© Copyright 2000 by archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.
This chapter is dedicated to the memory of Harold Bud Reschke Jr. who was there the last time I went to Northalsted Market Days. He was there with his new boyfriend and I with mine and we made them both jealous by greeting each other as if we had never broken up. We met in 1980. He was gentle, generous, kind, patient, one of the best friends I ever had, and one helluva kisser. I miss him dearly.
December 10, 1955 - October 21, 1999
Matt awoke the next morning and had to go to the bathroom. It was 5:45. Matt considered the passing seasons as he traipsed to the bathroom. Six weeks earlier the sun was already creating shadows, now dawn had just broken. On the way back to the bedroom, he paused to look in Brians room. His blond hair ringed his head like a halo on the pillow. Matt tried to get back into bed without waking Tim, but it was no use. Tim was a light sleeper, like himself, and awoke when Matt slid under the sheets again.
The answer is yes, Matt said groggily.
What is the question?
About you moving in.
Tim hugged him so tightly, Matt almost lost his breath. He nuzzled his neck, and his breath was warm on Matts ear. I love you.
I know. Where are you working today?
In Frankfort. New construction south of town. Ill just take Sauk Trail to Laraway. Be there in no time. What are you and Brian going to do today?
I dont know yet. Depends on the weather. Ill grill something tonight. God, our conversations have become so domestic these days. How long will you need to pack? Will you need help?
Not long. None of the furniture is mine, so I dont think I should take it. I can do it in one day. Tim kissed him. Bye, babe. I love you.
I love you, too. And Matt drifted off to sleep again.
Hours later, he was awakened by Brian who had flopped his 100 pound body on the bed.
Hey, you weasel! Take it easy!
Wake up, lazy ass. Normally, Matt might have protested his mild profanity, but Brian had started tickling him.
Instantly awake, Matt started tickling the boy back. Brian laughed and gasped for breath. He thrashed with his arms and legs, pushing pillows and sheets to the floor. Brian had more energy, but ultimately Matt had the advantages of strength and weight.
No, dont, Matt. Stop, Dad. Dad, stop, please.
Matt stopped immediately and the smile faded from his face. Their eyes met. Brian had never called him Dad before; they had never even discussed the topic.
Brian noted how abruptly Matt had stopped tickling him, and assumed something was wrong. Im sorry, Matt. It just slipped. I didnt mean.....
Matt silenced him by gently placing a hand on the side of his face. No, its OK, Matt said in a gentle tone. I kind of liked the sound of it. He pulled the boy close and embraced him. It does sound right, doesnt it?
He released the kid, swung his legs off the bed, stood up and began picking up the bedclothes strewn around the room. OK, Im up.
Can I ask you a question?
Of course, he said as he slipped a pillow back into its pillowcase.
Is it OK?
Is what OK?
If I call you Dad?
If it feels comfortable to you.
When can I live with you?
Matt smiled at him. Ive been thinking about it, too. He sat on the edge of the bed again. How about when school starts?
Brian flung his arms around the man. Really? You mean it?
I wouldnt have said it if I didnt mean it.
I love you. I really do. They held the embrace for a long moment. They were two people who had found love in an unexpected place.
Come, on, kiddo. Get your butt out of bed so I can make it.
OK, Dad. He playfully slapped Matts rump and scooted out of the room.
They played miniature golf that morning at a place in Crete. Matt had a brainstorm to pick up some sandwiches and have a picnic in the Forest Preserves. He took them to Enzos in Chicago Heights. They had the best, authentic Italian beef sandwiches. The Chicago tradition is to fill a hard roll with thinly sliced beef, then take the whole sandwich and dip it in the juice. It was very messy, but delicious. They picked up small bags of chips and pop at a convenience store and headed for the woods.
Matt had to think about the choice of groves where they should eat. One was known as a cruising place and another was rumored to have drug deals going down. He chose Schuberts Woods, off Sauk Trail. The drive twisted about a quarter mile back into the woods. At the turnaround at the end was a large pavilion made of fieldstone. Matt chose a picnic table on the opposite side of the pavilion. They spread their lunch out on the table.
As they ate, a constant stream of cars drove in and out of the woods. Many of the vehicles had single male occupants. Shit, Matt thought. Theyre even cruising in here now.
Can I ask you something? Brian interrupted his thoughts.
You can always ask me something.
Do you masturbate?
Matt grinned patronizingly. Of course.
Even with a hunk like Tim?
I think about him when I do it, Matt said with a grin.
Did something happen at camp?
Brian cast his eyes down. Kids never know when they look guilty, Matt thought.
Want to talk about it?
No. Not really.
OK. I respect that. Let me say this: All guys masturbate. Whether theyre straight or married or single or gay. And if they tell you they dont, theyre lying. The old saying goes: Ninety percent of all guys masturbate and the other ten percent are liars.
Brian covered his mouth and snickered.
If you ever want to talk about it, Im here. You may think Im old, but I do remember what its like to be thirteen. Its a confusing time. And its not going to be much easier just because were both gay.
Brians face reddened slightly. He was a little embarrassed by Matts frankness.
Lets go. We can wash our hands at the pump. The Forest Preserve District had installed hand pumps in many of its preserves. The pump protested loudly at first, and it took several pumps to produce water. It smelled like well water with all the dissolved minerals. But it was cold and refreshing.
Matt shook some of the moisture off his hands and put his arm around Brians shoulders. What do you think about going to the pool this afternoon?
As they returned to the car, Matt spotted a vehicle that made him stop.
It was a green McGraw and Sons pickup truck.
It drove to the turnabout at the end of the pavement, and slowed as it passed Matts car again. For a terrifying second, Matt thought it was going to stop.
As Matt inserted the key into the drivers door of his car, he glanced up and his eyes met the eyes of the driver in the green pickup.
It was Patrick.
Saturday morning, all three readied themselves for Northalsted Market Days. Tim and Brian had never been there, and Matt was anxious to see their reactions.
All three were in a festive mood for the 45 minute drive to Northalsted Market Days. Their route took them north on I 57 to the junction with the Dan Ryan Expressway. A branch of the CTA Red Line ran down the median of the Ryan. On the right, huge blocks of high-rise public housing stood like dominos ready to be toppled. Brian watched out the window, fascinated by the big city. He had seldom gone downtown except for school field trips to The Art Institute and the Field Museum. They continued to follow I-57 where it ended at McCormick Place, Chicagos premier convention center. The ugly building was one of the few that sat directly on the lakefront. Most other buildings were buffered from the lake by Grant Park.
As Matt merged onto South Lake Shore Drive, all three smiled at the skyline of the city. The sky was a perfect blue, mirrored by the slightly greenish Lake Michigan. They sped past the Field Museum of Natural History with its mummies, gems and dinosaurs; the octagonal Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium which had just completed a major addition. Soldier Field came into view, and in the distance the starkly white 80-story Amoco building. To their left, across the carefully manicured lawns and gardens of Grant Park, was the skyline of the third largest city in the United States. The sun glinted off the windows in the late morning sun. They paused briefly at a traffic light at Monroe Street. Soon, they were crossing the Chicago River, the psychological border for all Chicagoans.
Although Madison Street was the actual dividing line for the citys numbering system, the river served as the real border in peoples minds. The southside had always been more industrial, more blue collar, more earthy. The northside was trendy, fashionable and rich. Southsiders cheered the White Sox; northsiders followed the losing Cubs. South Chicago represented the Rust Belt; the North side was home to the Information Age. The division was especially noticeable in the gay community. A glance at the addresses of the gay nightclubs, services, clubs, and businesses would show that the vast majority were located in Boys Town, which was centered on Halsted, Clark and Broadway. Only isolated gay establishments could be found elsewhere in the city and throughout the suburbs.
Matt knew of a quiet residential sidestreet a few blocks west off of Belmont where he could park the car. It was blazingly hot, despite the breezes from the lake. The pavement itself seemed to radiate heat. All three were glad they were carrying water as they neared Halsted Street. Tim took Matts hand as they stepped onto the street. It was no small gesture. Both men knew the consequences of public affection; but they both knew that they were safe. Straight people were far outnumbered, and those that were there were gay-friendly. They also knew that such a public display would mark them as a couple, which suited them just fine.
As they neared Halsted Street they could see, hear and smell a street fair that could have taken place in any suburb, village, neighborhood or town in America. Halsted Street itself was closed between Belmont and Addison. On the street was almost a half-mile of booths, tents, and three entertainment stages. The booths displayed art, pottery, jewelry, stained glass, books, antiques and T-shirts. There were also the ubiquitous sucker games; pitching games, ring toss and other games of chance. Every food imaginable could be purchased from pizza to burritos, pastries to bratwurst, and the aroma of meat grilling on charcoal permeated the area. Booths also offered services such as piercing and tarot reading. There were booths set up by service and non-profit groups that offered pamphlets, brochures, free condoms, even cholesterol screening.
Within a few yards of stepping onto the street, they passed an informational booth for the event itself. They stopped to pick up maps and a schedule of events.
Look! exclaimed Tim. Theyre having a mass wedding today at two in Lincoln Park.
Matt snorted. Its a sham.
Why do you say that?
It doesnt give us any more rights or benefits. Its not recognized anywhere legally.
But its so romantic, Tim replied.
Arent you romantic? Brian asked.
Matt flashed him a look. He fervently wished he had adopted a Children-Should-Be-Seen-and-Not-Heard policy from the beginning. He was outnumbered. Of course, Im romantic. Im also realistic. Whats the point? Matt walked off, trying to look interested in a booth of T-shirts with the Were Everywhere logo.
Tim took two giant strides and stood in front of Matt, blocking him. I love you. Thats why it matters. I feel a commitment to you and I think it would be nice to formalize it.
Matt sighed. I love you, too. But I always feel like youre pressuring me. I dont want to be rushed.
He knelt down on one knee in the middle of the street, with crowds of people swirling around them. He took Matts hands in his.
Matt pulled on his hands, hoping to make Tim stand up. Get up, you goof.
Matthew Rosato, will you marry me?
A drag queen who was passing commented, Honey, if he says no, Im single. She and her friends laughed as they walked away.
Matt turned his attention back to Tim. No, I will not.
A stricken look crossed Tims face. He stood up slowly and with dignity, and brushed his knees off. He didnt say a word.
Aw, Matt. Why didnt you say yes? Brian piped up.
Thats enough out of you, young man. I am an adult and I can make my own decisions, and theres more to it than you know.
The hurt look on Brians face immediately made Matt regret his words. Matt could tell Tim was angry. Matt could tell by his silence; he was also grinding his teeth. Within a half hour, Ive managed to alienate them both, he thought. His pride wouldnt let him back down, though.
They continued down the street, moving from booth to booth as bees moving from flower to flower. Most of the booths were set up by individuals who pedaled their wares or crafts or artwork. But corporate Chicago had a strong presence as well. Companies recognized the buying power of the gay community. Without children to spend money on, the average income was higher, therefore they had more discretionary spending money. Starbucks had set up a booth as had Apple Vacations. Crate and Barrel was present; so were Eduardos Pizza and Midtown Motor Imports. The latter obviously knew their market -- they chose not to display the common Volkwagen Golf, but rather the sleek and sporty Mazda Miata. WBBM, an all-news AM radio station, was even broadcasting live.
The festival could have taken place anywhere, with some differences. Mocha and cappuccino were offered along with regular coffee, although in the heat, all three were poor sellers. Italian ice could be purchased in the traditional lemon flavor as well as gourmet flavors such as strawberry-kiwi and mango. The most glaring difference was the number of same sex couples openly displaying affection. Even here in Boys Town such public displays of affection were rare throughout the year. This was not San Francisco or West Hollywood; this was Chicago, after all. Not that gay bashers were a big threat in this neighborhood, although gay-bashing certainly occurred in Boys Town, too.
Chicago is a Midwestern city where Midwestern values still rule. Most of the gay men and lesbians who were not native Chicagoans had themselves come from another Midwestern city to seek out a large community where they could be more comfortable. They left their natural families in Decatur and Dubuque, Fort Wayne and Fond Du Lac, Kalamazoo, Kenosha and Kankakee so that they could experience freedom in the city. Still, many brought their Midwestern values with them.
The trio continued around in an uncomfortable silence. The noise more than compensated. The gay bars had cranked up the music to an ear-splitting level. The public address systems from the stages competed with them for audible attention. Tim put an arm around Brians shoulders. Neither said a word.
Matt glanced at his watch. Im hungry. Lets get something to eat.
When Tim and Brian responded affirmatively, Matt breathed a sigh of relief. Matt chose a piece of deep dish pizza, Tim and Brian had a bratwurst. Roscoes, a bar Matt had visited, had set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk. Luckily, they found space at one of them, once they pushed some garbage aside. Matt noticed a short man with glasses watching them.
Matt knew Tim seldom stayed angry for long, and when they had finished eating, they resumed their tour. Tim stripped off his shirt. Matt and Brian did so soon after. Tim placed a hand on Matts bare back, rubbing it slightly. The gesture seem to say: I may be angry with you, but I still love you. Matt relaxed.
Matt noticed that many eyes were watching them. He wondered why. Some eyes watched with admiration, others with envy and still others with amusement. What Matt didnt understand is that the three of them represented an icon of the gay community; a happy gay family. Matt spotted the short man with glasses a few booths behind them. He was making Matt nervous.
Matt was barely paying attention to the items for sale. He was pondering how to make up to Tim and Brian. Its my stupid pride again. I always let it get in the way. The wedding ceremony was just a gesture -- nothing more. If it makes Tim happy, maybe I should do it. When Matt returned to reality, he was standing in front of a jewelry booth. Immediately, he spotted plain bands in silver and gold. He chose the silver, because he could pay cash for it instead of putting the purchase on plastic, and because he could afford to get Brian a ring also. He glanced up. Tim and Brian had wandered a few booths ahead.
Hey, you guys. Come here. He fitted a ring for himself by the time they backtracked to him at the jewlery display. He selected a ring that he though would fit Tims finger. It fit perfectly.
Yes, Timothy McGraw, Matt said quietly, I will marry you.
Tim flung his arms around Matt, and kissed him passionately. When they parted, Matt took Brians left hand and found a ring that fit him.
Whats this for? Brians voice cracked as he asked the question.
You are going to be the Best Man. And because I love you, too.
I love you, Matt. Dad. And you too, Tim. He grinned from ear to ear. This is way cool. Now you two wont be living in sin anymore. The only problem is, what am I going to call Tim?
Matt and Tim laughed. Wed better get going. Its quarter to two already.
They pushed their way through the crowds and walked at a rapid pace east on Roscoe Street, north on Broadway for a bit, then east again on Cornelia. Their destination was a pedestrian underpass at Addison that would take them under Lake Shore Drive to Lincoln Park.
They were breathless and five minutes late when they arrived. No matter, the ceremony was late in starting. There were about a hundred other couples in varying states of dress. Some men were dressed in full tuxedos and Matt wondered aloud how they could stand the heat, although it seemed much cooler near the lake. Some women were wearing wedding dresses, and so were some men. Some were dressed in black leather, others in jeans. A large stage had been erected and on it stood a man speaking about the need for gay marriage laws. He was surrounded by huge bunches of rainbow-colored balloons.
....And we deserve the same rights as non-gay couples, dont we? The assemblage roared its approval.
Boooring, Brian commented. Both adults snickered.
Write to your congressman, your alderman, your representative and tell them you support same sex benefits in Illinois and Chicago. The sound system rang with feedback at his last words. Tim winced and stuck his index finger in his ear. Matt smiled.
Tim, see that short man over there by the drag queen in the white gown? Hes been following us around all afternoon.
Tim looked in the direction. I didnt notice. Wonder what he wants.
The short man was now joined by a heavyset man with a professional-looking 35 mm camera around his neck. The pair stood off to the side of the crowd who were now waiting expectantly for the minister to take the stage.
The previous speaker introduced the Reverend Don Wright from the Lakeview Unitarian Universalist Church.
Thank you all for coming today, the minister said in a deep, resounding voice, perhaps more appropriate for the stage. Lets place ourselves in the Spirit, however you perceive the Spirit to be. He paused.
My brothers and sisters, we are gathered here in this place to commit ourselves in love to each other. All the great scriptures command us to love one another, and to seal that love with a commitment. No laws will bind you or protect you; only your love for each other. The minister paused and smiled. Maybe someday, kids. The crowd laughed.
Take the left hand of your beloved. One person should start. It doesnt matter who.
I guess Ill start, since it was my idea, Tim said.
Repeat after me: I, state your name, take you, state your partners name, for my spouse, my lover and my partner. I commit all that I am and all that I will be to our union to make it grow and flourish. If you have a token of your love, such as a ring, now is the time. Tim placed the silver ring on Matts finger. Accept this token of my love. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Tims eyes filled with tears as he repeated the words.
They repeated the process as Matt repeated the words to Tim. They were surrounded by people, but Matt was only aware of Tim and Brian. Matt saw a light in Tims eyes. Had it been there before and he hadnt noticed it? In any event, he was glowing. When Matt had finished repeating the vows, they hugged.
You may kiss your new spouse! Reverend Wright shouted, and made the sound system ring once again. They embraced and kissed. When they parted, they each put an arm around Brian. Matt slipped a silver band on his finger, and gave him the tiniest peck on the lips. Tim kissed Brian as well.
That was so cool, Brian gushed. Im so proud of you two.
I thought youd be embarrassed, Matt responded.
No way. Im so glad you two did it, because youre so much in love.
From the mouth of babes, Matt commented to Tim.
The short man approached. He had a pronounced lisp. You are such a beautiful family.
Thank you, Matt replied with a creased forehead that told Tim that he was annoyed. Who are you? Youve been following us all day.
Im sorry. Im Ted Thedford. From Windy City Weekly. Windy City Weekly was a free newspaper given out at bars and other gathering places. Im doing a feature on gay families. Can I ask your names?
My name is Tim and this is my husband, Matt. Matt was astonished at Tims descriptive pronoun for him. Tim had never, ever referred to Matt other than friend. He had never used such synonyms as boyfriend, lover, significant other, or even other half. But Matt was in for a bigger surprise next.
And this is our son, Brian. Our son. They all knew Brian was technically Matts son. But emotionally, Tim was right. Brian belonged to them both. And they belonged to him. Brian stood between the two men, and they each put an arm around his shoulders.
Do you mind if my photographer takes a few pictures?
Matt grinned. Only if we get copies.
I can arrange that, Ted responded.
Looks like well have wedding pictures, after all, Tim chuckled.
The photographer waddled over and took some shots.
Can we do an interview? Thedford asked. The office isnt far from here.
Tim and Matt conferred. Matt was very hesitant.
Its air conditioned.
That did it. OK, Matt agreed. But you cant use my sons name. I dont care about myself. If you guarantee that, we can go.
I promise, Thedford
said with a greasy smile.
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