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September 09, 1976 - Image 26

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Michigan Daily, 1976-09-09

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Page Sig

i'ME MICHIGAN O AILY

1ihursdoy, Soptember 9,'1T'

oming out in a gayghetto

,., - ..

By DAVID BELL
CAME OUT in '72 As an elec-
tion year, that alone should'
have been enough to keep me
in the closet. But-I guess I've
looked for trouble since the
start.
My mother worked for the
McGovern campaign that sum-,
ier and fall while I sneaked off
to gay bars in Chicago on the
weekends (I told her I was
staying overnight at a high
school friend's) with Marvin
whom I met in the Greyhound
bus station. We did this every
weekend until one Saturday in
late October when we were ar-
rested for indecent exposure on
a city residential street at. ten
a.m. in a parked car with our
pants pulled to our knees. My
mother credited the arrest to
her political beliefs.,
In court six months later she,
staunchly shook her head as
her stomach turned when the
judge asked her is she ever had
had reason to think her son
homosexual. This in a state (In-
diana) where the most frequent
offense involves cows walking;
down the wrong side of the
roads
Since then I've been stabbed,
shot at, beaten up and had my
clothes stolen one night in a de-
serted building in Detroit (own-
ed by HUD no doubt) in a
neighborhood o f c r u m b li n g
houses that reminded me of pic-
tures I've seen of bombed Ger-
man cities in World War II.
David Bell, a graduating sen-
ior, submitted a longerer-
Sion of this story to the Sum-
iner Hopwood Awards.I

That happened after I tricked)
with a man who looked like Su-1
perfly ("we'll do it for love," hes
said) on a torn measly old1
couch that I later suspected of
giving me lice.
OSI' RECENTLY, I've donei
the public washroom, adult
theater and bookstore scene..
The latter three convinced me
there was a problem.
I go to an adult bookstore in
Ann Arbor a couple times a
week. The cashiers are so used
to me by now they don't event
ask me for the fifty cent admis-
sion fee. Once inside, I casually3
make my way to the movie ar-
cade in the back where I cruise.
But I try not to make it too ob-
vious. Other men discretely
glance up at me rom tehind
dirty books. Most of them are
cruising too.
For twenty five cents you can
see a two minute flick that us-
ually is enough to incite your;
curiousity to put another twentyI
five cents into the money box;
to watch another segment. And
so on. The booths, lining two
different corridors, resemble
outhouses or a row of cheapl
army barracks-anything that
could easily fall down. A wall
separates the booths from the
rest of the store. As you enterI
the arcade sign reads, "no loit-1
ering or soliciting allowed." No
one pays that any attention. I
Mostly men watch the mov-t
ies. A woman back there is at
rarity. Sometimes I have goodI
luck and can pick up a piece
right away. "Would you like to
go to my apartment?" I ask ift
he's especially attractive. If heI

doesn't, we have sex in the
booth. A blow job one way or
the other. That never takes!
long.
But sometimes it takes forev-
er. I hate the waiting. Especial-
ly when I don't have enough
money which is the usual case.
Then I have to stand back
against the wall and pretend I
don't notice the wrinkled-faced
old men in nylon jackets, baggy
pants and crew cuts who stare
at my crotch.
Once, while watching a movie,
the door opened and this guy
barged in. He obviously wasn't
going to take no for an answer.
Quickly he was on his knees,
sucking me. I didn't try to stop'
him and obliged when he asked
me to stand up. That was so he
could get a better grasp. He got
tired of doing it after a while
and tried to jack me off. Pretty
soon he ran out of money (he
had deposited four quarters)
and went to get change from.
the cashier. Panic was written
all over his face which was
covered with pimples. I cer-
tainly wasn't going to pay for
it, not with him. I stood in the
hallway and leaned against the
wall, amused. He returned, ush-
ering me back inside the booth.
This time he pulled down his
pants. He wanted me to fondle
him. I wouldn't. He tried kiss-
ing me. I wouldn't. He smelled
like shit. That was too much to
take in one of those tiny booths
whose floors were smeared in
piss, beer, and sperm to begin
with. I pulled up my pants,
shook my head and left. Closing
the door, I glanced back to see
him jacking off. I went home

and pretended it was all a bad
dream.
EVERY MORNING when I get
up, it all starts over again.
I think, should I go to a bar,
cruise in the john or go to the
bookstore?
The incident I remember most
vividly occurred the day Rocky
was supposed to come down
from Detroit to see "Purlie"
with me. He overslept.
"I'm really looking forward
to this," he said the Friday be-
forehand. I had gone ahead and
gotten tickets-they were front
row seats as it turned out.
Rocky said he'd call that morn-
ing before he came. I knew he
was a late sleeper but waited
for him to call anyway. I was
in a petulant mood and didn't
want to give him any added
reason to think I was pushy. I
always called him.
I awoke at 9:00 and read At
10:00 I fell back to sleep. At
11:00 I rewoke, very conscious
of the fact he hadn't called. I
lay in bed growling, waiting for
the phone to ring even though I
knew it wouldn't. At 11:45 I call-
ed him. Rocky had just woken
up. It was too late for him to
make it down-the car was bro-
ken, and he'd have to take a
bus. There was no way he
could get downtown, catch a
bus if one was running, and
make it here by three. lie said
he was sorry.
TT STRUCK ME then that we
were growing apart. Rocky
said he overslept because he
had stayed out until six a.m.
Some excuse. I sat through the
play and stifled my tears. Af-
terwards I went to the johns.
It was nearly dark out when
the play ended. I could .sa, the
last ravs of the red sky dying
on the horizon. The johns were
in a University lecture halt, Ma-
son I-all. I found myself fre-
quentingLthe johns with increas-
ing regularity in the past few
months in proportion to the de-
creasing amount of time I was
spending with Rocky.
I went to the bathroomi on the
second floor. It had the most
activity of the four floors and
was the least conspicuous to
outsiders. The john was divided
into three chambers, the first
containing mirrors and wash
basins which lead into a hall-
way of urinals, connected co the
stall area. That was my inter-
est. There were a dozen stalls,
flanking either side of the wall.
Most of the doors were shut. I
walked up and down the aisle,
but saw nothing I liked ai faces
peeked out at me from behind

the doors. I left and sat down
on a bench outside the door.
How convenient. From where I
could watch people come and
go and I could choose. "Judy
Garland is faggot property,"
was scrawled on the bench. No
one came. After five minutes I
went back in.
I paced the stall aisle again.
A black face looked over a clos-
ed door at me. I hesitaled, re-
cognizing him. I had seen him
in the Flame before-he was at-
tractive but I had the impres-
sion he didn't like me. Once I
gave him my phone number but
he never called. After that I left
him alone.
Now he opened his door a
crack. I hesitated.
"Can I come in?" I whisper-
ed.
He nodded. Surprised, I enter-
ed and closed the door behind
me. He stood there with his
pants and underwear pulled to
his feet. I went down and suck-
ed him. It was the first time I
had ever done it in a john. He
didn't come but that was O.K.
The physical intimacy was the
important thing. Every once in
a while I took it out of my
mouth and grasped the rest of
his body. It was important to
think of other things too. Fin-
ally I stood up and kissed him.
I wasn't sure I should but he
responded by kissing my neck.
Then he sat down on the toilet
and opened my pants. He suck-
ed me but I couldn't come eith-
er. I asked him twice if he
wanted to go to my apartment
but he said he didn't have the
time. Despite my own moans I
could hear sobbing come from
the stall to the left of ours.
When down on my knees I
could see a pair of naked legs.
Next to us they had taken off
their clothes.
He looked at his watch It

209 S. STATE
U PSTA I RS
OVER 7 YEARS IN ANN ARBOR
SWE MUST BE DOING
SOMETHING
RIGH T !
b' ~

l

was 8:30 and he sai
go. I nodded.
"Can I meet you
asked.
"O.K. Can I have
numer?" I asked
ahead.

d he had to
again?" he
your phone
one step

He nodded.
"I'll be outside." I pulled up
my pants, opened the stall door
and left. From theaisle I could
see someone peeking at me
from behind another stall door.
I sat down on the bench again.
He exited. I got up and we
walked down the hall.
"What's your name?" he ask-
ed.
"Eric. And yours?"
"Carl."
"Nice to meet you," I smiled.
"My number's 555-0525."
I GOT HOME early the next
night from my meeting. I
called Carl but he wasn't home.
The phone rang on and on. I
hung it up. A vague uneasiness
crept over me. Why isn't he
home? Five minutes later I
called again. He still wasn't
home. Where could he be? He
said he'd call. I lay down and
tried reading Faulkner but the
long sentences confused me. I
called again. No answer. I
drank a glass of wine and tried
Faulkner again. This time it,
was worse than before. Absolom
Absolom was driving me crazy.
I finished the chapter but it
was useless. I couldn't tell Sut-
pen apart from Charles Bon
from Rosa Coldfield's imagined
infidelity.
I tried calling again. The
phone rang hopelessly on. I
counted fifteen times and hung
up. Is he deserting me? Disco
music only heightened my ner-
vousness. At 10:00 I tried again.
No answer. Maybe he'll still
call me, I thought. I drank some
more wine. The music played on
and on. I smiled and danced
along in my mind. Life is a
cabaret.
10:15 brought no answer. Bet-
ter luck next time I thought,
throwing Faulkner against the
wall. And it was too late to go
back to the johns.
At 10:30 I tried again. He
answered. I was surprised and
didn't know what to say.
"Hi, uh this is Eric-from
last night?"
"Hi Eric." His tone was dry.
"I remember." (As if he want-
ed to forget.) "I just got in from
the laundry."
"Yeah, well I thought I'd
give you a call. I was hoping to
hear from you."
"Well I was going to call lat-
er, but I'm glad you called."
I wasn't at all convinced.
"Yeah, I am too. I hope we can
get together soon."
"I hope so too. Let's see, to-
morrow I'm busy, but how
about Wednesday?"
"That would be O.K." Any
day would have been O.K.
"Should I call after 10:00?"
He spoke politely.
"No, I'll be in all evening."
"Fine, you'll hear from me
then." We muttered good bye. I
looked forward to it. I had
nothing else to do.
At 7:00 on Wednesday I call-
ed him. I couldn't wait.
"Hi Eric. How are you?" His
voice still sounded emotionless.

We hung up. At least he'll call
back, I thought.
fHINGS WERE looking up. I
ate dinner, drank a coke
and read the newspaper. Those
are things I always do when
I'm in a good mood. They give
me company.
I took a shower. It was 8:00.
I had to be clean if we were
going to have sex. The hot wa-
ter running off my face felt
good and I relaxed. I finished
my shower.and put on some
music. I am glamorous, I
thought to myself.
At 9:00 I drank a glass of
wine. I felt slightly tipsy. I read
bits and pieces of Newsweek.
"Lee Radziwall joins the battle
against unemployment," t h e
caption read. That was the ex-
tent of my interest.
I wondered why he hadn't
called. He should be back by
now, it doesn't take that long to
grocery shop. I ironed a pair of
pants, concentrating kn the
creases-anything to keep me
busy. The nervousness came
back. Iskimmed a book but re-
fused to read it.
Eleven o'clock. It's been four
hours. Should I call him? No. I
do have my pride. I guess he
doesn't want me. I scribbled on
a pad of paper while my hand
shook. What else can I do? I
call him, rehearsing the lines as
I dial the number:
"I hope you don't mind me
calling-especially at this late
hour." (I'll laugh nervously.) "I
just wanted to see if every-
thing was O.K. Do you mind?
I hope we can get together
some other time. Would you
like to go to the movies? How
about Friday night?"
The phone rang on and on.
QO I DECIDED TO see a
shrink. It wasn't all my
idea-before I had written psy-
chiatry off as a fascist plot
against women and homosex-
uals, but I went upon the re-
commendation of Evelyn, a pro-
fessor of mine at school.

"I have a clear sense of what
sexual degradation is all about.
There is an element of under-
standing lacking in your stor-
ies."
Now she had me.
"What I might recommend, if
I might," Evelyn spoke very
softly now, "would be to see a
shrink."
I stared at her.
"It might do some good," she
said earnestly. "I say this be-
cause it will change your atti-
tude about the experiences you
write about, and hence your
writing. The question is, why
do you consistently put yourself
in positions of danger? The
story you wrote about being
knifed was really hard to take."
"For love," I replied.
'THIS MORNING I talked to a
psychologist. He led me
from the pleasant looking wait-
ing room, complete with plastic
flowers and orange soft-cush-
ioned chairs, downstairs to his
office.
I already distrust him. Like
the killer in Psycho, he has
beady eyes and speaks in soft,,
reassuring tones. His office is
painted an unimaginative white
and containsonly addesk and
two chairs so I didn't have
much choice as to where to sit.
He asks, looking into my eyes,
how I am this morning. I as-
sure him I am feeling fine.
He dresses like he works at
McDonalds. He wears straight
legged pants, a tacky blue tur-
tle neck-bought at Kresge's, 1
imagine-with his black hair
cut crisply short. I, on the other
hand, wear my black pumps,
(made in Spain), $45 blue jeans,
and a black nylon sweater. I
didn't have on my new Elton
John sunglasses (they cost $100)
so I didn't look too cool.
We stared at each other.
"Well where should we be-
gin?" I finally asked, exasper-
ated. If there's one thing I
can't stand, it's unimaginative
people. That's one reason I've
never been able to have a pimp.

This is bullshit, I said to my-
self. The clock on his desk tick-
ed slowly. Have I been here
forever?
"Why do you think you're
lonely?"
"I've always been. Do a lot
of people come here with that
problem?" That was a nice way
to change the -subject.
"Yes, I'd say that, but with
varying degrees."
My degree was extreme?
"I've always been lonely." My
hands sweat in my lap but I
had no where else to put them.
"Even when younger. This is
nothing new. Especially in high
school, then I wasn't out, and
couldn't do the things I can
now, but had the same prob-
lems." I smiled.
He smiled vaguely back. I
wished he'd say something but
he only stared. Those eyes kill-
ed me.
"I just can't relate." I spoke
hopelessly. Damn it, why does-
n't he say something? "I feel
very alienated from everyone.
I do like to write-that's how
Evelyn knows about my inci-
dents. That helps a great deal.
I suppose I should have brought
you some of my stories, I'll do
that next time." I looked at
him.
"Sure, that would be fine."
He spoke as if he did work at
McDonalds. "But I guess I'm
wondering why it is you're will-
ing to take such risks with peo-
ple-such as in Detroit-and not
with others. I mean, this is a
University town with 30,000 stu-
dents."
"VOU SHOULDN'T take it so
seriously. I haven't done
anything like that in a while.
The last time I did, I was care-
fiil. Even though I went to a
dangerous bar I was careful
whom I snoke to and didn't have
any rough trade. The incidents
are truly scary. I don't enjoy
them. The last time I went to
Detroit I went in with some
friends to an S and M bar. I had
never been to one before and it
freaked me out. In the bath-
room there was a sex scene that
would make Mason Hall look
like Roiper Room. You do
know about Mason Hall?"
He nodded.
"Anyway," I continued, "it
was like an orgy. I watched peo-
le having sex right in the op-
'n. The room was packed and
the temperature must have been
100 degrees. But it was the most
asex'"l exerience I've ever
had. The expression on the peo-
ale's faces was like thse of
-ombies in the movies."
"Tell me, Eric, do you get
nleasure out of nunishment?"
"No, no." I looked at him.
Had I heard right? "I'm not
into S and M at all." But then
I knew I wouldn't come back.
He looked at me not at all
convinced. "Then why did you
go to the bar?"
"I went with friends."
He still looked at me. I felt
like the time when I was ten
years old and stayed over at my
aunt's where I wet the bed and
denied it later.
"Why did you come here?" he
asked me.
"To talk to, I need someone
to talk to." I swallowed and
looked at him.
"We're running out of time,
Eric-can you come back next
week? How about on Thurs-
day?"
"O.K., I said. I would have
said anything to get out of
there. I felt battled, bruised.
and a little bored.
"AND ANOTHER THING," he
said as we left the office,
"would you be willing to take
a personality test? It's nothing
big, but maybe it would help.

It sheds light on what kind of
Derson you are. We give a ser-
ies of them, lasting about five
hours. Do you think you'll have
the time?".

"Your stories are very alienating, de-

pressing and degrading

. . . They don't

offer any hope. Is life so bad?

Your

characters are stereotypical and unhappy..
Still,' she said, pausing a moment, 'maybe
there can't be a gay story with a happy end-
ing and in that case the question has got
to be asked why.'
...- .. ......mammasssssmenamaymemn

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I like Evelyn. She's a nice
woman and takes everything so
seriously (she's a Marxist),
wears round glasses, refuses to
tint her greying hair, and wears
blue jeans 365 days out of the
year which she stuffs her hands
into like a cowboy-the liber-
ated woman.
Evelyn, to my delight, has
taken an interest in me; she's
read all the stories I've written.
My stories weren't very good
-I kept getting rejection slips
and one editor wrote, "A piece
of fiction is not good because
of it's subject matter, but be-
cause of content, style. Learn
how to write, not gossip about
lurid tales of gay goings on."
Evelyn, I think, agreed. Only
she was more polite.
"Your stories are very alien-
ating, depressing and degrad-
ing," she remarked to me one
day looking over her desk. She,
might as well have been the
shrink.
I said nothing.
"They don't offer any hope.
Is life so bad? Politically speak-
ing you'd come under a lot of
fire from gay liberationists.
Your characters are stereotypi-
cal and unhappy. Still," she

oThe most I've ever lasted with
one was two weeks, and the
shortest, two and a half min-
utes-he came quickly.
"Well maybe you'd like to,
ask me some questions," he vol-
unteered. That was a good idea.
"I understand you spoke with
Evelyn, how much did she tell
you about me?"
"We only spoke for a minute
on the phone. She said she was
worried for your safety, she
mentioned your being stabbed
in Detroit, I think." He spoke
defensively.
"Is this strictly confidential?"
"Yes is it." He expected that
question. "We do keep a record
of your visit but it will be des-
troyed when you leave the Uni-
versity."
That satisfied me. "Do you
have your Ph.D?" That sound-
ed like an obnoxious enough
question.
"No, I'm working on it now."
I nodded. "I suppose we could
talk about the knifing since I'm
sure you're wondering about
it." What else did Evelyn tell
you? I'm wondering. "You re-
ally shouldn't worry about it,
it happened months ago and I
haven't gone back to that place

To: in Arboi Bank and -rust ComanyA boJ A
Student Service Desk d.
P.O. Box615
- Nim Arbor, Michigan 48107

'I

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