VALENTINE’S STORY

By Julian

Have you ever met anybody called Valentine? Neither have I—apart from myself that is. I was born on the fourteenth of February and that was enough for my parents; I always thought it was a bit too much for me till Peter—but I’ll come to that. (Anyway I’m better off than my brother; he was born on 28 September and they called him Wenceslas!). I wish people would call me Len for short, but everybody insists on Val, apart from my mother who has always insisted on Valentine… “Valentine, you shouldn’t read in bed; you’ll ruin your eyes and have to wear spectacles, and you won’t like that!”…“Valentine, you shouldn’t sit and watch that TV all evening; you’ll be sorry if you have to get specs!” Later on it was, “Valentine, you won’t do your eyes any good sitting at that computer; you won’t like it if you end up wearing glasses!” Parents’ attitudes rub off, so I suppose it was no wonder I went up to St Andrews with the gut feeling that having to wear glasses would be the fate worse than death.

First year students are called BEJANTS (from the French bec jaune, i.e. greenhorn)

There was cheese, cheese,

Wafting in the breeze,

In the store, in the store.

There was cheese, cheese,

Wafting in the breeze,

In the quartermaster’s store.

Every rugby team sings after a game—in the coach home from an away match, in the bar after that. Rugby songs are notorious for being ‘blue’, but The Quartermaster’s Store is one of the clean ones. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our scouting days, but it remains as popular as The Ball of Kirriemuir or Eskimo Nell.

My eyes are dim, I cannot see,

I have not got my specs with me,

I have no-ot got my-y specs with me.

At the refrain everybody turned and pointed at my room-mate Peter, who grinned sheepishly, took off his new glasses and held them up in one hand and his pint pot in the other. I was used to seeing him in glasses, because Peter and I go back a long way. We went to school together and now were enjoying sharing a room in Hall. When we were about 16 he’d had to get glasses to see the board in school, but he managed without them most of the time. But since we arrived in St Andrews he’d been complaining that even with them he was having trouble seeing the boards and monitors in the big lecture halls, and earlier in the week he’d come back from an eye test with the news that the optician said he should be wearing them full time “…and honestly, he’s right. I’m going to do what he says.” I felt desperately sorry for him, but he didn’t seem to have inherited the same attitude I had, and when he arrived back a few days later in his new glasses it turned out he’d gone for a radical change of style; the old ones were unobtrusive gold ovals, but now he’d gone for the Buddy Holly look with heavy black plastic. I think it was his ‘coming out’—as a glasses wearer, that is. Anyway, for the rest of the team it was a new feature.

My mind went back four or five years, to our first rugby practice at school. In the showers afterwards we looked each other up and down, each realizing that (unlike the rest of our class for whom puberty was still in the future) the other had started to sprout pubic hair. Peter said, “Oh! You’ve got…” and touched a sensitive spot. My little willy sprang to life and he said “Oh!” again. I said, “Do you do that too?” and put my hand in—only to discover that he did. He blushed and said, “What about … ?” and it was my turn to blush. We made for the loo and watched each other masturbate against the ‘great wall of china’. Peter came first, but I wasn’t far behind. Good grief, we were naÔve! For a while after that rugby was the prelude to a little adolescent flirtation. Sometimes we jerked each other off, sometimes we just watched each other. After a couple of months of this we were scared off by some ‘sex instruction’ (misinformation would be more like it) from a nasty-minded divinity teacher, with obscure warnings that were obviously directed at the kind of activities that were making our Saturdays so much fun. Nothing stopped me looking (discreetly I hoped) at the burgeoning cocks and sprouting hair of the rest of the class as we showered after rugger, but none of them affected me like Peter’s, and I knew that he was watching me too, even though as time went on my pubic hair was fading into a myopic blur as far as he was concerned.

Anyway, there he was now, full time in specs (except on the rugger field of course) and there we were, soaking up beer as if it was going out of fashion. I suppose learning to drink was an important part of our education. In one of Dorothy L. Sayers’s books Lord Peter Wimsey says, I do not envy the heart of youth, but only its head and stomach, and Peter and I were better than some of our friends at holding our liquor. At any rate neither of us ever threw up in the bar. Anyway, the bar closed and we staggered back to our room, not certain how many pints we’d had but managing to keep approximately upright. Before we went to our room we headed for the gents’; my bladder was certainly uncomfortably full and I guess Pete’s was as well. As we stood, swaying slightly, in front of the wall, I thought again of our adolescent adventures, and started to get hard—and that’s a real problem when you’re trying to pee! We got into our room and stripped off—we both sleep in a towel—but before I made it to my bed I felt a naked body behind mine, a stiff prick against my arse, an arm round my waist and, most exciting of all, a hand fondling my balls. I turned and took hold of his cock; we fell sideways on to my bed and my guts turned to water as Peter took my cock and held it against his. “No, wait a minute,” he said. He rolled me on to my back and knelt on top of me; then he took his glasses off put them on my face. That really embarrassed me, but it seemed to do something for him. He held our two cocks together and started to pump; I’d never felt anything like it. He kept it going, and then slowed up; he made it last about ten minutes before we both shot our load together—and what an explosion that was. He mopped the cum off my chest, found his own towel and fell into his bed. I took his glasses off and put them on the table between the two beds.

The next morning we were—well, jaded. It was about ten when I surfaced and made a cup of coffee. The smell of the coffee woke Pete, who groaned. “Christ!” he said, “Was I drunk last night! My head’s splitting and I can’t remember a thing after my third pint!” “No,” I answered, with a secret grin which he couldn’t see without his glasses. “I remember drinking a lot of beer and the rest’s kind of vague.” That wasn’t true: I remembered everything as well as (I suspected) he did, and I was utterly happy.

From then on most of our weekends followed the same pattern: rugby; beer, beer and more beer; drunken singing; stagger back; enthusiastic sex; sleep; “Christ, was I drunk last night!” Two things were constant: whether we were jacking each other off or sucking or fucking—and at one time or another each of us did all of these to the other—we had to be able to see each other’s faces, and he made me wear his glasses. I didn’t like them on my face, but they certainly acted as an aphrodisiac for him. One thing perplexed me: when I put them on everything I looked at was sparklingly clear. I dealt with this the way Peter dealt with the sex: by pretending it didn’t happen. Because all my courses were taught in small groups I didn’t have problems with blackboards or monitors, and I was able to kid myself my eyesight was as good as ever. For a while.

Second year students are SEMIS.

There were rats, rats

With spats and bowler hats

In the store, in the store.

There were rats, rats

With spats and bowler hats

In the quartermaster’s store.

Moments of truth… In our second year Peter and I were out of Hall and sharing a flat. Not far from the college buildings where we went for our different classes. With separate bedrooms—I wondered what would happen on Saturday nights.

One morning as we passed by Madras College, the local high school, a group of schoolboys passed on the other side of the street. “Good grief!” said Pete; “Harry Potter!” “What?” “That kid over there; the one with glasses. Harry Potter to the life!” Well, I looked; I gave the fiercest squint I could; but I couldn’t make out a kid wearing glasses. When I realized Peter was giving me an odd look I muttered, “Yeah, I guess so.” For me it was a moment of truth. For several months things in the distance had been getting fuzzy, but this was never any problem and I’d been aware of it only subconsciously. Now, for the first time, something I wanted to see was out of range! The chorus of ‘The Quartermaster’s Store’ was coming true for me as well as for Pete:

My eyes are dim, I cannot see,

I have not got my specs with me,

I have no-ot got my-y specs with me.

 

I didn’t have specs; I didn’t want to get specs; but my eyes were certainly dim and I couldn’t see, not everything I wanted to. The writing was on the wall, and I couldn’t fucking read it! However successful I might be at deceiving other people I couldn’t kid myself any longer: I was short-sighted—but at least it wasn’t a major problem. I could see everything I really needed to. So far.

The first Saturday night of term we rolled back to the flat—and into our separate bedrooms. I stripped off and lay on my bed with my towel over me, leaving the door ajar, hoping. Nothing but a sound of snoring from next door. Disconsolately I got out of bed, shut the door and locked it, and lay down…but a solo is a poor substitute for a duet, and I cried myself to sleep. In the morning Peter emerged from his room without his glasses, and of course couldn’t see the sour expression on my face. “I think I must have been drunker than ever last night,” he said. “Did I do anything I shouldn’t have?” “No, not at all,” I said brusquely. “That’s the trouble,” I added in an undertone. He showed no sign of having heard, but he went very red. The next Saturday I contrived to be in the bathroom with the door open when Peter came in to pee—and all was well; nature took its course! And so it continued week by week.

I liked a game of darts, and was quite a handy player. We used to play against some of the town people in the pub, and I was usually able to keep our end up. As the year went on I couldn’t help noticing that it was getting harder to see the board properly, but a little squinting did the trick and I kept on winning.

You don’t need me to tell you what TERTIANS are

There were fleas, fleas

With kilts and hairy knees

In the store, in the store.

There were fleas, fleas

With kilts and hairy knees

In the quartermaster’s store.

Back to the same flat for our third year. Things had gone pretty well during the long vac—Peter and I had worked as tourist guides at a whisky distillery on Speyside, and had had to wear the kilt most of the time. This gave our frolics a new twist on the occasions we got drunk together. Oddly enough these were rarer than in term time, but still Peter protested amnesia the morning after, and still he made me wear his glasses; it was as if ‘sex’ had a ‘p’ in it. Again I resolutely ignored the fact that apart from the short time his specs were on my nose the circle of clear vision was getting smaller.

One evening during the first week of term we wandered down to the pub and found a few friends there. Someone suggested a game of darts; I was always ready for that—but what was this? I couldn’t see the board; I couldn’t see the fucking board! It was lost in the blur; squint as I might, I couldn’t tell where my darts were going—and they went everywhere and nowhere. I was beaten hollow and there were a few comments that I was off my game Peter said nothing. Over the next few weeks a few more games ended the same way. I was no longer being picked for matches, and I stopped playing ’cause I knew I’d make a fool of myself. I knew why too, but you know how it is: the more obvious it became that I needed glasses, the more determined I was not to get them. After all, my work wasn’t suffering; by sheer luck I had picked courses that made no demands on my, by now, almost non-existent distance vision.

My eyes are dim, I cannot see,

I have not got my specs with me,

I have no-ot got my-y specs with me.

One day later on that term Peter said, “My eye test’s due. Are you going to come with me?” “Whatever for?” I asked. “For one thing you can help me choose my new frames, and for another you can have your eyes tested and get glasses yourself.” I’d been half-expecting this for a while and I had my answer rehearsed: “What makes you think I need glasses?” “Oh come off it, who are you trying to kid? You’re as blind as I am!” “Not a bit of it, I can see everything I need to.” “Oh yes? So why aren’t you playing darts any more? You can’t see the board, can you?” That caught me on the raw, and I said crossly, “Look, if you want help choosing frames I’ll come to the optician’s with you, but I don’t want specs and I’m not having any eye test.” “Oh well, have it your own way—but you’re a fool.” Nothing more was said, but one afternoon a week or so later Peter came home wearing new glasses—black semi-rimless frames that stood out against his fair hair and complexion, and lenses that made his eyes look a bit smaller. I made no comment and neither did he. Saturday ended with the usual drunken romp, and I was conscious that the new lenses were stronger than the old ones. On Sunday morning there were the usual protestations of drunkenness and amnesia but in the evening when we were watching TV—or rather Peter was watching it and I was staring at a blurred screen—he said, “You haven’t said if you like my new glasses.” “I don’t like glasses at all; I suppose as glasses go they’re OK.” “They look really good on you.” “Well, considering I’ve never had them on, unless maybe it was when we were both too drunk to remember anything...” He said no more but his face was scarlet.

My twenty-first birthday was approaching, the following term, on St Valentine’s day, and during the Christmas Vac. my parents were discussing how we were to celebrate. They wanted a family celebration at home; I wanted a party with my friends in St Andrews; so the sensible thing was to have both. The actual day was a Wednesday, so I was to go home for the family party the weekend before, have a few drinks on the day itself, and the St Andrews party on the Saturday after. A few friends from home would come to the family party, and my mother was very keen that Peter should come too; she had always had a soft spot for him, and he was known to be my ‘oldest and closest friend’ (had they but known!). So that was agreed; we were to go home on the Friday after classes; Peter could stay either with his parents or with us, and we’d go back to St Andrews on the Sunday evening.

Came the day; we caught a train home; my mother met us at the station, and we headed for the refreshment room—we were all ready for a cup of tea. As we queued my mother asked what we wanted to eat, and indicated the menu on the wall behind the counter. I hesitated, squinted, squinted harder, and hesitated some more. Peter said, “Oh it’s no good asking Val, he’s too blind; here, borrow my specs a minute”—and he took them off and offered them to me. I didn’t know where to look, but my mother, who had been speechless for a moment, said, “Well Valentine, if you can’t see the menu your eyesight must be really bad; you’d better see if Peter’s glasses are any help.” The words in my mind were Et tu, Brute as, reluctantly and with a sense of foreboding, I took the specs and put them on, read the menu and made my choice, and gave them back to Peter. “Right!” said my mother. “We’d better get you to an optician.” Peter was staying the weekend with us, but he was going to see his parents first; so we dropped him off, and then I was driven back to the shopping centre and practically frogmarched into Vision Express (‘appointments not always necessary’). “Right!” said my mother to the receptionist. “This son of mine can’t see across a room! Twenty-one next week and he’s been keeping it quiet—great baby that he is!” “Dear me!” was the reply. “But he isn’t the first young man I’ve known who doesn’t want to wear glasses.” “He’s only home for the weekend, and I know you do a one-hour service, so I was hoping you could fit him in.” “I’m sure we can do that. There isn’t an optometrist free at the moment, so” (to me) “if you’ll just come this way we’ll make a preliminary check with the auto-refractor.” I rested my chin on the machine and looked into it while it clicked and whirred, then a slip of paper popped out. The receptionist looked at it and said, “I think you’re going to see a lot better with your glasses. Perhaps you’d like to look at some frames till the optometrist’s ready for you—and by the way there’s a ‘Buy one, get one free’ offer, so you can choose two.”

I had known for a long time—even before the dartboard started to vanish into the blur—that this moment would come; the battle to stay bareyed was lost, and all my resistance was pure procrastination. I didn’t want them, but if I had to have them I was going to wear them, and they had to look right. I wandered along the rack, trying frame after frame, peering at my reflection and not much liking what I saw. After while my mother called me over. “Valentine,” she said, “it’s your 21st birthday, remember; if it costs a lot to get the right thing, don’t worry. I’ll see to the bill.” “Hey, thanks, Mum,” I said, and went back to the search—but at that moment the receptionist called me in to see the optometrist.

I guess my test was pretty much like other eye tests; the optometrist was tall, very dark, and extremely handsome; his ID badge told me his name was Adam, and he wore glasses with round black wire frames and a black onyx signet ring. He remarked that with my eyesight it was odd that I hadn’t had glasses before, and advised me that it would be good sense to wear them full time now that I was getting them. I assured him that I was going to do that. “OK then,” he said. “I’ll send Luke out to help you with frames and fitting and so on. He’s very good at that; he dispensed my glasses and advised me about frames.”

I went back to the racks, and in a few minutes Luke appeared. He wore thick glasses with gold frames—and a black onyx ring like Adam’s. He looked carefully at me and at my prescription, and took some measurements, and in a few minutes came back with a selection of frames that he thought would suit me. His instincts were sound and his taste was good; without going to the top of the range he found several I thought looked not too bad, and he steered me tactfully towards a smart black frame in carbon fibre, and for my second pair a round frame, rather Harry Potterish. One or maybe both would be ready in an hour, so we did some minor shopping in the vicinity and then went for another cup of tea. My mother was obviously bursting to say it: “Valentine, I can not understand your being so foolish. You must have known for ages you weren’t seeing properly; why on earth haven’t you had your eyes checked before?” “I’d have thought it was obvious. When I was a kid you were always telling me how terrible it would be if I had to wear glasses, and I’ve grown up determined to avoid them at all costs.” “But you’re as blind as a bat!” “Do you think I don’t know that? Let me tell you one thing; now I’ve lost the battle I’m going to wear them and see properly. May as well take the smooth with the rough.”

Time was wearing on, and we headed back to Vision Express. The round wire specs were ready; could I pick the others up in the morning? I supposed so.

The drive home was a mixture of sensations. On the one hand everywhere I looked things were clear and sharp, though a little smaller than before; on the other every time I moved my head whatever I was looking at crossed my field of view much faster than usual, and things on the edges were even worse. I felt quite unsteady, and ready to fall over. I’m not much of a sailor, and I got quite squeamish. When we got home I took my specs off to get rid of this sensation, but already, after no more than twenty minutes’ wear, the blur bothered me as never before. I’d told my mother I was going to take the smooth with the rough; it looked as if I’d have to take the rough with the smooth too! I sat in front of the TV for a while, revelling in being able to see the screen, but when I got up for a pee I was nearly seasick again. Eating supper was no problem, and when I went to the loo again the sensation was a bit more under control. Perhaps that effect would pass. Presently the doorbell rang and Peter arrived. He said nice things about how my glasses looked, but I was pretty distant with him—I was still feeling sore about his giving away my ‘secret’. We sat down to watch TV and presently my young brother Wenceslas came in (God, the names my parents picked!). He gave Peter his usual greeting of “Hi Foureyes”, and then turned and saw me. “Oh my God, Harry Potter rides again! So what’s with the thick specs?” I blushed scarlet—were my specs so thick? and Peter didn’t help much by saying “It’s OK young ’un, your brother’s had to admit he’s even blinder than me. He’s been running away from getting glasses for years, but he needed mine to see the menu in the refreshment room and your mother noticed something was up.” I was mortified, especially when Wence asked to try them, and then there was the inevitable “Bloody hell, these are strong; how do you see through them?” “Well, it so happens I see a lot better with them than without them, so if you’ve finished with them I’ll have them back, than k you.” When I put them back on he examined me critically and said, “They look OK actually. You can keep them.”

Bedtime came. Peter was to sleep in my room, and I was maintaining a stony silence as we headed for bed. “Are you OK?” he said; “you’re very quiet,” and I turned on him: “You traitor; you fucking traitor! Some friend you are; show me up in front of my mother and mock me to my brother!” “Oh, come down off your high horse,” he said; “and give us a kiss.” “What—did—you—say?” “I said give us a kiss. I’m sick to death of pretending on Sunday morning to have forgotten what we did on Saturday night. I want a kiss now and I want to sleep with you tonight, and when we go back to college, and for the rest of my life. Sex is one thing, and you enjoy it as much as I do, but I want love, L-O-V-E, LOVE! I’ve loved you ever since the first time I jerked you off in the bogs at school, I love you now and I hope to God you love me, because the sight of you in those sexy specs is driving me crazy. I love you and I want you! Give us a kiss!

My head was in a turmoil; I stared at him through my glasses for what seemed an age. Then I said “Oh Peter!” and we fell into each other’s arms. The kiss went on, and on, and on, till at last we had to pause for breath. Having paused, the next step was to undress each other and fall into bed, naked except (you’ve guessed it!) for our glasses. “Right!” said Peter. “For starters I’m going to kiss you all over.” “Shall I have a shower first?” “Don’t you dare: I don’t want to taste poofy shower gel, I want to taste a real poof!”

The next couple of hours were a revelation, or rather a long series of revelations: there was hardly an inch of my body Peter didn’t kiss—gently, tenderly, nothing rough about it. The whole process was gloriously sensuous, even though I lay there in a sort of passively aroused state. At strategic moments—when he explored my ears with his tongue, when he nibbled my nipples—I wriggled with excitement. Last of all he turned his attention to the vital parts: he did more than kiss my scrotum; as first one testicle and then the other was taken into his mouth and licked tenderly, my penis, which had been hard all through the proceedings, rose to new heights and I said, “Darling, I can’t hold out much longer!” “OK love,” said Peter, “just one more thing.” He rolled me on my side, lay down where his rock hard penis was in front of my face, said, “Sixty-nine!” and thrust it into my mouth as he took mine in his mouth. We’d each sucked the other off a good few times in the past two-and-a-half years, but this was our first attempt at doing it together, and it was a success.

That was seven years ago. Since then we haven’t often slept apart—we both have jobs in Dundee and share a house there. We haven’t come out to our parents, not in so many words, and I don’t know what result they get from putting two and two together. They just seem to expect us to be together and accept us as extra sons.

I’ve worn glasses full time since the day I got them. I knew I had to because my vision had got so bad (how many people have a first prescription of minus 4.25?); what I wasn’t expecting was that, in spite of the hang-up I’d grown up with, I’d actually like wearing them and think I look good in them—and as for Peter, well…

As my eyesight got worse, I had to give up rugby, as a player anyway. When I couldn’t see the ball at 10 feet, I suggested getting contact lenses so that I could go on playing, but Peter was appalled by the idea; I think he was afraid I meant to stop wearing my glasses and go into contacts full time; anyway I let the idea drop. Instead I started offered my services as a tough-judge; I could do that with my glasses on, and now I’m a qualified referee. I get the exercise, and some of the enjoyment—at least I don’t get indignant spectators yelling, “Hey Ref, get a pair of specs!” My coke bottles stand out a mile; minus 9.25 at the moment, so I’ll probably be into double figures after my next test..

For work and most outdoor activities I wear high-index lenses, but I also have a pair of standard CR-39s—if I want action at bedtime I change into those and he’s off. There are nights when we don’t have sex; but sleeping together and waking up in each other’s arms, so close we can see each other’s faces bareyed—man, that’s the greatest!

There were eggs, eggs

Nearly growin’ legs

In the store, in the store.

There were eggs, eggs

Nearly growin’ legs

In the quartermaster’s store.

The term after my 21st and all that came with it—glasses of my own and a boyfriend of my own—my brother rang up and asked if he could come and stay. He was applying eighteen months in advance for university places; St Andrews was his first choice and he needed to come and look round. I was a bit anxious about letting him know our sleeping arrangements, but as Peter said I could hardly refuse; we were sharing a bedroom but with twin beds, so it wasn’t really too blatant. The day came, and I walked down to meet him. His bus stopped on the far side of the bus station; I saw him get off and look round with a kind of a lost look. I gave a yell of “Wence!” and was a bit surprised to see him look in the direction of the sound, squint hard, and then pull out a pair of glasses and put them on. Then he grinned and came over. “What’s this?” I said; “another four-eyed geek in the family?” “Ah well,” he said as he took the glasses off and put them back in his pocket, “thereby hangs a tale. I’d been thinking for a while that things in the distance weren’t too clear; so when you appeared in specs I asked to try them (remember?) to see if they helped. Well of course, they didn’t, they were far too strong (you must be fucking blind) so I thought that wasn’t the answer. But then last month we had medical checks in school; I couldn’t see much of the eye chart, and they sent a letter home. Mum went off the deep end and I guess you know the rest as well as I do. Only thing is, I’m trying not to wear them any more than I need to, but it’s getting harder and harder to see any distance without them.”

It was obvious over those few days that Wence was fighting off the inevitable: even though his glasses were less than half the strength of mine, he needed them full time. What was less obvious was what conclusions he was coming to about Peter and me. Both subjects came up the day he left. We walked down to the bus station, and he squinted round and said “Is that my bus over there?” “No,” I said, “it isn’t. And you wouldn’t have to ask if you kept your specs on your nose instead of in your pocket.” “Yeah, but I don’t want to be dependent on them.” “Look at it this way kid: your eyes are bad, you can’t see without help. If I hadn’t been here (with my specs on) you’d have had to put them on to see which bus was which.” “It might be OK if they weren’t such a passion-killer.” “Aha! so you reckon No one makes passes at boys who wear glasses, do you? Well, let me tell you—” “Say no more! You get to sleep with that gorgeous hunk Peter, glasses or no glasses, and I’m so fucking jealous; I’ve fancied him since I was about ten.” “Oh, so you’ve put two and two together have you? I’m not going into intimate details, but Peter definitely prefers me in glasses—” “OK, but how many guys like that do you find?” “It’s guys you’re interested in, is it?” “Well, what do you think?” At that moment his bus arrived, before I got the chance to tell him he looked better wearing glasses than squinting.

My eyes are dim, I cannot see,

I have not got my specs with me,

I have no-ot got my-y specs with me.

In due course Wence went up to St Andrews, after Peter and I had gone down. He was quite open (except at home) about being gay and quite active, both sexually and politically. His vision, like mine, has deteriorated quite rapidly—he’s still about 2.5 dioptres behind me but we’ve obviously inherited the same gene from a few generations back. He doesn’t share Peter’s view that spexy guys are sexy guys, so he struggles with contact lenses some of the time, even though he feels better, and looks better, when he wears his glasses.