My Life as a Gay Man: Gary
I’m something of an archeology nut and by the early 90’s, I had seen all the ancient ruins I had ever wanted to see – Machu-Picchu, Tikal, the Pyramids, ancient Rome, the Parthenon and gave up international traveling for closer, domestic destinations. Places where I could also fuck around, ionic gay meccas like San Francisco, splashy metropolis targets like Atlanta or Houston or Chicago, or lazy beach towns like Rehoboth Beach – or Fort Lauderdale.
But even though these trips were in the good old U.S. of A., George still wasn’t interested in joining me. A vacation to him was watching a week of Mets double-headers. Hell, he didn’t even want to go to the stadium which I would be willing to do despite the fact I thought baseball with all its inaction was boring as shit, but as he replied, “I can see more on TV.” We were living under the same roof but were living increasingly more separate lives. About the only thing we shared in common – besides bills – were our dogs.
Plus, frankly, I had gotten used to the free and breezy lifestyle of an inter-city whore.
Had his disinterest in me and doing things together made me one? Or had it always been in my blood?
One summer, I was on a drive vacation to Chicago and decided I’d stop at some smaller cities, along the way. Places like Columbus, Ohio. It was a late Friday afternoon and after checking into a sleazy hotel downtown and grabbing a Subway for dinner, I showered, then ventured out, my Damron gay guide in hand, dressed in a leather vest, red T, jeans and boots.
I’ve forgotten the name of the place but one glance said bear/leather/levi bar. It was hot and sticky (the bar had only ceiling fans) and when I saw a few other guys shirtless, I slipped off my T and my leather vest and strung both through my belt loops.
“So you gonna enter the contest?” asked the burly, bearded bartender as he handed me my Bud Lite.
“Contest?” I asked.
“The best hairy chest contest. We do it every Friday night. Winner gets fifty bucks.”
Then he reached over the bar to stroke my chest. “Yep, you sure do qualify, mister, yum yum.”
Not exactly being shy, I signed up with the MC but knew that bars held these things to milk the crowd for more drinks, so that “Contest at Midnight” actually didn’t happen until closer to one.
I was on my second Bud when Gary strolled in. Tall, lanky and hippyish with long flowing black hair and a long scruffy beard, he wore big horn rimmed glasses, a baggy, button down shirt that he had open to his navel to show off some fuzzy flesh, and baggy black jeans. I was used to mentally stripping the superfluous off a guy, though, and could tell underneath his disguise that he had the bod and the looks. I was holding up the wall by the bar as he came over and stood next to me.
“Ten more minutes til we crown this week’s hairiest chest!” announced the MC along with a drink special. Gary used the cue to open up.
“So I hope you entered buddy. I’m sure you’ll be the hands-down winner.”
“You don’t look too shabby yourself,” I replied, staring at his half bare chest.
“Hey man, I live here and I can tell you nobody I know has got you beat. Not by a long shot.”
I laughed. He groped. I told him about my trip. He told me about his life as a sometime employed graphic artist.
“Listen,” he went on more in a whisper,” If you win, will you come home with me? I live only a few blocks from here.”
“And if I lose?” I asked.
“Then I’ll come home with you.”
“Hotel, you mean.”
“Hotel, motel, convent – shit. As long as it’s got a bed.”
There were only three other guys up there competing with me and frankly, it was a slam dunk. Hell, I had more hair on my left ball than one of them had on his whole body.
I collected my money and fifteen minutes later we were in Gary’s cramped cluttered apartment, naked on his waterbed, foreplaying away.
That’s when he sprang it on me.
“You into breath control?”
I tried to look and sound ecumenical.
“Never tried it but if you like me to do it to you …”
With that, Gary stood up, reached for his jeans he had flung on a chair and slipped off his wide leather belt. Then he lay back on the bed, tucked a pillow beneath his head, and handed me the belt as I sat down on his belly, straddling him.
“I want you to put it around my neck and pull it tight.”
As I did what he told me to do, I could see his chest first become more agitated, then his breath more labored. I stopped.
“No, no,” he said softly, grabbing my hand. “Keep going. Don’t worry, I’m O.K.”
I hesitated a second, then continued my tug on the belt until his face turned blue and he appeared to fall into unconsciousness. That’s when I panicked, slapped his face a few times, and getting no response, sprung up, grabbed my T and headed for the door.
“Where you’re gonna?” he shouted in a gruffed tone. “I’m not done yet.”
“I am,” I shouted back, slamming the door behind me.
It wasn’t until after I got back to my hotel room that I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had forgotten my $125 leather vest.
A week and a half later, after getting very familiar with Chicago and its Steamworks bath house, a three level temple to Dick, I took Route 80 back and pulled into our property in PA where George was supposed to be spending the weekend.
Only there was no George. Yea, his Dodge Tracker was there, and so were Mikey and Cleo, our third generation of dogs, milling around on the deck, but no George. Stranger, too, was the lawn mower sitting in the middle of the half cut yard.
For the pure hell of it, I called our number on Staten Island but got a machine, and with no cell phone to reach George on, I waited. And waited. And worried, and waited.
Finally, at almost 8 o’clock that night, George called, sounding a bit doped up. He was at the local hospital in Port Jervis, a good 40 minutes away. He had been cutting the grass that afternoon with open sandals and had a bad habit, which he told me to mind my own business about, of bringing the machine way too close to him as he mowed. He didn’t realize he had almost severed his big toe until he saw the blood gushing over the lawn, but being the ultimate pet lover, and not sure if I was arriving today or tomorrow, he threw food down for the dogs before he called 911.
At the hospital, it was touch and go on whether the doctors could save his toe, but somehow they managed to sew it back together and were holding him overnight for observation.
So while I was sucking dick and eating ass, George, who detested human deformity of any kind, had almost made himself a gimp. And he never let me forget it. After Peter, snide, sardonic comments about my alleged secret sex life always seemed to crop up in even the most banal conversations. But I kept my cool. My playing true confessions would be like throwing gasoline on a fire.
And guilt was a word that had been deleted from my vocabulary a long time ago.
Wednesday: Sam, who I met in Manhattan on 9/11 and helped me forget the chaos around us