Real Risk

November, 1983

Eric didn’t want to fall in love. Not then. Not ever.

He knew he was gay. There was absolutely no doubt of that. And it was not acceptable being gay. Not in the 1980s. Society would never tolerate it. His career plans might be over before he even graduated from college! Then, he was scared of AIDS. It would be best if he stayed single, celibate, and closeted for life.

Unfortunately, however, there was Troy, who sat near him in his college writing class. Troy was good looking, smart, and interesting.

That Monday, Troy read his current paper to the class. Eric listened, feeling almost addicted to the sound of Troy’s voice.

Eric knew that there was a real risk that he could fall in love in love with Troy. And that simply couldn’t happen.

***

At lunch, Eric paged through a newspaper he’d found on the table. There was an article about the AIDS crisis, and “new hope” for “better understanding” AIDS.

I don’t want “better understanding” of AIDS—I want a cure! Eric thought, as he flung the paper aside.

In the distance, he saw Troy walking through the cafeteria. Eric felt a surge of panic. What if Troy sat with Eric?

Suddenly, he wondered. What if Troy were gay? What then?

Troy sat down at a distant table. Eric felt relieved—and sad.

***

Eric suddenly woke up the next morning. He’d just been dreaming about Troy.

Eric got up. It was very early, but he didn’t want to fall back asleep. He might dream about Troy again.

He would get to work on his next writing assignment. He sat at his desk and turned on his Apple IIe computer. As the floppy disk drive rattled to life, he wondered what Troy would think of this paper.

***

Friday night, Eric went to the Student Union to see an old suspense movie. It was a distraction from thinking about Troy. Although he did notice the movie’s characters included a young man and a young woman who were obviously falling in love. Something that will never happen to me, Eric thought sadly.

Finally, the movie’s villain was caught. The man and woman had fallen in love. Everything was right with the world again. And so the movie ended.

Eric got up to leave. Suddenly, he noticed Troy, who was walking out with a young woman. They were holding hands.

At least, I don’t have to worry about him falling in love with me! Eric thought.

Eric headed to his dorm room. He got into bed. It was early, but he was tired and felt lousy. He kept thinking of Troy. Troy with his girlfriend. The happy couple in the movie. AIDS. Society acceptance of gay people.

Eric began crying. He cried himself to sleep.


by John M. Carlson

From: Friday Flash Fiction


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