Mark and Barry Ch. 01bysam8©
It was Sunday night that Mark's girlfriend dumped him, and he could barely find the energy to go to the play's first rehearsal the next morning.
She hadn't been especially nice about it. They hadn't seen much of each other in the last week. Mark blamed himself for that, and he had mistakenly assumed that was why she had been acting cold all through dinner. They'd been together long enough for him to feel comfortable flirting with her a little in a public place, but not so long that he figured out he should worry when she acted like she didn't notice.
So they got back to Mark's apartment, and just as he was starting to plan a pleasantly romantic way for the two of them to begin an intimate night together, she sat him down and had the talk.
Still wearing the sleeveless black dress, still with her blonde hair up, still the beautiful girl he'd spent months caring for and had dared to think he might have a future with, she let him have it. Not working out, not her type, the words crashed into him, meaningless in his stupor, until the phrase "someone else" triggered something hot and aching in his chest. As soon as he'd felt calm enough to act normal, he stood and interrupted her speech to suggest she leave. Which she gladly did, with a bare minimum of goodbyes unbecoming of a couple who'd been together since November.
Mark didn't sleep much that night, of course. The tortured feelings of hurt and vulnerability, the endless second-guessing punctuated with fury, didn't stop his lightly-muscled body from reacting to the memory of the way she'd moved.
Tossing and turning until three, he found himself embarrassed about his own arousal for the first time in many years.
That damnable organ was impatient after over a week without release, especially since it was accustomed to his girlfriend's -- ex-girlfriend's -- regular sexual appetite. Mark for some years now had given up masturbation except once in a great while, and the weekly exercise they'd been sharing had fueled that fire. Memories of her beauty, her tenderness, and her high-pitched grunt as she came, rose often to the top of his thoughts, as Mark quietly cried tears of self-pity into his pillow that night.
Several times as he rolled from one lonely side to the other, he'd had to adjust in his shorts the stiffness that he was certainly -- he wasn't pathetic, after all -- going to ignore. He'd just gotten dumped, and there was no way in hell he was going to jerk off over that bitch.
And he didn't.
So that was Mark's night before the kiss on Monday.
Barry slept fine Sunday night, as he did most nights.
A couple of weeks before, he and the girl he'd been seeing -- not really a girlfriend, though it'd gone on long enough and just started to get serious enough to make them wonder what that story was -- had broken it off amicably.
Though they'd phrased it to each other as "taking a break," they both knew what it meant, and Barry hadn't thought they would ever do much more than nod past each other on campus. He'd gotten drunk with some friends that night and, after that, shrugged it off.
Her showing up at his door three nights later, talkative, a little drunk, and way too familiar, was what he considered a bonus. Once her pants were off, he'd made it a point of pride to really go to town, licking her hard and fast, one hand pulling her panties aside as she moaned and writhed. They'd figured out they had no future, and they hadn't fucked enough times to really get familiar with each other's turn-ons. But that just-barely-novelty of another's still-strange body was a turn-on itself.
He'd enjoyed himself, then, being her booty call two weeks ago, rubbing her slick flesh, gently fingering her, telling her to hold her knees back and smiling as she stretched herself open for him. Making her cum on his tongue, once in a small way with "ohh"s and stretches, and once fingered nice and hard with quivering "uhh"s.
He'd decided he didn't feel like a condom that night, and he tried something they'd only done once before, and never to completion. Holding his fat, bare cock to her lips, he waited until she took him in her mouth. It felt good to slip himself between her lips, sliding back and forth, talking some gentle encouragement, until he could watch her pretty, flushed face as he made a sticky mess in her mouth. He smeared it on her lips and chin, both of them too hot to smile.
The smiles (sheepish) and hugs came a moment later. They crashed on his bed, and in the morning, with regrets, and awkward dressing in the suite's shared bathroom, but no real hard feelings, she'd left, this time for good. That was almost two weeks ago.
Barry slept well on that Sunday night two weeks later, but, like Mark, his body was attached to a penis that was starting to wonder where the next action was coming from.
Two weeks, the time itself, the everyday time having passed his needs by, was a tease as powerful as a lap dance. Barry awoke Monday morning after a tantalizing dream, lying half on his stomach with a hard-on wedged under him and the strong urge to thrust his muscular hips into the sheets.
Shaking off the unwelcome morning thoughts -- relieving his own lust was not something the stocky, manly ex-high school football player could ever see himself doing -- he was his own man and not some little loser -- Barry rolled out of bed and started the day. That was Barry's night before the kiss.
Monday evening, after classes, was the play's first rehearsal. The cast was expected to know a few lines from key scenes, but mostly it was a chance for them to get to know each other and the director.
Ms. Mahoney was the director. She had chosen the play. The college, still struggling to build a reputation of seriousness, had an arts department that gave its professors plenty of creative freedom as long as they didn't do something outrageous or ridiculous.
And Ms. Mahoney was going to have to tread carefully to make sure this play didn't cross that line. She liked the material well enough, and sure, it wouldn't even have raised any eyebrows in New York.
But the college, while not in the "deep" South, was still in a part of the state plenty conservative enough to be shocked at a plot that revolved around gay lovers. She hoped she wouldn't start a riot when two men kissed on stage.
Mark and Barry had learned on Thursday that they'd been cast in the roles of the gay lovers at the heart of the play. One was shy but with a rich and unexpected inner life, the other brash and a little flamboyant covering a great sadness. Together the two characters faced adversity, and with a bit of humor and a growing love for each other, came to care for themselves and discover a new... and so on.
It was a fairly typical college play, a little too wacky in places, and a little too preachy in places, but solid and entertaining enough.
Fairly typical, except that near the end of the first act, in what would be quite a surprise to anyone who hadn't read the program and had in fact been living in a bubble universe since February, the two male leads would finally fall breathlessly and dramatically in love, embrace, kiss, and spend most of the second act showing each other loving affection.
"Hello, everyone," said Ms. Mahoney at 7:00 sharp, noting with satisfaction that all the cast were on time. "I like to jump right in and not waste time. We have seven weeks before curtain and that means we need to use every day. So let's do some introductions and then get started with some exercises." She told the group a little about herself, then turned to her cast.
"OK, hi everyone, I'm Mark," said the welterweight actor with the dark eyes and dark, curly hair, and gave the name of his character, the first gay lead.
"I'm a psych major, sophomore, and I haven't done much acting before, just a little in high school," said Mark. "When the swim season got out I thought of getting back into it, and I guess here I am. I'm looking forward to working with you all on this," and as everyone me-too'd, he added, "and by the way, I'm completely straight, in case you were wondering. Of course I don't have any problem with the play but, I figured I'd mention that!"
No nervous laughter. Maybe a few smiles, but the cast was there to do a job and a gay relationship onstage was just that, a relationship, on stage, a relationship that was everyone's job to build and support and make believable. They were amateurs, but they were adult enough to recognize that their job was their job.
"OK, I'm Barry," said the solidly-built athlete with the square jaw and short brown hair framing his aggressive-looking face -- the second gay lead. "I'm a senior, and I'm totally straight too," he added to Mark, "so I guess you and me are really going to have to do some acting!"
The other two boys introduced themselves. One was a pale, wiry, quiet fellow with unfortunate hair but otherwise attractive enough.
The second was a blond guy, on the short side, with features just quirky enough to ensure his permanent role as a supporting actor. A guy who the guys immediately liked and the girls could tell was going to be a bit of a wiseass.
Then the two girls. Donna was a tall blonde senior theater major, with an angular face, long neck, and a loud voice she'd have to control for the stage. She might be a wiseass too, or maybe turn out to have a bit of a temper -- that remained to be seen.
And Sherry was a smiling black junior, with cheerful features, a curvy body, and a sunny disposition, who everyone immediately liked.
After more chat and some warmup exercises, Ms. Mahoney thought it was time to talk to the cast about the play.
"You've all read the script, and you know what this play is about. It's going to be controversial. It shouldn't be, but it will be. If you don't know that now, you will the week we open. It's a good story, a loving story, but because it's a gay story, people aren't going to like it.
"And that means we all have to work extra hard to be on our game. Later in the rehearsal process we're going to talk about PR, how to talk to reporters if they call you, and we're going to talk about sensitivity. Throughout rehearsal we'll work on eradicating stereotype from your performances. Whether the stereotype be gay men or anything else. I don't want your misguided idea of what 'some people' are like. I want your character.
"But Barry, Mark, you play gay men, and you are straight. One of the challenges you're going to face goes beyond ordinary acting, and it goes beyond overcoming your stereotyped thinking about roles unfamiliar to you -- and don't protest with how enlightened you are, we all think in shortcuts, and don't tell me you know a hundred gay men and so you think this will be easy.
"One of your challenges will be overcoming your own fears about your sexuality, and what being gay means. For the hour you'll be onstage, you will both need to be gay. Not act gay, not think gay, be gay. I expect you to fall into your roles completely.
"You may think you cannot do this. You are wrong. You probably think you are not enough of an actor to transform yourselves in this way. You are wrong, and together we will show you that you're wrong, and you will be better actors for it.
"If you are afraid of an alternate sexuality, you will need to overcome that. Any fears you show onstage need to be those of your characters. Your own fears, you are going to learn to leave at the door."
The cast traded looks and nodded seriously.
"Or maybe you're the world's greatest actor and you already know how great you are, in which case, you don't need a pep talk from me," she smiled, and got smiles back.
"To really get to the heart of what this means," continued Ms. Mahoney, "we're going to dive right in.
"We're going to start with the kiss."
Mark's heart jumped a little at this. He hadn't thought they would arrive at this point so quickly. Swallowing his uncertainties, he stepped forward, with Barry, and walked nearer the middle of the stage. Suddenly the bare floor seemed very brightly lit and the dark, empty seats held ghosts.
"Don't worry about it," said Barry. "I guess I've done more acting than you have, so trust me, it's not going to be a big deal. Once we get started it'll all be professional." Mark nodded as Barry continued, "I guess we're both a little scared, but I think we'll get over it quickly."
Mark flipped open the script he held, looking for the scene. "Did you want us to start from 'I'm going to--'" was as far as he got.
"We'll get to that later," said the director. "For now I just want you two to break the ice, for yourselves and the rest of the cast. First, the kiss." She wanted to see their comfort level, and their commitment. She didn't say any more.
Mark and Barry set their scripts on the floor. They both knew the kiss was preceded by a dramatic silence, so they had no lines to give.
They stepped closer, and then they were standing close, closer than two straight men will stand. Oddly calm, Mark still felt gripped by some kind of fear that he pushed aside as he took another step forward, his sneakers now almost touching Barry's.
Barry, though an inch shorter, was more solidly-built, had a deeper voice, had more experience on the stage. He knew instictively that he was not the one to take charge at this moment. In the script, the two men came together as one, but here, he knew he was going to wait for Mark.
Mark tuned out his classmates over his shoulder, tuned out the lights and the seats, looked down into Barry's eyes and tried to think "this is the man I love." What would it be like to be a gay man in love, about to kiss Barry -- or his character?
Maybe if he thought about playing a woman in love. Either way, it was hard to get into the role.
He shyly took Barry's hand and silently searched for something in his masculine face. As they took the final step together, toes stepping just between the other's feet, as they crossed the bubble of personal space men spend their whole lives cultivating as protection against other men, Mark raised his hands to rest on Barry's shoulders.
The gentle embrace wasn't as awkward as it could have been -- it wasn't a frat hug -- but it didn't start out as passionate. Mark's lips parted and he leaned down as Barry tilted his head up to meet him.
A shock for both of them that male lips were so soft. Barry thought briefly of how Mark's scent was clean and so... ordinary. Hands gently touching each other's shoulders and waist as they leaned into each other ever so slightly, their weight shifting as they drew into each other's gravity.
Mark's eyes fluttered shut as the room around them went away and then, as he leaned forward just barely enough for his chest to gently press Barry's, passion had suddenly arrived. A sense of heat from the body he held -- that he held! The light smell of wafting cologne turned sensual for the first time.
A crazy impulse to lift his hand from the shoulder, raise his thumb from its resting place on Barry's collarbone to caress the soft pulse under his jaw. He did not, he willed himself not to, but he felt the urge to slide his palm across Barry's cheek, touch his fingertips to his temple, run his fingers along his short, brown hair.
That gesture, one Mark had thought was for women, for only women, was now hovering in his mind, and though his hand didn't move, Mark knew what the touch would feel like against the groomed face of the stocky athlete.
Barry, eyes closed, heart thumping, stretched his neck up just a smidge, hands gently pressing down on Mark's hips for purchase, so he could slide his suddenly sensitive lips a little more firmly against the other boy's. Mark felt Barry's nose nudge his cheek and, just then, just for that frozen moment, it was not foreign, it was the touch of lovers' faces, the touch of his lover.
And, for both of them, then, something else too. Not just the thought of what such a tender kiss could lead to, though for each of them the vision of their mouths opening and tongues sliding roughly together was easy to imagine. Something more primal even than that. Something shifting inside the chest, or perhaps it was something that had fallen away. Something felt but not by the senses, something -- it was passion, yes, it was lust, just a hint -- something that hovered just below the threshold of consciousness. Not a change, but perhaps an awakening.
Lips parted only slightly, they pressed together, brushed chin against chin, noses to cheeks, for a moment that seemed endless, yet ended so quickly. They pulled apart and that somehow was more awkward than the embrace had been. Their eyes opened to see each other's faces, not jarring, not unexpected, just the face of a man, that was all. The man they had each kissed. A careful half-step back.
Then Donna's voice piped up from across the stage:
"That was so gay!"
The laughter was much-needed relief, the irony was understood, and though Ms. Mahoney gave her planned short talk on using descriptions as put-downs, she had smiled too.
"Well," she said, continuing the smile, "that was pretty awful." She meant the kiss. "This is going to need a lot of work." And that was a splash of cold water.
They returned to the kiss several more times before rehearsal turned to other things, each time slightly more loving, slightly more romantic. They didn't quite have sexual energy yet, but when Barry slid his hand up the side Mark's waist to cup the swell of his ribs, or when Mark playfully yet lovingly tucked a finger under Barry's chin to tilt his head up as he leaned in, they had the beginnings of a proper kiss. A proper kiss that would grow with practice to be the heart of the play, a kiss that let the cast know they were practicing for a real show and not a plastic embarrassment.
But the something else grew. A worry nagged at Mark, one very simple yet so hard to understand: was he liking this? Was any part of him enjoying it?
Barry felt it too. Did he want this? Was there something in receiving the touch of a man's lips that part of him had been waiting for?
And worse... they both wondered... did they imagine it, or, once or twice, had their bodies, had their sex, really begun to betray them?
It turned out that Mark and Barry didn't live far apart, Mark's dorm sitting at the edge of the campus and Barry's apartment just a block away. Sherry's dorm was on the way, so they walked her home, getting to know one another. But when she left, the light conversation left with her. They walked in silence to the point where they parted ways.
"So, pretty crazy, huh?" was all Mark could think to say.
Barry had his own thoughts, and kept them to himself too. "Definitely not what I expected. It's really... going to be challenging these next couple of months."
"Thanks for not, you know, making this too weird or anything."
"Yeah, no, we can handle this, it's not really that big of a deal I don't think."
The boys parted ways. Mark to his dorm, Barry walking on to his apartment.
Barry retired to his place for the rest of the night, to turn on the TV and not really watch it. And drink one imported beer, and putter around picking up books and checking email.
Mark hiked up the stairs to his single dorm room for the rest of the night, to pace, and think, and pace some more. What was it that he'd experienced on that stage?
Working through homework while puzzling over what had happened. Stripping to his boxers and sliding under the blanket to wonder at how his life had gotten so unusual so quickly.
Mark had never been a very outgoing person. The girl who'd dumped him the night before was only the third girl -- the third person -- he'd ever kissed. Which made Barry, he realized with a start, the fourth.
The first was a perky teenage crush who'd given him a chance for a couple of dates, then shook her head and his self-confidence.