“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 Café. Semesters demonstrates how much fun college can be when you’re not attending class.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chapter 10: Desk Lamp

Desk Lamp
“That is the ugliest lamp I’ve ever seen,” Darin said. 
“You don’t like it?  I thought it was funky, and brightens up the room,” Todd said.  He placed it at the far corner of his desk, then straightened out his pens, placing them in a neat row. 
“Brightens up the room too much,” Darin said. “Look at the thing, it’s orange and green.”
“Well, it was cheap,” Todd said. “And it was the only lamp at the campus center I could afford.”  That was a lie: he’d paid more for it than he should have. Todd had seen the lamp at the store two days earlier and hadn’t been able to get it out of his mind.  The desk lamp the school provided was clunky and ugly and wouldn’t stand up correctly.  This one was nicer and was his first personal touch that mattered. Todd had bought a floor lamp before he left for school, but that was for next to the bed.  The more lamps, the less need to use the overhead fluorescent light when he studied.
“I can see what it was so cheap,” Darin said.
“It’s not that bad.”  Why was Todd defending a fucking lamp anyway?  He liked it, he bought it and that was it.  If Darin didn’t like it, he didn’t have to use it.  
It had been four days and Darin obviously hadn’t yet found anybody else to fool around with because he kept jumping on Todd at night.  Todd had given in every time but that would change soon, he hoped. Already, he’d seen scores of good looking guys around.  Some of them had to be available and then he could turn Darin down.  Sorry Darin, I have a boyfriend, he could say, but he’d be nice about it.
Darin sat up from where he was lying on the bed in his boxers.  “Your mom called,” Darin said, scratched his shoulder and grimacing. “She said it wasn’t urgent.” 
“Thanks,” Todd said.  He pulled a magazine out of his bag. “I also bought Vanity Fair.”
“The one where Demi Moore’s pregnant?”
“I read that before I came to school.  It’s retarded.” 
“Never mind, then.”  Todd dropped the Vanity Fair onto his desk. “Have you seen the notice for the gay group posted on the bulletin board?”
“Yeah,” Darin said. “I don’t know if I’ll go.  It probably won’t be as much fun as the group in Boston.”
We’re not in Boston, Todd though.  “I may go to some coffee hour they’re having on Friday,” he said. “Let me know if you’re interested. We can meet up beforehand.”
Todd went over to the phone. Darin grabbed him between the legs as he passed.
“Come on, I have to call my mother,” Todd said.
“It’s not urgent, remember?” Darin said, rubbing his hand back and forth. Todd started getting hard. “See, you do want it.”
Less and less, Todd thought.

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