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.

18 comments:

  1. Reading this, I feel pretty much the way I felt at the end of Julian Barnes' book. Like there's gotta be a way to "fix" it. To find Earl. To let you say thank you. Though there isn't.

    I guess you probably covered it (or maybe not), why he told you not to come back. Sorry.

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  2. Hopefully writing all this now will help you put an end to it all and give you some peace of mind.

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  3. Funny,
    I have a nice little stash in the bank from my teen "escort" days...
    Matt Darringer

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  4. As much as this trite platitude means, I will still say it: I think, in his own way, Earl knew you would turn out alright, and he knew you were thankful. He knew from the start that you were different, and he let you very deep into his life. I think he knew. But that is just me.

    Thank you so much for this series. It has been erotic, insightful, and made me reevaluate my own relationship with my sexual mentor, much different than yours, for sure, and with much more closure. Thank you. And again, I hope writing this has helped you in some way or another to find closure yourself. It sounds like it may have.

    -Ace

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  5. It is amazing isn't it that we have the insight to realize everything happens to us for a reason, and that we are supposed to learn from it. I really, truly believe that even question marks are there to make us ponder, reflect, wonder and ultimately decide what is best for ourselves. Yesterday was a gigantic question mark for me, but that is another story for my own blog, should ever start one!

    Much love to you Rob and a big Thank You for reminding me that I need to take the time to reflect and think ... about everything.

    Hugs,
    Tom

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  6. Despite the seeming messiness–it all fell beautifully into place. Maybe we're only able to see the pattern and the perfect symmetry years later, from a distance.

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  7. There is some part of me that thinks Earl may have been trying to protect you. Seeing the direction Jim and later Topher headed into, seeing how he had a part in moving them there, perhaps he felt pushing you away when he did was the best thing. I think its important to note you're comment about fucking you're way through the 70's and 80's You got what a lot of men now can really only dream of in a time of real sexual freedom for men how have sex with other men. You got a chance to workout some part of who you were sexually that is some thing alot of people will never get to do.

    Mike

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  8. Thank you for this whole series--in its own way, there's closure which, as the reader 'living the story' along with you, really helps. I know you were left with a number of questions... and questions can haunt... but in the end, I agree with countesszero, there is symmetry and--years later--it makes its own sense.

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  9. I'll just say--"Thank you..."

    And now I have to go re-read all those entries from the beginning...

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  10. The whole series was so far removed from anything I could have imagined during my own youth, growing up in roughly the same time frame as you. I often think back to what may have been opportunities that I simply didn't recognize where I might have been able to experience some of the things you did. But of course, I am content to just read about your experiences.

    Thank you for sharing Earl with us. I think as readers here, we can understand why you want to thank him.

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  11. It seems as if writing this has been cathartic for you Rob. Your depth of experience is fascinating and helps one to appreciate your passion as well as compassion.

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  12. Writing these entries seems to have been catharic for you Rob. Your depth of experience helps the reader understand your compassion as well as your passion.

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  13. Absolutely stunned by the emotional honesty of all of it. Thank you, thank you so much for sharing your journey.

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  14. Absolutely stunned by the emotional honesty of all of it. Thank you, thank you for sharing your journey.

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  15. shit, you really know how to make a grown man cry.

    Pakistani pussyboi

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  16. Rob,

    Thank you for being you and sharing this very intimate experience of your youth. Our experiences growing up shape who we are today and to share those experiences may be painful at times but also healing. As I have read through this part of your life it has me thinking of my experiences and how it has shaped me and where it continues to lead me.

    I am working on a post right now that has me looking at my experiences which have led me to where I am now and am finding it difficult to write. I appreciate the effort you put into this series especially and all of your post.

    (((HHUUGGSS)))

    VRPB

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  17. I agree with so much of what some of the others have said. I do think that it was a caring action on Earl's part. He helped you experience some of the dark side of life and knew that you needed to move away from it for a time at least. There was a rather large chunk of abuse that you experienced with him too which left its mark, I think.

    I like your writing style. You have a way with words. I'm rather sure that it has been therapeutic for you to write this and go through the painful reflections and soul searching of the whole range of emotions that you went through. Thanks for sharing this with us, your readers. It does help us to better understand you and your current experiences.

    Bob

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  18. From Ernest Dowson: "I have been faithful to you... in my fashion."

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