For the next 45 minutes we were run through a vigorous skating workout. The kind of workout that makes your legs scream, and makes you feel like you could puke at any moment. Mark and I stayed with each other the entire time. One following the other through every exercise. Mark was certainly a very strong skater. He definitely found a hockey team to play with in California. He skated very fluidly, and fast. It inspired me to try a little harder. To show him I could skate with him. Although nothing was spoken, we were having a little competition.
When we got into some stick-handling drills, we both skated effortlessly through the course, dragging and pulling the puck between the orange cones. With him silently pushing me, I found that I wasn’t worried at all about making mistakes in front of the coaches. My motivation was to impress Mark, and nothing else mattered.
The last drill was a one lap sprint. The coach was recording times, so this one was balls out. It was set up as a two person race, and I was lined up against Mark. We took our position at the center red line and Mark looked over at me and said “I’ll wait for you at the finish line” with a shitty smile on his face. That was all the motivation I needed to crush his dreams.
The whistle blew, and we were off. Mark shot off like a bullet, and I found myself immediately in second place. It seemed like he quickly reached his top speed, as we made our tight turn behind the goal. I felt confident I could overtake him, so I hung back, waiting for the right moment to turn on my afterburners. We crossed the halfway point and I positioned myself to the inside. Right before the final turn, I put my head down and found my second gear. I shot by him right before the turn and never looked back, as I beat him by a couple of seconds. During our cooling down coasting lap, Mark skated along-side me and said “nice race Danny, but you know I let you win” as he gave my ass a little tap.
“Yeah right. You want to go again?” I replied, as we both broke into laughter.
A little while later, the coach assembled us around center ice and set up the scrimmage.
“Ok. As you can see, we have four different jersey colors. Red and black go to coach Johnson’s side. White and yellow, you will report to coach Morris. They will divide you into forwards and defense. Tell them what you’re position is.”
Mark and I skated over to coach Johnson. Mark was grouped into the forwards and I hung back with the defense.
“Son, the forwards are over here. You’re standing with the defensemen” coach Johnson pointed out to me.
“Yes sir. I know. I play defense” I responded.
He looked me up and down a few times, before answering sarcastically “suit yourself.”
He must have pulled some kind of face as he turned away, because some of the 8th graders started to giggle and smile. If I was in need of some kind of inspiration (again). I just found it.
Even though it was supposed to be a scramble, it was obvious the coaches were setting up lines, and getting match-ups on the ice. When I jumped over the boards for my first shift, all of my line mates were 7th graders, and the opposition was all 8th graders. They dumped the puck into our zone and pressured us with a hard for-check and a lot of passing. It felt like they were on a power-play, keeping the puck from us, and setting up good scoring chances.
At one point the puck ended up loose behind the net and I made a mad dash to gain control. I skated over toward the corner, looking at my passing options, to turn the play the other way. I saw two things. Mark streaking across the neutral zone, behind the defense, and Derek skating hard, right at me, with murder in his eyes. I knew I didn’t have more than a second to make up my mind. I could try to connect a long pass to Mark, giving him a breakaway, and probably take a punishing hit from Derek, in the process. Or I could turn back behind the safety of the net, and make a safe, self-preserving pass up the other way. I went with option A, and ripped a hard pass, right up the middle to Mark, who skated in all alone and sniped one over the glove hand. Just as I released the puck, Derek was barreling onto me. I rolled away from the hit. He slammed the boards hard, only managing to catch one of my legs.
“I knew it, you fuckin’ pussy” he hissed at me, as we were skating back to the benches, where I met up with Mark in his goal celebration. I think it makes me smart, and not a pussy, avoiding the charge he had in mind for me, but we all have our own opinions. I did know, Derek was going to be a problem the rest of the night, if not the rest of the week.
The play leveled out some as the session went on. Both sides exchanged time in the attack zone. We had a couple of shifts against the other 7th grade group, and easily scored a few goals.
With about ten minutes left, Derek took a pass coming out of his zone. He streaked through the neutral zone, skating right at me, as I skated backwards, in a defensive posture. He crossed our blue line, and tried to dance around me toward the goal. I matched his deke and dug my edges into the ice and brought my arms up into my chest. Derek had his head down, as he tried to complete his deke. When he closed the gap between us, he was met with my arms, slamming right into his chest. Caught off guard, he bricked hard to the ice on his back. The hit brought out a loud display of heckling from both benches. Above everything else, was the coach yelling “damn it Derek. Keep your head up!”
Not one minute later, the same scenario regenerated. This time Derek had that fire in his eyes again. He was not going to look down at the puck. He was going to try to skate right through me, or over me. I positioned myself the same way as before. The same way I always do. The only difference this time, is Derek hit the ice harder than before. His head slamming down, hard. The audience reaction was the same, except this time there was a chorus of “owned” from the benches.
Derek picked himself up and skated after me, calling out “let’s go little bitch! Come on fucker! Hit me again!”
I tried my best to remain levelheaded. I didn’t say a word. I just kept space between us, waiting for help. Hoping a coach would be there soon, to take Derek away. It didn’t take long for that help to arrive. Derek was escorted back to his bench, still shouting threats and obscenities.
I sat down on the bench as well. I could feel Derek staring me down through the glass that separated the benches. I didn’t react to my teammates high-fives and demeaning phrases about Derek. It’s all part of the game as far as I’m concerned. Also, I didn’t want to fuel Derek’s anger any more than necessary. Maybe if he saw my reaction, he would come to realize it was nothing personal. I was just doing my job. If not, the bus ride could get interesting tomorrow.
After the scrimmage, we all trudged back into the locker room. Although everyone was dog-ass tired, the atmosphere was completely different than the death march from earlier. The talk was mostly about the beat-down I put on Derek. It’s funny how a good hit can get people excited. I just kind of smiled as I was being referred to as “killer” and “hulk” and other tough guy names. In my head, I kind of felt bad for Derek. I could only assume what he was getting called in the other locker room.
While all the other boys were running around crazy, I was keeping an eye on Mark. He, like me, was quietly removing his sweaty gear. I tried to watch him as privately as possible. At one point he was standing in just his black boxer briefs. It didn’t leave much to the imagination, as the sweat had more or less, molded them to his body. From my perspective, he had already started the puberty process. I felt lightheaded, and right on the edge of hyperventilation. I swear he has the most perfect body. Lean, but not skinny. He turned to grab his clothes, and his butt was as perfect as the rest of him. I had to pull my eyes away, not wanting to be found out by someone else in the room.
I felt kind of guilty, spying on my friend like this, but I just couldn’t help myself. This opening night of tryouts proved to be a real eye opening experience for me.
I got home and did my nighttime rituals. I turned off the lights and laid atop my blankets. I replayed the events over the last few hours. The reunion with my old best friend. The seemingly successful first night of tryouts. The worry about the drama surrounding Derek. But most of all, my feelings toward Mark. The way he looks and how much it turns me on. I also thought back to the time Sid touched me, and how that made me feel. I thought about Kayla, and how I wanted us to slow down. She went along with it, but is she really ok with that? Was she doing it for me? Why did I really want to slow it down? Was it fear? Could it be because I don’t have those strong feelings for her, those sexual feelings? The feelings I have for Mark are so much stronger than the ones I have for Kayla. His body I find so sexy, and so inviting. I was starting to believe, now more than ever, that I was gay.