Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 12




Bran had most of a two-four in his mini fridge (for you non-Canucks out there, beer up in the great white north is generally sold in cases of 24 refundable bottles or cans – known as two-fours), which made for a late and beery night.  The first three went down slow and smooth, as we talked rugby and whatever else came to mind.  By three beers deep we started to get personal.


I brought up Laura.  I mean, there was something about her and Bran that reminded me of Luc and me.  Sorta.  Because Bran hadn’t got any further in understanding what Laura’s bad experience was than I had gotten with Luc’s. 


“She knows I know from you that something happened,” he said, “But every time I try to talk to her about it, she just kind of shut down, you know?  It’s really bothering me.  I mean, not that it bothers me, but that I don’t know what it is.  You know, that I can’t help her, well, deal with it, or whatever.”


“Yeah, I know.  Luc won’t tell me anything either,” I said.  “I mean, not really.  He just said there was some boy who hurt him when he was younger.  He said that he’d thought the other boy loved him.”


“What do you think that means?”


I shrugged.  “He said it was a long time ago, so I’m guessing early high school maybe.  Very dangerous time for gay boys.  I think it’s a lot worse than for straight boys.  I mean, everyone expects you to be doing girls, you know?  Fuck, you expect yourself to be wanting to do girls.  But no matter how much you think wanting girls is the right thing, there you are, with the hormones kicking in big time, and you’ve gotta figure out why the fuck yours aren’t going in the same direction as everyone else’s – which means that even a simple crush has the potential for disaster.  I mean, think about it.  The vast majority of guys aren’t gay, so the chances of getting a crush on a straight one are pretty damn high.”


“Fuck,” said Bran sympathetically, grabbing a couple more beers from the mini fridge.  “I never thought of it like that.”


“Yeah, well.”  I drained the bottle in my hand and reached for another.  “It’s fucking confusing, let me tell you.  And on top of everything else, you gotta worry about other guys knowing, and you have all these buds you’ve known forever, and they’re sure as hell not gay, and you just don’t know what the fuck is happening.  From my limited experience, and from what I’ve read, it can take guys til well into university to figure it all out. ”


“I don’t know, man.,” I continued.  “I guess it was a lot easier for me than most gay kids.  I mean, I have two gay uncles, and I had them to help me deal, you know?   Fuck, they knew I was gay before I did.  My parents too.  I mean, my Mom grew up with a gay baby brother, and I guess I’m so much like him…  Anyway, my guess is, Luc had a crush on some kid he’d been buds with forever, and misread a situation, outed himself, and did something that totally destroyed the friendship.”


“Fuck,” said Bran sympathetically.


“Yeah.  Happens.  And he’s a really sensitive guy.  That would be enough.”  


“I never really thought about it,”  Bran said, twisting off a cap and handing the bottle to me.  “Makes the high school dating scene seem like a breeze.”


I shrugged.  “Not according to Laura, apparently.”


Bran leaned back in his desk chair, threw his head back, and guzzled half a bottle.  “Yeah, well.  At least we’re moving forward.  She kissed me, you know.”


I’d had enough beer at that point to giggle.  “Right.  A little peck on the cheek and the earth moved.” 


“Hey man,” he said seriously.  “It wasn’t just any peck on the cheek.  It was a peck on the cheek from Laura.  The earth moves when she fuckin’ smiles at me.”


That caused us both to roar with laughter.


But beneath the laughter there was something a lot more serious going on, and we both knew it.  No matter how hard I tried to push the parallels between Bran and Laura and me and Luc, Bran pushed back with the really hard questions.


And the biggest really hard question was Josh – which Bran got to when we were maybe six beers in.


“Thing is, Scott,” he said suddenly.  “You really have to deal with the Josh thing.  Because when it comes down to it, man, until you do, where you’re going with Luc is different from where I want to go with Laura.”


I stared at him blankly.


“Do I have to hit you over the head?  You gotta deal with Josh.  That’s the difference.  I got no Josh to deal with, man.” 


“I fuckin’ hope not,”


He laughed.  “No seriously.  No Josh.  Not that I couldn’t have a Josh—“  


I tried to think of Bran with a guy and it made me giggle.  I couldn’t’ help it.  I blame it on the beer.  


Bran grinned and rolled his eyes.  “A babe Josh, dude.  Get over yourself.  Not that I couldn’t have a Josh, because I could.  There are lots of opportunities out there.  But –“


He paused, and waggled a forefinger at me.  “But the point is – the cutest babe in the world could throw herself at my feet and I’d just walk over her.”




“Fuckin’ right.  Not interested.  I mean, really, really, REALLY not interested.  Like I’d rather have a peck on the cheek from Laura than any other girl’s legs wrapped around my waist.  Fuck, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s true.” 


More beer.


And I thought about what he said while I drank it.


“So—?” he demanded.


“So what?”


“So what?  So what do you want me to say?  Fuck, man, you’re my bud, and I love ya, ok?  And I’m trying hard here not to think about whatever it is that you and Josh, or you and this Luc dude, actually do, you know what I mean?  But fuck, that’s the questions, isn’t it?”


I was confused.  “What’s the question?”


“Not what, who.  Josh.  He’s the question.  Far as I can see, at this point he’s the only question that matters.  Fuck, I gotta piss.”


He lurched out into the bathroom, and when he was done, so did I. 


Another couple of beers.


And then, as if he hadn’t been detoured, Bran picked up where he left off.  “I mean, – if Luc is your Laura – you know, the guy you’re falling in love with, and you seem to feel he should be the guy you’re falling in love with – then who is the fuck is Josh?  I mean, is he just some guy you couldn’t resist, some guy with his legs wrapped around your waist?”


By that time, we were both so drunk that, not only did this make sense, but neither of us even blushed.  I mean, in his own sweet way, I knew Bran was trying to knock some sense into my head with this, and I knew, even through the alcoholic haze, that I should be paying attention. 


Just some guy with his legs wrapped around your waist


I closed my eyes and thought about Josh with, well, with his legs wrapped around my waist.  I’d been fighting remembering that night with Josh ever since I climbed out of his car early Saturday morning.  I’d tried and mostly succeeded in pushing the meaning of it to the back of my mind, even more so after what had happened with Luc.  It was always there though, always just below the surface. 


Now Bran’s words, which had been intended to be disparaging, brought the memory forward with an intensity that was almost overwhelming.


Just some guy with his legs wrapped around your waist


Fuck.  The thought of it hit me so hard, it was almost physical.  Maybe it was just the beer, but I don’t think so.  I leaned back on Bran’s bed, closed my eyes, and just let the memory tumble over me. 


His thighs around my waist had been amazing, and even through the beer I could remember it vividly.  The touch of his skin against my naked waist, its heat, the strength with which he held me there. 


It had happened during the second time I’d entered him, the slow time, the gentle time.  I’d just freed his hands, and at first he wrapped them around my waist, holding on as I’d asked him to.  After a while I’d gone up on my knees between his thighs.  His hands had been forced to release me, and they clutched at the sheets for the time it took me to lift his hips, drape his legs over mine.


I remembered his legs, long and leanly muscled, with soft, dark hair that pressed and caressed me as I pressed my cock against him, forcing him open, so slowly, so carefully.  As I broke through that first tender inch, I’d leaned over to take his mouth, as slowly, and as gently as could, devouring his mouth as I eased in him.  He’d wrapped his arms around me again, and then… and then… that was when it happened.  He’d wrapped his legs around my waist, opening to me, pulling me in deep, and… deeper.  Until I was in him beyond all things, held there by a strength so ancient and knowing and fundamental that I could have died of it.


And just before he came, he’d locked his ankles behind me, held me incredibly close inside him, so I could only plunge deeper and deeper, exploding inside him as he came between us.


Ah, fuck.  The memory of it.  Those images burned into my brain where, for the last few days, I’d refused to look.  Of his head thrust back on the pillow.  Of his hands fisted in the sheets.  Of his legs wrapped around my waist.  Of his green, green eyes burning wild with so much passion, and something more than that.  So much –  fuck, what was the point in lying to myself, so much love --.


And then the way he’d slowly released me, as if the gift had been given, and all the strength just drained away.  


Can you die of beauty? 


Maybe you can – and maybe I had.  I thought, sprawled half drunk – hell, all drunk – on Bran’s bed remembering, that maybe I had died some kind of little death from which I had yet to be reborn.




I opened my eyes and looked into the concerned face of the guy who’d become my best friend.


“No,” I said to him.  “Josh was not just some guy with his legs wrapped around my waist.  He was never just that guy.”  And I realized there were tears running down my face, and I was sobbing really hard, but I didn’t fucking care.


Bran leaned across and hugged me, pulling my head onto his shoulder.  “Well, Bud,” he said.  “You are in one fucked up mess.  Cause I don’t think much good is likely to come from trying to love two different guys.  I mean, fuck, it’s hard enough trying to do a good job loving one.  Sure is with girls, anyway.  And I don’t see how it’s any different.”

And I think that’s kind of where we ended up.  I don’t’ remember much more.  Just waking up the next morning sprawled across Bran’s bed, with an aching head and a desperate need for a piss, and Bran in his chair, sprawled across his desk. 


When his alarm went off at 5:30, I expect our blood alcohol level was still in the illegal range.  We didn’t bother to shower, just ducked our heads under the cold water tap, and headed for the caf in his building.  After forcing down some breakfast, we endured a brutal workout in the weight room.  It’s amazing what your body will endure through sheer force of training.  Then we stood under the showers for something approaching forever, trying to purge the pain and booze from our pores with hot water and steam.  


A couple of the gymnasts have massage therapy training, and we looked so bad they took pity on us, and offered to work on our neck and shoulder muscles for awhile.  Good thing.  We had both been pretty much dead when we walked into the gym, but we were pretty much alive when we walked out again.




The rest of that Monday was marked by calm, big news, and silence.


The calm was from Luc, who met me in each class with the same quiet certitude he’d shown the night before – the same soft smile when our eyes met, the same acceptance of the physical awareness between us.  His foot pressed firmly against mine through lectures as we sat side by side.  His shoulder brushed against mine as we walked in and out of lecture halls.  In economics class, he brushed his hand the length of mine, then left his there a few seconds, rubbing gently.  The girl on the other side of me noticed, and kind of stared at us in surprise, but Luc didn’t seem to notice, and just smiled that serene little smile.


The big news came from the coaching staff, in the locker room as we getting ready for practice.  It turned out that the weird catch that had put Jay Peterson out and me in during the last five minutes of the regional finals was a rugby player’s nightmare: a Bennett’s fracture of his right thumb.  That’s sort of a combined fracture and dislocation that requires surgery – which Jay was undergoing in Halifax that same afternoon – and often causes permanent damage.  What a way to end your college rugby career.  I felt terrible, even though it did mean that I’d be playing.  It’s not the way I wanted to earn my spot on the team.


The silence was from Josh, who’d said he wouldn’t call me…and kept his word.


That night I called my parents to give them the news about the game.  Shortly afterwards, my uncles called.  After we’d discussed the game, Ben asked how things were going on a personal level.


Ry, on a different handset, just laughed.  “He wants to know about your love life, Scottie.  Like if you have one.  Met anyone yet, kiddo?”


“Um, well…”  How the hell was I supposed to explain my situation to my uncles, who were the ultimate old married couple, totally monogamous for over twenty years?


“Come on, Scott, what’s he like?”


And then it all kind of came out.  Well, the bones of it anyway.  And I knew from the extended silence after I’d finished speaking that they were not very happy about it.


“Hold on a sec,” said Ry, and then I could tell they’d covered their handsets for a private conversation.


Then it was Ben’s voice.  “Scott?  How’d it be if Ry and I fly down for the game? ”


I couldn’t believe the powerful sensation of relief that washed over me.  I was over the moon.  “Really?  That would be awesome. “


“Ok.  We’ll get together after the game and talk this stuff through.”


“Good.  The team’s flying right back that evening, but a couple of other guys are staying over because their families are there.  I know I can get permission to stay over with you and fly back the next day too.”


“And Scott?”  Ben again.




“Just – back off a little, ok?  Keep it in your pants until we’ve had a chance to talk about this.”


“Yeah.  Ok.”


It was pretty much the same advice Bran had given me.  He really was pretty smart for a straight guy.




The next few days pretty much passed like that.  I cleared it with my coaches so that I could stay overnight in New Brunswick after the game on Saturday and fly back to Halifax Sunday evening.  I had lunch with Luc once, but with rugby practice every day, and my academic work load, I didn’t see him in the evenings, and fuck, who am I kidding, I was trying not to.  Josh still didn’t call.


And then it was Thursday night.


I came out of the Athletic Complex with Brandon and a few other guys.  It had been a long and brutal practice, and frankly, with all the stuff on my mind, I was distracted.  That’s probably why Jase Petrov managed to catch me again, and though this time my nose managed to survived unscathed (a good thing, since it wasn’t really recovered from the last break), my shoulder was wrenched and there wasn’t much skin left on my right knee and down the side of my right calf.  Stung like a son of a bitch.  It had taken a very long and steamy shower just to tame the muscle pain, and now the few of us who were still around were standing at the top of the front steps, insulting each other cheerfully, screwing around in a sore and happy way, just being kind of stupid and blowing off steam.


Felt good.


And then I looked down the stairs, and saw Josh standing there.


I was surprised – no, stunned – to see him.  The sight of him, tall and lean, the collar of his black leather jacked turned up against the cold, his cashmere scarf blowing wildly in the vicious wind, fuck, it was enough to stop me in my tracks just to stare at him.  When he saw me, he bolted towards me, almost running up the steps, stopping dead when he reached me.  He stared into my face.  He didn’t say anything.


I actually gasped when I saw him, he looked that bad.  His eyes were flat and expressionless, and his fine, sensual mouth was pressed in a hard line, like he was resisting some deep and inescapable pain.   He looked exhausted.  More than that.  He looked…crushed.


Without thinking I reached out and touched his shoulder.  He shook my hand away.




Completely ignoring the guys I was with, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back down the stairs with him. The grip of his fingers on my arm was fierce.  I shot a look back over my shoulder.    


Brandon had followed me down the stairs.  Looking worried, he mouthed a silent “what?”


I shrugged and shook my head. 


He raised his right hand and made the telephone gesture. “If you need me,” he mouthed. “And be good, for fuck’s sake.”


“My car’s over here,” Josh said finally.  His voice was almost dead. “I’m sorry.  I just… I need you to come over.  I don’t think I can be alone right now.”


He released the locks and held the door for me.  I climbed in silently and fastened my seatbelt. 


He put the key in the ignition but didn’t turn it.  For a while he just sat, hands white-knuckled and shaking on the steering wheel, his head bowed.  His breathing was fast and shallow.


“Do you want me to drive?” I asked finally.


He shook his head.  “I’m fine.”  But he still didn’t move.


I undid my seatbelt again, climbed out of the passenger seat, went around the car and opened his door.


“Come on,” I said.


“I’m fine,” he said again.


“I know,” I said, knowing he wasn’t.  “I’ll drive.” 


Finally, he got out.  He just stood there, like he was in shock. I took his arm and guided him around the car and into the passenger seat I’d just vacated.  He did up his seatbelt and then slumped forward, burying his head in his hands. I wanted to pull him into my arms, rock him against me, but I didn’t.  I remembered what my uncles had said.  After a few moments, I reached over and rested my hand gently on the back of his neck, massaging the top of his spine with my thumb.  He didn’t respond.  The muscles in his back were tense as steel.


When we were about half way there, he said “I’m going to show you what betrayal looks like.”


Then he didn’t say another word.