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|Sleep is a great healer, and by the next day I decided that what had happened with Barry didn't really change anything except that I didn't have to try to hide my hard-ons from Barry anymore, which maybe wasn't so bad after all. Still, for a few days in the gym, I was a little less physical with Barry than usual, with fewer friendly pats on the back or bicep squeezes. It also seemed to me that Barry and I were pairing up on exercises a little less frequently than before, though I wasn't sure if I just imagined it. Even so, after a few days, everything was back as it had been before; I even had dinner with Barry a couple more times, though we didn't go to his room afterwards.
By mid-August, even my usual circle of school friends had noticed the changes in my physique as my shirts began to be filled and then stretched by my growing torso and widening shoulders. I realized that I might have to get new shirts for the new school year if this kept up. Still, none of my friends actually said much about it. When we had to move a dining-room table to set up a boardgame, everyone agreed that "Mike should do it; he's the guy with the muscles," but beyond small jokes like that, my friends didn't seem to care about it at all.
August was about half gone when our next measurement session rolled around. Everyone was still progressing rapidly. Barry's famous thighs were up another 3/4 inch, looking even larger in contrast with his now 29 1/2-inch waist. His chest was now taping at 39 1/4 inches, his arms were still tied with Stan's, just a fraction over 13 inches. Barry's weight was up to 150 pounds, a significant gain. He had let his hair grow quite long during the summer, and I was starting to think of him as very Samson-like.
Stan's chest was up to 37 inches, more than either Barry or I had started with -- yet his waist was still only 27 inches. He was gaining weight as quickly as Barry, and was now up to 134 pounds of muscle that was almost as lean and 'ripped' as Jonathan.
The workouts had become my refuge from the emotional turmoil of the last couple of weeks, and I was training with more single-minded focus than I could have thought possible, and eating voraciously. I was benching more than either Barry or Stan: earlier in the week I became the first to do sets with the 'magic' number of 135 pounds, with two 45-pound plates on the 45-pound bar.
The results were gratifying: my weight was up to 158 pounds, my chest just over 40 inches, and at last my arms were the biggest of the 'junior' Muscle Club members, at 13 1/2 inches; Jonathan was really impressed, and measured them twice just to make sure. My thighs were lagging behind Barry's, and since I was long-legged, they seemed to be my worst body part at the moment. Still, I had picked up a quarter inch there myself, so could not seriously complain.
As Jonathan took Stan and Barry's measurements, I watched carefully. That is, I watched Jonathan's crotch. Each time one of the other Muscle Clubbers flexed for Jonathan, I thought I saw what antique writers called a 'stirring in the loins'. When, later, Stan took Jonathan's thigh measurement, the reaction was unmistakable. Jonathan was as turned on by all this muscle stuff as me! I scarcely noticed that Jonathan had lost another three pounds, and that his various stats were fractions of an inch lower than before.
Jonathan congratulated all of us on the results of our hard work, which he said was even better than he expected to see. Then he told us why he was getting 'cut up.' As we had guessed, he was preparing for a contest -- his first contest ever. It would be held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend at the Muscle Beach weight pit.
"I thought Muscle Beach was just sort of a general term," I said. "You mean it's an actual place?"
"Yeah, but it's not where it used to be when it became famous back around World War II. Even when I was a kid in the '50s, it was a platform area right by the Santa Monica pier, and muscle men would go there to lift weights and do acrobatics and get photographed by tourists. Around 1959 I think, Santa Monica decided it wasn't worth the maintenance or something, and cleared the area out. But the L.A. Parks department had set up a fenced-off weight-lifting area of their own in Venice by then. All the old Muscle Beach guys gravitated there, so it's now the sort of unofficial 'Muscle Beach weight pit'.
"Anyway, they have a 'Mr. Muscle Beach' physique contest there every year, and I'm going to enter this year in the Junior division. And I want you guys there to cheer me on. It'll be on the 31st. Can you make it?"
We all variously assured him that we would be there, and were sure that he'd knock the other guys dead.
"Thanks guys, I knew I could count on you. I want to warn you that the last week or so before the contest I'm going to be dieting real strictly and maybe getting just a bit dehydrated. It's probably going to make me real grouchy, so I just want you to know that if I seem really uptight and snap at you, it's not your fault. OK?"
We all nodded. "OK," he said, "see you guys on Monday. You're all really on track, keep it up!"
Stan and Barry went over to the piles of street clothes and started to change. I went over to Jonathan and quietly said, "Um, can I talk to you for a few minutes? In private?"
Jonathan saw that something was bothering me and nodded, gesturing towards the door. "We'll be back in a few minutes," he told Barry and Stan, and led me into the house.
"This is really hard to talk about, but I think I have to ask. Do you...are you...do you think that Barry and Stan and I are sexy?"
Jonathan just said, "Well, of course! Don't you think you're sexy?"
I frowned. "No, that's not what I mean. Do you get ... I mean, when we're all in there flexing and posing for you, do you..." I just sat there, exasperated. This was really hard for me to talk about.
Jonathan sighed. "You mean, am I gay?"
I paled a bit and just nodded quietly.
"Are you just now figuring that out? I thought you knew right from the start! I mean, the way you and Barry..." He looked at my face, saw me trembling. There was a lump in my throat, and I had to throttle this stupid irrational babyish urge to cry. "Oh, no!...I didn't understand, I'm really sorry! I saw that you and Barry were getting hard when I first posed for you, and I just figured that you two were a pair, or at least played around from time to time. I didn't know you were still confused ... I thought you knew all about this stuff!"
"Well, I mean, I don't know if I'm really, you know, queer, I mean, I don't want to dress like a woman, and I don't have a lisp, and the idea of a guy putting his dick into another guy's asshole is so gross...maybe it's like you said, I'm just confused."
"Oh, man, you're confused all right. Look, this is the same thing as we talked about before. You hear 'queer' or 'gay' or 'homosexual' and you hear all the lies that people have been telling you all your life. You're just a guy who thinks guys with muscles are sexy. All the rest of it, the limp wrists, the women's clothes, even the details about what you do in bed, that's all just bullshit, like 'all darkies got rhythm' or 'all Jews are greedy' or 'all scholars are puny pencil-necked geeks'. You know what you are, and I imagine you pretty much know what you like. You can't let other people tell you what that *means*. It's your life, not theirs."
I didn't want Jonathan to see me cry, but I couldn't help it. All the tension, all the hiding, all the fear, all the disgust I had at the idea that I might be 'one of those', all the nasty words I'd heard from the mouths of friends, even my brother and parents...it all just sort of boiled up and I sat there and cried. Jonathan put his big powerful arms around me and pulled me close to his chest. His hands stroked my still-bare back gently. Any other time, this might have turned me on, but instead I just clung to him and sobbed like a goddamned child.
"I know how you feel," he said as he held me, "it's not easy for any of us, and I don't want to pretend that it is. There are lots of people who get all hung up about this. A lot of people hate us, some even would want to kill us just for doing what you and I are doing right now, just hugging. We always have to be careful. But that doesn't mean we have to hide from each other or turn into monks. Monks...? Damn, no wonder it took you so long! You had a pretty good thing going, didn't you? As long as you were a nice scholastic drone, everyone knew Mike Wesson was this neutered Mr. Spock type, or so they thought, and you could even believe it yourself, sort of. But MuscleMike just doesn't quite fit that role, does he? You think about sex every seventeen minutes, just like every other fifteen year old."
He kept talking to me like that and held me for a couple more minutes, and I finally stopped crying. I knew that Jonathan would have to let me go, but didn't want him to. He gently pushed me away and brushed the hair from across my forehead. He put his hands on either side of my face. "Are you going to be all right?" he asked. I nodded. He got a cool wet washrag from the bathroom and I used it to wipe my eyes and take the puffiness and redness down; it wouldn't do for Stan and Barry to see that I'd been crying! That made me think of something else.
"Oh, I just remembered," I said, "Barry sort of figured me out already, but don't tell Stan. He really seems to like me and even look up to me a little, and I don't want to ruin our friendship. I don't think he needs to be bothered with this stuff."
Jonathan's face took on a curious poker-faced expression that could have meant anything from slight amusement to deep offense. "I'm really sorry you don't trust me more than that. I wouldn't tell anyone about you or anybody else. It's not my decision to make as to who gets told, it's yours. Stan won't hear anything from me."
"I'm sorry; of *course* I trust you. Thanks. I guess I better get changed and get home."
"Good idea. We can talk about this again if you want, but *try* not to suddenly freak out or anything right before my contest, OK?"
He was smiling at me as he said this, and I smiled a bit too and nodded. As I started through the door, Jonathan said, "And don't sell Stan short. He's growing up quickly."
I left the room feeling strange. It was a good kind of strange, as if I had dodged a bullet aimed at my head, or discovered that I didn't have to turn in a difficult assignment after all. I'd never quite felt like it before. By the time I got back to Stan and Barry, I was practically euphoric, though I couldn't exactly say why.
"I've decided we've got the best bodybuilding coach on the planet," I said. We should do something for him."
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