I sat on the sidewalk in front of the old cinema, in downtown Arcata, next to the boy that took care of Eric during his last days. It surprised me that he had no romantic words about Eric at all. He simply said, “Anyone who knew Eric, knew he wanted to die.
He didn’t look at me when we talked, but rather he looked around as he spoke, in that way only homosexuals look around as if they have some more important place to be elsewhere, and he just seem not fit to care for a dying man; my Eric. And the fact that he was continuing work that fag charm out on the street disgusted me, for that whole scene, that bad influence, was the cause, part and parcel, of Eric’s demise. I sat quietly watching him as he tied his shoe and prepared his bag, noticing him, oblivious of what Eric meant to me. I politely thanked him for taking care of Eric and left. I had a telephone call in the dingy little living room of my new lover’s house. It was Eric, and he was explaining that he was going to die soon and asking if I could visit him. He was trying to be upbeat and make jokes. I don’t know why, but it could have been that my new lover was waiting in the other room and knew who I was on the phone with, or that I still felt so fucking dramatic about having to act surprised by the whole thing and now go to even go and visit him and kiss him as he dies. I was still trying to be the victim that I certainly and was! The victim I portrayed to my new and better lover and whom I wanted to gloat about now and rub into his dying ears! But how could I out-victim the bigger victim waiting for death on the other end of the phone. He kept repeating that I should visit him and for a moment he whispered into the phone, “David, you were right about everything.” I cried a bit and then began talking assuringly to him, and we hung up. After I shamefully repeated our conversation to my new boyfriend, Brian, to win some sort of acknowledgement like I was attached to some sort of sacred drama that meant something. After all someone was dying. I was right. What more could I have done? Should have listened and loved me. He came through the door and struggled into the room. A boy helped him to sit down on the sofa in front of me as I tried to hide my shock. Was it him? This frail skinny man with his sunken in face and exposed cheek and jawbones? He was still trying to work his old charming smile, the one he used to use at the bar, which always worked on everyone. I did my best to act appropriately. Was I somehow happy to see him in this state? A sort of I told you so? I noticed, while talking with him about his condition and everything, that I was acting a little overly confident and slightly patronizing towards him as if I was his all knowing sister or something. “Oh Wow! When? What is it? Cancer! AIDS! Oh you poor guy.” I couldn’t help but feeling a little odd that I was having to act at all oblivious to the result of all I had warned him about years in advance. What I once screamed and raved at him in threats, now had to be babied and talked about kindly, as reality, and I somehow felt ashamed that all I had predicted had come to pass and was sitting in front of me, with baby eyes. I think for just a moment, I broke down and pushed the night around us aside and everything else to wait on the sidelines of the whole scene and staring him down, I said, “I never wanted to see you like this! This is what I was so upset about!” In a soft silence, and as I felt my health beside him, the night returned. As we laid out under the sky on an enormous rock in the sea, jutting up out of the water just off the shore, and we could hear the sound of waves and the barking of Walrus shamelessly echoing throughout the entire Trinidad cove. It was a very beautiful day. The pier and little toy like boats bobbing frantically, yet playfully, and the sea with its white caps seemed to match the sullen agitation and undercurrent of emotion in me as I saw him there next to me. He was laughing. I wanted to keep him there next to me forever and had come to be one with the doomed knowingness that he wouldn’t stay long, as usual. I absorbed anytime we spent together. He was amused by the sound of one of the Walrus’. “It’s just like a man being fucked,” he chuckled. He stretched out his legs a little more and grinned, “Oh! Oh! Oh! Doesn’t it?” His blue almond shaped eyes sparkling at me like Ariel’s prince, and all around us the mermaids sang. At a payphone, my middle finger out, his face dulled as he climbed out of his little yellow truck. “Are you ok?” he said laughingly, yet with a hint of worry. I was incredibly angry. I had stopped my big Cadillac there on the side of the road on my way home, after deciding not to follow him and have a huge night of feeling like shit. I couldn’t stop him, and as much as I wanted him to regret and to admit to being a fucking asshole slut who had tricked me into loving him first. Before he dragged me into a life of severe jealousy, mistrust, and worst of all to be the prime witness of his downfall and eventually his death. I hated him, yet yearned for him, and could not help but feel he had somehow won and was much stronger than me, and that I was just so passive and that I simply hid my weaknesses by being righteously over-moral. After all, I was the one suffering. I was the one in misery, not him. That secretly I just couldn’t do the things he could without flinching was in question, and so chose my martyrdom. Another car pulled into the parking lot, sucking up our time together again. Alongside Eric’s truck, two indifferent faces eyeing me through the windshield without emotion. I had met them, empty men, half an hour before up at the Ocean Grove bar in Trinidad. Eric had been talking to them and explained to me that they were a gay couple and that they were interesting to talk to. I panicked, I protested, and then surrendered into talking together with them. They could smell the good in me and I was becoming desperate. Finally, I left settled with high hopes. To my surprise, Eric had even tried to lighten the emotions raging through me by assuring me he was only talking with them, and that he would soon say goodbye and go on home to bed. But there they were, caught behind some window in stark light like evil demons I had never seen around our town before. Wherever they came from, there they were, by some sort of universal charm to torment me, manipulating my lovely idiot boy and luring him away from me and into the dark life.He looked at me with a faint smile, climbed back into his pathetic little truck, and raised his hands as if to say, “What can I do?” And I watched them drive away the world’s biggest victim. I had plans to follow them, but didn’t. I went back up to the ranch and cried, determined to finally be over him. I wasn’t of course, and spent most of the remainder of the night writing him a final letter full of meaning and devotion that would forever be unread and unacknowledged, and went to sleep with heavy tear filled eyes.
Still somehow, deep down, I felt clean and right in my feet as I lie there, and struggling with my mind, I somehow managed to set him aside, forever on, as my crippled friend. The Castro was alive! Gay people everywhere. We had come down to San Francisco, tagging along with Sam and his workers from his mechanic shop back home in Arcata, for their annual Gay Pride Parade. The house we were staying in belonged to Sam’s friend and wasn’t far from the Castro, so we had walked. As I looked around the street, I didn’t agree with it. I saw very disturbed, selfish, even mentally ill people leveling the most intimate details of their lives and their rights to freedom down to a few dildos and lubes right out in the open for all to see. It’s purely antagonistic is what it is. Perhaps those older folks had more to deal with in their day and the uncomfortable sight was it's result. I saw many simply avoiding. I just kept thinking, “Don’t they know? This stuff kills!” How could they not see the half naked and half awake street kid bearing his sweet ass to the world was really in some sort of trouble? How could a man that followed me into the bathroom be getting extremely angry with me for not wanting to fool around with him? “How could he be angry?” I asked Eric as he held a pool cue and daring his eyes around the room giddily. He replied, “Free energy David. Take it! It’s free attention and energy."
I am still bewildered, after 37 years of being gay, myself, how one could go building a culture around their sexual preference alone. Does one need a parade for their sexual appetites? For if it is about equal rights and marriage and all that, then why must leather chaps and dudes jerking off in the street enter into it? That’s just madness, gay or straight or whatever. Where I was standing was wrong, misleading, and dangerous. But how could I convince Eric? They had already planned it all against me. If you disagree with anything they do, it’s prejudice. So, what could I say to him standing there on that corner with all that false reality around us to convince him to leave with me, to go home, and live a loving life full of fruits real supportive love brings? A man, he had just met, asked us to join him somewhere else in the city with his friends for some fun and drugs. Eric was very excited about it. I was horrified. About us I imagined demons and angels alike, mostly demons. What could I say? I just said a bit desperately, “How could I compare to all of this? This circus they have created! What could I say to get you to listen to me? This stuff is wrong and very dangerous. Let’s just go home. Them or me! Choose me!”
Even now, as I contemplate this moment today, perhaps it was my unconfident tone alone that left me heading back to the house without him in a taxi in tears. I felt like Jesus a bit, the only one, emanating the only real light on that grim little hovel of a street. At first, he had agreed with me, smiling and taking hold of my hands, looking directly into my eyes with a sort of gratefulness. Then, after that shining moment and with the demons quickly swooping in on all sides, he collapsed and gave in. I don’t recall if I had left in a rage or if he left me standing there. It was a tough moment for me. He chose, and I didn’t see him for days. I got lost on my way back to the house and began to panic a little, still crying uncontrollably, to the driver. He consoled me and we eventually found it. I went into the house, to greet all of the others, a failure. “That’s Eric,” they laughed. I wasn’t amused and silently blamed them since it was them that were participating in the whole charade of a normal gay lifestyle. The old man there, showing his old homemade projector films of various boys he had led into his home over his years as if he were some kind of Andy Warhol genius by filming poor boys who needed money or a place to stay, as everyone delighted and gave nods of acknowledgement. I had met this old man earlier, Sam’s friend, in his office earlier when we arrived. I thought I had found some sanctuary for he looked like a perfectly adjusted member of society, and he did have a nice house and so he must be doing something right. However, he looked up from his computer and said to me as if he had known me forever, “I have been watching these young twinks fuck and suck each other all day, and what I would give to get a few of them here with me now.” I was repulsed, yet showed no sign of it. I only smiled, said "nice to meet you", and left the room. Downstairs, as I lay on what was to be our guest bed in crippling despair those few nights, I wondered about all the others who had lain there before me. Had they had the same pain as I had? I could certainly feel pain in the walls and windows. In that little bathroom I could hear voices and sense personalities that came before me. Had these walls and mirrors somehow enveloped them. Had they succumbed? Although it was a nice house with nothing short of bay area luxury, it was without love. Just a place for lonely midnight cowboys, and I wasn’t one of them. How could I ever surrender? I lost my mind a little with worry about Eric during those nights. He never called, and worst of all was that the other people in the house hadn’t the slightest concern. I had walked back down to the Castro many times and sometimes for hours, planning speeches and even expressions to bring some sense to Eric if I indeed found him. I never did, but began to see him everywhere and soon became constantly nauseous. I began to go mad, and so decided that I needed to go and see a good old friend of mine, over the bridge in Marin; I took the ferry, still seeing him everywhere. Thea, my old friend, sat with me and said everything I had been waiting to hear: That I was right, and that he was in danger, and that I was quite crazy with worry; and during our time together I rejuvenated myself in the security of her reality; My reality. I returned to the house, and after a few more days went down the Castro again and like nothing ever happened, he was standing there. He looked tired, yet in that slow downed soft world that only Meth-amphetamine induces after days of use. This time he came with me. I said nothing really as we walked up the street. His smells were alien to me, and his gestures from some other culture. I didn’t even try to ask or explain anything to him. Nor to let him in on the tremendous suffering I had endured. He wouldn’t have even heard me for he was under some enchantment, some spell.
Still, he was walking next to me and coming home.
A day later we headed back up north in the van. Everyone was sleeping. Eric clung to me and drifted in and out of sleep like a drugged child, sometimes fooling around under the blanket, despite the full broad day traffic and sun of a Californian highway in mid-afternoon. Later on and almost home, as we were stopping for petrol, I got the perfect idea to start smoking again. Everyone now up and sitting round, I placed the cigarette in my lips and lit it, while Eric, sitting square in front of me, was in total protest, disgust, and disapproval; to my complete and utter dis-comprehension. Jenny and I left the Manor to find something to do. Well that is what I called it, although it was simply a house on the cliffs of Trinidad overlooking the sea. I had come to work there as a sound engineer for a man named Seth and Bluegrass band made up of a hodgepodge of shady characters from all over the states. Mostly, desperate. They lived there in the house, slash studio, as I now did. Jenny was one of the girls working for the old woman, one of the most interesting characters that lived there, and also the true owner of the house and riches which her son was now squandering on his whims, and which Seth had shut up in the back room. The entire hall had extreme amounts of soundproofing, and Seth did his best to care for his dying mother by pumping her full of strange mail order vitamins and what I believed to be steroids. The girls he hired we college girls from the next town over and they had all become my friends eventually.
Everyone caught on to the story of her sons true interest in helping his mother, yet said nothing as we were all benefiting from that house and riches. So whenever the old woman would come out into the other parts of the house, mostly during the day when all the musicians were sleeping in their cars or various places they claimed about the property and everything was quiet, we all did our best to talk with her and make her feel that everything was normal. She would sit there for hours looking at the window as we all sat around her. “It looks so still,” she would say hauntingly, “As still as a picture.”
When she would start talking about the people that moved into her old neighborhood back in Pennsylvania and how they ruined it, we all felt a little less sympathy for her and slightly better about our part in continuing things there. Then she would be led back to her room, and the band would arrive to play frantically through out the night. I, in my little sound room manipulating sound equipment and working the English accent I had used to impress Seth; got us a job in the first place. Jenny and I decided to go out just before sunset and over to the Indian Reservation not far from the property, for we had heard that there was a casino there; It is where I met Eric.