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|When I was nine years old, my parents took me on a weekend trip to Baltimore. I loved it so much, touring the ships and submarines, watching an Orioles game, strolling along the Inner Harbor. But my favorite part of the trip was the aquarium.
I remember marveling at how the beautiful the fish were, their bright colors shining against the glass walls of the tanks; how smoothly the sharks glided through the water, their graceful bodies silently swimming amongst each other. I stood there for hours watching them move artfully back and forth, amazed at the beauty of their movements. It was an amazing sight as a nine-year-old.
But nearly ten years later, the experience was completely different. I mean, the fish were still colorful, the sharks still magnificent; I just couldn’t help but think, as I was standing there watching those creatures, that they never had anything to worry about. They didn’t have to worry about love; they didn’t have to worry about that love being betrayed. All they had were their food and their home.
The truth was that I simply couldn’t stop thinking about JP and what he did to me. It was as if I envied the animals in those tanks – they stayed in the same place all day, the same routine, but at least they knew what to expect and they seemed happy. Why couldn’t I be happy? JP was the love of my life. We were meant to be together. Why couldn’t he have remembered that before he screwed Brionna? It just didn’t make sense to me.
“Last time we were here, you practically threw a fit when we told you it was time to leave,” my dad reminisced as we exited the aquarium. I looked over at him, seeing a warm smile spread across his face.
I vividly remembered how brutally upset I acted back then. I remember thinking that I would’ve loved to live there and be able to go to the aquarium every day. I smiled inwardly at how childish that was to me now. I was so taken by the creatures of the sea – so under the spell of their beauty and perfection – that I wanted to be able to see them whenever I wanted.
“We had to drag you out of there,” my dad continued. “I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.” He laughed an infectious laugh that caught me and I smiled for the first time in weeks.
“Thanks, dad,” I muttered.
He glanced brightly at me. I didn’t need anyone telling me how proud he was of me; I could see it in his eyes. “It’s about time for dinner,” he said after a brief moment of silence. “We should find a place to eat.”
The two of us walked across the Harbor toward the complex of shops and restaurants along the water and picked a restaurant that overlooked the entire area. My dad told me it was his favorite eating spot in the city and specifically requested a certain table next to the window. We ordered our drinks and were glancing over the menu when my dad sighed and placed his menu down, looking at me soberly.
I looked up, puzzled. “What is it?” I asked, suddenly aware of the awkwardness in his eyes. Hardly a year ago, this scene – my dad and I sitting calmly at a table eating dinner – was impossible. So much had changed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever told you,” he started, “this is the exact spot where I proposed to your mother.” I stared at him intently, wondering where this was going. “Of course, this place had a different name then and it was summer so it was warm outside…” I could tell he was nervous; like me, he tended to ramble. “…but this is where I made a decision that changed my life.”
“What are you saying, dad?”
“Matt,” he spoke more softly now, “I still love your mom very much…even though we never were able to work it out the last few years.” I furrowed my eyebrows, still not getting what he was trying to tell me. My dad, obviously conscious of this, gave a slight sigh and began again. “I know about what happened between you and JP.”
I bit my lip, absently scratching the back of my neck. “So, mom told you I’m gay,” I said, my voice weak from uneasiness. My dad nodded. “And she told you about JP, right?” He nodded again, biting his own lip. Apparently, he was just as nervous as I was.
“Matt, I just wanted—”
“I’m over him,” I interrupted and attempted to end the conversation by looking back at my menu. I knew my dad could see right through the lie, but I really didn’t want to talk about it with him.
“I’m ok with it,” he went on. “If that’s what you’re worried about, it’s not a problem with me.”
I shot my eyes back up at my dad again and blinked. “You mean, the same way mom doesn’t have a problem with it?” Now it was his turn to look confused. “I know how disappointed she really is that I couldn’t find a nice, Midwestern girl like her to date.”
“No,” my dad protested, “she doesn’t think that at all.” His voice wasn’t any louder than it was before, but his tone was one of such complete sincerity that it immediately calmed me down. I knew what I had said was false; I knew my mom had accepted my sexuality, but that didn’t make up for the fact that I didn’t want to spill my guts about my feelings for JP to my dad – a man I hardly knew for most of my life. It just didn’t seem like he deserved it.
Then again, I began to think, maybe he did. I mean, despite our past history, he had consistently been making attempts to repair our relationship. I had been the one who was trying to fight it. Perhaps I did owe him more than I thought. A short silence passed before my dad spoke again:
“When I was in college—”
“Dad, I don’t want to talk about it, ok?” My voice wavered, a sign that told me my inherent stubbornness was starting to weaken.
“Please,” he said calmly, “hear me out.”
I paused, realizing that I was unable to rebut and softened my eyes, allowing my dad to continue speaking.
“I knew this guy on the track team at Rutgers,” he said. “He was a nice guy, probably one of my closest friends at the time.” I stayed quiet, gazing outside at the Coast Guard Cutter docked in the Harbor. “I never knew it then, but a few years after we graduated, he came out.”
I looked back up at my dad; he eyes were soft and really deep, their dark brown color sucking me into him.
“I had forgotten about him until your mom told me about you and JP.” The nervousness of before had gone and his words were flowing more easily. “What I’m trying to say is, he had a helluva time coming out of the closet, especially as an athlete. I mean, it’s still not easy for you now, but you have one thing that he didn’t.” He paused, but I knew what he was going to say before he did.
“JP is an amazing guy. From what little I’ve seen of him and from what your mother has told me, you two are deeply in love with each other. It would be a shame for you two to stay apart.” He paused again, reading my eyes. “I know you don’t need me to tell you that.”
I stared at my dad with genuine reverence. He was getting it. He was getting the thing that even I had trouble getting, the thing that I always knew but was too stubborn to admit. I could never keep myself from JP. I needed him.
“You of all people know that I’m not the best person to give fatherly advice, but I have learned something over the years.” He stopped for a second, preparing what he wanted to say, making sure it came out right. “Sometimes, the people we love the most disappoint us the most. That’s just the way life goes. But there’s one thing you have to remember: the most important part of love…is forgiveness.”
I let his words sink into me as a quiet stillness hung between us. I instinctively blinked back the tears that threatened to roll down my cheeks. Why hadn’t I seen that? Why had I been so stubborn? I knew I still loved JP. I knew he was too much to lose, but I didn’t want to forgive him for cheating on me. But leaving JP would be the biggest mistake of my life…just as the biggest mistake in my dad’s life was leaving my mom and me.
But here he was, swallowing his pride and admitting his faults, yet at the same time forgiving my mom for whatever pains she had given him. I simply didn’t know how to respond. It was almost too much for me to bear. My eyes felt like they were going to burst with tears any moment.
“Thanks, dad,” I croaked, my voice uneven from the lump in my throat.
After that, neither of us uttered a word about my mom or JP or anything else we had just talked about. But we both knew that that conversation would change our lives forever.
The next day, I started home for Virginia. I couldn’t wait to get to JP’s house and apologize. I wanted to tell him how sorry I was that I reacted so wrongly. I mean, he did cheat on me, but I knew that in his heart, it hurt him just as much as it hurt me…maybe even more. My pulse was racing as I exited the Beltway and neared my boyfriend’s neighborhood.
As soon as I rang the doorbell, the door opened immediately as if the person on the other side had seen me coming. It was Chrissy. I let out a mild look of surprise to see her there. She smiled warmly as she saw me and hugged me tightly.
“JP’s up in his bedroom,” she said quietly, her voice flowing as smoothly as velvet. “I was just on my way out.” And then, she whispered in my ear: “He really loves you, Matt.” The words echoed through my head as I looked back at her dazedly. She had always loved us and supported us from the beginning. I should have known that she would be there for us at a time like this.
With a deep breath, I headed up the steps to JP’s room and softly knocked on the door. JP was sitting on his bed – it was as if he was waiting for me – and stood up when he heard me. The two of us just stood there for a few long moments, staring at each other, gazing into each other’s eyes. Neither knew what to say first. It had only been a month since we broke up, but it had seemed like an eternity. Silent tears were streaming down both of our faces, leaving behind red streaks on our cheeks. Finally, JP opened his mouth to speak:
“No,” I interrupted. “It’s my fault.” I was trying hard not to choke up. “I can’t live without you,” I whispered, my voice hoarse from emotion. “I need you.”
With that, I stepped forward and kissed him with more passion than I had ever kissed him before. Instantly, the warmth that had been gone for a whole month seeped back into my body. He wrapped his massive arms around my body and I knew immediately that I was home; I was where I belonged. My tears flowed freely, but we kept kissing, not wanting to ever keep away from each other again.
We knew we didn’t have to actually say the words to each other; that kiss said it all. We were both stupid for what we had done, but none of that mattered now…we were together again and that was all that we needed.
Wistfully, we collapsed onto JP’s bed, my body completely shielded by the strong, powerful muscles of my boyfriend, our lips still interlocked. It had been so long – felt so long – since I had felt the touch of his skin against mine. I had missed the electricity that seemed to flow between us, the way our bodies fit perfectly together, the way our eyes melted upon contact. Why could I have ever thought about leaving this epitome of perfection?
Finally, I rolled off of JP and onto the bed next to him, my breath gone from my body, my eyes left with an expression of delirium. JP propped himself up so that his face was directly above mine. The huge muscles in his arms – despite the long-sleeved shirt he was wearing – shifted noticeably underneath the fabric. Gently, I brushed the shaggy bangs of his light brown hair out of his eyes so that I could peer into them, become lost in their deep hue.
“I had a talk with Chrissy,” he started, his voice a soft purr that wafted through my head like a dream. I sighed at the sound of it. “She made me realize how much I needed you, how idiotic I was for driving you away.” He was still crying, small tears dripping down his face, as he spoke. He smiled sweetly, the sparkle in his eyes shining brightly.
“You can never be an idiot,” I told him quietly. I began to sit up – JP moved so I could – and looked about the room. I wanted to take every part of this moment inside of me and keep it away, able to remember it whenever I wanted.
I was sitting in the bedroom of a teenage superjock. Trophies and athletic awards filled the shelves, sports posters covered the walls, a gym bag was heaped in one corner – all symbols of the masculinity and superiority that was JP. But that mass of pure muscle – all 220 solid pounds of it – was sitting right next to me with tears streaming down his face, telling me how much he loved, how much he needed me. A boy – this 17-year-old human miracle – who could break a man apart with his bare hands, crushing the life out of him, was breaking apart himself before my eyes. And he was mine – my boyfriend. It was almost too good to be true. He looked at me, his piercing eyes gazing thoughtfully into me.
“What is it?” he asked.
I shook my head and smiled. “You’re perfect,” I said. I simply couldn’t think of anything else to say besides the obvious. I forgot what he had done. I forgave his mistake, knowing he would never even think about doing it again. The look on his face told me he understood.
Then, I gave a devilish grin. “By the way,” I continued, biting my lip, “was it really the best sex she ever had?”
JP blinked, a little taken aback by the question. But then, he laughed. “Yeah,” he answered, blushing a deep red. He paused and narrowed his eyes mockingly. “But it was nowhere near the best sex I’ve ever had,” he whispered. A shudder went down my spine as he said it.
“Come on,” he went on, standing up again and offering me his hand, “I want to show you something.”
Puzzled, I could do nothing but obey him. How could I not? He was a god to me. He led me downstairs, all the way to the basement. My muscles buzzed just at the sight of it, the smell of the room where all my dreams had come true. Watching his gigantic back, his massive muscles swaying back and forth underneath his shirt, I followed him into the back room. As soon as he opened the door, I gasped at what I saw.
The back room had become a shrine to JP’s growth and development from the very beginning of his training, documenting month by month how a small, almost indistinct little boy morphed into a god-like athlete of sheer perfection. We had long ago given it a title “The Wall.” But now, it was no longer just a wall – it was an entire room. Every inch of wall space was crammed from floor to ceiling with pictures of JP – JP working out, JP wrestling, JP with friends…JP with me.
“Look over here,” he led me to a section just to the side of the doorway.
There, near the ceiling was “MATT ANDERSSON” in bold lettering. And underneath, over two dozen photos of me from as long ago as my sophomore year to as recent as a few months earlier. Each one show how I had grown – though they weren’t anywhere near as dramatic as JP’s transformation – from a shy, insecure high school kid to a strong, confident college student. My mouth dropped open when I realized what it was.
“Nick helped me work on this whole room,” JP explained, waving his hand around him, “but this was my own special project. It’s you, the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
I was speechless. I felt the tears begin to well up in my eyes again. I looked at the other walls, taking in the dedication and desire that it took to create the person that was JP…and then I looked back at “my” section. And I realized at that moment that I was the reason for all of this – that’s what JP was trying to tell me. I was the inspiration for his becoming what he had become.
“JP,” started to thank him, but he held his fingers to my mouth.
“No,” she said, “you don’t have to say anything.” And with that, he grabbed my hand again and led me back into the main part of the basement.
Slowly – and without taking his eyes off of me – he stripped his shirt off, revealing his immaculate body of etched perfection. The sight literally took my breath away. Every muscle was flawlessly carved, as if out of marble. As JP began unbuttoning his jeans, I realized what he was doing and began to take off my own clothes.
Within minutes, we were both naked, looking at each other in the buff – JP’s massively ripped body against my slender, athletic body. Then, he turned around, his bubble butt staring me in the face. He didn’t have to tell me what to do…I already knew.
I stepped forward, wrapping my arms around his enormous chest, and slowly began slipping my rock-hard dick into his ass. He groaned as I penetrated, fucking him smoothly. The two of us were in erotic bliss, humping each other to sound of our own breathing and grunting. My mind was in a fog, my eyes dazed, as I groped his bulging shoulders wildly, feeling the immense heat that rose off of his body. This was what I also missed about my boyfriend – the sex was amazing. Each time was better than the last.
Suddenly, in mid-thrust, JP stopped and immediately fell silent. At first, I thought he was about to climax, but then I noticed that he felt cold all of a sudden. I opened my eyes to see what was wrong. It took me another split second to focus on what JP was looked at, what had made him freeze in the middle of having sex. When I did, a lump formed in my throat and I couldn’t breathe.
Ryan was standing in the doorway.
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