Promises to Keep

by Grasshopper

Chapter 5


Ever had a friend that you wanted to be more than a friend, but the move from friend to love would ruin it all? I don't mean that cute guy you want who can never be yours cause he's straight. I mean the one friend who understands you and would be perfect, but to change even one thing would be the ruin of it all? Ever realize that lots of times a perfect friend is better than an imperfect love?


Oh my fucking god! Here I was thinking that he was grossed by my touching his face the last time I saw him. I only came to the Come&Go cause he never comes out on Saturday nights. This is tearing him up.

I knew it the minute he walked in. No, the earth didn't shake; someone called out "Hey Brandon!" Easy call for me to turn my head, and look. Harder call to look away. There he was with Becky, easily the prettiest girl in the room, looking sweet and tired and already hating the noise. He never had been one for the loud parties.

I was cool with it. He hadn't informed the newspaper that I was a fag. He hadn't done anything alarming. He actually hadn't done anything at all. It was like it never happened. I might as well have touched the wind up there on that ridge.

I think I need to explain something so you will truly understand. There is no "gay" part of town here. There is nowhere to go to in the nearest city where I can "experiment" or find myself. You're so busy not looking in guy's eyes that you wouldn't see another guy like yourself if he bit you. I can't rent DVDs like Queer As Folk or Beautiful Thing or the rest that I read about in the magazines simply because they aren't here to rent and if they were, no one would touch them for fear of being whispered about and well, shit on a stick. There was no secret messing around in high school. There was nothing. It's not that you might be embarrassed; it's that you might be dead. The answer is to leave.

The answer is to go where you can do these things and you can find people like you and you can know that you aren't some sick pervert. That's the answer. It's a very simple answer, isn't it? have obligations.

If you're a jerk, you can just go. Fuck 'em all. I'm not.

I'm not exactly as scared as I used to be. No, I don't want a wire fence or a tire iron. I'm not stupid. The Fuck 'em all I feel now is not for my parents, not because I have to stay. I know I have to stay. It's for the people who would look the other way or stop speaking to me. Who wouldn't serve me in the café or not let me run a tab at the grocery. Who would yell comments on the street, so if others didn't already know, they'd know then. And especially the people who, out of their own sick ignorance, would hurt me. People like that wouldn't do it in a fair fight; they'd do it in a gang or with a high powered scope.

But, and this is a huge thing to say......I'd stand it. I'd fucking stand it if I had a reason to. Just to say "Well, I'm gay, look at me" is hardly a reason to be ridiculed by idiots. But to have a reason for it, a living breathing person reason to hold your head up and know that you have what most people will never find....Now that's a reason to stand it.

I played pool for awhile, but the hair on the back of my neck was creeping and just knowing he was over there, made me jumpy. Leaving seemed the best plan, so I left. My truck was parked by the side of the building and I climbed in, and just sat. Jasper nudged my arm, wanting to get home. All those pretty girls. Don't ever get me wrong...I think long legged, small breasted, short haired girls are pretty. I could prolly make it with one and be content. I just know that long legged, flat chested, curly haired guys are beautiful and I would be happy. Big diff.

I reached for my headlights and saw Bran come staggering out the back door heading for the fence. I know he hasn't been there long enough to be smashed. Should I go over there? Should I leave? What does he want? Fuck this............

"You okay?" I watched him lean heavily on his knees like a marathon runner, huffing great gasps of air into his lungs.

"Becky looks real pretty tonight. You having a good time?" He looks like shit.

He said he was okay and I shifted from one foot to the other unsure what to do. I wanted to hold him, but well. "You better get back inside before you catch your death."

"Good seeing you Brandon." Good....bad......what difference does it make?

In his usual huge flow of words, he said," See ya, Trip."

I'm never gonna know what the hell he's doing out in this alley, am I? I guess I'm gonna go on and make a bigger fool out of myself. "About the other day...."

Real quick, Bran said, "No problem." No Problem?! I open my heart! I touch him! I let him see a secret so huge it chokes me! I let him in and he says, 'No problem'. I give up. I guess sometimes all you get is a friend. I don't know if that will work for me.

"You've got chalk....." he mumbled, pointing at me. I resisted the urge to wipe my face and smiled into his sad eyes. His eyes were the saddest I've ever seen. I don't want him sad. I'd take away the hurt, but thing is, I'd just replace it with another.

"There now, that wasn't so hard, was it," I smiled.

But then he muttered something odd, "Harder than you'll ever know." Damn you, Brandon, just when I give up, you let in a crack of light.

I told him something I had read that had made me feel better. About denying a hard truth was easier than going with the joy or the pain and living. I told him that he needed a friend to talk to. Then he cinched the deal.

"I can't talk to you about you." He had this crazy look on his face.

"Bran, I'm not the problem." I wanted to hold him then. He needed holding. He was tearing himself up over this and that wasn't what I wanted at all.

I did the hard thing then. I left. I left him there in that back alley, confused and alone. What else could I do? All I can hope for is that he decides it would be easier to talk to me than to go slowly insane. I can be his friend if he wants. I've been alone a long time. I've got a lot more miles to go.

It's funny. In fantasies, guys make eye contact and start ripping their clothes off to get at each other's naked skin. I've never even seen Bran's naked skin and yet, every time I look in his eyes, he's naked. I'm amazed no one else sees it.

It's Sunday morning, I didn't have enough beer to bother me. I'm all bright eyed and bushy tailed. I watch the family climb into the truck to go to church. I quit going about two years ago. I couldn't play that game anymore. Mom says it hurts her heart, Dad says I'm making a big mistake, Kit is jealous as all hell, and Grandma mutters about hell fire and crap. According to my version, remember the Gates, I'm still a category 3 unless I have some mind altering experience.

Sunday is my favorite day cause everyone is gone and I can stop working so hard for a while. 95% of what I do has to be done, but about 5% I do just to keep my mind occupied. So, on this beautiful Sunday morning, in a place of contradictions, I saddle Kick, whistle up Jasper and we ride.....up into the bluffs.

The bluffs always make me feel close to God. Not the God of the bible or church or those lizard tongued evangelists spewing their hate and biding their time til Gate #1. No, this is the God that tells me I'm worthy and holds me when I can't do it anymore. I'm not sure what he is or why we're here, but I do know that without a sense of faith in something, you're alone.

See, the hell that we are all so afraid of, to my way of thinking, would just mean being cut away from God, from the energy he gives you. We tend to move in his grace everyday, but we ignore it until finally we feel like we are the power. Bad call.........your choice, but bad call.

Ever done the one grain of sand thing? Sat on the beach and let sand run through your fingers? You are like just one of those grains of sand. He hasn't got time to concentrate on you with all those other 'grains' going wonky too, so you've gotta get it together and do the best you can. I know the best you can sometimes is horseshit, but dang! When it's truly your best, it'll get it done.

How many times in your life have you walked down a dark quiet path in the woods or sat on a bench in the park or on the end of a pier, anywhere, and hoped with all your heart that the person you want would just KNOW where you are, just feel it and come to you? Never happens, does it? You sit, running all the words, all the looks, all the gestures over in your head til the noise implodes and finally, you sigh. He may be sad, he may be anguishing over the pain you might both be in, but he isn't going to come. He doesn't even know to come where you are. It's ridiculous in its futility, but you feel let down all the same.


There they sit on their usual pew, the sun shining down through the little stain glass window behind the pulpit; the Kelcher family, father, mother and child.

Callie has her tiny dolls that she is feeding Cheerios from a snack Ziploc bag. Becky is sitting very still, hands folded, listening intently (Bran had to assume). His mind had gone for a long journey elsewhere.

Back to last night, after he had sucked in enough cold air to clear his head and walk back into the saloon. Nothing had changed, the band was still playing, hooked on Willie Nelson now. Bran's mind registered the song and then sighed as he felt the words flow into his already confused heart:

"Maybe I didn't love you quite as often as I could have,
Maybe I didn't treat you quite as good as I should have,
If I made you feel second best, girl, I'm sorry, I was blind,
But you were always on my mind................"

In their bed, later that night, he tried, he really tried. She was a beautiful girl, and in the dark, the feel of her skin was almost enough. The silk of her skin, the tingle he could almost grasp; his body responded to the smell of her, the heat, and he could almost convince himself this was the way it should be for him. He was made to do this, not want someone else who was made the same way. The last times he'd been here with Becky in their bed, he had not spoken at all. The words he needed to say just froze in his throat. He found that he couldn't say lies that started with "I want" or "I feel" or "Oh God"....The one thing he refused to do, the one thing that, if he started, it would be the ruin of him, would be to let that face, that laughter into his thoughts. He could be with Becky, he could live his life, but if he let Trip into these moments, he was lost.

She was second best. She was always on his mind...........He didn't know the answer to any of this.

Rolling off her, he threw one arm over his eyes and rubbed at his forehead.

He felt like such a hypocrite. He just wanted to sleep.

The dream forced its way in. The woods were darker, the ladder higher still, almost disappearing into the black of the night. There was no door, just the top of the ladder propped against the sky.

Willie Nelson was sitting on a stone wall strumming on a battered guitar, the words soft in the night air:

"Little things I should have said and done,
I just never took the time,
But you were always on my mind."

Bran knew without looking down that the snow was almost knee deep and that he was naked. It was like he couldn't have any clothes unless he stepped onto that first rung.

"Brandon, here's your jacket," he heard Becky calling, but she was only holding out an eagle feather. "You need this," she called.

Then the voice said, "One."

"No, please, I can't."

"Of course you can."

"No, you don't understand. I only have a feather."

"A feather will do."

Bran looked back at Becky, but now she was turning away. "Becky, my feather?"

"Lie for it, Brandon. Lie for the feather," she said and began to walk toward the house. He could see Callie hanging from the upstairs window, one hand offering him something shiny. "Here, Daddy."


"Stop, Trip. Stop counting. I can't hurry."

"I didn't say you had to. I only have til three though."

"Why? What happens at three?"

"The eagles fly away."

"What? Okay, maybe I can." He ran toward the ladder, but the snow held him back.

Just as he heard Trip say, "Thr......................", his foot stepped up on the first rung.

That was all. He woke up to the sound of Callie's giggles as she jumped into their bed asking for breakfast.

So, here he sat in church, his daughter sitting between Becky and him, little dolls walking up and down his thigh, wondering what would happen now that he had put his foot on the ladder and wondering where Trip was.

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