tagGay MaleTo Love Again - Vik

To Love Again - Vik

byNRMathis©

Author's Note: This is a sequel to the previously published stories "One Day at a Time" and "To Love Again - Al."

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One thing I had learned is that given the option, Los Angeles is not where I would choose to live. I was born near Omaha, Nebraska, and lived there until my mom and I relocated to Philadelphia when I was eight. I'd moved to LA relatively recently, only at the beginning of the year, but I'd seen enough to know that the city was not really for me. The weather is nice, I guess, but as somebody who never really minded winter or cold it was odd living in a place where even in mid-December the temperature hardly gets in the fifties.

The real sticking point to me was the people here. Going from the City of Brotherly Love to Los Angeles almost gave me whiplash. The entire area is populated by mostly people I wouldn't get along with and wouldn't get along with me. I was happy that my job landed me in the company of people I could talk to, because otherwise it would have been even more difficult.

Still, if I'm being honest, the biggest reason why I didn't like living in LA was because Alice didn't live there.

Stop it! I scolded myself.

I looked around my office, reminding myself that making friends and finding love were not the reasons why I moved here. I was here to be a counselor, and it truly was the best and most rewarding job I'd ever had.

I heard a knock on the open door to my office and told whoever it was to let themselves in. A young man I'd never met before entered the room.

I did mainly two things for Reach, the organization that employed me: group sessions, and one-on-one counseling, both for LGBT youth in the area. The group sessions were more casual, and kids could stay anonymous if they so choose. If a kid wanted to talk to me alone, it usually meant it was something they were a little more embarrassed about.

This kid was shaking like a leaf. I made sure to get up from behind my desk and meet him halfway before shaking his hand and introducing myself.

"Hey there. I'm Vik Matheson. Call me Mr. Vik." Having them call me Mr. Matheson seemed to formal and having them call me Vik seemed to informal, so "Mr. Vik" was a happy medium.

"Hi. I'm Jason O'Hara."

I knew his name, he had set up an appointment after all, but introductions like that helped people get more comfortable, made the atmosphere less clinical.

Jason looked like he was in his late teens. He was a ginger who was skinny and not too tall, maybe 5'8". I was 6'1", so I kind of towered over him. I sat down in one of the two chairs in front of my desk and invited him to sit with me, so he wouldn't feel intimidated.

All these calculated moves and cautions may seem excessive, but I needed all the help I could get. Getting a teenager to really open up and talk about their problems is like catching a minnow with your bare hands.

"So, Jason, what would you like to talk about?"

He fidgeted in his chair. "I...it's kind of stupid..."

"I'm sure it's not."

He wouldn't look me in the eye. I could tell he wasn't quite ready to talk about the meat of the issue.

"Jason, could you tell me a little about yourself?"

"Um...I'm 19. I'm a freshman in college. I'm Lutheran." While not branded as a religious organization, Reach had Christian roots. My background of helping my own church and my minor in theology was part of the reason I got hired.

"How was your first semester?"

"It was okay."

His nerves were starting to fade away. Now was the time to act before he got bored.

"Usually people don't ask to talk to me directly unless they have something in particular on their mind. Is there anything you want to ask me about, Jason?"

He started shifting in his chair again.

"Well...I just have this thing, and...you...you know..."

"No, I don't know. Tell me what I can help you with," I pushed gently.

He was finally able to force it out.

"I...I think I'm asexual. My girlfriend broke up with me because of it, but I don't know if I don't want sex or if I'm just not ready for it."

There were several departments and subsections in Reach: bullying, social anxiety, eating disorders, etc. Being the counsellor in the LGBT+ section meant that I got all types: closeted teens, kids with gender dysphoria, kids who had fallings out with their family or were bullied because of their sexuality. Even so, I didn't have too much experience with asexual people.

"Do you think you could tell me some more, Jason?"

He nodded. "It was weird for me in middle school and high school. My friends dated and talked about how they thought about sex all the time. The people in my church told me about the sexual temptations that all teens faced in their adolescence. It was all so strange to me because I couldn't really relate to any of it."

I nodded, smiling encouragingly.

"I never really felt any sexual attraction to anyone, male or female. I sort of just thought that I hadn't found the right person yet."

I could relate. I spent about five years hoping I'd finally meet a girl I was attracted to. It never happened.

"Back in October I started going out with this girl. We dated, cuddled, even kissed a few times, but that's as far as I was comfortable taking it. I didn't want her to know that, so I just told her that I wanted to take things slow. I really liked her, and wanted to stay with her. I sort of thought that eventually the need to have sex would come on its own..."

His face fell. I didn't press, just waited for him to continue.

"Then...then the end of the semester came up, and she told me that she wanted to take the next step. I...I couldn't do it..."

He was starting to choke up.

"She broke up with me."

I heard him make the telltale sounds of trying to stifle tears.

"I'm not mad at her. I just feel bad about myself and don't know who to talk to about it. I don't know if I'm not ready, or will never want sex, but it makes me..."

He couldn't hold back the tears now.

"It makes me feel b-broken..."

That was my cue to step in.

"You're not." I didn't raise my voice, but I used enough force in my tone to grab his attention.

"Please don't let this get you down, Jason." My voice was softer now. One trick I learned about psychology was that a great way to catch somebody off guard was to be intense suddenly, then back off just as fast. It wasn't meant to be threatening, but it was jarring enough to give people pause and make them pay attention.

"You said you don't know if you're asexual or just not ready, right?"

He nodded.

"If you're not ready, that's fine. Sex is an intimate, powerful thing. It makes sense to wait for the right person. I'm gonna tell you a secret, one that hardly anybody knows."

He leaned in a little closer, in a move so subtle I doubted he was aware of it.

"I was twenty-four when I lost my virginity. I don't regret waiting. I knew that the person I lost it to was the right one."

His eyes widened. "How old are you now?"

"Still twenty-four. I hardly have more sexual experience than you do."

That was true, and it was true that I hadn't told many other people about it, but it wasn't because I was embarrassed, it just wasn't anyone else's business. Still, that's quite the thing to admit, and he knew it. I had gotten his full attention, and at least some of his trust.

"If anybody tells you that you're broken, or somehow less of a person because you're a virgin, they're not your friend. Full stop. God made us all in His own image, our lives just take us on different paths."

He nodded, though hesitantly.

"But let's say that that's not the case. Let's suppose you are asexual. So what? Why is that a problem?"

He blushed a little.

"That wasn't a rhetorical question, Jason. Why is that a bad thing?"

He mumbled "Because I wouldn't be able to give a partner everything they need."

"If a person is the one for you and truly loves you, they'll understand. The world is a big place, Jason. One day you'll find someone who'll stay, accept you as you are."

I could tell from his body language that he wasn't convinced. I guess I didn't blame him, what I said could easily be interpreted as meaningless platitudes. Thankfully I had another real-world example.

"Please look at me."

He raised his head to meet my gaze.

"Let me tell you a little bit about myself, Jason. I'm gay. I've been gay for as long as I've felt attraction and will be gay until the day I die. It took a lot for me to come to terms with that, fully acknowledge what that meant to me as a Christian. I'm at peace with it. God made me this way for a reason."

I held up my left hand, which had a black ring on it.

"You see this?"

He nodded.

"This is a purity ring. I moved here in April for this job, and decided that in this new chapter of my life I would be celibate. It hasn't been easy, but I've kept the promise I made. I know that to a randy college guy like you it's hard to fathom, but sex isn't necessary to be happy."

I put my hand down.

"I want to make it clear that I didn't choose abstinence because I felt like I had to. Gay men don't need to be celibate if they want to be real Christians. I chose this as a symbol. I gave up something in my life as a form of worship, as a way to show myself my dedication to doing God's work."

I leaned a little closer.

"God made you the way you are for a reason, too. Every single one of us is on our own path. We all struggle and have uncertainties along the way, but we're all in this together. Just keep putting one foot ahead of the other."

He nodded, looking a little less sad.

"Thanks, Mr. Vik."

I smiled. "If you have more questions or want to talk some more, you can join the group sessions or ask to see me again. It's my job to help you, so don't be afraid to ask."

Finally he smiled, for the first time since he walked in the room.

"I will."

He left, and I had that feeling of pride, gratitude that I was able to help somebody. That feeling made everything worth it. Being able to help people like Jason is why this job is so important to me, and why I wouldn't give it up for the world.

I looked at my phone, seeing that it was almost 7 PM. Considering the age demographic of Reach, my hours were different, more adjusted so that we'd be available after school. Most days I came in at 11 and clocked out at 7 if an appointment didn't run over time. I twisted the ring on my finger, something that had become a habit when I was bored.

I took a second to look down at the ring. Aesthetically, it was appealing: black and silver with a cool design, but over the months I'd grown to hate it. As rewarding as my life had become, the ring still served as a constant reminder of what I had left behind.

On that subject, I had a call to make that evening. Once my time was up I packed my things and left to go back to my apartment.

*****

I was lucky that the man who offered me my job was very well-off financially and already had something set up, otherwise getting an apartment in LA in only two weeks would have been close to impossible. It was small, even for a space meant for just one person, but I kind of liked the simplicity of it.

I sat on my bed and pulled out my phone, tapping one of my contacts for a call. After a few rings I heard his voice.

"Hey, Vik."

I smiled. "Hey, Alice."

I had made a few close friends in Los Angeles, but I still considered my best friend to be Alice, even though he lived back in Philly. It was bittersweet to talk to him; he was a great guy and a good friend, but I missed him so badly. I never lost the desire for his touch. Still, when it came to us as life partners, the ship had sailed, and I knew that all too well.

"I got some good news," I told him.

"Oh, well don't leave me in suspense."

"I have a week off at the end of the month. I'll be back in Philly for Christmas."

"No kidding?"

"Dead serious," I said, beaming.

I had worked diligently since I started this job in April. Now that it was December I used my accumulated vacation to go home for the holidays, finalizing it with my boss earlier that day.

"That's awesome, man! I can't wait to see you again!"

"Neither can I," I assured him.

It wasn't just Alice I wanted to see again. I missed my mom just as much, and there were so many other people I formed bonds with during my sixteen years in Philly.

"Where are you staying?"

"With Mom."

"Of course. Why did I think anything different?"

Alice teased me sometimes for being a momma's boy, but I let him do it because I knew that it was true, unfortunately. After all, I told her the news right after I got it, in the last couple minutes of my break that day.

"We need to meet up, Vik. You and I have a lot of catching up to do."

"For sure."

There was a bit of a pause. I was able to hazard a guess at what he was thinking about.

"You okay with meeting Michael?" I had guessed right.

"Alice, I've told you this so many times. I'm fine that you have a boyfriend. You two have been together for like six months. I'm happy that you're happy."

Both of us knew that that wasn't the whole truth. I was glad that he had moved on and found a boyfriend he could love and stay with, but there would always be that part of my heart that didn't let go and wanted him to be my boyfriend. When he told me in the summer that he wanted to truly give love another chance, it almost killed me to give him my blessing, tell him to let me go. Even so, I knew it was right. We did love each other, but it looked like us being together wasn't part of God's plan. He was happy with somebody else, and I was okay with it.

The problem was that I didn't have someone new to start over with. The promise I made to myself stopped me from dating. I put my all into my work and was happy with my new friends, but there was something missing that I couldn't replace. It wasn't the sex that I missed, though I missed sex so much it hurt, what I missed most of all was the romantic love and commitment. Most days I was able to ignore it, but that hole never closed up over time. Even if he moved on, I wasn't entirely convinced that I had. Not completely, at least.

The two of us talked a bit more before he told me that he had to go. We said goodbye and ended the call.

I looked around my tiny apartment, which had made progress, but never fully turned into a new home for me. I got up to get something to eat.

*****

I had made a few friends since I moved to LA, through work, through my new church, or otherwise, but by far my best LA friend was Eli Chandler.

Eli was in the small-group I met with every Sunday, and he was one of the nicest people I'd ever met. He was a strongly-built African American man, about an inch taller than me. I suppose that if you just saw a picture of him you might say he looked intimidating, but he was essentially a giant teddy bear.

I don't think I'd ever seen Eli shake hands with a person even once. He hugged mercilessly. Adding onto that the fact that he was extroverted and charismatic and he was friends with everyone he came across, myself included.

He was the only person from the small-group that I hung out with outside of church. We'd get lunch or go to baseball games together. He was the first person in my new city I felt a connection with like I did with any of the people from my old city.

We got lunch after church the Sunday following the week I got confirmation that I'd be going home for Christmas. He was happy to hear the news.

"Glad to hear it. It's always good to spend Christmas with family."

"So, how have things been going for you?"

"Okay, I guess. I'm not looking forward to grading a bunch of finals, but I have Christmas right after." He was a college professor. Handsome, kind, and smart; how was he a bachelor?

I stopped that train of thought. As much as I liked Eli, it was a little bit awkward hanging out with him because I was sort of attracted to him. He knew I was gay, but I knew he was straight, so nothing would come of it, even without my chastity. He wasn't the first straight guy I'd crushed on and he probably wouldn't be the last. Over the years I'd become pretty good at hiding my attraction. I could tell he didn't know.

We talked and laughed some more. I really did love being friends with Eli. He'd been there pretty much from the beginning, and over the months he'd become like a brother to me.

We wished each other a Merry Christmas, since the next time we'd see each other would likely be after that, and left.

*****

I hate flying. I hate everything about it. It wasn't that I was afraid of it; I was scared of heights, but I knew that I had about as much chance of dying in a plane as I did getting struck by lightning. I just hated the process. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I always wanted it to be over as soon as possible. Thankfully, pretty much everybody else feels the same way; people were doing their jobs right if we were out of there quickly.

I returned to Philadelphia at about 1 AM on the 23rd of December, which was a Saturday. My mom was kind enough to pick me up and drive me home.

As happy as I was to be back, it was sort of strange. I'd been living in LA for so long that I'd gotten used to it, and needing time to adjust to Philly was something I never thought I would need to do. I spent most of the day catching up with Mom.

That evening I was going to meet up with several old friends: Alice, as well as Cary and Danny, a couple he'd introduced me to. I'd also be meeting Michael.

We were meeting for dinner, and with five people it wouldn't an intimate gathering. Cary and Danny were waiting at our table when I got there.

"Hey, Vik! It's been a while!" Cary said cheerfully.

I looked at the two of them, Alice told me that they had a Dominant/submissive relationship, but they were also one of the mushiest and most lovey-dovey couples I'd ever met.

"Yeah, it has. It's nice to be back."

"How are things going in Los Angeles?" Danny asked.

"Pretty good."

I sat down and we chatted a few minutes before Alice arrived.

Against my will my heart did a little tap dance when I saw him walk up. He was as beautiful as he always was, although now his was hair short, something I still couldn't quite get used to. We hugged, and for that brief moment everything was right in the world.

"I missed you so much."

"I missed you too, Vik."

We pulled back, and I just then noticed the man with Alice who could only have been Michael.

He was handsome, though not my type. The most striking thing about him was the cosmetics he was wearing. I remember Alice putting on makeup one night when we were together, but he told me that Michael wore it all the time. That night he had berry-colored lips and big false eyelashes. I didn't think he looked bad, just a little odd. Maybe it's just because I wasn't attracted to him, when Alice wore makeup I was into it.

"Hello." He had a deep voice that surprised me. I always felt like I had a higher, reedier voice, but his was rich and smooth. He held out his hand. "You must be Vik. I'm Michael."

I shook with him.

"Al has told me quite a bit about you."

"Well, he's my best friend, what did you expect?" Alice interjected.

As much as I didn't want it to, it hurt a little to hear that from him. I knew it was ridiculous. The two of us had been apart since April and Michael had been Alice's boyfriend since July. I really was happy to be friends with him, but he had been mine and I'd never be able to forget that.

For the most part the five of us had a good meal. We talked and joked and laughed, them asking me about my new job and my new city. It felt good to catch up, especially with Alice.

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