Fort Smith, Arkansas
Dave was born on January 6th, 1953 (Three Kings' Day) in Memphis, Tennessee. When he was five years old, his family moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas. He had an idyllic childhood, swimming in Creekmore Park, buying comic books at Coleman Drugs, having sleepovers with his friends from Sunnymead Elementary School..
"Sleepovers? Lots of opportunities for seeing guys in their underwear, cuddling with them, maybe some groping?"
"Not that I remember."
In high school he started dating girls, but prided himself on treating them "like a gentleman," rejecting even a good-night kiss. He often double-dated with his best friend, Steve.
"I'll bet you couldn't wait to drop the girls off so you and Steve could..."
"Not that I remember."
At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville from 1971 to 1975, Dave majored in Classical Studies and became competent in Latin, Greek, and German. He first became aware of same-sex desire when he translated Virgil's Eclogue 2:
Corydon the Shepherd was in love with beautiful Alexis.
How could Corydon be in love with Alexis, when they were both boys?
The professor explained that the ancient Romans sometimes practiced "the unnatural vice."
"A little frisson of recognition?" I ask.
"Nope. I don't remember feeling any strong emotion about it. It was just something weird that the ancients did."
In college he kissed a girl for the first time. It was ok, but he didn't see what all the fuss was about.
From 1975 to 1977, Dave studied for his M.A. in Latin at Tulane University in New Orleans. His master's thesis was on Ovid's Metamorphoses.
"Lots of same-sex practices in there!" I exclaim.
"Sure, I read about Zeus and Ganymede, and Hyacinth and Apollo. But it was all way-out, exotic stuff, with no connection to my world at all.
"Well...what about New Orleans? The French Quarter, one of the hottest gay neighborhoods?"
Sometimes he and his friends went to the French Quarter to gawk at the "fairies," They were all outrageously feminine, swishy, drag queens, with no connection to his world at all.
David thought about going on to a doctorate in Classics, but worried about the job prospects. Instead he spent 1977-1980 at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, getting his M.Div. His research project was on the interpretation of the Koine Greek of the New Testament.
"What did you think about the so-called homophobic passages in Romans and Colossians?"
"I don't remember thinking anything at all," David says. "I took all of my examples from the Gospels."
In order to get a church, you needed a wife, so Dave got engaged to Karen, a girl from a local church. They waited until their wedding night to have sex. It was ok, not disgusting or anything, just sort of mechanical.
"Did you fantasize about guys while having sex with your wife?"
"To be honest, I didn't fantasize at all. My body did all the work. I was planning out my next sermon, or wondering what we were having for dinner tomorrow night."
In 1980, Dave and Karen moved to a church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and in 1983, to a much bigger church in Conway, Arkansas. Karen got a job as a high school English teacher, but quit when she became pregnant.
The 1980s was a period of rampant homophobia, but Dave didn't berate gay people in any of his sermons. In fact, he started the first AIDS buddy program in Arkansas.
The first gay man Dave met was a guy whose partner of ten years was dying of AIDS. He couldn't figure out why God would punish them for falling in love.
"So, realizing that gay people aren't monsters -- that helped you come out?"
"No, but it put me at odds with my congregation in my fellowship. I was criticized as too liberal, as not really a Christian. Someone wrote 'fag lover' on my office door."
In 1990, Dave and Karen moved to a church in Fayetteville, near the University of Arkansas. It was slightly more liberal, with many more cultural activities. They started going to concerts and the theater, including The Nutcracker every Christmas.
Dave found himself noticing the bulges and butts of the hot ballet dancers.
"Men are beautiful! Why didn't I ever realize that before?"
When he turned 40, worried about his health in midlife, he joined a gym, and started doing cardio and weight training. He looked at the other guys, stripping down in the locker room....
He wanted to touch them, to kiss them, to feel their butts and cocks against him. Sometimes he became aroused just thinking about it.
His fundamentalist roots kicked in. Could hanging around with gay men be "turning him" gay?
"You can't turn gay. You are or you aren't."
"That's what my friend at the AIDS Foundation said. He told me that straight guys sometimes find themselves attracted to men. It doesn't mean anything. It's who you love that counts."
And he loved Karen. He liked hanging out with her, discussing old movies, playing with the kids. He didn't even mind the sex. It was warm and comfortable, like sleeping under a quilt on a cold day.
January 6th, 1996 was Dave's 43rd birthday, a Saturday. He and his family celebrated with brunch (his favorite meal) at the Cracker Barrel. They gave him presents.
He spent the afternoon in his study, working on his sermon for the next day, "New Beginnings." It was going to start with the story of Saul on the road to Damascus, who had a transforming vision of Jesus Christ and became Paul.
The most beautiful guy in the world was sitting behind the counter. In his twenties, with thick, almost shaggy black hair, a scruffy beard, deep soulful eyes, and a bewitching half-smile. He was wearing a red t-shirt that accented his slim, tight physique. His name tag read "Shawn."
Dave stared open-mouthed. Shawn smiled.
"Will that be all?" he asked, pointing to Dave's Gatorade. He didn't have a Southern accent.
"Um...um...today's my birthday," he stammered. "I'm 43."
In retrospect, not the best pick-up line.
"Well, happy birthday! I'll have to give you a present. What would you like?"
"I'd like to kiss you," Dave admitted.
This wasn't a gay neighborhood. It was redneck, homophobic, Bible-belt Arkansas. But Shawn said "Sure." They went into the restroom and locked the door, and Shawn wrapped his arms around Dave, and they kissed. It was a long, deep, eager kiss. Their bodies and cocks pressed together. Shawn lifted Dave's shirt to feel his chest, unzipped his pants to work on his very hard Kielbasa.
"What about Shawn's penis?" I ask.
"Nice. But it was mostly about the kiss."
It took only a few minutes for Dave to spurt into Shawn's hand. He washed off in the sink and said "Well, I better get back to work."
Dave caught his arm. "Can I see you later?"
Shawn smiled. "Sure thing, babe. I get off at 7:00. But I didn't get your name."
"I was Dave for 43 years. I don't know why I said David. Except that Shell Station was my Damascus Road."
See also: David's Top 20 Hookups and One-Night Stands; a Glimpse of Supreme Beauty at a Rest Stop in Iowa.