The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
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Chapter 17: Am I Really Gay?

Morning came early for me.   It seemed I had just fallen asleep when Keith was shaking me awake.

“Wake up, Glenn,” Keith said.  “We are supposed to go the beach today with Kerry’s family.   You need to ready.”

I rolled over and looked at the clock.   It was almost 10 o’clock.   I couldn’t believe I had slept in so late.   I have never been one to sleep late.   I’m usually one of the first ones up in the morning.   I finally dragged myself to the bathroom to take a shower and get ready for the day.  I was excited to see the beach.   We lived so far from the ocean that we very rarely went to the beach.   Of course, I had seen the Great Lakes many times and some of them seemed to be as big as the ocean.   I hurried downstairs to the kitchen where Keith waited for me with breakfast on the table.   We chatted about the trip to the beach as I quickly wolfed down a couple of waffles with lots of syrup chased down with a tall glass of milk.

Grandpa and Grandma were in the sitting room as we started taking our bags out to the car.   Grandma said, “Be careful driving to the beach, boys.   There is always a lot of traffic so be sure to pay attention to your driving.”

Keith hugged Grandma and said, “I will be careful.   Kerry is counting on us spending the weekend with her family at their beach house so I won’t be doing anything stupid.”

“I like your Kerry.   She is a fine young woman.   She is smart, well mannered, and very beautiful,” Grandpa said.   “Bring her home to visit with us sometime, Keith.   We would love to get know her better.   We have plenty of room here so include the rest of her family in the invitation.   We’d be very happy to have the whole family.”

“Yes Grandpa.  I will let you know tomorrow what they say,” Keith said.

“Have a nice time at the beach, boys,” Grandpa said as we hugged him good-bye.

We piled into Keith’s car and he squealed the wheels as he left the driveway and headed down the road.

A few hours later, we arrived in Savannah, GA.   Keith pulled into the visitor center parking lot and turned off the engine.   “I thought we would spend some time going through the museum here so you could get a sense of the history of Savannah,” Keith said.  “Grandma thought you should visit the city where she met Grandpa.   She came here after graduation from high school to live with her aunt and uncle.   Grandma wanted to see the big city since she was raised on a farm in Elbert County, GA.   She was working in her uncle’s store when Grandpa came in and introduced himself to her.”

After touring the museum and seeing the short film there, we climbed back into Keith’s car and headed north towards South Carolina.

“So how much further do we have to go?” I asked.

“We are headed to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.   We will be there pretty soon,” Keith said.  “Kerry’s parents own a house on the beach in a small gated community.”

Not long afterward, we crossed over the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway to Hilton Head Island.   We drove towards the northern end of the island before turning towards the beach.   We stopped at the gatehouse and told the guard we were visiting with the Mitchell family.   The guard looked at her list of visitors and checked off our names.   She handed Keith a parking permit to display in the window of his car.   We soon pulled into the driveway of the Mitchell’s beach house.   As soon as we pulled in, Kerry came out of the door and opened Keith’s car door and pulled him into a tight hug.

Kerry said, “I have missed you, Keith.”

“I was only away one day,” he responded smiling at her.

“That was one day too many, sweetheart,” she said.   “Welcome Glenn.   I’m glad you could come with Keith to stay with us,” Kerry’s smile shone like the sun at mid-day and her eyes sparkled.   She made me feel like I was the only person on earth at that moment.   I wonder how she did that to people.   I just shook my head and grabbed my things from the car and followed her and Keith into the house.

Kerry’s parents were standing in the foyer.   Kerry did the introductions, “Mom and Dad this is my boyfriend, Keith, and his cousin Glenn.”

Kerry’s dad shook our hands, “Glad to meet you both.   Kerry just said you are cousins but you could pass for identical twins.  I don’t think I have ever met cousins who looked so much alike.”

Keith said, “Yeah, we have been hearing that a lot since Glenn got here.   He is visiting with my grandparents for the summer before starting college in the fall.”

“Where are you from Glenn?” Mrs. Mitchell asked.

“I’m from Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Mrs. Mitchell” I answered.

“Don’t call me Mrs. Mitchell, that’s my mother-in-law.   You can call me Katie.   And this is Joe,” she said pointing to Mr. Mitchell.   “Saskatchewan one of the western provinces of Canada isn’t it?” she asked.

“Yes, it is….Katie,” I said still a little uncomfortable calling her Katie.

“Kerry, show the boys to their room please,” she said.  “Once you’re settled, come back down and join us some iced tea.”

Kerry led us up the stairs and showed us into a large bedroom with two full-sized beds.   “Why don’t you guys unpack and I will wait for you downstairs.”   She kissed Keith and left us to unpack.   It didn’t take long since we didn’t bring much with us.   We returned downstairs and entered the kitchen where Katie had set out a few snacks and glasses of sweet iced tea.   Joe, Katie and Kerry were all seated at the kitchen table.

“Boys, grab your iced tea and bring those snacks over to the table.   I figured you boys would be a little hungry after your long drive,” Katie said pointing to the plates of little sandwiches, cheese and crackers, and a veggie tray.

We moved the plates of food to the table and were just about to sit down when the most beautiful girl I had ever seen came into the kitchen.   She was petite, maybe 5 feet at best, dark brown hair that framed her face perfectly and dark brown eyes to match.   She looked up at me and smiled.   Her whole face lit up with her brilliant smile that reached eyes which sparkled as she said, “Hi, I’m Ruth Ann.”

I must have totally spaced out because the next thing I knew Keith jabbed me in the side.   I shook my head and said, “Hi, I’m Glenn.”

I reached out to shake her hand but she pulled me into an embrace and kissed me on the cheek.   As she pulled back, she said, “I’m glad to meet you.   Kerry has told me so much about you and your cousin, Keith.   Well, mostly, she talks about Keith.”

Keith and Kerry both blushed at that comment.

“Sorry, Kerry, but it true.   You can’t seem to talk about anything else,” she said as she turned to Keith and pulled him into an embrace and gave him a kiss on the cheek.   “Don’t worry, Kerry, I won’t steal him from you,” she said noting the look on Kerry’s face as she pulled away from Keith, “Especially since he brought his twin with him.   You weren’t kidding when you said how much alike Glenn and Keith looked.   But if you look at their eyes, you can see Glenn has gray-blue eyes and Keith’s are a deep blue.”

We all sat at the table to sample the food.   Ruth Ann sat next to me as we ate.   “Glenn, did you know that you have the smallest hands I have ever seen on guy?” as she took my hand in hers.

I didn’t know how to respond to that question.   I had never even given it any thought.   “No, I haven’t really compared my hands to anyone else’s.”

“I noticed because I have small hands and when I hold someone’s hand theirs usually dwarf mine.”   She held our hands with the palms together.   “See, your hand is almost the same size as mine.”

My hand seemed to tingle where her hand touched mine.   I had never had that kind of reaction before.   “I was always the shortest one in the family until recently.   I am finally taller than my mom and sister, Nancy.   You don’t know how embarrassed I was being shorter than my younger sister.   I was so happy when I passed her up in height,” I said.

“I used to hate being the shortest one in family,” Ruth Ann said with a grin, “but I’m okay with it now.  I still can’t reach all the shelves in the kitchen though.”

Joe said, “Why don’t you young people change into your swimsuits and take advantage of the beach?”

“Sounds good to me,” Keith said.

We all returned upstairs to our rooms to change and met back downstairs a few minutes later.

“Make sure you take some sun screen with you,” Katie said.

Kerry responded, “I’ve got a couple of bottles of it and we are taking the beach umbrella down with us.   We’ll see you in a few hours.   Bye Mom.”

We walked down to the beach and set up the umbrella.   We stretched out our beach towels and pulled off our shoes.   Keith and I stripped off our t-shirts and shorts.   When the girls saw our Speedo swimsuits, they both whistled.

Kerry said, “Wow!  Keith, where did you guys get those swimsuits?”

“We picked them up back in Atlanta.  I thought you might like them!” Keith said this with wicked grin on his face.

“Well, they don’t leave much to the imagination.” Kerry said grinning from ear to ear.  “Not that I mind that,” she said giving Keith a passionate kiss.

“Now, it’s our turn,” Kerry said.   The girls pulled off their cover-ups revealing the skimpiest bikini swimsuits I have ever seen.   My eyes must have bugged out of my head because Keith gave me a shake and started laughing.   The girls looked great to say the very least.  

“Well, what do you think?” Kerry asked.

Keith and I said at the same time, “WOW!!”

Ruth Ann smiled at me and grabbed my hand and led me down to play in the surf.   We were soon joined by Kerry and Keith.

Ruth Ann said, “You are very good looking you know.”

“And so are you, Ruth Ann,” I replied.

“I still can’t believe how small your hands and feet are,” Ruth Ann said.   “Keith’s hands and feet are bigger than yours.”

“Yeah, we compared shoe sizes a few days ago when we were buying the swimsuits.   I wear a size 8 shoe and he wears a size 10.  Keith was pretty amazed at how small my feet were compared to his.”

“I have always felt intimidated by guys because their hands were so much larger than mine,” Ruth Ann said.  “That’s why I find it fascinating that your hands are so small.   I don’t feel like a child when I hold your hand.   Let’s search for sand dollars and sea shells!   I love finding sand dollars!”

“What do I look for?   I’ve never seen a sand dollar before,” I said looking over at Ruth Ann.   I hoped I didn’t sound like too much of a farm boy.   Suddenly, I was aware of how much I wanted to make a good impression on this beautiful girl beside me.

“Sand dollars are round and have a little hole in the center with a star shape surrounding the hole.   Don’t pick up the green ones.   Look for the white ones.”

We spent the next hour or so walking on the beach looking for sand dollars.   We found a good number of green ones.   Just as we were about ready to give up, Ruth Ann found a couple of big white ones.

“Look, Glenn, I found two of them!   One for me and one for you,” she said as she handed me one of them.   Her excitement was contagious.   I was mesmerized by her tinkling laugh.

I looked it over carefully.   “Thanks, Ruth Ann.  I have never seen one of these before today,” I said smiling at her.   I pulled her close and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.   When I went to pull away, she put her arms around my neck and reached up to kiss me.   The kiss seemed to last forever.  I’d never had a girl kiss me like that before.

“What was that for?” I asked in astonishment.

“No reason, I just felt like I wanted to kiss you.   So I did,” Ruth Ann said looking into my eyes.  “Do I need to have a reason?”

“No, but you did surprised me.” I said.

“It was pleasant surprise I hope,” she said.   “I like giving people surprises”  

“You can surprise me that way anytime you want,” I responded grinning from ear to ear.

Ruth Ann grabbed my hand and we walked back towards the beach umbrella to store our treasures.

Someone had set up a volleyball net and Keith and Kerry were playing around, hitting the ball back and forth over the net.   As we approached them, Keith shouted out, “Why don’t you two join us for a game of volleyball?”

Ruth Ann looked at me and said, “I’m terrible when it comes to sports.   I am the most uncoordinated person I know.   I’m willing to try but I thought I should warn you.   I’m not very good.”   She looked down at the ground as she said this to me.   I reached over and pulled her chin up so I could look into her eyes, “I’m not very good either.   So let’s just go have fun and not worry about being the greatest athletes in the world.”  

She smiled and nodded her agreement.   Kerry crossed to the other side to join Keith.   “We get to serve first! And we aren’t keeping score, okay.   Let’s just have fun,” Ruth Ann said.

Keith and Kerry agreed so the game began.   We played for nearly an hour.   Keith and I were showing off for the girls and making some pretty wild dives to reach the ball.   We had a great time laughing at each other’s antics.   The girls seemed to enjoy it too.   Kerry was pretty good.   There weren’t very many shots that made it past her.   Ruth Ann was right.   She wasn’t very coordinated and I did my best to make her feel comfortable.   I intentionally missed shots or made stupid plays.   I just laughed and made light of it.   We finally tired of playing and moved back to the umbrella and stretched out in the sun to rest.   We all had nice tans and looked like we had stepped off the cover of one of those travel magazines advertising vacation deals to the beach.   It was a good thing I’d spent some time in the sun earlier in the week or I would’ve been the only one who was ivory white on the beach today.   Ruth Ann and Kerry had perfect skin.   They both have olive complexions and tan quickly.

Ruth Ann looked up at that moment and caught me staring at her, “Do you like what you see?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said just a little ashamed to be caught staring at her.   I could feel the heat in my face as I blushed at being caught staring at her.   She smiled and didn’t seem to mind.

“Good because I like looking at you, too.   Now we’re even.”  She reached across the sand and took my hand.  “Don’t be embarrassed, Glenn.   If I didn’t want you to look at me, I would have worn a different swimsuit.   Kerry and I wanted to get you guys to notice us and to pay attention to us so we chose to wear these bikinis.”

“Well, you succeeded!   But you know you didn’t have to wear a bikini to get my attention.   You had my attention from the moment I met you in the kitchen today,” I said.   “Why don’t you tell me about yourself and I will share things about me with you as well?”

“Okay, I was born in Clemson, South Carolina.   We lived there until last year when Dad took a leave of absence from the university to teach in Rome.   Kerry had already graduated and wanted to go to Georgia Tech.   So she stayed here while I went with Mom and Dad to Italy.   I attended school there and graduated a few weeks ago.”

“So, is your dad a professor or something?” I asked.

“Yes, he teaches Spanish, French and Italian at the university.   He taught English in Rome.  My mom is teacher as well.   She teaches elementary school.   She also took a leave of absence to go with dad to Rome.   We toured everywhere.   I love Italian culture.   I especially like Italian food!   I learned how to cook from our housekeeper.   She showed me how to make southern style Italian food.   We took trips to Florence, Milan, Venice and Naples.   In Florence, I was totally awestruck by Michelangelo’s David and the Pieta’.   Both of those sculptures seemed so real and lifelike.   I will have to show you all the photos I took.”

“Wasn’t it hard to live in a foreign country?   The United States is a foreign country to me being from Canada but I mean where you couldn’t understand the language?  Did you learn to speak Italian?” I asked enthusiastically.

“Slow down a bit!   One question at a time!   I did learn to speak Italian but I don’t speak it as well as my dad does,” Ruth Ann said.   “It was fun living in Europe.   It wasn’t hard to understand them since almost everyone spoke English and if they didn’t my Dad could translate for us.  Dad took us all around Europe to see the sights.  My favorite places were Paris and London.   Greece was fun, too. 

I play the piano and I love to sing and dance.   I don’t dance very well but I still like to do it.   I have two left feet.   I was in the band before we left for Rome.   I played the clarinet in the marching band.   We played at every game.   I loved being part of the band.   Do you play a musical instrument?” Ruth Ann asked.

“Yes, I play the piano and the violin.   My mom started teaching me violin as soon as I was big enough to hold a violin.   I love to dance, too,” I said.

“Don’t you like sports?”

“No, I’ve never been very good at them.   My cousin, Ben, tried to get me to play hockey and he took me to the gym with him to work out.   I miss Ben a lot.  I lived with my cousin for the last year of high school.   We shared a room and he’s my best friend in the whole world,” I said, feeling a little homesick.

“I’m sorry.  I made you feel sad,” Ruth apologized as she reached over and brushed my cheek with her hand.   Her touch was light as a feather, yet it sent chills down my back and made me shiver.  “Are you cold?”

“No, I was just feeling homesick talking about my cousin, Ben.   I’ve haven’t been away from my family this long before,” I said.

“Tell me more about Swift Current?   What is there that is special about where you grew up?” Ruth Ann smiled at me with genuine interest.

“Well, there isn’t much to say.   We sarcastically call it Speedy Creek since there’s nothing going on there.   It’s better than living way out on the farm I guess.   I lived on a wheat farm with my parents until my senior year.   So I guess you could say that Swift Current is a major metropolis compared to the little communities of Aneroid, Hazenmore or Cadillac.   Of course, we know everyone around those parts and many of them are related to me.   My brother and his wife live on a neighboring farm.  

I miss the living on the farm sometimes but I don’t want to spend the rest of life on the farm.   That’s why I begged my dad to let me stay with my grandparents for the summer.   Dad has never let any of us come to stay with our grandparents.   They have always met us in Buffalo, New York, or they have come to Saskatchewan for special occasions but have never stayed at our house.   My Dad and my grandparents don’t get along at all.   They have barely spoken to each other over the years.   When I ask mom why they don’t like each other, she starts to cry and won’t talk about it.  None of the rest of mom’s family has ever come to see us in Canada.   I have only seen my mom’s parents a handful of times my entire life.   Being here with them is like living in another dimension.   It so different from the way I grew up!  I never imagined that I would meet someone who looked so much like me that we could be twins,” I said glancing over at Keith who was making out with Kerry.   They were totally oblivious to everyone and everything else.

Ruth Ann looked troubled as she said, “Our family has always been really close.   I have always had lots of extended family around me my whole life.   All my aunts and uncles live around us.   I grew with dozens of cousins.   I never had a moment when I didn’t have someone to talk to or just to hang out with from the family.   Going to Italy was the hardest thing I have ever done because it was only Mom, Dad and me.   I hated going to school alone and trying to make new friends.   All of my life has been spent surrounded by my family.   At school, the classes were mostly filled by my cousins and we all knew each other.   I was so shy at first; it took me a couple of months before I was able to make a couple of friends in Italy.”

“You don’t seem shy to me,” I said.

Ruth Ann laughed.   Her laughter was infectious.   It was like hearing a water fountain in the middle of the desert.   You couldn’t help but laugh with her.

“I’m not shy around you because I feel like I’ve known you since forever.   Kerry hasn’t stopped talking about you and Keith since we got home from Italy!   We have been hearing about Keith for months and when she met you earlier this week, she hasn’t stopped talking about you either.  She thinks I need to start dating someone now that I’m back home and has decided to do some match making,” Ruth Ann laughed self-consciously as her cheeks reddened a little adding to her charm.

This time, Keith broke away from Kerry long enough to look over at us and ask, “What’s so funny?   Is Glenn telling jokes or something?”

“No, I’m not telling jokes; but I could start by telling jokes about you cousin!” I said laughing as I punched his shoulder.

“Don’t you dare!   You know I’ll just get even!” Keith said with an evil grin on his face.

“Okay, cousin, I won’t do it THIS time.   But rest assured there will be a next time!” I said.

Kerry piped up then, “Hey, are you ready to back in the water?   I’m so hot now.   Come on, Keith, let’s go swim for a bit.”   She stood up and pulled Keith to his feet and pushed him towards the ocean. 

I looked questioningly at Ruth Ann who answered, “Yes, I think another swim in the ocean would feel good.”  

I stood up and helped Ruth Ann get up.   Ruth Ann didn’t release my hand but instead pulled me down the beach to play in the surf.   We splashed around and chased each other in and out of the waves, occasionally getting knocked off our feet when a big wave came in.   I kept thinking about how happy I felt being with Ruth Ann.   She just seemed to know the right things to say and how to say them.   It was like she could see inside me head and read the thoughts written there.   It kind of made me shiver sometimes.

After playing the surf for a while, Ruth Ann and I decided to take a walk up the beach.   Ruth Ann held my hand as we walked.   Ruth Ann said, “I’ve been watching you all day, Glenn.   Sometimes when you think I’m not looking, you become really quiet and melancholy.   You seem to be really sad.   Why?”

Ruth Ann squeezed my hand and waited for me to respond.   I was so stunned by the question that it took me a moment to decide how to respond.   I wasn’t sure how much Keith had told Kerry about me which of course she would have shared with her sister.

When I didn’t answer right away, Ruth Ann said, “If you’re not ready to talk about it, that’s okay.”

I decided to take a chance and tell her about Ian.   “I was dumped by my boyfriend, Ian.   We had made plans to attend the University of Texas at El Paso in the fall.   I called his cell phone and his mother told me he was off with his fiancée”

“How terrible!   I bet you’re upset,” Ruth Ann said.

“Yes.   I’m not so much angry at Ian as I am at myself for ignoring the fact that he was using me.   It really hurts right now,” I said trying to keep my emotions under control.

Ruth Ann said, “Thank you for telling me.   Kerry told me you had a boyfriend in high school.   Do you really think you’re gay?”

I replied, “I don’t consider myself “gay” in the typical sense of the word.   I would say I’m more confused about who I am.   Being here with you makes me feel all weird inside.   I’ve never felt this way about a girl before.”

“Do you think you could have a relationship with a girl?” Ruth Ann asked earnestly.

I stopped and turned to look her in the eyes, “I don’t know for sure to be honest.   I’ve never attempted to have a romantic relationship with a girl.”    I lifted her chin up so I could give her a kiss on the lips.   Ruth Ann put her arms around my waist and held me tight for a moment then pulled away.

“We’d better be getting back,” Ruth Ann said.

The sun started to set as we headed back to the umbrella to dry off and get our things together.   Keith and Kerry joined us shortly after that and we packed up the umbrella and pulled our shorts over our swimsuits but left our t-shirts off.   The girls put on their cover-ups and folded up the beach towels after shaking out the sand.   Keith carried the umbrella and I helped with the rest of the beach stuff.   Ruth Ann surprised me again with a quick kiss and grabbed my hand as we walked back to the house.  

Her touch on my skin had me so confused.   I wasn’t sure what was going on with me.   Why was I so confused?   It didn’t make sense!   Why did I feel so close to Rick?   Why did I feel like the same about Ruth Ann?   Was it just the physical contact?   When Rick held me, it felt so right.   How can I be attracted to both a guy and a girl at the same time?   I’m one mixed up guy!   Why was Ruth Ann so anxious to know if I could have a relationship with a girl?   Was she trying to save me from being gay or something like that?   Or does she honestly want to have a relationship with me?  So many questions and so few answers!


Prev To be continued . . .