Thursday, May 2, 2019

Barry and the Creepy Old Guy

You remember Barry, the shy, slim boy growing up in a conservative household in Colonial Williamsburg, who sought escape by getting drunk and experimenting with drugs?

How did he get from there to the health-conscious gym rat I knew in New York, who didn't drink or use drugs, who would never even set foot in a bar?

After his first sexual experience, when he was 16, Barry was angry and bitter over the Big Lie, the conspiracy to keep him from knowing that gay people exist, as well as the everyday heterosexism of "what girl do you like"?  So he continued his smoking and drinking, and moved from marijuana to prescription drugs.

He spent the next two years driving into Norfolk and using a fake id to get into the bars, where he would drink, dance, and hook up, usually for money.  Often with two or three guys in a night.

"Norfolk is 50% black," he said.  "Can't get much better odds than that."

"How did you find the time to go home with so many guys on the same night?"

"I didn't usually go home with them.  We did it in a parked car, or in an alley off Stockley Gardens."

By some miracle Barry managed to graduate from high school with a 3.5 GPA.  His search for black men led him to 80% black Howard University in Washington, DC, as a pre-law major.  Again, he spent most nights going to the bars on Dupont Circle with his fake id., dancing, drinking, trying Ecstasy, tricking, and hustling.

He was arrested twice, once for propositioning an undercover cop (DC had sodomy laws until 1995) and once for "indecent exposure" in a public restroom.

"I'm all for exploring masculinity in all its variety," I said, "But it sounds like you were obsessed."

"I thought that's what gay life was about.  Drinking, dancing, drugs, and hooking up."

He felt very guilty after his hookups, especially the anonymous encounters where a guy would go down on him without even a kiss first.  How degrading!  This wasn't what sex was supposed to be about.  What happened to the affection, the caring?  Sometimes he prayed afterwards to turn straight, so he could have a "normal," caring relationship.

"Did you date?"

"Just once."  During the summer of 1992, he fell in love with a tourist from St. Lucia -- his first romantic relationship, four years after coming out!  After a courtship of only a few days, he returned to St. Lucia with his new boyfriend.  But he soon grew bored, returned to DC, and resumed his life of drinking, dancing, tricking, and hustling (See A Boy, A Man, and a Caribbean Island for what really happened).

"Did you use condoms with your tricks?" I asked.

"Not usually. I didn't really care about HIV or hepatitis.  It's a miracle that I'm negative now."

He graduated from Howard University, with a C+ average.  Not good enough to get into a reputable law school.

So he moved to West Hollywood, got a clerical job, and spent his nights at Mickey's and the Rage, dancing, hooking up, drinking, and using drugs. He graduated from Ecstasy to cocaine and crystal meth.

The demon at his exorcism happened to disapprove of an evening where one of his tricks went down on him at the notorious hustler hangout, a donut shop on the corner of Highland and Santa Monica.

(It's under new management and not a hustler hangout anymore.)

"I loved West Hollywood," I said.  "The gym, the bookstores, the restaurants.  Did you go to the French Quarter?"

"Not really."

"Lots of spiritual activities, too.  The Metropolitan Community Church, Beth Chaim Chadashim Synagogue, Evangelicals Together."

"I didn't really join any groups."

"Not even gay Catholic groups?"

"ESPECIALLY not gay Catholic groups.  I wouldn't even trick with a guy if I knew he was Catholic.  Once a guy took off his shirt, and I saw a crucifix around his neck.  I ran away like a vampire."  He paused.  "Maybe I was a vampire."

Then, in the summer of 1998, a trick took him to a very nasty apartment complex near downtown.

Sagging, peeling wallpaper, threadbare carpets damp with mysterious stains, dim light from sickly yellow lamps, stultifying heat,  It was insufferably hot and damp.

As they were walking down the hallway, they passed a couple on the way out.

One was a creepy old guy in a business suit.

"What's wrong with old guys?  I'm 14 years older than you."

"Some of them are hot, but this guy was the worst: smelly, sweaty, with warts and claw-hands, slicked-back hair, and that creepy leer, you know, that they get when they won't take 'no' for an answer."

His companion was a blond guy in his 30s, but very worn and craggy, with bloodshot eyes and a scraggly beard, sweating in an old-fashioned leisure suit and gold chains.

As they passed, the blond guy locked eyes with Barry and mouthed the words "Help me!"

Barry noticed a crucifix around his neck.

"Do you think it was a kidnapping?  Or a hustler changing his mind about a trick?"

"I think it was a glimpse into my future.  I was seeing myself in ten years."

Barry was too freaked out to follow through with his own trick.  He ran back to his car and zoomed home, and said the Rosary for the first time since high school.

"I felt the presence of the Blessed Virgin, as if she had been watching over me all along, waiting for me to come home again." 

A week later, he was back in his parents' house in Williamsburg.

He gave up the bars, went to drug counseling, joined a gym, began practicing Zen meditation, and started going to Dignity, the gay Catholic group.

For the first time in his life, he had gay friends.

Maybe the Blessed Virgin had watched over him for a purpose.  He should become a monk.  But it had to be a pro-gay monastery.

Asking around Dignity, he discovered Andre's Traditional Catholic Community, and applied to join as a postulant.  That's when I met him, on the night of his exorcism.

Barry decided that he didn't have a monastic vocation, but he continued to go to Mass, say the rosary daily, and live a clean, almost monastic lifestyle. An hour of meditation and two hours at the gym every day.  No drinking, no smoking, no drugs, no bars.  No hookups, just dating and sharing with friends.

Today, thanks to the Blessed Virgin and a Creepy Old Guy, Barry is still DDF, still going to the gym and meditating daily.  He and his partner Daniel run a gay bed and breakfast on Long Island, near the Hamptons.

Daniel, by the way, is twenty years older than Barry.

See also: The Colonial Williamsburg Boy Finds Out What Gay Means; The Catholic Priest in my Bed; and The Homophobic Demon.

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