A Life Discovered

Chapter 4

By Bensiamin


Thursday evening his phone rang and he saw it was Eric. He was momentarily surprised, but then answered it directly, “Hi, Eric. What’s happening?”

“You want the truth?”

“Well, yeah.”

“I got tired of texting and wanted to hear your voice.”

“Aww. That’s so nice. I bet you say that to all your boyfriends.”

“I don’t have any boyfriends. I mean, right now I don’t have any boyfriends.”

Bailey quickly processed the information. “So, you have an open social schedule right now, and I happen to be available?”

“No, Bailey. Don’t go there. That’s not what I meant at all. I just wanted to talk to you. Is that okay?”

Bailey found himself smiling. “Yeah, it’s okay. More that okay. I like hearing your voice too.” What was he saying? Was he leading Eric on?

“Cool. So has it been another same old same old week?”

“Yeah, like that. I’m getting used to my schedule of meetings and now I’m waiting for Everett to start dumping more work or projects on me.”

“Plan on it. Actually, there’s a question I want to ask you.”

“Go for it.”

“Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

“What? Dinner? You’ll be in Syracuse. That’s not even close.

“I won’t be in Syracuse.”

“Oh, what’s up?”

“We’ve got a new client north of Auburn, so I’m going to stay down your way and see them Friday afternoon. There’d be no sense in being down there on Friday evening and just driving home when I could ask you out to dinner. Are you already booked?”

Bailey said, “No. I’ve got nothing going on tomorrow.” Then he wondered if he shouldn’t have been more reserved.

“Cool. There’s the Bluewater Grill where we had lunch, or another restaurant in that old hotel. Your call.”

“You really want to do this? Take me to dinner? Is this a date?”

“Yes. I want to be clear about that because you told me what happened last year in Binghamton caught you off guard when you realized it was a date. I want to take you out to dinner and spend the evening with you.”

“Okay… you remember what I told you, right?”

“How could I forget your first attempt at shooting me down.”

“That’s not…that’s not what I was trying to do. I was just being straight with you.”

“Was that a pun?”

“What?” Bailey rolled his eyes to the ceiling and realized what he’d just said.

“Yes, unintentional, but yes.”

“And if I tell you that you don’t have to be straight with me?”

Bailey laughed. “I get it. I know you’re gay. I got the message. I was just using normal language.”

Eric chuckled back. “Normal language or conventional language?”

“I guess when you ask, it was conventional. Like the world’s mainly straight so most people just assume, right? Assume the wrong stuff sometimes and say dumb things. Sorry.”

“Like I said before, no apology necessary. But you haven’t answered my question. Will you have dinner with me?”

“Well, yeah. It’ll be fun. I’d like to.”

“Cool. We can work out the times and stuff tomorrow.”

“That’s fine. Now, tell me what gives with a client in Auburn.”

“Well, not in Auburn, but north of town. It’s the Finger Lakes SPCA. They’ve got a project for a new addition. It started a few years ago and then their fundraising campaign got put on hold by the pandemic. But now they say they’re ready to move again. So, I got the assignment.”

“Wow, that’s cool.”

“It might be. On the other hand, it’ll be a lot smaller than the project at your work, and I got it because I’m the junior guy and it’s still a big TBD if they’ll get the money for the project.”

“Oh, the low man on the totem pole thing again. But wait, you won’t believe what I’m going to tell you about that SPCA.”


“Oh yeah. This is like way too much coincidence. Back when my dad found me, he had this really cool Beagle named Daisy. She died when I was in high school, and he never got another dog. But last week Annabelle, the mechanic that bought my dad’s car lot and auto repair business, told me she found two boxes of his papers in the back of the office. Almost all of it was old stuff I threw away, but one folder said SPCA. It had letters and brochures, and receipts for donations from that SPCA, and some kind of architectural drawing for a new building.”


“Yeah, seriously. He always had dogs till Daisy and obviously cared about them ‘cause of his involvement. I wonder if this drawing is the same thing you’re going to be working on?”

“Could be. Or maybe an early concept drawing. Most of the time those early drawings change a lot before you get to the final design. Bring it to work tomorrow, okay? I’d like to see it.”

“I will. I can’t believe this small world syndrome.”

“Hey, I’m loving it. It turns out we have more connection than you thinking I have hair like a Roman emperor.”

“Don’t get carried away!”

“No worry. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Bailey went to bed happy but just a little disconcerted. Yeah, Eric was becoming a friend, and there was now this other common ground, but what did it all mean that he wanted a dinner date?

The project meeting went as planned the next morning, and when Eric’s colleagues left, he said he’d go use the cafeteria to catch up on email. Bailey told him he’d join him for lunch and bring his dad’s drawing of the SPCA expansion. When he got there forty minutes later, Eric stood and said, “I’m starving. Let’s eat.”

They did and afterward Bailey pulled the drawing out of his case and unfolded it on the table. He saw Eric’s expression change into one of recognition. “Yep, that’s the one. Our office did it four or five years ago when this project was kicking off. It was another architect, obviously, and then like I told you it all went on hold.” He looked up at Bailey. “It is so cool you have this and there’s this connection.”

Bailey just smiled at him. “It is. The connection is through my dad, that’s what makes it doubly cool.” He saw Eric watching him, as if he was trying to connect the dots somehow, so he went on. “I can’t wait to hear how it goes after your meeting, and where they are now and if there are any changes.”

“Trust me, I’ll fill you in tonight.” He looked at his watch. “I should probably get going. How long a drive is it?”

“Fifteen or twenty minutes to Auburn, then five minutes north of town. So, for this evening, are we just going to meet at the restaurant?”

“Yeah, probably best. I don’t know how long the meeting will go and I’ll have to write up my notes. Want to meet at six o’clock for a drink first?”

“Sure. I’ll work a little late and meet you there. Let’s do Bluewater again. I loved that it was right on the lake. There’s another Finger Lake over by Auburn, but the town isn’t on the lake like it is over here.”

They went their ways and at about five thirty Bailey went into the men’s room and freshened up by throwing water on his face and drying it off with paper towels. ‘Hardly elegant for a date,’ he thought to himself. Still, it was the only option.

They arrived before the evening crowd, and they decided on a table instead of the bar and were immediately seated at one with a view of the lake. Their server came by with a drinks menu and Eric suggested a bottle of white wine since it was summer and warm and they’d likely order fish, the house specialty.

“I like wine but don’t know that much, so lead the way,” Bailey said.

“I’ll order a medium dry French Chardonnay. Pleasant to sip and good with food.”

Bailey nodded, and after the first sip agreed with Eric’s choice. Bailey quickly learned that Eric was a conversationalist when he began a series of questions that kept them talking. He realized that for most people they would be neutral and harmless questions, but recognized quickly that they led to parts of his life he didn’t like to talk about. When Eric asked about growing up in Auburn, he purposefully skipped over the first twelve years and started with Eighth grade and mainly focused on high school. He also learned that Eric had gone to high school in Syracuse, as he expected, but to a school he’d never heard of.

When Eric asked about his best friend growing up, that one was easy and comfortable. Dan had been his best friend since he was twelve and still was. He filled Eric in on how he lived across the street, how they lived in each other’s houses, were both on the soccer team in high school and that he still lived in Auburn and worked for the county. Answering the question about hobbies was easy too, because he could talk about all the video games that his dad had gotten for him and Dan to play. Sports was easy too, since he’d already told Eric he was trying to re-establish a running schedule to stay fit.

It got uncomfortable when Eric asked about his family and if he had brothers and sisters. He didn’t want to lie to Eric, but knew that even mentioning his brother and sisters from his birth parents would open a subject and a wound he didn’t want to get into. He deflected by saying it had been just him and his dad and Daisy, their beagle. He immediately asked Eric about his family and brothers of sisters, to learn that his dad was a psychologist, him mom worked for the Syracuse newspaper, and he was an only child. “I guess with two professional parents, one kid was enough.”

Bailey tried to stay out front of the conversation and said, “You know I went to Binghamton University because it’s a public school and I could afford it. Where did you go? Where did you study architecture?

“I went to Syracuse University, which is private and expensive, but I had reduced tuition because my dad teaches there. I knew I wanted architecture, and Syracuse is the fourth oldest architecture school in the country. Then I did my graduate degree at Cornell. After that I became the junior guy at the firm doing your project.”

Bailey was happy staying in control of the conversation and asked how it was growing up with a psychologist for a dad? “It was actually pretty cool. He’s a good guy. He considers himself a student of Carl Jung and splits his time between teaching and his practice. My parents were totally cool with me being gay, and having a psychologist for a dad meant he helped me work through all kinds of stuff about personal identity and sexuality. He’s totally accepting and was really interested in my understanding myself and the things that make people the way they are. I learned so much from him I feel like I have a minor in Psych. If I sound like a psychology know-it-all, that’s why.”

Eric then took a sip of his wine and looked at Bailey and then said, “Can I ask you a question?”

Bailey smiled. “You mean another one?”

“Well, yeah. But a personal one.”

Bailey sipped his own wine and nodded.

Eric smiled back and said, “I heard you say last night on the phone ‘when your dad found you.’ What did that mean? I mean if you’re comfortable telling me.”

Bailey blushed and then said, “Honestly, I didn’t mean to say that. I’ve got a pretty unusual family history and don’t usually talk about it.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“I do want to. It won’t be easy, but we’re friends so you should know. My dad adopted me after he found me when I was twelve. I ran away because my birth parents were abusive, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Anyway, it was one of those central New York snowstorms and I stumbled into dad’s back yard and Daisy heard me and barked, and dad found me and then called the cops. I got taken from my parents and dad fostered me and gave me a home and then adopted me. That’s what I was getting at when I said he found me. Pretty pathetic, huh?”

“No, Bailey, not pathetic. Pretty brave. You had enough abuse and you left. You were lucky you ended up where you did, and to your dad’s credit he did the right thing and took you in and took care of you.”

“He did. He loved me.”

“I’m sure he did.”

Bailey felt the emotion surge within him. “No one had loved me before that.” Bailey looked down at the table holding back a sob.

“I’m sorry you have to say that. But your dad did, and that’s what matters. You’re the person who you are because of that…because of him.” Eric paused and then reached over and tipped Bailey’s chin up so he could look at him. “You’re a very lovable guy, Bailey. All those people before your dad didn’t know what they were missing.”

Eric purposefully lightened the conversation after that. They finished their second bottle of wine and after Eric paid the bill, they walked out the front door and stood in front of a small park at the head of the lake. From the park a pier jutted out into the lake. It was past eight thirty, and things in town were quieting down. The pier was empty.

Eric said, “Were you checking out that pier while we had dinner.”

“Yeah, it looks very cool. It must stick out a hundred feet into the lake.”

“Let’s walk down there. It’ll be cooler out over the water.”

They reached the end and stopped, leaning against the railing and watching the evening light begin to change as the sun approached the hills to the west.

“It’s beautiful here. Really nice,” Bailey said softly.

“Sure is. It’s a great evening.”

“It has been. Thanks a lot for dinner. The next one is on me.”

He saw a smile form on Eric’s face and then heard him say, “Good to know there will be another one.”

He turned to look at Eric and smiled back. “Why not. We’re friends and it was fun. Really nice.”

Eric held his gaze and then Bailey felt Eric’s hand move onto the back of his hand, followed by Eric softly saying, “Is this okay?”

Bailey was momentarily surprised, but then said the first thing that came to mind, and maybe it was the wine talking. “Yeah, it feels nice.”

They looked back down the lake and could see a few power boats moving around a way down, the soft drone of the engines wafting their way. Bailey felt the fingers of Eric’s hand slip down, so they were between his fingers. He continued to look down along the lake. Then he felt Eric’s hand turn his over and his fingers wrap through his to hold his hand.

“Is this okay?”

“Yeah…yeah.” Eric’s fingers started stroking the back of Bailey’s hand, and he found himself enjoying the sensation. Maybe he’d gone too long without affection. Eric made a comment about the changing light and how romantic it was. After a minute Bailey felt his hand being lifted off the railing and then Eric turned him, so they were facing each other. He stared into Bailey’s eyes. “Can you guess what I want to do more than anything right now?”

Bailey was quiet. He could guess the answer to Eric’s question, but he didn’t dare answer it. They continued to hold each other’s gaze, and Bailey just watched. Eric reached up with his other hand and stroked Bailey’s cheek. “What I want to do more than anything right now is kiss you. Is that okay?”

“You do, really?”

“Really. Most important thing on my mind right now. And if you let me, you know what? You’ll get to run your fingers through my hair like you’ve wanted to do since last Friday.”

Bailey felt himself at a loss for words, but within a couple of seconds recovered his wits and nodded his head. A voice in the back of his head said, ‘He must be joking.’

Eric smiled, radiating real joy, and leaned over so their lips met. His mouth was partially open, and his tongue ran along Bailey’s lips. Bailey shuddered.

Eric pulled back an inch and asked softly, “Was that okay?”

Bailey felt his rational thoughts vaporize and heard himself whisper, “That was fine.”

“I told you that you were a loveable guy, didn’t I?” It was a question not meant to get an answer because Eric said it as he slid his free arm behind Bailey, up between his shoulder blades, and pulled him close as their lips met again. This time Eric’s tongue sought its way into Bailey’s mouth, which responded by opening and accepting. Bailey realized Eric had released his hand and suddenly felt that hand slide up the back of his neck and into his hair as Eric positioned his head for a passionate kiss.

Eric’s tongue was taking control of Bailey’s mouth, and Bailey felt himself reacting. His mouth opening and tongue engaging with Eric’s, his arms going around Eric’s back and matching the embrace. He was responding, not thinking, and in a moment his fingers were deep into the curls on Eric’s head.

Their kiss continued, the passion increasing, Bailey feeling Eric’s lips leave his momentarily, then return to suck his upper lip into his mouth, then leave momentarily and do the same to his lower lip. He realized he was breathing so hard he was almost panting and that both of them were grinding their groins together. After another minute they both had to stop to catch their breath. Eric lightened his hold on Bailey, but only enough to let him separate by a couple of inches and softly said, “Was that okay? Are you okay?”

“More than okay. I don’t know… I don’t…how…?”

“Don’t overthink it. Just feel it and go with it. It’s beautiful.”

“It is,” escaped from Bailey’s lips and then he felt himself being pulled close against Eric’s chest. They stood like that for a minute, and then Bailey heard Eric softly say, “Wow! That was hot.” All Bailey could do was nod, his face against the side of Eric’s, his fingers still stroking within those blonde curls.

As if both realized something majestic had happened and it needed to be preserved and savored, they leaned apart and smiled at each other. Without saying anything they turned to walk back along the pier. Eric reached for Bailey’s hand and asked, “Is this okay?”

Bailey sighed out, “Yeah…” and then took a deep breath. “What… what happened?”

“Don’t overthink it, not now.”

That made sense and they started walking back. After fifteen or twenty feet, Bailey noticed a young man leaning against the railing half-way down the pier. Every four or five seconds he would look up at them nervously, as if assessing their approach. When they were abreast of him, he stood off the railing and said quietly, “Can I talk to you guys for a minute?”

Both Eric and Bailey looked at him in surprise. Before they could reply the young man said, “No, no it’s cool. I was walking down the pier because it’s such a quiet and beautiful place and when I got this far, I saw you guys making out. It was beautiful with the light and the water behind you…and…and it was hot. Totally hot. I’m gay and anyway, I took a couple of pictures of you with my phone. I wasn’t trying to be creepy. It was just beautiful. I’ll delete them if you want, but I’d like to give them to you. You know, send them onto your phones. Is that cool?”

Eric and Bailey looked at each other, the surprise slowly turning to smiles, and they said yes. They all had Apple phones and the young man AirPlayed them over in a few seconds. They looked up to hear him say, “My name is Adrian. Is it okay if I keep them? I’ll never share them. They’re beautiful, though. I’ve been dreaming about having a boyfriend that’s as passionate as you guys are.”

They looked at each other and nodded. Eric turned to Adrian and said, “They are great. But you’ve got to promise you’ll keep them private. This is our first date and getting outed isn’t cool.”

“Oh, I promise. Trust me, I’d never do anything like that. I’ve had friends outed and it’s horrible. Thanks for trusting me. You won’t be sorry.”

Eric smiled at him and said, “Thanks for the great pictures and for sharing them with us. I hope you find the boyfriend you’re looking for.”

“Thanks, man.”

Eric and Bailey walked back to the start of the pier, as Adrian walked out over the lake, and Eric wisely let go of Bailey’s hand before they got there. When he did, he softly said to Bailey, “He thinks we’re boyfriends.”

“I know! I’m still trying to figure out what happened at the end of the pier and then that on top of it.”

As they walked to their cars, Eric said, “I’ve got to drive back to Syracuse, so I should get going. Can I call you when I get home?”

“Sure. It’ll give me time to think about what happened.”


Bailey almost felt like he’d been stunned as he drove home. He struggled to think straight, let alone make sense of what had happened on the pier. He couldn’t ever remember so much passion, or him having such a raging response to it. If that was what a burst of hormones felt like, he wondered why it had never happened before? Eric had been assertive, but careful and always seeking permission, then taking him places he hadn’t known about, and to responses he hadn’t known were in him. But he wasn’t gay. How could that all have happened? Sure, Eric had been very clear he was gay and was attracted to him. But he’d also made clear to Eric that he wasn’t gay. So, how did it happen?

After he got back to his apartment it seemed like he didn’t know what to do, so he sat on the couch, but his thoughts didn’t get any clearer. Then his phone rang, and he answered it.

“Bailey, are you okay? I didn’t plan on things going that far or getting that hot. It just kind of happened. Are you all right ?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m just trying to figure out what happened and how it happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at you or anything like that. It was a great evening. It’s just that…I told you I’m not gay, but when you asked if you could kiss me, I said yes, and then when you did the fireworks went off.” He paused, looking up at the ceiling. “I don’t know what to do about that.”

“You don’t have to do anything. You can just accept it. Life is full of surprises. This was a good one…for both of us, I hope.”

Bailey was quiet. “Bailey? Did you hear me?”

“I did. And it was a surprise, and it was a good one, okay. I can still feel the aftereffects.”

“Me too. I’ve been with guys and had boyfriends, but that was something else. Can I make a suggestion?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“You’ve commented a couple of times how could it happen since you’re not gay. How about you don’t worry about the label, about being gay or whatever, and just accept that you’re not just a cute and wonderful guy but that you’re a sexual creature?”

“I’ve never thought about it that way.”

“Look, I don’t want this to sound like a lecture, not after what happened and how wonderful it was, but in case you don’t know, until Christianity came along and turned most of the worlds into prudish and hung-up puritans, most people just accepted that sex came in different forms. In fact, in the Greek and Roman periods bisexuality was understood and accepted. A lot of names in history were gay or bisexual. For example, last year I read a great historical novel titled, The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare. The fact is at a point in his life, Shakespeare left his wife and family and moved to London where he had different lovers. The first apparently was an Italian girl employed as a musician in the household of an aging lord. Then he takes up in a love affair with his patron, the young Earl of Southampton. Many scholars believe he wrote some of his sonnets to the Earl, and many of them are homoerotic.”

“Really? I never read Shakespeare, except Julius Caesar in high school.”

“I never read that much either, and didn’t read the sonnets. But the point is just to help you understand that being in a relationship with a man isn’t that unusual. Are you with me?”

“Yeah,” Bailey said softly. “I guess. I mean there were LGB students at Binghamton. It’s not a foreign concept.”

“So, besides that, back to the labels. In addition to gay and bi and lesbian sexualities, there’s also a category called MSM—men who have sex with men. They’re not gay but they prefer sex with men.”


“Yeah. I told you my dad is a psychologist, right?”

“You did.”

“Okay, he knew I was gay before I did, and he’s not just been totally supportive, my mom too, but we talk about all kinds of stuff. He gives me all kinds of articles to read. I’m worried you’re somehow going to beat yourself about what happened. Like it was wrong or not normal or something, or that I’m trying to make you gay.”

“Well, that’s more to think about. I won’t beat myself up about it, I’m just trying to figure out what or how it happened. Good to know about MSM too. Maybe I’ve been living in a silo or something.”

“That’s good to hear. I don’t want you hurt or angry. I want to keep seeing you. I like you. I guess you’ve figured that out?”

“Oh yeah. No doubt about that.”

“And you seemed to like it and what we were doing?”

“Yeah, I did. That’s what’s confusing. If you’d have asked me this afternoon if I would have said yes to kissing you, I’d have said no way. But then you asked, and it happened and…I don’t know…I didn’t know I had those feelings inside of me.”

“I felt those feelings.”

“I know you did. Eric, I got hard. How did that happen?”

“Like I said, you’re a sexual creature, just like me.”


“Can I say something else?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’ve only known you a couple of weeks, but I think there’s a lot of feelings inside you that you need to explore.”

“God, if tonight is an example, you’re probably right.”

“So, you’re going to be alright?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I just need to think through it all.”

“Take your time. No pressure from me, and just think of it as exploring stuff about Bailey McKenzie that you didn’t know about.”

“Okay, thank you Dr. Tester.”

“Oh, no. That’s my dad. I want you to meet him. You’ll really like him.”

“Okay. I’ll put that on the list.”

“Great. I’m going to let you go, okay?”


“I had a great time with you tonight, Bailey. You’re pretty amazing.”

Bailey giggled, finally letting some of the pent-up emotion out. “Really? Me? That’s what I was thinking about you on the drive home.”

“Okay, cool. We now have a mutual admiration society. I’m going to let you go. Have a good nights’ sleep, okay?”

“I will. Good night, and thanks for tonight.”

“You’re welcome. Sleep tight.”


Bailey was finishing his second cup of coffee the next morning and thinking about the list of things he had to do. He’d gotten his first paycheck, so he planned on buying some more furniture and furnishings for his apartment. It was still a pretty spartan, and he’d found himself wondering if he’d be embarrassed to have Eric over.

His phone pinged.

<Is it too early to call you?>

He grinned to himself.

<No. I’m up and already had breakfast.>

Thirty seconds later his phone rang.

“Hi, Eric.”

“I didn’t know if you slept in on Saturdays. A lot of people do. I didn’t want to wake you up.”

“No worry. I get up pretty early every day. How are you?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Well, no. I was just asking,” Bailey replied. He walked over to the couch and sat down.

“After last night, I’m pretty damn stoked. Have you looked at the pictures?”

“Uhm, no.”

“You’re kidding me!” Eric’s voice was full of disbelief.

“I just haven’t. Should I?”

“Only if you want to see the best first-kiss pictures ever taken. That kid was good with the light and composition, and he must have done some cropping and editing before he gave them to us.”

“If I try to look now while we’re talking, I’ll probably disconnect us. I’ll look when we’re done talking.”

“Good plan. What’s up for your day?”

“Grocery shopping and laundry. Then I’m going to buy some more stuff for my apartment. I was thinking there’s not much here and I’d be embarrassed to have you come over.”

“It’s you I’m interested in, not the apartment.”

Bailey could feel himself smiling. “Oh, so that’s how it is. One kiss and that’s how it is?”

“Hey, like I said, it was an epic first kiss. I know! I’ve had multiple first-kiss experiences. How many have you had?”

Bailey had to think and then said, “Probably two. I guess I’m an amateur. My girlfriend and I were together from my senior year in high school till last Christmas.”

“Then you’ve got ground to make up. Have you thought any more about what I said, about being a sexual creature and not worrying about labels?”

“Yeah, a little. It makes sense.”

“Cool. Okay, I’ll let you go get after the stuff you need to do today. Don’t forget there’s supposed to be a run somewhere in there too.”

“Oh yeah! That too.”

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