My mom walked me to my first day of kindergarten at Powell Gardens Elementary and introduced me to Mrs. Joyce, the teacher. Hair piled high on her head in a tight bun, Mrs. Joyce changed my life forever that very first day, at nap time. We were a crowded kindergarten, so we all had to have “nap buddies” with whom we shared a nap mat. Mrs. Joyce paired me with Eddie Estes, the youngest of the five Estes boys and the only kid in our class who did not actually live in Powell Gardens, a cinderblock multi-family compound looked down upon by the rest our town (it had been built as inexpensive housing for soldiers returning from WWII, but – in the intervening generation – had become a sort of “project” for our town’s poor families). The only people lower on the totem pole than “PGs” were the “river rats” who lived on the river side of the train tracks in shacks on stilts.” We were “river rats” who had “moved on up” to PGs.

Eddie came from what people in our town called a “good family,” which meant his parents were not divorced (mine were) and owned their own home. Eddie was also Mrs. Joyce’s favorite kid, probably because he was clean, well-mannered, and adorably happy. Where I was a shaggy, stern white-haired waif, Eddie was a smiling, tight little 5 year old, brown hair cut tight above his ears and off his neck.

Eddie has been my best friend since our first day sharing a nap mat. It was unlikely to turn out that way. After we spent the 1972-1973 school year together the way only 5-6 year old boys can (playing kick the can, climbing trees, catching crawfish, and spending hours bringing Hot Wheels to life), Eddie headed to St. Thomas’s, the Catholic grade school for the south, wealthy end of town. I stayed at Powell Gardens. Not because I was not Catholic. I was. Everyone in our town was, at least as far as I knew. If you could afford to tithe, then you went to one of the Catholic grade schools. If you could not, then you went to one of the public schools. We could barely afford to live, much less tithe, so I stayed at Powell Gardens. Since Eddie and I were at different schools and at different ends of our town’s social spectrum, it was unlikely our friendship would endure.

Illness intervened. During second grade, I got the measles, the mumps, and the chicken pox. Needless to say, I missed a lot of school. In fact, I missed so much school they refused to pass me to third grade, even though I was well-ahead of where a second-grader should be. The younger brother to a domineering older sister who liked to play teacher, I knew how to read even before I started kindergarten. So, while other kids were learning the alphabet through the Letter People, I was reading, doing simple math, and otherwise moving ahead. I was so far ahead that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Littlefield, suggested I skip from first to third grade. My mother refused, if for no other reason than to be obstinate, as was her nature

Because of my illnesses, the school that did not want me in the second grade in the first place was now insisting that I repeat it. Public school bureaucracy stood athwart common sense. My mother would have none of it. Bullheaded, she marched me down to St. Thomas’s, told them my birth date, and asked if I could enroll in the third grade there. When they said yes, I was taken to Sister Susan’s third grade class and put in a desk directly behind none other than Eddie Estes. By the time they found out we could not tithe, it was too late.

Eddie and I beamed at each other. And, we picked up right where we had left off, the way children do so easily. Mostly, that was because Eddie was one of the most genuine humans I would ever meet. Raised well, he did not look down upon the “PGs” like most everyone else at St. Thomas’s did.

Sister Mary looked like a giant, wizened penguin. She seemed ancient, and she wore the full habit. The only visible parts of her body were her fat hands and her chunky, wrinkled face.

She was also a tough old broad. She put up with little of the bullshit third graders dish out.

I was still ahead of my classmates, so I was an ongoing distraction for my classmates and source of frustration for Sister Mary. One day, she grabbed me by my right ear, “led” me to the hallway, and forced me down on a bench. Taking my chin in her right hand, she raised my face so I was look her directly in her horn rimmed eyes.

“Jeffrey Redding, you’re the smartest kid in that classroom,” she admonished me. “Start acting like it.”

I stared at her, dumbstruck and scared. She seemed to expect an answer, but I had none to givej.

“If you aren’t going to say anything, then I will,” she continued. “When we go back in there, you move your desk to the front of the room. And, you raise your hand every single time you know the answer. I’ll bet you an ice cream cone you know the answer every time. If you do, then I’ll buy you an ice cream cone.”

I did. When school was out, Sister Mary walked me down the street to the Corner Dairy. I was surprised when she got an ice cream cone. St. Thomas’s nuns were mythic figures to all of us. I couldn’t imagine one could eat an ice cream cone.

While we walked back, Sister Mary gave me a pep talk, reiterating that I was the smartest kid in the class and encouraging me to act like it. I got little positive feedback at home. I became addicted to the positive feedback I got in school. Sister Mary had set me on a path. I may have found my way on my own, but I may not have.


The summer after third grade, I biked the six blocks to Eddie’s house every day. We played outside all day, every day, shirtless and barefooted. There was no such thing as sun screen, and we turned dark brown. We looked dirty, even when we weren’t.

On the Fourth of July, I had my first sleepover. At Eddie’s, of course. We put up a small tent in his backyard, and we shared a sleeping bag. We awoke wrapped in each other. We were little boys, and it was no big deal.

We went on like that, moving through fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. I was embarrassed about where I lived, so I never had Eddie over. I was always at his house. His mother joked that I was her sixth son.

When I stayed at the Estes’s, Eddie and I either shared his full bed or the living room floor. We always slept in our little white underwear. We almost always awoke wrapped in each other. We were best friends, and we acted and loved each other like identical twin brothers.


In middle school, we were friendly rivals. I was smartest boy in our class, and I won most of the academic awards. Eddie was the most athletic boy, and he won most of the athletic awards. He was the pitcher on our baseball team (I played shortstop), the striker on our soccer team (I played fullback), and the point guard on our basketball team (I played “last person off the bench when the game was completely out of hand”). He was also the first person picked at recess, whether for kickball, dodge ball, or whatever we would spend those breaks playing. He was a star.

He also always got the girl. In seventh grade, we each wanted Diane Austin, who was the female “Eddie” of our school. He got her first. I got her only after he decided he didn’t want to “go steady” with her anymore. I lost her when I tried to french kiss her at the end of year party, which was in Eddie’s basement.

Throughout middle school, Eddie and I were the ying and yang of our class. The male social circle surrounded us. Others moved in and out, but we were the center. We arrived at school together, sat next to each other, and left school together. We did our homework together. We spent our weekends together. We were “the boys.” When anyone said “the boys,” everyone knew who they were talking about.

As we moved into high school, Eddie and I got split up for the first time. I tested into advanced classes. Eddie tested into average classes. For the first time since third grade, we didn’t get to spend the day together and next to each other.

I got my driver’s license first. Once I did, I went out of my way to pick Eddie up for school every day and to drop him off after. I liked starting and end each school day with him.

Eddie was by far the best looking kid in our class. He had dark hair, dark eyes, and an electric smile that made him sexy, and he knew it. He looked a little like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, but he had a better smile.

He carried himself with the confidence that came with the knowledge he was hot. Our senior year, he was voted Best Looking and Best Personality. Me, Most Intelligent. I was not bad looking, but I was also not good looking. From a white haired waif, puberty turned me into a “dishwater blond” teenager. And, I was still little, easily the smallest boy in our class. While Eddie grew to 6 feet, I stopped growing at 5’6″, a full half foot shorter. And, while Eddie developed his lean frame with the muscles of an athlete, I remained mostly shapeless. It’s tough to build muscle with your nose in a book.

By our Senior year, I knew I was gay. While my friends fixated on getting laid, I fixated on their developing chests, butts, legs, and, of course, crotches. But, gay was not something you could be in a backward town, much less at our conservative, conformist High School. I was so deep in the closet that I was friendly with whatever monsters hid there.

I also knew I was in love with Eddie. At least, once I figured out that love was the source of the euphoria I felt when I was around him and the heartache I felt when I was not.

When I slept over, we still often awoke wrapped in each other, but nothing ever happened between us. I stole looks, especially when he changed in front of me. And, I stole touches whenever I could. Like when we were at the movies, and it was not too obvious for me to rest my arm against his on the arm rest. Or, when we were in the backseat of his parents’ car, and it was not too obvious for me to rest my leg against his.

Eddie was definitely not gay. He never stole looks. And, he never stole touches.

And, I do not think he had any idea I was gay. After all, we both had girlfriends through most of high school.

I crossed the line with him a couple of times. The first was the night we celebrated his 18th birthday (I was exactly one week older). I was staying at his house and we were sharing his full bed. He was asleep on his back in boxers and without a shirt, and I was watching him breathe, unable to sleep or to take my eyes off him. Eddie had a small patch of hair in the middle of his sinewy chest and a “path to paradise” that disappeared into his boxers. He also had small, hairless nipples. That night, I could not stop staring at them. And, I could not resist the impulse to lick his right one. So, I did. It was an overwhelming impulse. So, I did it. And, it was awesome, sending a little jolt through me all the way to my toes. Luckily, it did not wake him up.

Once golf season started that Spring, we were practicing putting in his basement, and he was standing right in front of the chair I was sitting in, getting ready to putt. He was wearing jeans, and they beautifully outlined his bubble butt. As he crouched over the putt, his ass was inches from my face. Unthinkingly, I leaned forward and licked the crack of his jeans. Startled, he asked me “what the hell was that?” Panicked, I could only choke out “keep your ass out of my face.”

As I said, I never thought anything would happen with Eddie (with his mother, I was one of two people who continued to call him Eddie; upon starting high school, he became “Ed” to the rest of the world). However, there was one occasion in high school where there seemed to be at least the hint of a possibility. It was New Year’s Eve of our freshmen year of college. We were both home for break, and Eddie and I had gotten a hotel room in Indy to further our plan of picking up two girls and sexing them up to welcome in 1987.

Our plan failed, although not for a lack of trying. I suspect I cock-blocked Eddie, as he was far more talented at the pick-up than I was. He came across as the confident, sexy guy he was. I came across as the bookish nerd I was.

After striking out, we drove to the hotel and tried to decide whether to stay in Indy or head back to our respective homes. As we sat in the hotel parking lot, Eddie said “we could go in and just sex each other.” Stunned silent, I just sat there like a dumbass, wondering if I had just heard what I thought I had, and, if so, what I should do. If there was a chance, my indecision foreclosed it. Eddie put his car into drive and headed back toward our town.

Part Two

After high school, Eddie headed off to Purdue to study engineering, and I headed to Notre Dame. Like most high school friends, we kept in touch, but less and less as more and more time passed. While I was in law school, Eddie started his engineering career in Indianapolis.

After law school at Stanford, I stayed west to clerk on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Once the clerkship was over, I planned to spend 6 weeks backpacking from Rome to Lisbon, the last two of which I would spend going from Madrid to Lisbon with my girlfriend Caroline (unable to deal with being Catholic and gay, I was still pretending to be Catholic and straight, and Caroline wound up collateral damage in my delusion).

When visiting home during the summer before the trip, I stopped by the Estes house. I still considered myself part of their family. So, it was not unusual during a visit to home for me to stop by and at least say hello to David and Susan, “Wardo’s” mom and dad [After graduation, I felt increasingly silly using “Eddie,” especially for someone so much bigger. But I also did not want to use the “Ed” that everyone else did; as college wore on, I started calling Eddie “Ward” instead, using the last four letters of his formal “Edward.” Quickly, Ward became Wardo.].

During that visit, I told David and Susan of my plans to backpack from Rome to Lisbon starting Labor Day Saturday. Susan responded, “You are not going to believe this, but Eddie is flying to Rome the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to backpack to Paris. How is that for a coincidence?”

I laughed. Wardo and I had not talked for months, but here the two nap buddies were – 20 years on from kindergarten – traveling by coincidence to Rome on the same day and on same flight. I would be in Europe six weeks; Eddie would be there the first two.

Susan gave me Wardo’s updated contact information, and I immediately reached out to him. In short order, we had plans to go from cheap hotel to cheap hotel in Rome, Florence, Venice, Cap d’Ai, Nice, and Paris. Our separate solo trips had turned into a Crosby/Hope road movie starring the nap buddies from Ms. Joyce’s kindergarten class.

And, we had a blast, eating and drinking our way through Europe. We were constantly in motion. When possible, I stole looks. And touches.

We settled easily back into our friendship. For me, Eddie was like a favorite book. Not matter how long I had neglected it, I always found happiness when I picked him back up.

The looks were not tough. We shared rooms the whole trip, and most of them were so low-end they did not have private bathrooms. So, we bathed together in locker room style showers. Wardo looked terrific in the shower. His brown hair was longer than usual, and he kept it tucked behind his ears, even in the shower. Backpacking, he stopped shaving, so he had a developing beard under his roman nose. With long hair and stubble, he looked like a hipster musician. He was Michael Huissman.

His chest hair had thickened since high school, but was still concentrated mostly in the middle of his muscled chest. He was still lean. His path to paradise was framed by a perfect V and led to a thick bush of straight pubic hair. His soft dick was pretty, thick, and hung against large, balls, framed by thick, soccer thighs. His bubble butt was almost hairless. And, he had great arm pits and feet. I had developed over time a fetish for both; Wardo’s arm pits were thick with the same dark, straight hair as the rest of his body, and his feet were athletic and arched well cared for.

The touches were tougher. Every night, we were in separate twin beds, and all day we were on the go, walking miles and miles to avoid missing anything we were “supposed” to see. So, I had to be satisfied with an occasional clap on the shoulder or a grab of the arm.

That is, until the last night of our trip. That night, the hotel we chose in Paris put us in a room with a full bed, a fact we did not discover until we had paid for and checked into our room. We had shared his full bed our whole lives, so it did not seem like a big deal to either of us.

After a great “end of trip” meal and two bottles of wine, we headed back to our room to sleep before Wardo’s early morning flight home the next day. Once there, Wardo stripped to his boxers and climbed into bed. I did the same, although I left my undershirt on. I wore a crucifix, so I had to sleep with a shirt on.

As always, I was on the left side, and Wardo was on the right. Just like we had slept when we napped in kindergarten and, after that, all those nights I stayed at his house.

Quickly, Wardo’s breathing changed, signaling he was asleep. He was on his back, with his arms tucked behind his head. So, I could see his arm pits. Since our room was not air conditioned, the window was open. And, we were uncovered.

I was not in the mood to sleep. I was too keyed up, having Wardo shirtless – with armpits exposed – next to me.

Without touching him, I leaned over and sniffed his arm pit. It smelled the way a man is supposed to smell at the end of the day. Not stinky, but also not clean. Musky. A hint of odor. It was intoxicating.

I remembered licking his nipple all those years before. I thought about doing it again. But, I did not want to wake him and ruin my fun. So, I sniffed his arm pit some more. And stared at his chest, as it rose and fell with each breath.

Before long, I noticed that his boxers were tenting a little. He was hard, pointed up and to the left.

I had seen Wardo soft, but never hard. He was definitely a grower. I wanted very much to know how long and thick his hard dick was. Leaning on my left elbow, I reached my right hand over. Trying not to touch him, I formed a backward C with my hand and tried to estimate his girth. He was thick. Definitely thicker than me.

Using my thumb and pinky, I then tried to estimate his length. He was almost exactly as long as my handbreadth, which is just about 8 inches. Definitely longer than me.

I was not careful enough. As I was “measuring” his length, my thumb touched the head of his dick through his boxers. I froze as his dick twitched. I could not tell if he was awake, and I did not dare lift my head to look at his face. Instead, I started slowly to pull my hand away. As I did, he grabbed my right wrist with his left hand. Dread and panic flooded through me. I feared I was about to be held accountable. I also feared curiosity had just killed the cat, ending twenty years of friendship.

Rather than yank my hand away, Wardo pressed it to his hard dick and held it there. I was not sure what to do. I thought he wanted me to take it, so I did. I gripped him through his boxers. He was rock hard.

I was still frozen. I was completely still, my right hand wrapped around my nap buddy’s hard dick. I couldn’t help myself, so I gently squeezed it.

Wardo responded by raising his hips, slipping his hands into the band of his boxers, and pushing them down to his knees. Raising his knees toward his face, he pulled them completely off, laid back flat, spread his legs, and tucked his arms back behind his head.