Let me be frank: I don't like school. I do but, at the same time, I don't. Okay, it's a complicated relationship but, to be fair, it's the only one I've ever had. Still, everyone needs some "me time" once in a while, even people in relationships and, between me and school, said "me time" was called summer vacations
. So, you'll understand that I wasn't precisely thrilled when my father told me I would be spending it not at the beach or even at home, but at a summer course.
"Summer camp?" I wailed almost hopeful.
"No, not camp. Course. A course during the summer."
"So... summer school."
My father kneeled so he could be at my eye level. "I am going to be very busy this summer, I have a ton of work and can't look after you or your sisters all the time. That's why I enrolled you in a summer course at the fitness center." He looked away, scratching the back of his neck. "So... it'll be best if you don't think about it as school."
I thought about something to complain but looking at my fathers' face, all tired and desperate for a break, I decided not to say a thing. It was so unfair! How was I supposed to complain if he was being all nice about it?
"You make it really hard for me not to hate you." I looked at him, straight into his eyes. "I don't hate you, dad."
That made him smile, at least. "Well, I don't hate you too, son."
That's how I ended up at the summer course. It was weird, usually summer courses where at fun places, full of grass or soccer fields. This fitness center was in the middle of the city, no grass, no fun things, just a big blue building with glass doors and walls. My father parked the car and let me and my sisters out.
So... it turns out it was sports-oriented summer course. Yeah, shocker, right? No one saw it coming considering it was at a fitness center, a glorified gym no less. There were a bunch of kids there, maybe around thirty and, to my disappointment and great annoyance, most of them were not only girls but also way younger than me.
My sisters were delighted, of course. Most of the kids seemed to belong to their age group, between six and ten. I was thirteen, fourteen in a few months, so needless to say that made me sigh in exasperation.
"Hey," I heard a voice then.
"Hey," nodded at a boy about a year younger than me. He had a robust complexion, kind eyes and his auburn hair made him look rather gentle. He didn't seem as lost as me nor as annoyed, only bored. "Summer course?"
"Summer course," I sighed.
We didn't say anything else, there were no further words exchanged. It was as if the fact that we were the oldest and were both trapped in the same prison was enough to already justify us being friends. Funny how things work when you lock up a human with other humans and nowhere to go.
He told me his name was Patrick so, to better paint a picture, imagine him as a young and energetic Patrick Mahomes, the NFL quarterback of the Chiefs. I mean, he wasn't super handsome or anything but he was decent looking and had a very friendly face, plus he did seem like the kind of guy who, later in life, would become an NFL player.
At precisely 9:00 am our Summer Course officially started. First, they showed us the facilities. Why would they show a bunch of seven year olds the fitness facilities for a summer course? I have no idea but that is what I remember happened. Then, after that mini-tour they showed us the place where we would be spending most of our time in: the children's gym.
It was completely demoralizing. Picture a big room with mirrors on the walls and wooden floors, lots of foam mats and colored balls, ribbons and even some fake weight lifts. Yeah, it may sound cool for children, babies or even to be in on you own with some buddies but even at 13 I knew that, being there with all those kids only made me feel like one of them. A
We did a lot that day: practice some basic gym movements, painted, started to do crafts, played tag and even did some ceramic. Why ceramic at a fitness center? No idea, beats me. Honestly, it wasn't that bad, my sisters had tons of fun and new friends by the end of the day. For me the only downside was not having someone to talk with.
"This sucks," I grunted at Mahomes after arriving at the fitness center on the second day. "We are the only ones who aren't little kids."
Mahomes gave me a weird look but then quickly copied me. "Yeah, it does suck... but we aren't the only ones who aren't kids," he then pointed at the end of the room. "See?" There was a pair of guys who seemed to be about seventeen, they were laughing and talking amongst themselves.
"There's no way they are in the Summer Course!"
"They were with us all day, yesterday" replied Mahomes. "Didn't you see them?"
"But the course is only for kids and, well, they aren't."
Mahomes raised his shoulders. "Neither are we."
I watched the older guys for a second, curious about them. It is weird how, as kids, one tends to be suspicious of teens as if they were part of some secret covert mission. I ignored them after a while.
At 9:00 am the course started for the second time; however, that day we didn't go to the children's gym, the adults in charge of the course took us to a big room in the first floor, completely devoid of furniture, big read curtains and a sort of stage in the far end.
"Listen, children, your attention please," one of the course leaders too the stage. "This is the auditorium. Do you remember the gym performance we practiced yesterday?"
Every child said "yes" with enthusiasm, even Mahomes did but when he saw me roll my eyes, he quickly rolled his too before touching my shouder and, with his chin, pointing at the far end of the auditorium. There where the two teen guys. It seemed Mahomes was right, they were with us.
"Well," the course leader continued. "We are going to make another dance and gym performance but this one will be bigger and with more music!" The children were enthusiastic about that. "And we are going to present it here at the end of the summer course, in that stage over there." The leader pointed to were the teen guys were. "And all of your parents are going to come and see it, we..."
The doors behind us opened, we all looked to our backs in order to see another course leader walk in with a boy next to him. Had Netflix's Umbrella Academy existed back them I would've immediately drawn comparisons between this boy and Five, the youngest member. They had the same weird, sharp face complexion, big eyes, the same hair color, and style. They even dressed similarly: like school boys. He was definitively good looking and, just by looking at him, you could tell he had a short temper.
"Sorry, sorry," apologized the course leader. I thought they might introduce him, explain what he was doing there or something but
no. Nope. Nothing like that. There was no introduction, no nothing, they just told Five to go with the other kids. Naturally, he didn't went with the kids, he came next to us.
"Summer course?" I asked the same way Mahomes had asked when he saw me.
Five nodded miserably. I imagine he and his parents had just had a fight in the car, most likely because he didn't want to come.
"Billy," I offered.
"Patrick," Mahomes gave him an enthusiastic look.
Five looked at the both of us, puzzled for a second before realizing wewere the only ones above ten. "Aidan."
The course leader continued. "As I was saying, your parents will come and see your performance as well as every piece of art you make during the course. You are all going to be on the stage and be stars, how does that sound?" Every child cheered, Aidan, Mahomes and I stayed quiet. "Child stars."
"What about us?" I whispered so no one but the boys could hear me. "We are not children."
"Boy stars? Starboys?" Mahomes suggested.
"What about just stars?" Aidan said, clearly uncomfortable.
"You will all have a moment on stage to be a star and," the course leader said, "after we finish, you will show them how much you have learned at the swimming pool so it will be a double presentation. Okay?"
Swimming? My mind hadn't even remembered that. Of course there was a swimming class in the course, it was a fitness center after all. Besides, why else would they ask us to bring our swim suits for? I sighed. I wasn't sure if I wanted dad to see me doing gym stuff with a bunch of kids or swimming with floats.
Swimming was always the last activity of the day. The fitness center had a really big pool and three lanes were exclusively for the kids of the course. When we got into the pool that day I was disappointed to find that the lanes were in the shallow area of the pool, clearly meant for kids.
"Okay, everyone," the course leader said. "Who knows how to swim?"
So, the dynamic was this: if you didn't know how to swim you stayed at the first lane, if you did then you move to the second. Those in the second who were more experienced got to move to the third and final lane. My sisters both stayed in the first line so I was pretty pound when I got almost instantly moved to the third one. Mahomes and Aidan came with me. Soon, that pride would turn into disappointment. Even though we were in the third lane the swimming class was pretty... basic.
We tried to follow the instructions but they were rather simple so we got bored pretty quickly. That boredom turned into the motivation to start fooling around. After a while, the course leaders got mad at us for the mess we were making.
That's when I heard their voice. "Hey guys!"
"What's up?" Came a second voice.
We turned around to see the two teen-guys in the swimming pool right next to us. Okay, so I got a little nervous to see them there not only because they were older but because they had the smallest swim suits I'd even seen. Yeah, that's an exaggeration, see, they weren't earing speedos but something slightly bigger. Still, it was rather easy to notice the bulge between their legs.
Okay, to be honest, at thirteen I didn't know I was gay. I had thoughts about other boys, yeah, but I wasn't effeminate, played with dolls or any of those stereotypes. I just knew sometimes boys called my attention and, very rarely, girls too. So, of course I noticed how Mahomes, with his wider complexion, was the fittest of us, his red swimsuit hugging his body in an unholy
way, especially when it was wet,showing the proportions of what was hidden underneath. Aidan was wearing a stripped black and blue swimsuit, rather loose so there was nothing to appreciate below the waist but his lean abdomen was surely a sight to behold.
"You know how to swim better than this, right?" One of the teen guys asked us, pointing towards the children in the third lane with us.
"Yeah," I said almost as a question
"Way better," Aidan pushed his chest forward.
The teen guys exchanged looks and, nodding to each other, started swimming towards the course leaders. "Hang on," they told us.
See, it turns out that these two teen guys actually belonged to the fitness center's swimming team. They were in high school and one of the things they had to do was to perform xx hours of community service so they had chosen to take that community service at the summer course as coach assistants. I honestly cannot remember their names or what they looked like but I do remember the color of their swim suits: red and blue. They were the same swimsuit but two different versions so let's call them that: Red and Blue.
When they came back, not only were they smiling but, they told us to follow them. Mahomes, Aidan and I swam after them to the far end of the pool where it wasn't shallow anymore.
"You are the oldest in the course," Blue looked at us, head to toe. "Right?"
We all nodded.
"And you know how to swim?" Red squeented his eyes.
"Yeah, you could say that," I was trying to be modest.
"Me and my family often swim in a lake about fourty minutes away! I have practice!" Mahomes smiled widely.
"Yeah, well," Aidan gave Mahomes a weird looked before turning to the teens. "The point is we swim better than those kids."
"Okay, I see, you athletes. Let's see how well you swim." We spent the rest of the class doing some serious swimming. No floaters, no life-savers, only us and our arms. It was weird but, Red and Blue, in spite of being teens, were the first people who treated me not like a child but as one of their own. They told us how to improve our swimming technique, how to properly breathe and the way we should move our arms. We were equals.
At the end of the lesson we all went to the dressing rooms. Mahomes, Aidan and I were laughing with Red and Blue following us close behind. For some reason, the dressing rooms only had one of those double doors that start not at the floor but at knee level and are impossible to close, just swing around whenever someone crosses until staying still. Those were the doors on the dressing room.
As soon as we entered, I realized something: we weren't alone. Several other teens were there, about ten, most of them seventeen and older. We froze for a second until Red and Blue entered behind us. Almost everyone turned to greet them in that noisy way teens do.
"The swimming team," Mahomes guessed, clearly in awe.
They were all getting undressed, about to have a short shower, and ready to go into the swimming pool.
It was... okay, I was impressed. Never in my life had I seen someone else's member, ever. My school didn't have pool or anything like that and, without brothers or cousins, this was a brand new sight for me. So you can imagine the astonishment in face when, all around me there were several guys naked without an ounce of shame in their bodies.
I had never imagined boys could be so different! Some were bigger than others, of course, but some were thicker, some had longer hair down there, some had their heads out, some didn't. Still, they all seemed to be very proud of themselves.
"Here," said Red after a while. "This is my locker. You can leave your stuff here while you take a shower."
"Take a shower?" Aidan seemed horrified.
Blue nodded. "Yes, a shower." And he pointed to the back of the locker rooms, beyond the bathroom stalls, there was an open shower area with several seventeen year olds soaping their bodies in a cloud of steam.
"But wha..." I was about to ask something but, when I turned around and there it was. Red took of his swimsuit only to reveal the big, long member he was packing. It was so much bigger than mine (naturally) but it was also longer than most of the other guys around us. I tried not to stare but I failed miserably.
Blue, next to him, took his swimsuit off. He was smaller than Red but, unlike him, he had no pubic hair, not at all. He was as bare as I had been a few years ago. I didn't know why he was bald down there but I had to admit, it made him look younger and, for some reason, that excited me. He then turned to us three, still on our swimsuits.
"Oh, don't be shy!"
"We are all guys here," Red added.
I stuttered and walked to the locker Red had given us. I looked at Mahomes and Aidan, they were both as shocked as I was. We stood there like idiots for several minutes, insecure and unsure of what to do.
"Guys, if you don't hurry you'll be late and your parents will get angry," Red reminded us as he walked towards the showers. "Come on."
After that it all became a blur. I think the three of us took off our swim suits, took a brief shower, got dressed and got out of there as fast as possible. For some reason, all the other events in the day were completely eclipsed by that last scene in the locker room and showers, it was really, truly unexpected.
When I got home, needless to say, I immediately went to my room, got undressed and looked at my own body, comparing it to those I had seen. Yeah, I mean... it wasn't nearly the same, it wasn't only the age difference nor the fact that they were obviously athletic. No, it was something else... I lacked their confidence.
I tried to sleep naked for about a week when I was about 11. It didn't work out, for some reason I didn't like the feeling of it all hanging loose, besides my father and sisters had the bad habit of entering my room without knocking while I was asleep, so no thanks. So, ever since then, I've been sleeping only in my underwear.
That night, I wondered how those guys weren't ashamed of being seen naked. Could I ever not be ashamed? Was I ashamed? I imagined how those 17 year olds would sleep. "Naked, of course." It was natural. "And I bet that, if they aren't ashamed of some strange kids seeing them naked, then they aren't ashamed of being seen naked in their own homes."
I imagined myself being like them, able to go out into the hallway towards the bathroom with my father and sisters looking at me, naked. Not ashamed. Confident. Oh, what a dream that was.
Before falling asleep, the only thing I knew was that, even though a day before I hated that summer course, now I couldn't wait to go again tomorrow.