"For peace comes dropping slow . . . ." He sat on the porch looking out over ridge after tree-covered ridge. A mountain top does as well as a lake isle.
Old mountains. Older than the Rockies. Rounded off. No crags. Green fading into blue as far as you can see. Old hills. Old man. Hard to believe this is a half a day's drive from where he grew up. That was an eon ago. Young. A different person.
After the war there was a sense the world was right again. Even the pop songs seemed to be upbeat, optimistic, full of the sense that life was good.
About the ninth grade he figured out something was wrong. He just didn't get excited looking at the girls. For him, it was all about boys. He didn't even know a word for people like him. So he supposed if he ever got a chance to fuck a girl, he'd like it, the way boys were supposed to. Swimming naked with other boys who lived nearby in the creek that flowed across the farm had been routine. But as they became teens, he had to worry about showing his excitement.
He did his chores, studied, read the books that the grownups got from the book clubs. He got good grades and played in the band.
He remembered using the John Deere to plow and disc fields in the spring or fall, to clip the pastures in the summer. He remembered cutting, baling, and bringing in hay, helping to load the bales onto the truck or the wagon hauled behind the tractor, and the lifting and stacking of the bales in the barn. Like many of his friends in high school, he developed muscles naturally at a time when commercial gyms and fitness clubs didn't exist.
When he was a senior, he became aware of Jimmy Brink, the sophomore who'd become drum major of the band. Jimmy with the square face, blue eyes, crew-cut black hair, and perfect teeth. Jimmy who was six feet tall in tenth grade and grew a couple more inches afterward. Jimmy whom he fell for.
Oh, it was a schoolboy love affair. But they jacked off together. It was Jimmy who taught him about French kissing. They talked about cornholing (the only word they knew for that act), but decided it was too disgusting to try. However, they did try sucking each other off. After that they did it every chance they got.
One day as they lay, sated, the taste of cum in their mouths, Jimmy said that some day they'd probably be married and still live near each other. They'd have kids, and their wives would be friends, and they'd still get together and get nekkid and suck each other's dicks. Yes. He nodded his head yes. That's the way their future would have to be, he thought. Jimmy was right.
In his heart, however, he knew once he'd gone to college he never wanted to come back to the farm. The world had more to offer than was to be found in rural West Virginia.
Going off to college was made easier in some ways because Jimmy had found a girlfriend and they'd drifted apart. They didn't even write each other after he left the farm.
He watched as squirrels scampered up and down the tall pine trees off to his left, the ones that obstructed the view to the east. And he could hear a woodpecker hammering somewhere behind the cabin.
The campus had buildings over a hundred years old, with no consistent architectural theme, just designed by whoever the fashionable architects were when they were built. The tall elms on the quad were probably even older. He loved the sense of tradition, that young people had been drawn to this place to learn together since the early part of the previous century. Constantly he felt the place, the ambiance. But the other students weren't like his friends back at the small high school he'd attended. Many of them were easterners, sophisticated, aggressive, dismissive of those who didn't come from New York, New Jersey, or New England, of those who hadn't gone to good private schools. Of course, he thought, if they had gone to the best private schools, they wouldn't be out here in Ohio acting superior.
But these kids from the good schools were competitive about grades, and he found he had to work much harder, to sleep less, to goof off less than he'd ever imagined when he was a high schooler thinking about what college would be like.
He felt more comfortable as a sophomore, having worked out his daily schedule so he knew when he could steal some time for a social life. He had begun dating girls for the first time as a freshman, and he continued the practice in his second year. In those days only fast girls put out, and nice boys didn't go beyond some mild petting when they returned their dates to the dorm, being sure to get them back before the mandatory curfew. To do otherwise, to go further, would be to show disrespect, and he was brought up never to do that.
That was the year he met Lee. They had both gone out for the fencing team, neither with any prior experience. He'd admired Lee in the showers after practice, with his blue eyes, chestnut hair, nice pecs, and cut cock hanging over big balls. Having a hairless butt himself, he was fascinated by the light dusting of reddish brown hair on Lee's ass.
In the second semester, he and Lee found themselves in the same introduction to lit class, and he was both startled and secretly pleased when Lee asked him to go to the snack bar after class for coffee. It turned out that they both lived in Moses Hall, though he didn't remember seeing Lee there before. They both had singles, his on the ground floor, his new friend's on three.
They began to spend most of their spare time together. He wasn't dating that spring, nor, so far as he knew, was Lee. They went to movies, had coffee or milkshakes at the Union, listened to music on their lp players, took bike rides, and as the weather became warm, sunbathed together. Mostly, they just talked and talked. Their bull sessions often went far into the night, and Rich had to wake up his friend the next morning. Soon he realized he had special feelings for Lee, emotions he'd never had before, even for Jimmy.
One evening during finals week they were in Lee's room. They were always in Lee's room, it seemed. They'd talked about trivial things. Then he told Lee he was dreading the summer because they'd be apart. Lee had said he'd miss him, too, and suddenly they were kissing, which led to their being naked and humping their hard dicks against each other's belly. He spent the night in Lee's single bed. They slept, arms and legs wrapped around each other.
They arranged to share a double room for their junior year. And though it had two single beds, they usually slept together. For him, it was a beautiful time. He loved his classes, he had lots of friends of both sexes, and he was able to come back to Lee at the end of the day. They ate at different dining halls, so they sometimes didn't see each other until ten o'clock or so when he arrived back at the room from the library to find Lee just closing his books after an evening's study. They had learned they couldn't study together in the room because each was distracted by the other's presence.
Their sex was gentle, tender, loving -- and they tried everything. Well, there'd been no watersports or raunch, but otherwise, they'd figured out what to do to pleasure each other. And no one ever suspected they were homos, to use the prevalent term on that campus in those days. After all, most of the men on campus lived in double rooms. And neither of them was at all like the popular conception of a "fairy." They shared the same room the following year. Neither of them could imagine wanting a single - or a different roommate.
In the fall of their senior year, he'd met Susan, and she was an instant soulmate. They liked to say they'd started a conversation at her dorm the day before fall classes started and it went on for 25 years. They dated. All their friends thought of them as a couple.
Lee never seemed jealous. In fact, he began to date more often.
When they could find the privacy Sue would let Rick feel her breasts and she'd sometimes rub his crotch, but that's as far as things ever went. Students weren't allowed to have cars, and privacy was scarce. But he and Lee continued to express their love for each other in bed most nights.
As the year went on and he had to think of what was going to happen after graduation, he began to worry. He'd been deferred by his draft board as long as he was in college, but though the "Korean Conflict" had ended, the draft continued and he knew he would be inducted quickly if he didn't go on to grad school. Susan rightfully had expectations. Yet he couldn't imagine not having Lee to come home to.
He didn't want to graduate. He didn't want this life to end. He'd gladly have stayed around to take another major, but he knew there was no money for that. Besides, neither Lee nor Sue would be there.
He and Lee had a long talk one Sunday afternoon that spring. They admitted they loved each other, that they might in fact be in love with each other. But, as Lee said, there was nothing they could do about it. In the mid nineteen fifties men who hoped to have a career in anything other than the arts simply couldn't be openly homosexual. They had wept together. Nightly for the remaining weeks of their last term, they had the most intense sex ever.
Both Rick and Sue and Lee and Joyce had announced their engagements during Commencement Week.
The college, which had seemed so overwhelming when he'd arrived nearly four years earlier, was more like a home by the time he graduated, but he knew he had to move on, to find a life with Susan. Though he loved her, he knew with her he'd never be precisely content because he wouldn't be with Lee.
Changed light now. It was less yellow, more golden, and the hills had more texture as the sun's rays struck the trees from a lower angle. He stretched, and the wood creaked as he resumed his rocking.
He and Sue married just before he was inducted. She lived with her parents that fall and taught.
For basic he'd been sent to the South, where it was hotter than he'd ever been, even on the farm. Nothing in his background prepared him for basic training. He couldn't imagine people being so uncivil to others, even if its purpose was to turn them into "fighting machines."
Trying to ignore all the hot guys. After all, he was married, and he loved Sue, never wanting to hurt her.
He spent the rest of his two years at a large Army post in the Middle West. Clerking in a regimental personnel office was mind-numbingly dull, but Susan had come out to be with him. They had a small apartment and played house. She managed to get a full-time job, which helped them make the car payments and pay the rent. They couldn't have made it on his pay and her allotment. They both counted the days until they could go home, though his home was in one state, hers another.
"A cabin will I build there, of clay and wattles made. . . ."
Well, it was more substantial than Yeats' cabin, but it had been his refuge. He'd built his cabin after Sue died.
He'd loved her. Been faithful to her. No kids. Both had kept their jobs. Commitment. Meant something to him, to them. Couldn't help being aroused by good-looking men, couldn't help burning for mansex. But did his best to make Sue happy, as she did for him. If she ever suspected, she never let on. So they'd had their circle of friends, their trips in the summer when she wasn't teaching and he took his vacation time. Not the best, but good. Sweet. Gentle. He kept his desires under control for her sake. But he remembered Lee.
And then at just short of fifty, he was alone. For the first time in his life, really. He'd soldiered on, working with troubled kids, immersed in their problems, too tired at night to go out. Not knowing where to go. And knowing he needed what he'd always needed, a good man.
He didn't care what they'd think at work, though some would have claimed that a gay man shouldn't be working with teen boys. He just didn't know how to get back into the dating scene, especially when he wasn't interested in going out with women. So he did his job and went home to empty nights.
Often he wondered about Lee. They'd lost touch years ago. After college Lee had written for a while and then just quit. Sue heard from Joyce that they were divorcing. After that there were occasional Christmas cards from Joyce, nothing from Lee, and then the cards quit coming.
"And evening full of the linnet's wing. . . ." The sun was almost down now, but two mocking birds (no linnets here) were swooping around in the trees off on the edge of the clearing. Apart from the noisy birds he could hear only the sounds of crickets in the grass.
Just before he was set to retire, it came. The email with its subject line: "A name from the past." It was from Lee, who'd tracked him down or looked him up online or some such.
"Live alone in the bee-loud glade . . . ." There were bees around, but he was no longer alone.
Tantalizing smells from the cook stove. The screen door closing.
Lee kissed him on the top of his head, handed him a beer and sat in the other rocker. "That's a nice crop of pole beans you've got this year. I put some of them in the stew. Supper'll be on when the biscuits are done." He took a sip of his beer. "You been lost in your memories again, love?"
He put his hand on Lee's cheek.
"Never lost while I have you."
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear the water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.