Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 2




Thanksgiving was a pretty sombre affair after that, though we all did our best. The whole family saw me off at the airport Monday afternoon: Mom, Dad, my sister Emily – even Ben and Ryan were there.  I could feel their love and their concern, and I could also feel their strength.  There were no platitudes, just warm hugs, and when I caught up with Josh in the departure lounge, I was feeling ok.


Not for long.


“So, Big Guy,” he said, moving his bag from the chair he’d been saving for me.  “How was it?  Did you manage to get laid?”


I guess my face kind of fell, because his grin disappeared.  “What happened, Scott?”


I slumped down into the seat, feeling empty.


“David dumped me,” I said. 


“I’m sorry.”


And he really sounded sorry. 


“Me too,” I said.


“Do you want to talk about it?”


To my surprise, I did, and Josh turned out to be a good listener.  The whole time we were waiting to board our flight, he led me with careful questions that kept me thinking and feeling about what had just gone down with David, and what it meant to me.  


“He sounds like a really good guy,” he said at one point, as I described how upset David had been when he was breaking it off with me.  “And an incredibly honest one.  Like he knows himself really well, and makes no apologies for it – even to himself.”


I thought about that for a minute.  I realized that Josh was right.  “Maybe,” I said slowly.  “Maybe he knows himself a little better than I know him.”


“What do you mean?” Josh probed gently.


I remembered something that Ry had said to me once, late in the summer.  It was my sister’s birthday, and the whole family – David included – had gone to a restaurant in down town Toronto to celebrate.  David had been really excited; it was the first time he’d been invited to a family gathering, and he really likes Ben and Ry, who were the first older gay couple he’d ever met. 


David got a little loud and dramatic and giggly, like he does.  At one point I realized that people at other tables were watching him and kind of whispering to one another.  I got really uncomfortable, and finally asked him – no, told him – to be a little quieter.  He’d looked really hurt, and was virtually silent for the rest of the evening.


Before we left, Ryan took me aside. 


“David is a great guy, Scott,” he said quietly.  “And he’s got to learn to be comfortable in his own skin.  If you love him, you have to help him do that.  It’s pretty obvious that he’s not like you or Ben.  Just remember that he’s not like me either.  You won’t change him, and you’ll only hurt him if you try.”


I had been puzzled and confused, and dismissed it at the time, but now I found myself rethinking what Ry had said that night.  David is a lot like Ry physically: small and blonde and slight.  But there’s nothing remotely effeminate about Ry, and he’s altogether much calmer, quieter, much more confident.  Maybe he was right after all.  Maybe I really did want David to be more like Ry.  But even if that were true, it wasn’t because I didn’t love David.  It was because I thought he’d be safer that way, and that the assholes in high school would leave him alone.


“Well,” I said slowly to Josh.  “I think there are elements of David’s personality that I maybe didn’t value as highly as I should have, that were more important to him than I knew.  He has this really….dramatic side that I tried to tone down.  I guess I was always trying to keep him a little more…low key.”


“Bit of a drama queen?” asked Josh with a soft laugh.


“Yeah.”  I found myself grinning.  “But in a good way.  Most of the time, anyway.  When we were with his friends, it was really fun.  I mean, he’s so smart, and so wickedly funny.  And he could be so outrageously accurate, you know?”


Josh nodded.  “But?”


I thought about it. 


“But…. it wasn’t so good sometimes when we were in less…supportive places.  Like the cafeteria at school, or the coffee shop across the road…I mean, David just…attracts attention, you know?  And it got him into trouble with the jerks at school.  They just zoned in on him.  It was wrong – they had no right to do it – but I could see why.  I mean, when it was just us, we loved it, he was so funny.  But you could see what set some people off.  I really just wanted to get him to tone it down a bit in public, you know, draw less attention to himself, to fit in a bit better.  Or at least not to stand out so much.  I wanted to keep him safe.”


“Did it work?” Josh asked softly.


I sighed.  “Kinda.  I mean, he was a lot quieter when he was in public.  But now – now I’m not sure it made him happy.  It wasn’t really him.  Sometimes, well, I could see he just really wanted to say something, and he’d look at me, and then he’d just kind of look away and say nothing at all…”


Shit.  Just thinking about that kind of choked me up. 


“Look,” I said.  “It’s not like I disapproved of him, or that I was ashamed of him, ok?  I just wanted him to be safe.  I wanted people to leave him alone.  He went through so much  – you’ve no idea.”


“So you wanted him to, what?” asked Josh.  “Not act “gay”?” He made the quotation marks in the air.  “Hide it?”


“No!  Fuck, I’m gay.  I didn’t hide it.  I came out for him – before I even knew him.  I just wanted him to – to learn to kind of tone it down a bit, you know?”


Fuck.  I sounded pathetic.


Josh reached over and touched my hand.  “Actually, yes, I do know.  But did you ever think that maybe your way of being gay just isn’t David’s?”


I just looked at him, confused.


“Look,” he said.  “You and I, we’re like most gay guys.  No one would know if we didn’t choose to let them know.  It’s not just that hiding our orientation is always a possibility – it’s that we always have the option of keeping it off the table altogether.  Most gay guys are like that.  But it sounds like David’s one of the ones who isn’t – one of the ones who couldn’t stay in the closet if the door was bolted shut.”  


“But that doesn’t mean I don’t love him!  Or that what we had wasn’t – wasn’t –.”


Josh laid a hand on my shoulder and squeezed firmly.  “Of course it doesn’t.  Look at yourself.  You’re a mess.  You wouldn’t be this cut up if you didn’t love him.  And it’s obviously that when you were in high school together, you were right for each other.  But that was then.  All I’m saying is… maybe you aren’t right for each other now.  Maybe David’s done the right thing – not just for him, but for you, too.”


“I don’t get it,” I said.  “I did get people to lay off him.  It was a lot better when I was with him.”


“And when you weren’t?”


“But that’s why –“


“That’s why you tried to change him?” Josh said softly. 


I stared miserably at the floor.


“Scott, I’ve got a friend in Toronto, a film editor.  He had a really rough time when he was a kid, too.  But now he’s pretty amazing.  And he doesn’t get his strength from being able to fade into the background, believe me.  He gets it from being totally in your face.  He likes to say that he’s not just “out” – he’s “out”-rageous.  I’m not saying that David will be like that.  I’m just saying he needs to figure it out.  He needs to be his own man, just like you do, and your way might not be his.”


I nodded slowly.  “You’re not the first person who’s told me this,” I admitted finally. “My uncle Ry tried to tell me the same thing.  Ry’s gay, too. He said that I seemed to want to change David…” 


Josh rubbed my shoulder sympathetically.  “I can understand why,” he said.  “You’re a protective guy.  And at the time, I guess it was what both of you needed.”


“I guess.”


“So, basically what you’re saying is that David could be himself with his circle of friends, but not in the general high school community.”


I nodded.


“What about with your friends?”


I shrugged.  “We didn’t spend any time with my friends.  I mean, being with David made me realize that, while I had a lot of buddies, guys I’d been doing sports with all my life, I didn’t really have any close friends.  It’s like – all my relationships were really, well, superficial.  I would still hang with them a bit, mostly when I had to for team things, but I always went alone.  We spent our social time with David’s friends.”


“What about when it was just the two of you?”


“When it was just the two of us –“


I sobbed.  I couldn’t help it.  I wasn’t used to talking about these things, even with another gay guy.  David had been mine, I had been his.  What had been between us had been magic; at least, I thought it had been.  And now it was over, and there was nothing I could do about it.


I thought of him Friday night, his small, perfect body stretched out the length of mine, trying to explain, to comfort me as his tears dripped down onto my face. 


“When it was just the two of us,” I mumbled to Josh.  “It was fucking wonderful.”


And then I lost it.  Right there in the departure lounge of the Toronto International Airport. 


Josh pulled me into his arms.  His body was warm and hard and comforting, and I wanted to sink into it.  I felt my cock stir, and that startled me. Emotionally, all I felt was the enormous pain of David leaving me.   I didn’t expect to have any kind of physical feelings at all, ever again.  I just wasn’t ready for the touch of another guy’s body. 


For a minute I tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let me go.  It was like he knew what I was feeling and was waiting for it to go away.  It didn’t, but finally I was able to relax into him, and take the comfort that he offered.




We were both really quiet on the flight back.  There was some chick flick playing, and we both pretended to watch it, and then pretended to doze off, or at least I pretended, maybe Josh really did.  


Josh has a car, a little silver Golf, and he’d left it at the airport.  He offered to drive me back to school.  Once we were underway, he asked if I wanted to spend the night at his apartment.


“No sex,” he said, with a wicked grin.  “Just company.  I know you’re not a casual sex type guy.  But sometimes, well, sometimes it’s good not to be alone.”


I was going to say no, but suddenly the thought of heading back to my res room by myself left me cold.  




Josh is from a wealthy family.  He lived in a condo a ten-minute drive from the university.  It was his; he’d bought it when he was an undergraduate as an investment on the advice of his parents, with money he’d inherited from his grandfather.  When he was working for the government, he’d commuted to Halifax, a pretty hour’s drive away.  The building was beautiful, only six stories, in a park-like setting overlooking the ocean.  He told me that most of the other owners were from out of province and only lived there during the summer, though there were a few other students living in units their parents had purchased. 


His condo was a complete shock to me.  I don’t know what I was expecting – a party place, I guess, because Josh had given me the impression that he had an interest in casual sex.  But what I found was something totally different.  Definitely not student digs.  It was a real home, a sophisticated home, the kind of home that Ben and Ry would have designed and built for a discerning client.  The walls were a kind of pale brown grey, and the furniture was leather and chrome.  I’m sure some of the chairs had names.  Everything was tidy and orderly.  The overwhelming atmosphere was peaceful.


But the most dramatic thing was the wall opposite the windows that overlooked the water.


“Holy shit,” I said staring at an enormous canvas that must have been seven feet high and ten feet wide.  “That is so beautiful.”


It was a painting was of a storm-wracked sky and ocean, so real that the wind and rain made your skin crawl cold.  To the left was a life-size male nude, shown from behind, his head thrown back, staring up into the wild sky.  The rain and wind were beating down on his face, and had flattened his black hair to his head.  Every line and angle of his body was perfect, shimmering with rain and an almost other-worldly inner light.  The execution was positively brilliant, the style so hyper realistic that I wanted to reach out and run my fingers through those rain slicked curls, down that strong back, over that perfect, white ass.  The form was so beautiful I could only stare at it.  It was some minutes before I noticed the model’s face, which was in profile.  The expression on the face was hard to read. It could have been anguish.  It could have been enormous joy.  I studied it, feeling the force of the emotion, until –


“Fuck,” I said softly.  “That’s you,”


“Sort of,” said Josh, sounding a little embarrassed.  “Let’s just say it’s a very much idealized me.  What can I say?  The guy who painted said I was his muse.  For the length of time it took to paint the picture, anyway.”


I looked at him in surprise.


“Don’t go there, Scott,” he said, and there was real pain in his voice.  “He’s been gone a long time.  Toronto, Paris, New York, San Fran – fuck, I don’t even know any more.  I don’t want to know.  This --,” he waved his hand at the painting, “This was more important to him than anything.  Than us.  Than me.  Obviously.”


“This must really freak out the guys you bring home,” I said, still studying the painting.  


Josh didn’t say anything for awhile.  “I don’t bring guys here,” he said finally.  “In over two years, you’re the first person I’ve invited in who didn’t know Graham and me as a couple.  I don’t even invite my parents here.”


He laughed.  “How could I, with this hanging on the wall?  It’s the only thing Graham left behind, and it’s not like I can stick it in the closet when guests pop over.  He painted it in here.  It’s too big to go out the door.  I’m going to have to get a gallery to come in and un-mount it.  I probably should have done it already – but I just can’t seem to bring myself to have it taken down.”




We talked until after midnight, when Josh said we really should go to bed, since I had a 9 a.m. class.  I felt pretty much as I had since Thursday night: tired, exhausted even, but not sleepy.  In fact, I’d hardly slept at all over the last four nights.  Every time I closed my eyes I saw David, heard his final goodbye, felt his mouth moving down over my body, remembered how I’d stopped him from that final intimate act.  I didn’t cry about it.  I’d done that, when David was actually leaving me.  But I couldn’t seem to let go of it either. 


“There’s only one bed, Big Guy,” said Josh.  “But I promise to be good.”  




I dug a toothbrush out of my back pack and made my way to the bathroom.  Although I was glad to have spent the evening talking with Josh, now that it came down to it, I wasn’t so sure that staying here with him was such a good idea any more. 


What if I got hard?  What if I said or did something in my sleep?  What if Josh did?  I’d never slept with anyone but David, and the few times we’d been able to spend the night together, he’d awakened in my arms, with my dick hard and practically in his ass.  What if I was like that with Josh?


I tried to tell myself that that wouldn’t happen, that Josh wasn’t my type.  Not that he wasn’t attractive – he was. Very.  But there was something about him that kind of…scared me a bit.  Maybe it was just that he was six years older than me.  Maybe it was the fact that he intimated that he picked up a lot of guys.  That made me feel very young and inexperienced – and but it also made me feel like he was maybe a little bit of a slut, at least by my standards.  I don’t mean that to sound judgmental.  I really liked him.  But it worried me, and I think, for me, it put him out of bounds. 


I’ve been lucky to grow up with gay men in my life who’ve been role models for me in many ways.  My uncles and their friends are mostly in stable partnerships; some of them have gotten married since that became legal in Canada a few years ago.  But they all have a kind of sadness to them that’s never very far from the surface.  When they were my age, a lot of their friends died of AIDS, and they never let me forget that.  


There’s a photo of a guy about eighteen, the age I am now, that has been on Ben and Ry’s mantle for as long as I can remember.  He was a gorgeous guy, a close friend of theirs.  He was only 19 when he died of AIDS.  Ben and Ry and all their friends do charity work for various AIDS foundations.  I’ve had more lectures on safe sex than I can count. 


But even while I was thinking that Josh was off limits physically, I had to admit that responding to him wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility.  I remembered how I’d reacted to his arms around me in the airport departure lounge.  I couldn’t deny that, even through all the pain I felt because of David, his touch was just a little thrilling. 


What if I reached for him in my sleep?


What if he reached for me? 


It suddenly hit me like a brick: wherever else his mouth and his dick had been in the meantime, this was the first time Josh had actually invited another guy to share his bed since his artist lover had left him.    


What was going on in his head? 




I usually sleep naked, but for propriety’s sake I dug a clean pair of boxers out of my backpack – thank God for Moms who send their boys home with clean laundry! – and put them on like armour.  Then I slid into Josh’s bed. 


Josh, of course, made no such concession, to propriety or anything else.  When he walked in from the bathroom he was naked, and I couldn’t help but watch him, and know that he was watching me watch him.  His body was beautiful, long and lean and graceful, honed from years of sports at the clubs his parents belonged to – sailing, tennis, squash, skiing.   And he had a very pretty cock that was halfway to hard and bouncing gently with every step he took towards me.


Funny.  Next to David, I always felt strong and protective.  Josh’s elegant form did not inspire those feelings.  He just made me feel –  big, and kind of hulking and primitive.   “Fuckin’ huge,” as David’s friends used to say.


Josh was also completely unselfconscious.  He just kind of grinned at me, turned out the lights, and climbed into his bed from the other side.  To my surprise, he spooned his shower-damp body up against my back.  When I felt that pretty, half-hard cock against my ass, I shivered.  I couldn’t help it.  Through my boxers I felt it go from half hard to steel in a few heartbeats, and my own cock hardened with it. 


“Relax, Big Guy,” he said, reaching his arm around my chest and pulling close to me.  “I meant what I said.  Nothing is going to happen.  I don’t do sympathy sex, and I don’t do broken hearts, and I can sleep just fine with a hard on.”  He kissed my shoulder.  “Go to sleep.”


It felt odd, being held like that.  With David, I had always been the one doing the holding, curling up protectively around my beautiful boy.  Now I was the one being held, warmly, protectively. 


It was…ok. 


Even the fact that we were both hard was ok.


I realized that I really could trust Josh completely.  Whatever the physical attraction was between us, we weren’t going to do anything with it.  Not tonight, anyway. 


And as I heard his breathing slow into sleep, I began to relax, feeling very calm and very safe.  I even allowed myself to clasp the hand that he’d wrapped around me, and for the first time since David left me, I slept soundly.