Old Southern money doesn’t shout. It whispers.
In the days when I was growing up, especially, the best families didn’t drive flashy sports cars, or Hummers, or SUVs. They made do with the ancient, respectable models the size of parade floats, fifteen years out of date but immaculately maintained. They might have lived in Richmond’s relatively exclusive west end, with its deep and grassy lots, but in the well-kept and modest homes they’d inherited from their families, not a McMansion. The women wore pearls and joined the Daughters of the Confederacy; the men boasted ties patterned in thick diagonal stripes, pants with cuffs cut too high, and tobacco-stained fingertips.
Old money was genteel. It didn’t call attention to itself. One could recognize it easily enough, though, if one looked.
I could tell the Cadillac driving slowly down the street adjacent to the park belonged to old Southern money. I was sitting beneath my favorite tree in Bryan Park in the summer of my sixteenth year, paperback book in my hands, my bony back raw from the bark digging into my skin, my skinny legs protruding from a pair of very short yellow corduroy Ocean Pacific shorts, when I saw the vehicle round the corner. I was out early in the morning—almost too early to be cruising, since the action never started until lunchtime. I liked being outdoors, though, and independent. The prospect of a possible morning hookup only persuaded me to get to the park early, on those stiflingly hot mornings when I had nothing to do.
The car was a huge boat of a thing, an old Cadillac that had obviously been freshly washed. Beneath the low-hanging crape myrtles it cruised along the residential street. Since it had been the only car to pass since I’d arrived a half-hour before, I watched across the little pond as it traversed the length of the quiet avenue, then made a U-turn. The drive either could have been lost, in which case he would have returned to the Boulevard at the street’s end, or else he could be a cruiser, in which case he’d take the park entrance and drive my way. My dick twitched slightly with anticipation when the Cadillac’s right blinker sprang into life right before the turn-off into the park.
Almost regally, the Cadillac took the narrow pavement in my direction. The road had only one destination—a picnic shelter within the woods, and the restrooms beyond where I’d nearly been arrested the summer before. Cars that meandered through the park’s southern half, with its multiple shelters and tennis courts and recreational facilities were likely just souls seeking to commune with nature or get away from it all—or after five, they were the rednecks with their Confederate flags in the back windows and their brown paper bags concealing their containers of beer or hard liquor. Anyone making the effort to come to the park through its back entrance, however, was likely looking for sex.
I caught a glimpse of the driver as his car inched by. Its wheels made a crackling noise as I pretended to be distracted from my reading and craned my neck to see; he was one of those Southern archetypes with which I’d grown up—a man of certain years not old enough to be elderly by a long shot, but somehow giving the impression of creaky old age. He had enough weight on him to give the appearance of jowls, and though he didn’t wear a tie, he wore a pressed shirt and a sports coat of summer seersucker. Sunglasses obscured his glance, but as he passed he straightened up in his seat and looked in my direction.
Master of subtlety that I was, I let my right knee fall casually to the ground. I wasn’t wearing underwear. My junk didn’t spill out of the leg of my short shorts (hey, it was the nineteen-seventies), but they might as well have. I turned my head and watched as slowly the old Caddy disappeared in the direction of the woods.
I didn’t hop on my bike and follow. I wasn’t entirely sure of the guy—that is, whether he was cruising me, or whether at that point he was worth my time. A few minutes later, however, when he hadn’t returned, I was about ready to get on my bike and investigate. Then I saw the Cadillac driving back down the road. Now that the driver’s side was facing me, I could tell that his head turned as he passed. He continued looking in my direction almost the entire length of his drive out. And then he was back onto the residential road, and gone.
That might have been it, but five minutes later, his Cadillac was back. Driving more quickly and with purpose, it made the U-turn once more and nosed its bulky way into the park. It slowed down as it passed me, and then returned within the space of a couple of minutes. Both times, the driver stared at me intently, making my dick grow.
When it came back a third time, I knew it was time to do something. I waited until the car was crossed the bridge over the duck pond, then stood up and dusted myself off. My hands were on my bike and I was by the road’s side when he passed. This time he stopped, as I expected. “Morning, son,” said the man from within the Cadillac. His voice was deep, and his accent as thick as sorghum syrup.
“Hi,” I said. My dick was mostly hard, and hanging down the leg of my shorts. It wouldn’t have taken much for the head to protrude from beneath the corduroy hem.
He was staring at it, over the top of his sunglasses. “Maybe you’d like to set a spell,” he suggested. “I can turn on my air conditioning if you’re hot. And,” he added in that drawling way Southerners have when they make a double-entendre, “you do look hot.”
The guy might have been more jowly than I typically liked, but it was a hot morning, and I was bored and horny. I nodded. He drove and I biked to the end of the road, where he parked his car and I locked my ten-speed to a rack so riddled with rust that it was almost invisible against the picnic shelter. He’d already rolled up the windows and fired up the air by the time I reached the passenger side of the Cadillac. He leaned over to open the door for me.
“Oh, sorry,” he said, noticing that there was a book on the passenger seat. He picked it up so that I could climb in. When he set it on the console, its red ribbon flopped over its leather spine and onto the dashboard. His trembling, chubby hand traveled over my hair as he studied me. “You surely are a pretty boy, son,” he said, smiling at me. His hands were perfectly manicured; their flesh was soft as lard. The heel of his hand moved down my face, the ring on his fourth finger warm against my cheek. His thumb and forefinger pulled down my lower lip, as if he wanted to insert a cherry in my mouth. “Pretty lips.”
When he withdrew his fingers, I licked where they’d been.
“How old are you, son?” he wanted to know. “Thirteen? Fourteen?”
“Fourteen,” I whispered. I was sixteen, and as tall as I was gangly. But if he wanted me to be fourteen, I’d be fourteen.
“Damn, son.” He cleared the arousal from his throat. “Have you ever sucked a man’s penis before?”
“Once,” I nodded. “Kind of.” I was a coy little thing. Once or a thousand times.
“What do you think about sucking on mine a little?” When I didn’t say anything, seeming to hesitate, he reached down and unbuckled his belt, then unfastened his lightweight summer slacks. With a bit of fumbling, he withdrew an uncut dick of perhaps five thick inches. The skin was already pulled back from the tip, exposing a furious purple head. I’d laid eyes on much more impressive meat, but this guy was almost more aroused than I’d seen any man, and a thick pearl of pre-cum adorned the slit. “It’s a nice one. Touch it,” he said, imploring me. “Come on, son. It won’t hurt you.”
When I lowered myself across the seat to take the dick in my mouth, he sighed. He tasted of that morning’s shower, and vaguely of the medicinal aftershave that southern barbers used to have on hand. His dick forced my mouth wide open. His bulk pinned the back of my head against the steering wheel as he jack-rabbited in and out of my lips.
“Sweet Jesus,” he murmured, over and over again as I sucked. I didn’t give the kind of blow job that someone gives when he’s only sucked once. I used all the expert skills I’d by then collected to make the man tremble and moan. “Sweet Jesus, sweet Jesus,” he said, over and over.
When I came up for air once and looked behind me, I could see that the man’s hand clutched the Bible he’d thrown on the dashboard. The other clasped the back of my head and pushed me back down on his dick.
When he came, it was quietly, almost genteel. He let out a few heavy breaths, then the quietest of sighs, as his body spasmed and a squirt of semen painted the inside of my throat. I swallowed, then waited for the last of his shots of cum before I sat up again. “Thanks,” I said, wiping off my mouth.
“You are a damned sinner, and you are going straight to hell, son.” The man said the words matter-of-factly as his chubby hands fumbled over his clothing. “The Bible says that fornicators and homosexuals will burn in the deepest pits of perdition!” He had that preacher’s gift of speaking the word lord to sound as if it were printed in small upper-case letters, like in a King James Bible. “And you, son, are both.”
I stared at the guy. I hadn’t seen anyone turn on a dime like this, going so quickly from need to hellfire and damnation. It was ridiculous, I knew. I turned to exit the car.
He caught me by the hands, though, restraining me tightly so that I couldn’t exit. “You need to pray, son. You need to pray to the Lord with me to sin no more!” He pulled my hands onto the leather-bound Bible on his lap. I seemed to be the only one uncomfortably aware that it was close to where I’d been only moments before. “Together we are going to pray that you accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your soul and accept his grace in order that you may sin and be a homosexual no more.”
Homosexshul, he pronounced it. Squeezing my hands so tightly that they colored, he immediately launched into a lengthy prayer. Basically he turned me in to God, exposing to his heavenly creator what a terrible young sinner I was, and how my evil and wicked ways were turning the godly onto the road of peril and sin, and how my sweet young face was nothing but the devil’s own mask . . . oh, there was a lot of stuff he said that morning, during that long prayer in the tepid air conditioning of his Cadillac.
I believed none of it.
When it was done, he opened his eyes and asked, “Do you see the error of your ways, son?” What was unsettling about the guy was that he was totally earnest about the whole thing. He didn’t seem to see any irony of his own words and actions. He really thought that I was the sinner, and the cause of what he’d just done. “Will you accept the Lord into your heart, here with me now?”
I wasn’t doing any such thing. Without expression, I yanked open the latch and pushed the heavy door open, then kicked it shut behind me. My feet stirred up little whirlwinds of dust as I jogged back to the bike rack, where my fingers raced to twist out the combination of my lock. “Hell is no laughing matter, son!” he called out the window after me. “You don’t want to be a sad, lonely homosexshul for all your life! You are going to want a wife, children! You are going to want a legacy, son!”
By then I was on my bike, pedaling furiously down the road. So that he couldn’t follow me, I turned down one of the park’s chained-off side roads where a bicycle could travel, but a car could not. His words followed me, clinging like black strands of sticky spider web. He did not. I waited until from a distance I saw the Cadillac drive back down the road and out of the park. It didn’t return, not that morning.
All that afternoon I had mentally to brush off those words. They left me grimy. They were a soot so fine that it could never quite rinse away, and so foul and dark that it made the rest of the world seem just as gritty and incapable of being cleansed.