The group at the Center had been small, maybe fifteen people total. Ben wondered if this was the total amount of out people on campus. When he’d walked into the office, Ryan had started introducing him around. There was a guy in Lycra shorts named Jeremy who was there with his boyfriend Arturo. They were the first gay couple Ben ever met. Ryan moved Ben on across the room to a handsome guy sitting on a couch talking to a woman with a big nose and wearing a large, flowered hat.
“Richard, this is Ben,” Ryan said. “He’s new…”
Richard barely smiled. Ben stuck out his hand. They shook.
“And this is Julia.”
Julia looked up from her reclined position. Her ridiculous hat obscured her eyes. “Hello Ben,” Julia said. “Freshman?”
“Junior,” Ben said. “I transferred.”
Julia nodded, then turned back to Richard. Ben drifted over to Jeremy and Arturo and sat with them for the duration of the movie.
Once the movie was over, the room emptied so quickly that Ben didn’t have time to introduce himself to anybody else. Richard and Ryan left before the lights had been turned back on.
“They’re going to the bars,” Jeremy said.
“Hampstead,” Jeremy said. “There are no gay bars in Alden. Are you heading back home?”
“I think so,” Ben said.
“Come and walk with us,” Jeremy said. “We’re heading in the same direction as you.”
Arturo had ridden his bike to the Center office and wheeled it alongside them as they walked up the avenue. Arturo was quiet and let Jeremy do the talking. Jeremy carried a large wicker chair upside down over his head.
“It’s easier to carry this way,” Jeremy said. “Did you like the movie?”
“Yeah,” Ben said. “I didn’t see it when it was released.”
“Enjoy it,” Jeremy said. “They show the same movies over and over every Thursday night. You have this, Parting Glances, Longtime Companion, and My Beautiful Launderette. That’s about it for the men. The women have it worse, they only have Desert Hearts. The good news is they usually show the films in a room at the campus center so you won’t have to trek out here every week.”
“Yeah,” Ben asked. “I’m surprised the UGLBA office is so far out of the way.”
“No,” Jeremy said from underneath his wicker helmet. “The UGLBA is a student group, the office is in the Student Union. That’s where everybody hangs out. This place is administrative. Sabra Gould runs it. She lobbied for it after some homophobic incidents a few years back.”
“I’d always assumed this school was more tolerant,” Ben said.
“A myth,” Jeremy said. “The same shit happens here as everywhere else. Things grew worse since AIDS.”
“Straight people,” Arturo muttered. Arturo was from
and his face was heavily lined. He looked older than 26. Argentina
“Stop,” Jeremy said.
“You’ve said the same thing,” Arturo responded. Jeremy shot him a look and Arturo was quiet.
“Do you have work-study?” Jeremy asked.
“Yeah, I do,” Ben said. “I’ve been trying to find a job all week. Do you have one to offer?”
“Sabra hires work study students at the Center, you should apply,” Jeremy said. “It’s better than the usual work study shit like working the library circulation desk until midnight or washing dishes.”
“Maybe,” Ben said. “It’s an idea.”
“Do it,” Jeremy said. His face was covered by the chair now. Ben took the opportunity to look down at Jeremy’s lower half; he had nice legs. “It won’t be too hard of a job.”
“Here comes the bus,” Arturo said.
Jeremy took the chair off his head. “You’ll come to the social tomorrow? That’s when you’ll really get to meet everybody,” Jeremy said. “Tonight was just a prelude.”
“I’ll try to be there,” Ben said.
“You’d better. Ninth floor of the
at three,” Jeremy said. “See you.” He turned the chair sideways through the narrow door and walked in. Arturo waved as he struggled to pull the bike up the narrow bus stairwell. Campus Center
Ben watched the bus pull away and continued walking down the road back to the dorm. He had to call Dave as soon as he got home.