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Subject: Miles From Home: Chapter 4 Thank you for continuing to read this story. Feedback, comments, and questions are appreciated and welcome ail ************************************************ October Freshman Year The email thread started a week ago: Pete: Hey, you’re coming to dinner with us next Saturday when my dad’s here for family weekend. I got us a reservation for 7:30 at Bloom’s. I’ll be extraordinarily offended if you stand us up. A day later, I replied: Me: Thanks for the invite! But I’m going to pass. I’ve got a meet earlier that day, and I’ll be wiped. 30 minutes later: Pete: Yeah, so you’ll be hungry. You’re coming to dinner. 5 minutes later: Me: Bloom’s is some fancy shit. I’m good with french fries and cereal. 40 minutes later: Pete: I know you’re set on your plan to depress yourself by eating alone in the empty dining hall on family weekend. That would be fine any other day. If you love being alone so much, all you have to do is wear your stank-ass running clothes to dinner. You’ll clear the room, and you can eat by yourself any time you like. But do me this favor. My dad’s up here so often, and this time I want to show him something good about this school he hasn’t seen before. I won’t pretend he’s even half as cool as your family, but you still might have a good time. If nothing else you’ll get to laugh at seeing me all dressed up, and I’ll get to laugh at you when you drop food on your shirt. So come. Please. 20 minutes later: Me: I’m unmoved. Someone has to teach you how to deal with rejection. 40 seconds later: Pete: Yes. But it’s not going to be you. 2 minutes later: Me: Shouldn’t you be asking whoever’s at the top of the Peter Lyons waiting list these days? I thought I was at 6,187. And I know the women’s rugby team is on there ahead of me. They scare me way too much to cut their place in line. 30 seconds later: Pete: Life’s not fair. Your name is already on the reservation. 5 minutes later: Me: Fuck off. You’re such a politician’s kid. 2 minutes later: Pete: Is that a yes?? 90 seconds later: Me: Fine. But this doesn’t mean I have to put out. 10 seconds later: Pete: Deal! … The whole thing was just one more case of my plan failing miserably. After admitting to myself that I’d developed some fucked up attraction to Pete, I’d hatched a plan to deal with it: spend less time alone with him and more time with the other friends I’d made here. It seemed like a solid strategy. In my life before college, I’d never really had one best friend who was somehow more important to me than my other ones. In any of the places we’d lived, I would eventually settle into having a few good buds who I did different things with and was close to in different ways. And I was starting to get to that point here at college now, too, even if Pete was clearly the person I liked hanging out with most. But that’s exactly why it worried me to think I might do something stupid to jeopardize things just because of some strange hormonal fluke- even if that fluke wasn’t fading away like I’d hoped it would. If anything, my thoughts seemed to be getting sucked deeper and deeper into it like quicksand the more I tried to push down my attraction to Pete. Even when we were just doing something normal like watching a movie together in his room, I’d catch myself staring at Pete’s smile instead of the screen a little too often when he’d laugh at the funny parts. Or any time Pete wore a shirt that fit him a little more tightly than his other ones, I’d notice. My brain would tell me to look away, but then my dick would tell my eyes to keep up the good work. To my frustration, it felt like my dick and my hormones kept winning the battle too. Then the other thing that kept tripping me up with my plan was that I didn’t want to give Pete the brush off. After all, it’s not like he had done anything wrong. Whatever passing weirdness was going on in my head wasn’t his fault. Pete shouldn’t have to be punished because of it. And I definitely didn’t want him to think I was distancing myself now that I was getting a little more comfortable here and had made some other good friends too. So in spite of my reluctance, that’s how I now found myself walking into the fanciest restaurant in town on what must’ve been its busiest weekend of the year. Pete had insisted, and I didn’t want to be a dick to him just because I was worried I couldn’t keep my head straight. When I arrived at the table where I found Pete seated alone, I smiled and got in my first dig: “Damn, I didn’t realize I’d get to meet your imaginary family tonight…” “Max!” Pete jumped up from his chair and extended his right hand out towards me. We pressed our knuckles together in our usual fist bump version of a handshake we’d dubbed our ‘evil twin fists.’ “You came! I was starting to think you’d bail on me…” “Of course I came, dumbass. I’m a man of my word,” I said, shaking my head as I thanked the host for showing me to this table that appeared to be the best one in the place. The prime location in the packed restaurant didn’t exactly help me to swallow down my apprehensions that someone as rich and powerful as Pete’s dad would have nothing to say to someone like me. Looking back at Pete as we both took our seats, I pushed away that thought and returned his grin. “Hey, I’m glad I just went with an imaginary coat and tie if it’s going to be just us.” “No arguments from me!” Pete smiled. “You look good… almost respectable, even.” We both laughed. Pete may have been generous about me, but he looked flat-out great. Pete’s day-to-day wardrobe was pretty much like most students’, full of the college athlete standards of comfortable jeans, t-shirts, and broken-in hoodies. Tonight, though, Pete looked much more grown up than me in a carefully tailored suit that highlighted his broad shoulders, his lean torso, and his handsome face. “Yeah, well, I figured if I was gonna fool your dad into thinking I’m not a punk, I could at least rock a shirt with a collar for the occasion…” As I continued, I leaned in across the table and dropped my voice lower: “… But, like, your dad does exist, right? I mean, you should go ahead and fess up now if you’ve just been making him up all along.” Pete’s smile slipped a little as he glanced at the empty seat at the head of the table. “Of course he exists, jackass. It’s not like he’s the Easter Bunny… But I hope you’re not starving ’cause his assistant called to say he got held up in meetings before he left DC. I’m really sorry to make you wait.” “No worries,” I shrugged, wondering why Pete seemed genuinely contrite for something that wasn’t a big deal or even his fault in the first place. “… If my stomach starts growling too much I’ll just start chewing on the table cloth.” Pete laughed, looking relieved. “No dining hall trays tonight!” he exclaimed as we fist-bumped over the table. “… But I guess that means you won’t be making sculptures out of your food though.” “You never know,” I smirked. “I still might… Remember, I missed out on the whole finishing school scene so my table manners aren’t as good as yours.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I alluded to the story of Pete sneaking away from the etiquette lessons he’d had to take when he was seven. Apparently, he’d finally gotten caught when he escaped to dig, in his coat and tie, a mud moat for a fort he was building behind his house in DC. “Oh, I think you’ve managed to be finished all on your own…” Pete said, about to flash me a middle finger until he must’ve seen something over my shoulder that made him stop short. Turning to look, I saw Dan Morgan, one of our classmates who’d gone to the same private high school in DC as Pete, making his way over to our table behind two people who looked like they must be his parents. They were both beaming at Pete, clearly very excited to see him, as he stood up to shake their hands. Dan politely introduced his parents to me as well, but their attention immediately went fully back onto Pete as they bombarded him with questions about how he was doing, about life at school, about his classes, and about his tennis season. Evidently, the Morgans, like just about everyone else, were completely smitten with Pete. Not that this came as any surprise. Pete was exactly the kind of smart, accomplished, athletic, and well-mannered trophy child that any parent would be proud to have. I sometimes wondered if Pete actually knew what people looked like when they weren’t smiling because it seemed as though everyone always did when they were around him. Dan was a good guy himself, if a little timid and awkward socially. I couldn’t help but notice how he stood off to the side with me looking painfully embarrassed at how much his parents were gushing over Pete. I did my best to commiserate with him by rolling my eyes along with him whenever his parents said something particularly effusive. Pete also picked up on Dan’s discomfort, and he skillfully redirected the conversation to include both of us as well. Pete took the time to explain to me any references to people I wouldn’t have known about, and he turned the tables on the Morgans by asking them about Dan’s two sisters and by talking about Dan’s work with a volunteer program at one of the local high schools. Pete was always great with this sort of thing. Because he was so often the center of attention, Pete must’ve had lots of practice developing this knack of his for finding tactful ways gaziantep travesti to include everyone in conversations, for letting other people shine, and for sharing his spotlight. It was something I’d always admired about him since so many people in the same position would rather hog all the attention and praise for themselves, letting it go to their head and over-inflate their ego. I could tell Dan was grateful for it, too, even if he still looked relieved when he was finally able to nudge his parents away from our table. As we watched the Morgans make their way out of the restaurant, we saw them stop near the entrance to talk to a tall, white-haired man who’d just come in. Pete tapped me on the shoulder and nodded his head over in their direction: “There’s my dad…” Lucky for me, I’d looked him up online beforehand. Otherwise, there’s no way I would’ve made the connection between Pete and this man. I’d been curious heading into this dinner because Pete didn’t have any pictures of his family up in his room. And as it turned out, the vague mental picture I’d formed in my head of what Pete’s father would probably look like was nothing close to the photos I found online of the man now chatting with the Morgans. For one thing, Pete’s dad was much older than I’d imagined. It dawned on me now, of course, that I should’ve put that together when Pete mentioned being dragged to campus for his dad’s 50th reunion last year. That would make Pete’s father much closer in age to my grandparents than he was to my own parents. As the restaurant’s host led him towards our table, I scanned for any resemblance to Pete. But there really wasn’t anything about him that would’ve made me associate this man with my friend if I hadn’t known they were related. Sure, they were both tall, square jawed, and had the build of a natural athlete. But the differences between them went far beyond just the large age gap. While Pete’s father looked great for a man who must’ve been somewhere north of seventy, his dark brown eyes looked flat and one-dimensional compared to the depth of Pete’s lighter hazel ones and his smile looked more like a practiced pose than Pete’s unselfconscious grin. His father’s eyes and carefully composed smile fixed on Pete as he arrived at our table where we were now standing to greet him. “Peter!” He boomed and reached out his right hand to shake Pete’s. That definitely wasn’t the kind of effusive greeting full of rib-crushing hugs I was expecting when I first saw my own family again. It seemed odd to me, and I worried I might somehow be inhibiting them or intruding on their reunion. “Hello, dad,” Pete said, returning a smile much more like his father’s than the usual exuberant Pete grins I’d grown accustomed to. “… I saw you caught the Morgans before they left…” “Oh yes,” he said, laughing and shaking his head. “… It’s amazing. I always thought Robert was too stupid to get away with sleeping around on his wife. But then Suzanne just reminded me she’s even more of an idiot than he is…” “…- Dad-…” Pete tried to interject, but his dad kept on talking over him: “…-So maybe that means Robert’s smart enough to know how to pick ’em at least!” The senator roared with laughter at his own joke and clapped Pete on the back. I had to struggle to keep my mouth from dropping to the floor in surprise. Pete would never say anything so flippantly insulting like that about anyone else. Even though he had a definite mischievous streak and a prankster’s sense of humor, Pete never insulted people or made jokes at other people’s expense like his father had just so casually done. His humor was always rooted in laughing at himself and getting other people to do the same. Not only that, but Pete was also the only person at this small school who seemed to know how to mind his own damn business and respect other people’s privacy. In all the months we’d known each other now, I’d never once heard him gossip about other people behind their back like this. For just barely a second, I noticed Pete cringing at his father’s remarks as his eyes darted over to me. He quickly composed himself, though, and stepped back to direct his dad’s attention over to me. “Dad, this is Maxwell Soto.” The senator’s eyes scanned me up and down in appraisal as he smiled and firmly shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Maxwell.” “Thank you for inviting me, Senator Lyons,” I said, meeting his eyes with my own and sizing him up as well. From his side of the table, Pete added: “Dad, Max is the friend I was telling you about who captured the league donkey at the cross-country meet this morning.” Wait. That dumb story?? It shocked me that Pete would pick now as the moment to mention an obscure and pointless ritual with our rival college. For years, our cross-country teams would hide and try to capture from each other a plastic donkey statue any time one of us hosted a meet. This morning, I’d successfully played my part in the antics, but the whole game wasn’t well known to anyone beyond the two schools’ cross-country teams. Immediately, the Senator’s smile widened and his eyes glimmered with approval. He reached his left hand up to pat my shoulder. “Ah, you must be the runner Peter’s always talking about!” He gestured for us all to take our seats at the table as Pete chimed in with his usual enthusiasm: “Yeah, dad, Max is so fast! I’ve tried running with him a few times, and I never-…” “- … So you’re the one who got the league donkey today, Maxwell? You’ll have to tell me how they’d been hiding it…” As surreal as it felt to be rehashing the story of this juvenile game to a U.S. Senator, I did my best to answer his many detailed questions about the caper. And in the back of my mind, I was struck by how he’d just cut off Pete like that. But as the dinner went along, it quickly became clear it was going to be the Senator’s show all the way and that both Pete and I were just along for the ride. In fact, much of the night turned out to be a monologue of the Senator’s vivid stories of his own years at the college. Evidently, he didn’t need much encouragement to get him going on the subject. Based on his account of what seemed like an uninterrupted succession of frat parties, elaborate pranks on rival colleges, and athletic triumphs with the baseball team, I was surprised he didn’t still have a raging hangover even if his graduation was now more than fifty years ago. Hell, I was astounded he even graduated in the first place since he proudly boasted that the only time he’d set foot in the library was to sneak in a keg for a party he’d thrown there during finals week. Pete’s father obviously loved this place. He was glowing just talking about it. But the college he described in his stories only faintly resembled the school Pete and I were going to now. I mean, we were both finding ways to have fun here, but we also spent a lot of time doing more mundane things like studying and going to class. As I expected from someone related to Pete, though, the Senator proved to be completely charismatic. But while Pete’s dad had that in common with his son, his charisma came through in an entirely different way. As I listened to the Senator’s adventures, it became clear that his focus was always wholly on himself. Sure, his stories were funny, but it seemed as though he was telling them to impress me into thinking as highly of him as he undoubtedly did himself. He was engaging and amusing, but I didn’t get the impression he’d be the same kind of considerate and unselfish friend that Pete was. I’d never known him to be as self-absorbed or self-congratulating as his father seemed to be, even though Pete had plenty of things to be boastful about. Eventually, somewhere around the time that he was insisting we all order dessert and another round of drinks, the Senator did get around to asking me some of the typical questions about myself I’d now learned to expect from people here. I easily fielded them with my standard responses about where I was from, where my family was “really from” and how long they’d been in this country, and how I’d ended up at this college. At that point, Pete interjected with some questions of his own to encourage me to elaborate for his dad. Pete already knew the answers to them himself, but he seemed genuinely interested in having his dad get to know me. I didn’t mind or anything, and I did my best to oblige him even if I wasn’t exactly sure why Pete was so anxious for that to happen. Maybe he was just glad that the conversation had finally shifted away from allusions to how much his dad had slept around in college. Knowing Pete, though, he probably just wanted to make sure I was having a good time. And I really was, even if the whole evening hadn’t been at all what I expected. Back home, I’d always thought it was interesting to see the interplay between my friends and their parents whenever I’d go over to someone else’s house. But I’d never come across anything like this before. Although we were all laughing and joking around about the Senator’s stories, this definitely didn’t have the relaxed, laid-back feel that meals at home with my own family always had. There was an underlying formality to everything and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on that cast a distant tone over the whole thing. It made me feel like I had to keep myself on my toes the whole time, but the hours still blurred together gaziantep masaj salonları until we found ourselves out in front of the restaurant where the Senator had a driver waiting for him with a towncar. I thanked him for dinner as he shook my hand again and clapped me on the back, telling Pete I should come with him the next time he went down to DC since I’d never been there. Thanking him again, I stepped aside, not knowing what Pete’s plans were now, but assuming he’d probably go off with his dad for some one-on-one time. Instead, they just shook hands as well and Pete agreed to call him in the morning before the Senator climbed into the car on his own and rode off. I looked over at Pete. “Umm, you headed back to campus then?” “Yeah…” Pete was looking at me with a weird smile as we started walking back. “What?” “You know, he really liked you.” “Fuck!” I kicked the curb in mock frustration. “… And here I was trying my best to embarrass you.” “Hey, I’m serious… I know he wouldn’t have told you about his bonfire that ended up burning down the baseball stands if he thought you were a dork… Thanks again for coming.” “Thanks for inviting me,” I shrugged. “… It was… interesting.” “Yeah,” Pete rolled his eyes. “… Maybe when you haven’t heard all those stories a million times already.” “It is funny how fucking love-struck he is with this place…” We both snickered, and I continued: “… But was he actually trying to get us drunk, or did it just seem like that?” Throughout dinner, Pete’s father kept ordering rounds of drinks for all of us. I’d been surprised he would’ve even offered since he was a Senator and both Pete and I were still technically underage. I’d tried to pass because I had a general rule against drinking in front of adults, but he wasn’t exactly the kind of guy who would take “no” for an answer. “Oh, that was just dad gettin’ back in the ol’ pussy-n-beer college spirit…” Pete said, laughing with me again. He quickly turned serious, though, as he asked: “… But you had a good time, right?” “Dude, don’t worry about it… I really did, no joke. But it’s not like I was going to a carnival or something… I wasn’t expecting you to entertain me.” “Cool,” Pete said looking relieved. “… I know my dad can be a bit much, so I didn’t want you to regret coming after I basically twisted your arm into doing it.” I laughed and smacked Pete on the shoulder. “You damn well know you can’t make me do anything I don’t want to.” As I said that, though, I decided now was a time when I could stop joking around. “… Can I ask you a serious question though?” “Of course.” “Why’d you invite me along tonight? … I mean, other than just wanting to see if I could actually go a couple hours without swearing in front of your dad…” Pete thoughtfully ran one of his big hands through his short, sandy blond hair as he considered how to answer. “You’ve probably noticed, right, how I don’t talk about my family much… even when other people ask me about them?” “Yeah,” I nodded. “… I mean, I know I’m at the other extreme of that. And I do feel bad sometimes for not being able to shut up about mine, but-…” “…-No, that’s not where I was going…” Pete interrupted, shaking his head. “And you don’t have to be embarrassed about that… I mean, it’s not just you. I do ask you about them a lot, too. And I wouldn’t if I really didn’t want to hear about it.” “Okay, but you’re right, though. I have noticed… Shit, you dodge the subject like it’s the fuckin’ plague whenever anyone asks you about your dad. Before tonight I’d probably heard more about your family from other people talking about them than I ever have from you…” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I worried he might take them the wrong way. I didn’t mean to accuse Pete of anything. It really wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t like to talk about this stuff. So I went on quickly to clarify: “… I don’t know, I guess I assumed you don’t have the same relationship with him as I do with mine… Which is fine… And I understand if you don’t want people here treating you any different because of what your dad does or all the buildings on campus that have your name on them.” “Yeah, well, that’s part of it…” Pete nodded. “And believe me, I’m grateful that you, at least, don’t do that.” “So is that why you had me come along tonight?” I asked, redirecting him back to my original question. “Kind of… I mean, I knew I could trust you not to annoy my dad with a bunch of the stupid questions people are always asking me… But, honestly, I just wanted you to see for yourself that he and I are different.” I snorted. “Yeah, no shit…” Pete smiled faintly. “… Because I know people here talk about him. And I know you’ll probably get an earful about it this weekend too- like about the fundraiser he’s hosting for W. Bush’s reelection campaign tomorrow that he’s making me go to… But whatever you hear, I don’t want you to jump to conclusions about what I think because of what he’s doing.” “Dude, give me some credit. I wouldn’t do that…” “And I appreciate it,” Pete nodded in acknowledgement. “… But you’re one of the few who doesn’t. Even my professors here make assumptions that I believe in whatever my dad is doing. And it sucks because he and I don’t really agree on much of anything.” “Hey, you’re your own person. I get it. You didn’t have to waste a fancy dinner on me just to prove that point.” “Thanks,” Pete smiled. “… But, no joke, I think you’re the only person I know who would really get my dad and me.” “What do you mean?” “Well, you pretty much said it already: my family’s not at all like yours… Dad and I aren’t close, and we don’t have this relationship where we really understand each other or talk about our feelings and shit…” I laughed. “Hey, I don’t exactly do that with mine, either…” Pete laughed too. “… No, I know that. You’re way too much of a jerkwad to let yourself do that with anyone… But you do mean a lot to each other. And I can tell because you always get that stupid smile on your face whenever you talk about them…” Pete turned serious again, his mouth settling into a thoughtful line. “… But it’s not just that, though… It always sounds like they listen to you and that you… I don’t know, you, like, respect each other.” “So you’re saying your dad doesn’t listen to you? Fuck, that isn’t so hard to understand… I know plenty of people who feel that way.” “No, that’s not really it… My dad cares about me… In his way. It’s just different than how it works with you.” “What do you mean?” “I know dad wanted a kid. And I know he’s glad to have me… But he’s really not the kind of guy to be much interested in raising one… I mean, he’ll definitely brag to his friends whenever I win an award or a tournament or something like that. But you wouldn’t ever see him there cheering in the stands at one of my matches.” “But, he’s here now, right?” “Yeah, he is,” Pete nodded quickly. “…And I know he was glad to see me… But you probably noticed, right, how we didn’t really talk much about how I’m doing here… or even just what I’ve been doing here?” I nodded, agreeing. “… Well, we probably won’t for the rest of the weekend either. We’re just not like that… Dad likes coming up here to reminisce about the good ol’ days, and he likes having me around as an audience. But that’s about all this weekend’s gonna be about.” “Shit, you make yourself sound like a fucking lap dog…” “Hey, it’s not that bad…” Pete said, smiling over at me quickly. “Seriously. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me… I mean, your family sounds great, but it’s not a big deal that mine’s different…” Pete tried to smile at me reassuringly once again. “And, to be honest, a lot of that’s probably `cause of me, too.” “How?” “I just learned early on that I really shouldn’t take my dad at face value. So I’ve always kind of held him at arm’s length.” “You mean?… Did something happen between you two?” “No, not anything-…” Pete said, shaking his head. “…I didn’t mean that… It’s… It’s more that I just know better than to put too much stock in anything he says… Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I was around to see him invite people from two sides of some issue over to our house, sit and talk to them acting like he was completely on this side one night and then the other the next. And then, in the end, he’d screw them both over to just do what he knew he wanted to all along because most of the things that come out of his mouth are just bullshit…” Pete looked down and kind of chuckled dryly under his breath. “…God, back when I was in elementary school, I even caught him cheating at the stupid games of cards I’d beg him to play with me when we’d be stuck on long flights together…” “So you don’t really talk to your dad because you don’t trust him?” “Yeah, probably, that’s some of it,” Pete shrugged. “… But, really, those kinds of things like trust and honesty and, yeah, even just family… that’s not what’s important to him. He says it’s all just bullshit, actually… Things people whine about when they’re not strong enough to win on their own… Whatever you call it, it’s not what he respects or is interested in. And it just doesn’t work with us.” “Pete-…” I began, wanting to say something that could put a brighter spin on what sounded like a pretty bleak gaziantep escort bayan picture. Pete could probably tell what I was trying to do, though, and he beat me to it: “-… I mean, don’t get me wrong. I don’t go around moping about things I don’t have. I try to focus on appreciating the stuff that I do…” He snorted a little under his breath. “… Jesus, I know the last thing anyone wants to hear is me whining or making myself out to be like this poor-little-rich-boy. I know that’s some bullshit, too… And my dad does try… He does what he thinks is best for me, even if it’s completely different than what your parents do for you…” “Okay-…” “-… And, honestly, I’m grateful to him for that… I’ve gotten a lot from my dad… Maybe in a different way than you and your family, but that’s just `cause my dad doesn’t really believe in a lot of what you guys have.” I thought about all the impressions I’d gotten of Pete’s father during our dinner, and I had to admit Pete wasn’t being melodramatic or anything like that. It seemed like he was seeing things pretty clearly. “Okay, so maybe he doesn’t think that stuff’s important, but do you?” “Shit, I don’t know…” Pete exhaled. He seemed truly at a loss for a moment. “… Sometimes I think so … but maybe that’s just a grass-is-greener sort of thing, you know? …Besides, it doesn’t really matter if it’s important to me or not `cause I’m no good at it anyway… I mean, I’ve never even had any really good, close friends before either.” I couldn’t help but snort in disbelief at that. “… Oh, so is that why you’re so socially inept?” Pete kind of chuckled along with me, but he shook his head in a way that let me know he actually was serious about what he’d said. “Hey, no joke. It’s just never worked out for me…” “Umm, I hate to burst your bubble here, but you’ve been a damn good bud to me at least… And I know I don’t make that easy on people.” “I know, I know, but you and me, we’re-…” Pete paused and looked oddly restrained for a second, like he had been about to say something else. “… We’re different. I was talking about before now… like when I was growing up.” “What do you mean?” “Well, back when I was a kid, I spent most of my time being dragged back and forth between Montana and DC… Whenever I was in Washington, my parents were always too busy to pay much attention to me, and there weren’t ever other kids my age around at any of the places we went… It’s not like Dick Cheney was gonna go play on the swingset with me, right?” “Right…” I agreed, laughing at the absurdity of that image of the Vice President. “… And I was still going to school in Montana too, but it was like I was gone more often than I was home… And that just made it hard for me to be much of a friend to anyone… I mean, I couldn’t ever be on a sports team `cause I’d miss half the practices, and I always had to miss all the birthday parties and camping trips the other kids were doing…. I just wasn’t there for any of it… So people were always distant or awkward with me `cause I wasn’t someone they could really count on…” Pete tugged at his tie and unbuttoned his collar, picking up the pace of his steps as we continued walking. “…Then the other thing was everyone knew why I was gone all the time. And people were weird about that too…” “How so?” “Like, it’s not fun to invite people over to play football or something and then have their parents send them over to your house dressed up in all their best clothes or trying to ask for some favor from my dad… After a while, I kinda gave up… I felt like I had to settle for just being like this class clown to get through school…” “… well at least you developed a sense of humor, right?” “Ha, silver lining, I guess… but I didn’t get the chance to have the kind of buds you grow up with and who really know you.” “But what about when you were older, though, like in high school? Was it any different there?” Pete shrugged his shoulders. “Just more of the same, really… I did spend more of my time in one place since I was going to school in DC, too. But I’d jump at any chance I had to go back to Montana… And I know that made things harder with people at my school, but by that time I’d gotten used to it. And, honestly, it was way more important to me to go back anyway…” “Why?” “… It’s like… what do you think about when you’re thinking about home?” “My family,” I said without hesitation. “… I guess I never understood how much they mean to me until I was away from them here, but, yeah… it’s really about them.” “Yeah, I can tell,” Pete said nodding as he smiled faintly over at me. “… But for me, when I think about home, I always think about Montana… It’s a place- big and open and awesome. It’s where I’ve always felt like I was me… But my parents don’t really have anything to do with it… Or anyone else for that matter… There really aren’t any people in my picture of home.” “But what about your mom though? How did she fit into all this?” If Pete’s father was a puzzle to me, his mom was an even bigger mystery. The only thing I knew about her was that she died of cancer shortly before Pete had started high school. “Oh, mom and dad were quite a pair…” Pete did another one of those under his breath chuckles. “… Sometimes I’d think they were completely different `cause she was more than twenty years younger than him and everything… But then when I think about them now, I gotta say they’re more two-of-a-kind than anything else…” “How so?” “Mom wasn’t exactly any more warm and fuzzy than my dad is… I mean, dad’s a politician. He spends all his time trying to be popular and getting people to like him… But mom, though,… she was all business and never cared who liked her or not… She was all about running her family’s company and lobbying around DC or Helena to grow it… Deep down, they were both all about winning and getting what they want…” Pete laughed again as though there was something there that only he could see. “… And they certainly got that with each other… Mom may have been my dad’s trophy wife, but he was just as much of a trophy for her… They were fond of each other, maybe, but I don’t think they ever really loved each other… If they did, it never stopped either of them from sleeping around…” Holy shit. I was stunned for a moment, not really knowing what to say to that, so I focused back on Pete again. “So you weren’t really any closer to your mom then?” “Not really,” he shrugged. “… I mean, sometimes I really did try… But like I said, it just hasn’t ever worked like that in my family… she wasn’t ever like a mom mom… And there’s no point in being mad about stuff that’s all said and done now, or that I can’t really change anyway.” “But do you want things to be different? I mean, with your dad at least?” “Maybe, sometimes…” he shrugged. “… But I’m not exactly counting on being able to teach that old dog some new tricks anytime soon…” We were back on campus now, nearing our quad. “… Besides, it’s a lot more fun to live vicariously in your family… I really miss having a dog, and I did always want a little brother… And I think- God, I hope- it’s a bit too late for that with my dad…” I laughed at Pete’s joke, but I could tell by the sudden shift in his tone that the serious portion of the evening had just ended. Talking to Pete had always been a lot like what playing tennis against him was probably like. Pete made the whole thing look perfectly smooth, but he was always completely in control. No matter how much you thought you were driving things, it was only after it was all over that you realized he’d always taken everything exactly where he wanted it to go. I knew Pete well enough now, though, to know when and how I could push things a little deeper. It was something I’d learned from him actually since he’d always done so well with drawing me out. Like he’d somehow figured out with me, I knew now when to push, when I could ask things, what I should leave alone, when I should joke, and when I should be serious. I could tell there was a lot more going on between Pete and his parents than he’d been willing to say tonight. His family sounded like a mess compared to the stable dependability of my own. Mostly, I was amazed he was as put together about it as he was. It made me admire him even more for his maturity. Whereas I often felt like I’d been moody and erratic ever since I got here, Pete had always been there to balance me by being a calm, collected, perfectly level-headed voice of reason. So many of the people here, myself included, seemed to be desperately trying to figure out who and what they were, what their place in the world was, what they wanted, and what made them happy. But Pete seemed to already know all that. Pete knew who he was, and that made him seem perfectly comfortable and confident in his own skin. He didn’t question, doubt, or second-guess himself, and he stood out like a man among a bunch of kids bumbling about still trying to grow up. We’d stopped now as we reached the quad that bordered both of our dorms. Pete smiled over at me. “So what’re you up to tonight?” “Meh, nothing in particular,” I shrugged. “Just the usual: pussy-n-beer.” “Shut up.” He smacked me in the arm, but he would’ve been more convincing if he weren’t laughing while he said it. “… Hey, you wanna come back to my room? I think we can still catch the end of the Avalanche game…” “Sweet!” We pressed our hands together in our evil twin fists as we turned in the direction of his dorm. Then, I had a brilliant idea: “Last one there buys the beer!” I reached out behind Pete and slapped his ass with my right hand as I took off ahead of him towards his dorm. ********* To be continued.

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