Thursday, September 2, 2010


Some people manage quite well in this crazy world and others need a little help. Quite recently a cousin of mine needed a little help and didn’t really know how to ask for it –or couldn’t accept it? I guess we will never know. I was told by my mother that he had killed himself. I am surprised at this news. He was one of those people that appeared to handle most difficult situations easily. He sometimes was charming, definitely witty and interesting. He had a dynamite family and pretty much everything a guy could ask for. At least –that’s what I thought. I asked my mother not to tell me what method he chose to do away with himself.

   I am afraid to remember David because …. I may have felt like him once upon a time. When I remember David, first off …I am quite sure I recall finding him attractive. It wasn’t an easy attraction either. I may have been only ten or eleven at the time and completely naïve about my developing sexuality, but I think my feelings toward my cousin were of my first legit signs that I was hopelessly homosexual. At 17yrs old, David vaguely resembled Shaun Cassidy. Yes Shaun Cassidy-huge teen idol. Da do ron ron. 
Shaun Cassidy -Not My cousin

   He was long and lean with this lanky sandy blonde hair that moved a lot. He was extremely confidant with his body. I, on the other hand, was not even close. (That came much later in my life dear pic collectors.) My body was changing too fast and I was growing –everywhere. I was scared to take off my shirt because of the weight gain around my middle and the strange fur sprouting about my nipples. My skin on my face and shoulders seemed to be erupting angry little pustules everywhere.

   David was a flawless willowy tan and wore a genital hugging, deep green speedo swim suit . At the time, I’d never seen an actual Speedo quite so close-just bodybuilders on TV or French Canadians who summered in Vermont. I wore proper penis-concealing baggy nylon trunks. Like I said…that was a long time ago. In the summer David’s family would come from Illinois to summer with our Grandfather. It wasn’t too far from Lake Champagne, not to be confused with the legitimate Lake Champlain. Lake Champagne was not really a lake, but more of a fairly good sized man-made pond at a Trailer Campground.

  My Aunt and David and, I would head there every afternoon that the sun was out when it was warm-and some days when it wasn’t warm. We’d spread a soft large blanket on the grass. There wasn't a beach but there was a small mud flat for toddlers to play in. His mother, My Aunt Marian, a Lawyer and whip -smart by the way, would be deftly fixing us a little snack. David’s parents-My Aunt and Uncle, fascinated me for a many reasons. Aunt Marion was gracious and stylish and- like her son –died entirely too early in life. I remember she could make almost any baby smile and played the piano beautifully despite missing a digit or two since birth. Quite often I was transfixed. I would rudely stare at her hands and the way she quickly manipulated just about everything: smoking, knitting, driving, or making me a peanut butter sandwich -without showing the slightest bit of difficulty.

My Uncle was blind and a judge. (No jokes please) When I was very young,  I would lean on the arm of his big green naugahyde recliner while he tolerated me waving my little hands in his face asking for the umpteenth time if he saw them. He was in a chemical accident that kind of glued his lids shut and but there was a tiny space where the lids were open and I was childishly insistent that he could see a little bit. He was very patient in trying to get me to understand his blindness. He even showed me how he read in Braille. I asked him to translate the books all the time. If he was particularly generous with his time, then I would be allowed to stroke the fur of his gorgeous German shepherd guide dog. Her name was Sheila and she was so beautiful to me I couldn’t stop touching her. My parents and other family members were constantly reminding me that Sheila was often at work and couldn’t be interrupted. The more I remember about my Aunt and Uncle the more I realized that I genuinely loved them. I am not sure if they did this but I think they hung a little silly fake clock in my Grandfather’s kitchen that I find endearing to this day. It said Cocktails start promptly at 5:00 and the rest of the numbers on the clock face were all fives. It was there for decades.

The summer I was 12 years old, it seemed bizarre to me that such two nice people could create David. Was he spoiled? Possibly. David seemed to have no fear of his lovely parents and behaved as one would expect. He was very good at reducing me to tears. Of course I was an easy target, so there wasn’t much sport involved, but he did a decent job of crushing my fragile pre teen ego. Every time I would attempt to engage him in conversation on those sunny afternoons on the blanket, he shot me down with withering contempt that only a pretty Gay teen could, about my pale belly hanging over my trunks. I would hug my sweatshirt a little more tightly around my body concealing its ugliness from him. He’d say, “That’s better, I was beginning to get sick” The insult could be about anything really. He would snarl openly about my “disgusting acne problem” saying how my face resembled a badly made pepperoni pizza. My Aunt would admonish him sharply but it had no effect. She would sometimes ask me about some project I was doing. Making clothing for my trolls was my most favorite project. I loved those little plastic dolls with the aboriginal faces and wild neon hair that went everywhere. I made little robes for them with yarn belts. It was a subject I could chatter animatedly about for hours and my Aunt was always a willing listener. David would pepper it with groans and snorts of derision audible only to me, which eventually shut me up. If I admired something that he or his family owned, he’d snap at me not to touch it. He pointed out many times how poorly I was surviving my pre-teen years. My appearance was always a sensitive subject.

I guess he didn’t think I was that unappealing because he propositioned me. I believe I was 13 and at that point my sexual development was akin to an eight year old. I knew the mechanics of how babies were made but the all consuming voracious hunger to rub my naked body next to another male was not quite an idea in my head yet. Sexual desire for a male or a female or anything sexual was simply something I could NOT wrap my mind around. David called me into his bedroom. His tone was soft and different. He told me that he wanted to show me something. He proceeded to pull out magazines of black and white photos on newsprint. The pictures were of men and women having sex. The pages he pointed out to me were women giving blowjobs to men. He watched as my face opened up in astonishment. I asked him what was wrong with the men’s penises. Why were they so swollen and sticking out? Most of all what….. on earth was the woman doing? Why would they want to have a man pee in their mouths? This was all so horrifying to me, that I began to wipe my hands after touching the magazine. He tried to explain that’s what happens when a man is happy and feels good. Well THAT didn’t make any sense! He went on to explain that’s what happens when someone licks your penis and sucks it. He asked me if I would like to see how it works and would he like me to put his penis in my mouth? I froze in horror. “You’re kidding” I said. I didn’t want him to pee in my mouth!!!! I started to leave but he grabbed at me. No WAY was I going to let him pee in my mouth! I slipped through his grasp and ran to my room and barricaded my door with my dresser. He stood outside asking me in a somewhat shaky voice to forget about it and to please not tell anyone. –

  Hey I told you I was a late bloomer…Poor David. If he had just gotten to me a little bit later…things might have been very different. Years later, David’s long forgotten sexual advances came back to my memory when I was walking home from work. I was surprisingly angry about it too. I was angry at him and I was angry at myself for not defending myself better. I had wished I had inflicted some sort of permanent bodily harm on him. By this time, 29 years old, I was well acquainted with sexual desire and perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t give him a call, and ask him if he would like to resume the tutorial he was about to inflict on me at age 13. Most of it had to do with me figuring out he was taking advantage of a naïve boy he had tormented emotionally. I had seen too many very young people have dalliances with older people and come out of it emotionally crippled. Perhaps I was a little mad at David for all of them too.

There was another thing that was beginning to nettle me. David and my mother had struck up a sort of friendship. His Auntie Lois was quite taken with him and nattered away happily to me on a long distance call about their visit. She thought her nephew was the greatest thing since sliced bread. …….I couldn’t have that. It didn’t seem remotely fair to me that she got to experience the newly good, kind, sweet, David after what he had put me through. I actually showed some restraint and let my inner bile brew a few more phone calls but Mom was just too effusive one particular call about David’s charms. I chose to clue her in on what David had offered to do to her baby boy many years ago. She was silent and in proper New England fashion chose to ignore I had said it. That’s okay because I brought it up every subsequent time she mentioned David. It wasn’t too long before she figured it wasn’t conducive to a pleasant  chat with me about my cousin. If there is one thing my mother values most it’s a pleasant conversation with her sons. Except one day she had to. She prefaced it with, “Now don’t get upset!” I thought, “oh this is going to be good. “ It turned out that cousin David wanted to come out to San Francisco and have dinner with my brother and I. I was starring in a play at the time and “wouldn’t it be lovely if David got to see you on stage?”

Yes simply lovely

So it was arranged that my brother Peter and Cousin David would attend the matinee performance of “The Last Hairdresser” by Doug Holsclaw. In the play, the main character was a very angry unhappy little queen who took his anger out on others. His therapist taught him to control his outbursts of viciousness by saying to himself, “Naptime Bitch” I portrayed someone who didn’t do so great at controlling his outbursts of viciousness . Little did I know that I would stay in character throughout the dinner. I was not looking forward to any of this.

After a show,  Performers frequently come into the lobby to greet their friends and family after each show. My brother Peter and I had made arrangements with David to meet him after my matinee and grab a bite before I went on to do my evening. We chose a nearby  nearly empty Italian restaurant. As we sauntered over to the restaurant my own internal pot was beginning to simmer. David didn’t look the same –not as lithe, definitely older,  hair a little thinner. I knew I didn't look the same either and I was roughly 20lbs heavier than I should be. I fought any feelings of ugliness that tried to steal over me. We didn’t hug and rarely looked directly at each other- and most of all…he neglected to say a word about my performance.
Note to the theater going crowd: When you know one of the performers of a play you just saw, SAY SOMETHING about their work. Even if you thought the show was awful you can say how great they looked or my favorite, “Wow! What amazing energy! I was blown away. “Another one I like to say is “I saw you up there and ….(dramatic intake of breath)” I just couldn’t believe it!!” Feel free to use either. The actor or actress in question will be so jacked up on adrenaline that they won’t figure it out.

We sat quietly eating linguine and David said how he had been trying to reconnect with the family.

Lake Champagne

Lake Champagne
He had some nice memories of summers in the Center with family. I regarded him with an austere look and asked in a cold mechanical way, “So you had nice memories of hanging out with your cousins? What nice memories of us can you recall David?” He said mostly hanging out by the lake and going on explorations around the house. I remembered dim visions of hunting for frogs and traveling around an old creek and walking delicately through cow pastures to avoid the slippery green magma-like manure pies. Often times David would hide on me until I had become significantly frightened and then re-emerge from his hiding spot. I twirled my linguine on my plate continuing to stare at David. My brother Peter had good instincts and he began to try to steer the conversation to pleasant topics of wooded areas surrounding my Grandfather’s house.

I let my fork fall on to the edge of my plate with a small clatter. The restaurant was largely empty so I didn’t need to raise my voice. I said I didn’t have any nice memories of David. I have plenty of memories but they weren’t good. I remembered being insulted and made fun of and being belittled. Oddly - I omitted the part about his oral copulation proposition. I was met with silence from David and a small sigh from my brother.

David cleared his throat and ate his linguine. In an attempt to offer some levity and to change the subject he made some joke about being a “second string party B-Gay”. He didn’t sound amused, he sounded embittered. Something inside me told me to back down. (And I was wondering what kind of lettered Gay I was.) Some inner voice told me that it was time to say, “Nap Time bitch.” I had gathered from his monotone narrative that he had undergone a lot of trials and tribulations of late. He hinted at an issue of substance abuse and that lead to other … complications. I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him. I wasn’t hungry any longer but there was a great deal of food on my plate.

"Be careful what you say”, I thought. “Because whatever you are going through he has it worse.” The past few months I spent fretting about being a chunky Miss Lonely Hearts club member for the rest of my life. I was in a hopeless case of unrequited love with a sexy swarthy muscle-bound Australian in our cast whose own life was a bit of a mess. I had made the mistake of agreeing to let him hang out at my house one rainy night because he didn’t have anywhere to go. Stuff happened. Those complications seemed like such a Comedy compared to David’s full blown Drama.

No one spoke for a while and then my brother Peter gave a big stupidly goofy grin and said too brightly, “Well THAT was Fun!” Later we  said an awkward good bye and Peter drove off and left us alone for a minute. My animosity had reformulated to something else. Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly compassion, but something closer to pity. I couldn’t help him and I wondered what it would take to …help him. He didn’t stare at me hatefully. He seemed to accept my opinion of him and he exuded a calm but defeated attitude. I think he may have felt he couldn’t help me either. I asked it anyway, “You are going to be all right?” He said, “Sure” and sauntered down Folsom street in the direction of his hotel. I am still sensitive and still too concerned with what others think of me. Yet I am stronger than I was than that tween boy hugging his sweatshirt over his knees and belly over 33 years ago. Thanks David

No comments:

Post a Comment