Note: This post contains explicit sexual content. It may not be suitable for all readers.
I wonder now what I could have said to him, give the impossible chance. What would have made a difference to a sixteen year old boy who wanted to know, and so lonely that boy, I was, so confused and accumulating so many mistakes. I remember the first one. Not the first mistake certainly. But the first Exciting Thing – Sitting in the bathroom stall in Meier & Frank at the Lloyd Center in Portland waiting for the move to be made. I read the provocative graffiti carved in the sallow paint, which gives me a hard-on, being sixteen, and shot full of hormones, I’m growing so fast, and I want to grow up faster. I am testing, seeing if this will work. I read about queers having sex in bathrooms in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex…But Were Afraid to Ask, which says that it is a shameful degrading thing, and explains why. In detail. Anytime it mentions homosexuality it says that. Not that I’m a homosexual, I’m NOT, I am just…curious. And breathing fast. And hard. It might happen. It will happen. It does.
I first suck a penis, after some shoe-tapping. Naked thighs and tumescent genitals are suddenly under the barrier and into my stall, and I am afraid to open the door even to bolt away. He was thin, pale, and had soft skin. I’m afraid to touch him (but I did) and I put my mouth on his dick which was erect and average size, and gradually he showed me how to move my head and I made some guesses with my tongue and it was like sucking a thumb, just skin, not hotter, not wetter, not like in Playboy, just skin, just like my own. Finally he came in my mouth as my jaw was getting sore. Nobody special, and YET – I felt so frightened, so excited, my heart pounding and spots swimming with the rest of the room, the planes and angles all moving slow, and I swallowed and got the hell out.
Then, lingered in the necktie racks, forgetting what killed the cat, watching to see what the rest of him looks like, and he’s thin and prissy and has a mustache and a high buzzy voice when he asks do I “want to go for a bite?”
“No,” thanks, what an idea, and I walk home to dad’s Portland apartment, barely feeling the summer sun, with voices talking in my head, it’s a cacophony, some saying what a bad thing! arguing with the curious ones, yelling over the frightened ones – better to die than get caught! But none so loud as the excited ones – The Most Exciting Thing! And I didn’t get caught! And I’m not a virgin! I think. Unless I have to come too, or do we have to fuck? But it’s a secret do-you-understand, NO one can ever find out and you can NEVER take that risk again, but my god it was so-o-o scary! so-o-o exciting! Never Again! EVER.
I went back three hours later.
This time we passed notes on toilet paper – do I want to go to the Third Floor, where it’s quieter and slightly less rank-smelling, it’s another mustache man, and he smokes. Tangy, bitter kisses, even his skin tastes of smoke, he holds me tight against his rough belly, he thinks I’m seventeen, because that’s what I wrote when he asked, not having the faintest idea about what age he is looking for, but assuming older would be better. It was okay with him; he likes my nervous eyes and sweet kisses and ignores my zits. Both of us in the same stall! Scarier! Afraid someone will come in! No place to hide then! I sucked him off on my knees to avoid kissing him anymore and he never knew it was only my second time. Nobody has blown me yet, but I know someone will. No rush, because a decision, because even though, even with the voices, the risk, the fear – It Must Be Secret, My God What IF You Got Caught – I’ll be back. Tomorrow.
“What did you do today?” My father asks when he comes home. Does it show on my face? “Not much,” I respond, with the sullen privilege of adolescence. I hold my Secret and polish it with clammy hands, concealing a smirk behind a smile. Today I’ve been an adult too. But you! Dad! You. don’t. know. They don’t know! No One Will Ever Find Out. I am sly, wily, and clever.
I have a Secret. A vice unshared, and one I can clutch to myself when I turned down drugs, drinking, skipping classes. I am a Good Boy, becoming A Fine Young Man, student-body apple-polisher, that no one would suspect, but dirtier than any of them. Smiling and smug, I dry-wash my hands in the privacy of my secret life. I am so much more than my classmates imagine. They prove their independence by being bad, but I have nothing to prove. Being the Worst.
If they ever find out, I will kill myself.
“Do you like to get fucked?” He asks again, insistently. It’s a whisper. Third floor again, is this the fifth time? The tenth? This first one also a teen, near my age, has dark hair, glasses, a bit of pudginess around the stomach and hips. He’s fatter than me, but I weigh, what? 135? A skinny little runt. He’s maybe 150, 160, an inch or two taller than me. His penis is very red, like it’s blushing. The words make my blood race, Doyouliketogetfucked? I’ve never, I can’t speak with no air, I nod once briskly. As if I do it all the time. I am afraid, so I suck him some more, he asks “doyouliketoeatass” all whispery hissing sibilants and I try that for the first time with difficulty – the angle seems wrong. We’re both crammed in two feet of space between the toilet and the door and I can’t breathe through my nose; I make snuffling sounds like an asthmatic dog. Too loud, so I stop, suck him some more.
I want to fuck you you have a pretty ass I want to fuck you in the ass. He’s very talkative; I hope no one hears him. Nobody ever said I was Pretty; it’s a girl-word, sounds funny. He spits on his penis, his fingers, rubbing his wet red penis, sticking a wet finger up inside my rectum, then his penis pressing hard, it hurts (really hurts) but I won’t let him know it hurts so much. I’m tough. Enough. His penis is too much and he’s barely in yet, too dry too tight, but suddenly I’m ejaculating, startling us both, trying to hit the toilet, but he catches my semen in his hand and smears his cock, my ass, now he can get it all the way Inside Me. Big full feeling, and it still hurts, it burns so much. My teeth clenched not to make a sound, I am stoic, though my flesh is pebbled and I feel as though my knees will buckle as my shuddering heels slip on the tile. I can reach back with one hand and feel his fleshy hip, he’s thrusting and it aches, deeply, and knocking the wind out of me from inside; hurts and almost feels arousing when it doesn’t feel intolerable. I’m getting fucked.
I’m getting bored. My cock is soft; my ass is sore. He comes and goes. I sit on the stool, catching my breath against the lingering ache. I guess that was interesting. I cramp slightly, then harder, involuntarily, and some of his semen and a little blood drips into the toilet. I wish I knew his name. I wish he could be My Friend, since he says nice things. I’d let him do it again.
I got better at connecting, loitering around the ice rink between the department stores. Better at the come-on, and I knew it. Better at knowing which and who. Better at seeming cocky and confident as I sauntered through the door marked “Men”. I never got fucked again, not for a long time, but I went on, That Summer of ‘79, and the Next when I really was seventeen, because it was easy and I was Good at it.
Were there twenty-five times in all? Thirty? Learning to give it to them and feel nothing but my own orgasm. Nothing but the sex, and the meager power their lust and admiration gives me. To expect nothing more since that’s all there was, and to not feel the disappointment about the other.
There Is No Love Between Men. Between Men: just sex, but is that so bad, really? Just sex, but I Want…love? That’s stupid. I’m stupid. No I Don’t want to be in love, what am I: Some kind of…Faggot?
Sick, little, fuck. I’ll kill myself before I let that part of me take over. I see myself pale and broken, I bury the knife, I take the plunge, he never heard the truck…If you were really queer you’d be better off. Fags like my body, and what I will do. I control fags, I’m not a fag. I do it because it feels good. Feels like a thrill. Feels like a secret. Men don’t love men. What I get is all there is, but it is plenty. We touch. They write on toilet tissue that I’m pretty, that I’m a hot dude. They like my parts, and never calculate the sum. Why must I? Each week, I write down one new way that I could kill myself. Just in case.
Just one more – because he was almost the last. There’s one other man, and one other time with details I remember. Just those three I’ve already described among the faceless and forgotten and numberless, and one more that stands out in Candy-Colored Clarity. Tall man, dark, thick hair on his head, his chest, his butt under my hands pulling his penis into my mouth bring him close and stop, stare up at him with that look that isn’t a smile. Then my turn; we’re good together as far as this ever goes, with no words in an employee restroom by the doctors’ offices on the upper level, lemony freshener, peach tile, green separators, clean American Standard white porcelain, he knew where to go. Then: The Security Guards. Heart POUNDING so hard it must be audible, shaking uncontrollably fumbling with my button fly, standing between toilet and wall so they can’t see my feet, just his. This is IT this is the WORST the Most Terrible Thing, and He zips, flushes, leaves carefully, the pale green door only four inches ajar, just concealing me if I can wait till they go and I can hear them asking is he “an employee? No? Don’t Use This Restroom…sir”. It’s going to be okay, they’re all going! No-o- The guard checks the stall next to me, and then, the door, the green door, is swinging open, pushed with his nightstick. He’s older, authoritative, and serious, “Come Out Now.”
Walking out on autopilot, I can’t feel my legs, brain off, walls up, this …Is Not Happening. The other guard isn’t, isn’t smirking to the serious one behind me, isn’t, doesn’t, doesn’t really put his face in mine tobacco breath shouting “What’s…What the HELL is WRONG WITH YOU!” (don’t make eye contact, be still, be quiet, Not Happening.) “GET OUT, Never Let ME CATCH you Again!” And I go, go NOW before he changes his mind asks my name calls my folks tells my secret. All the way home I answer his question: I Don’t Know. I Don’t Know what the Hell is Wrong. But it is wrong. Lots is wrong. I’m wrong.
It wasn’t the last time, of course. It was never the same after that, and it wasn’t often. But it was the last time I could pretend I wasn’t like the rest. Pretend it was just a little passing quirk, something I was in control of. Pretend that it was just being curious, teenage exploring. Exploiting men, and exploiting my youth, and no harm done. Pretend that it would be over at the first sign of too much risk. Different and separate from whom I would grow up to be. Different and Separate.
And when I held the Exacto hobby knife in my room that night, tracing the faint greenish veins in the translucent flesh inside my forearm, I put it down again. I lacked the courage to face physical pain on top of everything else. I called myself a coward, and cried because I couldn’t die.
For almost five years after, I called myself a coward each time I survived my drive to self-destruction. Surviving…drunk and seeking a seven story plunge off a dorm balcony a year later at college, but prevented by a friend I didn’t know I had, and passing out instead. Surviving…many other black days, and dark months, and dumb methods. Guiltily, horribly, surviving while so many better boys and men died in the plague, accused behind their backs or to their faces of all of my sins. So many boys and men far more innocent, far more worthy, yet far more grimly-fated than I. Surviving finally, to learn, and let it go. Learning each new reason to keep going, in the kindnesses of the men I have finally, at long last, loved.
What would I, more than twice that age, say to me then, if I could, I don’t know. Obvious things, now. Sex isn’t Love, not even friendship. The past recedes; the pain of the present fades. Each man is gay in the way he wills. Secrets are not Power, just powerful (and, Wait til you see what truth can do). Oh, and sexual abuse is not just from others; you can do it to yourself.
But there is no antidote to adolescence. He would not have listened to me, being sixteen, seventeen years old. He would not have understood, not learned from me. Just looked at me with his calculating frightened eyes, and wondered, as I sometimes still do, if I could love him.