By John Yager
This is a story of hope. It is the story of a young man coming of age in a culture of prejudice and misunderstanding. It is a story which deals with difficult and often disturbing issues but, none the less, issues which must be confronted in today's world.
Again, special thanks to Andrew for proofing and editorial help
This is a work of fiction and in no ways draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. Any similarity to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental.
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I found the Peabody without any further problem. I entered the lobby and I asked for the key to our room. When the clerk gave it to me he also handed me a small slip of paper. It was a printed note from saying that dad had called at one-thirty.
The message read,
"Rob, I've have had to change our plans. I must have dinner with a business contact. You should have dinner at hotel and put charge on room bill. I should be back by eleven. Sorry. Dad."
I read the note as I rode up in the elevator. I looked at my watch. It was a quarter to four. Dad didn't expect to be back until eleven so I had seven hours. In the room I counted my money and found I had thirty one dollars, most of it from the twenty dad had given me that morning. Three fifty of it was in quarters, the coins I hadn't used in the porn shop.
I stripped off my clothes as I counted the money and laid it on my bed. My briefs were stiff and spotted and my jeans reeked of sweat and cum and the strong disinfectant used in the porn shop booths and its vile toilet. I rolled my soiled clothes tightly and put them in the side zipper pocket of my canvas duffel bag.
Once home I would be sure to get them into the washing machine myself, before my mother could intercept them.
I stepped into the shower and let the hot water pound my back and shoulders and run down over my butt and legs. Images of the film flickered through my brain and I was instantly hard again.
Todd's body flexing and moving under his tight jeans and tank top as he walked along the trail, seen in the film as Chad would have seen him, Chad as he lowered his backpack and his own body bent and turned. I had longed to look at other guys like that, to see, observe, study. But in real life, in the close confines of locker rooms and gang showers, I could never take such chances. I could never let my eyes roam over another boy's back and buttocks and down over his hard, muscular legs. The film had given me permission. It had even encouraged me. I had feasted on the images, letting my eyes reach out to all but touch the hard, warm flesh, to caress, fondle, to know.
My own cock was pulsing now, wanting attention. I lathered it generously and stroked it slowly as the images continued to replay in my mind.
Of the two boys in the film, Todd was clearly the better looking. He was handsome in a classic sense. His face had an angular, sculptural form. But it was Chad to whom I kept returning. It was the image of him looking over at the sleeping Todd, of him taking off his glasses and slowly, deliberately, laying them away, of him moving with such ease and grace as he lowered his mouth to Todd's cock. Those were the scenes I remembered with such vivid clarity. There was something indefinably sexual about Chad which Todd somehow lacked, despite his greater beauty.
I ran the soap slick fingers of my left hand along the cleft of my ass as my right hand began to flog my cock with greater speed. Oh, yes, I thought as I felt my third orgasm of the afternoon rise in my balls. My left index finger found the bud of my ass and pushed in, making the hole open, forcing deeper, wanting to wail out my passion as my finger pressed in. Oh, yes, yes. Not just thought now but audible words, sounds at least, as my cock shot forth its load. Yes. I hissed with the joy of it.
Exhausted, I crashed on my bed, wanting nothing but much needed rest. I guess I slept, the images of the film still swirling in my brain.
I woke and realized the light was fading in the hotel room. I rose up and sat on the side of the bed, not able, for a moment at least, to tell where I was. Then it all came back to me. I was in Memphis with dad. I had wandered along back streets and found a porn shop. I had seen a film, guys fucking, really fucking. Chad pounding his hard cock into Todd's willing ass.
Rolling off the bed, I hurriedly pulled on fresh jockey shorts, socks and jeans. I rummaged in my duffel bag and found a clean shirt, wallet, comb, change, room key. And tissue, lots of tissue. Within minutes I was out of the room, down the elevator and out on the street. It was already after seven and I had wasted three or four precious hours. I remembered the streets, north from the hotel two blocks, then right and left again. Four streets over and I was in the grim neighborhood again. Another block and I had found the shop.
""Ad lts O ly."" The wounded neon still flashed its forbidden welcome.
I composed myself, took a deep breath, then another. I pushed open the door and walked in boldly, going without hesitation to the back of the shop, to the door to dreams, the passageway to all my fantasies.
"Hey, kid." I froze at the voice from the front desk. I turned to see, not my old puzzle playing friend, but an older man, an irritable man.
I walked back to the counter and stood there as he looked me up and down.
"Big for you age, aren't you?"
"How old are you, boy? Let me see ID."
I stood there dumb.
"ID, boy. If you ain't eighteen, you leave right now, hear? I ain't getting the cops down on me."
I walked quickly from the shop, not knowing what to do. Would I not see Chad and Todd again? Would I not be permitted to see the films in Booths Five and Six?
Moments passed and I still stood frozen to the concrete. My body trembled in the hot, humid Memphis air. The sun had gone down now, or gotten lost behind old buildings, and the street looked very sad.
"Old Joe kick you out, kid?"
I tuned to see a guy in his forties coming out of the shop.
"Well, try Benny's over on Front Street. As long as you're out of dippers they'll let you in.
"Down toward the river about six blocks." My guide pointed to my left. "When you get to Front, turn right. Benny's is about two blocks up on the right."
"Thank you, sir," I said.
"Don't mention it, kid. Don't see why a big kid like you shouldn't be allowed
to see a little pussy."
I turned and almost ran in the direction he had indicated. The street got darker as I got nearer the river. This was a warehouse area and a few yellow street lights had begun to come on. I found Front street and turned right as I had been told.
Another couple of blocks and I spotted my objective. It was a brightly lit shop and its windows weren't painted over with black paint as the first shop's had been.
Here the inside's old plate glass windows had been covered with white curtains to a height of about seven feet. Looking up through the windows above them, all you could see were flourescent lights and a gray ceiling. The door was painted bright blue and above the windows and the door, running the width of the shop, was a sign made of dozens of clear, blinking lights which spelled out the single word, "Benny's."
I again collected myself and walked boldly to the door. As I reached it, two men, not much older than me, came out. They were laughing and almost ran into me.
"Sorry, fellow," the taller one said as I stepped aside.
"No problem," I replied.
"If you're looking for a laugh," the shorter guy said, "check out `Tina's Big Day,'' in booth seven."
"Yeah," said the tall guy, "you''ll never see bigger jugs than she's got."
"You'll never WANT to see bigger jugs than she's got," the short guy said and they walked away laughing.
I slipped in the door and found myself in a big, brightly lit space, at least three times as large as the first porn shop I'd found. I walked along aisle after aisle of paperbacks and slick magazines. There were two guys behind the counter just inside the door. The floor behind the counter seemed to be raised about a foot and a half above the floor, and from that height they could survey the length of the shop.
I wandered aimlessly from aisle to aisle, looking at rack after rack of bare breasted women, some who appeared to be younger than me, some as old as my mother. I worked my way toward the back of the shop, finally reaching a wide opening in the back wall which led into a corridor which ran, not back, but across the width of the shop. But just inside the opening were the framed movie posters I had expected. I quickly ran my eyes them and saw they represented, not six, but twelve individual booths. Each booth seemed to be showing six movies, just as the booths at ""Ad lts O ly"" had done. But to my utter disappointment, not one gay film was listed in any of the booths. Also, to my surprise, I saw a sign at the bottom of the posters which read, "Three tokens for a dollar. Sold in five dollar lots only. No refunds."
I turned and walked the length of the shop, pushed open the door and went out into the warm night air. As I walked back in the direction of the hotel I realized I was starving. It was now well after nine o'clock and I hadn't eaten since I'd had the barbeque sandwich for lunch.
I'd come further than I realized and it took me about twenty minutes to get back to the Peabody. I entered the lobby and asked at the desk where I could get something light to eat. I wanted a hamburger and fries but didn't know if there was anyplace in the hotel which served such ordinary food.
"Try the coffee shop, son," the desk clerk said, looking up from a stack of papers. "But you better go now. They won't take any orders after ten."
I found the coffee shop and took a table by the wall. The menu was simple and by the time the waitress had come over to take my order I had decided what I wanted, the typical teenage meal. I guess in some ways I was normal, I assured myself.
Within ten minutes the burger, fries and coke had arrived, and within half an hour I was finished and on my way. When I reentered the lobby it was a quarter to eleven. I went to the desk and asked if my father had returned. When I was told he hadn't, I decided to find a seat by the fountain and wait for him. It was rather fun to sit there in the center of the busy lobby and watch people come and go. It was a busy place, even at that hour.
A well dressed man about thirty came over and sat by me on the long sofa.
"Getting late," he said.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Been doing the town?"
"Well, kind of," I said, not knowing for sure if he was just being friendly, or if he really wanted to talk.
"My wife and I just got in from a jazz tour. I never want to hear another slide trombone. I think my ear drums have been damaged." He chuckled and I laughed with him as a beautiful blond woman cam over.
"You ready, honey?" he asked, as he rose and took her by the arm.
"Yes," she said. "Becky and Sam aren't in their room."
"Well, let's get a drink anyway. Maybe they''ll join us." They walked off arm and arm toward the bar at the other side of the lobby.
As I continued waiting I began to think about my relationship with my dad. I knew I loved him but I also realized that I didn't really know him very well. He had always been there, always the provider, the head of our family, but not the one to whom, as a child, or even now, I would turn when I had a problem or a need to talk. But on this short trip with him I had come to an important realization about myself. I knew I was gay. I had finally admitted it, at least to myself, if not to anyone else. I also realized that I needed to talk with someone about it. I knew it couldn't be my mother, at least not yet. I suspected my father would never understand, but I wanted to at least open the issue of homosexuality with him. I wanted to know what he thought about gay people. Even though I was sure he would be disapproving, even scathing in his disapproval, I wanted - no - I needed to hear him say it in his own words. Then, at least, I would know where I stood.
I began to formulate a plan, a way of approaching the topic. It would require some dishonesty on my part, but it would at least let me open the topic with dad without letting him know that I now recognized myself as gay.
Half an hour later dad came into the lobby. He entered through the main doors from the street, as if he had just been let off by his friends, or perhaps, just arrived by cab. I realized as he walked toward me that he had been drinking. Not that he was drunk, but he was certainly a little unsteady. I was glad he hadn't taken the car.
No form of alcohol is ever permitted in our house. It is disapproved of by our church and there is virtually no use of even wine or beer among our family or friends in Spring River. But I wasn't surprised to see that dad had been drinking.
Ted had told me that dad had drunk on their trips to Memphis. Last winter, just after Ted turned twenty-one and he and dad made a trip while Ted was home from college for the Christmas holidays. My brother had told me after they got home that dad had even let him drink while they were together. Of course Ted drank with his friends at the university, but he was a little surprised when dad had bought him a beer or two while they were away from home together.
"You're a man now, Ted," dad had told him. "We men understand that there are standards we must uphold at home, but when we're away we can let our guard down a little." When my brother told me about our father's comments, he knew dad was really saying it would be their secret, not to be talked about with our mother.
Dad saw me as he came across the lobby. I rose just as he reached me, not knowing what to say.
"Well, son," dad said, "you waiting up for your old man?"
"Yes, sir. I just finished eating in the coffee shop and figured you'd be back soon."
"Back and worn out. It's been a long day and I'm ready for bed."
We walked to the elevators and rode up to our floor in silence. Once in our room dad made a quick run for the bath and shut the door. I could hear the loud sound of him pissing, then the sound of the toilet flushing and then several moments of silence. When he came out of the bath, he was wearing his pajamas and had his suit pants hung over his arm in a rather disorderly manner.
"All yours,'' he said as he tossed his pants on a chair, threw back the covers on his bed and lay down. Within less than a minute he was snoring.
Well, I thought, any talk I'm going to have with dad will have to wait till tomorrow.
I went into the bath room and undressed. When I reached for the shorts I had brought along to sleep in, I found that dad's suit jacket, his shirt and his tie, were hanging over them on the hook behind the bathroom door. I pulled on my shorts, brushed my teeth, and then quietly opened the door to the bedroom. It was obvious that dad was deep asleep. I went to the wardrobe and took out a clothes hanger, picked up his pants and hung them in a proper way over its bar.
Returning to the bathroom, I retrieved his jacket and arranged it with equal care over the shaped hanger.
Dad's shirt was wrinkled and there were dark spots on the collar and cuffs. It would go in the laundry as soon as we got home so there was no reason to put it on a hanger. As I rolled it into a bundle with his socks and underwear, I realized that the spots on the white cotton were lipstick, a bright flaming red lipstick, unlike anything my mother would ever wear. I stood there in shock at the implications of my discovery. I had never considered that my father could have anything to do with any woman but my mother. I felt shaken and frightened and deeply hurt. As I lifted the wrinkled bundle to my nose I realized it reeked of some heavy, sweet perfume. Again, I knew it was a scent my mother would never use.
I tossed the bundle in the bottom of the wardrobe and went back to the bathroom to wash my hands. Even after washing twice, the heavy, sickly sweet scent clung to my skin.
I climbed into my bed and tried to think. I knew I would not sleep, at least not soon, and the thoughts were tumbling around unbidden in my brain.
Many floors below in the street I could hear the noises of cars and the voices of people returning to the hotel. I looked over at the illuminated clock and saw it was well after midnight.
To be continued.