A little back story: In You Can’t Choose Your Family, Jay and Fran are pushing forty, in You Can Choose Your friends, they’re eighteen. This snippet they’re that age too.
In public, Fran was always in control of himself, always calm, always even and level. He’d learned that the hard way, having to sit in his father’s church while he endured hearing his father preach against homosexuals. Fran had learned not to react while his father was sowing hatred against his own son, and people like his son, but this was different. This had nothing to do with hatred and everything with love.
Jay had taken him to a party that was a little unusual for them. Normally they went to frat parties full of scantily clad cheerleaders and sports jocks, where beer was funneled into throats and the party-goers couldn’t get drunk fast enough. This party was only men. Gay men. And Fran had never felt so out of place. In his mind he knew he was a part of this community, and that he should feel safe and appreciated, but after trying not to belong for so long, this took some getting used to.
Jay certainly felt at home. He was smiling and flirting with the guys who gravitated toward him like a magnet, just like everyone else who came into contact with them. But some of those guys were tall, muscled college guys like Jay, and all Fran could think about was that they fit Jay better than he did.
Fran had never understood what Jay saw in him. Yes, they were going to move in together in a room in Jay’s brothers’ apartment and yes, they spent every free moment together. The sex, frankly, was mind-boggling, even if they had to sneak around roommates, and Fran couldn’t wait for them to have their own room, but he was still waiting for the realization to set in with Jay that Fran was just a repressed runt who wasn’t worth Jay’s adoration.
Fran stood on the sidelines, watching as Jay returned from the bar carrying two glasses of beer. He wasn’t getting far. He had to snake between hordes of guys, and most of them turned around and started chatting him up. Jay seemed to enjoy the attention, and Fran felt a knot starting to form in his stomach. On more than one occasion, he wanted to walk over and deck the guy trying to get his hands on Jay, but he knew he’d never win the fight and besides, he didn’t have the nerve to claim Jay. All he could hope for was that Jay would return to him quickly.
In the meantime he clenched his fists, feeling his nails dig into his flesh, even though he liked keeping them neat and short. His throat was dry and his vision blurred. He wanted to run, but couldn’t. He wanted the wall to swallow him, but knew it wouldn’t.
It felt like it took forever for Jay to reach him and once he did, Fran grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and turned him around before pushing him against back the wall.
“Hey, easy, loverboy,” Jay shouted out over the dance music, holding up the two glasses as he tried not to spill too much beer.
“I thought those guys would never stop.”
“All the college kids, and the dirty old men trying to get their hands on you.”
“They’re just guys trying to have a good time, Frannie. They can flirt here, which they can’t do at the other parties we go to.”
“Horny men. Eyeing your butt.”
Jay giggled. “You’re jealous.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are.” Jay was laughing. “I see the green-eyed monster.”
“I just…,” Fran let go of Jay and took a step back, but Jay put his beers down and pulled him closer again.
“You just what?”
Fran shook his head, his shoulders low.
“Frannie, you know I love you. You’re the man for me.”
“I’m not much of a man,” Fran sulked.
“You’re plenty man for me.”
“But they’re all so buff and blond and so much more like you than me.” Fran wasn’t whining, but he came close.
Jay gave him a compassionate look. “I don’t want guys that look like me. I want guys that look like you. One guy in particular.”
Fran wasn’t convinced.
“I haven’t even as much as looked at another guy since I met you, Fran. I don’t need to. I can’t wait to go home and spend time with you, and I’m counting the days until we can move into the apartment.”
Fran didn’t know how to channel his feelings. He looked into Jay’s eyes and saw nothing but love. And it was all directed to him. So he grabbed Jay again, pushed him against the wall, and kissed him until they were both starved for oxygen. For the first time in his life, he dared to do this with other people present. Jay was right. It was allowed here. And as he felt Jay rubbing up against him, he knew they’d do this again, just to be able to feel this free.