Sunday’s Child: Chapter 6 – I Remember Mama

The phone call hit David like a ton of bricks. His mom was in the hospital. She had suffered a heart attack the night before! The nurse assured him that she was doing well, so he left work and drove to the hospital… within the speed limit of course. When he arrived, she was hooked up to a lot of machines and had tubes running everywhere, but she was in good spirits.

David sat next to his mother while they watched a TV show about Ingrid Bergman. She told him what she knew about the movie star’s life and how she had been ostracized after her affair and the birth of her “out of wedlock” child with Roberto Rossellini. When Billie fell asleep, David found himself staring out the window at the night sky and remembered that Lee, David’s step-sister’s father, had died just a few weeks before. He knew he was lucky that this heart attack hadn’t killed her.

David was at the hospital every day after work. As a result, he spent a lot of time in the ICU/CCU and the hospital cafeteria. He had seen Lanie at the nurses’ station just about every time he came to visit his mom. So when he saw her in the cafeteria, it was no surprise she asked if she could sit with him. They talked about his mom and he learned about her as well.

She was a medical transcriptionist, single, and lived in Springfield. David had tickets to a Caps game on Saturday, so he took a chance and asked her if she’d like to go. She said, “Yes!” She was going to meet him at his apartment, leave her car, and drive to the Cap Center in his. They left as soon as she arrived and had a great time. When they got back to David’s apartment, he invited her in. They went to his bedroom, and sat on the bed, but just talked. He got the distinct impression that there was a story. That she was a wounded soul. He didn’t press, though. It seemed to be Sarah all over again and he knew that it just wasn’t going to work out, so after his mom was released, he let her go.

*****

David’s mom suffered a second heart attack a year and a half later. It was March of 1984 and David was still working at Peoples. He was the only one who lived close enough to be there all the time. Lanie was still working behind the scenes in the ICU/CCU and David had to admit to her that he never thought that he would see that place again!

There was a really bad snow storm expected on Susan’s birthday, so he took the day off and spent it at the hospital. He was allowed to visit every two hours, so he spent a lot of the time in the ICU/CCU waiting room. When he saw the lightening and heard the thunder, he knew it was going to be a tough drive to the hospital for Susan and Perry.

When Susan arrived, she threw a plate wrapped in aluminum foil on the table next to his chair and said,

“Here, have some cake!” She should have been in a better mood, but he could tell the trip from DC to Alexandria had not been a pleasant one so he let it slide with just a chuckle and,

“Thanks?!

Perry arrived much later; his long trip from Maryland having been made all the worse by traffic on the beltway.

On the Sunday she was in the hospital, Susan, David, and Perry all decided to represent their mom at church. Everyone was so nice to them. They enquired after Billie’s health and told the three that it was good to see them in church again. David was sure to seek out Mr. Peller and thank him for taking her to the hospital. After church they all went to the hospital,

“Hi, Mom, guess where we’ve been?” Perry asked.

“Where?”

“To Emmanuel. Everybody asked about you,” David replied.

The siblings were very pleased with themselves and she was happy, too.

The next day, while he was at work, David received a call from the ICU nurse asking him to come right away. He told his boss and left for the hospital. This time he did drive over the speed limit all the while trying to guess what he would find when he got there. All kinds of crazy thoughts went through his mind on the way. One thought kept coming back to him over and over, though, “Please don’t let her be dead.”

When he arrived, the curtain to his mother’s room was closed. He looked at the nurse and she came around the desk and started talking to him, but he didn’t hear a word. He knew. She was dead. The nurse pulled back the curtain and she lay there with all the remnants of her attempted resuscitation lying on the bed and on the floor. Nothing had been cleaned up. David thought that was odd. The he looked at his now deceased mother; the woman who had given birth to him and had always been there for him. She would never be there for him again. He asked himself, “What will I do now?”

There was the matter of his brother and sister, though. He made the calls. Perry took it better than Susan did. She started crying, wailing actually, right there in the law office where she worked.

“Susan!” David yelled into the receiver. “Is there anyone who can be with you? Find someone to be with you, okay?!”

Perry arrived first even though he had the furthest to drive. David told him to say goodbye to her and then they waited. When Susan finally arrived she was accompanied by her husband. She had waited at the office for him to pick her up. By then she had managed to pull herself together. She said goodbye to her mother as well then turned to her brothers and said,

“Well, we’re orphans now.” David reminded her that they still had their father. He thought that was funny, him reminding her that they still had a father.

The doctor came and asked to speak with the siblings privately. When they got to the sitting room, he asked to do an autopsy to determine the cause of death. They agreed and informed him of their mother’s wish to donate her organs. He told them that that was impossible. He then asked them if they had thought about arrangements for after the autopsy. They would have to make some phone calls and get back to him. Susan was taking control of the situation now that she was resigned to her mother’s death, and would even become the executor of the estate.

The following days were taken up with informing everyone of Billie’s death, making funeral arrangements, securing a mausoleum niche (she wished to be cremated), and so many other tedious details. But David floated through those days in a fog of remembering… the very best about his mother.

Billie was born in Oklahoma during the great depression to a coal miner and his wife. Her father had wanted his firstborn to be a boy, hence the name. Two years later, they had another girl. They were both very pretty girls who grew up poor. After their father was injured in a mining accident and paralyzed from the waist down, their mother had to go to work to support the family. In the summers, the girls would be shipped off to relatives in another state in order to save the couple the added expense.

The girls’ father was in constant pain after his accident, so he was on some pretty serious medication. One night while his wife and daughters were asleep in the same bed, Fred came into the bedroom where they were sleeping. He was holding a large knife in his hand, ready to strike, when his wife woke up, wrestled the knife away from him and ordered him out. She kicked him out shortly after and then divorced him. Billie would block this traumatic incident out of her memory for decades, but when she was finally ready, she would ask her sister to tell her what really happened that night so long ago. Jessie, Billie’s mother would marry a man and find happiness again, but die at age 45. George later fell in love with and married her sister, Lela.

When Billie was sixteen, she met a young man whose grandmother lived next door to her aunt and uncle. She was taken with him immediately and even though he was six years older, she fell in love with him. They married and began a life together in California, but moved around frequently until they settled in Texas and had all three children there.

She was a good mother. She doted on her three offspring. Susan took dance classes. David took cello lessons. And Perry played any kind of ball he could get his hands on. In fact, the whole family liked to bowl; duckpins at first and later regular ten pin bowling. John, Billie and the kids even won trophies. When Susan joined the Brownies and then the Girl Scouts, Billie became a troop leader. David and Perry were even made honorary Brownies! When David and Perry joined the Cub Scouts, she became a den mother. When Susan joined Jobs Daughters, she became involved in that as well; all this in addition to her duties as church secretary.

Billie was an excellent seamstress and made all the children’s Easter and special occasion clothes as well as her own. She taught her daughter how to sew and Susan in turn became an award winning seamstress. She taught her children, as well as the neighborhood kids, how to make all kinds of crafts. But all was not ideal at home; far from it. Their father was cruel. When he was angry, he beat the boys with whatever he could lay his hands on. He tormented the family mentally as well, with all kinds of verbal abuse. Their mother did what she could to comfort them afterwards, but didn’t dare contradict him to his face.

One evening, when the family was still living in Audubon Trailer Park, the boys took too long getting ready for bed, so their father came in and beat them both with a belt. Their mom was there afterwards to wipe away their tears and place cool, wet washcloths on the raised, burning welts. Then she rocked each one to sleep and tucked them in.

When the siblings were older and living on Cooper Road, Susan and her father were having a terrific row when Susan yelled, “I hate you!” at her father. He just stood there dumbfounded. When it looked as though he might strike her, Billie stepped in between the two and said, “You know it’s true.” And David could tell by the look on his father’s face that he really didn’t.

Billie had finally had enough. She tried to get him to move out by putting his suitcase by his side of the bed, but he didn’t take the hint and just put it back in the attic. Since had a job now, she decided to move out instead. She had originally gotten a job in order to buy her children things that they needed, but their father was too cheap to buy for them. She invited all three of her children to come live with her, but only David accepted. He wanted nothing more than to get away from the tyrant who’d made his life miserable for so many of his young years. It was 1976, and he would never regret the move. Even with all the hardships he and his mother endured, they were nothing compared to the misery of living with that man!

When David wanted to attend the Star Trek convention, Billie volunteered to drive him downtown. She had no interest in going in, so she gave him the money for admittance and waited in the car. Who does that? He had to have been in there at least an hour, but she was sitting there waiting for him when he got out. He did love her for always being there for him.

David and Perry were at a party at the Stivers’ house one weekend. They had been drinking and both fell asleep downstairs in the basement. When they woke up hours later, David gathered his brother up and put him home in his VW Bug. As they were driving through Fort Belvoir reservation to his Dad’s house to drop Perry off, he could tell Perry was going to be sick. David pulled over and told Perry to make sure he opened the door before he threw up. And Perry made it just in time!

After David dropped his little brother off, he headed home. His mother was waiting up for him when he walked in the door. She asked him,

“Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!”

He made the mistake of saying, “Why were you worried? You knew where I was!”

She slapped his face and stormed off to bedroom. He stood there stock in shock. It would be the one and only time she hit him, but he would never make the mistake of talking back to his mother ever again!

In 1977, a year to the day after they left John, there was a knock at the apartment door. When David opened it, there was a Deputy Sherriff standing there. He asked for Billie, so David called out for her. The deputy handed her the document and left. She shut the door and looked at the papers. It was her divorce decree. After 29 years of marriage she was free of him.

“Are you okay?” David asked. She couldn’t speak, but he noticed that there were tears streaming down her face.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because I was married to your father for almost 30 years and I can’t believe it’s over.”

“But he caused your high blood pressure and you were miserable!” he said a little too loudly.

“He wasn’t always that way. I loved him for a long time… a long time ago.”

“Yeah, I guess I forgot that part,” he acknowledged then hugged her. “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, Honey.”

Billie started telling her children now that she loved them every time she saw them after that day and even made hugging a requirement for entrance to and exiting from her home. One evening, David was preoccupied with his thoughts and forgot to hug her first before trying to gain entry to the house. She stood in the doorway, blocking him with all 5’ 2” of her until he realized what he was forgetting. He gave her a great big hug; then and only then would she move aside and let him in.

His first Christmas after high school, he was driving back to Pittsburgh from his trip home. He was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike when he felt a tire blow. It was snowing pretty hard when he pulled over to the shoulder and by the time he got out and went around back he had two flat tires! He had one full size spare but not two. He put on his flashers and waited for a car or a tow truck to come by. A tow truck pulled in behind him and he got out to speak with the driver.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“Flat tires,” David yelled into the wind.

“You have a spare?” he asked.

“Yeah, but not two!”

“You have two flat tires?”

“Yup!”

“Okay, I’ll tow you back to Breezewood, then.”

The driver hooked up his car and told him to get in the truck. He turned around the next chance he got and let David off at the garage’s office when they got back to town. The man behind the desk gave him the price for two new snow tires, but David didn’t have that kind of money. He suggested David call someone and have them wire the money trough Western Union. He told David to go on down to the restaurant and have some coffee. He’d call the restaurant later when the car was ready.

As soon as he arrived at the restaurant, he used the payphone and made the call to his mom. He told her the story and how much money he needed to get his car back. She had to drive all the way to downtown DC late at night to send the money, but she said she’d do it. He thanked her and told her how much he loved her. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy for her. She didn’t usually have two nickels to rub together. He figured she was going to put it on her credit card, something he didn’t have.

He had several hours to kill, so he sat down and ordered some food. When he was finished, he decided to walk around. He recognized a DeMolay brother from Mount Vernon Chapter in the other room. They sat down to get caught up. Turns out, he and his team were on their way back from a squash tournament. David told him about art school and Pittsburgh. It was good to catch up.

He overheard two young ladies talking about how they had been stranded there because they were not going to get back in some guy’s car. They were headed to Pittsburgh, so David offered,

“I’m going to Pittsburgh. You’re welcome to ride with me. My car should be ready soon.”

They were more than a little skeptical, but really didn’t see that they had any other options.

“I’m a good guy. There are two of you and I really do live in Pittsburgh.”

They agreed but asked if they could call a friend and give them David’s driver’s license information… just in case.

“Okay.”

When the gentleman called for him, he was more than ready to go. He went down and paid then drove back to the restaurant to pick up the girls. Soon enough they were on their way. The trip was uneventful despite the snow storm and he dropped them off at the Carnegie Mellon dorms. Before he drove away, though, he reminded them,

“Be sure to call your friend and tell them you arrived safely, okay?” He sure didn’t want to have the police come after him!

David was cutting a mat in his room late one night, when the X-Acto knife slipped up over the ruler and cut through his index finger. Blood was gushing out of the wound as he ran downstairs to show his mom. She had him run it under the faucet, but the blood wouldn’t stop!

“I have to take you to the Emergency Room.”

“But I don’t have insurance. You know that!”

“We’ll figure it out later,” she assured him. And she paid the bill when she got it. The scar was a constant reminder of that night, but more importantly, a mother’s love.

David’s favorite memory was when he and his mom went to Perry’s graduation from college. Billie hadn’t seen her ex-husband, John, in years and in the meantime he had stopped coloring his hair. She said to David, on the way back to the car, “If you repeat this I’ll deny it, but don’t you think your father looks old?” That was the meanest thing she’d ever said about anyone. And she didn’t even mean it that way. She was just stating a fact! But it always brought a smile to his face.

*****

Billie’s funeral was well attended, as was the Eastern Star memorial service and the one at the Chapel at Fort Belvoir, where she worked until her death. Everyone who knew her stopped by to tell her kids what a wonderful woman she was and that she would be missed. Friends regaled them with stories of how she had helped this person or that family in some way or another.

Then there was then the matter of getting the house ready to sell. Her ex-husband actually came over and fixed the tub, so that their children wouldn’t have to pay for a plumber. It sold pretty quickly. They took the proceeds from the sale, split it three ways, and each of her sons took a cat to live with them. David found an apartment in Tower 2000, because they allowed pets, and moved out of Ben’s because they didn’t.

David and his mother had taken the cat that David found in the bush on Cooper Road with them when they divorced his dad. They hadn’t thought she would be with them long enough to need a name, so after awhile, the name “Kitten” just stuck! Perry took her. David got Dawn as a kitten while living with his mom at Washington Square. David named him Dawn because he was orange and he originally thought it was a girl. But when it turned out to be a boy, his mom would not let David rename him. He did enjoy teasing his mother every now and then by calling the cat Dawnald, but she would insist his name was Dawn!

There would be no more calls at work catching him up on the latest. There would be no more hugs and kisses at the door when he came to visit, no more heartwarming smiles. There would be no more birthdays, or Mother’s Days, no more Thanksgivings or “Charlie Brown” Christmases with her. He would miss her more than any other person in his life… before or since. He would have his memories, to be sure, but they would never be enough to take the place of the angel who came to earth and gave birth to him.

Mom

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Sunday’s Child: Chapter 5 – Starting Over

Two years earlier, when David left for art school, he and his mom were living in Washington Square Apartments. The year before he moved back to Alexandria, his mother purchased a condo in Sequoia. So that’s where he landed. The condo was two stories and had two bedrooms. It was small and modest with a tiny patio, but enough room for the two of them and their two cats. It was within walking distance of mom’s church, Emmanuel Baptist, David’s childhood place of worship. He had stopped going to church years before, and told his mother why; because his bed was more comfortable to sleep on than a church pew!

The first order of business was to find a job, but it didn’t take as long as he thought it would. He applied for a waiter job at Cedar Knoll, a restaurant with plenty of history not too far away from Mount Vernon Plantation, and got it. The restaurant was open for lunch to regular customers and to busloads of tourists. The evening crowd was pretty different, though. They were usually people who could afford a little more for a meal and entertainment. He made pretty good money while he worked there, but he figured out pretty quickly that he was hated dealing with tourists!

The next job interview he went on was at a bar in Old Town. He got the job pretty easily, but the manager asked him to review the glasses used for different kinds of cocktails before he left. The only problem, not one of the glasses they had matched any of the ones in the book! Needless to say he called the next day and told them he’d taken another job instead.

Next he called an escort service in DC and asked about working for them. The gentleman on the phone asked if he was clean shaven. David had to admit that he had a mustache. He was asked if would consider shaving it off as their clients preferred their escorts to look on the young side. David declined and thanked him for his time.

He was feeling the pull again. That old coat was yanking at him. So this time he decided to take a garden hose, hook it up to the tailpipe and stick it in through the floor of his car, turn on the ignition and wait. But where could he do it? The parking lot at his mom’s place was too out in the open and he didn’t want her to find him anyway. He thought that the Mount Vernon Plantation parking lot would be a good place. It was not well lit and not very busy late at night. So he drove over there and set about hastening the end. Everything was going as planned and he was simply getting sleepy, but then there was another tug. It was the same one from the roof of his apartment building in Pgh. It proved to be stronger than the one that brought him there. He heeded it, brought his seat back upright, opened the windows, and shut off the car. He sat there for a good long time thinking and clearing his head of the deadly fumes. He would not die this night either. He would go on.

Next, he snagged a job as the night desk clerk at The Follies, a private gay club/theater in Southwest DC. Men, both gay and straight, could go there to watch porn films, play pool or video games, or hook-up in the back rooms. It was an interesting job which entailed selling tickets, memberships, videos, magazines, and various “toys” to the customers. The theater was open 24 hours a day, so his shift was from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

One night off, he went to Tracks, a big dance club in DC and asked a guy by the name of Ronny to dance. This guy was absolutely smokin’ hot: beautiful hair, face, and body! But he would soon discover that was not the only thing that was beautiful about Ronny. He had the most beautiful penis David had ever seen. It was in a word, perfect, both to look at and to hold.

Ronny lived in Maryland, so David’s house was closer. But he hadn’t come out to his mom yet, so he didn’t know if that was such a good idea. After much debate, they decided to take a chance and go back to his mom’s, but it turned out to be a really bad idea!

When they arrived, he told Ronny that they had to be quiet, because his mom would be asleep. They snuck up the stairs as quietly as possible, but David hadn’t counted on her bedroom door being open and she being awake! There was no turning back though. They proceeded to his room and closed the door. Before they could even get undressed, David heard his mom moving around in the next room. Then a few moments later the front door opened and closed again. There was no way they could stay,

“We have to go,” David told Ronny. “I can’t stay here while she’s obviously upset.”

“Let’s go to Laurel and find a motel.”

So they left and drove to Maryland. Ronny told David that they couldn’t stay at his apartment because of his roommate, but wouldn’t elaborate when asked for more details. Ronny got them a room for the night in a motel in Laurel. It was awkward at first as they explored each other’s bodies, tentatively at first and then with more abandon. Ronny had hard muscles from what could have only been many hours of manual labor. The sex turned out to be good, very good.

Ronny had to go to work the next morning, so David drove him to the racetrack where he was a groom, which explained the muscles. Ronny showed him around the stables where he worked and the horses he worked with. When Ronny asked if he’d like to stroke one of the horse’s heads, David had to admit to Ronny that he had never actually been this close to a horse before! Ronny showed him how and David thought it was pretty cool.

Ronny told David he should go back to the motel and get some rest, then asked him if he could come back and pick him up after work. David came back at the appointed time and drove them to Ronny’s friend Phil’s house, because Ronny had just enough money for that one night at the motel. David hadn’t called his mom yet to tell her he was alright. He was afraid to, so he put it off for another day. Ronny and David had more great sex, trying not to make too much noise. They didn’t want to wake up their host.

Phil’s place was near Annapolis. He said they could stay there for a day or two. While Ronny was at the racetrack the next day, Phil took David sightseeing in Annapolis, because he’d never been there.  After he got back from the racetrack, Ronny joined them for dinner. And after dinner, David and Ronny retired to Phil’s guestroom again and had some more really great sex. By now everything was working like clockwork.

In the morning, they thanked Phil and headed over to Ronny’s apartment. He told David that his roommate was at work so they would have the whole apartment to themselves. When they arrived and David saw that it was a one bedroom apartment, it became quite clear to him that Ronny’s roommate was probably his lover! He really didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing. It did feel kind of weird having sex in “their” bed, but good sex was good sex. They had had an interesting fun-filled few days together, but it was time for it to end and for David to go home. He said “goodbye” to Ronny and “thanks.”

On the long, lonely drive back home to Alexandria, he had plenty of time to think of what he was going to say. His mom was still at work when he arrived, so he just waited. When she opened the door, she was both surprised and happy to see him, but she waited for him to speak first. David said,

“Hi. I’m sorry if I worried you. I didn’t mean to. I just needed to get away and think after what happened.” She took this as her cue to sit down. “I didn’t want you to find out that way, but I guess I should say it anyway. Mom, I’m gay.”

Now that the words were out there, he heaved a sigh of relief, as if the weight of the world had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders. He waited for her to respond, but could tell she was measuring her words carefully.

“First, don’t ever do that to me again. I was worried half to death!” She took a breath, “Second, I guess I always knew. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. It goes against everything I’ve been taught, but you’re my son and I love you.” She paused. “Did Carolyn’s death…” she started to ask, but David cut her off.

“No, Mom. I’ve always been this way.”

“When are you going to tell your brother and sister about your… ‘lifestyle’?” Lifestyle, he let her get away with that one. That was one for another day.

“Susan already knows.” He saw the look on her face and headed her off at the pass. “NO, I didn’t tell her before you. She guessed. She figured it out when I didn’t go to Dad’s for Father’s Day. It was the same day as Gay Pride.” Then he had to explain what that was to her.

“I’ll tell Perry when the time is right, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Thanks, Mom, I love you, too.” And as if it had been prearranged, they got up and hugged each other, erasing all the hurt and anger and fear that had built up over the past few days. It was a necessary conversation that every young gay person has to have with a parent. It doesn’t always go well. He had heard horror stories many times from others about coming out to their parents, family or friends. Joe was one example of how badly it could go. David was blessed to be loved and accepted, for who he was, by this incredible woman.

When David told Susan how it went, she was glad that he had finally told her. She also arranged to have him and his brother over for dinner the next time Perry was home from college. That way, David could come out to him in a safe environment. During dinner preparation, David let it slip, before he was really ready. Perry was talking about applying for a partial scholarship to help with his tuition.

“I’m gonna have a hard time getting a scholarship, because I’m not a minority.”

“Yeah, it’s tough being a gay white male.” David said it before he even realized what he had said. David and Susan just looked at each other hoping Perry hadn’t heard that. Perry just chuckled and said,

“I’ve known for quite a while.”

So it turned out to be easier than either he or his sister could have imagined. Susan offered to tell their father and David was grateful to her for that kindness.

*****

The Follies had many regular customers and one of them was a handsome man named Ben. He would go to the local hot spots, drink, dance, whatever, and then, if he hadn’t picked up a trick, he would head over to the Follies for a little fun. David and Ben chatted now and then. And when David mentioned that he really needed to get out of his mom’s place, Ben offered him the spare room in his apartment. Ben lived in Alexandria near Landmark Mall and it was right off I-95, so it was a great solution to David’s housing problem. Why was it a “problem” you ask? He had been living as an out gay man in Pittsburgh for almost two years previously and he was having trouble making the adjustment to living with Mom again.

Not too long after moving in with Ben, David was changing the brakes on his Datsun B210 when the jack broke causing the car to fall on his ankle. He called Ben at work and asked him to come home and take him the hospital, because he couldn’t manage the clutch with his injured left foot. It turned out only to be severely bruised, but it was pretty swollen and it hurt like hell. He had to walk with crutches for weeks. Of course, both his apartment and his job were either up or down sets of stairs, so he got pretty good at hopping on one foot.

David was able to return the favor when Ben had a kidney stone. He drove Ben to the hospital and was able to answer the questions the admitting nurse had because Ben was in too much pain to. That and he was losing his patience with her and getting upset, so David wanted to save her from being verbally abused by a man in extreme physical discomfort.

In addition to movies, the Follies would have shows on the weekends. They would hire dancers, or have porn stars come in to do special shows. One Friday night when David was working, Nelson came up to him and said,

“David, I have a really big favor to ask. One of the dancers didn’t show. Could you dance tonight?”

“What? I’m not a dancer,” David replied.

“It’s more stripping than dancing. You’d really be helping me out! Please?”

“I don’t have an outfit,” David said, trying to dissuade Nelson.

“I’m sure the other dancer has something you could wear. Let me go ask.”

This was not going the way David was hoping. It took a little more coaxing (and a drink) to get him to do it, but eventually he agreed. He was, in a word, petrified! But the other dancer agreed to do the spot with him. It was one of the most nerve-wracking evenings of his life so far, but he managed to get through it. The next night there were a dozen long-stemmed red roses from Nelson waiting for him when he got to work.

That one night would start him on the path to freedom and self discovery. He would finally be able to let go and experience things he never imagined he could before. On more than one occasion, he would be asked to dance at night and for day shows, so he needed a stage name. In honor of the snack he ate all the time, he chose “Cracker Jack.” The dancers only performed part of their routine on stage, however. Some of it was out in the audience where the men were allowed to touch him while he was giving them lap dances.

The club then needed publicity stills for their marquee. They asked a patron, who was a photographer, to take some shots of David. They did two sessions, one indoors and one outdoors. The indoor session started out fully clothed and ended with him nude. The outdoor session was near the theater, so he only got partially nude. He met some really great guys while working there, porn stars, other dancers, lonely men, young and old.

In the back, behind the stage and screen, was the “maze.” It was dimly lit on purpose and had lots of places where men could get together for anonymous sex. There were TVs, small rooms, carpeted stairs, and many other nooks and crannies where they could either be with one man or many. David took advantage of those amenities on more than one occasion.

The Follies also ran a hotel downtown. The employees were free to go there and take advantage of the conveniences at the Astoria Arms any time they wanted. They had communal showers, a steam room, a locker room, and a massage room. David had met a really cute guy who worked as the desk clerk there. Dane was about the same height as David, but slightly more muscular. He had dark hair, a hairy chest and wore glasses. They made a date to get together after his shift one night. David came by a few minutes early so he had to wait around for a bit, but when Dane was finished, he led David upstairs to a room that was sparsely furnished but had clean bedding.

They undressed each other then David lay down on the twin-sized bed and pulled Dane on top of him. After several attempts to penetrate David, it was clear that it just wasn’t going to happen.

“I’m sorry.” David apologized and continued slowly, “I really wanted this… I guess I’m just not ready. Something happened to me in Pittsburgh. I guess I’m not over it.”

“Wow, I’m sorry. It must have been bad.”

“It was,” David responded.

“I really think someone needs to get fucked here, though, so it might as well be me.”

They switched places so that Dane was now under David. Then he put his legs over David’s shoulders. Everything went well from there and both men achieved orgasm. They held each other afterwards and talked some more then fell asleep for a little while. They never got together again, but that was mostly David’s fault. He was too embarrassed having not been able to get as good as he got.

Eventually, he got tired of his paychecks from the Follies bouncing all the time, so he quit his job at the theater and got a job selling magazines door-to-door. It was an unusual job in that he had to travel around with the group, stay in motels, and leave everyone and everything he knew behind. One of the girls on the team was very sweet and David found himself drawn to her. Not in a romantic way, though. She seemed broken somehow and he wanted to get to know her better. In the course of getting to know her, one of their conversations revealed that she was a rape survivor, just like he was. He told her he knew exactly what she was going through, but that was all he could share. He just couldn’t bring himself to share more than that; the most painful memory of his life so far.

Over time he learned that there was a more sinister side to the business, though. He only learned about it after he had been with them a few weeks and was now several states away from home. Every morning, they would meet before they went out. The leader would review each person’s previous day’s performance in front of the entire group. If you didn’t do well the day before, you were shamed and humiliated in front of the entire team. David decided right then and there that he had to get out even though the leader promised David that he would soon be promoted to art print dealer.

They didn’t let you have any money, though, so that afternoon while he was supposed to be out selling magazines, he called his dad collect and told him that he wanted to come home. His father told him that he would take care of everything. He called David back at the payphone and told him where to catch the bus and that he would have money waiting for him at the bus terminal when he got to the next town. Scared and nervous, David snuck out in the middle of the night making it all the way to the highway in the dark. Just as the sun started to come up, he saw the bus coming down the hill. He made it back to Alexandria and eventually paid his father back.

He just couldn’t let go of the bad feelings, though. He felt like such a fool for being taken in like that and then having to be rescued by his father! He was so tired of being himself, the screw up that always ended up having to be rescued. He just wanted to be someone else so badly! He thought if he hated who he was maybe he could be someone else. But who could he be? He started to hatch a plan. He decided to take off for Philadelphia and when he got there just pretend to have amnesia! He packed a bag, made sure he left his wallet and keys on his dresser, and hitch-hiked to the city of brotherly love. He was excited to make a fresh start.

He hitched a ride with a guy as far as the BW Parkway who asked if he could see David’s dick in return for the ride. He didn’t think that was too much to ask, so he unzipped his pants and pulled it out.  Then he hitched another ride with a trucker all the way to North Philadelphia. All he had to do for the last leg was to make it back into the city center, so he walked. He called the local gay hotline and told them that he didn’t know who or where he was. The kind young man asked if he could look for a street sign. David did that and then told him the name of the street. He gave David directions to a coffee house that was having a gay social night. He told David that he would meet him there.

When David arrived he looked around for the man from the phone, but he found David. The young man introduced himself and suggested they take a trip to the emergency room. Admittedly, David hadn’t planned on this, but he went along with it. Once there, the young man explained the situation to the admitting nurse. The doctor wanted to check him over for any sign of physical trauma, but there was none. Then they went through his bag for any clues as to his identity, but David assured them there weren’t any. The bag had some clothes and a drawing that David had packed, Lonely Boy. They couldn’t admit him, so the doctor asked the young man if he could take David to a shelter. The nice young man told the doctor that he could sleep on the sofa bed in his apartment.

The next day, the nice young man took him around the city. David had been there on a class field trip when he was in junior high. He didn’t let on, though, that anything looked familiar. The next day he was brought back to the hospital. They wanted to try a drug on him that would help them get past the psychological trauma that they thought was obviously causing his amnesia. The doctor injected him with sodium amytal and after a few minutes started to ask him questions in front of the medical students that were in attendance. David did his best to fight them, even getting angry at them, but the drug would prove stronger than his will to keep up the charade. Eventually, he broke down and gave them the information they wanted. The information they thought he wanted.

They called Susan to come to Philadelphia and take him home. He spent one more night with the nice young man and thanked him for his kindness in the morning. He didn’t say a word on the trip home. His noble little experiment had failed, because he had failed to take into account the fact that others would actually believe he would want to remember who he was. They thought that his life was worth going back to. That he would miss his family and friends. And they had failed to take into account the possibility that David’s amnesia had all been an act, an elaborate deception. That he had in fact wanted to start a new life as someone else; anyone other than who he really was. No one mentioned the “Philadelphia Experiment” ever again.

When he got back from Philadelphia, he decided to get a real job. His father had remarried in 1977, so he heard from his step-sister-in-law that there was a job at Peoples Drug Stores, in the advertising department, for a proof-reader. He got the job and for the first time in a long time, he felt good about himself. He liked the job, made lots of new friends, and even had money to pay Ben rent again.

While David was working in the production department, he met a really cute guy in store planning and design. He was about David’s height and build, but he had a really great, full beard. The guy was married, but David had a pretty good idea he was gay. He struck up friendship with Barry without expecting anything but friendship in return. He really just thought that it would be nice for Barry to have a gay friend. One night when his wife and daughter were out of town at his in-laws, Barry asked David over for dinner. He made a wonderful Italian meal for the two of them and David was glad he had come. They were standing in the kitchen while Barry did the dishes when David finally asked him why he had married his wife when he knew was gay.

As it turned out, Barry and his wife had grown up in a small town together, were high school sweethearts, and everyone had just assumed they would get married. So they did. Then when their daughter came along, he thought that he would just have to keep “those” feelings to himself. He said he still loved his wife, but that he wasn’t in love with her anymore. David thought it was very sad that Barry was trapped in a loveless marriage and before he realized that he had drifted a bit, Barry leaned over and kissed him. David was taken by surprise, so he asked him,

“Uh, I don’t feel right about this…” David started, but Barry cut him off.

“I know I have no right to ask this of you, but I really need to know what it’s like to make love to a man. I take full responsibility for this. No guilt for you. Please, David, could you do this for me?”

Barry could see the battle going on in David’s head. Then David kissed Barry as his answer. They only had oral sex that evening, though and they remained friends even after he left his wife and moved to Key West. He did come back once and they made plans to go out dancing, but Barry arrived early, catching David in just a robe with nothing underneath. When David opened the door, the first thing he noticed was that Barry had shaved off his beard! David apologized for not being ready and invited him in.

As soon as the door was shut, Barry made his move. He unknotted David’s belt, letting the robe fall open, and wrapped his arms around David’s willing naked body. They kissed then David pulled away from the embrace, grabbed Barry’s hand, and led him down the hall to his bedroom… and his bed. He undressed Barry and was happy to see that he looked even better than he remembered. He ran his fingers through the thick hair on Barry’s muscular chest then Barry pulled him onto the bed and began to caress David’s body. He said,

“I’ve been fantasizing about this for months!”

“Yeah? Well tell me exactly what you’ve been fantasizing about,” David said with mischief in his voice.

Barry proceeded to tell him what he wanted and when David gave the okay, they did just that. They made love fully and completely and they were both satiated. They were also satisfied with how the evening went, not even missing the club and the crowded dance floor. In the morning, when it was time for Barry to leave, David was genuinely sad to see him go. They gave each other one final goodbye kiss at the door, each knowing it would be their last. Looking into his eyes, David silently thanked him for a beautiful evening; one that would not be repeated, but never forgotten.

*****

One momentous night, he and some friends went to a go-go bar called the Lone Star Beef House where women stripped at lunchtime and young men at night. He had danced at the Follies on more than one occasion, so he thought he’d ask the bar manager if he could have an audition. She must have liked what she saw, because she hired him! So now he was working Monday through Friday at Peoples and a few nights a week at the Star.

Just as in the movie Gypsy, every stripper needed a gimmick. David’s was getting a boner during each set. That’s how he got the nickname “Big Dick David.” It wasn’t that his was any bigger than anybody else’s, it was just hard so it looked that way. Over the years he worked at Lone Star, he created a mystique without really meaning to. After a set, he would go into the kitchen or downstairs and read a book. Other dancers would stay out front and “schmooze” the customers, but David didn’t care about that. He already had a fulltime job and this was just for fun and tips. If a customer asked for him, though, he’d put down his book and go out and talk to him.

David’s sister found out that he was working as a go-go dancer, so she asked him if it would be okay to come by some night and see him dance. She was going to bring some girls from work with her. When they arrived, he waved at them and went over to dance on their table. They were great tippers and seemed to really enjoy themselves that night. Stripping in front of his sister should have been weird, but it wasn’t.

He met many interesting men there: other dancers, lonely men, young, and old, handsome men, too. Two dancers he got really close to were Danny and Christian. Danny was a short but cute little guy. His favorite memory of Danny was going to the Grace Jones concert tripping on LSD. What a blast! And he was still tripping the next day at work!!! They became fuck-buddies first and then friends for a long, long time. Danny found a great guy and settled down in the ‘burbs. Christian was a good looking blond who was the first person to introduce David to recreational cocaine. He didn’t even get mad at David when he accidentally exhaled instead of inhaling the first spoonful! Christian later died from AIDS.

One of David’s dancer buddies arranged for him to go home with one of the Star’s wealthier patrons. David wasn’t sure. He’d never done anything like that before and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. But his friend told him he knew the guy and that everything was cool. As soon as he brokered the deal, the two of them left for his townhouse in a cab. David needed to get really high to do this thing, so the older man facilitated him. Nothing weird happened that night, but he swore he would never do that again!

There was Garret, a hunky PhD who was taller than David. He was quite taken with David the first time he saw him at the Star. Garret was wearing khakis and a red Polo shirt with a little bit of dark hair poking out of the collar. He was a cross between his high school gym teacher and Magnum P.I. Big and strong and handsome, he was everything David could have hoped for in a man. He was waiting for David, by the restrooms, when he got off stage. He introduced himself, then grabbed David in a big, bear hug, and told him,

“You’re sexy as hell.”

“Uh… thanks,” David said and melted in his arms. They made a date to get together that weekend and neither one of them was disappointed when they got to the bedroom.

Garret was a great cook, had very smart but approachable friends, and hosted great dinner parties. He even took David to Jazz concerts in Georgetown, exposing him to artists like Susannah McCorkle and music that he had never experienced before. They were together quite awhile despite his having Hepatitis C. And they always had safe sex. But he eventually came to the conclusion that if he couldn’t be himself around Garret. He was a PhD and David was an Art School drop-out. They really weren’t suited for each other. So David moved on.

Then there was Jay. He was cute and sweet and much younger than David. They even had sex in a park, near a waterfall, during the day once. It was very exciting.

“All you ever want to do is have sex!” Jay told David later.

That was actually true, but he replied, “That’s not true!”

He had a great smile, but he drank too much and used to call David, drunk, in the middle of the night, which pissed Ben, David’s roommate, off to no end! Eventually, Jay went into rehab and got himself sober, but David had already moved on. He saw Jay years later at the gym and he looked great. Sobriety really agreed with him.

Len was an older guy who was a great tipper. He had grey hair and a white mustache and goatee. He was in good shape for his age, which David estimated to be somewhere around 50. One night he asked David to go home with him after the Star closed. He lived in a really great townhouse in Georgetown. He also had a lover who David met. They liked to play separately and together, but David wasn’t Ed’s type. He was built and liked ‘em more on the leather side.

Len led David up the stairs to his lavish bedroom. The two of them stripped and that’s when David noticed Len was wearing a leather cock strap. Hey, he thought, whatever helps him keep it up, right?! Len was definitely a top and David was okay with that. He was a gentle lover, despite the cock strap. The next morning, he made David breakfast in bed. Len took him to dinner sometimes. One night in particular, he and Len were heading back to David’s car after leaving a restaurant in Georgetown. They stopped to kiss each other goodnight. A couple of hicks saw them and yelled out,

“Faggots!”

Len flipped ‘em off and told David,

“Let me see you to your car. Just in case.”

“Thanks.”  He offered to give David things, too (lots of the patrons did), but he never accepted. Years later, after Ed died, David gave Len a drawing that he had done which reminded him of Len’s late partner. It was the least he could do after all that Len had done for him.

David met Bailey at the Lone Star, too. He danced there toward the end of David’s time at the Star. He was pretty and hairy and lots of fun. He was a great dancer; he even won the Mr. Lone Star contest one year! He had a beautiful smile that made David forget about everyone else when he flashed it just for him. They had an interesting relationship. They dated on and off for awhile. Bailey wanted them to be exclusive, but David didn’t feel the same way. They had a lot working against them. Bailey’s crazy (and jealous) roommate for one, but his drinking was the biggest.

One evening, David left the bar with a really good looking guy. They were headed back to his place when David noticed that Bailey was following them. He tried to shake him by doing U-turns in the middle of New York Avenue, but couldn’t manage to. Finally, he pulled over to the curb, went back and yelled at him through the driver’s side window,

“Go home, Bailey! You’re drunk!” He said nothing. A police car pulled up behind them, so David went back to talk to him.

“Officer, this young man has been following me and my friend and I’m pretty sure he’s drunk, so he definitely shouldn’t be driving.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Can my friend and I leave?” David asked.

“Sure.”

“Thanks, Officer.” David got back in his car and drove off. The last thing he saw in his rearview mirror was the officer pulling Bailey out of his car.

The next day, at work, David got a call from Bailey’s mother. She asked him if David knew where he was. David told her to check with the DC police. It worked out in the end. Bailey took responsibility for his actions and got sober. He even forgave David and eventually thanked him. Bailey was the one friend who was beaten up coming out of a gay club. The guys split his lip, broke a rib, and bruised him up pretty badly. David would never take his safety for granted again after that. They remained friends through the years.

Then there was Sam. He was shorter that David, but had the most beautiful, kissable lips, ever and an engaging smile! He worked as a teller at the bank where David did his banking. It took awhile, but David finally screwed up the courage to ask him out on a date. He didn’t know if Sam was gay or not, but he certainly hoped so. Sam gave him his card and told him to give him a call. David did just that. It turned out they didn’t live too far away from each other, near Landmark. Sam’s roommate was straight, though, and didn’t know that Sam was bisexual. Sam was actually dating a girl at the same time he started dating David, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise to David when he got a call from Sam late one night.

“Hey, it’s Sam.”

“Hey! What’s up?”

“She’s pregnant,” Sam said sadly.

“She’s what?”

“She says she’s pregnant and that I’m the father.”

“I thought she was on the pill!” David exclaimed.

“I guess it didn’t work.”

“What’re you gonna do?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Sam said sounding defeated.

“Do you want to come over?” David asked hopefully.

“Nah, I need to think. Thanks anyway.” Sam sounded so lost that David’s heart broke for him.

“If you need a friend, you know where to find me.”

“Yeah, I do. Thanks. Bye.”

“Bye,” David responded and hung up the phone.

To say that David was devastated by the news would have been an understatement. It felt like his whole world had come crashing down on him. He went outside and sat down at the picnic table. That’s when he realized, for the first time, that he was utterly and inescapably in love with Sam. He cried for Sam, he cried for himself, and he cried for what might have been.

As it turned out, she wasn’t really pregnant after all. She had said that to get him to dump whoever else he was seeing and only be with her, but it backfired on her. He dumped her and started seeing David exclusively. That made David very happy. David taught Sam everything he knew about sex. And they enjoyed each other’s company both in and out of the bedroom.

Sam liked the way David’s balls felt so he asked David he could shave his for him. David had learned about shaved balls from an article in a Penthouse Forum magazine. David and Sam had a pretty intense bed-session afterwards. But David was Sam’s first boyfriend and David knew he needed to experience other guys. It was inevitable that just as David and Joe hadn’t lasted, David and Sam didn’t either. They parted ways amicably and stayed friends for many years afterward.

Sam met a really great guy who produced drag shows and they were nice enough to introduce David to drag queens like Ella Fitzgerald, Jean Carne, and so many more. It was kind of fun to get to know what the performer was really like behind the scenes and underneath all the make-up and costumes. Ella became a special friend of his, even after he went into the monastery (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

David ran into Sam, by accident, years later at the gym. He and his new partner had moved to South Carolina and he was just in Northern Virginia on business. He was now a private business consultant, his own boss, and he looked exactly the same… except for one thing. He had lost most of his hair! He was still cute, though. When they were alone in the locker room, he asked David about the nude polaroids they had taken of each other all those years ago. David assured him that he had cut the ones of Sam up, just like he’d asked.

“What did you do with the ones I took of you?” Sam asked curiously.

“This is gonna sound weird, but I sent them to an old boyfriend.”

“Really? Why?”

“Just something to remember me by,” David replied. “I told you it would sound weird.”

When they were finished in the locker room, he wished Sam well and told him that he was truly happy for him.

David had many more sexual partners over the years. He couldn’t always remember their names, but he’d remember something special about them. There was the guy David picked at 2001 while he was wearing his “Sit on a Happy Face” T-shirt. That guy could blow you while he was fucking you. Amazing! Then there was the guy who called David to tell him that David had given him the clap. When David told him he didn’t have a sore throat so he couldn’t have been the one, the guy had the nerve to ask if they could still go out sometime. He said, “No,” and hung up.

Then there was the guy he picked up when he was wearing his “There’s a party in my pants. Would you like to come?” T-shirt. He took David to see Evita in Baltimore and then he stayed over at his apartment; cute guy, same name, the show was wonderful! There was the guy he picked up one night after The Star closed. They went to a diner down the street and had sex in the bathroom while someone banged on the door. Then he came back to town again and they had sex in David’s bed.

There was the bouncer from Tracks. He was tall, dark, and handsome, with muscles for days. His skin was the color of rich mahogany and David flirted with him every time he went to the dance club. David was sure all the guys did, so he was surprised when he accepted David’s invitation to come home with him one night after closing. They had a special night of sex and did it again the next morning.

In addition to the maze at the Follies, he would pay visits to the Baths. This place was well lit and men could have anonymous sex in the orgy room, the steam room, the communal showers, or in individual rooms. LBJ Park was a cruising spot that Ben had told him about. David asked him to take him with him one time and after that, he would cruise during the day, too. He didn’t always get lucky when he went out, but he did often enough.

The list of sexual partners goes on and on; not judging, just sayin’.

Go-go dancer

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Sunday’s Child: Chapter 4 – Moving On

David met RJ about the time Beans met “the doctor.” Beans was head over heels for the guy so he started going out with him instead of David. In truth, the couple spent all their free time together. That left David without a dance partner and that’s where RJ came in. David would have to admit, though, that over time RJ became a really great friend, too. RJ was a hairdresser that he met at the Trap. He was tall, maybe 6’ 4”, and skinny, so he could wear just about anything. He had a thick head of hair that he highlighted within an inch of its life and he definitely stood out in a crowd!

Halloween was fast approaching and RJ asked David if he’d like to go to a costume party in Shadyside. David decided to go for a professional costume this time (growing up he made all his own and had even won contests for them). He looked in the phonebook and found a costume shop downtown. When he got there, the gentleman behind the counter asked if he had something specific in mind. He had to admit that he didn’t, but told him which party he was going to. The man told him that was the biggest party of the year, so what he wore had to be special.

He led David upstairs to the second floor. The entire area was floor to ceiling costumes… They were everywhere! He guided David back to a far corner and asked him to take off his shirt and pants so that he could get some measurements. David wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but he did as he was instructed. Secretly, he was glad he had worn underwear that day even though they were see-through. When the guy went to measure his inseam, his hand brushed up against David’s cock and balls and he got an instant erection!

After he had what he needed, the guy went off in search of the perfect costume. While he was gone, however, David heard voices coming up the stairs… women’s voices! David did his best to hide among the hanging outfits. He was, after all, still just in his underwear, but he lost his hard-on immediately. He heard them talking with the guy who had led him up there. Then the voices receded and he came back with what looked to be a Samurai warrior outfit. The jacket was red brocade with gold thread and the pants were the opposite, very nice. David tried it on then looked at himself in the mirror.

“So what do you think?” the man asked.

“I like it!” David replied.

After David removed the outfit, the gentleman took the costume and told him that he would be waiting downstairs. David dressed quickly and went back downstairs, too. The man was waiting behind the counter just as he said he would be. He explained how to put on the wig and apply the make-up. He also told him how much the rental fee was and when he had to return it.

In a word, the party was “amazing,” truly an otherworldly experience. There was an actual disco in the house! Afterwards, they went to the Trap for their costume contest and his favorite bartender didn’t even recognize him! It was probably because of the wig and Fu Manchu mustache. Anyway, he entered David in the contest and he won best costume… amazing!

*****

Thanksgiving came and went. Then it was time to go home for Christmas. David was walking to his car to drive back home to spend the holiday with his mom. But when he got to the parking lot and saw that the driver’s side window of his Datsun B210 was broken out, he was devastated. It was too late to get it fixed and he had no plastic to cover it with for the four hour ride home. So he went back upstairs, got a towel, and put that over the gaping hole just in case it started snowing again.

While he was in his apartment, he called and broke the bad news to his mom. Naturally, she was crestfallen, but she understood. He told her that he would call her in the morning to wish her a “Merry Christmas.” Then he called RJ and related his sad tale once more. Like the true friend that he was, he invited David to spend Christmas with his family.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” RJ said. “I’ll buzz you when I get there, okay?”

“I didn’t mean that…” he didn’t finish the thought, because he knew RJ wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“Are you sure it’ll be okay with your folks?” David asked. “I mean, it’s such short notice.”

“Of course, they’ll be happy to have you!” RJ replied enthusiastically.

“Okay, then, if you’re sure.”

“Yup”

“RJ?”

“Yeah?”

“Thanks!”

“No problem. I’m on my way. ”

When they arrived at RJ’s house it seemed to David like all the lights in the house were on! The house was large with a high-pitched roof and gable windows. The snow covering the roof, the grass, and the bushes only added to the overall “Christmassy” feel. It looked like a winter wonderland and he could only stare at it in amazement. They got out of the car, but only RJ moved toward the house.

“Come on,” RJ prodded. “Everyone’s waiting.”

David managed to put one foot in front of the other and fall in behind his friend. They entered through the mud room of the enormous house. RJ took David’s coat and overnight bag.

“David, this is my mom.”

“Thank you so much Mrs. Paxton. I really want you to know how much it means to me to be here. That you would invite me to spend Christmas with you, I mean.”

“It’s our pleasure. When Robert told us what happened to your car and asked if you could spend Christmas with us, of course we said yes. Honey, take David’s things up to your room and show him around, okay? Your dad and your brother are in the family room.”

“Come on.” RJ took him into the family room first. The fireplace was lit. The Christmas tree twinkled. And they were watching something on the TV.

“David this is my dad and my little brother Chris. Dad, Chris, this is David.” RJ’s dad got up to shake David’s hand.

“Thanks for having me Mr. Paxton. Hi Chris,” he said with a wave at the little boy.

“Think nothing of it. What’s one more, right?” David smiled and left with RJ following him up the large winding staircase.

“Here we are! It’s not much but…” he said trailing off.

“No, it’s great! The bed’s kinda small though. You sure I won’t be crowding you?”

“How much room could a little guy like you take up anyway?” RJ asked jokingly.

David knew what RJ was doing, so he refused to take the bait. RJ put David’s bag down on the bed, showed him where the bathroom was, and then took him back downstairs to the kitchen. Even before he saw it he could smell that RJ’s mom was making popcorn.

“Would you like to help me string popcorn for the tree?” asked Mrs. Paxton.

“Wow,” exclaimed David, “I haven’t­ done that since I was a kid! Sure!” He sat down at the counter and began to help making the garland.

“So David,” Mrs. Paxton started, “what’s your favorite Christmas memory?”

“That’s easy!” David replied as he strung another popped kernel on the thread, “It’s last year. I got home early enough for us to go out and get a tree. We drove to the closest lot and started looking around. There weren’t many left. And the ones that were left weren’t that great. I did manage to find one that wasn’t too bad, though. It was a good height and pretty full, but it had a crooked top and a big hole in it. Mom saw me looking at it and said, ‘That one looks nice.’ And I said, ‘Are you sure? It’s kinda funny looking. It looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.’ And she said, ‘Well, then it is perfect!’ So I went to look for the guy who ran the lot. When I asked him how much the tree was, he looked at the tree and then at us and said, ‘Five dollars.’ I asked him if he was sure and he told me that if he didn’t sell it, he’d just have to haul it away. Then we both said, ‘SOLD!’ at the same time and laughed.

“When we got it home, I put it in the stand while Mom got the decorations out. We did the best we could to fill in the big hole with ornaments and garland and stuff. The last decoration is always the tree-topper that I bought her when I broke her old one. I put it on the top vertical branch and it leaned to the right at a really funny angle.” When David said this, he couldn’t help but lean his head to the right, too. “That just made us both laugh. It was definitely a Charlie Brown tree.” David got quiet for a moment, and then his voice cracked just a little as he said,

“She’s not gonna have a tree this year. If only I had left a day earlier.” He got really quiet and then a single tear slid down his cheek. Mrs. Paxton saw it and came around the counter and hugged him.  She held him until the tears stopped, then pulled away a little and said,

“I’m just glad you could share Christmas with us. Would you like to call you mom?” She asked.

“No, that’s okay; I already talked to her today.”

“Well then, you can call her in the morning to wish her a ‘Merry Christmas,’ okay?’”

“Thanks,” David said appreciatively. He thought maybe it was going to be okay after all.

When they had finished decking out the tree in edible garland, RJ and David said their goodnights and headed off to bed.

They knew it was Christmas morning when little Chris knocked on the door, opened it, and announced, “Robbie, Robbie, it’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” And before they could even react, he was gone.

“Robbie?” David inquired with a devilish grin.

“I prefer RJ and don’t you forget it!”

“Oh, I won’t,” David said with a chuckle. “Robbie… I mean RJ!” RJ punched him in the arm, which didn’t really hurt, but David pretended it did anyway.

“Get up. We won’t be having breakfast until after we open presents.”

Opening presents was more for Chris than anyone else in the household, but they all seemed to enjoy it just the same. When the number of presents opened outweighed the number left, RJ handed David his. He was stunned. He sat there the whole time enjoying everyone else opening presents, but had never expected to have one to open himself. It was a beautiful black velour pullover with a shawl collar and a ribbed waistband. He loved it! He got up and gave RJ a big hug, then sat back down amazed at the generosity of this lovely family.

After a huge breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon, Mrs. Paxton asked him if he’d like to call his mom. He said that he could wait till he got home.

“I’m sure she’s waiting to hear from you. You can call her from Robert’s room if you’d like.”

“Thanks. I think I will.” He was happy to hear her voice. Yes, she wished that he was there with her right now. He did too, but as he described the Paxton’s generosity to her, she knew that it had happened for a reason and she was happy for him. He hung up the phone and was about to go back downstairs when RJ came into the room.

“I’m going to frost your hair. Follow me.”

David had been doing something to his hair since he was a teenager, so he agreed. In the summer he used to use Sun-In. It was easy. You just sprayed it on and sat in the sun! Then he used to help his sister streak her hair with a paste that left your fingertips white afterwards and use the leftovers on his own hair. This, however, was going to be quite a different experience altogether. This kind of frosting involved a rubber cap with tiny little holes in it and a crochet hook! It actually hurt a couple of times as RJ pulled the hair through. And David wasn’t at all sure it wasn’t on purpose! But RJ assured him that beauty was sometimes painful.

They made plans to go out on New Year’s Eve. RJ came over to David’s apartment early and dolled him up, make up and all, and they went out to the Trap. Needless to say, his other friends were not big fans of the new look! So “glam rock” wasn’t him. That was okay. David was trying new things, experimenting, to see if they fit. How would he know if he didn’t at least try, right?

*****

Over the next few weeks, things leveled out even more for David. The Bank Library was going to open for lunch and his bosses had asked him to be the waiter. That was in addition to his nights as a busboy for the disco. He was thrilled for the new opportunity even though he had never waited tables before. And he was pretty happy about being able to keep all the tips for himself! At night he had to settle for a share of the waitresses’ and bartenders’ tip money. Lorna was his favorite waitress to work with, so he took care of her and she took care of him. At least he would have something extra to spend on nights out.

When his lease was up, he decided to move in with his former teacher, Sharon, and go to work at Holiday House in Monroeville. She had a spare room in the cute little house she rented in Verona. David had kept in touch with her even after he had left AIP. She was 20 years older than him so she was kind of like a surrogate mother when he was away for home. Sharon was a beautiful hippy; a free spirit, easy going, incredibly mellow, and a great roommate.

It wasn’t long after he moved in with Sharon that RJ told him about the “Puppet” party. The puppet was what everyone called him, because he made a living out of performing with puppets. Well, they were marionettes actually. Anyway, he met two important people that night… Trip (not his real name) and Bill.

Trip Tyler was an infamous entertainer and comedian. He was staying at the Holiday House and he took a particular liking to David. He posed for pictures with all the guests and it was a nice souvenir to have as a reminder later on. Trip really wanted to take David back to the hotel with him, and David was tempted, but he was now working at the Holiday House, so he declined. Trip did find a “taker” though… a hot young blond.

Bill was the other man he met that night. They hit it off right away. David didn’t know at the time what a bear was, but that would have best described Bill. He wasn’t quite as tall as David and he was older and quite hairy which intrigued him very much. They were chatting in a corner when another good looking guy came up to them. He just stood there shooting daggers out of his eyes at David. He recognized the guy from art school. What David didn’t know, until Bill told him, was that the young man was actually Bill’s lover! David said, “Nice to meet you,” then quickly added looking right at Bill, “see you around.” Then he beat a hasty retreat.

David ran into the two of them again a few weeks later at another party. He waved at Bill acknowledging him, but not approaching him. He didn’t want a repeat of the last time. But when David went to the bathroom, Bill actually followed him in!

“Hi,” Bill offered.

“Hi yourself,” David countered.

“Look, I wanted to apologize for the last time. I put you in an awkward position and I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. If I had known…” he trailed off. Not knowing how to complete the thought.

“No! Really, it was my fault,” Bill said picking up the thread. “He agreed to an open relationship, rather than breaking up, but he’s not handling it well.”

“Oh!” was all David could say.

There was a knock on the door. “Just a minute,” they both said at the same time and chuckled.

“I still need to pee. Wanna talk about his outside after?”

“That would be great,” Bill replied. “I’ll meet you out there.” When Bill opened the door, guess who standing there? Yup. So Bill took him by the arm and they disappeared. When David was finished, he went outside to look for Bill, but couldn’t find him anywhere! “I guess they went home,” he thought. “Oh well.” Just then Bill came around the corner of the house and smiled.

“I sent him home. I told him if he couldn’t handle it he’d have to leave.”

“I’m sorry…” but he didn’t get to finish. Bill kissed him. Deeply. Passionately. That’s when David discovered that Bill was a really great kisser!

“Wow!” was all he could manage.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Bill said beaming.

“Uh, you definitely should.”

“Let’s get in the hot tub.”

“But I don’t have a swimsuit.”

“Nobody does.” And he proceeded to get naked. David followed suit even though he was sure he wasn’t drunk enough for this. This was David’s first good look at Bill’s body. Even though Bill was carrying a few extra pounds around the middle, David didn’t care. Bill was hot!

Bill got in first then helped David in. They sat across from each other and as he waited for Bill to make the first move, he felt a foot start to make its way up his leg. But just before it got to his crotch, David grabbed the little piggies with both hands to halt their progress. There were other people in the hot tub with them after all! But Bill was not going to be deterred that easily. He simply got up and moved next to David then put his hand on David’s cock. It got hard immediately, so David returned the favor by handling Bill’s thick member and then they started kissing. It wasn’t difficult to stay hard, but the other guys were watching now. Bill ended the kiss and suggested,

“I’ve got a better idea. Come home with me.”

“But what about…” David started to say, but Bill put his hand over his mouth to stop him.

“It’s all taken care of. Don’t worry. Say okay, okay?” David waited a second then gave him an enthusiastic, “Okay!”

They got out, dried off, and got dressed. David drove them to Bill’s house. The same house Bill shared with his scolded lover. David followed Bill upstairs and they made love. They didn’t have sex. Bill didn’t believe in that. They made love. And it was wonderful. In the morning, when they came downstairs together, there was no scene, no drama. Bill’s lover was actually nice to David. They all had breakfast together. “How civilized,” David thought. Afterwards, he said his “thank yous” and “goodbyes” then drove home. The couple did eventually split up and sold the house that they owned together. A few years later Bill moved to Florida where he met a really great guy and whenever David came to visit them in Fort Lauderdale, the “no suits in the hot tub” rule still applied. Years later Bill succumbed to ARC (AIDS Related Complex), though.

After Bill, David met a really hot guy through a mutual friend. He was tall, dark and handsome and David was very attracted to him! They had planned to go out on a date, but David’s wisdom tooth became impacted, so he had to go home and have all four of them taken out. That meant that they had to postpone their dinner date until he got back. As it turned out, one of them was infected, impacted, and growing sideways. It was a pretty painful procedure to get it out and he needed to be on antibiotics for a week before they could be removed.

A week passed and the dentist took them out. He still needed to recover, but really wanted to get back to Pittsburgh after laying around his mom’s place for days and days. So he went back a little early and called Dave (yes, his name was Dave) when he arrived. Dave invited David over for dinner that night.

When David arrived at the house, he was greeted with a hug and invited in, but almost immediately something felt wrong to him. The living room was pretty dark and he was asked to have a seat on the couch. They made small talk until Dave guided him down to the floor and started kissing him. His mouth still hurt from the surgery a few days earlier, so he said,

“I can’t do this tonight, Dave.” He was getting scared now. Dave didn’t seem to hear him, though.

“I can’t!” David pleaded this time as he pushed at him and tried to pull away.

“Trust me. You’re going to enjoy this.” Then he flipped David over on his stomach and yanked his pants down to his ankles in one quick move.

“No! Stop!” David cried, but to no avail.

He tried to wriggle out from under him, but Dave was so much bigger and stronger than him. Unable to break free and too terrified to watch, he could hear Dave spitting in his hand and then he was breached! White hot pain flooded him and he screamed out, “NO!” But his face was shoved into the carpet to muffle his cries. He was helpless to stop the Neanderthal on top of him rip his asshole apart. So he just sort of drifted away… letting his mind go to another place. He had no idea how long it lasted, but when the assault was finally over, he couldn’t even move. He just laid there; paralyzed, like road kill.

When he did finally come back to himself, it was because he felt David cleaning him up. He was sure he was bleeding, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to escape this hell-hole as soon as possible. Then he felt Dave slap him on the ass and say,

“See, I told you you’d enjoy it.”

When he left the room, David jumped up, pulled his pants on and flew out the door, tears streaming down his face. He didn’t slow the car down until he got close enough to home to recognize some familiar places. When he got to back to the house, he parked the car and flew into the house. He ran up the stairs, stripped off his clothes, and jumped in the shower. He didn’t know how long he was in there scrubbing, but eventually he turned off the water, stepped out, and toweled off. He didn’t know if he’d ever feel clean again. Then he opened his bedroom door and flung himself onto his bed. Then and only then did he truly feel safe.

He would run into Dave again, at the restaurant where Lorna worked now, sitting with their mutual friend, Garry. He acknowledged them, but did not speak to Dave. He had a solo art exhibit in Georgetown many, many years later, and was asked about the painting he’d done about that horrific night. The piece was entitled Soul Murder, because that’s what rape is… soul murder. He shared, with those gathered that night, that he had been raped and that rape is not about sex. It’s about power; power over someone who is weaker, more vulnerable.

Shortly after the most horrendous night of his young life, David quit his job, packed up his belongings in a U-haul, and moved back to Virginia. Even though the good memories were now tainted by the horror of that night, he would come back on occasion, on weekends, to visit friends. He even saw Joe on one of those visits. They had a chance to talk and reconnect. David was apologetic and Joe was forgiving. It was very cathartic for them both, he thought. He could never again call Pittsburgh home, though, so there was no future for them as a couple and they left it at that. They were literally in two different places now. The next time he heard from Joe, David pretended not to remember him. It was a hard thing to do, but he believed it was for the best. When he hung up, he cried; for what Joe had meant to him, for their love, and for what he had just done.

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Sunday’s Child: Chapter 3 – In the Beginning

David was born in Austin, Texas at the end of one era and the beginning of another. He was a shy little boy, but when he was in Kindergarten, he discovered that he loved making things. Art time became his favorite part of the day; even before nap time! It helped him to come out of his shell a bit, because he was praised for doing something well. Something his father rarely did.

In the first grade, in addition to his love of art, he discovered another joy, learning about other countries, their peoples, and their cultures. The interest was prompted by his teacher’s trip to Australia and her fascinating tales she related of what she saw and experienced there. The duck-billed platypus was his favorite animal for years. The recounting of her trip and the bringing back of a giant Australian penny for each student would later inspire him to go where he might not have thought possible, if not for her.

His father was transferred to DC, so he found himself in a new school for second grade. Hybla Valley Elementary was located south of Alexandria, Virginia. He had trouble, at first, making friends at the new school, but after awhile he would make true friends with several kids. In the trailer park where they lived, two boys in his cul-de-sac would come be his best friends. By the third grade, he, Darrel, Evan, along with his brother Perry, were playing combat, riding bikes, tossing the Frisbee, shooting marbles, building forts in the woods, and snow forts in the snow, together with other boys from the neighborhood. He married his longtime girlfriend, Debbie Reinhart, is a small ceremony on the playground during recess. They exchanged plastic rings and recited vows. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. Her family moved away a few years later and took his curly-haired, freckle-faced wife with them.

His fourth grade teacher was from Hawaii. She taught her students about the Hawaiian culture. She played the ukulele for them and sang Hawaiian songs. She introduced octopus and seaweed to them. David had to admit to her that he was not fond of octopus, though. It was just too chewy! She would turn out to be his favorite teacher in elementary school. The school started an experimental pilot program teaching French in the fourth grade. They also learned square dancing and folk dancing. His fifth grade teacher was a real fox. Her name was Ms. Hart. She had red hair and wore mini-skirts. David had a crush on her that whole year. In the sixth grade he was happy to finally have a really cool male teacher, Mr. Geoffries.

He became a school bus patrol in the sixth grade. It almost didn’t happen, though, because he forgot when the meeting was. When he did finally remember, he told his mom, and they made it just in time. Students were asked to write a poem that would be bound in a book and kept at the school for posterity. His poem was entitled “Love Is…” But what did he know about love at age twelve? His new girlfriend’s name was Alma del Rio and she was a real beauty; long brown hair, dark skin, and chocolate brown eyes. They even went to a Boy Scout social together although his mother thought him too young to date.

He had been taking cello lessons since he was big enough to carry the instrument. He even learned a piece for the school musical that year. He and Perry were to be munchkins in The Wizard of Oz; Perry danced while David played the cello. David also entered an art contest and won! He ran for Vice-President of the student body, but did not win. Frederick was the good friend he made at school and would know for years to come. There were also two boys by the name of Leif and Raymond that let David into their inner circle for one great summer. Leif was the cool kid in class and Raymond was the tough guy. He never forgot that.

He went to Boy Scout Camp one year. It turned out to be a lot of fun. He learned how to make a basket, fell in love with archery, and he and his cabin partner even won the three-legged race. He took his first outdoor shower at camp. It was an interesting experience and he would get comfortable with being naked around other guys from then on, at least until high school that is. His troop went camping a lot, so he got to skinny-dip with the guys in streams, and shower outdoors. He even took to sleeping nude in his sleeping bag while on these scouting trips.

This was also about the time David started going into the woods to strip off all his clothes and run naked. It gave him a sense of freedom he’d never had before. It was also more than a little thrilling, because he never knew if he was going to get caught. He never did get caught, but there was always that possibility, which made it doubly thrilling. Perry did catch him masturbating in their room. It was embarrassing for David, but Perry just laughed.

Another thrill was shoplifting. He started out just stealing small things and he never got caught doing that, but he wouldn’t realize what it might have cost him until he was much older. He was also very involved in church activities, a contradiction to his “life of crime and nudity.” He was in the youth choir and the R.As (Royal Ambassadors) as well. He even played the Archangel Gabriel in the Christmas pageant. He got through reciting his lines by looking over the heads of the congregation and not at any one person; a tip someone had given him.

David, his family, and other families from church, like their neighbors the Pecks drove to Eagle Eyrie for a religious retreat. There they had time to learn and reflect on God and their beliefs. On the last night, while they were singing Just As I Am, David felt the holy spirit descend upon him and he walked up the aisle crying to accept Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior. He met several times with his pastor when he got back home and was baptized shortly thereafter.

David’s family used to spend summers at the Peck’s cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains. There were days spent hiking, tubing down the river, and laying in the sun. Their nights were spent catching lighting bugs and bathing in the river; David went along with the frog gigging, but just to hold the burlap sack. He never gigged a frog or ate frog’s legs ever.

One summer, he hurt his knee climbing out of the swiftly flowing Little Pigeon River and it swelled up like a grapefruit. When they got back to Alexandria, his mom took him to see their doctor about it and then to a specialist. He was diagnosed with Osgood Schlatter’s disease and had to wear a splint on his leg from then on. The kids in school used to call him “gimpy,” “Chester,” and “Festus.” It hurt his feelings very much, but it ended up getting him out of gym class a lot, so he put up with it. He had always been called a “sissy” and though that hurt, too, he was just too small and shy to stand up to the bullies in elementary, middle and high school.

Junior High had him at W.C. Bryant in the seventh grade and Walt Whitman (at Hayfield until Mount Vernon High was finished) in the eighth. He fractured his left wrist in a freak snowball fighting incident and had to wear a cast for weeks, but seemed like months. It would never feel right again. Seventh grade was also tough because he got a raging hard on nearly every morning during second period Biology class and had to walk to his next with his textbook in front of his problem area. The family moved out of the trailer park and into a house on Cooper Road the summer between Bryant and Whitman, so he had to make new friends once again. He would choose to run with kids who were a little more edgy. Definitely not mainstream. He wouldn’t regret it even when he got to Mount Vernon High School. He had friends who were jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, potheads, drama queens, fashionistas, and everything in between. He would also develop his first crush… on Mr. G, his gym teacher.

Now that they had a yard, the family decided to get a dog. They found an ad in the paper for a puppy. David and his mom had to drive to Maryland to get him, but he was worth it. His name was King, but David didn’t think that suited him. So he renamed him Scoodles, because he was half Scottie and half Poodle. He was a great dog and would prove to be a little escape artist, too. He was always breaking free and running off for a bit of fun. He even made friends with an Irish Setter from down the road, but he always found his way home.

High school did not start out easy for David. His sister was a senior his freshman year, but she refused to acknowledge his existence in front of her friends. Apparently, it wasn’t “cool” to associate with freshmen. This hurt him very much, because he had always thought they were closer than that. He also decided that if he didn’t like a certain class, then he shouldn’t have to go. So he started skipping and going to the library instead reading all kinds of books and various subjects. He would develop a life-long love of reading due in no small part to the amount of time he spent in the school’s library.

He did enjoy French class, though. He had been taking French since the fourth grade, so when a trip to France was offered and his teacher was going as the guide, he asked his parents if he could go, too. It was just eight months since his girlfriend had died and his mother thought it would be good for him. His father, of course, was not sold on the idea (he was cheap), but when his mother argued that it might help him forget for a little while about losing Carolyn, he gave in.

Even though he should have been nervous about flying over the Atlantic on his very first plane trip ever, he wasn’t. He looked forward to the adventure. The plane stopped in England to refuel and then landed at Le Bourget Airport just outside Paris. Then they took a shuttle to their hotel downtown. Being the only boy, David had a room by himself. Anna and Sandie were together, and Mme. Sandgrove was in a room with her daughter. The first thing David noticed about the room was that it had two toilets! Of course he didn’t know that one of them was a bidet. Mme. Sandgrove had to tell him what it was and what it did. And the shower was down the hall in what was called the water closet.

Their days were filled with visits to the Louvre where he saw the Venus de Milo, La Joconde (the Mona Lisa), and Winged Victory (Nike); Napoleon’s Tomb in Les Invalides; Notre Dame Cathedral; Fontainebleau; Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. They climbed the Eifel Tower, walked around the Arc de Triumphe, and to the top of Montmartre to visit Sacré Coeur. They saw a French movie, but Madame fell asleep. She was awakened by a strange hand reaching around trying to feel her up! She started yelling at him in French and he ran from the theatre like a bat out of Hell! Exciting! And of course they went shopping for souvenirs for family and friends.

They took a bus to Nice, had to stop overnight in Lyon, had dinner, and ordered pommes frites (French fries). The next day they were back on the road toward the French Riviera. They stopped in Avignon, saw the famous bridge (form the song he learned as a kid) and the castle. He noticed that even in April the castle was cold. It had windows, but no glass in them, so tapestries were placed over them. The group arrived at the hotel late, so they checked into their rooms and got a good night’s sleep. The next day they took a day trip by bus to Monaco and San Remo; the latter of which was just over the border in Italy.

They shopped in San Remo where David picked up a small reproduction of Michelangelo’s Pietà for his mother. They also had lunch at a little bistro. When they saw the very rotund waitress they were sure she was Italian, but she was English! David ordered ravioli and was amazed at how little sauce you got; nothing like the Chef Boyardee he was used to.

That night they all decided it would be fun to try and get into a discothèque. It turned out to be much easier than it would have been back home. They didn’t dare order real drinks, but they could dance! A familiar song came over the sound system and the whole American party started to sing, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” by Labelle. The only problem, the French boys didn’t know the American girls were underage! So David had his work cut out for him chaperoning several couples at a time, but still managed to have fun himself.

The next day they had some down time, so they decided to get some sun on the beach.  The beach didn’t have sand, though. It had smooth stones, so they couldn’t lay on it. Anna, Sandie, and David stripped down as far as they could and lay down on the ramparts, even though it was a little chilly. While they were sunbathing, they overheard an elderly English couple commenting on the crazy French people. They had a laugh and decided to talk a little louder than they were, in order for the couple to hear that they weren’t French, but actually American. The woman looked sufficiently abashed.

He was excited about the train trip back to Paris, because he had never been on a train and certainly never bunked with two girls (Anna and Sandie) before! When they arrived back in Paris, they checked back into their original hotel and that evening took in a show at the Moulin Rouge. The small group of underage Americans even got to drink champagne. It was quite a racy show; the showgirls were topless. Some sat on swings and floated out over the crowd. There was even a big water tank where a dolphin took the showgirl’s top of for her!

When David got back to the hotel that night, he was a little drunk. He was looking out his window over the courtyard and saw a man in a window across the way. The man didn’t move away from the window. Instead he started to undress. David was fascinated by the act; he’d never been a voyeur before. When the man got down to his underwear, he motioned for David to do the same, so he did. Now they were both staring at each other in their underwear. The man across the way pulled down his briefs and stepped out of them. He was now naked in front of David and motioned again for David to do the same. So he pulled his briefs down and stepped out of them as well. They were both standing there with hard-ons. David mirrored everything the stranger did and he seemed to have as intense an orgasm as David did. It was certainly the most thrilling thing he’d ever done!

The next morning, David had a little time before the plane was to depart, so he decided to get a haircut. The lady was nice and asked him what he would like. He pointed to the picture in the window. She pulled it out and placed it in front of her station. She did a great job and he was happy with the results. When got back to school he was the only one with a European haircut while all the other boys still had long hair!

*****

David had always had a weakness for hurt animals. If he saw one, he’d do whatever he could to help it. He found a bird that was hurt and tried to help it by giving it a warm place to recover, but it died over night. He named it, painted its name on a rock, and buried it in the backyard. He found a rabbit that had been hit by a car. He gave it a warm place to sleep, but its injuries were too severe. He named it, painted its name on a rock, and buried it in the backyard. After awhile his dad noticed that at least a dozen graves were in the backyard, so he said, “Well, you have quite a pet cemetery going back there.” David just smiled, but when that one filled up, he just started a new one by the fence.

His parents separated his junior year leaving him with a choice. Stay with his brother, sister, and the man whom he was convinced hated him or leave with his mom and have a tough time of it, but be happy to be out from under the hand of the tyrant. He chose the latter… and happiness.

That summer their father asked David and his brother Perry to dig a basement at the Cooper Road house. David was going to get paid, so he didn’t even care that they would only have picks, shovels, and a wheelbarrow. He and his brother didn’t always work well together, though. They never really had. Every scar on David’s face could be directly attributed to his brother and vice versa. One day they really got into it and David told Perry to go ahead and hit him if he was “man enough.” He even pointed at his chin! So Perry did. That’s when they had a real knock-down-drag-out fight in the mud. They got into trouble with their father for it, too.

Another thing he could have gotten in trouble for was stealing Playgirl magazines. Even though he had only dated girls, he had always had a strong sexual attraction to men. He had always admired the male physique and this new magazine was the perfect resource for the worship of the male form. They even had TV and movie stars in it! So he now had two things he hid in his room, Playgirls and cigarettes.

In his junior year he went to two proms and a winter formal. He ran for class Senator three years in a row and won, but lost the election senior year for Vice-President. That office was simply not meant to be for him. David entered art shows and enjoyed his architecture classes, but he still refused to attend a class he didn’t like. So when Mr. Leonard, his Vice-Principal, called him into his office and his English teacher was there, David wasn’t surprised when he said,

“David this is your English teacher Ms. Sayers. Ms. Sayers, this is David, the student who’s on your roll, but you’ve never met.”

“As a senior I should have had first pick of classes and yet I was assigned to a class I didn’t choose second, third, or fourth,” David explained to them, “while I know some juniors who got their first pick,”

Ms. Sayers was very sympathetic and asked,

“What can I do to get you to attend classes?” She offered him several options and he ended up choosing to study grammar for the semester.

Gym class was tough too for a couple of reasons. He was terrible at all sports except for archery and track. He was also afraid of the locker room. He was sure he was going to get a hard-on in the showers, especially when the gym teachers were walking around nude. Those men were hot! He got out of it most times with a doctor’s note, so his teacher put him in charge of handing out towels. Luckily, he got to hand them out while sitting down, just in case something got aroused.

David’s father was a Freemason, so it was only natural that he and Perry join the DeMolay, a fraternity of young men under the guidance of the local Masonic lodge. Frederick was a close friend from elementary school that was in David’s DeMolay chapter. They decided to put on a spaghetti dinner and play to earn money. David went to a local furniture store and asked to borrow pieces for the play and in return he designed an ad for the back of the flyer. They performed Neil Simon’s Prisoner of Second Avenue. The guys played all the parts including the women’s. David would put on women’s clothes and do drag that one time. When he accidentally kicked the coffee table with his platform shoe while reciting a line, the audience chuckled. He broke the fourth wall and gave them a comic look over the top of his cat’s eye glasses that said he didn’t think it was funny which of course made them laugh again. He liked acting so much he volunteered to play Guy D’Auvergne one of the characters in the DeMolay Rite of Initiation that was burned at the stake with Jacques DeMolay. His skills as an actor would come in handy later on in life.

He started drinking and smoking around that time. His best friend was into all that and introduced David to the “wild” side of himself. They got high too. He went to clubs and bars with friends even though he was nowhere near the legal age at the time. He drove home drunk on more than one occasion and had no idea how he’d gotten there.

He chose to walk home from school sometimes so he could make up stories or songs. He would work out the story or song on the way to the apartment. Anything could inspire him; the trees, leaves, clouds, even something that happened in school that day. It was both fun and freeing. He was voted “Most Creative” and “Best Dressed” boy in his senior class, and even attended 3 proms! He also modeled in the school fashion show. He got to show off clothes from Saks Fifth Avenue which he thought was pretty cool. The other guys in the show were jocks, so he helped them with their walks and turns and in return they helped him with his pretend tennis serve.

Mr. and Mrs. Stivers invited him to his very first concert, because they were just that nice. They made a night of it and drove all the way to Shady Grove to see Bette Midler. He would see her many times over the coming decades. He would never tire of seeing her perform!

His father got remarried the summer after David finished high school. He was selling the Cooper Road house and moving in with his new wife, so he had to find a new home for Scoodles. He found a family who lived on a farm and wanted the little guy. David and Perry came to say goodbye. It was hard for David and it would be many years before he had a dog again. He was really going to miss his little buddy.

Now all that was left for him after graduation was to move to Pittsburgh, where a full scholarship was waiting for him at the Art Institute, and make a new start. He was looking forward to being on his own and making new friends in the Fashion Illustration department.

the cello player

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Sunday’s Child: Chapter 2 – Like an Old Coat

Suicide was like an old friend to David. It had been his constant companion for almost five years now. He thought of it like an old coat that you would wrap yourself up in, warm and comforting. It may have holes everywhere and patches at the elbows, it might even smell a little musty. And even though you know you should throw it away, you just can’t seem to part with it. This was not actually the first time that David had tried to “off himself” (nor would it be the last, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves). The first time was when he was in junior high school. He had tried to do it by injecting himself with a mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. He remembered that it stung going in, but he didn’t die from it. The next time was shortly thereafter. He swallowed a whole bottle of aspirin. The only thing that happened was that he woke up the next day and couldn’t hear! There was a horrible ringing in his ears and his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. But he was still alive. So that would make slitting his wrists number three. That is to say, unsuccessful attempt number three.

David couldn’t blame Joe for the attempt. It wasn’t something Joe had done. He had been great. It was something deep inside David; a far away feeling that was both comforting and terrifying at the same time. Constant… always there… warm… like an old coat. So it was no big surprise to him when he found himself on the roof of his apartment building a few days later with no idea how he had gotten there. He took a tentative step toward the wrought iron railing at the edge of the deck. Then another and another and before he knew it, he was climbing over it. The gravel crunched under his feet as he made his way to the edge. Then he was standing there looking out at the whole of North Side. He could see the fire department, the hospital, the park, the bridges, and the whole of downtown as well. It was amazing! But then he thought, “If this is so amazing, why am I thinking about stepping off the edge?”

As he continued to look down from his lofty perch, he could see all the people below just walking by. Never looking up. Never seeing the guy standing on the edge… both literally and figuratively. What would they say if they saw him there? Would they call the Police? Would they call out to him? The longer he stood there the more those kinds of thoughts came to mind. How would he be remembered? Would he be remembered? Of course, his mom would be the most upset over his death. How could he do this to her? He remembered when he had broken the news to her that he changed his name; she told him that all she had ever wanted growing up was a son named David. He had kept it, but it was now his middle name. He had done it to distance himself from the father who had abused him and who he was sure hated him.

He stood there for awhile longer, toes dangling off the edge, trying to decide. Then something pulled him back. He continued to back up a few feet and then a few feet more until he found himself back at the railing. He climbed over, made his way down the stairs to his floor and into his apartment. But then he went straight to the silverware drawer, took out the only long sharp knife he owned. He thought Hara-Kiri was his only option now. He pointed it at his stomach and looked down. “All I have to do is push this into my belly and it will all be over,” he thought. He stood there for several minutes trying to get up the courage to do it. But in the end all he had to show for it was a small hole in his shirt and a little blood. He drifted over to the bed, dropped the knife and sat down. He would not die today. Someday, yes, but not today.

“I guess my will to live is stronger than my will to die,” he said aloud. “I wonder why? I wonder if I’ll ever know why I keep doing this.” He lay down and closed his eyes. He didn’t want to think about it anymore. Sleep. That’s what he needed. Sleep.

When he woke up a few hours later, he could feel the hunger gnawing at his insides. “I guess I’ll try and scrounge up something for dinner,” he thought. Just then the phone rang. He got up and went to sit at his old school desk where he kept the candlestick phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey! It’s me.” It was Beans calling. “How are you doing today?”

“Not too bad and you?” He wasn’t about to mention today’s incident… attempts number four and five!

“I’m just getting out of class.” Beans had stayed at AIP even after David had quit. “You wanna go down to the Greek place, by the bridge, and grab a gyro?”

“Sweetie, you read my mind. I’m starving!”

“Great! Meet you there?”

“Sounds good. See you in a few. Bye!” They both hung up. David changed his shirt really quickly then grabbed his coat and keys and ran out the door.

He could see Beans waiting outside the restaurant. He waved and Beans waved back.

“What took you so long?” He yelled.

“Cute,” David answered. “You know how long it takes me to get here.”

“Yeah, but I’ve been waiting forever.”

“Of course, you have. School’s right around the corner!”

Beans smiled and said, “Let’s go in.”

Once they were seated, the waitress came over and took their orders. They were both having gyros and sodas, but Beans crooked his finger at her and then whispered something in her ear. She smiled at David and left to put their orders in with the cook.

“What did you do?” David asked sounding exasperated with his best friend once again.

“You’ll see.” And then he laughed that nasally laugh of his.

“Great, that’s just great!”

They made small-talk while waiting for their food and when it finally did arrive; it came with a special gift, the gift of a dance. The restaurant had a belly-dancer and Beans had told them it was a special occasion, David’s birthday. Of course, it wasn’t, but that didn’t matter to Beans. The look on David’s face as she swiveled her hips and shook her fake tits at the back of his head was priceless! Beans slipped a bill of some unknown denomination in the waistband of her costume and thanked her. Beans was going to “dine out” on that one for weeks!

“Well, I have to say that that was definitely the craziest meal I have ever had! Thank you for that, you little shit!” David said as they left the restaurant.

“You’re welcome! I live to serve.”

“No, you don’t!!!” David said emphatically. “You live to suck.”

“Ah, yes, that is my true talent,” Beans agreed.

“So where to next?”

“I have to be getting home, so I’ll walk you to your apartment,” Beans replied and they started walking across the bridge to North Side. Beans had grown up on the north side of the city. And every time he spoke, he reminded you of it. Pittsburgh natives have a very distinctive way of pronouncing certain words. It made Beans all the more endearing to David.

As they were about to go their separate ways, Beans said,

“You know I love you, right?”

“Yup, I do.” David replied. “Love ya, too!” And he walked into the building.

There it was again. He couldn’t say, “I love you” to his best friend. He went upstairs, opened the door to his apartment, and turned on the radio. It was playing Wishing You Were Here by Chicago and wham, suddenly Carolyn was in his mind. He hadn’t thought of her in ages, but there she was as young and as pretty as the last time he saw her. Her mother had brushed her honey brown hair and she was smiling. That day in the hospital after her surgery for uterine cancer; the day before she died in 1974.

David met Carolyn at his sister Susan’s installation as Honored Queen of Bethel 58. She was in Bethel 22, pretty and sweet, and could keep up with him on the dance floor through slow and fast songs. She was the same age, but a year ahead of him in school. It was okay with both of them, because they went to different high schools, rival high schools actually. After a year he gave her a ring. It had a small diamond in the middle of an infinity symbol. It had cost him all the money he had to buy it, but she was worth it.

There was a dance before his chapter went to Richmond on a service trip. They were dancing to their song, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, when she complained of a pain in her abdomen. He didn’t think anything of it at the time, though. The Masonic Home needed some things done, like scraping old paint off and repainting the entire wrought iron fence in front of the grounds. In the evenings, they cut loose, played football, and even drank some whiskey that one of the guys had pilfered then went streaking.

It was late when he got home. He walked in the door and his father was standing there in his underwear and a t-shirt. He didn’t know what was wrong, but he knew something was. His father told him to sit down and then proceeded to tell him that while he was away Carolyn had been diagnosed with cancer and that she just had surgery to remove her uterus. His mother took him to see her in the hospital every day, except the last day that is. Carolyn’s mother had called and asked them not to come; she was having a bad day. Then they got the news that she had died that afternoon.

Both the viewing and the funeral were well attended. He noticed two things, though. The first was that she didn’t look like herself. He found out later, that cancer turns the skin black, so even though they made her up, she still didn’t look like herself. And he could see fingerprints on the skin of her neck where they had forgotten to touch up the make-up. He sat with Carolyn’s family; his mother and the rest of his family were a few rows back on the left. He broke down during the service and when he looked back at his mother, he could tell she wished that she were there next to him, comforting him.

The next year, when he was elected Master Councilor of Mount Vernon Chapter, he asked that donations be made in her honor to the American Cancer Society. Carolyn’s mother came up to him after his installation, hugged him and, with tears in her eyes, thanked him. He didn’t know what to say, so he just smiled and held her hand until she walked away. There was a reception and dance afterwards, but his thoughts were filled with Carolyn. When he went home that night, he played his 45 of Chicago’s Wishing You Were Here and he cried.

He comforted himself with memories of dances, their song, group dates, movie dates, double dates with Deanna and José, and solo dates which morphed into memories of Joe. It always seemed to come back to Joe. Joe the sweet guy who loved him even though he couldn’t say “I love you” back.  He could see that beautiful face: those dark, smoldering eyes, his aquiline nose, and those kissable lips. Memories of him in his Thunderbird… oh how he loved that car. Of him in the morning, with his glasses on, before he put his contacts in… he looked so cute! Of late walks around the planetarium, then kissing in the fountain as the snow fell… magical. And of sex! He remembered the first time he rimmed Joe (which was something he had learned from Geoffrey). He got exactly the response he had hoped for… total abandonment to pleasure!

Joe wasn’t David’s first sexual partner even though he had come to Pgh. a virgin. He slept with his roommate’s girlfriend after they had all gotten high at the AIP dorm in Shadyside. He hadn’t come out, though, until confronted by a very aggressive girl from school who wanted to bed him. In an act of desperation, and just to get her to leave him alone, he blurted out that he was gay! Actually, the word he had used was homosexual. She didn’t believe him at first, but he assured that he was. After the party, he had spent several days thinking about it and realized that he really was gay!

Once he figured out that he was gay, his friends from art school took him to the Tender Trap/Trapeze (the “Trap” for short). The first time he saw two men dancing together he just knew that it was right. That what he was was right! So the next order of business was to find someone to teach him about man-to-man sex. It may sound like his approach was cold and clinical, but it was the right way method for him. Beans knew a guy that had been around the block a time or two. His name was Ronald. Beans thought he was a slut so he didn’t like him very much, but David knew he was the right one to “do it” with. And what Beans didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

So one Saturday night, he got dressed up and walked down to the biggest dance club in the city… 2001. He was hoping to run into Ronald there, and as luck would have it, he did. When the right song came on, he asked Ronald to dance. After about 30 minutes of non-stop dancing, David asked him if he wanted to go back to this apartment. Ronald’s eyes lit up! After some really great sex, a nap, some more great sex, another nap, more sex and then a shower, he finally had to send Ronald on his way; seven hours after he’d arrived. He had learned more in one night with Ronald than he ever imagined he could.

Once he figured out that sex was the “greatest thing since sliced bread,” he had it as often as he could find a trick to do it with. Back then, safe sex really was unheard of. STDs were pretty easy to cure with a prescription from the doctor or something over the counter. AIDS wasn’t even in a gay man’s vocabulary, on the east coast yet. He often made the first move when it came to sex and experimented in order to figure out what he liked and what he didn’t. His friends and tricks never did believe him when he told them he was painfully shy as a child.

Pittsburgh 1

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Sunday’s Child: Chapter 1 – The End

David stood there in the bathroom staring at his reflection in the mirror, the X-Acto knife on the counter next to the sink where he’d dropped it. The blood was flowing pretty freely, but he was still able to stand. Well lean anyway. At first he was careful to keep his wrists over the sink, but he was starting to feel kind of tired now. An effect of the cuts and the blood loss he supposed. He wasn’t sure how long he was going to be able to stand there like that, leaning against the counter. He really didn’t want to make a mess that someone else would have to clean up. He was thoughtful like that, even when he was dying.

He tried to refocus on the sad, young man staring back at him. He knew he looked terrible. His hair was sticking out in every direction, the exact opposite of the way he normally looked. Then there were the dark circles under his eyes. He looked like shit! Why wouldn’t he after the week he’d had? And what he had just done. But how had he gotten to this point? Was it a single event or a series of events that had lead to this moment? He wasn’t sure he knew. Was it the lack of sleep, the lack of food, the crying for hours on end? They were all just symptoms of something worse, lying just beneath the surface. But what had led him to this moment in the bathroom in his tiny little apartment on the fourth floor of One Allegheny Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? He just didn’t know. ­­­­

Joe had moved out a week ago. It had been hard on both of them. Joe had assumed that David loved him. David had never said the words though. He had said, on many occasions, “Love ya,” but never, “I love you.” He had been careful not to. That one extra word made all the difference in the world as far as he was concerned. Joe had thought it was implied, but David couldn’t bring himself to utter the three little words that Joe so desperately wanted, needed, to hear. Why was that so hard?

Joe had been kicked out of his parent’s house when he told them he was gay. They had only been dating a little while when David offered to take him into his efficiency apartment and his life. But it proved to be their undoing as couple. Joe was now living at his brother’s house and David had to admit that he had screwed up, big time! He missed him. And then the tears started flowing again. He needed to lie down before he passed out right there in the bathroom.

He stumbled out of the doorway and managed to stay upright while holding onto the wall all the way to the bed, then collapsed on it as much from emotional as physical exhaustion. He was just so sleepy at this point, but couldn’t help replaying that final day in his mind over again. The fight had been horrific. They had both been yelling. David was surprised that someone hadn’t called the police on them! Why had he been such an asshole to Joe? Certainly, he cared for him, so why? He was used to having the place to himself and it really was too small for two people, but he had asked Joe to come live with him. Joe hadn’t asked him! Then why had he been such a jerk about it? More questions, but still no new answers.

New question, how long did it take to die anyway? He lifted his head and looked down at his bloody wrists. The bleeding had stopped, the blood had clotted. “Oh great!” he thought to himself. “I can’t even kill myself right!” That started a new crying jag. He buried his face in the pillow and cried himself to sleep. When he woke up several hours later, he thought, “Well at least I got some sleep out of it. Now I have to go clean up the mess in the bathroom!” And, “Does blood even come out of sheets?”

After he finished cleaning up the sink and bathroom counter, he took the blade out of the handle and threw it in the trash. Normally, he was a pretty thrifty guy, but he just couldn’t see using it again to cut mats or anything else for that matter. It would just be another reminder that he had screwed that up, too. He was just too worn out to change the sheets, so he stripped the bed and fell face first onto the mattress and bare pillow. He’d worry about that tomorrow.

He woke up the next day well rested, but his wrists hurt like hell! “Oh, yeah,” he said, “I tried to off myself yesterday. Good job, as usual, dumb-ass! And apparently… now… I’m going to start talking to myself… out loud. Perfect!” He did have to laugh at that, though. “Sense of humor? Check! Maybe this day will be better than yesterday. I mean it couldn’t be any worse, could it?” he asked himself. “The next order of business,” he continued, “how do I fix this mess at the ends of my arms? It’s gonna be pretty hard to hide. What do I say if someone asks me what happened?” He’d have to think long and hard about that one. First, he’d try and clean them as best he could. Maybe then he could see what size bandages he’d need to buy to cover up the evidence.

He soaked them, because picking the scabs was just torture. That helped and he was able to get a good look at them for the first time since the “incident.” He liked the sound of that. It made his failure just a little bit easier to bear. They were each about 3 inches long. The blade he’d used was very sharp so there were no jagged edges. He thought they might even blend in later on once they’d healed. He really didn’t want them to look like battle scars even if that’s what they really were. But he knew that they would always be there; a reminder of that day. He hastily wrapped them in toilet paper and left the apartment.

The grocery store was within walking distance, so he thought he’d take a little jog over there, but as soon as he broke into a run he felt woozy. He’d forgotten about the blood loss. He still wasn’t ready for that kind of physical exertion. A stroll sounded better anyway. He picked up some gauze, bandage tape, and some soup then headed back home. When he got in the door, he set the bag on the counter, took off his jacket and began damage control. Once he felt that they were as good as they were going to get, he put everything away and went into the kitchen to heat up his soup.

Now that he was working at the bar he could afford better food than when he was in art school. To be honest, he could afford food. When he was in art school, he ate grilled cheese sandwiches, soup, and rice. And he drank milk. That was it. Once a week or so, one of his friends would invite him over for dinner or bring it to him. Then he would really eat! When Joe had come to live in the tiny apartment with him, they had eaten well. In fact, even better than when he went home.

David’s mom was a single parent (after they divorced David’s father) trying to keep her head above water. He would tell the story many times, later in life, about how he and his mom had barely had enough money his senior year in high school to afford hamburger for the Hamburger Helper. Even once a week! He had thought about making some Hamburger Helper this evening, but decided against it. He still felt kind of shitty and didn’t want that sitting at the bottom of his stomach all night. The soup was his favorite, Campbell’s Tomato. And he made it with milk instead of water, unlike what he and his mom had to do so often because they always seemed to be strapped for cash.

David didn’t have a TV, so he decided to make the bed with clean sheets and turn in early. Just as he was about to climb under the covers there was a knock at the door. “Shit!” he thought. Luckily, he didn’t say it out loud, though. Whole conversations could be heard in those hallways. He got up and looked through the peephole. It was Beans! How was he going to explain his bandages?

“Just a minute,” David called as he grabbed the first thing with long sleeves he could find and put it on. Then he opened the door; in front of him stood the little bundle of dynamite that was his best friend. He was 5 foot who knew what, maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet, a big brown helmet of hair, and an even bigger smile.

“Beans!” David shouted. “What are you doin’ here? And how did you get in anyway?”

“Uh, duh, we were supposed to go to the Trap tonight… dancing… remember?! And a very nice young man let me in,” then he waggled hid eyebrows lasciviously.

“I guess I’ll have to complain to security,” David quipped. Beans just ignored him and continued.

“I see you already have your sweater on, but what about some pants, huh?” David realized just how stupid he must look in a sweater and underwear.

“I was just going to call you and cancel.”

“Cancel? You’d better have a really good reason for cancelling on me, turkey. You got a trick in there?” He pushed past David walking all the way into the apartment. Looking around he asked,

“So where is he? This apartment isn’t THAT big! Where’s he hiding?”

Joining him David said, “Beans, as you can see there’s no trick here!”

“Wow, you really had me fooled. I could have sworn that outfit was for a trick. It’s kinda cute, weird, but cute.”

“Beans!” David said exasperated.

“So why did you want to cancel on me then? Are you sick or somethin’?”

“No, I mean kinda.”

“Well, are you or aren’t you? Sick that is.” Beans asked.

“No, I’m not, but I really don’t’ feel like it.”

“Look,” Beans said, putting his hands on David’s shoulders. “You’ve just been through a pretty bad break-up. You need to go out and have some fun. Forget about your troubles.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to do that,” David remarked sarcastically.

“Here,” Beans offered, “let me help you take your sweater off. You can put on a really cute outfit and then we can go out and have some fun. Or at least get really drunk!” Then Beans laughed that infectious and disarming laugh of his. Before David realized what was happening Beans had peeled off his sweater and the bandages were revealed.

“Oh my God, what the fuck happened?! You didn’t try to kill yourself did you?” All David could do was look down at the floor, ashamed and embarrassed, his cheeks burning red.

“Oh my God you did! You did try to kill yourself. Why didn’t you call me?” But David was paralyzed. He couldn’t speak or move. He could, however, cry. So once again he did. That’s when Beans dropped the sweater, grabbed and hugged his friend so hard David thought he might break. In between sobs, David managed,

“I’m… sorry!”

“It’s okay,” shushed Beans. “I’m here now. It’s gonna be okay.”

Neither one of them knew just how long they stood there, David holding onto Beans for dear life. As if by mutual agreement though, they let go a little and looked at each other. David’s tears had stopped and Beans was looking at him in a way he’d never seen before.   David spoke first,

“I’m sorry if I scared you. It had nothing to do with you, you know that, right?” Beans nodded and sensed that David needed to say some things to him. He was there to listen.

“Let’s sit down, okay?” Beans said as he led him to the mattress on the floor. “Now why don’t you tell me what happened,” Beans said in the best, most soothing way he knew how.

“Well, I don’t really remember it being anything specific. I was just so sad. No, that’s not right. I guess I was really mad. I wasn’t mad at Joe, though,” he said shaking his head. “I could never be mad at him. I was mad at myself. He never asked for much from me, but there was one thing I just couldn’t give him.”

“What did he ask for that you couldn’t give, Doll?”

David replied, “He asked me if I loved him and I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say those three little words that would have meant the world to him, because I don’t know what love is!” The tears started to flow again and Beans wrapped his arm around his wounded friend once again.

When David was able to speak again, he asked, “Beans, why couldn’t I tell him I loved him?”

“I don’t know, Sweetie. I don’t know. Maybe you could talk to Audrey about it at your next session.”

“I stopped going,” David said sadly. “Even with the special rate, I just couldn’t afford it anymore.”

“I’m sorry, Doll, but you know you can always talk to me. I may not be a professional, but I’m a good listener… and a fabulous dresser!” That made David laugh; Beans always knew just what to say to make David laugh.

“Listen, let’s go out anyway. We could still make it the Trap or even the Cha-cha Palace if you like. What do you say?”

“Look at me,” David replied. “I’m a mess.”

“Yeah, but a cute mess.” That made David smile just a little.

“Okay then, but what about these?” David held up his mummified wrists.

“I’ve got an idea!” Beans exclaimed.

He went into David’s closet and after a few minutes of searching, he found just what he was looking for on the top shelf.

“These will work great.” He was holding up some of David’s bandanas. “We’ll cover ‘em up. Whadda ya feel like tonight?”

David said, “But I don’t have two of any of them!”

“That’s okay. Let’s see, the green one is out and so is the red one,” he said as tossed them onto the bed. “Why do you even have a red one? You’re not into that are you? No, of course you’re not. I am so glad you don’t have a brown one, ‘cause then we’d have to have a serious discussion about that shit! Ha! Get it? That shit?!” David rolled his eyes. “Anyway, you can use the light blue one and the dark blue one. They always look good with jeans.”

“Don’t you think it will be a little confusing?” David asked. “The light blue one says I like to suck and the dark blue says I like to fuck. And then which one do I put on which wrist? Right says I’m a top and left says I’m a bottom.”

“Geez, you’re making this way too complicated. They’re fashion accessories, Doll! If anyone asks, just tell them you’re… versatile! Now,” Beans started, “what to wear? Your Sasson jeans, of course, with no underwear. They make your basket look fabulous so here,” he said as he handed them to David. “And your jean jacket, no shirt.”

“No shirt. Are you crazy? I have never gone to a club without a shirt on, Beans, you know that!”

“Well, that changes tonight! Now go take a shower, freshen up. Wait a second, though.” He turned and headed for the kitchen. When he returned, he had Saran Wrap with him.

“What’s this for?”

“You know… to wrap up your…” Beans’ thought trailed off as he pointed to David’s wrists.

“Oh yeah,” he said sheepishly as he grabbed the long, yellow box. “Thanks.”

David could hear the stereo going as he got into the shower. It was the Three Degrees. Beans was getting in the mood. Once David had finished with his shower and gotten dressed, he stood in front of the mirror. He had to admit that he didn’t look too bad after all.

“Okay, you can come in now,” he yelled to Beans.

“See! That’s perfect!” Beans said a little too excitedly. “You look hot!”

“Beans!!!”

“Well, you do!” David turned to look at himself again. At 5’ 11”, 135 pounds he looked like a typical 19 year old gay man in 1978. He had grown the mustache to make him look less like a “twinky.” When he first came out and started to go to bars, he had been called chicken. He never liked that! He didn’t like his hair either. It was too wavy. And his nose and ears were definitely too big, but the mustache and feathered hair over his ears helped disguise them… a little anyway. His nose had once been described by Mary Nikzad, one of his teachers at AIP, as “patrician.” Of course he had no idea what that meant at the time. So he looked it up in a dictionary when he got home. It meant noble, aristocratic. He had liked that description immediately. He did like his eyes, though. They were green, the color of malachite to be exact, and he was the only one with them in his whole blue-eyed family.

As Beans had predicted, the outfit worked. “Let me turn up your cuffs and then I think we’re ready to go.”

“Beans what would I do without you?” David asked him and pulled him into a big hug. He whispered into Beans’ ear, “You know I wish I could wear my favorite bracelet.”

“And I thank you for the sentiment, but not with all you got goin’ on there.”

David loved the gift that Beans had given him as a symbol of their friendship. It was one of his most prized possessions.

“So what are you going to wear?” David asked teasingly.

“Very funny,” he replied. Beans almost always dressed in as flamboyant a manner as possible, and tonight was no exception. He had on his cherry red pants, a polyester print shirt that made his torso look bigger than it really was (which was a good thing because Beans had what could only be describes as a scrawny chest) and his favorite “dancin’” shoes. He could twirl like he was on ice in those things! David could already picture the two of them on the dance floor. Maybe he could do it after all. Go out, dance, have a good time even (no drinking, though). David smiled. Maybe he could forget about the pull he felt, for a little while anyway. Why not?

AIP Spring Fashion Show

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Sunday’s Child: The Gay Tale of an Artist with Bipolar Disorder, A Novel by D. Greg Denton (Prologue)

"Sunday's Child

This book is dedicated to all my loves, especially Denny my rock. He’s actually my current love, but after 23 years I know he’s my last! To my friend, Bro. Sebastian: your courage and strength have shown me what it means to be thankful to be alive. To ALL my friends for sticking by me through thick and thin; I wouldn’t be here today without you. I am amazed that some of you stayed friends with me in spite of my craziness. To my family, especially my brother; we may not have always gotten along, but you have put up with my crap longer than anyone else. Thanks for not giving up on me even when it would have been easy to do so.

Unofficial Disclaimer: I am not perfect therefore my book is not perfect. The characters in this book may or may not bear any or no resemblance to real persons, dead or alive or fictional ones. Confused? Yeah, me too. Oh, and if by any chance you do think one of these characters is based on you… get over yourself!

Official Disclaimer: This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. NO part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author-publisher.

WARNING: This book contains intimate M/M situations and explicit language. If you find that stuff offensive, turn back now! You have been warned.

Copyright © 2014 by D. Greg Denton

Table of Contents:

Prologue

Chapter 1 – The End

Chapter 2 – Like an Old Coat

Chapter 3 – In the Beginning

Chapter 4 – Moving On

Chapter 5 – Starting Over

Chapter 6 – I Remember Mama

Chapter 7 – New Beginnings

Chapter 8 – A Life of Service vs. the Artist in Him

Chapter 9 – Tragedy Strikes

Chapter 10 – Hope Rises

Chapter 11 – Unraveling

Chapter 12 – Some Answers… Finally!

Chapter 13 – The Visitation

Epilogue


Prologue

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good, and gay.

As Billie lay there in her hospital bed at St. David’s, holding her newborn baby boy, she couldn’t help but wonder what lie ahead for her little man. She had been looking forward to this moment for all of her 30 years! So first, she thanked God for him, for listening to her prayers, and blessing her with this beautiful child. “Please Lord, watch over my baby boy all of his days and nights.  Let his joys outweigh his sorrows. May he grow up to be a man that will affect the world in a positive way. And may he come to know you, trust you, and love you as I do. Amen.”

Next, she thought about all the hopes she had for him. She hoped he would be healthy. That he would be strong both morally and spiritually. That he would find someone to love and that would love him in return. That he would experience joy. That even though no one knew better than her that life could be harsh, he might be spared the worst of it. But most of all, she wished that he would live a long and happy life. That was her biggest hope.

As soon as he could talk, she prayed that he would think before he spoke. That he would measure his words with care so as not to hurt others. As soon as he could walk, she prayed that he would follow the path of the Lord. That he would walk with his head held high, not out of vanity, but out of respect for himself. And as soon as he could run, she prayed that he would not run away from his problems, but face them head on like the man she knew he would become.

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The Golden Rule

"The Golden Rule"

The Golden Rule exists in ALL these religion

An old friend of mine from high school and I were having a discussion about the Bible on Facebook. She asked me why I was attacking her religious beliefs. I told her that I wasn’t, only the use of the Bible to deny my personal freedoms. Which got me to thinking about the Golden Rule, so I started researching it online  and found out some things that I didn’t know previously. For one thing, “The one with all the gold, makes all the rules” is not the golden rule, although some people may think so (haha). Secondly, it’s not just a Judeo-Christian concept. In some form or another it exists in almost every culture and almost every religion. The Golden Rule that most of may be familiar with is from the Christian Bible: The Old Testament states, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” – Leviticus 19:18, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”  – Matthew 7:12, and “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – Luke 6:31.

Wikipedia points out that this is also called the “ethic of reciprocity.” This concept describes a “reciprocal”, or “two-way”, relationship between one’s self and others that involves both sides equally and in a mutual fashion.

  • (Positive form of Golden Rule): One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  • (Negative form of Golden Rule): One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.

But this  ”rule” existed as far back as Ancient Greece as: “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Isocrates (436-338- BCE)

It exists today in the Bahá’í Faith: “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.” – Bahá’u’lláh

In Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (from the Udanavarga 5:18)

In Confucianism: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” – Confucius (551–479 BCE)

In Hinduism: “Hence (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.” (from the Shānti-Parva 167:9)

In Secular Humanism: Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us. Empathy is at the root of kindness, compassion, understanding and respect – qualities that we all appreciate being shown, whoever we are, whatever we think and wherever we come from. And although it isn’t possible to know what it really feels like to be a different person or live in different circumstances and have different life experiences, it isn’t difficult for most of us to imagine what would cause us suffering and to try to avoid causing suffering to others. For this reason many people find the Golden Rule’s corollary – “do not treat people in a way you would not wish to be treated yourself” – more pragmatic.

In Islam: “A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: ‘O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it.’ [The] Prophet said: ‘As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them.’”  – Kitab al_Kafi (from the Hadith, vol. 2, p. 146)

In Jainism: “Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality, treat other with respect and compassion.” – (from the Suman Suttam, verse 150)

In Sikhism: “Whom should I despise, since the one Lord made us all.” – Guru Granth Sahib (from the Var Sarang, p.1237, tr. Patwant Singh)

In Taoism: “The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.” (from the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 49)

In Wicca: “Here ye these words and heed them well, the words of Dea, thy Mother Goddess, ‘I command thee thus, O children of the Earth, that that which ye deem harmful unto thyself, the very same shall ye be forbidden from doing unto another, for violence and hatred give rise to the same. My command is thus, that ye shall return all violence and hatred with peacefulness and love, for my Law is love unto all things. Only through love shall ye have peace; yea and verily, only peace and love will cure the world, and subdue all evil.’” (from the Codex Vias, Part Two)

So, if I’m being honest, was I attacking my friend’s religious beliefs? Probably. Should I have? Definitely not since I don’t like to have my beliefs attacked! My apologies to you, Alison, I have been humbled by my own research.

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Suicide

Le Suicidé

Le Suicidé by Edouard Manet

Suicide (Latin suicidium, from sui caedere, “to kill oneself”) is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair, the cause of which can be attributed to a mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophreniaautism spectrum disorders, alcoholism, or drug abuse. Stress factors such as financial difficulties or troubles with interpersonal relationships often play a significant role.

Well, there you have it. I wanted to post a blog entry on this subject because suicide has touched my life in so many ways. You could say that it has been my constant companion for most of my life.

I started thinking about committing suicide when I was a teenager. My father was not a very nice man. He was especially abusive to me. So as a child, I told myself that I must be adopted. Why else would he treat me so horribly? I was really very shy growing up so when I got to middle school I was miserable. Some of the kids called me a “sissy.” My first attempt was when we were living in the house on Cooper Road. I had a syringe (don’t remember where I got it) and I filled it with rubbing alcohol. It burned when I injected it into my vain, but I didn’t die.

The second attempt was soon after. I took a whole bottle of aspirin. I remember laying down on my bed and waiting to die. I woke up the next morning with my head feeling like it was stuffed with cotton. Other than not being able to hear very well for a few days, it didn’t do much of anything else to me.

High school proved to be better for me. No attempts during those years. It was a good time, for the most part. I was different. I was still being called names. I had a few friends. I kept busy. I skipped classes a lot, so I did a lot of reading in the library. After high school, I went to art school in Pittsburgh (I had a full tuition scholarship). I did try to kill myself several times in those two years, though.

I was alone. I hadn’t “come out,” yet. I was miserable again, so I tried slitting my wrists. But I didn’t know how to do it properly. I made the cuts horizontally, instead of vertically. I laid down to die, but woke up to find that the blood had clotted. So I got a butcher knife out of the kitchen drawer and tried hari-kari (the Japanese ritual of suicide which means “stomach-cutting”), but just ended up with a scratch on my stomach. Finally, I went up on the roof of my apartment building. I climbed over the rail and walked to the edge, intending just to step off. But I didn’t. Something stopped me.

When I moved back to Northern Virginia, I had to move back in with my mom. I made one more attempt. I drove over to Mount Vernon one night and took a hose I had brought with me, put one end in the tail pipe and the other through the floor board. I don’t know how long I had been there, and I was almost asleep, but I made myself wake up. Something, maybe the same thing that had brought me back from the edge so many times before, brought me back one more time.

My sister, on the other hand was not so lucky. Her second attempt (the first had been pills in a hotel room) was successful. She took her husband’s service revolver and put it to her temple. After that, I never tried again. I thought about it, but she had taken my one way out and I was pretty mad at her for a long time. I’m not mad any longer, though. I made my peace with her a long time ago. It doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it since she took her life. I have. But I would never do it.

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Rape – No Means NO

Soul Murder

Rape – No Means NO!

With all the recent attention brought to the subject by Todd Akin (Rep. of Missouri), I thought it was time to relate my own story of rape.  First, I’d like to share the definition of rape. Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as a person who is unconscious or incapacitated.* Second, rape is never about sex. It is always about power… power over someone who is smaller, weaker, more vulnerable. Third, there is no such thing as “legitimate rape.”** All instances of rape are crimes… period!

I had just gotten back to Pittsburgh from having my wisdom teeth removed in Alexandria. I got a call from a friend of Larry’s. I had met him at a party and he was inviting me to his house for pizza. He was very handsome, much bigger and quite a bit older than me. I seem to recall that he was a teacher. I was still on pain killers, but I went over anyway. When I got there, the pizza was waiting. We each had a few pieces and a beer. When we were finished, he invited me into the living room. I sat down on the sofa while he put on some music and turned the lights down. He pulled me down on the carpet, but that’s where the “seduction scene” ended. He proceeded to pin me to the floor and tried to kiss me. I said that I wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home, but he wouldn’t let me up. Instead, he flipped me over on my stomach and pulled my pants down. I told him that I didn’t want to do this, but he wouldn’t hear me. The next thing I knew I was being forcibly sodomized. All I could do was claw the carpet and wait for it to be over.

The flesh heals… eventually. The pain fades… pretty quickly. The spirit… that takes a whole lot longer. I once heard Roseanne Barr describe rape as “soul murder.” I even made a painting about it (see above). That’s exactly what it is, though. The spirit (or soul) is bruised and battered from the experience. The effects can last for months or even years. But when the victim is further victimized either by their rapist or by society (as in the case of Mr. Akin), then healing may be delayed indefinitely or there may even be a set-back in the recovery process.

I had the privilege of meeting a female rape victim years after my rape. We talked about both of our experiences and it made my healing process just a little bit easier. She was still trying to make it through hers, though (When she tried to fight back her rapist cut her face). I am thankful for having met her and hope that she found peace. I asked myself many questions afterwards. Should I have tried harder to fight back? No, he was easily 190 lbs. to my 135. Did I deserve what happened to me for being Gay? No. Nobody deserves to be raped. Should I have told someone at the time? I know now that it would have been a case of “he said, he said.”

I saw my rapist a few months after the crime. He was sitting with Larry and Bruce in a restaurant where a friend of mine worked. They invited me to sit down with them, but I declined. I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and chat with him as though nothing had happened! Maybe to him it was just rough sex. It was obviously something different to me. I never told Larry what his friend had done to me. I don’t know if that was wrong or not, but I just couldn’t do it. I am glad to be able to write about it now, though. It is “healing.” As for politicians who would speak about rape as if it were a “legitimate” part of our reality, I say they are ignorant and should be removed from office!

*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

**http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/rep-todd-akin-legitimate-rape-statement-and-reaction.html

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