You’re Just a Boy
Sadness is part of my structure, but letting it show never was.
It was a cold night in early Spring. For New England, that’s still winter. I was 19, a college freshman, and an idiot. I told everyone that Shawn was a guy I worked on a show with in the past. As an actor, like anyone who works in theatre, we are constantly working with and meeting new people. So we have the advantage of using “I worked on a show with them” as an excuse for when we can’t exactly remember how we met someone or if we’d rather not say.
I told everyone that’s how I met Shawn. But that was a lie. More embarrassingly, I had only met him once. It was at a show though, so partly true. A friend of a friend I’m no longer friends with, Shawn was about as distant to me as anybody. A friend request acceptance lost amidst a sea of high school nobody’s and college one-night drunk party friends, with the occasional foreign Spam account using the face of a Taiwanese girl in a hot pink bikini. Shawn was nothing to me to begin with. A handshake and a hello, and a waiting for my friend to finish talking to him so we could get to Taco Bell faster. I was after all just 17 when we met. Fast forward a few years, and I’m a bit older, but still so dumb.
After a night of party hopping in Cambridge, we somehow wound up at a friends in the Back Bay. I was with my friends Laurie, Ryan, and Tyler and we were sipping back double bottles of leftover wine from last weekend and shots of a weird brand of tequila. How I remember being a freshman.
But while talking to them in between drinks, I was distracted as I started getting messages from Shawn. Out of nowhere. We had messaged a while back, nothing big, just a “hey, nice meeting you’s” and a few “how was your day’s” as well as earlier in the year too. Our conversations were nothing exciting but I did have the feeling that he was flirting with me. Or at least trying to. I didn’t think much of it, I was too busy being a reckless freshman to notice an actually put together older young man, whose age I didn’t even know.
But he started messaging me, asking me how I was. Maybe I was just tipsy enough to think that our texts were the greatest thing man had ever written, but as the night went on and I slowly started to ignore Ryan, Tyler, and Laurie, Shawn finally texted me,
“You should come over.”
BOOTY CALL ALERT. Everything in my knowledge of common logic and decency started screaming “NO,” but I thought, why not? I had no evidence to support a strong argument against him. Sure, we didn’t know each other very well, but we could start to. He was nice, a gentle personality when I first met him, he seemed harmless as evident by his three only profile pictures on Facebook: one of him as a child on Easter Sunday, and two with his mother.
Okay, so maybe that was strong enough evidence to stay away. But still, I at least had an ounce of respect in me as I texted back explaining how I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to, to which he quickly replied back that all we’d do is have a drink, chat, and he’d walk me home, as he actually lived quite near me. I thought that was a fair enough deal. Nothing serious, nothing scary, nothing to worry about. Or so I thought.
Laurie and I hopped in a cab. She was wasted, but Laurie can sometimes be an expert caregiver when she’s blasted. She was planning to stay at a friend’s dorm that night and she just wanted to make sure I was okay. We pulled up to Shawn’s building, Devonshire Place, which was a huge high-rise skyscraper in the Financial District, right around Government Center. We both got out of the cab, said our goodbyes and Laurie was on her way, before she told me to call her should I need anything. She didn’t know anything about Shawn, except for the fact that I wanted to go to his place tonight.
I texted Shawn that I was outside, I was too afraid to enter. The interior lobby was very modern and swanky. A luxury apartment complex, the building was dozens of stories high. The security guard at the front desk glared at me with uncertainty.
I was not Blair Waldorf. I did not live here. I didn’t belong here.
But Shawn said he was coming down, so I decided to open the front glass door and wait inside. The security guard’s name tag read “Paul”, and he stared at me with a type of incredulousness. “Go back to your mother’s womb, you fetus!” Paul yelled at me from across the room in a thick Jamaican accent. Or maybe I just imagined that. I was very nervous.
So Paul and I had a staring contest for about fifteen minutes while I stood on the clean tile of the lobby floor, too afraid to sit or move or break anything. I felt like I was in my Nana’s house again, just inches away from breaking her set of collectible silver spoons if I got too curious. I was too curious here.
Shawn comes out of the golden-plated elevator. He’s about as tall as I remember, easily 6ft something, but very lean. His face is a bit big and narrow, a good match to his large manly hands. His haircut is a bit out of touch, looking like something Macaulay Culkin once sported. I’m judging him up and down for the whole elevator ride, from the size of his ears to the pinstripe dress shirt he was wearing. His whole presentation was a bit lanky and not quite stable, his tall and thin structure made him stride across the floor like a marionette. But he was very cute. His hazel eyes beamed in unison with his striking smile. Again, I thought, it was worth a shot.
We open the door to his nearly penthouse apartment. It’s beautiful, the furnishings and layout are of course all modernized and luxurious, clearly put there originally by the building’s management. Yet it had its homey charm too. I walked over to the floor length windows, taking in a spectacular view of the city below. The lights from the other buildings and apartments below were mere twinkles in the late night landscape from up here. It was gorgeous. Shawn asks if I want a drink, before I can answer, I turn around and he hands me a RedBull.
A REDBULL? What kind of drink was this? My mouth of course immediately speaks what my mind was thinking, giving my brain no time to stop it, “A Redbull?!” I laugh. He knew I was drinking wine all night, and must have been getting tired, but when you invite someone over for drinks, you DON’T give them a RedBull. He chuckles and says “Oh of course, what was I thinking,” and prepares me a glass of whiskey, which I wasn’t so thrilled of either, but happily drank. He suggests with a smirk that I can have the RedBull too, if I want. I roll my eyes. But I actually drank it anyways, pouring some of it into my whiskey glass…I needed the energy.
We sit on his couch and talk for hours about pretty much everything and yet seemingly nothing of value. Shawn was a Harvard graduate, 26, and now was working as a financial analyst or some type of important occupation I didn’t even bother to try and understand. It had to do with finance, which clearly he knew what he was doing, based off his luxury bachelor pad. We get on the subject of how he’s been to my hometown and has participated in these sailboat races that take place there every summer. He takes out a scrapbook from under the coffee table and shows me pictures of him racing in the boats and ones of him splashing in the water with his family’s Irish Setter. Cute Harvard Richie Rich who loves the water and puppies? I was sold.
Although Shawn also told me he was bisexual that night, to which I rolled my eyes again and took another sip of my whiskey-RedBull combo. Ya right.
It was getting even later, so I told him I better get going and walked into his bedroom to grab my bag, that I had thrown in there earlier without even looking. A dim floor lamp illuminated a far corner of the room, so I turned on the main light switch to get a better view. And that’s what I remember most. The walls were covered in all sorts of books. The shelves were from the ceiling to the floor. He must have had a thousand copies of all sorts of books in there. I walked over to the bookcase in awe and curiosity, as if staring at my Nana’s collectible spoons again, too afraid to touch. Just before I got a chance to look at them, Shawn is standing behind me, grabbing my waist. Normally in any horror film, this is just about when he’d probably stab me in the back of my neck and kill me. Thankfully, he didn’t do that. So I could already tell he wasn’t a mass murderer, which was a good sign. But then he kisses me on the neck and whispers,
“I love it when guys I bring home are impressed by my books.”
EW! This was a huge red flag. I gave a false laugh, a mixture of disgust and confusion as to why anyone as seemingly normal as he was, even if he did say he was bisexual, would ever say something like that.
I stared at his large California King size bed with sheets that just had to be made of Egyptian cotton and wondered just how many guys, or girls, he had brought back here. Ones that would listen to his tales of summer fun with cute puppies, only before he showed them his twenty five vintage copies of Crime and Punishment. It boggled my mind and felt very, very peculiar. I tried to do a swift “Well, I’ll see you around!” and get out of there, planning to walk home alone, but that didn’t happen.
The next thing I remember, Shawn threw me against the bed and we passionately kissed for a good amount of time before our jeans fell to the floor, his far more expensive than mine, as I caught a glimpse of the tag. I don’t remember the brand, but I remember the gasp. I may have been formerly abhorred by his revealing statement, but I guess at the moment I didn’t care too much. Rich, educated sailboat skippers only come so often. Could I overlook all of the other stuff? Maybe.
What happened next though both shocked, unsettled me, and sort of made me laugh.
After some rolling around in the sheets, I quickly helped Shawn pull down his tight gray boxer briefs, to which I came to a screeching halt as I saw he was still wearing an article of clothing. A turtleneck.
Shawn was loving every second of me sitting in front of him in his Tempur-pedic bed. But I stopped and looked at this turtleneck and I just didn’t know what to do.
So I didn’t do anything.
Shawn started to take matters into his own hands, possibly not even noticing my hesitation. All I remember after not being able to admire his “turtleneck surprise” was him flipping me on my back and pushing me against the sheets. He began to kiss me all over my neck and body, but started going so fast, I wasn’t sure where my skin ended and his began. He was stuck to me like glue.
And then things just got out of hand.
I began to feel very uncomfortable and uneasy, things were getting very weird in this sham of a paradise bedroom. I kept asking him to wait and stop for a moment, but he wasn’t listening to anything. We didn’t have sex, but the invasion of my personal space, how I asked him to stop and he didn’t, the way he talked to me–it was all very wrong. And gross.
Shawn tried to finish up, but at this point, there was no way I was getting that in my hair, so I quickly ducked out of the way and BOOM all over his nice clean sheets. He moaned. Probably for the sheets, because there was no more sexual appeal here.
I guess it was clear I was not in any sort of right mood to look at him at the time, because Shawn didn’t bother talking to me as he slowly started to put his clothes back on. Truth is, I didn’t know what to do. It was so late and I wasn’t thinking straight. As Shawn went to the bathroom, I laid there across the sheets. I hated how good they felt. He came back and saw me laying there, quiet and still, bare as can be in just my tight red boxers as I had managed to quickly put them back on while avoiding his turtleneck for the umpteenth time that night.
At this point, I think I had decided, by myself, to just sleep a few hours off in the sheets that felt too good, a good feet away from him since the bed was so big, and be off on my way before the sun came up.
He smirks at me, I’m staring up from him at the bed. He still looks cute, he’s looking at me admiringly, but it wasn’t enough. Or was it? I couldn’t tell if what had just happened was normal or not. I was still new to this all. I was still learning.
I said quietly “Aren’t you coming to bed?,” even though at this point I don’t know whether to be attracted to his convictions, books, and expensive jeans or be repulsed by his now apparent arrogant and dominant behavior.
His once convincing smile, now turns halfheartedly into something fake and painted on. He says,
“You should probably go.”
Go? Go where? What does he mean, “go?” I laughed it off as some type of odd joke and rolled around on the bed once more. What the hell was wrong with me? Am I a child? Was I drunk? Why didn’t I believe him?
Shawn starts to feel a bit uncomfortable himself for a change, as he picks my clothes off the floor, making sure not to include his expensive brand name jeans in the pile, and throws them back at me. Literally, he THREW my clothes at me and actually yelled at me,
“I’m serious you better fucking go!”
My sassy pants apparently came on, as they often do when anyone yells at me, because the next thing I threw back at him was “Why should I?” I’m still trying to realize why I didn’t leave right then and there. Why on Earth I would want to spend another minute there is beyond me. Maybe I was drunk.
He replies with four words I still remember to this day, because they were the four words that for the first time in a long time made me actually and honestly cry. He shrugs his shoulders, bursts out a short laugh, and almost smiling he says:
“You’re just a boy.”
I stare at him for a moment and look around at where I am and realize one thing: he’s right. He walks into the living room and I’m left alone with just my cheap jeans I bought on sale and dozens and dozens of books I’d probably never get to read, no matter how old I got. I walk into the main hallway of his apartment and utter out something quick that sounds like “Just a second” as I run inside his bathroom and lock the door. I hadn’t been in this room yet. I take a second to look in the mirror, I did look young. I was just a boy. I almost cry, but I don’t.
I use the bathroom, then wash my hands. I’m about to leave when out of the corner of my eye, I see something bright and sticking out like a sore-thumb from the classy black and white decor. I look to my left in his bathtub, pull the shower curtain aside and see not one, not two, BUT THREE, BRIGHTLY COLORED RUBBER DUCKIES.
THIS HARVARD GRADUATE, LUXURY APARTMENT LIVING, BUSINESS WORKING, 26 YEAR OLD GROWN MAN HAD RUBBER DUCKIES IN HIS TUB.
With STRONG evidence that they had been used along with his multi-colored bottle of bubble bath soap next to them AND a PASTEL YELLOW DUCKIE LOOFA PUPPET hanging from his shower head.
Where the Hell was I?
AND I WAS THE BOY?
I tried to hold back my laughter, while looking again at the boy in the mirror, one who had a much brighter face. I rolled my eyes. Fucking RedBull.
I exited the bathroom, now ready to go. Shawn came up from his seat and approached me. All previous joyous feelings from the rubber ducky discovery had now faded. I wanted to throw up, as I could hear him yelling again in my head. Thank God he didn’t offer to walk me home, but he had the audacity to bend down for a goodnight kiss, his hands planted on my waist again. I was caught completely off guard. The second after his lips touched mine, I furiously break away and stare at him with my eyebrows raised as far as they have ever possibly gone. He says, “What?”
I try to hold back my tears and ask where the elevator is. He points down the hall. I turn around and say goodbye as I leave his bizarro world completely, my feet stomping over the deep red carpet, probably waking the whole floor up.
I check my phone, it was 4:30 in the morning. I don’t think I had ever before been up this early. The elevator doors close on me and I just break down. I start to burst into tears. Streams of a water I was not familiar to pour down my face. Every floor “dings” on the way down and I cry even harder. What was wrong with me? I never cry! This wasn’t me? Why was I being such a…little boy? A child.
The elevator gets to the lobby and I rush out, audibly crying. Paul doesn’t know what to do. What really pissed me off is that he didn’t even bother to ask what was wrong or if I needed help getting home. I hate Paul.
I start to quickly run into the streets of Boston. It’s extremely dark out, terrifying and quiet. I’m in Downtown Crossing, a pretty dangerous place to be at night, so I hustle my way back up to Tremont Street, on towards my dorm building. Crying hysterically the whole way home.
I get into my dorm building on Beacon Hill and flash my ID card at the security guard, still crying. At least he asks if I need help, but I yell “NO, I’M FINE!” and I keep moving. I burst into my room, surprisingly not waking any of my roommates up. I take off my coat and throw it and my bag onto my floor. I run into the bathroom and locked both doors as we shared it with another suite. I lived with four crazy gay boys at the time and I was not in the mood for anyone to see me like this. I collapsed on the cold, dirty bathroom tile and sat there for just a moment, my head against the toilet stall door. I took a moment to breath and realize just how utterly stupid and silly I was being. Because I remembered, I don’t cry.
I reached under the stall door to grab some toilet paper to dab my eyes. I stood up and looked into the mirror. That’s when I saw someone I didn’t recognize staring back at me. That poor, weepy fool. That child. That boy. That wasn’t me.
I don’t cry.
A few minutes after I collected myself, I threw my clothes off and crawled into my bed. Crying myself to the sleep for the first time since I got beat up by a mentally handicapped classmate during gym class in the 4th grade. I didn’t feel myself.
The next morning I could barely move, I felt dirty, used, and so very stupid. But as I showered off last night’s regret, I thought about the RedBull, and his stupid sailboat, and how I was willing to stay just because I liked his sheets, and especially those RIDICULOUS rubber duckies and I started to laugh. I laughed so hard, I cried.
I walked out of the shower and dried myself off still laughing and looking forward to telling my friends the whole story, as awful as it was, because I learned something. I caught another glimpse of myself in the mirror. That was the face I knew. I still looked young and bare and so very naive. I knew I still had a lot to learn.
That day I erased Shawn’s number and deleted him off Facebook, to no longer see or hear from him any more. One strange contact I’ll never have to explain again. A bit childish, but what can you do?
Maybe I was still a boy. But at least I had a good idea of the kind of man I wanted to be.
I’m just now beginning to see myself as a man. One who makes his own choices. One who is independent, smart, and proud. One who is not afraid to cry, if he needs to.
Though I have to admit, I may still act like a boy sometimes. We all still have a little bit of child left inside of us.
But at least I don’t own any rubber duckies.