Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Morning Questions: Mailbox Edition

I had a moment of peace and repose, last month, in which I achieved electronic nirvana. I actually got to the bottom of my email inbox. Yes, I answered every last email that had been pending, even if they'd been hanging around for a good six weeks or so. It was all gone, gone, gone. I felt productive. I felt efficient. (I wasn't efficient, but hey. I felt like it.) I felt like the king of the fuckin' world!

And then within five minutes, because I have correspondents who are much more diligent about answering email immediately, it all started flooding back in again. (Don't you people know you don't have to fire back a three-page response immediately?!)

So once again I'm at the point of email overload that I need to warn my readers about it. I really do try to respond to correspondence, but there are times in my life like this, when I've got my own work going and I've got busy things happening at home, when I just can't get to your emails all that quickly—particularly those that require more of a response than, "Thanks so much! And eight inches!"

Be patient. You'll get your replies. I promise.

In the meantime, here are a couple of things you can avoid, in order to help me out:

1) If you've sent me an email, don't send me a follow-up email asking me if I hate you now and why haven't I emailed you back. That doesn't really help.

2) It also doesn't help if in addition to your first email, you send an even longer follow-up addressing all the things you should've said in the first email to clarify the things that you think I might be confused about to the point of not replying in the first email. All this really does is give me TWO long emails to reply to.

3) Don't send me emails saying "I just read that you have too many emails and I wanted to apologize for sending you an email!" Because this is the point at which my life becomes an Escher engraving and the universe folds in upon itself.

The short message is that I am one person. I have many, many readers who write me. Please take pity on my being outnumbered, and be patient when you write.

Let's get to some questions from for the week, eh?

Have you ever gone to an adult movie theater where they show the pornos on the big screen?

Only to one, in the Detroit area, when it was still open. The theater was a giant cruising spot where men—and sometimes male-female couples—would meander through the seats looking for sex partners. There were often times that men would shed their clothes completely and wander around the theater naked, looking for guys to suck off or to fuck them.

Sadly, the theater got raided, closed, and razed a couple of years after I started going there. I knew a couple of the guys who got caught in that final raid, and they barely evaded getting their names in the papers.

Now that I think of it, the Bijou in Chicago has a theater downstairs where they show the films on a reasonably large screen. I never lingered in there, however, and always went through to the glory hole maze upstairs. So make that two places I've been of that type.

Which snack food do you go for Savory, Sweet or Spicy?

Salty. I suppose that would fall under the 'savory' category, but somehow that words connotes more complexity than I require in a snack. I want it studded with salt crystals. And maybe covered with some kind of orange-colored dust that is supposed to resemble space-age cheese.

Had any encounters with guys that stored their sperm frozen and used it as lube in their hole?

I have indeed. I have such a horror of ice cubes or cold things touching my bare skin, though, that I'm unlikely to suggest or participate in it. Also, saving up sperm like that just relies upon a degree of planning that is totally alien to me.

How do you feel about sticking an ice cube in someone's hole? Any experience with that?

I've done it, but I hate it. I really just dislike coldness on my skin in any form—and having to do it to someone else makes me cringe.

Ever added food to your sex acts? Any tips on which food would be fun in bed?

I hate to sound like a total crab, but I've always found food sex to be not as fun as it was cracked up to be in 9 1/2 Weeks.

Every food substance I've tried has either been too messy, too cold, too dirty, too smelly, or too sticky to contemplate using ever again. I've done the honey and chocolate syrup on my cock thing before, and I felt gooey even after a couple of hot showers.

If your sex is unsatisfying enough that you're contemplating wasting perfectly good food to improve it, you're fuckin' doing it wrong.

i love ABBA Sir which is Your favorite song?

Probably "One of Us." ABBA's last album was a melancholy and very grown-up work, and "One of Us" is quite a bittersweet song. I can listen to it on repeat for a very long time.

What's your favourite kind of pie?

To make, pecan.

To eat--oh gosh. Probably apple, in the fruit category, and coconut cream pie, in the cream group.

No cream pie smutty jokes, please. I take my pies seriously! (Okay, maybe one or two cream pie jokes.)

How do yo keep your hair style? Harvard Cut, Caesar Cut, Cornrows, Fade, Flat Top, Short Back and Sides, Crew Cut, Mullet, or Shaved?

If Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo cartoons had a child with Kurt Cobain, its hair would look exactly like mine.

At least, when I originally wrote this question, that was my answer. I've had it all chopped off, since. Yesterday I got told I look like Hugh Laurie from House.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Open Forum: Inclusion

I've loved the author Patrick Dennis since I was a kid, and first ventured over from the kid's side of the local branch library over to the adult section. My mom was an avid reader, and a woman of good taste besides; she made recommendations of three books that more or less formed the cornerstones of my grown-up literary tastes.

One of them was Dennis's Auntie Mame. Even to a twelve-year-old, it was funny. Dennis built his literary style on a foundation of what I instinctively recognized was high camp—frivolous, artificial, exaggerated, and essentially feminine, despite the fact the author had a penis. (That Dennis had a couple of best-sellers under a female pseudonym really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.)

Dennis was a gay man who attempted—at least at first—to live the straight life. It didn't last. His wife knew about his sexuality; his children learned about it at a very young age, during the nineteen-fifties and nineteen-sixties when his popularity was at its peak. His sexuality infuses all his work, manifesting itself in just about everything he wrote. The titular heroine of Auntie Mame is in essence a big ol' drag queen whose escapades are a rush of sequins, Chanel No. 5, and martini vodka. She's the spiritual mother to Patsy and Eddy in Absolutely Fabulous, and hundreds of other strong-willed, don't-give-a-damn fictional females revered by gay men.

And that's the way most of Dennis's books read—sharp, incisive, pungent, and marked by a thoroughly gay sensibility that increases with every title. It reached an apex in Little Me, in which Dennis and photographer Cris Alexander (who passed away last month, god bless him) essentially assembled a cast of dozens of their gay friends and family (including Alexander's hunky husband, with whom he spent most of a lifetime) to play dress-up and write the fictional celebrity autobiography of a D-list has-been talentless actress. Little Me is a total stitch, and was a best-seller. Surprising, since it's essentially thickly peppered with in-jokes that only its gay audience would recognize.

But as gay-inclusive as Dennis's novels were for their Mad Men era, there's an element of self-loathing that runs through the books as well, tangible and unmistakable. The gay men tend to be effeminate lispers who mince through the pages with limp wrists. They pay too much attention to their looks; they groom too well; they fall in love with straight men and are exposed for the silly fools they are. They live on the periphery of the novels, informing—if not forming—the books' tone, but never amounting to anything much.

I was reminded of this strange, but perhaps understandable, dichotomy when I picked up a copy of Dennis's next-to-last novel, Paradise, this week—the story of twenty strangers in a vacation guest house, on a peninsula in Acapulco that becomes an island after a freak earthquake. I'd loved the book in my adolescence. Loved it. I'd read it over and over again—even more than either of the two Mame books or Genius, which is my favorite Dennis title these days. But I'd not read it since I was twenty, because the copy I owned disappeared while I was in college, and I'd not been able since to find a reasonably-priced replacement.

Someone was offering a low-cost, good-condition first edition on Amazon, though. So I splurged, and settled in to revisit an old favorite. And immediately I was astonished at what a nasty book it was. The characters are mean, and vicious, and seemingly have not a good quality between them to squabble about. The book's lone lesbian is a sexless creature whose only purpose is to spout art-school nonsense and be verbally bitch-slapped by men for her pretentiousness. The gay men are all silly little queens who fall into hysterics over a chipped nail, and who snipe and bitch at each other in ways that aren't just stereotyped, but have been so heavily trod into the ground over the years that they're practically interred. The other characters sneer at them and murmur about 'tatty little faggots' and 'small-town faggotry.' The main gay character attempts suicide after his boyfriend leaves him.

It's depressing, and the book is so cynical and ugly that about a quarter of the way through I found myself thinking, I used to love this book? What the fuck?  It's horrible! Why?!

Well, part of the reason is that the book's about who can and can't prove himself in the face of adversity. After the earthquake that strands the book's characters from the mainland, it's up for the cast of unpleasant characters to fend for their lives. Some rise to the occasion and ennoble themselves. Others don't, and have to face the specters of their own failures. It takes some establishing of a bunch of nasty people before that happens, though.

But the real reason I liked the novel so much, I remembered, is because it contained the first gay sex scene in a novel that I ever encountered. Yes. Typical, no? I encountered better sex scenes in John Rechy's The Sexual Outlaw not very long after. But the gay sex in Paradise was the first. When I ran across the passages this last week, I nodded with a rush of memory and nostalgia, "Ah, yes."

Now, Paradise's sex isn't that explicit. It's not explicit at all, in fact. Basically what happens is that there's a wealthy gay guy (runs a boutique decorated with pink silk, acts in exquisite productions in his community theater, worries about his manicure when he attempts suicide later on), who is sugar daddy to his cheap whore of a boyfriend (former bus boy, muscular, dumb, predatory). While the sugar daddy is showering, the cheap whore comes on to a Mexican room service waiter. He lets his robe slip off him, slowly. His hand traces over his skin, flushed warm from the Acapulcan sun. "Hhhhhot," he says.

The waiter places his hand on the whore's skin. "Si, seƱor," he agrees. "Hhhhhhot."

And that's about it for the sex scene. No, really. The whore then gives the waiter a Hershey Bar as a promise of things to come, and nothing more happens.

But for twelve-year-old me, reading that scene for the first time? I was like, GOD DAMN!

There's also a scene later in the book in which the wealthy faggot (hey, if everyone in the book can call him that, so can I) picks up a pornographic novel that's all the rage among his 'artistic' friends. It's about a romance between a cowboy and an Indian (not a Native American . . . we weren't there yet in 1971) and the glimpses we get from it are all about a thick shaft rising from between copper loins, and the heroes declaring their love for each other. That kind of thing. It's very brief, and now I realize it's obviously a parody of Gordon Merrick novels (Merrick had come out with his first breakout book just the year before Paradise hit the shelves) but still. To a horny twelve-year-old? NICE!

Now, I was actually having sex at twelve, and I don't recall whether that took place before or after my reading of Paradise that same year. It didn't matter. What was not so important to me as a kid, encountering these brief glimpses into gay sex in novels, was not the sex itself (though I do remember masturbating over it, hhhhhot as it was), but the fact that for the very first time in a book, I kind of saw myself included.

I read a lot as a kid. I've been a lifelong reader. I read a lot about kids who stumbled on magic objects, in my youth, or kids who had fantastic adventures when their guardians were absent from the house for weeks and months at a time. I was not one of those kids. When I ventured over to the adult side of the library, I started reading about grown-ups whose only impulses were male-female relationships based on true, 'normal,' heterosexual love. I sensed rather early that I was not one of those, either.

The gay characters in Dennis's novels might have been tatty, and small-minded, and more obsessed with their ascot scarves and manicures that I like today, but boy, in an era in which gay men got very little representation at all, I was ready to take what I could get. Even if it was Uncle Arthur in Bewitched. And that's why I thrilled to those sex scenes, brief and silly as they were. For the very first time ever, I could see some reflection of my own life, my desires, perhaps my future, in the pages of a published book. That meant a lot to me. And hey. Maybe it meant in the future that I, too, could have my own hot Mexican waiter.

Of course, these post-Will and Grace days, we take representation for granted. We have task forces that chide networks when they don't have enough gay characters on their TV shows. We have an abundance of excellent literature aimed at gay and lesbian youth, and all kinds of literature for all kinds of young adults in which non-heterosexual relationships are accepted and common. For someone who grew up with only a few glimpses of 'small-town faggotry' and copper loins as a guidepost, I think the change is remarkable—and welcome.

I'm curious about my readers, though, since I know I have a wide range of ages who check in. Whether on TV, in the movies, or between the pages of a book, what was your first childhood or teen encounter with fictional gay characters, and how did they affect your own vision of yourself? Were you happy to see them? Horrified at the way they were portrayed? When you revisit that material now, how does it make you feel? Let me know how you feel in today's open forum—I'm really interested in your experiences.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Bank Book, Again

(This is the last of the Earl series—I know, finally!)

One of the reasons it took me so long—and that it was so difficult for me—to write out the vast arc of the Earl story is that it’s complicated, through and through. There were times (like at the end) when everything happened at once. There were long months when I wouldn’t run into Jim at all, or even have to think about my rival/brother of war, Topher.

Even figuring out what was important to the story was difficult for me. If I’d been writing this the way it happened, with every detail, I’d have had to devote a lot of space to Jim’s illegal betting habit that left him constantly in need of money when he was on a losing streak, and flush with cash for booze, weed, and porn when he occasionally hit the money. I decided that for these entries, it wasn’t important. Earl’s own shady activities had to do with his dick, but I left out all the details of the underground newsletters to which he subscribed to find people into the same things as he, the porn, the occasional Super 8 movie, or later, videocassette porn that would find its way into the bedroom.

I left out the other drugs the adults would do when I was around, the stories I’d hear from them about the places they’d stuck their dicks. I didn’t talk about the emotions I felt for Earl at the time I knew him, because for years I’ve just forbidden myself from thinking about that part of my life at all. It’s achey, like a bad bruise.

Even figuring out what happened when is a little tricky, almost thirty-odd years on; I always think of myself as fifteen when I met Jim, but I had to have been fourteen and probably lying that I was a year older, because somehow fifteen sounded more legitimate an age for whoring around.

For years I’ve shied away of any examination of that part of my teenaged life because it ended so messily, and so abruptly, that it’s tough not to blame myself for letting it all go wrong. These days, I don’t think I really had a major hand in any of it—Topher’s disappearance, Jim’s idiocy, Earl’s letting me go. My lapses were minor ones. At the time, though, it felt as if I’d failed, somehow.

So yes—all it took was for Earl to tell me he didn’t think I should return to his home again, to break off our relationship. At the time, I was relieved not to have to put up with Jim’s bullying. I threw myself into the last weeks of school. I graduated, made my speech. I’d been made offers by two universities and had accepted both; I waffled between them for much of the summer until I finally made a decision. And then there were clothes to buy, and dorm supplies to collect, and course catalogs to look over . . . until in the late summer, my parents drove me to Williamsburg and left me there for the next four years.

I always felt a little cold-hearted about not missing Earl more than I did, that summer. But I realize now, in this series of entries, that I’d perhaps been weaning myself off of him for some time. Ever since the afternoon he betrayed me, I felt, over the Topher affair, I’d been distancing myself. Seeing a life for myself that didn’t involve sticking my ass in the air for Earl and his buddies. When Earl offered me a chance to take a break, I went for it. I had sex in the park daily, but didn’t encounter him there. I didn’t call. I didn’t want to call. I’d loved Earl in a fashion, but I hadn’t been in love with him. I’d had enough.

It was the week before I went to college that I got an envelope addressed to me through the mail, though. It was plain on the outside, with a neat handwriting that seemed vaguely familiar. I opened it up, and found inside the bankbook for the savings account that Earl had made me open at Southern Bank, in the first months of our acquaintance. Even though it was my account, in my name, he’d held onto that bankbook for me so that my parents would never find it; he’d made me put into that account all the money I’d collected at parties, or all the money I’d earned from selling sexual favors to his friends. For a seventeen-year-old, it was not an inconsiderable sum. There was no note in the envelope, no card wishing me well. Just the bankbook that had lain in his top bureau drawer for years, waiting for the time I was enough of an adult to claim it.

I took that bankbook and tucked it away, never touching the account until I was in my mid-twenties; I used it as the down-payment on my first home. So that was that—full circle.

I admit, I became curious about Earl after I graduated college, when I was for a summer aimless and uncertain about what to do with my life. My parents gave me good advice—my father in particular—but somehow it struck me that Earl would have a good insight, even after four years, into who I was, and what I should be doing.

When I went to his house, someone else was living there. A large family with multiple kids had taken over the tall old residence, littering the front yard with chunky plastic vehicles and the detritus of toddlerhood. When I’d run into guys at the park who’d known Earl, I’d ask what happened to him. Eventually one of them said that he and Jim had packed up and moved away the year before. He thought it was for job reasons.

So that was that, too.

Another of the reasons I’ve disliked thinking about Earl over the years is that the story trails away into so many question marks. I don’t know what happened to Topher. I don’t know where Earl and Jim are today, if they’re still alive. If they’re still together. I never got to tell Earl that—

And here I’ve paused for a good few minutes, trying to figure out what to say. Tell him what? That I turned out all right, in spite of him? That the years under his tutelage left me with a moral compass of my own? That I’m merely alive, and okay—which is something of an accomplishment itself, for guys my age who fucked their way through the nineteen-seventies and -eighties?

I don’t know. I don’t know how to finish that sentence.

I never got to tell him that it was fun, I suppose. That I loved all the times with him when we’d screw and lie around and laugh, and that I loved how he talked to me like a peer, and not as a child. That I still get a kick out of the giddy fun we had when we’d roleplay a scene for some hapless trick who thought he was getting a kidnap victim to fuck, or Earl’s son, or some stupid street whore, and how we’d giggle over it afterward, like conspirators. That I loved the education he gave me, that I loved being the Galatea to his Pygmalion, the Artful Dodger to his twisted sexual Fagin.

I suppose I never got to tell Earl thank you. Such a complicated story in my life, and such a simple thing I never got a chance to say.

Thank you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Confrontation: Part 2

(I'm trying to push through to the end, so this entry is a continuation of the Earl soap opera about my relationship with an older man in my teens. And after this, we're almost there, with only a wrap-up to go! It's a direct sequel to The Confrontation: Part 1, from last week.)

Here’s the simple truth about being locked in a closet: it’s stupid. I mean, really, really stupid.

Even at the time, when I realized that Jim, Earl’s live-in boyfriend and general waste of humanity, had actually shoved the door against my backside and locked me within, all I could wonder was what he’d thought he could accomplish with such a reckless and outright stupid act of bravado. The closet smelled of old socks and dried leather boots and that faint scent of dry rot I usually associate with old primary schools. I couldn’t really stand all the way up, with the weight of Jim’s clothing hanging from the bar above, and the floor was littered with his shit. There was no way I was going to be staying in there for long.

“Hah-hah, very funny,” I called through the door. I could just picture Jim there, snickering like the villain’s sidekick in some Saturday morning cartoon. “Let me out.”

“Let yourself out. Think you’re so fucking smart,” he snarled on the other side of the wood.
I tried the knob. It turned, but the door didn’t give. In my parents’ house, the door locks were push-buttons in the knobs. All it took to open them when they were locked was a nail file, or something flat and stiff inserted in the keyhole, then turned. Earl’s house was considerably older and more solid, and the locks were little deadbolts fastened with ornamental knobs. The house was old enough that as it had settled, most of the locks had popped out of alignment with their door frames. The lock in Earl’s bathroom certainly never worked.

This one, however, had the misfortune of working perfectly.

On the other side of the door, Jim had started to unloose a stream of profanity and insult. I couldn’t hear most of it, because it was muffled as he stomped around his room. There was stuff about what a devious little fucker I was, and how I planned to replace him, and how he’d figured out my plan from the start. None of it made any real sense save to a paranoid person. In the tight and confined space that was growing increasingly stuffy with every breath I took, I tried to calm down my shocked wits and figure out what to do.

He couldn’t keep me there forever. I mean, come on. Eventually I was going to have to come out. I knew I wasn’t going to die in there. In those first few minutes, I regarded the whole thing as one of those irritating pranks that had been played on me time and time against during middle and high school. The kick me sign on the back. The stupid doodle, allegedly of me, passed around on a triangle of folded-up paper during geometry. Jim was being puerile, and asinine. He was trying to get my goat. I had absolutely no fucking intention of letting him know how annoyed I was.

“You’re behaving like a child,” I told him at one point during his paranoid rant.

“Like a child, huh!” he laughed. Then he slammed or kicked the door so that it bounced in its frame. “Okay, let’s start behaving like kids.” I heard him shift around in the room. Through the door I heard the discord of his telephone extension being slammed down on the floor. “Want to make a prank call? I’ve got a phone book here. Let’s make some fucking prank calls. Like kids do. Hmmm. Who should we call? I know. How about we call your mommy and daddy?

Honestly, I didn’t know what the fuck Jim was doing on the other side of the door. But the notion that he would call my parents and do something, something asinine and assholey and utterly Jim, made my blood run cold. This was in the days long before Caller ID was available. We had touchtone lines in those days, but they were a hefty enough extra monthly fee that most people, Earl included, didn’t pay for it. I heard the slow gyrations of a rotary dial, and then Jim speaking in a fake-nice tone, like tea over-sweetened with saccharine. “Oh hi,” he said. “Is this Mrs. . . ?” I heard him say something that sounded like my last name. “Are you the mommy of. . . ?” He said my name. “Oh all right. I guess it’s not you I should tell about what a cocksucking whore he is then. Bye-bye!” Then, back in his regular nasty voice, to me he called out, once again using my last name, “I’ll go through all the _______s in this fucking book if I have to!”

I had a couple of things going for me, though. One was that Jim apparently didn’t know my surname. I’d realized it right off, when the person at the other end of the line hadn’t been my mother. My surname is unusual enough that there are only a handful of us in the country, and only one in the local phone book. The surname he kept saying wasn’t mine. It was kind of close, but it wasn’t mine. It was as if, if my last name really had been Steed, he kept saying ‘Steve’ instead. I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was in my twenties, as I mentioned before; my library card only had a number on it, not a name. He wouldn’t have gotten any information on me from my wallet.

I’m not sure what was worse—that he was totally prepared to out me to my parents in one of the most cowardly and anonymous ways possible, or that I’d known the guy for three years and change and he hadn’t even fucking bothered to get my last name right. But I made a little nest on the floor and sat there cross-legged in it, my jaw set, my eyes rolling, and my annoyance severe. And I listened to him start working his way through the phone book, while I sat there and kept thinking what a fucking idiot this guy was.

He gave up after about three calls. I heard him shifting around on the other side of the door, and figured it was my time to try to talk him into being more reasonable. I suggested he let me out so we could talk; I said he should stop being childish. I promised I wouldn’t tell Earl if he let me out. And then I realized: he wasn’t there any more, and I was left alone.

So for a while I did stuff. I banged at the door with my hands. I used his shoes. Then I lay down on the mess and kicked at the door with my feet.

I’m generally a pretty patient guy, to a point. Certain things trigger me, though. I’d been in the closet for an hour—I was guessing, since I wasn’t wearing a watch at the time—when I realized that if I stayed there too much longer, I was going to get home late.

The prospect of lateness has been a lifetime anxiety of mine. One of the worst days of my school life came in first grade, when my father was walking me to school and the usual gate by which we entered the yard was locked, so that we had to circle around the entire schoolyard. I was a full ten minutes late to class, and had to enter when everyone was quiet and doing their exercises at their desks, and explain to the teacher why I was tardy. Thinking of that day still fills me with shame. Throughout my life I’ve been punctual. Even predictable. Breaking that pattern fills me with an anxiety that shortens my breath, quickens my pulse, and feels as if it’s lopping years off my life.

So there, in that closet, I considered the prospect that I would be missing dinner, making my parents wonder where I was, and that their grilling of me when I finally did get home would cause my life of sex and lies to come tumbling around me. And it fucking freaked me out. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I started to flop-sweat. And maybe I inherited some of my father’s claustrophobia, because that stuffy closet felt exactly like a coffin, and if I didn’t get out, I was sure I was going to die in there.

I’ve had panic attacks since, in my life time, and plenty of them. That was my very first. I had no idea what it was, this overwhelming anxiety, this fear I couldn't rationalize away. For what seemed a very long time, I felt like a mere animal. A beast. I wanted to race around in circles, clutching my head. I wanted to do something, anything, to make the fear and the sweat go away. I honestly thought something in me was going to explode, and that maybe I would die in that closet.

The attack went on for what felt like an eternity, and then subsided. I had a few minutes of quiet, and of thankfulness. Then I thought about being late home once more, and had another spell.

I lost all track of time during those awful minutes. Maybe that was panic’s back-handed gift to me; as fearful as I was of the time I was late home, at least my panic attack kept me from being aware of it passing. And out of that panic grew a great anger. Anger at Jim, for locking me in the closet. Anger at Earl, for not doing something to control him. Jim was like an untrained dog—unruly. Snappish. Unsocialized. He’d fucked up Topher’s life. He was fucking up mine. He was a cancer, a disease. He was a menace. He needed to be eradicated. And Earl wasn’t doing a thing to stop it.

I couldn’t sustain all these strong emotions indefinitely. I lay back on the floor, and tried to breath. I tried to soothe the feral beast I’d had to confront during those panic attacks. Eventually, overcome by darkness and the heat, I fell asleep. And I didn’t wake until the door opened, and over the rush of cool air and the bright light from the ceiling lamp—because I could tell it was dark outside—I saw Earl’s silhouette.

I’m not an easy waker. It took me a few seconds of eye-blinking and struggling to unbend my limbs from their cramped positions before I realized where I was. Then all that anger and rage at Jim came flooding back into me. I lunged up and out of the closet and at Earl like the savage dog I’d imagined Jim to be, snapping and snarling and trying to wrestle out of his arms so I could sniff down his boyfriend and rip my fucking teeth into him.

Earl held me at arm’s length, and shook me to bring me back to my senses. He’d gotten home late, he told me. He hadn’t expected to be so late. He’d seen my bike outside, and gotten Jim to admit where I was. He was sorry. “You need to go home,” he said, simply. Then he added, “And I don’t think you should come back here.”

At the time, I primarily heard the first half of the sentence. I had to go home. I jerked myself out of his hands and stomped downstairs. I didn’t see Jim anywhere. Then I collected my bike and went on my way. By the time I got home, it was going on nine. I had a completely bullshitty story about where I’d been—something about oh yeah, hadn’t I told them I was having dinner at a friends while we worked on studying for exams? I hadn’t? Gosh, I was so sorry. We’d been working so hard—gee, I never did anything like that!

It came spilling out of my mouth the minute I was in the door.

The irony of the situation was that my parents didn’t even care I was late. I was a senior in high school. Nine-thirty on a Friday night wasn’t late by any stretch of the imagination. I’d stayed out later, with some notice. They figured there’d been some mix-up. I was a good kid, and in those days parents didn’t over-obsess with what we were doing. They barely looked up from their television program. They certainly didn’t notice how disheveled I was. How messed up.

All that panic for nothing.

It wasn’t until later that night, after I’d showered and crawled into my bed, that I remembered the last half of Earl’s suggestion, and its meaning sunk in. I don’t think you should come back here. He didn’t mean tonight, or for a while. He meant forever.

The funny thing was that I didn’t think I should go back there, either. He was right.

My time with Earl ended with the mildest of suggestions. So quickly. And I didn’t even notice it happening. There was no long, lingering hug. No meaningful look. No arguments, no ultimatums. I don’t even think I glanced at his face when he said it. Just a few words. Then it was over.

During the years between then and now, I always assumed that Earl ended our relationship so abruptly because he was frightened of what Jim might attempt to do to me. I assumed he thought that Jim would, left to his own devices, come up with fresh new tortures for me, or ways to exercise his sadism.

But you know, writing this, it occurs to me for the very first time in my life that Earl was more likely afraid of me. He’d seen me submissive, and sexually compliant, and he’d seen me agreeable and even loving. He’d never, ever seen me angry before. He’d never seen that rage unleashed. I think he was frightened more of me, than of his boyfriend. He was afraid of the things I could say to the authorities, in my anger. Of the things I could say to my parents. Of what I might do to Jim, rather than what Jim could do to me.

I think all of us have a wild beast inside of us—that feral, uncivilized self that fights when it needs, and flees when it can, even against our better judgments. I can’t say that Earl was the cause of mine. But it was in his house that mine was born, and directly or not, he was the midwife.

I wonder now if he realized that he’d witnessed not one, but two beasts being born—my wild fury, the result of too much submissiveness, too much compliance. I’d given over my will to Earl, my right to say no, and only thought to reclaim it when it was too late. And then there had been Topher’s betrayal, ransacking Earl’s home and running far, far away. Fight and flight. He’d seen them both with us. Perhaps on a certain level, the knowledge of what he'd birthed in his two boys was too much for him.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Questions: Junction City Edition

One of my all-time favorite songs—okay, probably my all-time favorite song, if you were to attempt to nail me down and I wasn't giving you a smart-ass answer—is probably "Wicked Little Town." Do you know it? I loved it first when I heard the original cast recording for Hedwig & the Angry Inch, and then loved it all the more a few years later when the movie came out.

John Cameron Mitchell gave such a touching performance in his movie that I've always loved it, and him. And when it comes to this particular song—well, I find him truly tender and moving.

I know that many of my long-time readers are still cherishing hopes that somehow I'll come to my senses and get back together with Spencer, the young man with whom I exclusively spent several months before my move across the country. It's not going to happen. But I would like to say that in the middle of this week, when I was having a particularly bad day, I got an email from out of the blue from Spencer. And he was singing this song for me.

I remember that the two of us had expressed our affection for the movie. We hadn't watched it together, though. I might have told him how very much I loved that song. It was in passing, though, and I wouldn't have expected him to know, or to remember.

And yet there he was, in his darkened room, turned a quarter away from the camera and basking in the light of his monitor, singing for me my favorite song.

Oh, how wet was my face when he was done. Before he was done. Before he'd even finished the first chorus. It broke my heart, and it made my week.

So readers, in the next few days, do something unexpected for someone who's meant something to you. They'll love you all the more for it. We need that in our little lives.

Let's get to some Formspring questions before I get too maudlin.

Do you have a library card and use it, or do you purchase books that you want to read?

I use my library card regularly, for both the check out of traditional and electronic books. i purchase books I wish to have for my permanent library, however.

These days, I do a lot of electronic book reading, whether from the library or purchasing from Amazon or Apple. After my move last summer, I learned that it is too easy to have too many books.

Do you consider yourself pragmatic?

That's a question that requires too much theory for me even to begin grappling with, so on that basis alone I'm pretty certain I have to say no.

Have you ever made a conscious effort to stop swearing/cursing? Why did you do it? And what strategies did you use to help you? Did you substitute "non curse" words for the "bad" words?

Why, do you think I curse too fucking much?

I curse quite naturally and freely thanks to parents who, despite having PhDs, both swore like longshoreman. My sibling's first word was 'shit,' thanks to them.

While I don't really give a rat's ass about cutting down the amount of swearing I do privately, I am very conscious of editing out bad language when I'm in an office situation, around kids who aren't mine, in professional gatherings, and around people I don't know. When I'm in those situations, I tend to say things like, "Oh my goodness!" instead of "Holy shit!", or "Gosh!" instead of "Fuck!"

It makes me sound like one of Wally and The Beaver's childhood chums, but there you go.

If you have a day off, and you have to spend it only around your home (not going out and shopping, eating, visiting, or whatever else you may otherwise choose to do), what sort of things would you do to fill up your day?

I'm likely to spend the morning making something in the kitchen like bread or jam or some kind of baked dessert, the afternoon reading and writing, and then the evening watching a movie or some kind of television.

Have you ever looked up a old flame online? Did you rekindle that relationship/friendship or just stalk them? How did it end up?

I don't rekindle old romances online. I do, however, stalk old boyfriends. I enjoy Googling them or finding them on Facebook and enjoying how old they look when compared to myself.

I did accept the friend request of a my old college boyfriend on Facebook. We had something of a tempestuous relationship when we were together, my junior and his senior year, but now we've both mellowed, he's gotten fat and jowly, and I get to preen when he says of my photos, "You haven't changed a bit!"

Having spent a long time in the midwest, what are your impressions of guys in the northeast? Different? Same? Do they have more attitude?

It's kind of tough for me to answer that question, because I see a lot of differences between guys even in very different regions, in this area. In the wealthy county where I'm currently living, the guys tend to be very preppy, very closeted, and really quite ashamed of putting sexual desire, even for a moment, as a priority over their careers and five-year plans. Outside this county, throughout the rest of the state, the men I've met are kind of approachable and friendly.

New York City isn't that far away, and I've actually found the men there more friendly and open than where I live. The men of New Jersey that I've talked to, on the other hand, tend to think pretty highly of themselves, but never really make a move to connect.

There are a lot of people in this congested area of the country. I'm not surprised at the diversity between them.

I am curious, are you easily embarrassed or does it take a lot to make you turn red from embarrassment? Only one thing really embarrasses me, and that would be direct, to-my-face praise. It makes me become very flustered. The rest of the time, I'm pretty much unflappable.

I do, however, turn red very easily. I turn red when I laugh, when I get angry, when I'm flustered and in a hurry. I just have that kind of complexion.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Confrontation: Part 1

(I'm trying to push through to the end, so this entry is a continuation of the Earl soap opera about my relationship with an older man in my teens. It's a direct sequel to Jim, from earlier this week.)

I wasn’t physically bullied a lot when I was a kid. I was teased, though. I can’t say for certain I was teased any more than any other children, but on my receiving end, it certainly felt like it. Anything seemed to attract hoots and catcalls of derision—the way I carried my books, the clothes I wore, the color of my sneakers, the way I cut my hair. Having to wear glasses from the second grade on got me a lot of attention. Later on, I’d be teased for the way I played kickball, or the fact I liked to read. I was teased for being smart enough that the school entered me in the city-wide spelling bee, then teased for losing and coming in second.

Nothing I did seemed to get anything but jeers from my peers, so my parents gave me the gift of endurance as a coping mechanism. They’ll stop teasing you if they don’t get a rise out of you, my mother would say. My father would add, The only reason they’re mean is because they want a reaction. They were right, to an extent. People would stop teasing me if I pretended not be affected by it. They’d grow bored and move on to something else for a while.

So I learned fairly early on to present a frozen face to the world in times of adversity, to keep my affect unruffled and rigid. Being made of ice when I’m under fire is my go-to reaction to this day. I freeze people out when they displease me, rather than ever let them see that they’ve gotten under my skin.

I can’t tell you that it’s the best course of action, but it’s instinct.

The last day I ever went to Earl’s house was one of those days I had to exercise my frozen-in-ice countenance for an extended period of time. I remember it as being a Friday or a Saturday in that late winter period that in the South felt an awful lot like the middle of spring. I’m thinking it was a Friday afternoon, because I spent a lot of Friday afternoons in Earl’s company. It was when he’d decompress, when we’d both fuck away the tensions of work and school and start the weekend off right. Even in the post-Topher days when I no longer wore Earl’s collar, Friday was still our day.

Only on this particular Friday, he wasn’t there.

I was used to being in Earl’s house on my own. It was allowed. I knew where he hid an extra back door key. I had free access to the refrigerator. I’d grab some junk food, hunker down on the sofa, and generally treat Earl’s home like some kind of boys-only clubhouse. That Friday, though, Jim was home. He usually wasn’t. His retail job was only part-time, and barely above minimum wage, if that, and I knew its hours well enough to ensure that I could predict pretty well whether he’d be hanging around to torture me or not. On this afternoon, I’d either miscalculated badly, or else things had changed enough around me and I’d not been there to notice. Earl wasn’t in the kitchen, or the den. And Jim was sitting at the kitchen table. I couldn’t really remember a time we’d been alone together—maybe ever.

“Your boyfriend’s in the dungeon,” he snapped.

Earl and Jim had a basement dungeon of sorts. It had a sling and a couple of sofas, and an area with a drain and a makeshift showerhead on a hose. By that day’s standards it was pretty elaborate. Compared to some of the basement dungeons I’ve seen since, with their finished walls and ceilings, their lighting, their sound systems and elaborate sex furniture, it was pretty bare-bones. Without saying much of anything, I walked to the basement door and opened it.

The stairwell was dark, and the basement inky-black beyond. I closed the door again. “He’s not there,” I said.

“Yeah, he is,” said Jim, in that shit-starting tone of his. “Go on down. He wants you to go down there.”

“He’s not there,” I said. I closed the door and put it on the chain.

For a minute he seemed like he was going to try to argue me into it. Then he rolled his eyes. “No shit, Sherlock. He’s upstairs.”

“His car isn’t even here,” I pointed out. I knew Jim was fucking with me. It was his favorite sport. I could have left—I should have left. I should’ve gotten on my bike, gone home, played cards with my mom, and spent a normal afternoon and evening with my family.

But one of the bad side-effects of living a frozen life in the face of adversity is that it teaches a terrible stubbornness. I was determined that Jim was not going to get my goat. In fact, I wasn’t going to let on that he was bugging me at all. I went to the refrigerator and poured myself a Pepsi and sat down at the table opposite him. Then I proceeded cooly, deliberately, to drink it as if I didn’t give a shit if he were there or not—just to show him.

“You got any money?” he asked. Then, when I refused to say anything, “You think you’re hot shit, don’t you?” Again, I said nothing. I didn’t look at him. My face was still as granite, and colder by far. I stared off into the distance, as if he weren’t even there. “Aw, come on.” He changed tactics, wheedling me now. “Let’s be friends.”

Even that didn’t get a reaction out of me. He said a couple of other things to try to make up his rudeness, but I knew Jim well enough to realize that he was just a shit who’d do anything to get what he wanted. When he realized I wasn’t going to look at him, he got up from his side of the table, came around, and planted himself right in front of me. He crouched down so that we were at eye level. “Seriously. Why can’t we be friends?” I just stared at him. My lips were pressed together. My eyes were cold, and betrayed nothing. “We should be friends. We’ve got a lot in common. We both have Earl.” He put both his hands on the arms of my chair. “We both want to make Earl happy, right? And you know what would make Earl happy? If you gave me all your fucking money, you little shit.”

I had expected a verbal sting on the tail of that particular serpent, but I’d not been quick enough to anticipate that Jim would make a snatch at my pocket and wrestle out my wallet. I scrambled for it, but he was off and running.

In high school I’d gotten a Land’s End wallet made out of some kind of canvas and fastened with velcro, which was very space-age at the time. I heard its loud rip as Jim ran off. Now, I am really hard pressed to tell you exactly what I kept in my wallet at that age. I didn’t have a driver’s license until I was twenty-one, so it wasn’t that. I don’t remember having more than five dollars in cash at any given time. I didn’t keep any form of identification. I was too young for credit cards. I might have kept my public library card, which was just a plain rectangle of cardboard embedded with a numbered metal plate for stamping. It didn’t have my name or address on it. In other words, there was nothing really too valuable in my wallet, and I knew it at the time, but it was my wallet and I wanted it back.

I didn’t run after Jim. That would’ve betrayed too much emotion. But I did sigh, and follow at a slow pace. I called out that he was acting like a child. True enough. I heard him pound up the stairs, calling out taunts as he fled. Then I heard the door to the third floor open, and the creaking of the rickety attic stairs.

I was furious with him, but I was still determined not to let it show. I must’ve had a few dollar bills in my wallet, because when finally I reached the little shithole that was nominally his room in the house, he was sitting on his bed and flipping through them. It really was a stinky little place, a gerbil’s nest of comic books and magazine porn and dirty laundry. I didn’t care about the money so much. “Where’s my wallet?” I asked. He shrugged. “Just tell me where you put my wallet,” I said, in a pained voice.

“I hid it,” he said, sounding pleased with his own cleverness.

“Tell me where you hid it,” I said, sounding long-suffering, but calm.

Back and forth we went, with him trying to get a rise out of me and me resisting, until at last he nodded in the direction of his closet. It was one of those old-fashioned closets prevalent in my part of town—deeper than the average hole in the wall and large enough to walk in, but not as organized as anything you’d see in a modern house. I didn’t see any reason to disbelieve him. So, shaking my head like a weary schoolteacher dealing with a real turd of a child, I sighed and walked over to the closet.

The floor was littered with his crap. Shoes, clothes, dirty laundry, an ancient shoe shining kit in a wooden box like the one my father had—only Jim’s had obviously not been used in years. He hadn’t been lying, though. My wallet had been tossed casually into the leg of one boot. It was sticking out at the top.
I bent over to retrieve my stolen property. Then I felt a rush of air, and the slam of the closet door behind me. The door hit my ass as Jim pushed it shut. By the time I managed to turn around inside the space, cramped by all Jim’s clothing hanging from the wooden rail above, I could hear him locking it from the outside.

“What are you doing?” I asked, annoyed. I struck the door with the heel of my hand a few times. “Let me out. You’re being stupid.

“Gotcha, you little shit,” he called through the wood.

I crouched there, silent for a moment, certain that Jim would realize what an ass he was being. I was certain he’d unlock the door and make some asinine apology, and that I’d stalk away furious, but seeming unruffled.

I was wrong on all counts.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


(This entry is a continuation of the Earl soap opera about my relationship with an older man in my teens, and of the complications caused by a peer named Topher. It's a direct sequel to An Empty Collar, from December.)

When now I think about what happened in my teens with Topher, it makes me melancholy. One of the reasons writing out these episodes has been so protracted is that I really don't like facing the memories for any length of time. I can't think about Earl without thinking about Topher; I can't think for long about Topher without feeling guilt, and sorrow, and the confusion of a loss so sudden that it still bewilders me.
I know I'm not responsible for anything that happened to the kid. He made his own decisions, picked his own path. I know on an intellectual level that I couldn't have stopped him from running away from home. His motivations for leaving went far deeper than anything I could see—deeper than his relationships with Earl and with Jim, deeper certainly than any relationship he and I might have had.

I've lost or separated from most of my childhood friends and acquaintances in one way or another. I think of one close friend who died from cancer in the middle of the seventh grade. I think of Mark, my former friend who came to see me as his mortal enemy, taken away by a drunk driver during our college years. Others have passed since. Most have simply drifted away, freed of the tethers of time and my memory, to life their own lives.

But Topher's the only person I knew from my youth whose timeline simply trailed off into nothingness. It wasn't truncated too soon; it didn't diverge in a simple way and go out of sight, as if they might had we parted ways to head to separate colleges. Once he was gone, he was the object of curiosity and speculation. Adults talked about him in front of us like a statistic, ignoring that there were a lot of us who'd known him from the neighborhood.

Other kids discussed him with wild speculation. He'd run away to DC, some said. He was a prostitute there. (In this version of the rumors, he was a prostitute for female clients. Their little minds never could stretch around the idea of a gay Topher.) He'd run away to Atlanta and had gotten a job. He'd been picked up hitchhiking and was living in California under an assumed name. He'd been kidnapped; he was dead. No one knew anything certain, nor did we ever. I still don't know, and neither do the few friends from that era I've asked on Facebook.

A mythos sprung up around Topher. He hadn't been just some stoner kid with bad grades. He'd been cool, acerbic, a wit, fun to be around. A rebel. Larger than life. People claimed to have been his best friend, claimed to have hung out and shared a joint with him the night before he'd fled town. People claimed to know him, to understand him, to have talked about running away with him.

It was all bullshit.

Nobody had known Topher. They hadn't really known him. They hadn't hung out with him when he'd been around, hadn't noticed him, hadn't cared. I was the only kid who knew what Topher did with a lot of his time outside of school, the only one who knew where he got all his pot and the money to buy more of it. I knew Topher's secrets—some of them—better than anyone. And I didn't know him at all. He wasn’t knowable.

Still. Even during the days when we were polite and unspoken rivals in Earl's household, I knew there was a certain kinship between us. We were the same age and the same build, though he was darker and I was fair. We'd shared the same role in the same play at the local community theater, when first I'd known him. We performed the same submissive, receptive role for Earl and for Jim and for the men they'd invite to their parties. Then Topher had vanished and left the first indelible question mark in my life.

Every time I thought of him, I had to question why it hadn't happened to me, too. Was I smarter? Better equipped to cope? Or had I been, as I deeply suspected and still think, just plain lucky?

I still don't know.

I've written about Topher for the last dozen paragraphs, but I'd not intended to write about him at all when I sat down in front of the blank screen. Even my title was about someone else. All my rumination and melancholy is simply to avoid writing about what comes next, as this saga of Earl comes to a head.

I'm going to take a deep breath and try to get through it, over the next week.

I hadn't realized until Topher was well and truly gone for some time how much time Jim had spent with him. For several years I'd been visiting Earl's house a few times a week, and only infrequently had to deal with Jim's hateful presence. Either he and Topher would be hanging out and fucking and reading comic books in Jim's little garret attic room, or else Jim would be sated and numb enough from their last session that he wouldn't feel compelled to taunt and annoy me any more than a bored older brother, passing on his way to some better activity.

With Topher gone, though, I started to see a lot more of Jim. He'd wander into the bedroom when Earl and I were fucking and smoke a cigarette while he waited for his turn inside me—which he'd take with quick, rabbit-like stabs of his thin dick that felt like the painful probings of a long-nailed finger. He'd sit in one of the armchairs in the bedroom, naked, his skin covered with freckles and ash, smoking and talking about inanities. He rarely stayed in his room, or spent time in the house's living room or den. He followed us around like an puppy, intent not on getting real affection, but upon annoying us.

Never leaving Earl and I alone accomplished something else, as well. We never got to talk about Topher, or what had happened to him, or what had been Jim's role in Topher's departure. I knew, beyond any doubt, that Jim had aided Topher in rifling the house of Jim's valuables. It had been some grand, awful move in the chess game of their complicated and unfathomable relationship, the sacrifice of a seemingly worthless piece in order to gain control of the board.

In the days immediately following Topher's disappearance, I'd been too sore and shy to ask Earl about what it had meant, and why Jim had done any such thing. Although Earl and I didn't get back to the level of intimacy we'd shared before the event, in the couple of months after, by the time I might have said something, we never had the privacy. Jim never left us the fuck alone.

It got to the point that I couldn't see Jim without feeling my heartbeat race with anger and annoyance. It got to the point—and this was probably Jim's ultimate goal—that I started going to Earl's house less and less.

But I kept going. And then one day—the last day—I went when I shouldn't have, when no one was in the house but Jim.

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Empty Collar

(This entry is a continuation of the Earl soap opera about my relationship with an older man in my teens, and of the complications caused by a peer named Topher. It's a direct sequel to Lost Boys, from December.)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about taking the young man I like calling ‘Runt’ to a pet store, where I bought a collar that I placed around his neck. The incident brought him a great deal of pleasure; I don’t think he’s ever before had a guy objectify him, to treat him like fuckmeat.

There’s nothing potent in meaning about a strip of leather, whether it’s a bookmark or a headband. There’s nothing particularly meaningful about a scrap of cheap metal, like the flip-top of a carbonated drink. A collar is only a strip of leather with a metal fastener. In that respect it’s no different from a belt, or a buckle on a backpack.

The collar itself isn’t degrading, though your Pekinese might act like it is. It’s no more magical than a wedding ring, which is simply a circlet of precious metal. But as with a wedding ring, when two people decide (whether tacitly or explicitly) to imbue it with a meaning above and beyond its function—well, that’s when the object acquires significance.

For the Runt, the collar meant that while he wore it, he was owned. He belonged to the man who bought it for him. He knew I’d hook my fingers beneath that strip of leather while I fucked him, and that he’d feel the chill and bite of that buckle against his tender skin when I pulled him around as I pleased. He could look at the collar and imagine the way it would choke his windpipe, and the pressure it would exert around his neck when I fastened it around him. The collar held mutual meaning for us both. It was an unspoken contract, that for a time, he didn’t have to think, that he didn’t have to make decisions. That I would be doing those things for him.

I know how he felt because, for a time, when I was younger than he and in my mid-teens, I wore a man’s collar myself. I’d had that collar on my mind for a couple of weeks, since I was trying to figure out how to write about it in my journal—what I’m doing today. It was because I was thinking about that collar that I decided to get one with the Runt.

The collar that my mentor, Earl, placed around my neck had been bought new from the local pet shop; it had belonged to a dog he’d owned, a dog that had been put down of old age and poor health a couple of years before I got involved with Earl. The dog had been a big breed. I’ve forgotten what, exactly. Its neck had been bigger than mine, though, since I had to wear the buckle on one of the innermost holes. It was heavy, and the leather was thick and warped and cracked from years of hard use. When I wore it, I felt weighted down.

Earl put the collar on me the very first time he used it, shortly after I started visiting his house. I remember my cock pulsing with heat and fear when he approached me with it, and stood behind me before the mirror in his bedroom as he fixed it around my skinny little neck. I understood what it meant, even without discussing. I was his. I belonged to him, as surely as the collar’s previous occupant. I might go roaming on my own from time to time, like any dog. But in the end, I’d always find my way home to him.

After that, we had rules for the collar. He’d leave it either on the kitchen table near the back door where I usually entered his home, or hanging on a hook for coats by the rear porch. Donning it would be the first thing I did when I visited. I did it automatically, my fingers learning how to manipulate the thick, stiff leather and to fasten it around my neck, leaving enough room for Earl’s thick fingers to slip beneath.

I don’t know whether he used that collar with other men. I didn’t care. All I knew is that when I wore that strip of leather, and usually nothing else, my skinny little body belonged to Earl. I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to be the son with the high grades, or the good boy. I didn’t have to worry about what I wore, or how I looked, or what I said, or attracting the wrong kinds of attention. All I had to do was obey, and serve.

It was a relief.

I wore that collar willingly from the time I met Earl until my senior year in high school. And then one day, I simply didn’t.

It was shortly after the whole affair with Topher that I stopped donning that symbol of ownership. Topher had been the same age as I, had served the same purpose to Earl as I did, though he’d been passed on to Earl’s boyfriend, Jim. But Topher had robbed Earl of his watch collection, his at-home cash, and a number of other little petty valuables, and Earl had sent me to his house to find out what the hell was going on. I’d found out that Topher had run away from home, and had been the one to carry back the news.

I hadn’t been to Earl’s place all that often since, right at the beginning of the school year. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the time. I’d like to say that my high school senior year kicked my ass, but I wasn’t taking school too seriously. I wasn’t even attending school, a good lot of the time; I was so firmly on track to being my class valedictorian than nothing could dislodge me. I turned in homework assignments and showed up for tests, but I rarely went to most of my classes, and my teachers assumed a good boy like me wouldn’t be doing anything awful, or unlawful, so my truancy went unchallenged. By the time I was accepted to two colleges, late in the fall, my regular routine was to show up for government my first period, then my dreaded trigonometry class after, orchestra for third period, and then I’d wander off the school grounds either to return home and play cards with my mother, or to hit the park and suck cock all afternoon.

So no, my reluctance to visit Earl had nothing to do with school.

At the time, I couldn’t have articulated my reasons for not visiting my mentor sometimes for a week at a time. But at heart, I simply didn’t trust him any longer. When I put on that collar, I had to trust him. I had to know that the decisions he made for his pleasure coincided with what was best for me. After watching Topher disappear—and no one had heard from him for weeks, by this point, nor did anyone ever hear anything—I had difficulty believing in that core essential.

In a way, Earl had betrayed me by making me visit Topher’s house to do his dirty work for him. I felt exposed, and at risk, and not in any pleasurable way. Even at the time I realized that the consequences for him wouldn’t have been pleasant if he’d shown up on Topher’s mom’s doorstep to announce he’d been sodomizing her son and was wondering where he might be. They wouldn’t have been as hysterical and shrill and out of proportion as they would today, but there definitely would’ve been consequences.
I had a juvenile sense, though, that those consequences should have been Earl’s. Not mine. With a chink of that blind faith chipped away, the whole rest of the foundation began to crack and weaken. I started to feel not so much like Earl’s special boy, but simply as his favorite boy of the moment. I knew there had been others. I knew there’d be more in the future, to replace me.

Even that collar hadn’t been mine. Earl might have loved me, in his way, just as he loved that dog. But he still gave that dog’s collar away. He replaced him. And I never felt so expendable as I had the day that Earl had sent me to do his dirty work for him.

So one day that autumn, when I gave in out of guilt and need and went over to Earl’s place after school, I hung out in the living room watching TV until he got home from his work. He seemed surprised and pleased to see me there, and settled down on the sofa to put his arm around me. I was wearing my clothes, except for my sneakers, which lay nearby. The familiar scent of him made me want to give in, to go back to the way we had been for years at that point. But when he made small talk with me, my answers were short and perfunctory. My throat couldn’t open enough to say more. It was as if the leather band I wore now was invisible, and had cut off my windpipe.

“You’re not wearing your collar,” he said, finally noticing.

After a long silence, I said, “No.” I couldn’t look at him.

We sat there for a long, long time. His arm was still around me. I could feel his chest rise and fall as he breathed. Everything was so still, and so quiet. “All right,” he said, very softly. “You don’t have to.”

I nodded. “I know.”

Again we sat still for a while. And then I felt him squeeze my shoulder. The squeeze turned into a hug, as he pulled me into him and held me tight. We rocked back and forth together for a few moments, me limp, him holding me with all his strength. Then his hand burrowed between my thighs.

I responded automatically, as only I knew how—by spreading my legs to allow him access, and by giving in to his kisses, giving in to his hands roaming to unbutton my shirt, giving in to his fingers snaking down the back of my jeans to slither into my hole.

I gave into him that afternoon, but I knew—we both knew, or at least admitted to ourselves for the first time—that one day when I went roaming, I wouldn’t come home to him ever again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fuckin' Redcoats

In my checkered sexual history, I’ve many times orchestrated the fulfillment of a particular type of sexual fantasy for a particular type of man.

I’ve made black men whimper at their request by whipping out the N-word. I’ve made Middle Eastern men shoot by calling them towelheads. I’ve met Asian guys who reach the peak of their arousal only when I growl down at them that if they weren’t already slanty-eyed little faggots, their eyes would be crooked once I finished fucking their chink asses (which for some didn’t technically make sense, since they were Korean or Japanese).

I laugh to think about it, but I once made a Latin guy—a Los Angeles television executive who was far, far better off than I—highly, highly excited a few years back when he showed up at my house hot to fuck, and I made him strip off his Hugo Boss dress shirt, address me as sir, and weed my back garden for a half-hour while I kicked back on the deck with a Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

No, really. That was the best day ever. I got laid, he came a bucket, and I didn’t have to weed the garden.
I’m used to the sounds of protest from some men when they hear I engage in this kind of play. Dick pigs who are usually mopping the floors of skanky bar back rooms with their testicles sudden become prim Mrs. Grundys as they clutch their Sunday best pearls and mouth words to the effect that they are shocked, shocked that anyone would have so little pride that they’d degrade themselves that way.

Whatever, cocksuckers. What gets a man off, gets a man off. If in my bedroom or between my toolshed and back garden plot my partners like to flirt with a type of roleplay ordinarily taboo and forbidden to them, so what? It’s not hurting anyone. And my hostas really needed dividing, yo.

I encountered a guy this week, however, who kind of threw me for a loop. I’m looking for a guy who’s all top and dom, he wrote. Is that you?

Yup, I wrote back. Because it was more diplomatic than, Sure, why not?

The guy wanted me, basically, to be a big butch American man who denigrated him based on his nationality. He was from the United Kingdom. Could I do that?, he wondered.

I typed back, I don’t understand a fuckin thing you’re saying with that annoying accent, asshole. Did you step out of a goddamned Merchant-Ivory flick or what?

He signed off immediately after. I assumed he hadn’t gotten the joke. But no. A couple of hours later I got an email saying that my (intended-to-be-flip) remark got him off immediately. He sent a phone camera shot of the proof.

Well, okay then.

It really doesn’t take much to get the guy off. A couple of general, short vulgarities, followed by one practiced insult. And while I’m not at all into cybersex, I find this guy kind of amusing. God DAMN, I’ll type to him, for the money shot. Do American guys really let you suck their big dicks with those nasty-ass English teeth of yours? I wouldn’t let that dental tragedy you call a mouth anywhere near my Grade A dick, you little shitstain poof.

Instant orgasm for him, giggles for me.

Or, All your pasty ass is good for is taking big U.S. dick, you piece of crap Limey. What do you expect from a country where all the men sound like fuckin faggots? That went over well.

Or, Don’t come at me acting like you can backtalk a red-blooded American real man. How the fuck did you people even get the Olympics, when you couldn’t tell your pansy asses from your boots in the Falkland Islands?

Pure comedy gold, frankly, and every time as a reward I get in my email box a photo of the huge loads he’s splattering across his desk at my insults. He’s enjoying himself, though I don’t think he’s getting that I’m treat the situation like a joke. Usually I take requests for domination and degradation seriously—I think it’s an honor when a guy can open up enough to admit he enjoys that type of roleplay.

This guy, though, isn’t in on the farce. Or maybe he is, and my utter amusement at the crap I say to him is part of the thrill?

Either way, it’s working. I’m trying to craft something with a Downton Abbey theme for the next time I encounter him, but after that, I’m not exactly sure in what direction I should go. I’ve discarded the Spice Girls as too outdated, Shakespearean quotes as too literary, and puns on Dickens as too obvious.

And Chaucer is too much of a boner-killer, right? Yeah, I think so too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Fuck-You List

I’ve been feeling a little scattered this last week and a half. I haven’t been able to concentrate. My libido has been zero. All I’ve really wanted to do was turn on my music and curl up with some of the books I’ve been reading, away from people, isolated. This urge to insulate myself from the world happens late in every March, and I pretend that I don’t understand it.

Then April first rolls around, and I have to confront what’s been getting me down. It’s the anniversary of my mom’s death, you see. It’s been eighteen years—Jesus. But it still creeps up on me. Every year I manage to fool myself into thinking I won’t be affected. Every year I find out that I am just kidding myself.

So if my entries haven’t been particularly sexy this last week, I’m explaining why.

My mother was a woman with a deep and perverse sense of humor, and April Fool’s day was one of her favorite holidays. Every year she used to plan her one good trick, weeks in advance; she’d conspire with me on one really good trick to play on my friends. I’m kind of convinced that during her last long illness, she held off on expiring until April first because in a very, very twisted way, she knew it’d be her last and best joke ever.

One of the things my mother used to do, particularly during my teen years, was to make what she called Fuck-You Lists. Now, I’ve known people, particularly those in recovery programs, to make lists of things for which they’re grateful, at the end of every day. These vaguely inspirational lists are always filled with things like I’m grateful for the touch of warm sunshines on my shoulders this afternoon, telling me that spring is on the way, and I’m so grateful for the love of my husband because he keeps me on my path, and other similar sentimental Hallmark sentiments.

I kid. It’s good to be grateful, and to be aware of what’s good in one’s own life. My mother’s Fuck-You Lists, though, were kind of the opposite of these; if she was having a particularly frustrating day, she’d grab a sheet paper, a pencil from one of her crossword puzzle books, and sit down at the kitchen table with a cup of black coffee and a cigarette. She’d scrawl FUCK YOU at the top of the page, and then jot down the four or five frustrations uppermost at her mind. Then she’d tuck the paper in the napkin holder, or behind the telephone, or beneath a paperweight, and go about her business.

I think the reasoning behind the exercise was that her troubles and irritations didn’t seem so ponderous when they’d been reduced to writing on a coffee-stained slip of paper. She could get them out of her system, then leave them behind and head off to work or to one of her hundred political activities. I think it astonished relatives, neighbors, and my friends when they’d come over, wander into the kitchen, and see hundreds of slips of paper in my mom’s exquisite handwriting labeled FUCK YOU! at the top, but hey. It’s what made our home the popular place to be.

All this preamble is simply in order to say that in honor of my mom and her passing, I’ve decided to come up with a Fuck-You List of my own today, so I can get a few things off my chest and hopefully move on to better things in the coming week. So. Without further ado:

1. Dear Manhunt Guy who hit me up last night begging me to drop everything and drive thirty-nine miles to fuck him: I’ve got about ten public photos on Manhunt, all unlocked. Your only visible photo was a shot roughly the size of a postage stamp of your chest, in which you’ve used some kind of graphic program to scribble out your face with black pen. Given that imbalance, it’s perfectly reasonable for me to ask you if I may see your locked photo before I commit to a drive, and frankly, I was pissed off by your response of lol you haven’t earned that honor yet. I don’t have to ‘earn’ anything from you, kiddo, especially when it was you hitting on me. And thus I say, fuck you.

2. Dear BBRT Guy who unlocked his photos for me very late last night, and who then mocked my grammar when I commented on how good his photos were: Dude, really? On a sex site? I wrote in complete sentences. How often are you getting that on BBRT? And you know what? When it’s two-thirty a.m. and I’ve got insomnia, I really don’t care if I’ve used the subjunctive correctly or not. What’re you getting out of coming at me so aggressively, anyway? I think I’m heartily justified at giving you a hearty fuck you.

3. Dear woman who runs a local artist’s league where I was investigating a teaching opportunity: I should’ve known something weird was up when I mentioned my involvement with three of the biggest professional organizations for our particular craft, and you looked at me blankly and made me explain what the acronyms were. I’ve got more teaching experience than anyone else leading workshops in your podunk little guild. I’ve had more national exposure, and have a longer track record than you or your other instructors. Why you’ve ignored my several polite emails and phone calls suggesting you let me take you out to coffee so we can discuss me perhaps teaching a couple of courses for you is beyond me, but I’m not chasing you any longer. Fuck you, babe.

4. Dear reader who collected our handful of times together like some kind of prize he could brandish before his buddies: I was astonished at by how very hard you chased me, and I am astonished at how very hard you dropped me once you had what you wanted. You know, I’m not even angry about that, in particular. I’m upset because you never bothered to read the lovely entry I wrote about you—not because you were apprehensive about what I might’ve said, but because you were ‘too busy.’ I’d tell you fuck you, but I’ve already fucked you. So I’ll just say this, though I know you’re ‘too busy’ to read it: you let me down.

5. Dear other reader who devoured my blog from start to finish and initiated a real-life friendship with me on the basis of how well you thought you knew me, afterward: Your infatuation with my life was fueled mainly by the fact you read so much of my journal so quickly, in such a short period of time. I knew that when you were attempting to convince me that you could be my new best friend. I knew that your fascination would cool a little when you reached the point that you’d have to read my entries one at a time, when I wrote them. What I didn’t expect was that the start of that friendship would freeze altogether, and that you’d simply stop speaking to me altogether when you were forced to slow down to my everyday mundanity. You don’t read me any longer because of it, so you too won’t see this, but I was hurt by the way you broke stuff off by trying to make it seem like I was the one who was after something unreasonable, just because I’d say hello and ask how you were doing. It’s with regret that I never got to fuck you, but hey, that was never on the agenda anyway.

6. Dear everybody local who feels it necessary to comment about my haircut: I'd totally forgotten how much I absolutely dreaded going to school the day after I got a haircut when I was a kid, because everyone comments on it. Everyone. To the handful of people who say something like, Hey, you got your hair cut—I like it!, I am grateful. However, to everyone who phrases their surprise in a form similar to You cut your hair! It looks SO MUCH BETTER!—and that's a lot of people who simply shouldn't be opening their mouths—I offer a hearty fuck you. You don't see me walking up to you and saying "Ohmygod you look SO MUCH BETTER now that you've lost that extra five pounds you put on eating all those Girl Scout Tagalongs a few weeks back, lard-ass!", do you? No, you don't, because it's fucking rude to tell someone they used to be ugly. Back-handed compliments aren't compliments. Learn it! I liked my hair long. I like my hair short. One way is not better than the other. They're just different. No matter how long my hair is, I still look extra-super-foxy. No matter how long your hair is, you're still an asshole.

Whew! I think that’s all the things that have been bugging me lately. Now they’re off my chest, I hope I can walk away and leave them behind for a little while, to see if it works.

Anyone else have any other Fuck You messages to add to the list? As long as they’re not to me, add ‘em in the comments below, and then we’ll tuck them behind my mom’s avocado-green Princess phone and let someone else stumble on them, down the line.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Morning Questions: Diving Right In Edition

I'm running a little late this morning—okay, a whole lotta late—and I've already accidentally deleted this column once (thanks Blogger!) so I'll keep today's Q&A session rather brief.

A couple of things, though. Thank you guys for the pleasant variety of questions I received at this week. You can either see the answers at the website, or check back here in another three or four weeks when they get incorporated into my weekly round-ups.

Another thing—thanks for all the thoughtful answers to Friday's forum about early shame. Some of the stories you folks shared are funny, touching, and thoughtful. If you didn't get a chance to read the comments, take a chance and do. That's what the forums are all about!

If you have a "smart phone", what are the apps you use the most on your phone?

I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and my email and camera apps the most. I also make heavy use of my web browser, and peruse my RSS feeds with an aggregator called Reeder.

The game I play the most at the moment is Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer.

Do you prefer hairy or smooth asses?

I prefer asses that are on my face, actually.

Do you like to ride roller coasters? If so, what is the name and amusement park of your favorite?

I love roller coasters. My favorite is a sentimental choice—The Grizzly, at King's Dominion in Virginia. It's a wooden coaster that rattles your bones as it takes every corner at breakneck speed.

It's probably my favorite because I associate it with the time I spent working at the park, and the nights after closing when employees could ride the coasters without lines for hours at a time in the dark, until long after midnight. Working in the park was not a great experience overall, but those employee parties were a great deal of fun.

You mentioned that at one time you played WoW...I was wondering if you ever played LotRO? And if so would it be possible to connect with you there?

I played World of Warcraft for six years, since the beginning, and then gave it up last April. I was not a fan of the Cataclysm expansion at all. Giving it up was tough, and I still miss the game, but not enough to go back at this point.

I played Lord of the Rings Online for about six months, after it opened. It was a vast world, but I didn't really enjoy it a whole heck of a lot. So after I bought my hobbit's player house, I let my subscription lapse.

I had a lot of issues with the leveling experience—namely that I'd get a kerjillion quests and they'd all be worthless before I was even vaguely finished with a region—and with the respawn time on trash (way too fast!). I also didn't like the weirdness of the character classes. The archer who was required never ever to move in order to fire at maximum strength was just bizarre.

I believe the game fixed a lot of my concerns later, but by then I was gone.

What do you feel is the single greatest invention of your time?

Plain and simple—the internet. The ability to communicate with parts of the world immensely far away, and on the most obscure of topics, has sparked a change in the way we all live. It's a scope of change that I feel we won't even be able fully to appreciate in our lifetimes, either.

Whenever I've thought of moving to the NY metro area, the cost of housing made it seem unattractive, unless I moved into something close to the size of my college dorm room. What are your longer term housing plans, should you stay about where you are?

Housing is expensive in the NYC area. If you're moving from somewhere with a low cost of living, like pockets of the midwest or south, it's positively obscene.

Originally my plans were to buy a house here. I think now I'm looking at condo options, or I may continue renting for a while longer. To be honest, since I had to sell at an all-time housing depression, the home-owning experience did not turn out to be all-American dream of prosperity I was always promised as a young person.

Grower or shower?

I'm a grower, but I can do some fairly good showing from time to time.

Is there any TV series that miss and wish was still being made?

I really think Firefly was canceled before its time. And Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, just throw Dollhouse in there too and we'll have a Joss Whedon wake.