Four Things Adam Banks Didn’t Do At His Reunion (The Will He Won’t He Remix)

Disclaimer: Characters from The Mighty Ducks belong to Disney.

Dedication: Thanks to Star for the beta, and to Hannah for letting me rewrite your story.

Explanation: This was written for the Butterfly Ficathon at I rewrote Hannah’s “The Reunion”

Archived: 2 May 2009

Thing One: Adam Banks didn’t bring a date.

Adam Banks didn’t bring a date. He certainly didn’t bring a woman he’d loved for years as his date, a woman who was intelligent, athletic, and funny, a woman he only knows because she’s his roommate’s friend. He didn’t bring her as a date because she wanted to be just friends, and he never could convince her they’d be great otherwise.

He certainly didn’t try to kiss his perfect non-date in the middle of the pool room.

Katie wears a bathing suit, shiny green, and a fluffy hotel towel she nicked from the en suite bathroom. She’s shivering, and he can see goose bumps on her thighs. Maybe he and Luis shouldn’t have thrown Katie and Julie into the deep end of the pool when all they’d done is come down to use the hot tub, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Now he’s not sure why.

Katie’s hair is plastered to the sides of her face. She clutches the towel closed in front of her, water drips off the end of her nose, and her lips have a blue tint to them.

When Adam apologizes, he stands too close. Katie doesn’t say much, but her teeth chatter, and Adam feels worse than ever. He can hear Julie chasing Luis, threatening to dunk him, too, and then she’ll get Adam.

When Adam asked Katie to attend his reunion, he just didn’t want to travel alone. He thought he had come to terms with her refusals for even dinner or the movies, and he’d accepted their friendship. He’d thought a lot about Julie, too. He’d liked her in high school, and they’d dated some. Maybe the reunion was time to rekindle that flame.

Watching Katie shiver, Adam doesn’t think about Julie, or why he’s suddenly half-crazy again. He leans forward and kisses Katie, hard, lips and teeth and tongue clashing. She pulls away first thing, and she looks mad – hurt – surprised.

Katie leaves right away, finds herself another hotel room and another way home. Julie doesn’t say two words to Adam the rest of the weekend. Julie does spend a lot of time with Luis, and rumors fly among the rest of the Ducks. They sleep together, gossip claims, and he breaks her heart.

Adam gets a new roommate the next year, and he doesn’t see Katie again.

Thing Two: Adam Banks didn’t give up his Harvard education to marry Julie Gaffney.

Adam Banks didn’t give up his Harvard education to marry Julie Gaffney.

Julie hates long-distance relationships. Adam loves Julie. It’s a situation which has never worked out for them, because they are both too driven, too intent on being a success. Unfortunately, for them, being a success means being far apart.

He’d had hope, when Julie first toured Harvard, but the University of New Hampshire offered her academic and athletic scholarships, and her parents made too much money for Harvard to give her any help, even though she didn’t want them to pay for her school.

They’d broken up, graduated, and said good-bye.

Seeing Julie again frightens Adam. He thought he was over her, he thought he’d moved on, even if he never really dated anyway, and he thought he could see her and they could be friends again. Adam misses Julie, he realizes as they head downtown with Katie and Luis.

Julie always understood him better than anyone else on the team. Julie knew about being smart and the pressure to be perfect. Julie made lists and had goals and, even though she took the time to join in on the pranks and be a part of the team, she knew high school hockey was just one more step toward success.

Saturday night, in Julie’s room, Adam sneaks peeks at her while she watches television. He makes himself laugh when the laughtrack kicks in, but he’s not paying attention to the show; all his thoughts are on Julie.

She grins at him when she notices, a slow and sweet smile, and leans in for a kiss. Adam is comfortable with her, one arm across her shoulders, the television on. They talk sometimes, about their classes or high school memories.

They never talk about their relationship, whatever it is now, or the future, and what they want. Adam knows they’ll date awhile, after this, but it won’t last. Julie won’t let it last, Julie hates distractions, and she hates to be sad, and a long-distance relationship is both.

In high school, Adam knew all this and couldn’t do a thing about it. His father was so proud he’d been accepted into Harvard, and Adam certainly couldn’t tell him he wanted to go to some state university instead. He was young then (well, younger, he knows he’s still young now), and scared.

He’s not younger now, but he’s even more scared.

“I’m having a great time,” Julie says during the commercials. She curls her legs up under her body – so flexible, still the Cat, all easy movements and confidence – and takes his hand. “Thanks for tonight, Adam.”

Adam means to say ‘you’re welcome’ but instead, when he opens his mouth, other words spill out. “Marry me,” he says, and splutters in shock, but doesn’t take back the words. “Marry me, I’ll transfer to UNH, and after we graduate, I’ll work if you want to play hockey. I love you, Julie, don’t make me say goodbye again.”

Julie stares at him, her mouth open, her eyes wide.

“I know, it’s crazy, but come on! We’re good together, we’ll do great things together. I don’t want to lose you again, Julie.”

“Okay,” she whispers. “I missed you, too, you know.”

Adam doesn’t tell anyone until he completes the paperwork so he can transfer the next semester. His father doesn’t speak to him for a year, but he’s too happy with Julie to mind the banishment from his family, and his mother thinks it’s sweet, anyway.

They marry right after graduation, and both play professional hockey for awhile. When their first child is born, a son named Adam Junior, Adam Senior quits his team, and goes to work in an office. Eventually he runs the local junior hockey league and opens an athletic store.

There’s surprisingly little bad news in their lives, and Adam likes it that way just fine.

Thing Three: Adam Banks didn’t change his future plans after one conversation with Gordon Bombay.

Adam Banks didn’t change his future plans after one conversation with Gordon Bombay.

Adam’s always been a little closed-off around Gordon. After all, in the very beginning, Gordon ripped him away from the hockey team he’d been a part of for as long as he’d played on a team. Sure, it all worked out in the end, but there’s still a little residual resentment. Gordon pulled him out of the Goodwill Games just when the scouts started showing an interest in him. Gordon took off and shook up the whole team, so Adam had to leave Varsity Hockey in high school just to fit in.

Of course, Gordon’s given him a lot of advice, too, good advice. He really shaped Adam’s hockey career, so when Gordon asks him to stay back and talk for a bit before his Saturday night date with Julie, Adam doesn’t refuse.

Gordon has lots to say about hockey, always, but this time he doesn’t ask Adam if he’s going to play forever, or what teams he wants to be drafted to join, or if he’ll even keep playing after university.

Gordon wants Adam to become a lawyer. He’s already at Harvard, Gordon says, it will be easy for Adam to join Harvard Law once he graduates. And then Gordon knows Adam will have his pick of law firms, but Gordon thinks Adam should work for Bombay, Peters, and Smith, until he’s proven himself and goes to work for the government.

Gordon thinks Adam could be president someday, and Gordon wants to plan his future. Law school, law firm, local politics, state politics, a senate bid, and then the presidency. Gordon says he’s too old to start, but he thinks Adam can do great things, amazing things. He says he knows hockey is important, but this is so much more.

Adam, drinking coffee and listening, thinks Gordon is probably a little crazy, but he certainly tells a good story.

By the time Julie comes looking for him, Gordon has Adam almost convinced.

Adam’s distracted during his date, but it doesn’t stop him from making out with Julie throughout the three hour movie, or continuing it longer back in her room. He cuddles her the next day, says he’ll miss her, and plays the good boyfriend, until Julie decides the long-distance relationship is too much, and breaks it off with him.

Gordon comes out to visit during Adam’s senior year. He tells Adam he’ll look better at the firm and in politics if he marries a nice, rich girl from a powerful family. Adam decides it can’t hurt, and he’s not had much luck with love, anyway, so maybe marriage shouldn’t hinge on such a fickle emotion.

He finds a nice girl, a powerful girl, a rich girl, and when he dates her, he finds out she’s not as nice as the rest of the world thinks, but she is rich, much richer than he is, and she is powerful, much more than he wants to be, and she has goals, just like Julie.

Shauna Valentino is beautiful, too, and precise in all she does. Adam introduces her to Gordon before his own parents, and Gordon spends a weekend getting to know her. After, Gordon says she’s perfect, and she’s in on the plan.

Shauna makes Adam’s parents love her, and if he’s not quite rich enough to impress Mr. and Mrs. Valentino, she always gets her way, and they accept him anyway. There’s been a scandal with Shauna’s younger sister, she fell in love with some girl and threw away her whole life, and their attention is scattered.

Adam attends law school while Shauna plans their wedding. They move to Minnesota after he graduates and they are wed – also after a long honeymoon in the Caribbean – but Shauna shows Adam her timeline and they won’t live there long.

She improves on Gordon’s plan. She’s a manipulator, and Adam is more than a little afraid of her schemes, but she’s very good at what she does, and Adam becomes the youngest partner the firm has ever had. The youngest state representative. He’s barely old enough to run when Shauna pushes his campaign for president.

What Shauna wants, Shauna gets, and Shauna wants to rule the country. She laughs when she talks to reporters, and says she’s always known her husband will do great things. When they comment on his youth, and the rumors he defers to her decisions, Shauna makes light of it.

“There’s a great woman behind every great man,” she quotes. “I’m just a little closer to the front than people expect, but everything he does, he does because it’s the right thing to do.”

Adam signs papers and Shauna sits in on all his meetings. He knows he’ll be reelected, and he wonders what will happen when he can’t be president anymore. He wonders if Shauna will leave him, he wonders if she’ll let him retire, he wonders if she’ll settle down and become a good mother to their two children, a little boy and a little girl.

He’s not a bad father, but the timelines he’s seen always stop after the second term. He’s not sure he understands ambition anymore, and Gordon doesn’t say much when he asks him about future plans.

He doesn’t want to admit it to himself, but Adam’s pretty sure Shauna will run for president herself within the next decade. If she does, Adam knows she will win, even though there has never been a woman president.

If she does, Adam doesn’t know where he’ll fit in.

When he asks, Shauna tells him not to worry his pretty little head.

Thing Four: Adam Banks didn’t have sex with Julie Gaffney.

Adam Banks didn’t have sex with Julie Gaffney.

He certainly didn’t do so after an innocent date, and after she told him – again – they weren’t right together, and school and hockey had to come first to both of them. Julie was logical, always, and she had a list of reasons they shouldn’t sleep together.

She’d had a similar list in high school, and Adam had always listened back then.

His entire life, Adam has been told he is the good son, the good student, the good hockey player. He is going to be successful, he is going to make a difference, he is going to do great things in the world.

He’s a nice guy. Adam has been this told more than times he can count. He’s tired of being a nice guy, he’s tired of doing the right thing. He asks Katie to go with him to the reunion, as friends, because it’s the right thing to do. She’s just gone through a bad rejection, some guy has passed her over for her female best friend, and Katie needs time away from them. Minnesota is strange and unfamiliar to her, so Adam thinks it will be a good break and will do a lot for her.

Being nice doesn’t do much for him, though. When he watches Julie watch a movie Friday night, he hopes he’ll have more luck with her this time around. When they kiss in the hallway, then in her hotel room, he thinks he’ll get what he wants, but she’s so infuriatingly logical all the time.

Saturday, when Julie corners him at the soda machines, Adam feels hope again. She’s forceful and demanding, and he knows she’s made lists of the pros and cons. If she’s coming up to him, asking him out, the pros must have been twice as long as the cons. She’s not quite so logical when she talks to him; a muscle in her cheek twitches and she blinks too fast, too often.

She says, “If you really, truly want to have something between us, meet me in the lobby at seven tonight. Got it? Good.”

She walks away quick, and Adam just grins. Upstairs later, he makes sure there’s a condom in his pocket.

Julie’s idea of “something between us” isn’t quite Adam’s. She wants to skate, and make-out at the movies, and watch television. Adam’s a nice guy, and nice guys don’t push for anything more.

Nice guys certainly don’t buy champagne, the best he can find, and so sweet Julie likes to drink it. Nice guys don’t keep her glass full, and rarely top up their own. Nice guys don’t take advantage of Julie, when she’s more than slightly drunk, and more than slightly excited, and more than slightly willing to curl up in Adam’s lap and kiss him, her mouth warm and wet and open.

Adam turns off the nice guy inside and takes Julie to bed. He remembers the condom, the first time, but he’s a little drunk, too, the only way to turn off the nice guy in his brain, and he doesn’t think about getting another one when Julie wants to have sex again.

Adam’s back in his room by midnight. He leaves Julie asleep, and covered up, and he sleeps well.

Adam doesn’t see Julie again. He had scheduled an early flight, just in case he wasn’t as happy seeing his old friends as he thought he’d be, and he leaves even earlier than he has to for it. Katie doesn’t ride with him, she drags out her last minutes with Luis, but meets him at the plane.

All she says is Julie was quiet and asked about him. Adam shrugs, and puts her out of his thoughts. He knows how Julie feels about long-distance relationships, and he doesn’t want to date her again, anyway.

Adam doesn’t play hockey much after the reunion, and he leaves Harvard early, heads out west to study technological law and business practices. He doesn’t hear about Julie’s daughter for a few years, or how she gives up her hockey career, or how she teaches school and coaches her daughter’s ice skating team. How she never lets her daughter play hockey. How she’s too proud to ask the girl’s father for help.

Adam never goes back to being a nice boy again.


Just to Know

Summary: Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation. – Kahlil Gibran

Dedication: To Star for being the best friend a friend could be.

Author’s Note, the First: This is set in the same series as “On Being Real,” “On Being Fake,” and “On Being Alone” but does not follow directly in the line. Look at it more as a brief foray into third person writing.

Author’s Note, the Second: Third person POV, both Goldberg and Russ

Goldberg always thought he knew what love was. He loved hockey, he would say, grinning so that all his teeth showed, and thumping his chest with one hand, loved the way the team tore up the ice, as long as they kept the puck away from him. He loved his family, of course, because that’s what people did, love family, and he really loved working in the deli, because he loved to see his mother smile, and helping out in the family business made that happen all the time, and loved the smell of fresh bread and meat mixed with cheese. He loved elephants and always stopped to watch them at the zoo, so long that anyone he was with would wander off, have an adventure, come back, and he still wouldn’t have seen enough.

But now Goldberg knows that he knows nothing about love, or at least about how to deal with it, because he ruined the best love he ever had.

From the first time he kissed Russ, all fumbling hands and thick lips, he had the sneaking suspicion he loved him, but no one else he knew was gay, and he didn’t want to label it as that, because he carried too many labels as it was, and besides, it was just something convenient, this slap and tickle as his Uncle Andy would call it, if he’d replaced Russ with a girl.

It was only when Russ wasn’t there anymore, when he didn’t sleep in his room, didn’t practice punch lines, and tell raunchy stories when neither of them can sleep, that Goldberg realized it wasn’t just a suspicion.

He loves Russ, and it’s not just going to disappear when he goes to sleep, or fade away because he’s a stupid kid, even if he is in high school, and he still knows nothing about anything important at all. It’s all around him, everywhere that Russ isn’t, and inside, too, melted into his lungs and intestines and warm in his veins.

It hurts most in the afternoons, after class, when he’s not on the ice, distracted by the game and by trying not to stare at Russ, and when he’s not doodling tiny cartoon characters in his notebooks while teachers drone on about whatever subject rules their mind. His drawings have gotten no better, and have probably become worse, and he tried only once to draw Russ from memory, and couldn’t get even the eyes right.

In the afternoons, there are no distractions, because no seventeen-year-old boy would do homework, and his friends are all busy being couples, making out in the halls, and having hasty sex behind partially closed doors. They say it’s love, when their flesh comes together, and he just rolls his eyes every time one of them starts to giggle and be giddy.

Because Goldberg knows all about love. He loves hockey, and his family, and elephants because they never forget, and he wouldn’t mind becoming an elephant, as long as he got to keep his human memories. He never wants to forget what love is and was and will become, because to forget would be to lose what he once had. He already gave it up, because he’s young and dumb, and if he can just remember Russ and not the details, necessarily, but the underlying color, then he’ll be ok in the end, because he knows all about love.

Russ wants to know all about love.

He wanted to be in love when he was twelve, and this cute girl down the street smiled at him, and then let him buy her a soda, and then let him touch her breasts while she kissed him, and whispered about how nice it felt.

He knew he was young, and his brother smacked his head and made him skate around the basketball court until he fell over when he found out, but at the time, Russ didn’t care, because she was cute, and she was there, and he really wanted to know about love.

If anyone asked, he would never admit he was a romantic, but he was always just a little obsessed with the gentle side of emotions, of life. He read stories of Arthur and had been enchanted by the idea of courtly love. At least, the way it took over his daydreams had been the closest thing to magic in his neighborhood.

L.A. was rough, and he spat out words that made his mother yell, and could throw a punch almost as easily as he could hit a knucklepuck, but he didn’t really enjoy any of that. Sure it was fun, but he preferred night, when he could chew on a flashlight and squint his eyes and read about everything that he was not, but wanted to be.

Russ wondered, in the first day or two after he’d moved out of the dorm room, if Goldberg could teach him about love, or could have before he’d been so untrusting and so nasty without words. Russ understood the need to hide what they were, because good love was a secret, and it was easier to cherish something that no one else could touch, but he missed Goldberg in the mornings, when he had to brush his teeth by himself, and didn’t have anyone to talk about the importance of eating before hockey practice, or to rub his back and remind him that no one really fit in at school, so he didn’t have to try so hard.

Russ always wanted to know about love, but now he’s not so sure he wants to learn any more, because he isn’t in Goldberg’s room anymore, and even though he knew that love hurt, because he’d read all the books, he didn’t realize just how the pain settled in his spine, splintered bone and sinew until his arms and legs ached, even before he had to hit the ice, and pretend he wasn’t ignoring Goldberg, but just wasn’t trying to score.

He doesn’t recognize his own voice when he has to ask Goldberg anything, so he sits far away, at the end of the table, and never goes to team study sessions. He knows that everyone feels left out in high school, because it’s all one big mess of growing and hormones, but he’s never felt quite so out of place as he does now.

Russ had always assumed love would make him feel better, but now he just feels worse, and he doesn’t think he knows anything about love, but he doesn’t think he wants to know anymore.

The End

On Being Alone

Dedication: To Star for the title, and for being the best damn person in the whole world. Thank you, ever and often. And to everyone who has given me feedback on these stories-thank you more than I can say. This isn’t a fandom or a POV that I’m comfortable with, but your words make it all worthwhile.


I looked it up that first night, when I couldn’t sleep because Fulton’s snores were too loud and unfamiliar, and because the knot in my stomach wouldn’t relax enough to let me breathe, much less get some rest, and because my chest hurt too much to ignore-or maybe that was my heart.

I didn’t have a dictionary; I’d always relied on Russ’s, but it was gone now, out of my reach and untouchable. For the first time, I realized just how much I’d gotten used to having it around, and how much I could have used it right then. Of course, if the dictionary had been in the room, I wouldn’t have been awake to use it.

Instead of staying in bed, crumpling my sheets, and straining my eyes to see what wasn’t really there in the dark, I got up, and went in search of something to help me calm down. At first, I wasn’t even thinking about a dictionary, but by the time I’d made it to the classrooms, keeping to the shadows as best I could, and avoiding the main halls, I couldn’t get the word “alone” out of my mind.

I’d never been out on my own at night, not while at school. If I wasn’t with the team, I was with Russ, and we were off to cause some trouble that would get us hauled into the Dean’s office and maybe even detention, but in the end the punishment was no big deal because we were together.

That night, though, I was alone, and I was sure that I’d get in more trouble on my own than with any of the others around. I twitched at every rustle of my flannel pajama pants, and got more upset, instead of less.

When I heard a footstep down the hall, I ducked into the nearest classroom, easing the door shut, and leaving the lights off. If a teacher was patrolling the hall, I didn’t want to be caught in cow print pants, which I’d only brought to sleep in because Russ had given them to me, and I’d planned on using them to start a conversation with him, to bypass any discussion of what had happened before the break.

The windows were uncovered, the shades pulled up to the top of the glass. The moon outside was bright enough that I could see, and walk across the classroom without banging my knee on a chair and making enough noise to be discovered.

I sat down at the teacher’s desk, and tried not to think. Instead of drumming my fingers on the fake wood, I grabbed a book from the top of a stack of them, a Merriam-Webster Dictionary. I flipped through pages, paying more attention to any noise in the hallway than to what I was doing.

When I looked down, “alone” leapt from the page, and I couldn’t stop myself from reading about it. Alone. An adjective, which describes a noun. Like when Russ used to call me the dopest Duck. Dopest would be an adjective. Alonest Duck now.

Alone. First definition-separated from others, isolated. Alone in a classroom after lights out, hiding from what might or might not have been a teacher, obsessing over a dictionary. Separated from others, left in isolation, check.

Alone. Second definition-exclusive of anyone or anything else, only. The only Duck awake this late, missing what he still couldn’t put a name on. The only one who cared about what I’d had with Russ, before he’d abandoned me to Fulton, because if he had, he wouldn’t have left. Why had he? He hadn’t even said anything to me about it, not one word of warning. Of course, why would he?

Alone. Third definition, a-considered without reference to any other. I hadn’t been considered in reference to anyone, had I? Russ hadn’t cared if I was hurt or not. He was too bothered by being found out-too ashamed of me. What did I do that was so wrong, to deserve to be left like that?

Alone. Third definition, b-incomparable, unique, alone among their contemporaries in this respect. I alone am the biggest, the clumsiest, the easiest one to ignore among my teammates. And Russ-I thought Russ was different, but even he turned on me, abandoned me, and left me in solitary confinement in a classroom, at just past two a.m.

The dictionary also told me that the word solitary can mean choosing to be alone, but it is more likely to suggest sadness and a sense of loss. As if I needed to be told that. My boyfriend-my thoughts stopped, abruptly, and the world twisted hard, to an angle I wasn’t familiar with.

I had never called him that, not once, not to his face, not alone in my room, not even in my most private thoughts. And now, when he’s gone and I was so sad I didn’t want to eat or sleep or breathe, my mind betrayed me.

I was lonely, without Russ. He left me, my best friend, and my boyfriend, and he did it without saying a word to me about anything at all. Maybe we were found out, yeah, and maybe we couldn’t have left it a secret any more, but does that mean we had to not see each other at all? Not say hello or good-bye or fuck you, I was just toying with your emotions?

Because I love him, damn it, and he left me all alone with that knowledge. I’d be better off if I’d never left my bedroom, never stayed late in the locker room, never let him come over and drink with me, because no matter how good it was, it hurts too much, and he didn’t do a thing to help me, to save us.

He left me all alone.



On Being Fake

Dedication: To Star for encouraging this, and helping me through it, one baby step at a time. And to everyone who commented on “On Being Real” because your encouragement means a lot to me.

Archived: 2 May 2009

It all fell apart.

It all fell apart because I was too stupid to keep a secret, or maybe too fat to keep anything under wraps, because what could cover up me, him, us together, and what we did.

It all fell apart because I forgot how to be a man, and hid from my fears, too terrified of exposure to stand up with pride, and besides, who wants to see the fat kid stand up for his rights?

It all fell apart because I forgot how to speak, even though he was the only one I could talk to about not fitting in and never feeling wanted, until he came around. Instead of talking it out and making sense of it all, which he probably could have done, because he did that to every other problem I came up with, I cowered away, too scared.

It all fell apart because I got comfortable with him, with what we did, and with who I was when he was around-and then I got comfortable with who I was period, fat and clumsy and just a little bitter at the world, but a good friend, a good comedian for comic relief, and a good hugger, and when you’re bigger than the norm, you don’t get to be comfortable, and if you ever are, someone will always try to take it away.

It all fell apart because someone found out.

Russ and I lived together in the dorm for over a year before anyone figured anything out. It was awkward, at first, because he had been in California for a month, after his last visit. Each reunion was strange, as if we’d forgotten how to interact in the time we’d been apart, though we never forgot how to feel.

We’d requested each other as roommates, and though Charlie and Connie and Guy all had problems with getting the roommate they requested (no one was surprised that Guy didn’t end up where he wanted to be-there are no coed dorms on campus), Russ and I had no problem at all. We didn’t even get stuck in a tiny, middle-of-the-hall, noisy-neighbors-on-both-sides room; instead, we were put in the corner room, with just a little bit extra space because the closet was stuck in at an odd angle, and the rest of the walls had been moved out a little to make room for it.

We settled in, first our things, then our bodies, and finally our routines. Up each morning for calisthenics, class all day, practice in the evenings, homework at night-even though study time usually ended up being time to pull pranks on varsity.

Alone in our dorm, we’d turn on the stereo, or flip through the television channels, looking for some old film-Russ’s favorite type of movie-ever hopeful that we’d stumble on a forbidden channel.

We never did get to look at tits and ass while together, just a couple of red-blooded American boys, strong enough to share our bodies with each other, but never our emotions.

Any weekend we had time off, I’d take him to see my parents. They knew how to welcome a friend, and Russ was a familiar face. They’d feed us, slip me some money, and send us on our way, with no worries and no time to be in (expect for the knowledge that we had homework due Monday and that they locked the front doors at midnight).

I missed working at the deli, missed being with my family any time I wasn’t playing hockey, but with enough distraction, I was doing ok. Russ was plenty of distraction.

That first year went by in a blur of hockey games, problems with varsity, inner-team fights, and forgetting about it all with Russ at night. We put ants in varsity’s bedrooms, Russ and I came home to our dorm and pushed our beds together so we both had room, to stretch out and to be together. They tricked us into washing dishes to pay for dinner, he rubbed my back for an hour afterward, even though his hands and arms were as sore as mine. Julie took my spot at goal and Russ held me all night, squeezed tight in the darkness at just past three a.m. when it was the worst, but never said a word. We lost Banks, we gained him back, and Russ had me howling late into the night with his preppy jokes. And he even likes Banks, thinks he’s a good player.

The second year started the changes. I spent most of the summer with Russ, only coming back for the last month to live with my parents again, because my mom wrote me sad, sappy letters until I knew I had to come back to her. It was different, out there with him. We had no room and no privacy and no time to be alone, because his brothers were always around or we were out playing street puck or making trouble at the beach or out eating-one restaurant for every meal of every day of every life I’d ever had, and I’d never have to repeat one, I don’t think.

When we came back, school was easier and hockey was easier, because we were used to the Coach and to the rules and to being a little fish team in a big fish pond, but social life was harder. Connie and Guy split up, and it got a little colder on the ice and then Guy and Julie started dating, and there were screaming matches in the locker room, where Connie threw things and yelled and Julie just sat there, indifferent as a cat.

Luis spent the semester hiding from varsity, stealing their women, and coming to us only for practice and sometimes not even then. No one was surprised when he was put on probation and benched for the rest of the season.

Adam and Charlie were put together and promptly started to fight all the time. No one could blame them; Charlie the Slob destroyed their room and Adam the Anal kept moving his stuff around. They kept their problems off of the ice-for awhile.

Portman and Fulton almost got kicked out four times a week and it looked like we’d lose our enforcers much of the time. They’d pull a prank call on the dean or stroll naked through the courtyard the first day it was warm enough to eat outside or shake the walls with their music at three a.m. Nothing new, really, but they got wilder with each moment.

Only Russ and I were the same, quiet about our reality. He’d crack jokes at lunch and I’d play with my food, build sculptures and try not to grin like crazy whenever anyone laughed at his punch line; I knew how much putting himself out to the public like that bothered him at night, once it was all over.

We got sloppy, I guess that’s how we changed. He touched my hand in the locker room once, and when he got checked into the boards hard enough to crack his helmet, I was the first one on the ice at his side, even though I’d just come off and had been sitting in the back.

He gave me birthday presents, a couple CDs I wanted and a book on the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the Victorian era. He’d dragged me to a couple art museums over the summer, trying to get me to understand why he enjoyed art, and those had been the only ones I really liked. I think it was because the painters understood body image-every woman was curvy, with padded hips and arms and thighs, and I figured the guys were, too, though they weren’t naked nearly as often. I checked.

But he gave me birthday presents, and understood what I wanted better than anyone, and when I thanked him, I might have smiled too much or hugged him too hard or stood too close.

Whatever it was, someone had an idea.

And started to watch us.

And then we got really sloppy, and when everyone else had left the locker room after our last victory of the season, a game always scheduled right before Christmas break, we hung back, not even promising to catch up later, just invisible to our teammates, who were eager to celebrate and pack and leave.

It wasn’t the best idea, giving him a celebratory hand slap. But he was leaving for the month long break, and though we’d tried, we weren’t able to get a visit together. And I didn’t want to admit why it was so important that we try or how much I’d miss him.

It was easy to move to a hug, easier to squeeze him and kiss him, sweaty and breathless and hard.

It was easier still to hear the gasp, to look up and see shocked eyes, hanging open mouth. Easier to back away from each other, look at the floor, the ceiling, the walls, anywhere but him. Easier to let it all fall apart.

I left without saying goodbye, or maybe he did. Either way, we were both gone before we knew if the Ducks had found out, but of course they had, because gossip spreads fast and faster through a team.

He didn’t call at Christmas. I picked up the phone, but couldn’t dial, and couldn’t remember who was supposed to call whom. When I came back, Fulton sat on the bed on the other side of my room, his stuff transplanted over my memories of Russ, and wouldn’t look at me.

I didn’t say anything. What was left to say? Everything, but we’d never been good at speech. So I let it go, settled in, and didn’t once look for Russ. Not in class, not on the ice, not at night in our favorite spot by the lake. Not once.

And it all fell apart.


On Being Real

Author’s note: Written because I was tired of Goldberg and Russ being ignored just because they’re fat.

Archived: 2 May 2009

It’s not easy being the fat friend.

It’s such a nasty word, fat. My mom always used to call me her fluffy boy, big boned, hefty-anything but the dreaded f-word. I used to think I could say “fuck” and get away with it more than I could if I said “fat”.

And it’s really not easy being the fat friend when all around you are thin guys and pretty girls. Especially when they’re your teammates, and you’re supposed to be an athlete, and they keep hooking up with each other, switching partners, and laughing a lot, and you’re never included.

Not that I’m excluded, not really. I can still make them laugh, especially when I flub up a goal save in practice or any time we go out on rollerblades and I fall down a hill, because I’m still the clown.

And especially not when we go out to eat. Because I’ll make some crazy food combination, or start sticking straws up my nose, or laugh really hard and shoot water across the table, just so they will be happy. So they think I’m funny.

So they don’t realize how lonely I am.

Because even though they don’t exclude me, even though I’m always going to be a friend and a Duck, I’m also always going to be Goldberg, and I’m always going to be the one who messes up simple things, the one who stinks up practice, the one who everyone can laugh at and be friends with but never be attracted to.

Be the fat one.

I was used to watching girls fall all over Fulton and Banks, Charlie and Jesse, even Guy, when Connie wasn’t around to stop them. And even when Connie wasn’t with Guy, and we’d had a couple of good conversations about being hockey players, she wouldn’t have looked at me twice if I’d ever asked her out, because I was just good old Goldberg, comic relief and not real.

I wasn’t the best player on the team, probably the worst instead, but at least on the ice I felt like I belonged. With everyone in pads, I wasn’t the fat kid in the back, I was the goalie, part of the team, and we were all thick with jerseys and knee pads and skates and everything else. I was a part of them, the beautiful ones, the thin ones, because of course they were thin, you have to be to be real athletes, right?

I felt like that, part of the whole but alone, bitter but not unhappy, and not really angry at anyone, just resigned, all the way up to our trip to Los Angeles. There, I wasn’t the only fat guy on the team, not after Russ joined. And he was good, with that knucklepuck that I hated, could never stop.

And he was cute, round cheeks and hips and stomach and ass. Thick and heavy and somehow more real than anyone else on the team, because when he looked at me, I didn’t feel like the fat friend anymore, but a person, with more than one side and more than one meaning.

I wasn’t gay, I’m not gay, but being around him made me feel better, so I started to seek him out when the others paired up and off and snuck out to do crazy things. And when he came to visit us in Minnesota, courtesy of Coach Bombay’s money, we spent more time together, because everyone else had each other, or outsiders who were thin and beautiful and wanted and we were not.

Not by anyone but each other.

Russ got me my first alcohol, beer in dark bottles, shoved hastily under my bed to hide from my parents. They went out on a date one night, left me home alone with Russ, and though we’d talked about sharing the beers with the rest of the guys, when the time came, it was just us, drinking and watching movies and laughing, not at me, but with each other.

I drank a lot, four, five bottles, and he said it was easier to drink more when you had some heft to you, it made you stronger. I liked that, liked being stronger because I was bigger, not fat anymore, just large and solid and a man with my beer.

But my head began to spin and the room grew fuzzy on number six and by number seven I couldn’t stop giggling, which wasn’t very manly. Neither was my squeal when Russ plopped down next to me on the bed, shaking the frame, and poked me in the ribs, pressed his fingers down and tickled me.

When he kissed me, I was all man and all scared boy, hard and eager and afraid, because I liked girls and Russ was definitely not a girl. But he was soft and thick and felt so good, tasted so right with the beer and pizza and him. He touched me, looked at me, and I wasn’t fat Goldberg, I was sexy and aroused and arousing. And for once I just closed my eyes and let it go, because I wanted to be important to someone, too.

That was six months ago and Russ has been back to visit twice. Bombay is looking into getting him a scholarship here at Eden Hall, just like the rest of us were just offered, and if he moves up here, we’re going to be roommates. Because if we each lived with someone else, there would be complications and maybe explanations and we’d have to talk and think and not just drink and laugh and feel.

And I like that so much better. It’s different and crazy, if I think about it too much when I’m alone, and definitely weird, but it’s also solid and comforting and good. It’s real. And when you’re fat in a supermodel world, this kind of real is just about all you can hope for.