In school on Monday I asked Kirk if he’d gotten any reaction from his announcement. He said that some of the boys told him they were fine with him being gay and weren’t worried at all. He hadn’t received any negative comments.
Over the next few days, I thought a lot about Jamal and our relationship. Did I love him? Well, when I wasn’t with him, I missed him. When I went to see him, my heart always began to beat faster. When we were together, I was sublimely happy. Were those all signs of love or just of lust? As I reflected more, I realized it wasn’t just the sex that I enjoyed. It was simply being with him, talking about interests we shared and learning to know him better. On the other hand, we hadn’t been together very long. Was I rushing things?”
After school on Friday, I went once more to the Midanis’ house. This time when I rang the bell, Jamal answered. He handed me a key and told me that I could come and go anytime I pleased and I didn’t need to ring the bell.
“Just like me,” Akram said, emerging from behind his father. “Are you here for the weekend?”
I nodded and he said, “Good. I guess I should warn you that Kirk will be here too.”
“Is that going to be a complication?” asked Jamal.
“Probably not,” I replied. Then I asked Akram, “How much does Kirk know about me and your dad?”
“I’ve only told him that you’re both gay, but I’m sure he can put the pieces together. I wouldn’t worry about it. I believe him when he says he hasn’t told anything about you to anyone but me.”
Soon, the doorbell rang. Akram answered the door, and after a short time Kirk followed him back into the living room. I saw at once that Kirk’d been crying.
“We have a problem,” Akram said. He sat with Kirk on the couch, putting his arm around his friend’s shoulder. “Tell them, Kirk.”
Kirk sniffled a little and then said, “I was attacked by some older boys on my way over here. One punched me in the stomach and said they hated ‘fags’. When I said that I thought ‘fags’ was a British term for cigarettes, another one tripped me, and I fell hard on the sidewalk. While I was trying to get my breath back, they kicked me and then dumped the stuff in my bag all over the ground before they warned me not to talk. Then they laughed and left me lying on the pavement.”
“Do you know who the boys were?” I asked.
“Will you tell us?”
He shook his head.
“Because if I tell on them, they’ll beat the shit out of me. At least that’s what they said.”
Jamal asked, “Akram, do you know who the boys are?”
“Kirk hasn’t told me, but I think I can guess.”
“We should call the sheriff and identify the boys,” his father said. “After all, Kirk was on public property and what they did was assault.”
“No, please! No sheriff. They or their friends will really beat me up.”
I told them about my previous experience calling the sheriff and being told that it was just ‘boys bein’ boys’.”
Jamal agreed not to call.
“Kirk, what grade are these boys in?” I asked.
“Eighth,” said Akram. “Is that right, Kirk?”
We called Kirk’s mothers, who wanted him to go home, but he told them he was fine and wanted to stay. Finally, they agreed.
After hanging up and thinking a bit, I said, “Okay, then here’s what we do We call in Akram’s escorts and alert them to the problem. With so many of them, those boys won’t stand a chance.”
“But you can’t tell them to attack the boys,” Jamal said.
“No, we won’t; we’ll do it just like last time. I think a little intimidation and giving the boys the understanding that our kids know where they live will work just as well.”
“But how can they do anything if they don’t know who the boys are?” asked Kirk.
Turning to Akram I said, “You told us you thought you knew who they were. Why do you think that?”
Akram thought for a moment and then asked Kirk, “There are three of them, right?”
“Well, the whole school knows who the bullies in the eighth grade are. It’s just that the teachers don’t do anything about them.”
“So you think your classmates know who they are?”
“I’m sure of it.”
“Give me five minutes,” I said, and walked into the kitchen. I pulled out my phone and called Beth. It didn’t take long for me to tell her what the situation was.
“Okay,” she said, “I’ll take care of it. And I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Returning to the living room I announced, “Beth’s taking care of it.”
“How?” asked Jamal.
“She didn’t say, but I trust her judgment.” Turning to Kirk I suggested, “Why don’t you go in the bathroom and wash your face off?”
He nodded and left the room.
“I was afraid the word of Kirk’s being gay might get around,” I said.
“Bullies are bullies,” Akram observed, “but I learned earlier that they’re also cowards.”
When Kirk returned to the living room, Akram took him into the kitchen and began to teach him Middle Eastern cooking. The dinner was delicious, and the boys grinned happily when Jamal and I said so.
It would have been unseemly to head to bed right after dinner, so we all took a stroll around the neighborhood. At one point, Akram gestured towards one of the houses and said, “One of the bullies lives there.”
Kirk nodded. “He wasn’t even the worst one,” he said.
“I can bet who the worst one was,” Akram answered.
“Who?” challenged Kirk.
“You got it,” Kirk agreed.
It seemed as though bedtime would never come, but at 9:30, Akram said that he and Kirk were heading upstairs.
We wished them good night and gave them a little time to get settled before we went up quietly to Jamal’s room.
The boys used a bathroom across the hall from Akram’s room, but Jamal had a private bath connecting to his bedroom.
In his room, Jamal turned me toward him, took my face gently in his hands, and kissed me quite vigorously before slipping his tongue in my mouth.
“I’ve missed you so much, Ben,” he murmured.
“And I’ve missed you,” I replied.
We were silent for a few moments and we heard the boys quietly giggling.
“I guess they’re happy,” I said, and Jamal chuckled.
We were soon naked on his bed, doing what made us feel so wonderful and fulfilled.
When we finished, we lay back and Jamal asked, “What are you thinking about?”
“I’m thinking that I’m in love with you but I’m also a little afraid I might be rushing into it.”
“Well, you know that I love you.”
“So, what do we do about it?”
“Sleep on it,” I said as I rolled onto my side. I heard him chuckling.
We both dozed off, only to awaken later and repeat our earlier exertions.
Jamal and I slept in for a while, and then lay, rubbing and fondling each other, as we talked quietly. When we finally dressed and left the room, not a sound was coming from the boys.
“Breakfast in half an hour,” called Jamal.
“Okay,” answered a sleepy voice.
When the boys came to the table, they both looked exhausted.
“Hard night?” Jamal asked.
Both boys blushed, looked down at their plates, and giggled.
Near the end of the meal, Kirk asked, “Can I ask a question?”
“Sure,” I said. “We reserve the right to answer or not depending on the question.”
He looked at me and asked, “Are you and Jamal gonna get married?”
Jamal and I both laughed.
“What?” asked Kirk. “What are you laughing at?”
“Did Akram put you up to asking that?” asked Jamal.
“No. I just wondered. And I guess I was hoping that the answer would be ‘yes’, because I think you two go really great together.”
“Kirk,” I said, “that’s another personal question. Remember I told you that I liked my privacy?”
Abashed, he said in a very small voice, “I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” I told him. “The truth is, we haven’t talked about it. When we know, either way, we’ll tell you and Akram, okay?”
He nodded his head. Just at that point we heard a loud ruckus outside. Going to the living room window and looking out, we saw about twenty seventh graders walking by, waving and shouting ‘hi’ as they went. We waved back and watched them turn a corner down the street.
“Ben, do those kids know you come over here?” Jamal asked.
“Well, if they didn’t before, they do now. Darn, you can’t keep any secrets in this town.”
Later in the afternoon, while the boys were playing a video game upstairs, my phone rang.
“Hi,” Beth said. “I think we’ve taken care of the problem. We went to each house and stood outside, calling for the boys to come out. Two of them did come out and we warned them. At Marcus’s house, he didn’t even dare to meet us. His father came out instead, wanting to know what we wanted. We told him what the three boys had done. He looked really angry and said he’d take care of it. I don’t think there will be any more problems, Mr. Travis.”
I thanked her and ended the call before telling Jamal what she said.
While they boys continued to play, Jamal and I went for another walk. It was a lovely late fall day and we shuffled through the fallen leaves, enjoying the sights and smells of autumn.
“Jamal,” I said taking his hands, “I really do love you.”
He smiled. “Any thoughts about where we go from here?”
“I want to hear yours,” I replied.
“Well, I think we should get married.”
I nodded and we walked on.
At last, Jamal asked, “Well?”
Taking a big sigh, I said, “I’m ready.”
“Great. When do you want to do it?”
“I think we should do it after school gets out in the summer. That way we can take a trip together and not have to get back at a specific time.”
“Good idea. You promised we’d tell the boys. Should we do that?”
“Not yet. First I need to get used to the idea and see how it feels.”
“You are a cautious one, aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said as we arrived back at his home.
“I have an idea,” Jamal offered.
“Why don’t you move in here? I’m tired of only seeing you on weekends. I want to be with you all the time.”
After thinking about that I agreed. When we were at dinner that night, I said, “Okay, progress is being made, boys. We have decided that I’m going to move in here. We’ll see how it goes from there.”
“Yes!” both boys shouted and high-fived. Akram gave me a big hug. “That’s great, Uncle Ben. Oops. I wasn’t supposed to say that.”
Kirk came to me a little hesitantly. “Is it okay if I hug you?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” I said, “but not in school.”
He giggled and gave me a firm hug before saying, “Thanks. But I won’t call you Uncle Ben for now.”
“Good idea,” I replied. “It wouldn’t do for you to forget in school and call me that.”
We all laughed and enjoyed the evening together playing Clue.