Parting Glances: Book pages (Pt. 18)

By |2018-01-16T00:05:41-05:00October 31st, 2017|Opinions|

Going to New York City in mid-July was a mistake. Temperature was in the 90s. Air conditioning was limited to offices and entertainment venues. Ten minutes onto the pavements, we perspired from our ducktail-combed heads to our spit-polish penny loafers.
We slept days and went partying nights. The trade off was annoying. My daytime sleep was constantly interrupted by the bladder-provoked suspicion that someone interesting was taking a shower three doors down the hall, and it was my duty as a YM – C for Clean – A! guest to scrub his back.
I slept with Jerry my first weekend at Sloan House. I was flattered he had taken a fancy to me from the moment he set his chicken-hawk eyes on me as I lobby registered, excited to be in the Big Apple, polishing same. We cuddled alot on a very narrow, but artfully compliant bed. Jerry told me about his Pentecostal family in Ohio, his job as a hospital orderly, his 4F military service status.
When we awoke I treasured the token of patchouli scent pressed ever so gently (or was it roughly?) from his body onto mine. I knew if I spent more time with him I would probably fall head over heels “in love”, as I had just done physically. We dressed leisurely. Had breakfast at a busy automat. Took off for sight-seeing. I left Gary and Richard doing whatever they were negotiating (with body parts and/or books) on their separate, territorial turfs. I was not about to share “my” Jerry (especially with Richard).
Jerry and I took in Times Square, as-yet-sleeping Broadway, and the, staid, midsummer silent Metropolitan Opera – “where,” Jerry said confidentially, “some gay men have zippers sewn in the back of their pants for convenience in the crowded SRO section.” (I made a mental note to see my tailor, if ever I took a hankering for Grand Opera or intermission buttered pop corn.)
On top of the Empire State Building we stood close, on the edge of our conjoined vertigos. Like every tourist that vividly sunlit day I was razzle-dazzled, vowing to move to New York as soon as I turned 21. On the crowded down elevator, I felt someone delicately pitter-pat my back pocket. “It wasn’t me,” said Jerry, once on to Fifth Avenue at 34th. “Have you got your wallet?”
At 3 o’clock the heat was overwhelming. We bought tickets for “Rebel Without a Cause,” starring James Dean. (I saw the film twice more. Once with literary Gary – carrying John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” – and once with ever-horny Richard, accompanied by two, 30-year-old, Brooklyn bambin-o-boys.)
Killing time at a movie in New York was a vacation let down. But the Roxy – even without the Rockettes – was igloo cool, and I was happy to secretly hold hands with Jerry, as we watched the screen and an obviously gay (or myopic) guy change seats – supposedly for better viewing – four times.
Jerry and I celebrated our last night together in a bar in Greenwich Village. (It’s been so long ago. Was it the Bon Soir?) The step-down, small-table setting was intimate. The Juke box played hits by Roberta Sherwood, a ballad singer discovered by power-broker, S.O.B. columnist Walter Winchell.
These days I occasionally listen to Sherwood songs. Two are remembered favorites: “Ace Down in the Hole,” and “I’ll Cry Me a River.” When Jerry checked out he hugged me long, asked me to write him soon; waved too-briefly goodbye. I felt empty. Alone. ‘Til Fire Island checked in.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander