the true stories
I made a friend right about the time I quit high school. He was a few years older than me and was the host of many parties I attended in those days. He had lived most his life in the States and so had I. We liked the same music. He wrote poetry and so did I. He read several books a week and so did I. He drank, smoked and cussed and so did I. He wore long hair and so did I.
The more we compared notes, the more we found in common. I was in need of a place to hang out due to the chaos that was my shaking my own family tree. His parents had turned over their basement to my new friend and there was ample room for me to stay for days on end. We listened to music, read and had lengthy discussions on almost every conceivable topic.
This fellow had two brothers. The younger brother lived at home upstairs and the elder brother came over almost every night to sit for dinner with the family. I called my friend L.A., after his hometown. His folks were warm generous prairie folk and suffered me to also sit to dinner with the family until my epic appetite decimated their grocery bill.
L.A.'s father had been a reporter in Hollywood. He had interviewed every movie star I had ever heard of. The dinners were fascinating for this man's remembered stories. I was in heaven because I love stories and L.A.'s father was in heaven because his family had tired of the stories long before I showed up.
After many adventures, I found myself renting my first basement suite. I soon kicked out my first room-mate on account of his being too messy and my next room-mate was L.A. I had never experienced the perfect harmony of that household before nor did I after until I married my third wife. It was a peaceful happy place.
L.A. and I never ran out of things to talk about and we saw eye to eye on all of the things we discussed. We existed like this until I hit the road. I couldn't keep still. I began boomeranging from Texas to North Vancouver and sometimes L.A. accompanied me. Down in Texas we were called the Gold Dust Twins, such was our obvious bond.
I was too busy for steady girlfriends and I had no skill at flirting. L.A. had friends galore and more than half of them were girls. I was not one to talk about sex or sexual things from a conviction that it is a personal and private aspect of life. In a million hours of conversation, L.A. and I spoke not of those topics. I had the impression that he knew far more about it than I ever would.
One day after cashing in my chips from a cook job at a truck stop, I found L.A. hard at work at a bookstore in North Van. He let me borrow his bosses typewriter to type up some prose I had written, while the woman was away for a few hours. She returned early and I was routed from the premises.
Out on the sidewalk as L.A. was apologizing, I suggested he quit the lousy job then and there and that the two of us start for Mexico at first light. He looked at me, the way a dog looks at you when you are throwing sticks and the creature is expecting a feint. I wasn't kidding and I waited outside while he did an Al Pacino scene in the bookstore. Ten minutes later we were at his parents basement packing his rucksack.
His dear mother insisted that I bring him back alive and that we stay for supper. While he was upstairs trying to explain the sudden turn of events, I had a smoke and began reading my friend's latest writings. I got more than I expected.
I didn't have time to read all of it but enough time to learn that my friend was gay and that he was and had been deeply enamored with me. I figured I knew him better than any living person, due to the time we had spent together and the complete sharing of our minds and hearts. It rocked my hetero boat.
We set off for Mexico the next morning and had a long eventful trip. I couldn't speak to him about what I had learned because I had to process an awful lot of thoughts, feelings and emotion first. I did this silently and on the surface everything was as it had always been.
On the return north, we pulled into Beaumont, Texas to my grandma's for fattening up. I got up to about 180 in a week and L.A. wasn't far behind. My normal weight is closer to 160. Southern cooking can do that to a man. We rested up and got ready for the final jaunt back north.
One afternoon as we sat under a big oak tree at a schoolyard, I found I was able to speak my mind. Now it was L.A.'s turn to be rocked onto his heels. We had it sorted out before heading back for gumbo and we both learned a lot.
I learned of his terrible burden of living a secret life of unexpressed emotions. L.A. learned of my feeling of betrayal in consequence of my sharing everything with him and him choosing only bits of himself to share with me. I was righteously pissed off and he understood why. He had been too frightened to be open with me and I understood why.
It was made clear to him that it made no difference to me, I just like to know who I'm dealing with when I start sharing with someone to the degree in which we conducted our friendship. The trip to Vancouver was wonderful and I could see a huge burden had been left under the old oak in the bayous.
We discussed the pros and cons of him coming out of the closet. It had to be his decision and I told him I would support him either way. I also told him that my vote was for him to come out, let the chips fall where they would and that any person or family member that dropped out of his life as a result was of no real consequence. This I reasoned because if they only liked him for what they thought he was, he really didn't know who his friends and allies were. That is not a good way to conduct the battle of life.
He thought long and hard after we got to town and one day made up his mind. He found out that he was many times braver than he knew. He told all his friends, co-workers and his ex-employer. I was invited to the evening on which he was to tell his family. It was a momentous occasion and none of them saw it coming.
We gathered at the dinner table for a tremendous meal and everyone expected to be entertained with tales of the Mexican road. They were indulged a bit before L.A.'s father took up the slack with anecdotes from his Hollywood days. Sooner than we knew it, supper was over and we were gathered in the living room for coffee and smokes. It was now that my friend dropped his bomb.
“Mom, Dad, everyone... I have an important announcement to make.”
His tone was different from usual and this garnered just the right amount of attention from all hands. His father was lighting his pipe, his mother was stirring her coffee, his elder brother was sipping his coffee and I was breathing slowly and deeply. There was a pause and all hands looked at L.A.
No explosions went off. His mother didn't faint. His brother didn't spew coffee. His father began an immediate lengthy discourse on all the gay movie stars he had interviewed and his brother began to list all the famous scientists, writers and generals in whose company L.A. was now a declared member.
L.A.'s younger brother piped up from his bedroom down the hall, “Hey you guys, so am I!”
It was a magical evening to be sure. Reality is what it is. There was a certain percentage of “friends” who dropped out of L.A.'s life like full ticks off a cow's ear and the entourage at his famous parties got noticeably smaller. There were new friends whom he made by being himself. He encouraged many who had been in his former predicament to follow his example. I was damn proud of him.
Some people shunned me afterward because of my association with L.A. This I happily bore. L.A. and I drifted apart over the ensuing years and it took me a long time to understand why. A gay man I worked with framed it up in a way I could understand decades later. He told me that for L.A. to hang around me, would be like me hanging around a girl I was madly in love with while she conducted her marriage and family-building with someone else. Now, that ain't rocket science.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.