“Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”
- The Boys in the Band
“Throw a dog a bone, I’ll take it if I have to.”
-Miranda Lambert, “Desperation”
As usual, this one was four times the size he’d appeared in the picture. Actually, no, the picture was deceitfully cropped close-up of his face, his cheeks stretching to either side of the tiny frame and his chin drooping lazily to the point at the bottom where text spelled out his name, so it wasn’t so much deceit as a deliberate withholding of information. His weight and height he’d pointedly left blank and his age, 24, was probably also a lie. Another anonymous fat Mexican with a one-inch dick that I didn’t want as soon as he arrived but, desperate for any semblance of the physical contact I never got I decided to make the best of the situation. He smelled pleasant, a combination of cheap wet hair gel that got on my hands and an underlying gaminess indicative of a long day. He’d parked across the street, called me, and I’d come outside to fetch him for fear that he’d accidentally knock on the door of the old woman across the street who had been eyeing me disapprovingly the day before for drinking from a mostly depleted handle of Jim Beam in my front yard as I smoked cigarettes and talked loudly on the phone. “Hi, I’m Richie,” he said, shaking my hand limply. I don’t know if his name was actually Richie or if that’s just the name with which I’ve mentally labeled all the fat Mexicans I’ve hooked up with in moments of drunken desperation at 3 AM.
“I’m Jack. In here I guess.” I fumbled with the CD player for some music that would make the situation seem funny or ironic and inject me with the necessary level of detached energy I needed, the sense that I was living in a movie, that the pathetic follies of my youth were being recorded for posterity to be described charmingly in my future autobiography after I’d become famous. Accidentally placing one CD on top of the other in the disc tray, I eventually gave up and flopped onto the bed. Richie automatically removed his pants and underwear. There was no indication of a penis anywhere on his body, just a massive pubic mound with no prescribed gender. God, he was fat. This was the type of person my well-meaning friends tried to get me to date; whenever a female friend said that she “had a friend I just had to meet” I knew that it would invariably be a grotesquely obese Richie type, indicative of the level of attractiveness my friends ascribed to me. Though overweight myself I still clung to my television-instilled denial fantasies of dating or fucking only traditionally attractive dreamy young hipster types. I’d rather date no one and fuck the fatasses my friends delivered in secret than have anyone know that I’d lowered my standards one bit. Then I’d complain over lunch about how gay men were all so superficial, shallow, and appearance obsessed, and why was I the only one that saw past all of that?
I waited for Richie to undo my pants; I didn’t want to put forth any effort with this one. I was merely participating in the unending cycle of self-destructive sexual humiliation that all gay men set up for themselves. I’d been at the receiving end of it many times myself, in bed with someone who clearly had much higher expectations for the take-out they’d ordered that night while I marveled and drooled at the fact that I’d ended up with such a catch. The common factor in all male homosexual experiences is that there must never be an equal distribution of mutual attraction; there must always be one ravening, starving slob designated as “the ugly one,” and another person who has, through sheer force of will, imagined himself to be on a higher plane of attractiveness and has convinced himself that he isn’t hungry. There is never that sense of love and a mutual exchange of affection that is present in fictional depictions of homosexual relationships intended to instruct straight people that we’re Just Like You--only a sweaty, brief, paranoid entangling of limbs and body parts on which, for one brief shining moment, you can project, mask-like, the face of the one person you truly believe you have loved.
I am once again on the road to San Marcos with Bull. I stare out the truck window thinking of all the things I should be doing instead of tagging along with him as he drives thirty miles to purchase two pills with the $20 his parents have given him for gas. “I’d buy one for you, I just don’t have any money. And I’m addicted,” he says good naturedly.
“Oh it’s fine, I don’t have any money either,” I smile back. I roll down the window and the air is unexpectedly brisk. I’d do opiates with him if he gave me one just so we’d be on the same level but I can’t for the life of me understand why he loves them so much. The one time I snorted them with him I felt pleasantly high for a while but woke up panicked and unable to breathe. I’ve had a crush on him for three years, been friends with him for six months, and been in love with him for two.
Driving past downtown he gestures to the skyline and says, “I wish I could remember all the hotels I’ve had sex in. The Omni, definitely. And the Radisson…”
“I’ve never had sex in a hotel. You manage to hook up with a higher class of men than me,” I respond.
“You need to get on Adam4Adam is why. Grindr’s bullshit.”
He is gorgeous—that effortless, messy, dark gorgeousness of lost young men—greasy brown hair falling on his forehead in an artful, messy array, brown, heavy-lidded chocolate lozenge eyes, a musty, warm odor of unmade bed and ashtray. His father is Mexican and his mother is white. He used to be perilously thin, wan, wasted, but graduation and unemployment have added forty pounds to his tall frame giving him the sturdy, manly comportment that mothers desire when they tell their sons to “put some meat on their bones.” An ambiguous red lesion on his upper cheek—opiate addicts are constantly itching themselves—is the only clue to the strain his body is undergoing.
After endless deliberation in traffic we arrive in San Marcos. He’s always in such a busy, optimistic, talkative mood when it’s assured he’ll have drugs in the near future. We enter a gated apartment complex near campus and he drives to the back building and parks, knowing exactly where to go. We ascend a nearby staircase and knock at the door of an apartment I’ve been to with him once before. A thin, hippie-looking girl in a large sweater answers the door and greets Bull, gesturing for us to come inside. “Hi, I’m Mark!” volunteers a red-faced, portly young man on the couch. There is an advertising banner for Smirnoff vodka the size of a door hanging on the wall.
We make uncomfortable introductions. Bull has left his money in the car so I’m briefly left alone with Mark, the girl, a husky, and a rat terrier. It’s convenient when people have dogs because they provide endless fodder for mechanical small talk. The girl sweeps invisibly into a bedroom and returns with an orange prescription bottle. Bull enters the door, hands her a twenty, and says, “I’ll just take two for now.”
Moving to the counter he begins crushing up a pill with a shot glass. He grabs the twenty the girl has just set down, rolls it up, snorts the line, hands it back to her, says a quick thank you, and we’re off.
Our friendship developed from an intense mutual understanding that neither of us had ever experienced with another man; an openness about our sexual sleaze, bad decisions, addictions, and darkest secrets met with a total absence of judgment to produce a shared comfort that hummed quietly and reliably along like a space heater. He’d been passing as a heterosexual virgin under the scrutinizing and confused gaze of his straight stoner friends, all the while journeying solitarily into the night to have sex with strange older men and not telling anyone about it. I had been openly gay since middle school but also felt the intense shame that comes from keeping too many secrets; I felt like a doomed failure because my early sexual encounters had not been the meet-cute mutual learning experiences with people of my own age that television narratives had assigned me. The first time I had full access to a man’s body it was a moustached forty-five-year-old pool cleaner whose name I didn’t know, not a loving, monogamously committed boyfriend. Even as I gained my first gay friends I felt alien and sordid around them; they were fresh-faced, good-looking young men that either didn’t share my sordidness or concealed and denied it to within an inch of their lives.
Though he told me from the start that he wasn’t interested in relationships or guys his own age--a case of reverse ageism that plagued me like a persistent sore in my mouth-- Bull and I got drunk and fooled around soon after we started hanging out. He suggested we jack off to porn and I took this as an invitation to suck him off. I tried to kiss him and he didn’t reciprocate, so I ate out his ass. I ate his ass on a later occasion after he once again refused to kiss me. It wasn’t until the night we got thoroughly trashed at the pragmatically named gay trucker bar Bout Time—complete with a hand-painted illustration of a ticking clock on the wooden sign—that we kissed on the mouth. A long, passionate, deep kiss that I seem to remember him initiating, right as I was about to tumble out of his truck to my front porch. Did he actually grab my face and turn it toward him like they do in the movies or is that only how I choose to remember it? That was the first and only time it happened.
The next day I awoke feeling ecstatic despite my hangover. He’d kissed me. My tongue had finally found its way from his ass to his mouth. Were we now going to act on our admitted love for each other in a more…traditional way? Would he give me a chance? I hedged forth and brought up the previous night online, through the emotionally leveling filter of instant messaging. “So what happened between us last night?”
“Fun between friends I guess. I’m fine with it I just have no desire for a relationship.”
“Yeah. It’s just funny that we made out, haha. We’ve never kissed.”
“Oh. I totally forgot that we made out.”
He totally forgot that we made out.
I’m on the bus to school and this old gay man that talks to me all the time is sitting in the seat adjacent eating a Jack in the Box hamburger voraciously, lettuce and onions tumbling down the front of his shirt, talking while chewing. I think this man has been sent by God to make me as uncomfortable as I make other people because he’s the only person who’s managed to legitimately shock me in years. He tells me about the glory days of poppers and unprotected sex which he somehow managed to live through and hits on me blatantly. He could probably be pretty cute if he wasn’t wearing goddamned sweat pants and oversize tee shirts all the time; as much as I enjoy his company I do not find him an appetizing sexual prospect. He hands me some rectangular device that’s either a digital camera or a cell phone or some combination of the two. On it is a picture of a rail thin young man with long, feathered hair in skin tight high wasted jeans. “That’s what I used to look like,” he says.
“Wow, you were gorgeous. I mean you’re still very good looking but this is a great picture,” I correct myself.
“Oh, it’s okay, I know. I fell apart about ten years ago.”
“You didn’t fall apart,” I argue. I genuinely like him and am genuinely amazed whenever I meet one of these survivors that somehow lived through the most exciting and deadly period of gay history—they all deserve respect and admiration, to be treated like the icons they are. Instead they are greeted with revulsion by their younger brethren.
“Oh, thank you!” he camps sarcastically at my compliment, running his hand through his peppery hair in effete caricature. “I make sure to moisturize. I use…oh what’s it called—Nivea cream. I dream of laying in a bathtub full of Nivea cream. Which reminds me…one time I went to an orgy—it was these people I didn’t really know but my friends knew them—and so we got a little drunk, arrived there, and what are there but about twenty mattresses in this place laid out on the floor and covered in plastic. And then there are these trash cans on the side—trash cans full of Crisco. You were just supposed to grease yourself up and dive in.”
While I’m laughing nervously and delightedly at his story, he has a sudden realization. He fishes in his bag for his wallet, pulls some cash out of it, and hands it to me. “Here’s what I owe you, plus interest,”
“Oh, you don’t have to give me this much! Those things cost like 99 cents!” I ended up accidentally paying for his bag of chips at the convenience store and he didn’t have cash to pay me back. He’s given me $6 instead of $1.
“It’s a loan, don’t worry about it. I mean it’s interest. I mean…if you should ever need a loan, need a carton of cigarettes or anything, need fifty bucks or something…” He clears his throat. “I can take care of it.” He makes unnervingly direct eye contact with me.