by Adam, email@example.com
My eyes squinted, and I looked down towards the gray slate walkway that reflected the bright sunlight striking it. The air was alive with the bustling sounds of cantankerous motorcars whining and exhausting their breath towards the red octagon. The houses along Elm street were pressed together in brick rows, and each was a fortress of mystery. My clothes fit uncomfortably, the tight starched white collar surrounding my neck, reddening my flesh. The blue clip-on tie with its golden insignia hung from the top buttonhole. The short walk to Our Lady Of Sorrows was always a reflective trancelike tromping that left me half-dreaming about impossible realities. I walked up the heavy steps and pushed the stained-glass door into the warm sacristy. A faint aroma of frankincense, or perhaps myrrh, drifted into my nostrils, filling my mind with a solemnity, offering me comfort. I opened one of the eight walnut closet doors and sifted through the cassocks hanging side by side. Red ones for the Sunday mass, and black ones for the funerals. I cover myself in the holy garb. Old man Andy, the sexton, enters from the altar snapping his fingers, pointing to the long brass pole which has a wick on the end for reaching the tall candles. I quietly parade around the altar from the rear, extending the pole, and struggle to place the burning flame against the wick of each candle. Extending my arms, and pulling my head back, I feel slightly dizzy from the long stretch. Returning to the sacristy, Andy speaks kindly to me about my yawning, and my sleepiness. He draws close and embraces me, rubbing the stiff bristles of his chin against one cheek, then the other. "The nuns always say that you boys have the rosiest red cheeks," he chuckles, "I have to work hard to keep 'em that way." I struggle against him, but I am overpowered, and finally wilt like a plucked rose, surrendering to his cheek painting.
The mass is sputtered in a foreign language that I cannot comprehend, but I have learned my cues. I know when to bow, when to kneel, when to sing. The Monsignor is a pompous holy man, full of thundering invocations and self-righteous judgment. The two thousand year old scripture reads like a fable, or a fairy tale. The faithful quietly meditate in the pews, subtle whisperings of recitations and pleadings, confessions and prayers, are hurled towards heaven, bouncing off of the domes, and spiraling out of control, until they dissipate and are silenced by the quiet nothingness. My legs grow weary, and I ritually anticipate the chair. After the bread and wine of the Eucharist is distributed, I follow the priest to the side altar, where I pour both wine and water into the grail. The priest prays over the golden cup, and hoists it up, throwing back his head, and consumes the mixture in one large gulp. The procedure is repeated, and then he sings a greeting to the galaxy in thunder and earthquakes.
Many of the nuns have an angelic patience for children, while a few have nothing but contempt. Sister Theresa once pulled my hair provoking me to tears because I colored the balloon drawing incorrectly. I scribbled red on the balloon marked 'blue', and scribbled blue on the balloon marked 'yellow.' Catholic life is well ordered, and there is little room left for interpretation. God is everywhere. God knows all things. Can we see God? No, we cannot see God. Where does God live? God lives in heaven. Good is good. Satan is evil. Satan was an angel who turned his back on God. Scribbling expressively without reading is punishable by public humiliation. Each of my classmates secretly knows or understands, that we are here against our will, and must conform to avoid this corporal humiliation. I ran home and cried about the balloons, and the hair pulling, and my mother called my father on the telephone. He marched me back and informed Sister Theresa that she may punish me in whatever manner she sees fit, anytime at all -so much for juris prudence.
"Do you want to play basketball?"
"I guess so."
"Maybe you'll be as great as your cousin, Joey!" my father beams proudly.
My father is the basketball coach, and Jerry is his assistant.
After dinner, I climb the four long industrial looking staircases to reach the third floor of the auditorium. The wood floor shines beautifully under the florescent illumination. A dozen basketballs are hurled and bounce in a rebellious tempo, speeding up as they near stillness. The sharp squeaking of rubber sneakers interjects the sound of the ball hitting the metal rim, and then falling to earth again in a post-modern symphony of bounces. I attempt to hoist a ball up and over the rim, but it stops in midair -for one brief instant- and is forced back down upon me. I hate ball playing. Jerry's sharp whistle cuts through the noise, and he chastises us mercilessly, like a mad bull. His screaming frightens me, but most of the boys have become used to the authoritative loosening of rage. We'll make great marines someday, I suppose. My father enters after having closed his business, and he lectures our team with grease-stained hands, dressed in oil spotted green work clothes. Brilliantly hatched plans are disclosed and explained in meticulous detail: the full court press, the three-two zone defense, the four out, the weave. "We may not have height on our side, but we can play smarter," he explains. The ritual seems absurd to me, even at the age of seven. One must run back and forth until one-team scores more hoops. What a waste of time.
"I'm Popeye the sailor man,
I'm Popeye the sailor man,
I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach,
I'm Popeye the sailor man."
Popeye has the most interesting muscles. They balloon in volume to 60 times their former size when he eats spinach, and the guns on the battleship of his tattoo actually fire. The big black television set beams in its black and white signal, and I peer into the back of the box through the broken cardboard cover, and find a world of orange glowing tubes all inserted in rows. What mysterious magic is this?
Often, my brother Jim and I erupt into rage over who ate the last Popsicle, or who owns which comic book. When my father is within earshot, and the rage is persistent enough, it spreads like a wildfire. Father emerges from his chair screaming his condemnation. He pulls us by the arm onto his bed, pulls down our pants, and whips us repeatedly, with great force, and tongue lashing. I can't tell you where I would go as I suffered these lashes, except to say that it was like an out of body experience. There was nothing philosophical to be discussed. Beating children is the Christian way; it's in the Bible. Little did father realize, that with his unbridled tongue, he was slowly turning me into a boot licker, a boy so afraid of the tone of anger, that I would have Pavlov responses with my peers.
One bright day, after returning from my Aunt's house, my father called me to his knee and inquired about my day.
"I played with my cousins, Sarah and Jenny. We played house in the cellar, and we dressed their dolls."
"You have to make a choice," my father explained, "you can play with your cousins, or you can play basketball."
As I sat on his knee, I had no trouble choosing. I did not enjoy the loud, enraged coaching that Jerry meted out to the team. I preferred the gentle lambs that were my female cousins.
"I want to play with my cousins," I answered.
My father did not express much emotion, but pronounced sentence.
"Very well," he replied, "from now on, I am going to call you Mary Frances."
I cannot explain why I became flushed with embarrassment. Even now, I don't see what is so wrong about be called Mary, except the insult was so deliberate, that I did feel shamed. I was not an effeminate boy.
Neither did I realize at that instant, that the event was to define the boundaries of our relationship forever. I was the spurned first son, who was now delegated the role of great disappointment. The judgment was so severe, that it could never be taken back. I could forgive my father for his ignorance, but emotionally, the wound remains buried and unhealed.
My mother always boasted that her father had never hit any of the children, and that her family was unlike my father's clan. Yet, during one of my arguments with my dear brother, while we were naked and bathing with each other, and fighting over a rubber toy like two heads of state about to go to war, she entered the bathroom in a rage, and raised welts on our backs with a wooden spoon. The other accident occurred when she slammed the kitchen door -with great force- on my right hand breaking my small right pinky. I can recall her shock as she awoke from her rage, and began blowing on my finger with her breath as if she was cooling a hot piece of meat -about to feed me as she had done when I was an infant. It was an accident, but the finger mended incorrectly, and it is permanently bent and cannot be straightened. These are the dark secrets that families hide from their neighbors, and I wonder how many children have similar nightmares growing up. In the Catholic school we are taught that it is a commandment to honor your father and mother, but I wonder why God never admonished the adults -the literate ones- to honor their children.
Children are aware -are made painfully aware- of their anomalies. When I was nine years old, we were given a test in school. We were not told anything, but I remember that part of the test required that you look at a series of scrambled mosaics, and the task was to choose the two images, which were alike but scrambled. I seemed to be well-suited to turning things around in my brain, particularly images. The tests were taken down the hall, and the nun allowed the eighth grade students to correct the answers. We were getting ready to leave for home that day, and one eighth grade girl stuck her head out the door of the classroom.
"Are you Adam?" she asked.
I was standing in a long line in the hall waiting to march out the doors.
"I corrected your paper!" she exclaimed, "You're the only one who got them all correct! You're a genius!"
Her words reverberated in the hall in spite of the fact that the hall was filled with fifty fidgety children. Once again, I felt the embarrassment of having been singled out. I felt a hot flash permeate my body, and I was sorry that everyone had to hear that remark. I don't know why? I did not feel shame.
I hated homework, and in class, chose to daydream. It was easier than breathing to simply wander off into a world of fantasy. I had little interest in formal training. My talents would only reveal themselves -like elves- much later in life.
In the stillness of a reflecting lake
A breath gently stirs the mirrored soul
Falling through an atmosphere
Wisps of cotton meadow clouds
I listen to the hollow wind
Speaking through the bending reeds
Wings to lift my shadow thoughts
Waves to sing my darkest pain.
The school dance was my first experience with dating. We were not sophisticated at the age of thirteen. I had learned about the deed when I was ten years old. My friend, Randy, who was older than I, invited me for a sleep over. Coincidentally, it was the same night that the strangler had escaped from prison, and I was concerned that the garbage cans, which had been blown over by the howling wind, might actually be the strangler himself. Randy told me -as best as he could remember- how the happenstance of human existence is perpetuated. You see, a guy sticks his dick into a woman's pussy, and humps back and forth until the joot comes out of the guy's dick, and swims all the way up to the womb. Needless to say, the preposterous yarn captivated me. When I returned home from that fateful weekend, I proceeded to write my father a very formal letter stating that I had learned the "Facts of Life." Of course, I never presented the letter to him. I did not have the courage. As fate would have it, I found a few nudist colony magazines in his bedroom dresser along with several condoms. Paging through those magazines, I was aroused by the nakedness, and felt a soothing, time dilating rapture. It wasn't until I discovered my father's smokers -that's slang for 8-millimeter black and white porno films- that I really had the lust enflamed within me. He had about twelve reels, each about two hundred feet long. I found the plot to be very predictable. In fact, at the early age of sixteen, I decided to take twenty-four hundred feet of film, and edit it down to about one hundred feet. If you have ever heard the finale of the 1812 overture, I can only describe that I had a multitude of quick cutting climaxes. It was like the climax of civilization itself, in tandem, and like a firework display. It was then that I knew that I enjoyed filmmaking. Had that film been released, it would have been ahead of its time for the way that it was edited. Needless to say, I destroyed everything, and nearly forgot about the incident altogether.
The ritual of my childhood was filled with many pleasant memories, of periods when my father would actually express an affectionate remark towards me. Yes, the peculiar thing about child abuse is that your tormentor is often, also, your best friend. My mother was not physically abusive towards me on the whole, but rather would lose her temper and scream bitter sarcasms.
"I should have never had kids. If I could do it again, I'd never marry!"
This same woman also nurtured me through many sad and lonely episodes in my life. She mellowed with age. There were happy Christmas mornings, filled with gifts and good cheer. My brother and I would beam when my father laughed hysterically at Jerry Lewis movies. I was grateful that the old man was in good spirits. I regret not knowing him. Our dialog became nearly non-existent in the waning years of his life.
My first sweetheart was Chris. She was the first to express an interest in me, and for a young boy, I was delightfully lifted off of my feet. Although I did not have a clue about what this all meant, I assumed that we were to spend time together, and proceed to work towards getting the sex act accomplished. There was no understanding about the complexities of emotion, the implications of human bonding, the seriousness of sex itself.
As a boy of thirteen, it appeared like some confusing game that one had to participate in to demonstrate that you were no longer a child. And so I botched up the whole flirtatious friendship with uncommitted kisses and foolish ideas about the meaning of love. I tried to kiss Chris once, and I was so self-conscious about it, that she seemed more like an object than a person, and I felt like a complete idiot. Girls mature faster than boys, and so she wasted no time in breaking my heart. We were at a dance when Chris' friend pulled me aside and informed me that she was now interested in Tom. I was so broken up about it, that I went into the boiler room, and sat in the dark, on top of a pile of bundled newspapers collected for the paper drive. Edith, a very heavy Italian lady, followed after me, and she asked me what was wrong? I burst into tears and confessed to her. I rarely cried, but cried like a storm.
When I graduated from the Catholic school, Sister Angela took me aside on the last day of class, and spoke privately to me. As I had enjoyed singing, and had a boyish soprano voice, I was often sent alone to the church to practice singing the epistle. Angela and I bonded in our meetings. She would sneak into the vestibule to hear me sing in the empty church. I was amazed at the reverberations bouncing off of the marble walls. My voice seemed larger than life because it echoed voluminously around the stone interior. Sister Angela confessed that she knew how I cried over Chris, and on that last day of our relationship as teacher and student, she made me promise never to allow myself to be hurt by another female like that again. This was shortly before my actual puberty had occurred, and also before the first time that I developed a crush on another boy.
Teddy transferred into my eighth grade class, and he played the guitar. I had been playing guitar for three years, and so I invited him over to my house. I showed him my new electric hollow-body guitar, and he literally drooled on it. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his saliva off of the shiny body. The saliva simply fell from his mouth as he played it. We both laughed. Teddy was a sandy-haired boy who was slightly shorter than the rest of us. As a result, he loved to lift weights and demonstrate his strength. One summer day, when I was visiting him in his bedroom, he lifted his tee shirt and hardened his stomach muscles. "I do 200 sit-ups everyday," he boasted, "look at this stomach." The muscles of his abdomen rippled, and his well-toned physique attracted my attention. Ted liked to wrestle, and one late summer evening, we laughed and ridiculed each other, taunting each other's ego with playful banter. Having been a victim of physical abuse, I was warmed and soothed by Teddy's friendly wrestling holds. I knew that he would not hurt me, yet he loved to dominate by pinning me. I was filled with joy and could not stay aggressively focused on fighting back. He was delighted that he could dominate me so easily.
Tug of war
Tug of hearts
Laughter rings around the ear
Sweet grass rolling infinitely
Limbs to capture
Joy and fear
Hearts to dampen
Cold moist skin
Rise back up
I met my friend, Brian, through Teddy, and we developed a life-long friendship. Brian was extremely talented in music, and we would spend hours playing Beatle songs on the guitar. He was an Italian boy, and although I loved him dearly, I never felt physically attracted to him. He met his future wife, Marilyn, at the age of thirteen, which was the age when we had met. We all entered different high schools as new friends. Marilyn had an older brother named John who was in college. Brian's brother, Mark, was also a college student. I never knew where Brian and Marilyn had acquired the marijuana, but I had my first experience getting high when I was fourteen years old. My parents had warned me about the evils of drugs, and the police showed us what pot looked like when they visited the grammar school. Marilyn was a big rock and roll fan, and there was a concert in the next city. John was cajoled into taking the three of us. Shortly before leaving for that show, Brian and Marilyn led me down an alley in Marilyn's neighborhood where Brian proudly displayed a nicely rolled cigarette. I became filled with fear, but Brian, who had won my total confidence, convinced me that it was safe to use, and that nothing bad would happen. I took long drawn inhalations on the cigarette, as instructed, and held the smoke in my lungs as long as I could. I sat in the back seat of the car on the way to the show, and I became focused on the sunset and the music blasting on the radio. I was stoned, and it was cool. After that incident, we began to get stoned semi-regularly, and often, we would get into hysterical laughing fits. Sometimes, while stoned, our thoughts would seem profound. We were seventeen and had formed a rock and roll band playing at many of the local high schools. We were a spectacle because we were so young. Once, after attending mass at the church on a Saturday evening, Brian, Marilyn, our bassist Tim, and his girlfriend Shelly, picked me up in Tim's wagon. We were driving down Clinton avenue, smoking reefer, when a squad car flashed its lights behind us. We scrambled, and Shelly stashed the weed down her pants. I reached under the seat to try and find the rolling papers that I had hidden there. The officers approached our vehicle from both sides, and one police officer asked me where we were coming from?
"From church!" I answered with glazed eyes. I was sort of telling the truth.
The cop asked me what I was trying to hide under the seat?
"Nothing!" I replied opening the door and getting out of the vehicle.
The officer looked under the seat with his flashlight and found the empty package of rolling papers.
He began to lecture us, telling us to read the newspaper, as there was an article about the danger of drugs.
They let us go with a warning.
My heart was in my throat.
I could have had a police record, but I was spared.
I was aroused when Jimmy Olsen walked in on Clark Kent as he undressed, his Superman insignia revealed as Clark pulled back his shirt. "Now you know my true identity!" exclaimed Kent. "Will you carry me through the sky?" I asked.
I was not aware of the sexual changes that were taking place within me. I was no longer feeling attracted to females; that is, I did not have sexual fantasies about any of the young girls in my high school. Shelly, Tim's girlfriend, developed a crush on me and broke up with Tim. How profoundly sad is the torment of unrequited love. I had developed a few boy crushes, but I did not actively seek out boy lovers. I was increasingly self-absorbed, and I often wonder whether the pot smoking hadn't retarded my emotional growth. I did not wish to experience a broken heart again -like the one that I had experienced with Chris at the age of thirteen. I also feel that my father's physical abuse and emotional neglect had lowered my self-esteem. My guitar became my closest companion. Brian found Marilyn, and he slowly drifted out of my life as he had discovered females.
I sluggishly daydreamed through my classes in high school. Nothing had sparked my imagination except photography. Brian's father was a photographer who had his own darkroom in the basement. Brian taught me how to print black and white stills, and I signed up for the photography class. One Friday afternoon during the spring season of my junior year, I was sitting in Algebra class when the idea struck me. I thought about making a self-portrait. When I arrived home that day, I began to hang sheets around the basement, and I created a draped setting for the photo session. Quietly, I removed all of my clothing and made a series of still life nude photographs. I was a tall, skinny teen, and I felt exhilarated from photographing myself. I sent the negatives to an agency in New York City, and a few weeks later received a letter with a number of questions. What type of boy would you like to pose with? How old would you like the other boy to be? Older? Younger? The inquisitor wanted to travel by train to my hometown to meet me. I felt frightened by that random meeting, and grew cowardly about posing for photographs. Still, I was in denial about my sexuality. It was like I was playing some game, but it didn't really mean anything. I wasn't a homosexual. I just had homosexual feelings.
As I recount the incidents of my teenage years, and string them together, it would appear that I was obsessed with sex. This is not true. In high school, I joined the film club and made movies my entire senior year. I learned about the art of the cinema, and how one could express their feelings in powerful ways through the manipulation of images. I played the guitar, and learned how to rock and roll at a very early age. I began classical guitar studies at the age of seventeen. I loved situation comedies, and I was learning to enjoy reading literature. I read Demian -a love story between two boys- written by Hermann Hesse. My friends may have suspected that I was a little different, a little more creative perhaps, but no one in my small circle of friends ever confronted me about sex. I had great, loving friends. Everyone should be so lucky.
In my senior year of high school, I traveled to New York City by train to have motion picture film specially processed. On that trip, I first encountered 42nd street. In the nineteen-seventies, 42nd street was inundated with porno houses, magazine shops, and prostitutes. The setting was no different than that depicted in the movie "Taxi Driver" starring Robert DeNiro. I was pretty serious about becoming a songwriter, and one dark December evening -in the bitter cold- I drove to Greenwich Village to perform my music. I was alone, and when I was leaving the city that night, I parked my car on 42nd street and decided to tour the burlesque sex orgy. A bitter wind blew in from the river, and as I entered the door of the first magazine shop, I felt my heart skip a beat. I was only seventeen years old, and I thought for sure that I would be carded and thrown from the premises. When I entered, I moved slowly through the aisles. There were books to suit every type of sexual fantasy. Most of the clientele were older, and they were engrossed in the subject matter. Nobody paid particular attention to me. Along the wall -behind a sheet of glass- were synthetic penises molded from plastic or rubber. There were also round pieces of metal, which formed a ring. In one section of the store, there were magazines that catered to homosexual fantasies. I don't believe the word 'gay' was used much back then -if at all- but one magazine was titled, "How to photograph teenaged boys." I picked up the magazine and browsed through it. One photograph depicted two young thirteen year olds laying naked side by side on a bed. A large, heavy older man was standing over the boys applying a hand cream onto one the boys thighs. This was to imitate the ejaculate that he was probably too young to produce on his own. There were photographs of young boys standing together, riding bikes, holding each other, and smiling happily. There were also books, which were being freely sold, with nude photographs of boys younger than thirteen. I suppose that there were no laws prohibiting such things in those days. I chose two magazines and proceeded to the check out counter. The older man stared me in the eye, and without saying a word; he took my money and placed the books in a brown paper bag. I left feeling very warm inside. As I made my way up the street, there must have been at least a dozen similar shops. What amazed me was that this was 42nd street -the center of the greatest city in the world! A lot of people believe that young boys are coerced into posing for photographs, or even engaging in gay sex, but I can tell you that I freely wanted to photograph myself, and I freely shared those images with other people. No one ever twisted my arm. Of course, I was never engaged in a sexual act, nor did I ever get paid for taking photographs. Some would have called me stupid. No, I was just confused about the feelings that I was going through, and the fact that there was no one to talk to about them. Homosexuality was like leprosy. You couldn't face anyone for the shame that they would cause you to feel. Whenever I had these strange urges, they were short and temporary. I destroyed those magazines that I had purchased for fear of being caught with them. I destroyed the self-portraits that I had made of myself for the same reason. I continued to live as a normal looking teenager, in a serene, quiet suburb. I played the guitar endlessly, and I became very good rather quickly. I amazed my friends with my musical talent. When it came to dating, I was a shy, retreating homebody. Perhaps, I was hyper-emotional, but I did not like attracting attention to myself. My fears of rejection had become overgrown.
I existed in the school, but tried to keep my presence low-key. Having transferred from a Catholic high in my junior year, my new public school classmates were so contented in their time worn friendships, that they hardly bothered to notice the new kid. That was fine with me. I began to hang around after school with the filmmaking club, and it was there that I developed a few bonds with other kids. One girl, who had graduated from high school, had returned to work with club. She spent hours there everyday, and she was about twenty years old. She was a gifted artist, and had an amazing ability to draw, paint, and sculpt like Michelangelo! I befriended her, and she let me know that she was having an affair with my English teacher. In fact, she told me that she had an abortion. Another student in the club told me the same thing. I was amazed at how people seemed to be having irresponsible sex all around me, and having the fetuses removed. I really felt immature and inexperienced. I also began to hang out with the black boys. They were really cool, and when I ventured into their neighborhood, they always went out of their way to make me feel like one of them. I will remember these boys forever. One was a terror in school, and I would call him an alpha male, the kind that will kill you if necessary. He was a pussycat with me. He tried to beat me up a year before we became friends, and roughed me up on the gym field, but the film club and the artistic expression taking place there changed his demeanor.
On the night of my graduation, I made the rounds to all of the parties with my black friends. They bought me a pint of Southern Comfort, and I drank the whole bottle. It was my first terrible jag with alcohol. We wound up at a chicken farm where the smell of chicken turd was everywhere. I puked out of the back window of my car -I wasn't driving- and the next day I had a humongous hangover. My black friend -the alpha male- took me to a diner and ordered eggs. When they were placed under my nose, they still smelled like chicken shit. I couldn't eat them.
"Do you know what you did last night?"
"No," I answered, "What did I do?"
"I'm not going to tell you," he smiled like a reptile, and I was scared. What did I do?
I never found out, but I was glad to be out of there.
In the fall, I tried studying at the Community College, but I had no drive, no vision, no inspiration. I lasted about five weeks and quit.
I spent late nights smoking cigarettes, watching talk television, playing the guitar, and sleeping way too late into the early afternoon. Some people might call me a night owl, but it was more than that. I had begun to slump into a depression that was dark and inescapable. I could see no future.
It was during this period, when I was nineteen, that I met Charlie.
Charlie was a fifteen-year-old boy who lived across the street. He was beautiful. Charlie played soccer, and so he was in perfect shape. He had a smooth, trim, athletic body. He wasn't muscular, but firm. He had long brown hair that had lighter streaks in it. He wore it parted down the middle, and his hair fell thin and straight in a kind of shag haircut. He had dark brown eyes, and his upper lip was slightly puffy, but not as models have lips. He had a slightly crooked front tooth that did not look bad. His face beamed joy, and he had the type of countenance that you would find on a sculpture, a kind of classic beauty.
People were attracted to him.
My earliest memory of him was on his bicycle. He was standing straight up, and he came to a quick halt in front of my house and burst into a smile. We began to talk, and he likes to smoke, so we shared cigarettes. He was thrilled when I offered to take him on rides in my old car, and I even allowed him to drive behind the wheel -out in the desolate countryside when no one was around. This created a great bond between us. I was attracted to him, but I never thought that I would ever tell him just how much I loved him. One day, we were sitting in another boy's house watching cartoons on the television. He laid on his back on the sofa, and I sat up next to him. We were joking around and laughing, and at one point he rose forward, and placed his hands on my face, and began to pull me towards him as he lay back. There were other boys in the room. I was aroused by his touch, but I could not tell him or anyone. After that incident, I began to think about him all of the time. I would wait for him to come home from school, and I'd go to his room. The scent of his bedroom always made my head reel. I don't know why, but there was such a pleasant odor in the air. I could never figure out what it was. Sometimes, he would show off or flirt with me, but in such a manner that would always seem just innocent play -like puppies that rumble around.
During the summer, we drove to the seaside, and on the way down; he removed his shirt, sneakers, and rode next to me in just his shorts. I would constantly take side-glances towards him, and he was making me truly high. I sometimes think that this kind of torture is enjoyable. We lay side by side on the sand, and he would take a pile of sand in his hand, and dump it on my back. I did the same, and we played like this all afternoon. I wondered if he felt the same about me as I did about him. I knew that I would have to tell him, but I had to wait for the right moment. I couldn't risk my cover being blown. I still did not want anyone to know my true feelings.
My music teacher owned a Honda 350 motorcycle that he wanted to sell. It was six hundred and fifty dollars, and I took one look at the medium-sized bike and had to have it. It took me a while to learn to shift the gears, which were located at my left foot. You had to pull in the clutch with your left hand, and push down or up to change to a different gear. At the same time, you gave it a little gas by turning the throttle with your right hand.
"You wanna take a space cruise?"
Charlie walked slowly over to the bike, and eyed the shiny chrome. His face beamed with pure delight.
"Yeah," Charlie replied, "but I have to meet you down around the corner. My old man will kill me if he sees me on that thing."
I rode to the end of the street and turned left. I braked and waited for him to turn the corner. He jumped on the back of the bike, and I felt his legs straddle around mine. He put his hands on my hips.
We rode through the rolling hills in the rural roads surrounding the city. Losing ourselves for hours, we visited the small towns, and rode into the wilderness of the national park. We spent our summer together, listening to music, and getting high.
"I can change the spark plug. You'd get better acceleration," observed Charlie.
I watched him disassemble the bike, cleaning the parts, adjusting the clutch in only a pair of denim jeans. He was barefooted and shirtless, and I studied each and every line of his perfectly shaped body. He was lean and slightly bronzed from the sun. When he bent over, his straight hair would fall forward covering his face, and I couldn't help but marvel at all of the different colored strands -light browns over dark, maybe even some blonde strands. Sometimes I'd break him up, and he'd laugh from the depths of his soul. I loved watching his face break into a laughing smile, his eyes slightly creased.
The summer air was close, and the heat of the evening caused our skin to become a little moist. We rode in my old Buick through the cool countryside. Charlie asked if he could drive, and I told him that it was okay, but I better sit close in case he makes a mistake. Our legs touched together, and he made exaggerated turns with his hands, almost hinting that he enjoyed the closeness. I couldn't hold my feelings inside much longer, and so when we neared home -at the top of our street- I decided to confess to him. I told him in the most roundabout way, that I sometimes have feelings for him -like I wanted to hold him and caress him closely. He looked at me, and left the car. He walked inside and shut the front door of his house. He didn't say anything, but just gave me a strange look. The next night I nervously called him on the phone. "I'm sorry," I said, "Do you want me never to call you again?" I waited for his reply. "No," he said, "I want to go biking. Can you go?"
My heart was overjoyed, as he was still friendly towards me. I raced to the tin shed in the backyard and hopped on the bike. I was around the corner in a flash, and when he sat down, I took off. We reached the remotest part of the county, and I allowed him to ride the motorcycle. Now, however, I sat extremely close behind him, pressing my body against his back. I reached around with my hand, and placed my palm on his flat stomach. He responded by accelerating more quickly. Everytime I made a move that he enjoyed, he'd rev the bike repeatedly. My mind was floating in ecstasy. Every sense in my body was alive, alive like the spring that emerges after the winter cold. My heart pounded in pure pleasure, and I felt that we were like one being, one spirit. I did not feel shame. I did not feel anything negative; except, the contentment of knowing that we loved each other, and were both alright about it. When we stopped to change places on the bike, Charlie looked at me and let go of the handle, the bike nearly fell to the ground. I grabbed it, and he moved to the back of the seat. I noticed the trace of his erection bulging beneath his blue jeans. Now, as I drove, Charlie, clung lovingly to me. He placed his fingers through my belt loops, and I thought that was so playful. We didn't speak, but I could feel him against my back. We glided through the warm night air in the dusk, the wind flapping through our cotton shirts. When we arrived home, he said, "See ya later," and walked towards home. I was so full of contentment, that I didn't stop him. We parted. I walked into the house, and I am not sure whether my feet were touching the ground. I laid down on my bed and hugged my pillow trying not to make a sound. I was in love.
I began to have restless nights, nights where it was impossible to sleep. I would sit up and watch Charlie's bedroom window from across the street. Although I was experiencing very strong physical emotions, my mind was still clouded with questions. What does this all mean? If I do this will people be able to tell? Charlie must have had his own doubts as well, as he didn't talk about the incident that we had experienced, but remained friendly as always. I believe that we were both afraid to confront the issue. There wasn't a lot of knowledge about these types of relationships, but each one of us knew very clearly what it would have meant had anyone found out?
A month later, my parents went on a trip to Las Vegas, and we were left to fend for ourselves; that is, my brother and myself. In the evening, we watched a situation comedy, and during the show, I turned towards the sofa. My brother, who was laying on his back, lifted his bare foot, and tapped Charlie on the head with his toe, at the same time saying, "Duh!!!" He was making a mock gesture. Charlie turned to my brother and said, "I got you last night. You!" he turned his head toward me, "tonight! I'll be back around three."
I was confused. Was Charlie having a relationship with my brother? They acted very playfully together, and I felt hurt to think that I was being played for a fool. I waited, and sure enough, at three in the morning, Charlie came walking up the path to my front door. I let him in. My heart was beating fast.
He began to speak with a French accent using English words.
"Do you have a cigarette?" he said raising his fingers in a v-shape towards his lips. I asked him to go for a walk with me. I wanted to mail a letter. We walked quietly up the street towards the mail box, and he kept walking into my path playfully, like he was drunk, or aroused. I was tortured by the conflict in my head. I wanted to take him into my parent's bedroom, which would have been the worst possible insult to my parents, and yet, a part of me wanted to run away, to hide in the safety of some adult world, fully supervised, safe and innocent. It was torture.
We sat at the kitchen table, and I stared lustfully at his relaxed body.
"Just slow down a minute," I said with a sigh, "We have to think about what we're doing here."
I didn't feel like the queer who caused fire and brimstone to rain down from heaven. I can't believe that grown adults can't recognize the fairy tale nature of some of the Bible stories. Like when you reason it out. If Noah put all of those beasts on a boat, and closed it up, what did he feed them? And what about the shit and the urine? Then, I learned that the story of Noah was plagiarized -or loosely borrowed- from the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is a story that was written during the very first civilization in Sumeria. But I don't want to argue about the Bible right now. I want to tell you that I sent Charlie home, and the next morning he came back, and he was half-dressed, and my eyes were of pure desire. I told him that I made a mistake, and he said, "I am breaking up with Nancy."
I must have been pretty levelheaded because I don't think that there would have been many boys who would have turned Charlie down. He was more beautiful than myself. Our relationship was not over, but continued to drift in this limbo. We both had an excellent love relationship, and my tormented heart was slowly driving me crazy. What kept holding me back? Was it pride? No, I don't think so. I had begun a journey. I was trying to sort everything out in my life, and the strength and power of those feelings were something that I could not rationalize. I guess that I was a victim of the normal syndrome, and as radical as I may have thought that I was, well, I was actually always seeking approval and acceptance. Truthfully, I was scared. I had bitten off more than I could chew. I had to face the fact, that for me, I was becoming something that society abhorred, and regarded as Satanic. Their social conditioning was complete. Which reminds me of the faces of the really young boys in the nudie books, and how they joyfully caressed each other, and posed together without any sign of fear. No one had yet told them that they were gay, and that meant that they were evil, and were responsible for the collapse of civilization. War and greed, and selfish didn't figure into that equation in any way.
Except for the great joy that I experienced being around Charlie, the rest of my life had begun a downward spiral. Without a college degree, my job perspective looked pretty bleak. I worked off and on as a busboy and dishwasher in a few restaurants, and when thinking about the future, I felt an unsettling gloom weighing down upon my soul. The wages that you earned hardly supported you. The cost of living was steep, so the thought of starting any kind of life with anyone seemed like economic suicide. I was in no hurry to become independent. The thought was frightening. Often, I would sit on the front porch and play the guitar for hours. I enjoyed finger picking, and to train my fingers, I'd smoke a joint and practice my scales.
About the middle of July, my parents were readying for a vacation down at the seaside. My brother informed me that Charlie was invited. I was happy that we'd share time together near the ocean. Everything was going wrong. I couldn't find any meaning in work, and I was tired of the slacker existence I was living. I didn't know how to break out of my stagnant laziness. We drove down to the shore, and Charlie sat shirtless in the passenger's seat. Glancing over towards him filled me with great comfort. I loved him. We arrived at the large house, which was located about fifty feet from the beach. The house was beautifully furnished, and we found a room to share together; that is, Charlie, my brother and I. On the first afternoon, I went into the bathroom to shower, and while the water was pouring down over my body, I reached for the soap. I felt something odd, and I turned to look. A gooey mass covered the soap, and as I lifted my hand, it dripped into the dish. My first thought was that it was semen, but somehow, I think that the cheap bar of soap had disintegrated from the heat into a liquid mass. I called Charlie to the bathroom. "Did you do this?" I asked confused. He looked at the mass dripping from my hand. "I feel sick to my stomach," he said. I didn't realize that he thought that I had placed the substance there.
We strolled the streets that evening while the sound of the tide rolled over in the background. A cool ocean breeze stirred in the air creating cool breezes to rise and fall. I watched Charlie under the streetlights as we passed through the relaxed neighborhood. Later, when we returned to our room, I opened the dresser drawer and found a stack of tee shirts piled neatly. The top tee shirts had a cartoon on it. A male was bending over and his hand reached all the way under his crotch. His middle finger was raised against the back of his butt, and the character had a devilish grin on his face. I quickly closed the drawer and felt a jolt pass through me. In the middle of the night, Charlie began breathing deeply and sensuously. I sighed quietly in response. "We can switch," he whispered. I lay there a while, and during the middle of the night, I rose, and quietly walked next to his bed. I crouched down on my knees and listened to him breathe. After a few minutes, he rolled onto his back, and raised his torso off of the mattress in a stretching manner. A white sheet covered his body, and the movement upward caused the sheet to become taut, and it traced his naked body underneath. His penis was erect, and he settled back down and breathed quietly and heatedly. I sat at his side. The sight of his beautiful form sent me into a passionate intoxicating spirit. I suppose most young gay teens would have consummated such a relationship without thinking twice about it. Why was I so different? I returned to my bed and did not sleep that night. The next morning, we made our way to the beach. I laid on my stomach, dreaming about Charlie for hours. I was burning under the heat of the searing sun, but I could get no sleep. I just dreamed about the boy that I loved, and how much he meant to me. The following night I could not sleep. I just listened to the surf churning. The morning of the second day, I drove to the gas station and invited Charlie to join me. While we were waiting for the gas to pump into the tank, I spoke to him.
"I am so hot for you!"
"Why won't you do anything?"
"How can I do anything with my brother in the room. Besides, I am afraid that if we do something, everyone will know"
"How will they know?" Charlie asked.
"I don't know, they can just tell. You're beautiful."
I didn't go to the beach on the third morning. I remained in bed. I was now dangerously lacking sleep, and in an intensely aroused state. What I did not know was that sleep deprivation is a serious, dangerous malady. After a period of a few days of sleepness, it becomes impossible to sleep without the aid of a sedative. My parents had become concerned about my mysterious behavior. Why did I retreat to the bedroom? Why did I not come down to eat?
Charlie had gone somewhere with my brother, and I began to realize that I was in some kind of strange state. I went downstairs, called my parents into the living room, and while sitting on the sofa, I burst into a torrent of tears confessing everything. Of course, my parents were in shock, and failed to believe what I was telling them, so I went upstairs, opened the drawer, and put the provocative tee shirt on and went back downstairs.
My parents were confused about what to do. I was growing increasingly agitated. I wanted to sleep, but could not, so I paced, and rambled, and felt completely drained -physically and emotionally. It wasn't long before I was in a car with my parents, my brother, and Charlie, and we were all driving back home. Charlie disappeared, and I retreated into my bedroom. Because of the sleep deprivation, I had begun to hyper-ventilate, and I clung to the air conditioner. I could not breathe. I felt as if I was underwater. "I can't breathe!" I cried. I thought that I heard my father remark to my mother, "I think he's going to die." Finally, I was able to seep small amounts of air back into my lungs. My parents were observing my behavior, but I don't think that they knew quite what to do. I cannot describe what a hell it is to need sleep and not be able to get it. The brain simply refuses to cooperate. I felt an intense pressure around my head, as if a band had formed there and was squeezing me.
I was dressed in only a pair of denim jeans. I was barefooted and shirtless, and had no underwear on. I can recall every detail of the ordeal with absolute clarity, but what happened next was totally bizarre. I placed my hands into my pockets, and pulled them inside out. I don't know why? I felt as if I was being surround by a strong force of some kind. My pants began to cling to my legs, and I thought that something was pulling on them. I placed my hands back into my pockets, and in the left pocket, I began to feel a fluttering, tickling feeling -and also something like magnetism. Something solid emerged from the center of the palm of my hand. I pulled my hand out of my pocket and looked. It was a twenty-five cent piece. I could hear the movement of metal, things shifting somewhere around me. I put my hand back in my left pocket and the same thing happened again -the same fluttering, spinning, tickling of the inside of my palm. Once again, there were coins. I placed them on the ledge of the windowsill. This strange miracle or hallucination occurred three times. I became exhilarated, and in my mind, I was convinced that God was communicating with me. I can't tell you the ecstasy that I felt over that discovery. I called my father upstairs.
"Dad, I have something to tell you, and I know that it's going to sound crazy, but I have to tell you, because it happened." I pointed at the coins. "You see those coins over there...they came from nowhere...from the center of the palm of my hand. I think that they're yours." I don't know why I thought that they were his.
My father quietly walked over to the window, scooped up the coins, placed them into his pocket, and left the room.
My father called the police, and he asked me to follow them.
"Where am I going?" I asked.
"To the hospital," Dad replied.
"Are you going to lock me up?"
"No, we just want to help you."
As I walked to the squad car, one of the police officers turned to address me.
"Don't worry son, what do you think we're gonna do? Fuck you up the ass?"
I arrived at the hospital, and was placed in a wheel chair.
"I need to sleep! Please help me sleep!" I begged.
I was placed on the psychiatric ward, and introduced to my fellow inmates.
There was a huge sheet of white paper -about twenty feet long- and several patients were drawing on it with crayons.
Finally, three man and a woman backed me down to the end of the hall. I didn't realize what they were doing until I turned around to see a large room with no furniture in it. There was only a mattress on the floor. The sight filled me with a tremendous fear as I had begun to realize that I was in some sort of nuthouse.
"No!" I screamed.
The two guards grabbed me and maneuvered me into the room. They struggled to get me on my back, onto the floor. The nurse revealed a hypodermic needle. I did not realize that they were just doing what I had asked them to do. I struggled.
"I forgive you," I whispered to them.
The words eased their attention, and with superhuman strength I rose to my feet. The guards began whacking the back of my knees, trying to get me to fall back down. This time they held me firmly down. The nurse injected me, and they all ran like hell out the door and slammed it shut locking me in my involuntary prison. For a while, I threw my weight against the door trying to break out, but the door was double bolted. I paced in circles like a caged animal until finally, the drug kicked in, and it was lights out.
I don't know how long I slept -whether it was hours or days- but when I woke, I sat up on the mattress and spotted a tray of food just inside of the locked door. The other thing that I noticed was that I had a red-spotted rash all over the front of my chest. I ate silently wondering just how I had gotten myself into this mess. When a nurse finally came into my room, I told her about the rash, and she sprayed me with a disinfectant. I was placed into a room with a hospital bed, and forced to swallow a drug named Thorazine. This drug had the effect of slurring my speech, and slowing my thought processes down. I felt as if I was made of concrete. Of course, anyone who would have visited me would have thought that I was mentally ill, when in fact, it was the effects of the medication. I was walked into a private therapy session where I told the doctors that I was under extreme temptation to have sex, and that I lost too much sleep. They informed me that I had a nervous breakdown. I told them about the strange miracle that had occurred in my parent's bedroom, and they wrote it down.
During the break period, I watched everyone snacking and noticed that no one was near the elevator, so I walked in and rode it down to the lobby. I walked out of the hospital, and began to trek on foot. As I walked, I wondered where I was going to go? I tried taking the back streets, and finally I hailed a cab and rode it to my Aunt's house in the suburb. I asked the cabbie to wait, and my Aunt paid him. My mother was sitting on the patio with my father's sister and her husband. It didn't strike me as odd though it should have as the two sides of the family rarely mingled socially. Everyone was shocked to see me, and they immediately tried to talk me into going back to the hospital.
"I'm not crazy," I pleaded.
"We know that, but you're not well. You need to be looked after. They said that you had a nervous breakdown. They'll take care of you."
They had no idea about the empty room with the mattress, and how I struggled and was caged against my will.
My father's sister said, "Your uncle had a nervous breakdown once."
I looked into my uncle's eyes and he nodded.
I returned to the hospital willingly, but a few hours later, I pulled the same stunt again. I couldn't believe how stupid the attending nurses were. This time I was barefooted and had to walk a long distance on sidewalks and blacktop. My feet were slowly getting blackened. Again, I didn't know where I was going, but I headed in the vicinity of another relative's suburban neighborhood. The long walk was good for me, but under the influence of the Thorazine, my legs felt like lead. As I walked, I began to think.
"Is this how God planned the Universe? That he would create a being with lust for the same sex, and then threaten him with hellfire and damnation for expressing any love? And finally, allow that person to be driven to the brink of madness for resisting? Why would you want to have anything to do with such a creator? One who would be so sadistic towards its creation?" I couldn't allow myself to feel any anger or rage because if the hallucination had actually happened, then God actually peered over from his throne, and revealed himself to me. The problem was "Who would ever believe me?" This time a neighbor spotted me, by coincidence- and gave me a lift back to the ward. There was no way that I was going to escape that place.
Later, in the evening, after a heavy dose of Thorazine, I was summoned to a small room.
My mother was there, and my cousin, and a doctor. They sat me down quietly saying, "We have something to tell you." After a pregnant pause someone said, "It's your father...he's dead. He had a heart attack on the golf course."
I allowed the sentence to drift in, but was so confused by the events that I rose quietly without a word, and returned to my room. I laid there and drifted away into sleep. I did not cry. I had no emotional reaction whatsoever.
I attended my father's funeral. I was wisked away in a limo -with an escort- from the hospital to the funeral parlor. I sat in the vestibule of the parlor and talked with a few of my relatives, but my speech was slurred, and my tongue felt fat, and I probably looked like hell. I walked to the casket without looking into it. I knelt before it, and waited for the proper amount of time, so that it looked like I was praying, and then took a two-second look at my father's face. Perhaps, I felt fear, but I didn't acknowledge that to myself. I refuse to cry in front of people. I didn't go to the cemetery, so my father's funeral lasted about ten minutes for me. A long time afterward, I couldn't figure out why I didn't mourn for him, and I felt guilty about it.
After I was discharged, I was forced to visit a psychiatrist, and I didn't trust him because whenever I greeted him, he shook my hand but looked down at the ground. He was a somewhat frail man, and I wondered whether he was a gay shrink, or rather, that he was shaming me with negative body language. Anyway, he listened and never spoke, and I finally aggravated him by telling him that I thought that his profession was a sham. And I said it with great authority in my voice -as if I had a Doctorate's degree.
"You're a paranoid schizophrenic," he shot back, "and if you stop taking your medication, you'll wind up right back in the hospital". It was a matter of weeks before I stopped going to see him, and I threw the Thorazine away. I was fine. Maybe I should have sued him for defamation of character, or malpractice, but I just don't think like that. I don't know which is worse, worrying that people think that you are gay, or worrying that they think that you are crazy. I slowly recovered from the whole hellish affair, and I attempted to find a full time job as a cashier. What a mystery, this thing called living.
Suddenly, my concept of God had changed. I thought of the Great Spirit as something so huge, so grand, that it defies description. I began to laugh inwardly that so many people have different Gods, with different rules, and different ideas, and that everyone is struggling for the answers to eternal questions like "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?" The doctrine and the scripture seemed less significant to me now. I mean it is a way of focusing on certain Godlike qualities -like universal love and forgiveness, compassion, and self-sacrifice. These are the nobler qualities in man. But the nit-picking, judgment-rendering, self-righteous moral leaders seem so far off base to me. I feel sorry for them. They're so headstrong, so convinced of their righteousness, that it would take a mallet over the head to enlighten them. They pursue wealth and material possessions while promoting a religion that begs you to shun those things. Any mention of pacifism brands one as a 'communist' or enemy of the status quo. And they're cocksure. Being touched by the hand of God doesn't mean that you are any more pious than anyone else. Shit! See what I mean? No, rather, it makes you acutely aware of people who hide their sin with a false piety. It is a kind of folly. I guess God chose a gay person to point this out to them. Even that is scriptural.