Monday, August 30, 1999


This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

I hadn't thought about that crazy weekend in years. I probably wouldn't have thought of it now had not my gay nephew been egging me on.
Carroll's parents had played a cruel enough joke on him sticking that name on his birth certificate. I even remember objecting to it when they had announced the intention to name the still unborn first child after his grandfather. However, as an in-law, my opinion counted for very little in my wife's family, so the deed was done.
And that's not to suggest that the name made him gay. We all know that orientation is a matter of genetics coupled with our experiences and internalization.
Some twenty years later, when they found out that their brilliant college boy liked to get it on with other college boys, they did what any other sane, rational and god-fearing Arkansas family would do: they kicked his ass out. I can remember that night like it was yesterday; Carroll's voice on the phone, choked with tears, asking me what to do and where to go. I asked Janice what she thought and in about 15 seconds we had agreed to take the boy in. Atlanta is a much larger place and the gay culture thrives here. My position as a college professor could easily stand an openly gay family member, so what the hell. I wired him the money to come and was there waiting on him at the airport.
It was a long six months that followed. Carroll found comfort in the fact that I am a closet bisexual. Not that I ever did anything improper with him! It was just knowing that someone else close to him could understand a man having sexual feelings for another man helped him to accept himself.
We had settled into a family routine by the fall semester. I had done the paperwork to claim Carroll as a dependent and he was using my faculty scholarship to attend classes and finish up his degree. He helped with the chores around the house and contributed what he could toward the family upkeep from his part-time job. It was early one Saturday afternoon when the wife was gone on one of her wild goose chases looking for new clothing that he asked the question that would trigger so many memories.

"Uncle Jim," he asked, "Were there any guys who were really 'out' when you went to college?"
"Not really," I told him. "Not that there weren't gay people around. They just made damn sure that no one ever found out."
"How do you know?"
"I remember one evening my last semester in the dorm... There were these two Ag majors across the hall from me. You know, really big, raw, muscled up farm types. Cowboy boots and all! I came in after doing some library work one night... must have been about 8:30... and I heard all this heavy breathing and moaning coming from their room! Now, this was the 60's and we weren't supposed to have girls in our rooms back then, so I was really interested to see which one of them had sneaked a girl up and how it was!"
"What did you do?"
"Well, I left MY door open and sat down at my desk. From where I was sitting I could see the door to the other room. It was about 45 minutes before it opened. These two guys come out smiling their asses off at each other! The saw me, I nodded, and then they hurried off to wherever they were going... to get a beer I suppose. I never said anything to them about it but I sure did think about it for a long time!"
"You've told me several times that you think guys are sexy, but you've never been with one. Haven't you ever wanted to try it? Just once? Just to see what it's like? When you were younger?" He smiled a wicked smile. "I know you'd have liked it!"
"No," I told him. "Never. I can remember all the way back to junior high thinking that this guy or that guy was cute, but I never understood what those feelings translated into." And then I thought about it. "Until one weekend in my senior year."
Carroll raised an eyebrow and smiled evilly. "Sounds like thereby hangs a tale!"
I gave him a sour look. "Do you want me to tell this story or not?" I asked. He just smiled and settled back into the overstuffed chair in our den.
"Charlie and I had known each other since our junior year, and we were both sick to death of all the noise and hell-raising that came with living in the dorm. So we decided to get a trailer together. That was the cheapest way to go for off-campus housing, you see. There was this huge trailer park just off campus... the trailers were fairly old, but the landlady made everyone keep them clean, so it wasn't a bad place to be."
"We were both broadcasting majors. Charlie was not quite as tall as I was, but he had those chiseled features and doe eyes that made him a lady killer! The funny thing was he didn't seem to realize it. I can remember standing out in front of the campus radio station one day and these two girls walked by. As soon as they were past his line of sight they turned. One nodded at me and then they both looked him up and down and started giggling excitedly as they walked off. Poor Chuck. He never did believe me."
"Is this going somewhere, Uncle Jim?"
"It will if you'll shut the hell up! Now where was I? Oh, yeah. See, Charlie was an amputee. He'd lost the lower part of his left leg in a construction accident the summer between high school and the year he would have started college. He laid out a year to recover, and he learned how to use an artificial limb so well that no one knew it unless they were really around him for a long time!"
"So did he not date, or what?"
"Oh, yeah. He had all the dates he wanted. Some of the girls got turned off by the leg, but he had bedded his share of the honeys. Still, it never seemed like that meant very much to him. Anyway, there was this weekend when we went to Memphis to go to the 'nasties'."
"The pornos. I know this comes as a great shock to you nephew, but there was a time in the distant past, when I was your age, when there was no such thing as a VCR. At that point in pre-historic times, one had to actually go to a theater to see a pornographic film. The theaters where one went for this entertainment were referred to as 'Nasties'."
"So you and Charlie went to see the nasties. Was it a gay flick?"
"Afraid not. This was in the late 60's, and the gay movement was just beginning to make noises back in the back of the closet. This was straight boy-girl sex. And it was a HOT movie."
Carroll wrinkled up his nose and started to say something, but thought better of it.
"So anyway... we had seen a double feature and stopped at Pancho's to get some food for the drive home. We ate and talked about the movies. Charlie marveled at how the guy in the second film had been hung. He kept talking about how long it was."
"Damn, Jim," he'd said, "that son-of-a-bitch must have been at least 10 inches long! You think it was real or some sorta camera trick?"
"It looked real to me," I told him.
"They really know how to make a guy feel inadequate." Charlie shook his head.
"I thought yours worked OK," I said as I grinned at him.
"Oh, it works, but my little seven incher will never stand up to what that guy had!"
"Seven inches, eh?"
"Well, uh, not to be bragging. I... uh... well, hell! How big are you?"
I grinned again. "Seven inches."
"I always suspected you were pretty well endowed," Charlie said. "Anyway, enough of this shit. You mind if I slip my leg off? I've worn it too long today, and my stump's really gettin' sore."
"Suit yourself," I told him.
"So, anyway, nephew, he pulls up the pantleg of his bellbottom jeans..."
"Bellbottoms? Dear God in Heaven. Did you people have no idea of how to dress?"
"Hey. It's the 60's! He pulls the pantleg up and works a minute or so and drops that wooden leg of his on the floor of the car. Then I'll be damned if he didn't sit there the rest of the drive rubbing his stump!"
"And of course, you were already a hard core devotee at that point?" Carroll observed.
"Oh, but of course! I nearly had a wreck! But we finally got home. I started to get out of the car when Charlie opened his door then turned to me."
"Jim, will you come around and help me out? My leg is REAL sore."
"I told him 'Sure,' so I got out and went around to his side. He got out and stood on his right foot then bent back into the car and got his leg. He put his left arm around my shoulders and I helped him up the two steps into the trailer. I got my keys out and finally got the lock opened. Charlie let go of me and hopped to the couch and collapsed there. I sat down next to him."
"What happened next I still remember like it was yesterday. I didn't ask him about anything... I just reached over and started massaging his stump. I had never touched it before. Heck... I had only seen it a couple of times. Charlie ALWAYS went around with his leg on. Anyway, he smiled and me and said 'Thanks'. Then he pulled the pantleg up again, and rested the stump on my knee. I kept massaging it, and really spent some time examining it. He didn't say a word. He just kept looking at me, and smiling. I turned and looked at him. My hair had fallen down in my face, and he reached his left hand out and swept it back. His hand lingered a minute, and at that moment I had never wanted anything in the world as much as I wanted to kiss him!"
"Did you?"
"No. In retrospect, I know we both wanted to, but neither of us had the nerve to make the first move. I just got up and said I was tired. I brought him his crutches, and he went to his bedroom and I went to mine."
"Well, that's not much of a damn story, Uncle Jim!"
"It didn't end there, Carroll."
"Ah. NOW the good stuff!"
I looked sourly at him and continued. "About 20 minutes later, I heard familiar sounds coming from Chuck's room. I crept down the hall as quietly as I could. He had left the door to his room cracked..."
"He was wanting you to come in, Uncle Jim!"
"No shit. Not that I was smart enough to realize it. I slowly lowered myself to the floor in the hall, and I peered through the crack. I saw Charlie laying there on his bed, naked. He was so caught up in his own passion! I didn't know what to do!"
"I know what I'd have done!"
"Carroll, this is 1968! So, I did nothing. Nothing except have my own party there in the hall, watching him. I can still remember it. I thought the trailer was moving, the orgasm was so strong."
"Way more information than I really needed there, Unk."
"Shut the hell up. You wanted to hear the story!"
"So what happened? What did you guys do the next morning?"
"Nothing. We both played like nothing at all had happened."
"And you NEVER..."
"Nope. We graduated, and went our separate ways. I heard from Chuck several times through the 70's. He was in Washington, D.C. working with the National Center for the Arts in some capacity or the other. I lost touch with him until the mid 80s. In 1986 his mother sent me his obituary. It said that he had died of leukemia, but I knew better."
"So he really was gay?"
"Yes. And he was an early casualty of the plague."
"I'm sorry, Uncle Jim. I can see this hurts you even now."
"It's OK." I took a deep breath to compose myself. " It's just that I keep wondering what would have happened if I had taken my courage in my hands and pushed that door open..."
"Uncle Jim?"
"Yes, nephew?"
"You loved him, didn't you?"
"Yes," I admitted. "I did."
Carroll smiled. "You might have lived happily ever after." He paused. "But then you'd have never been my uncle."
I laughed. He was right. I looked at the kind, sensitive young man in front of me. Yes, not being his uncle would have been the far greater tragedy. I hugged him as my wife came through the door, asking for help unloading the car. We smiled at each other and headed for the front door to help her.

No comments:

Post a Comment