In Skater's Time

by Rick Beck

Chapter 4

Looking Out

As the days passed, I spent enough time alone to convince me that I needed to change my approach. Politely waiting for someone to stop, once they noticed me, realizing I was new, didn't work.

I'd hit the street with my board almost every day. The skater's I'd seen hadn't been within a half mile of where I lived. I'd stopped several times as skaters overtook me on the sidewalk. They whizzed past me like roller derby skaters, breaking a jam, because I slowed down to engage them, they were gone before I could open my mouth.

I waved at skaters across the streets, which were four to six lanes wide in places where I saw them. If they saw me, they pretended they didn't, because no one returned my wave. I knew one thing about California skaters, they had gotten themselves in a big damn hurry, but this was California, they were already in the land of milk and honey. Didn't anyone take the time to enjoy it?

After a couple of weeks of being ignored, I'd have enjoyed it a lot more if someone stopped to talk to me, but I didn't think anyone would. This called for a more bold approach. How did you stop boys overtaking you on the sidewalk?

He came toward me at a good clip. I made up my mind that this was the guy who would stop to talk to me. I stood in the middle of the sidewalk, making it impossible for him to get around me, without going off the concrete.

As he closed in on me from a half block away, he didn't slow down. The first thing I noticed about him were his eyes. They were focused on me, and his eyes were as big as silver dollars. The second thing I noticed was his side. The boy was wide. He was no older than I was, but he was wide, and he looked determined. This boy was on a mission as he seemed to pick up speed, as he approached the road block standing in front of him.

He wasn't going to stop. He took it in good faith, once he was on top of me, I'd move out of his way. Any person who wasn't crazy, would step aside, but I made up my mind to hold my ground. He kept on coming.

It's now or never. I flipped my board up, holding it in front of me.

He could get around me, but not on his board he couldn't. He'd need to get off his board to do it. That would put us face to face, and if he was crazier than I was, we'd both end up on the ground.

I was ready to duck, once I saw the whites of his eyes. He was irritated by my refusal to move. I was relieved, when his feet hit the concrete well beyond what I'd seen as the point of no return.

He bailed out, moving onto the grass, board in his hand. He certainly knew his limitations, another second and we'd both gone ass over tin cups.

"You crazy or what?" he drawled like any angry skater would.

He wasn't any taller than I was, but he was way wide, like a linebacker wide, but agile enough to avoid skating over top of me. He was the aggrieved party, and had every right to be angry, but I was desperate to talk to someone.

Maybe I should have stopped someone less wide. He looked angry enough to punch me in the face. I did have my skateboard to use to fend off any punch.

"No, I'm from the East Coast. I just moved here. I'm trying to find skaters. We all hung together back east. Out here, everyone seems to be going the other way. If I'm on the street with a another skater, he doesn't want to stop. I only want to know where the skaters hang out."

"Where back east?" he asked, changing tunes.

"Massachusetts," I said.

"I'm from Arkansas," he said, "Moved here last year."

"Do you know President Clinton?" I asked.

"Clinton? No. I don't know the president," he said suspiciously.

"Neither do I," I assured him, as I searched for common ground.

"Cool," he said. "Look dude, I'm in a bad way," he said, pulling down on the front of his black spandex. "This girl I been with called, and she wants to give me a return performance. I ain't been with no one since I been with her. So you see, I need to get going, before someone else beats my action."

He pulled down on what was a considerable bulge in his spandex shorts, but since I'd been in California, everyone seemed to be sporting a bulge of proportions the boys in Massachusetts didn't sport, because we wore baggies. It was an interesting source of apparel, especially when the wide body in front of me, kept pulling on his equipment.

"I just want to find some skaters. Find a place where they hang out," I said.

"I'd take you with me, but I don't know if she'll do two of us," he said, more agreeable than guys back home would be, when it came to girls.

"That's cool. Just tell me where skaters hang," I said.

"The mall. Go toward Santee, when you hit Broadway, hook a left. The malls down a mile on the right side of Broadway. Some skaters hang on the lawn on the far side of the mall. We move around. We hit the mall, if there's nothing to do."

"Cool," I said, thinking I'd made first contact.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. I'd stopped the skater, and it didn't require any broken bones, or a fist fight.

Why didn't I ask him his name?

Surfing is the doorway to infinity.

The perfect wave is an illusion, until you're on it.

The truths of California were simple enough. The Beach Boys could tell a Massachusetts boy most things he needed to know about being in tune with the California culture. Now that I knew where skaters went, I stood a better chance of meeting boys who had things in common with me.

Unfortunately, the road map to where you found the things the Beach Boys sang about, wasn't as clear as it could be. The Beach Boys' culture, surfers, hot rods, and the land of endless summer, stimulated many a Massachusetts boy, but once one got to California, and he found out how huge California was, were did he start?

I had finally gotten my first break, and I intended to make the most of it.

Talking to one skater gave me hope. I'd broken the ice, and I knew, if push came to shove, I could stop another skater, but I was in my third week on the streets of California, and at least I knew of one place to go, where skaters went. It gave me the boost I needed, and my spirits were on the rise.

My first priority after relocating was finding kids that would accept me as is. I'd know them when I saw them because they too would be on wheels. It would be a delicate balance, fitting in without standing out. I wasn't sure how to make new friends because I had kept the same ones since I started junior high school.

When my father took a job in San Diego, it changed everything. I left the only friends I'd known. For me, they were comfortable, easy to be around. All I had to do was show up. No one asked for more, because we'd always been friends, and all we needed to do was show up.

I needed to find a way to fit in with new people, who didn't know me, and being me might not be as easy as it once was. I knew, no matter who I met, the kids would have been friends for forever. Letting a new kid in their group wasn't really on their minds. I needed to put it on their mind. I needed to fit in.

Acceptance was a tricky substance. You needed to be original enough to be interesting, and not so original that people looked on you as being different. Different could be a deal killer in a new place. I was different, but it wasn't something I was going to spread around. All the guys I ran with back home, were different. It was the kind of difference that worked well.

It wasn't the kind of difference that stood out. One boy played classical piano, and one boy was into European soccer, but when we came together, we were into skating. We all had a board, and we were always on the move.

Not everyone knew the finer details about each others life, because we were all skaters, and being skaters is what brought us together,. No one told tales, because we were all OK. When we weren't on our skateboards, we went our separate ways. I might knew more about one boy than other boys did, but none of us knew everything about every skater.

What we knew was, as long as your wheels turned together, we were OK. My difference was a bit more complicated than most of the guys. I'd never shared it with any of the kids back home. Because I thought I might be gay, discussing it with my buds wasn't a smart move. I'd heard the jokes and I knew all the slang for gay people. The idea I'd be rejected by my friends, should I come out to them, kept me quiet.

I'd been figuring for a long time, my life will take a turn, somewhere along the line, and I'd be clear about the gay deal, and how strong my feelings might be on that front. Starting over in California did present me with the opportunity to explore my feelings more completely. I wasn't going to come out as gay, but I wasn't going to deny it either. It was still a fine line, but my feelings told me that I needed to face up to what the feelings I had meant.

From what other guys said, my difference wasn't the kind of difference you wanted to talk about. I understood that, but feeling what I felt meant most of the guys felt something different. I wasn't honest about my feelings, and I wondered how honest my friends were about their feelings.

When you grow up with the same guys, you don't notice the slow changes that take place, as you are getting older. I was cautious and there was no reason for me to come out, before I was absolutely, positively, sure. Except for a couple of circle jerks in junior high school, I'd remained noncommittal about my true feelings.

Some boys were way more adventurous that I was. Not only were they successful in the quest for girls, they'd give the rest of us a blow by blow description of the kinds of things they'd done, and the girls they did it with. These were the more aggressive among us, and it wasn't hard to accept that aggressiveness extended into the sexual arena as well.

Although, I sensed, some tall tales were a little too tall to be believed. I would never say so, because such stories got most of the boys going in a way it was fun to see for someone who felt what I felt about boys.

I'd given up on the idea that I would grow out of my feelings for boys. I was well into high school, and my sexual thoughts were about boys. Nothing was changing, except my feelings were growing stronger. These feelings were more demanding, when it came to seeing guys I dreamed about being with.

Now, with no one to hang with, it was on my mind all the time. I couldn't go out without eyeballing boys, wondering what they'd be like, and I didn't know what that meant. I would have been happy if I didn't think about sex and boys all the time. I didn't know how not to think about what I thought about.

In that spirit, I kept my eyes open for any boy with red hair. I'd seen the boy with auburn hair one time, and I was still thinking about him. Which merely made my plight more immediate. I couldn't get him off my mind.

The only difference between him and most boys I liked, he'd been older. I was sure he was in his twenties, but he was far better looking than most boys were at sixteen and seventeen. He had matured, and he'd done it nicely.

It wasn't like I knew where to find guys in their twenties. We didn't travel in the same circles. I doubted I'd be running into the red-head among the teenagers I'd like to hangout with. Maybe, if I took an interest in older boys, they'd take an interest in me, but I wasn't ruling anything out at this point.

I liked girls. They were easy to talk to, easier than guys. The

problem was, I liked girls as friends, not girlfriends. I felt no romantic feelings for girls, but I got along with them better than I got along with some guys. Girls were smarter than boys, but they had to be careful not to be too smart in front of boys they liked romantically. Girls knew stuff about boys that boys never thought about, but if you became friend with girls who talked about such things, you could learn a lot about the opposite sex, which was the same sex as me in this case. Girls gave me things to think about that no boy would ever bring up.

I knew my friends, and they knew me. Doing something that might change things between us wasn't an option for me. I was comfortable, and comfortable was good. I found some of the boys I ran with interesting, but not interesting enough to blow my cover, trying to find out if they were keeping secrets that might make us a lot more compatible.

I didn't know how to stop feeling what I was feeling. I hadn't told anyone and now it seemed better not to. I didn't figure to make too many friends if that got out. I'd hope to meet someone like me. I'd been thinking that since I turned twelve. As much as I didn't like what I was feeling about other boys, I'd hoped to explore it just once if I found a guy that would.

I was in a new place. I was starting over with friends. I intended to include at least one gay friend among the boys I made friends with. I'd tell him my secret, and he'd tell me his, and it would take a lot of weight off of me. I was sure that secrets weren't a good thing to keep, if you could avoid keeping them.

I now had one place to go, where I'd been told the skaters hang. While I was in no hurry, because it was early, I decided to skate by the front of the mall, and stop on the lawn on the far side. Broadway was a main street. There was a lot of traffic near the mall, which included foot traffic on both sides. If I hung around long enough, I'd meet someone.

I skated to the far side of the mall. There was a tall, thin, blond boy, with his skateboard beside him, sitting on a patch of lawn, next to the mall, and between there and the corner. I sat down next to the boy, before he could object. He watched me as I sat next to him.

"I'm Z," I said, immediately offering him my hand.

He was cute, and he didn't seem in a hurry to take off, after we shook.

"I'm Gordo," he said. "What's the Z for?"

"Zane," I said.

"Good choice. Z is definitely an improvement. Do you write, Z?"

"You've read Zane Grey?" I asked.

"Heard of him. I don't know if I read something he wrote. I'm not a big reader," Gordo said.

I sat close to Gordo, so if he started to bolt, I had a chance of introducing myself, before he could get away. He didn't bolt. Actually, Gordo was friendly, not to mention cute. The most curious thing about him, when he leaned to shake my hand, our leg touched. He made no effort to untouch my leg. If it didn't bother him, it sure didn't bother me.

We sat with my leg against his leg. I thought I might be making too much out of a leg touch. It's just that guys didn't allow their bodies to touch back home. It was a policy not to make any unnecessary physical contact with another boy, if it could be avoided. I guess it always could be avoided, and was, and even if we sat close together, maybe a couple months out of the year, one or two boys might have worn shorts, but it was another policy not to show your legs.

Because I'd been skating since I was ten, my legs were muscular and they were well shaped. I'd seen some of the guys I ran with in the showers at school, and we all had muscular legs. I certainly didn't mind showing mine.

Gordo's legs were even more muscular than mine. He also wore spandex, which most all the boys did, and even sitting down, I got a good view of where he kept his equipment. You couldn't miss it in those shorts, and he smiled at me after a few minutes of glancing at the front of his shorts.

"Dude, you can't do that here. I mean you can, and boys do, but you'll give guys the wrong idea if you look at their dicks?" Gordo said with a smile.

"We don't have shorts like that at home. I don't know anyone who would wear something that outlined their dick," I said.

"I know the feeling," Gordo said. "Back in Wyoming you'd get yourself socked if you got caught looking at a boy's dick. Then, he'd take you in the woods and cornhole you for good measure," Gordo said with a laugh. "Getting caught looking at some dudes can pay off in the end."

Gordo laughed at his joke.

"Sounds strange no matter which side of that story you're on," I said.

"It is weird. Out here it's far more relaxed. Guys don't care, but if they know you'll do that, you need to come across when their horny. I thought you ought to know that," he said.

"I've never done anything, so giving someone the wrong idea would be hard. I'd have to know what it was all about first," I said, not thinking it over.

"A few of the guys go that way. You won't have any trouble finding out, but if you get a rep, don't say I didn't warn you," Gordo reminded me.

"No, I won't. Being new, I don't know much of anything," I said.

"Well, if you want to try something, let me know. I'd be willing to help you out if you are trying to figure things out for yourself," he said.

"You would?" I asked.

"That's what friends are for. Not much I haven't tried, on account it's the only way you learn stuff. It's the same with all of us," Gordo said.

"I'm glad I met you first. I might have gotten off on the wrong foot with another boy. I want to make friends. Would do to get the wrong reputation."

"You're right there," he said. "I'll answer your questions. I'll keep you straight, if I can."

I wasn't sure I wanted to be kept straight, but the idea of having a boy to advise me wasn't a problem. Gordo seemed OK, as he sat next to me, watching the traffic turning off of Broadway, to turn down beside the mall.

"Got to go. There's my ride. See you later, Z," he said, crossing the street and getting into a car that stopped near the corner. I couldn't see the driver. I thought it might be his dad, but my dad didn't even know where the mall was.

In a couple of days I'd talked to a couple of guys, and I'd found one spot where at least one skater hung out. I knew Gordo, and I knew a horny linebacker, who must stop by that patch of grass on the far side of the mall.

I felt like I'd finally made progress.

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