As soon as Kitty was gone, Tom was up and throwing on his clothes. No more, no more. He had to get out of there. The scene wasn’t really him. Oh, theoretically it would have been great: a row of cheerleaders lining up to suck him back to full hardness and then lie back and let him penetrate them. But there was always a catch.
“Hey baby, how you doing?” another blonde cheerleader, pretty like the rest, was approaching up the corridor as he slipped out of the room, fastening the last few buttons on his shirt.
“Uh…great…” he said.
“You feel like…showing a girl a good time, sport?” she said with a seductive look in her big blue eyes. He had to admit that she was a tempting one, but between his legs, the tiger was sleeping.
“Yeah…maybe later, huh?” he said with a grin as he flicked on past her, leaving her there with a slightly surprised, disappointed look like it was her turn and he wasn’t supposed to be running out on her.
He headed on downstairs again, and a few of Rick’s teammates, already the worse for wear for beer, raised glasses or bottles and cheered his arrival. Tom mock-saluted them, not even remembering their names.
“Tom!” Rick’s backup quarterback, Greg Thorndyke, approached him. “How you doing, huh?”
“Oh, can’t complain,” he smiled, and Greg patted him on the shoulder like an old friend.
“Great,” said the big guy, “I hear you’re a bit of a hit with the ladies, my man!”
“Well, you know…” he shrugged.
“Hey, Rick was looking for you earlier. I think he’s out on the porch. Hey, have a beer – you look like you need one!”
“Right,” Tom nodded, and took the offered bottle of Bud.
Out on the porch, Rick was surprisingly on his own, sitting on a bench looking out into the night. Tom wondered what was going through his mind. Had he been enduring this world of numb conversation and faker girls for long? That would drive Tom nuts.
“You okay, Rick?” Tom sat down beside his new friend.
“Hey, Tom!” Rick said, his cheeriness seeming slightly put upon, as though it was Tom’s birthday or something, and he had an obligation to be cheerful. “I hear you’ve been doing okay tonight.”
“So-so,” Tom shrugged and took a swig of beer. “You know, I never in a million years thought Anne Higgs would even notice me – let alone take me to bed.”
“And how was it, huh?”
“Disappointing,” he said, with a tone of voice that reassured Rick that it was okay to be down, that truth was the best thing when emotions were involved. The quarterback just nodded. Tom went on: “Started out okay, it was…nice…but kind of…well…flat. Like it was nothing special, like it was just some kind of trophy that both of us had been awarded.”
Rick sighed. “I’m sorry about that. I guess I thought you might see it differently than…well…how it is.”
“You’ve been with Anne?”
“A few times, yeah,” Rick shrugged. “I guess most of the team has at some point. Sometimes you get in the mood – a few beers after a great victory. It…well y’know…fills a need.”
“I swear, when I was with her, she was looking at herself in that full-length mirror,” Tom chuckled. “All the time, I thought she was getting off on me, but she was looking at herself the whole time!”
Rick was forced to laugh with him. “You know, you’re right. Most of those girls are in love with themselves like that.”
“How the hell do you cope with it?” Tom asked.
“Cope with it? Christ, Tom, we get to fool around with the most attractive girls in school – is that so bad?”
“So why are you out here on your lonesome, Rick? Why aren’t you in there plugging some cute little blonde in her cheerleader’s outfit?”
Rick sighed again. “You’re right, of course,” he said softly. “Tom, I’m so goddamn bored of it. Bored of them. My life is so dull. As soon as I get off the playing field, when the adrenaline stops flowing, there’s nothing left. I drink beer with the same guys I’ve been playing with for years, I occasionally head off to some private place with a girl who I don’t even like particularly, but she’s at the top of the social scale, so it’s like a duty…” he took a huge swig of the tumbler of Jack Daniels he held in his hand. “Christ, I don’t know why I’m complaining.”
“You’re complaining because there’s something missing in your life,” Tom said.
“I feel so ridiculous.”
“The only ridiculous thing is that you haven’t done anything about it, yet.”
The captain of the football team looked at him then, a serious question in his expression. “Tom, what the hell do I do? If I don’t go out with these guys, if I’m not seen with them…”
“What?” Tom looked at him like he was nuts. “You’re the star of the team. The school has never seen anyone of your ability before – you have a football scholarship to Notre Dame pretty much in the bag, so what’s the problem? You could turn into a transvestite and no one would think any less of you. You are at the top of the social hierarchy of the school – you can do anything whatsoever and people will still fight to be seen with you.”
The big guy sighed again, long and deeply. “You’re right, of course,” he said. “Christ I wish there were people like you in my team, Tom. Most of the guys – they’re good people, you understand, their hearts are in the right place – but they’re struggling to remember the next goddamn play, let alone what’s going on in the world or anything else conversational. I suppose they’re a good bunch to have a beer with and so on…”
“But surrounding yourself in cheerleaders is driving you nuts,” Tom chuckled. “Can’t you see the solution?”
“No, I can’t,” Rick drained the last of his glass.
“It’s time to get some new friends.”
“What?” Now it was Rick’s turn to look at Tom like he was nuts.
“Rick, everyone in school likes you – even those you don’t even notice. You’re an idol. When the team wins every match, like you’ve been doing since any of us can remember, there’s this buzz around school, a buzz of confidence, of optimism, of happiness. People know you’ll be the next Joe Montana or…I don’t know…Dan Marino…and they’re happy to be at the same school as you.”
“So how does that help me get new friends? They don’t grow on trees, you know, Tom.”
“The thing that you lack, Rick, is friends that value you as a person, rather than a status symbol. And the easiest way for you to meet people that want to get to know you rather than just being seen with you, is to break out of your clique.”
“You’re right, man. Christ, I know you’re right. What do I do?”
“Just start meeting new people, huh? I mean, you know nobody’s going to actively take a dislike to you, so why bother sitting with the same people in class, at lunch, whatever, huh? Why not strike up a conversation with someone who isn’t on the team, and isn’t a cheerleader?” Tom could see the idea forming roots in Rick’s mind. It felt odd telling the captain of the football team how to make friends: Tom hadn’t exactly made any effort to get to know anyone at school or anywhere else. But then Tom had never really had the lifestyle that Rick had.
“You know, Tom, you might just be on to something.”
“Then next time you have a party,” Tom suggested, “you make sure you invite people from school who aren’t the usual crowd. Maybe you’ll meet someone…you never know…someone who’ll make something actually last between you.”