“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 29, 2010

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.”

No comments:

Post a Comment