When the gay boy got a girl pregnant
The rumor spread across campus like the brush fires that sparked during dry fall afternoons at the mouth of Bloody Run: someone had got a girl up the lane pregnant. The Headmaster knew. They were going to get expelled.
At first we thought it was Sam. He had a ground floor single and he took the screen off so one of the local girls could sneak in at night. Some kids could hear them. We were in disbelief and didn’t talk with him about it. It was as if talking out loud about it would alert the monks who ran the school. We didn’t know which was worse: Sam’s occasion of mortal sin or our mortal sin in wishing we were Sam.
That speculation ended when Sam came walking by and told us with a laugh that he had nothing to do with a girl getting pregnant. He’d heard about it, but was too smart to get snarled in that mess.
That evening at dinner, one boy was missing. Dick. He was the one.
But Dick was gay.
We knew that he was gay, but didn’t know. It wasn’t like he was going to make a statement at our all-boy’s catholic boarding school and come out to tell us all that he liked boys, wanted to kiss and touch boys the way we wanted to kiss and touch the girl in Sam’s room. It was as if there were two contrabands of desire. One had a market, and the other had a stigma. We all knew that Dick was squarely in the stigma marketplace.
We knew but we didn’t know. We knew in the way boys think that they know what something different from themselves is. We knew because Greg, the roughest of us, called Dick a faggot and punched him in the pews at church. We knew because Dick’s clothes were neater than ours. We knew because Father A., who we knew was gay, even though he was a priest, was interested in what Dick had to say.
We knew because Sam was easy around Dick. Sam was immune, we figured, because he’d done those things with girls. At 17, he carried himself like a man.
But if we knew, how could Dick have gotten a girl pregnant?
The drama unfolded over the weekend. We theorized. Dick got a girl pregnant to prove that he wasn’t gay. Dick wasn’t gay. Dick hadn’t it done it. We watched him walk across the campus to the headmaster’s office. It was Spring and the sky was a brilliant blue. We watched his friend Brad make the same walk a few hours later. We watched as a taxi pulled into the dorm parking lot. We watched Dick take his bags out to the cab. We watched Sam stand by the cab with him and talk. We watched Sam hug him. We watched the cab drive away.
Sam walked over to us.
“He’s going home, you idiots,” he said.
Sam didn’t talk to us much the rest of the year. He was busy with the girl who snuck into his room and the business of graduating.
We held the freshman beauty pageant like normal: all the freshman boys in the dorm dressed up in drag. We held the Spring hunt like normal, when we went into the woods during the night of the Prom looking for couples that were trying to do it under the stars. We held the final beer bash, like normal. We got sloppy drunk under the warm night sky by the bay. We skinny dipped. We made fun of our hard ons. We talked about the things we would do to girls. We sat bare shoulder to bare shoulder, bare flank to bare flank, fading into a drunken stupor, feeling the intense tingle on our skin. We called each other fag, homo, cornhole and laughed and laughed.
We never knew what girl was pregnant.
That summer I went down to New York to go to school. I felt liberated. I could finally be the person that I thought I was, be a writer, be an artist, escape the brute force of the 350 boys and the 59 monks that set the tone for every day.
I went into the old West End. I saw Dick.
I didn’t know what to do. I turned to go but he saw me. “Hey,” he called. He was enthusiastic. He was with another boy, Paul. They were going to school together in New York, downtown. They were meeting a friend.
What really happened, I asked him.
I made it up, he said.
“I don’t really know why. I knew everyone knew I was gay. I couldn’t stand it anymore, being teased and punched. It was awful. Then when the rumor started about a girl being pregnant, I figured hey, why not me. That will be a joke on everyone. So I took credit. Then when I got sent to the headmaster, I realized that everyone was taking me seriously. It was my way out. So I kept the story up. The headmaster tried to talk me out of it. But I got Brad to back me up. So he had to kick me out.”
“Was there really a pregnant girl?”
“I don’t know.”
I was quiet then. I didn’t know what to say. The determination of his choice scared me. I didn’t think there was anything I knew about myself that I would be able to back so firmly. How did he know, I wondered. Not that he was gay, but that he was strong.
“Hey, I know you weren’t like the rest of them,” he said. “I don’t blame you. It was hard for you too.”
He patted my shoulder. We exchanged numbers. They left.
He had been generous. I wasn’t blameless. I had been complicit in my silence. I had been guilty in my fear. I had been paralyzed by my weakness. I had been stingy with my heart, because I was too afraid that the uncertainty in me would be discovered and taunted to stand up for the certainty in him. I had been wrong.