If you haven't read part 3, do so here. Or you can start from the beginning.
On Thursday I’m sore. Mr. Hale occasionally decides to share, telling me that I’m a paragon, that I give men a pinnacle at which to aspire when they train subs of their own. It’s also a punishment for wanting to spent time with anyone but him. I know I’m walking stiffly and am embarrassed every time someone looks at me twice. Brandon told me yesterday to meet him at the park, and I arrive early, nervous.
I’m too old for this, I think. To old, at least, to be playing Ultimate Frisbee for the first time.
Brandon sees me before I notice him. “Hey, Tucker!” he calls from the field. “Glad you could make it!”
I smile nervously; I haven’t been around this many people my age in years, and I am unsure of how to appear normal.
“Tucker, meet Camden, our captain,” Brandon says, pulling me over to a man of average height, athletic build, and easy smile. “He’s an idiot, but he’s dating my sister, so I have to be nice to him or she’ll kill me.”
“Are you our newest member?” Camden asks, punching Brandon in the shoulder.
“Maybe. I haven’t played any sport since I was a child, so I’m completely uncoordinated.”
Camden laughs and points to a blond girl down the field. “See Anya? She can’t catch and she can’t aim, but we wouldn’t trade her for the world.”
I take a closer look. She’s cute but not pretty, and has an open, teasing smile.
“What are you losers talking about?” Anya yells from far off.
“Yo pretty titties,” Brandon retorts. I blush for her, but she shakes them at us and throws the disc at Brandon’s head (it careens wildly to the left). “They’re perfect, and she’s very proud of them,” he tells me. I nod as though I feel no awkwardness at all. Open bunch, these college students.
Happily, I discover that I am not as uncoordinated as I had feared, although my skills are rusty. I can send the disc in the direction I want, which is more than some can do, but I still envy Brandon’s dexterity when I watch him catch behind his back, or throw backwards, or make it skip off the ground. I am tempted to ask for lessons, but Mr. Hale would be suspicious, and I’m afraid of appearing needy or as socially inept as I feel.
It’s easy to forget the worlds outside my own. The two in which I circulate are completely at odds, and it’s hard to remember that there’s a medium of normalcy, people who have never set foot inside a country club or used nipple clamps during sex. This third world of Ultimate Frisbee and schoolboy crushes and amusingly (and sometimes disgustingly) blunt students feels awkward and comfortable all at once, like a pair of shoes that has to be worn a few times before becoming a favorite.
I don’t fool myself into thinking I simply enjoy the normalcy of my peers. Brandon is the nicest, most grounded, genuine man I have ever met, and I have an enormous crush on him. I start smiling before I even see him, and continue to do so until Mr. Hale picks me up. I didn’t even know he was gay, don’t care, and am comfortable fantasizing about him from afar until Camden pulls me aside not two weeks after I joined the team.
“Hey,” he says softly, “are you into Brandon?”
I’m immediately taken off guard, and look around quickly to see if anyone is nearby. “Am I what?”
Camden shifts uncomfortably. “I just want to know. He talks about you all the time and Amber asked me to see if you were interested.”
I’m confused. “Who’s Amber?”
“Oh.” I know that I have a large stupid grin on my face. “He really talks about me?”
“So you are interested.”
“Well, of course!” I reply before thinking.
“Okay. Well, I feel awkward, so I’m gonna go. Peace.”
My whole world is bright as I watch Camden walk away. No one has had a crush on me since Rachel Braxton in kindergarten, and she only liked me because I always had extra fruit snacks in my lunch. My last real crush, aside from a long history of doglike devotion to Mr. Hale, had been my first grade teacher. I know for a fact that she did not return my youthful affections. I have never before been blessed with requited love, or at least something stronger than platonic affection. Brandon likes me! sings through my head, and suddenly I feel a lot less idiotic for being so nervous around him. Recognizing that this is yet one more wonderful thing that I must keep to myself dims the news only a fraction.