The most responsible task of an artist is to remember the journey from boy to man, then to express that journey lyrically or poetically, with a pen or with a brush, and then display it for the world’s partakers to find shelter and peace within it. Such a task calls for the trust of memory. Sometimes he finds it hard to remember what he remembers. Simply, that is, that there is entirely too much he’d like to forget. Memory is selective. He remembers being frightened: by the they that used him with indifference for the pleasure of what they yet did not understand. He was a boy. Only a boy… And this is not the story of a boy who played football or baseball or basketball; actually, this boy played no sports at all. But that statement might need be retracted because running is a sport. He ran endlessly. He ran from bullies who snorted and whose nostrils were filled with the exhaust of rage and disrespect and hatred. This boy was in panic before recess or any other unsupervised time with the other boys because the taunting and the teasing and the name calling and the threats: “fag,” “fairy,” “queer boy,” “gay boy”. “We are going to fuck you up.” “We are going to get you when you least expect it.” And this was school. Catholic school. A place surrounded by hooded characters who were supposed to keep him safe. This was school; a school founded upon the principles of the Almighty, but the Almighty seemed to have abandoned it, leaving this boy uncovered and exposed. Like roadkill available for vultures. These playground vultures chased him behind the school building, behind the old and sole oak tree. He leaned against the tree’s bark that was dark, grey, and roughly textured, hoping it was dark enough to make him invisible to these playground predators. He could feel their hot pursuit of him. It felt like the heat used to bind shoes to the hooves of a thoroughbred.
At this point it was clear that there was not one single place he belonged. Yes – memory is selective. So is belonging. He’d spent countless hours in tears searching for ways to belong. Weeping over the desire to authentically belong, to fit in, to be a part, to be chosen. Those times when he was selected – the season when he was chosen – is reminiscent of winter when the ground is hard and stubborn. When the bite of a New England winter breeze breathes a chill down your back that resembles the chill in this little boy’s soul. He was alone in both thought and physical space. Alone. Alone with his imagination and his magic way of creating a safe place for expression. He created a world where the colors were fluorescent and vibrant. He lived in pinks and shades of purple, those colors whose hew came from the boldness of red and surety of blue. He nestled in greens and yellows, colors whose makers were careful, cautious, and dependable. He took his rest from the terror of his real world in dreamscape – where he was blessed and accepted. The dreamscape would later save his life.
His first lover was his older brother – and this chilled his soul. There was no love in it; only subtle violence and intense pain that removed any thought of tenderness. The soul of a gay man by the mainstream’s limited thought is chilly. Is this what he would be titled? A gay man. A homosexual. He would come to hate such descriptors. This is what the insiders would one day think of him, deeming him the outsider. All because this young boy slept in the same bed with his older brother of seven years, and this arrangement would begin an education for the younger boy. In the evening, which seemed like every evening, this older brother, penis erect and rigid,would pull on and stroke it. Lying right there next to this young boy, this older brother would handle his physical instrument like a musical instrument. With increasing speed, hot breath, and sweat, he would play his instrument until the crescendo. The young boy’s curiosity would not be answered in words – but more in a join in of show and tell. This the boy found such to be confusing even as his own crescendo entered this concert that was once a solo performance now a muddled duet. What could be heard was sounding brass and tinkling cymbals between two brothers, the younger of whose body would respond with a tight sick feeling in his stomach, and the dirty, wet, disgusting crescendo now fell silent – until tomorrow night when he would feel like a wrinkled old prostitute once again. He thought his brother was nasty because he left such a mess. Ejaculation. Damp sheets. The young boy hadn’t had that part of the crescendo yet. He wondered if it was even necessary. It seemed to further distort the music. Further distorted his innocence. No one had told him anything. No mention of puberty or the fluids that resulted from the manipulation of their instruments. And he did not understand that this kind of “dirtiness” would one day save his life.
The evenings he spent tight in bed with his brother felt like a private matter until one day when he came home from school and went into his backyard. There was met by a group of the older brother’s friends. His blood ran cold; it was a similar chill to that of his progressively freezing soul. For a moment, he gave them his trust, thinking they might actually want to share honest space with him. While he gave not much thought to right and wrong, he instantly knew that he was wrong regarding their intent as they began to take pleasure in taunting this youthful lad, calling him “faggot,” “fairy,” “gay boy”. There are those words again. Those descriptors he was growing closer to hating. Suddenly, things changed they seemed more friendly, wanting him to stay around and talk. The boy preferred this to being taunted so he stayed. He stayed. This begged internal questions of himself. The kind of questions he was too immature to ask in real thought and most certainly, too immature to give a response. “Why would I stay? Why would I hang around with expectations of goodwill and acceptance from friends of my first lover who is also my first intrusion? Do I want to belong so much that I’d wait to disprove what I suspected might be their cruel choice to harm me?” Damn.
Private matters no longer private. The twisted philia was now manifesting in his circle as he could feel his own penis grow with the thick bulges of individual erections in his brothers’ friends tight Levi’s and corduroys. In his innocent attempt to fit, he lay stomach down on the blanket and began to move his hips back and forth as he forced his eyes to remain closed. He began to feel the sensations rising from groin to chest, like dough rising for breadmaking, only faster. Quicker. Similar to the memory of his older male cousin exploiting him to sit on his lap for what he called some sort of ride, which really was him grinding his penis against the boy’s bottom for his pleasure. He remembered that while the sound of zippers being unzipped and the snap of elastic waistbands of teenage underwear frightened him and called to him at the same time. The harsh going down sound that came from the pants whispered his name in an eerie, creepy, but familiar way. Then moans that sounded more animal than human blanketed the backyard like the blanket he lay on, and the lights from the deck of the house grew dim and took away any hint of sunlight. When it was over, when that last pleasurable tremor passed through his body, he ran home. Not looking back, trying to forget the scene, and the embarrassment of being a toy in a way he did not fully understand. He was no closer to fitting in, no closer to belonging. Belonging is selective. So is memory. He remembered feeling worthless to accommodate their lack of inner worth. Mistakenly, he also accommodated his own. It is a hot, hot summer’s day. The boy is walking to his sister’s house. Along the way he meets a peculiar man, at least a decade older than boy, now thirteen years old. The boy catches his nod, and a heat rises in his stomach similar to the uncomfortable warmth from the basement to the top floors of tenement housing. A stifling, unpredictable heat that is tough to inhale through. The boy is curious. So, he asks the man,
“What do you want?” The man replies, “What do you have?” The boy has grown to understand what this type of man would want from him and causes him to reply, “Do you want me to suck your dick?” The man responds, “Absolutely.” And off he went, following the man and the tenement heat in his stomach into the woods. This would be the first stanza in a raggedy song poem It’s a Chase. This is every day at 2:45 PM. The bell rings at the end of the school day, day after day, year after year. Accompanying the sound of the bell is the sound of “We are going to get you fag boy. We are going to kick your fucking ass.” And the chase began… It’s a I want what they have. By now, this boy has grown taller, stronger, virile and out and about he went, spinning heads wherever he was. And the boy would choose the most handsome, kindest man after circling the group of these men who gather in the most unnatural of places for some sort of feast. He wanted what they had…
It’s a they want what I have. The boy didn’t take long to realize that this group of men wanted him more than he wanted them, not being sure if anyone knew what they wanted. They wanted his small frame and everything hidden in its cracks.
This tender boy was an artist in the making. He is me. I am he. I am this boy, who did not have traditional boy events to tell, but had events – the kind of events that the man himself has trouble putting adjectives to. I hate adjectives. Descriptors are pointless. However, I am a man. I am a man brought into the world not from desire, but from duty. From the duty of my mother bestowed upon her as the same duty bestowed upon her mother before her, and none of duty-filled circumstances perfect. My father was cavalier, selfish, misogynistic… hateful. But he knew no other way to be. This is what he was taught to be. This is the garden he was planted in so this is the vegetation he grew to be. Once he had children, he became the gardener. Men… they always believe they are doing their best. I am a man. I am a gay man. I am an artist, who escaped traditional academia, which worried the hell out of the gardener. The gardener worried about what lay ahead for me. From age 16, I worked in the autobody shop, and I sold used cars for the gardener. I felt out of place and unsure – like a chess player whose knight is in danger of capture but is not skilled enough in the game to make a strategic enough move to prevent it. Business that reeked of misogynistic men. I am not a businessman. I am an artist. I am now licensed in the beauty industry as a hairstylist, an esthetician, and a make-up artist. I’m fabulous! And I feel fabulous for one of the first times in my life. Fabulous and accepting of my queerness because I am now in a field of employment that where it is acceptable, and even expected, to be me. The young boy searched for acceptance. I, now this tall handsome, alluring young man allure had grown to be intoxicating. Breathtaking. Gorgeous. Artist.
The approval of an SBA loan affords me the luxury of opening a gorgeous pink deco palace of a beauty salon, complete with my own private label skin care and make-up line. Named it Illusions by Marshall & Company. The key word: illusion. I had money at my disposal in addition to being tall, blonde, pretty, and sensual. After all, I was in the industry of looking your best. This is exactly as it should be. But running a full-service pink deco palace of a salon is a weighty responsibility, and maybe one that a 20-year-old narcissist should not have been trying to manage. I was cavalier about my appointments and lax in keeping them. When I did keep them, I was often late because I was thinking more about my penis as a styling tool than my hot comb. I had begun my search for someone to love and ready to use all of my newfound attractiveness to find that one. Physically attractiveness. Financial attractiveness. I had it all.