Kevin awoke to his alarm clock feeling as if he didn’t have time to sleep. He looked to see it was 5:30 A.M. and turned off the alarm. He sat up from his bed feeling renewed but slightly disoriented. He dropped to the floor where he laid out on his back, put his knees into the air, and began to do sit ups. He counted them under his breath until he reached twenty, then he rolled over on his stomach and did twenty pushups, jumped to his feet and ran in place for thirty seconds, did fifteen squat thrusts, then got back into position for more sit ups. He did seven more cycles before he stopped just after the last squat thrust. He rolled onto his back for a moment to catch his breath.
He looked under his bed where he saw it was empty and smiled. He was pleased that there was no clutter, no extra belongings hid somewhere. He had gotten himself organized six years ago before he started high school and he wasn’t going back. He sat up, pushed himself from the floor and stripped off his clothes, dropped them in the hamper and stepped in front of the full length mirror. He was happy with his body for once. His belly and the padding of baby fat on his face were gone.
Everything was in its right place, he told himself. He went to the middle of his room and sat, crossed his legs and assumed his best meditative form. He liked to meditate naked because it felt like his body was the most open. He thought about the day before and everything he had done. He thought about the things he needed to do. He thought about where he had to go, the people he would talk to and deal with and among those people was Thad.
Thad was only minutes away, would be waiting for him on the corner to go for a run. He smiled. No, he told himself, be in the moment, put all those assumptions away somewhere. He had thought it through but life wouldn’t happen exactly that way. Embrace the chaos, he told himself.
There was the sound of his phone telling him he had a text message from Thad. Was he running late? He waited until he felt himself calm down, then he opened his eyes and got back to his feet. He retrieved his phone, just a good morning message telling him Thad was five minutes early and missing him. He smiled and deleted the message before he put down his phone and went to get his workout clothes from the drawer: a thin pair of shorts, t-shirt, jock strap, and cup. He pulled the jock strap up, placed the cup inside. He looked at himself in the mirror and was delighted because he never thought four years ago he would take pride in his body and exercise. He finished dressing, put on his socks and shoes, made his way out of the quiet house.
He checked to make sure he had his house key tied on a string around his neck, that it hadn’t been pulled off while he slept in some accident or fit of rage before he closed the door and made sure it was locked. He did ten jumping jacks before he dashed down the stairs and across the lawn. He got to the sidewalk and turned. He picked up his speed in anticipation of seeing Thad.
Suburban, colonial style houses that had been built over a hundred years ago, the rest of the neighborhood was still quiet. Only a few mothers and fathers were awake, maybe the poor soul delivering newspapers, garbage collectors and people headed to work knew about this time and many of them probably didn’t appreciate it. He liked this time of the morning, something few people ever knew about because most of them were still asleep. Although there would be fewer of them with Fall approaching but sometimes it felt like only him and Thad as they ran the streets and through the park. That made it easier.
He spotted Thad on the corner in the grass stretching his legs and smiled. The man was possibly twenty years older than him but fit and good natured unlike any other person his age. He could be disarming, took an interest in people like when Thad had been impressed that Kevin was a conscientious eater and exercised regularly. Kevin felt comfortable admitting to him that he struggled with anorexia in high school until his parents got him a therapist who got him a personal trainer. He learned about food and exercise the right way, he said.
They had talked for a long time about food and work. Kevin had just begun his internship but he was eager to find out how the newspaper worked. Thad had told him he was in the photography business for over a decade feeling that it would scare him but Kevin was intrigued by his career. They talked any chance they got. They met frequently on breaks and lunch. Kevin asked him about his previous life and sometimes Thad told him about what it was like as if he wanted to have it again, as if they could have it together.
But even as comfortable as they were with each other coming out was still a process. Finally, after weeks of talking Thad admitted that he had broken up with his long-term boyfriend before moving to town. Kevin sat in silence for a long time. He knew that each had suspected the other was gay but not wanting to offend each other they assumed the other was straight, neither of them even in these days wanted to risk offending the other by making some assumption. Kevin had never told anyone his own secret but then he just said it.
“I haven’t had a boyfriend yet but I’m looking forward to it.”
They both looked at each other and laughed suddenly feeling ridiculous for not recognizing in the other, for being afraid of saying something for weeks. After that it became more comfortable until Thad asked him to go jogging. Kevin felt himself being excited about the idea. Was it a date? Was it the beginning of a relationship? He found himself flirting with the older man if even only accidentally or unconsciously until he recognized what he had done, what he had said. Thad noticed but said that he was afraid of being in a relationship with someone so young, but that was months ago.
Kevin came to a stop a few feet from Thad after signaling to each other a hello. He began to run in place. He looked up and down the streets but there was no traffic, a few inside houselights were on. He signaled for Thad to get ready.
“How are you this morning?” Thad asked.
“Good,” Kevin said. “How are you?”
“Old,” Thad said.
“Better hurry then before you get any older. Last one to the park has to pay for lunch.”
Kevin began to run away towards the park and Thad gave him a lead before he dashed after him. Thad got close enough to make Kevin look back. Each let out a laugh before they doubled down and began to run as hard as they could. They were even when Thad reached over and slapped playfully at Kevin’s arm. Kevin tried to slap back or at least keep him away. It was a long run into the back of the neighborhood to the park, a preservation, the as of yet unprocessed trees.
Kevin felt as if for once he was leading when Thad stopped playing and gave it his all. He pulled ahead of the young man for just long enough that he touched the park sign first. Kevin slowed himself enough, ran into the sign and let out a laugh.
“You’re too much,” Thad said.
“I think we’re both going to be tired today for work,” Kevin said.
“At least you’re only there for a few hours.”
“So are you,” Kevin said.
“Oh right, well, it’s nice to not have a good job I guess. Hey that reminds me do you want to help me at my studio on Saturday? I’d pay you something under the table, say twenty bucks and maybe a piece of pizza.”
“Yeah sure,” Kevin said. That would be a good way to earn some money, maybe they could find some time to do something else, but then he reminded himself of where they were. He signaled for Thad to follow him.
“I don’t know how I let you talk me into this,” Thad said.
They walked into the park, along the familiar trail. Down one path, then off on another, and yet another going in a direction few walkers ever went. Kevin signaled with his head for Thad to follow him along a thin path through the trees. They had fooled around in different spots all over the park, mostly kissing and groping.
He moved on impulse, searching out some perfect spot. He walked until he felt far enough away so they wouldn’t be seen. They stopped to catch their breath, to listen and make sure no one else was around and they wouldn’t be disturbed.
Kevin looked to the older man, stared him in the eye before he pulled off his shirt and threw it to him. Thad shook his head as if he was shaking away guilt before he pulled off his own shirt. Kevin let his shorts drop, stuck his thumbs in the waist band of his jock, ran them between the fabric and his own skin, moved his thumbs down to the straps where he toyed with them, toyed with Thad’s desire.
“You’re naughty,” Thad said.
“Maybe we both are,” Kevin said.
They listened for a moment to make sure no one had heard them. They stepped to each other with their hands slightly out anticipating the touch. They reached for skin at the same time. They were simultaneously delighted by the feel of their touch and being touched.
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