Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Closeted Life

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

This Closeted Life

Birmingham to Atlanta is a familiar drive for me. Atlanta is the largest city in the southeast, home to roller coasters, water parks, sporting events, music shows, independent film showings, art exhibits, and other sites and sounds. Before I could even legally get behind the wheel, I was shuttled back and forth from one city to the other. When I was an undergrad, I went to Atlanta for other reasons.

Atlanta is known as The Queer Mecca of the Southeast. Midtown is the official gay district, marked by requisite rainbow flags and gay-friendly businesses. I came there for sex, plainly put. Birmingham’s out gay community was extremely small. Most men I knew kept company with a circle of associates who they had slept with, dated, or both. I didn’t want anyone to know my business, so I went elsewhere.

In Atlanta, I could have at least some anonymity. Finding a male sexual partner is not especially difficult. Holding out for something better is a different matter altogether. Standards, or lack of standards make all the difference. On occasion, I frequented a gay club or two, though I found the atmosphere overwhelming and the people who frequented such places often shallow and uninteresting.

Often I did my communication online, showing up at an apartment at a prearranged time. I didn’t want to develop feelings for anyone and I was never asked to do so. Men, I have found, have less an issue with one-night-stands or short-term couplings. Sympathetic men have tried to win my affections in times gone by, but, to me, having a boyfriend always felt like entrapment. I recognized those feelings for what they were. Regardless of how I may have received them, they were mine.

Once, I made plans to share the bedroom of two men, a couple. They maintained an open relationship. One partner, the most aggressive of the two, enjoyed this arrangement considerably. His partner was very meek and mild, and would later look jealously upon me when his boyfriend showed me more attention. I imagine he acted this way regardless of the company. I felt for him, because I recognized that he was a cutter. His stomach and legs bore many scars. I could barely stand to look at them without wincing.

Whether I intended to or not, I seemed to cross paths with people who had emotional problems of one form or another. At that time, I felt that only other people with similar personal demons could understand me. I felt particularly unlovable and misunderstood. Though I didn’t know it then, the relationship I’d walked into was in trouble and had been for a long time. Three months later, the two would go their separate ways. But for now, they were at least attempting to stay together.

Upon arrival and introductory conversation, I learned I couldn’t completely escape Birmingham. My hosts knew a particular person from back home who I crossed paths with on occasion. The more physically powerful of the two drew an immediate contrast. He described himself as “the bad gay” and the person in question as “the good gay.” I would soon learn precisely what was meant by that.

I received hickeys and carpet burns for my trouble. The hickeys were especially difficult to explain away to those not in on the open secret of my sexual orientation. My college friends mostly knew and needed no further clarification. I’d only recently spent one whole poetry writing workshop producing work after work about the act of coming out, and with it general self-acceptance. Now I view that period as overkill and excessive, but on one level I had to process and come to terms with this eventually.

I woke up the next morning to an interesting sight, to say the least. The men were rather energetically having sex with each other. The initiator of the act seemed to take a keen interest in my watching him. He smiled as I gazed at the proceedings. I think he fancied himself something of an amateur porn star or an exhibitionist. All of this took place only a few feet away from where I’d collapsed early in the morning. I couldn’t help but take in what was happening only a short distance away.  

The other involved party seemed as though he would rather still be asleep. Early morning sex like this apparently was the norm, and he appeared to have accepted the practice, albeit with some reluctance. I knew I wasn’t the first man to be presented a front row seat. The partner currently dictating terms and very much in control would be with a new man every day if he could manage it. This was showing off, to him. He’d suggested we watch pornography together the night before, but was the only person interested in it.  

I, however, had reached my limit. After showering, I left for home. I remember that I made the drive in complete silence. Processing what I’d just experienced took a long time. I felt torn between pleasure and total disgust. This was why I usually drugged myself up a little before taking a man to bed. Tranquilizers were my best friend. As uncomfortable as I felt, I kept coming back, over and over again.

I’ve forgotten the names and many of the faces now. This was a conscious decision on my part. I had a sexual need; they fulfilled it. As I vacated the premise, inevitably many of them used the same phrase. You can call me anytime. Come back whenever you want. I never took them up on the offer. I was too busy on my way to someone new.

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