I didn’t care that he’d humiliated me in class. Or that he had basically told me to shove it. No that wasn’t it at all, despite what he obviously thought. It wasn’t even that I thought he was boring. He was in fact very entertaining.
For the past three weeks Professor Burrie had strode into the class wearing well fitted dress pants and a white shirt with whatever tie that struck his fancy for the day, and managed to look way better than any psychology professor should have.
His lips curled and curved sexily on words ending with ’s’ and ‘t’ and ‘y’. Which were a lot of words. I would know, I kept track of every one of them. Maybe if he wasn’t so damn distracting I’d actually learn something besides focusing on the things I’d rather do with him than discuss sleeping. I’d gotten precious little sleep recently anyway.
Those golden eyes popped up everywhere I went, making my palms to become sweaty and my heart to break all speeding infractions. Sleep was damn near impossible at 130 beats per minute.
Bass slammed a large palm down on my desk, drawing my focus back to my surroundings. His name was actually Bernie Alexander Stevens, but we’d just call him that because of the initials and because of his deep voice.
I blinked rapidly refocusing on the room, which was
empty and I had been twirling my pen in my hands above the blank page of my
“You okay, bro?” Bass’ brown eyes looked worried. I fought a contrite grimace off my face. This was not the first time he had had to drag me back from dreamland within the last few weeks. From his face I could tell that it was quickly wearing him down, especially since I hadn’t told him the reason for it.
Every time the truth came to the tip of my tongue I had stifled it, shoving it deep at the back of the closet in my mind.
“Yeah, yea. I’m fine, I’m just dog tired,” I claimed. Also not for the first time. I wondered how long I could use that excuse.
“For a man that’s dog tired you don’t ever sleep in class. You just kinda… Space out man, it’s weird. I’ve known you for what?” He took a second to count it mentally. “Six years, and you’ve never done that before. I’m beginning to worry…”
“Screw you,” I shot, Bass never pushed when I got defensive. It always worked to get him off my case. “Nothing’s wrong, I just got a lot on my mind.”
Bass’ face said it all. He shook his head as if it helped him to let it go. “Whatever man, maybe you just gotta get out and lose whatever got you worried. You are going to the campus party right?”
I hadn’t really thought about it, but my answer was automatic. Bass would kill me otherwise. “Hell yeah.” I had to reassure him or else he’d never leave, and I was dying to be left with just my thoughts. Thoughts of the yummy professor… Awh…
I was watching my sneakers hit the linoleum and wondering about what Bass had said earlier. It really was six years now. I wondered how I had become this person I had never wanted to be. A person who hides who he is from the world like a coward.
I hadn’t even told Bass, and he had never even given me any indication that he was homophobic. It was just nerve wracking the thought of saying those three little words to anyone.
I. One letter. Am. Two letters. Gay. Three letters. Should be easy right? Even the words were like a staircase just to deceive you into thinking it wasn’t very hard to manage. But it was a staircase that left me too winded to speak just considering climbing it.
I had meant to tell him. Just like I had meant to come out to the whole damn school and my parents. Really. I had a plan and everything.
That was just about when it happened. Josh, walking daydream, linebacker and sex on a stick Josh, had called me a faggot right after the homecoming game in the locker room after everyone had already gone. I had waited back, I secretly enjoyed how long it took him to shower and had developed the habit of taking long just to hear the scrape of the towel against his skin as he dried.
I would never forget the six seconds of silence between us before I had lodged my fist into his face.
I hadn’t stopped there. He got it everywhere I could reach until coach found us and dragged me off of him. Neither of us had said anything when they all asked what the hell had happened, and Josh knew from the glare I was shooting him that he better not repeat what had went down.
When Bass had asked I said it was about time someone helped Josh put a sock in it and when he agreed, that was that.
Now two years after I still heard it whenever I got too comfortable or got ready to launch the words from off my tongue. Fucking Josh calling me a faggot.
I could practically hear my parents and siblings saying it, Bass saying it and all the girls I’d screwed, as quickly as I possibly could have, sneering it wherever and whenever they could. And I swore I wouldn’t let myself be hurt like that. Just whatever. It was my life. Nobody had to know shit anyway.
I regretted raising my eyes from the ground when I reached the parking lot. There he was. American boy version 3-point-oh. Fuck.
He lifted his leg to enter on the driver’s side of a black Audi and his dress pants hugged his ass and nearly gave me a nosebleed. He ducked to get into the vehicle and I was still staring when he pulled out of the spot and passed by where I stood. The car slowed, then the window on the passenger side went down as the car idled.
What, was he actually waiting for me to go to his car? I pushed my feet to respond to my brain’s commands and went to the lightly tinted windows, bending over and gripping the door I met his filleting eyes with my most arrogant smile. “How come you stopped?”
His eyes looked pained, and his voice was concerned, “I stopped because you looked like you were selling joints, standing at the corner like that with your head down.”
I waggled my brows, “Why? Want one?”
“Maybe another day,” He said casually, perhaps not believing me or perhaps serious about the joint. “Go home Mr. Tyler.”
I was glad he remembered the name. I grinned, “But I got a job to do here, Mr. Burrie,” I returned, “What will my customers do without me?”
“I don’t know, have healthier lungs maybe,” he quipped.
I ignored him, deciding to jump right in. “Give me a lift to Starbucks?”
“You ever heard of ‘please’? And aren’t you gonna ask your daddy?” I loved this guy’s mouth, he seemed to have no problem serving me back my own medicine. I almost replied that I was asking my daddy right now but didn’t want to come off too creepy.
“Okay, please. And by the way, you need to let that one go, professor, someone I know taught me it’s bad to bottle things up. And I really could use a coffee…” I trailed off then continued, “Unless you prefer I have a joint?”
He shook his head, as if dispelling bad thoughts. Oh, I wish you wouldn’t.
“Hop in. And dust your feet on the grass before you do.” I was so in there. I wiped my feet and was in the car in one-point-two seconds.
His car was sweet, but there was no way he could have afforded this on his salary. I prided myself on knowing money very well, Burrie was not the kind I would’ve expected to even be rolling in one of these babies. He didn’t reek the kind of stench rich people did. Maybe he’d won it in the lottery or something.
“How is your adjustment going into college?” His tone was conversational, but not effortless by any stretch of imagination. We were off to a wrong foot, and he hadn’t forgotten that I had basically threatened him earlier.
“It’s ai’ite,” I drawled, partly just to trigger him. He betrayed no emotion at all, schooling his features into polite concentration on the road. “It’s just like high school with older people. All the same parties, all the same groups of airheads.”
Finally he reacted, a raised brow. That was all. Clearly he classified me as one of them.
“What? I’m not dumb you know,” I shot at him.
“I never said or implied that you were. Although your performance in Psychology is less than stellar. You have time to get it, best to improve early on though.” His tone was neutral.
“It’s tough,” I allowed myself a little whining. Nothing annoyed like a grown man whining about something.
“It can be,” He allowed, then reached across the island between us. I held my breath as his hand got close. Then it reached past me and into his glove compartment. He pulled out a book with a stopwatch and a whip on the dark cover. “Here, it might be able to help you if you take the time to read it. A lot of it is more practical than our class sessions, but I think you will be able to follow without much problems.”
I collected the book. “Obedience Lessons?”
The professor cast me a sidelong grin, “Yeah. A lot of experiments were done on animals to test responses right? Same principle applies to humans, just add a few factors, like higher motivation, dreams and passions, you get the picture.”
“And all this stuff falls under your course?” I questioned. It sounded pretty damn neat if I could just stop drooling over the professor.
“Yeah. Not right away, but it all adds up. Anybody could use these if they understand the general principles though.”
I looked back at the cover, pondering. Why didn’t he use this on the curriculum rather than sleep cycles? I’m sure less people would’ve been talking about quitting. He must’ve had – what did he call it? Higher motivations? Ulterior motives.
He was straining out people who really wanted to do psychology from those who weren’t serious. Smart. But then I already knew he was smart.
“Starbucks.” He muttered, pulling in to drop me off at the logoed doors. “Say no to drugs, kid.” He mimicked my earlier drawl in a way that made it ten times sexier as I got out of the car, book in hand. I didn’t want to leave his fresh scent filling my nostrils with each breath but I understood that this was what I had to be content with for now. Coffee, before heading back to campus to get my car. Idiot.
As the professor drove away, I thumbed the book open and ran my fingers over the page. Purple handwriting at the bottom drew my eyes.
To Sir, with Love
– Dylan Ryman