Sunday, August 7, 2016
Fred Brings Home a Boy from His Youth Group
During the summer of 1980, just after my sophomore year in college, I was 19, stupid, and completely infatuated with my first boyfriend Fred. So when he finished his ministerial internship and got a job as a youth minister at a Methodist church in Omaha (actually Gretna, Nebraska, about 20 miles away), I dropped out of college and moved with him.
It was awful. We lived in a horrible apartment, I had a horrible job. The people were rude. I had to pretend to be Fred's "cousin." He had never had a live-in boyfriend before, so he became controlling and weird. After six weeks, I packed up my stuff and left.
My only positive memory from those six weeks is Michael Stevenson (not his real name), a boy from the youth group at church. A high school jock, about my height, very short brown hair, square face, nice chest. The other members of the congregation were standoffish and rude, but he always said "hello" to me and asked how I liked Gretna -- and one night Fred brought him over for dinner and "sharing."
I didn't know anything about sharing -- I had only been with a few guys, and never more than one at a time. And Fred didn't explain anything in advance. After dinner, when I finished putting the dishes in the dishwasher, I went out into the living room to find Michael on his knees, going down on Fred!
"It's ok," Fred said, noticing my shocked expression. "Michael is 17. Yesterday was his birthday, in fact."
He thought I was worried about that? No -- I thought that being gay was illegal for everyone. I was worried about my boyfriend cheating on me right in front of my eyes, with a member of his youth group!
"I'm his birthday present," Fred continued.
Michael giggled. "You're my present, too." He stood, walked over and kissed me.
Suddenly I was up for sharing.
I'll always remember that kiss -- warm, passionate but assertive, demanding.
And Michael's penis, small but thick, uncut, an iron shaft yet easy to go down on without gagging. Not like Fred's super-hung monster.
I went down on Michael while he was standing there in the entry-way, thrusting energetically up and down until he finished. Then we went into the bedroom. He had already sprang to life again, so I went down on him a second time while he was going down on Fred. Then Fred tried to top him, but he was too big. He made do with interfemoral.
My first sharing experience, and the best ever, with one of the nicest guys I've ever met!
We spent the night cuddling, and in the morning Michael showered and went to school. He continued to chat with me in church, but he never came over for "sharing again." After I left Omaha, Fred and I stayed friends, but he never mentioned Michael.
Maybe he was just a hookup, a one-night stand. But I still remember him fondly, 36 years, 8 boyfriends, and 130 hookups later.
I was successful in finding the Mormon missionary who I chatted with briefly in Beaver, Utah. Why not try to find Michael?
I had even more clues than with the Mormon missionary: a first and last name, a United Methodist church, a high school and a birthday.
His last name is not as common as "Stevenson": there were only five in the Omaha area. No Michael. He wasn't listed in the alumni roster of his high school, which means he never checked in -- a bad experience with bullying and homophobia, no doubt.
No doubt he moved to the nearest gay neighborhood as soon as he could. That would be Chicago.
But maybe I could dig up a relative.
A search of Omaha newspapers revealed a Mike Stevenson who won a fishing contest in 2006, and took a school tour of Washington DC in 2010. Maybe Michael's nephew or...gulp...son?
When he won a civic scholarship as a high school senior in 2013, Mike said that he was planning to attend Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota.
I found his campus address and sent him an email, saying that I was looking for an old friend with his name, who belonged to the Gretna United Methodist Church and graduated from Gretna High School in 1982.
He emailed back. "Sure, that's my Uncle Michael!"
Success! "Do you have his email address? I'd love to get back in touch with him."
"I'm sorry to tell you this, but Uncle Michael died a few years ago. Cancer. I have mementos I can show you. Can you come out to Mitchell?"
Mitchell, South Dakota is known for its Corn Palace, a castle-like building with Moorish-style domes and minarets, the walls covered with murals made of corn. I took some photos, then met Mike at a brew pub a few blocks away.
Mike Stevenson was 21 years old, the image of his uncle: same short hair, same square face, same muscular torso. I almost reached out and kissed him, but caught myself and shook his hand instead.
"How did you know my Uncle Michael?" he asked.
I don't usually come out to strangers, especially those attending Wesleyan colleges, so I talked about spending the summer of 1980 in Omaha. Michael befriended me, showed me around, really made me feel welcome.
"Was he your boyfriend?"
"Um..." Ok, I guess I could come out. "We sort of dated. It was complicated."
"He never talked about high school. I don't think he liked it very much -- it was probably hard, in those days when you had to be in the closet. So I was hoping you were like the one bright spot."
No, I was a one-night stand, I think, embarrassed. "Sounds like you were pretty close to him."
"He was like a second father to me. I used to spend summers out in Sayville with him and Uncle Max. After he died, Uncle Max gave me some old photos and stuff."
Photos, playbills, his passport, a certificate for winning a fishing contest, the contours of a life.
A photo of Michael and his partner in Sayville -- they were there when I was living on Long Island, but our paths never crossed.
Michael and his former partner in New Jersey.
Fishing trips and ski trips (with Mike in tow), the Tower of London, Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg.
The New York Gay Pride Festival.
An autographed picture of Barry Williams, Greg on The Brady Bunch.
"Uncle Michael said he knew he was gay when he saw The Brady Bunch as a kid. He had a crush on Greg."
"I was more into Peter, myself."
The program of his college graduation.
A photo of Michael in college, his arm around his roommate (I assume).
A photo of Michael in high school.
I didn't even remember that Fred took a picture that night: a 17 year old and a 19 year old, hugging, smiling at the camera.
It never occurred to me that this was Michael's first "sharing" experience, too. An experience that bolstered him through the horrors of a homophobic adolescence.
A memory of a warm summer night that never faded.
For either of us.
See also: Fred and the Teenager Downstairs.