December 21st, 1984, a Friday night. I am teaching in Hell-fer-Sartain, Texas, the loneliest place on Earth -- I've had no dates all semester, except for some very weird one-night stands. The high points of my semester have been a visit from Bruce and the student who got naked in my class.
Now I'm home for Christmas in Rock Island, the second loneliest place on Earth.
I've just had dinner with my parents, Tammy and her boyfriend, and Ken and his wife and kids. Marriage and children are on everyone's mind. The boyfriend asks, "Do you have a girlfriend in Texas?" My father shushes me before I can think of something witty and sardonic to say.
Then we watch tv: Benson, Webster, Dallas.
There are no gay people here. Anywhere.
"Got stuff to do," I say. "See ya." I get into my car and head out into the black, clear night. It's too cold to go to the levee, so I go to JR's, Rock Island's gay bar.
It's still early, only 9:30, and not crowded. Most gay people are with their relatives now, lying, dissimulating, or keeping silent during conversations about boyfriends and girlfriends and the hotness of tv stars.
Then I see, across the room, my worst nightmare: Dick Sunstrom (not his real name).
|Dick in Grade School|
At least once a week, Dick challenged a "sissy" to a fight, and the entire school watched as he pummelled the poor kid to death. I was pummelled to death twice.
His reign of terror continued into junior high and high school, except that he got bigger and bigger, until he towered over us mortals, with huge hands and huge biceps and a beneath-the-belt gift that you couldn't take your eyes off.
He didn't fight much anymore, but he was one of the boys who pushed my future boyfriend Dan into the girls' restroom, and now he had a whole new repertoire of insults: Swish! Fruit! Fag! Homo! The worst remained: Girl!
Now, six years after graduation, Dick is here in JR's, even bigger, more muscular, and meaner-looking. Was he fooled by the country-Western decor? Doesn't he realize that it's a gay bar? I brace myself for the shouts of Sissy! Fruit! Fag! Wuss! Girl!
Dick sees me, clomps over, and claps a huge hand on my shoulder. "Boomer! How the hell are you? I never expected to see you here!"
"Um...I never expected to see you, either. How are you?"
"Great, just great! Merry Christmas! Let me buy you a beer!"
Turns out Dick is gay, a regular at JR's. Really, shouldn't we have known? He was a man's man who never spent a moment around girls. He liked only male-coded activities like hunting, fishing, cars, and guns. And the years of yelling: an obvious defense against the struggle that went on inside every boy who liked boys, when liking boys meant that you were a girl.
I should be angry over the damage Dick has done to a generation of feminine boys who heard his taunts of Sissy! Fairy! Wuss! Fag! Girl! But I'm not. It took him forever to figure it out -- he was 22, in his senior year of college (he majored in accounting, of all things). And in the last 2 1/2 years, he's had one-night stands but no boyfriends, no lovers. He's more damaged than any of them.
|Dick's house by the Candy Store|
It is magnificent (#7 on my Sausage List).
We exchange phone numbers, and get together whenever I come home for a Christmas or summer visit. Over the years he will meet my lovers, and I will meet his.
It's not so lonely in Rock Island after all.
See also: A Ginger Boy for Christmas