Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
We got off the bus with Dan and Gary and were soon joined by the others so Lucas made the introductions then following our tour guide we snaked our way across town visiting various shops and places of interest. The thing that struck me most was the way the people seemed to be in no hurry to do anything. The locals were very pleasant especially once they realised we were Brits but don't expect them to kind of jump to attention! Benny was joined by his two girlfriends and so we became a group of nine by the time our guide suggested we stopped off at a café for refreshments. I opted for a cocktail of mango and fresh melon juice. Oh yeah! I could get used to being here! The others went for Slushy's but I tried Lucas' and found it too sweet for my taste. Then it was back to the bus and the visit to the Navy base.
Peter was right. It was fascinating. We were treated to a demonstration of how men escaped from a crippled submarine, the various stages of decompression to avoid the Bends. We were then asked if any of us would like to experience weightlessness in a controlled environment. Lucas and I were the only takers so we were lead out to get changed into wetsuits, face masks and an umbilical cord which would allow us to breathe together with something akin to a hearing aid which was placed behind our left ear. One of the Seal frogmen then explained what was about to happen.
"Okay fellah's. We'll be taking you down to a point where the pressure is almost sufficient to stop you from floating to the surface. This of course can't happen because of the air in your lungs but then, once we're there, we'll attach some weights to your wetsuits which will keep you in check. I want you to understand that it's a very strange experience so if you have any concerns, just tap your facemask and we'll bring you up but slowly slowly! Our boys do this hundreds of times a year so we know where we're at. Just relax and enjoy. Ready to rock and roll then?"
We were lead to a totally different tank, much smaller and less deep than the one used in the earlier demonstration then our escort gave us our last briefing.
"Okay lads. The water in this tank is very warm, almost blood-warm. The idea is that we try to replicate what it must be like to be back in your mother's womb. Weightless and devoid of all outside influences, sensory deprivation if you like. You will not know whether you're upside down, on your front or back or whatever. Your masks will blackout like welders masks just to complete the sensation. Are you still ready and willing?"
We nodded our heads.
"Right then. Get yourselves into the water and Chris will take you down. Enjoy because you will probably never do this again. I'll see you both later okay?"
We entered the water but our wetsuits made it such that we didn't feel the heat of the water instantly.
Our escort Chris lead us down deeper and deeper then another frogman came over and swiftly attached the weights. Then we heard Chris talking to us via our earpieces.
"Nice work boys, Are you happy? Circle your thumb and index finger if your answer is yes otherwise tap your facemask."
We both gave him the okay.
"Great. Now we'll darken your masks but please remember, you are under observation at all times so just tap the mask if you don't feel comfortable. Let's do it!"
Weird, scary maybe. Total silence and the feeling of drifting in space completely unaware of your surroundings. Warm and comforting as if time was standing still seemed like we had been there for ever. Actually, saying we were completely unaware of our surroundings isn't strictly true because I was acutely aware of Lucas' presence each time he drifted close even though we never made accidental contact. I concentrated hard and the next time he came close I willed him. 'Your left hand to my right.' Even though we were used to doing this during our dive sessions, even I was taken by surprise when our fingers locked. We released and once again drifted away from each other. It was impossible to tell how much time had elapsed before I heard Lucas' in my head saying 'Swallow. Your right foot my left. Hands also.' As with our swallow dive, we spread-eagled ourselves and made contact but then as we released, we heard Chris over our ear pieces.
"Okay boys. Time is up I'm afraid. We're going to bring you up nice and slow. Once you're changed I'll see you in de-brief. You did a man's job there! Well done!"
It took about twenty minutes to get us to the surface but once we were clear of the water he asked us how we felt. I think the look on Lucas' face said everything.
"Weird but a nice weird if you know what I mean. Almost kinda dream-like, unbelievably relaxing!"
"Yes isn't it. We use the same thing if some of our boys suffer from combat fatigue or burnout. Two or three periods in the tank normally sees them back up and running but now if you wanna get changed, my boss wants a chat with you."
Once we were dressed we were shown through into an ante room where we were introduced to a Major Josh Symonds, a huge African-American guy.
"Well boys, you have a good time down there?"
"Absolutely! It was a fantastic experience and thank you for allowing us to try it."
"No problem Andrew. You're more than welcome. Now you might be asking yourselves the question, why on earth would the Military need such a facility? The fact of the matter is that we don't. For reasons best known to our Government, we carry out a lot of training relating to space travel where weightlessness and sensory deprivation is part of the deal so in a way you've just experienced what it's like to be a cosmonaut and so I'm very happy to give you guys this certificate that shows you have both passed exercise one of ninety-eight of the astronaut training program. Unfortunately we won't be putting you through the entire program, I don't believe your parents would approve of us keeping you here for the full two years it takes to complete it but you did very well. You'd be surprised at just how many folk fall at the first hurdle so congratulations. I'm going to ask Chris here to escort you back to your group but I would appreciate it if you could do me one little favour. Could you get one of you coaching team to give me a call? Here's my card and they can call me at any time that's convenient to them. It's good to meet you and I hope you enjoy the rest of your time here on the island."
"Hello Major. My name is Liam Coghlan, Andrew and Lucas' diving instructor. They told me you wanted me to call you."
"Oh yeah! Thanks for that. Just to say, your boys did good down there this afternoon. Most folk who try it for the first time only last around ten minutes before we have to hoist them out but they did a full half hour and I reckon they wouldn't have minded staying there even longer."
"They're remarkable lads, you don't know the half of it!"
"Yeah well that's what I wanted to talk to you about. Have you got a few minutes?"
Apparently Major Symonds explained to Liam what we would've experienced during our time in the tank and then went on to tell him about our touching.
"What I don't understand is, how the hell could they have known where they were in relation to each other? There's absolutely no way they could see each other and the whole experience is very disorientating so what's going on here?"
"The simple answer is that we just don't know. It's uncanny the way they instinctively know the exact location one to the other right down to the distance that separates them. They seem to have the ability to share thought processes and I'll give you an example. I don't know how much you understand about formation diving but they have to carry out very complex routines that require split second timing. I have seen them go up to a high table and without even discussing what they're going to do, execute spectacular dives the likes of which, despite my years of experience, I would never have believed possible. I cannot train them to do that, it comes directly from them. We've had some of the best scientific minds ponder this phenomenon and they're just as perplexed as you and I are. Tell me. Did you record what went on today?"
"Oh sure. We have to for safety reasons. I take it you'd like a copy?"
"Would that be possible? I think it would be important for our people to take a look especially given the conditions they were experiencing."
"I can't think of any good reason why not although I'll have to get clearance before I can release it. Give me a couple of days and I'll get back to you."
On the journey back to the hotel we again got talking to Dan and Gary.
"So what are you guys doing this evening before supper then?"
"Nothing exciting. Sit out by one of the pools probably."
"Why not get yourselves up to our room? We can have a glass of wine and just chill out together. We all know about each other so you guys can relax and be yourselves without having to watch what you do."
"Sounds good to us! 4006 didn't you say? There's some complimentary wine in both our rooms so we could bring them with us. To have the opportunity to chill around like minded people is something we've never been able to do before with us having to keep a low profile and everything, in fact you're the only other gay guys we know."
"Don't you ever get any alone time together?"
"The occasional sleep-over, odd evenings together if one or other sets of parents go out but they're few and far between and even then it's not possible to get up to much for fear of being found out."
"That's so sad Gary."
"We know all about sad don't we Dan. Sometimes we resent being the way we are. Life would be far less complicated if we were, you know, straight but........there's not a lot we can do about it I guess."
I looked at Lucas who grinned at me.
"Nice one Andy. Cracking idea!"
Dan looked puzzled.
"He'll tell you later when we're alone but we think you'll like it!"
Oh okay. We do that as well by the way. You know like sharing ideas and thoughts. Do you know what the first ever words Gary spoke to me were?"
"No? Go on?"
"Later. I'll tell you later! As soon as we get back, we'll drop off our gear and come up to your room before we get policed."
The bus swung through the hotel gates and pulled up outside the main entrance and as we disembarked Dan pointed to his watch.
"See you in around ten minutes."
"Okay, so what's this cracking idea?"
I looked at Lucas who burst out laughing so I did the answering.
"Later I promise but first let's pour the wine and you can tell us about those first words."
"Aw come on? That's not fair!"
"It might not be fair but all will become clear a bit later on. So what went down between you?"
"Okay. The first time we ever met was the Christmas before last. My parents had bought tickets to see a show at the theatre but at the last minute my little brother went down with a dose of flu so they couldn't go so they offered me a ticket and because this show was a sell-out, they gave me the other one to pass on if there was somebody who couldn't get in. When I got to the box office I saw Gary being turned away. The look of disappointment on his lovely face almost had me in tears so I offered him my spare ticket. He thanked me so in truth they weren't actually the first ever words he said but kind of the first like meaningful ones. Anyway we sat together and I kept sneaking glances at him. My heart was racing and all I could think about was just how much I wanted to get to know him and that's when he said it. He just looked at me, smiled and said "I'd like that very much." He then put his hand on mine and I nearly died on the spot. So there you have it!"
Lucas had gone from being in fits of laughter to tears.
"Oh man? That's just so beautiful! No wonder you're so fucked up about not spending quality time together!"
"Well you learn to live with it Lucas. It's difficult but we survive. How did you two meet?"
"You tell them Andy."
"Well we met at a swimming club meet. I was an okay swimmer but my feet aren't broad enough to make me fast enough to compete so I was just fooling around in the diving pool. That's when Lucas who had not long returned to England from America, came up to me and offered to help me iron out some of my mistakes. When I saw him my first feelings were of confusion because I always saw myself as being straight but here I was, faced with the most delicious boy I had ever set eyes on and while I know now it was love that I felt for him, no way could I bring myself to admit it, well not right then anyway."
Lucas took over.
"For me it was different because I had come to terms with my sexuality a couple of years before hand so when I saw Andy I knew I wanted to be with him, I really needed him if that makes sense. I think that even in those early days we had a connection because I knew he was attracted to me but whether that was just like a childhood crush which he'd grow out of or not, I had no way of knowing but……..it was a chance worth taking. Run the risk of being disappointed or be patient and win the boy of my dreams? No competition. I'd tough it out."
"You're lucky knowing you were gay so early in your life. Perhaps if we'd known earlier then the innocence of childhood might've made us come out and say something but now? There's so much homophobia around and the taboo that's still associated with being gay makes it nigh on impossible."
"You say I was lucky. Well maybe in some respects I was but definitely not in another but that's a story for another time. Andy knows what I'm talking about. Do you guys fancy hanging out with us tomorrow afternoon? If you do then there's something I need to take care of and that will give me the opportunity to come clean. Important to me if we're going to be friends."
"We'd like that but already you're talking about tomorrow afternoon and yet there's still over an hour to go before supper. You're not kicking us out are you?"
"Ha-ha! Far from it! I'll leave it up to Andy, after all it was his idea!"
I finished my wine before I spoke.
"It's like this. Lucas and I fancy a walk around the grounds before supper."
"We'll come as well if you like?"
"No. You miss the point Dan. Lucas and I are going for a stroll, you stay here and we'll meet back up in the dining room at half eight!"
"You mean like…….."
"Yes I mean like! Just enjoy the freedom of having time to yourselves safe in the knowledge that you'll not be disturbed. We'll see you later!"
We wandered the grounds, thought about a round of golf but decided that given our level of competence we'd probably still be playing at midnight so we made our way towards the swimming pools and found Paul and Lorain splashing about in the kiddies pool.
"Come on in and join us. The water's lovely and cool!"
"No ta Paul. We've had our fair share of water for one day! You've got to remember we were immersed in seventy-five foot of the stuff a little earlier!"
"Fair comment. What was it like?"
"Odd. Totally weird actually. We had no idea of direction, whether we were upside down or anything. Completely silent plus we couldn't see a damned thing but if you want to experience the ultimate in relaxing then go for it!"
"I think I'll stick to this for now! Where are your new friends? They seemed like nice guys?"
"Ah. Tricky question to answer but as we know you won't go saying anything, like us they're gay but their coach is seriously homophobic and even though they're still firmly in the closet, they're not allowed to share a room so we've kind of sub-let ours for the afternoon."
"Right! No of course we're not about to go mentioning it to anyone. I suppose we're really fortunate with our people allowing us to share. Poor sods! Must be awful for them."
"Thanks for that mate. We were thinking about finding a glass of something alcoholic, care to join us?"
Lor nodded her head enthusiastically.
"Come on Paul! A glass or two of wine and a massive supper should make us sleep well and put paid to whatever is left of our jet lag so let's do it."
"Okay. I'm sold! We'll get our stuff together and meet you at the big pool. White wine babe?"
"Yes please and as dry as it comes!"
"Make that two and I'll settle up with you later."
"All drinks are complimentary remember?"
"Ha-ha! Yes, so they are! See you in a bit then."
It was just a shame we only had an hour to spend together because I'd almost forgotten what great company Paul and Lorain were. This time spent together was so nice and relaxed but then Lor took a look at her watch and suggested it was time to head to the dining room.
Here we were joined by Benny and his two hangers-on together with Dan and Gary who all looked radiant. I didn't ask why but I understood enough to make an informed guess!
The food at the hotel was wonderful. Mainly fish based although there was chicken and pork, loads of salads and hot sweet potatoes with lashing of butter so more than enough to fill us to capacity. We left the dining room feeling very weary and on reaching our room we all said our good-nights and headed to bed.
We woke late the next morning but we'd manage to sleep straight through so the bonus being, our heads might finally be back in order. Dan and Gary had beaten us to it but being the only ones in our circle of friends that didn't have any umm, distractions during the night, this didn't come as much of a surprise.
"Thanks for yesterday. You can have no idea how much it meant to us and we just wish there was some way we could repay you."
I thought about this for a second.
"There's no need to thank us, really there isn't but why not help yourselves, make life easier? All our friends know we're gay and did you see any adverse reactions? They're your friends too now so just give it some thought. Start with them and see how much of a support they can be to you. Paul and Lor are in a relationship that most people would find, how can I put it, illegal and altogether wrong. Benny is heading towards an early grave if he keeps shagging away as he obviously is so nobody is immune from criticism. Put you love for each other to the forefront of your minds and place your trust in your friends, not just here but back at home. I have ideas for the future, ways that you can spend some time with each other without constantly looking over your shoulders but you'll have to leave that with us for now. We'll talk about it later."
"That's a difficult call Andy. We hear what you're saying but to come out to anyone is hard for us."
"The hardest thing I've ever had to do is talk about it to my Mum and Dad. I was fairly shitting my pants but you know something? They were okay about it. Disappointed maybe but pleased I had found my voice and talked to them. I can't vouch for your folk but they undoubtedly love you and will probably react in much the same way. Just so long as you're 100% certain then you have to say something and the longer you leave it, the more difficult it will be but the sooner you start the easier it'll be."
"No pressure then?!"
Just as the conversation finished we were joined by Paul, Lorain, Benny and his concubines. Benny was beaming, both the girls looked very tired, Paul looked bit frayed around the edges but Lor looked her normal beautiful self making it obvious who had the most stamina within our group! Gary stood up as if to leave but then turned to the others.
"Anyone up for a jog to the gym rather than going by bus?"
A unanimous show of hands.
"Okay that's great! We'll get our kit together and see you in reception when you're ready."
We made better time reaching the gymnasium than the bus arriving a full fifteen minutes before it opened so we took shelter from the sun under some trees. Gary and Dan took themselves away from the group for a few minutes to have a talk amongst themselves but then they returned, Dan had obviously been elected as the spokesman.
"Could I have your attention for a second? Yesterday afternoon and again this morning we had a couple of long conversations with Lucas and Andy, good and useful conversations at that. The upshot is this. They persuaded us to find an opportunity to talk to you guys because……..because we are like them, we're a gay couple. We've had plenty of chances to out ourselves but until we met these lads, we couldn't find the necessary courage. You're all fantastic people so we hope that as you've accepted Andy and Lucas for what they are, you will find it in your hearts to also accept us."
No stunned silence but a round of applause and whistles followed by hugs all round. Paul being the eldest put himself forward to reply.
"Well boys? As you have just witnessed, none of us are in the slightest bit bothered and I know I speak for all of us when I say thank you for your honesty and bravery. The group is here to support each other, not just in our various sporting endeavours but also on a personal level so you can count on all of us to do whatever we can, whenever we can. Congratulations and all the very best for your future together. Guys? Let's hear it for Gary and Dan. Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray! Hip-hip, hooray!!!"
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