tagGay MaleIt’s Independence Day

It’s Independence Day


Every 4th of July, I travel from my downtown loft to my sister's vacation homes on Thomas Hill Reservoir, an expansive lake in north central Missouri. The lake, which is huge and placid, is virtually unknown. On any given 4th, there are a half dozen or fewer boats on the water, in stark contrast to the more bacchanialian and busier Ozarks two hours to the south.

The homes are next door to each other and share a large dock. There is the main house, a ranch with a kitchen, living room, and master on the main floor and a massive sleeping dorm in the basement. And, there is the A-Frame, with a bedroom and the first floor and a sleeping loft overlooking the living room.

In 2017, the travelers included my husband, my sister, her husband, her four sons, the wives of the two married sons, and three college friends of the youngest son.

The sons were Josiah, married to Meghan; Colby, married to Katherine; Trader, unmarried; and Tyson, also unmarried. The three college friends of Tyson were Freddy, Zack, and Jamal.

To everyone's surprise, Jamal is white. He claims he has lived a life surprising everyone by "showing up white." When the name "Jamal" is called, the audience expects an African-American.

For the second year in a row, the weekend was a near disaster. In 2016, the lake had almost claimed me, Trader's summer brew incapacitating me long before I expected, my saddle floating away, my drunken limbs unable to keep me above the surface, and my alarmed family pulling me to safety, their ghost white faces and teary eyes betraying my constant laughter. I had come incomprehensibly close to going under and never coming back up.

In 2017, it was Zack. Again, the assailant was the summer brew, a nearly toxic mixture of vodka, beer, and lemonade. When drinking it, you had no idea there was vodka or beer in it. It tasted like Countrytime Lemonade, which I had loved since it was introduced in 1975, when I was 7.

Zack drank too much on the float from the power plant to the lake, a warm water float that we used to drink and listen to music. Before we got to the pontoon, Zack was struggling with his saddle. Drunkenly angry, he discarded it and went under, surfacing less and less frequently. If I hadn't noticed, he'd have drowned. Even with my noticing, he nearly drowned. If it hadn't been for me and, when I called out, Trader, Zack would not have been alive to visit in 2018. He'd have ruined our 2017.

The near death of Zack unsettled everyone. He insisted he had been fine and not in jeopardy. When Trader disagreed, Jamal got in his face. When I defended Trader, Jamal got in my face. Forty-nine years old, I was not going to allow a guest half my age to get in my pancake about what were, in the end, heroic efforts to save his friend. My husband and I returned to Kansas City, two days earlier than planned, in a fit of pique.

Two days later, I received a Facebook message from Freddy: "UK, I want you to know how sorry we are about the 4th. It was Zack, not you. Wish you'd have stayed, Freddy (and Jamal)."

"UK" was short for "Uncle Kevin." I am he, brother to my sister and uncle to my nephews. To the nephews, I am and have long been "UK." Now, they spell it "YouK."

I appreciated Freddy's message and answered kindly. He answered and, over the course of the following months, we remained in touch, innocently, or at least so I thought, even when Freddy started counting down the weeks until the 4th and finished "I look forward to seeing you again."


My nephews are wonderful men, even if they are rural Missouri through and through, toting guns, drinking only Busch Light, and listening only to country music. Josiah — Joe to everyone else, and Josie to me — is 33 and has bright red hair. Like any good oldest brother, he's in charge, and the other three defer to him.

Colby — CoCo to all, because his younger brother's first attempts at "Colby" came out "CoCo" and stalled there — is 31. With yellow-red hair, he's the most taciturn. We joke that he has one emotion, but we don't know what it is, because he suppresses it.

At 27, Trader — Trade to me, only because he doesn't know what "trade" is in the gay community — is the exact opposite. With bright orange hair, he emerged from the womb laughing and smiling and has never stopped. He is the spitting image of Prince Harry, before Prince Harry started to be not so hairy, at least on his pate.

At 25, Tyson — Sonny to everyone, to the point no one knows his full name is Tyson — is the youngest and is unrepentantly sardonic. His observational humor is Mitch Hedburg on steroids. He lit up the room at Christmas when my sister said "We should use the fireplace" and he offered "whoever came up with that name didn't try very hard."

Sonny's friends are also funny. Freddy's humor is also observational, but with less of an edge than Sonny's. Zack's humor is Sophomoric, belying that he was on his way to a PhD in chemistry. Jamal's humor tends toward stories of "when they realized I was white," like when — instead of the black boy next to him — he stepped forward at his high school graduation when they announced "Salutatorian, Jamal Johnson." Everyone who didn't know Jamal thought it was a joke and that he was the Dennis Forrester listed as Valedictorian. Only, he wasn't. The black boy was.

Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Freddy comes from money, the son of an investment banker. Freddy's "I grew up in Connecticut" means "I grew up in Greenwich with all of the other rich people who say they grew up in Connecticut when what they really mean is they grew up in Greenwich, in which no one ever claims they grew up."

Freddy looks like a rich person. Although small (approximately 5'6" and 130 pounds), he looks patrician. He has what I call "rich person hair," dark brown, parted on the side, the longer bangs slooped over his forehead but with a little flip, the sides and back cut neatly above his ears and collar. To the extent a hair cut can look expensive, his does.

His blue eyes are bright and untroubled, no suggestion of want or weariness anywhere in them. And, the blue is an odd blue, not the soft blue of the normal blue eye, but more the deep blue of the deep blue sea. They're also monochromatic, not shaded here and there. They're like brown eyes, only blue.

His narrow nose is straight and small. I wonder if it is natural or a product.

His mouth is wide, always smiling, his teeth white and straight. They are definitely a product.

I have searched for a referent. The best I have come up with is a young Tommy Dewey, the one from exposay.com on Pinterest.

Unlike Tommy, Freddy doesn't work on his body. His arms and torso are thin, his chest barely defined, his waist narrow. Freddy's hands and feet are also small. Everything about him suggests he is far younger than his twenty-five years. He looks delicate, almost feminine. His body reminds me of Timothee Chalamet's in "Call Me By Your Name."

Freddy also appears to be two halves of separate wholes. His top half is barren. He clearly can't grow facial hair. His chest is hairless, his arms and arm pits nearly so.

His stomach is clean to the navel. At the navel, the other half of the whole takes over. Freddy has a thick trail into his oversized board shorts.

But, his legs are ridiculously hairy. They are like a Wookie's, the straight brown hair thick and coarse and occasioning a "Half Wook" nickname. We joke that half his weight is in leg hair.

Zack and Jamal do not look like rich people. Zack also does not look like a scientist. In appearance, he is all frat boy, his hair cut popular, his unshaven face popular, his chin dipple popular, and his body — developed chest and arms, undeveloped legs — proving he works on what is seen, not on what is unseen. In college, Zack had been a player. I could see why. He is confident and handsome and has a killer smile. If I had been a girl at Kenyon with him, I'd have ridden him. I bet he gave good sex.

Jamal is anamolous. He appears unable to grow hair on his unremarkable face, but his armpits, chest, and legs are covered in long, straight hair. Like Freddy, he does not work out, his body shaped naturally, not through effort. Unlike Freddy and Zack, he almost always wears a shirt. He is reputably embarrassed by the size of his nipples, which are bigger than any nipples I've seen. They are like Kennedy half dollars, bright red under the mat of hair that covers his chest and stomach.


In 2018, I am the first to the Reservoir, arriving alone on Wednesday the Fourth because my husband, Steven, is hosting his family in our loft. I drop my bag on the porch of the A-Frame and head to the dock, if only to dangle my feet in the water until the rest of the crew arrives.

My sister, her husband, Josie, and CoCo arrive next, having traveled from the eastern side of the state. They take their bags to the ranch house and return to unload the weekend's provisions.

Neither Meghan nor Katherine are coming, their pregnancies keeping them at bay.

When here together, Steven and I always stay in the bedroom on the first floor of the A-Frame. My sister and her husband always stay in the master on the main floor of the ranch. The boys always stay in the basement of the ranch, dormitory style on bunks.

Even without Steven, I presumptuously claim the A-Frame. I'm too old to sleep in a dorm with people half my age.

Trade, Sonny, and Sonny's friends arrive last, Freddy's flight into MCI landing at 11 a.m. and delaying their arrival until mid-afternoon. By the time they show up, we are all in the water, and Josie has made sure all five of them are "iced," having hidden Smirnoff Ices in their cots.

If you don't know, "icing" involves hiding a Smirnoff Ice. Whoever then finds the Ice must get down on one knee and chug it. When at the Reservoir, I have found them when raising the lid to use the toilet, when opening the compartment holding the keys to the jet skis, and when opening the cabinet to retrieve coffee filters, among other places. When at the Reservoir, it's dangerous to open anything in which an Ice may fit, even the cookie jar.

From the outset, Freddy is solicitous. "YouK," he declares, embracing me. "It's so good to see you again. I'm glad you're here," he adds, softly, "especially after last year."

"It's good to see you, too, Freddy," I answer, leaving last year in the rearview mirror, where it belongs, and wondering about the lingering embrace, especially after I shake hands with Zack and Jamal.

By 3 p.m., we are all waterside, some of us lounging on the dock and the rest of us in the water, floating on saddles and drinking, Busch Light or better. I am lounging, drinking better, my Titos and Fresca gently pushing me from "pissed Steven isn't here" to "glad Steven isn't here."

Freddy is across from me, slumped in an Adirondack, a Busch Light in each hand, a Kenyon ball cap turned backward on his head. Every once and again, his extremely hairy foot brushes against mine. I notice, but try to think nothing of it.

Freddy now lives in New York City. Not yet digesting all he means when he says he's "from Connecticut," I ask if he has roomates and, when he says no, wonder aloud how he affords an apartment in the City at 25.

"Freddy's to the manor born" Jamal chides from the water. "His father started an investment bank. . . . Freddy lives like a fucking king. He's a Junker."

I look at Freddy. His Ray Bans obscure his eyes. He raises one eyebrow and smiles.

"It must be nice," I say.

"It's way better than nice," he answers, smirking. "Waiters are nice. . . . Living like a fucking king is awesome." He doesn't deny he's a scion.

Freddy's big toe is on mine. I don't respond.

After awhile, I move my toe out from under his, wondering if his will follow. It does.

I raise my eyebrows at him. I wish I could raise one, but I can't. He raises his glasses and smiles back.

No matter what I do, Freddy's big toe is on mine.

Later, we are in the water, all eight of us floating on saddles, drinking, and listening to Josie's playlist. When Martina McBride belts out "Let freedom ring, let the white doves sing," we all sing along. Her voice is one of life's great pleasures, rich and creamy, like melted dark chocolate. I love the song, and I know the singalong will have it in my head all weekend.

All afternoon, Freddy seems purposefully proximate to me. I wonder if I'm imagining things. When you're fifty, you imagine a lot of things, especially around young men. You try to reclaim the days when you were prey, not predator.

After dinner, everyone under fifty goes back in the water, to listen to more hoosier music and drink more hoosier beer. Those of us fifty and over clean up, relax, and then head to bed.

I am the only one in the A-Frame. At about nine, I drift over, pull the door shut behind me, undress, and go to shower the day's lake grime off of me.

The water feels fantastic on my skin. The water running down the drain is an odd color, kind of an orangy brown. I try not to think about what is in the water. Or what it is doing to my skin. Or worse.

I turn the water off, grab a towel, and dry myself. I pull the curtain open. I am surprised to see "Meet me on the dock at 12" written in soap on the mirror. It had to have been there before I started my shower. I had locked the A-Frame door behind me when I entered, hadn't I? How had I missed the message?

I'm no rube. I know the message is from Freddy. I also knew what it means. I wonder only whether I should stay true or head to the dock at 12.

I met Steven when I was 25, Freddy's age. I was dating his best friend, Gregory. Gregory decided he liked me enough he wanted to introduce me to his circle of friends. He hosted a dinner party for me. Steven arrived late and was in the chair just to my right.

"Sorry I'm late," he said. "I got stuck at the gym."

I looked him up and down and quizzically asked "You work out?"

He responded by sticking his tongue out at me. It was all downhill from there. I don't know that I loved Steven before dinner was over, but I also don't know that I didn't.

Twenty-five years on, I definitely love him. A lot.

As a couple, we are gruntled. Completely.

But, after twenty-five years, we've granted each other certain liberties. Basically, the test is "if I would do it, then you can do it." We call such liberties "Chances," with a capital C. If there's no explanation for the Chance — e.g., if the guy is too hot for you or too young for you — then you can take a Chance. A celebrity is a Chance. A straight man is a Chance. At fifty, someone half your age is definitely a Chance.

So, Freddy is definitely a Chance. At 11:55 I brush my teeth and stare into the mirror, tergiversating.

I am kidding myself. I know I'm going to head down to the dock, although I am not committed to taking a Chance. I'm not out, I'm just not all in.

When I get there, Freddy is sitting lakeside, his feet dangling in the water. I sit next to him, dangle my feet in the water, and offer him one of the Tito's and Fresca I brought along. He takes what I offer, takes a long draw, swallows, shakes his head, and takes another long draw.

Quickly, his foot is on mine.

I turn my face to his.

"Hi Freddy," I say.

"Hi YouK," he answers.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"I have no idea," he answers.

"It seems pretty orchestrated for it to be without idea," I admonish.

"I know," he answers, his smile wide, his foot on mine, his big toe taking on my little toe. His voice comes from his chest, and his diction is perfect. I can hear the W in know. Like Rick Astley, his voice is too big for his body.

His smile is bright. His teeth are like Tom Brady's, prominent when he smiles or talks. Mine are not. They are hidden.

He is not without idea. He is not without idea at all.

The night is clear. The moon bounces off the water. The cicadas are already singing, their wings, like the moon, bouncing off the water.

I stare straight ahead, my toe between Freddy's, my Tito's and Fresca disarming and warming me.

"YouK?" Freddy asks.

"Yes," I answer, not trusting myself to turn my head to his.

"When did you know you were gay?"

"From the get go," I answer. "I mean, while my friends were all Bo Derek, Farrah Fawcett, and Cheryl Ladd, I was all Robby Benson, Shaun Cassidy, and Leif Garrett."

"I don't know who any of those people are," he answers. I pretend to be wounded and then I feel predatory, knowing I'm a generation removed from him.

Neither of us says a word. We listen to the gentle slap of the water against the dock and the gentle whir of the cicada's wings. I try to pull my foot free, but Freddy will have none of it. I finally crash the moment.

"Freddy, do you know what you're doing?"


"Are you sure?"


"Tell me."

Freddy doesn't answer. He drains his drink, frees my foot, and stands up. He holds his hand out to me.

I drain my drink and stand up. I offer my hand, and he takes it. Even though I'm barely taller than him, my hand dwarfs his.

Neither of us speaks.

Freddy grabs his backpack and leads me off the dock, up the hill, and to the A-Frame. Freddy pushes the door open, pulls me through, and then closes and locks it behind me.

I know what this is. But, again, I haven't decided whether I should stay true or follow through. I hem and haw, privately, in my own head.

"Whatever you want," Freddy whispers.

"What?" I ask, not catching his drift.

"That's what I'm doing. . . . Whatever you want."

"Whatever you want" echoes through me as I follow through.

We stand in the hallway, waiting. He's trying to muster courage. I'm trying to repel guilt.

He steps toward me, puts his hands on my hips, and sighs.

It's dark. I can see him only in outline. But I can feel him smile.

"Freddy," I whisper. "I'm not sure we should do this."

"Let freedom ring," he sings back, his voice barely more than a whisper. "Let the white doves sing . . . ."

My hands find his shoulders. He feels slight. I can manhandle him. I don't know that I will, but I can.

I close my eyes and move my head. Our mouths meet. His lips are supple and trembling. So are mine.

I open my mouth. He opens his. Our tongues meet. I haven't kissed anyone like this in a long, long time. I almost black out. There is very little in this world as thrilling as a first kiss.

He is in my arms, his legs wrapped around me. I'm carrying him to the bed.

I set him down gently. I don't want this kiss to end.

His hands are on my face, holding it against his. My arms are over his, my hands are on his face, holding it against mine.

We kiss and kiss and kiss.

Without stopping, we are on the bed, Freddy under me, me over him.

I'm so hard.

I'm sure he is, too.

We're still kissing.

I try to break the kiss so I can pull off his shirt, my shirt, his shorts, my shorts. He won't let me.

We kiss and kiss and kiss.

When we finally break, I fall off of him onto my back.

"I've never," he says.

"Me, either," I answer.

We're lying. We both have.

He rolls toward me as I roll toward him. Our mouths meet again.

My right hand is on his left hip. I pull him into me, grinding his erection against mine. His left hand is on my right hip. He pulls me into him, grinding my erection against his.

We kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss.

"YouK?" he asks, when we finally break for the second time.


"Do you want to get naked?"


We are standing on opposite sides of the bed. The room is dark, but I can see the hint of his shape. I'm sure he can see mine.

I pull my shirt over my head, untie my shorts, and slip out of them. The shadows confirm he's done the same.

I pull my boxer briefs out and down. I step out of them, left foot and then right.

The shadows confirm he has done the same.

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byDavidPatrick© 14 comments/ 12628 views/ 10 favorites

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