. In our case, if I would have feared going too far in our friendship, we would never have become friends. I not only had to trust God to lead me into friendship, but to forgive my trespasses. And trespasses is a good word. It is like crossing into a forbidden zone. I knew that if you and I in our love for each other were to trespass, God would forgive, restore, and teach me the proper boundaries. I think He also knew that I wanted a Christian friend more than anything in the world, and I wouldn't do anything to hurt Him or my friend. I wasn't perfect. I could admit that. That is why I was so frightened. "Now you see the world I have come out of. This is the world Tom is still apart of. The world Tom is in is no different than the world of the inner-city gang member. The group provides one's whole identity. To leave that group for another group is exceedingly difficult. You not only have to want to leave your old group, but you have to believe there is another group out there that will accept you and provide for the same needs. There is a time when you are not in either world. For me I was so tempted to run back to the fundamentalist world as you and I had early start up problems. "I guess I won't hate Tom anymore. At least not as much," I said. "I can see that he is in a world that has trapped him. He is locked into a lifetime of misery and disappointment. He will probably never know the freedom of totally being honest and being trusted by another person. Even his relationship with God will

be one of oppression, not one of freedom. It is a sad world." I spent the rest of the night playing cards. I had a good night. There is one fundamentalist in our regular foursome. It is strange. When he plays cards, he becomes a different person. He enters into a real world where he laughs and yells and gets angry and gives high fives. After the game he reverts back into another world. I have this theory that the card game is a crack into his artificial world. Sooner or later he will come out just as Steve has. Once a guy has tasted a little bit of the real world, it is only a matter of time.

Week 9 Day 7 Saturday Steve got up early and went home for the weekend. He said he wanted to try to talk to his parents. They have consigned him to the world of sinners. He wanted to explain himself to them. From what he has told me of them, I don't give him much hope. I can't wait for Sunday night to hear the results. Also, Tony came in this morning and wanted to borrow my car. He is taking Jason to meet Bryce. I guess he couldn't wait until next weekend. You know what that means? My first weekend alone since that first weekend here. *** I have been thinking more about my friends. I have noticed one thing: we don't fight or argue much. If you watch many movies, you know that love is supposed to grow out of arguing. I never could see much reason yelling at somebody you love. It makes for good drama. It makes for lousy friends. Also, we all come from backgrounds of hurt. Why would we want to hurt another. We know what pain feels like. There have been times when one of us will get on each other's nerves. We have learned to keep one thing in mind. I also get on their nerves. So when we mention anything it is with a sense of humility for we know we all live in glass houses. Especially us. I think of Bryce and last weekend. I had to encourage him to express his opinion. He has been broken. He knows rejection. He knows he is not the world's greatest anything. He has learned

to appreciate another without expecting perfection. Of course, we did talk about our differences. I have devised a formula (not to be followed rigidly) that one should express praise and thank fullness in about a fifty to one ratio to criticism. That might be a little low. There is so much negative talk everywhere I go, I am thinking of raising the number to seventy-five to one. There is another thing that has brought unity to our group. We are united in the fight of a common enemy--our past. We all want to do things differently. We all have been jerks. We are aware of ourselves and our weaknesses. We are also aware that the climate in America today does not favor close friends. It is not easy being human in a world that is regimented for business and success. We are all expected to move wherever jobs may take us. Success is our god and we will leave all and follow that god. Abraham, in the Bible, left all to follow his God. We do the same but we leave behind our friends and our community. One more thing we have in common. We are all a little afraid of our egos. We know how easy is to destroy what we love. We all have been driven away by those who said they loved us. Our constant prayer is that we should not hurt one another. I think because we each know that the other guy really loves us, we can handle situations that do not work smoothly. Rather than imagining bad motives on our friend's part, we assume the best. You would be surprised how much that helps. While on the subject I have to include one more topic that we have talked a lot about. We all could have easily turned our friendship into something sexual. We all know what temptation is. We even hear some say that if it is in your genes, then that is what you are. We have decided not to buy into that argument. One thing that makes us human is our choices. Animals have instincts. What separates us is our free will. Take that away from us and we have lost something very important. We as a group have chosen friendship. Our society applauds those who triumph over adverse circumstances. We regard our decision to work out a close, intimate and very physical friend ship in the midst of temptations as one such triumph over one's past, and circumstances. Easy and automatic choices are not choices at all. The thing that exalts us as humans is the ability to take the high road. That high road for us has been pursuing a chaste view of male intimacy.

I know a lot will say that we are destroying our true selves. We can only experience real life by giving into our true nature. Whatever is programmed into us demands expression. To not give expression to those urges only results in frustration and a life lived in rejection of reality. We don't feel that way. We feel that we are all born with a disease that loves to do what's wrong. That disease is not only natural, we learn how to give expression to that twisted nature through the training of our parents and society. We are learning this disease acts to destroy love. You do not have to be an Einstein to realize that. The world we see around us believes that garbage and it just doesn't work. We are learning to give positive expression to love because we refuse to let that disease have its way. We fight it. We help each other fight it. The Bible says the disease is not incur able. We have come to base our lives on that principle. We do not feel denied. We are the happiest guys in this whole world. Really. Are we at times tempted to engage in gay sex? Yes. But we are also tempted to do just about every other evil at one time or another. When I am tempted to kill--I resist. When I am tempted to steal--I resist. When I am tempted to lie--I resist. When I am tempted to hate--I resist. [Except in Tom's case.] When I am tempted to kill myself--I resist. When I am tempted to use drugs or alcohol--I resist. When I am tempted to homosexual sex--I also resist. We have all pledged ourselves to this lifestyle. Our friendship has reached a higher level because of this commitment. In the same way, football can only be played if there are out-of-bounds lines. Take away the lines and the game becomes meaningless. The same applies to every area of life. We have learned to play friendship inside the lines. It's a great game. *** Boredom got the best of me. I wandered next door to Tom's room. He was there alone also, studying. I asked if I could come in. He looked very uncomfortable, but said sure. "I just thought I would pick your brain a bit. I would like to know about what you believe," I started.

"Because you want to be like me?" he asked. "No, because I can't figure you out." "What can't you figure out?" "For one thing, why do you call me and my friends, 'The Fag Four'?" "Well, that is just the name some guys in dorm gave your group. It seemed to fit." "Do you think we are gay?" "Let's just say you are different enough to warrant attention.” "What do you thin of gays?" I asked. "They are under the judgment of God." "Doesn't the Bible teach we are all under God's judgment?" "But gays are under special judgment." "Isn't all sin under special judgment?" "You make it sound like lying and homosexuality are equal." "It probably wouldn't hurt for you to think that way. It is probably closer to the truth than you would like to admit." "Well, it isn't just a question of sin, you know," Tom countered. "I can't wait to hear this." "It is a question of belonging to a proper Christian Church. A person must attend a Bible-believing Church. Christianity is public worship. Fellowship among Christians is public praise and worship together." "It sounds to me like you equate being a Christian with someone who likes to sit and be bored for an hour or so."

"Well, it can be boring. But that just serves to drive out those who don't really believe." "You don't want unbelievers attending church?" "That would only serve to bring sin into the church. I mean we have services designed for the non-Christian. But worship services are for Christians. It is our service to God. An unbeliever cannot serve God." "What do you get out of church?" "I feel I am making a public identification of my lifestyle. We all must identity with a group. I live in a group that has the Bible as its standard. This group performs the things that God wants. He wants us to gather and sing praises. We are then obedient servants. My loyalty is to the church I attend. I do not join groups outside of the Church." "Do you have intimate friends in you church?" I continued questioning trying to get inside of Tom. "Fellowship is not intimacy. Fellowship is belonging to the church. We are expected to have intimacy inside of marriage when that day comes." "Don't you and your roommate feel close?" "We have devotions at night together. We are reading a book about committing ourselves to God. We read a page each night at bedtime. We then pray for a minute or two and head to bed." "Is that all? I mean, do you ever just cry on each other's shoulder? Do you ever give each other back rubs?" "I really don't know what that has to do with what I believe. We support each other in our beliefs. We talk about church and school problems. We eat and study together. We figure if we do things together we won't get involved in the wrong group." "Am I the wrong group?"

"Not right now, but I wouldn't want to be alone with you and your three friends. I don't do the kind of things you guys do. You act like being close friends or whatever you call it is all important. It's not that big of a deal. I am here to get an education, maybe get a wife, and then move on to a job and to participate in a church somewhere. There really isn't time for getting to know someone really well. After all, in four years we'll all be moving on. Even you guys will probably all head off in different directions." "I wouldn't bet on it, guy," I countered. I knew what he was talking about, but the thought was too scary to admit. I was so much committed to my friends I couldn't imagine leaving them for any reason. "Don't you ever get lonely?" I continued probing. "Not in the sense you think. I have my church. I know that I can always go to a meeting and be surrounded by other Christians. When I am in church, I feel I am part of something important. I feel I belong. I am not challenged. I am not tempted to sin. I am supported in my beliefs. Sure I long for the end of this world when the sin that separates us all will be destroyed." "You don't think sin can be conquered in this life?" "No, definitely not. We live in evil times and are surrounded by evil people. We must constantly keep sin in check so we don't become like the world. My job is to hold on until the world comes to end. I pray every night that the world will come to an end before morning." "It doesn't sound like you are in love with life." "I don't know what you mean. These are sinful times. I am not to love the world. It is too dangerous to enjoy life. There are too many temptations. I must protect myself. I cannot allow anything to keep me from heaven. I am to do my duty. I am to marry and train up a family. I am to be an honest worker. I am to be loyal to a local fellowship. I don't think a person should get too involved with life. It is too dangerous. Any undue excitement could lead to sin. I think you guys, even if you are not gay, are leaving yourself open to sin by fostering an intimacy that is reserved for heaven. It is fearful to try and experience heaven here on earth."

*** I think I had finally started to figure out this guy. His religion is one of escape. His religion is like one of those forts you see in a John Wayne western movie. The church is to gather behind those walls and close the door to ward off attacks of the pagans. If he had enough power, he would put all evil people on reservations. But he and his people do not have that power, so they must wait for the end. He is frightened of know ing himself and knowing others. He sees only sin and temptation in such an effort. His version of Christianity is not one of facing sin and gaining victory, but of hiding for fear of having to face an evil self or evil friend. That only leads to defeat. I don't think Tom's religion is any different from any other religion. He has a system that explains the world. He has a group that helps him through birth, marriage, and death. He has a code of behavior he must conform to. It is all very external. There is no vision of a beautiful life right now. He dreams of money and success but doesn't call it by that name. He calls it rewards and blessings, but that is his only real enjoyment. He has the same hedonistic goals that non-Christians have. He just wants to fulfill those goals in ways his church approves. He is so afraid of sin, both in others and in himself, that he lives in a self-imposed prison. Calling the church and its rules fellowship doesn't change the name of the game. He is like the person who is so afraid of crime that he builds a large fence around his property, puts bars on his windows, and ventures out only when necessary. That home is a prison. Tom lives in a prison. He has bars over his eyes. He has locks on his heart. He has shuttered his mind. He is locked up for life. No wonder he longs for the end of the world. As I study here on a quiet Saturday night, I realize why our group is such a threat to Tom and others like him. We live in a different world than the one he lives in. There is a confidence that sin need not be feared. We can be alive and experience emotions and life without being overwhelmed. We are not afraid of the consequences of our commitment. We are willing to pay the price either in rejection or poverty. Tom also fears those last two items. Rejection and poverty are signs of God's disapproval. He must work hard not to be found wanting. I could never live

like that. The love, joy, and peace we experience is worth more than anything.

ELEVEN CHAPTER

Week 10 (The last week of classes.) Sunday Day 1

I spent last night studying. I haven't done that in a long time. I felt like a new freshman all over again last night. The dorm was full of the usual Saturday night excitement. By now everyone has their usual weekend plans. I normally fall into the same pattern. This weekend I am without my three friends. I had no group to which I could involve myself. I went to bed early. The only problem--I woke up early. It is sure quiet on Sunday morning in the dorm. I missed waking up early and crawl ing into a friend's bed and just being touched. I am amazed how quickly my memories return of the pain of last summer. After graduation, I was surprised how fast the senior class just seemed to disappear. By August I felt like I was the only one left in town. I remember going to the Burger Hut one Saturday and it had been taken over by a new crowd of funny dressing young kids. I was eighteen and already a victim of a generation gap. A new generation was taking over. They acted silly and talked about things that sounded a lot less mature than when I was their age. Even the new kids who had bought their first car this summer had taken over the good cruising spots. I don't think I ever felt more lonely than that last weekend at home. I still remember my feelings. Those feelings returned this morning. I feel totally naked. I have always been friendly with as many as possible in the dorm. But I didn't realize how shallow that friendliness was until I tried to talk to one of those fellow students. There was nothing to say except the usual talk about finals week, going home for Christmas, and wondering whether it will snow. How shallow. I need a hug. I have got to get out of this place. *** [Six hours later.] I decided this morning to just get out for a time. I went to a Denny’s for breakfast. I sat at the counter by myself. The waitress asked if I was just passing through Seattle. I guess that is the only reason a young guy would be all alone. I nodded 'yes' and kept on eating. I didn't care to talk. An older, well-dressed man sat down next to me and ordered. He threw a fifty on the counter and asked if I needed a ride. I wondered if I looked like a guy looking for professional companionship. I said I was on my way to church. That shut him up. He took his order when it arrived and walked to a booth.

I next decided to go to the Northgate Mall. I got there before it opened. I was surrounded by a bunch of old people walking the mall for exercise. I bought a cup of coffee and sat on a bench to watch the crowd. As the stores started rolling up their linked bars, I went to a book store to look around. I found myself attracted to the sex books. It is funny how those books have such an appeal when a guy is lonely. I noticed a very over-weight high school kid back in the corner reading the same kind of books. It made me feel ugly. I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for myself. I left for the rest of the mall. I walked around. I tried saying hello to some guys about my age. They all gave me a dirty look. I felt ugly again. I felt like the lonely businessman who tried to pick me up this morning. Except, I didn't have a fifty to buy any companionship. I got scared. If I would have had a lot of money, I think I would have tried to buy a hug. I think even a professional hug would have felt good about now. As you can see, it was a great day. I stopped off and bought a Penthouse magazine. I returned to the dorm. I took my clothes off, climbed into bed and 'read' the magazine. I was still lonely. *** Several hours later Steve returned. When he walked into the door, I jumped up from my studies. I ran across the room and grabbed him, held him off the floor, hugged him like crazy, and finally threw him on the bed. I threw my self beside him. I think he was a little shocked. I explained my day to him. I then asked him how his weekend with his parents went. Actually, as soon as I calmed down I could tell it hadn't gone too well. He didn't respond to my hugs like he normally did. But I was too horny for friendship to notice at first. "It was one tough weekend," Steve started out. We were both still laying on his bed. We were facing each other and I had my right arm on his side. "I couldn't believe how hostile my parents were toward me. I think I have become in my parents eyes either stupid, rebellious, sinful, or evil. I didn't realize how phony our family was until I went off to school and got to know people outside our church. The whole basis of our family was not to make waves or be different. Just blend in with the right crowd. I have stopped blending and I am a reject.

"I was hoping for some kind of reconciliation or at least some understanding. But so far not much luck. In fact, I am even thinking of leaving school and getting a job. I don't think I can accept their support any longer. There are just too many strings attached. They kept saying all weekend, 'As long as we are paying your bills....' The completion of the sentence depended on what they wanted me to do at the time. You know what, I still haven't figured out what I did that was so wrong. "I have told them several things over the last several months and I guess it has had a cumulative affect. I told them that I wanted to remain single. I never told them that I had a sexual identity conflict, but they sure assumed the worst. I immediately became gay in their eyes. I also told them I was unhappy with the family church and was looking for a different one. They immediately assumed I was living in sin. I also told them that I was changing my major from religion to business. They immediately assumed I had turned my back on God and every other decent thing. I also told them I wanted to spend more time at school with my friends and less time at home. They immediate ly assumed I didn't love them anymore. "I mean, what have I done? I haven't done anything that the Bible condemns. I have merely made choices that they didn't like. I don't know whether it was the choices that offended them or merely the fact that I was making my own choices. But whatever the reason, I have definitely broken with the kind of person they want me to be. I guess in our family you are not allowed to grow up. I tried to explain that I could never be happy by making the choices they wanted me to make. They said that they were my parents and that they knew me and what was good for me. In fact, they knew a whole lot better than me what was good for me. They made me feel like a fool. "Still, it is clear. I have broken with what I have been told to do. I tried to explain that I would never be happy being the kind of person they wanted me to be. You know the scary thought? If they can't deal with relatively simple decisions, how would they deal with a real problem? Do you think I could ever talk about the temptations I have had with homosexuality? I have never had sex with a guy, but just admitting the temptation would be enough to cause heart failure. I mean, if parting my hair on the wrong side is evil, how would we ever deal with sexual problems? And you know what, being around you guys is

more what I think a church or a family should be like. "The issue with my parents is not sin as they claim. It is conformity. I am not only to do what's right, I am to do right in the exact way as they or our church define it. Ain't I their son? Can't I be trusted? I know every family or group has to set limits. If anyone or everything is accepted, it is not a group, it is a crowd. But diversity must be allowed within limits. It got me thinking, can you imagine what would happen to me if I got AIDS? Even if I got it without sinning, would anyone believe me?" I pulled off Steve's shirt. I had him roll on his stomach. I sat on his knees and gave Steve a good back rub. I knew he was feeling the same loneliness as me, but in a different way. We both were feeling the wounds of living in contemporary American society. We are all living on the edge of isolation. There is no community anymore. There is nothing to which I belong. I am just one bad decision from walking into social oblivion. We all are. I realize that life can't be lived apart from others. I have decided that my friends are the most important thing in my life. I am not going to let anything society says is important and necessary come between me and my friends. Steve fell asleep while I rubbed his back. I climbed off. I sat on my own bed and just watched my friend. I felt good in side. Knowing Steve was willing to pay a price to be my friend made me feel secure. Also, I really felt a little bit of the terror of being alone in Seattle. Only this morning I could have become a male prostitute. It doesn't take long to go from the top of the world to the bottom. *** As I sit here watching Steve sleep, I am thinking about friendship. I guess that is an indication how lonely I got this weekend. I can watch a guy sleep. First class entertainment. I feel better just being next to my friend. I am also thinking about all of the "could have's" and "wanted to be's" that might have been sleeping in a room with me. All during this fall, there have been some that wanted to be friends that I didn't want to have for a friend. There have also been some that I tried to have for friends but they didn't want anything to do with me.

Regarding the first situation, I have tried to classify the types that I wouldn't have anything to do with. The first ones I call "barnacles." These are just looking for someone or some belief to attach themselves to. If our country ever gets a dictator, these will be the first to follow. To be a friend, you have to be an equal. Inferiors will not work. A second type I call "time killers." These guys have a goal in life that controls their time. One of the guys I play cards with is Keith. He comes from a family of professionals. He plans to enter such a lifestyle himself. He works almost constantly except when he needs some human contact. He doesn't want friends, he is just in a temporary state of loneliness. I can talk to these guys but I know a friendship is pointless. A third type is the "suicide squad." They have entered into a style of behavior that for one reason or another makes them objectionable. Some use drugs, some just plain stink, some are just looking for quick sex[such as Jack], or some have just made themselves ugly through over-eating. It is impossible to know any of these. They are just looking for someone who enjoys the same vice. A fourth type are the "sleepers." They are just floating through life. They have no desire to commit themselves to any thing. They enjoy sports, or music, or dancing, or any number of other things. They go to assorted events with similar types but they do not unite in soul but only by common interests. The soul inside them is asleep. When you look into their eyes, they are empty. A final type are the "married anonymous." They are already married to their wife, they just haven't met her yet. The search takes all priority. Sometimes when they are between girlfriends, they seek out male company. I think they do it just because a male friend will not alienate any future date. If they were to hang out with a female both her and potential dates might get the wrong idea. The type I do not automatically rule out as a friend is the nerd. Tony might at first be of this type. I think this is why Jack was able to take advantage of him. He was fairly immature when I met him. He could be silly, hyperactive, or foul-mouthed. And he isn't very good looking. If you were not immediately

turned off by him, you could see that a lot of his gross behavior was just a smoke screen. He kept people at a distance. He had suffered so much rejection he couldn't stand the thought of being rejected again. Once you got behind his smoke screen, there was a real diamond in the rough. Real rough. Because of him, I took nerds off the list.

Week 10 [Did I tell you this is the last week of class?] Day 2 Monday. My weekly talks with Brad are becoming increasingly frustrating. I have learned from him what modern society demands. I have chosen the opposite path. Modern society leads to personal fulfillment and success. I have decided to choose personal relationships as fundamental reality. I sometimes wonder how long we can continue to meet. I come away feeling frustrated. I also realize Brad will never be a friend. I hate to give up. I also realize time is a limited quantity. Time I spend with Brad I cannot spend with someone else. I walked up to Brad with my usual large mug of coffee. I was a little sad. I felt sorrow for him. What makes it difficult, I think he feels sorry for me. I started by telling Brad of my experiences during the past week with my friends. He just shook his head in disbelief. "You guys just don't get it, do you?" Brad started. "The human species is being re-engineered. Do you think love will be part of the programming. Hell, no! Love interferes with progress. Of course, humans feel pain. The pain you guys are feeling is the birth pangs of a new generation. But instead of taking the pain and running into the future, you are revolting against the new man. There is no way you and your group of friends can survive. The forces of change will overwhelm you. "I can predict one thing. If you try to maintain your friendships, most of you will end up dropping out of school. College caters to the individual ego. If you don't worship the future, you are eliminated. If you are not willing to die for success, you will find college and all its irrelevant learning as

just plain frustrating. College by its demands naturally distances people from each other. It has always been this way. That is why throughout history, the slums and college have been the homes of anonymous sex. "You see, in primitive society we needed other people to survive. This led us to idealize relationships. We sang to joys of marriage and friendship. Gradually society has eliminated the needs associated with relationships. The last need that love has provided is compassion. Government has taken over the last of these needs. The needs for caring and loving are not necessary. The individual has been set free. "Even the family is becoming obsolete. The child used to learn about life by watching mommy and daddy. Now the school and the computer have taken over for them. A computer can through the use of games and videos teach a child much better than a human being. Parents are limited, unreliable, and very imperfect. A child with a computer can learn much quicker without the pain of poor parenting. "Friendship, love, marriage and relatives are all dying. I say good riddance. Depending on another human for your personal and ego needs is just plain stupid. How can two selfish egos ever really combine except in frustration? We all are pursuing pleasure. How can two give each other pleasure in the name of love? That is why all talk about love ends in divorce today. It just is not a pleasure fulfilling principle. "Our society has worshipped love. We have written songs about it. We have dreamed of it. We have even died for it. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! We don't need this stupid emotion. In times of the past, tough times in poverty and disease and political unrest, we needed each other. In order to give up so much personal pleasure, a philosophy was needed. Love was used as a justification. People even died (the ultimate lack of pleasure) in the name of love. There is no longer a need for such denial. There is no need for a partner. "We are the first generation that is going to be free from not just pain and suffering, but from other people. We will unite selectively for pleasure, and then go on our own ways. No commitments to anchor us into a non-pleasurable situation. In the past people achieved political freedom. We have personal

freedom. No more mother-in-laws and unruly teenage kids. We are finally free. "Are you saying the coming conflicts will be fought for views on love, not land or money as in the past?" I asked in disbelief. "We need to isolate people from each other. All of the modern conflicts are the forced mixing of people. When you come down to it, families are just another name for a gang. Like any gang it causes conflicts. As groups or gangs are no longer needed, peace will reign. There are always some who will hold onto the past, such as the anti-abortionists. This leads to violence. "Throughout history the forces of the future have come into conflict with the forces of the past. Tomorrow always wins. The question is just in terms of price. Progress progresses by its very nature. Sometimes there is resistance to maintain the status quo. It always fails. In fact, if there is one fact of reality you can take to the bank it is this--tomorrow will be different from today. There is no point in resisting. "I guess you don't think much of my future, then, do you?" "I can offer you a bit of advice. If you guys are serious about being friends you will have to do what the monks did to preserve religion in the past. You will have to form a new version of the monastery. You will have to escape from society. It has to be a total escape. The fundamentalists have tried for just partial separation. It doesn't work. They survived but their kids are not different than any other kids. Fundamentalists are dying. They are almost dead. "If you guys try and remain in society, the forces of the modern world will destroy your close ties. It won't be quick. You may not even notice it at first. You will probably renew your commitments at times. But the trend will be inevitable. You will no longer need each other. The bonds will break down. In time, you will be just like me. The advantage for me, I have no illusions about other people. I will cry no tears for anyone. I am free now. You will have a lifetime of pain to finally realize that you must become like me."

I knew there was a lot of truth in what Brad had to say. I knew we would have to pay a price to remain friends. The major difference between Brad and I was this--He believes in personal pleasure as the foundation stone of the universe. All are striving to achieve this principle in history and throughout time. I see this as a personal universe that achieves its foundation through personal relationships. Any price we pay is fine, because we are united to reality. I believe that Brad is trying to develop a fantasy world. All dreams are fleeting. All dreamers must wake up. Love and the sacrifice it entails is greater than pleasure. Love endures. The pleasure of hormones will pass. Love is forever. *** I was anxious to see how Tony's and Jason's trip to Chehalis went. They got home late last night. As soon as everyone was back from classes we gathered in my room. Steve and I were on one bed. Tony and Jason were sitting on the other. Tony spoke first, "How did it go for you this weekend, Steve?" "I can't figure out why my parents are so angry with me. I have been trying to think if I would treat my son this way. I couldn't imagine doing it. They seem to have a real hatred for me and the kind of person I have become." "And they haven't even met me yet," Tony joked. We all laughed because Tony is the last guy you would want to bring home from college and have your parents meet as your college buddy. He has a way of being himself and not carrying what anybody thinks. After all, he has never had to please anybody in his whole life. "And how about you guys, Tony?" Steve asked. "Bryce was doing well. I was worried about him. I wasn't sure how he could handle going from an ivy league school to delivering refrigerators. I think the fact that he has some real close friends has given him a ray of hope. He said some nights he got a little depressed at bedtime. He felt so alone at night. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle up the night and panic. He spent several hours one night walking through the woods near his home. But he made it. He said he was tempted to resort to drugs or sex to cure his loneliness, but he made it through okay.

"I told him I was coming down to live with him during Christmas, and if I could find a job I would like to stay on and live with him. We have so much in common. He really got excited when I told him that. He really wants a close friend right now. As my mother has cut me off financially, it fits right into my plans. He says he thinks he can get me a job working for the local cable t.v. outlet. I hope it works out. "Another thing we have in common besides both loving books, we both are hug hungry. I think we will spend the first several months just giving each other back rubs. We both grew up never being touched. It is a thirst that both of us can understand. I know it will be hard leaving school. But I will only be a several hour drive from here. It sure beats going back home to Richland. I don't know anyone there. I get to start over." Jason was next to speak. "I mostly tagged along with Tony this weekend. Bryce and I talked a little. But it was hard to get a word in edgewise between Tony and Bryce. I really enjoyed seeing those two get so excited in each other's company. It gave me time to think. I have noticed one thing. We have talked in the past about the pain of our childhood experiences. But I have started to realize that there is a compensation factor at work. For every bad thing that happens to us there is a corresponding good. For every weakness there is a corresponding strength. "I watched Tony and Bryce display a maturity way beyond their eighteen years. There was such a high level of understanding and commitment between them that I figured it had to be developing for years even though they weren't aware of it. We are all aware first of all of pain. Maybe tomorrow when we get together for our afternoon talk, we can talk about the strengths that we got from our families. I think the reason the four of us have had such a great friendship growing is not just because of our common pains. Weakness cannot achieve anything. And a common weakness is still more weakness. "Our strengths that we have had to come from somewhere. We all see ourselves as different from the rest of the guys in the dorm. We couldn't figure out why others couldn't see what we see. I think I know why. Other guys not only missed the pains we grew up with, but they missed the strengths we acquired in the midst of those pains. They have lived in a vanilla world, and

that has only produced more vanilla. Our survival depended upon climbing a mountain of pain. Climbing that mountain has produced some strengths that dwellers in the valley don't have. We have such joy and love in our lives. We see through the hypocrisy of the system around us. I think we are all very lucky." "I had never thought of it in quite that way," I added. "I think I shall work on that thought for awhile. I like the positive approach." "You know, the Seahawks are on Monday night football," Tony stated. "Maybe we should get our studies done before the game starts." "I'll buy the pop," Steve said, "Who'll bring the snacks." I said I would so the day was now complete. It was time for a good evening of screaming and yelling together. "ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?"

Week 10 [Still the last week of classes.] Day 3 Tuesday. I am starting to feel the anticipation of having almost a month off. So much has happened. I am looking forward with anticipation to the vacation. Steve has invited Jason to spend the holidays with him and his home. He is hoping that the respectability and good looks of Jason will have a positive impact on his parents. He doesn't dare let his parents meet Tony or me. I think they would suspect the worst. Jason was also raised in a church like Steve so he has that air of fundamentalism that Steve's parents might enjoy. Also he is better at respecting his elders than either Tony or me. Steve thinks this is his last chance to find some respect and understanding from his parents. We met in Tony's and Jason's room today. We all had been thinking about the assignment Jason had given us. I saw Steve actually making some notes during the football halftime last night. It should be interesting. Tony wanted to speak first about today's topic. "I have been thinking all morning about the

good as reaction to the bad. I know, for myself, I have at times mourned my lost childhood. I have compared my events of growing up with others. I have felt like a real loser. Sure I missed some things. I never went on a vacation to Disneyland or any where else for that matter. I never knew the joys of a happy home. I never had friends growing up. I guess that is the negative side. "I have sometimes dwelled maybe too much on those things. There has been some pain. I cried because I was not raised as other kids were. But there is a good side. Today, I am not like anyone else. I look around and see all these happy childhoods turning into social robots. They talk, think, and dream all alike. They believe in the American family, apple pie, success, a home in the suburbs and all that crap. Eventually they will marry a nice girl, have a nice family with nice kids, and live in a nice home. "I grew up reading the stories of the past. I know life and history better than a lot of the professors. I also bicycled all over town. I met a lot of people. I heard many different life stories. I never got close to many people outside of the Jacob's, but I could talk on the streets with a wide variety of people. I grew up with a confidence in myself, and my mental abilities. When I was in ninth grade I was reading stuff they are using for texts here in college. Sure I had a lot of time to myself, but out of that grew an interior richness. I enjoy being Tony. I enjoy his company. I trust myself. I am thankful for the gift of life. I have had it tough, but I have had it good. You know what, if I could change one thing about me, I wouldn't." "That's neat, Tony," Steve said. "I guess I have been thinking along similar lines. I look back at the strict fundamentalism that I was surrounded with. I used to resent the home I was brought up in. Everything revolved around church activities. It seemed there was nothing in life but church. You talk about never taking vacations, Tony. Well, we had a vacation every summer. We went to family Bible camps. I spent my vacations hiking and listening to screaming evangelists. "I grew up with a father who was always working with the church. We never did anything as father and son. I dreamed at first of having a father, then of having a friend, and then of having a male lover. It seemed all my memories are of being

lonely in some way. Mostly because I could never confess my sins as other fundamentalists confessed their sins. My sins were too terrible to confess. You don't confess that you want to be a homosexual. You don't confess that you fantasize having sex with your high school math teacher. I withdrew into my private world. "It has been hard for me to think about the good that has come out of the bad. There is one thing that comes to mind immediately. I know that if I had not been raised to believe in a moral universe, I would have AIDS right now. I was kept from following through on my hungers. In my pain, I was kept from digging a hole for myself. A hole that I couldn't crawl out of. I was given the time to figure out what I really wanted. I have here at school discovered friendship. If I had not put off a sexual lifestyle, I wouldn't be here with the greatest guys in the world. "I couldn't imagine being any happier than I am right now. I know the past has kept me from being like everybody else. Maybe if I were raised differently, I would be different. But I am finding happiness in the direction I was pushed from the childhood. My different kind of home didn't destroy my chance for happiness, it only channeled it in a different direction. Rather than mourning the loss, I thank God for the joys He has brought into my life. I really cannot imagine anyone being any happier than I am right now. I am fulfilled. I am at peace. I know I will never have sex beyond masturbation, but I am learning that there are compensations in that area. "I am discovering that life can have a mission. I see a world that is all mixed up. I am thinking about how I can leave this world a better place than when I entered it. I will not have a family in the traditional sense, but I am discovering that there is something about adopting a mission in life and serving others who are not related to you. Right now, I don't know whether I will go into politics, teaching, or counseling. I just know I want to take the pain that I carry and turn it into something that I can share with others who hurt. Sure I grew up surrounded by my tears, but I can now cry with those who cry. I understand. I care. I hurt when others hurt. That is a great gift. If having a happy childhood means I lose that gift, then I choose an unhappy childhood. If growing up with a scar on your heart is the price I have to pay to know real love, then I will hug that scar.”

"I think this has been one of our better meetings," I said. "I know at times I have felt real sorry for myself. My parents were decent, upright, and boring. There was little communication in our family. Very early in life, I started keeping a diary. I never told anyone because on T.V. only girls kept diaries. I grew up thinking I was a sissy. I kept my notebooks well hidden. All of the things I wanted to tell my father, I would tell to my notebooks. I didn't have a laptop back then. I wish I would have. It is so much easier to hide a disk. My friends at the Burger Hut used to joke about their efforts to hide their Play boys and Penthouses. I didn't dare tell anyone that all of my efforts were to hide my diaries. "For me the benefits are obvious. I have grown in love with writing. I can sit at a computer and put my feelings and thoughts in words better than most of the guys on campus. There is a reason. I have been doing it for over ten years. I recently read some of my notes from the third grade. They were primitive, but already I was talking to the paper as if it were a real person. I know there have been other good things from my child hood, but for me, the joy I get from writing I would probably never have had I not had a lot of private time on my hands with so much to say. Only my paper would listen to me." "So that is how you became so weird," Jason joked. "I expect that as soon as they come out with a waterproof version of a laptop you will buy one so you can type in the shower." "You got that right," I laughed. "I have seen so much in these showers that needs writing down." "Just leave me out of those stories," Tony tossed in with a laugh. "Too late, guy," I countered. "I suspect I am next," Jason started. "I guess the biggest pain of my home and church is the rejection I have experienced. Even thought most of that rejection has been in the past year, it has been an important part of my experience. The rejection was brought on by the cold and indifferent family I grew up in. I was treated as just as object. My parents were involved in making money and going to church. It seemed like I was just an anchor on their activities. I cost them money. I really didn't

think I was wanted. I think if my parents hadn't been religious, I would have been aborted. "My mother told me once after I got into trouble as a kid, that I had been nothing but a pain in her life. As a little kid, sometimes I would be afraid at night that my parents would kill me. I watched some horror movies on T.V. where parents did away with their unwanted children. I sometimes would wake up in terror at night over little noises. It has been very difficult for me to think about how good could come out of all the things that have happened to me. I know the first thing is that I have reacted to my parents negatives by going to the opposite. From the negative I have gone to the positive. "People tell me that I am very dependable and loyal. I cannot think of being any other way. I am also a very emotional guy and sensitive to what others are feeling. You guys are my family. I would die for each one of you. If any of you needed help, I would drop everything to help. The cost of that help is not important. If one of you guys got into trouble, I know I would not reject you. I know how painful that is. All of this has come about because of what happened to me as a child. "In the dorm, the popular thought is every man for himself. We are all in competition with each other. Guys are jealous over who gets the best looking date. Guys are envious if somebody gets too many honors. Friendships develop in the dorm, but they will not survive graduation. Everyone knows, that as soon as a job offer comes, it is off to the far corners of the world. Whatever a job requires, that is what will be done. "I have come to believe that no job is worth betraying my friends. I know I will not be as successful as I could be. Loyalty in our society costs a price. I have never had a real family. This is my family. I will not reject this family. [You should see the smile on Tony's face right now. He is so happy.] I am learning more every day of the joys of friendship. I know I am one that could possibly get married some day. I don't know. I am not committed to being single. But I do know, that marriage would only be part of my life. I would still consider you guys my true relatives." ***

We decided to skip the usual Commons food and go out for a mid-week pizza and movie. We just felt that with finals coming up, we needed to get away now. Sometimes when I think of heaven, I think of having pizza with my friends. There is just something about eating with someone you love. I can understand why in other cultures in past times, eating and food were so important. It may not have been so much the food, as I had once thought. It just might have been their extreme closeness. Food is the nonsexual way to express love and produce bonding.

Week 10 Day 4 Wednesday. I sure am getting tired of class. If you want a first quarter freshman report on the status of college I've got it for you. College sucks. Right now I am learning things that I never wanted to know, I will never need to know again after the final next week, and no one else cares whether I know it or not. So you tell me. What am I doing? I think I have figured it out. I am learning to put up with ROUTINE. And I am also learning the corollary of that--I am learning to ESCAPE ROUTINE. That is college in a nutshell for those of you who haven't been to one. Life swings between the two extremes of routine and escaping from routine. Maybe what college is trying to do is to teach me how to get along in a meaningless, bureaucratic society. We live in a society of no tomorrows and no yesterdays. We have lost meaning and a sense of history. All we have is today's work and the dream of what I will do after work. For as much as I disagree with Brad, I realize he is more adjusted to modern life than I will ever be. Whenever I get depressed from college life I have several things I do. One of them is to go to the t.v. room after lunch and watch reruns of "The Fugitive." I so identify with Dr. Kimball. He is searching for the one-armed man so he can find freedom and happiness. He is on the run and he must keep searching. No settling down for this man. No matter how many women fall in love with him, he must keep looking. That is me or so I feel inside. I a fugitive from modern

society. I am on the run. I am looking for the key that will restore my life. I can't settle down. No roots for me. No matter what I encounter in college, it is not what I am looking for. Maybe the big difference between Dr. Kimball and me is that he knows what he is looking for. I don't know. I can't spend a life eating Pizza with friends. But I'll be back for another school term. Why? Because it beats working for a living. I value my friends to no end. Yet I realize life is more than just love. I sometimes have this dream where I am a track star in the Olympics. I am getting ready for the big race. The race of my life. I have on my running shoes. I have my feet in the blocks. I am in my starting position. But when I look up, there is nothing but a drop off in front on me. I am frozen in that starting position. I am a runner. There is no where to run. I remain frozen in my starting position. It is terrifying. I just stare at the large cliff in front of me. I get totally frustrated. Brad says it doesn't matter where you run. Just enjoy the trip. Party every step of the way. I can't do that. I want a goal. I need a destination to strive for. I have figured it out. I can retire in forty-seven years. I am eighteen. I have lived a lifetime. Forty-seven is almost three lifetimes. I watched the movie "Groundhog Day." It got me thinking. Life is kind of like the theme. We do live each day over and over again. For forty-seven years we live each day over and over. No wonder my father withdrew into his little world. No wonder all my friends' parents escaped into some world of their own making. When I first got to know my friends I thought love would give me a mission in life. I don't want to discourage anyone, but love is only the start. Love is for the human a little like putting gas into your car. We need it, and it enables us to go somewhere in life. Without it, we are stuck, but you just don't sit in your new car. For me and my friends, we just can't sit around shooting the bull. I never thought I would say this. Now that I have found love, I must keep looking. The big advantage is that now I am no longer looking alone. *** Our little group got together again today. I shared my thoughts with them, plus a little what I have been learning from

Brad. It's funny, but what I was saying rang a bell with all of them. They were a little bit afraid to say it. Love is not just sitting around and being honest and being accepted. Love reaches out to others and it has a mission in life. Jason, our resident wise man, spoke first. "There is one giant problem. What we have society doesn't want. Society is not much more than the cumulative affect of individual values. The whole system expresses what people want. Success is achieving or providing for those values. There is talk of a valueless society or a pluralistic society. There is really no such thing. Other people can no more live in a vacuum than we can. They will value something. "Unfortunately our society places egoistic achievement above all else. The football coach who steps on others and ignores his wife and kids is honored if he wins. Nothing else matters. Look at what an Olympic athlete goes through. Everything and everyone are put to the goal of building up his body. He can be every kind of jerk possible. Win the gold and he is a hero. We worship a person who can achieve one thing. We are a one quality culture. "The person who achieves in one little area of life is honored. And if you really want to be a super success, become good at entertaining other people. Because escape from the routine is so important to many, those that can provide an escape are rewarded the most. If you can entertain, all else you might do is forgiven. Remember studying about Richard Nixon? His great sin was not Watergate. He bored people to death. He did not entertain. If he could have just had a good sense of humor history would have been different. You either have to be good at one thing or be entertaining. "Where does that leave us?" Steve wanted to know. "Our values don't fit in. How do we survive without becoming like everybody else? I don't want to become like my parents. I have read where in my parents' generation in the sixties they were idealistic also. They had their 'summer of love' and they ended up being part of the system they hated so much. Do we have any hope?" "Scary thought, isn't it Steve," Jason laughed. "None of us want to be like the parents we are part of. And when we find out

that they didn't want to be like their parents, we are terrified. How do we avoid making the same mistakes?" "Yeah, how?" Tony piped in. "I think I have a job lined up in a cable T.V. company. I guess I am returning to our family tradition of doing physical labor. Will I end up just like my father?" "I think you are already different," Jason assured Tony. "But the first thing is to be aware of what hasn't worked in the past. Sometimes I wish college would tackle the real problems of society and living. It would make studying a little more interesting. I know the fundamentalists tried to be different by retreating to a little corner, with a little group, and hiding from the rest of the world. It will work for only one or two generations. . Steve and I are both third generation fundamentalists and we are sick of it. Besides, the very problems the fundamentalists tried to escape from were right in their midst. "In times past, some have retreated to monasteries. But all monasteries are good at is preserving something. In a dying culture, they can preserve a civilization until later. But that is really all they are good for. Our parents' generation threw themselves into changing the world through politics. After a few years they all returned to the world of their parents, only disillusioned. They retreated into a private world even more private than their parents had retreated into. And that leads us to where we are today." "Okay, Jason, you got us going, but where are we going?" I asked half joking and half wondering. "I hope I am getting there, Eric, hold on just a little longer," Jason responded. "We are all Christians so we have a tradition. We believe idolatry is wrong. Idolatry is worshiping something that is false. It is taking something temporary and trying to make it permanent. It is taking one aspect of life and trying to live life on that principle. Being a good football coach is just one aspect of life. If that is your whole life, then that is idolatry. Because we live in a world that worships false values, life will not be easy for any of us. "Our goal is to take permanent values and build our lives upon those values. Our mission is to do whatever we do in terms

of permanent values and in proper perspective with other values." "That's not much of an answer," Tony objected. "I am just providing goals, it is up to you to work out the details. We each have to live our own life. And we will be giving an expression to a value system that isn't valued. We will not see our values reflected in our culture. That means we will be living a disease. We will cause dis-ease to those around us. The result may not be success no matter what we do. "But I know we will have a love and a friendship that will support us. It will give us joy. And it will keep us from becoming like our parents. Love does not escape. Love does not withdraw. Love keeps a person growing. There is no routine in love. Love produces change in us. Change means the death to yesterday and being alive to tomorrow. I do not know the future. Those who live in a routine know the future. I do know the values I will become like. I do not understand much right now. But I know in the future I will understand more. I have a mission.” "We are all to work out our values in life. That is what love is and what makes life exciting," I answered. "That is not much of a pat answer. But I see your point. Only the dead know the future. We all have become alive together. With life, comes uncertainty. But with uncertainty comes adventure." "I think I might want to be like my parents," Steve laughed. We all laughed a nervous laugh. We knew our talk today had raised a lot of questions. Others want to live a life without questions. We are heading in the opposite direction. I am afraid.

Week 10 Day 5 Thursday Just two more days of classes. Then my first finals week. I have only three tests over four days. I think I like that a lot better than three hours a day of boredom. Three hours? It doesn't sound that long. How come it seems like all day. I guess because it is routine. The professors for the most part

have settled into their forty year mode: throw some crumbs to the students and then head off to their research or the faculty lounge. Not a bad life. At least for them. Prof Bauer is the only one who shows a tendency of having blood flow. I think the other two have died. Class is time of the living dead. There continues to be a sense of urgency in our little group. We know the time is short when we can be together every day. I know I will be back next quarter. Jason will be back if he can get a part-time job. Steve is lobbying his parents for continued support. And of course Tony will be living with Bryce. We gather together daily to talk and to bond. We want our roots to go down as deep as possible into each other. That way, it will be easier to stay together. As we gathered together. Tony looked a little glum. I asked what was the matter. "Well, it is difficult to put into words. I have always been alone my whole life. Every attempt to be friendly has failed. These three months have been the one exception. Now I am moving on. The thing I don't know, will the old or the new Tony arrive in Chehalis? I know I will have Bryce for a friend which is great. But will I end up biking around town like before, only a little older? "I have a weird uncle. He is sixty-five. He has never been married. He goes to the mall every day just to hang out. Just like a teenager. People that know him walk the other way. They know he is looking for someone to latch onto. He does nothing. He knows nothing. He just talks about how the town has changed since he was a kid. I know when he used to drive up into my parents front yard, my parents would sometimes pretend not to be home. Having him for an uncle was bad enough. But people even say I look like him. And to make matters worse, my mother always said I would end up just like him. 'Poor Tony, you are going to end up just like your Uncle Cliff,' she would say whenever I made a mistake or I displeased her. I have heard that so many times I can hear it in my sleep." "I know you are worried," I said, "but you are not like your uncle at all. For one thing, he doesn't have three wild and crazy friends. Do you think we are just temporary? Do you think you will end up being old and alone? Tony, get this through that curly blond head of yours: we love you. We love you more than you have ever been loved before."

Tony started to cry. (Our common history of pain makes that very easy for us. We are expert tear makers.) He didn't say a word. Looking around the room I could see that Tony had already started putting things into boxes for his move. I guess he feels a little like I do about boxes. We all need a nest surrounded by our junk. To put our history into a box is almost like losing a friend. Right now Tony is between places to cozy into. It is something we all need. Adventure in life is a need. But we all need a base camp. None of us are property owners. We are all vagabonds in a sense. I think one of the first goals for us should be to buy some property. Enough property for five houses just in case we all get married. We all kind of gathered around Tony and let him cry. We didn't say much. We all could feel his pain and uncertainty. As we all gathered our composure I shared my thoughts about none of us having a place to call home. Jason expounded on that idea. "I have been thinking a lot about that myself lately. In one of my classes there was a lecture about the property-less classes in England during the Industrial Revolution. I came to understand that we are all part of a new type property-less class. With parents living longer and longer, the college student of today knows he may live another forty years before inheriting any family wealth or property. We are here as a twentieth century vagabond. "We have left our parents' homes. We own little and are already in debt. We have no place to return to. We have no security except going home a failure and moving back in with our parents. I know if I begged and acted very humble I could move back in with them. I think I would have to be very, very hungry before I could do that. But just think of it. Except for our few possessions, all we have is each other. And most guys on campus don't have the security we do. "You can understand why there is such an 'eat, drink, and be merry' attitude on campus. Even the religious ones 'eat, go to church, and be merry.' There is no wealthy class on campus. We have nothing to preserve. We are starting from scratch. All the things our parents have seems so far off. We will wonder if the world or the economy will last long enough for us to acquire the so-called nice things. I guess that is why so many are looking for quick ways to get rich, or talk about the politics of

redistributing the wealth. "I have come to believe that security, wealth, and relationships start with the family. We are all exiles more or less from our families. We came to college on our own. We have been uprooted. The problems we have gone through are related to the fact we have no home. Because of that, we have to become family. I don't think true existence is possible without close blood relations. But our blood ties are 'dead.' If we don't form a new family, we will become like everyone else on campus. "We have to see ourselves as blood relatives. Even if we marry or have kids, we must see each other as brothers, as brothers-in-law or as uncles. In our society, and for most societies, a man without a family is homeless. And a homeless man will be sold a home by someone else. It will be a false home. It will not satisfy. There are all kinds of attempts at family. A street gang will do. So will a political party. A special interest group with power is excellent. A viewing audience. A sports crowd, part of the home team, you know. Some identify with our entertainment heroes and look upon them as their kin." At this point Tony asked that we all promise to stay family no matter what. I know others have done that and have failed. I think, and I hope, for us it will be different. We all know the terror of being without family. These ten weeks we have lived intensely with each other have formed a battlehardened core of love. We all asked, and prayed, that God would bind us together. The word for friend in the Bible means "to tie a knot." We asked God to tie us all into a knot. Amen.

Week 10 Day 6 Friday. The last several days Professor Bauer has been giving one of his special talks. Along about Tuesday he had finished covering all of the boring stuff he is paid to impart to us. He finished the week with something interesting to say. It is too bad class can't always be this way. Why can't they hire a teacher who is in love with his subject. Any professor who is going to make a living knows that the people he must please are not in the class

room. The least important element in his career advancement is the peon who sits in the desk. As always, I am going to reconstruct the lecture from my notes. I am sure you are now aware that when I put quotation marks around what people say I have not recorded talks word for word. With my friends, I actually think I have improved upon their talks a bit. For example, the talk by Jason yesterday was condensed and reconstructed from an hour of give and take conversation. To tell you the truth, I think I may have improved upon it a lot. Now I am not worried about doing that to my friends' words. But woe to the student who does that with his professors. I am really telling you what I learned from Prof Bauer's lectures. Hopefully it resembles what he was trying to say. I dare not saw I improved upon it. He might read this some day. But I do like his lectures better after I have got through with them. So here's Prof Bauer [revised version]: "I have come to the conclusion that man is not the tool maker as described by some. Man is first of all a knowing creature. I have found there are six vital areas where man is to know: (1) Man is to know the universe . (2) Man is to know himself. (3) Man is to know other men. (4) Man is to know the future. (5) Man is to know God. (6) Man is to know right from wrong. "Take away these six 'knows' and you take away man. But the problem with man is not just that they get taken away. Man devises substitutes. Man cannot exist without some form of each

category. If one is removed for some reason, a substitute quickly appears. Here are a list of some of the obvious substitutes. (1) Instead of knowing the universe, man exploits the universe. Any knowledge is used for immediate profit. Knowledge becomes specialized into only what it will do for me. The consequences of any knowing are ignored. (2) Instead of knowing himself, man falls in love with himself. We worship our own thoughts and our own bodies. In stead of understanding our bodies and our minds, we focus on our appearance and our feelings. (3) Instead of knowing others, we use others to satisfy our own wants and needs. Our culture becomes one of alienation. Love disappears and the dollar sign becomes the substitute for evaluating other people. (4) Instead of working for the future, we neglect the future. Our future is closely tied in with our views of children and inheritance. A society with a future teaches its children and trains them to manage its wealth and learning. A society without a future lives in terms of now. Children become a burden. (5) Instead of knowing God, we worship technology. God will no longer save us. Science will cure mental illness. Science and government working together will solve the 'sin problem.' Man can now be satisfied with the things that a scientific culture provides. Man constantly looks for new toys and new therapies. (6) Instead of ethics, morality is replaced with choice. Choice is supreme. Eventually choice leads to anarchy. Anarchy leads to government enforcing proper choices. This leads to a total dictatorship. "As the six areas of knowing are gradually substituted, you will see a growing rage in a culture. It will be first experienced by the fringes of society. From the fringes it will spread to the center. When the center cries out, a nation and a culture is in its last days. Life becomes ruled by routine. There is no substance to life. It is just lived. It is tolerated. It is death on its own bed.

"There follows attempts to cure the malaise. The false medicine only makes the problem worse. (1) We cure our lack of understanding by surrounding ourselves with an abundance of facts. Knowing becomes just a bunch of names and dates. [Amen.] (2) We cure our lack of self-understanding by becoming addicted to health food fads and various exercise crazes. If we will not know ourselves, we will at least think about ourselves constantly. (3) We cure our lack of knowing each other by sexing each other. At least during orgasm there is a some kind of feeling. (4) We cure our understanding of the future by turning to various new age and occult activities. We study the stars and the wrinkles in our hands. (5) We cure our lack of personal knowledge of God through ritual. It is either a ritual that we think will satisfy God or will manipulate Him to do our bidding. (6) We cure our lack of knowing right and wrong by passing laws and regulations to cover every conceivable circumstance. Legislation runs our lives for us. "At this point you are probably asking if there is any hope. There is. Throughout history real change has been brought about through two ways operating together: cultural collapse and religious revival. You are probably asking why I didn't include revolution. One very simple reason. Wars and revolutions can aid in cultural collapse that is all. They can destroy. They cannot build up. Only a revival of religion can rebuild the foundations of a cultural order." *** When I think of our group of four I think we are trying to bring about change even if on a small scale. We all have gone through the cultural collapse of the equation. We are now at tempting to rebuild through religious commitment. I also think that is why college is so boring for all of us. We recognize

that college is trying to patch up a dying order. It can train people to find jobs. It can transmit technical knowledge. But the two things necessary for true education are missing: an understanding of the past and a vision of the future. We learn names and dates of the past instead of understanding. We learn how computers will work in the future instead of a vision of life itself. A man without a reason to live is still a lonely man without a reason to live no matter how big a computer he has at his fingertips.

Day 7 Saturday. Week 10 I have to spend a lot of time studying today but I thought I would first file my first annual masturbation report. My views on this act are changing. Not to the point where I don't do it. I think I do it for different reasons. Consequently I do it a little less often. Don't worry folks, it still is fun. I ain't that mature yet. May I always be so immature. The reason I am doing it a little less is that I am doing it more now in response to sexual desire and less because I am lonely. I have been in the library trying to trace the frequency of this act throughout history. It has not been an easy subject to research. While the church was busy promoting marriage, the non-churched were just as busy talking about sex for both fun and profit. You can read a lot written by both parties. There are books by and about adulterers, homosexuals, celibates, married, and prostitutes. But where have the masturbators been throughout history. Some suspect they have either been too embarrassed to confess or write about their private joy. But I really think they were just too busy with their "vice" to have much time left on their hands. Taking pen in hand means you have to displace something else out of your hand. Some sacrifices are just too great. So I hereby make this pledge: If I ever go for my Ph.D. I shall write my dissertation on the influence of masturbation on the American Revolution. It is time our history as a nation is properly reconstructed. But don't despair reader. I have not given up. I have

found solitary references. [Emphasis on solitary. Ours is not a communal bunch of dudes.] It seems that the act is more frequent during times of social breakdown: The greater the breakdown, the greater the frequency. [This is partly conjecture. The Gallop Poll is a rather recent invention.] Masturbation is the last pleasure of an isolated man. This is shown best by the stories of men confined to solitary confinement. As society breaks down communally, we all become victims of solitary confinement. We live in a crowd and yet feel the confinement. While there are times solitude is great, we are essentially designed for communal activities. Food tastes best when eaten as a group. Obvious talk is communal. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with oneself. At least if one wants an intelligent conversation. And even, I have discovered to my delight, back rubs are communal. Also watching a movie, even though you don't talk while it is on, is more fun when done as a group. Denied access to these and other outlets, there is a very important safety value. A God-given act that enables us to survive in the midst of solitude and isolation. You see, I have discovered (and I have been told it is true by others in their experience) that masturbation keeps the hope of fellowship alive. When you are all alone and isolated from a community, you should go insane. We are not designed for that kind of living. The four of us all fantasized in our loneliest moments, not about sexual acts. We all just dreamed about having friends. We all felt a little guilty for those thoughts. We feared that maybe that meant we were "fucking fags." After all, real men think about getting married, or at least about getting laid. Maybe in normal times. But cut off from society, we dreamed of the restoration of fellowship. When we masturbated while we dreamed, the dreams seemed so real. They were so real because the orgasm made the dream come alive. Because of that, we never gave up hope that humans could actually love each other. So now, I have a community. I have fellowship. I am loved. I am getting hugged. I have acceptance. I am secure. What does that mean? It means, masturbation has been restored to being a sexual act. I now can sit in my dorm window, watch girls with a pair of binoculars, and masturbate. Okay, so it ain't like going out on a date. But for those of you worried about me, it is an

improvement. I am now a all-American peeping Tom. Can marriage be far away? *** Tony just walked in. He said, "You know I have been studying really hard. Maybe we could take an old fashioned study break." He was wearing just his tight sweats, cut off way above the knee. I could see by his bulge that he wasn't far from taking the break right in his pants. Recalling what I had just written about my new-found maturity, I said, "Well, close the door." "Great," Tony said as he closed and locked the door. "We haven't done it together in awhile." He sat on my bed. In a second he had his shorts off. He threw them in the air. They caught on the light fixture. They just hung up there. I pulled off my 501's and my underpants and sat down next to him. "Looking good, Tony," I said. Tony had undergone a lot of changes in his life, but one thing had remained the same, he still loved to masturbate. He slowly stroked himself and kept saying, "Wow, that feels good." We soon (I should say very soon) released ourselves. Tony let out a shout, saying "Wooooooooooow!" We just leaned back and looked at each other. After a few minutes, Tony said, "Lay on your stomach. Let me give you a back rub." After a few minutes, I could feel hot splashes on my back. I looked around and I could see Tony crying. I asked, "What's wrong?" "Nothing's wrong. Everything is right. I am so happy. I love you so much. I have to be the luckiest guy in the whole world." He cried and cried. I joined in. I couldn't help but share his love and joy. Besides, I was the luckiest guy in the whole world, despite what Tony said. There is one thing I have to find out though, can a guy catch AIDS through tears? I have a book on

safe sex, but none on safe crying. While I have nothing to fear from Tony, I have had so many cry on me lately, I have permanent salt stains on my shoulders. I know if I did get AIDS through tears, I might have a hard time convincing anyone. I could imagine the response now, a long collective, "Suuuuuuuure!" [I looked it up. Tears are safe.]

CHAPTER TWELVE

Week 11 (Finals Week) Sunday Day 1. I picked up Saturday's mail this morning. I had forgot to check my box yesterday. There was a letter in there from Bryce. I still didn't know Bryce that well. What could cause him to write? I opened the letter in fear.

Dear Eric: There is no one in town that I can talk to. You know what I mean. There is no one I can be honest with. I am staying alive by remembering you and Tony. I am holding on by dreaming of seeing you guys during the Christmas break. But the nights are so long. I am so weak. I am lonely. I am so horny. I know the joys of friendship that you have taught me. But the reality that I know is that of being sexed by another guy. I am learning about fellowship, but my memories are of having a guy undress me. I recall the gentle stare that makes me feel important. I know the excitement of seeing his approval by the hardness of his erection. I can still feel the touch of hungry hands. The orgasm of fulfillment still keeps my memories alive. I don't have to tell you how often I masturbate. But who's counting? The reason I am writing is I need to know one thing. Will I change? Will I ever forget how neat it is to be undressed by a horny friend? Tony has taught me about prayer. I pray to change. But I still get horny. Is God listening? Why don't I change? I think maybe I cannot

be a friend. Maybe you shouldn't have anything to do with a guy like me. Of course, I don't mean that. I am confused. I just got through beating off. And as soon as I mail this letter you can guess what I will be doing. This letter is a kind of 'tweener.' The reason I am writing all this is I want you to know that my problems are a lot deeper than you are aware. I am so afraid to tell you in person. If you reject me, I want you to do it in a letter. I couldn't stand your rejection to my face. Also, let Tony read this letter. He plans on being my roommate if he can get a job. I want him to know about me. Please write me so I will know whether to expect you this weekend. I want you to know that I will not hold it against you or Tony if you change your mind about me. I just sometimes wonder if I can ever be as mature as you guys. I feel like I am condemned to live in frustration. Your friend, Bryce *** I showed the letter to Tony. He looked at his watch. "You know it's three hours' drive to Chehalis. We better get started."

"Are you sure you want to do that? We both have finals tomorrow," I suggested. "I really don't think we have a choice. Bryce needs to know how much we really do love him. I think we need to show him that he is more important than anything in this world." "You're right," I said. "Let's go." Three hours later we drove into the alley behind Bryce's apartment. He heard the car drive up. I could see someone peak out from a window. When he opened the door for us, he wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing, just a huge smile. "Guess what I was just about to do?" Bryce said. "Everything stops for one of my back rubs," Tony laughed. We went in. Tony threw Bryce on the bed. He sat on him. He started rubbing his back. I sat next to Bryce. "I guess you guys got my letter." "What makes you think that?" I asked. "Because I know you guys wouldn't just drop in. I really feel guilty. I didn't mean to lay some trip on you. I just feel so unworthy. You guys love me so much. I am not used to being loved. I feel I have to please you guys. I have tried. I want to be like you guys. I want you guys to be proud of me. I can't do it. I still wake up in the middle of the night wanting some guy to suck me off. I still want it." "That's because you haven't taken the Tony cure yet," Tony laughed. "When I move in here, the Tony hugs and back rubs will make you feel sorry for those guys who get blowed." Tony kept rubbing Bryce. I took off my shirt and laid down next to him. I looked into those eyes I remembered so well. There was life coming back into them. The last time we had talked, his eyes were still cold and hollow. There was a depth there. Bryce was so tired, he just fell asleep. Tony sent me to the store for food. He went into the kitchen to clean up. We

decided to have dinner with Bryce before heading back. About an hour later we woke up Bryce. Tony and I taught him how to eat with friends. We talked about Christmas. Tony warned Bryce about his bad habits. "For one thing, this kitchen stays spotless. And I am not only moving in, but I am bringing with me about five hundred books. And here is the real tough one. You are going to have to learn how to give back rubs. And wrestle. And share a bed with one very affectionate friend." Bryce tried to hold back a grin and tease Tony by saying, "I think you'll have to sleep on the floor. I can only take so much." We all started laughing. We knew Bryce was tickled to death. He couldn't even fake disappointment. It seemed like just a few minutes and we had to head back to school. We stood at the door and tried to say good night. Bryce couldn't stop grinning. We all hugged. Bryce didn't want to let go. We headed back to school. I drove while Tony went over some of my note cards with me. Change isn't easy or quick. But being loved sure helps pass the time while a guy changes. The message we gave to Bryce was this: don't worry about changing, don't worry about your past. The goal is to gradually replace old memories with new memories. If friendship is part of the reality of creation, then there is no need to worry about consequences. Friendship will fulfill our needs. It will not frustrate us. It will not lead us down a dead end road. It leads on. Friendship leads on and upward in life. Guy sex is a short cut to feeling good. Friend ship is created to fulfill us and to enable us to enjoy all of life.

Week 11 Day 2 Monday. I had the first of three finals today. I aced it. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had heard or feared. What I did fear was my final meeting of the year with Brad. We had grown further and further apart. We were starting to wear on each other. I am

glad for the Christmas break. I am not sure I want to continue getting frustrated each Monday talking with him. I enjoy his views, but knowing a guy is firmly set in his ways, makes growth very difficult. We have both dug our heals in. We come at each other from extremes. Extremes don't compromise. I started my session with Brad by sharing more of the joy I find living life surrounded by four great friends. He chuckled as I talked. It is the same kind of smile an adolescent gives his little brother when the little brother says the greatest feeling in life is to race his bicycle through the woods. The big brother is wiser and knows things he cannot tell little brother. He just gives an all-knowing smile. That is the feeling I get when Brad smiles as I describe my friends. "Let me tell you what you are experiencing," Brad said in his favorite superior posturing. "We all dream of being a hit before a crowd. The bigger the crowd, the more successful we are. We all struggle through life until we can find a crowd that idolizes us. All you have done is to find a crowd, however small, that makes you feel good. If you could get a record contract or a sports contract, you could move to a new level of feeling good about yourself. "The secret is to discover why we are here in life. We are on earth to perform. No matter what we do we a performing. Even in sex we are performers. It doesn't matter with whom we have sex as long as we can perform well. Great sex is being able to impress our partner in sex. Some have hang ups about gay sex so they cannot perform well. Their feeling of disgust is not from homosexuality, it is from not performing well. As long as we have an audience to applaud us we will be happy. "The greatest joy in life is to do something and be able to say, 'They all stood and cheered.' My idea of eternity in heaven is applause that never stops. Whatever I do, the crowd goes crazy. I think this is the basic part of our nature. It even shows up in how we describe God. We create a God who wants to be praised. Praise is just another word for saying that God wants our applause. People go to church to give applause to God and to pacify Him. We leave church and imitate our God by trying to find a crowd that will praise us in the same way." "I can't believe you Brad. No matter what I say, you have a

naturalistic explanation for my experience. There is no cosmic order to which we align ourselves, just the proper understanding of our mental makeup and hormone functioning. It is all mind and hormones. Once we reduce life to these elements, all else falls in place for you. Other people are not there as real people, but as objects which can be used to manipulate your mental condition, or excite your physical senses. All of reality takes place somewhere inside of our body. The universe ends at our skin. "I just cannot buy that. I won't buy it. There is a real God, who created real people, who relate by real laws created into the universe. The joys and delights are reflections of our natures as being created in the image of God. We reflect his image and his creation. We live inside of a universe that is God's temple." "I must say this to you Eric, you're weird. It is a good thing you have found a couple of friends to share in your narrow views. At least you have a small audience to applaud your efforts. I guess you will have happiness in your own little way." He finished with that same superior grin. Wow, I hate that. We said good-bye in a very formal way. It was like good riddance. *** Our group got together for a few minutes in the afternoon. There was another final tomorrow, but I needed the friendship of our circle of hugs and touch. If I isolate myself for too long from my friends, I find myself reverting back quickly to the struggles I went through last summer. The other guys mention the same struggle. We are not that far from our past that its memories aren't still fresh. Steve quickly remembers his temptations to guy sex. Jason remembers the feelings of sharing an orgasm with another body. Tony thinks of the times spent masturbating to male skin magazines. Me, I start looking for a pair of eyes that I can look into and feel intense pleasure. As we gathered, Christmas vacation was on our mind. Also, we wanted to make sure of our plans to stay in touch, literally, during Christmas. Steve and Jason plan to spend a lot of time in Chehalis during the break. We need each other. Our lives are

moving beyond today. Without a strong commitment, we will drift apart. But any commitment must be larger than the group which employs it. Commitment to commitment is not a possibility. It will only work temporarily. We don't have a larger purpose. Our friendship could easily develop into a religion similar to our parents. Religion when it loses all purpose becomes merely a formal gathering. I have seen friendships evolve into similar formalities. Old army buddies gather, but all they share is past experiences. We have shared a bonding and liberation these past eleven weeks. That is now past. We have a future. But what do we do with it. I guess what scares me is I see myself already becoming in some ways like my father. The security and routine of Chehalis at times are so appealing. There is a social molding process that goes on within our society. It is easy to go with the flow. Resistance takes effort. It takes planning. It takes a vision of the future. My parents had no vision beyond earning a living. They just did what society says all good Americans do. And somewhere along the way, they just gave up. Routine took over and they died. As I sit here I can hear the bells toll, and I too fear they toll for me.

Week 11 Day 3 Tuesday. Final number two is over. Aced another one. One more test to go. One more test and I get to enter the world of freedom. I have a life planned for me here at school. My schedule is planned, and the better part of the day, to a degree, is planned. But for three weeks I will be free. All my life I have been under other obligations. I never even knew it. During this first quarter I became aware that I am a fish in water. I became conscious of the water. Social pressure is that water. I want to live outside of the water. But does that mean that I would no longer be a fish? If I choose to live outside of the goals that society sets for me, what will happen? Will I be like those bums that live under bridges? They are free. Will I be like those who live alone in the woods of the Northwest? They are free.

What have I started? It is one thing to rebel against my parents. It is one thing to rebel against my religion. But can I rebel against the very structures that make social living possible? I wake up in the middle of the night and fear that I really have backed myself into a blind alley. Maybe I should just get a wife, get a degree, get a job, and get some sense. And what's worse, I feel like I have led four others down the same trail that I have taken. I am the original blind leading the blind ... and not even that original.

Week 11 Day 4 Wednesday. No final today. I thought I would bring up my previous two days' of notes and fears before the group of four. We have been real busy. This is our first chance to really get together this week. We gathered in Jason's and Tony's room. I read my notes. Jason spoke first, "Are you saying we are blind?" "In a sense. We all came to school disillusioned. We had been rejected by our own particular cultures. We didn't belong to any culture. We formed our own. Unfortunately small cultures do not survive. Maybe we should just form our own monastery." "I hear you can't beat off in a monastery," Tony joked. "I guess we have to rule out that option," Steve retorted. "We could form the Church of the Holy Hand," Tony laughed. "Come on guys, I'm serious," I said trying to return to my original thesis. "Where do we go?" "Nowhere" Tony kept chuckling. "Where do we go from here?" I repeated. "I see your point," Steve said. "We are right now united in rebellion against our parents' world. But that will only take us

so far. Each generation of kids rebel against their parents only to become just like them. Each generation thinks they are going to change the world. Nothing changes. It is scary to think that all our efforts are futile. We are young, we have fresh ideas, and we have a lifetime ahead of us. But in a few years we will be aging, and be rejected by a new generation that has all the answers we never could find." Jason tried to contribute next, but I'm not sure how much help he was. "I have taken a lot of history and reading about all the people in time who have tried to make a difference is de pressing. We seem to live in a world that is falling apart. Thousands of years of people working all their lives for improvement, many millions dying in war, and all of the efforts of religion and science have produced nothing. We have a government going bankrupt. We are a welfare system that breeds failures. We are not safe on the streets. We are polluting the world. Our food supply is poisoned by additives. A new generation has come along that is preoccupied with drugs and sex. "We talk about what we should do. History seems to be telling us that we should be doing nothing. After all nothing will make a difference. If whether I work my tail off or whether I enjoy pizza and cola makes no difference, then let's eat, drink and be merry, for we are all going to die anyway. And even in our little group, sometimes it is tempting to just bug out. We have had some good times together, but it has also been a time of facing pain and facing the bastard that lives inside each of us. "I grew up in a fundamentalist group that solved the problem by retreating into a little group and letting the rest of the world go to hell. We kept law and order within the church. Boy did we ever. What about outside the church? No one seemed to care. After all, nothing we did would make a difference anyway. We sang peppy songs and had pot-luck dinners. We had some good times. And yet I grew up totally frustrated by that environment. Something cried out inside of me for more. I thought it would be simple to find the 'more.' It ain't." "I guess I better get a word into this depressing atmosphere," Tony said. "As we sit here, I have memories of bicycling around Richland. I had no real home to go back to. Just a bed and some food in the refrigerator. But my real home was wherever I could park my bike and read a good book. I kept

myself going because I always felt that someday I would have a friend and a place to call home. "But here I am. I have in a sense fulfilled my fantasies. And yet I feel the same as I did five years ago. Eric is right. We have started something, but we aren't going anywhere. It is like all of us were on a trip and we stopped for a meal. There in the restaurant were other travelers. We ate and talked and had the fellowship of being fellow pilgrims. And yet the time has come to leave the restaurant. As we walk out the restaurant door, we must now decide where we must go. "We have had some good food together these last three months. We are outside right now. We are all standing outside that rest stop from our sojourn. Do we continue on alone? Do we travel together? And even more important, where do we go? I have been cut off from my family. I have run out of money. I hope to get a job and move in with Bryce. But that is only a place to park my bike. Even if Bryce and I become like brothers, we will end up just like our parents. We will eat out, go to the mall, do our job, and think about retiring." "Now that I have brought everyone down to my level," I said, "I can go back to my studies knowing you guys all share my misery.” Tony then grabbed me and threw me on the floor. We started wrestling around. Jason and Steve joined in. We threw each other around until we were a sweaty mess. The dirt from the floor stuck to our sweaty shirts. We looked terrible. The floor looked great. We retired to the shower room. We hadn't found any answer. We didn't need any quick answer. We were all aware of the situation. Problems are not as easy to solve as any of us thought. We all thought four months ago that all our problems would be solved if we could just have a friend. Well, we have a friend. The problems are still there. Except now we have each others' problems besides our own. Also, we are aware that just having friends will not solve everything. Our fantasy of hope has proved to be false. In one sense we are worse off than before. We have been left with problems and no fantasy solution. Somebody once said that the worst thing is to have your dreams come true. We are facing that situation. At least we are facing it together.

Week 11 Day 5 Thursday. My last final. I have completed my first quarter of college. I don't even care right now whether I aced the test or not. I am out of here. I am free. I am a man of leisure. At least for three hours until I arrive back home in Chehalis. Then I return to the world of high school. The world I wanted so much to leave behind. I can see now why the Greeks believed in cycles. Life shows no progress, it just revolves. I am getting off one merry-go-round only to get on another one. Life seems like a giant wheel that is rotating. On the outside of the wheel are a series of smaller wheels. We all get on one or another of the little wheels and go around for awhile. Maybe we change and get on another wheel for awhile. But in the meantime, the big wheel keeps turning. And when it stops, it is time for us to get off. That is death. But what is life? Is it just trying to find a little wheel to jump on each day? I'm back to the big routine, aren't I? [I think this is where I am left by my readers.] *** I helped Tony pack everything he owns into a newly purchased pickup. Tony was excited. He felt getting a job and having a place to call home would be two firsts in his life. He was finally on his own. I tried to hide my sadness. I not only will miss him, his back rubs, but his optimism. One thing that is cheap on campus is pessimism. You can find it everywhere. I have a list of things I call, "Signs of the Times." These are items that are events that take the temperature of an age. I think it is a sign of the times that our future leaders are such a pessimistic lot. Tomorrow has no meaning. I have also talked to nineteen year old who are already talking about what they want to do when they retire. There is a fifty year gap in there with no content. Just a job. Earn some money. The only future that they can imagine with any optimism is the time when they can retreat from life. What is that makes the life of a culture so boring? Isn't there something in life besides "having a good time." It doesn't matter who you talk to. I can talk to the religious, the atheist, the new ager, and the

political activist and they all agree on one thing. Today is the day to have a good time. They each pursue their good time according to their individual beliefs, but the goal is the same. I guess that is why I am so depressed right now. When I discovered love and friendship a whole new world opened up to me--TOMORROW! Being loved and accepted by friends and by God gave me hope and promise. I felt the pain of my past was over. I could accomplish something. I wanted to do something. I wanted a purpose that would take a lifetime of work and joy to complete. There is one big problem, however. There is nothing in society that is set up to answer my new found optimism. Where does a guy go? I feel lost. I find that the forced fun that everyone is trying to have is very depressing. Everyone seems to be working so hard at it. Recently Tony and I stopped for some coffee on our trip to Chehalis. We sat on some rocks by a river and looked at Mt. Rainier. We sat close in space and in heart. No words were exchanged. We just soaked up the smell and the beauty. If I can call that "fun" that is one the greatest moments of my life. No one can do that on campus. I can see why Tony is excited about leaving. Also, it gives him a chance to find a place to express his love, concern and optimism. Maybe he can find it and teach me. I followed Tony all the way to Bryce's place. Bryce had really been hard at work. He had made room for all of Tony's books. He had even used his uncle's workshop to build book shelves. The place was really cleaned up. He had even got the yard around the little place all weeded. Bryce was waiting for us with a pot of coffee and some donuts. When Tony saw how much work Bryce had done for him, he broke up into laughter and tears. It was quite a sight. The two rejects have really hit it off. They are both so proud to have each other. I decided to make dinner. Tony and Bryce sat in front of the bookshelves sorting through Tony's books. Tony would show Bryce a particularly good one and explain that they should read this one together. Bryce would pick up another that looked interesting or one he had heard about and would recommend they read that one together. It made me so happy to see my two friends so much in love with each other. In case any one wonders, I made spaghetti. Of course with real strong garlic bread that would curl thin sheets of steel.

*** I left my two friends and headed for "home." At least the place I grew up in. It is hard to call it home anymore. I walked in the house and it was like I had never left. My parents were watching T.V. in the same two chairs I had left them. I think they were even watching the same program. The house and yard were the same. Nothing had changed. I greeted them and they went quickly back to their program. I had changed so much. Things at home were frozen in time. I wondered what I would say to them. I mean there would be no way they would understand any of my feelings. In order to survive in the great routine, they had eliminated emotion from their lives. They had no deeply held feelings about anything. Deep, body consuming emotions can be very threatening. It makes us realize we are mortal. Delight and joy lead us to realize that life comes to an end when joy and delight shall be no more. We have to come to terms with purpose and why we are here. If I make life into a dull routine, I have no hunger for eternity. Excitement and hope and optimism run into the ultimate barrier--death. For me, my joy and delight in life have come from eternity. If I don't have an eternal hope, I must snuff out any hope for tomorrow. The two go together. The fear of death leads to death in everyday life. If you try to love deeply and share the eternal gladness with another human, you become aware of the limits of time. I am coming to understand why love stories always have the pair pledge fidelity forever. I am coming to understand while old tales ended with the phrase "and they all lived happily ever after." Love and happiness demand eternity. Any thing less is impossible to think about. A society that casts out eternity from its midst, ends up casting out love and happiness. In place of the above two, you have the two great themes of America today--pleasure and routine. Maybe I am more conscious of this because these two themes make up college life. We are not there for the traditional reasons to learn anything. We are there because a good job demands that we have a degree. College is a degree factory. I guess that is good because it prepares us for life as a large factory. And when we are not doing the things that getting a degree requires, we pursue pleasure. We

pursue it like there will be no tomorrow. And in that environment, there really isn't one. Just today repeated for four years.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The first day of the eighteen days of Christmas. Friday. I drove around town this morning. I felt like a stranger in my own home town. It is not the same town I remember. Gone only four months and I can't go home again. But it is true. I have changed and the town seems to be a museum to my past. There are

memories here, some good memories, but they are locked in time. It is like looking into a time capsule. It is like "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in its opposite. I am getting older and the town remains the same. There is a new generation of kids who meet at the Burger Hut. There is a new generation hanging out at the mall and strutting their new clothes. I am no longer in style with the high school kids. Teenage culture changes so fast if you are out of touch for only a short time you are an outsider. I sound like my parents. I wear the wrong clothes and I don't recognize the names of the rock groups. Gee, I feel old. I was thinking about last summer and how much I have changed in the nearly four months I have been away. I suddenly found myself alone last summer. I went all through twelve years of school here and I never realized I was alone. Maybe loneliness comes with maturity. I used to be able to feel like I had friends just because I could pull into a parking lot and every body knew me. I could walk down the hall at school and I could tell you most of the names of the people I bumped into. I knew there was always a group at the mall or the Burger Hut willing to swap stories. Bryce changed all that. I was both excited and full of fear. In my first seventeen and one-half years I had never thought of somebody as a real person like myself. They were just there like furniture. When Bryce opened up his eyes I could see something inside of him. I was a different person. I couldn't go back. I couldn't admit it to myself at the time but I was confused. Bryce was beautiful, friendly, cheerful, intelligent, and sexy. I couldn't admit it and understand it, but just talking to Bryce on the phone would give me an erection. I withdrew of sorts from him. But the seed had been planted. I couldn't escape from the desire to be close to a friend and the fear that I would go too far. Everywhere I went last summer I tried looking into others' eyes. Bryce scared me, but perhaps I could find someone with his eyes where I could be in control. Bryce would have done anything I asked. I sensed it. (I later found out that was true.) I kept looking. I also knew that in a small town I was very visible. Some of the older folks made some smart remarks about my changes. One guy, about thirty, in the mall asked me if I was

cruising. I acted dumb. I was naive. But I figured out he could see through me. I retreated. I was determined that when I went to college and was surrounded by strangers that I would pursue the soul of a guy. No matter where it ended up, I was going to find out what the hunger inside me meant. I was afraid to no end. One thing about a man is his cock sometimes gives him away. Whenever I tried to look into another's eyes and eyes looked back my cock would think it was wanted. I felt I had two personalities. I swear my cock had a brain of its own. I even ended up talking to my cock. After all, if it was not under my control, whose control was it under anyway? I would say, "All right, Dick, what do you want now?" And of course, "it" would answer, "I want to come out and play." I would have to say, "I'll tell you when it's time, now go back to sleep." But cocks don't mind too well. My initial crowd of friends also had that same problem with Dick. I found out that they were just as embarrassed as I was. Except Tony. He was proud of his friend and always liked to let Dick come out and play. That was good for me. Once I no longer felt I had to be ashamed of my unruly friend, Dick stopped being so rebellious. I sometimes think now he did those things just to make me feel uncomfortable. If I were an artist, I would have painted a nude picture of myself. My face would be all red and embarrassed. My cock would be laughing it's erect head off. Eventually I learned that my cock wasn't as smart as he thought he was. Oh, he could still do his unruly thing, but if I ignored him, he got bored. I discovered that I was in control. I couldn't always control my emotions, but I could control my actions. Also, I had friends who were trying to figure out the same "Twilight Zone" experiences they were having with their own body. Jason helped me a lot in this area. One thing I am so thankful for is that somehow I was saved from making any serious mistakes while on my pilgrimage. Bryce told of a guy he met in the dorm in Boston. He had gone through similar experiences as Bryce and I. He was only fifteen when he spent one weekend giving vent to experimentation. He is now HIV positive. One weekend of loneliness and he is dying. It doesn't seem fair. I can only say what Steve has told me repeatedly, "There go I but for the grace of God." I am learning that. I was so "lucky" to find real friends before I got desperate. I

was able to find what I was looking for before I looked in the wrong place. I am humbled. Because I know how close to the edge I had come. I had not fallen over. Wow! I drove over to see how Tony and Bryce were doing. It was almost lunch time anyway. It is funny how my having friends has changed things. I remember driving these streets last summer over and over. I was looking for something. I picked up a lot of hitch-hikers. I drove to the parks and walked around. I talked to anyone that would talk to me. It was one lonely town. Now I am driving in a straight line. I am heading to Bryce's. I have a destination. I drove into the alley that leads to the little apartment. I could see Tony's pickup parked there and Bryce's delivery van. I knocked and heard a loud, "Come on in." I went in and found Tony and Bryce still laying in bed. They were wrapped around each other. I said, "Hey, it's lunch time." "What happened to breakfast?" Tony laughed. "I thought I would treat you guys to some really good burgers," I proposed. "I guess we've talked enough," Bryce added. "Yeah," Tony said, "We've been just laying here and talking since about seven. This is the first time I have felt like I really have a place where I am welcome. I can come home at night and know that there will be someone here who wants to be with me. That is something. I am so excited." One thing I am aware of now more than ever is that friends share friends. I don't sense any competition from my friends for anyone's attention. I trust Tony. I trust Bryce. Tony I know will still give me back rubs. Bryce will still always be there to talk and look into my soul. We had a great lunch together. I had a hard time saying much. Both Bryce and Tony wanted to tell me everything that was going on. Seeing both of these guys so excited just made me feel good all over. As I drove home late that afternoon, I again drove in circles. I just drove all over Chehalis. I just wanted the feelings I had to last. I knew when I stepped into my parents'

house, all good feelings would come to an end. I would be greet ed with the alien reality of the evening news. My father would remind me of the dangers in the big city and my mother would tell me who was sick and dying in Chehalis. Each in their own way had a fascination with death. Maybe because they had already died. I always felt that they had been involved in trench warfare with life. They were dug in. Fearing life and fearing death, they had nowhere to go but to stay in their safe trench.

Day Two of the Eighteen Days of Christmas. Saturday. I slept in this morning. When I got up I found a list of chores that needed to be done. I had forgotten what Saturday at my parents' house meant. I hadn't really forgotten, I had just hoped my parents had forgotten. It was my job to put up the outdoor lights for Christmas. I was to go up into the national forest and get a Christmas tree. My father had already purchased a permit. It was tacked to the list. And the back yard brush needed to be hauled to the dump. There is something to be said for living in the dorm year around. I sat down to breakfast. My mother joined me at the table. The questioning began. My father is of Scandinavian descent. My mother of German. I think her grandparents trained Gestapo agents. It started like this– "I thought you might be bringing home a sweet little girl for us to meet." "I've been busy." "You have had plenty of time to run around with Bryce and Tony." "They're my friends." "Don't you have any girl friends?" "Not really." "I would think there are plenty of fine looking young ladies in a school that large."

"I suppose." "Is there something you're not telling me?" "Nope." "I mean, people in town are talking about Bryce. They say there is more to is coming home than what his parents are saying. They say..." "I don't care what people say. Bryce is my friend." "I mean people are going to start talking about you if you start hanging out in that little apartment of his." "My friends won't talk." "That is easy for you to say. Your father and I have to live in this town. We have to go to church and shopping. We have to face the people in this town. It isn't fair for you to hurt us by making people talk about you." "I can't turn on my friend, Bryce." "What if he is gay? Would you turn on him then?" "He is not gay." "That is not what I hear." "You heard incorrectly." "I sometimes wonder about you. You have no girlfriend. You hang out with a guy people say is homosexual. What is your mother to think?" "You are to think I am your son." "Don't be smart with me. I want to know when you plan to get married." "I have no plans at this time."

"You know you are the only one in this family to carry on the family name. If you don't have any kids, the name 'Johanson' will die out." "If I have all daughters it will die out also." "What's got into you? You never used to talk back to me. Is this what college does to you? I am not sure you appreciate how much we are paying for your education." "I do appreciate it. But money doesn't buy obedience, only respect." "I don't see much respect." "You'll have to excuse me. I have chores to do." "I told Roy and Betty Nelson you would be home for Christmas. You know Julie, their daughter? She would make a nice friend. I could arrange for you to go to dinner and a movie." "No thank you." "If it is a question of money...." "It's not the money. I plan to spend a lot of time with my school friends this Christmas." "And Bryce?" "And Bryce." "I think you and your father are going to have to have a real talk about the facts of life. You can't go on living like this. It is time you grew up." "Thanks for the breakfast, Mom. I got to get going." I left. As I did I looked back. She was wiping her eyes. She was crying. I felt like shit. I wanted to hide. I was also angry. My parents were not being fair. I decided to head out to get the Christmas tree. I needed time to be by myself. I thought I had matured so much during the last four months. My maturity has caused my parents to reject me. I was so proud of myself. I was

becoming truly happy for the first time and my parents did not care. All they worried about was the small town rumor mill. I felt trapped. I felt ashamed. But I couldn't change. I couldn’t understand why they couldn't accept me. I still am their son. If I had a kid I couldn't imagine treating him the way my parents treat me. Why is that? I got the lights up today and a tree picked out. I stayed in my room all evening. I read. I thought about going over to see Tony and Bryce. But I figured they needed some time together. I thought of cruising the town. I didn't. I just read. My parents planted themselves in front of the T.V. They sat in separate chairs. They didn't even talk during commercials. I guess that is what they want me to do. Get a girl, have a kid or two, and sit my life away. I can't do that.

Day 3 of the l8 days of Christmas. Sunday. Bryce and Tony called and asked if I would go to church with them. I hadn't given it much thought, but just to get out of the house for awhile.... I drove over and picked them up. I asked them where we were going. Bryce answered, "My uncle told me about a small, fairly new church that might be to my liking. It is called Creek Valley Community." "I like it already. I never have liked churches named after cities in ancient Israel or other weird sounding names like Trinity Lutheran or Grace Baptist. I have always thought a church should be called the 'House of Sinners.'" "They might attract the wrong kind of crowd if they did that," Tony laughed. "You mean like us," Bryce joined in laughing.

I laughed especially hard after all the pressure from my parents. "I think that's what I need right now, a church that welcomes people the town of Chehalis won't touch." "You're talking about us again, aren't you," Bryce said still laughing in his voice. "You've heard?" I asked. "My Aunt and Uncle keep me informed. They believe in me and trust me. They think I am the neatest guy. They really like me. They are quite a couple. I am very lucky to have them. I can see now why my uncle and aunt never associated with my parents much. They're too nice," Bryce said. We got to the church a little early. An older man asked where we would like to sit. Tony said as far back as possible. He laughed and pointed toward the balcony. It was a church very much different than any of us had ever been to. It was so personal and informal. There was no pulpit. The singing was upbeat and the minister just sat in a chair and talked. He talked as if he were talking to one person. No yelling. No condemnation. He just talked like a friend out fishing with you. It is like his chair was a log by the stream and you were there with him. He was dressed informally. I almost expected him to pick up a fishing rod and start tying a fly during the sermon. I liked it. Afterwards we stayed for coffee and donuts. Quite a few people came up and introduced themselves. We felt relaxed. I leaned over to Tony and said, "These people must not be plugged into the rumor mill. They're talking to us." Bryce heard me and responded, "Maybe they are sinners also." I don't know why, but that thought really struck me funny. I mean my parents act perfect. They expect me to be perfect. Bryce's parents are the same way. They have totally rejected him since his failure in Boston. And of course there is Tony. We all started to laugh and I think several people noticed but no one seemed to care. I think because most of them seemed either laughing or on the verge of laughing most of the time during the coffee session. We thanked several people for their hospitality and left. Bryce said to Tony and I, "We'll have to come back."

We all agreed. "Wouldn't Steve and Jason," I added, "be surprised if they saw us now. I mean they are the churchy ones. And here we are actually going to and enjoying a church. I think my parents are right. I am getting weird."

Day 4 Monday. I slept in this morning again. The main reason is I waited for my parents to finish breakfast and get out of the house. I am one of those who wake up slowly. Not only do I not feel like talking in the morning, I even less like defending myself or my lack of the proper credentials of manhood. During a bowl of corn flakes the phone rang. "Hello." "Hello, Eric, is that you? This is Steve." "Hey, Steve, it is good to hear your voice. I need a little pick up this morning. My parents have been a real pain." "Well, it has been easier for me. Bringing home Jason for Christmas was a stroke of genius. They are really impressed with my choice of friends. Jason's good looks goes a long way. Fundamentalists are very impressed with handsome young men. Plus Jason can be real polite. He even went to church with the family. It made a great impression with my image conscious parents. If they knew that Jason is just as big a sinner as I am, they would be shocked." "Maybe I should borrow him for awhile." "Well, we will be staying with Tony and Bryce for a couple of days. You can always take him home with you for a night. That might make an impression with your parents. It might even help your image."

"I think I will do that. If nothing else, it will be a interesting study of my parents reaction. So what have you guys been doing besides going to church?" "Well, Jason and I had the house to ourselves Saturday so I rented a movie. One of my favorites. It has an all male cast." "'Ice Station Zebra?'" I asked. "This one had an 'X' rating." "Let me see. All male and scenes of sex. That kind of limits the possibilities doesn't it?" "Before I met you guys I used to really love those movies. It wasn't the sex. Really. I just enjoyed watching guys give each other affection. Even if it was immoral affection, it was more affection than I was getting. I used to play over and over the scenes leading up to the sex. I used to have this insatiable craving for hugging." "So what did Jason think of it?" "Actually, I was surprised. I had changed a lot since I had last seen one. I found it just as gross as he did. I hadn't noticed before, but the affection that is given in those movies is so mechanical. It is not really about real people loving each other. It is about cocks having places to penetrate. I guess it is a good sign. I find so much satisfaction with you guys that what used to turn me on no longer does." "Well, I am glad you called. I am getting a little down. I am stuck doing chores and hearing sermons from my parents. Bryce works during the day, and Tony is doing a job interview today. If it all goes right, he will start tomorrow installing cable t.v. boxes. He is pretty excited. So is Bryce in having an affectionate friend. I feel a little lonely at times. I am happy for Bryce and Tony but I need some hugging too." "Well, Jason and I will be coming down on Wednesday for several days. I'll make sure you get a lot of hugging." "Thanks, Steve. Maybe we can do something together. Just the two of us. I need some one-on-one attention."

"We'll see you in two days." "Thanks, Steve. Say hello to Jason." I spent the rest of the day hauling brush to the dump. My father had made sure I had things to do during the vacation. He has been saving a list for me. At least when I am working, it takes the pressure off of me. Tony called for a minute just to let me know he got the job. He and Bryce have to get to bed at nine so he suggested I not come over until Wednesday evening. He and Bryce were going to get some more furniture Tuesday evening after work. I said that was great, but I felt a little left out. I could understand. I just felt lonely. I had spent the last four months surrounded by four friends. One was always available. Now we are either separated or busy. I am so tempted to start cruising the mall.

Day 5 Tuesday. I had one more load of brush to haul to the dump. While there I ran into Jeff. We graduated together. He is not the brightest kid. Jeff works in a service station. We talked standing next to our trucks. I asked him how he was doing. He answered, "Well, I've got a job. That is more than some. I do need a wife though. All the guys I knew in high school are engaged or married right now. I don't even have a steady. They keep giving me a bad time. I have to get a better job so I can afford a wife. Right now, I feel left out. We had a picnic at the ocean last September and I was the only one without a girl under his arm. I felt so obvious. I just hope it doesn't take too long. I sure am lonely. How about you? Are you married yet? Any plans?" "No, I'm just going to college. I really don't know why. I don't even know what I want to do in life. I am kind of in between right now. I really don't know what I want." "It sounds like you and I have a lot in common."

"Yeah," I said, "it's hard graduating. I guess I kind of miss the life of high school. I never had much to worry about then. Now, life seems to offer so many options. I really don't know what to do." "I figure if I get a good job, everything else will fall into place. There are a lot girls who will fall for a guy with a good union paying job." We parted. He wasn't the kind of guy I wanted to meet again. He is just so ordinary. He is just living a life. He seems to have no goals beyond keeping the race going. There seems to be two things I need in life. One, I need a mission in life. Some purpose beyond just living life one day at a time. And two, I need a life that has intensity. Routine seems to have captured our society. We break the routine vicariously by watch ing movies or sports or sex. I just can't do that. It seems like the cheap way out. I spent the day thinking about life. I got very depressed. At school, the goal of passing tests provided at least temporary goals. When at home for break I feel the pain of separation. I am separated from school and my friends right now. There is no way I could bring a friend home with me. My parents would start a real scene if I brought a guy home to live in my bedroom. It just isn't done in our house. As long as I live at home, I will feel the pain of living life. I see my parents and it scares me. I realize they have made the best of a bad situation. I just cannot do that. They have separated themselves from pain by refusing to feel. They have withdrawn into a painless numbness. They are unhappy and don't know it. They are just waiting to die, and they don't know it. They are trying to force me to be like them, and they think they are doing it for me. I think I threaten their world. If I achieve real success and happiness outside of the system, they will have to look at themselves in the mirror. No person wants to come to the end of their life only to realize they were never alive. I know it is popular to blame our ills on our parents. I don't do that. Maybe I realize I have a heritage that I must separate myself from. But I don't blame them. I think one

reason families are unpopular today is that the nuclear family has become isolated. Kids used to be raised by a large network of family members and neighbors. A kid could pick and choose examples in life. Now with the child isolated inside the nuclear family, there are only two examples, the father and mother. Also, it seems ever since Freud, we have been taught to hate our parents. We have been told that all our faults stem from their problems. We are told we are victims. We are told that we were helpless putty in their sick hands. What we are not told is that we have the power to be in control. We have the power to choose. Our destinies are our own. But right now, I feel the victim of everybody and the whole society we live in. Nothing is working out. I don't even know what I want. How can I choose? To tell you the truth, I understand why everybody is looking for answers in drugs and sex. I mean, it is so easy. I am struggling. I know it would be so easy to have sex with someone. Sex makes one think life has a meaning. Sex has an intensity to it that seems to satisfy. Take away sex from our society and there isn't much left. Yesterday I ran into a high school sophomore. He was lonely. He was good looking. I think he was flirting with me. When we talked he rubbed his crotch and got an erection. I was turned on by it. I almost asked him if he wanted to do something. We exchanged phone numbers. Now, what do I do if he calls? He knew I was lonely. I knew he was horny. We could help each other. But can we?

Day 6 Wednesday. I woke up today to a fresh blanket of show. The Northwest variety, real wet snow. As I was eating my bowl of corn flakes I got a call from Jason. He said he and Steve didn't have snow tires on either of their vehicles so they are going to wait a day or two before coming down to visit. I understood. But when I heard the news I got very frustrated. I blamed God. I couldn't figure out why I had to spend the day alone again. I had looked forward to their visit so much. Now I have another day alone in my parents house.

I know one reason I am down today is that my parents had another discussion last night at dinner. They wanted to know what I was going to do with my life. I didn't know. They wanted to know what I was doing to find out a plan. I said nothing. They wanted how my grades were. I said average. They wanted to know how many dates I had during the first quarter. I was in a bad mood after all the questions. I answered, "You mean with guys or girls?" You should have seen their faces drop. If nothing else it shut them up for awhile. After I had been sitting in my room for awhile, I got a phone call from the sophomore kid I met yesterday named Dave. He was also lonely and stuck home in the snow. His mother works during the day. He is an only child. He is not real popular. We talked for quite awhile. After awhile the subject turned to sex. He asked if I were gay. I said I wasn't. I asked him what his identity was. He said he hadn't had sex with anyone so there is no way to say. He said he would like to have sex with each to decide. I tried to explain what I thought of the third option, friendship. Dave asked where I lived. It turned out we only lived a few blocks apart. He asked if the could come over. I said sure. I was nervous. I knew Dave had no personal restraints. I knew I was in a weak condition. I probably should have said no, but I didn't. In fifteen minutes Dave was at the door. I opened up the door and invited him in. I was so nervous. "Hello, Dave. It is good to see you." "Hi, Eric." He stepped in and removed his coat and hat. Even though it was winter, he wasn't wearing that much. Underneath his winter coat was a tight t-shirt cut off above his navel. He was wearing spandex bicycle tights that were too small for him and it was obvious he was wearing nothing under his tights. For a sixteen year old he was well-developed sexually. We went to my bedroom to talk. We both sat on my bed and talked for awhile. "So how has college been, Eric." "Kind of boring really."

“How has high school been for you?" "The same." We kind of sat there looking into each other's eyes. We both grinned. Dave grabbed my arm and started tickling me. I did the same. We started wrestling all over the bed. I eventually pinned him. We sat still for a few seconds. He freed one of his hands and brushed against my crotch. It felt good. I immediately got an erection which was easily visible even with my 501's on. Dave looked down at his crotch and he was super hard. I rolled over and laid next to him. We hugged each other. Dave rolled over on top of me. I had never been in a situation like this before. There was never any question of going too far with my college friends. We all were committed to friendship. Dave is committed to experimentation. He wanted guy sex. I could tell. I didn't want to reject him. He is very vulnerable. It also felt good. He put his arms around my head and gave me a kiss, right on the lips. I reached around and started rubbing his butt with both hands. I could feel his whole body become glued to my body. I suppose you think I am a fool. Looking back I can say I was. We both wanted something. We both took advantage of someone who was willing to trade what you wanted for what I wanted. We went too far. We rolled around on the bed. We had each other in a total hug and firm grip. We kissed and rubbed lips. I could feel Dave rub his body against mine. I knew I should have stopped him. Finally, I could feel his whole body jerk. He had come inside his tights. He gave a loud gasp and bounced and rocked on top of me. He fell limp. He rolled off and laid next to me. We both looked down and he had a large wet spot on his crotch. We continued to lay close to each other. We talked a bit but we really didn't have much in common. He asked if he could put his pants in the washing machine. He didn't dare go home in his current condition. He took them off and I put them in the washer. I asked him if he wanted to wear some of my clothes. He said no. He just walked around the house wearing just his t-shirt. I made him lunch. He walked around the kitchen. He would off and on get an erection as we talked. He liked showing off in front of me.

*** Later that night I drove over to see Tony and Bryce. I decided to confess to my friends my failure. I thought of keeping my lapse a secret. But I knew if I did that, the situation might fester underneath and cause problems to come between Tony and Bryce and myself. I gathered both of them into the living room and said I had something to say. "For some reason, the last couple of days I have been feeling sort of sorry for myself. I mean, Steve has Jason with him. You guys have each other. I am stuck home with chores and my parents. I really felt left out. I felt like it was me that brought all you guys together and now I am alone. So to get to the bottom line, I tried to cure my loneliness in the quickest and easiest way possible. I invited over a neighbor kid named Dave. He is just a high school sophomore. The only thing we seem to have in common is our loneliness. He doesn't seem very mature. "We started talking. That led to some wrestling around in my room. That led to us doing some pretty heavy making out. I didn't come, but Dave sure did. He really soaked himself. Afterwards I felt so guilty. I mean I did things with him I had never done before. And it is not just the guilt. I mean, what do I do if he wants to do it again? What if he threatens to tell my parents? My parents are all ready to kick me out. Also, the kid is a minor. Do you know how that would look if this kind of thing came out in the open. I have really got myself into a whole mess. "I thought of just trying to keep the whole thing a secret. I thought of trying to buy the kid off in some way. Well, I decided to tell you guys everything. I really don't know what to do at this point. I have tried to be an example for you guys, and I am the one who ends up on his butt. I really feel like I have let you down. I am scared, ashamed, and angry at myself all at the same time. So here I am. What do I do?" Tony looked at me and he could see I was crying. He put his arm around me and said, "First, let's get it right. The question is, 'What should we do?' You're not in this alone. We want to first of all let you know how sorry we are for ignoring you the

past several days." "Yeah," Bryce interjected as he also put his arm around me. "I mean, I knew you guys were busy. I understood. I was even glad for you guys. It was just the combination of my parents’ constant harassment, and the disappointment of not having Jason and Steve visit. I think I was more angry at God than at you guys. In fact, I know I was. I have turned my life over to him and things just don't seem to work out as I have planned. It made me feel that God was treating me just as my parents have. I think I went against my principles just to get even." "We have all failed," Bryce said. "I didn't want this to happen, but I am glad in a way. It gives me a chance to return the love you have shown me. Besides, since we have gotten to know each other, it seems like you have been trying too hard to be an example. Tony told me of the silly things you and he have done. Around me, you have been very formal. I couldn't believe you were the same person Tony described. On the bright side, maybe now you can let your hair down around me." "I never realized it, but what you say is true. You were so down when I met you I wanted to be upbeat. I didn't want to be an excuse for you to fail. I went a little overboard, didn't I?" "Just a little." Tony then added, "Don't worry, Eric. I have been an example of immaturity struggling through each day. Bryce has never had to worry about being smothered by perfection." "What Tony says is true," Bryce confirmed. "I have never felt any pressure to pretend to be more mature than I am. Around Tony, I figure I can be a complete jerk. After all, he is one also.” "Heeeeeeey," Tony laughed. "Thanks, guys," I said. "I needed your support tonight. There is still a question of how do I handle Dave. What do I do if he wants to do the same thing again?" "I think you need to be a big brother. It sounds like he needs one. You let him set the limits. A big brother sets the

limits. I don't think you would have invited a complete jerk into your bedroom. I am sure he can understand honesty," Tony counseled me. It made good sense. We watched a little T.V. and ate some ice cream. We kind of just kicked back and watched a movie video and laughed together. Great therapy. I returned home in good spirits and ready to face my parents anew.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Day 7 Thursday . The conflicting world of home and friends is on my mind again. It is something I can't figure out. Why is the home where I grew up the source of so much pain and conflict? Why do my parents seem to resent everything I have become? After I came home last night, my parents wanted to talk again about my plans in life. In a small town they can see some of my classmates graduate, marry, get a job and have kids. Some, through the help of their parents, are making their first house payment. Me, I am trying to figure out the maximum number of times I can masturbate during a week without diminishing the pleasure. Of course I am joking, but that is how I feel sometimes. Guys I graduated with are learning about natural childbirth. Me, I am learning.... What am I learning? I am learning how to pass tests with the minimum of effort. My parents notice the contrasts. I am living in a world of a different kind of maturity. College postpones entry into the world of my parents. I have entered into a different world. It has only taken four months and I have become a small-town reject. I have even avoided becoming too involved with the college culture. I am not into the all-night studying or the all-night partying. I live in the dorm, but I don't consider myself part of that crowd. Despite all this, I have changed. I really didn't know how much until I came home. My parents had not seen much of me for four months. They can now see every change in me. It angers them. I, without even thinking about it, have broken home ties. I have become a different person than those like me who have stayed behind. Now I have not become evil. I have not changed my morals from high school days. If anything, I am more moral now. I had choices in college that I never had to make in high school. Peer pressure is strong in a small school. In college there is no peer pressure. So if anything, I am much more moral now. I have made good choices in the land of big city opportunity. And yet, I have come home to constant criticism. In my parents' eyes, I have failed. More than that, I have become a failure.

What brought about such alienation in my life? I wonder that over and over. After my parents left this morning, I sat in the living room and watched it continue to snow. The peacefulness of the scene was such a contrast to the storm within me and within the place I used to call home. Why am I different? Is it my fault? Could I have become something different? And could I ever please my parents? Question after question flooded my mind this morning. What had college done to me? I wasn't even aware I had absorbed anything at all. It continues to snow. It looks like we'll have another six inches on top of yesterday's four. It sure is peaceful. I never realized how noisy life is until it slows down. I took a cup of coffee and sat out on the front porch. I couldn't hear any street noise. I swear I could hear the sound of snowflakes falling. Millions of flakes landing softly at once created a peaceful noise. I felt as if I never wanted to get up. I can see why some people want to move to the mountains. I know one reason the snow seems so beautiful. I had never noticed it before. Right now, I am outside of the routine of life. I have nowhere to be. I have nothing that needs to get done today. Everyone tries to continue on with life. Me, I am above all that. With routine set aside, I can see beauty. And maybe that is one of the things that has changed me. In college, I didn't really learn that much. But I did escape from the routine of life Even though I did not realize it at the time, I was able to live each day without too much of a pre-planned life. I was in control. I put in two or three hours of class and I was free. Being uprooted from everyday life, I was free for the first time since toddler days. Life in America is controlled. We live in a bureaucratic order. Even the T.V. guide controls our life more than we are aware. At college, I was not only uprooted from my family and town, I was uprooted from the controlled order that predestines our lives. Some blame the change on the lack of a controlling morality on campus. I disagree. Actually, more students bring their home-town morality to campus than people think. What they don't bring is the reality of house payments, job schedules, meal times, and all the little bonds that control the life of a family. At college, we are free from all of that. Home has changed. It is no longer the place I remember.

Home is now a place of conflict. There is no acceptance, security, praise, or encouragement. I have become an outcast. What is so hard to figure is I have no idea what I could have done differently. The home I now know has become all concerned with tradition, image, obedience, respect, duty, and obligation. Lectures abound on each of the above subjects. It is a world I no longer live in. It is among my friends that I now find commitment, joy, shared values, fellowship, and a sense of communal pilgrimage. We are living this life together and we understand the problems that we are all going through. We are helping each other to survive. Parents no longer seem to be aware of the problems of growing up. It is not all their fault. Times have changed. Living in the world of routine they are no longer aware of any thing much beyond taxes and the price of food. One major change is that we are living in the age of the postponed marriage. For most of those in college, marriage is not even in the near future. And for a lot more than wish to admit, marriage is not part of their plans at all. So many come from broken homes. Marriage conjures up images of fighting, anger, and pain. Who would want to go through that? The problem is that so many of our traditions are centered around the family. The holidays are family oriented. Whether it is Christmas, or pot-luck dinners the single male is left out. Even weddings and funerals are for couples and families. I have gone to some alone. I was never so lonely. I was invited to a pot-luck dinner. They asked me to bring the coffee. I felt like bringing one of those ten gallon thermoses that caterers use. I didn't, I brought a three pound can. But they don't ask single males to bring a salad or a hot dish. Gee, I could make jell-o. Community is dead. The isolated nuclear family is not a community. The traditional church is not a community. Even the small town is not a community. The satellite dish and the mall have put an end to small-town community. There is no longer anything to come home to. My family and my community are now made up of Bryce, Jason, Steve, and Tony. Without them I am reminded of the image of Dr. Spock being lost in space with his molecules scattered throughout warp time. I understand why so many resort to drugs and sex to fill the void. I understand why

so many are so angry. Violence is the last act of the isolated man.

Day 8 Friday. I woke up to the sounds of cars driving in gray slush. From the beauty of snow to the dirty sound of splashing melted snow. School is still out. At least there are no school buses plowing the roads. I wasn't up more than a few minutes and I got a phone call from Dave. I felt guilty immediately when I heard his voice. I was also afraid. I had wronged him. I had given an immature, horny, fatherless teenager a handle on me. I feared he would use that against me. I let him use me. Now will I pay the price? Maybe I have watched "Fatal Attraction" too many times, but I have seen what one mistake can do to a person. A good person with one flaw is brought down. Dave asked if he could come over. I didn't want to ever see him again. I didn't know how to repair the damage I had done. But if I refused to talk to him, I might only set him off. I agreed to his request. I sat in the chair by the front window watching for him. I was scared. I saw him walk up to the front door and I still hadn't figured out what to say. I opened the door and my sweaty palm slipped on the door knob. Dave walked in and gave me a big hug. I just stood stiff. I was afraid to hug back. Dave could tell my reluctance. He said, "I guess I sort of blew it with you last time, huh?" "What do you mean?" "I didn't mean to rub my cock against you or kiss you like I did. I felt bad later." I was relieved to hear him bear some of the blame. I could now open up a little. "Well, to tell you the truth, I felt bad also. I should have been like a big brother to you and I failed. I should have shown you how to be a friend and I let you down." "You mean you don't hate me." "Oh, no. You are a neat guy."

"Really?" "Yeah." "And you feel guilty also?" "Yeah." "Wow, that's fantastic. I was so afraid you would never want to see me again." "How about we start over?" I asked. "Great. I'll walk out and come in again. Okay?" He walked out and waited about fifteen seconds and knocked. I opened the door and he walked in. This time I gave him a big hug and he copied my moves. I asked him to sit down next to me on the couch so we could talk things out. "This ain't going to be easy, is it?" "No, I said. I think we will both be uncomfortable for awhile. But try not to be too afraid. I have found that honesty and commitment go a long way. I have also found that it is difficult to backtrack. We took a short cut to intimacy. It will take a lot of work to get to the point where we feel just as close as we did last time." "You mean we can be really close without having sex?" "Yeah, we can. It just takes time. Last time we both wanted an immediate kick. Sex can be like a drug. There is an instant high. Once you resort to that quicky high, it is difficult to work your way back to natural highs. You always think during the tough times, how easy it would be to just revert back." "So where do we start?" "Maybe the toughest place. We both have to admit that what we did last time was both fun and wrong. That is a difficult thing to admit. I mean, it felt really good when you were going

half crazy rubbing your body against mine. It made me feel good inside that my body, my very own body that I sometimes despise, could give pleasure to another person. At the time, I really enjoyed seeing you squirt your wad. It really turned me on. And here is the tough part. I would really enjoy doing it again. You are very good looking. And wow can you get excited when you are horny. You put on quite a show. "There has to be a belief that friendship and the joy and security that come with it are more important than any quick high. Also, we have to believe that when we use another person to make ourselves feel good it is wrong. We used each other sexually. That was wrong." "Okay," Dave said. He seemed more relaxed than me. "I can buy that, but what do we do together then? Just sit around and watch t.v.?" "Do you like corn flakes?" "Huh?" "Well, I haven't had breakfast yet. Do you want to join me?" "Well, I guess that's a start." "How about coffee?" Here is the real test I thought. "I love it." "I think you are going to work out all right." Dave smiled as we walked into the kitchen. I put my arm around him. He cuddled up real close as we walked. He then said something that made me feel real good. "Tell you what. I am just going to be myself and you tell me when I screw up. Otherwise, I just don't know how to act. I have never had a big brother or a father. Hell, I don't know what to do or say, but I think you're neat and want to be like you." "Are you sure you want to be like me. I am not exactly rich

and famous. I am not even popular. I have a couple of friends, that is all." "Could I meet them?" "I suppose it would be all right. But what will your mother think if you go over to a house where a bunch of single guys hang out." "Well, that won't be too difficult. She thinks all teenagers use drugs. All she asks of me is that I not smoke, drink or use drugs. She is pretty liberal I guess. I have promised her that. She told me that if I ever do any of the three that I am on my own. I know she means it. I guess she figures that if I stay away from the big three I will stay out of trouble." "Great, this weekend if the snow keeps melting, all of my friends are getting together to eat pizza and watch movie videos and talk. I'll take you along with me. I am sure it will be fine with them. But first I need to prepare you a little for your first meeting." "Are they fat and ugly?" Dave asked half joking. "Or are they old and senile?" "Young and senile, I think." We both laughed. "No it is just that our friendship has become very close. We are not very inhibited around each other. We don't hide much either psychologically or physically from each other. We are not afraid to see each other nude or see each other masturbate. We don't use each other's bodies to do it however. But that is just a side issue. The main thing is that we are very physically affectionate. There is a lot of hugging. It takes some getting used to. You might find yourself getting horny just watching my friends wrestle or hug. That is normal. If you get a boner at the wrong time don't worry about it. That's normal." "So what you're saying," Dave laughed, "is that all your friends are just as screwed up as you are!" "I think you'll fit in, you punk kid." I laughed and hugged Dave really hard. He hugged back and locked himself onto me. He didn't want to let go. Finally, I said. "I think my corn flakes are getting soggy."

After breakfast, we went into my bedroom. We both laid on the bed. This time I showed him how to just lay next to each other and just talk or just feel warm against each other. After a time, we both took off our shirts and renewed our closeness. Dave had an erection for most of the time. At one point he asked if it would ever go away. I told him in his case, never. After that, it seemed to grow less hard. We tried talking. At first it was mostly small talk. In fact for the first several hours it was all small talk. He claimed he was getting bored. I reminded him of what commitment meant. He lumbered on. It was almost lunch time before he really started to talk about what really mattered to him. He talked about how the jocks at school made fun of him. They called him a sissy because all his friends were girls and he wasn't very athletic. He told me about his dreams of having a father someday and going to Disneyland. I asked him about his goals past high school. He said he had never thought that far ahead. I jokingly asked, "Do you think there is life after Disneyland?"

Day 9 Saturday. I got up excited today. I have completed my list of chores my father had for me. I am a free man. Even though my parents are home today, I don't have to stay here. Steve and Jason are coming down for the weekend. The snow has melted and I have two days to really look forward to. Dave asked if he could go along and meet my friends. I prepared him for the unexpected and prepped him on how to watch and learn. "Don't act like you know them right from the start. Let the other person warm to you. Because he is so lonely he sometimes tries too hard." Hopefully I had put a brake on his impulses. I arrived at Dave's house to pick him up. He was alone already. His mother was a waitress and worked long hours and her off time was often spent pursuing companionship. Dave for the most part was on his own at sixteen. His mother would leave notes on the refrigerator if he was supposed to do something or pick up some groceries. He left a note at bedtime if he needed

some money for school. Even though they lived in the same house they could go four or five days without seeing one another. Even though I arrived about ten minutes early, he was already sitting by the front window all ready for me. He came running out of the house, slamming the door behind him. He jumped into the car like a dog begging for a ride. He looked over at me and said, "How do I look? Do I look all right for meeting your friends? I spent the last hour get ting ready." I looked over and smiled. "You look great. And don't worry, I think you'll fit in." By the time we got there, Jason and Steve had already arrived. I walked up to the door with Dave two steps behind. I was greeted by a whole bunch of hugs and yells. It was great to see Steve and Jason again. I introduced Dave to the group and gave him a little introduction. Jason had brought along a camera and wanted pictures of the group. Dave volunteered to take some shots for us. These were our first pictures together. For some reason, no one thinks to take pictures in the dorm. I guess we are all too busy. We went in and sat in the cozy little living room. We sat on the floor with pillows so we could be closer. I asked Dave if he felt comfortable telling the group about himself. I had him prepped to be honest. I kind of gave him a rehearsal on the way over on how to start out with our group. The kid was so hungry for attention he became a quick learner. The following is the essence of his opening talk. "I guess you all know my name is Dave. Eric has told me a lot about you guys. He told me I might fit in. He asked me to tell you about who I am. He said I am also to be as honest as I can be. I am going to try. In high school if I am honest I get laughed at or called names. I have learned to be invisible. I get called a lot of names. I have learned to find friendship through my music. I have a keyboard and am getting pretty good at it. I have a lot of time to practice it. "I have been told that friendship here is very close and very physical. I can't tell you how many nights I fall asleep in an empty house wishing there were someone next to me.

I ....(Eric told me to say this.) I lay there at night masturbating as I think about having someone in the bed with me. It doesn't matter who. Sometimes it is girls I see at school, sometimes it is the jocks at school that I wish I looked like, and sometimes it is one of the teachers. Eric told me it was okay to honest with you guys. He says you guys are worse than me." "He said what?" Tony said as he faked a gasp. And Steve added, "Did he also tell you that he is the king of weird." "I have learned that already," Dave said. We all laughed. Dave's sense of humor helped us all relax. He was tense. We could feel it. He was trying so hard. Dave continued. "The reason I got involved with Eric in the first place was I thought he was trying to pick me up. I had decided that I was tired of being alone. I have been cruising around town for the last month looking for someone, anyone, to take me home. Eric was the first one. I guess I got lucky. We got off to a rocky start, but Eric has been really neat in showing me how to be friend." "Why didn't you give us any help, Eric?" Tony joked again. He keeps everyone at ease. If I included everything he said, this diary would be about Tony, not me. He is special. "Hey, I'm talking," Dave laughed. "I have a little more in my prepared talk. After that you can ask questions. I guess all I want to say is that I want to have friends. Eric has told me that friendship is important with you guys. I don't know much about this Christianity that Eric talks about. If that is part of being loved, I'm willing to learn. That's about all. Now what do I say?" "Now you have to listen to us," I said. "Now comes the training course," Tony added. "You have to learn how to give back rubs. Everybody, off with your shirts. Dave is going to take his piano tickling fingers and put them to good use. Okay, kid [Tony laid on the floor on his stomach.]

let's see you stuff." Dave proceeded to give Tony a good long back rub as we talked about plans for Christmas. It was decided we would put up a tree and decorate it together. This was our first Christmas together and we wanted it to be special. Dave finished with Tony and we had him move on to each of us one at a time. We kept making plans on how to decorate the tree and maybe exchanging gifts. By this time, Jason turned to Dave and said, "Now it is your turn. On the floor!" We all started rubbing Dave's back and silently praying for him as we did. As we kept talking and rubbing, Dave started to cry. We knew we had him. We knew he had us. We had him sit up and we all wrapped our arms around him. It was quite an emotional scene. At this point Dave said, "Wow, I have had one of my fantasies actually happen and I didn't even have to shoot my wad." Tony laughed and said, "It's okay, just this once." Jason quickly added that Tony was joking. Dave assured us that he knew that. And Tony responded, "I wasn't either." Laughter. Oh for laughter. If ever there were a gift from God it must be laughter. I have read books trying to explain laughter and they have sounded just as futile as some sex books I have read. The books go into the physiology of sex and thus explain it all. Huh? Sure? And laughter? It is a mysterious bond between friends that cannot be explained. It is a gift. The law of incongruity or whatever the books teach, cannot explain the love that comes from laughing together. True laughter. True bonding. I pity the person who has no one to laugh with. We started our first talk of six by dwelling on the ghosts of Christmas past. Again, that was Jason's topic he had selected for today's chat. I like it. We all come from situations where Christmas is often painful. I mean, once you outgrow Santa Claus and the stocking of candy, Christmas can even be embarrassing. I have gotten some really weird gifts from my relatives that I am supposed to just ooh and aah over. Like I wanted to throw up. I bet they got those gifts at a garage sale where people get rid of unwanted Christmas gifts. As a kid I always wished I was old enough to have my own garage sale. How else do you get rid of that junk. I usually ended up losing a lot of stuff.

Adults just don't know what's in style or what is not acceptable for kids. What may have been really cool and groovy during the sixties can be a painful embarrassment for a kid now. I always wanted to make two lists at Christmas. One was things I did want. The other was things I didn't want. That latter list would include: (1) Souvenirs of Yellowstone Park, (2) Books on how to do well in college, (3) Clothes bought at stores that also work boots and coveralls, (3) 9.98 tool chests, (4) Little things to hang from my rear view mirror, (5) Anything purchased at a garage sale, and (6) Anything my aunt bought while shopping without my uncle being along. I could go on, but you get the drift. Being a kid in our family was not easy. But Jason was serious. He wanted to make this Christmas one we would all remember. The first thing would be to talk about those painful memories of Christmases' past. Steve started first, "Christmas in our house was a real tense time. My parents regarded it as a pagan festival. We were only allowed to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. That meant no outdoor lights, no tree, no silly Christmas carols, and no decorations of any kind like holly, mistletoe, or wreathes. We did light candles. I never did know why. And we did eat a lot of food. Somehow getting fat is okay, but flashing lights were sinful. Once when I was in a bitter mood, I asked sarcastically which ancient pagans used flashing lights. I was given this dirty look. I felt any gifts might be in jeopardy so I shut up. "We did exchange gifts but the gifts were supposed to be non-frivolous gifts. For me, that usually meant getting clothes. I mean, my parents bought my clothes for me anyway. They used to give clothes to me at Christmas so they could kill two birds with one stone. I sometimes thought as a kid that their spiritual interpretation of Christmas was just a way to save money. After all, wasting money was a sin. And Lord knows, we never wasted it on anything that might be frivolous or fun. "Like, I could have handled it if they would have just said that we are poor and can't afford a whole lot for Christmas. But they laid guilt on me for wanting to celebrate Christmas like my friends at school. I was sinful because I wanted a tree. I never understood. I still don't. So you see, this tree we are planning to put up, this will not only be my first Christmas with you guys, it will be my first Christmas tree."

Tony was next. "Well, in our house we had a tree and I did get a stocking full of candy. And my parents tried to buy me something special every year. One year it was my bike. Another year it was a cassette recorder. Each year was a nice gift like that. It showed they tried. But the memories that stick out are all the parties my parents either had at home or with my father's co-workers. My parents didn't drink. But boy did they drink during Christmas. I remember all of the loud shouting, and fighting between the guests and my parents. I remember people falling over and breaking things. I remember adults acting like five year olds with hormones. I was sickened by it all. I used to spend Christmas eve on my bike. I would ride around town and look through windows at families having a happy Christmas. Sometimes I would just stop and watch. "People always wanted to show off their tree so they always left the drapes open on Christmas eve. I could see everything that went on around town. After a few years I even knew which streets had the best lighting and which homes had the biggest front windows. I spent Christmas watching others celebrate. This year I am going to celebrate being one of the celebrators." "I guess I will go next," Jason said. "I remember Christmas mostly as a kid because of the candy and the gifts. People were not a part of the holiday. I remember my relatives, but there were always problems. We would only get together once a year. It would become a regular family feud. They all kept up appearances for the kids' sake, or so I heard. Other than that, Christmas was only a lonely time. I had fun with the toys. But love was not a part of Christmas. Just being with you guys is changing Christmas for me. I have never experienced this before. I can't wait until we put up the tree." "How about you, Bryce? Anything to add?" I asked. "Just a little, I guess. I was raised an atheist. I was told atheists don't celebrate Christmas. But I think the real reason was a lot deeper than that. In order to celebrate a joyous holiday there has to be a truce called. I have read where warring armies even called a one day truce on Christmas. There was no such truce in our family. The arguing and fighting was constant. Hence no Christmas. Oh, they tried to cover up with their intellectual arguments, but I knew. The war was still on

and in this war there were no truces." There was a long silence. We really didn't know what to say. We could all sense the pain in Bryce's voice. We just showed him by our eyes that we cared. He silently looked around to see each of us looking right at him and sharing his hurt. "Okay, I'm last as usual," I said, breaking the silence. "Our family had all of the traditional things of Christmas. There was nothing special or unusual about it. My parents took me to a lot of different houses and I met a lot of people. Every house had decorations and food. I never had many relatives my age, so I hated every minute of it. I was like a tin can tied to their car's tail pipe. They drove and I just followed along making noise. I did like the cookies. And the frosting on the cookies was good. Like the rest of you, I cannot remember one warm or cuddly moment in all my Christmases. It was ritual. I got some neat toys, but for my parents it was no different than the Fourth of July. We just exchanged trees for fireworks." "Before you guys get all moving on to something else," Dave said, "I want to be part of this group. I know I am new, but if it is all right with you, I want to pay my dues. I want to do all that being a friend involves. So I lay it all on the line also. Any objections? ... Good. Now you punks sit back and listen to how it really is. You old men have already forgotten what Christmas is like. "I never knew my father. My mother was divorced when I was only about two. One thing my mother always did though was try to provide a good Christmas. She really tried. I had to help. I had to buy the tree from the time I was eight. She gave me the money and said go to it. I also helped with the decorations and putting the sprinkles on the cookies. We never had much money, but I always got a stocking and one nice gift besides the usual school clothes. Sometimes I felt she was doing it all for me. At least I knew there was one holiday a year where I wouldn't be alone. "I am really looking forward to spending Christmas eve here. I have to spend Christmas morning with my mother, but my real Christmas is going to be here. Even though we are just getting to know each other, you have all made me feel loved. I mean really. I especially love being hugged. I don't get hugged at home. I am so excited. When do we get the tree? And do I get

to put the sprinkles on the cookies?" Tony quickly added, "We're going to cover you with honey and pour sprinkles on you, boy." We decided to buy one serious little gift for each person in the group and one joke gift. We kept meeting in groups of four until we had a complete list. We then drew up a list of things we would need for tomorrow, Christmas eve. We split the list up and drove downtown in Jason's van. Dave didn't have any money, so we each gave him some money so he would have enough for his share of the buying spree. We made sure that the buying of the tree was on his list, plus the sprinkles for the cookies. In two hours we met back at the van. We were a strange sight indeed. Tony was even wearing the tree lights he had bought. We hurried back to the small apartment. Dave, the one of us who can carry a tune, led us in Christmas carols. I am sure people must have thought we had been drinking. Love does that to you. You lose some of those inhibitions of fear. We don't need to drink. We already have the freedom to be joyful and act silly without any help from drugs or alcohol. We didn't have to fear being gay. We had committed ourself to friendship. We could show affection without fear of rejection or fear of giving the wrong idea. With love, we want to be totally conscious. Joy comes from being totally awake. Jason and Bryce worked on the tree. Tony and I went to the kitchen to make dinner. Dave got on his keyboard and played carols. The lights on the tree, the smell of the food--hamburgers and fries--and the sounds of Christmas made for the closest thing to heaven I have ever seen. There was so much love and happiness I even have a hard time putting it into words. When I lack for words, it is something special. One of the things we all agreed to do was to buy one special thing to hang on the tree beyond the traditional decorations. After dinner and before we put a video in the VCR, we each brought out our special ornament. Nothing expensive, just a personal touch. Jason bought a star to which he added a lot of glitter. Tony had bought popcorn and thread. He put his contribution around and around the tree. I had fallen in love with snow so I bought fake snow for under the tree. Steve had maybe the most unusual ornament. Because Christmas had been turned

into such a dead serious affair, he bought one of those battery operated laughing boxes to hang from the tree. He wanted us all to know the joy and laughter of Christmas. Dave, our newest member, bought merely a card thanking each one of us for giving him a home. It was very touching and moved each of us. We all gave Dave a giant hug. We spent the rest of the evening watching videos and talk ing. (Bryce had purchased, on time, from his uncle's store a new VCR and 27 inch television.) We laid on the floor around the t.v. We kind of used each other for pillows. What a great feeling. Companionship and laughter. We watched two old classics, "Breaking Away," and "2001". Also, they are only 99 cents to rent. Tomorrow was both Sunday and Christmas Eve. We decided to attend the new church that Bryce, Tony, and I had attended last Sunday. I asked Dave if he wanted to spend the night with me. He called and got permission. I drove home to introduce him to my parents. I prepared him for the consequences. I had decided to live my life openly around my parents. Dave looks younger than his sixteen years and I knew my parents would be shocked at having a friend stay with me over night. I thought it would be a good way to introduce Dave to the possibility of real all night closeness without doing anything wrong. Of course my parents would expect the worst. I knew they would now think I had gone off into fairy land. I have decided that it is time they either learn to trust me or kick me out. I cannot go on living in terms of their fear. When we got ready for bed Dave asked where he was going to sleep. I guess I forgot to tell him I only had one bed. It is a double bed, but there is no Berlin Wall down the middle. At first his face revealed fear. He said, "Do you think it will be all right?" I assured him, "Don't worry. We will not do any thing wrong. Trust me. And don't worry about getting an erection. That is just part of the learning process." I climbed into bed but to help him out, I kept my shorts on. He did also. But it was obvious he was nervous and excited, i.e. erect. We joked about trying to get some sleep. We laid next to each other and talked and talked. After maybe an hour, I pulled his head over to lean on my shoulder. It was at that point that I could feel his tears fall on my chest. I just put my other arm around him and held him close. Living

with his mother for his entire life, Dave had never, never been hugged. His whole body rejoiced. I held him close and rubbed his back. Another one of those moments that a guy will remember forever. The next thing we both knew it was morning. We had slept all night with his head on my shoulder.

Day 10 Sunday Christmas Eve. I re-introduced Dave to the world of corn flakes. "Now you are a real man," I joked. "At least I'm a flake," he joked back. We drove to Bryce's house. We then all climbed into Jason's van and headed to church. We figured this would be the real test. If the church could accept a bunch of rag-tag rejects, we knew we had found a place to call a church home. We found seats in the balcony. One thing, we were noticed. We certainly didn't fit the image of church propers. Jason, though, did wear a tie and a white shirt with his Levi's. The sermon was a good one. I had talked a lot with Dave about what a Christian is. Not that I am an expert, I do know a little. The sermon echoed what I had been saying. I noticed he listened attentively. The pastor talked about the history of the world and the importance of God coming to earth. He talked about the purpose of life is to live to extend God's Kingdom throughout the whole earth. The kingdom that Jesus came to declare was grounded in the very laws of the universe. Life outside the laws of God is not life any more than life outside of water is life for the fish. We live in God's universe. In Christmas we have God's declaration that He has not abandoned this rebellious planet to its own devices. He is involved. Afterwards we joined the church in a giant potluck dinner. They didn't mind having us around. We mingled with the crowd and they all seemed genuinely glad to have us there. None of us had any money to give to church so we figure the welcome was real. As we climbed into the van, several more people introduced them selves to us and invited us back. Tony assured them he would drag us all back. I think he would too. We returned to Bryce's to prepare for Christmas Eve. This

was going to be a big event. We decided to fix a very special dinner. Tony made some very special Spaghetti sauce that his mother had taught him. It is from the old country, he assured us. We rented a couple of Christmas oriented videos, of course. Now for those of you raised in close families, what we are doing must sound strange. But for us, we all feel like this Christmas is the closest to heaven we have ever been. Consider the following on why this Christmas is more than just special: You have probably never looked in a magazine and seen a picture of friends doing something together and cried. We have. You have probably never fallen asleep at night talking to an imaginary friend. We have. You have probably never spent days wondering if there was another human you could ever trust. We have. You have probably never stared into a mirror and wondered what is so wrong with yourself. (Why am I an outcast?) We have. You have probably never made up excuses to avoid events that require you to go with someone else. We have. You have probably never been really tempted to fill that human void in your life by doing things really immoral. We have. I could go on. When it comes to friendship, we have all won the lottery. We are in a world we only dreamed about. All our lives we have been surrounded by people who just went through the motions of caring, at most. No one is really alive, you just do it. For the first time in our lives, there is someone there who really cares about ourselves. And someone we can really care about. God came to earth not only to restore friendship with Himself, but to restore friendship among men. That is what we are celebrating. This tree and food and talk and gifts are all special. We are alive in God's universe. We were all raised in the mechanical universe of Newton. We are now living in the presence of God's joyous universe. I know the joy that we feel is imitated. Many try to answer the mechanical society by liberating emotion. Both the rock

concert and the holy roller church are doing the same thing. Intense emotional states are being worked up to fill the void of the empty society. But that is answering mechanical life with mechanical emotion. Love and friendship are not escapes into ecstasy. They are joyful responses grounded in life. If a friend came down with cancer, would I push him off to some hospice to die? No. We would walk through it together. Would it be fun? No. Would it provide ecstasy? NO. But there would be joy there. And the satisfaction of being a true and faithful friend. It is Christians Eve. The tree is lit. The food is ready. The videos have been rented. The gifts wrapped. It is time to begin. Jason read the story of Christmas from the Bible. He added his own thoughts at times. Dave was laying next to Jason with his head in Jason's lap. I could see tears start to form in the eyes of Dave as he listened to Jason. At the end, Dave asked Jason if he would teach him to pray. Jason made sure that Dave was sure what he was getting into. "I want you to know some things first. There are three main things that will happen to you. They either happen together or you are not serious about being a Christian. You will experience the forgiveness of your sins, that is first. Second, the rebellion that is in your heart will be broken. You will become alive to God and His Word and the laws that He has made. Third, you will have the new capacity for friendship with God and your fellow Christians. As you mature that love, and its expression will grow. These may sound easy and mechanical but that is only if they are corrupted as in formal religions or substitute religions.” "I know that. I understand. I have picked up quite a bit this past week living around you guys. I want that life you have to be part of me," Dave affirmed. Dave made his first real prayer to God. It was quite a Christmas gift for us all. We sang one of our theme songs again, and the words that have come to have such special meaning. We sang that we have praised God from whom all blessings flow. At that point Jason put his Bible under the tree to symbolize God's gift to us. We then opened our gifts--the gifts our little group had picked out for each person. For Tony we picked out the "Space Trilogy" by C.S. Lewis. For Steve, a teddy bear. For me, a

leather bound blank book. For Jason, a pair of Speedo swim trunks. For Bryce, a large picture of Mt. St. Helens. And for Dave, a Bible. We served cookies and hot chocolate. And then we opened up the joke gifts. In honor of Steve's parents, a copy of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER. For Bryce, a pair of glasses with those large fake eyes. Tony, our resident masturbator, a box of Kleenex. For me, they gave me one of those bottles with the liquid snow inside if you turn it upside down. Jason, a guy who would like to go into politics, we got a back scratcher. And for Dave, the guy who was teased by the athletes at school, we bought a jock strap. When he opened it up, he said, "I want to thank you guys. Now I am a true jock. I only have one question, where does it go?" For those of you who don't know Dave, he was joking. We sang Christmas carols. It was a very emotional time. It was quite a day for all of us. Tony commented, that he had so much fun all day he hadn't even masturbated once. He said he would wait until after midnight to keep the day perfect. Someone made a comparison with Cinderella and what happened to her at midnight. Tony said he would take our warning under advisement. As we sat around the tree, we all talked about the changes in our lives over the past year. That little ugly tree all decorated with love, became a symbol of the new life and new love we had been given in the past year. We just sat in silence and looked at each other and at the tree. We have become such an emotional bunch that there wasn't a dry eye in our midst. We then completed the Christmas giving by giving ourselves anew to God and each other. We know there will be tough times ahead. We promised with God's help to form a bond that transcends the mechanical world around us. We watched the videos and then it was time to say good night. Steve and Jason had to head back to Seattle. I had to take Dave home, and Tony reminded us that it was getting pretty close to midnight. We all hugged good night and then laughed as Tony ran back to the bedroom as the clock hit midnight.

Day 11 Christmas Day. Alone with my family. What a contrast. I woke up in a different world. My parents

were up early to ready the huge Christmas meal for all the relatives. Six hours and our house will be filled with strangers I am somehow related to. When a guy sees his older relatives it puts fear into one's heart at the thought of genetics. Do we come from the same stock? Will I end up like them? Is there anything I can do to disrupt the science of genetics? Heredity, what a scary and fatalistic thought. I sit here eating my corn flakes and contemplating the day ahead. Christmas has gone from the mountain top to the sewer. It is going to be one long day. There is no escape. This is one holiday a guy is trapped into facing those people you don't know, and don't want to know. I could describe the guest list, but I find it embarrassing. I don't want you getting the wrong idea of me. I am not like those creeps that are coming here today. And I sure hope I never end up that way. Sometimes my relatives will say, "You are just the spitting image of your father at your age." What a disgusting thought. Do they do that on purpose just to upset me? I think they are chuckling inside when they say that. I want to say back, "Yeah, and you're ugly." I don't. I just put up with this day. I am so glad Christmas at our house comes but once a year. There is something to be said for the fact of having only one divinity. I survived the day. They are all gone. I am alone with the leftovers. The refrigerator is full of turkey and some things of questionable origin. I am sure the people who brought some of this food meant well. Then I think, maybe they feel like I do about Christmas. Maybe the stuff they brought is their secret revenge. Maybe it was leftover from last Christmas. I swear a lot of the stuff looks very familiar. I think I will stick with the turkey. Somehow, turkey tastes so much better after everybody has gone home. Christmas has one advantage. My parents have called a truce for one day. There were no questions about my future career plans. There were no questions about Dave and how young he looks. There were no questions about my manhood. [Except for dirty Uncle Harold. He asked how many of those pretty coeds I had coerced into bed. I almost asked if a guy is a coed.] My parents even introduced me to everyone as their college attending son. They have to put up the front of being proud of me. That is one of the games they all play. Christmas is the time of bringing pictures of what your kids and grand kids are doing.

I was sitting in my room when my mother said I had a phone call. "It sounds like that little kid, David," she said. There was a frown on her face. I picked up the phone and waited for her to return to the living room and the t.v. "Hi, Dave! How was your Christmas?" I started. "Not bad, I just missed you so I thought I would call and talk some. And how was yours?" "I made it through the day without causing any scenes. I am sure my parents were afraid I would blow their cover stories they put out on my behalf. From what I hear, I am doing great, really great, in college. I have several girl friends. I hear I am almost engaged. I learned so much about myself today. I didn't know I was such a normal guy. I was even impressed. I was surprised they didn't even have fake photos made." "It sounds like you had one of those typical holidays you dread." "You got that right." "Mine was kind of traditional also. It is the one day of the year my mother stays home most of the day. She tries to make Christmas special. I guess she feels responsible. Now she is out with one of her boyfriends. One of my hobbies is to try and size up her latest beau. I am pretty good I think. I can spot the real horny ones right off the bat. They have that look like they can't get out of the house fast enough." "So you are all alone?" "Yeah, want to come over?" "Sure, I'll be heading out right away." "See you in five," Dave said as he hung up. I just walked past the t.v. and said, "I'm heading out." "What does Davey's parents think about him hanging around a college man?" my father asked.

"Don't wait up," I answered as I walked out. I made a real hit with that exchange. As I walked into the door of Dave's house he gave me a big hug. A hug where he just didn't want to let go. I could tell he was really lonely. I suggested we watch t.v. He sat with his head in my lap. I just stroked his hair or rubbed his shoulder or chest. He just soaked it up like a dry sponge. We didn't say much. There are times words are not necessary. We both just needed the physical contact and the assurance that we were okay. It was a long day for both of us. At midnight, I asked, "So when is your mother getting home? Maybe I should get going." "She took her night bag. I think she is going to be gone all night." "Is it okay if I stay the night?" I asked. "I was hoping you would bring that up. I was afraid to ask you. I don't want to spend Christmas night alone." "Well, I'm tired. Let's go to bed." We undressed. This time I took off everything--the way I usually sleep. When Dave saw me climb into bed nude, he pulled off his underpants also. His cock immediately got hard. Seeing him so excited made my cock jump up. I explained that until we settled down we would have to be careful. He asked, "I don't think I'll settle down until I masturbate. Is it okay if I do it?” "Only if I get to stroke myself also," I laughed. We laid there watching each other. It was the first time we had watched. Dave did it differently than the rest of my friends. He likes to use his pillow as a substitute for a hand. He hugged his pillow with his legs and pumped. When he was ready to come, he lifted himself up so I could see him shoot. I just used my hand as usual. He turned his pillow over and returned it to its proper place. I took my t-shirt and wiped myself off. We then gave each other back rubs and just talked. It was a great time. We fell asleep in each other's arms.

Day 12 Tuesday. I woke up with Dave having stolen most of the blankets during the night. When I pulled them back, he woke up. We laid close and just looked into each other's eyes. And then more back rubs. And then, it was time for coffee and corn flakes. I felt like a little kid again. We sat on the couch in our shorts, eating cereal, and watching morning cartoons. I hadn't done that in a long time. We then took a shower together. Dave was getting more and more used to being physical without getting too excited. As we stood in the shower, he asked, "I'm getting better at this, ain't I?" "Yeah," I assured him. He just grinned from head to toe. He wanted so badly to please me. I returned home to face my parents. I drove up to the house with fear echoing inside me. I was so glad to see that their car was gone. They left a note that they had gone shopping. Those after-Christmas mark downs. Thank God. It gave me a chance to have the house to myself and not face too many questions about my young friend and what we did all night. "Well, mom, it is this way...." I could just hear myself being truthful. As I sit at my laptop recording recent events, I am drawn into my constant effort to understand myself and the world I have been trying to find a place in. I think we are a society that has as a group discovered the futility of the big routine. Consequently, we are searching for the non-routine--the irregular. That is why gambling is such a growth industry. It brings the element of chance into the routine of life. The routine of work and society has even affected the way we behave with each other. Our friendships and lovers have become routine. When that happens, sex enters into all relationships in order to break the routine of just another day with the same old person. The problem is even sex is becoming routine. The next step at novelty is violence. When the last meaningful act has succumbed to routine, violence lashes out from the anger and

frustration and disappointment inside us all. In the midst of the search for life, I also discovered another fact. Life in America is organized around two golden ages. One is a child from birth to eighteen years. Here all our needs, in the myth anyway, are satisfied. We are free to have fun. We can live off the misery of others. The other golden age is after sixty-five. Here one is expected to enjoy one's life and be a kid again. Now here is the rub. I have subtracted l8 from 65. It will come as no surprise to you that I got 47. Hey, I am a high school graduate. But do you know how long 47 years is? Don't answer, I'll tell you. I am eighteen. If you double that you only get 36. In order to get to our goal, you have to add enough life to cover second through twelfth grades. That 47 is like three lifetimes. I have graduated from childhood. I am now told to put up with society and its shit for just 47 years and I can be a child again. I don't know about you, I don't want to wait that long. I just haven't discovered any exit from the 47 year social obligation. Of course, society understands. It cannot allow its people to realize that they are being held prisoner. Drugs have been provided for all. For more and more it is real drugs. But for most, it is just a nightly routine of silly sitcoms. Turn that drug on when you walk into the house and leave it on until bed time. Somehow that is supposed to be life. And, oh yes, on weekends there are the sports. And the trips to the mall. And maybe even a night on the town. All this to blunt the pain of the big forty-seven. Okay, I ask myself, if this universe is designed by a God of love, then the world I see around me is not His world. Something has happened to it. [I think I have finally discovered the purpose of this diary. It has taken four months, but now I know why I started this whole thing. Something has gone terribly wrong with this world, and I want to know what will make it right.] If God is more than a force, but a real personality, then the implications are staggering. I am personality. I am a personality that reflects God. God made this universe to be a home for PERSONALITY. What is this personality we have. We are born as no other animal on earth. We have to be taught, by someone, everything we know and do. An untaught toddler could not construct a bird

nest, let alone a beehive. To be a person is to grow. It is to learn. But growth and learning requires change. Now follow me. Change requires that the future be different from today. This comes into total conflict with the big routine. Routine denies change. In fact, it cannot allow change. Personality is defeated in the attempt to keep every day the same. Personality does not give up without a fight. Disneyland becomes an adjustment taken by creatures for the lack of novelty in one another. We have safe zones of novelty. We can use the tokens they give us for obeying routine to pay for visits to these novelty safe zones. But to be a growing person who is in contact with other growing humans is the ultimate Matterhorn ride. American Man is dead. Dead people are boring. All their days are the same. To be alive is to have growth and purpose. To be alive is to say all my yesterdays are gone. I am alive today. I am growing into tomorrow. I am becoming closer to the ideal that God meant for me to be. I wasn't granted perfection at birth or by instinct. I was designed to become the person that God intended me to be by learning from Him, [His Word] and from others. [Parents and school] When I do that, I discover that personality was meant for love and fellowship and communion with other personalities and the ultimate personality, God. When our group gathers next Christmas, if we try to repeat yesterday's Christmas, it will be boring. We will be different persons next year. We will relate differently. We will be closer to the maturity God designed us for from the beginning. Now you can ask, why did God choose to bring us along so slowly? I really don't know that. I am working on that. I suspect that the longer personality takes to form, the greater the level of friendship. But I think I will be better able to answer that question in a couple years of growth with my friends and with my God. That will have to wait for the next diary.

Day 13 Wednesday. When I got up this morning I found a note on the refrigerator.

My parents want to have a meeting with me this evening. They want me to be home for dinner and the desert--me. I have a feeling I could even move up from desert to the main course. Now be certain, I will keep you informed. I could go ahead and write down tonight's talk right now. But I might as well give them the benefit of the doubt. I will record the talk after they give it to me. Now my parents have what they call a discussion. Discussion takes on a different meaning when they use that word. It means they keep talking until I agree they are right. In high school, I always faked agreeing. Lately, I have tried to enter into actual discussion. That has been deadly. Tonight's discussion is the result of my increasing independence. I am no longer afraid of my parents. At least I am no longer afraid to be honest with them. Well, it is ten p.m. The 'discussion' is over. It was a lot worse than I thought it would be. My increased independence and honesty have elicited an anger and hostility that I didn't know my parents had. My mother, in fact, can spout forth a real anger. If it weren't from my mother, I'd call it hatred. But let me tell you how it went. It actually started at dinner. I have tried to miss dinner since I got home. I would try to be 'busy' to avoid the dinner table talk. I would come home and eat out of the refrigerator. Once my parents start their evening t.v. viewing I know I am safe. What did kids do before t.v.? Could you imagine having to sit and talk with your parents all evening every night. No wonder so many children used to die during their early years. As my mother served the chocolate cake, my father said, "You know, your mother and I have been real worried about you lately. I don't think you realize the opportunity you have in college. And what was your first quarter's grade point?" "I got a 2.2" "Barely average. Right?" "It was just the first quarter." "What makes you think the future will be different? Do you have any plans?"

"I hadn't thought much about it. This is Christmas and all that." "Well, I think you better start thinking about it. And do you have any career plans?" "I am just taking the requirements right now. I have two years to pick a major." "I'm not just talking about a major. You have to find skills that will sell when you graduate. There isn't a big market for basket weavers, you know that." "That was my first choice." "And I don't like the smart mouth you picked up at college. I'm sure it has something to do with those guys you hang out with." "You don't know them. They are my friends." "Well, I don't have to tell you what people are saying about some of your friends. People suspect that Bryce is just like Frankie Kradik. You know what happened to him. He went to New York to work and now he is back home living with his parents. You know he is HIV positive. He claims he picked it up at a public health hospital in New York. Nobody believes that. "Have you ever thought what would happen if you got AIDS? Do you know what that would do to my insurance business? There is no way we could bring you home. You would have to be on your own. I've worked too hard to allow you to destroy my life's work." "Pardon me, what? Don't you think you are taking this all too far?" "I know what goes on in the Seattle. I watch the news every night. You can't pull the wool over my eyes. I never should have let you go to college. Your mother and I have been talking about this a lot. It is not just something we thought up today. We have been watching you closely. You have changed. We no longer recognize you. You are not the boy we've raised. We are

just totally upset. We don't know what to do." I tried to reason with them, or should I say with my father. My mother just pretended to clean up the kitchen, but she was following every word. But his arguments were all emotion. I had changed. I couldn't undo that. I don't think it had anything to do with events. I think it was more to the fact that I wasn't taking my place in the social order that he was in. I was a new generation in new times. I couldn't be the person they wanted me to be. It would be death. I couldn't say it to them, but I regarded their lifestyle as totally disgusting. It was as if they were already dead. They had no goals or purpose. They just lived their life and kept their house and yard clean. They were friendly to their neighbors. They were just decent people. They caused no trouble. They voted for school bonds and they supported a good respectable church. Isn't that what life is all about? The problems or ideas of the parents are visited upon the children. We all seem to live the way our parents taught us. My parents were involved in the sixties rebellions but they ended up living more like the fifties. My parents used to talk glowingly of their good times back then, but they just settled down and forgot all what they fought for. They reverted to what their parents taught them. I, in a sense, have become more like my parents taught me than what they lived. I am becoming the man my father was afraid to become in the seventies. Sometimes I wish we could just sit down and talk about this, but we never could. He is afraid to talk honestly. He has too much invested in the way he has been living for the past twenty-five years.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Day 14 Thursday. We are planning a another big weekend together. It is a three-day weekend. Sunday is New Year's Eve, Monday New Years leading back to Tuesday, day 19 and the trip back to school. Classes start on Wednesday. Tuesday is for paying the bills and buying the books. My vacation is coming to a close. I am a little bit depressed at the thought. I don't like living at home, but attending class is not much of an alternative. If it weren't for dorm life, I don't know what I would do. It seems like life for me is lived in the cracks of the routine world that I am forced to live in. Why does it have to be that way? Dave said he is coming over this morning. I am sure glad I have him. Even though he is three years younger than me, he

enjoys having a close friend as much I do. We greeted each other with the usual and still satisfying giant hug. Dave started the get-together by getting right to the point: "Could we talk?" "Don't we always?" I answered flippantly. "I mean really talk. Can I just say anything and not have you get upset? Can I say anything and still be your friend?" "Of course," I answered as I shifted moods. "Well," Dave started, "I am confused. At times I think of you as a father. At times I think of you as a friend and big brother. And, at times, ...this is hard to say...I think of you as a lover. I watched this movie and it showed two guys living together and being really close. They were lovers. They could depend on each other. It seemed like what I am looking for. Eric, I am in love with you and I don't know what to do. I didn't realize how much I loved you until I saw that movie. But I know you would disapprove if I tried to suck your cock. I don't want to lose you, but I want more of you." I reached over to Dave who was sitting next to me and pulled him close. I pulled his head close to mine and rubbed my fingers through his hair. I said, "I love you so much Dave. I mean, I also love you with my whole heart. I guess I have not been totally honest with you. It is hard because I didn't want to plant any ideas that weren't already in your head. Gee, when I was your age I didn't even know girls sucked cocks, let alone guys. "Sometimes when we see a movie we see the very needs we have portrayed on the screen. We identify with the character because he seems so much like us. Without our even understanding it, the movie takes us to the conclusion it has for us. We are not even aware that our hero may have had other choices. You see, I have the same feelings for you... "You do!," Dave yelled. "Yes, but feelings can be misleading. We both have an empty feeling inside. We want that feeling filled. Our society tells us that only sex can fill that vacuum inside. And of course it will, at least temporarily. It especially works during movies. The movie lasts only two hours, but our choices last for a life

time. I also get tempted to get into your pants. You have a very neat looking body. And you are so ready to do anything. But I know that temporary answers do not work after the movie is over. We are constantly told to follow our feelings. We hear it everywhere. We are not told that our feelings do not really know what they want. It takes a true community to tell us how those feelings should be satisfied. "Right now, everywhere we turn, we are told that sex will satisfy those deep longings inside us. But it is like fools' gold, it only is temporary riches. What I am learning is that love must have a purpose that bonds for a lifetime. People in war, and players on a team get bonded together as long as the situation lasts. It is very close and exciting. I am learning that life cries out for purpose. But you and I are not in the military and we are not on a team. The easy solution would be to bond by mutual sucking. An orgasm is so exciting that it fools us into thinking that we have found riches. It is fools' gold. "I am sure you are like me. We have no history. Our families are nothing more than an apartment with shared facilities. School teaches absolutely nothing we can use. There is no sense of being part of something great that transcends time. We learn about sex, drugs, and gangs. But that is not learning, that is just gossip. We learn some social skills, but how many skills are needed to get a job, find a partner, shop in a mall, or watch t.v. My parents survive quite well just following the big routine without any larger purpose. School just trains us to ' ‘survive quite well.' "If you are like me, you are discovering that the life you have at home, and the life you have at school are nothing but crap. It won't pass. The thought of doing anything for the next forty years sounds so depressing. We all want immediate gratification. For both you and me, sex seems like the most obvious answer to all of the disorder we find around us. In the midst of chaos, at least an orgasm is real. But if God made us, and he knew what he was doing, then there must be an answer that lasts a lifetime. "I am still working this out. But I feel that each of us has a personal history. We are at point A and we are called by God to arrive at point B in our life. Not only that, but we are called upon to bond ourselves to a community that is going from point C to point D. We are all on a personal and community trip

that gives us a purpose in each day and companionship along the way. We are called on a personal level to discover how to work out in this society what maturity is according to the principles created into the structure of the universe...and revealed by God. "We are also called to develop a society that is able to function and prosper using the same principles created into the very structures of time and matter. The friendships we bond with and the community we bind ourselves to are to fulfill these functions. It is then that we get the feeling of being on a team. The thrill of being in a life and death battle carries us through life. Life becomes an adventure. Our friends become the teammates we depend on. That is what life is about." "That is quite a mouthful," Dave said. "I didn't mean a play on words with the other kind of mouthful I had in mind when I came here." Dave laughed at himself as he said that. I just pulled Dave over and we just fell into each other's arms laying on the couch. We wrapped our arms around and just squeezed each other tightly. We didn't want to let go. I felt like we had reached a new level of understanding. I could sense that Dave could understand and accept the lifetime bonding that I desired with him. I knew both he and I had a long way to go. But we both understand that the answer to the 'Big Routine' is not an orgasm, but the bonding of common purposes. Purposes that God had built into the very social and psychological structures in which we live. The sun was out. It was a cold winter day. The sky is so blue here in the winter. I suggested we fill a thermos with coffee and get some donuts and head up into the mountains to just talk and hike and eat. Dave thought that sounded great. The closeness we felt after talking for several hours in intense discussion made the trip seem like the frosting on top of the cake. The sky was bluer, the sun was brighter, the trees gave off a green that we could smell, and the coffee and donuts were like manna from God. On the way back, we sang stupid songs and just laughed. Thank God for the gift of life. Thank God for the ability to share that life with another.

Day 15 Friday The day before a big weekend. After the great time Dave and I had yesterday, he wanted some more one-on-one today. I have noticed that when two guys become friends, there is an initial period when you just want to be with each other all the time. I think that is right. We are all different. Sometimes those differences take some getting used to. It is best to get used to them during the 'honeymoon' period when the excitement of the new friendship is still alive. This just makes sense. The usual winter drizzle has moved in today. The temperature is warmer, but it sure feels colder. Dave and I decided to head to Portland for the day. We left early and had breakfast on the way. Dave wanted to pick up a book of classic folk music. He is into the revival of traditional fold songs. And I must confess, he can really sing those old songs of the working life with gusto. You would think he was raised on a railroad crew or had worked in the mines. He claims that being alone and lonely has taught him how to understand others in their pain. Another thing about the initial stages of friendship I have noticed is the desire to talk about every aspect of sex. Dave told me all about his limited sex life. His only sex is masturbating but he remembers the first time quite well. In fact, I think he remembers all the other times quite well also. He was into the thrill of doing it in different places. The idea of getting caught was a real turn on. He has done it in parks, while swimming, out in the back yard of his house, and even in the school gym when he was pretty sure it was empty. He did it right at center court. Every time there is a basketball game, he thinks of what he did right there in the middle of the floor. While we were driving down the freeway, both of us were getting turned on by all of his bragging. I pulled onto a side road and we both beat off while I drove along a country road. I could see his point, it was a turn on doing it while cars were driving by. This time while we did it together, I watched Dave's face while he was busy watching both his and my cocks. He really gets into it. His whole face tightens up. I think when he masturbates, every muscle in his whole body gets involved. When he came, I thought he was going to jump out of the car his body jerked so violently. I'll have to arrange for him and Tony to do

it together. They would make quite a scene. Maybe on New Year's Eve. Right at midnight. We went to a spaghetti restaurant for lunch. There is sure something about sharing food with a friend. You know you have a friend when it is exciting just having a simple lunch together. We went to The Lloyd Center and found a song book and just walked the mall together. One thing that Dave does that I am not used to yet: he is not afraid to show affection in public. We stopped and got some coffee. While we were waiting in line, he just leaned on my shoulder. There were quite a few senior citizens who gave us a long stare. Even when we were walking down the mall, he might get exciting and just put his arm around me for a few steps. That also draws attention. We need shirts that read: we are just close friends. One thing that happened did put a damper on Dave's enthusiasm. Dave is a little naive, and his public show of affection resulted in two guys trying to pick us up. Dave became more reserved until he was sure they were out of sight. In fact the second time it happened, he was ready for them. He stated confidently, "He's my brother home from the service." That worked. I suggested I should buy a military outfit. Dave looked at me and gave a giant smile. "Now that would be a turn on. We could take turns masturbating in it," he laughed. One more tip from the wise old master--I turn nineteen tomorrow. I have noticed that during the honeymoon period of friendship it is easy to go too far. The limits of being a human being make us want to achieve intimacy immediately. For some reason love takes time. It is actually work. It is not easy. You have to stick with it. For some reason, it is difficult to meet another perfect person like myself. I am constantly meeting sinners. How disgusting. I live in a world where only I meet my standards. The temptation is to skip all the hard work and to attempt immediate intimacy through sexual contact. There is a feeling of closeness. That is just the nature of the orgasm. Unfortunately it makes it that much more difficult, if not impossible to achieve true intimacy.

Day 16 Saturday The weekend is here.

Dave stayed over with me last night. I woke up with him all twisted around me. I just laid there and listened to him breathe. I looked at his face and wondered why a person becomes more beautiful the longer we struggle in common cause to love. I placed my hand on his back and just rubbed it softly back and forth. This caused Dave, without moving, to open his eyes. He stared at me. I think he is also discovering that I am becoming very beautiful also. We just continued in this position without speaking. (I am sure glad my bedroom door has a lock on it.) I said, "Do you think we ought to get up?" "I just as soon stay here all day," Dave laughed. "Maybe tomorrow, but my parents are suspicious of us as it is. I think we should try and be a little normal around them." "Maybe I should walk to breakfast wearing what I am now," Dave said still laughing. [He is wearing nothing.] "Either that," I responded back, "or you can put on my underpants. That would really get them wondering. And I could wear yours, the one's with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on them." That got him really laughing. We started tickling each other. At that point I thought we better stop. I mean, my parents still think I am gay. I probably shouldn't do anything to encourage their thoughts. "Time for corn flakes," I yelled and jumped up. "Don't we even get to jerk off," Dave said. "Later, you turkey. Get up." Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Jason and Steve are driving down today to spend the weekend with Tony, Bryce, Dave and my self. Christmas weekend was a celebration of our new found closeness as friends and Christians. I think New Year's will just be a time of being silly together. One of the great things about having this bunch of guys is that I don't have to worry about being immature or silly. I can be myself without condemnation. I feel so totally free. I can express how I feel even if my expressions are not always mature. We keep each other from doing anything wrong, but up to those limits, we are free as

birds with all of the sky as theirs. We decided to decorate the small apartment in keeping with the theme of the weekend. Just this, what is the theme of New Year's? None of us drink, so the problem is, what is to take its place? It never dawned on us that alcohol is the theme of the day. Leave out alcohol, and what is left? We decided to dress up Jason as an old man. He is twenty-one. So the choice was logical. Tony volunteered to wear the diaper and the New Year banner. We teased Tony that now he could beat off without using a tissue. He might get hooked on diapers. Tony laughed back, "I may have found a new perversion." We finally divided up the day's activities. Dave and Bryce are in charge of decorations. Tony is in charge of nutrition. Steve and Jason are in charge of non-nutritious food. Dave is in charge of party favors, and me, I am errand boy plus in charge of renting the movies. Right now, I am just sitting on the old couch of Bryce's, typing into my laptop, and watching the apartment take shape. Bryce is hanging streamers. This is strictly low budget. He bought different colored toilet paper. At least the decorations can be recycled. Dave is making silly hats out of just about anything he can find. I think mine has been fashioned out of an empty corn flakes box. He is also putting rocks into some tin cans as noise makers. I give him an "A" for initiative and an "A+" for cost control. (When Tony saw the noise makers, he said he had been making noise for years knocking his rocks.) Tony is in the kitchen making Spaghetti for tonight and a pan of Lasagna for tomorrow. Steve and Jason are making cookies and cakes and some things that yet to have a name. I hope their silliness combined with their creativity at least is edible. Dave has brought his keyboard over. He occasionally stops making favors and plays "Auld Lang Syne." We all stop whatever we're doing and sing the song together at the top of our lungs. Then it is back to work. We were having so much fun Dave suggested that we celebrate both New Year's Eve, and New Year's Eve “Eve.” The motion was seconded and carried by a 6-0 vote. Nobody ever voted against another party. After the vote, one-track Tony said he now had another reason to beat off, and we all shouted back in unison, "You don't need a reason...."

We decided we would have a theme for each party. The first party would celebrate the past year. The second party would be to look to our future together. I decided on my selection of movies. I wanted a old movie classic for each night, a new movie for each night, and good horror movie for midnight of New Year's. And the winners are: "Three Days of the Condor," "Witness for the Prosecution," "Groundhog Day," "A Few Good Men," and "The Fly" (The original.) It is Saturday night, our first night of celebrating. We gathered around the table to eat the nutritious portion of the evening’s fare. Tony asked if he could pray. We all joined hands, and Tony prayed, "My whole life I have dreamed of having a family. Sometimes my dreams were immoral. But today, my dreams have come true. I thank you God for each one here. I thank you for the spiritual bond that we share. I also thank you for protecting us from hurting ourselves in our journey looking for love. And thanks for the Spaghetti and those weird looking cookies Steve and Bryce made. Amen!" We all shouted a loud Amen. As we ate, we talked of our love for each other and how it had grown strong in such a short time. Just like six brothers, we had become one. Even our newest member, Dave, was fitting right in. In fact, his musical and artistic talent were a welcome addition to our group. There was no competition at the table. We encouraged each other to talk and no one wanted to dominate. It was how it was supposed to be. In fact, our joy was in being able to listen to each other. I know that is hard to believe. We were finding a joy in being able to help each other. That is how our unity and oneness had been achieved, I believe. The group and the individuals are equal. Neither is more or less important. In our society we no longer have real groups anymore. Most groups are just a gathering of individuals. The bonded group is lacking in churches, families, schools, labor unions, and service organizations. All of these groups have become ego centers. We gather to do something, but not become something. But we all need a group. When the ego has no group it turns inward upon itself to produce all kinds of worries, and psychosomatic sicknesses and phobias. Until the movies started, the first part of the evening was spent in quiet recollections of our times together. I selected

several items from my running diary of our relationships. It was also a time to bring Bryce and Dave into an understanding of the history of our family. This was the first time I had ever read to anyone any part of the diary. The mixture of desert, coffee, and lots of love made my diary sound almost like scriptures. We talked about the fears we had to overcome and the reactions of others to our close friendships. Before the movies, Tony asked to pray again. Again we joined hands. Tony started, "Jesus, this evening has...." At that point he just started to cry. We all hugged ourselves into a circle and just cried on each other's shoulders. Finally, Tony said, "Amen." *** [NOTE, added later. It seems like we are always crying. It is no longer that way. I can only guess that the first three months were such an intense time that tears flowed easily. We all had come from a life of pain and loneliness. Our group had brought such an emotional release into our lives. For the first time we felt really loved and really free. Also, the intensity of these early times was reinforced by the fact we had left most of our securities behind. We had little money and only Bryce's little place to call home. We were living on the edge.] After four hours of eating and movies, it was time for bed. We spread mattresses and sleeping bags all over the floor. We had one giant bed. We slept six to a "bed." Even though we were tired, we talked for almost an hour. One more prayer and then it was time for sleep.

Day 17 Sunday The real New Year's Eve. We decided to all pile into Jason's van and head to church this morning. We were all hung over from too much food and too little sleep. We did clean up a little before going. On the way we joked that we should have shown up in our party hats. Tony also joked that he should have worn his costume. Even so, I think when we walked in we were still a sight in this church. Churches are not used to a bunch of rowdy looking guys showing up. Maybe because we were tired, but we all had trouble follow

ing the sermon. I think with the holidays, it may not have been up Pastor Armstrong's usual quality. As I started to nod off, Tony leaned over to me and said, "I think we should have brought our party hats and noise makers." He whispered a bit too loud and those around us, probably also a little bored, all started chuckling. The Pastor looked right at Tony and said, "Do you have anything to say?" Tony just gave a big grin and said, "Happy New Year!" Then everyone laughed, even Pastor Armstrong. I knew then the church had accepted us. Although, I think some of them still have their doubts about Tony. Hell, even we do. The theme for our New Year's Eve dinner conversation was the future. We wanted to talk where the new year would take us. Changes were already happening to our little group. We were going to have to work at staying together. All living within in a few feet of each other made it easy. Now there will be over a hundred miles separating us. We all agreed that we needed a purpose larger than just being friends, however important that might be. We live in a culture that lacks purposes. We have created all kinds of substitutes. We have become a nation of hobbyists. We also will collect just about anything. We follow the latest trends in music as if each new group or style were directly from God Himself. And, of course, sporting events have become so much a part of American life that nobody can imagine living in a world that doesn't have weekly events. But even with all of these weekend diversions, we all have to go to work on Monday. We dream of hitting the lottery so we can follow our hobby full time, but that is just a one in forty million dream. And maybe the most discouraging thing of all is to go to garage sales. Here the heirs of collectors are selling a lifetime of work for ten cents on the dollar. A person's whole record collection that took a lifetime to collect is gone in one Saturday afternoon. One thing that provided purpose in the past was a sense of history. Christians especially believed that God had created the world to accomplish something and it was our calling to be part of that accomplishment. Today, however, history has been reduced to a bunch of names and dates. Boring. Some have tried to substitute a family history but for the most part that is just a more personal list of names and dates. Boring. The lives of our ancestors for the most part are lost to us. Some have reverted to a national history. Germany, in recent memory, tried to

instill a purpose by making racial heritage into a purpose. We all remember how well that worked. In the midst of a society without a past, schooling has been really reduced to just social and vocational skills. Skills have replaced purpose. Now skills may get you through the day, but it won't direct you through life. Skills may get you a decent job, but jobs today have no purpose other than a means to paying the bills. Some now are trying to revive the family as a place to restore purpose. But the family is not much different than our group of friends. You need something larger to keep you together. Otherwise, life will scatter you all over the country. If I am, or our group, is to achieve something, we must have a goal. However, we live in a world without absolutes. And if there are no absolutes, then the world is just a montage of conflicts, power, money, egos, and warring religions. Now some have made a hobby of succeeding in such conflicts, but there is an emptiness to it all. It is just a hobby disguised as life. But who wants to live and die for a hobby? And who would want to suffer and be persecuted for a hobby? So what does our group need? What do we all need? Groups are held together by growing together. In order to grow, you must have a goal. When you have a goal, you then a common purposes or means to achieve that goal. The problem, if we just choose to know ourselves or our little group, the goal becomes just a form of self worship. It won't take us very far. A purpose, to hold up for a lifetime, must be greater than our selves. Also that purpose must be part of reality. To create a fantasy as a goal will not work. I guess that is why I believe that goals are revealed from God. Man, by his unaided effort, is not created to design goals. Our vision and knowledge are just not capable of total under standing or being able to see the future. Only God knows reality as it is created and only God knows the future. Only God can create purposes in life. That is why tonight our group recommitted itself to living by the principles of the Bible. We see a God working in history. We are to help each of us to find what God would have us do in history to work for the world that God is bringing about. Our little group decided that we need to grow in three areas: (1) We would grow together, i.e. fellowship, (2) We

would grow into life, i.e. maturity, and (3) We would grow toward a God-given goal, i.e. usefulness. We all came from families where encouragement was rarely heard. We were all raised on a constant diet of criticism. I think parents don't discipline and train their kids anymore, they just criticize. Because we have been trained that way, it is easy to revert to that kind of behavior. We pledged that first of all we would encourage each other. We would defend each other unless there was a very obvious screw-up. And, we would help each other whenever possible. Nobody can achieve great goals without help. The rest of the evening was spent eating, talking, laughing, singing, and watching movies. And one thing I hate to admit. I would like to say it was all Tony's idea but that would not be true. But at midnight, we all took our clothes off and sat in a circle and watched each other masturbate. It is funny, several a month ago I would have thought little about it. Now, I have trouble including it in my diary. Also, I have trouble admitting that it was fun. We all were laughing and teasing each other. Do I have to add, Tony was the first to come. I guess because of some painful memories of sex, Bryce had trouble getting an erection. Once he saw that it was more a time of laughter and teasing than anything sexual, he joined in. At that the year came to a close, and we all fell asleep in each other's arms. It was heaven.

Day 18 Monday New Year's Day. Everyone is either eating, fixing something to eat or watching football. I guess that is what New Year's day is all about. For me, it is a time to be with five of the greatest guys in the world, drink some coffee, and work at my diary on my laptop. I am so thankful for the guys that I have come to love. I hope I haven't idealized them. I have tried to picture them as accurately as possible. I have left some things out. Not many. In the early days, I fell asleep with one of these friends. When I woke up, he was kissing my pubic hair. I tried not to appear too shocked, but I had to teach one of the guys the limits of friendship. People always ask in such situations, "But did it feel

good?" Sure it felt good. But feeling good has never been the test of whether something is right or conducive to good friend ship. Lots of things feel good, but I know that there are long term consequences of all actions. What feels good in the short term may not turn out that way. That is why I feel God had to provide the Bible. One thing God's Word does is to reveal the long-term nature of our behavior. We are as humans very shortsighted. Our lives are just too short to know everything. The New Years is a time to reflect. This last year has been the most exciting, and most important of my life. I look around and see five people I never knew a year ago. Now, I cannot even imagine living without them. I have been trying to think what brought this weird bunch together. There are some things we all share. For one, life for all of us has meant pain from childhood on up. Not the kind of pain that makes for great photo journalism. We all had enough food and yet we were starving inside. We had clothing and yet we felt naked. We were never beaten but our souls are scarred and bruised. We were all given everything and yet longed for only one thing--love. We are starting not only a new year but a new life together. It all started eight months ago with that first stare into my heart from Bryce's eyes. The journey passed through that midnight song that Tony taught me to sing. We all arrived at college in various stages of despair. We all felt abandoned by life itself. After all, we had already spent eighteen years looking at life as a spectator sport. We could sit in the stands and cheer as others lived lives, but we knew we could never get down out of those stands onto the playing field. How can you live a normal life when your heart cries out all day in pain? Normal life for us meant hoping that no one noticed our secrets for one more day. There were times when each of us if offered the choice of either death or life would have chosen death. We all shared a sense of a certain gallantry in saying no to all offers of early death. There was something inside of us that would not let go of the fact that life is good--the glass of wine we were drinking may have been bitter, but we had faith there was good wine to be had, somewhere. Where does that hope come from? For each of us it was slightly different. For me, it was when I was twelve. I was forced to go camping with my parents. It was boring. I met a kid in the campground who was equally bored. For one whole

week we escaped the tedium of forced relaxation together. The tortuous week our parents had planned for us united us in friendship. I somehow knew that if I could meet one person who made me feel alive, somehow it could happen again. I knew that the rainbow really had a pot of gold at its end if I could only find it. Reality was not just shadows on the wall of the cave. Each of us had in some way been given the first tasting of hope, of somehow seeing the future as a possibility and not seeing the future as a continuation of the present. We each had been able to look over the walls that seemed to trap and imprison us. We had peeked over and saw hope. Steve's glimpse over the wall was so brief that it is almost a miracle. He met another guy who was about fifteen when he was sixteen while shopping in the mall. Their eyes met and locked in like radar. Instantly, information passed in seconds revealing to each other one's life of pain. Neither spoke. But Steve came away with a feeling of hope. Hope not just because he had seen the possibilities of life, but because he now knew he was not alone. There were others. The disease he carried inside was not his alone to suffer, but there were others who hurt also. Hope told him to search for those others. That hope had carried us through our first eighteen years. I think of so many who have chosen to end their life because they lacked that ten second glimpse through the vale of tears. Hope was somehow denied them. In fact, in the last few months, one thing I have tried to do is give out ten-second packets of hope. I cannot love every lonely heart I meet, but I can give out little pieces of hope. I do that whenever I can. I have learned that life is special. I don't mean the good times or the good friends. I mean to wake up in the morning and be conscious that this is not a dead universe. This molecular monstrosity, light years across, has been invaded by a life form. A life form that is not only alive, it is conscious it is alive. It even rejoices in being alive. Even as I watched the sun set last night my soul cried out as a life form that can be a witness to beauty. I was not just experiencing the rotation of a single planet, I was cheering inside that this universe has an order that my heart finds beautiful. (All beauty is not caused by our hormones backing up inside.) I ran inside to the guys who were preparing our party for

the evening. I told them to come outside quickly. The sun sets quickly in the winter. We stood together anticipating a time of celebrating the New Year together. And then, somehow they sensed the moment also. There is something in this universe that isn't cold and indifferent. We were not just watching energy in motion, we were together appreciating the work of a fine artist. Tony started clapping his hands as the sun set. We all joined in. We even cheered. Some neighbors looked out and thought those guys are already drunk and its only four o'clock. We were in a way. We all had been able to drink from life and had become drunk on the delights this universe has to offer. Corny? Yeah. True. Even more yeah! This life doesn't stop with my personal consciousness of a created order. As great a miracle it is, and I don't understand it, there is more. A pile of dust from the earth cannot cry out in joy at the beauty of creation. No matter how great computers become, delight in its own conscious awareness and tears of joy will never happen. Why? Because my material body has been inhabited by life. I am a living being. And here is where the miracle grows incomprehensible. This life can actually experience another form of life--not just as another object. (Here I lose words that express my meaning.) I can experience love. Now it has been trendy to equate love with one's hormone count. Oh, for the love of teenagers whose count is high. Ugh, the disaster of old age when the count loses count. That is just animal love. But the love I am talking about is beyond what animals can do. It is a self-giving delight and joy in the presence of another. Animals do not do this. Maybe computers could be programmed to do this some day, but I doubt it--and I couldn't imagine why. Mature love is something like crying at the sunset. Except you are not staring at the sun. You are somehow looking into another creation of the universe that has life and seeing a soul. A what you say? You don't see the skin, the molecules, or the hormones, and you are not just seeing life. It is the miracle of conscious life looking into another conscious life and seeing beauty. As I look into my friends' souls, I see all of their experiences. They each carry the heritage and history of family and community. I see pain and suffering. I see joy and delights. Again, I ask, how can this be? Man may be part animal,

but I know I am an exalted animal with a spirit that can see. And what do I see? I see creation. I see the invisible made visible. And having seen this, I know there is a God. Each of us had as a child that experience that gave us a glimmer of hope. That hope held on until we were able to experience the real thing. When I see another soul, you see, I see eternity. Maybe just a glimpse, but a glimpse that promises a hope that will last a lifetime. I look forward to the real thing. I look forward to eternity. I know that love is not natural to this universe. It is a gift that comes into time from eternity. That is the marvelous thing about life--I can share that joy of life with someone else's joy of life and combining produce a love that can only remind us that there is an eternal love beyond time. We are borrowing from eternity. Daily that love puts on sneakers and displays in very earthy ways the working out, the giving expression to an eternal experience. For a married couple, that feeling gives birth to a child--an expression of that love for each other and their commitment now to teach that love to another. When love fails to express itself and to teach others the ways of love, it has gone from beauty to hormones. For us guys, we are committed to experience that love in life and in daily routines of commitment that give body to our love. And the universe that at times seemed so cold and indifferent is now alive. Even nature cries out in laughter and shows forth an eternal beauty. It is Good. * * * The day is now over. My friends lie scattered about the floor all sound asleep. A new year is here. I can hear the individual breathing of each of my five friends. The only light right now is the glow of my laptop computer. I lay here knowing that this chapter in my life has come to a close. Next quarter will be different. I am different. I can hear the words to the song that Tony taught me--I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you...Won't you please take my hand, We are free to love each other, we are loved. Thanks Steve, Tony, Jason, Bryce and Dave. Love, Eric.

Day 19

Back to School. Tuesday.

Tomorrow is registration. Today is pack, travel, and unpack. The adventure continues.

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