Breaking Masks

by Dabeagle & Josh Aterovis


Chapter 6


The music had toned down some. People of every description were scattered around the large living room milling about in clusters, talking, drinking, and laughing. I felt a bit out of place, not sure how I should conduct myself at what appeared to be a straight gathering. Suddenly, I felt a little conspicuous in my sartorial choices.

“Come on, Kody, let’s get you a drink!” Nick said as he took me by the hand and pulled me through the crowd. Good thing he did too, because I would have lost him very fast in this crowd. I glanced at my surroundings, which wasn’t much since there was this colossal guy blocking most of my view past a couple of feet. He was like a pillar of solid flesh. He turned in profile and I saw a low, heavy forehead that resembled a bulwark, complete with unibrow. His muscles rippled as he stretched his gargantuan body. Then again, everyone is huge at my height.

The man-mountain shifted and there was Jake, turned three quarters away from me and holding a glass of soda. His chest was outlined in a tight fitting blue polo that reminded me of clear blue skies. His head began to turn lazily in my direction, but Nick started moving again at that point, and I was tugged back into the sea of people.

“Screwdriver?” Nick asked as we reached the alcohol.

“I’m not all that mechanical,” I replied. He smiled and mouthed smart ass at me before pouring me a drink. He handed it to me with a flourish and I sipped it carefully. Hey! This isn’t bad! I began to drink it a bit more quickly while Nick and I exchanged basic information about each other—small talk really.

Suddenly, I was on my third—or was it my fourth?—drink, something called a Long Island Iced Tea, and boy, was that good too! I felt confused, and realized that Nick wasn’t near me. I wondered if I bored him or something.

I turned, and my vision swam. Some guy with a face that looked like a jackhammer had run riot on him was laughing in front of me. His mouth looked amazingly huge, as if it could swallow planetary systems or something. I began to giggle, which made me lose my balance somewhat. I placed a hand on the counter in front of me to steady myself. I spotted Jake through a break in the sea of people. He was leaning against a wall, looking bored. I decided to go say hello to him and tried to walk. Wait... This might be more difficult than I thought.

I wobbled a bit, then stopped altogether to get my bearings. Wow, those drinks hit me fast. Who would have thought? It was just four...or was it six drinks? I looked up and watched Jake from across the room, his arms crossed over his chest and that hulking figure from earlier staying no more than two feet from him. I suddenly got the image of this guy on a leash moving in a precise two foot radius around Jake like the world’s largest stray puppy. I began to giggle again and inhaled deeply as I tried to catch my breath, but Jake slowly straightened up as some blond girl stopped to talk to him. The Hulk hovered just at the edge of his invisible leash.

The girl was looking intently at Jake and speaking to him. I hated that. Seeing him here was almost like some divine plan peeking through for a moment. Then there’s some girl to ruin it all and remind me that he’s straight. God, I came here to forget him!

The stereo volume bumped up a couple of notches and a vaguely familiar song came on. Bump, bump, bump, then some words...Fly by Sugar Ray! Okay, I can get in to this! I began to dance a bit on my own, and old jackhammer face noticed and started to laugh. I ignored him and danced, singing along with the jacked up radio volume.

I mumbled the lyrics to myself, as much as I remembered of them. I am sure they were almost all wrong anyway. I spun on my own, oblivious to my surroundings. I felt fluid on the floor, twirling and feeling the air as it flowed across my skin. I twisted and turned, feeling my shirt fly open at the flaps and my undershirt ride up my stomach a tad. The song started to wind down into a quiet part, but I danced all the more. The blond chick that had been talking to Jake was now moving with me...well, in my general area anyway.

“Lookit the little fag dance!” a voice rang out loud enough to be heard over the music. I followed the eyes of so many in the room that lead back to Jackhammer Face. I looked at him and he grinned at me drunkenly. “Go on fag. Dance till you puke.”

I felt an overwhelming need to hit something. People were laughing. It occurred to me later that they could have been laughing at this guy showing what a moron he really was, but right then it felt as though they were all laughing at me—and it was all his fault. Nick had his arm and was trying to talk to him, but he was having none of it. He was getting loud with Nick, and shoved him hard away from him.

As a short guy, you can’t really administer a beat down too often, but I was drunk and he didn’t look so tall anymore. In fact, I was sure he’d shrunk since I began to drink. I charged him and was only a foot or two away when he noticed me. I jumped on him, like a small child who leaps into a father’s arms. As we fell to the ground, I tried to continue the jackhammer’s work on his face.

I dropped five or six good shots on him while he struggled to extend his arms to hit me. I knew I needed to stay close in on him or I was dead meat. My fists felt as if they were moving with Matrix-like speed, so I was quite surprised when I began moving away from good ol’ Jack.

Someone grabbed me from behind and tried to pull me away. No! If I could just get the right distance....

* * *

I dreamed of Jake—and I knew it was a dream because the girl he was probably banging right about now was nowhere to be seen. He was dressed as he had been at the party, and he told Nick he would take me home. I dreamed I leaned on him, feeling his firm body under my grip as I latched my hands around his neck and laid my head on his collar bone. I know, I should have been his shoulder, but I’m short. This was a technically correct dream, apparently. Jake and I went into the hallway and Nick flirted with Jake. I think I bared my teeth at him, but I wasn’t sure.

Jake took me to my room and asked for my key. All he had to do was ask, but I just giggled at him. At some point, I asked if he was flirting with me, but I don’t remember what he said. He reached into my pocket, and it felt so real. I squirmed under his touch and ground into him. It was amazing how real it felt, from the firmness of his body to the smoothness of the skin on his neck. Even the clean, fresh smell of his bare skin where my nose met his neck was perfect.

We got into my apartment and he asked me where my bedroom was. I pointed, not wanting to relinquish my hold on him. This dream had to be followed to fruition. We lurched into the bedroom, he flipped the light on and then told me to get into bed. I happily complied, dragging him down with me. He looked in my eyes and seemed to be breathing heavily.

“Kody, I should go,” he said.

“Stay,” I replied. I looked up at him and my dream already fading as exhaustion claimed me. I looked into his beautiful blue eyes. They were clear and bright, a sky blue that stood out so sharply they could have been cut from the sky itself. I began to sing to him, very softly.

“I have lost love. I have found love, in a world of broken dreams.” I think I tried to kiss him then, but it gets fuzzy there. I must have fallen into a deeper sleep, because if I kissed him I should desperately like to remember.


I was completely run down and my head felt like there were seventy-six trombones playing inside. Oh God, I’ll never be able to watch ‘The Music Man’ again. I rolled out of bed and instantly regretted it. I crawled to the bathroom and hung my head in the time-honored tradition of hung-over people everywhere. I had to admit, I felt better after emptying any remaining contents from my stomach.

After showering, I did feel somewhat near human. I walked out to my room to dress. The clock reported it was now twelve thirty six and my stomach rolled over. I need coffee, and maybe a small scone. I dressed in sweats and a tee shirt with the VRU Red Rooster on the front. He was doing something obnoxious. All the shirts had something suggestive on them, which is funny sometimes, but not at the moment.

I locked my door and decided to ask Nick to go for coffee too, the least I could do for knocking out one of his guests. I knocked on his door, which elicited a muffled response that sounded like an annoyed, “What?”

The door opened and I stood there, trying not to laugh at Nick who was sporting some very aggressive bed head. His mellow green eyes were somewhat bleary, and it was obvious he had been asleep.

“Um, hi, Nick. I stopped to see if I could buy you a cup of coffee?” I asked while schooling my features to neutrality.

“Coffee? That sounds good,” he mumbled. “C’mon in.” I walked into a true mess, cups, bottles and empty beer cans were abandoned thither and yon. A sheet was laying in the doorway from the bedroom to the living room. I tried to stifle a giggle but failed, which drew a sour look from Nick.

“Let me just grab a quick shower,” he said while dragging the sheet back into the bedroom. I walked over to his kitchenette and found a box of garbage bags. Opening one, I began to pick up some of the detritus that was strewn about courtesy of his guests. By the time he got back into the living room in sweats and a lacrosse sports top, I had picked up much of the used container population.

“Oh, thanks man. This place just needs to be hosed out!” he chuckled.

“Yeah, looks like it was a hopping good time,” I commented.

“Well, it did calm down after you beat on that guy a little.” He chuckled at the thought. “I never would have pictured it, but I think if I hadn’t pulled you off of him, you might have inflicted some serious damage.”

“Oh, I am so sorry. That is so embarrassing, I usually don’t drink,” I replied with my cheeks afire.

He smirked. “Yeah, your friend Jakie-poo thought that was the case.”

“I didn’t say that, did I?” I looked at him in dismay.

“Yep, you sure did.” He smiled back.

“He didn’t hear me, did he?”

“Well, I think he might have heard since you were on the floor and he was trying to help you stand at the time.” Nick grinned.

I squeaked.

“It didn’t seem to bother him. I think he just figured you were drunk, you know? I mean, he still walked you back to your apartment last night.”

I gaped at him in growing horror. Oh my God! Jake had been in my apartment? It wasn’t just a dream? Had he seen my deranged underwear purchases? Had he really been pulled into bed with me?

“Kody, you all right? You don’t look very good.”

“I...oh my God.” I put my hands over my face as I pictured how uncomfortable a straight guy must have felt to have me, this raging queer, make a drunken pass at him.

“Kody, seriously, he didn’t seem to mind. He seemed to think you were an okay guy. I mean, he took you home, right?”

“That’s not the part that worries me,” I whined.

“I think he was kind of sweet on you. I mean, not just anyone will look out for a guy. You know?”


“I think he’s gay. Does that freak you out? Cause if it does we aren’t going to get along as neighbors.” Nick looked at me grimly.

“You’re gay?” I asked.

“I’m not entirely straight. How’s that?” He laughed, a cold sound that held no amusement. His eyes searched my face, not that he had anything to worry about in terms of defending himself from me. I am sure he could beat me to within an inch of my life if he really wanted to.

I sighed in relief, and then looked at him with a squint. “Did you hit on Jake last night, when he was carrying me out the door?”

“I flirted,” Nick admitted. “You can’t blame me. He’s cute and he seems to be a decent guy. Like I said, he wanted to make sure you were okay, and it didn’t sound like you guys had known each other for too long. So, good looking and good people...what’s wrong with flirting?” He smiled at me and I couldn’t fault his logic. “It would be different if you were dating, then I wouldn’t except in fun, you know? Is Jake your boy?”

“Hold everything. Who said anything about me being gay?” I asked. Now let me be clear, I wasn’t asked directly. He was assuming. I’m not ashamed of who I am. If people ask, I’ll tell them, but if they assume? They better have some proof!

“Well, I put two and two together. Like Jakie-poo, and the way you snuggled your head into his shoulder. Plus, when I flirted you bared your teeth at me.” Nick replied, ticking off the reasons on his fingers. Okay, so he had me. “So, is Jake your boy?”

“I wish, but after last night…Wait a second, he’s straight!” I exclaimed.

“Oh no, friend of mine, he’s bi at least. Can we go get coffee now?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said as we exited his apartment. “But how can you be so sure?”

“He was flirting back a little. He blushed when I flirted, so he knew the score there. You have to watch people, Kody.” He threw his arm around me and we walked down the stairs and over to The Morning Rush. Mike was working that Sunday and he was bored out of his skull.

“Jesus, I’m glad to see someone!” he said. “This place is so fucking boring.” He poured the coffees and, since Nick was with me, they were on the house. We talked to Mike, who’s an okay guy but nothing to write home about. I definitely didn’t see the attraction Max had to him, except that he was uninterested in her. I think she was into the impossible relationships—then she couldn’t get hurt.

Was I into that, too? Picking a straight guy? Or, according to Nick, a bi guy. We sat at the table, lost in our own thoughts and just allowing the afternoon to pass by.

“So what are you going to do?” Nick asked.

“About Jake you mean?”

“No, the crisis in the Middle East! Of course Jake!” He laughed at me.

“I’d rather solve the crisis in the middle east, thanks.”

He gave me an impatient look.

“I don’t know. I mean, let’s assume that he is bi, at least. I don’t even know if he likes me,” I replied.

“Well, he must be able to tolerate you. He took you home, after all,” Nick reasoned.

“That’s another thing. I am so embarrassed about the way I acted last night. I don’t fight! Look at me! Kindergartners see me and think, ‘Yeah I can take him’. On top of that...I am pretty sure I was a romantic drunk,” I sighed.

“You made a pass at him?”

“I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure I said something silly. I know I was hanging off him like some love struck groupie and...I think I tried to kiss him.”

“You tried to kiss him?” I nodded. “Well?”

“Well what?”

“Did you suck his tonsils out? What do you mean ‘what’?”

“I…I don’t know. I mean, I really would like to remember if I did…kiss him.”

“You can’t remember if you kissed a hot guy or not? That’s it, Shirley Temples for you from now on!” Nick laughed at me and I flipped him the bird.

“Okay, so let’s say that he is interested. What then?” Nick seemed to enjoy playing devil’s advocate.

“That is so unlikely. Besides how am I supposed to look at him after acting like that? If he was interested before, now he’ll run screaming from the freaky kid that drinks too much.” I sighed.

“You don’t know that, and I think it’s safe to say from the looks he gave you that he might forgive you.”

“I don’t know.”

We walked back towards our apartment in relative silence, mulling over the sordid events of last night. I still felt foolish. We stopped in the video store, which displayed a pride flag in the window. They had a section of gay-themed movies so I filled out the necessary forms for a card.

Once we got home I went in and helped Nick get his apartment cleaned up before going home. I reached out to put the key in the lock when I saw a note tucked into the jamb of the door. I looked at it curiously, rent wasn’t due and I couldn’t think of a reason for there to be a note there. I opened it and scanned the hasty scrawls on the scrap of a receipt.


I just stopped to see if you were okay, you were a little drunk last night.


A little drunk? Was he paying attention? He thought enough to stop and see if I was okay, though. Maybe he just wanted to be sure I hadn’t choked on my own puke, maybe it would make him responsible somehow. I opened my door and pulled off my shirt, tossing it on the back of the couch. I sat on the couch looking at the note. He stopped to see if I was okay.

Well maybe he wanted to check, just to cover his ass on liability. Let’s be serious here, things never worked out for me, the one who always picked the guy that was taken or just wasn’t interested. I stared at the note, the lines of the letters, and began to crumple it, only to stop and sigh in frustration. He cared enough to make sure I wasn’t dead. I put the note in my pocket, not sure exactly why. Maybe as a solid reminder that there might be more to this than I thought.

I stayed home and read for the evening, just sprawled in bed. Classes started the next day, so I went to sleep fairly early. Plus, I was tired from my antics the night before and my churning thoughts from the day. As crazy as it sounds, Nick had given me a little spark of hope, this stupid little flame that made me think of Jake far after the lights went out. I wondered if my daydreams could ever be a reality. Time will tell, as my father would say.

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