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CHAPTER 7

Sophomore Year, Fall Semester

    "Hey Aaron, how's it going?"

    "Hey there. All good."

    "Aaron, my man! Good to see you again."

    "Hey bro, what's up?"

    "Hi, Aaron."

    "Mia. Do you know if Rory's back yet?"

    "Yup, he's been here all week. RA duties during Orientation Week."

    As I walked into the Main Lobby I felt like I was floating on air. Bright late-summer sunshine was bursting in through all the windows all around. I said my hellos to students I bumped into and fought the urge to run to Room 141. I walked as fast as my two large suitcases would allow, dragging one in each arm.

    "Beep!" the door sounded when I tapped my keycard to the sensor.

    I brought my suitcases into the suite. On my left, the door to Room 140 was shut. On the right, Room 141 was wide open and Drake was blasting through a laptop speaker

    "Roooryyyyy!!!" I roared, walking into the room with my hands up in the air.

    "Aaroooon!!!" he replied, like an animal answering my call.

    It may have been a bit obnoxious, but justifiable considering the fact it's been three months since we last saw each other. 

    My roommate Rory was sitting on his bed, typing something on his computer. Just like the first time I'd seen him, a year ago in this very room, his hair was up in a bun and he wore glasses that he normally replaced with contacts. It was boiling hot in the room and Rory wasn't wearing a shirt.

    We both ran toward and into each other, hugging and bumping chests and patting each other's backs. His shorts sagged lower, revealing the top half of his underwear, as he stood barefoot on the floor.

    "How ya been, bro?" he asked, squeezing my shoulders.

    "So fucking happy to be back, man. Summer was hell!"

    We took a couple of minutes for me to bring in my suitcases and Rory to take out a couple of sodas from the mini fridge in the room, before we both sat on his bed for a long-needed chat.

    "That bad, huh?"

    "Fucking hell, man. I need to figure something else out next year, I can't go through that again."

    We took a swig of our drinks as the sun shone in our room and Rory turned down the volume of the music.

    "How was your summer?" I asked. We'd kept in touch online and over text every now and then, but it was impossible to even compare that to the closeness we felt rooming together.

    "It was okay," Rory said. "Except for the fact I was horny as fuck all summer without Mia there."

    He grabbed his crotch and gave it a squeeze jokingly, and I smiled.

    "She got to chill in Mexico all summer, visiting family," he continued, "and I had to work. I got that summer job in Philly. It was a pain in the ass driving there every day from my parents', but other than that it wasn't too bad." 

    "You went to New York as well, right?"

    "Yeah, my parents and I drove up there for a few days. My mom likes going up to see some shows a couple times a year, and we got to hang out with my brother and his boyfriend. Or, fiancé I should say; they're planning on getting married soon. Anyway, how bout you? Worked at your dad's auto shop, right?"

    "Yup. I've helped out there before, but this was my first time doing it full-time."

    "So it felt different?" Rory asked.

    "To be honest, I felt different. There's bout half a dozen guys working there, and especially now that I'm older all they wanna joke about is sex and whether I'm getting any, or if I'm thinking of settling down... I was like, for fuck's sake, leave me alone!"

    "Touchy," Rory noted, not unfairly.

    "Maybe," I took a swig of my drink. 

    "Have you met the new suitemates?" I nodded my head toward the neighboring room, keen on changing the subject.

    "Yup, two freshmen. Seems like they mostly keep to themselves."

    "I'll miss Eric and Will," I said of the couple who lived next door last year. "Do you know what they're up to?"

    "Seems like they just got back from Europe. They moved in with Eric's dads after they graduated, and it looks like the four of them took a trip to Europe together this summer."

    "Speaking of that... I have a story to tell you."

    We both shifted our butts on the bed.

    "I didn't tell you last year cuz it literally happened during the last couple of days and everything was crazy. And then I didn't wanna tell you over text..."

    "Oh for fuck's sake bro, just say it already," Rory rolled his eyes behind his glasses.

    "So right before we left for the summer... I had sex with one of Eric's dads."

    "HA!" Rory laughed loudly. "Why am I not surprised?"

    "You're not?"

    "Haha. Well, I've known Eric a couple years longer than you, and he can definitely be a shit-stirrer. I'm zero percent surprised if his fathers are like that as well."

    I didn't know what to say.

    "Like, they're in an open relationship or whatever," Rory added. "So don't feel bad about being a homewrecker." 

    "I don't. I mean, not really. It wasn't that..."

    "So which one of them did you fuck?" Rory asked curiously, his eyes wider.

    "David. And... he fucked me."

    "Fuck off!

    This did catch Rory by surprise. 

    "Have you ever taken anything up the ass before?" he wanted to know.

    "Nope," I shook my head. Less than a year ago, I remember how uncomfortable I was when Eric tried playing with my asshole while sucking me off.

    "How was it?"

    "Painful, at first. But he was a good coach."

    "I bet," Rory laughed.

    I was still surprised that my straight roommate, who thought I was straight up till now as well, was so unfazed by this.

    "So what does that make me?" I asked.

    "What do you mean?"

    "Gay, straight? Top, bottom?"

    "Bro. You had sex with your friend's dad. I think that just makes you a slut," Rory winked at me.

    That evening, much to nobody's surprise, Nevaeh was throwing another one of her off-campus parties. By now she was by far the most popular junior girl, mostly because of her loft where people could get drunk without RA supervision.

    I arrived when the party was in full swing and the music was blasting. The hostess was standing chatting with Skyler, her best friend (and the only guy I'd ever fucked); and another familiar face.

    "This is Hannah. She's a junior as well," Nevaeh said as we kissed on the cheek to say hi.

    "I've seen you before," I told Hannah. "You're the first person I saw at this school, actually. You were the RA on duty when I signed up during Orientation Week."
    Turns out, Hannah and I hit it off. Nevaeh, who loved playing matchmaker, pulled Skyler away, giving us a chance to talk (and drink) in peace. Soon enough, we were making out, sucking faces way less elegantly than warranted by our age.

    Hannah, whose parents were in the midst of a messy divorce, made sure to let me know she's not looking for commitment and "hooking up" was all this would be. Seeing as I was confused as fuck about where I stood sexually, this was perfectly fine by me.

    I took Hannah back to Room 141 and fucked her in my bed. Right in the middle of it, Rory and Mia walked in on us, doubtlessly planning on getting laid as well.

    "Oops. Sorry, bro. We'll find somewhere else," Rory winked at me and closed the door.

    A part of me was disappointed they didn't stay.

    Sex with Hannah was fun, but she was an A+ student determined to maintain her GPA, so she was busy with schoolwork from day one. ("This is the most important part! The rest will be a breeze later.") So I found myself opening up Grindr again after months of inactivity, only to find myself chatting with people but not meeting anyone.

    One afternoon, I visited my advisor Prof. Carr's office for a welcome-back chat. I'd been feeling a bit gloomy before walking in (it was the first rainy day of the season) but his charisma and friendliness managed to cheer me right up. I was all smiles by the time I left.

    "Let's see," I said to myself, pulling out my phone and making myself comfortable on one of the couches in a lobby nearby after leaving Carr's office. I knew for a fact he was to be found on Grindr often. And right I was.

    "Fuck, he's so much hotter with his shirt off," I licked my lips, opening his profile. After staring at his photo for a minute, I closed the app when I got a ping.

    "Nice body 🔥," read the message I'd gotten. It was from... Prof. Carr.

    "Fuck!" I thought. "What do I do?!"

    "Thanks," I replied. 

    "Any face pics?"

    "You're direct, aren't you? 😉" I texted.

    "It's because of my job, I gotta make sure I don't know you."

    I closed the app and weighed my options for a second.

    "male college student face," I typed into Google Images. I scrolled through several pages until I found someone who kinda looked like me. Yes, I was a liar and a catfish technically, but it felt like I was minimizing the lie. Or was it just a way of easing my guilty conscience?

    I saved the photo I'd found and sent it to Prof. Carr. 

    "Nice," he said, replying with more pictures of himself, including one in his underwear, but nothing more explicit than that.

    "What're you looking for?" he asked.

    "Fuck if I know," I thought, making myself chuckle. 

    "Just looking to chat," I texted.

    "Okay. We can do that."

    The next few weeks, Prof. Carr and I texted almost every day.

    "So what if he's a professor?" I told myself. "He only teaches freshmen, so he'll never teach me again."

    The conversations, which sometimes went on for hours, became very nice. Romantic, even. I told Carr I wasn't ready to meet yet because I was still "figuring things out," and he didn't push me. He asked if I wanted to talk on the phone but I declined, worried he'd recognize my voice. 

    Whenever she'd get a study break, Hannah came over for a quickie. What with the sex I was having with her, and the romantic exchanges with Prof. Carr, I was starting to feel very happy. Fulfilled.

    But of course, I knew it wouldn't last. The week after we returned from fall break, Prof. Carr invited me out on a date. Except for me, it felt more like an ultimatum. 

    "It's been really nice talking to you the past few weeks," he said. "I'd love to take you out for dinner."

    How that I took it this far, I had three options:

    1. Confess everything;

    2. Say no to dinner but continue to text with him; or

    3. Show up at the restaurant and see what happens.

    There was no way I was doing #1 over text. If I went with #2, I was merely prolonging the inevitable. And if I went with #3... what's the worst that could happen?

    I had no dress shoes or dress pants here with me, so I wore my nicest jeans and sneakers as I walked into the small restaurant. It felt like a tornado was ravaging inside my stomach. Almost every part of me wanted to turn back and run away. I saw Prof. Carr as soon as I walked in, and he saw me. No turning back now.

    "Hello," I said nervously, slowly approaching his table.

    "Aaron, hi," he smiled. "Funny bumping into you here. I'm just meeting someone for dinner."

    "Actually... I'm you dinner date."

    Since the place only had a few tables, the server was already at ours.

    "Would you like to order something to drink?"

    An awkward silence hung over the table for a second.

    "Actually, there's been a change of plans," Prof. Carr said coolly. If he was angry, his face didn't give it away. "We'll be leaving."

    Of course. What was I expecting?! I'm such a fucking idiot! I would've started tearing up, except I felt too numb.

    "I'm sorry to hear that, sir. Have a nice evening," the server took the two menus off the table and retreated. I'd never even gotten a chance to sit down.

    "Aaron. Come with me," Prof. Carr said calmly, and led me outside the restaurant.

    There was no snow yet, but the weather was cold. We put our scarves and gloves on.

    "I'm sorry, I didn't want to talk at that restaurant."

    "It's okay. I should be the one apologizing," I said, staring at the ground, incapable of looking at him. 

    "I think we should just go home," he said. "No hard feelings."

    "Okay," I mumbled, my jaw trembling, and not because of the cold.

    "Hey, Aaron. Look at me!" he stepped in front of me and forced me to face him. "I'm not angry at you."

    It was becoming impossible to hold back the tears by now.

    "Aaron... Why did you do this?"

    "Because I'm fucked up. And confused. And a dirty fucking liar!" I yelled in the street. I was disgusted with myself.

    Prof. Carr looked around at the couple of people whose attention I'd attracted. He sighed.

    "I live right upstairs," he said. "Let's go to my place, only because it'll give us a chance to talk in private, and you can calm down."

    "Okay," I nodded, sniffling.

    "Here," Carr handed me a cup of tea as I sat on his couch. It smelled flowery. The scent and the warm mug in my hands made me feel better already.

    His apartment was small but very elegant. The furniture looked expensive and there were even more plants than in his office. There was soft instrumental jazz playing in the background. 

    He sat down in an armchair on my right, with a tea of his own. We'd both kicked off our shoes and made ourselves comfortable.

    "So, is there anything you want to talk about?" he asked, making this sound like an at-home counseling session.

    "I grew up in a very conservative town," I decided to start from the beginning. "There were a few openly gay kids at my school, but they weren't treated particularly well. I always grew up thinking I was straight, and I was happy that way."

    I looked up at Prof. Carr. He didn't say anything but I could tell I had his undivided attention.

    "Then I came here and... Well, you know what this school's like. It's like the polar opposite."

    He nodded. 

    "I've hooked up with a couple of guys lately, same of them even older than you–"

    "Way to make me sound like Methuselah," he laughed.

    "I didn't mean it that way. I'm sorry," I apologized, relieved we'd both managed to crack a smile at his comment. "I just mean... It's all left me feeling very confused. And I never wanted to mess with you, I swear. I kinda just wanted to talk, and our conversations felt so nice, and I... started to grow feelings for you."

    The tea was finally cool enough to drink, so Carr took a sip.

    "It was very nice to talk to you," he finally said, "even though I didn't know who I was really talking to. The reason why I'm not angry and why I invited you up, is that I could tell, from the meetings in my office, that you're a nice guy. I'm sorry to hear you've been going through some tough times. I wish you would've come talk to me, openly. I may not have been the most appropriate person to talk to, Aaron, but there are counselors at this school, some of who specialize in sexuality. I could've directed you to one of them."

    After all this time, I don't know why I didn't even think of that. I felt ashamed and looked back down.

    "It's okay," he reassured me. "I'm not mad. But catfishing people is not okay. You can get in some serious trouble."

    "I know. I apologize."

    He got up off the couch and pulled out a box of chocolates from a drawer.

    "Here, have some."

    They were Belgian pralines and it was difficult to pick just one.

    "Now that I think of it, we never had dinner. Pizza?"

    I wasn't sure what he was asking but I just nodded, my mouth full of chocolate.

    Next thing I know, Prof. Carr had picked up the phone and ordered us two pizzas, and started browsing through a small collection of DVDs he had on a shelf.

    "Don't worry, I got Netflix as well, as old as you think I am," he jabbed and I rolled my eyes. "But I like to buy physical copies of queer movies. Makes them more money. Ever heard of Stonewall?"

    "Yeah, it was like, when a bunch of gay men rioted in San Francisco and that's how gay rights started."

    "Abso-lutely not!!" he sounded offended, putting the DVD in and heading to sit next to me on the couch. "First off, it was New York, not San Francisco. Second, there were plenty of women, both trans and not. And 'gay rights' neither started nor ended there. But it's still important. You gotta know some stuff if you want to be allowed into the queer club. You can't just be on Grindr cruising for dick."

    I laughed, feeling much better than I had twenty minutes ago. "Oh, so it's an exclusive club, is it?"

    "Extremely," Carr side-eyed me, grabbing the remote. "Nah, hardly exclusive," he laughed, "we're all sluts. But you'll learn to love it."

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