Walking Into Clouds

by Rick Beck

Chapter 3

The Craving

As the clouds hung low over Aurora, I thought about being comfortable with my friends of a lifetime. As graduation approached, we attended parties and cruised the streets of Aurora. We were best buds for a while longer.

It was fun. It was safe. It was familiar, but this period of my life was coming to an end. This wasn't what I intended to be doing once we graduated. I was going to move away from my friends and seek out men like me. My mind was made up.

Even early on, as I thought about calling one of my buds to see what he was doing, I didn't dial his number. I wanted to put distance between me and them. I needed to put distance between me and them if I was going to follow my plan.

I intended to follow my plan soon. The want became a need that was fast becoming an ache inside my mind. My plans were set aside for a season with another athletic team. I'd watched a rugby match on a field across town from where I went to school. I'd gotten the hang of the play by watching and asking questions. Approaching a local rugby club, the Panthers, they asked me to join.

It was something that went beyond my previous experiences with sports. I met new men while working my way into the lineup. Proving my ability meant more playing time. This satisfied the appetite I had for participating in competitive sports. Rugby became another sport I enjoyed playing.

Playing with the Panthers took me a step outside the familiar. The season was longer than seasons of sports I played in school. The Panthers car pooled to out of town matches. The time in the car together gave us time to get to know each other.

My rugby teammates wouldn't replace my buds but the comradeship satisfied my need to have male companionship. This was important while I considered how to find other men like me.

This was a baby step toward an uncertain future. Joining a team and taking a place in the lineup took work. In high school walking on the field was enough. Being athletic meant immediately being important to both the soccer and lacrosse teams.

I learned to be a better player because coaches made sure each player knew his individual role as well as the rules of the game. It's what athletic boys thrived on and lived for.

It took time to become friendly with members of each team I joined, but once I earned respect, some rugby players warmed up to me. I may have been new to the game, but athletics being athletics, instinct kicked in and other players knew if you could play the game.

I was planning a return to town for some time. Realizing I'd be on my own, I wanted to be comfortable doing it. I worried that I wouldn't be. I'd always had my friends to give me courage. While I wasn't afraid to go back to town, now that I knew where I was going, but the unknown aspect of that journey made me feel apprehensive.

I didn't have the slightest idea what I might find when I went looking for men who were like me. There were no coaches for this. I was on my own.

I adapted to rugby and joining a new team as an unknown rookie. It represented a leap of faith for me to go down that road. I was an outsider who knew none of the players or the game. Going to town by myself for the first time was like that.

I didn't know the players who would cross paths with me. I was five foot eleven and a hundred and sixty-five pounds. I wasn't easily intimidated but the thought of going to town alone intimidated me.

There was still the wall of the unknown standing between me and the nice boy I sought to find.

I wondered if I might be more intimidating than intimidated.

Sport and romance weren't that much a like, except you needed to stand up for yourself in both cases. You needed to stand your ground but not step on toes unnecessarily. I could do that but I had no idea what it would be like to meet a man I wanted to date.

I put off a trip into town long enough, while my hormones raged, demanding their due. As the urges became more insistent, my resistance weakened and it was time to go.

I wouldn't wait for rugby season to end. We played on Saturday afternoon. I took my bumps and bruises to the shower, once I was home. I put on a pair of tight two year old jeans and my black Willie Nelson Festival tee-shirt. It hugged both my arms and chest nicely.

Once ready, I went out to get into my black 2001 Silverado. The phrase, "Looking for love in all the wrong places" came to mind. I never looked for love anywhere before. By nineteen it was obvious that it wouldn't drop by and knock on my door.

I started the engine, turning out of the driveway toward town.

"On the Road Again," was the tape that kept me moving forward.

My toe kept time to Willie's easy going sound.

I was washed, deodorized, and in the wind. I was on my way down the yellow brick road and into the unknown. It was time.

I parked two blocks from the street that formed the easternmost border of the forbidden zone, where the glitz and the glitter dominated. I kept the park between the Silverado and the seedy side of town. It was a quiet spot in a safe neighborhood.

I stepped off the curb on the nice side of town and was met by a lightheaded feeling. It reminded me of getting my bell rung. My feet didn't feel like they were touching the ground. I was aware of the neon lights dead ahead. I knew where I was but I didn't recognize what it was I felt.

Low clouds had hung over Aurora all day. It was joined by a light mist as I stepped off the curb in the nice side of town and crossed into the forbidden zone. Each neon light took on an aura of its own as the mist kept me from seeing clearly. I stopped to get my breath once I reached the other side of the street. I felt dizzy.

There was a surreal aspect to the scene once I turned at the first corner. It was immediately a carnival atmosphere. There were melodious sounds. Men barked in echoing voices, pitchmen offering, 'What you came here to find.'

I moved past, turning down another street. I recognized it. This was the street where the girl, who Fred said needed a shave, was walking. The glow of the lights was even brighter. The mist and the clouds mingled in the glow. Cars moved at ten miles an hour. People passed me, hurrying to their destination, while I lollygagged, trying to get my bearings. People stood in small groups, discussing the possibilities, laughing, and having fun.

I collected two fliers before I looked down to see naked breasts and a pole dancer, dancing 'Just for you.'

I stuffed the fliers in the first trash can I passed, but before i reached the end of the block, I was handed two more, and invited inside.

"The girls are waiting for you, stud." the barker said.

I was nineteen. I hadn't been to town since just before graduation. I had begun to look more like a man and less like a boy. I didn't figure that would hurt me, even if I wasn't dying to get inside joints where girls were waiting for me.

I stopped to watch the bouncer herd four navy boys inside the bar. One, a blond boy a little smaller than I was, turned his head and he gave me a smile, looking over his shoulder at me as his buddies yanked him inside.

I thought of my buds, which of them might turn his head to look at another guy, while on the way to where the girls were waiting. I'd seen them doing things with each other, but they were straight, and so fooling around didn't mean anything. I didn't know how it was possible. While my friends were my friends, and I couldn't see one as a lover, how do you become sexual with each other and it not have it alter the friendship. I couldn't be sexual with them and that changed the friendship for me.

It wasn't the only confusing thing about what straight boys felt. It confused me enough that I resisted the urge to jump into the fray. Even though I was gay, I resisted the temptation to fool around with my best buds.

I kept walking, passing laughing happy people. There were more men then women, but there were women. Even on our journeys to town the women looked like working girls. With a closer look I saw they were with men and with other women. My perception was that girls in the forbidden zone were working there. I was wrong.

I turned at the next cross street where more people stood just back from the corner in a small circle. They were laughing as I turned right. I was following my nose and I'd walk until I reached friendlier territory. The first few blocks weren't unfriendly but I knew by the signs, I was in the heterosexual fun zone. I kept walking.

I had nothing against heterosexuals. Some of my best friends were most likely straight. What I was looking for would be less obvious. I doubted the gay fun zone had big bouncers at the door. These guys were there to usher otherwise willing patrons inside the door where they stood; heterosexual patrons.

Gay men didn't want to be pressured. I didn't want to be pressured. I wanted to take my time getting the feel of the streets around the gay zone and then I'd see if I couldn't find a nice man. Maybe he'd find me. After that, I didn't know what came next. I didn't know how far I wanted to go on my first time around.

It took a long time to get here. I would try not to hurry in an effort to create sparks and turn up the heat on my love life. I was interested in men. I was sure of that. The rest was speculation.

The hard part was done. I was where I needed to be. There were some risks I wouldn't take, because I wanted to survive, enjoy the experience, meet a nice boy, and fall in love. How hard could that be?

Playing back exciting images from my past made me more determined to seek a suitable outlet in the near future. Those images helped me make it through school. Now they furnished fuel to move me forward in my search for human contact. Having a lusty fire burning within me, I wanted to rush into a relationship that might put the fire out, but rushing was probably the worst thing to do.

I was accustomed to being erect most of the time, I learned to tuck it away to avoid stares from people who knew me.

My need had become greater than my fear and I would return to the forbidden zone as often as it took to find what I was looking for.

I kept my eye out for flamboyant colors and men with exaggerated motions, thinking they were a clue to the type of men who would be going to a gay place. Seeing a group of gay men might tip me off that I was in the right spot.

I gave no thought to how I was going to recognize gay men. If I walked right by a group of gay men, if they didn't react to me, I wouldn't know it. Looking in the mirror at the only gay man I knew, what part of me indicated that I was gay? How could I tell I was gay? Being gay was on the inside. Yes, I knew gay guys at school and they purposely dressed a certain way. I didn't think they did it to bring attention to themselves. I think they dressed according to what they liked. While most boys were in jeans and tee-shirts, the gay boys I knew favored color and fashionable designs. They validated who they were by what they were wearing.

Purposely avoiding that tactic, I went through high school relatively unscathed by hostility dished out to some gay boys. Now I wanted to come out to other gay men, I'd left my jock buddies to declare my independence. It was a lonely proposition but the one I picked for myself.

Had I been friendlier to the more obvious gay boys in school, I could have asked one of them where to go. Everything had tradeoffs. That was especially true when it came to being gay. I hid being gay. Athletics were more important to me than fooling around.

I did nothing to advance the team culture beyond the image of drooling gay boys eyeballing their junk. Now that I was out of school, I would deal with being gay differently. I could be more open but that didn't mean coming out to the rugby club.

I didn't regret keeping my sexuality to myself in school, but had I thought it through, understanding the consequences, I might have decided differently. As my father says, 'Hindsight is 20/20.'

I hadn't given any thought to the image I wanted to project as a gay man. I couldn't be flamboyant. I liked standing to one side, watching what was going on before I got involved. I suppose I was cautious. I didn't want to make a fool out of myself.

I was who I was. I would go slow. I wouldn't be as guarded as in school but I wouldn't be leading a gay pride parade either.

I didn't find much information on identifying gay men. Once I found one I liked, what came next?

A gay man was defined by his homosexual appetite. When someone says gay, sex immediately comes to mind.

Straight guys weren't defined by their sexual appetites. Heterosexual men have depth, character, and skills. Gay men are defined by sex above all else. While I regarded sex as a private affair and the way gay men were portrayed didn't encourage me that homosexuals were about to attain equal rights. I wasn't even hopeful.

I was here to find a man, regardless of how other people felt about it. I wondered how folks escaped being kept in a padded room, when no one, including the people writing the rules, follow those rules too closely if it was in their best interest not to.

I watched straight guys with girls at school. Some were members of the teams I belonged to. They met a nice girl. They wooed, held hands, went out together to dances and school events. Sometimes they shared affection, fell in love, and married.

My knowledge on the sexual proclivities of guys came from observations at school and from watching my buds have circle-jerks. I didn't date. I wasn't affectionate with anyone. As with most gay men, while in school I went without any physical contact not consistent with participation on athletic teams. It was still true to this day.

I learned what I could about being gay on my own and now I had come to the seedy side of town to finish my education. This was a place where being gay was safe from Puritan rules.

I didn't feel all that safe. I felt exposed, because I didn't know what I was doing, but come hell or high water, I would find a man, and we would figure out a way to have a fantastic life together.

I may not have known much but I knew there wasn't one rule that dictated any of this. Fate had a bigger hand in it than any rule. We needed to decide what makes us happy if we want to be happy.

I turned down the next street, watching a sign with rotating lights moving around the border of the sign. The pink and red bulbs caught my attention. There were people walking in front of me and behind me.

My mind was moving too fast for me to keep track of where I was after making several turns. I wasn't sure of where I left my car but I'd worry about that when it was time to find it..

My stomach churned and my crotch tightened as the excitement grew inside me. I was more alert to the people. I felt an uneasy stimulation surging as I moved on.

Men got my attention. Most who didn't seem to be going anywhere were older and had hungry eyes. Younger boys were less tuned into passersby and more interested in chatting up the boys they stood with. I found some of these boys attractive.

How did they know who was looking for action, or was the action inside the clubs? They were social outside the clubs and got down to business once they went inside? Some boys looked too young to be able to go inside the nearby clubs.

Why didn't I wear underwear?

Being erect while walking meant it rubbed against the stiff denim until it rubbed me raw. I wanted men to notice me but not for the bulge in my britches and now you couldn't miss it. That wasn't cool in a place like this. I didn't want to stop to pull my shirt out to hide the evidence. It would bring more attention to the bulging in my jeans.

I would find a place to sit down and while making sure no one was watching me, I'd ease my tee-shirt out of my jeans. As I looked around for a bench or railing where I could perform the operation, I bumped into a man standing with three other men.

"Excuse me," I said, looking at a tall middle aged man in leather pants that made my jeans look several sizes too large on me.

"Not a problem, sweet pea," he said.

He looked me over, stopping at the bulge in my jeans.

"You can bump into me any time you want. And while we're here, let me take care of that problem for you."

I backed up. One of the other three whistled.

"He's a keeper McGraw. Don't let him get away," one man said.

I found myself looking at a rather imposing bulge inside the leather pants. I could see the outline of the head of his cock about eight inches below his crotch, and it didn't look like it was hard yet.

I kept backing up and then turned to make a quick getaway. Laughter accompanied my retreat.

"McGraw, you and that horse cock run off another pretty boy."

I didn't turn to see who was talking. I turned at the next corner and then I turned again, which should have put me walking in the direction of where I left my truck. Once I hit Brand Street, I knew where I was and I beat a beeline for the Silverado.

When I stepped on the first curb out of the forbidden zone, I could breathe again. My heartbeat slowed below the danger zone. It was the park I'd walked through on the way to town.

Once in the park, I sat on the first bench I came to. Once I left the park my truck would be a block over. With that knowledge I relaxed, breathed deeply, regaining control.

While my head was totally clear for the first time since going over to the forbidden zone, I had no idea where I'd been for over two hours. I didn't know how to return there to continue the search when I came back, if I came back.

I didn't ever want to end up standing on a corner with a group of my buds, checking out eye candy. I wouldn't reduce myself to that. I wasn't certain they were gay. I really didn't want to know. Their age eliminated them from the group I was in, as well as interested in.

I would consider a guy in his twenties. I wanted to grow old with a partner. If he was already old, our future would be limited. I would end up alone and maybe too old to play the dating game. As with most of what I knew, this sounded logical to me.

The only older guys I knew were on the rugby team. Some were in their thirties. Except for my father, the oldest guys I knew at all were older brothers of my best buds, but none of them had anything to do with us. A couple had nothing to do with their brother.

Teachers weren't exactly forthright about who they were. The friendliest teachers told us nothing about themselves. We knew them from school and precise divisions kept us at an arms length.

Older guys spent a lot of time telling guys my age what to do. Who needed more people telling you what to do?

If an opportunity came about for me to get to know an older guy, I'd learn what I could. I would get older one day, but picking someone older for a partner wasn't in the cards.

I did know older guys from rugby but once the game was played, we went our separate ways. I knew they were good rugby players. They knew that about me. If you weren't good, you were cut loose.

The park was quiet. A man walked his dog on the sidewalk that bordered the park. A car passed behind me. It was moving slow. It was about time for me to leave. Maybe I'd stop and Boone's Burger on the way home. The idea made me smile and I thought of my buds.

Wasn't much to show for my first night out but it was something.

A man coming from the opposite direction sat on the other end of the bench. The car I heard had stopped and I heard the car door shut. I calculated this was the driver.

Glancing in his direction, he was looking at me. He was a couple of years older than I was. He was wearing black jeans and a white tee-shirt. Putting his arm over the back of the bench, he looked across the park. I looked and saw a man talking to the dog walker.

I relaxed. He was just getting some fresh air. He wasn't a bad looking guy though. I glanced to make sure. He was looking at me and he smiled. I smiled back reflexively. I looked away.

"Nice night," he said softly.

"Yeah, nice," I said.

"I go to school in town. Do you go in town?" he asked, confirming he was close to my age. "You don't look familiar."

"No, I live in Aurora," I said, biting my tongue. "Just came into town to look around. I don't get down here much."

"Oh, I've been to Aurora. Big mall out near the Interstate."

"Yeah, I don't live far from there. My school is near there. Was. I graduated last year."

"Athlete. I mean in that shirt you can't miss your muscularity. You must have played sports. You're muscular without being too big."

"I play rugby now," I said. "Soccer and lacrosse in high school."

"Yeah, that explains the hard body," he said. "You want to go for a drink?"

"I can't get into a bar," I said, sensing he was OK.

"Oh, yeah. You graduated last year. We can go to my place. I have beer in the fridge and a little wine I keep on hand for guests."

"I was heading home. Didn't find much of interest in town."

He turned to face me and continued to smile. He was young.

"That would explain the bulge," he said. "I was driving by when you crossed into the park. You looked like you needed a friend. To do something about that bulge, I mean."

"I ah…," I said, pulling my shirt out as his smile turned into a chuckle.

"Oh, it didn't bother me. Nice to see a lusty boy. I don't know any athletes. I thought maybe I could help you with that. I'm Jeff and I'm known to give a good BJ. I bottom for more versatile boys but I can do whatever you like."

I was rendered speechless, although I heard and understood every word. I just didn't expect that guys simply told you what they did and asked you to pick one. Being less than experienced, I wasn't certain how I should reply. He seemed nice enough even friendly.

"I can see the ladies probably like what you have to offer but guys aren't always able to find a girl who wants to... well, I can take care of the problem for you. If you're looking for stimulation that is."

"Oh, yeah," I said.

I was ready to run. I'd gone into the forbidden zone ready for almost anything. I wasn't ready for this but I wasn't able to stand up and walk away. My dick had only gotten harder since Jeff sat down.

I didn't want to stand up and walk away. I could let him do what he suggested and it would solve the problem I came downtown to solve. How did I say yes without appearing too anxious?

Even though I was anxious.

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