January 7, 2013
Have I ever told you the story of how I met Freckles?… No?… You don’t even know who Freckles is? Hmm… well then grab a cup of something hot, settle in and I’ll tell you the story from the beginning…
We have to go back nearly nine years. It was late spring, I was a senior in high school and the long awaited summer of my senior year was just at my door step. The weather was finally getting consistently warm and that feeling of being liberated from the cold of winter had fully set in. That amazing feeling of being able to walk outside without a coat, to feel the warm sun and a light cool breeze, the trees and grass were a vibrant green, nothing can really compare to the arrival of spring, just on the cusp of summer. And when you’re young and just on the cusp of young adulthood, it seems as though life has kicked into high gear and everything is happening so fast, everything is changing before your eyes. So many memories to hold onto and so many new things yet to experience. There are few better years in your life than those.
I had been going to a small town high school, not even a hundred students in my graduating class. More like half that many and everyone pretty much knew everyone else’s name. You spend four years of your life with them, so there’s no way you don’t come out of it with best friends. Memories of the things you did, the things you went through and perhaps even things you wished you had done. It’s a part of your life that you remember forever, a milestone of your lifetime and the passing years of your life and even more a stepping stone to what still lay ahead of you.
I was a quiet guy, kept to myself as much as I possibly could. Awkward and uncomfortable with myself, I never wanted to be noticed. People didn’t speak to me too often and even less often did I speak to other people. There was a lot going on inside of me, a battle for my identity and conflicting ideals of who I was and who I wanted to be. Enough inner turmoil to make a person lose awareness of what was happening around them. These hard times of our youth shape us into the people we eventually become and so as difficult as they may seem at the time, they are most certainly necessary and pivotal to our journey through life.
When it came to school events, I hardly got myself involved. There was the occasional school dance and attempts at dating relationships, but nothing very serious. I wasn’t heartless and entirely withdrawn, I tried with earnest desire to understand myself and my feelings, high school is a sort of playground for the emotions of adulthood, a time to grow and learn about ourselves as much as each other. The bonds that form there can sometimes last a lifetime or equally fade in due time.
I had a few close friends, mostly guys and especially during my senior year. I had forged a friendship with a small group of guys, with whom I spent a large amount of time with, inside and outside of school. The type of friendship any guy wants to have. Time spent joking around, hanging out, playing video games, watching movies, talking about girls, shooting guns, fooling ourselves into believing that if we had better vehicles we would somehow be cooler, and everything else small town guys tend to do. It truly was the time of my life and I will never forget it. Those friendships were a break from the inner turmoil I was facing and in some fateful way, saved me from a potentially darker path, something for which I will be ever grateful. In our youth, something like spending time with friends may seem externally mundane, but actually has a much deeper meaning and perhaps even purpose than we ever actually realize.
That final year of my high school voyage, was truly the best year I had experienced in quite a while. Whether I was consciously aware of it or not, I would one day look back and miss those days, even when they were days where we just sat around and bull-shitted with each other. Time, however, is never on our side and it forever moves forward and the only thing we can carry with us is our memories. Something we learn to cherish as we age.
As the days came and went and my graduation was there and gone before I knew what happened, I found myself in the reality that I’d be attending college at a local trades school, Vale State Technical College, better known around here simply as Vale Tech. A school where typically some 95% of the student body is male. One of my best friends, Lance, was going off to college in a city more than two hours away and another close friend, Scott, would be attending Vale Tech along with me. And even though I was not yet alone, it became apparent to me that things were quickly changing and the good days that had been were coming to an end far sooner than I had been ready for or wanted to believe.
On one Saturday morning, no different than any other day, I had received a phone call from Scott, who had wanted to meet up for lunch later that day and maybe catch a movie if something good was playing. If he wasn’t working and wasn’t spending time with his girlfriend, he and I spent a lot of time together, especially in the later months when our group of friends would be split up. With Lance leaving, I really didn’t have anyone else that I was all that close to, so hanging out with Scott would be something to do and it kept my mind off other things that I really didn’t want to think about.
Scott was a little rough around the edges, his parents were divorced and he always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. Always seemed to have a reason to distrust people. He carried anger about something, but he would rarely ever let anyone in to fully understand why. His mom was a bitch, there’s really no easy way to put it. I strongly disliked the woman, who constantly nit-picked Scott about everything, he was never good enough and never capable of doing things the way she wanted them done. Maybe she loved him, maybe she didn’t, I honestly couldn’t tell most of the time. There were rare moments, though, when Scott would open up just enough to give you a glimpse of what went on inside his head. A place that at times, was very dark. But despite all that, I trusted him with my life. At times I even looked up to him, because he was driven and believed deeply in his ideals and his chosen path in life.
So when he called wanting to hang out that Saturday morning, I was happy to accommodate him. It’s not like I honestly had anything else to do. It was early summer, school was still in session for the local college and during this time the town was still full of college students who had rented apartments for the school year. Many of them head home for the weekends, but those that stay, crowd the town’s main street which is literally a highway that runs through the state. The few places to eat are swarmed with young guys bored out of their minds because there’s really nothing else to do and the closest city is Madison City, some twenty miles away.
I decided to meet Scott at the local Sub-Way, a common place for us to eat over the years. It was one of the newer places to eat in town and the sandwiches were better than McDonald’s plastic food. I pulled up into the lot and I saw Scott’s crappy little grey Plymouth Neon, not that my ’92 S-10 was really any better. I knew it was Scott’s for sure when I noticed the license plate number, which for some reason was always stuck in my head. I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember my own number had my truck been stolen, but I could sound off Scott’s at the tip of a hat.
When I got out of my truck, Scott’s door swung open, he had been waiting for me to get there. We made our way inside and as I usually do when I enter somewhere, I gave the place a once over just to see who was there, just enough of a glance to notice familiar faces. No one that I knew. We made our way to the “Order Here” side of the counter.
We ordered our food and Scott brought up the idea of seeing the movie Troy which was playing in theaters. He was saying something about Brad Pitt as Achilles and then mentioned swords, bows, battles and violence and I was pretty much sold with that. I paid for my food and made my way over to the sitting area to pick out a table. Dropped my sandwich down along with my keys and cellphone and then made my way back to fill my cup with sweet tea, Scott was not far behind.
We made our way back to the table and he grabbed his phone to call the theater to check on the showtimes. I was unwrapping my sandwich and thinking about a million other things as I seemed to always do. I was looking around the room because I tend to people watch. It amuses me sometimes, the things that people will do out in public.
I could hear Scott’s voice in the background, but I honestly wasn’t listening a whole lot and didn’t really know if he was talking to me or himself about the recorded voice on the other side of the phone rambling off showtimes. The teenagers at the theater didn’t always have the clearest voices and were sometimes not easy to understand.
As my eyes made their way across the booths, they caught the glare of the glass door at the front. At mid day, the glass caught the sunlight outside and it flashed across my face and forced me to cringe. As I regained my eyesight I could barely catch a glimpse of the people walking in as they passed the edge of the counter to get in line. Scott and I were sitting on the other end of the restaurant, catty-corner from the “Order Here” side and at that angle, much of the counter area was not visible.
The restaurant, though rectangular, was not very large and if you listened closely, you could hear pretty much everyone inside. Somewhere near the counter area, I could hear a guy’s voice that caught my attention. He didn’t sound familiar, but there was something about his voice that kept catching my attention. In between his voice, Scott kept breaking into my awareness telling me when Troy was showing. I think I may have simply blurted out, “That’s fine!” to whatever time he had suggested, as I really just wanted him to be quiet for a second.
Scott continued on about what classes he was thinking he would have to take at Vale Tech, he wanted to go just to get started on his general education classes, as he was enlisting in the United States Marine Corps and would be leaving for boot camp later that winter. Again I pretended to be listening to everything he was saying and it was a good thing that I was generally a quiet person or he would have become suspect towards my behavior.
Of course I was eating as well, so stuffing food in my mouth gave me a legitimate reason to not participate in Scott’s conversation. I kept my eyes mostly directed towards the doorway, because I knew that guy who’s voice I had heard would be walking through there, either on his way back out the door or perhaps even to sit in the booth area to eat. I was hoping for the latter. Seeing as I was still reluctant to discuss my interest in other guys, I had to be forever vigilant not to do things that would out me as gay. I had enough trouble dealing with myself and how I felt about possibly being gay that the last thing I wanted was to have to deal with other people’s thoughts and feelings about it too. I wasn’t sure how to gauge Scott, but a part of me felt like he wouldn’t really give a shit, but at the same time I feared losing his friendship so I refrained from telling him or anyone else.
I waited and eventually I saw a guy approach the other edge of the counter at the check-out. He was tall, round-faced and heavy-set, wearing a navy blue shirt and had dark hair sticking out from under a camouflage hat. I heard him saying something to the girl at the register and I knew immediately that he was not the guy who’s voice I had heard before. I continued to wait impatiently to see what this other guy looked like. I wanted to match a face to that voice. It wasn’t a deep voice, not a high pitched one either. Just a medium tone, but it was so distinct, as if I hadn’t heard a voice like that before. It stood out and it kept echoing in my head. I wondered to myself if this is what it’s like when other guys hear a girl’s voice who attracts them? Is this the same feeling they get? I looked back at Scott and wondered if he had any idea what was happening right in front of him? My pondering was silenced when I realized he wasn’t even looking at me and was instead completely attentive to his food. I shifted my eyes back to the counter and saw that the tall guy was gone…
In his place was a much shorter guy. I couldn’t see below his waist, but at best I would have guessed he was maybe 5’6″ and he had light-colored hair. His hair was short and from a distance looked puffed up on top, perhaps he had it fixed up with gel or something. I couldn’t really tell from that distance without squinting to focus my eyes and I didn’t want to do that and look like a weirdo. Scott would for sure wonder what the hell I was looking at so keenly. I kept glancing over every second I could between chewing and taking bites.
My heart was starting to race and I could feel my face flush, I wondered if they had the damn air conditioner on or at least had the fans running because I was starting to get hot. I grabbed at my shirt and pulled it away from me. Scott noticed and inquired, “You hot?” and I blurted out an innocent, “Hell yeah” in the most casual way I could, realizing the risk of my behavior. He didn’t seem too concerned as he went back to eating.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the short guy move away from the register and so I looked back to see where he was headed. As he turned away from the register girl, I could see his whole face. It felt as though my heart was pounding like a hammer in my chest and I was foolishly paranoid that Scott could hear it.
The short guy was wearing a white shirt with some kind of writing on it. I couldn’t make it out, but it looked dark blue or maybe green. He had a patch of hair on his chin, not long, but certainly longer than stubble. Like the hair on his head, it was light colored, blond, but with a reddish tint. His face was oblong, his hair pushed up and out from his forehead and was longer in the front, cut short on the sides and got shorter as it got closer to his ears.
He started walking towards the door and I had this little voice inside my head scream out, “Don’t leave!”
Abruptly, I heard another voice yell out, “Hey, over here!” and it startled me.
Scott mumbled, “Loud bastard!” And I realized that the tall guy had yelled at the short guy to come over to his table. I hadn’t even noticed that he had taken the table directly on the other side of the room from Scott and I. That little voice in me whispered, “Yes!”
As the short guy made his way to the table I could finally see his whole body. From the side I first noticed his arms in his t-shirt. He wasn’t built like a body-builder, but it was obvious he worked out. His arms were well defined and I could see the shape of his biceps and triceps just below his shirt sleeve. His chest stuck out a little bit and I was certain that he indeed lifted weights. My eyes moved down his body further and everything seemed to be going in slow motion, like minutes were passing, but really all of this was happening in seconds as he only had to walk maybe ten feet to get to his friend.
He was wearing dark blue jeans, that fit him really well in the waist all the way down to his knees where they flared out a little. They were boot cut with frayed spots here and there from either being worn out or they were made that way, and on his feet I could see dark brown work boots or roper boots, the kind that go up passed the ankles and the front around the toes were squared. Along the hem of his pants at the bottom, they were frayed all around and against his dark boots I could see denim strings.
I felt completely and utterly fixated by this guy. No reason to give for it, just completely captivated by him. I looked back at Scott because it felt like I was off in my own world for several minutes, but Scott didn’t seem to even notice because he was on the phone. I’m sure I had a surprised look on my face because I had never even heard it ring, so maybe he called someone? I wasn’t sure and honestly didn’t care, it sounded like he was talking to his girlfriend so he was occupied.
I took my attention and focused it back on the short guy. He was sitting down at the table, facing his tall friend. I took a sip of my tea and tried to be inconspicuous with my glances across the room. He was unwrapping his sandwich and I could see his shirt at an angle and still couldn’t read what it said. There were a few words in larger print and then a few more words underneath in a smaller size. All of it was in green, I was sure of that now, dark green.
My eyes shifted to his arms, he had a nice little peak on his bicep every time he bent his arm up and I was half intrigued and half jealous. I smiled to myself thinking about how short he was. If we stood up together and faced each other, my line of sight would almost be right over the top of his head, if it wouldn’t be for his poofy hair. I went back to looking at my sandwich… it was almost gone and time was running out for me. I couldn’t remember what time Scott said the movie was showing, but he wasn’t a patient guy so I knew we would have to leave when he deemed it time. The thought of leaving seemed depressing… as though I was having some kind of fling with the short guy and Scott was cock blocking me… completely irrational, but fluttering hearts are never grounded in reality.
Again, my gaze went back to the short guy across the room, sitting there eating and mumbling something to his tall friend. I wondered to myself what they might be talking about and why they got so quiet. I could hardly hear the short one’s voice and I couldn’t make out what he was saying at all. I started thinking to myself where he might be from. I had assumed he was a student at Vale Tech. He definitely didn’t go to my high school so more than likely he was a Tech guy from out of town. I wondered what classes he was taking, what he was getting his associates degree in? I guessed a few ideas in my head, he didn’t seem like the computer type, but he didn’t look like he was into heavy machinery either. Maybe he wanted to be an electrician? I smiled to myself again when I considered that height probably wasn’t a concern for someone wanting to get into electrical wiring. in fact, his vertically challenged condition may have allowed him to get into all kinds of small spaces.
In my head all kinds of scenarios started playing out. I wanted to talk to him so bad, but knew that I couldn’t. There was no way I could ever do that, even if I wanted to or was brave enough to actually do it. I was in the closet, wasn’t even sure I was ever willing to be honest about my thoughts and feelings or if I was even okay with being gay. No, it had to stay a secret, no one could know… not even the short guy could know… the hot short guy across the room smiling and laughing… who reached up with his right hand to brush the crumbs out of his goatee with the back of his hand… the hot short guy who turned his face towards me… while smiling…
“Dude, what are you doing!?!” Scott hit me in the shoulder and startled me back to reality. I had dropped my sandwich while staring at the short guy across the room and Scott had caught me zoning out. “Welcome back to Earth!” He said with a smirk. I sighed, luckily he hadn’t realized that I was all dog-faced over the guy on the other side of the room.
“Come on, let’s go, I don’t want to miss the previews.” Scott rattled off. I said okay and gathered up my trash. Scott went off to take a piss and I decided to walk the long way around the room, just so that I could walk by the short guy. It would be my only chance to see him up close and my last chance to take in his appearance and remember this moment.
I got up out of the booth, brushed off my shirt and jeans. My heart started pounding again, but I tried to play it cool. I walked around the center booths to make my half circle towards the door. Without any real control, my eyes were fixated on the short guy and at this point I was so smitten, I didn’t care if he noticed me staring. Maybe deep down, I wanted him to notice. As I walked closer to him, time seemed to slow down and the sounds around me became muffled. My heart pounded inside my chest and I started feeling light headed, my legs started to feel weaker, but I pushed through and kept going. It was the first time in my life that someone made me feel that way. Little did I know back then that one day, I would encounter that same feeling, again and again.
Approaching the short guy, my eyes first settled on his shirt, I wanted to know what it said. “Army National Guard” I read the words off his chest in my head. “Was he actually in the National Guard?” I pondered, “That’s awesome.”
My eyes traveled up his chest to his chin and then his whole face. Like a scanner flashing over a piece of paper, my eyes burned the memory of his face in my head forever. Above his reddish-blond hair-patched-chin and above his smiling lips were countless freckles, freckles splattered all across his face and in the midst of these freckles were a pair of the most stunning and vibrant blue-green eyes I have ever seen. Not deep blue nor dark green, but a bright almost glass-covered aqua, like tiny disks of tropical waters, absorbing and reflecting all the light in the room. They were incredible. They were mounted below frames of well-shaped semi-thick eyebrows and he had a relatively low hairline. His hair was indeed fixed with gel or mousse and it stuck up and forwards all across the top of his head. So desperately I just wanted to reach down and touch his amber-colored hair, just to feel it between my fingertips. A forbidden act, I wanted to defy all logic for just one touch.
As though he could read my thoughts, in that eternal slow motion, his eyes began to shift as I was right at his table. Slowly in shifts, like the ticking hands of a clock, his eyes shot over at my waist and began to rise up my body as I approached. If at any moment I was going to faint, that would have been the moment. While I was walking, our eyes met and there was a cerebral explosion, it was as if I fell into those eyes, submerged in those blue-green eyes of tropical waters, swallowing me whole into their warmth, engulfing me into a void, transporting me to an island paradise. Around us everything vanished, like being vaporized into atoms, it all just disappeared, falling down my tunnel vision of blissful infinitum. No other objects to see, No other sounds could be heard, nothing else was perceivable but him and my beating heart.
So simplistically amazing was that moment… so defining… so liberating… so mind blowing… I had only wished it had lasted longer. His face was still adorned with a smile and I felt like I had seen the greatest thing I could ever lay my eyes on. I knew for sure at that moment I was gay and that one day my heart would belong to a guy and with every fiber of my being, I wanted that guy to be him.
Freckles. That splattering of tiny freckles all across his face and arms, were like sprinkles on a cupcake, it just made him all the more irresistible.
Click here to read more chapters from this novel.