We had prepared for years, possibly, unconsciously, our whole lives. If you looked back, you would have found us making pop bottle rockets, doodling articulated joints for arms in a space suit, staying in the sort of shape we read was necessary to be even considered to be an astronaut. We prayed for 20/20 vision, everyone getting ready was a science or engineering major or topics very closely allied to space, rocketry, the whole panoply of exploration in outer space. Most of us were too young to remember the glory days of NASA, the man put on the moon, the suborbital flights, the orbital flights. And then there was a lag while, in fact, technology was invented to allow more daring, more creative experiments. But to those of us who yearned to feel no gravity, who desperately wanted to look back and see earth, the whole planet, it was a time of not even guarded optimism. The International Space Station went up, stayed up but....it all seemed rather tame. I could get hard, stroke down reading the most lurid, impossible of science fantasy but the practicalities of space, for which I lived, were simply a part of my life.
The discovery that I was gay came while I was trying to discover a new comet with my buddy in a field far from the lights of town. We'd all been transfixed by the transit and death of comet Shoemaker-Levy9 on Jupiter and we wanted to be the next to find that most elusive object, something no one else had seen. Well, almost no one had seen.Dane dropped his shorts rolled toward me and made his confession of affection-did he say love?-and I didn't hesitate a minute. That's when I made my discovery, just before my lips encircled his cock; I liked sucking cock. In specific Dane's cock and right there on a warm night in cool grass we found some other things to do while Jupiter transited us. When I close my eyes now I can still remember the moment not just because it was the first time but because it had a genuineness to it, a sense of mutual discovery. Also looking back, we were painfully unaware of what to do and how to do it but...like explorers everywhere, we tried, failed, tried again and eventually, slowly became more than proficient. Face it, we would not have accepted "okay" in our everyday lives and equally we could not allow anything less than superlatives in our sexual life.
Space and our exploring it mixed in nicely with fucking and fondling and sucking; We were explorers in two fields finding ways to meld the two for everyday usage. As best we could, we dressed like the people on the space station, blue polo shirts, baggy, cargo pocketed shorts, loose socks and, our concession to gravity and earth, shoes. This brought comment from everyone from teachers to family to friends to passers by who could not miss that we were identically togged at all times and with other areas of similarity. If we found the name of a product used on the space station, that's what we used. (I'm grateful that we were not of a generation to whom "Tang"-a sort of astronautical Kool-Aid-was part-was a mainstay.) We had haircuts that we could see the men wore-sometimes shaved depending on the crew and their lack of fur, bought glasses to wear over our heads to flick down to read notes...that neither of us needed glasses was of no importance and had as our idols the men of the International Space Station. To some it would seem a healthy idolatry, to others a portent, darker, more threatening concession to the future.
College gave us an opportunity to expand our man made universe. We attended the same school although we had separate tho complimentary majors and took an apartment which we designed to simulate our space station/quarters aboard a space ship going....somewhere. Our parents had warned us of the expense of off campus living, only agreeing to supplement us up to a certain dollar amount per month. What we rented amounted to a tall cube with a bathroom. High ceilinged, it was in a converted Victorian home whose features when homes then were built ran to lots of smallish rooms, spartan bathrooms for this new fangled indoor plumbing and tall, narrow windows. With the landlord's permission, we rehabbed the bathroom taking out the claw footed tub-the landlord sold it to a decorator for quite a lot of money-the porcelain pedestal sink-sold ditto-took up the tile and put in a more practical if less decorated looking unit that we found, and worked hard to get a unit that combined a toilet and a sink that would be familiar to prisoners everywhere. We made our shower by joining aluminum sheets-expensive-into a cubicle that would-our concession to sex-hold two men comfortably. Two shower heads, one at either end, and a bench across the back where we could sit and, with the glass door closed, have our version of a steam room. One other non-standard-for space travel at any rate-was the length and width of the shower. When the tub had been removed, we found we could have a shower eleven feed wide and five feet deep, easy enough room for two men, wet, happy, foamy and slippery, to lay on and lay each other.
Dane's Uncle Jack was the family black sheep but to us a godsend. Having just finished doing a "stretch" in prison, he'd learned things such as plumbing and welding as well as all manner of wiring, skills we desperately needed. For a lot of reasons, we didn't mention Uncle Jack to either of our families knowing that his presence would not be regarded as "healthy" and we lived in fear that our monthly allowance might be terminated; Having him around was almost a certain way to cause that to happen. However, the pluses of Jack far outweighed the minuses. Beyond what he could do structurally, he was completely accepting of our relationship and admired our committal to what we wanted to do. Privately, like the rest of the family, I'm sure he thought if playing at this got us educated then...where was the harm? For all that they were bored by hearing about space and ancillary topics, they couldn't really complain that we were lazy, or disrespectful or got poor grades, that we lived at home and sponged off them...in fact when they first saw the apartment, before certain changes were made, they were impressed that to be thrifty and live within a budget, we'd accepted these very modest quarters, at some distance from campus (riding to and from on our bicycles kept our calves and thighs in great shape, two muscle groups often cited as the first to atrophy in space without gravity) and walking fairly long distances to market, find a drug store...all the conveniences most people want. We did not. What, for example, did an astronaut in training need with a dry cleaner?
On our guarantee, Jack was allowed to rent another cubicle on the second floor almost beneath us, so while we went to school, he worked at transforming the shabby space into our own little corner of inner space. In fact, his time in prison gave him very accurate ideas as to how to maximize very small spaces. Also, given the "theme" he could dispense with niceties such as how many lamps, where to put the fold out bed and he removed the closet entirely which became our"commissary/kitchen/pantry". Side by each were two "closets"that more resembled parts of the wall that had been pushed out. Each contained our minimal wardrobe and the former closet housed a cube refrigerator, two burner cook top and, run in from the sink/toilet combo, another small sink with a garbage grinder that emptied back into the sink/toilet and the bathroom. To take advantage of the height of the room-twenty five feet-he built what amounted to a loft that had our bed, file cabinets and work tops on either side, lamps on swivels and, being higher in the room, could take advantage of the heat rising in winter. By reversing the bed to look out through the high windows we had a great view...which was part of why the rent was so reasonable. In an earlier period, being next to a cemetery would have been considered a convenience, easier to visit the dear departed but in this century was considered unattractive, an unwelcome neighbor. Of course, from our third floor, we saw the mature trees, the sky, the birds flying, magnificent sun rises and not the occasional hearse and graves being dug. Jack had cleverly built two chairs based on designs he'd found for "acceleration"couches from NASA. Low, undulating to follow the ergonomics of the human body, they were exceptionally comfortable and provided great places to quietly study, relax or just nap. Whether he did this intentionally or not, they were also a great place to have sex. We never questioned him nor did we mention this additional usage. Since there was no one looking in-we had a discussion about angels in space and closer to our windows at one juncture-wearing clothes wasn't a necessity. Also, we had about fifteen feet, the width of the room, of Widow's Walk which we used as a deck/solarium and tanning facility. The only other feature of the "main" cabin was a table that folded down from the wall. When down it could seat five and, when up, the chairs became the "living" part of the "living room". Almost one whole wall was covered with cases filled with books and such other things as we felt related to space and that was that. There was one television screen, on the main level, and two very small screens that hung above our beds, one for each but it was generally understood that the loft was for work sleep and...sex. As was the shower, sex was a very popular usage.
The floor was covered in a gray tightly woven carpet, the sort you normally assume is used for high traffic areas in public places. If it wasn't an open, welcoming sort of place, it was easy to to see that considerable thought had been put into it and, whatever else might be said, it was inexpensive to live there. We were happy, it suited us, what we wanted to do and, in fact, covered all the bases of far more expensive properties, had a better view and much more privacy. I'll never know whether Jack did it to be funny or thought we'd like it but the ladder up to our loft, could be hauled up and hung from the ceiling after we were up and access to us became almost impossible. It was as if we were flying through the room, ready to launch out the window into the sky.
We were impossibly happy. The few glitches, such as we couldn't wear, in a cold weather climate, what we'd always worn, substitutions had to be found. Blue sweaters, pants with baggy cargo pockets and a sort of moon boot that went through snow, slush and water easily. The bicycles were seasonally abandoned-and hung from the ceiling next to the walls but our parents, amazed at our ability to be frugal, chipped in and bought what is generally referred to as "basic transportation", in short a car that "had some mileage left in it" but just how much was a question that might be answered at the wrong moment. When snow fell and kept us home, Jack had found a book written by a con in an English prison on how to stay in very good shape in your cell/home with no equipment. Our loft, and particularly on sunny days, found us naked and exercising not to mention working on our tans. We were in stunningly good health, happy, enjoyed our home, school was interesting, we were happy as partners and life perked along.
To accelerate our entrance into Grad School, we decided against taking breaks and always enrolled in summer school. For one, it was a good opportunity to take an elective or two that we had to have but found tedious, for another it was a chance to meet more of the faculty with an eye to gaining their endorsement to Astronaut School. Doing classes in summer was still boring but went by twice as fast. To keep up with the international spirit of things we each had as a secondary major-in addition to applied mathematics- a foreign language plus we both took Chinese. Dane bore down on French while I crossed the Rhine into Bellicose Germany. The Chinese was difficult and often we broke down into nervous giggles when we knew we'd made terrific mistakes. On the other hand, what was more amorous than being made love to in a foreign language? I do have to admit that being crooned to in French did make one understand why it was the language of love. What Dane though about the reverse in German he kept to himself. Probably wisely..
At the end of our first semester of our Junior year we'd stacked up enough credits to begin Grad School our primary degrees completed.Also, and this was the big news, NASA was accepting applications "for future reference". Needless to say within hours of hearing that, our applications were in. And then nothing. For a whole year. In the mail just before Christmas there came an official letter that had NASA on the envelope and on the inside.....that we would advance in qualification and to please keep them apprised as to our goals, how they were being met and our general preparation should we be accepted at some amorphous date in the future. While it wasn't positive, it also didn't say, go poke out your eye with a burnt stick. It was pregnant with hidden meanings, or so we thought, and we could see ourselves already on top of the rocket, in our capsule, the first two gay men to go into space as a couple....We knew it for the fantasy it was but we enjoyed it and occasionally played first and second officer doing things that never would have happened in a capsule.
Then there was the night Jack brought up a topic we'd never even considered, thought about for that matter. In one phrase he bought on a problem we didn't even know we had. He said, "So, when you two planning to get snipped?" We just looked at him uncomprehendingly."You know, cut, deballed, unmanned...." more silence from us...."Castrated"?
"Why would we do that?"
"Well, you do you think they're gonna send men fulla semen off into space?There will be women, unless they've been sterilized, well, it just stands to reason that, even tho they'll not be saying it, an applicant who shows up already cut stands a better chance of getting taken on." In the back of our minds a fearsome picture started....what if he was right? In everything we'd read, there was nothing about sex in outer space. It stood to reason that when a guy spent six or eight months on the Space Station he found a quiet moment or in his sleep sack and stroked it down. Just had to.But...without empirical evidence, without any compelling reason other than what Jack said, why would we?
Jack had another surprize. "You two sleep with each other so I'm guessing you've seen a naked man...but have you ever seen one like this?" He pushed his pants and underwear down and there was a cock and...nothing. No balls, not even a left over bag, just a cock. "Yep, had it done before I went to prison, safer that way, you don't get fucked as much if they don't think you're a man also, I'm good at fighting dirty so that helped... Gotta good job, smooth as anything, never tell they were ever there."
In bed that evening Dane and I had a lot to talk about but little evidence to convince us to do what he was suggesting. We discussed that with or without testicles we'd still love each other, but if we were to even consider that, it would have to be both of us. He rolled over and looked out the top panes of the window, toward the stars."You know, we're thinking locally, the Space Station, where it probably wouldn't be an issue but...to launch a man into interplanetary space, toward Mars...now we're talking years and although no one discusses how long en route, how long there, there's even less talk about the return." We knew from our studies that it's provisioning this trip was one of the thornier, if simple, problems. Sending out many oases in the sky to be visited for water, food, leave waste and then on Mars itself...
I went on listing reasons and real problems than discussing them...."Low gravity, an unbreathable atmosphere, the ultra long days, the ellipsoid orbit, the same problems, maybe with the dust as exists on the moon....can we say anyone sent would ever come back or should even expect to? Lets think, they send a team up telling them that the research is underway to bring them back, they're promised continuing cargo ships, even if it takes years for them to reach them, you start sending them before the team even goes...."
Dane was almost excited, "So what's the best scenario? Send men who have no wives, no children, family sure but....the ties to them are less than to a family you've created and yet...we're sexual beings, why not send two-or more men who have sex with each other?"
I followed on..."With traditional families, even people on another planet, what if there's a child born and I know how unlikely that might be but...if it were, what happens to it? The parents grow old, die, unless there are plans for an intentionally procreated family...but you might end up with very young children suddenly having to take care of themselves with only electronic communication to guide them..." Beyond that, there was the very really and very unknown problem about what effect being born on another planet, with a different specific gravity, totally different atmosphere, difference in exposure to sun light..... We both could see that was an untenable situation so...did that make the spectre of sending men and women who were asexual or homosexual a better idea? The bottom line was if two gay men were sent-or two gay men as well as heterosexuals, if there had to be a choice made as to who got left behind, or who could be sacrificed, we'd make it easy. Also, assuming a long stay there, if one of us died then the other, though going through the usual stages of grief, would have been together; No hearing of the death of a wife or a child or a beloved parents thirty five million miles away. I will agree we were clutching at straws but as we discussed it those straws grew firmer. Of course the big question, would NASA ever accept us given those conditions, couldn't be answered. Also, mightn't some psychiatric evaluator find that two men to emasculated themselves might be considered not quite balanced?We had, we thought, a plausible, reasonable explanation but if we stepped back, it was only too apparent how much a product of our desire and not reality it was.
I think we could both see the headlines on that one but...if the public didn't know and, once in a while, the government had kept secrets, sending men who are castrated, do not really want sex, does make a certain stupid sort of sense? I looked at Dane..."Do you think that possibly, just possibly, that's what they want for this but cannot possibly ask for it? Say they recruit a team and at some point say...maybe after some lengthy discussion about sex it's brought round to not really asking but maybe hoping someone would say...'Okay, castrate me, if that makes me a better team member...' and one leads to another as the next guy sees that being nutted gives him a better chance at making the crew.....I wonder."
We both wondered and wondered hard and long. There was no answer, couldn't be and, in spite of every means of research we had, there was virtually nothing about sex in space. Oh, sure, there were speculations, some of them written to be humorous, but hard, empirical discussion did not exist and we knew better than to even circuitously ask. Our relationship was already, and we knew it, an enormous problem for many, both human and institutional. Although we made no secret of what we were nor did we make any attempt to force acceptance of us on anyone. We had been lucky and, having done our research about many things in advance, gave us a grip that more casual lovers did not have. I also knew that both of us wondered if we weren't in a fools' paradise, wanting something impossible, giving up too many things in pursuit of a goal so...so remote that we could not justify what we'd done in support of it. The answer to that is always that exploration, discovery, the advancement of people begins with experimentation, not all of which has a positive end. For that, most of it didn't but it was the refinement, the continuing experimentation that ultimately led to success. Were we in that group who would experiment? And if we failed...didn't we advance...something? If the end was always known, even always predicted, what did that exclude? Wasn't more learned because we did not know than by what was known and merely expanded? Some nights I could only hold Dane and wonder...
Grad school brought some changes, some unwelcome, some an improvement. In the first case, our families, long suffering and finally accepting us as partnered, said that we were on our own financially. If we really found ourselves desperate for funds we could apply to them for help but...the circumstances had to be, as described, desperate. One thing they did continue-largely because they could through their employment-was give us great insurance. But grad school gave us great chunks of time which we'd not previously had. Many, and eventually all, of our classes were "by arrangement" partially to give us time to study but also because there were seldom more than one or two students moving through the increasingly tutorial system. Once we selected our topics, virtually all our time was ours, we could-and needed to-get jobs and actually relax.
Our graduate student status, and the fairly certain knowledge that we would receive either magna cum laude or summa cum laude degrees made finding jobs easy. Or it would have been if we'd not taken some high paying, physically demanding work building a sub division. Over the years we worked there we learned the practicalities of life which, for obvious reasons, we had never bothered to learn. We might have been able to weigh gravity in a vacuum but changing oil in our car, or changing the spark plug in a lawn mower were terra incognita.And, frankly, we enjoyed the uber masculinity of the job site.Stripped to our waists doing hot, dirty work got us acceptance with guys who didn't give a shit about our education and just needed to know that if we were working with them, we'd carry our load, be there to prevent accidents, know what we were doing...And they could have cared less about our sexual preferences. Well, most of them didn't care but once we'd established ourselves as willing, good workers, that was reduced to some open joking about fucking a drill or laying concrete as well as each other. Too, there were three other guys who were light in their Red Wings and, until we'd come along, hadn't mentioned it. Our discussing it, saying this is what we are, accept it or get around it made them more comfortable and, over a period of time, they came to us for advice. Of which we had none, unfortunately. What we could offer them was friendship and utter disregard for whatever they were as it made no difference to us.
The school was somewhat annoyed that we hadn't taken more "appropriate"jobs. Without their saying it, it was assumed we'd take over some of the lab administration, teach some low level classes and we could have. But grad students are notoriously used by their schools as a form of mule to do bottom feeding work and paid so little it was hard to live on. By our fifth month in construction, we were taking home-with overtime-almost as much as some of our professors and still had more than adequate time to work on our dissertations, a fact we found better not to reveal to the underpaid professors. Also, thanks to Jacks book on interior exercise, we were in good shape but now, given the demands of construction, we were in great shape, tanned (no tan line but that was product of our home, not our job, in some ways uber masculine. The guys liked us and, something we'd lacked but given our intense fascination with each other had blinded us to the fact, we had guys who were friends. Included us when they broke off after work to have a couple of beers, we were taught how to play pool. (Given our extensive training in math and physics, pool was a snap. We could figure the rebound, strength of hit, distances, in our heads. All of this made us seem "naturals"-a fact we let stand undefined.) The bowling league was another adventure in sports and, as it worked out, sex.
Gordy was the foreman of our gang of jolly workers and though he worked everyone like pit ponies, he was amazing fair, took our side with management, got us paid more and, wonder of wonders, nominated us for the Union; Our parents, strict Eisenhower Republicans, almost fainted. If being a gay couple hadn't almost killed them this nearly did.) It was also Gordy who invited us to go "roll a few". It was a meaningless term, at least to us, but his good humour and obvious sincerity suggested we accept-if nothing else, he was our boss. We'd seen bowling alleys but our vision of and for them was as great places to park planes to be used in high altitude training. (It was around then that I had to face the reality that even if I gave Gorbachev my best blow job, he would not give me a Mig-31. For experimental purposes. Our initial reaction to the actual interior was one of confusion. All of our new found life away from the stars, the planets and the spectre of being castrated, was the complete reverse of everything we knew and did. Buying work boots, flannel shirts, muscle shirts, tank tops, no shorts, changed us. The only crossover item that worked both in construction and on the launch pad was the hard hat-we knew you'd wear one both places. Another thing, as our strength and loosening of how we saw life with the guys at work, our fucking grew more aggressive, better. We'd fight each other to get that fuck or to get pants removed allowing access to an already hard cock. It was new sort of construction.
On the other side of the education of two astronauts was school and our graduat program. Some professors viewed our showing up in dirty work boots, most of a shirt and filthy pants as not in keeping with the aspirations of Doctoral Candidates. Some, however, applauded us for finding a way to keep in school, not having to drop out for a time, as many did, to fund a few more hours. Also, and by now less surprizing, we found our first gay professor who was direct with the two of us to the point that we made our next appointment for study with him at our home. It was our intention to show him our work on inner space and, as it worked out, it was his intention to show us out to use other inner spaces to higher purposes, in other words, how to launch with out opening a window. Clever man, we found how persuasive a truly good teacher can be when he joined us in our upper deck and talked us out of our clothes, his as well, and then an experiment in tensile strength of fabric. In short, he tied us both up, put us face down, ass up and fucked us both. The, after a pause, rolled us over and blew us. Although it was a first, we felt we should be good hosts and, once we'd gotten loose, reciprocated to the point that Uncle Jack told us later he could here him scream with pleasure. Fortunately this was a Friday so there was no work (well, there was but it was only if you wanted some overtime) for us and he didn't have a class to teach. What he did have was two very willing students.
Without being asked, he agreed to spend the weekend working on methods and applications of, uhm, rope, chain, gags etc. Knowledge is power and we agreed. After a decent breakfast, of a sort not served in outer space, we went out to collect some equipment for the lecture and accompanying experiments. I hadn't known there were stores that sold only chain but, as it worked out, there were and, as it also worked out, that's where we found Gordy. Buying chain. For his personal use.So now, in our functional apartment we had four guys, naked, some chained up, some taking classes in knot tying, some doing interesting experiments in edging making sure gags were in place, you know, that kind of afternoon, evening, the next morning and part of the afternoon of the next day. The place was a mess but, for money, Jack said he'd clean it up if he could contain himself and keep his dick in his pants; The overwhelming smell of men and cum and piss and pizza were overpowering, he wondered if this wasn't a scent some far thinking room deodorizer firm should consider; Call it "Frat House, Saturday Night".
Late Sunday afternoon and evening were spent in another way, one we hadn't planned on. Both Gordy and Frank, our professor, were aware that we were straight off the turnip truck in a great many ways. While overwhelmingly intelligent, we were devoid of much social contact of a sort we'd enjoy. Also, by that Sunday afternoon, Dane and I were sooooooo sore from very applications of learning that, anxious as we were to learn more, the guys called a permanent time out for that day. Beyond that, and laughing about it, they talked about how the astronauts had made a rough entry and were pretty banged up, needed some TLC. To this extent they got us to Gordy's where he had a hot tub the size of a public fountain in which they plunked up, carefully applying a length of soft cord under our arms and over the side where it was tied preventing us from changing from astronauts to submariners and drowning. Leaving us to enjoy the hot, swirling water, they exchanged massages and, I'm told, a quick blow job just to make sure no one started out the work week blue balled; In our case, it was more a question of whether we'd have balls and, if so, if they could ever be made functional again.
After being soaked for a while, we were lifted out, put in a shower-accompanied by Gordy and Frank, thoroughly scrubbed, then dried and put into a bed the size of the trailer on an eighteen wheeler; Gordy said, and we would now be included, sometimes the guys from work liked to drop by.
I suppose that was really the beginning of the end of our journey into space. It wasn't the impossible odds, it wasn't our being gay, it was our finding an expanded life, friends and the real meaning of work.Yes, we both graduated with the highest possible honours (the guys from the construction crew attended and, as we were announced stomped their boots and whistled, cheered and called us by our nick names, something the university had not heard) and then went back to our six pack-we'd bought all the other apartments on our floor and had a party. Our families left early, citing a long drive, but not until every guy on the crew had kissed our mothers and told them not to worry, they'd make sure we wore fresh underwear and brushed our teeth. Laughter all about. Drinks, drunks, sundown. The party moved to Uncle Jack who, not surprizingly, was a welcome guest and also now worked for the construction crew.
Dane and I stood in the middle of our room and held each other. Shaggy headed, rough handed, well muscled, a colour of tan that suggests melanoma, very intelligent, we made some decisions. Space would always be our goal, somehow, some way but until that way, we'd find part time jobs that left us free to work construction and work up from where we'd started as two kids in love with each other and an idea to men who loved each other and cherished a dream. I fondled his nuts and suggested we climb the stairs and, once again, let Jupiter watch us transit each other.