Black and White and Grey

I need rules, clear, defined, absolute. With my 'condition,' I can't tolerate ambiguity in anything. A leads to B leads to C, no deviation. My condition makes me a freak in a real man's body; rules help me hide it.

Let's review. My mother would have stayed if I was normal, therefore I was born a freak. If I continue to be a freak, my old man will hate me. If I am the perfect son, he will love me. A perfect son is a good student, a great football player and a real man. A freak flunks his classes, is kicked off the team and isn't sure what a real man is.

I must be a real man. I have to be. It's that black or white.

Except that brings me back to Sandburg. Sandburg does not play by the rules, does not fit neatly into a category. No black or white for him, he's way out there in his own grey area.

A freshman, even though he's only 16. Young, but independent. A geek, but cool. Pretty, but a guy. Wide open, but with something secret and wary about him. We have nothing in common, he doesn't even understand football. But he knows about my 'condition,' the first outside my family. And he thinks I'm 'gifted,' not a freak at all. The first anywhere. Not a real man, I don't think, but he's not a freak, either. I have never known anyone like Sandburg.

I think about him in ways new to me. Like holding him down on the table that day Johnston found us in the library. But not in anger, never again in anger like that. I think about my hands on him and the way he looked up at me. I think a lot about leaning over and touching his lips. Think about it so much I end up humping the sheets at night, a corner of the pillow stuck in my mouth so no one will hear me call his name.

And the next night I do it again, and the night after that, for weeks. I know what gay guys do. At least, I think I do. Every all-American insult includes a reference: 'cocksucker'; 'shove it up your ass;' 'blow me;' 'buttfucker.' I can't actually imagine the mechanics of it, don't really want to. I just want to have Sandburg on his back looking up at me. Beyond that, the details are grey.

Those feelings don't fit into my neat black-or-white world. I don't know what to do with them. No rule applies here.

I'm not gay, real men aren't. Gays are freaks, my old man said so. He won't love me if I'm a freak, but if I was born that way, maybe he isn't ever going to love me. One more thing to hide from the therapist.

I'm careful to keep it hidden from Sandburg, too.

If I said, 'hey, Sandburg, I think about touching you,' he'd lean forward in his intense way and start talking. And by the time he finished, I'd believe that black was white, white was black, grey was beautiful, and nothing was against the rules.

'Don't worry, man,' I imagine him saying. 'There's no bad way to love, it's all good!'

And maybe it is in Sandburg's grey world, but for me, right now, my world must be black or white.

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