Gregory seems to have it all: youth, good looks, a beautiful wife, a job he loves as an elementary school teacher, a quiet house on the beach ...
So why is Gregory so miserable? Why is he unable to control his lingering gaze on his neighbor, Jake, the handsome truck driver who lives just down the way? Why does Gregory spend his private time keeping a secret journal that details fantasies and memories of him locked in embraces with other men?
It’s summer, and the peaceful lake belies the turmoil in Gregory's heart. His wife wants to start a family, while Gregory wants to start something with Jake, but doesn’t dare.
Climbing out of the closet is never easy, but it’s even more difficult when doing so might shatter the lives of those around you ...
The beach is empty on this Wednesday afternoon. Even so, Gregory takes care to move the journal from its place beneath his towel and to secret it between the pages of Entertainment Weekly in his tote bag. He pushes the magazine to the bottom of the bag, piling the baby oil, apples, and water bottle he brought with him on top of it. He looks down and is satisfied: no one would ever guess his secret sexual history lies at the bottom of the bag, like a snake coiled beneath a rock. He stands and stretches his arms above his head, surveying the clear blue sky and feeling the heat of the sun on his face and chest. The day is hot and still, not even a whisper of a breeze. A mosquito buzzes by his ear. The air feels thick around him, and he thinks that drawing it too deeply into his lungs will scar the delicate pink tissue. He laughs again. “Oh, come off it,” he whispers to himself, looking around. “Save the creative writing for your journal.”
He breathes in deep, heedless, and runs toward the water. Its green chill splashes up over his knees and thighs as he clears the pebble-strewn surface of the lake’s bottom near the shore and heads toward the deeper part, where the water is cooler down deep and the bottom is nothing more than a carpet of muck. Diving, the warm water surrounds him, shutting out the blazing day with its relentless, cloudless blue sky and its almost buzzing heat. He swims deeper, legs kicking behind, searching for the chilled depths in the tepid water of the small lake. He opens his eyes and sees the sunlight streaking through the water, illuminating the silt he has stirred up, bits of moss. A fish (a blue gill?) swims by, just out of reach. He pushes himself deeper, heading for the lake’s bottom, wishing he could disappear into it, burrow into the soil, become a bottom feeder. Maybe he would like that, down in the dark, free from exposure.
When he can no longer stand it, when it feels as if his lungs are beginning to burn to warn him of an imminent bursting, Gregory turns and scissors his legs hard to break through the brownish-green surface of the lake. When he splashes through, the heat of the day and the air itself are like gifts, and he gasps, shaking his hair and the water from his eyes. He sidestrokes in toward the beach and then wades in where the water is shallow enough for him to stand. Near the shore, the pebbles on the lake floor sting his feet. He imagines the beach will still be empty, its rocky surface decorated only with his own beach towel and bag and its backdrop of pine trees, but someone else has claimed a spot on the beach and Gregory doesn’t know whether he should he happy or sad the quiet of his day has been shattered by another human being. He accepts that he is capable of feeling both emotions at the same time. Isn’t that what most people do?
His neighbor, Jake Gamble, reclines on an old sheet on the beach, his long, dark-brown hair-covered legs stretched out before him. Before Gregory looks up to meet Jake’s face, he allows his gaze to linger on those legs, cut and bulging with muscles, a geography of veins decorating their surface. Even though Jake is twenty years older than Gregory, his good looks are timeless. He is one of those men whom time only enhances the solidity and beauty of his features. The deep brown eyes look even more thoughtful and probing with the network of small lines surrounding them, intensified now as he squints to look up at Gregory as he emerges from the water, the brutal sun beating down behind him. Jake’s face, with age, is even more chiseled, the lines and planes pleasingly angular. His close-cropped hair and wiry beard are dark and flecked with silver. And the tattoos on both shoulders, tribal symbols, cause Gregory to quicken his steps, lest the interest he’s feeling at the moment becomes painfully obvious in his loose-fitting trunks. Jake’s fine, aquiline nose wears a bridge of red across its center, spreading out to each cheek. Even the sunburn makes him look sexy. Jake smiles and waves, and his smile draws Gregory out of the water like a magnet. Jake’s shoulders are broad and his solid form fills out the faded and cut-off Levi shorts he wears. Gregory forces himself to draw his gaze away from the way Jake’s crotch bulges almost invitingly. What’s wrong with me? Gregory wonders. I’m a happily married man.