“On Todd Salazar’s first day of college, while his belongings were still in neatly labeled boxes on the dorm room floor, he had sex with his new roommate Darin.”

From the first line of the first page of Semesters, a loopy, original novel about gay life at a large New England state university during the early ‘90s, it's clear that the people populating this novel certainly are more interesting that those saintly, asexual members of the class of 10 percent portrayed in heterosexual college novels. Set against an era when gay marriage is a pipe dream and being “out” is still a precarious choice, the students of Semesters feel safe enough in their campus microcosm to be Here and Queer—so get used to it! They have sex, do drugs, have sex again, make all the wrong decisions, wage war against their conservative enemies, bum cigarettes, have more sex, all the while struggling with questions universal to young Americans. The writing is breezy and the drama generous. You'll encounter scandalous revelations, parties out of bounds, back stabbing, and an unforgettable, topsy-turvy final confrontation. Has it been mentioned that there is sex? Lots of it!

The protagonists are three gay men: BEN BRISTOL, the transfer student looking for sex or love, whichever comes first, TODD SALAZAR, the freshman who already has quite the track record but is looking for new conquests, and DARIN BURKETT, Todd’s whiny and underhanded first semester roommate, the self-appointed perpetual victim.

Ben Bristol is the heart of the novel. After two years of living closeted at home and attending a local community college to save money, Ben has high expectations for his junior year. But despite having a hot, straight British roommate who has a habit of walking around in his underwear, Ben’s only affections are from a fedora-wearing Trekker named EDGAR whom he met during orientation. Undeterred, Ben joins the University Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Alliance (UGLBA), writes a column for a newsletter, and falls hard for a guy who barely knows he exists—and that’s only in the first month of school. We follow the uninitiated Ben as he discovers the thrill of off-campus parties, drinks bad sangria and goes to the UGLBA-sponsored dances. Finally an active member of a gay community is Ben happy? And what if his quest for love ends with Ben in the arms of somebody he’d never expected?

Among Ben’s new college friends are: JULIA, a fellow member of the UGLBA whose claims of bisexuality are suspect; JEREMY and ARTURO, who are at a crisis point in their relationship, which Arturo relieves by hitting on other men in front of Jeremy, oblivious to Jeremy’s growing attraction to a sexy TA; TOBE, the self-appointed DJ who plays music nobody requests and refuses to wear weight-appropriate clothing; and TERRI, the beleaguered leader of the UGLBA who discovers her ex-girlfriend is in an abusive relationship and finds herself thrust into a brutal life or death situation.

Countering Ben’s cautious and naive romantic tendencies, Todd Salazar is all magnetic sexual appeal. Todd can’t help but oblige the men who line up the moment he steps on campus in September. In addition to sleeping with his roommate, Darin, Todd seduces super-senior RICHARD, who already has a boyfriend. No matter. After Richard, there’s KIRK, a golden boy from California, who has his own apartment. But Todd is carrying a dark secret about a taboo relationship he had over the summer. There’s a problem with secrets, though ... they have a funny way of being exposed at just the wrong times.

And then there’s Darin Burkett, a weaselly freshman from the suburbs of Boston not thrilled to be stuck in a provincial western Massachusetts state school. The relationship between roommates Darin and Todd, at first full of passion, quickly dissolves as Darin’s inconsiderate habits drive anal retentive Todd crazy; Darin doesn’t make his bed, breaks Todd’s lamp [gasp!], smokes in the dorm room, and has people in at all hours, notably MARIA, the cynical fellow UGLBA member who lives down the hall. Together, Darin and Maria bring their own half-baked brand of stoner politics to a campus that Darin feels is too complacent. Eventually Darin takes up with the mysterious revolutionary and begins a prank campaign against the Young Conservatives Club. Darin also manages to acquire a boyfriend, the sexy LARS, a former swim team member with a great tan line who doesn’t seem to know why he's dating Darin. Tensions between Darin and Todd explode into a nasty fist fight which ends the first semester with a bang and sets the tone for an even larger confrontation just before Spring Break, the ramifications of which send shock waves through the campus.

So take a study break, wring out your wet Speedo and grab a cup of coffee and peanut butter chocolate chip cookie at the Blue Book CafĂ©. Semesters demonstrates how much fun college can be when you’re not attending class.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chapter 22: After Party

The Ride Home
“I hate this fucking granola valley,” Tobe said. “Tonight sucked.”
“You’re just in a bad mood,” Julia said. “Let it go.” 
Julia was giving Tobe a ride back to Alden.  Julia was going to offer a ride to Ben and his friend but she didn’t see them when she was getting ready to leave.  Or Richard.
Tobe fumed.  Julia just stared ahead.
 “Would you be happier if we went to McManus’s for a sandwich?” Julia asked.
Tobe shook his head. “No, not after I heard what goes into their food.  I just want to get home and sleep.  I need to study tomorrow.”
“But will you?”
“Hell no, I’ll go to the beer bash in Hartford.  And you?”                 
“I need to get a mock-up of the newsletter ready to present to Sabra some next week.”
“And will you do that?”
“No.  Jonah needs the car, we’ll hang out.  I was going to stay there tonight but I can’t reach him.”
“That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” No, Julia thought, please don’t ask. “Do you think Jonah would be interested in DJing with me? Together, as a duo?”
“I’ll ask him,” Julia said. “But he’s been so busy.”
“Just ask,” Tobe pouted. “You know I had a bad night.”
“Nathan wimped out.”
“Yes, again.  He said he’d be there, and he didn’t show.”
“Maybe he and Ryan got lost together,” Julia said.
“Unlikely.”  Tobe leaned against the seat and sulked.  Nathan Fischer was graduating in the spring; Tobe didn’t have much time left to convince him that they were right for one another.
“Chicken,” Julia said.
“I said, I think the drive thru is 24 hours at Kentucky Fried Chicken, do you want to go?”  Tobe felt the chafing of Richard’s discarded hot pants against his thighs.  If I just lost ten pounds
“Sure, what the hell,” he said. “I’ll become a vegetarian again tomorrow.”

Oak Room Confidential
Despite it still being sunny out at 6 pm, the Oak Room was dark.
“Sit by the windows,” Ben told Dave. “I can’t see in here.”
“You still have your sunglasses on is why,” Dave said.
Ben took the glasses off and put them in his front pocket.  “My mind’s in a million directions today,” Ben said. “And I think I’m a little hung over.”
 “This is what … the second time in your life?”  Dave asked.
Ben shook his head. “Third.  I got drunk this summer too.” 
“Big man,” Dave said.
“That’s me,” Ben said.  They put their trays on an empty table. “I didn’t get the sausage today, last week I bit into something I couldn’t identify.” 
The woman sitting over at the next table glared at him. “Thanks a lot,” she said. 
“I’m such a dick,” Ben said.
“Speaking of …” Dave said. 
“No, and no, Big Ben did not get lucky, but…”
“Remember the couple I told you about?  The South American guy and the other one my age?  Arturo and Jeremy?”
“The lights went out and,” Ben leaned over the table and lowered his voice, “Arturo felt me up.”
Dave was quiet for a moment.  “Jesus, why can’t I go to one of those parties?” 
“You want a guy to stick his hands down your pants?”
“You know what I mean.  I spent the night watching TV with Zack. I may as well be back home,” Dave said. “Was the Star Trek guy there?”
 “Edgar?  No, he wasn’t.  I haven’t seen him anywhere and haven’t heard from him since I blew him off,” Ben said.  Thank God.
“And how’s your friend Todd?” Dave asked.
“He didn’t make it back to campus with me, lucky jerk,” Ben said.  He’d call Todd later for details. “Oh, and speaking of …”
 Dave turned around toward the area of the room where Ben was staring. “What, is he here?”
“No, but his roommate’s right over there in the smoking area,” Ben said. “See him, that kid who looks a little weaselly? That’s Darin, and the woman with him with the bobbed hair?  That’s Maria.  They’re always hanging out together.”
“Are they nice?”
“I don’t know.  She’s funny when I’ve talked to her, and she’s cool, but Todd doesn’t think too highly of them. I guess I wouldn’t either if they were always hanging around my room when I was trying to study or sleep.”  There was something about Darin’s overbite that Ben didn’t like.
“So, you want to come hang out by the pond after we eat?” Dave asked. “I’m going to read for a while longer.” He indicated the copy of Misery in his front pocket.
“I didn’t get any studying done today and I need to.  I need to start a paper which, by the way, is great because working at the Center allows me to have a key and I can use it in the off hours,” Ben said. “I can do all my papers there and not have to worry about the computer labs.”
“Come on,” Dave said. “Hang out for an hour. It may be one of the last nice days.”
“You said that last weekend also.”
“Well, it may have been, we didn’t know did we?”
Ben thought a minute.  “All right, I’ll go.  Maybe I’ll get lucky by the pond.” 
“And there goes Todd’s little friend Ben … Benny … Bennaboo,” Darin said. “Why are we eating here anyway?  You said you hate the Oak Room.” 
Maria took a drag of her cigarette. “Don’t question me,” she blew the smoke away from Darin. “And I hate the weekdays here, not weekends.  Why isn’t Lars here, wasn’t he supposed to stay over last night?”
“He was, but he said he wasn’t feeling well and he went home.” Which was bullshit. Lars just didn’t want to fool around.  He was so moody. “I’ll fuck him tonight.”
“But Todd will be home,” Maria said.
“So what?  Maybe he ended up going home with somebody like Jeffrey Dahmer,” Darin said.
“Well, that’s morbid,” Maria looked around. “I have to get off campus soon; I can’t stand looking at these kids anymore.  Let’s go shopping anywhere that’s open.” She stubbed her cigarette out in the remains of her ziti.
“On the bus?” Darin asked
“I’ll drive,” Maria said, pulling set of keys out of her pocket and dangling them in Darin’s face. “We’ll find something.”
“Since when do you have a car?” he asked.
“Since always,” Maria said. “I don’t let many people know because I don’t want to be a taxi.” 
“Then I’ll definitely go,” Darin said. “I’m ready.”
“Then get ready to walk because unfortunately I’m stuck in the D-lot and we need to trek almost a mile to get there.” 

Chapter 21: Party Like It's 1991

Meanwhile, at the Harwood Mall …
Two buses heading to Hampstead had come and gone but Todd hadn’t shown up.  Maybe Todd didn’t realize the Harwood Mall was the open area by the Fine Arts Center?  He was just fifteen minutes late but Ben, always on time for everything, felt the evening slipping away. He had nightmares of walking into an empty apartment and being told the party was over.  
Two blonde girls stood next to Ben at the bus shelter; they looked boring and their conversation was boring.   One of the women turned to him. “Is that you wearing the Drakkar Noir?” she asked.
“Yeah, I am,” Ben said. “Why?  Did I put on too much?”
“The trick,” the girl said, “is to dab a little behind each ear and on the neck.  Don’t bathe in it.”
“Thanks,” Ben said.  The girl nodded and went back to her friend.  He waited for them to start giggling, but they didn’t; they just resumed their boring conversation.
Another bus was pulling up and Todd still wasn’t there; Ben looked around to see if Todd was approaching from any direction.  I’ll just wait a little while longer and then I’ll go on my own.  But when he turned back to the bus, he was surprised to see Todd right next to him.
“Hey!” Todd said. “Is this our bus already?”
 “Yes it is,” Ben said.

The Eastern Block
The Eastern Block was a long row of shabby stone row-houses on
Eastern Avenue
in Hampstead.  The crumbling facades and low rents made them popular among the university students escaping on-campus housing and quiet Alden for a more exciting town.  Josh and Sharon shared an apartment on the upper floors of one of the houses on the middle of the street.  Julia Wood arrived at 9:10 wearing her fox fur (fake if anybody asked, but it wasn’t – it had belonged to her grandmother) and a large, crimped wig she’d bought on
Newbury Street
in Boston.  Barely anybody else had yet arrived, and Julia didn’t recognize anybody in the living room.  In the kitchen, she found Terri Friedmann standing at the center of a small group.  There was music coming from another room but Julia couldn’t figure out where.
“Where the fuck is everybody?” Julia asked.
“The evening’s young,” Terri said. “Get yourself a drink.”
“Did Tobe bring his sangria?” Julia said.  “I so hope not.  The last batch he made tasted like rancid Kool-Aid.”  Terri waved her away.  Julia wandered back into the living room. 
“Julia, what the fuck!” Sharon came running over.  She was wearing a baseball cap that covered her shaved head and purple-tinted granny glasses.  
Sharon… it’s been forever darling!” It had been less than 24 hours.  Sharon and Julia had a mostly amicable relationship that had been tested at times.  Last semester, Sharon had an outburst at in the office that there were no self-identified lesbians left in the group except for her and Guinevere Blue and that it hardly made sense that so many female members of the UGLBA were dating men.  After the last statement, Sharon had cut Julia a quick glance.  Later, Julia had been told that Sharon had gone around questioning Julia’s bisexual identity.  Julia would have called Sharon on that, but Sharon started coming to the office less and less, eventually even giving up her position on the steering committee, so there was no point.  Whenever the two of them met now, things were polite but rarely went beyond surface talk.
The music started thumping through the walls. 
“Ah, techno,” Julia said. “Tobe’s new love.  It’s too early for this.” 
Sharon shrugged. “He volunteered.”
“Volunteerism is overrated.” 
“It’s too bad your boyfriend wasn’t available to DJ,” Sharon said.  Julia ignored the emphasis Sharon gave to the word. 
Too bad Jonah couldn’t do it for free, you mean. 
Josh and Richard walked over, holding hands. Josh kissed Julia on both cheeks.
“Julia, you look divine,” Josh said.
“And I know! Hello Richard.”  Richard nodded.   He had a look in his eyes that said “shut your mouth.”  Last night, Richard had argued on the phone with Josh for two hours, and then spent another hour sitting at the table in the kitchen telling Julia how he was going to break it off with Josh. Yet tonight they were back to holding hands.  Fags.
Julia wasn't interested in saying anything to Josh, but it was enjoyable to make Richard uncomfortable. If she could make Tobe stop DJing and making his sangria, things would be even better.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
There were barely any seats left.  Todd and Ben had to sit close to the back of the coach, near the two blonde women who were still talking.  They hadn’t had a break in their conversation the entire time. 
 “Do your folks know?” Todd asked.
 “Nobody in my family knows,” Ben said, “I’m not ready to tell them. You?”
“No,” said Todd, except for Craig.  Todd’s stomach tightened; there hadn’t had any correspondence or connection since Craig had left.  He’d started to write Craig a letter the night he met Ben, but had torn it up afterward.  Todd had started drifting off in biology yesterday, thinking about Craig and it took all his energy to try and focus back on the class.  He’s out having sex with every guy in Buffalo anyway. “You’re a virgin?”
Ben blushed, “Tell the world!” he whispered. “But yeah, I am.  What’s your story?  Was Darin the first guy you’ve slept with?”
“No… but I don’t want to get into that now.  It was a relationship that didn’t end up so happily.”  Half a lie, but Ben didn’t need to know that.  Not many people would understand. “And I wish I could forget about Darin.” 
“I feel like I’m the only gay virgin on the entire campus,” Ben said
 “I’ll bet you’re not,” Todd said.  “Is there anybody you like on campus now?”
Ben nodded. “Yeah, and I think he’ll be there tonight.” he said.
“I won’t say,” Ben said. “He’s involved with somebody else, so there’s no point.  I went to a fortune teller this past summer, as a joke, and she said that I would meet somebody and they’d be involved with somebody else, and they wouldn’t be the right person.”
“You believed her?” Todd said.
“It gave me some hope, so I figured I would.”
“We’re  keeping secrets tonight, aren’t we?” Todd said.
“Yeah,” Ben said. “Okay, it’s Jeremy.”
“Who’s Jeremy?  The guy you like?”
“Jeremy is the one who always wears those shorts?”
Ben laughed. “Yep.”
“Hmm,” Todd looked over and stared out the window.  Jeremy’s boring.  “I think we’re almost there.” 
“Now that I’ve told you mine, will you tell me yours?”
“Someday,” Todd said. “When I know you better.”

Pleased Don’t Shoot the DJ
I’m pissed off, and the party’s barely started, Tobe Beals thought
Julia had been in the room twice asking him for a new sound besides techno and Josh and Sharon had helpfully suggested some other songs.  Too bad.  His music was too good for the people in the Valley; if they couldn’t appreciate the music from Boston, too bad.  It’s not like Tobe was being paid for this gig and he did bring the sangria which, he noted, was going pretty quickly.  Fuck ‘em.  This was a real party, not some campus approved function and they were going to listen to real music.   Now, if Nathan Fischer were to show up, things would be perfect.  Tobe touched his pompadour to make sure it was staying up, and pulled at the crotch of his denim hot pants.  They were sweaty and chafing.   He’d deal.  He’d dealt when he ran away from home, he’d dealt the month he slept in ATM vestibules and friend’s couches and he’d deal with his friends annoying him tonight, wanting their nice, safe music.  Screw it.
Richard sauntered over, his eyelids at their usual half-mast.  It was a look a lot of guys went for, but not Tobe.  Tobe nodded and held up his finger while he put on the next record.
“So, how are things with Josh today?” Tobe asked.
“Today is fine.  Last night was drama.  It’s too much.”
“Did you have any sangria?” Tobe asked.
“I did,” Richard said.  He held up a glass bottle.  “But I’ll stick to beer tonight just the same.” 
“Do you have any idea who that is?”  Richard asked, pointing at a young dark-haired guy who’d just entered the room.
“I’ve seen him,” Tobe said. “He’s the one who had sex with his roommate. He’s a cutie.”
“Mmm hmm,” Richard said. 
Tobe stared at him. “Oh come on, you just made up with Josh last night.  It’s his party!” 
“I’m going to say hello,” Richard said. “I’m acting on the behalf of the steering committee. I hate seeing cute guys all by themselves.  And maybe I’ll be doing him a favor by getting to him before Arturo.”  Richard started to walk away, but then he turned back “If I were you,” he said. “I’d start to playing the music Sharon asked you to or she’s threatening to have Betsy DJ the rest of the party.”
“Betsy’s here?” Tobe asked, looking around.
“Juts follow the lesbian haircuts …” Richard said, and went straight for the new guy.
The record on the turntable was coming to an end. Tobe looked at the records in the milk crate and pulled out a Blondie album.  He didn’t feel like he was selling out when he played Blondie. Downtown and disco, it was bearable.  Fucking people, I give up.   The people in the living room were starting to spill into the room where Tobe was set up, but no Nathan.  Where was he?

Not Quite a Chorus Line
By eleven the line to the bathroom was halfway down the second floor staircase.  Ben was on his second trip, standing behind a straight couple who kept making out.  The guy was hot.  Todd had been lost to the wilds of the party almost an hour before. No big deal.  They didn’t come to hang out together the entire time.  Ben had spent almost an hour in the kitchen with Terri and Josh.  God, if his parents saw him at this party…  They’d have never expected him to be at a place like this, thinking he was at the Neumann Center playing Bingo.  There was a beautiful black woman with her head shaved completely bald; she looked better bald than that Sharon person.  Two guys whom Ben would have thought were straight making out over in the corner.  One of them was apparently one of the Hampstead cops, off-duty.
The line moved forward a little.  The straight guy started making out with his girlfriend again and Ben looked away.  Somebody poked Ben’s shoulder from behind and he turned around.  Jeremy.
“You made it!” Jeremy said. “So the buses weren't an impediment to your enjoyment after all, were they?” 
Ben felt himself grow warm.  “No, not at all.”
For a change, Jeremy wasn’t wearing his biking shorts after all but a wearing a black button-down shirt and black pants.  He looked like a waiter, “Where’s Arturo?”
“He’s in the living room talking to Tobe,” Jeremy said.  “We’re having a tiff.”
“What about?” Ben asked.
“We were on the bus over here and he started panicking because I had put my hand on his shoulder and then he spotted one of the students from the class he TAs.  He made us get off and wait twenty minutes for the next bus though I told him that, most likely, there’d be somebody else on that bus that he knew,” Jeremy said. “It was stupid.  But I’m glad you’re here, hopefully happier than I am.”
“Thanks,” Ben said. “I think I’m going to be here for a while.  This line isn’t moving.”
“You’d better hope they have matches in there,” Jeremy said. “All the vegetarian food they eat in this town, it takes a toll on the system.”  Jeremy looked down the staircase. “I should go find Arturo.  Come on down and talk later, we’ll be around.”
“Thanks,” Ben said and watched Jeremy head back down into the party.   Todd came up the stairs holding two red paper cups.
“Here,” he handed a cup to Ben. “Are you enjoying this?”
“I’ll be having more fun once the line starts moving.”
Todd nodded and held up one of the cups. “Have you tried the sangria?”
“No, any good?” 
“You tell me.” 
Ben took the cup and sipped.  His throat burned.
“Jesus, is this how it’s supposed to taste?  That’s disgusting.”  Ben wasn’t much of a drinker and sangria was not one of the drinks he would have tried, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to taste like shit. “Who made this?”
“The DJ.  His friend Richard told me to try it.”
“This is bad,” Ben took another sip; it was still awful. “Tobe’s the DJ, right?”
“I think he should find entirely different fields of interest altogether.  So … I know we weren’t supposed to talk about it, but Jeremy’s here.  Have you seen him?” 
“You just missed him.”
“And he’s not wearing his shorts.”
Ben shook his head. “For a change, no.  So, you’ve been talking to Richard?”
Todd grinned. “Yep.”
At 11:30, Josh came stomping into the kitchen, looking like he was going to cry.   Terri, Ben and Arturo turned to look at him.  “Asshole, he’s such a fucking shit.”
 “What’s wrong?” Terri asked.
“We made up last night,” Josh said. “Last fucking night! And now he’s out there flirting with some kid right in front of me.” 
“What kid?”
“This new kid … him –HIM, see him?”  Josh pointed out into the living room and they all looked over.
“Todd?” Ben said. 
“You know him?” Josh said.
“Yeah, we came together, he’s pretty nice …”
“I don’t care if he’s nice, Richard and I made up last night…”
“Josh, look at me,” Terri said, pulling him over to her and out of the sight range of Richard. “He’s just talking to him. Now see, they’re walking away from one another.” 
Josh wiped his eyes. “I’m going outside,” he said and went out the kitchen door.  
As if on cue, Richard walked into the kitchen.  He opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer. “Have you seen Josh?”
“He’s on the porch,” Terri said. “He’s not happy.” 
Richard waved his hand in the air. “Oh, Christ.  He does this every party.”
“Richard Varner…” Terri said.
Richard shook his head. “This is why we had the fight in the first place,” he sighed. “I should go out there.” He grabbed a second bottle from the fridge and walked outside. 
“This happens every week,” Terri explained to Ben. “They just need to break up for good and get it over with.  I think I like Heather better now than I did when we were seeing one another.”
“They’ve done this before?” Ben asked. 
Terri nodded. “You heard Richard, this is a regular thing,” Terri said. “The semester just started and I think this must be about their fifth break-up, right Arturo?” 
Arturo nodded.  “Not like me and Jeremy.” Arturo grabbed Jeremy and started kissing his neck.  Ben saw Arturo’s hand rest on Jeremy’s crotch before Jeremy pushed it away.  Ben noticed for the first time that they were dressed in identical outfits.
“Oh lord,” Terri said. “Come out in the living room with me, Ben. I’ll introduce you to some more people.”
“I’ll be out in a minute,” Ben said. 
The music grew louder and the tempo picked up.  The partiers in the living room shouted and started jumping up and down.
“They sure like this song,” Ben said.
Jeremy shrugged. “This isn’t my kind of music.”
The stomping grew louder until the entire house started shaking. Abruptly, the power went out and everything went black.  The few lit candles provided very little illumination.
Sharon was a small, black shape running into the kitchen. “That fucking super. Hold on everyone!” A flashlight turned on about three feet off the floor and she ran out again.
The door from the porch opened and Josh stuck his head in. “What happened?” he asked.
“The super’s pissed,” Jeremy said.
A hand groped Ben’s crotch.  Ben stood there for a moment, sure somebody would realize they’d made a mistake and move it off.  He assumed at first that it was Arturo reaching for Jeremy, but Jeremy was in the middle of the room talking to Josh.  It was Arturo’s hand though,  he was standing in front of Ben with his back to him.  Arturo fumbled with Ben’s zipper for a moment and then lifted his hand and reached down Ben’s waistband, past his underwear and started feeling his dick.  Ben started to get hard. Arturo played with him a little more, breathing lightly.  The lights came back on, the music resumed and Arturo yanked his hand out of Ben’s in one motion. 
Ben left his shirt untucked for the next hour. 
Julia was on the phone with Maria when the lights went out.
“What was all that noise?” Maria asked.
“A bunch of queers jumping up and down,” Julia answered. “So, why didn’t you come?”
“I felt like staying in with Cedrick,” Maria said. “And Darin and his boyfriend Lars are here.”
Lars looked up from where he and Darin were lying on the floor. He didn’t consider him and Darin to be boyfriends.
“And what’s so exciting in the dorms?” Julia asked.
“Well, Sharon isn’t here for one thing,” Maria said. “And let me guess, Tobe’s pissed because nobody likes his music.”
“Yeah, that’s about right,” Julia said. “I’ll be cutting out of here soon, anyhow.  I’m staying at Jonah’s tonight.  I think Richard might bring Josh home and I don’t want to deal with their shit tonight.  They’re about to have another fight.  I’ll talk to you later.”
“See you,” Maria said and hung up.  Cedrick handed her the joint. “We are missing nothing,” she said.
“Good, this is more fun,” Darin said. 
Not really, Lars thought as he looked at Maria and Cedrick sprawled on the bed and Darin with bloodshot eyes on the floor, not even close.
Julia wasn’t as bored as she had made out to Maria, but she couldn’t act as though she were enjoying it.  Maria was missing a fairly decent time.   Richard and Josh were now entwined on the couch when just an hour earlier, they had been at one another’s throats.  Richard was predictable. Todd was young and cute and that was exactly what Richard went for; Richard had been shooting Todd looks behind Josh’s back all night.   This semester already, Richard had brought two guys home, sweeping them past Julia and Heather on their march through the kitchen.  Poor Josh and his monogamous fantasy.  Monogamy’s a pipedream.
Arturo walked by, talking to some guy who went to Williams.  There was another example.  Jeremy and Arturo claimed monogamy, but Arturo spent all his time feeling up half the guys who walked into the room. Whenever Arturo was confronted, he pleaded innocent and talked about how loyal he was to Jeremy.  How many guys had Jeremy put on his shit list now?  Arturo wasn’t that hot of a commodity that made the guys flock to him, but Jeremy refused to see that.
Julia looked over.  It was Ben, looking sloshed.
“Well hello there Ben, how are you?”  
“Good, this is fun.”
“You’ve been drinking too much sangria,” Julia said, adjusting her wig.
“Maybe.  I kept drinking it thinking it would taste better,” he said.  “It didn’t.”
Richard, done consoling Josh, came up behind Julia, pulled off her wig and put it on his own head. “Now I’m the pretty one,” he said, flipping his hair back. 
“Goober,” Julia said. “Richard, you’ve met Ben?”
“Oh yes,” Richard said, sticking out his hand and shaking weakly.
“Where’s Josh?” Julia asked.
Richard gestured upstairs. “Oh, he’s off showing somebody his art, he’ll be up there for a while,” he said.  “Is that ‘Walking on Sunshine’?  Tobe’s flipped.”  Richard turned to Ben. “Did you see those hot pants Tobe’s wearing?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t help but notice,” Ben said. The pants fit Tobe like a second skin and barely covered his ass.  Ben had wondered earlier how Tobe could walk in them.
“Those were mine,” Richard said. “I was throwing them out because they were too small on me and Tobe wanted them.”   
“Tobe’s in a bad mood; leave him alone,” Julia said.
“Nathan didn’t show?” Richard asked.
Richard chuckled and sipped on his beer. “He doesn’t give up easily.  I wish Ryan had showed up, I wanted a ride home.” He pulled off the wig and threw it on Ben’s head. “Your turn.  I’m going dancing.”
“Ta-ta,” Julia said.  She turned to Ben. “That wig looks better on you than it does on me.”
The loser bus rolled out of Hampstead back to Alden at 1:45 am, filled with all the guys who left Green Tree Women’s College without scoring a lay.  It was already half full after only the first stop.  Ben didn’t tell Todd about what had happened when the lights had gone out as they headed to the bus stop.  There wasn’t much more to say anyway. When the power had been restored, Arturo had run over to Jeremy and Ben didn’t see them again the rest of the night. 
“I’m only going halfway back tonight,” Todd said as they walked to the bus stop.
“What do you mean?”  Todd had scored?  That would figure.  “So, who is he?  Where is he?” Ben made sure he sounded more easygoing than he felt.
Lucky prick.
“He’s waiting at the bus stop, he wanted to leave separately.” When they reached the post office on
Main Street
, a guy stepped out of the small crowd of waiting students.
Todd walked over to him. “Hi there.”
“Hello yourself,” Richard said.

Chapter 20: Love in the Late Afternoon

In the Office
“Have you seen it?” Terri Friedmann asked walking into the UGLBA office holding a copy of The Patriot over her head.  The office was on the main mezzanine at the Student Union.  It shared quarters with the Radical Students Union who had a small walled-in area at front of the office. Only the RSU quarters could be seen through the window, ensuring the anonymity of any of the UGLBA members.   There were only two people in the office at the moment: her ex-girlfriend Heather and one of the new kids. 
Heather held up her own copy. “The YouCons were thoughtful enough to leave a bundle outside our door, just for us,” Heather said. “I don’t know why you’re so surprised.  It’s just the usual bullshit.” 
“They piss me off is why,” Terri said.
“That’s why they keep doing it,” Heather said.  The guy sitting next to her looked confused.
“But it’s personal,” Terri said. “And they shouldn’t be allowed.”
Last semester there had been an article about the dropout rate of the UGLBA presidents, a true fact that was a stain on the UGBLA’s record.  Terri had been named as the UGLBA’s “least likely to graduate.”   Not only had the paper published Terri’s name, but they were also right about the grade point average: a low 1.5.  After a discussion with the Student Affairs coordinator, Terri was told there was little she could do.  So at the end of the semester, in order to look better in the eyes of the University and to try and save their own academic careers, the UGLBA had formed a five-person steering committee. 
“Now we can all fail out together,” Tobe had said.
Terri looked at the paper again and threw it against the newly painted lavender wall.
“Terri, this is Darin. Darin, this is my ex-girlfriend Terri,” Heather said. 
Darin held out his hand but Terri walked by.
“Terri…” Heather said.
Terri looked up. “I’m sorry, I am not with it today.”
Today? Heather thought.
Terri took Darin’s hand. “Hi Darin, do you want to go break some Young Conservative skulls as an act of initiation?”
“Why not?” Darin said.
 “Are you just coming out?” Terri asked, looking around to see where she had put the “So You’re Coming Out” pamphlets that she’d ordered.  Not the cheap folded paper ones that came out of the Center and looked as though they’d been designed in the 70s by a hippie collective, but the professional ones she’d ordered.
“Kind of,” Darin said. “But I was involved with a group in Boston.”
Heather’s eyes lit up. “BAGLY?”
Darin nodded. “Yeah, I went to some meetings there every once in a while.” Until he met William and he’d stopped attending, because William thought the group was for losers who couldn’t find a date.  Darin never asked William why a 37 year old should have such a strong opinion on a youth group.
“Welcome to the office, we’re always hanging out here,” Terri went over to the desk and started dialing the phone. “We have general meetings once a month which anybody can attend, and open and closed meetings for the steering committee. So please come.”
“Who are you calling?” Heather asked.
“I’m going to see if I can reach Guinevere at the paper,” Terri said. “Let her know that the Cons are striking.”
“I’m sure she knows,” Heather said.  She turned back to Darin. “Don’t mind her, she’s always like this.”
“I’ve noticed,” Darin said. “She doesn’t stop?”
“No,” Heather said. “She doesn’t.  You should see her when she gets worked up.” And that’s why we’re no longer together.
Darin pulled out a lighter. “Can I smoke in here?”
“No,” Heather said. “New rule is you have to go out to the mezzanine.  It’s not so bad, because you can look down right into the snack store.  Tobe used to drop pennies down there onto the girls with big hair to see if they’d stick, but it’s not as much fun now that hairstyles are flattening out.”
Terri put her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone. “Speaking of Tobe, has he been here today?”
“No, why?”
“He needed a ride out to the mall.”
“Is he allowed back there?” Heather looked at Darin and shook her head. “You have to know Tobe.”
“He's changed his hair color since, so he’s sure they won’t recognize him anymore.”
“It’s going to take more than a change of hair color for them to forget Tobe,” Heather took Darin’s hand. “Come on, I’ll walk out to the mezzanine with you.  There may still be some big haired people left.”

Cedrick Says
Ben dreaded coming home to see if he would have another note from Edgar but there hadn’t been any reappearance.  Thank god the RA had put just his first name on the door tag so Edgar couldn’t look him up in the phone directory. 
“You ever hook up with that guy who came by?” Cedrick asked one of the rare nights when he was home early.  He was lounging on his bed in his black briefs. 
Ben forced himself to look away. “No, I don’t think I will.”
“You don’t want to get laid?” Cedrick laughed at Ben’s expression. “Oh come on, we all know you’re gay.”
Was it that obvious? Could people tell? There was no point in denying it; Cedrick could apparently handle it.  “He’s not my type,” Ben said.
“How do you know?  He may have a big dick!”  Cedrick chuckled. “Don’t look so offended.”
“He’s not my type,” Ben repeated.
Cedrick turned onto his stomach, ass in the air. “You’ll never know what you’ve missed.”
“Thank god.”  Was Edgar the kind of guy Cedrick thought he’d be compatible with, that it was the best Ben was going to do?  Surely he could do a lot better than Edgar.  Jeremy was the perfect guy despite always wearing those shorts everywhere.  But he was taken.
“I’ve made you self-conscious, haven’t I?” Cedrick said. “I see you looking in the mirror.”
 “No, you haven’t.”  Ben grabbed his Shakespeare text. If he had to watch Cedrick undulate on the bed in his briefs all night, he'd go crazy.  Better to read in the lounge at the end of the hallway.
“You’re going to go to the payphone on the first floor and call him, aren’t you?” Cedrick said. “I knew you couldn’t resist that fedora.”
“Shut up.”  It was hard not to smile.
Ben could hear Cedrick laughing after he’d closed the door.
Weirdo.  Beautiful, sexy weirdo. 

Love in the Late Afternoon
“Ow! Don’t bite! Christ.”
Arturo lifted his head up from between Jeremy’s thighs. “I wasn’t biting, it was a nibble.”
“Whatever it was, don’t do that,” Jeremy looked over at the wall clock. “We need to start heading out.”
Arturo knelt in front of Jeremy, dick wilting, the unopened condom on the floor.  Goddamn Jeremy; always thinking about what needed to be done and never enjoying the moment. Jeremy was so young and inexperienced when they’d met that Arturo knew immediately that Jeremy wouldn’t be his most exciting lover, but now after two years, bed death had set in. If Arturo hadn’t jumped on him tonight, they would have waited until Wednesday for sex.  Wednesday:  the sex night.  Arturo wasn’t sure how that specific day became the day but it was the only time when Jeremy was horny, although even Wednesdays were starting to get overlooked. Jeremy was constantly worrying about departmental baloney, his projects, his grad school applications which still wouldn’t be due for another year.
“I don’t want to go to the party,” Arturo said.
“I do, and so do you. You’re just being contrary because I don’t want to be nibbled.”
Jeremy stood up and walked over to the dresser.  No matter how frustrating Jeremy could be, he had a magnificent ass.  Arturo started getting hard again. 
Jeremy tossed a cashmere sweater he’d bought for Arturo at Christmas over at him. “Wear this …” 
Jeremy bent over at the drawers and Arturo watched his ass spread every so slightly.  Enough was enough.  He opened the condom, stood up and shoved him against the dresser. 
“But first,” Arturo said and he shoved his dick right up inside Jeremy. Instead of the expected protestation, Jeremy inhaled sharply, and then moaned.
 “I thought so,” Arturo said, leaning over to kiss him on the neck.
Afterward, they lay on the bed.  Jeremy propped himself up on one elbow and tweaked Arturo’s nipple.  “Now, we need to go,” he said. “But forget about the sweater.  This,” He pulled out the one he’d tossed at Arturo earlier from underneath him; it was rumpled, “Won’t do anymore.”
Arturo sat up and kissed Jeremy. “I’m ready.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chapter 19: Sex and the Single Undergrad

Is That What You’re Wearing?
The humid summer weather came back to campus at the end of the month.  Temperatures were in the low 80s by noon.  Ben walked out of Spanish class and was trying to tie his jacket around his waist with little luck when he spotted Jeremy, in his Lycra shorts, sitting on the wall by the Fine Arts Center reflecting pool (empty as always due to leaks). 
“Well hey,” Ben said.  “Are you heading to the gym?”
Jeremy gave him a puzzled look. “No, why?”
“Never mind.”
Jeremy, Ben had learned, took things seriously and didn’t get sarcasm.  But then, you’d need to be serious with Arturo as a boyfriend.  Ben had learned that Arturo wasn’t just being friendly when he’d seek out the new kid in the room. There was an inappropriate hand on the ass, or brush against the crotch, usually followed by a “just kidding.” But Arturo wasn’t always kidding. Apparently that monogamy didn’t exclude groping green undergrads, but Jeremy never acknowledged if he saw anything. 
Jeremy kept his distance from most of the other guys his age. Ben had yet to see him acknowledge either Richard or Tobe.
“So where are you off to?” Jeremy asked him.
“To the fabulous dining hall,” Ben said. Stop with the adjectives, you sound like an idiot. “Are you on the meal plan?”
“I am, but I ate.  I’ve got to study for a chemistry test.”
“Hard sciences, ugh,” Ben said. 
Jeremy didn’t react. “Are you going to the party Saturday?” he asked.
“No where? Here on campus?”
“No, in Hampstead at Josh and Sharon’s.  Have you met either one?”
“I’m not sure; I’ve been introduced to so many people so far…”
“Josh has a ponytail, he’s Richard’s boyfriend?”
“I don’t know Richard all that well.”
Sharon is short, shaved head,” Jeremy continued. “About two hundred pounds …”
Ben had definitely seen her in the UGLBA office.  She’d struck Ben as being unfriendly and moody. 
“What time does it start?”
“No idea. I figure Arturo and I will get there at about nine or so, but call me and I’ll give you directions.  I’d go with you, but Arturo and I are going to see La Femme Nikita beforehand. Hold out your hand …” 
Ben stuck out his hand, palm up. Jeremy turned it over. “You won’t sweat it off on this side,” he said, taking out a pen. He wrote his number down.  It occurred to Ben too late that he could have just used a piece of notebook paper, but it was nice to have Jeremy holding his arm.  The pen tickled.
“I’ll write it down as soon as I get back to the dorm,” Ben said. “Thanks.”
“You should go.  A lot of us will be there, and it’s easy to get to.”
“But the buses?” Ben asked.  The idea of going to a party alone made him uneasy. 
“What about the buses?” Jeremy asked.
“I can barely afford a can of soda at the snack store, how much does it cost?”
“You are new.  Dummy, during the school year, all the buses are free,” Jeremy started walking backwards, still talking. “Call me tonight.”
Ben nodded.  He looked down at the number on his hand.  Jeremy had nice handwriting.  

Sex and the Single Undergrad
“I think I ought to be paid extra just to put up with Sabra leering at my tits the entire time,” Julia said.
“You don’t have tits,” Maria said.
“That’s what makes it extra annoying.”
“Does she mentally undress you with her eyes?”
“She does everything. I must turn her on.  She’s always, always nervous when I talk to her, she looks away, she stammers …” Julia said.  She was exaggerating.  Sabra had barely glanced her way most of the time but she needed to keep Maria amused.  They didn’t have much to say unless they tried to outdo one another. 
Working at the Center was proving to be as fun as a dirt nap.   Macon Brigham was ineffective.   He’d developed a nervous tic that made him blink and wince as though somebody invisible was constantly throwing a punch at him.  He had also been claiming to have the highest IQ recorded.  Carlos, the lone grad student employee, was convinced that Macon had lied about his car accident to make people feel sorry for him but Carlos was another story.
When Sabra was in the office, Carlos made a show of huddling over the file cabinet.  When Sabra was out, Carlos sat on the couch reading old issues of The Advocate that would be missing the pull-out personal ads by the time they went back on the shelf.
Julia had only worked with Ben that first day he was there; she had no idea of his work ethic. 
“The newsletter comes out once a month, so I barely ever have to be there, but I still get keys to the office so I can use the office whenever I want, to use the computer or whatever after hours.”  Not that she planned one spending too much time in a University office that had been converted from a resident director’s apartment. 
Maria snubbed her cigarette out on the steps. “Cedrick fucked me in the ass the other night,” she said. 
Julia wasn’t sure how she was supposed to respond to that. “And how is Cedrick?”
“He’s great,” Maria said. “You should definitely meet him, maybe Jonah could come too.”
“Jonah’s so busy DJing that I barely see him,” Julia said. “So you’ve been dating Cedrick nearly three weeks?  A new record.”
“Going to some fancy restaurant in Hampstead to celebrate that you can’t afford?”
“There’s no such thing as a fancy restaurant in Hampstead,” Maria reached for her cigarette case and opened it. “Empty.”  She threw the back in her bag, then continued to stare into it frowning. “Oh wait, wait, I have something to show you, did you read this one today …” Maria pulled a copy of The Patriot out.
“Why do you read that shit?” Julia asked. 
“I don’t, but I bumped into Terri in the Student Union and she was on the warpath,” Maria said. “It’s here in their editorials.”
“The entire paper is an editorial, it’s a lame paper run by stupid white men,” Julia said. “The Young Conservatives suck.”
“It’s still more amusing than The Daily Centaur, and it only comes out once a month.” Maria unfolded the paper, and read the headline. “’Gays begin annual recruiting drive’ and look, there’s a photo of Ryan and Macon at the table.” 
Julia took the paper from her.
“Oh damn, I just missed having my picture taken that day and I was looking so pretty.  I can pretty much figure out what the article says.”
“You should respond to it in that newsletter you’re working on,” Maria said.
“Maybe. I have some pretty definite ideas of what I’ll do, but I don’t want the newsletter to give these idiots any more publicity.”  Which was somewhat untrue; Julia would have loved to respond, but Sabra was making it clear that she had the ultimate veto power and had said she didn’t want to be caught in the “petty battles” between student groups. 
Julia was sick of thinking about Sabra. Time to change the subject. “So, how well did Cedrick fit inside your butt?”