I was thinking about a long ago friend today. I really only knew him for a few months, but it was during an intense time in my life.
The summer I turned 20 I was living outside the back gate of Eglan AFB in the panhandle of Florida. My 1st husband was in the Air Force, my baby boy was going on 2, and I was angry. Very angry.
My husband had decided he needed more fun in his life, and had moved out to find it. In desperation, I complained to his commanding officer and he was forced to move move me in with his newfound room mate and go to counseling with a base chaplain. I won't go into all the gory details of the things I did to try to get even with my husband, and the story of singing with the chapel choir at the Vietnamese refugee camp is a story for another day.
Anyway, he ended up being required to live on base while I was renting a crap apartment and working as a topless cocktail waitress just outside the back fence of the base. And I was introduced to this gay guy that lived in a falling down house near by. He became my son's babysitter, and my friend.
This may seem unlikely, but we really had a lot in common. We both were in difficult life situations because of overbearing and controlling fathers. I was the blacksheep for getting knocked up and was forced into a marriage I really knew was not a good idea. He was the blacksheep for being gay and a druggy, way more drugs than my meager experiments. Turns out that when you are raised by a bipolar alcoholic, control issues can take a lot of the fun out of getting high or drunk.
So, I have this strange memory of us sitting and talking about our lives for hours. I don't know when we had time, I had a lot of other things going on. Maybe it was just that we clicked, and we shared so intensely it just felt like hours. He had this big question that haunted him, was he really gay or was it just a way to really hurt his high level Air Force officer father? He was also shocked that I had never tried cocaine. So he proposed an experiment.
Now, I know what you are going to say, it was all a scheme. I have tried to explain bits of this story to a few friends in the past, and that is about as far as it gets, that it was just his game. But really, it wasn't like that. We were really friends. But the idea was that he would get us some cocaine so I could try it, and he knew how it affected him, so we could try it out and see if he was really gay.
This was the mid '70's and I was having anger one night stands several times a week. This was really not that big a deal.
So, yes, he really was gay, and I hope I put his mind at rest. Before the end of the year I was back in Orlando, working as an erotic dancer.
I wish I could remember his name, I can sure remember his face. I hope he is out there somewhere tonight, settled somewhere nice with the love of his life, happy. But that was the '70's, we had no idea that there was this virus waiting to pounce just a decade later.
And here's the thing, I'm happy for my LGBTQ friends who have more freedom to love who they love. I've been getting to know a whole range of people in their 20's, even 30's, who grew up without as much angst about sexuality. I know it isn't across the board, and a lot of it probably has to do with living in California, but they are just so so aware and so accepting of whatever relationships work best for themselves and their friends.
Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different if I had had those same understandings, those same freedoms. I feel like my days of being able to experiment and try out new things over; the opportunities just aren't there. There are questions that will most likely go unanswered for me; questions I didn't even know how to ask at the time.
I hope that this freedom only continues to grow. People need to be able to be themselves.