My first memory is of my father yelling, "Get out of my way you worthless piece of shit!" and backhanding me so hard I bounced off of the refrigerator door. I was three years old at the time. That's actually better than my second memory which is when my mother heard this and came running to deflect his attention away from me and ended up with a split lip and multiple bruises for her trouble. Unfortunately this was the first of many such events. The story of my early life is pretty depressing, but I hope you'll stick around for the happy ending. I can't tell you how glad I am that I did!
Dad had seduced Mom when she was barely fifteen and been pressured by his parents into marrying her when she got pregnant with me. He was twenty-four years old and there was a good chance he might have done time on a jail bait rap if he hadn't. Apparently it was OK to exploit a young girl in those days if you "made an honest woman of her." When her new husband turned out to be a mean drunk, Mom had few resources to get away. Her education had stopped her sophomore year in high school and her parents turned their backs on her because of her pregnancy. She was resigned to her fate until Dad started slapping me around. Then she vowed to do whatever it took to get us out.
Mom worked all day and secretly went to school at night to better herself. A nice old lady in our apartment building felt so sorry for us that she looked after me for free. Dad was too drunk to notice how much Mom was gone and too busy with all the young girls he was still chasing. By the time I was six she had earned a college degree and gotten a job in a town at the other end of our state. We left without a backward glance. We heard several years later that Dad had died in a drunken fall down a staircase. Neither of us wasted any tears over him.
In our new town Mom tried hard to make up to me for the past. Her job, when she first started, gave us a decent place to live and plenty of food on the table, but not a whole lot extra. One luxury she insisted on paying for, though, was music lessons for me. I fell in love with the first guitar I ever saw. She found me a wonderful teacher who could introduce me to the basics of several styles of music. Like any kid I saw myself playing rock and roll, but to my surprise I was drawn to classical guitar music. Miss Dobbs, my teacher, made sure I was well grounded in all sorts of styles, but she started teaching me the great classical pieces when I was still very young. Women are usually underrepresented in the pantheon of great guitar players, but Miss Dobbs was damn good, especially as a blues player. Right from the beginning music was the central joy of my life.
Mom was worried about me not having any male role models so she also enrolled me in several activities at the local community center which were led by male volunteers. One guy in particular, whom I'll call Mr. X because he doesn't deserve the dignity of a real name, taught judo and woodworking classes and made a point of being nice to me. From the start, when I was only eight years old, he singled me out from the other kids and invited me to do special things with him, like go out for ice cream after class. In this day and age most parents would be suspicious of his interest, but Mom had no inkling he was being anything but kind to a fatherless young boy. After all, he was a well thought of married man who claimed that he taught kids because he'd always wanted to be a father, but his wife couldn't get pregnant. In Mom's mind it was a perfect situation: a child needing fathering and a man anxious to give it.
Mr. X gained my confidence and then betrayed me in the worst possible way. Of course he told me it was all about love. I started to mature early and by the age of eleven I looked much older. I began lifting weights at the center and was developing a young man's body. Mr. X started to lose interest in me and I didn't know how to take it. I was totally confused by that time about what love and sex were all about. Being a smart kid, I started reading about it and came across the word "pedophile." Suddenly it became clear that Mr. X's interest had waned because I was no longer a child. What he did to me had nothing to do with love, but was about some twisted sexual appetite.
A year or two later he got caught with some poor kid's pants down and was arrested. I remember being shocked because I still sort of believed I was the only one. I've always told myself that if I'd thought he would do it to another kid I would have turned him in. When he was arrested my mother was horrified and came to me asking if he'd ever tried anything like that with me. I knew she'd be eaten up with guilt if I told the truth so I said "no." Maybe if I'd been honest I could have gotten help and the next few years would have been different.
I think that's when what I came to think of as "the wall" grew around my feelings. I just shut down. I felt nothing for anyone, except my mother. I knew her love was real, however misguided, since she obviously didn't realize how defective I was. The rest of the world, however, was never going to get to me again. I put a mental shield around everything that was tender in me to protect myself.
Just to make this part of my life more confusing and painful, my own sexual thoughts and feelings began to develop. I started getting hard-ons when I looked at pictures of people who were attractive to me and since sex was old news to me, I had no hesitation about relieving the tension myself. I was scared spit less about the whole thing, though, because the people I was attracted to were men.
Now, I know there are endless theories about how this happens. Was I gay from birth or because my father rejected me or because I had been molested by a man? Who the hell knows? From what I read, science has yet to determine what causes any of us to form the sexual orientation we do, hetero or homo. To me, it didn't much matter where it came from, anyway. It was how I was.
I knew what society thought about gays so I kept quiet and didn't act on my feelings for several years. In the last year of high school a male classmate came on to me because, he said, I was the most beautiful man he'd ever seen and I never had a girl around, so he was hoping I was gay. It's true there was never a girl in my life. I love women, but I've never had a desire to sleep with one. Like it or not, my future was clearly with my own sex. I got it on with the guy and it was pretty satisfying physically, but emotionally I remained numb. He introduced me to some older gay friends and they were all over me immediately. I never needed to have a lonely Saturday night again.
I began to understand the rules of gay culture right away, at least as it was practiced in our town. There was a clear pecking order and stepping outside it seriously reduced one's status. Basically it amounted to the fact that young, good-looking guys could put their cocks wherever they wanted and older or unattractive ones were grateful receivers. If a top status guy went down on somebody it was considered a magnanimous gesture, but only the low ranked guys took it in the ass. I came into the group as a top-of-the-heap stud. Everybody wanted to service me and I admit I loved it. The emptiness of this behavior didn't escape my notice, but since I was determined never to connect emotionally with anyone again, I was willing to live with it.
By the time I graduated from high school, I was six foot four, with a dark beard, and a deep voice. It was easy to get into gay nightclubs, especially since the door guards were given large tips for NOT checking the ID of the best looking young studs. I went there often and let good-looking men pick me up. I never wanted anything from them except sex, so I hardly ever gave them my name or paid attention to theirs. For awhile I really thought I was enjoying myself. What gay guy wouldn't love to have a dozen great looking men fighting to go down on him? Or any number of less attractive ones begging him to fuck them? Yet, every time I went there I felt the hole in my gut that had been there forever, getting bigger and bigger. I became steadily more depressed. I'd use sex like a drug to dull the pain. Sometimes it was gratifying enough that I didn't think about suicide for several days.