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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HEAVEN AND HELL

Just being in love is wonderful. The euphoric feeling you feel even the little things in life take on a whole new meaning as you spend every waking hour thinking of that person and how much it hurts until you can be together again. The candle light dinners, the whispers of “I love you”, kissing so hard that your lips bleed and wanting to eat them up when you’re making wonderful, blissful, love. It isn’t just sex when you’re in love. Now take all that and think really, really hard and try and remember the first time it ever happened to you.

When I was sixteen in the summer of 1971 I got an after school job working at the concession stand of the “Carolina Theater” in Fayetteville, North Carolina for seventy five cents an hour. We used to occasionally steal a box of candy because it cost two hours wages and we couldn’t afford it. Apparently when the theater was built in 1926 it included retail space for rent and when I worked there we had a diner with a soda fountain on one side and a jewelry store on the other. I met some colorful characters there, but there was this guy named Charlie whose father owned the jewelry store next door. They had to use the restroom in the theater, so he’d come in a couple of times a day. He walked as if he were walking on air, I then realized where the term “light in the loafers” came from. He was twenty three, but it wasn’t long before he began striking up conversations with me. I told my father about him and snickered that I thought he was a queer and my father said, “Maybe he’s lonely and just needs a friend.”
Charlie soon began introducing me to some of his friends and then in October they asked me to go to Wilmington with them one Saturday night. I couldn’t figure out what to tell my parent’s, but with a few tips from Charlie I concocted a story about a party at Debbie’s house where the boys were going to go to another guy’s house to spend the night. My mother was working nights then, so I only had to tell the story to my father and he didn’t seem to think anything of it. They picked me up that night in Mark’s red 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass and Mark, Lamont, Charlie, and I rode to Wilmington. I didn’t know it until I got in the car, but they’d decided I was going to be Mark’s date for the evening that was fine by me. Mark was twenty five, tall, blond, and handsome. I had a thing for blonds in my younger days and I got to ride in the front seat with him while he drove. I got my first real look at a gay bar that night and I couldn’t believe there were actually places out there where men could dance together and kiss right out in the open, I was dazzled by all of it. It was one of the most enlightening and exciting nights of my life, a whole new world had just opened up to me.

They rented a motel room with two double beds and Mark and I decided to stay there while Charlie and Lamont went off bar hopping in Mark’s car. I hadn’t been with another man in over a year, so I was thrilled to be in bed with someone as good looking as Mark. We had at least two hours to ourselves to make love before the other guys returned to the room. The next morning I put my briefs on under the covers and got up to take a piss. Charlie let out a groan and threw the covers over his head. I didn’t understand why he did that, but Mark later told me it was because when he saw my hairy chest he was upset that he’d let Mark have me instead of keeping me for him self. We drove back to Fayetteville and I was worried about making it home in time to get ready for work. They told me they would park down the street from our trailer and wait there while I changed and then take me to work. I walked in the door and the shit hit the fan!

Unbeknownst to me my mother had found a school directory and began calling my friends to see if they knew anything about the party at Debbie’s and the sleep over afterwards, of course none of them did. She was already at work, but my father was full of questions wanting to know where I’d been and who I was with. I told him I’d gone to Wilmington with some guys and they’re waiting to take me to work.” “What kind of guys and how old are they?” he asked. I got to thinking about what he’d said about Charlie needing a friend and the fact that he really didn’t care about me anyway because I didn’t play sports, all this while I was quickly changing clothes and brushing my teeth and hair. “Just some guys, they’re seniors.” I lied. My parent’s had to know I was gay, hell I knew I was different when I was three and walked around the house with my aunt Ruby’s purse wearing a pair of her clip on earrings. He insisted on driving me to the corner where they were waiting, so he could get a look at them, grilling me with questions all the way. I finally thought what the hell and said, “Daddy you know exactly what kind of guys I’m talking about.” He didn’t say one single word as I got out of his Mustang and got in the car with Mark and the others. As soon as I arrived at work the phone calls started coming in from my mother and I finally told her she would get me in trouble, so stop calling and I would talk to her when I got home. When I’m on my deathbed if God speaks to me and says I can live nine more months, but it would have to be those nine months, I will say, “Take me now Lord, no matter what awaits me, take me now.” If I thought the shit hit the fan with my dad it was a tiny turd compared to what my mother had in store for me. I hadn’t seen such screaming and carrying on since we lived in Germany, she begged, she pleaded, “Quit your job.” I said, “I’m not quitting my job, that’s the only way I have to buy school clothes and I’m saving up for a car.” “We’ll buy you a car, we’ll pay for your clothes.” she said. I knew money was tight, or she wouldn’t be working at a convenience store. What the hell kind of car could they afford to buy me? “No, I want to do it myself.” I said. She wanted to know, “Have ever even had sex with a girl, then how do you know you won’t like it?” “Because I just know.” I said. She got down on her knees in the living room floor and started swaying back and forth with her hands in the air clasped in prayer saying, “Oh Lord, Lord, Lord, why are you doing this to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?” I almost laughed out loud, if she could just see how crazy she looked down there swaying back and forth like some TV evangelist. The book “Carrie” by Stephen King hadn’t been published yet and it would be five more years before the movie came out, but I swear to God my mother acted just like Carrie White’s mother. It was all about her and how I was just doing it to hurt her. “Yes, I went out and sucked a dick just to get back at you mother.” was what I wanted to say, but I knew in her state of mind that it would generate a full fledged scratching, clawing, slapping attack. When she finally let me go to bed the tension in the house was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

I guess she decided if begging didn’t work she would just ignore me and for the next three weeks she didn’t say a word to me. She would come down the hall to the room I shared with my brother and flip the light on and say, “Get up!” Whenever I had a date with Mark she just couldn’t stand it, she finally told me that I couldn’t wait in her house, or in front of her house for him so I had to go down the street and wait in the dark alone for him. My brother Danny was always supportive of me even when my father told me I was worse than a dog licking another dog's dick. Danny said, “I don’t understand being gay, but I’m not going to be mean to you like mother and daddy.” as he sat with me in the dark to wait for my Mark to pick me up.
My evenings with Mark were wonderful, he listened to all my problems with my parents and said, “If things get too bad at home I’ll just take you up to Washington, D.C. and marry you, I’ll take care of you.” I was so ignorant I believed him, but hey when your sixteen and getting a blow job in a car parked out in the woods while Rod Stewart’s singing “Maggie May” on the radio you’ll believe anything. I was so in love with him I’d have done anything he asked me to. Some people act like they just can’t understand teen pregnancies, well I say those people have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager in love.

My mother denies it to this very day, but I know she somehow got Mark’s number and called him. I’m sure she threatened him with statuary rape, or something, because after about a month Mark would make a date with me and then stand me up. He didn’t do it just once, he did it several times even when I pleaded with him to be sure and come get me. While I’d get dressed and sit and wait for him, mother would berate me the whole time, “See, this is the way men are, men do these kinds of things, a girl would love you and worship you not make a date with you and not show up.” It was bad enough Mark dropping me like a hot potato, but I didn’t need to hear all her shit pilled on top of my misery. When I could borrow a car I’d go and search for him and once found him playing pool at a bar. He had some sort of sorry excuse for being late, but still assured me he intended to come get me.

I did what every young gay guy did on TV and the movies in those days, I took an overdose of aspirin and all it did was make my ears ring. When that didn’t work I walked down to the drugstore, bought a bottle of Sominex, and took the whole thing. When I started acting goofy at work they called my mother who took me to the emergency room at Womack Medical Center. I wouldn’t tell anyone what I’d done and I don’t know how he missed my dilated pupils, but the doctor decided it was an allergic reaction to the penicillin I was taking for an impacted wisdom tooth and gave me a shot as an antidote. On the ride home I saw a spaceship land in the pine trees on the side of the road and a cartoon mouse sitting on the dash board talking to me.

The New Year came and went and I still couldn’t get used to the fact that Mark didn’t love me. I listened to the Diana Ross album “Surrender” over and over, and the song s like "I Can't Give Back the Love I Feel For You" and "Simple Thing Like Cry" just made me more depressed. To make matters worse Beverly Bremers released a song titled, “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” and that one sent me into crying jags every time I heard it. Eight years ago I ordered a CD of it thinking I’d gotten over it years ago and after listening to it three times I put it away because of all the pain it brought back thirty years later. I’m glad to say I can now listen to it and sing along. I can now laugh about it, but the pain is still there way, way, in the back of my heart.
I went through phases where I bleached my hair blond, started drinking, wore a little makeup and started acting nellie, but when I realized that wasn’t what I was looking for in a date I soon changed my look and my ways.

Eventually my parents came to terms with my sexuality after sending me to a psychiatrist who simply told them I was gay and they were just going to have to accept it. By the next summer I could look myself in the mirror and see the guy I used to know and that was a relief. Although once on my way to work Mark and Lamont pulled up next to me at a stop light, I nodded hello, but when the light changed I was shaking so badly I almost couldn’t get the clutch in to get the car in gear. Hell yes love hurts, how can something so wonderful turn out to be so awful?

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