Saturday, June 20, 2015

Waking Up to a Straight Boy in My Bed at the Gilroy Garlic Festival

Gilroy, California, July 1997

In the 1980s and 1990s, when you found a gay haven, you stayed there.   You ventured into the straight world only when absolutely necessary, and then you stayed closeted, undercover, careful not to let your guard down for a moment.  If the straights found out that you were gay -- or even suspected -- they would scream "God hates you!" and grab the nearest baseball bat to attack.

But in July 1997, shortly before I left San Francisco to go to graduate school in New York, my friend David suggested that we drive down to Gilroy for the annual garlic festival.

"Are you crazy?" I exclaimed.  "It will be full of straight people!  We'd never make it out of town alive!"

"I was there last year.  It's fine -- nobody says anything.  The straights might not like us very much, but they don't mind taking our money.  Besides, it's full of the cutest small-town rednecks you'd ever hope to meet."

"You don' straight men?"  I asked, aghast.  "That's just asking to get beat up!"

"Boy, you've got to get over this straight-o-phobia of yours.  Straight guys get just as horny as you and me.  Tell you what -- we'll get a hotel room, spend the night, and if you don't trick with a straight guy, I'll pay for the whole trip."

Gilroy, "the garlic capital of the world," was a  town of 40,000 about two hours south of San Francisco, surrounded by vineyards and farms.  Its annual Garlic Festival drew thousands of people from all over the country.

There was music, art exhibits, and cooking contests, but the main draw was the food -- garlic-infused everything, from burgers and pizza to muffins and ice cream (plus some non-garlic items).  There were booths sponsored by town restaurants, charities, churches, and clubs.

Most of the crowd were aggressively hetero families or teenagers, but there was a scattering of gay people, in groups of four or five for protection.

David selected his straight guy to cruise right away -- a cute, muscular blond in a trucker cap who was staffing the petting zoo.

 But I was uncomfortable trying to cruise among straight people.  Finally I gave up and stopped at the garlic ice cream booth.

Hector, one of the workers, was short, Hispanic, husky, with nice muscular arms.  Cute, but too young for cruising material -- the booth was sponsored by the Gilroy High School football team.

"Do you get much business?" I asked as he poured a bowl of diced garlic into the ice cream maker.

"Not too much in the afternoon.  It's mostly a 'friends-dare-you' kind of thing, so we do good business at night, after the guys have a few beers in them."

"You work that late?"

He smiled. "I'm here until midnight, except for a dinner break at six."

The ice cream wasn't bad -- vanilla with a slightly spicy undertone.  But definitely a fad item.

"Do you eat the ice cream yourself?"

"You know what -- I shouldn't tell you this, but I've been working here five years in a row, and I've never had a taste.  Garlic isn't really my thing."

"Five years!" I exclaimed.  "How old are you?"

"Twenty.  I graduated two years ago.  I go to UC Santa Cruz now, but the guys always ask me to work this booth -- it's tradition."

We chatted for a few minutes, and then Hector got a line, so I wandered away, looking for someone to cruise.  Not much luck: straight guys made eye contact with strangers only to issues threats ("You're too close, back off!), or to respond to them ("You got a problem?").

After awhile, I returned to Hector.

"Can't get rid of you, can I?" he exclaimed.

"What can I say?  I'm hooked!"

"I'll get you the recipe, so you can make your own, when you get back to..."

Suddenly David had his arm around my shoulders.  "About to seal the deal with my guy.  Who's this?"

"Hector.  He's run the garlic ice cream booth for five years, but never tried it."

"Well, you should try it!" David said with a leer.  "You never know what you're missing."

Hector scowled with unmistakable homophobia.

"Um...Hector, this is my friend David," I said.  "We came down from the City together."

"What can I get you?" he said icily.

We retreated.

"Was that your guy?"  David asked.

"No, we were just chatting, but when he found out we were gay, he turned into a first class homophobe!  I have half a mind to go cruise him just to watch him squirm!"

We drove back into Gilroy, had dinner, and worked out in the hotel gym.  Then I settled in for a night of HBO, but David wanted to go out.  "Pete -- the petting zoo guy -- said he might stop in at Stubby's for a drink later.  I'm going to check it out."

"Cruising at a straight bar?  That doesn't sound safe."

"Don't worry, Mom, I'll be careful.  Up for sharing?"

"Sure, if he agrees.  But don't stay out too late -- I'm tired."

At midnight, David wasn't back yet, so I went to bed.

I awoke about an hour later to the warmth and pressure of someone between my legs, fondling me.  David! I thought.  He must have been unsuccessful.  

Wait -- then who was lying beside me in the darkness?  I reached over and felt hard biceps, a smooth hard chest.


I tried to make out his face.  Young, Hispanic, smiling.


 He drew me close, and we kissed.  I ran my hand down, over his firm abs, down below his waist -- and found David, working on us both.

We changed positions a few more times, and then we fell asleep with Hector between us.

"I thought you were lovers," he told me in the morning.  "That's why I got all bitchy -- how would you like it if you were just about to seal the deal with a hot guy, and his lover showed up?  But then David came by the booth and explained the situation, and invited me over."

I still had to pay for my half of the trip, since Hector was technically David's pickup.  And he wasn't straight.

See also: David pulls "it" out;  David and I Pick Up a Teenage Hitchhiker; The Boy Selling Pickles at the Farmer's Market

My Date with Andrew Lloyd Webber

New York, September 1999

I generally dislike Broadway musicals, and I've seen none of Andrew Lloyd Webber's, except for the movie version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and an occasional drama club production of  Jesus Christ Superstar.    
Ok, and the movie version of  Cats, which I hated.  Talk about maudlin tripe!

So I'm the last person who should be meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber, let alone having tacos with him at 2:00 am.  But that's what happened in the fall of 1999, when I was living in New York.

1. As you know, my friend Yuri, the Russian meteorology major, could get any guy he wanted: young, old, black, white, gay, straight.  In the fall of 1998, I let him lose on my stuffy, elitist boyfriend Blake in order to make the "Roommate Switch."  They only dated once, to the opera, but Blake continued to have a thing for Yuri.

2.  Blake was a Big Wheel in the New York Arts Scene, with connections all over town, in classical music, opera, and theater. He went to all of the Broadway Cares AIDS fundraisers, and in September 1999 he invited Yuri to the Annual Flea Market and Grand Auction.

3. Not wanting to give Blake the wrong idea, Yuri invited me along, as his "date," but with the understanding that either of us could meet someone else and vanish (I had just broken up with Joe the Roommate).

4. We spent the afternoon sorting among the Jekyll & Hyde t-shirts, posters from Sunset Boulevard, aand Chicago light switch plates.  Blake got a photo taken of himself and a naked boy (from Naked Boys Singing).  During the Grand Auction, I bid for a walk-on acting job on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.   Yuri cruised.

5. One of the celebrities manning autograph tables was John Benjamin Hickey, star of Cabaret  and the gay-themed Love! Valour! Compassion! (this isn't him).  Yuri got not only his autograph, but a lengthy conversation and an invitation to a party later.

6. Hickey picked us up at my apartment (Blake and I were invited, too), and drove us to Brooklyn Heights, to one of those ornate townhouses with living rooms that are pictured in design magazines.  There were about two dozen people, including some recognizable celebrities: Judith Light (of Who's the Boss), Top Wopat (of Dukes of Hazzard), Roger Bart (of Hercules).  

7. Yuri was occupied with Hickey, and Blake wandered off somewhere, leaving me on my own.  I gravitated toward a short, middle aged man with a pie-pan face sitting in the corner by himself, leafing through The Encyclopedia of Pantomime.  Short is my type, and there's something endearing about the lost and neglected.  So I started a conversation with him about the Commedia dell'Arte of 17th century Italy.

"Do you think Cats has any resemblance to the Commedia dell'Arte?" he asked.

"Oh, the musical?  I never saw it.  I saw the movie -- what a train wreck that was!"

He grunted.  I should have realized that he was involved with Cats, but I just thought, "What a cute British accent!"

8. Neglected, indeed!  A fawning coterie soon enveloped us.  I figured this guy was famous, but didn't know how.  After being ignored for a few minutes, I moved on to cruise Tom Wopat.

9. It got later and later. Yuri had vanished, and Blake didn't want to leave yet.  I was trying to figure out how to get to the nearest subway station, when the Pie-Faced Man approached.  "Going into the City?" he asked.  "I have a car, if you need a ride."

10. By "car," he meant limousine with driver. Now I knew he was somebody famous, but I couldn't very well ask who. I figured something to do with Broadway, so I said "I love You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

"What about Sunset Boulevard?" 

I should have realized that this was a clue, but I didn't. "Well, the movie was great.  I haven't seen the play."

He grunted.

11. We crossed the bridge into Manhattan, and the Pie-Faced Man said "You know what?  I'm starving!  These parties never serve enough food.  Do you like tacos?"

We stopped at the Empellon Taqueria, near Christopher Street, limo and all.  I had a taco chile relleno, and the Pie Faced Man had three tacos con lengua -- he was quite a trencherman.

"My favorite musical of all time is Chicago," I said.  "Bob Fosse was a genius."

He grunted.

A little while later, he dropped me off at my apartment.

Blake called the next day.  "How was your date with Andrew Lloyd Weber?"


"I saw you leave with him.  Is he gay?"

Andrew Lloyd Webber!  And I bad-mouthed Cats and Sunset Boulevard!  "No," I said, "And after my performance last night, probably not a gay ally, either."

I was joking, of course.  Sort of.

See also: Elijah Wood Dumps Roger for Jason Bateman.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bill and I Find a "Little Bit O'Heaven"

Rock Island, May 1972

When I was a kid, one of my birthday presents was always an excursion for me and two or three friends to anywhere we wanted in the Quad-Cities.  Unfortunately, my birthday was in November, so most of the fun places were closed.

But then I got the bright idea of postponing the excursion to May: then my friends and I could go to Mother Goose Land, Longview Park, the Putnam Museum, or the Niabi Zoo.  Or, the spring of sixth grade, A Little Bit O' Heaven.

B. J. Palmer, son of the founder of chiropractic medicine, traveled the world collecting Chinese, Indian, and European art.  Now it was on display in a contemplative garden on the grounds of Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The commercials promised: "Mystical idols from the forbidden East.  Treasures of Greece and Rome!  Dangers around every curve!"

I imagined a forbidden temple out of Johnny Quest, with statues of Greek gods and naked natives brandishing spears.  

As my boyfriend Bill and I talked it over, the Little Bits O' Heaven became bigger and bigger.  Acres of statues.  40-foot tall slabs of muscle. Flexing bodybuilders.  Natives who were completely naked!  Rows of penises that you could see and touch!

It was settled!  We were going to A Little Bit O'Heaven!

I invited Bill and two other friends who liked muscles: Joel, a cute curly-haired soccer player, and Greg, the boy vampire who gave me my first kiss.  My brother wanted to come, to do research for his own birthday excursion in June, and of course Dad drove us and paid the admission fee.

It started out ok: we walked through an ornate gate into a tropical greenhouse with macaws and parrots, and a 40-foot waterfall splashing through a miniature town.  Then a 10-foot tall statue of the Buddha, some totem poles, and a pond full of live alligators!

That was cool, but we were anxious to get to the acres of muscles and penises.

Next came a courtyard where you walked along a winding path, past statues.  A fat Buddha.  A naked lady.

Another turn, another naked lady.

"Where are the men?" Bill asked.

"They're coming up, probably saving the best for last."

Another turn, another fat Buddha.  And another naked lady.

"You said there would be Greek gods," Greg protested.

"Naked," Joel added.

"Um...maybe they're in storage," I said.  My stomach was starting to hurt.  "Dad, where are the men?"

Another turn, another naked lady.

"It's art," he said with a shrug.  "That means women."  

"Gross!" Bill exclaimed.  "Who wants to see that?"

I was hot with disappointment, outrage over the false advertising -- and embarrassment.  I promised my friends muscles!  "Dad -- let's get out of here!  Can we go to the Putnam Museum instead?"  

"No way, Skeezix!  This is your birthday trip, and it cost me a fortune."  He always called me Skeezix when I failed to demonstrate heterosexual interest.  "Now quit whining and enjoy it!"

My friends never forgave me for subjecting them to the Little Bit O'Heterosexual Heaven.

Although getting ice cream on the way home helped.

See also: The Golden Boy in his underwear

The Hookup at the Sleepover

Rock Island, February 1973

When I was a kid, the Baby Boom was in full swing, so we rarely did anything alone.   I invited a friend for dinner, or got invited to dinner, at least once a week.  I invited a friend to stay over night, or got invited to stay over night, nearly every weekend.

And then there were sleepovers.  

At least once a month, starting in third grade and continuing into the first year or two of junior high.

Three or four boys arrive at the host's house after dinner on Friday or Saturday night.

You romp around, playing games (my favorite was Twister), watching tv, eating pizza, and generally roughhousing until bedtime, which is much later than usual.

Then you camp out in the host's bedroom.

You all compete for the honor of sharing the host's bed.  Everyone else squeezes into the other bed (most boys had two), or onto blankets laid out on the floor. Some boys bring sleeping bags.

The beefcake is amazing!  You bring pajamas, but rarely wear them.  You sleep in your underwear.  There are cute boys lying shirtless everywhere you look.

And the touching!  Nothing sexual happens -- by the time you are old enough to think about such things, sleepovers are rare.  But when three boys are lying side by side on the floor, who can help but hug, cuddle, caress?  When you share the host's bed, which is a little too small for two people, you have no choice but to sleep pressed together.

In the morning, you dress, have a nice breakfast, and walk home (if it's Saturday) or get picked up in time for church (if it's Sunday).

Bill, Joel, and I always invited each other to our sleepovers.  When I hosted, the fourth boy was always my brother, invited by default, and the Fifth Boy was someone new, someone I wanted to get to know better.

And see in his underwear.

The other guys did exactly the same thing.  The guest list was always: Boomer, Bill, Joel, your brother or another friend, and the Fifth Boy, a boy you wanted to hook up with.

Sometimes it didn't work out.  Once Joel invited David Angel as the Fifth Boy, but David refused to share his bed, allowing me the honor.  Both Joel and my boyfriend Bill were understandably upset, but they couldn't say or do anything, since the Fifth Boy was an unspoken tradition.

In the spring of seventh grade, I started "liking" Dan,  during my failed attempt to rescue him from bullies who were trying to shove him into the girl's locker room,  He accepted an invitation to my house, but refused to come to my sleepover the next weekend: "Sleepovers are for grade school babies."

So, for the Fifth Boy, I invited Peter, the only Asian kid at Washington Junior High, a tall, tight-muscled baseball player from my chemistry class.  He shared my bed, which was nice, but in the first flush of infatuation, I kept wishing that he was Dan.

Two weeks later, Peter invited me to his sleepover, obviously as Boy #2 or #3, since we had already hooked up.

Peter's Mom opened the door and escorted me to the basement rec room, where he was playing pingpong -- with Dan!

"Hey, I thought you said sleepovers were for grade school babies!" I exclaimed, hurt and jealous.

"Oh...well, Peter told me how much fun he had at yours, so I changed my mind."

"You're good friends?" I asked, afraid of the answer.  "Come over to his house a lot?"

"Not really.  He sits beside me in Civics Class, but I've never been to his house before.  He just invited me out of nowhere."

It was worse than I thought!  Dan was the Fifth Boy!

The rest of the night was a battle royale over Dan.  I sat next to him on the couch when we watched tv; Peter squeezed between us.  I brought him a soda; Peter brought him a piece of cake.  I bragged about how many push-ups I could do; Peter brought out his baseball trophies.

Finally it was bedtime, the moment of truth. There were blankets and pillows scattered on the floor in Peter's bedroom.  And one twin bed.

We all stripped to our underwear.

"Dan, you're with me!" Peter said, grinning as if to say "I've won!"

Think!  I told myself.  Keep Dan out of that bed!  "Um...are you sure?  It's pretty small, and you're pretty big.  There might not be enough room for Dan."

"Plenty of room!"  Peter insisted.  "My cousin sleeps over with me all the time, and he's bigger than me!" He climbed into bed and pulled down the covers.

"Anyway, I hate sleeping on the ground," Dan said.  ignoring my red-faced jealousy to climb into bed beside him.

"But...we listened to Donny Osmond!"  I whispered.  "Um...we can talk about him...."

There was nothing to do but take my place beside the other two boys, and try not to listen Peter and Dan whispering and giggling under the covers.

Later in the night, I was still awake when Dan climbed out of bed, went to the bathroom, then returned and pulled up the blankets next to me.

"Did you lose your way?" I whispered sarcastically.

"Peter kicks in his sleep," he said.

I slept with him two weeks ago, so I knew that Dan was lying.  He just wanted two hookups on the same night.  But I didn't care.

See also: The Golden Boy in his Underwear; Cruising in the Cub Scouts; A Three Way with Danny and His Boyfriend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dan and I Decide to Escape to Saudi Arabia

Dan and I were boyfriends for about two years, from 7th grade to 9th grade (1973-75).  Our bond was more passionate and more physical than my bond with Bill, but not as instinctive.  It took work to maintain, with the distractions of Spanish club, French club, wrestling, orchestra, and other boys, not to mention the constant "what girl do you like?" interrogations.  Everyone insisted that the "discovery of girls" was inevitable, that one day soon we would abandon childish things, like boys, and spend the rest of our lives obsessed with feminine curves and smiles.

Every class and school activity began with the assumption that all boys were girl-crazy, or soon would be.

In English, we watched old black and white films that taught boys the proper technique for asking girls out on dates.

In Wood Shop, the purpose of every project, from bird houses to hat racks, was to “impress girls with.”

In Gym, if we failed to climb the rope or do enough push-ups, the coach bellowed that we’d have the strength if we would just cut back on the girl-kissing and get some sleep.

At home, there were advantages to the assumption that the Discovery had come. Mom and Dad doubled my allowance, reasoning that I would need cash to finance my upcoming avalanche of dates. I could get permission to go anywhere, even across the Mississippi into Iowa, if they found out that there would be girls there.  I could get away with almost any misdeed, from staying out after curfew to losing my new jacket, because they assumed that I had been trying to meet girls or impress a girl.

But the advantages were outweighed by the constant interrogation of  “what girl do you like. . .what girl. . .what girl. . . .”  When I tried to explain that I didn’t like girls in that way, Mom just smiled, and Dad refused to believe me: “I’ll bet you don’t! What’s her name?”

So I decided to pretend. At school, I taped a picture of Raquel Welch to my locker door, and imitated my friends’ comments: “She’s bitchin!”; “She’s hot!”; “I wish she would take her clothes off!”  At home and at church, I invented a ghostly spectacle of girls who walked in slow motion across a silent schoolyard, their long hair blowing in the wind. I found a poem about a girl’s “long blonde beauty” and copied it into my notebook and left it open for Mom and Dad to find.

But I could relax with Dan, and talk about Donny Osmond, and Barry Williams from The Brady Bunch, and what boys at school were cute.  Every once in a while I would nudge him and whisper"Girls are gross!", a secret message that only the two of us shared.

"They sure are!" he would answer.  

But how could we survive in a world where every boy longed for girls, every man longed for women?  We decided to escape.  We began looking for a "good place," where boys could walk hand in hand, and kiss, and live together through all their lives.  We discussed Greece, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, England, and many other countries and regions.

The Middle East had never been on my list of "good places," but Dan argued that the desert was clean and free, almost empty, and practical: Dan's father, an engineer, said that Americans were needed in Saudi Arabia to drill for oil and help civilize the nomadic Bedouin.

So it was settled: after high school we would move to Saudi Arabia, the only place in the world where same-sex love was celebrated, and live in the holy city of Mecca.  

In retrospect, I can think of several problems with that plan.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Matt the Bartender and the Y2K Bug

Indianapolis, December 31, 1999

December 31, 1999, a Friday night.  I spent Christmas in Rock Island with my brother (and saw my Sunday School teacher's stripper sons), and now I am in Indiana, visiting my parents.  They don't go out for New Year's Eve, so I am on my own.

They have been living in Indiana for 3 years, and I visit twice a year, so I've been around a lot, and managed to make a friend in Indianapolis: Matt the Bartender.  He actually is co-owner of one of the gay clubs in town.

 He's upbeat, energetic, and knowledgeable.  We've gone out to the bars twice, and once to The Works, one of Indianapolis's gay saunas.

Whenever I visit, he asks me to spend the night, but I politely refuse. He's not at all my type: tall and thin, a bit on the feminine side, and he drinks.  And it's only a 45 minute drive down to my parents' house.

Tonight Matt invites me to a New Year's Eve party at his apartment on Vermont Avenue, around the corner from his bar.

There are 10 gay men there.  We play risque party games, run around naked in the snow, eat Swedish meatballs, flirt...and worry.

Everyone is talking about the Y2K Bug, the global catastrophe predicted due to computers storing years as only two digits: 75, 83, 98, and so on.

Apparently when they were invented, the 21st century was decades away, and no one thought about the problem of distinguishing the year 2000 from 1900.

So when 99 rolls into 00, everything will reset.  There will be massive power failures. Airplanes will fall from the sky. Bank accounts will empty.  Credit cards will be useless.  And, maybe, nuclear weapons will fire at the nearest target.

We don't really believe that these terrible things would happen, but just in case, we all have extra food and water at home, and some of us converted our bank accounts into cash (not that paper money would be of much use after the Apocalypse).

At 11:00 we walk down to Matt's bar to ring in the New Year 2000.  At the stroke of midnight, the lights flicker a bit, but nothing else unusual happens.  Someone turns on a tv: no news reports of planes falling out of the sky or nuclear weapons firing.  Of course, it might take a few hours.

The other guys want to stick around for awhile, but I'm tired, so Matt offers to walk me to my car, back at his apartment.

We walk out into the dark, silent parking lot, and turn south on Park Avenue, past a deserted school.  The street lights are flickering oddly.

"That's weird," Matt murmurs.

At the corner of Michigan, the street is blocked.  It's wet, and shimmering.  There's a fire truck, and people in hazmat suits.  We turn left to avoid them and go around the block.

Mat wraps his arm around my waist.  "It's ok -- gay neighborhood," he says.

I don't mind the comfort.

The Lockerbie Pub is closed, with a handwritten sign in the door: "No trespassing."

"It was open yesterday.  What happened?"

We look at each other.  This is getting weirder.

Somewhere in the city, we hear gunfire.

We reach Vermont. -- a 5 minute walk has turned into 15 minutes in the frigid cold.

"Maybe you shouldn't risk driving all the way back home tonight," Matt says.  "Call your parents and tell them you're spending the night with me."

I agree.

In the morning I discover that there were no major Y2K problems.  The weird walk home was just a coincidence, and skittishness.

But Matt was really good about using it to his advantage.  What better way to get a guy to spend the night with you than the fear of the Apocalypse?

My First Time: Spending the Night with Todd

Decorah, Iowa, June 1976

Although Dan and I would not be escaping to Arabia after all, my interest in the Middle East remained strong when I started at Rocky High in the fall of 1975, so I was delighted to meet a real Arab!  A sophomore violinist named Todd.

He was actually half Arab – his mother’s parents were from Lebanon – and Christian, not Muslim.  He didn’t know any Arabic except salaam (“hello”) and tayta (“grandma”). But still, he had roots in the "good place" where same-sex loves were free and open!  And he was beautiful, small and compact in a green turtleneck with flawless olive skin and dark shining eyes.

This model is much older, but he has Todd's face and physique.

 Unfortunately, Todd had been engaged since the fifth grade to a girl named Faith, and now they were attached whenever possible by hand or hip or mouth. You couldn’t address a question to one without both answering.

Maybe I was just rebounding from Dan, but I couldn't take my eyes off Todd. Even the air around him and his tan desk etched with graffiti seemed vivid and alive.  One lunch hour I lost twelve consecutive games of chess, unable to strategize or think of defense because Todd was sitting next to me. I wanted. . .I wasn’t sure what, but the desire burned hot and raw and panting. I churned the covers off my bed at night, restless, unable to sleep.

If you asked God to do anything in Jesus' name, He was honor-bound to do it.  My friend Rita used God's Infallible Promise to "get" Donny Osmond as a husband.  So one cool Sunday in November 1975, after the evening service, I walked out into the alley behind the church, looked up at the stars,  and asked God in Jesus' name to give me Todd.

 It took months, but eventually God kept His Infallible Promise and delivered Todd.  Or at least we were both selected, alone out of the entire orchestra, to go to the prestigious Dorian Music Festival. An entire week with Todd all to myself!

Luther College
The festival was held at the end of June 1976, after our family vacation in the northwoods and a few weeks before our Nazarene church camp,  at Luther College, on the bluffs of the Mississippi. Though Todd was only cautiously cordial at Rocky High, at the Festival he clung to me as a familiar face. On Thursday  we skipped afternoon rehearsal to explore the town.  We visited a rock cavern and then bought blueberry muffins at a bakery festooned with red and green streamers.

We even went to a movie, my first since I started becoming a "Johnny Nazarene."  I put my arm against the center arm rest, as Dan used to do.  I moved closer and closer to the hard curve of Todd’s body until I could feel the fibers of cotton in his shirt and smell Dial soap and, very faintly, his own scent of vineyards and bleached stone, but I dared not move that tantalizing quarter inch that defined the difference between a casual and a willful touch.

On Saturday night, after the Grand Concert, it was hot in our room, so Todd took off his undershirt, and I noticed a thin gold chain around his neck. When Todd climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to his chest, it stood out against his brown skin, gleaming like a fiery ring. On the front, against his collarbone, lay a small plate with what looked like a portrait of a man.

“Is that a surfing symbol?” I asked, stupidly.

“No,” Todd said in a dim lazy voice. “It’s a scapular. . .like a medal.”

“Oh. . .what did you win?”

Boy with scapular

“No, it’s a religious symbol.” He carefully pulled the plate up from his chest. “See, the Sacred Heart on one side, Mary Mother of God on the other.”

With a shudder I realized that Todd was talking about being a Catholic. “I thought you were a Christian!”

“I am,” Todd said defensively. “Maronite Catholic.  But I go to St. Pius."

Nazarene preachers told us to never go near a Catholic church, or we would be dragged inside to an unspeakable fate, and never talk to a Catholic, or we would be brainwashed into worshipping idols and drinking blood.

I chided himself for my irrational fear.  I had been friends with Frank, a Catholic boy, for two years!  Catholics weren't monsters and demons. Sometimes they were perfectly nice.

And what else had I heard about Catholics: "They have no morals, they're up for anything. If you want a good time, call a Catholic."

I stared at the scapular, and at Todd’s neck, golden in the brash light of our dorm lamp, with two moles close together on the left side like a vampire bite.

Finally I said, “I’ve never. . .seen a scapular before.  Can I touch it?”

“Sure.” But instead of taking it off, Todd motioned for me to come closer.

St. Pius Church, Rock Island
I got up, wearing only cotton briefs, and sat on Todd’s  bed.  Todd’s body was hot, and soft yet firm. I touched the scapular. Then slowly I moved my hand down and stroked Todd's chest.  He moaned and closed his eyes.

After some other things happened, Todd refused to kiss or cuddle, so I returned to my own bed.

When I awoke, Todd was already gone.  I dressed quickly and wandered around the campus for a long time, looking for him, but I didn't see him again.  After breakfast Dad arrived to drive me home.

Back at school, Todd returned to being cautiously polite, nodding hello as we passed in the hallway but refusing all attempts to talk. Sometimes I saw him across the cafeteria, laughing with his Crowd, cozying up to Faith. Sometimes the sunlight glinted off his scapular, which he was now wearing on the outside of his shirt.

It seemed that some boys liked boys only at night.  You could see them, and touch them, but in the morning they would become cool and aloof, brushing past you as they searched for girls.

40 years later and 500 miles away, I hooked up with his nephew.

See also: Dating My Boyfriend's GirlfriendMy Hookup with Todd's Nephew;  I Learn About Oral Sex.


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