Parting Glances: Pages from a book (Pt. 11)

By |2018-01-16T15:22:42-05:00June 22nd, 2006|Opinions|

There was a time – oh, so long ago – when I would stand on the Hub Grill corner in downtown Detroit – and within five flattering and exciting minutes be offered a lift by some accommodating driver cruising the streets.
At 19 I was hot stuff – or so I fancied myself. (My sizzle was often a fizzle when it came to bedroom performance, until I started drinking for confidence and amorous dexterity.)
I took a risk hitchhiking – not because hitchhiking was dangerous – in the late-50s it wasn’t (until I encountered a would-be sadist, but that’s another story). The catch-six was that I was nearsighted and couldn’t see what a driver really looked like until seated next to him.
My fast exit line was, “Oh, my God, I’ve left my wallet with my draft board ID at the restaurant. Please take me back. I’ll just be a minute.” Of course, I had no intention of returning, choosy (and myopic) trick-tease that I was.
Standing on the corner one June evening I saw a tall, elegant guy strolling by, wearing trim Levi’s and a white T-shirt like actor James Dean. I liked the precision of his narrow-hipped walk – his erect carriage, much like that of a Flamenco dancer. (Oh lay!)
“Who’s that?” I asked proud, black-and-bold Miss Bruce, (actually a well-built factory worker) who knew everybody who took to the streets like circling hawks of prey. “That’s T.D., ‘Tall Dick,'” he said. “He’s your kinda man, honey.”
Miss Bruce made the intros. “T.D., this big bit o’chicken feed likes you,” he said and left, leaving me, new kid on the same-sex block, to carry on the small talk. T.D. listened comfortably, smiled neatly, and captivated me with his lanky presence. “Got time for coffee?”
When I was 19 if I slept with a guy twice I was “in love,” and T.D. soon became my first summer-of-coming-out romance. He was 25, lived in an upper flat with a gay couple, butch Hank and baby-soft Rick, and worked nearby at Highland Park General Hospital as an orderly.
The first night we were together T.D. played “Music For Lovers Only,” an LP with Jackie Gleason’s easy listening orchestra, and I took on an emotional and sentimental glow that kept me lighthearted for days – only the euphoria soon became flat champagne.
Some time during July, T.D. and I, Hank and Rick went sailing on the Detroit River. There was a soothing breeze, and I sat in the back of the boat, nestled safely in T.D.’s arms. I was content as we drifted serenely past Belle Isle and the Seven Sisters smokestacks. Screw what the world might think: I was happy to be gay, and so damn energetically alive.
As fall approached T.D. and I saw less and less of each other. He spent a lot of time with Eleanor, a straight friend his age. They became Ayn Rand Objectivism clones. T.D. told me that I shouldn’t get ‘swoony’ over him. I was young. Someone would come along really worth my time – the usual distancing technique that I, decades later, would use for ending my own alcoholic misalliances.
Our fledgling affair vanished for good Halloween Night. As I watched the colorful peacock drags parade at Farmer and Bates, pose, bow and turn, T.D. stopped and kissed me sweetly on the cheek. I didn’t recognize him at first. He was dressed all in fluttery feathers and a tapered silk-and-sky-blue sequined gown. Graceful. Lovely to look at. Simply stunning.
I felt totally betrayed.
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Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.