Exclusive Excerpt from I Love You, Johnny Darling
by Jere’ M. Fishback
Our first week of classes had ended, and my head spun like whirligig in a gale. Most days I only attended three hours of class, but then I had so many reading assignments that I was usually at my desk with my nose in a book at least five more hours a day. For the most part, the material wasn’t too difficult with the exception of my physical science course.
Science and I had never gotten along; I always struggled with it in high school. Now, at the university, I could stare at the same page in my physical science text for a half hour or more, but nothing sunk in. My brain didn’t want to comprehend what I was reading or the diagrams I looked at, and it was frustrating.
Ben and I seemed to get along well. Like me, he didn’t know a single person at the university. Each day, we ate breakfast and dinner together at the cafeteria connected to our dorm. The food was okay. Most weeknights, we spent an hour in the lounge on our dorm floor, where we shot pool or watched a little TV. Ben had a subscription to the Orlando Sentinel, and after we both read an issue, we discussed the events of the day.
Right then, Richard Nixon was trying to appoint an ultra-conservative guy named Clement Haynsworth to the US Supreme Court, but the Democratic-controlled senate was balking at the appointment. It looked like the New York Mets might actually win the National League pennant, something no one had anticipated when the season began. And activist students were trying to organize a nationwide “moratorium” on college campuses to protest the Vietnam War, so a lot was going on.
This will sound perverted—I know—but the best part of my day came when Ben took his evening shower. In our room beforehand, he undressed completely, and when his briefs came off, I stole glances at his private areas while my mouth turned pasty and my crotch tingled. Once he was naked, he wrapped a towel around his waist and left for the shower room with his toiletry kit in hand. Fifteen minutes later, I was done jerking off into a tissue and Ben was back, smelling of soap and shampoo. He’d peel off his towel and reach into a bureau drawer for a fresh pair of briefs while I stole more glances.
I’d never lived with another guy, so I hadn’t been exposed to male nudity on a daily basis like that. In high school, I’d taken one mandatory year of PE, which involved showering with my classmates, but that was in a smelly locker room with a bunch of sweaty guys and the whole thing was nasty.
With Ben, it was different. It was just him and me in our room, so the situation felt…intimate.
And Ben was so damned sexy. I loved the way his body tapered from his broad shoulders to his narrow waist. I liked the dark hairs on his calves that reminded me of raindrops tumbling toward his ankles. His genitals enchanted me, of course, but his best feature was his butt—two cream-colored melons as smooth as porcelain. When I walked to classes, I often found myself thinking about Ben’s body, and sometimes I’d go stiff in my chinos—no joke.
Every evening, usually around nine, Ben’s mother called him on our room’s wall-mounted phone. She did most of the talking and Ben spoke to her with a gentle tone. He always reassured her that everything with him was good, that school was going well, and he and I were getting along fine.
One evening, after one of those phone calls, Ben lay down on his bed. He stared up at the ceiling with his hands joined behind his neck. Then he drew a breath and let it out.
I was at my desk and looked up from my American Institutions text.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
Ben wore briefs—that was all—and his genitals bulged beneath the cotton. “I wish my mom wouldn’t worry so much about me. I know why she does—it’s because of my brother. She’s afraid she’s going to lose me, too, that I’ll get run over by a bus or something. I know she means well—I try to be understanding—but sometimes, I feel suffocated.”
I didn’t know what to say. My mom had never been the clingy type. Even as a child, I’d had more freedom than most kids my age. I made my own decisions on everything, from whether to attend church to what clothing I wore to school.
Since arriving at the university, I hadn’t even spoken to my mom. Long-distance calls were expensive, especially on weekdays, so Mom and I had agreed that she would call me at 8:00 p.m. every Sunday, when rates were the cheapest.
“It’s probably tough on your mom, having you live away from home for the first time,” I said. “But after a while, I’m sure she’ll get used to it.”
Ben looked at me and scowled. “Not her.”
An hour later, we were getting ready for bed. Both of us brushed our teeth down the hall at a row of sinks. After Ben rinsed his mouth out, he pulled an orange plastic bottle from his shaving kit. He uncapped the bottle and dropped a pale-yellow tablet into the palm of his hand. Then he placed the tablet on his tongue and bent to gulp water from the tap.
I’d seen Ben do this several times and was curious what the pills were for.
One day when Ben wasn’t around, I did something sneaky. I unzipped his shaving kit and plucked out the bottle. The label had Ben’s name on it and also the logo of a Merritt Island pharmacy. The name of the drug Ben took was called imipramine.