Marco in the Park

by Nick Brady

Part 12

We both slept in on Saturday morning. It had been a great week but we were ready to be back home and settle into the usual routine. We spent Saturday doing laundry and cleaning out the refrigerator. There were some leftovers that were starting to grown mold cultures that we doubted were a new strain of penicillin so tossed them all out to start over. The first thing we did on getting home the night before was shift our fish fillets to the freezer. They were not quite thawed so we figured that Bobby had done a good job and they would keep fine. Perhaps we would save them for a dinner with Wayne and David. We went to the market and started over on milk, eggs, and other essentials. Marco picked out a roasted chicken, some vegetables and a big box of Bisquick. We wanted a little of our own brand of home cooking and he planned to make a big pot of chicken and dumplings. By now I had wisely turned most of the cooking over to him.

After putting things away, Marco started in on dinner. He pulled all the roast chicken from the carcass and diced it into bite sized chunks. The carcass and skin went into our crock pot with a can of chicken stock and some seasonings that he claimed were proprietary. An hour later he drained all the stock through a sieve then poured the stock back into the pot and added the chicken, diced carrots, potatoes, chopped celery and a can of green peas, then brought it to a boil and turned it down to a simmer. While it was cooking he mixed a bowl of Bisquick with milk until it was a little sticky for biscuits, shaped them into balls and dropped them into the broth.

He put the lid on the stock pot and grinned at me. "You are twenty minutes from paradise."

"From the way it smell I think I am there already."

Twenty minutes later the lid came off and the dumplings had doubled in size. They were fat and shiny, and I began to salivate.

"We have to wait a few minutes for it to rest a little and let the juice thicken," he told me. "Set the table and pour us some cold milk. That goes perfectly with this stuff."

I impatiently followed his instructions and sat expectantly while he ladled out two steaming plates and put them in front of me, "my God that smells good!"

He laughed. "It helps that you are really hungry. It might need a little salt and pepper. You can add it at the table but you can't take it out."

I scooped up a fork full and blew on it to cool it off enough to eat it. It was wonderful. I paused just long enough to say, "You have outdone yourself young man. This is fantastic."

"You like it?" he grinned.

"Ummm!" I replied.

"I hope so because there is enough here for several more meals," he said.

I nodded my head and devoted myself to his creation. We dispensed with conversation and I asked for another dumpling.

"Sure, if we eat all the dumplings I can make some more biscuits and it will be just as good – almost," he grinned.

As we were washing up I told him. "That's it, I quit pretending to cook. I have been totally outclassed. You are doing the cooking from now on."

He just grinned.

Sunday morning he was up and dressed. "You going to church this morning?"

"I usually do. You're getting to be a regular," I told him.

"Maybe. I kind of like your church," he said.

"It's our church," I reminded him.

We fixed some eggs and toast, and had time to look at the paper before the service. We were a little early and sat in our usual place. Before long Wayne and David came in and sat in front of us.

"Good to see you guys. How was the big trip?" Wayne asked.

"It was great!" Marco said. "We'll tell you about it after the service."

The service was nice, as it always was. I noticed that Marco was becoming adept at the Episcopal aerobics, standing, sitting and kneeling at all the right places. Over coffee and cookies he did most of the talking, relating the short version of our adventure. He glossed over our visit to my mother but went into some detail about the fishing trip.

"You should see the fish we caught," he said. "They are in the freezer waiting for you guys to come over."

I raised my eyebrows. "Marco is becoming quite the chef. He made a fantastic pot of chicken and dumplings last night." Our friends looked genuinely interested.

"We will look forward to that," David said.

The after church crowd thinned out and I saw Marco speak to Father Hoover. The conversation was brief but they both concluded by nodding their heads.

We considered going home for another round of last nights dinner but decided to go light for lunch and drove through the Sonic for a chili cheese dog. We sat in the car while we ate.

"I saw you talking to Fr. Hoover," I mentioned.

Marco considered his reply as he ate his tater tots. "Yeah, I'm going to go by and talk to him Tuesday after school."

"You are getting serious about this church thing."

"Well, we are just going to talk," he seemed to be thinking. "Does he know we are gay?"

I was a little surprised at the question. "Does that make a difference?"

He scowled a little. "Well, you know, I thought it might."

"I don't know what he knows. I doubt it would make much difference to him either way."

Marco gave me a sideways glance. "I mean if that comes up, would I be out of place to say that we are gay? Like, would that be an invasion of your privacy?"

I laughed. "Oh, I see what you are getting at. I guess the short answer is, no, at this point I don't guess I really care. To be honest, Hoover isn't dense, I suspect he's figured out we are a couple. But I bet he is not going to ask you."

Marco looked at me. "You know where I'm coming from. I thought I might talk to him about it."

"Be my guest. You should be able to talk to your priest about anything."

He nodded his head as if that were a new concept to him. We sat and finished our lunch.

He wadded up our trash and stuffed it into one of the paper bags, and changed the subject. "Are we going to do anything this afternoon? I don't have to be at work until 4:00."

"Sure, that would be nice. What would you like to do?"

"I don't know, just something. I have to go to school in the morning and we will be back to the usual grind. Seems like we should do something." He thought a minute. "Could we go over to Philbrook? We haven't been there in a long time."

I chuckled. "I still can't believe you like art museums."

"Hey, it's a nice place, all the painting and sculptures. And I like the garden out back. We did a lot of fun stuff on our trip but we didn't have time to go to anyplace like that."

"You bet," I started the car and we drove up Peoria to the museum.

We parked and walked into the former mansion of one of the founders of the Phillips 66 oil company. The home itself and a large annex house a permanent collection of art from all over the world, and a rotating collection of traveling exhibits from various sources. When we walked into the entry Marco stopped to look at the larger than life statue of a nude male by Rodin.

"I really like that," he walked all around, looking at it from different angles. "It has a rough look about it but it almost seems alive, like he is about to move."

We spent the next hour walking through the current exhibit, then walked through the old mansion whose rooms were filled with part of the permanent collection, European and American masters, Asian art, textiles, several rooms of Native American art from pre-Columbian times to the present day. Marco took it all in and appreciated it, although neither of us knew much about the history of the artists.

"This stuff is really neat," he said. "Now lets go out to the garden."

We walked out the back of the mansion and down the ornate stone steps to a beautifully landscaped garden surrounding a pond. It bore an intentional resemblance to the garden painted so many times by Monet. At the end opposite the mansion was a lovely slender white cupola which stood on top of a raised area. We walked around the garden to sit on the benches inside the cuppola.

Marco recalled, "When we were here last summer the garden was full of flowers, but even now it's pretty, all the dried grasses and stuff. They have color too, soft shades that change when they move." We could see the bright orange and yellow Koi swimming in the pools.

"It's kind of like the sunrise over the water," I reminded him. "Every time you look, it's a little different." He nodded.

"It's so pretty," he said. "I like pretty things."

"Did you ever try to paint, or draw?"

"I used to like to draw race cars," he chuckled. "Like that stuff on the wall of your old room."

"Maybe you should get a paint set and try it again," I suggested. "You might have a talent there."

"Aw, I just like to look," then he shrugged. "Maybe."

It was close to 3:00 and we started back to the apartment. Our vacation was at a close and it was time to resume our usual routine. He dressed for work and I dropped him off at Luigi's then went back to wait for him to get off.

He called at 10:15 and I picked him up and drove the short distance back home. He counted out his cash tips and pulled out his check from the weekend. He stuffed the check and most of the cash into an envelope to deposit in the bank the next day after school. We microwaved some more of his chicken and ate the last of the dumplings. We showered and went to bed, making some extra time for love.

Now we were back in our usual routine. He fixed us some breakfast and we talked a little, then he carried his bike out and rode off to school. I drove myself to work. He got back before I did and made something for supper then while I cleaned up he did his school work. He was serious now, trying to keep his grades up and hoping for some kind of scholarship.

We started looking at college catalogs, talking about different programs and estimating expenses. He decided that he would try and get his basics done at the Tulsa Community College before the investment of one of the universities. He was adamant about staying in Tulsa for school.

"The University of Tulsa is a great school," he said. "But way too expensive. I need to go to OSU Tulsa or the Tulsa campus of Oklahoma University. I don't even want to think about going to school somewhere else. But I don't know what I can afford.

"Don't give up on a scholarship," I reminded him. He was not hopeful.

"How am I going to get a scholarship? I don't play football or anything," Marco protested.

"That's not really true," I tried to explain. "Do you know that more students go to college on academic scholarships than athletic scholarships? Besides, some scholarships are based at least partly on need. You might qualify for more than you think."

Marco looked thoughtful, if not convinced. "I guess I could try. But I don't even know how to begin. I never thought seriously about going to college. I figured I didn't have a chance at it."

"Don't you have a counselor at school you could ask about financial assistance?"

"Yeah, I think so. Mr. Blankenship is supposed to do that kind of thing."

"Well ask to talk to him. You have good grades, and for sure you have financial need. I imagine you will have to get your mother to supply some information on her income."

Marco snorted. "Fat chance of that. Her income is sort of cash only. Besides, she doesn't give a damn whether I go to college or not. When I tried to talk to her about it last year it seemed to piss her off, like I had the big head or something."

"Listen, if she has qualified for Section 8 housing she has had to give somebody a statement of her financial need," I reminded him.

"Well maybe so. She gets food stamps and she has one of those WICA cards she buys groceries with," Marco remembered.

"Right. I bet you can get that information out of her. Look Marco, you have to try. I have never thought of you as a quitter."

Marco didn't like that. "You know I'm not a quitter," he replied sharply.

"Well then, get your ass in gear and start working on this."

When I got home the next day Marco had dinner ready and was in a more positive mood.

"I talked to Mr. Blankenship today," he told me.

"Really? What did you find out?" I asked.

"I explained that I wasn't living with my mother and had been on my own for over 6 months. I just told him I was living with a friend, but had no plans to go back to my mother. He seemed to know a little about my situation which sort of surprised me.

I smiled at him. "Guidance councilors know more than you think they do.

"I guess. Anyway he had some forms for me to fill out and we talked about Tulsa schools. He liked the idea of TCC first then maybe OSU Tulsa. He said that I probably would qualify for a Pell grant and that the state has some grants based on need. He got on the school computer and looked at my grades, which are good by the way. He also told me that being in the school orchestra was a good thing for me too."

"That shows you are a well rounded person, that is a good thing," I reminded him.

"I haven't played my violin since we went on our trip. You want to play something together?" he asked.

That seemed like a good idea. I turned on my little keyboard and we worked through a couple of things. We had graduated to another collection of violin piano duets that David had loaned us. They were simple arrangements of some nice classical things. Marco had a nice touch on the violin. The borrowed school instrument had a shallow tone but Marco made it sound sweet. I thought he was pretty good. My playing was getting better now that we were playing together. It was a nice thing to share with a friend.

The next week Marco had some news to share over dinner.

"Mr. Blankenship called me in this afternoon. He looked over the forms I filled out and did something with them. He said he looked at my grades, and at my ACT scores and said he had some good news for me."

"Hang on. Your ACT scores? I don't think you mentioned that before. When did you take your ACT tests?"

"Last November, just before Thanksgiving. I thought I told you that."

"No, I don't think so. When did you get the results?"

"I haven't seen them yet, but Mr. Blankenship had them. He said they were good."

"Did he say what your scores were?" I was very curious.

"I guess there are different scores for different areas like Math, Science, English and whatever. I will get that in a week or so. But he did tell me that my overall ACT score was a 33. He said that was pretty good."

"Pretty good? That's terrific. Mine wasn't that high. Damn, I'm impressed."

Marco grinned. "That's what Mr. Blankenship told me. He said that puts me above the 95th percentile. That means I scored higher than 95 percent of the people taking the test."

"Marco, that is great news. Congratulations."

Marco's smile got bigger. "No, that's not it, or that's only part of it. The really good news is that he thinks I qualify as an Honors Program Scholar at TCC. That means full tuition and even a little stipend. The stipend isn't much, but it is supposed to pay for your books and fees. If I keep my grades up it's good for up to 8 semesters."

I jumped up from the table and hugged him. "Marco, that's fantastic. I am so thrilled for you."

He just kept grinning. "Yeah, that's pretty cool. I have to apply for it but he thinks I will qualify. He'll write a letter indicating that I am in need of financial assistance, and my shit don't stink, you know, that sort of thing." Now he was really laughing. He shook his head. "I can't believe it. I guess I'm going to college."

I sat back down and looked at him with admiration. "So now what do you do? Have you thought about a major?"

Marco sat back and grinned. "What do I want to major in? I never thought I would have to think about that. Blankenship gave me a TCC catalog to look through, and I thought maybe we could talk about it."

"Well, you can get some required courses out of the way first. That will give you time to think about what area you would like to go into." I thought for a minute. "It's good for 8 semesters? That's a full 4 years."

"Well, here's the thing. Tulsa Community College only offers Associate degrees, not a BS or BA like a four year school. A lot of students go part time while they are working and might go 8 semesters just to get the Associate degree. I want to go full time and go as fast as I can. I imagine I will get everything I want out of TCC in no more than 4 semesters. I want to be sure everything I take will transfer to someplace like Oklahoma State. I think I would like to go to OSU Tulsa if I can get some help with that."

"You're pretty excited about this." I smiled at him.

"I am, really excited. I want go to to college so bad I can taste it but was always afraid to get my hopes up. I have to admit I'm pretty pumped up about this," he took a breath. "Mr. Blankenship wants me to take another test, something called the Myers-Briggs test. It is supposed to tell me what sort of things I'm best suited for."

"I remember taking that. It was probably the reason I got into computer programming. That is a good thing Marco. Oh, I am so proud of you!"

We sat together on the sofa and looked at the TCC catalog, then some pamphlets his counselor gave him on OSU and a few more places. He was full of plans.

By the next week he had taken the Myers-Briggs and brought home the results for us to look at. He was too excited to bother with cooking dinner so we sent out for pizza and poured over the test results.

"This says my highest correlation is with the fine arts, like music, painting and literature. I wouldn't have expected that," he said.

"It doesn't surprise me," I observed. "You are the ultimate museum freak. It means you are creative."

"The next is with analytic stuff, like computer programming or some kind of engineering. What's up with that?"

"Programming is very creative. I scored high in that. I can't say that surprises me either."

"But we don't even have a computer" Marco said. "The only time I ever messed around with a computer was at Grant's, and mostly I just hunted for porn. I've never learned to write a program"

I laughed. "I use my smart phone to look things up on the Internet. I don't really need porn when I have you around. Coding is pretty easy to learn actually. You can pick that up. What a programmer needs is a creative mind and an attention to detail, both of which you have. That might be a good choice for you."

"Hmm," he replied. "Then he started looking through the catalogs. I had never seen him quite so motivated, or quite so happy.

After some time, he laid down the catalogs and leaned into my shoulder. "Are you really proud of me?"

"I told you I was. I think you are about to come into your own, Marco. I knew that would happen, I just didn't know when. You've got the brains and you have the drive. All you needed was the opportunity."

Marco pulled my head down and kissed me firmly on the mouth. "Thank you," he said.

"What did I do, you are the one with the brains?"

He kissed me again. "You gave me the opportunity."

"Just make the best of this, that's all I ask of you." He kissed me again.

We undressed and showered together, washing each other very throughly. We moved into the bed and made love to each other, slowly, gently and fervently. We did the flip flop thing after careful preparation. This was not nearly the same as just having sex together, it was on a much different level. I wanted to give him pleasure and he wanted the same for me. We were both successful. It was better than just good.

The weeks went by and Marco applied for the scholarship from TCC. A short time later he came home to tell me that he had been successful. The decision he had to make was whether to begin in the fall or during the summer term.

"If I start this summer I might not be able to ride for Mercer and I could use the extra money."

"What for, you have a full ride at TCC."

"Yeah, but I need to start saving for OSU. That will be more expensive."

"Strike while the iron is hot," I told him."

"What does that mean?"

"That means I think you should start as soon as you can."

"Oh. I guess you're right. You generally are," he smiled.

Marco began to enjoy being a high school senior, which he had really not done before. There were activities – Senior Day, and some social events which I encouraged him to attend.

"But you won't be there," he complained.

"But your friends will be. Haven't you made some friends at school?"

"Well yes, but it's not the same."

"Go, have a good time and don't go home with anybody else."

He did. And he didn't. Rather he came home and told me how crazy some of the other kids acted.

"Honestly, you would think they were 6th graders," he complained.

"Well, most of your friends are old guys like me," I reminded him.

He came back later than usual from school one afternoon after meeting with Father Hoover.

"We had our talk," he told me.

"He wants me to be baptized the day before Easter, and I am supposed to meet with him a couple of times before then, like after church on Sunday. He wants to tell me about church traditions and stuff like that."

"Easter Eve is a very traditional time for baptism," I told him. "I think in the early church it was about the only time they would baptize people."

"That's what he said." He paused. "I told him that we were gay."

"Really? What did he say to that?"

Marco smiled. "He said that God loves everybody and that wasn't a problem. Just like you said he would."

"How do you feel about that?"

"I don't know, relieved I guess. Like I have been approved of or something."

"Like you are accepted?"

"Yeah, like that. I feel pretty good."

I smiled at him. "I'm so proud of you Marco. You are making a lot of really good decisions. Maybe you are conquering your demons."

He nodded his head. "Yeah, I think so too. But you know, so many things are going right that it almost makes me nervous."

"Don't be nervous. This is the result of doing what you are supposed to and making good decisions. This is the way life is supposed to be. Things will come along that throw us a curve, but we will get past those things too." I chuckled. "I think maybe the best decision I ever made was giving you a ride home those many months ago. That turned out to be a pretty good decision."

Marco gave me a very sweet smile. That's really a nice thing to say, Marty."

"It's true."

"I'm a lucky guy," Marco said.

Me too," I agreed. I think we are blessed.

We made plans to share our Red Snapper with David and Wayne. They had invited us over several times since Christmas and it was our turn. Marco did the honors.

David was the acknowledged chef for the couple and he was very interested in Marco's preparation. We had discovered some beautiful asparagus at the market and Marco entrusted me with preparing the salad, although he provided the instructions. Thin slices of fresh tomato, cucumbers and ripe avocado, tossed with a nice oil and vinegar dressing. David steamed the asparagus and watched with interest as Marco did the fish. We had purchased a bottle of Chablis for our wine drinking friends and Marco borrowed a splash of it for his masterpiece.

"See, you just saute one side in a little olive oil, then flip it over and sprinkle the other side with salt, pepper and a little chopped basil. OK, then slip in a little slug of the Chablis and put on the lid to let it steam, just a little now, so it will stay moist." David was practically taking notes.

"Where did this kid learn to cook?" he asked no one in particular.

"I saw this on a cooking show and have been waiting for a chance to try it."

"We may have to get a TV," I said.

We sat at the table and got ready to eat, but Marco held up his hand to stop us. "Marty, would you bless it please?

I held out my hands and the four of us joined hands around the table. "Lord, thank you for these friends and for this wonderful dinner. Bless this food to our use and us to thy service – and bless the hands that prepared it." And we all said Amen.

We all agreed that the fish was wonderful, the asparagus fresh and tender, and the avocado salad just the right compliment. "You are a wonderful chef," David told Marco. "I was taking notes on how you prepared this lovely Red Snapper."

"Caught it with my own hands," Marco grinned.

After a few minutes there was a break in the conversation and I announced, "Marco is going to be baptized on Easter Eve."

"Oh how wonderful," Wayne said. "That's very traditional, you know."

David added, "We will be there for sure. That's very nice, Marco."

Marco smiled but didn't reply.

I continued, "And he has a full scholarship for Tulsa Community College beginning this summer, and that's just the beginning for him."

All eyes were on Marco. "I've always wanted to go to college but I really didn't think it was a possibility so yes, I am very excited."

"Well," David smiled. "You are just full of surprises." Marco looked a little embarrassed.

"There is more fish," Marco offered.

"I couldn't say no," Wayne accepted. There were no leftovers.

We sat around the table and chatted for awhile then our guests excused themselves and we said goodnight. I help wash and put away the dishes and cooking utensils.

"You did a great job on dinner tonight," I told Marco.

"Thanks," Marco didn't have much to say.

"You OK? You were kind of quiet tonight."

"I'm alright. But to tell the truth I guess I was a little uncomfortable," he admitted.

"What's the matter? Your dinner was a big hit."

We sat down on the sofa. "Well, I felt kind of like a little kid. Oh, you are going to be baptized, how nice. Oh, you are going to school, what a good boy."

"I think they were just happy for you. Why would that make you uncomfortable?"

"I don't know, it just struck me funny. Maybe I'm tired or something," he tried to explain.

I thought a minute. "Maybe we need some friends closer to your age. I can see it might be awkward always being so much younger than the rest of us."

"No, that's not it. I don't want to be cranky." After a minute he said, "I'm sorry. To tell the truth I'm not comfortable around very many people. I like when it is just the two of us. I guess that sounds pretty selfish."

"You have been around Wayne and David before. What was different tonight?" I wondered.

"Never mind. I wish I hadn't said anything."

"I think maybe we put you on the spot, by reviewing your accomplishments. Maybe that was it. It was like you were expected to make a little speech. Was that it?"

He nodded. "I don't know, there was just something about it. Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. You feel the way you feel. You and I are so open with each other that I forget that you are really a very private person. I will try to remember that."

"Can we go to bed now? I'm really tired," he said.

"Sure. You did all the work tonight. Even caught dinner." That made him smile.

We undressed and went straight to bed, no shower, no mambo. I was a little concerned for him but thought he would talk about this when he felt like it, or not.

The Easter season came soon enough and after church on the Sundays during Lent, Marco had his conversations with Fr. Hoover. I encouraged him to consider buying a suit for the occasion.

"I never wore a suit in my life, why now?" He wanted to know.

"You would look great in a suit," I told him.

"If you say so."

"Well you would. But of course you don't have to. Just wear khakis and a sweater if you like."

"Maybe I will wear jeans and a teeshirt."

"Oh, you don't want to do that. You should look nice. It's a special occasion."

"What does it matter what I wear? This isn't about what I wear."

"Well you're right of course. It is about your personal commitment I suppose."

He thought for a minute. "Fr. Hoover said that in the early days people wore a white robe and went down to the river to get dunked."

"That's baptism by immersion, but we usually sort of sprinkle people in our church."

"That's what Hoover said, but he said that if I wanted to be dunked he could arrange it."

I was a little surprised but asked him. "Is that what you want?"

He shrugged. "If I'm going to do this it seems like I should do it right. What would you think if I did?"

I smiled at him. "I think that would be just fine. You should do what feels right to you. You want to be dunked?"

He looked at me and replied. "Yes, I think I would like that."

"Tell Father Hoover that's what you want to do and he will make it so."

Like most Episcopal churches, St. Jerome's did not have a baptismal pool, so a few arrangements had to be made. Fr. Hoover seemed delighted with the idea, and set about finding a suitable substitute for the River Jordan. He found a parishioner who had a small stock tank and made arrangements to have it scrubbed out and moved to the church courtyard.

I was to be Marco's sponsor and Godfather for the baptism. On the Sundays during Lent he brought Marco and myself up to the front of the church to ask the traditional question regarding his desire to be baptized. He took advantage of the simple ceremony to indicate that this baptism would be very traditional and would be done by immersion, proclaiming that this might be a first for St. Jerome's and suggesting that everyone should be sure and be present for this special event. There was a lot of talk about it.

The Saturday evening before Easter Sunday was what is called the Easter Vigil. Like the Christmas Eve service it began late and did not conclude until just after midnight when it as officially Easter morning. The baptism would be conducted just before the processional leading into the service. Marco was ready, wearing a white alb usually reserved for the acolytes who lit the candles.

The borrowed stock tank was scrubbed and filled with water and placed in the church courtyard. A teakettle was filled with hot water and ceremoniously poured into the tank as part of blessing the water. Marco was standing by and at the proper moment stepped into the water and asked to lie back so as to be properly dunked. He was not quite prepared for how little one teakettle of hot water could warm the water in the tank, which was very cold. He stepped inside, and plopped down in the water with an audible gasp. At the crucial moment Father Hoover pushed his head under the water and let him sputter as he intoned the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, making sure that Marco's head was fully under water for all three members of the Trinity. It gave us the shivers just to watch. Marco stood up and was handed a large beach towel and welcomed into the body of Christ. He sputtered and shivered as the assembled crowd applauded.

Marco reacted with a broad grin and detoured into the men's room to change into khakis and a sweater before joining the rest of the congregation for the remainder of the service.

"How do you feel?" I asked as he sat down next to me.

"Warmer now," he croaked.

"You could have been sprinkled," I reminded him.

"This was more fun," he grinned.

The service was beautiful with lots of music, and ended just after midnight. We were greeted by many people we had seen but not met, as they congratulated Marco and joked about the cold water. I wondered if he would be shy but seemed to enjoy the attention. There was a lot of laughing. It was a good thing for a number of reasons.

The school year ran on and Marco was amused by some of the activities. There was a Senior Tea which seemed to be intended to instill a basic knowledge of etiquette.

"You can't believe some of the guys on the football team, They are like animals, really ," he recalled.

There was a Senior trip which took the class to Oklahoma City to see the memorial for the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building.

"It was interesting, but kind of a downer for a senior trip. I was thinking a roller coaster or something like that,"

After Career Day Marco came back enthusiastic.

"Marty, everybody is looking for computer people. I was talking to some airline recruiters and they had some interesting things to say. They pay a lot of money!"

"Better than Luigi?"

"Oh yeah. But I would miss the tips," he grinned.

And then there was the Senior Prom.

"I'm not going," Marco declared.

"Hey, it might be fun, a band, lots of kids dancing around. You should invite some hot chick."

That got me a dirty look. "I'm not going."

"I went to mine," I told him.

"Really? Did you take a girl?"

"I did. I took Marianne."

"Who was she?"

"She was just a friend. I knew her from the third grade and she was really sweet. Neither of us dated much so I asked her if she would go to the prom with me. We danced a little then went to Braums for ice cream and I took her home. It was nice, really."

Marco seemed to think about that. "That was OK for you but I just don't want to do something like that. I don't have any friends who are girls, really, and I don't want to ask somebody just to be asking somebody."

"Hey, I'm not trying to talk you into anything. I just wanted you to think about it," I assured him.

"I appreciate that, but that's sort of thing is not who I am. We have been together for almost a year, Marty. If I didn't know who I was before we met, I do now. I am a gay boy and in a committed relationship with a man I love very much. I don't need to go to my high school prom with a manufactured date, OK?"

I threw up my hands. "I got it! That's fine, no prom for you."

Marco smiled at me. "Would you go with me?"

"Whoa, this is Tulsa, not San Francisco," I reminded him.

"Hey, we could rent matching tuxes and get little carnations for the lapels. What do you think?" He was grinning now.

"Oh Marco, surely you aren't serious. I can give you at least a dozen reasons why that's not a good idea."

"I'm not completely kidding, but maybe you see my point. I'm not going to do something if I'm not comfortable doing it," Marco smiled at me.

I looked at my young friend with admiration. He was right, no doubt about it. And I had to realize that despite our good relationship I sometimes treated him like a child. He was young and beautiful, but he was nobody's fool.

"I humbly respect your decision, Marco. Subject closed." I took his hand. "And I think I understand why you were uncomfortable with David and Wayne the other day. We love you, but I think we do patronize you sometimes. It has to do with the age difference, not your lack of maturity."

"I know. I understand all that, but it irks me sometimes. You guys were just laying it on a little thick."

Then Marco gave me that special smile he gets sometimes. "Enough of this shit. Want to take a shower and go to bed? Hmm?"

I thought that was a great idea. Nothing like good sex to clear the air. The flip flop thing had become a regular part of our love making. It took a little more time but was well worth it.

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