Those guys from the visiting swim team were a lot better than I'd anticipated. The big, blonde guy, Kim, who was billeted with Kyle, was creaming the competition. He swam like a fucking dolphin. As for me, I blew it in the freestyle 'cause I'd gotten a bad start off the blocks. But at least I'd made it through to the next heats in the breast and back strokes. Kyle was doing OK as well -- he came first in his heat for the butterfly. Overall, though, the guys in our team weren't doing as well as they'd hoped. According to one theory, we'd been overtraining.
The next day, things were improving. Kyle had made it through all his rounds, and I got through the second rounds of breast and back strokes. I actually creamed the competition in the backstroke, so I was really looking forward to the semis. Meantime, that asshole Kim was winning every race he'd entered -- then he'd parade himself around like some fucking peacock as he towelled, and check to see who was looking at him. He was so damn full of himself, it was totally cool to see him actually lose a race to one of the guys on our team -- the freestyle. And our guy was swimming out of his age group! Woohoo!
One of the highlights of the day was when Kyle and I came first and third in the butterfly. That was the race that Kyle's grommet friend Wingnut had come to see, and the little guy was pretty damn chuffed. OK, so I was pissed that I didn't win, but I was glad that it was Kyle who did. Shortly after, Steph arrived in her school uniform. She gave Kyle a hug and it was pretty obvious to anybody who checked the bulge in Kyle's speedos that she'd had a major effect.
On Friday night, a lotta the guys decided to hit the clubs with their girlfriends. Kyle had invited Kim along, which was something I wasn't too fucking happy about. The dude was getting under my skin big time. It was his 'tude. He swanned around like he was the fucking man. But it wasn't until later in the night that I lost it. Kim approached my girl Carol and asked her for a dance. OK, I could handle that. But when he tried to put his hand up her blouse, I walked up to him and told him to fuck off. He must've seen the fire in my eyes or something, 'cause he just backed off without a single protest. I found that pretty amazing since he was built like a fucking tank. Maybe the asshole had no heart. Anyway, I got the usual, predictable lecture from Carol about chilling and controlling my aggro.
It was during the last heats for the day before the finals that night that I noticed something strange. "Hey, Kyle, what are those marks on your back?"
"From Steph? You must've had a helluva session, man!"
"No, from Kim. We had a fight last night in my room. He grabbed me while we were rolling on the floor and scratched my back."
"I guess you know that I can't stand that piece of tall shit. I'm gonna do something."
"Hey, no fights! OK? You'll be disqualified from the comp."
"Don't worry, buddy. I'm gonna beat the shit outa that inflated ego tripper -- but not the way you think."
I asked the coach if I could compete in the 200m backstroke. When he asked why, and reminded me that I couldn't win a medal 'cause I wasn't in the original entries, I told him that I just wanted to do it for the hell of it. He agreed.
"What did you say to the coach?" Kyle asked as I returned.
"I wanted permission to swim in the 200m backstroke."
"What for? You're not one of the original entries."
"Kim's in that race."
"I hope you know what you're doing, Mark. Kim hasn't lost a single race except for the one where Ross beat him in the freestyle."
"Wish me luck."
I had to admit, I was as nervous as a fucking kitten as I stood on the blocks before the race. Kim was one helluva swimmer, and built like he was on steroids. Steroids? Yeah, a possibility, I thought. After we'd hit the water, I used every bit of mental and physical energy I could muster. I had to beat that dude for Kyle's sake.
In the final lap, it was a two-man race. The rest of the field was way behind. I dunno where I got the energy from, but I powered home and beat the bastard by half a second. Woohoo! The first thing I saw after I'd checked the leader board score was Kyle. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Kim, on the other hand, was totally pissed. The fact that I was Kyle's friend would have devestated him. And it did. Hey, I didn't win a medal, but I'd accomplished what I'd set out to do.
At the gym on Monday morning, Kyle remarked on my mood. "How come you're so chipper this morning?"
"Beating Kim in the backstroke?"
"You got it. Now shuddup and keep hitting me." I was going through one of my normal routines where I'd stand with my gloved hands on my head while Kyle boxed my abs for three periods of thirty seconds each. After the final period, he asked if I would do the same to him. "You serious?"
He had to be crazy. A guy's abs had to be pretty fucking tough to take that kinda punishment. Maybe my performance against Kim the other day had inspired my bud to take on bigger challenges. Anyway, I gave it to him solid, and was surprised at how well he took it. He lasted two of the thirty second periods. "You're a sucker for punishement, dude."
"Yeah. That's why I hang with you," he smiled. "It felt like a fucking sledgehammer. By the way, why'd you do that thing with Kim on Saturday?"
"I knew I could beat him. You knew as well."
"It's like wishing for things. You put this negative idea in your brain that you can't do something and you never do. The reverse is the same. You convince yourself that you're better, and you are."
"Oh? You mean like my cock is better than yours?" the cheeky little asshole grinned. "Like that, you mean?"
Well, I couldn't help cracking big time. "Hey," I said after I'd settled, "you know exactly what I mean -- and your cock will never be better. Anyway, it would've been cool to take that asshole Kim's medal, but at least he didn't get the gold."
"That's for sure."
"Kyle, can I ask you something?"
"Uh, oh, you're sounding kinda serious."
"What was it with you and that Kim guy?"
"What do you mean?"
"How come you hated him so much? I mean, he was a dick, but you really hated the dude."
"Did I make it that obvious? Anyway, it's a long, complicated story."
"Will you understand if I say I can't tell you?"
"Must've been pretty bad, then."
"I don't like keeping things from you, Mark, 'cause you've become a pretty good friend. It's just something that I can't talk about to anybody."
"OK, but just try to remember this. Don't ever think that you can't talk to me about anything. I can at least listen."
Kyle's eyes began to moisten even though he was making a brave attempt to restrain the tears. But I figured I'd asked enough questions already, so I gave him space. At least I'd made it clear that he could talk to me about anything anytime he wanted.
My sixth sense told me that something pretty bad had happened to Kyle. But what? Had Kim tried to hit on him? Did he try to rape him? Well, whatever happened, Kyle was the kinda guy who handled major problems pretty well. Yeah, he spat the dummy a few times, but he was mostly in control -- not like me. And that's one of the things I really admired about that dude. He had far better control over his moods and feelings than I did. More than ninety percent of the time he was happy, joking and having fun. So what was his secret? How come he could manage to stay on top of things? One thing was for certain -- there was a lot that I could learn from that spiky-haired bundle of… I dunno… courage, I guessed.
Next morning, it was like a summer's day, and we were both sweating like hell as we worked out and sparred in the gym. But I could tell that Kyle had some kinda problem with his right shoulder. "Hey, after we shower, I've got some Reparil gel that I can rub in if you wanna."
"Fuck off, Kyle. You know I meant your shoulder."
Anyway, he tried to hide the fact that he was getting a rise as I smoothed the Reparil into his skin, but I spotted it. I mean, I'd need to have been blind not to. But I didn't comment. Hell, a guy couldn't always control his dick. It usually had a mind of its own. "How does it feel?"
"Great!" He said as he rolled his shoulders and flexed. "I guess I've been overdoing it -- what, with the swimming and all."
"Hey, listen." I paused to replace the cap on the Reparil, and to buy time. I wasn't sure that I should say what was on my mind.
I shrugged and thought 'what the fuck', then said it anyway. "Are you doing anything tonight?"
"You wanna go somewhere?"
"No, not really. I mean, not to a club or anything. I was just wondering… well, you're always going on about your folks and everything. I mean, I've seen your mom at the swim meets and… well, y'know, it'd be kinda cool to meet them."
"You wanna meet my folks? Hey, that'd be wicked!"
"What should I wear?"
"Wear? Hey, you're not visiting the fucking Queen, Mark. Just wear whatever."
I was surprised at myself for having summoned the nerve to ask Kyle if I could visit. Normally, I didn't wanna visit anybody except Carol. But there was something about Kyle that had to be the result of his home life -- something that his folks had instilled in him. The reason I'd arrived at that conclusion was 'cause my own home life sucked something serious. Mom was OK most of the time but, since my dad had split, our home wasn't a real home. I wanted to see for myself what a real home was like, and maybe get some insight into what made Kyle the kinda dude he was.
"Are you going into town?" mom asked as I was about to leave.
"No, I'm just gonna visit Kyle."
"I can tell that you're out to impress."
"Chill, mom. I'm not doing anything special."
"Of course not, son. I'm just your mother. What would I know?"
As I approached Kyle's house, I noticed his next door neighbor Wingnut peeking through a window. Was there something wrong? I checked my clothes to see if I'd forgotten something. Nope. Everything seemed cool. Maybe the kid was just curious about my being there. Anyway, before I knocked on the door, I checked my clothes again. I was wearing beige chinos with the side pockets, and a white t hanging loose, plus my best sneakers. When I was happy with the way I looked, I knocked on the door.
The first thing I noticed about Kyle's house was how friendly and welcoming it felt inside -- like there was some kinda powerful vibe happening. It made me wanna smile big time [which was unusual for me] and, in no time, I was getting along with Kyle's dad like I'd known him all my life. He was such a cool fucking guy! More like a teen than an adult. Meantime, Kyle had been on the phone talking to Wingnut's mom. I found out later that Kyle and Steve had bought a wetsuit for the grommet's birthday, and that the kid's parents were kinda freaked about the expense.
"I'm very proud of my son," Kyle's dad said while Kyle was still on the phone.
"You mean 'cause of the wetsuit?"
"Not just that. He's a very generous person -- maybe too generous. But he has quite a profound effect on the people he meets."
"Yeah, I'd agree with that," I smiled. "He's made a helluva diff to me."
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