Dustin started pouting and groaning to himself when my lunch break was coming to an end. Hahaha! Omigod...the cuteness factor on that boy went off the charts when he slightly poked out his bottom lip and gave me his best sad 'puppy dog' face. It was so endearing and lovable that it caused me to laugh out loud and hug Dustin around his slim shoulders from the overwhelming blast of 'feels' it had given me.
"Hahaha! Knock it off!" I giggled. "You act like you're not going to see me again this weekend."
His baby blue eyes exploded with surprise. "So, I can come over???" Shit...what did I just do? "I KNEW that you were gonna say yes! Told ya!"
Hehehe, damn...he caught me. What am I going to do now? Say no? That's like telling a kid you're taking him to Disneyland for his birthday and backing out at the last minute. It's just not an option, you know?
"Dustin...? We need to set some ground rules if we're..."
"I know, I know. No lying to my parents, keep my trap shut, don't walk around naked...blah, blah, blah." He said. YEESH!!! Can he stop being so...'confident' about talking in the open like this. I put my hand over his lips to make sure that he piped down, all while looking around to make sure that nobody else heard what we were talking about. But he pulled himself free with a grin. "Don't worry so much, Eric. I got this. It'll be fun. No big deal, right?"
Ohhh...if only what he said was true. But it was a big deal. A VERY big deal.
I found myself in a constant state of paranoid conflict whenever we were in public together. Always worried that the love in my heart would somehow be exposed by the tilt of my smile, the shimmering praise reflected in my eyes, or my desire to lightly touch his hand, his arm, his shoulder. To nuzzle my nose and lips into the soft nape of his neck, or feel the tickle of his silken blond locks on my cheek as I kissed those thin pink lips, feeling the most excited shiver running through him as he trembled in my embrace. And yet...I felt the need to fight off that paranoia as much as humanly possible. Because my love for him was real. His love for me was real. It was pure and new and it enveloped him completely, from head to toe. He didn't deserve to have me withhold my affections from him. To hide my heart. My God, Dustin, you can have it. All of it. He can have every part of me, and there's nothing scarier than the idea he's going to realize that one day...and I won't ever be able to say no to him again. Hehehe, something tells me that he's going to enjoy taking advantage of my love stricken helplessness.
Yeah...being in public with him was a challenge. A painful struggle between what felt right and I was told should feel wrong. It was the same way I felt when I discovered that I was gay for the first time at the age of ten. Don't look at other boys that way. What's wrong with you? Aren't you ashamed? Don't you feel defective? Isn't it gross, thinking about this all the time? Why can't you just turn it off? You're such a disgusting piece of shit.
But when we're alone? When Dustin and I just sit side by side on my living room couch, watching a ridiculous movie about a tornado throwing live sharks at people and devouring them alive...hehehe, sighhh...that's when everything falls into place. That's when we feel at peace. There's no social torture. No hidden glances. No condemning inner voice trying to drag me back into the quicksand, hoping to drown me once and for all. No...none of that. There's just...our connection. Nothing else.
When I want to reach for his hand, I can do it. I can see his eyes brighten and the grace and beauty of his boyish smile. I can see the subtlety of his youthful blush, as he stifles a soft giggle and leans his head on my shoulder. Every display of affection that I show him is rewarded with overwhelming return. Every kiss excites him to his biological limit...as if he's completely surprised by it each and every time. And believe me...there are many.
Sure...there will always be a part of me that wishes the rest of the world could see what we see. Could feel what we feel. And could possibly compromise their black or white views to a point of understanding. But the chances of that happening are slim. And as long as I have Dustin beside me...i can deal without the understanding. I can let go of the need to give the rest of the world an explanation or an excuse. I can just be in love. I can enjoy the life and the light he brings to me every second of every day, whether he's wrapped in my protective embrace or not. Maybe it's not like this for everybody else. Maybe Dustin and I are the first. I highly doubt it, but...if so, I'll take the title.
"You wanna go to the bathroom and kiss?" Dustin giggled, seeing the shock on my face.
"I wanna smack you for saying that out loud in a public place. That's what I wanna do."
"You're so serious. Hehehe, lighten up." He bumped me with his shoulder while I attempted to keep from blushing. "Are we gonna get pizza when I come over?"
"We have pizza all the time. Don't you ever get tired of it?"
"Who gets tired of pizza? What...are you insane?" He asked.
Silly question on my part, I guess. The way that boy eats, he could probably digest cast iron pipes out of the wall without so much as burp. "Maybe I'll cook us up something special. You know, to celebrate you coming home with a clean bill of health."
Dustin beamed, "Ooh, I like the sound of that. What can you cook?"
"What do you want me to cook?"
"I get to choose?"
"Yep. if you want."
His smile widened, and he said, "I'll think about it. I'm gonna look up something online, and then we'll see how awesome you are. Like...some super duper chef stuff. But you've GOTTA let me help you make it though! Because i want to learn how to cook stuff too."
"Hehehe, you're the boss." I said. "Don't make it too hard, though. I'm not exactly Superman in the kitchen, you know?"
"Hehehe...you said, 'don't make it too hard'."
I sighed, rolling my eyes. "Real mature, buddy."
"Don't sweat it. I'll be fair. Promise." He grinned at first...but his mood dulled considerably when he saw that we were almost at the entrance of my store again, bringing our fun little luncheon to an end. He sighed to himself...partially out of frustration, and partially from sadness. But, as always, he worked up enough energy to try to impress me by not getting too emotional over our inevitable departure.
Strange thing...he was only across the hall...but he might as well have been on the other side of the planet as far as our interaction was concerned. I said, "Don't be late, ok?" As Dustin stared helplessly into my eyes.
He pouted a little bit, but not in a manipulative kind of way. I think he actually tried to hide the hurt of being forced to distance himself from me. He just...wasn't very good at it. Hehehe, at this point, I can't say that I was either.
"Will you call me later or somethin'?" He asked. "I know you get off earlier than I do and stuff."
Hehehe, he wasn't even trying to look sad this time! But his expression was as adorable as it was heartbreaking, regardless.
"I'll be sure to call and check in on you once I get settled in for the night."
"Promise." I said. And that's when Dustin moved in to give me a hug. Not a friendly, short-lived, hug like two friends who were going to see each other again this weekend. It was more like the kind of hug you would give someone going off to war for the next several years. He pressed his head against my chest, his blond mop just under my chin, his arms snaked around me...holding me as if he depended on my personal body heat for him to survive a night in the wild. He closed his eyes and sighed with a satisfaction that almost brought a mist of joyful tears to my eyes. There's no comfort in this world than truly feeling the love of someone who appreciates you for everything that you are. And even though we were standing there in the mall, I found myself rubbing the back of his shoulders and giving Dustin a quick kiss on the top of his head before forcing myself to let him go. Thankfully, Dustin took the hint and ended our embrace, even if he was obviously hesitant to do so.
"M'kay. I'll talk to you later..." He said softly. It sounded like he sniffled a little bit when he let me go.
"Are you ok?" I smiled.
He immediately straightened up. "Yeah. Why?" I saw him use the back of his hand to 'casually' wipe one of his eyes, and then the other.
Teasing, I said, "I don't know. It looked like you were having a moment, there. Hehehe!"
"Whatever..." He smiled.
"Are you sure?"
"Don't be so extra. I just told you, I'm fine."
"Hehehe, we've got some tissues in the store if you need some." I said, lightly using my finger to poke him in his soft middle.
"Don't!" He chuckled, and he lightly smacked my hand away. "You're mean." He said, but with another sigh, his gaze softened, and he said, "Don't forget to call me. K? You promised."
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." I said, and I watched as Dustin slowly backed away from me to go to his side of the hallway and clock in for work. He kept looking back at me every few steps though. Almost as if he expected me to suddenly evaporate into thin air if he didn't maintain his idea of object permanence to keep me a solid part of his reality. Then again, as gorgeous as Dustin Hunter was...I can't say that I haven't spent countless moments doing the exact same thing. So I'm just as unprepared for my love affair with him as he is with me in a lot of ways.
The whole world fearmongers you into believing that anything this amazing must be too good to be true. It's got to be some kind of trick. A ruse created by the Devil to lure into a den of irredeemable sin and dangerous habits. You get so brainwashed by it that, even when you find perfection in your life...it's hard for your emotions to let go. It feels fake. Temporary. A pursuit that could only end in madness or failure. But...then there's Dustin.
He smashes that ludicrous idea to pieces. Obliterates the need to be suspicious or paranoid of his true intentions. I've never experienced a love so pure. So uncorrupted by schemes and mind games and selfish manipulations meant to throw off our balance as a couple. Sure, Dustin was capable of some serious mischief when he was chasing after something he wanted badly enough and was willing to work for, hehehe...but even that was cute! It wasn't malignant or abusive. It wasn't something that he purposely did to hurt you, or take anything from you. Everything about him inspired trust, and affection, and a love that I was more than willing to give him to the point of utter exhaustion if I thought he needed it. It makes you believe in sunshine and rainbows again. Dustin is the one boy who could never be too good to be true. His love IS truth. He is everything he said he was. Everything he promised me he would be. And to think...he took that golden heart of his...
...And he offered it to ME.
When I got back to work, Jack immediately began snickering at my love hungry expression and loss for words. I didn't mind the teasing though. Go ahead. Tease me. Hehehe, I deserve it for being so baffled and backwards over a boy that I once thought was so untouchable. A museum exhibit...only meant to be viewed and admired from a 'safe' distance. It was hard for my mind to embrace the concept of it all. I'm not this lucky.
"God, you are so whipped. I'm almost jealous of how whipped you are." He said, causing me to laugh a little.
"I'm ok. I just..." I sighed out loud, and I looked across the hall again, just to catch a glimpse of him. Dustin reached up to run his fingers through his soft blond hair at that very moment as if he had planned for me to bare witness to it. As though I had a 'boy model' camera focused on him and asked him to look sexy for me.
But the truth was even harder to comprehend. He was just being himself. The beauty, the sensual gestures, the unbelievable allure of that boy...was just a natural and involuntary part of who he was. He wasn't trying to be sexy...he just embodied the very essence of sex and affection and everything it stood for. He didn't have to think about it, or put on a show to prove that he was desirable. If anything, I think that would have tainted the innocence of his effortless appeal. I kind of liked the idea of him being so blissfully unaware of how jaw-droppingly gorgeous he was. And how that beauty was greatly intensified by his bashful denial of it.
God, help me...I'm SO in love!
"Can you STOP!" Jack laughed, catching me staring across the hall again, lost in my thoughts. "I swear, you're giving me the warm fuzzies something awful. It's freaky."
"Hehehe, how is it freaky?"
"It just IS, ok? You suck."
I gasped, laughing at his statement. "Excuse me?"
Jack rolled his eyes and said, "I just hate the fact that you're such a lovable creep! That's all."
I giggled. "I don't know if that's a compliment or an insult. Care to clarify?"
"It's just...you're totally shattering my illusions of what....people like you are supposed to be. That's all. You're not supposed to be...like you are. And neither is Dustin." He said. Adding, "I mean...like, no offense, or anything. Honest."
"None taken." I replied.
"I just...I always pictured this kind of thing as some weak, neglected, little kid who got taken advantage of against his will by some dirty old man in a white van with free candy. An old guy with a coil of rope and a bottle of chloroform. But you're like...totally, head over heels, in LOVE with this boy, Eric. And Dustin can't even go two minutes without looking over here to show you how much he loves you too." He said. Then he sighed, "Look. He's looking over here right now. I don't think I've ever seen a boy more in love. It's like this weird glitch in the Matrix, where I see the beauty and grace in all of it, but my brain keeps trying to wake me up and...I don't know...hate you for it." Jack peeked up at my eyes to see if I was hurt by having him say that, but honestly...I wasn't. It isn't an emotion that I haven't had to wrestle with myself ever since I discovered my own 'dysfunction' when it came to boys that were Dustin's age. The self loathing was more intense than anyone could ever believing. Constant suffering. Questioning. Moral conflicts versus impulsive desires that only hurt and abuse me the more I try to control them or deny their existence.
Yes. Yes, it's weird. But I wouldn't trade that part of who I am for anything. I don't plan to abandon what I love for the sake of somebody else's comfort. It took Dustin's kiss to free me from the confines of what I was told to hate about myself. It took his touch to give me permission to think of myself as something more than a potential criminal. A predator. A hell-bound piece of garbage that deserved to be shunned, beaten up, or murdered...and nothing else.
I am NOT what people see on TV. But in a world where the media is 'God'...what chance do I have to make that argument? I'm better off hiding it all away...alone. So alone.
"I understand, Jack. It's ok." I said.
At that moment, Dustin peeked over at me again, and he took the opportunity to make another awkward face at me, poking his tongue out because he knows that always makes me laugh. Jack just shook his head, and said, "It's disgusting how adorable you two are. I mean that."
"Thank you." I said. "Now that...I'll take as a compliment!"
I know that we, as a species, are always trying to put rules, regulations, and limitations, on beauty...but why? What can we gain from that?
Sometimes...boys are just beautiful for beauty's sake. And if nobody else wants to notice that...then I'd be honored to be the first. As long as I can keep Dustin in my heart. It's worth it. Everything about him...
...It's worth it.