“Please pass the gravy!” my sister practically screamed, looking desperately at me. A silence fell down both sides of the table. Her words were our code, her signal to me to get her husband Brian away from the table as soon as possible because he was probably offending somebody.
She wasn't wrong.
I reached for my wine and glanced at all the guests. The word is aghast. They were aghast at what he just said. Even the Gen Zeer’s were looking up from their phones. I do not understand, for the life of me, how Sarah ended up with this asshole. Any conversation with Brian is death by a thousand cuts. He’s that relative, the one we all dread at holidays, but is, nevertheless, family, so it’s understood that his insufferable ego will be right there beside him at the table. But Brian’s offensive game was really on fire this year. In under sixty seconds, he had managed to enrage at least two guests per topic as he spewed forth opinions on Ukraine, the New York Jets, Gaza, Israel, the Mets, immigration, Biden, Trump, and astoundingly, still Obama. He was simultaneously anti semitic, racist, Islamaphobic, misogynistic, transphobic, and I suppose we could just leave it at xenophobic.
We should have done a leaderboard and taken bets on which guest would blow up at him first.
But before we go any further, I want to explain to you how I, myself, remain calm and deal with the Brians of this world, who are basically like Karens but with deeper voices and dicks. Travel with me, if you will, like you're a cinematographer, panning past legs under the table. Whatever camera you’re using, skim past all the other in jeans and dresses, sneakers and high heels, and zoom in on me.
You’ll see, of course, my coach thighs manspread in a typical athletic-V. You’ll also notice my tight-fitting gray slacks and might have a stray thought that you, yourself, want a pair. But if you had x-ray vision, you would see that, beneath those slacks, I’m wearing the very thing that keeps me calm -- one of my favorite jockstraps. Stay with me. Hear me out. It's my secret. It's what I do. The one I'm wearing today is the Jockmail orange and black football lace up. This little under-the-slacks secret is my super power, honestly. I can look a Brian dead in the eye, completely wearing my neutral coach game face, but still manage to look like I’m listening. But I'm not. Oh, no. I'm thinking, instead, of my jock and wherever that thought may take me.
Like right now, for example. I’m smiling at Brian, but I’m thinking of earlier, when I chose this particular jock. I woke up, jerked off giving myself a little five on one, and watched a little of the Macy's parade, all tucked in my cozy bed and massive comforter. And, yes, Cher. I totally agree. If I, myself, could turn back time.
When I got out of the shower, I walked to my neatly-organized jockstrap drawer and selected the Jockmail orange and black one. I honestly love just putting on a jock, balancing on each leg, catching a glimpse in the mirror, slipping one of my size twelves through each elastic opening, pulling it up, neatly tucking everything in, lacing it up so it's all front-focused and full and nice, checking it in the mirror, feeling like a gladiator going into battle. Thinking, Oh, no, no, no, Brian. You will not be throwing me off my peace today. Because my piece is well protected. I’m armored up and ready for you, dude. While my sister is at your house, stuffing the turkey, I'm right here, stuffing myself into this cotton wonder. I actually said out loud to the guy in the mirror, “You’ve got this.”
And I do, Brian. I totally, totally do.
“Hey, Big Bro Bri-ster!” I coo, reaching up and playfully shaking his shoulder. “How’s about you and me grab a cigar and cognac in that little reading thingee you have?”
“The library??” Sarah calls from the kitchen. "It's a library, Rick!"
I call back to her, “I don’t see a circulation desk, Sis! But, yeah, it’s that room that’s got shelves and all the books!”
“And cognac!” Brian added confidentially.
“And cigars!” I hoarse-whispered back.
Brian was already up and weaving his way out of the room. Sarah was now standing in the doorway. We locked eyes for a long moment, while others were clearing the table. She was thanking me, with those eyes, for being Brian's handler. Again. How was this going to end for them? Then I realized. That’s why Sarah and I are having dinner on Monday. I had wondered why it was going to be just the two of us. What the hell is she going to tell me? But that’s Monday. This is Thursday, and we still have the rest of Thanksgiving to get through. I downed the last of my wine, and in my head, shouted to my jockstrap as if coaching one of my teams, “Let’s go, orange and black lace up! We’ve got a Brian to slay!”
Twenty minutes later, I was sitting across from Brian, sipping cognac and smoking a cigar. Brian, though, had passed out mid-sentence in their pretentious library thingee. For the record, there is no circulation desk. Not even a card catalogue. And like Brian reads? Brian doesn’t need a book. Brian needs rehab. Monday, Monday. What the hell is she going to be telling me on Monday?
Then I started giggling, remembering how desperate Sarah was when I arrived, in frantic whispers, explaining the "Pass the gravy!" code to me. I had started laughing, when she told me, and she wanted to know why. But I couldn't tell her. Not there, not then. And I wasn't laughing because she was desperate. I was laughing because, back in college, a friend and I had used the same "Pass the Gravy!" code on Thanksgiving, but in a completely different situation. But I couldn’t go into it with her. There were relatives and non-relatives all around, and that palpable feeling of Thanksgiving vibes and delicious food smells in the air, celebratory but wonky, and you aren’t quite sure who isn’t talking to who, what secrets are getting passed, or who’s headed to rehab. But sipping my cognac here in "the library" and looking at the passed-out Brian’s open mouth with his head leaning off to the side – God, that can't be comfortable – I’d say I’m advancing up the leaderboard and my money’s on this guy.
Pass the gravy! I kept thinking, snickering. I looked around at all the books and the sad Brian. It was nice remembering a much better Thanksgiving.
Since it's just me and you readers here now, and Brian can't hear, I'm gonna sip on this cognac, smoke this cigar, and tell you about the better Thanksgiving, back then . . .
He was a volleyball player, you see, and a junior; I, a third baseman, and a senior. His name was Erik, and he was the first male I had ever fucked. Sure, I had been sucked quite a bit, but Erik was different. I was jerking off, thinking about Erik, every chance I got: in the shower, in bed, in some public places I won’t go into, but wherever I found myself thinking about him and it was semi-private enough, I was, like, what the hell? Just thinking about his perfect, round, volleyball ass got me stupid excited. I’d pop wood and shake hands with the milkman wherever I could.
Erik had been blowing me for a couple of months, but here’s what was different. I had been blowing him, too. And that was new for me. I had stopped seeing my girlfriend around that time, also. I liked his mouth better, but I also liked him better. He was so easy to be with. We’d hang, pump each other’s mouths a while, then play video games or watch college bball or whatever. I loved taking pictures of him at his volleyball games, suspended in mid-air with the net just behind. I’d look at all those pics, lying in my bed at the frat house, and the five on ones and shakings of the milkman's hand kept my room fucking rumbling.
So when Erik invited me for Thanksgiving, I didn’t hesitate, because, fuck yeah, I totally wanted that. I wanted to be in his house, his room, his bed, and him. I realized, as he asked me, we had moved waaay beyond mid-day blow jobs. Have you ever wanted somebody so desperately that there’s an ache in your groin, your cock, so heavy and so constant, that it just will not go the fuck away? That was what was happening for me. We had never talked about what we were doing. We were just having fun doing it. Now, looking at that Nordic face, that rebellious, longish hair that hung so perfectly to mid-neck, I wanted him more than I had ever wanted anyone. I saw in his eyes that he wanted it, too. So I simply said "Yes, I would very much like to come to Thanksgiving at the Johansens. There's just one condition."
"What's that?" he asked, tossing a workout tank into the dirty laundry.
"We have to play Pass the Gravy."
"What the fuck is Pass the Gravy?"
"Well, I'm making it up as I'm saying it, but, basically, anytime those words get said, I have to take a sip of wine, and you have to touch me inappropriately under the table."
"You are so fucked in the head."
"You know I'm starting to like that."
So I was sitting next to him at Thanksgiving, telling his father of my plans to pursue a Masters in Exercise Science, when his mother smiled my way and said it: "Could you please Pass the Gravy?" I reached for the gravy and passed it to her. I was in mid-sentence, myself, when I felt Erik's hand slipped his hand under the table to my junk.
I emitted an "Ohhhhhh!" without meaning to, and everybody turned to look . I covered poorly by saying, "Ohhhhhh! I really love this gravy!" His mom smiled, so pleased.
Erik gave my junk a squeeze, looked me in the eye, and casually asked, "More wine?"
"Yes, please!" I said. "I love this gravy, and I love this wine!"
The table laughed, then his dad said, "You were saying?"
"I was? What was I saying?" I replied. I had totally lost my train of thought. I turned red. Erik just sipped his own wine, looking at me, really enjoying this moment. But it wasn’t a bad moment. It was the most amazing moment of my young life. I could have died right there and felt like I’d had the most fulfilling life any athlete could ever hope for.
Later, after we had brushed our teeth and were back in his room, he was facing away from me, when he stepped out of his sweats. Only then, seeing those beautiful globes in private, did I realize what a Thanksgiving gift he was giving me:
He was wearing a jockstrap.
He was wearing a football lace up.
I had mentioned, a couple of weeks earlier, how hot his ass looked in one.
So he wore it.
Today. This day.
He had it on, all during dinner, all through Pass the Gravy.
And my heart welled up with a gratitude I had never known.
I walked to him, looking at the jockstrap in wonder. I ran my palm over his muscle cheeks, then guided him to the bed, and laid him back on it. I kissed and licked and sucked him through the pouch of the jock, covering his mouth, at times, so his parents wouldn’t hear.
Then, the inevitable -- for me, and for him.
I turned him over and lifted him to his hands and knees. The straps of the jock framed his glutes so perfectly. I worked my finger under the elastic, lifted it, and let it pop back against his ass. The sound was perfect. I felt it in my chest. I did it again, to test that feeling, and I’m quite sure the sound stopped my heart for a little longer than a second.
I leaned my face forward, into the deep space between his cheeks, and did something I had never done. I made out with it like I was a kissing a girl who was being kissed for the very first time. I gently but firmly folded my third basemen arms over his ass, pulling him against my volleyball-player-loving mouth. I had prepped every girl I had ever been with, but only one had been even remotely similar to this. His moans were beyond sweet, reminding me of Brenda, my first girlfriend, the first time I went down on her.
The sounds of their pleasured voices were so similar. My tongue and lips felt so inspired.
When he was more than wet and my tongue had driven my saliva deep into his ass, I climbed onto the bed with him, kneeling behind him. If you’ve never had this particular view of an athlete, there is an exquisite beauty in this submissive display of masculine vulnerability. When an athlete of his caliber offers himself up with such trust, this coach feels truly called to the game. It was the first time for both of us, and I felt a great responsibility. My job was not to hurt him. My job was to make him feel the most amazing pleasure he had ever experienced.
In the months to come, our game would intensify, even becoming rough in ways, maybe as only two men can. We would grab quick and fast moments between classes, on desks, in showers, in the locker room. For now, though, there was no hurry. I lubed and stroked myself with one hand, while gently tracing every inch of his back with the other. What an impressive athlete he was.
And now it was game time.
I pushed the head past his pink bud. He inhaled and it was so loud, more like a gasp, what seemed to be at least 20 pounds of pressure. I put one hand on his shoulder and the other on his head, palming it like a basketball. “It’s okay, “ is all I could think to say. “I’m here. I’m here.” And I kept repeating that as he himself began the long and difficult journey to my pubic bone. There was no hurry. “I’m here.” No hurry. “I’m here.”
And when he reached it, I really was there.
It’s a little ridiculous to say, because I’m generally such an atheist, really, but I’ve had several moments in my life when the existence of God just seems so obvious. This was one of those times. I felt not only connected to Him, but to everything: the stars, the ocean, the planet, all of history, all future yet to come, all of it.
Then, in the slowest and most careful bang I had ever given or have given since, I carefully pulled almost all the way out, then gently buried my nine athletic inches all the way back in, clenching my cheeks to give him every inch.
Ten increasingly agonizing strokes like this, and we both came. Him first, without touching himself, which caused him to clench down and vice-grip me hard. That, in turn, sent my full body into a spasm. People always think Tops are such control freaks. Let me tell you, I was not in control. I didn’t shoot my cum into him. He took it from me, robbing me of rope after rope and blast after blast. But, oh, gentle thief. I had never felt so loved in my life as I did in that moment.
Afterwards, I lay holding his head on my chest, as he was deep asleep. I don’t want to get into it right now, but Coach Rick went through a lot of shit in his early years. He was so unimpressed with life, by middle school, that he had considered even taking himself off the roster.
But here, holding this Scandinavian wonder, I inhaled his scent and was so thankful I had lived until now. I had finally really understood all the fuss about gratitude – for one’s life, the amazing people who come in and out of it, and for having a body.
Erik and I would ultimately drift apart. My coaching career would take me to great places, but I still had so much to figure out regarding my sexuality. And so much to reconcile. Erik’s own coaching career took off , and he became an Olympic trainer for women’s volleyball. He married a really nice woman named Jennifer. They have three kids, and we never talk of our times in college or that Thanksgiving.
I think of it, though, and always with gratitude. I’m reminded of it when I see somebody with hair like his, or in a player who can catch air and spike like he could.
Oh, here's Sarah, coming into the library. Shit, even I'm now calling it the library.
"Hey," I say.
"Hey. Thanks again." She looks at her passed-out husband, then back to me. "You're wearing one of your jockstraps, aren't you?"
"Sarah, you know I hate talking to you about it!"
"Good for you. Maybe I should start wearing one myself. Give me a toke on that cigar?"
I hand it to her. She inhales quick puffs, holding and relishing it a little too much, then releases the smoke to the ceiling. She hands it back to me. She takes a couple of steps, looking around at her massive floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, then turns and exits, saying, "How does one even go about studying the Dewey Decimal System?"
And, like that, she's gone. I take another drag on the cigar, now wishing it was something else, and stare at Brian. There's something so sad about how far he's fallen. I myself have gone through so much in my life. When I look at Brian, for the journey that has been mine.
With another turn of the screw, I might have been him.
Monday . . Monday. What is she going to tell me Monday?