1 week ago
“I knew if they ever found out about me, I’d end up like Johnny Yablonsky. Johnny was soft, he was feminine, he was clearly gay. The neighborhood guys would make him blow them; then beat the shit out of him. He always had a lot of bruises, and absenteeism. He was so defeated. I’ve always assumed he killed himself. And I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me. It was a lot of fear, and shame. The fucking shame. I participated in my own self-negation. I laughed at all the jokes. I tried to tighten up on the masculine stuff. I’d stand in front of the mirror. I’d practice my walk, my diction, the movement of my hands. Somehow I managed to make it out of that town alive. During our first Christmas break at college, I went with my friend Howie to visit his family in Long Island. Afterward he dropped me off at the airport. He thought I was flying home. But I caught the Greyhound Bus to New York City. I put all my stuff in a luggage locker and started walking down 5th Avenue. It was night. It wasn’t lit up like today. All the storefronts were dark; it was like lyric poetry to me. Unopened boxes full of mystery. All I knew was I had to get to Greenwich Village. I kept asking people—is this The Village, is this The Village? They kept saying: further south, further south. Finally I get to the corner of 8th Street and 6th Avenue, and I’m waiting for the light to change. And this guy starts hitting on me. A few years older than me, good looking. His name was Charlie. And he put a spell on me immediately. From the very first moment, I had a hard-on for Charlie Bacchus. I felt safe with him. He took me to my first gay bar. Then afterward we went to his mom’s loft apartment on Washington Square. She happened to be in Rome. So it was just me and Charlie Bacchus, in this gorgeous apartment, with the door closed, cut off from the rest of the world. There was sex, beautiful sex. First time I’d ever had sex with my shoes off. The next morning I came out of the shower, and wrapped a towel around me. Charlie said: ‘What are you doing? Take that off. You’re beautiful.’ He said it so gently, like someone looking at a painting. And it was my first profound lesson in shedding shame.”