Mattie Lennon Irish Author- TAPHOPHILES AND GRAVEYARD SEATS.

TAPHOPHILES AND GRAVEYARD SEATS.

By Mattie Lennon.

 

Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards, I take the air there willingly, perhaps more willingly than elsewhere, when take the air I must. (Mary Beckett.)

   It would appear that people of a literary bent are fascinated by graveyards. And why wouldn’t they. One intellectual told me that the only place they can concentrate properly is in a cemetery.  One friend of mine who is fairly handy with the pen but not so sure about the existence of a hereafter would spend all day in burial grounds. Being on holidays with him is a bit like being with the Bronte sisters.    He has a good sense of humour and is not offended when I call him a “Tombstone Tourist.”  Although he once informed me that the correct term for someone who loves cemeteries   is “a taphophile “. He then went into pedantic mode and informed me that his interest is known as “graveing.”

   While I don’t   fully share my friend’s penchant for burial grounds I have accompanied him on several “graving” trips. (On one occasion a gravedigger took a look at me and said, “It’s hardly worth your while going home.”)   I found the experience most interesting and I can appreciate the peace and tranquillity to be found there. In his poem   A Country Graveyard in County Kerry. Martin Delany captures it very well in the following stanza,

I have been through this graveyard many times savouring

The withering flowers wafting in the wind, the weeding

Of old graves, the scent of mown grass on sun beamed days,

The laughter of men digging new highways to eternity.

Thomas Gray described his surroundings in vivid detail in Elegy in a Country Churchyard. And while I have you, take a look at the line, “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.”  Now, have a go at juggling the words around. You may be even surprised at how many ways you can use those words while being grammatically correct and conveying the same message.

It is claimed by oneirologists  that if you dream that you are standing, walking or sitting in a graveyard you can expect a peaceful, quiet and happy life.  Standing and walking is no bother but our burial places don’t offer many places to sit.     In many countries you will find seats in graveyards,  In the Jewish cemetery, many graves have a seat at their foot,  but in Ireland  it is not the norm.   There are of course some with seating,  New Abbey Cemetery in Kilcullen, county Kildare and the Huguenot Cemetery in Dublin are examples , but they are the exception.

    Recently, in Munster, an applicant was refused permission to erect a seat close to their family plot.  On learning of this your humble scribe contacted every local authority on the island of Ireland. And guess what.  The aforementioned was the only refusal for such a project in the last ten years.

Many Council representatives emphasised that they hadn’t ever refused permission hat a cemetery seat. “Limerick You’re  a Lady” how are ye. There is no reason not to have more seating in Irish cemeteries.  There is no legislation to prohibit the erection of seating provided it’s in a safe location.  I’m sure those who drafted the Rules and Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds, 1n 1888, did not envisage the families of the deceased being deprived of an opportunity to sit down beside their loved ones.

   In most burial grounds in the UK families are allowed to sponsor a memorial seat to be placed in the cemetery and do not require planning permission for this. The seat is only sponsored and therefore remains the property of the Cemetery.

Mattie Lennon  mattielennon@gmail.com

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Randy Ford Author- INTRUSION

INTRUSION

by Randy Ford

Chapter One

Albert Humphrey was about to fall asleep when he found himself in handcuffs. He and Buddy were in bed after midnight after police burst through the door. Albert had one arm around Buddy. They were startled … They were holding each other when police burst into their bedroom. Albert and Buddy were startled and one of them … or both of them … should have gotten up from bed before police burst in on them. Police were carrying flashlights and shinning them in their faces, so Albert couldn’t make out who they were. Police were efficient. They were efficient when they placed Albert and Buddy in handcuffs.

They checked the rest of the apartment for other people without searching it. It’s important to note police didn’t search Albert and Buddy’s apartment because they didn’t have a warrant. The police looked through the apartment rather than searched it because they needed a warrant to search it. They were careful not to search it. They had only “probable cause” when they burst in and caught the two men in bed together.

They placed Albert and Buddy in the back seat of a squad car without telling them anything. Albert assumed they were being arrested and were being taken to the main police station in downtown Dallas. They lived downtown, so he assumed he and Buddy would be taken to the downtown police station where Albert assumed they would be questioned and find out more. He had encountered police before and knew the drill. Albert still felt confused, confused and angry.

It was then that Albert noticed that the two policemen in the front seat were laughing and joking and could tell that they were laughing and joking about what they saw … about seeing he and Buddy in bed together. Did they see anything more? Albert tried to remember: were they doing anything other than lying in bed together? Were they doing anything other than having their arms around each other? Albert felt he knew, but could he be sure? It had become a blur. Albert thought he knew … thought he knew that they only had their arms around each other. Right then he wasn’t sure because it had become a blur. It later could become important.

Now Albert was frightened, afraid, and felt like screaming. He couldn’t believe what was happening to him. He couldn’t believe what was happening to Buddy and him. Couldn’t believe it. Sitting in their undershorts, in a squad car, heading for the downtown police station, what could be worst? They should’ve been allowed to put their pants on. Where were his pants? At least he and Buddy had their undershorts on.

Albert banging on the cage mesh that separated them from the two men in the front asked, “What’s going on here? We have a right to know. We have rights” Instead of screaming he asked, “What’s going on here? Are we being charged? What’s the charge?”

You’ll find out.”

What kind of answer is that. You’ll find out.”

You know what we found. You know what we saw. You know what you were doing.”

And then everyone was silent because Albert knew that the policemen weren’t going to tell them anything. He knew then he’d have to wait until they got to the police station before they found out.

It was then that Albert noticed that he was frightened, although apparently he was frightened before then, frightened when police burst into his and Buddy’s bedroom. Albert’s mind raced ahead, but he was too frightened to make sense of it.

He knew it wouldn’t help to scream and finally he calmed down. “Buddy, Buddy, what did we do?” And then Albert knew. He knew he was being persecuted because he loved someone.

It was the saddest moment he could remember. It was a sad day because he thought that finally he had it worked out. Fortunately it wasn’t the end of the world. He told himself it wasn’t the end of the world. He still believed in the judicial system, but he still didn’t know what was going on. He felt he would soon get an explanation. Poor Albert. He still believed in the judicial system and in his mind he didn’t think he and Buddy committed a crime. It seemed like all gays were being hassled then. What terrible fate could happen to him now when he already loss so much. Seven years of marriage and two children, and to top it off, loss of his parish. It was concluded by his church that he was “unacceptable in the work of the ministry.” Unacceptable to work for the Lord! Imagine!

A sad story, but not the end of the world for Albert. Albert had Buddy, and he loved Buddy.

Though his divorce was amicable, for Albert it was like a long wake. It all came out and he didn’t have a choice, or did he have a choice? Didn’t have a choice … When the decision was made it seemed unnatural, and still seemed unnatural or dishonest. Everyone they knew found out; his congregation, all Albert’s associates and the Bishop, his Bishop. A parishioner hired a detective to dig up whatever dirt he could find. His wife went back to San Antonio with his girls. Alice went back to San Antonio with his girls.

His marriage was doomed from the beginning. At an early age Albert knew, knew he was different, knew he had feelings that were forbidden. He knew before he knew what being gay was. Later he would say that he should’ve listened to his feelings. No, that wasn’t right. He loved his girls, though he knew he caused them pain. He knew. He remembered seeing their faces. He remembered, remembered everything … such vivid memories.

Everyone believed Albert was destined for the ministry, his mother, his father, members of the Methodist church he grew up in. He was as devout as a boy could be, and at an early age he let it be known that he felt called to be a minister. Yes, called, and he made it known when he was first joined the church. He made it known. And yes, even then, Albert anguished over his sexual orientation. Even then he knew he was homosexual … homo … queer … yes, queer … gay. Yes, when he became a minister he knew he was gay. But then he could say nothing about it and waited for the inevitable failure of his marriage. He knew when married Alice he was gay.

After Alice left him, and after their divorce, Albert thought he would hear from his ex-wife more often than he did. She promised she would write him … write him about their girls. She promised to write to him about their girls. And he promised to write her back and tell her about himself. Few letters came. Few letters went out, and it made him angry. He expected to hear more than an occasional letter. He was expected to pay child support. He wanted to pay child support. He paid child support, so why didn’t he hear more? He had rights. His girls had a right to hear from their father, to know him, to know who he was, know he loved them. Still, yes still, he kept up his child support and drove to San Antonio to see them. He drove to San Antonio when he could … at least once a month.

Everything was worked out before the divorce (it is never totally worked out), and the two lawyers did the talking. It was cut and dry, procedural, and over very quickly, too quickly for Albert. His two girls weren’t there. Albert wasn’t sure where they were. He wanted to see them. He wanted to see them and tell them he loved them. He wanted to tell them that he was still there for them. He wanted to see them to make sure they were okay. Surely they were okay. He was quite certain that they were okay. They had a good mother. Alice was a good mother. Maybe some last minute adjustments to the divorce decree would’ve been helpful. Maybe if they hadn’t been so amiable. Maybe if they had been more specific as to visitation it would be less difficult. Maybe.

There was little concern about details, when both parents were anxious to move on. Both parents wanted to move on. Both lawyers wanted to move. Their lawyers thought it was a good idea to collect their fees and move on. Since it was amicable why drag it out? Since it was amicable they thought they could work it out later, could work together. So they didn’t work out many details concerning their children. Let the parents work out details. Someone should’ve advised them that complications could arise. Someone should’ve advised them that there were always complications. As devoted Christians, Albert thought that they could work things out. He thought there wouldn’t be many problems. He thought they could work it out. Oh why did he think they could? Why? That was what his ex-wife thought and wanted too. Why? He thought he knew Alice. He thought he could trust Alice.

At that moment, while she was reestablishing herself in San Antonio, Alice didn’t admit that she was angry. She thought she could work through it. She didn’t blame Albert. She couldn’t blame Albert. It wasn’t Albert fault. It wasn’t his fault for being who he was. She blamed herself for not seeing it; except she knew. Yes, she knew way before he told her, knew, knew he was different so she blamed herself, and was angry. She had stopped crying. Tears were gone. She made sure her girls hadn’t seen her tears. Now she had to move on. So she wanted to put as much distance between herself, her girls … the three of them and Albert as possible. So she moved with her girls to San Antonio.

Separation wasn’t as difficult as she expected, and her girls got to see daddy once a month when he drove down from Dallas. At first he intended to see them more often than once a month, but after a while the drive became longer and longer and harder and harder. Anticipation was the hardest part. Knowing he would have to say goodbye to his girls was the hardest part. Each time he had to get hold of himself, and it got harder and harder. But he didn’t want to lose contact with them. He wanted them to know their father. He loved them and didn’t want to lose contact. He wanted them to know he loved them. And he remembered to pay child support. Then, as if all this was not enough, he fell in love with Buddy. And he considered it a miracle.

But this was not the miracle he sought. It was not the culmination of a life long journey for he heard the voice of God at a very early age. And he was ordained in a church that considered his conduct a sin, and now he was in love with another man … Buddy. For the rest of his life, he thought, he felt sure he would have to face this. He wasn’t one of those afflicted with the idea that his sexual activity was a sin. Everyone sinned. He believed everyone sinned, fell short in the eyes of God, but as far as he was concerned what he and Buddy did in their bedroom was not a sin. In his mind it was no more a sin than what he and Alice did in their bedroom when they were married. But he knew in his church few people agreed with him. Then where could he and Buddy go? What could they do because he heard the voice of God at an early age? And he felt called to be a minister.

Buddy, Buddy!” Albert called to him, looking for answers. “Are we living in sin or not? Is it an act of God or of Satan that has brought us together. I’ve never said this to my perishers. I would never tell them. I would never tell them that I don’t believe in Satan or the devil, though I believe in evil, evil men and women.”

At that point Buddy, despite his not listening, rejected the idea of evil. This shocked Albert. “What about men like Hitler?”

Hitler was human.” Albert couldn’t disagree with Buddy. And he wondered why they were talking about Hitler. He didn’t want to talk about Hitler. “Don’t you dare!” he screamed at Buddy, charging him with insensitivity. “You can’t say Hitler wasn’t an evil man. If there was ever an evil man, Hitler was one.”

Yet God forgave him.”

Don’t start talking about God and forgiveness! That’s too easy.” Later Albert apologized by saying “forgiveness is a miracle.” And then he said with smile, “And don’t forget who the preacher is in this household.” Yes, he loved Buddy, and yes, it was a miracle … a miracle.

Oh, my God! A preacher! That’s what I would want to be. A preacher! That would really be something. A blasphemous idea, if you ask me. We’re in enough trouble as it is.”

The verdict is still out. We’ll see.” Yes, the verdict was still out whether they were part of a real miracle or were sinning. Sinning … it was never that simple. Deciding, unfortunately wasn’t up to them. And Albert knew it. He knew that his and Buddy’s behavior, or relationship, was considered scandalous and outrageous considering his position in the church; considering he was a minister, a minister of the Methodist church. To many people it was also scandalous and outrageous even if he weren’t a minister. After all, to many people, homosexuality was considered a sin. And it was impossible for Albert to accept.

It took a while for them to settle down. It took much longer for them to fall asleep. Albert pictured God looking down on them. No, not really but sort of. Buddy seemed peaceful. He seemed to be sleeping soundly. Well, Buddy wasn’t a Christian, and this made it easier for him … Buddy. It didn’t matter to Albert. It didn’t matter to Albert that Buddy was agnostic. Well, Albert had his own doubts but was sure he heard God’s voice at an early age.

Listen Buddy,” he announced, “it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t believe in hell, and I don’t believe we’re sinning.

Then if there is no hell, we won’t see each other in heaven.”

For sure you won’t make it,” Albert laughed. “And if you won’t I won’t. Come on, Buddy. Hell only exists on earth. And heaven … heaven, well … We all go through hell from time to time. Yes, yes, maybe you’re right. Maybe. Maybe there’s no literal places … no hell or heaven … only what we put ourselves through. All we can do is seek guidance. I’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for guidance.”

Cut it out!” And they both laughed.

I’m serious. I always pray for guidance.”

I know you do. I see you praying.”

With effortless emotion they felt in harmony with each other. It may have been imperfect harmony, but it was effortless. Though they were men, they were gentle with each other, and in harmony, brought about by their love for each other. “No, Albert,” he corrected him when Albert got ahead of him. “Remember I’m in no hurry.” With that stated, they had satisfying sex … sex like Albert had never had before.

Once ground rules were established (although Albert struggled over what he was taught by his religion and his feelings for Buddy), they continued their relationship in spite of everything.

Being gay, notwithstanding, there was much to work through and for this reason Albert struggled and for this reason he needed time alone, away from everyone, even away from Buddy.

For a brief period after his divorce, he drove once a week back and forth from Dallas to San Antonio to see his kids. This long trip gave him time to think, but because of commitments in Dallas this became more and more difficult. He still had his church then, so it became more difficult as obligations increased as his church grew. So he saw his girls less frequently, and their mother talked about changing their last name. Change their last name! What was she thinking? Why?

During this time his homosexuality remained clandestine. People knew he was divorced. People of his congregation knew it and accepted it because he was likeable. They accepted it because he was likeable his sermons were good. Straight out he was likeable, was a good man, a good minister, and funny thing was (but perhaps not so funny considering how many of the them felt about homosexuality) many of them suspected he was gay. Buddy never came around Albert’s church, so they didn’t know about him. Buddy was agnostic, so he never came around Albert’s church.

Albert and his ex-wife were childhood sweethearts. They each grew up in a church and ended up in seminary together. Alice knew she loved Albert. Albert wasn’t so sure he loved her. He had doubts. He always had doubts and felt like doubting Thomas. But before he went out into the world, he felt he had to get married. Alice wanted to get married sooner than later. She knew she loved Albert. But they couldn’t live together until they got married, so Alice wanted to get married. At the time neither one of them believed in non sanctified union. Besides, even then, Albert was secretly experimenting with men. And he had doubts. But despite this, right after they entered seminary, they married. They went to SMU and lived in an apartment in Dallas right after their marriage.

Albert always remembered that apartment, as he did the bad year they lived there, when they both were consumed with their studies. After Alice got pregnant, it changed both of them. Upon receiving the news, Albert felt better, felt elated, and felt like he now had a purpose, a purpose for their marriage. These were normal feelings, he knew and gave him a reason to think his marriage wasn’t a mistake.

Alice tried to finish the semester, but she had other things on her mind. She was going to be a mother. She had always wanted to be a mother. Now she was going to get her wish if … there were always ifs … unlike the rest of the women in her family she was determined not to lose or miscarry her first child, though she anticipated a difficult birth. She knew stories, had heard stories all her life of how many women in her family lost children at birth. This gave her an appreciation of how fragile life was. So she knew she had to take care of herself and her baby and why she dropped some of her courses.

Alice fell in love with Albert in high school. She wanted to get pregnant then and have to get married. She wanted to have Albert’s babies then. But she was a good Christian girl and would at least have to wait until after she graduated; and Albert knew he wanted to wait.

Albert wanted to go to college. And he had already heard God’s voice, and he wanted to go to seminary. He told his parents. He told his church. Every knew, so he was expected to go to college and become a minister. That didn’t really suit Alice but what choice did she have? She loved Albert. So she went to seminary too. It was agreed then they’d get married after college. It would’ve been a terrible thing had Alice gotten pregnant before then, a cause for concern for a gay man entering the ministry. Remember sodomy then was crime, a crime against man and God … and a crime in Texas. It would’ve been a terrible thing had Alice gotten pregnant when she wanted to get pregnant … when they still were in high school and before they were married.

Occasions when Alice let people know she loved Albert (of course when Albert wasn’t around) were many. All her girlfriends knew. Most people who saw them together also knew. They could see it in her face, her eyes and her face. They could see her devotion to Albert. All through high school they went steady, and they could see it. But did Albert know how she felt, how she felt … that she never questioned her love for him. Then did she questioned his love for her?

Alice tagged along with Albert and his friends for several years before he made a decision. It was not that he didn’t like Alice and even loved her. It was something else. There was something else. There was something he couldn’t talk about. And off he went all that time not knowing who he was, or did he know? During that time was he pretending? And all that time he had to prove himself to be a man.

Years later he still thought about it. A marriage and two girls later he still had questions, and finally with his loved for Buddy, he finally felt free; only he had obligations. He had a church and a congregation to face. And at the time he felt sure that no one connected with his congregation or his church knew about his relationship with Buddy.

Alice and his girls were moving on. They were moving on without him. That is, Alice remarried and his girls had accepted a new father, a hard-working bank executive. It didn’t take long for this to happen, not as long as Albert thought it should have. Alice hadn’t known her new husband very long. Albert just hoped, for his girls’ sake, he was reliable. Albert had to believe Alice knew what she was doing. He believed that she was beyond reproach in most ways. He maintained this image of her … from the time he first knew her, throughout their marriage and divorce he maintained this image of her. He hadn’t seen much acrimony.

He and Alice, Alice Miller, were considered a perfect couple. Whatever that meant. Both were raised in the same church. They were childhood sweethearts who got together at church, and went to the same university, and ended up marrying when they entered seminary. They waited until they both graduated from college.

Albert worked his way through college because his family didn’t have much money, Albert and his family lived in a poor section of the valley, and his father sometimes worked double shifts. His father was hard-working and proud of his sons’ academic accomplishments. He worked as a supervisor for the sanitation department. He worked double shifts to send Albert to college.

As it was, while he and Alice did what was expected of them when they married when they did, Albert wasn’t sure he was ready to commit himself to a marriage, because he just didn’t understand his feelings. Since he heard God’s voice at an early age, any objection seemed self-defeating. Considering everything … considering expectations … it seemed as if the right thing to do. Marriage seemed to right thing to do. Marriage to Alice seemed obligatory. It seemed unfair to let Alice down. It seemed unfair to call off a marriage for after all they were childhood sweethearts.

But as for Alice’s family, sometimes, when Albert thought about her background and his father working for the sanitation department, he felt depressed. He had always felt defensive and self-conscious about this difference, though there was no need for him to be defensive or self-conscious. He didn’t remembered telling Alice where his father worked. He never told her where his father worked, but she knew. They wouldn’t have associated had they not gone to the same church, for he suspected she wouldn’t have had anything to do with him.

Usually Alice did not look down on people. She made a point of not looking down on people, and Albert’s father’s occupation didn’t make a difference to her. It disappointed her that it did Albert.

Alice couldn’t wait until she got out of college … couldn’t wait until she got married … married to Albert but she would do it properly. She would have a proper wedding, a traditional one … a wedding in her church with all the trimmings. And that was how girls/women thought those days. Except for Alice, those days crimped her style. She didn’t like restrictions placed on her. This was before drugs and coed dorms. This was before couples lived together before marriage. This was before people went to college and became radical. This was when there was a distinction between christian schools and state schools. Alice hadn’t known what to make of friends who went to state schools and certainly didn’t want to copy their behavior as long as she was going out with Albert. But there was something inside her that made her want to rebel.

Alice would’ve run off and gotten married had she not been a Christian, and Albert heard God’s voice, which made it harder. She also wanted to have a church wedding with a white dress. She knew what she wanted and did just that. Always later she said she wouldn’t have had it any other way.

What? Did she know then that Albert was gay?” She later asked herself, asked herself that question and it lingered in her mind for a long time. But she wouldn’t admit it if she had known he was gay. From the beginning of their relationship she knew Albert was different. It was what she found attractive about him. He seemed mysterious, spiritual. She remembered him saying he heard God’s voice. How many people heard God’s voice?

Maturity. Alice always seemed mature. When she was young she seemed mature for her age. Compared to other girls her age, she was mature, and it helped later when she was seen as a good Christian girl. This was a little unusual, since inside her she wanted to rebel. Thanks to Albert. It helped that she had Albert. Without Albert she hated to think how she would be. She relied on Albert. If Albert had been anyone else. She hated to think what she would have done … would’ve been had Albert been anyone else. “Go away, Satan,” she said. Unlike Albert she believed in Satan. She had to let Albert know she loved him, but she didn’t have the nerve to tell him directly. She had to let know she believed in Satan. Then she would have to show him. She would have to show him how much she loved him … show him she believed in Satan. She would have to seduce him. She would have to go all the way with him and show him. She would have to get pregnant and show him by getting pregnant. She was thinking she was ready to get married. They were still in high school. She wanted to get pregnant so he would marry her, but she knew he wouldn’t marry her until they finished college. They talked about it, so she knew. She was ready to get married, but Albert wasn’t.

When Alice and Albert … along with help from all the guest … tied the knot in their home church … Alice broke down in the woman’s restroom without really knowing why. This was something she wanted for so long, yet she cried where she hoped no one would catch her. She was wrapped up over concerns about Albert’s lack of attentiveness. It had recently surface, or she had only recently noticed it. When she noticed it, it was a little late. She finally controlled herself, except for tiny things.

Her bridesmaid and best friend, Sally, helped out, but when it didn’t totally calmed her down they attributed it to nerves. Nerves, she had a case of nerves. Lots of times brides are surprised by how they react to their weddings … at their weddings. She announced later that it was just nerves, a case of nerves. She convinced herself that it was just nerves. She and Sally believed it was just a case of nerves.

You now have a son,” she told her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fuller.

I couldn’t be happier,” her father replied. “I’ve always wanted a son. You know I’ve always wanted a son. I’m glad it’s Albert. We’ve always respected Albert and felt you were safe when you went out with Albert. Albert, Albert, they went on and on about Albert. We’ve known for a long time you two would marry. That’s why we didn’t mind spending what did on your wedding. And let me tell you something, Mrs. Humphrey, don’t think I don’t know you’ve had your eyes on Albert for a long time.”

I didn’t make it a secret.” And she didn’t.

Wait a minute, young lady,” Mr. Fuller said before he stopped himself. The two families, believe it or not, had never sat down and talked before. Though they went to the same church, they never talked before Alice and Albert announced their engagement. They simply said hello to each other. Albert had been too ashamed of his family to facilitate it, and though he and Alice went steady in high school, dated in college, and married before seminary, the two households never socialized. Alice’s parents never invited Albert’s parents over to their house or vise versus. They didn’t have much in common, so they never socialized. “Now we’re gaining a daughter … we know she’s a good girl … woman. She has eaten at our house. We have seen how polite she is. She will make our son a good wife. We know they love each other, yet they waited. They’re sensible kids, so they waited. I’m not sure I could’ve waited, but that’s another story.”

What’s money as long as they’re happy?”

It was a beautiful wedding. I’m glad they married.”

I am too.”

And finally the couple emerged from a backroom, after having signed the marriage license

Wow!” Alice sighed, because she was glad it was over. She was glad it was over because she was so nervous, and thanks to a big hug from her mother she could finally enjoy herself. It was her wedding. Albert’s and her wedding, and she was determined to enjoy it … herself.

There was a dinner, with assigned seating. Families sat together, with the couple sitting in between them. “Is that so and so?” Albert asked his bride. He obviously hadn’t met the person. “That’s Jeff Williams, a cousin of mine from Santa Clara, California. He heard Jeff’s name and that he was from Santa Clara, California. “Are you crazy?” Albert asked himself, while he turned away from Jeff. He considered Jeff beautiful, very beautiful. Why did he think Jeff was beautiful, so beautiful or handsome, and hot? Why had he notice Jeff? Out of all the people at the wedding, why had he singled out Jeff? Why had he bothered when was now married and knew Jeff would soon head back to California. Maybe. We’ll see.

But Albert stopped there. He had to stop there. “I can’t go there,” he said to himself and felt nauseated. “I’m sorry that I can’t just take off.” And before he could figure it out, Albert was again thinking about how beautiful Jeff was … how hot Jeff was. “Damn!” Albert thought, “And this is my wedding day.”

Unfortunately, nothing, nothing could stop Albert from thinking about Alice’s cousin Jeff. When the wedding was over, he wanted Jeff back. He watched Jeff go. It didn’t make sense then that he wanted Jeff back when he only talked briefly to Jeff at the reception. And even when Jeff was totally out of the picture … had gone back to California, back to Santa Clara and was out of the picture … Albert sometimes thought about Jeff. He remembered how beautiful … how hot Jeff was (for now he had to admit that he was attracted to Jeff and couldn’t keep his mind off him.) Alice would be horrified if she knew his feelings for Jeff. If she knew … if she only knew … Would it make a difference? He knew it would make a difference. Differences.

Meanwhile, Albert did what he could to move on. He was determined to make a good husband. He was determined to finish seminary at the head of his class. He also wanted to be ordained because he heard the voice of God at a very early age. And he prayed for himself. He prayed for himself and Alice … prayed for strength. He knew he needed strength.

But, above all, he prayed for Alice, because he knew above all Alice wanted children ,,, not just a child, but children. And whatever she wanted to do was okay with him. No! Yes, he knew she wanted children. She always said she wanted children. Yes, she confessed to him that she wanted children while they were still in high school. But no confession and no expression of a desire to have children disturbed him very much until after they were married. That’s when he prayed for strength. The mere mention of children upset him, but it didn’t deter him, deter them. So Albert prayed for her because in a few years they would have two girls, two beautiful girls. Because he loved his girls, he never regretted having them.

Quality time together became a part of Alice and Albert’s routine. Alice insisted that they have quality time together, above all else quality time. She insisted that they talk … talk things out and talk when they didn’t have anything to say. Even when he didn’t feel like talking, she insisted on it, and he hoped it would be enough. He wanted their marriage to work and hoped spending quality time together would be enough. He considered it an unselfish act and considered paying attention to his own feelings selfish. He told himself he loved Alice. He did love Alice, and in his own way he did love her. He would always love her because she was mother of his two girls. But it was Alice who, being sensitive who sensed her husband’s struggle and first said something about it, which ultimately caused them to face the truth. It would be a long road but they ultimately faced the truth.

It was too hard to face at the time; with Alice’s pregnancies and with Albert’s commitment to his church it was too hard … too much for both of them. At first Alice wouldn’t let herself believe it and thought they could talk it through. When she found out, she told herself it was a disease. She told herself it was a disease, a disease that it could be cured, cured like cancer. Worst of all, she thought maybe it could be cured through prayer. So she prayed about it, and prayed about it, like she assumed Albert prayed about it.

For those of her faith, there were many different ideas about homosexuality. Methodists weren’t like Baptist. Methodists accepted many different shades of faith. They were accepting. And although Alice knew this, she somehow knew they wouldn’t accept a gay minister.

And she knew there were still those in the church, even the Methodists church, for whom there was no kindness in their hearts for gay people. Growing up in the church, in Texas, she knew this. She grew up with slurs. She heard them. She heard slurs like fag, queer, homo, nancy, pansy, and nancy boy. She knew these slurs … heard these slurs. They came from everywhere, even from policemen; therefore she was afraid, afraid for her and Albert’s future. Afraid even though not many “homos” had come out of the closet yet. And as the years went by, little by little, living this nightmare shook Alice’s faith. And it came down to being left in the hands of her husband, who was the cause of their nightmare.

And all this time she wanted her Albert back. And even when he hadn’t come out of the closet yet, she wanted Albert back.

Whenever Alice managed to keep her emotions in check, she carried on her duties as a minister’s wife. The congregation liked her. They didn’t find her tiresome, staid, not a bit stuffy. She never reveal where she was … how she actually felt … her struggle. She never reveal he struggle. Albert suggested she seek counseling. Alice never considered it or confided with anyone, and though she swore, she didn’t let her husband know, she swore. Surely, she told someone. Surely she had a priest. No, she was Methodist. So she relied on God. She didn’t know what else to do but rely on God. She couldn’t rely on her minister.

But just as Alice was struggling, Albert continued clandestine homosexual activities. Somehow Alice knew it, somehow. Somehow Alice knew about Albert’s clandestine activities. How could she not know it? Albert was very careful yet Alice knew it. She knew. She just knew. She knew yet she asked herself, “Is Albert gay?” She asked as they hugged. “Is Albert gay?” She asked as they kissed. She asked as they made love. “Is Albert gay?” Sometimes she cried. “No, Albert is not gay. Thank God. Thank God Albert isn’t gay.”

Just as she was crying Albert woke up and their girls started to cry too and since he and their girls were asleep, he clung to her before he responded to the babies. He woke up because the babies were crying. Alice was then left alone and cried harder, and Albert, who knew why she was crying, didn’t comfort her. Then she began to sob.

Albert. Albert. What are we going to do?” That was when he put his arms around her and said, “Aw! I don’t know what to do. So I pray for you …. pray for us and our girls. I pray for us every night.” And he prayed.

At that point she didn’t hear him. Even if she tried, she wouldn’t have heard him. Out of touch with reality and preoccupied with her own feelings, she didn’t understand then what was happening. She didn’t understand what was happening with her husband. She didn’t understand then because she was too close to it, too close to the situation. And she didn’t understand because she didn’t want to understand. And because she was … well, extremely hurt. Alice expected more from her husband. She expected more from Albert.

It was then when she first wanted to give her notice to the church. She felt she needed to give notice to the church. She no longer wanted to be a minister’s wife. She knew then that she wanted a divorce since her husband was gay and things were looking pretty bleak because of it. But she didn’t know where to start. She felt lost, lost and confused … upset, lost, and confused.

As it turned out, before the end of that week, she got a phone call from Maggie Jones with a suggestion that they meet for lunch. “Why not?” Alice thought. Since she had made a practice of not socializing with members of the congregation, so she didn’t have many close friends, friends she could confide in, and friends she could cry in front of. Then soon she was doing all right for herself because she soon had one close friend, Maggie Jones. Thanks to Maggie she would soon be getting out of a marriage and moving back to San Antonio, freeing herself of a man who preferred men over her, and Albert would have to explain it to his congregation. Thank God, she wouldn’t have to explain.

It still wasn’t easy. It was the hardest thing she ever had to do. As it turned out she couldn’t simply walk away, and her girls needed their father. She was leaving Dallas, and Maggie had also split with her husband. Alice considered temporarily moving in with Maggie. (Apparently Maggie too was trying to start a new life, struggling with some of the same issues that Alice was, but freeing herself from an abusive husband instead of a husband who was gay.)

I’ve watched you in church for a long time, Alice,” Maggie told her after they got to know each other better. “You’ve been too cheerful to be real and every time I go to sleep I pray for you. I’ve prayed for you for a long time. I saw it coming.” Maggie seemed sincere, well, more than sincere, but to Alice, she still seemed honest … too sincere, but honest. What did Maggie see?

I know, Alice. It’s never easy. When you end a relationship … no matter the circumstances … a divorce … it’s like a death. And with children involved … a divorce is doubly hard.”

Divorce?” Alice was holding a cup of tea and almost dropped it. “Divorce? Who said anything about a divorce.” She didn’t remember mentioning divorce to Maggie, and she may not have thought of it, but Alice didn’t contradict her new friend. No, she wasn’t thinking about getting a divorce, just feeling a need for a separation. It was good to have a friend, to have someone she could talk to, and they continued to talk to each … meet and talk whenever they could.

Alice didn’t go home for she and Maggie picked up where they left off. They put the kids to bed, started talking and talked all night. For both of them it was a long story. Both of them complained. Both of them were bitter. They complained and were bitter, and they talked. Alice talked about how she was there for Albert while Albert went college and they went to seminary and complained about how he rarely had time for her girls, or rarely took time for her girls. And he expected her to abide by dos and don’ts of being a minister’s wife, which meant she had to maintain her place. She was expected to show up and play a traditional role of a minister’s wife, while he carried on his clandestine activities. She understood but couldn’t. Alice couldn’t stand hypocrisy. At first she was shocked, horrified.

After all, Albert was her husband and father of her girls. Then after it became evident, there were always his male friends, always there, always standing between them, yet she never met them. He always went out and never brought them home. Sometimes he stayed out all night. He knew better than bring them home. And since Alice never met them, she suspected all men. At the same time she didn’t want to know who they were. For a long time she tried to ignore the situation. She believed what he told her, believe his lies, his coverup, played her role, and didn’t venture to contradict him. For a long time, she didn’t confront him.

Around this time Alice met Maggie, or really talked (because up until then Maggie had simply been a member of their church. Obviously they knew each other.) Well, actually Maggie had been thinking about talking to Alice for a long time. Up until then they exchanged small talk. They met at church and served on committees together, but never talked, really talked. The problem was that Alice thought they didn’t have anything to talk about. Alice was simply playing her role as minister’s wife, which meant she had to be friendly with everyone in church. She had to always smile. She had to always be upbeat. She had to always be helpful. She couldn’t let her true feelings show. She felt like she was part of a ritual in which she felt like a prop.

As years went by, Albert and Alice’s alienation grew, and it was becoming unsettling for both of them. It completely changed her, changed her forever. She felt angry and sad about it. She loved Albert. She still loved Albert. It seemed like she had always loved him. She had wanted to share the rest of her life with him. She had his children and wanted to share rest of her life with him. Then there came a point she needed to make sense of it and be practical. But when she acknowledged the truth, she couldn’t see a future with Albert. Not when he desired men over her.

What was left of their relationship was brought home when she saw his interaction with their girls. Although it was her job to take care of them, she saw how much he loved them.

It was Alice who took care of the household, the household chores, shopping, cleaning, and cooking. She prepared meals for them. She was the one who kept the house running. One evening, after Alfred took off on one of his secret rendezvous, she found herself feeling terribly alone. Alone, alone, she was tending the girls while Albert was out, girls who were a hand full then, when she felt terribly alone. Before then she felt strong. Then looking around, she realized that she was home alone without her husband, and two girls to tend to and alone. And then after putting the girls to bed, she began to walk nervously around. Before he came home she would have to control herself, she thought. Furthermore she wasn’t the same Alice she was when she first married Albert, but a more mature Alice than she was then.

Why?” Alice asked, hesitating, as she looked around the room. “I don’t know,” she gasped. “God. Why?” Alice asked again, standing still in the middle of the room, “I prayed for Albert. Prayer hasn’t helped,” Alice said, trembling and unable to control her emotions. She knew or suspected what he was doing. She didn’t know where he was or who he was with, but she suspected what he was doing. She knew what he was doing. Somehow she knew what he was dong. “I’ve prayed real hard,” Alice continued and started to cry. “And it doesn’t help. Nothing helps.”

She and Maggie saw each other whenever they could. She and Alice saw each other at least every other day. Maggie stepped forward and sought Alice out, knowing that they needed each other. She knew what she had and knew what she lost and knew Alice was losing the same things. In spite of everything were they ready? Was Alice willing to give up Albert? Ready? Alice wasn’t ready.

Why?” Alice asked Maggie – who was shocked by Alice’s revelation. Alice had stopped crying. She couldn’t cry anymore.

Maggie, shocked, took her hand. “I’ll pray for you,” Maggie said to Alice. “I’ll pray for you both.

‘Thank you, Maggie. I need it,” Alice said. “I need it. We need it.”

Alice.” Maggie was still holding Alice’s hand.

What?”

I was thinking … “

That’s dangerous.”

I’m serious. Why don’t we join forces?”

What do mean join forces?”

Join households. I mean if it came down to it. If it became a necessity. It’s just a thought. Maybe it’s bad idea. Maybe it’s too soon. Maybe it’s a bad idea and too soon.” Maggie took a deep breath and didn’t get around to all she was thinking. She wouldn’t bring it up again unless Alice did. She hadn’t figured out why she was the way she was yet. She hadn’t figured out why she brought it up. Maggie had never been a rebel like Alice had been. Maggie was romantic. She professed to be a Christian, went church, a church member, but didn’t believe in God. Deep down she didn’t believe in God. For good measure, however, she prayed. She prayed for help. She prayed for other people. And she read the Bible, her Bible, her Bible every day, from cover to cover.

But nowhere did she find a convincing reason to stay in a bad marriage. And now Maggie and Alice simultaneously were facing the prospect of getting a divorce. It was time to get away, Maggie decided, as far away as possible.

I’m going to tell Henry,”

Tell Henry? Tell Henry what?”

My husband. I’m going to tell Henry I want a divorce.”

Of course I know your husband’s name.” This showed how much or how little Alice was listening. Yeah? How was it going for Alice? If someone had asked her she would’ve exploded. The two women continued their conversations, most of the time like they were casual friends … casual friends who prayed for each other, but who could Alice really trust to tell her husband’s secret. But hadn’t she told Maggie? Yes, Maggie knew. After she knew for sure she was not permitted to tell anyone, and then she let it slip out. She told Maggie first. It slipped out, They were casual friends then, and she wondered why she trusted Maggie. She had to trust someone. Maggie had become more than a casual friend after she found out …. after Alice told her … after Alice let it slip out. She had to trust someone. She had to talk about it. That was when Maggie became more than a casual friend.

It’s my husband,” she started to say, but her mind was more on her girls.

Yeah, your kids,” Maggie said. “You’ve got your hands full.”

Yeah, they’re full of it,” Alice responded with aloofness. “And I don’t get any help. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciate you. It’s been a big help. And that I think it’s better that you know what’s going on. I trust you.”

Well, uh …”

Is it too much?”

No, no,” Maggie said, groping for a response.

Are you shocked?”

No, no. I’m glad you told me.” Alice was actually demolished by Maggie’s response. She was expecting more from Maggie than simply “no, no. I’m glad you told me.” In some ways it seem like rejection. She expected more than “no, no, I’m glad you told me. That was all. She expected Maggie to say more … to admit she was shocked when she obviously was … shocked.

But Maggie knew … sort of. Yes, Maggie’s husband was abusive, “had to leave” as she would say for a long time. She had to leave her husband, she said, because he was abusive. She couldn’t admit that her husband was abusive just like Alice couldn’t admit her husband was gay. Most rumors about Maggie’s husband were true, with some variation and details they were true. But Maggie’s husband had a reputation to maintain, so he and Maggie maintained a charade. When time came, he simply moved out.

The most consistent rumor that went around about Maggie’s husband was that he had a mistress and decided to live with her. After this story circulated and a divorce, he remarried after a short interval, remarried his mistress. Some people found this amusing. Some people found it sad. For some people, it hit too close to home. In those days, around the church it was a serious offense. But people still didn’t say any of this to Maggie’s face, and when she heard what they were saying. Alice got mad. Why couldn’t they say it to her face?

With regards to Alice’s own situation, she slowly realized Albert wouldn’t changed, couldn’t change, though she tried to change him, though she tried to live with it though she finally knew he was gay. And whenever they tried to talk about it, or whenever he tried to talk about it, she simply stared at him. However, once and a while, believe it or not, he wanted to be close to her, and he wanted to touch her, hold her and touch her, but there came a point when such suggestions seemed absurd to her. This led to repulsion.

He would approach her when she was upset. He tried to hold her and touch her when she was upset. He naturally wanted to comfort her. Since he still wanted a relationship with her, he would approach her and try to comfort her.

Alice,” Albert asked his wife one day when he had an opportunity, “what do you want from me?” She knew what she wanted and knew she couldn’t have it.

Albert,” Alice said, “I want this to go away. Can’t you see this is hell for me?”

Yes, yes I do. And it hurts,” Albert said, thinking of their girls, who didn’t have any sense of what was going on. Then Albert said, “I’ve been through hell too. I can’t forget what we’ve had. I will never forget what we’ve had. And I know what you’re going through … painfully aware. I’ve been through hell too.”

So you think I should forgive you, forgive you for …”

I don’t ask for forgiveness, Alice,” Albert told her. And there was no question at that point in Alice’s mind that Albert had made a decision. Albert’s voice emphasized the point. “I only hope over time you’ll learn to forgive me. I don’t think it’s necessary, but I hope you will.”

So where do we go from here?”

I don’t know. Really it depends. Maybe it depends on where we see ourselves.”

After the “big move” …as Alice always referred to her move to San Antonio … she tried to live a normal life. It happened all of a sudden, or it seemed, and no one could figure it out except Alice and Albert, but she was beginning to do a lot of things differently, which confused people even more. Yes, she tried to live a normal life, as normal as possible. She only talked about it with Maggie. Maggie was the only person she could talk to about it.

Alice insisted on finding her own place and living alone with her two girls, so it wasn’t surprising that it was difficult for her at first. All at once there were too many changes. It would’ve been difficult anyway, but she made it more difficult by not accepting help. Her new home was near the bus route on St. Mary’s. She lived in an apartment in a Spanish neighborhood, and it didn’t bother her. She had other things on her mind. She had nothing to fear. She liked her neighbors.

Her next-door neighbor was older than her mother, and in many ways became a substitute for her real mother. Alice suspected she needed a second family since her children rarely saw her. As hard as it was to believe, she lived alone, without a husband, and Mrs. Coats’ children rarely saw their mother. Though Alice had vivid memories of a life she once lived, Alice filled in the gaps one by one.

How could Mrs. Coats be as old as she said was? How could she be as old as she said she was and still live alone? How could she do her own shopping? How could she still drive? How could she stay busy? Did Alice dare entrust her with her daughters? Alice needed help with the girls, but could she trust Mrs. Coats? Could she? Would she? Did she dare ask? She needed help. Alice knew she would do it. She knew she would ask for help from grandma Coats.

Alice worried about her next-door neighbor, who she referred to as grandma Coats, Grandma Coats was certainly an old woman with poor eyesight, so the question remained, could she see well enough to keep an eye on her girls? Was she alert enough? Yes, she lived alone, but was she alert enough to look after two young girls who already were a handful.

Grandma Coats became Alice’s only confidant in San Antonio. They saw each other every morning, met for coffee, met for coffee before Alice scurried to work. Alice was more concerned for Grandma Coats than herself and went to see her every morning with the two girls in tow. This helped her get through this difficult time. This helped, helped her get through this difficult time and before she knew she could survive on her own. It wasn’t easy. She needed to work, so it wasn’t easy.

Just make sure she remembered to take her medicine. Grandma Coats was getting forgetful. At first it was hardly noticeable, so Alice felt she could count on grandma Coats, while she wasn’t sure she could count on her own mother. Her parents lived across town. Alice chose to live across town from her parents.

After a stay in the hospital, Grandma Coats didn’t recover as fast as anyone wanted. Grandma Coats wasn’t her old self for a long time. It took a long time for her to recover, and Alice assumed responsibility for her. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t enough to deal with. She was a single mom, had a job and two kids and assumed responsibility for Grandma Coats. Still she nursed Grandma back to health. However, Grandma Coats was never the same, and Alice witnessed it.

Alice was aware then that Grandma Coats was dying. Grandma Coats never complained, wasn’t a complainer, and seemed to be improving. Alice saw her every morning. She made sure she ate. Even so Grandma Coats lost her appetite, so Alice did what she could to make sure she ate. Alice saw every day changes, small changes that were involved … such as lack of appetite, listlessness, unresponsiveness … then it was over. She was too close to Grandma Coats for her own good.

By then Alice didn’t have a husband to rely on. Albert only came to San Antonio once a week, if that often. He came on Mondays to see his girls. He took the Interstate and drove fast. How else did he manage it? Note he didn’t come to see Alice. None of their attempts at reconciliation worked. Instead, on her own, Alice became more independent, hardened and independent. And there came a time, when she looked around, she could finally say, “I am lucky.”

Alice still loved Albert. By now they were separated, and she lived with the girls in San Antonio. Maybe it was for the best, maybe … maybe it was for the best that she lived in San Antonio since Albert’s interests were elsewhere and since she felt Dallas was not big enough for both of them. She also grew up in San Antonio, and her parents still lived there. So, she made San Antonio her home.

That was why, or what she told herself. She knew San Antonio, knew people there, and had family there, but how was she going to explain everything to her family? How could she explain and protect Albert? She wanted to protect Albert. Why did she want to protect Albert? By then it was pretty clear that Albert had other interests and didn’t need her. And she thought Grandma Coats would recover. And with her parents involved with their own lives, it seemed likely they didn’t need her, that like Albert they didn’t need her anymore. Her sister never came to see her. And with her parents’ attitude, she felt more alone than ever before. And when Grandma Coats died, she felt like she had no one. She wondered why her family was … how they were. Was it possible that they didn’t need her anymore? It was inevitable, maybe. Yes, they lived across town, but was that any excuse. And now after Grandma Coats was gone, she saw no reason for staying in San Antonio. But where could she go? “As far … as far away as possible, she thought. But she was afraid. So she talked to her parents, and they offered to help her find a house. It was clear then that she wanted a house. They were afraid she would go away, far away. They were relieved when she decided to stay in San Antonio, but they didn’t yet know what was going on.

And she didn’t tell them yet. When would she tell them? She couldn’t tell them. She wouldn’t tell them for a while. They hadn’t seen Albert since he and their daughter broke up. Mother and daughter had once been close, but now Alice didn’t confide in her mother. She couldn’t confide in her mother. The truth was she didn’t know how to approach the subject. She no longer knew how to approach her mother. She felt afraid, but she knew there would come a time when it would come out. She needed Albert’s help. She thought of calling Albert and asking for help. But she was afraid of the consequences, so she left it up to him. She would leave it up to him.

Why are you here?” Alice’s mother finally asked. “Why are you here in San Antonio and not with your husband.” Alice smiled nervously as she tried to ignore the question, but there was no way to ignore the question. And there was no way to avoid questions. She looked at her mother, then her father, and with tears in her eyes said, “he left me.” He left me” … it was all she could come up with. “He left me” it was the first thing that came out of her mouth. She said it without thinking. So many men and women were then separating and getting a divorce that she wasn’t prepared for her mother’s next question. “He left you, you and the kids? For another woman?”

Alice, who had barely began dealing with her separation from Albert, was now faced with this question. She felt like telling her mother that it was none of her business, but she knew it wouldn’t satisfy her parents. And what business did she have betraying Albert? She needed to wait for Albert. She needed to wait until Albert came out. She would need to wait and leave her parents guessing. She needed Albert’s help on this one. What right did they have? It was none of their business. Why couldn’t they wait … wait for Albert … wait until she was ready to tell them … wait until Albert was ready to come out. It would come out sometime, so why couldn’t they wait? “For another woman?”

With Albert away from his family, he imagined his girls growing up without him (he didn’t have to imagine hard). When he had been away from them before, it had only been for a short time. Now he missed them, missed them very much. He missed them more than he missed Alice. He never thought he would think that. Now that he had other interests, he didn’t miss her as much as he otherwise would have. And it was easier for him, now that he had other interests. Still It wasn’t easy.

It had not occurred to him that he and Alice could have joint custody of their girls. He hadn’t thought it out. In any event, he knew because of their ages the girls shouldn’t be separated from their mother for any length of time. So Alice decided to move back to San Antonio where she had family. This was hard for Albert to accept, but he knew she needed a support system. At this particular time in her life he knew it. He knew she needed the emotion support of being near her family.

It hadn’t occurred to Albert that his daughters would grow so fast. Every time he saw them he saw changes. “That’s the whole point, isn’t it? They grow up. They grow up fast.” Every time he saw they seemed like they were an inch taller. Well, every time he went to see them he brought presents. Every time he made the trip to San Antonio, he took them something. “It’s part of my job,” he said to himself. And each time he saw them he insisted on feeding them. He tried to take them some place special. And that was that.

Albert tried to be the best father he could be so that no one could blame him for neglecting his kids. Albert wanted to be the best father he could be. Sometimes he spent the night with them, but Alice never asked him how it went. By then, Alice had her own life, or that was how Albert viewed it.

Albert predicted she would remarry; and well, she did, but it took a while, a long while. After her experience with Albert she didn’t trust men. She felt betrayed. She naturally felt betrayed and didn’t trust men. There were few men in her life then, and some were the right fit, but hadn’t seem like it. “It was too risky,” she told herself, as she and her girls grew older. “I feel like I’ve been discarded.” After her experience with Albert she felt leery, leery of men. She felt discarded. She saw herself growing old alone. There were some prospects, and some ways she felt free and happy. “It’s magnificent,” she told herself, as she cried at night. “I feel like I have given away my entire life.” Yet she knew that this wasn’t true. She knew in her heart that it wasn’t her fault. She knew in her heart that she wasn’t a failure; yet she felt like one.

Meanwhile Albert never missed an opportunity to see his girls, and the long drive at first seemed like a small price to pay. He could afford the gas. He had time. He made time. His congregation understood and gave him time. It only meant he had to double up at church. He didn’t mind doubling up. He didn’t resent doubling up. It was a small price to pay. That’s right, his duties were the same. But it didn’t leave him much time to go out. And he wanted to date.

So he didn’t go out very often. Those occasions were special. It had been a long time since he dated. And now that he was free he wanted to date. But there weren’t many places in Dallas then that he could go and pick up a man. Over time the situation would change, but back then there weren’t many places. And he was always afraid of being seen coming out one of those places. He had to sneak around, sneak in and sneak out, and he didn’t like it. It didn’t seem fair. And there was always a chance he could be arrested. There was always a chance he could be caught in a raid. So he didn’t go out very often.

Since he still lived in a parish home, he couldn’t bring anyone there and sometimes found himself in public restroom stalls having sex. Often it was the only place he could have sex. He needed sex. He didn’t like having sex in public stalls, but he couldn’t help it. He knew he eventually would get caught and didn’t like it. It frightened him, but he couldn’t help it. He tried to control his urges. He tried. He tried and ended in places he knew he shouldn’t go. But as it turned out, he lived a double life for a considerable time. He finally accepted it, and though he brooded, there was no indication that he was about to change. He couldn’t change.

Finally came a day when Albert took too many risks, which although significant to his congregation (and as it turned out to the Dallas Police) it was no longer a big deal for him, By then he was tired of restraints, of deception. He was tired of playing along, being someone other than himself. He was tired of hiding his true self. He was just tired and depressed and sometimes thought the most outrageous thoughts. He thought about dropping everything, leaving home, and confessing in front of his whole congregation during a sermon. He wanted to tell them, “I’m leaving” and tell them why. It seemed better than living a lie. He didn’t know where he would go, but “it didn’t matter,” he told himself. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it because of his girls. He couldn’t bring himself to do it because he heard the voice of God. “He woudn’t tell his girls. Not until they’re old enough to understand,” he said.

During this time he tended to be distant, although it was hard for a minister to be distant. He functioned well enough and did his job as well as he could, and even more conscientiously, as many in the congregation observed, but still he tended to be distant. Yet it was hard for them to recognize changes. It wasn’t like he neglected anyone. His door was always open, open to anyone who wanted to talk to him. To them, Albert still was the same Albert. He insisted he hadn’t changed. The only marked changes anyone saw, they attributed to his separation from Alice. A few years earlier, his separation would have been less acceptable. There were only a few people who knew really what was going on, only he, Alice, and Maggie knew, and only he knew what was going on inside him.

He realized he had quite a wife. He missed Alice. He loved Alice, and if he hadn’t been gay … And he missed his girls. But he couldn’t go back. He couldn’t change who he was.

Then came a day when he could no longer stand it and had to be honest … at least honest to Alice. It would take much longer for him to make his sexual preference public. Especially since he was a minister and had heard the voice of God and knew what it would do to his career. In any case, he considered it personal and didn’t consider it a sin. He told himself, “it’s no one’s business … except … except Alice. And it isn’t a sin. God created me this way.” But Alice needed to be told before she confronted him. And then, whatever happened, happened. Remember by then Alice already knew. Yes, it would be up to him to tell Alice..

As soon as Albert confided in her, she was face with a decision, actually a number of decisions, because after all she wanted more from Albert than what he could give her. Luckily she had Maggie Jones for support. She didn’t know what she would do, where she would live, how she would support herself. She couldn’t expect to live on child support. She knew it wouldn’t be enough. She hadn’t needed to “work” before. There were many nights she couldn’t sleep. There were many nights she cried herself to sleep. There were many nights when she cried until she couldn’t cry anymore. And she didn’t cry when Albert was around. She only cried inside when Albert was around. She tried taking pills, heavier doses of medication than was prescribed. She was in so much pain then there were many nights she couldn’t sleep. There were some nights she didn’t sleep at all.

During this time she also tended to be distant, although she was able to function well enough to take care of their girls. It was hard for her to go to church and play the role of minister’s wife, so she stopped going. She stopped going, though she knew it would be an embarrassment for Albert. She knew it would raise questions. When she went, she was still the sweet disarming person she always had been. Only marked difference anyone noticed was that she no longer stood beside her husband at the end of the church service. But they were relieved when they saw her at church. That seemed to be enough for a while.

Otherwise, Alice’s life was turned upside down. To begin with she noticed that Albert was not as attentive as she thought he should’ve been. She then knew something was wrong. Or was something wrong with her? Had there always been something wrong? As she began making decisions for herself and her children, she looked back for answers. With so many decisions to be made, she sometimes found herself on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which affected her driving, which she realized when one day she found herself in the middle of an intersection without knowing how she got there. She almost had an accident when she pulled out in front of another car. Luckily she didn’t have an accident when she pulled out in front of another car. Luckily the other car stopped in time to prevent an accident. And although Alice had never been so careless before, it served as a warning, a warning she wisely heeded. Alice spent a lot of time with the girls, a lot more time than before. Luckily they seemed to sense their mother’s turmoil and didn’t give her as much trouble as they did before. But they followed her, insisted on following her from room to room., which was most of the time.

Alice didn’t trust anyone. With trust broken, Alice relied on Maggie. When Maggie came into her life, Alice relied on Maggie and confided in her. She trusted Maggie when she didn’t trust anyone else. She confided in Maggie and told her everything, trusting that she would keep certain things confidential …. but after she left Dallas she didn’t see Maggie anymore. She wouldn’t go back to Dallas. She had no reason to go back to Dallas. She knew she needed to make a clean break.

After one morning and Albert hadn’t come home, she asked him where he had been. It would’ve been better if she hadn’t asked him. It would’ve been better if she had ignored that he had been out all night. She really didn’t want to know, did she?

Albert didn’t tell her anything. Instead he went to bed and left her with more questions than answers. This caused her a great deal of anxiety. When he woke up, he knew he messed up. He knew he messed up, yet he didn’t say anything. She deserved an explanation, yet he didn’t know what to say. What could he say that wouldn’t upset her more than she already was? Alice, who had only recently become interested in homosexuality, thought she could handle anything. She thought they could talk. She thought they could talk through iy. She thought they had always been able to talk things through. She knew what she would say, or thought she knew, but the opportunity didn’t come up. Albert was worried. He felt guilty, yet he didn’t say anything.

About seven in the morning, Albert came home. “Well, he’s home safe now,” Alice frowned, while she fixed the girl’s breakfast. “It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day,” Albert said. Alice frowned. Albert knew he was in trouble. Albert knew he was in trouble when he didn’t come home all night. Albert ate his breakfast and went to bed. As Alice made him breakfast, he saw she was frowning.

Alice considered him a decent man. She wouldn’t have married him if he hadn’t been a decent man, but it was apparent now that Albert wasn’t as decent as he seemed. It was apparent to Alice then that her husband was not as decent as he seemed. It was apparent now he was living a double life. She needed to confront him, she thought. She could not face another night of not knowing where he was. She could not stand it, but she couldn’t bring it up and this drove a wedge between them.

After that she couldn’t get close to him. She felt agitated when he was around her, and it wasn’t because of his homosexuality. She called Maggie to tell her all this, and while Maggie said she understood, she cautioned Alice not to do anything rash. The two woman decided that yes, maybe it would do the girls more harm than good for her to do anything rash. “If you need to talk, Alice,” Maggie assured her, “call me, call me any time. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone.” And that was that.

But only a week later Albert was again out all night. And nothing that Maggie could say helped Alice. Alice couldn’t sleep and hadn’t slept. And it wasn’t really Albert’s fault either since he was only after an outlet for a basic need, and he didn’t have one other than an illegitimate one.

It seemed that after Albert did this a few times he decided to say something to Alice. He decided that Alice had a right to … as his wife she had a right to hear something from him. He decide that, at least he should tell her he wouldn’t be home. He wouldn’t tell her where he was going, but at least he would tell her he wouldn’t be home. And did he expect her to be waiting when he came home the next morning? When would the situation become intolerable for Alice? When would the situation become intolerable for both of them? It did, of course, eventually.

But before then, Alice asked, “Is our relationship over?’ She asked this in disbelief. She didn’t want it to be over. She had invested too much in it for it to be over. She had just woke up from an easy chair where she slept all night and said to herself, “I’ll fight for him.” She was wide awake when she said, “I’ll fight for him. He’s worth fighting for. He is the father of my children, and he’s worth fighting for.” She was alone when she said “I’ll fight for him.” She was alone. He was gone, when she said, “I’ll fight for him,” but she didn’t know who or how she would fight. Then Albert came in.

Then he went to bed promising he wouldn’t do it again. Alice was sitting on the couch. “This isn’t working,” Alice said looking him straight in the eye. It was obvious she suffered. It was quite a blow, and she suffered, “Yes, Alice” was all Albert said in consolation. He said, “Yes, Alice” and went to bed. But this didn’t surprise Alice. By then she didn’t expect more from him.

This poor woman no longer had strength to take care of herself. She was exhausted, drained and exhausted, so how could anyone expect her to take care of herself? She had too much on her mind to take care of herself. She should’ve confronted Albert when he first started staying out of all night, or even before then. She should’ve confronted him when she first became aware of his homosexuality. For the moment, however, they had taken a step. But could she forestall a tragedy? She felt it was a tragedy. She didn’t know how he felt. And that’s what bothered her more than anything else. She didn’t know …

 

Chapter Two

Yes … No, she couldn’t see tragedy ahead. She refused to see tragedy ahead. She wasn’t that kind of person. She was a happy person and rarely saw something coming. She thought they could work through it. Perhaps she thought Albert would change. She obviously was fooling herself. But seeing tragedy ahead and doing something about it are two different things. Aren’t they? Yes, they’re two different things. Alice knew, saw it coming, and did nothing about it. If it came down to it, she was willing to sacrifice herself. She didn’t need to leave Albert. She knew it. She always knew it. She would leave it up to Albert. She would wait for Albert. Then Albert didn’t see it as a tragedy.

And when it happened, revitalization took a long time. She knew it was a process and gave herself time. She didn’t jump. She didn’t. She made sure she didn’t jump into another relationship right away. She could’ve easily jumped into another one. She was attracted to fuzziness of relationships … the warm feelings. She was attracted to idea of having sex. She enjoyed sex. She had plenty opportunities, plenty. She wasn’t unattractive. She could be witty and fun. She was intelligent and a great conversationalist. She was alluring. Of course, she was. Albert knew she could put her life back together again. If she needed a man, he knew she could find one. He knew it would be hard for her but knew she could put her life back together. He thought, “All she needed was courage and encouragement.” He encouraged her, which hurt her. “It’s none of his business,” she thought.

She endured childbirth twice, so he thought she could endure this. But childbirth wasn’t as painful as this. Childbirth didn’t last so long, so very long. This didn’t have any joy like childbirth did. This was different because of the unnaturalness of this situation. It was like a death, except Albert was still around. She endured tremendous pain before but look at her then. She loved Albert! Look at her! Look how she suffers! By the grace of God she’ll get through it. She would have to leave Dallas and make a new life for herself somewhere else. She thought a lot about where that would be … where she would go. Before she moved back to San Antonio, she thought a lot about where she would she live. She didn’t know where she would like to live, but San Antonio was home. Her parents lived in San Antonio. She seemed destined to live in San Antonio because she grew up there. So she would move to San Antonio and see what she would do for herself and her two girls. She would start over in San Antonio.

When she moved, she felt more dead than alive. It was with help God and pure will that she was able to move. And yes, Albert helped her. Albert helped her moved. They rented a U haul, and Albert helped her move. It felt awkward for both of them, but Albert still helped. Albert hated to see her go. He hated to see her move so far away. He hated to see her move to San Antonio. He would’ve liked for her to stay in Dallas. It was selfish of him but he would’ve liked it. It would’ve meant he would’ve been closer to his kids. It would’ve meant he could see his kids more often. It would’ve meant he wouldn’t have had to make long drives to see them.

Albert hadn’t anticipated all the consequences of his behavior. It’s hard to know what he was thinking. He stared at Alice when she finally confronted him. How she wished she had already done it, and how she wished it was over. There was no sure fire way of knowing what his reaction would be. It took tremendous courage to confront him because she was by nature deliberate. She tended to be charitable. She wanted to be charitable. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe his stories. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even when she knew the truth, and she didn’t want to face the truth. The truth was devastating to her, so she didn’t want to face it.

So it turned out to be a tragic morning in Alice’s life, but a transforming one. It transformed her in a way she never expected. That was how she felt once she moved on.

But I will miss you Alice …,” he told her. “You’re my only true friend.”

She hadn’t expected him to say that. “I’m tired, Albert,” Alice said. “I haven’t been able to sleep.”

I’m sorry.”

Yes, I know. I know you’re sorry. No, it’s my fault. Now let me get some sleep. It’s your time to care for the girls.”

No, I mean I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

And I said I know.”

Albert then let her go to bed. She hadn’t even changed out of the clothes she wore the day before. Her head hardly touched the pillow before she went to sleep. It was the first real sleep she had in weeks.

Meanwhile, Albert dressed and fed the girls, and when time came he called the church and told them he wouldn’t be in. Albert simply told them something came up, and he wouldn’t be in. He told the truth. He always tried to be honest, honest about certain things. For that matter, he didn’t need go into details. He didn’t need to because he didn’t consider it any of their business. And by the way, he felt the same way about his homosexuality. And he too needed to sleep.

And how the hell could he take on anything else anyway? He scolded himself for thinking he could. His thoughts then were on Alice and his marriage and his kids (what would this do to his kids), so how could he have dealt with anything else. He was now into unknown terrain and uncharted territory and for sure didn’t know what would happen. All he knew then was Alice was beautiful. And she hadn’t lost her temper. Nothing like that.

That was only the beginning, the beginning and the end. They weren’t ready to announce anything yet. That would come later. In the house, after that, Alice and Albert rarely spoke. Alice and Albert both stopped talking to each other. They only said what was necessary. This was when Alice confided in Maggie the most. She needed to talk and she and Albert no longer talked, so it was a good thing that she had Maggie … had Maggie to talk to.

Of course, by this time, you can guess what their household was like. Alice lost interest in most things, but two daughters kept her busy enough. She lost interest in housework, of course. She let many things go, including her appearance, except she never neglected her daughters. She neglected many things but never her daughters. And she didn’t talk about what was going on inside her except with Maggie.

As Alice told Maggie, her husband was indeed queer and she would never have married him if she knew. “Only God knew what depths he sunk during those years he lived a double life. It’s incredible to me that he kept it up for so long. Who knew? How did he do it? He fooled me. I didn’t know, and I’m his wife. And I know we can’t find a cure. While it is the homosexuals nature to fall prey to his or her urges, it is extremely hard on spouses. In my case there weren’t any signs.” She lied here. She lied because she had to lie. She knew because he was less attentive than she thought he should be. She knew something was up.. She knew something was up because she was dissatisfied, dissatisfied with their lovemaking. And they had their daughters to think of … and indeed they did. They agonized over how it would affect their daughters. She slept that day without stirring, and when she woke up … he would give her anything she wanted, anything.

 

Chapter Three

First and foremost Alice wanted to be a good mother. Yes, and Albert wanted to be a good father. First and foremost, Albert wanted to be a good father, and he wished they could share responsibilities. Albert wished Alice didn’t move to San Antonio with their girls. He wish San Antonio wasn’t so far away from Dallas.

When Alice was ready to moved and finally moved to San Antonio with his girls, she didn’t know what to say to her parents. They wouldn’t understand. They didn’t understand. They couldn’t understand. They didn’t know anything was wrong and didn’t understand. Alice hadn’t prepared them. They wouldn’t have understood anyway because Albert was a man of God. Men of God weren’t queer. Finally she called them.

Finally Alice said on the telephone, “Mother, Albert and I have separated. I know you’re not prepared for this: Albert and I have separated.”

Oh, no! No, Alice!” She was obviously shocked, obviously shocked and upset and didn’t know what else to say. All this turned Alice into a non-believer of sorts. She was a doubter, had been all her life, but all this made her into a true none-believer of sorts. For her “theology” she had relied on Albert. Now she didn’t have Albert.

She would never forget that when she told her mother that she and Albert were separating her mother only said, “Oh, no. No, Alice” Thankfully her mother didn’t ask why. Alice wouldn’t know what to say had mother asked why. She wouldn’t give the real reason, would she? Then she knew she would be asked eventually, knew it would be brought up, knew she would have to eventually explain the real reason to her parents. Eventually, she would have to tell her parents that Albert was gay, but she was spared that then. She was thankful then that it would come out in bits and pieces. Nothing would help her destitution anyway since Alice and Albert had been devoted to each other. They were still devoted to each other. That would be hard to explain.

But Alice was sure that her parents wondered if Albert was involved with another woman when she announced that she and Albert were separating. Then how could she ever explain that he was sexually involved with men. It was hard to explain particularly then. It was hard for her to explain it to herself. And she was content to let it lie.

Remember they were childhood sweethearts, and they were illiterate about sex, and from a community that didn’t talk about sex except marital sex and homosexuality except with scorn. Homosexuals were called homos, queers, fags and were considered no better than wetbacks and niggers. Yes, those vulgar words were commonly used then by Christian people, and they said they meant no harm. They said those words; yet they said they meant no harm. Alice usually didn’t use those words, still she couldn’t help it when those words popped into her brain. So she didn’t initially tell her parents their son-in-law was queer.

She would have two more children, boys, when she eventually remarried, and they wanted boys to balance things out. This pleased her parents because it seemed right. Her second husband was good to her, and unlike Albert he didn’t play around. Luckily for Alice, he didn’t have the same orientation as Albert. She would’ve considered it her luck if he had. Her second husband died on her though. Now alone with four kids she managed as best she could. Albert still sent her child support.

And while she did not marry again, Alice’s ideas about marriage changed. She said she no longer needed a man and meant it. Her girls were then in high school and were trying to decide what they would do next, and her boys, who took after their father, said they knew what they wanted to be. And Alice knew that her four children would soon go their own ways, away from her, making her feel even more alone than she already felt. Sometimes she thought about all this. Sometimes she and Maggie wrote. Her parents sometimes talked about Albert. They never stopped talking about Albert.

Albert observed and assisted Alice until she remarried, and even after that he sent her child support. At first, it was too confusing to Alice, who didn’t want to face truth and did not when it affected her family. At first, she blamed herself. There were spiritual reasons for her not to believe it, “psychological and temporary.” she told herself. When she thought of homos, queers, fags, she tried to be compassionate. She was compassionate by nature. Still it was hard for her to be compassionate.

Could she ever accept it that the father of her two girls was a homosexual? Could she ever accept it that a former lover was a homosexual? Those questions often surfaced. They too often surfaced, and it looked like she wouldn’t get over it. It helped when she remarried, but he died on her. What if she didn’t get over it and went mad and even died herself before she got over it? Truthfully, it worried her.

So for a while, Alice barely paid her bills, existed on child support and food stamps, while trying to be a good mother. “Everything we need is found in love,” Maggie wrote and underlined love. Did she mean everything? Surely not everything. Everything could mean many things Alice realized. Yes, she loved her children more than anything, and this was what kept her going. So it was true: “everything we need is found in love.”

Among survival skills Alice learned to stick to a budget. She counted every penny. She collected coupons and counted pennies. She didn’t expect anything from her parents. She wanted to remain self-reliant and relied on government subsidies, food stamps and other subsidies, and child support. She didn’t know what she would’ve done without child support. Albert was always generous. He always paid child support. He could afford to be generous. Even when he couldn’t afford to be generous, he paid child support. He felt obligated. He felt guilty. For it had to do with a covenant he made with Alice, with his girls, and with God. He still listened to God since he had been open to God since childhood.

Quite often these things turn into an ugly protracted battle … ugly, a fight over custody of children to the determent of children Depending on the circumstances … and sometimes over money … sometimes over custody, fighting between parties can go on for years. Too often fighting between parties goes on for years to the detriment of children. That didn’t happen in this case. It didn’t happen, and therefore was considered an amicable divorce. But divorce is never easy.

No, this divorce was anything but amicable. On the surface it seemed amicable, but there was no way for Alice not to feel angry. There was no way for Alice not to feel angry and guilty. She felt guilty. She thought somehow it was her fault, though she knew it wasn’t her fault. The only thing that prevented it from being worse than it was was how Albert treated her and their girls, and that sometimes made her feel angrier. He couldn’t have been nicer. He went out of his way to be nice, and this infuriated Alice.

But soon life for Alice became routine, and this helped. It helped her keep her mind off her troubles. Emotions were still raw … they would be raw for a long time … so establishing routine became essential for her, essential for her survival. Routine was essential. It was the only thing she did for herself. It had a calming affect. Everything else she did she did for her children. Every night she went to bed at 10 pm after watching news. She spent more time in front of the television than she once did. In many ways she was held captive by television.

Alice and Albert still wrote to each other and made telephone calls to each other about their girls. Albert still saw her whenever he went to San Antonio. They were still close though they were getting a divorce and lived far away from each other.

They missed each other.

Each time they talked they tried to divine news from each other but only news they were ready to tell. Albert was aware Alice didn’t want to hear gory details about his one-night stands with men. She didn’t want to hear about it, and he knew it.

Many times Alice woke up sobbing. Her sheets would be wet from sobbing, and she never did anything about it. She never sought counseling.

On Sunday’s Alice always went to church with their girls, thinking their father would approve. She always took their girls to church. She always went to church too, she said, to clear her head for the week ahead. She drank for anxiety. Yes, she drank, some. She never told anyone that she felt anxious and drank some. And she never saw a doctor to get a prescription for anxiety, so she lived with it.

She watched her weight and starved herself while being aware that she needed protein. She avoided snacks and eating between meals, though this was very hard for her. She liked yogurt without fruit, plain yogurt for protein. Her days were long. She made them long, longer they needed to be. She wanted to exhaust herself, so she could sleep. She wanted to sleep at least eight hours a night, but she knew this was impossible. She knew her children would wake her before she slept eight hours.

She was usually up just after sunrise, except on those occasions when she got to sleep in, which usually followed a sleepless night. On most days Alice had her children dressed and fed by seven o’clock, and she felt proud of herself when she did. Alice never fed herself first.

Now there were many ways she could’ve reacted, pined away, let’s say, or acted self-destructively. She could’ve taken a stand, done something melodramatic. She could’ve harmed herself and her children. First, you must find a reason for continuing. You have to find something you want to live for. Fortunately, Alice had her kids. You look around carefully and see that you’re lucky. In spite of tremendous pain, you see that you’re lucky. If you can’t feel it, you can seek help, talk to someone. Luckily, Alice had Maggie to turn to. Though Maggie wasn’t a professional, it helped to have someone to turn to. And you commend yourself to God, except Alice’s faith was shaky. Yes, shaky. Just as she felt shaky. Yes, a person has to find something, or else ,,,, To be truthful, it wasn’t as easy as that. Alice didn’t trust her feelings. Remember this was new territory for her. And she had never experienced such extreme grief before. She had never experienced such pain before. To say the least, it wasn’t pleasant.

Now that part that wasn’t pleasant was something she had to go through. To heal she had to work through it, and this was hard for her. It would’ve been hard for anyone. It would’ve been easier to skip this part. It would’ve been easier to mask pain and jump into a relationship with someone else, and it would’ve been easy for her. Even with children, she could’ve easily done it. Instead of relying on herself, she could relied on someone else. But she had children to worry about. She needed to heal for her children. Again, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t clear that she knew what she was doing. Somehow she knew jumping into another relationship would be a mistake. There were no known cures except going through doors of pain. There was very little good news then.

Anyone at anytime may have to face such a loss, loss of a love one through death or divorce. In many ways a divorce can be worse than death. Alice was caught by divorce! She had to face divorce. She hadn’t seen it coming when she maybe should’ve … maybe. In the case of divorce catching Alice, she should’ve been prepared. But how does one prepare for such a catastrophe? Now few people know what they will do. Few people are prepared. Few people marry someone knowing they’re going to divorce them. If that were the case, why marry someone?

So there was no known cure. There were no shortcuts. There were no shortcuts that worked. Sometimes it affects the shoulders and the back. The stomach, of course. Of course, the back and neck. There were many pitfalls. There are not many things that will help us with divorce. In olden days people rarely divorced. It was always complicated. It is complicated. Kids make it even more complicated. Again there were no shortcuts.

Over time, Alice looked back at this period of her life without many regrets ….things she said, things she did or didn’t do. But it wasn’t as simple as that …. as if discovering your husband was a homosexual would be simple. Albert didn’t set out to hurt her, though there are souls who do that to people. In the end, Alice was able to say, for her it was a period of growth; through misery caused by a situation out of her control growth occurred. Eventually she was able to restore peace of mind. Eventually she was able to come to terms with having a gay husband.

There were many ways that she could have dealt with it, and she was lucky to have children to keep her sane. At times, they drove her insane but kept her sane. They could’ve driven her crazy had she not focused on caring for them. It could’ve gone the other way. It could’ve easily gone the other way had she let it. Caring for kids was a comfort. It took her mind off her problem … problems. They were a distraction and not a problem, as long as she viewed it that way. They took time, and that was a good thing. It felt right when she concentrated on her kids because they meant everything to her. Of course, we know that sometimes people are emotionally dead and no longer feel anything. This could’ve happened to Alice, but it didn’t because of her children Sometimes she felt right during the day and dead at night. This may have been a clue that she wasn’t as well off as she thought she was. But there aren’t many remedies, so she was thankful that she found one that worked.

Dealing with someone’s emotions is extremely complicated, complicated and delicate, since you are dealing with a person’s spirit. That’s one reason people see counselors for help. It’s call help, though sometime it doesn’t help. Alice never saw a counselor. She relied on Maggie. Talking to Maggie on the telephone helped some. Yes, It helped to talk, but it didn’t help Alice as much as caring for her kids did. As you may gather, there are many ways to deal with divorce. Yes! But being married to a homosexual! Alice felt she deserved more than being married to a homosexual.

 

 

Chapter Four

At daybreak, Albert left Buddy’s apartment. He knew his way out. He didn’t have to sneak out because Buddy lived across town from where Albert lived. Buddy also lived across town from Albert’s church. Albert had brought a change of of clothes with him so that he could go directly to the church. By then, Albert had a key to Buddy’s apartment.

Albert now lived alone in an apartment he found on his own and no longer lived in the house the church owned. With Alice and the girls gone, he no longer needed the amount of space his parish provided him. It seemed like a luxury. Now the church had a house they could use for something other than a residence. A growing church always needed additional space. Since it was located next to the church this house could easily be used for many things. Because of Albert’s personality and his sermons, his church was growing. In spite of everything, his church was growing. His church was alive and growing.

North Dallas in those years was growing faster than most areas of the city. Dallas was bustling then, as people moved and moved out to the suburbs. Apartments were springing up everywhere, and young families were moving into them. Now, of course there were many reasons for this growth, and why people were moving to Dallas was no mystery. Dallas would soon have one of the largest churches in the world. So Albert’s church was expected to grow. With this in mind Albert didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his appointment, which depended totally on his Bishop. If he could keep his Bishop happy, he knew he wouldn’t be moved anytime soon. So Albert nimbly led a double life, while only occasionally worrying about what would happen if he got caught. So he was careful. He had to be careful.

A lot depended on Buddy. If it came down to Buddy or his church he didn’t know which he would choose. At that point it didn’t matter because he and Buddy had an understanding, an arrangement that worked as long as both of them were satisfied with it. They saw each other once a week. With trips to San Antonio to see his girls and duties at the church, once a week was all the time Albert had. Albert asked Buddy to honor this. It was important for Buddy to honor this.

Don’t push me, Buddy?”

Where is that coming from?”

Don’t push me.”

I think I’ve been understanding.”

You have.”

They slept in the middle of the bed, holding each other, got up before dawn so that Albert could drive across town without fear of attracting attention. Attention was the last thing Albert wanted. Keeping his church, he knew, depended on it. While it was not every day they followed this routine, it was often enough to attract attention if Albert didn’t leave before dawn. At that hour traffic was rarely heavy. Albert, who had not been in love since Alice was now in love with Buddy. He wasn’t sure how Buddy felt. So the penitent process was long. For Albert it was long. For Albert it was too long. He wasn’t sure about Buddy. Did Buddy love him? He wasn’t sure about Buddy. Was Buddy interest in a relationship, or was he simply interest in sex? How could he be sure about Buddy?

When he reached home, Albert was never sure. His head swam with questions. Was he getting enough? Was sex enough? Was he getting enough sex? Or did he need more? He knew he needed more than sex. Albert thought he knew the answers.

Albert tried to hide his tension from his congregation. He tried to hide many things, many things from them, ride many ups and downs and keep it from them, so he was no longer comfortable around them. He hid many things from his congregation. He was always afraid someone would catch him, though it was unlikely. He was always afraid someone would find out, afraid he would slip up. Yeah, it got harder and harder. It was truly penitence. It would’ve been easier if he knew Buddy truly loved him. Albert did not seek help. He kept it inside himself. How could he be sure about Buddy?

It was about then that he thought about giving up the ministry. Albert thought about giving it up, but he heard the voice of God at a very early age, so he sought God again through prayer. He also tried to turn to Buddy, but Buddy was no help. Buddy was unchurched, unchurched, and this worried Albert. Albert asked God if he should give up his church.

Come on, come on,” Albert summoned God like he did as a child, with his head tilted up, with his hands open. Instead of praying with his head down, he looked up. Up, up, he listened for God. Completely overwhelmed, he listened for God. Where was God? “God?” He went down a hall to the chapel, where he sometimes held small weddings, and asked, “God?” It wasn’t his fault that he didn’t hear God’s voice, though he felt close to God anyway. This was enough then. He didn’t need to hear God’s voice to feel God’s presence.

Both Albert and Buddy enjoyed their time together. They cherished their time together. They enjoyed touching each other. They enjoyed being the same room together. They cherished each others company. They enjoyed many things together. Buddy also taught Albert many things, and from there they slowly made their way.

All the while, Albert couldn’t keep from asking himself what he was going to do. Maybe he needed to move someplace else. Maybe. Maybe he and Buddy needed to find a refuge. He no longer felt safe in Dallas. He was exhausted and no longer felt safe in Dallas. His double life and his trips to San Antonio exhausted him, and surely he couldn’t keep this up for long. But as soon as he was in his car, coming from his church, everything changed. When he saw Buddy everything changed. When he saw Buddy, Albert thought Buddy and their life together looked more appealing than ever before. But he always found himself looking over his shoulder.

An uncomfortable Albert stood in front of his congregation every Sunday and found no place to hide. He gave his sermon, and his sermons were better than ever. He always took pride in his sermons. He spent a good deal of time on his sermons. He rarely stood behind the pulpit. He preferred getting as close to the congregation as possible, but he never shared his true feelings. He hid himself within his sermons.

All the while, Albert kept seeing Buddy, Buddy who never said how he truly felt about his bed partner. Albert couldn’t remember whether Buddy ever used the word love. “Maybe Buddy thinks he doesn’t have to commit himself …” Albert thought sometimes. 

Albert felt uneasy because the feelings he had for Buddy were not the ones Christian men were suppose to have for other men and yet he loved Buddy. He loved Buddy like he loved Alice, and he couldn’t explain it, or at least he couldn’t explain it to anyone else. Though he told Alice, he still couldn’t explain it. He couldn’t explain it to Alice. It was simply a fact he couldn’t explain, explain particularly to Alice.

It was a funny thing because you might figure after he told Alice he would be able to come out of the closet and make a public announcement, but especially because of the nightmarish possibility of Alice telling someone. He knew it would be hard for Alice to keep something like that secret, especially when people asked her why they were no longer married. But she only told Maggie. Yet Maggie was a member of Albert’s church. Alice was incapable of keeping things inside herself, which was why she told Maggie, while hoping Maggie wouldn’t tell anyone else.

Everything required a resilience he found only from reading the Bible. He relied on his faith. He relied on his Bible. He relied on his faith now more than ever. Albert never talked about how he was feeling with anyone, but there were two people besides Buddy who knew what was going on, and they were Alice and Maggie. Maggie represented the biggest threat to him. She was a member of his congregation and he knew she knew he was gay. Maggie didn’t know about Buddy, but Albert knew she knew he was gay. He knew Alice told Maggie everything about him being gay because Alice told him that she did. That was Alice. She was incapable of keeping things inside herself. And what Alice said weren’t stray or desperate remarks either.

Something that might be described as a desperate cry for help or a need to hurt him was not there at all. The revelation that Albert was gay brought with it the weight of the world. It shocked Maggie. It shocked her and she would’ve said something to someone within her circle of friends had Alice not swore her to secrecy. Had Alice not done this Maggie would’ve let it slip out in a heartbeat. It would’ve easily come out of her mouth. It had a force of its own and could’ve easily come out.

The night Albert confessed or told Alice, she jumped up and ran around the apartment screaming. This wasn’t like Alice. It wasn’t like her. This was the night Albert confessed that he was gay, and he confessed he was seeing men and was involved in clandestine sex. Clandestine sex with men. It hurt Alice. Why wouldn’t it hurt Alice? Albert didn’t want to hurt Alice. When he told her, she screamed, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” There was no way he could’ve told her without upsetting her. She couldn’t stand seeing him the next day. She didn’t throw him out, but she couldn’t stand seeing him. They carried on as best they could. Alice’s reaction short changed communication between them. No, she shouldn’t be blamed.

Alice’s hostility took the shape of silence. Silence became the norm. Their girls were not old enough to remember this, but for certain they sensed their mother’s hostility toward their father. They couldn’t help but notice it. They couldn’t help but notice changes in their home. When Alice final said something, she said, “When I went looking for you … Oh my God! You didn’t come home. And when you didn’t come home, I worried. I was worried sick. I went looking for you. Thank God, you weren’t hurt!”

Alice said it over and over again and, while it frightened her, talking helped. It gave her courage, and the more she talked the more her courage grew. Once silence was broken, talking helped her. And then one day (or maybe it was a night) she talked to Maggie, that faithful conversation during which she told someone her husband was gay. Only she used the word homosexual. She almost called him queer.

Maggie, I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I don’t what I go to do and don’t know if I’m coming or going,” Alice ventured to say to her friend. “Will you keep this a secret while I figure out what I’m going to do. While we figure out, I had to tell someone.”

Okay. I support you.”

That’s why I told you. I had to tell someone.” Alice wasn’t sure if Maggie realized how important she had become to her. There was no way she knew. She bit her lip after she said, “He’s a homosexual.” Not queer but homosexual. Suddenly she jumped up and declared, “He’s not queer! That helped. Thank you, Maggie. Thank you for listening. He’s not queer. My husband is not queer.”

That’s what friends are for.”

And now Alice became lost in her own thoughts.

And what are you going to say to your husband?” Maggie asked without taking her eye off Alice. “You can’t avoid him, you know.

Alice sat back down. Her whole body was affected by strain, and that was understandable. “How could he do this to me … to us?” she asked. She didn’t have an answer. It would take a long time for her to come up with an answer, answers, satisfactory ones. “Oh, no Maggie. This is not Albert. He’s not queer. This is not the man I married.” And in a sense she was right, while at the same time Albert insisted he hadn’t changed. And he hadn’t. He knew he was different before he had a name for it. And at the same time Alice didn’t know what he was going through. How could Albert explain how he really felt? This was before he loved Buddy, so he didn’t have to bring a specific person into the picture. And that made it easier for both Alice and Albert.

Alice thought she was unattractive. She sometimes felt that way. Yet she was striking, dark and striking. She could’ve been part Mexican. She and Albert grew up in that part of the world. They grew up in the Texas, south Texas. She had black, black hair, which she passed on to her girls. But Albert considered her the opposite. He considered her very attractive. He didn’t remember when he wasn’t attracted to her, and this confused him because he was also attracted to boys. Even in grade school, he was attracted to boys. When he was a boy, he was attracted to boys. He was attracted to Alice and boys. How could he be attracted to Alice and boys? When he became a man, he became attracted to men and lost his attraction to boys.

Alice searched the house without success. She searched for Albert and was certain she would find him. Alice hadn’t seen him go out. He hadn’t said goodbye. It wasn’t like him to leave the house without saying goodbye to her. She had to get back to their girls, and for the first time Alice realized that Albert was not as attentive as he once was; and now for the first time she realized that he hadn’t been as attentive as he once was for quite some time. Even now she was beginning to feel alone. Even now she knew that there had to be someone else. Even now she knew Albert was seeing someone else. She didn’t want to know specifics. She didn’t want to know who he was seeing.

Then Albert stayed out all night, and Alice was certain her husband was seeing another woman. It wasn’t the first time he stayed out all night, but each time he had had an explanation, a reasonable explanation. But then … She didn’t dream he was seeing men.

Hi,” she said the next morning. She didn’t ask him where he had been. This time, no excuse. No, explanation. “Hi,” a rather anticlimactic reaction after the night she spent. Well, then again, perhaps a more dramatic moment than that would’ve been less affective. Albert surely expected more from her. Surely he expected her to scream at him. Surely, he knew (or thought) she would ask him where he had been, but now when she didn’t …. now that had a great affect on him. In any event, it overwhelmed Albert. And when he went to work that morning, he couldn’t concentrate. It became a strenuous week back on the job, back in the church. Luckily, he had a couch in his study, where he curled up and went to sleep.

He had just met Buddy, so he hadn’t fallen in love with him yet. The couple had spent the night together in Buddy’s little apartment. Albert returned before dawn to find Alice still up and waiting for him. She spent the night sweeping, mopping, cleaning the frig, scrubbing the bathtub, and crying. About 5:30 A. M., when Albert came home, she had cried out, and she didn’t even ask, “What’s going on?” Instead, she looked him in the eye and said, “Hi.” She had a cleaning rag in her hand.

I need to sleep,” Albert said without giving an explanation.

Well, then, go to sleep.” And that was that.

Well, nobody could say Alice didn’t deserve an explanation. Yes, she deserved one. She tried praying. She tried praying, but it didn’t help her. And she told herself “he seeing another woman. That’s why he won’t tell me. He can’t tell me because he’s seeing another woman. She had to find out. She had to find out if he was seeing another woman.

So this is what Alice set out to do. Instead of asking him directly (she thought he would lie about it), she was determined to keep closer tabs on him. She tried not to over do it, but sometimes she couldn’t help herself. Eventually, they couldn’t stand it any longer. Eventually, Albert said, “Alice, I’m a lousy husband.” At that point she couldn’t disagree with him. At that point, she saw all her hopes and dreams disappear. Before then, she was dreaming of living a happy life with Albert for the rest of her life, but he had betrayed her, or maybe it was she … and maybe she had done something wrong. Good thing she found out while she was still young.

And Albert,” Alice said, “I’m a lousy wife. I must be.”

No, no. It’s me. Not you.” Albert expected it to come to this. “It’s me. I’m … (he almost told her then) Why don’t you go … take a vacation with our girls to San Antonio … see your folks. Take them to see their grandparents! I’m sure they would like to see our girls. We can afford it. They would love to see the three of you, and it would give us both time, time to think.” Time to think! So Alice packed their Rambler with enough necessities for a week, and left for San Antonio. She left Albert alone for a week, hoping he would come to his senses. She was willing forgive him then.

This was a hard week for everyone. This was a hard week for Alice, and it was a hard week for Albert. To begin with, Albert hadn’t had to fend for himself before, so he ate out the whole time. And he missed his family. And he missed Alice most of all. Surprisingly, he missed Alice. And he wanted to try to explain to Alice, explain how it wasn’t her fault. And Alice had no sense of direction, and she didn’t take a map. And she never drove. It was what Albert did when they took a trip. And she didn’t like driving on Interstates, too much traffic and too many exchanges to suit her. So she headed north instead of south and ended up in Denton before she could correct her mistake. That was when she realized how much she depended on Albert. Now she had to depend on herself. Still she didn’t call Albert when she found herself lost, found herself in Denton searching for the Interstate. Then she wandered around until she finally found I-35 heading south. Then as she headed south, she said to herself, “Grow up!”

Alice had always depended on someone else. She never had to depend on herself. She never had to live alone. She always had either her parents or Albert to look after her. Well, of course, Alice was not thinking of divorce then, but all the same Alice felt alone for the first time in her life. … all alone, abandoned as she drove to San Antonio. And she had no one to help her make decisions, as she drove to San Antonio. She didn’t have anyone. She felt alone. Her girls were too young to help her. They were too young to know what was going on. She should never put her girls in a position of being her caregiver. Alice’s world had been turned upside down, and she had no one to help her. She couldn’t tell her parents. She would remain tight-lipped. The truth was she and her parents rarely talked. It was how they traditionally coped. And Alice knew how they felt about homosexuals, queers. She detested the word queer. Now she had one for a husband.

Now, Albert was another matter … and if she let him he probably could’ve guided Alice to a safe place. He was good at guiding people to safe places. It was his profession. But Alice and Albert had stopped talking too, so she could no longer entrust her feelings to him. She felt he betrayed her, so she felt alone as she drove to San Antonio. This was part of Alice’s problem. This was a problem she had to work through.

Alice used tricks to stay on the highway. She hadn’t slept, so she had trouble staying awake as she drove to San Antonio, but this problem didn’t bothered her as much as thoughts about facing her parents. She stayed awake for her children’s sake. For her children’s sake she stayed on the highway. All she knew was that her children depended on her. After all she was their mother. Yet Alice didn’t consider herself suicidal. No! She never thought of suicide. Her children depended on her. Her girls depended on their mother, just as she had depended on her mother. And yes Alice depended on her girls.

During this period Alice didn’t want to let her girls out of her sight. She wanted to care for them. She wanted to pay them special attention. Her parents were surprised to see Alice and the girls on their doorstep. They feared the worst for her and their grandchildren.

Now they were careful not to ask too many questions. “I say we let her explain when she is good and ready,” Alice’s father said to her mother. It was the first time Alice drove from Dallas to San Antonio on her own, and they were curious, concerned and curious, yet they didn’t ask for an explanation. And had they asked Alice would’ve said something. She would’ve made up something.

And what makes you think that something is wrong?” Alice’s mother asked her father, for she hoped for the best. Yes, she hoped for the best, and she also hoped that her daughter would eventually gain a little more independence. She hoped that for a long time, but … but if they knew what Alice’s sudden appearance on their doorstep meant, first they probably wouldn’t believe it and then they wouldn’t believe it was possible, such was their son-in-law’s reputation, Albert’s standing and reputation, standing and reputation in the Methodist church. They followed their son-in-law’s career as a Methodist minister with pride and would defend his honor if it came down to it. If it came down to rumors about Albert being gay, queer, they would say “no way! It isn’t possible. He’s married to our daughter, the father of our grandchildren.” No, they wouldn’t believe it, and they would defend him. They would rally around him.

No, what they didn’t know was that Albert didn’t want or need their help. He wouldn’t ask for their help. He wouldn’t explain or speak to them about it. And that’s how he handled it. He never talked to them about it. He never explained. He never thought he had to explain. For weeks, Alice and the girls stayed in San Antonio with Alice’s parents. Somehow, they were certain Alice hadn’t left Albert. They assumed everything was okay, or it would be okay, okay once Alice and the girls went back to Dallas. But what was going on? Certainly they were curious. Alice’s parents asked each other, but did they ask Alice? Did they bring it up? No. They just assumed it would be okay.

Meanwhile, Alice isolated herself, isolating herself in her parent’s home. She and the girls stayed in her old bedroom. But her old bedroom now seemed different to her.

Albert’s response brought Alice little reassurance. No phone calls, no letters, nothing. She expected something from him. At least, something. She expected him to show interest … if not in her, then his children. It was not that he wasn’t interested. He missed his girls, he missed Alice, but Albert decided it was best that he give Alice time without his influence. As hard as it was for him, it was what he decided, and he stood by his decision. Afterward, he regretted it. Alice returned home feeling worse than ever. Alice returned home feeling worse than she did when she left. By then she decided to make the best of a bad situation. For her daughters’ sake, she decided to live with the situation.

God gave us two daughters. For their sake, we need to work this out,” Alice told Albert, who hadn’t come to a decision yet. “For their sake, we need to stay together, together as a family.” A decision wasn’t required yet.

And you would think I would be pushing for a resolution. Well, I’m not, if you’re not. I’m content for now, if you can live with it.”

If, if, is …. there are so many ifs. Perhaps too many ifs.”

It’s up to you,” Albert finally said.

So you’re leaving it to me. Me? Our girls are still babies …”

Our daughters,” Albert interrupted and left the room. Albert always left the room when he felt uncomfortable about something. He hadn’t expected it to be easy. In his job, he often counseled people. He often helped people through difficult situations. Now he faced a difficult situation. And now he didn’t have anyone to turn to. He felt he couldn’t turn to his Bishop. And since he felt he was a source of their “problem,” Albert also felt guilty. Somewhere he needed to find someone to talk to. Albert wasn’t looking for a soul mate, but finding one would be helpful. At this point he would’ve settled for less. At this point, he had to rely on strangers.

Well, be thankful for that much,” Albert told himself and thought maybe they could work it out. He thought maybe they could continue as a married couple. Maybe they didn’t have to go through the agony of a divorce. He thought maybe they could have a marriage without sex, without sex for the sake of children … anything for sake of children. He once talked to his Bishop about how his Bishop felt about gays fitting into the Methodist church. His Bishop didn’t dismiss it out of hand, but he didn’t seem very open and added that he didn’t have anything against gays. “What would you think of a minister who was gay and came out of the closet?” he wanted to ask but didn’t.

Are there any churches in the conference that accepts gays?”

Not yet but hopefully some day. What’s behind your questions about gays?” his Bishop asked.

What … ?” Albert had to think fast. He knew how he sounded. “Oh, I think I have a gay couple who have started coming to my church, and I think they’re considering membership. And they don’t hide … hide it … their sexuality.”

I think you should talk to them … talk to them about being discreet.” Albert couldn’t hear the rest of what the bishop said because he was too distracted; as a result, and when he responded, Albert wasn’t sure if he responded appropriately and wondered if he gave himself away, like he had been caught of some horrible crime.

Still Albert understood the Bishop and where the bishop stood concerning gays and the church. He thought the Bishop was an honest man. He thought the Bishop tried his best not to be prejudice. Nevertheless, being only human, Albert felt exasperated. He could see what was coming, or he imagined it. Of course, he was too scared, too scared to think rationally. “God! God if only I weren’t gay,” he thought. Yet he wasn’t sure that was true.

Did you think Alice … divorce?” No, Alice never thought she would ever have to face divorce. When she married Albert, she thought they would remained married until one of them died. Divorce? No, Alice would never get over Albert. All she thought about was the dream and the wedding she and Albert had, Yes, she had always dreamed of marrying Albert, a happy life with Albert. Now that was impossible.

A year passed before Alice and Albert separated and Alice moved to San Antonio with their girls. It was Alice who initiated everything. It was Alice who initiated a change. It was Alice who finally said she wanted a divorce. It was Alice who brought it up. It was Alice who was honest. At first, no one knew why they separated, all of a sudden without giving people warning. No one knew why they separated except of course Maggie. By then Maggie had become a dear friend to Alice, a true confidant.

Both Alice and Albert were distraught. You can imagine what they went through and what they were going through. It was hell, hell for both of them. Hell Pure hell!

More than likely Albert tried to talk Alice out of it, but Alice had made up her mind. And of course, Albert knew it was the right think to do. Of course, he saw it coming. At least Alice knew he still loved her, apart from things she knew nothing about like who he met when he went out at night.

You need help,” Alice insisted.

We both need help! I’m sure we both need help,” was how Albert responded.

Alice nodded her head. Of course Albert intended to support her and their girls as much as possible. She resisted it by saying she would only accept child support. Child support! Albert wasn’t then ready for divorce and child support was the last thing on his mind. Of course, he would pay child support. Of course he would support his girls. He was dumbfounded at any suggestion that he wouldn’t support them, all three of them. He would do what he could.

He helped her moved to San Antonio. He help her and his girls find a place to live, a suitable house off of St. Mary’s. The first thing Albert insisted was that he help her move to San Antonio and help her find a place to live with his girls. He also paid their rent that first year. No matter how much it cost him he paid their rent. She never considered moving in with her family. Albert never questioned this. He knew why Alice didn’t want to move back in with her family, though she could have.

As he drove away that first time, as he headed back to Dallas, after returning a U-Haul, he said a prayer and asked for God’s help. He listened for God’s voice, resigned that it was for Alice and their girls rather than him. He established a ritual of praying for Alice and his girls every time he left them behind in San Antonio. It always felt like he was leaving them behind.

Word spread quickly through his congregation that Alice and the girls no longer lived with Albert. For one thing, they no longer saw Alice and the girls in church, and that was a big deal considering how minister’s wives were view then. Back then, minister’s wives worked for the church, though it wasn’t official and they weren’t paid. Most people wondered why they didn’t see Alice and the girls and wanted to know why; while most people didn’t say anything.

So by then, gossip filled the halls of the church until Albert had to give some sort of explanation. But was he ready, ready to come out of the closet, make his sexual preference public, and suffer the consequences? His anguish was incredible since he knew the consequences … since he already knew how his Bishop felt about gays, gays serving as ministers … and since he already knew how many of his parishioners felt about gays. How alone he felt seemed incredible.

He thought about asking Alice to come back. Even though she was settled with his girls in San Antonio, he thought about it, seriously about it. For convenience sake … ask her to come back and live together, thinking it would better than the alternative. He wasn’t thinking. He wasn’t thinking then of her well-being. He knew that begging for forgiveness wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t change anything. It wouldn’t change the fact that he was gay. He knew it would only delay the inevitable, but out of other options then this was the only one he could think of.

Word finally got out that Alice and his girls had moved to San Antonio. Stories grew until some began to say that Alice moved out because Albert was “harsh” to her. No one said he was abusive. They only used the word “harsh.” They couldn’t see their minister being abusive. He was too kind. It would be out of character. And when Albert heard all this he exploded, which only confirmed his explosiveness to those who wanted to believe the worse.. And when left alone, Albert sobbed and cried. He only sobbed a few times in the shower, while he cried a lot. Yet Albert’s congregation never guessed this and wanted to believe the source of his problems was Alice.

Albert, who needed it, finally asked his Bishop for time off. He decided he needed it, needed it to decide what he was going to do, Now that he knew that Alice and his girls were safe, living in a home in San Antonio, close to her parents, he felt he had to take a few weeks off to think. He decided to take off in his car.

Albert took a pilgrimage to Turner Falls in the Arbuckle Mountains. By Interstate, the Arbuckle Mountains were a short drive from Dallas and located in the opposite direction of San Antonio. It had been years since he had been to Turner Falls and then he had only driven by them. This time he rented a small cabin; in which he hoped to hear God’s voice again.

Albert often called on God, but had he heard God’s voice since he was a boy? He worked at a church and prayed, pray for himself and other people, prayed every day, but had he heard God’s voice since he was a boy? He thought he had, but now he wasn’t sure. In all fairness to Albert, it must be admitted that his questioning God’s presences was no different than that of most people.

Albert could not explain why he chose Turner Falls that day. First, it was too crowded for his taste, but he didn’t plan to hike or swim. After haven’t slept well for months, he planned to sleep and pray … He planned to see the falls, sleep and pray, and get lost in a cabin, so it didn’t matter how many people were around. He thought it was as good a place as any to get lost in a cabin. He would only go out to eat. He wasn’t hungry, so he wasn’t sure he wanted to eat. He no longer liked sight of food.

The following day, without books or a television, he stayed inside his cabin. By then, he decided to fast. Maybe by fasting, he would hear the voice of God and witness the miracle he was looking for. Until the next morning, he didn’t think of time or his stomach, when he realized he couldn’t fast and looked for breakfast in the nearest town. And by then the spell of solitude was broken. By then he just wanted to drive and see where he would end up. So he spent the day driving around until he ended up where he started. He made a full circle but somehow avoided the City, Oklahoma City. Spell of solitude never returned. After that, he remained in his cabin in a daze, trying to hear God’s voice.

And worst of all for Alice was that she didn’t want to leave Albert. She dreaded a separation, and dreaded divorce more, and for so long she tried to avoid both. But after so many, many months of turmoil (mostly internal), she felt she didn’t have a choice. And Albert felt the same way. For both of them, their worlds imploded.

Then what did they want? At first, she thought she could change Albert. That if he had to choose, he would choose her and their girls. She looked for a miracle, but a miracle never came. And later she thought accommodation would work, and for the sake of their girls, she could make it work. “I beg you … “ she pleaded.

Of course, all this confused Alice, who hadn’t come to terms with having a gay husband yet. For a long time, she pretended the problem would go away. For a long time, she refused to believe she had a gay husband.

Unbeknownst to Alice, however, her husband had found another soul mate, someone she wouldn’t found out about until after their divorce. Albert didn’t want a scandal. He didn’t need scandal. No one wants or needs scandal. It was the last thing he wanted or needed. He didn’t want to lose his church, and believe it or not, he didn’t want to lose his family. He didn’t want to lose Alice. Buddy understood this. And Albert knew there was no cure, while Alice looked for one. While Albert didn’t think he needed a cure, Alice looked for one. Albert didn’t want to be cured. Some claimed to have a cure and offered counseling and still Alice didn’t dare suggest her husband go to counseling. Albert was a counselor, a christian counselor, and a minister, and if he thought he needed it, he would surely seek counseling … though Alice knew if he sought counseling, he would have to be discreet about it. She felt she had to be discreet too.

Albert?” Alice said after a long pause. “How can we continue this way?” she asked her husband, who was in his study preparing a sermon

I don’t know, Alice.”

It’s … “

I know. I feel the say way.”

What are we going to do?

But as it turned out, by then … by the time Alice asked this she had already made up her mind, She had already made up to leave Albert. She knew what she had to do. It took her a year but by then she knew she had to do it … for her sake and the sake of her children. It had been a slow process. She couldn’t go on living the way they had been living. She wanted more of her husband than Albert could give her and she knew it. She wanted more. She was giving up a dream but realized she had already lost it. She knew she lost Albert. Now she had to move on, had to move on for her sake and her children. No matter how hard it was, hard it would be, she had to move on for her sake and the sake of her children.

Now there were practical matters, details, details that needed to be worked out. She didn’t have money of her own. Luckily, Texas was a community property state. Luckily, she knew Albert wouldn’t haggle. She knew, luckily, Albert wouldn’t haggle over child support. Though Alice knew Albert would be fair and would do all he could to support his children, they didn’t own any property. With Albert being a minister, they always lived in homes own by the church and had accumulated very little savings. At least, they didn’t have the hassle of selling a home and splitting proceeds. But there were still many details to work out.

Slowly, she went through details in her head. She tried making a list. She tried making a list, but it didn’t seem right. There were certain things she definitely wanted to keep. She wanted to keep pictures. She was surprised by things she wanted to keep.. Surprisingly, many things were associated with Albert. And many were much more than that, and this surprised her. Pictures primarily. It didn’t seem right to to cut Albert out of pictures with the girls. It didn’t seem right to cut Albert out.

Alice took off with as much of their furniture as a mid-size U-Haul would hold. She may have taken more than her share. Albert didn’t care. He didn’t care what she took. “I’ll help you,” he said, and this irritated her. It wasn’t enough that he insisted on driving the full U-Haul to San Antonio. It wasn’t enough that he insisted on helping her load and unload the U-Haul. He helped them find a place to live and move in. He also insisted on helping her buy a car. He insisted on giving her advice about buying a car, and this irritated her too. By then, his mere presence irritated her.

As she drove behind the U-Haul in “his car,” Alice remembered other trips to San Antonio they took as a family. It was something she didn’t want to think about. It was too painful to think about, but scenery along the way brought up those memories. And memories brought up more memories … good and bad … good and bad memories, all were painful. She had to look straight ahead to stay on the road and stay awake. She looked straight ahead to avoid the scenery.

Their girls rode with their father in the truck. That was the least she could give him.

Was she less attractive than she used to be? Were her teeth still nice or were they now crooked? She knew her hair was still black, cut short, without gray … all this Alice knew. But was she less attractive than she once was? What was happening to her? What was happening? She didn’t believe it … couldn’t believe it … wasn’t sure. Could she? Would she? She didn’t know.

Alice was too close to it for it to make sense to her then. This was happening to her. It was happening too quickly. Though the process was slow, it was happening too quickly. But as for her husband … who now, disappointed or just confused her was now helping her move to San Antonio and he wasn’t moving with her. And this perhaps was as good a time as any for her to start over.

Albert led Alice to San Antonio after Alice showered out her feelings for over an hour. There was no shouting. She quietly showered out her feelings. Albert stayed calmed as Alice showered out her feelings. Albert let her. He knew to let her. She called him a few names. Afterward she wished she hadn’t called him a few names.

Then Albert began to arrange for her move, as she arranged their girls things for a move. He rented a U-Haul. All the while, she went on talking while Albert wasn’t hearing her. He was so “matter of fact.” She couldn’t believe how matter of fact he was, and this irritated her even more.

I just wish we we could ….”

I know. I thought we could too.” He lied here.

At least we have our daughters. Our beautiful daughters. At least we have beautiful daughters … together.”

Yes, we do. And we’ll still have them.” He was so matter of fact. This irritated her.

That’s why I married you, thinking … I mean, I loved … love you.”

I know. You haven’t seen your parents in a long time.” He was so matter of fact. “They’ll be happy to see you and our girls. I’m sure they missed you and our girls.”

How can he be so cruel?” she thought.

I love you.”

And I love you too.”

How can he be so cruel?” Alice closed her eyes and wondered how it could be true. How could he still love her? Then she felt like sobbing and had to leave the room. “Are you sure it isn’t a woman?” Alice asked, as she left the room. She then hoped he was seeing another woman. If he were seeing another woman, then there was hope, she thought.

Yes, I’m sure,” Albert finally said. “I have a boyfriend.”

Tears were now flowing down Alice’s face, making it so she didn’t hear her husband say “I have a boyfriend.” Or maybe she just didn’t want hear it. Or maybe she heard it and …

Chapter Five

Buddy Mann was not always attractive. He may have always been handsome, but handsomeness is different than attractiveness. He had always been Buddy. Attractive or handsome he was or had always been Buddy. To his parents, he was a pretty baby. Maybe that was sort of a sign., and it was something Buddy’s parents remembered when they found out he was gay. He was a pretty baby.

They didn’t like it when they found out Buddy was gay … which upset Buddy but was something Buddy should’ve known would happen. Or expected. He should’ve known they wouldn’t be happy about it.

They didn’t like Buddy being gay any more than Buddy liked being called sissy by his father. Buddy’s father was worse than his mother and called him sissy until he learned that Buddy wouldn’t react. Buddy learned not to react. He didn’t like being called sissy by anyone, especially his father. Buddy was over six feet tall, muscular, and attractive, and to anyone who knew him he didn’t appear to be sissy. It was much later that Buddy had to prove his manhood. That was when he got into fights and won. His father made him play high school football. Okay, he excelled in football, but avoided dressing out with other boys because he was afraid he would get a hard on.

There were many signs throughout Buddy’s childhood that indicated that he was gay, but they were never so obvious that anyone picked up on them … signs that were obvious to anyone looking for them. Like Albert, Buddy knew he was different before he knew what gay, queer, fag meant. It wasn’t clear when he became attractive rather than handsome. His aunts may have seen it first, his aunts who thought he was a pretty baby and witnessed his first steps. They always said he inherited his mother’s blue eyes.

Yet he inherited his father’s athletic ability. Buddy was never sure if his father inherited his athletic ability from his father, Buddy’s grandfather, because Buddy’s grandfather if he had athletic ability he didn’t have an opportunity to show it. His grandfather grew up on a farm and didn’t have an opportunity for athletics. Thus, there was no clear line for athletics passed onto Buddy, no direct lineage other than through Buddy’s father. But this scenario meant no one thought Buddy was gay while most people considered him handsome. They always said he had beautiful blue eyes.

When word got out and rumors began to spread about Buddy being gay, people said, “Hey, no kidding?” And laughed. And they called him queer, fag, or homo. And Buddy was sensitive about it. Yes, he was sensitive about it until he developed a thick skin. Sometimes he skin wasn’t thick enough. He had to develop a thick skin to survive. This was before gays were accepted at all.

The football team maintained a clique within the team, and Buddy wanted to belong to this clique. He wanted to belong to this clique more than anything. But after teammates recognized Buddy was different, Buddy was excluded from this clique. He was part of the team, yet excluded. They excluded him because he was different and called him names without knowing he was gay. However, he compensated for it by becoming the best player on the team. He compensated for it by becoming a star, a star quarterback, and on game day everyone in school forgot Buddy was different. They cheered for him whenever he ran for a touchdown. They cheered for someone who was different whenever he ran for a touchdown. He became better than anyone else on the team because he tried to compensate for being different.

No, it didn’t carry over. And yes people, on game day, gave him a wide-berth, made exceptions on game day. But had Buddy been open about how he was attracted to other boys, he would’ve been ostracized from the dressing room. Buddy was always discreet, so he was never ostracized. His expert play kept him from being ostracized, but had he not been a star, it would’ve been different. Some boys called him queer. When he was not suited up, some girls laughed at him. He knew they laughed at him, but did he care what girls thought?

So Buddy used his God-given athletic ability to avoid being ostracized from the dressing room, but he never became a member of the clique withing the team. He was the star but never a member. He wasn’t a member of the clique because he was different … some kids said queer. And while Buddy received a certain amount of respect on the football field, he had very few friends. And most of the friends he had were girls. Now the question remains would he have been as a good a football player had he not been gay?

No one in his own family then suspected Buddy was queer because of his interest in football, and he was too manly for it. Buddy’s father wouldn’t have accepted it. He would’ve refused to believe his son was queer. Buddy’s father was proud of him and went to all his games. And yes, he was handsome and to those around him Buddy was manly. Buddy didn’t look queer to most people, and he didn’t act queer because he was manly. He was just different. But when Buddy was attracted to certain boys and certain boys were attracted to him, Buddy began to ask himself questions about his sexual orientation and finally asked, “Am I queer? Is it possible that I’m queer?” And he decided it was possible. Of course, thinking something is possible is a long way from knowing something is true.

Buddy, as he liked to be called, was the oldest of three, and while an unquestionably handsome boy, Buddy tended to attribute his being attractive to boys to something other being handsome, and just as some boys were attracted to him, he was attracted to them. And so it was that before he was out of high school Buddy knew he was gay.

When he went to college, Buddy, who refused to live in a dorm to the dismay of his parents, lived off-campus. He lived off-campus so that he could have freedom. He wanted to live alone so that he didn’t have to be accountable to anyone. Even then he had boyfriends, none serious, but nether-the-less, boyfriends.

Buddy maintained secret membership to a gay community of that time, just as most gays then did. However, theirs included as many women then as men and was not based on who was dating whom except men were dating men and women were dating women, (men were having sex with men, and women were having sex with women), but only places they felt free to go were bars that catered to them.

Though gay, Buddy considered himself simply a man and would’ve played football in college had he had been offered a scholarship. He was good enough to play football in college but wasn’t offered a scholarship. And by then, he knew why. Somehow, word got out that he was gay. But did he care? We have to assume he did care.

Buddy used his athletic ability as best he could, and perhaps with his love for sports, he expected to get a scholarship. But not everyone who has a talent for athletics and loves sports gets a scholarship, and not everyone has what it takes to make it his or her’s vocation. Buddy dreamed of becoming a pro, an icon, like he was an icon in high school. And while Buddy received a certain amount of respect for his playing ability in high school, it didn’t stop rumors about his sexual orientation, when they began to be spread throughout school faster than it would had he been a nobody. So it kept him from getting a scholarship.

Buddy’s parents never expected anyone in their family to be queer, while they knew the world around them was transforming beyond comprehension. The world indeed was changing. There was the war in Vietnam and chaos that came with it. Traditions were being cast aside, with a new openness about sex. There was the Sexual Revolution, yet homophobia had not die yet. It was a long way from dying.

Buddy, as all his friends called him, was oldest son, and while a sensitive boy … something which his parents attributed more to attitude than femininity, didn’t have a choice. He had to excel in athletics. His father insisted he go out for football, insisted he make the team, and insisted he become a star. And so it was that throughout high school, Buddy was center of attention, attention he would’ve preferred to avoid.

Before Buddy started college, he decided to turn down a scholarship if he were offered one because although it had been a good thing to be the center of attention in high school, fame had come with a price. By then, rumors had spread to the extent that it was unbearable for Buddy. So Buddy wanted to leave limelight and wanted to be treated like everyone else, but he continued to workout. (But he didn’t workout as hard as he once did.) He remained active, and applied the same deftness he used on the playing field in everything else he did. Even when dealing with relationships, he was a master, and consequently had no trouble attracting men. And while Buddy received a great amount of respect for how he treated other people, he was sometimes not treated well … beginning with rumors in high school, rumors that he was afraid would follow him into college.

Because of being ridiculed, Buddy was more sensitive to other people than he otherwise would’ve been, and as time went by, and after he moved out on his own, he became more remote to his family and former high school friends and made more friends in a smaller circle. As a homosexual, yes, Buddy had to find new friends, and there weren’t many openly gay men in Midland or Odessa then. So he went to Dallas and entered SMU. Many gay men would’ve said SMU was a poor choice, but for Buddy where else could he go? Where else could he go in Texas and placate his parents’ ambitions for him and find a relationship with a man? Dallas seemed big enough for him to find a man.

In Buddy’s apartment, when he lived in Dallas near SMU and was secretively gay, he had gay friends who often came to his place to drink and play cards. (He didn’t have a steady lover then.) There was always a crowd. There was always a crowd because there weren’t many places gay men could go then and be themselves. There was always something going on and someone there when he got home from school. So he never studied and almost flunked out of school his freshman year. He didn’t think he needed to study and didn’t really care. And consequently his little apartment was anything but gloomy, since it was filled with friends. It became a crash pad.

Many times Buddy helped, helped his friends and often became so involved that he overlooked his own needs. During this time, he didn’t have a steady boyfriend, although of course, he accepted sex whenever it was offered him. Still he wasn’t promiscuous, and since people held him in the highest regard, they respected his boundaries … what boundaries he had.

So Buddy didn’t take risks. (This was before AIDS.) He didn’t have to take risks and played it safe by staying away from bars. Friends came to him, to his apartment, and he didn’t have sex with anyone he didn’t know. But Buddy did not like to talk too much about sex, about being gay, and about what went on in his apartment, not even with friends who came by to drink, play cards, and have sex. There were no deep discussions, no expressions of feelings, everything for some unknown reason was kept superficial. They were practical men. Some of them had been jocks like Buddy.

His parents, however, were still in the dark though Buddy often wrote to them and sought their advice. Seeking their advice was a game for him. He also managed to get them to give him an allowance on top of paying his tuition and living expenses. They weren’t rich; still they paid these things without complaining and all they asked was that he graduate. They said they didn’t care what he majored in, as long as he graduated. Buddy took up philosophy to his father’s chagrin. His father still hadn’t given up on Buddy having a football career.

Buddy never watched SMU play football. He never went to a game while he attended college there, and he was not really into philosophy or anything else. He went to college to avoid the draft, to avoid Vietnam, though he might’ve learned a trade in the army. He knew what often happened to men who came back from Vietnam. If men weren’t killed in Vietnam, they were usually wounded in some way. Even if wounds weren’t seen, wounds were there and some couldn’t keep a steady job and spent most of their time stoned. Buddy didn’t want to spend his life stoned.

As it turned out, Buddy chose SMU because it was the epitome of a Christian school, with a nice campus in a big city, a seminary, on a nice campus in a big city. It was just far away from home to make it attractive, not too far, just far enough. Little else mattered.

Buddy never took his friends home to Midland nor talked about them with his parents. When his parents asked him what he ate, Buddy said his missed his mother’s cooking. He did miss her cooking … nothing like her spaghetti, potato salad, and cream pies he was raise on, but close enough to food he found in cafes around the university. He loved sex with one guy at a time. But we may not say, in his case, not with a steady guy yet, and while he went through the motions, it didn’t yet seem natural.

And so it was because he hadn’t yet found anyone he was in love with. He was attracted to men, many different men, had sex with them, but he had not yet found anyone he was in love with. And with his new found freedom, Buddy lost interest in being a student. He lost all interest in being a student. Still he stayed in school to maintain his freedom. He wasn’t interested in finding a job or going to war. And though he hadn’t yet found anyone he was in love with, he loved men, loved being with men, and loved having sex with men. He loved sex with men, front and back.

Buddy’s love for men started with his father. Buddy loved rugged smell of his father and other men he met. He loved smell of sweat, grime, sweaty bodies, and urine, and that was why he missed smell of locker rooms. He loved smell of football pads and locker rooms, loved seeing naked men except when was afraid of getting an erection, and if it weren’t for rumors and ridicule he wouldn’t have given up football. He would’ve worked out harder. He loved strength and tenacity of men, too, of course, but he also loved tenderness of some men, men like him. At least that was how he felt when he made love with men and began to discover his identity.

He and his friends went to movies together at a theater across the street from the campus. They liked foreign films, particularly French films. French films seem sexier than British films. They each had a favorite film and frequently talked about what they saw. They didn’t talk about much else. They also liked gay films, and there was only one place they knew where they could watch gay films. It wasn’t a theater in the true sense. It was a dark, dingy place that showed illegal gay porn, a dark, dingy place with sofas instead of individual seats. It was place where … you know …

Without pondering over what they were doing, Buddy and his friends made passionate love. Yet they weren’t into orgies. And it wasn’t love in a true sense. Had they been heterosexual, no one would’ve thought twice about it, and it would’ve been almost expected even at a christian school. It would;ve been considered part of growing up and overlooked. But sex between men! For that reason, for Buddy,at first it felt awkward.

Buddy’s first sexual experience with a man was with someone like himself, and luckily not with an older and more experienced man. He was scared and although Buddy did not have patience enough to enjoy it he thankfully ejaculated almost immediately. He didn’t take time to enjoy it. Maybe he couldn’t help ejaculating when he did.

When they were done (although they weren’t done at the same time), frustration followed for both of them. But they had sense to later try again. In other words, they were still attracted to each other; and although they did not have an actual connection other than sex, they labored (or tried again and again) until they both found satisfaction.

Chapter Six

Albert!” God called one day when Albert was sitting in the balcony of his church, called to him in his church in San Antonio. “God! Can you believe it? “God spoke directly to me,” Albert said to his church friends.

Alice sighed wistfully because she had never heard God’s voice. She didn’t say anything to Albert about it. She never said anything to him about it. She simply accepted on faith that Albert heard God’s voice just as she accepted on faith the existence of God.. She believed in God just as much as Albert believed in God, but her belief in the existence of God was based on faith rather than having heard God’s voice like Albert had. As children, they went to the same Methodist church in San Antonio.

Out of the blue, Albert tells me God spoke to him. Sunday in the balcony where he always sits!” Alice explained to her friends, who laughed and who only listened because she was their friend. This was during her teen years when she was already dating Albert, handsomest boy she saw. Boy, was he handsome! And “what you say we go steady?” he asked her. And watched her melt. And since they met in church, they attended all church socials, and since church functions were frequent, they saw each other frequently, Yes, they danced, played horseshoes and volleyball and occasionally sneaked off for a kiss. But they never went further, further than a kiss, and neither one of them saw anything wrong with kissing. Albert acted like he liked kissing. This later confused Alice.

Well, Albert, after hearing God’s voice, assumed he would go into the ministry, leaving Alice assuming that she would eventually become a minister’s wife, and assuming she would always be happy She cherished their first kiss. After their first kiss, it seemed like nothing could upset her. She loved to be kissed by Albert. She had a winning personality and was always happy as long as she was winning Albert’s heart. But could she compete with God? She wasn’t sure.

And then one day when they were still in high school, Albert asked her to go steady, and after that, she walked around with a smile because God was no longer competition. Now this worried her parents because they felt she was too young to get serious with one boy. They felt she should date a variety of boys to discover more about herself than she would if stuck to one boy. They thought Albert was too serious. They thought Alice was too serious about Albert. It worried them.

Albert was always quoting the Bible, or so it seemed. Well, he did quote it a lot and said he read the Bible from cover to cover, though it was hard to believe. Alice always felt intimidated by Albert’s knowledge of the Bible..

Albert quoted the Bible chapter and verse. He never finished a passage without giving chapter and verse, and he always did this with great pride because he had taken time to memorize Bible verses and wanted people to know it … just like he liked to draw crosses on hills and sing “The Old Rugged Cross.” Later he changed and wasn’t so arrogant.

And what did God say to him?

When Alice left him, took their two daughters and moved to San Antonio, Albert was glad he still had his church and glad Alice hadn’t exposed him. He was deserted, but he still had his church. Now he spoke to God, pleaded to God, and he thought God was with him, though he didn’t hear God’s voice. He no longer heard God’s voice. What honorable minister would ever admit that he no long believed in God? Not to mention that he didn’t want to lose his church, the church he committed himself to, the Methodist church, but hadn’t he also committed himself to his marriage? Worst of all, Albert felt conflicted because he knew how most people in his church felt about homosexuality. At least, Alice had sense enough not to expose him. She didn’t want to expose him. She still loved him. And he still loved her.

It was after Alice left with his girls and before he met Buddy that Albert felt the most lost. His family was gone. He was alone, alone in a big house where he couldn’t have his gay friends over, alone in a house filled with memories, and he had to spend a great deal of time there, alone. He was representing a church because he, being a minister, had been ordained to look after a congregation. He had to be assessable. He was appointed by a Bishop. Alone, he now had no one to look after him.

It wasn’t until he was alone in this house that he felt lost, but because he had to stay in this house and not bring his gay friends home, Albert reluctantly accepted his fate. So he carried on (carried on as best he could), or at least on the surface he did.

He … who on the surface carried on duties of a devoted Methodist minister … was struggling, struggling with his own identity, as he stood in the pulpit and preached about teachings of Christ. Although he denied it thereafter, Albert was never convinced that all doctrines of the church were correct, but since he heard voice of God at an early age, he still performed his duties. Without confiding in anyone, he continued with sadness because he missed his family. At the same time, he felt like a charlatan.

Please God!” Albert pleaded, while on his knees. (The situation brought him to his knees.) “Say something. Please help.” Albert, in the meantime, was drawn more into a secret life with hot strangers, men he didn’t know and wasn’t able to establish a lasting relationship. But sex with these men wasn’t very satisfying. It was exhausting, but not very satisfying. He needed more than sex. And it was too risky, and just then he didn’t know how risky it was. So convinced that it was risky because he thought he could run into someone who knew him even in a city as big as Dallas. Meanwhile, Albert, each Sunday after church, drove to San Antonio. He drove to San Antonio to see his two girls. This suited him because it didn’t leave him much time for risky behavior.

His eyes had to adjust before he could see across the dance floor. They had to adjust before Albert could see a potential heart-breaker dancing with another man. He swore he saw him making goo-goo eyes at some other man as he danced with another man and two-stepped in front of Albert. Albert felt jealous because both men danced better than he could.. Albert later got his chance and proved adequate. He learned to two-step. Not to make a fool of himself, Albert had to two-step.

The following week, all week, Albert couldn’t keep his mind on his business, business of the church, without thinking about the hot cowboy in tight jeans and blue shirt … heart-breaker in tight jeans and blue shirt. He felt disappointed when the guy wasn’t there the next Friday night, and it turned out to be a one-night stand. This guy must’ve been passing through town. Oh, well. Too bad. Served Albert right.

He wore tight, tight jeans befitting a hunk, and the dance floor was full of other men dancing with men (one of the few places open then where gay men could go and be themselves) … in jeans tailored to snugly fit each man. Well, it was a place to go and be seen, and where Albert didn’t want to be seen going in or out of. Yet he was drawn there. Yet he couldn’t help himself. Almost every Friday night … if nothing came up … he went there to dance and to get close to other men … to slow-dance with other men … to hold other men … to kiss other men. Occasionally, he had sex with one of them, while looking for something longer than one-night-stands.

All Albert’s congregation soon knew that he and Alice separated, since word spread quickly once word got out. Most of them were heartsick, heartsick because they hadn’t seen it coming. None of them saw it coming. And ministers and their wives weren’t suppose to separate. It surprised everyone, surprised everyone since Alice was respected throughout the church community. She was missed. She and his girls were missed. Albert should’ve known they would be missed. He knew they would be missed, but he was so preoccupied to acknowledge it. Some of them were heartsick because of relationships Alice built with them. None of them except for Maggie had a chance to say goodbye. “Too bad” most people said.

There Albert was, the most beloved minister in the church’s history, and sadder-looking than anyone had seen him. And then they didn’t know why and couldn’t understand it. They couldn’t understand why Albert and Alice would separate. It didn’t make any sense because he and Alice seemed like a happy couple, happy whenever church members saw them together, and when their girls seemed like their father’s pride and joy. They just couldn’t understand it, and it shocked the church to its foundation. Everyone witnessed Albert’s sadness and felt sad for him. Being a Christian community, they were very sad too. Since it shouldn’t happen to a nicer man. It shouldn’t happen to their minister.

And that was that after Albert announced that he and Alice were separated, because there wasn’t anything any of them could do about it, though many of them didn’t believe in divorce. It was obviously none of their business. It was up to the Bishop to sort it out. They relied on the Bishop to sort it out.

What are you thinking,” Alice’s mother asked her daughter. “You’re not thinking. Albert hasn’t mistreated you, has he? He wouldn’t mistreat you or your girls.”

No mother. Albert hasn’t mistreated me or our girls. He has been a good father.” She couldn’t bring herself to say “and he has been a good husband.”

Then what is it?”

Alice didn’t respond. She couldn’t respond, as her mother wondered where her thoughts were as they sat near a window, and while Alice stared outside at nothing, Neither did her father get a response from her. Alice was determined that they wouldn’t find out the reason from her. First, Albert would have to come out of the closet. It would be up to Albert to tell.

Alice’s mother stared at her daughter and expected an answer. Alice had come home with her grandchildren and hadn’t given an explanation for her estrangement from her husband. And it looked like she wouldn’t give an explanation. Though her parents deserved an explanation, Alice didn’t give one. And they soon acted like nothing was amiss. Somehow they knew not to bring up the subject. They decided to give Alice space.

Sometimes when Albert wasn’t working and was faced with an empty house, he indulged himself by going out, like when he ran around looking for male companionship and entered bars where he knew he shouldn’t be, where he risked being seen, and when he parked his car far away from where he was going. And don’t call him stupid. He wasn’t stupid. He just couldn’t help it. The urge was too great. He couldn’t stay away from places where he shouldn’t have been … as a minister, where he shouldn’t have been.

He always thought he could control his urges. With God’s help, he thought he could control his urges, though he knew it did no good to beat himself up over it. But given who he was, reproaches were inevitable. When he couldn’t control his urges, reproaches were inevitable.

When he couldn’t stand an empty house any longer, he wandered streets or took in a movie, and he said dryly, “I can do this.” Then he went back to the same old places he used to go to pick up men. He went back to a dark, dingy place that showed illegal gay porn … the place with sofas instead of theater seats and near a church. He couldn’t help himself. He would walk blocks, go at night, and enter through back doors. He relied on dark to keep from being recognized. He always tried to be as innocuous as possible and never mentioned his profession. He always gave a false name and never mentioned his profession. Then after his reappearance in several places, he began to feel more at home.

Around the same time, Albert announced to his congregation that he and Alice separated, but he never gave details as to why a separation occurred. No, no he wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t do it yet, but they were sad, since they saw he was sad, sadder than they had ever seen him before, and as they began to accept reality they faced. But they only knew half of it.

Do I look like an idiot?” Albert once asked them before he realized what he was asking. “No, no, no, he wasn’t an idiot. He was only human. Weren’t they all human? They hoped so. He hoped so. Still, did they understand? “No, not at all,” he said. “They don’t have a clue … especially given who they are and my relationship with them … “ There was a time when Albert could confide in Alice and she would go to him with her problems … a time he now missed and couldn’t find anywhere he looked. But that was before his betrayal, before his excursions during the night, before she discovered he was gay and before he knew there was no end and no limit to his urges. Before, before, before! He knew he couldn’t go back to before.

She just ran home to mommy with the children …” he started to say. “She’s making a fuss over nothing … “ he wanted to say, thinking he had to say something. But he couldn’t contrive something. He couldn’t lie. He couldn’t say Alice was making a fuss over nothing. And they would never guess. His congregation couldn’t/would never guess.

So his mother-in-law was looking after her grand kids while Alice looked for a job, huh?” he said. Wasn’t he paying child support! But perhaps he wasn’t paying enough. He was willing to pay more. It saddened Albert’s mother-in-law that she had to look after her grand kids while Alice looked for a job. She thought Alice and her grand kids should be in Dallas with Albert. It felt weird to her.

It isn’t a matter of you paying more child support,” Alice told him. He shook his head and lowered his eyes. Had he ever understood her? Had Alice ever understood him? Had they ever understood each other? He looked so pitiful as they held this conversation. Neither one of them raised their voice. Neither one of them scolded the other.

He remembered his girl’s baptism. He remembered how he baptized them in front of the congregation. How proud he was. Not a day went by without him thinking about them. He spent a great deal of time thinking about them. He wanted to be as close to them as possible though they lived across the state from him. And when he saw them, he could barely tear himself away from them, so worried that he wouldn’t get to see them the following week … and for good reasons too! As minister of a large church, he never knew when he would be free to make a trip to San Antonio.

When he did see his girls, they clung to him, since they clearly missed their daddy. They always came running to their daddy with their arms wide open. “Daddy’s not dead,” they both said. “Daddy’s not dead.” This made both parents feel awful. It was better to just reassure them until a routine was established. He wished he knew for sure  what Alice told them. He was sure she wouldn’t badmouth him, but he wasn’t sure what she told him. He hoped for their sake she wouldn’t badmouth him. He knew that someday they deserved an explanation, but he also knew they were then too young for one.

Well, they would make the best of it. They all made the best of it. Driving home from San Antonio, Albert’s body trembled with rage. Hadn’t he been a good father? He didn’t blame Alice. He blamed himself. He wished he would or could have decency to admit he was wrong, but he knew he wasn’t wrong. He knew he was right. He couldn’t change who he was. It was the way it was. He cursed God. God, no, he didn’t regret being gay. He didn’t regret being gay and having married. He didn’t regret getting married. And he certainly didn’t regret having children. And he didn’t have a condition. He just had to be himself. Still, as he drove home from San Antonio, his body trembled with rage … understandably with rage.

Albert allowed himself to curse, curse God. It helped, but being a Methodist minister made it impossible for Albert to feel totally better. There was nothing for him to do except go to work when he got home. He still took risks when he sneaked away.

Albert remembered the first time he stayed out all night and Alice was waiting for him after staying up all night. They stared at each other for more than a minute. They stared at each without saying a word. Silence said everything. Then Albert lowered his eyes and went to bed. Alice let him sleep. He obviously needed sleep after staying out all night, and she expected more than an apology. She wanted an explanation. She deserved an explanation but didn’t immediately get one. She expected a few tears to produce one … an explanation. Alice decided to let him tell her when he was ready, so she only made a half-earnest effort to stop him from going to bed, although he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t sleep because he stayed out all night and had sex with a man. Albert always remembered the first time he had sex with a man, just he always remembered the first time he went all the way with Alice. He always remembered their honeymoon, the first time they both went all the way and would remember how awkward it was.

He finally looked at her and had to tell her (he couldn’t tell her everything, but he told her enough). He couldn’t lie. Lying to each other wasn’t something they did. She didn’t know what she would do then. She didn’t even say “stay away from me because she hoped then that things would change. So it was that on the morning of September seventeenth that Alice found out her husband was gay.

Chapter Seven

Just as Alice would have wanted to stay married to Albert, she knew they could never be happily married. Before they divided possession they accumulated … a few tables with chairs that matched (bought at a second-hand store), beds for their girls, and many little things, they hadn’t given thought to what it would take to move. This was there first home, though they didn’t own this home. It belonged to the church. Still it was home.

Usually Sally, Alice’s closest friend, had a nose for anticipating trouble, but this time she didn’t see it coming. She never anticipated it. She never guessed her minister was gay, just as no one in the church had. She gave Alice as much comfort as she could and didn’t know what she would do if she were facing the same tragedy. Sally didn’t know what to say. Luckily, Alice didn’t consider it a tragedy. To her, it was a great loss and a shock, but it wasn’t a tragedy. Tragedy was something different, but it came as close to being a tragedy without being one. She tried to remain strong. For her girls sake, she had to be strong. At least, she and her girls had a place to go. She knew she could live with her parents until she found her own place. She knew she could count on her parents. And she knew it would take a few months for her to get settled. She knew San Antonio. She grew up in San Antonio, so it wouldn’t be a strange city to her. But she didn’t want to have to count on Albert other than for child support payments.

With her girls or not, within a few weeks Alice didn’t expect to see Albert every week. She didn’t expect him to keep driving once a week between Dallas and San Antonio and then back to Dallas. It was a long drive for anyone, so she didn’t expect to see Albert every week. First there were obligations as a minister. Later she thought of his exploits outside his church (which she couldn’t think about without crying). And as if that were not enough, whenever she was by herself, whenever her mother babysat for her, she cried and cried. She couldn’t stop crying. She spent nights crying. She cried in the shower. She cried when she was driving alone in her car. She cried whenever she took long walks around a neighborhood she once knew. This sometimes helped. It sometimes didn’t. Whenever she was around her children and her mother, she tried to put on a happy face, but it didn’t always work.

On top of that, she stayed in the house for a while, while she looked for her own place, where she never wanted to return to. Worst of all, she hated this house, a house she spent her teenage years plotting to get out of. She and her mother never got along. Now she was dependent on her parents. She spent a good deal of her life trying to get out of something. Perhaps it was the reason she married Albert, married him when she was so young. Perhaps? And she began plotting again. Only the next time she would make better choices, but could she fault Albert? Didn’t she love Albert? Homosexuality went against all of Alice’s religious beliefs, of course, but the idea that she had to accept it now crossed her mind more than once. Yes, she would have to accept it for her girls’ sake. She knew she couldn’t/shouldn’t say anything negative about their dad. Ever! She knew she couldn’t/shouldn’t say anything about Albert. She knew it. She knew it wouldn’t be fair to them or to Albert and would only backfire. She knew it would be hard, just as what she was facing was hard.

Now Alice not only had to find a job … because her expenses was and would always be more than child support she received from Albert … she also wanted to be as independent as possible. She hated relying on her parents. He hated living with her parents. She hated the house she grew up in. and had no way of knowing how long she and her mother would get along. They hadn’t gotten along in the past. She knew if they lived in different places it would be better for everyone. Albert had helped her look for a place, but he could only look for a day because of his obligations in Dallas.

And found a job she did, without notify her parents she was looking for one. They had taken their grandchildren to the zoo and aquarium that day, and Alice took advantage of it to look for a job. Classified ads and word of mouth, but it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that she stumbled onto success. It would’ve been hard for her to explain to her parents why she was looking for job … why Albert wasn’t supporting her and the children.

Alice felt odd about accepting a job in a convenience store, giving her parents as many excuses as she could think of. It also felt odd since she hadn’t held a job before, one outside the home and duties at the church before. And even though her mother would be happy to provide child care, there remained her fear of her mother, and she was afraid that her mother would develop a closer relationship to her girls than she had. While her mother explained that she would happily babysit, it didn’t sit well with Alice, so Alice placed the girls in daycare.

Alice could hear her mother take Albert’s side or within earshot of the children say something to Alice like “that good-for-nothing was just taking advantage of you.” Or “he’s found another woman! What a disgrace! As a minister, what a disgrace!” When Alice didn’t/couldn’t respond, her mother nodded her head and repeated, “What a disgrace!” There wasn’t another woman involved, but her mother was right. She was right. “Disgraceful.” Alice then muttered. In a sense, her mother was right, but oh, so wrong. But had Alice revealed the truth, would it have changed her situation? No.

She packed a lunch every evening, knowing that she couldn’t afford to eat out every day. With her low pay and obligations, she couldn’t afford to eat in restaurants all the time, and she knew she couldn’t live off hotdogs and snacks available in the convenient store where she now worked. Seeing that it would grow old and was unhealthy, she packed herself a lunch and took her kids to daycare where they had lunch and snacks. Well, she was a grown woman, as her mother pointed out, with a job and obviously not defenseless. She would make it work, but one step at a time. So for a month, she and the girls stayed in her parents’ home, slept in her old bedroom with the girls, and worked six days a week, eight hours a day. Overtime helped. Overtime helped pay for child care. Lucky to have work.

But just as she got the swings of things at the convenient store, and surprisingly enjoying it too, she was offered a promotion. Within no time, she was offered a job as manager of the store, and Alice was startled … flabbergasted … by the offer. It meant more pay, an even greater chance for advancement, but it also meant more responsibility and longer hours. Alice thought about it, thought long and hard about it. It was tempting, but in the end she turned it down. She decided it wasn’t worth it. She decided it wouldn’t be fair to her kids. The extra money was needed and would be nice, but the extra hours wouldn’t be fair to her kids. By then, she found a place of her own and it and child care ate up most of her money. Luckily, Albert always paid child support on time. She wouldn’t have made it without child support. “Money isn’t everything,” she said.

Good Lord, child,” her father said, referring to her turning down the job offer. He walked over to Alice and said with usual candor, “I don’t understand you. I don’t understand. I don’t know, Alice.”

But within a short time, Alice’s parents got used to the idea of their daughter’s and son-in-law’s separation and stopped asking her questions about it. They stopped asking why she made such a big decision, what was wrong, and if Albert hurt her. Obviously Albert hurt her, but they had no idea how. All they knew was that it was serious enough for her to move back to San Antonio. It was serious enough for them to separate.

Nevertheless, their psychic antennas were out after she returned. They became very sensitive and looked for any little clue that would tell them what was going on, but no clear message came through. And none would come from her. Albert would have to come out of the closet first. It was his call. It was their lives but Albert’s call. So she never came up with a satisfactory explanation for her parents. She wasn’t about to betray Albert, Albert’s trust, though he never said she had to keep it. Take the case of Maggie. This was the only exceptions, and Alice regretted telling her closest friend She had to tell some one, yet she regretted it. And she never thought Albert was a good-for-nothing. She never felt less of Albert. She felt more hurt than anything, hurt and sad.

And Alice was perplexed because she put everything she had into her marriage, and it became apparent everything wasn’t enough. She investigated herself and couldn’t come up with anything. “At least I’m still married,” she thought. “As long as I’m still married, there’s still hope.” But she knew in her hearts of hearts Albert wouldn’t change, so there was no hope.

Yes, of course, she was still married. Yes, she was, but where was her husband? Where was Albert? What was he doing, she often wondered. “Where is my husband now?”

Yes, yes, she knew. And Albert still came to San Antonio once week. Yes, he came each week to see the girls, came to see the girls, while Alice hoped he also came to see her. Yes, he made the long drive once a week up and down I-35 to see his girls… when he could. And Alice had to unfortunate task of handing the girls over to him when he came. Alice continued to think it was unfortunate that he wasn’t coming to also see her.

Sometimes, Alice did not even have to greet him at the door. Sometimes, she could leave the front door unlocked and the girls would run outside and greet him. She always waved. Sometimes he picked the girls up at daycare. But most of the time they had to communicate about something. There was so much unfinished business. She knew, as long as the girls lived at home, there would always be something, but she hoped that there wouldn’t always be unfinished business. After all, Albert would always be their father. Alice acknowledged that he would always be their father. She wanted them to know their father. She wanted Albert to be part of their lives. But her cynical mother stood by an assumption that that wasn’t necessarily true. “It had to have had something to do with abuse,” her mother told her father. As they were lying in bed one night. “What else could it have been?”

Well, I don’t agree. Sometimes people simply fall out of love. Strange enough. It happens these days. People fall in love, and people fall out of love. Times are changing. It’s pretty common these days. Big deal! People fall out of love. I’ve seen it.” They had both seen it.

Honey!”

And just as Alice’s fate was divorce, she would fall in love again. As far as Albert was concerned, his fate was sealed, too. No matter how much he and Alice once loved each other, no matter how much they still loved each other, his fate was sealed, though it was doubtful that they had it sorted out then.

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

The idea of possibly divorcing Albert was to Alice the demise of a dream (or what was seen by most people, particularly in the church, as a death), that suddenly overwhelmed her. The idea overwhelmed her. A death, it felt like a death. And it seemed like marriage was a fairytale. But this all depended on who was telling it. She couldn’t believe it was happening to her. She felt like she was dying. She couldn’t believe it. She of all people. She and Albert, of all people.

Now, at first, neither she nor Albert saw ramifications or difficulties that would arise but with time it became clear that they couldn’t remained married. So divorce was the only option, the only alternative. Divorce, a dreaded option. Divorce, something to be avoided at all cost. Divorce was something few people in their church actually went through then, Alice didn’t know anyone who had divorced, except … yes, Maggie was a divorcee. It seemed like those who went through divorce were somehow thought less of than someone who stuck with a bad marriage. “Women weren’t always dealt a fair deal,” but they were expected to stick with a bad marriage. It seemed that Alice thought that somehow she would be held responsible for the demise of her marriage, not Albert, not a minister of a Methodist church, no, not possible, just as it was unthinkable that a minister would be gay, gay and married.

Alice and Albert, although both born the same year and in the same town, hadn’t met each other until high school. It wasn’t instant love, but real friendship soon blossomed, and it wasn’t that long before they were going steady. “Steady” was a term for it then, and everyone knew what “steady” meant. But was “steady” real love? Alice thought it was. Albert didn’t know. Finally, their senior year they decided to get married, marriage with all hopes and dreams that came with it. And Alice could see into the future. She saw them living happy lives, having children, and with children building productive and peaceful lives … bountiful lives … Christ centered lives. Alice didn’t exactly remember when Albert told her that he heard the voice of God. She just knew he would be a minister, and she would be a minister’s wife. Marriage and God were connected. Marriage was a sacred bond. Yes, she saw them living Christ centered lives. Now, that was shattered.

They had gone that way more or less motivated and happy until Alice found out that her husband was gay. She always knew something, something she couldn’t put her finger on, wasn’t right with their marriage. Sometimes, she felt Albert wasn’t as amorous as he ought to be. He ought to have been more amorous, more amorous than he was. When passion seemed gone from their marriage, she tried to rekindle it. She tried to light a match, do or buy something sexy. She tried to wear something sexy. When passion was gone from their marriage, she thought something was wrong with her. She tried many things, and Albert seemed distracted by his work, which he took very seriously. There for a while, she didn’t suspect he was distracted by anything other than his work. When passion was gone from their marriage, she thought it was her fault. She thought something was wrong with her. She thought something was wrong with her until she found out Albert was gay.

Albert, who tended to be distracted by his work, knew what was going on with him, and he felt bad about it. He felt bad. “It was like I was shackled like Samson, except I knew I wasn’t like Samson.” But then he went on, “No, I wasn’t like Samson. That was why I felt relieved when Alice found out I was gay, relieved but sad. It was an intrusion. No, it was more than an intrusion. It seemed like my life ended. It was an end and a beginning. I wished then it would’ve worked out. For Alice’s sake and the girls’, I wished then it would’ve worked. Now I’m happy it worked out the way it did. I’m glad I’m gay. But man, it was hard.” Then he added, “I still miss my girls. And I missed Alice. I hope she’s happy. She says she is.” On the other hand, it might’ve been different had he not met Buddy. By then, he was in love with Buddy. He love Alice, and he loved Buddy. By then did he love Buddy more than Alice? Yes, he thought he did. And he hoped he and Alice could remain friends … could remain friends for the kids’ sake. He didn’t see why they couldn’t remain friends. He thought if they worked at it they could remain friends.

Yes, in love. Yes, he loved Alice. But no, not like he thought love should be. It had never been like he thought love should be, as they merged their lives, got married and had children. But what happened, unfortunately, was never ideal. Never ideal. Far from ideal. Albert always felt that something was wrong. On the positive side, Alice thought what they had was an ideal marriage. It seemed intense to her … intense, but not as passionate as it should’ve been. How could anything be wrong? Then too, how much of a stranger was Albert?

So, they had children, were respected, and sometimes talked. Sometimes Albert took time to talk, talk to Alice. Even with all of his duties, they talked, and he shared child rearing with her, And sometimes he brought home flowers as an expression of his love.

Alice had no idea where they were heading. She didn’t know their destination, and had she known there wasn’t anything she could do about their destination, would she have married Albert? No. No, she wouldn’t have married a gay man, no. No, definitely not. She thought she did well to land Albert, indeed, and she thought he felt the same about her. Her parents had what appeared to be a successful marriage, but she learned appearances were too often deceiving. It was her parents’ successful marriage that led her to believe marriage was possible, a happy marriage was possible, and marriage was preferable to not being married. Married with children was even better. Because Alice grew up in a happy home … though she and her mother never got along … she expected she and Albert would be happy together … live happily ever after. Then it became obvious that that wasn’t meant to be.

Anyway, it was early in morning that night before Albert finally came home. She waited up all night for him. She didn’t sleep. She tried to sleep. She waited for him, waited for a phone call or something. It wasn’t like him. Why hadn’t he called? Why hadn’t he come home? She knew he could’ve been called out on an emergency, but why hadn’t he called? It wasn’t like him. Later he wished he had. But had he called he would’ve had to lie. He lived a lie, but he wouldn’t lie to Alice on the telephone. He had never actually lied to Alice. Living a lie and living a lie somehow seemed different to him. He saw she waited up for him. She waited for an excuse, and when it didn’t come, she simply said, “I was worried.” Then without saying anything, he went to bed.

Another time, however, they did get into a discussion, but when he came near to confessing the truth, he said something about needing to escape pressures of the church and admitted that he was going through a difficult time. He was no more specific, and it hurt her. It hurt her that he couldn’t come to her. It hurt her that he couldn’t come to her and tell her what was wrong. It hurt her that couldn’t/wouldn’t tell her. And this hurt led to disappointment and resentment, And it was very sad indeed. It was very sad, very sad for her to realize that she and Albert were not living in an ideal union. This hurt her more than anything else. This hurt her more than finding out her husband was gay.

And both events were sad, indeed. Alice was left without a house because it belonged to the church. She and the girls were the ones who had to move because Albert was still minister of the church. And she didn’t know where they would move to, She and Albert divided everything else … oh, guilt was also part of it. Well, packing she wondered what she had or hadn’t done. She didn’t ask Albert to help pack; she couldn’t ask him to help pack, though he packed the U-haul for her. There were some questions, in her mind, about what was rightfully hers. It mattered to her whether Texas was a community property state or not. As far as Albert was concerned, Alice could’ve taken anything she wanted.

But before then, a lot happened between them. A lot needed to happen before they came to the decision to separate. There was a lot to work out. There was a lot of business. They did their best to make it work. But ….

Just as Alice and Albert were separating, the Bishop was making his annual appointments, and thinking it wouldn’t be fair for Albert to take a new assignment, Albert didn’t know what to say to his Bishop. He didn’t know what to say or what to do, so he said nothing. He prayed and prayed about it and said nothing. What could he say? He knew his Bishop would soon find out that he and Alice were separating. Albert knew separation usually meant divorce, and he knew in his case it would mean divorce.

Meanwhile, the couple had enough to occupy their minds, each trying to figure out what they were going to do, each trying to make important decisions that affected their kids, and trying to ponder over the significance of each decision. Alice meanwhile tried unsuccessfully not to show her feelings and that while there was no reason for her to try.

Then Alice, because of a need to survive, slashed out at Albert. He was the only person she could slash out at. He was the only person she felt she could slash out at Albert, so she slashed out at him. He was the cause of her problems, or so she thought. Under any other circumstances she wouldn’t have slashed out at him like she did, but Albert hurt her, and she felt it gave a right to hurt him back. But let’s face it, it didn’t help, and it showed them that they were in an impossible situation. This was when they finally decided to separate.

Then his Bishop found out they were separated. He found out like Albert knew he would. His Bishop would have to be told at some point anyway; therefore Albert was glad he found out when he did and how he did. Albert was glad he didn’t have to tell him. His Bishop didn’t even ask, “What’s going on?” Surely, His Bishop wanted to know. Surely, Bishop deserved to know, but Albert was unable then to give a full explanation. Albert didn’t say anymore. Surely, his Bishop had the right to know. Both men, however, considered it then a private matter, and his Bishop prayed Alice and Albert would get counseling and resolve their differences. For everyone’s sake, his Bishop hoped they could resolve their differences. So his Bishop held off re-assigning Albert to another church. He decided to wait and see. He decided to hold off and wait and see.

Again, Alice’s parents wanted to know what was going on, and again, like most people who knew and cared for the couple, they only knew their daughter and son-in-law were separated and that Alice moved back to San Antonio. “What’s going on?” Alice’s mother wanted an explanation. It finally got where she didn’t expect an answer, since it was obvious Alice wasn’t going to give her one. It didn’t seem fair.

Alice moving into her own home was a sign that that there wouldn’t soon be reconciliation. Such a move meant the problem, whatever it was, was more than a spat, more than temporary, more than could be resolved over night, but these parents kept hoping the couple could/would work things out. They stopped asking what was wrong, but it didn’t stop them from wondering and worrying.

If their problem or problems were minor, Alice and Albert could’ve worked things out. Of course, they could have. So Alice’s parents knew it was serious. But what was wrong? They would have to wait to find out. Waiting was the hardest part for them. It seemed unfair. It seemed unfair. They were broadsided. It was so unexpected.

Gay!” she yelled at Albert. “What are you talking about? You’ve had sex with men. You’ve slept with men!” The words were impossible for her to say; yet Alice found herself saying them. ‘We have two children. How can you be homosexual?” Albert had never heard Alice express herself with so much disbelief. Albert, too, felt shocked because it was the first time he uttered the truth to anyone close to him. He didn’t stay shocked long before he tried to reassure Alice that he still loved her. She couldn’t believe it. Now that she knew the truth she couldn’t believe it.

Alice left the room and wanted to lock their door but couldn’t lock it because there was no lock. She had never thought about having a lock or believed she needed a lock before. But she couldn’t sit on their bed either. And there was no place to sit in there except on their bed, so she sat on the floor. Alice never liked such a small bedroom. Now it seemed even smaller, depressingly small, so she went to the closet and put on a light jacket, opened a window and sat on the floor. There was no place for her to hide.

Alice heard silence in the living room, where she left Albert. Had he gone out? She hoped he was gone. She hoped he left. She started crying. She wanted Albert to hear her crying. She wanted him to hear her crying and come into their room. She wanted him to comfort her, hold her, hold her, and hold her. She wanted more from Albert then than she knew he could give her. Then she had to get out of the house, but who would look after their girls. Now she knew she couldn’t count on Albert. Now she felt trapped.

Alice looked for the girls in their bedroom. She passed Albert without looking at him. Maybe it wasn’t true. Maybe … maybe. Hopefully … maybe Albert just thought he was gay. Maybe it was all a question of mistaken identity, Alice. Maybe, Albert was still the man she married, maybe. But still she couldn’t look at him. She wasn’t about to look at him. Instead, she pretended he wasn’t there. By then, she had stopped crying.

Let’s talk about this later,” Albert said. “Let’s talk about it later when you’ve gotten over the initial shock. I know you’re shocked. You’ll probably need a lot of time to sort this out. Let’s talk about this later when we can talk rationally.”

Rationally? It was crazy, sure enough. Crazy.

Alice stared at Albert and a thread in their once perfect union broke, but before she could say anything, he tried to hug her, and she pushed him away. “No! You’re gay!” She then couldn’t believe these words came out her mouth. Alice and Albert glared at each other before Albert left. Before he left, he also tried to say, “Sorry.” There was no more shouting. Once Albert left the house, Alice responded to their children. “What did he mean gay? What did he mean he was gay. Let’s forget he ever said he was gay. Didn’t we have children?”

But Albert no more left the house than he returned. Then, instead of avoiding contact with his wife, he headed straight for her, which frightened her. “What do you want now?” she asked. She wasn’t angry. She wish she were angry, but she hoped against odds that he would tell her he was joking when he told her he was gay. It was a bad joke, but he must’ve been joking. She could see he had something else to say. She knew he saw he scared her and hoped he changed his mind about being gay. And yes, finally, they could get back to normal. Normal? Could their lives ever be normal again?

Man! And I thought you were gone. I thought you had gone out of my life forever,” Alice said, relieved to see that he returned. “They could still work this out,” she thought. Yes, she would like a hug and asked for one.

Then Alice saw something she hadn’t seen before in her husbands mannerisms, something that bothered her. She remembered she heard somewhere that everyone has feminine and masculine sides. Alice couldn’t remember where she heard this. “Hmm,” she said aloud. Then she thought, “I can see it now.” And for the first time she thought she saw Albert’s feminine side. And this made her feel better because she understood it. Thinking that everyone has feminine and masculine sides to their personality made her feel better. But then again, she wasn’t sure. “We’ll talk about it later when we can think rationally,” she thought.

Gay?” Facing for the first time a future when she would be alone, for the first time possibility of raising her children alone, she said again, “Gay!

Yes, Alice saw it. Yes, Alice could see it, saw it as a warning, and she didn’t like it.

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

It was exactly six months after Alice moved with Becky and Patricia to San Antonio, Albert … while after watching illegal, gay porn in a dark dingy place where men sat on sofas instead of in theater seats and frequently had sex with other men … that Albert met Buddy. They didn’t have sex that night. “If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it in the light,” Albert thought because he wanted to see the other person’s face. “And if it doesn’t suit him, I’m gonna do it by myself.” Albert didn’t know what was different now; why it was different in a very dark place watching gay porn … why it was different with Buddy, but it was different. Before he did it … they did it .. he didn’t like doing it in a public place. Before there was an introduction. After an introduction, he had to see the other person’s face. Not surprisingly, he said, “God damn!” And had to get out of there, had to sneak out of there because he felt so badly. He felt he was caught, and he said “God damn! Quickly pulling himself off a sofa, he headed for the nearest exit, where he ran into Buddy. “God damn! This man is hot.” Buddy was hot looking, in tight trousers and a paisley shirt … nothing extravagant … nothing outrageous . Tight trousers … hot buns. Albert couldn’t help himself.

As he was making his way out this dark, dingy place, he called up to God, the One he knew was looking down, the One he knew was looking after him, and asked Him for forgiveness. Then he ran into Buddy. Buddy was leaving the dark, dingy place too. They almost literally ran into each other.

The two men (whose names it was best for them not to reveal then to each other) had grown tired of the same porn .. bored by the same porn … the same boring porn. Buddy was very good at sensing things, personal things that other people shied away from. God knew Albert was shocked and embarrassed over getting “caught” coming out of a dark, dingy place that showed boring porn (it was like being caught by police and like it would’ve been had he been there when police raided this place and closed it down. Or worse, far worse). Albert was also shocked at himself. Buddy somehow saw this. Buddy knew this. “God knew I needed an Angel then,” Albert later said, “Now I’m not saying Buddy is an Angel, or was ever an Angel, but I was glad I ran into him then. And that Buddy latched onto me when I tried to sneak away. I think it shows God knew what we needed. Of course, I believe it … God knows what we need … having heard God’s voice as a boy,”

So I was glad that I met Buddy and like to think it wasn’t coincidence. In fact, I think Buddy came into my life at the right time, you know? Like we actually forgot about sex for a long time. Like we didn’t have sex that first night. Like we both were after more than sex … far more than sex. For years Buddy and I didn’t talk about this. Maybe we didn’t need to talk about it. In that regard maybe we were alike. Like I said Buddy was very good at sensing things, and because times were sometimes very hard, very, very hard, I needed someone like Buddy. He knows what I need without me asking him for it. He never minds too much being woken up when I’m feeling low and need to talk. Yes, we talk. We have long conversations. It hasn’t broken down yet, so I believe I’m lucky. Yes, Buddy is good for me.”

So Albert let such matters as what was going on between him and Alice from his Bishop for long as possible and waited for his Bishop to ask him questions. But he never told more than he had to. He didn’t think it was anyone’s business. He didn’t think it was his Bishop’s business. So he answered to no one but God while he spent more and more time at Buddy’s apartment.

But everyone … his whole congregation … knew something wasn’t right while Albert didn’t consider what he and Buddy were doing was wrong. Right or wrong, it wasn’t anyone’s business. Albert never neglected his duties. (He felt it was something he owed God.) At the same time he didn’t know the toll it was taking on him, but he knew he would have to give something up. He still made quick trips to San Antonio to see Becky and Patricia, though now it was less frequent. He didn’t want to neglect his daughters, but he knew he would have to give up something. So over time his priorities change. Overtime they changed. They changed little by little, but he never stopped loving his daughters or his church. He still felt called by God.

Maybe it was Buddy’s persistence or his friendliness or how Buddy said I never pick up men, but before Albert knew it they were sitting in a coffee shop, sitting and talking in a coffee shop. Albert didn’t know if believed Buddy or not. But then, how could he? How could they? How could they could be sitting in a coffee shop, talking together, together in a public place like a coffee show, where anyone could see them sitting there talking. Buddy had just ended a relationship. He was between relationships, so like he said, he was “free” for a change. So using the word “free” Buddy shared his heartbreak, which Albert understood. They both had suffered recent heartbreak.

Albert didn’t go to Buddy’s apartment then. That night they didn’t have sex. Albert didn’t feel rushed. With Buddy, Albert never felt rushed. Instead, they exchanged telephone numbers. Then Albert wouldn’t have called Buddy had Buddy not called him first, and starting what became a lasting relationship. (Albert didn’t know Buddy’s last name, and Buddy wouldn’t learn Albert was a minister until much later, even though people generally ask those things when they first meet.)

Albert got goosebumps. When Buddy first approached him, Albert got goosebumps. Albert thought Buddy looked hot, hot even though Buddy wasn’t dressed in a flashy, sexy way. It scared him and gave him goosebumps. In front of the dark, dingy place that showed illegal gay porn, Albert wanted to sneak away, so when Buddy latched onto him, it scared him. Then Albert caught a glimpse of Buddy’s face and saw that he didn’t intend to hurt him … both coming out that dark, dingy place as they were.

After they got to a coffee house, Buddy asked Albert why he came with him. Buddy hadn’t expected Albert to come. He hadn’t picked up anyone else in that way; he just wanted company. They both wanted company. They both were lonely. Both were … well, horny (yet, they didn’t have sex that first night. Amazing.) Buddy was lonely and wanted company and admitted it later after he and Albert got to know each other better.

Let’s get a cup of coffee,” Buddy said, still standing in front of the porn place and feeling brave all of a sudden.

I don’t like coffee, But I’ll settle for tea with coconut cream pie.”

Tea with coconut cream pie it is.” And with that they ended up in a coffee shop, a coffee shop familiar to Albert.

This seemed strange to Albert, strange to be sitting there, there in public with a man who picked him up, especially when you consider all those years he was married and that he was a minister of a church, a big church not far from there, and as such a prominent member of the community … strange but liberating. It felt good … a man having just separated from his wife … sitting in a public place with man who picked him up.

You know, Albert enjoyed himself. And he didn’t remember the last time he had so much fun, even with his girls he hadn’t allowed himself to have so much fun. You figure. Perhaps, with his girls he was trying too hard to be a parent to have fun. No laughter. Nada. Well, as a minister he wasn’t allowed to have fun (nonsense), although he always tried to have fun (nonsense). No, if the truth were known, he was a workaholic.

And the few fun times he and Alice had (he actually remembered more than a few) … so clearly he remembered after they separated. So it hadn’t been all bad. After all, they always appeared happy. More than likely he didn’t know he was unhappy. No, how could that be true?

But there he was drinking tea and eating coconut cream pie with Buddy … Buddy What’s-His-Name. Oh how sweet! He didn’t care who saw them then … just to get a chance to talk to Buddy in a public place … to say something confidential to Buddy is a public place! To make eyes at Buddy. To make eyes at someone as hot as Buddy. To hold hands with Buddy. To touch knees under a table with someone as hot as Buddy What’s-His-Name.

Yes, they had a good time. Yes, Albert let himself have a good time. Of course, it was evident … of course. And with that peculiar affliction of being gay (being gay was considered an affliction by many people then)! So they couldn’t go many places as a couple then. Well, Buddy didn’t seem to care, and Buddy did his best to put Albert at ease, as Albert was thinking God was putting him to a test. Well, if God were putting him to a test, he already flunked it, he thought. So it was no surprise that Albert felt nervous, while Buddy didn’t seem to care. Buddy was an inspiration.

It was wonderful how Buddy (although not surprising since he was outgoing … no engaging) approached Albert when he saw how Albert looked at him. Albert was attracted to him. Buddy looked hot, and Albert was attracted to him. Both men knew Albert was attracted to him, and Buddy responded in a non-threatening way. His manner was non-threatening, though it was dark. But now since Albert felt awkward about being approached by a sexy, hot man in front of gay porn place, caught there as it were, it took all Buddy’s easiness to reassure Albert. Maybe it was meant to be. Albert always thought it was meant to be. It made him smile when he later thought about it.

And if Albert’s divorce had been a tragic result of being gay … one who grew up in and led a church that still frowned on divorce … and generally thought people who were gay were sinful was there hope for Albert when he fell for someone hot like Buddy? Although, let’s face it, though it looked then to Albert that he could easily lose everything he worked for, lose it like he lost Alice, there wasn’t anything he could do about being gay. You are either straight or a gay person. And Albert knew he was gay and had known he was gay since he was nine or ten years old. He knew he was gay, though he didn’t know what to call it. Rather he knew he was different.

For instance, here you had a case of a boy who only kissed one girl (and as a man one woman) in his life, and he always felt awkward about it. Here was a boy who felt awkward when his mother kissed him. He still remembered a very shameful first experience he had with a neighborhood boy, allowing the neighborhood boy to feel his penis, and finding in spite embarrassment that he enjoyed it. Without a parent to stop them, they continued. They continued in secret. He felt attracted to this boy, and it felt awkward. And it felt sinful.

And Albert shamefully running around behind Alice’s back like he did when he was married to a beautiful woman. He should’ve fessed up. Fessed up! He really should have been honest, but it would’ve meant (or he thought it would’ve meant) coming out of the closet. Alice, obviously, took it real hard. He knew she would take it real hard, really hard, and now he was ruining her life because she loved Albert and put everything she had into their marriage. Then he betrayed her. That was how she felt … betrayed! And that was how he felt.

Then no one could explain to Alice in a way that made any sense to her why he would ditch her and their two children for … what? Men. Yes, for men, and she couldn’t understand it. No, intellectually she could understand it, but she couldn’t understand why it was happening to her. Well, maybe it made some sense, if Albert were really gay. Maybe. There had always been something “not right” about him. She couldn’t put her finger on it except … except when they made love. Something, she thought … something … He was not always attentive as she thought he ought to be.

Now they were separated … living in separate homes … living in separate cities … living through a broken marriage, and she lost control of the situation. She couldn’t stand that she was dumped … and duped … duped for so many years and that she had to live on her own because her husband was seeing other men. Now she would have to start over, and she realized it.

And regarding those unkind thoughts she was having about Albert and where he might be and what he was doing while she sat alone in a separate home, in a separate city, what she thought was right; indeed Albert was sitting with Buddy in a coffee shop drinking tea and eating coconut cream pie, or more precisely, Albert was enjoying Buddy’s company. Here he was no longer afraid of getting caught watching gay porn in a dark, dingy place but enjoying Buddy’s company in a coffee shop.

Albert was no longer suspicious of Buddy (although still wary) since Buddy put him at ease because he wasn’t blatant or pushy. He wasn’t blatant or pushy about having sex. Albert wanted to have sex with Buddy; yet they didn’t rush into it. They were mature about it. Or was it because Albert was ready and looking for a friendship. Having a friend like Buddy … building a relationship … was more important to Albert than having sex with him. He didn’t have a real friend, a real friend outside the church like Alice had with Maggie. Except Maggie was a church member, and this bothered Albert.

In any case, Albert and Buddy hit it off. They hit it off from when they first met. But in Albert’s mind it was too good to be happening; and although Albert was a minister of a large Methodist church (one that was considered prestigious, he didn’t look like a minister. He never wore a collar. He never wore a collar and for a while ministered men and women in bars. What an excuse!) No, Albert genuinely believed he was making a difference.

Both men drank ice tea, Buddy sweetened and Albert non-sweetened. In a coffee shop that stayed opened all night, in a coffee shop on a main drag in Dallas, they sat there talking, drinking tea and eating pie for two hours. (Anyone could’ve walked in. Parishioners of Albert’s church could’ve walked in.) “It felt good,” Albert said. It felt good because Buddy made him feel safe. Buddy ministered to him, instead of the other way around. He hadn’t talk that much to anyone in a very long time, and it felt good. And when they were finished talking, they exchanged telephone numbers. They exchanged telephone numbers, nothing else.

Here’s what I think,” Albert said afterwords and after he thought about it, “And he never asked me what I did for a living … ! It doesn’t matter to him what I do … what I do for a living, and we talked for two hours without him asking me.” It was incomprehensible. “And I don’t know his last name. What’s wrong with me. I didn’t ask him his last name. We talked for over two hours, and I don’t know his last name or what he does for a living.”

Now Albert was amazed. And he didn’t get it. He was amazed that he didn’t ask Buddy his last name. He didn’t get it because those were two things he normally asked people right off … their last name and what they did for a living … but he had never met another man he liked as much as Buddy … liked him from the beginning. Then he didn’t know much about such things (the one and only person before Buddy he ever loved was Alice … except his parents. After all he and Alice were married, still married then.) But could someone decide they liked someone (or loved them) when they first met them? Love at first sight. Albert didn’t believe in love at first sight, but after talking with him for over two hours he definitely liked Buddy.

Then why not continue the acquaintance? Why not pick up the telephone and call Buddy? Why not? Yet Albert waited. Who would care as long as he was discreet? As long as they were discreet, what did it matter?

So Albert waited. Of course, he didn’t give Buddy his phone number at the church. And then he realized he made a mistake. Yes, a mistake. Albert had an answering machine at home. Yes, he had an answering machine and identified himself as Reverend. Now he didn’t feel like a Reverend, so after a few days, he picked up the phone and called Buddy. As the reader might imagine it was a struggle for Albert. “I don’t know,” he said over and over to himself. He couldn’t bear the thought of being snubbed, and he hated approaching Buddy over the telephone. It would’ve been easier had he run into Buddy and struck up a conversation but on the telephone seemed …

Albert, hesitant, picked up the telephone. “Say Buddy, friend! Remember me … Albert … from the other night?”

Of course. Of course. How are you?”

Me? I’m okay.” Albert said, now wondering if he made a mistake.

I wondered what happened to you.”

It hasn’t been long.”

I know. You’ve been busy.”

I’m always busy.”

Me too.”

Say?”

I would like to.”

Okay.”

Where?”

Our coffee shop. Tea and pie, coconut cream pie.”

Yes,” Albert found himself saying. “Imagine. I don’t know what this means.”

It doesn’t have to mean anything, Albert. It is Albert, isn’t it?”

Yes, Buddy. I”m Albert.” Albert was thankful that Buddy didn’t address him as Reverend.

I’ve been thinking about you.”

And I’ve also be thinking about you.”

Albert had often passed this coffee shop, and it got worse because he, Alice, and their girls had eaten their once or twice. And maybe he didn’t know what this meant with Buddy yet because he realized he had been in the coffee shop before. And maybe he didn’t know anything about such things, but he was learning fast.

Come here often?” was one the first things he asked Buddy after they sat across from each other in a booth. “You picked out this place, remember?” They looked at each other. Albert hadn’t planned to sound so matter of fact, especially how he said, “You picked out this place, remember?” … although he didn’t know what else to say. “Anyway this is a nice place … nice enough.”

It doesn’t matter, wouldn’t matter, as long as their pie is good.”

Their pie is good. You can’t decide when you first meet someone whether you like that person or not. It doesn’t happen. I know from experience, years of experience, it doesn’t happen,” Albert said, truly exasperated with himself for being so forward. He hadn’t anticipated it. “But you seem like … like …”

What?”

Like someone who understands.”

What I have always been Albert is understanding. That may seem … “

No, no. I wasn’t thinking.”

Thinking?”

For me, I wasn’t thinking.” Albert said, almost hyperventilating. “I don’t know what’s happening to me.” Then he got hold of himself and said, “What if I told you, told you I’m a counselor and have always had to be sure of myself? But I haven’t always been sure of myself.”

It wouldn’t surprise me. Yes, I can see you’re a caring person. And it is bullshit. And that’s why you called me. Bullshit. You are a very confident person.”

No, no. I called you to …”

For tea and pie … coconut pie.”

Well, that’s what I thought.” And then the conversation took an unexpected turn when Buddy said, “I used to not give a damn about anything! And that’s why I am where I am now … today.”

Well, haven’t we all been there, friend. All we know is God cares for us, and that’s all we need to know. You know I once had a family, a wife and two girls.”

And I’ve had less.”

Less?”

Yes, less. I’ve never been married. I don’t have children. I never wanted children.” Buddy said, remembering something sad like he was missing something. “Not that I’ve ever wanted to be … be married.”

Now we’re two men. Now I ask you, can two men marry? Not that I think …”

I know. We don’t dare to think we’ll be too …”

Don’t include me,” Albert complained. “Now I told you I was married … “

And have two girls. Any regrets?”

Yeah.”

There was really only one person near enough to hear their conversation, and that was a waitress clearing a nearby table, but the point was that Albert felt embarrassed over having such a personal conversation with someone he hardly knew. Buddy was almost a stranger, and Albert felt he was allowing him to get too close to him. Yet he was drawn to Buddy and craved closeness. He was almost a stranger and Buddy was already moving in. The truth was Albert called Buddy and not the other way around. Albert was used to people coming to him. This was a new experience.

Albert looked at Buddy, seeing that maybe here was a com padre, seeing maybe that here was someone he could relate to, after all. And if he was right, the rest would be easy, since Buddy was obviously gay. He picked him to be gay because Albert met him coming out a dark, dingy showing gay porn. He couldn’t figure why else Buddy would be coming out of a place showing gay porn. He decided to ask him.

Yes, I’m gay. And you?”

What do you think?”

I assumed you were. I knew, knew you were.”

Is it obvious?”

No.”

Thank God.”

It’s okay. Down the road.”

Down the road. It’s okay.”

Now that we got that out of the way.”

Yes.”

So you’ve been married and have two children. That complicate things,” Then Buddy started remembering how close he came to getting married, and he said, “Yes, it complicates things. I’m glad I never … never …

I don’t regret it.”

I’ve never regretted anything. I don’t regret anything I’ve done.” Of course, Buddy lied. “Of course, you don’t,” Buddy continued. “ Here we have two gay men talking about marriage, and you’re one of the lucky ones, friend.”

I know I am, Buddy. I have two wonderful girls … two beautiful … playful and beautiful. I have a picture. Would you like to see a picture?” Albert showed Buddy a picture of his two girls. “But … but still … But what would you suggest we talk about now?” Alfred asked.

Well, I’m a librarian. I’m your typical gay librarian, but of course there no such person as your typical gay librarian. A typical gay, children librarian, and if they knew I was gay, I wouldn’t have a job. I know I wouldn’t have a job.”

Yes, this hit Albert hard. Then he began to relax and enjoy his tea and pie. He enjoyed Buddy’s company. They were both sitting quietly talking about themselves with Buddy talking about his love of books. They didn’t seem to notice people who came and went. If Albert had noticed who came and went, he wouldn’t feel relaxed.

Well friend, what do you do,” finally Buddy asked the inevitable question. Albert stared at his new friend. He had nothing personally against Buddy, but he didn’t feel like he could be candid and then just decided to jump right into it … and jump he did, since lying had never worked for him, and he knew it was risky.

I am a Methodist minister, a gay Methodist minister, your typical gay Methodist minister. It’s true Buddy. I am a gay Methodist minister.”

This stunned Buddy. Stunned, he stared at Albert, making Albert feel uncomfortable. “It’s true. I am a gay Methodist minister, or at least for now, I am still a minister. But if they knew I was gay, I don’t think … no, I know I wouldn’t have a job.” Albert wondered now if he made a mistake. He didn’t know whether to be concerned or to laugh.

I see.”

Isn’t it ridiculous?”

No, no. But I see how it would be complicated. And married with children. My, my.”

Shocked?”

Shocked? No, no, no, ” Buddy said but was truly dumbfounded by this revelation. He could see at this point Albert’s dilemma because his own story was also complicated. His dilemma was similar, while he didn’t have an ex-wife, children, or a church to complicate things. And furthermore, he was angry about it, angry. But he didn’t show it. Buddy didn’t know why he was angry … so, so angry.

Albert decided he liked Buddy. It was clear by then that Albert liked Buddy, but he didn’t want to seem too obvious. He didn’t want to get serious because he just met Buddy. “You know, Buddy,” Albert said, “people tend to come to me with their problems.”

I understand. It’s part of your job.”

Yes, it’s part of my job. But I never tried to talk anyone out of being gay. I know … I know you can’t do it. From experience, I know … I know it’s impossible. I would like for us to have a different kind of relationship … friendship. Here I’m already talking about having a relationship with you when we just met. What’s wrong with me?’

Nothing is wrong with you. You just said … nothing is wrong with you.”

I won’t argue the point.”

You don’t sound convinced. I don’t know how to explain myself, but I do want things to be different … “

I’m not looking for a relationship, Albert.”

Right. I see your point. And I can’t afford it. I’m still married with two girls … Patricia and Becky …” Albert couldn’t hide his disappointment.

Patricia and Becky …” Buddy repeated. Albert stopped for a moment and looked at Buddy but decided not to say what he was thinking. It was important to him to control himself, to control the situation, but he thought Buddy was hot.“

So it sounds as if you have a mess on your hands … a conflicted, complicated mess.” Buddy tried to sound sympathetic, but he knew given the circumstances he couldn’t help Albert much. And he wasn’t sure he was ready to invest much into such a messy affair. Things could get even messier. “Well, you know I went through a similar situation, similar without wife, kids, and church. I guess it wasn’t similar. It’s just that my parents won’t have anything to do with me now … afterwords!”

Buddy didn’t want to bring up his dirty laundry in front of Albert, fearing that Albert would think less of him. Apparently being sensitive, he didn’t want to get off on a wrong foot. He didn’t want to shock Albert as he had been shocked by the revelation that Albert was a minister. Unfortunately, Albert saw that Buddy was not forthcoming about something that bothered him. Being a minister meant he was very perceptive and had enough experience to read other people. “We all have our cross to bear.” Albert recognized the cliche before he caught himself using it. “And we all can be trite.”

It doesn’t matter.”

Yes, it matters.”

Both Albert and Buddy were now on equal footing, so Albert decided to say no more. He knew when to back off. He had experience in such things and knew when to back off. As a Methodist minister, he knew when not to push it, not to push his luck. Albert decided his new friend would confide in him when he was ready. He would wait. He knew to wait. The waitress then came by them with an offer of more tea. “More pie?” It was tempting.

But Buddy, who usually wasn’t in the habit of picking up strangers and didn’t have a current partner, and made a practice of not getting into a serious conversation with anyone, at this moment didn’t know what to say. Had he said too much? he wondered. Had Albert said too much? Had he been too forward. Would he offend this stranger? He almost always made light of tense situations (came up with a joke or something, but now he was unable to come up with anything. He was unable to come up with a joke. He felt embarrassed, tongue tied, strangled. His parents hadn’t been at fault. They were shocked and ready to accept him regardless … regardless …. and yet he told Albert they wouldn’t have anything to do with him. What was going on?

So, from someplace deep inside himself the idea that he was gay didn’t sit well with him. He felt awkward. As long as he could remember, he felt awkward about it. For obvious reasons he was slow to accept the idea and by rejecting his parents (instead of the other way around) he was … it didn’t make sense. But here he was trying to convince Albert that his parents rejected him because he was gay when it wasn’t true. And then all of a sudden he lied again. “I haven’t talked to them in over a year.”

That’s sad.”

Yes, it is.”

Of course, Albert related to this. His separation from Alice and his two girl was similar, yet different. His parents didn’t yet know that he was gay, and he wondered what their reaction would be when they found out that he was gay. Would they reject him? Would they reject him like Buddy’s parents rejected him. But why would they reject him? Albert thought. Albert suddenly felt alone. He needed someone to stick up for him. He needed someone, someone like Buddy to stick up for him. Luckily he could talk to God. Luckily he had God to to talk to. Luckily he had God as a friend. He had God as a close friend. He knew God would listen to him. Now he had a second friend … Buddy. Yes, he and Buddy shared similar experiences, though they were different. Albert looked at Buddy. He admired Buddy because Buddy was still standing. He was still standing after his parents rejected him.

But Albert didn’t know Buddy lied to him about his family rejecting him. He wouldn’t know he lied about it until much later. Not until they had a committed relation that Albert learned that it was the other way around. He didn’t learned until much later when Buddy told him he lied and that he rejected his parents, and it was complicated. By it being complicated, Buddy was implying that all such things were complicated. So Buddy lied.

Regrets? Do you have any regrets, Buddy?”

I may have a few, but I don’t need to express them.”

Stop! Let’s be honest,” Albert said. “Buddy. This is too new for me, so I don’t want to end up in bed with you right now. But … “

But? But I want to. You’ve got to know that I want to.”

But I don’t know if I could stop … resist … you know.” Albert bit his lip, astounded that he was talking about this. Before with other men, it didn’t matter. Before it was casual sex with a stranger. Casual sex with a stranger was easier than this. Before he didn’t know anything about the person he was having sex with. Before he didn’t care. Before he didn’t want to see his face. Before he didn’t want to see the person … the man again. It was casual sex … casual sex. Sex, sex, sex … why did he have to have sex with other men? And yet, Albert made it clear that the other fellow was the one that always took the initiative … always.

Buddy surprised himself too, at the way he showed restraint, the way he hadn’t made a “move” and he hardly even noticed that he hadn’t made a “move” and here he was telling Albert things he never told anyone else, though he lied … lied about his parents rejecting him, and other bullshit. He looked at Albert with an expression of appreciation and sympathy before they left the coffee shop. And it was a whole two weeks before Albert saw Buddy again. It was a whole two weeks before Albert called.

It doesn’t matter who called whom. “It’s okay,” Buddy said after Albert apologized. “What matters is that one of us called. We have a lot of catching up to do.”

It has only been two weeks.”

A lot can happen in two weeks.”

And they started off where they left off Only this time they talked more about their hopes and dreams. Hopes and dreams, both men were hopeful. Both men dreamed of a better future. Both men weren’t as depressed as they thought they were. Both had looked forward to seeing each other again. So the two men became more intimate in a non-sexual way by talking about what they wanted in life, though they both were well on their way. For the first time in many years Albert didn’t feel like he had to offer advice. For the first time Albert felt free to talk about sex … his sexual desires. Talk, talk, and it seemed as if it were more than talk. They talked and talked. They listened to each other and talked about their hopes and dreams and in the process they shared ideas, and little by little got to know each other. Sitting together, and eating pie and drinking tea together, they intimately got to know each other.

There were many things they talked about, and their best ideas involved action and activism. It may take years of determination but they talked about doing something about prejudice, prejudice and what it meant then to be gay. Gay. Why were gay men ridicule? Gay. Why were gay men and lesbian women not accepted? Why were transsexual treated badly. Why, weren’t they accepted as gay men? Why weren’t gay men accepted? Why did they have to hide their sexual preference? Why did they have to go to dark, dingy places showing gay porn to find companionship with like-minded men? Why? Why? Why? Why couldn’t they be open about who they were? Why can’t they be openly gay?

Even for Albert to talk about it took a lot of effort, a lot of course, or so he thought, even with Buddy. What would it take to change everyone’s minds about being gay? Why not? There would always be those who wouldn’t accept it. There would always be those who would show hostility. There would always be those who would show prejudice.. There were always be those … yes, ignorant bastards. But there wasn’t much one could do about ignorant bastards. At first, people would feel very nervous, and there were reasons for it. To begin with … prejudice was a learned response. So, at first, people may feel awkward … would feel awkward. Yes, they needed to be prepared for awkwardness. Yes, Albert and Buddy accepted awkwardness. Overcoming feeling awkward took effort.

Black people who lived for so long under the shackles of Jim Crow were finally making their voices heard. They were demonstrating, marching, but this was before Stonewall. This was before MLK led the way. This was before LBJ led the way. Man, they had so far to go.

Skilled as activist or not, there were a few gays … very few of then … who were defying laws (many were taking chances because they didn’t have a choice). They had only a few places where they could go and be themselves. Only a few places where they could go and meet like-minded men. And there weren’t many of those places that weren’t dark and dingy. Some of them were arrested. And it wasn’t only in Texas.

By then core groups of gay men met occasionally in dark shadows, and Albert wished he could organize such a group in his church. Of course there were groups for men that focused on other things. There were groups meeting in his church, but a group for gay men, forget it. Albert knew it wouldn’t fly. It was too soon. He knew it was too soon and wouldn’t fly. He wouldn’t … wouldn’t come out of the closet out of fear … out of fear … out of fear of losing his job. Having a group for gay men, as farfetched as it seemed, was something Albert thought about. His church had groups for alcoholics and drug abusers, so why not a group for gays, or lesbians, or transsexual people. Of course, Albert knew why it wasn’t possible. He knew consequences quite well. He knew what the reaction would be.

The greatest asset that came with attending a group was a support system. Without a support system people felt alone and rarely had anyone they could talk to about their inner feelings; and without a support system many gay men felt alone … were alone. Many gay men didn’t have anyone they could talk about their inner feelings. What Albert knew was the importance of a support system. He had always encouraged people to talk about their inner feelings. As a minister, he always encouraged support groups.

Establishing a support system often presented untold challenges for gay people. It was especially hard then before Stonewall and a movement that followed it. But people like Albert and Buddy carried on, although it often involved rejection in one form or another, because of prejudice. It sometimes or too often involved getting arrested. Some people faced rejection, while a great number of gay people lived secret lives.

Buddy and Albert began spending more and more time together, so much time that it took Albert away from his church. Because of this, too, members of his congregation began to notice his absence and even began to talk about it among themselves. First a separation and then longer and long absences. At first many members assumed that Albert was spending more time with his children, or they hoped that he was spending more time with his children because word finally got out that Alice and their children were living in San Antonio

A year or so later, once it became public … very public indeed … once their minister lost his church because he was gay, some of them rallied around him. Still others, inspired by old prejudices, and religiosity, found ways to spite him. And while this problem was never completely eliminated it would never be as virulent as it was then.

As time went by moral at the church went down and as the drama played out everyone took one side or the other. And while few members of the congregation were interested in confronting Albert directly … they considered it the Bishop’s job … each of them had an opinion.

Albert and Buddy, meanwhile, continued to see each other. They continued to talk and meet, drink tea and eat pie in the same coffee shop as often as they could. Needless to say, at first Albert felt uncomfortable … not because he felt uncomfortable around Buddy but because the coffee shop was a public place. (And it wasn’t far from his church. It was on a main drag not far from his church.) This may seem silly, but to Albert it was a safe alternative to going to Buddy’s apartment. While before Albert hadn’t hesitated going to some stranger’s place to have sex, now he felt hesitant about going to Buddy’s apartment. He still found Buddy to be hot, but he felt hesitant. What made Buddy different? Albert found a communal spirit in him. They found a communal spirit in each other. But within six or seven months that all changed.

 

 

Chapter Ten

Albert sat in his office looking at a clock watching time go by, but he thought it best to think of something else. He couldn’t help but think of Buddy. He knew he loved Buddy. He couldn’t think of anything else. Whenever he had an idle moment, he thought of Buddy, so he tried to stay busy. Staying busy became increasingly hard for him. Albert found no relief from anxiety he felt, regardless what he did or didn’t do and knew looking at a clock made it worse. Sometimes an office assistant came in his study. Sometimes she knew to leave him alone.

Lately, it became harder for him because he knew he would soon have to talk to his Bishop about his future. He knew it would be hard. He knew talking to his Bishop about being gay would be hard. It became increasing difficult for him because he knew sooner or later he would have to talk to his Bishop. Albert would soon have to tell his Bishop about his upcoming divorce because it came down to divorce after Alice found out that he was gay. Being gay was an intrusion. He could not hide that he and Alice were separated, It was impossible, impossible because she was missed at church. People were asking questions. Impossible for him … It would be impossible to explain Alice’s absences. “Where is your wife?” “Where is Alice,” his Bishop would surely ask because everyone in his church was asking.

Later, Albert decided to go to his Bishop himself before his Bishop found out from someone else. His Bishop was his pastor. His Bishop was suppose to be his pastor, which meant Albert was suppose to go to him with his problems, (or the other way around when his bishop saw a problem in his church, or had a problem with him), and Albert definitely had problems now. And indeed he had big problems.

Albert tried to avoid going, tried to avoid going to see his Bishop. He put it off as long as he could and tried to make an excuse, but it was hard to make an excuse when his Bishop expected to see him on a regular bases. His Bishop expected Albert to report to him because his Bishop was Albert’s boss. His Bishop, Albert concluded, had to be told. Or would eventually find out anyway.

Albert had never had such a dilemma before, and now he saw his world turned upside down. He saw what being gay could mean to his career as a Methodist minister, a career he knew and loved. From an early age he knew he would become a minister. Albert knew it after he heard the voice of God. Albert felt called to the ministry after he heard the voice of God, and it was now in jeopardy. It was something he knew. It was something he dreaded. It was something he hated, something he hated about being gay, a gay minister. He had to face reality. And it made him angry, very angry. He didn’t ask to be gay. He was happy to be gay, but circumstances made him angry about it. It was an intrusion. And it was something he now couldn’t avoid, so he needed to stop looking at the clock. 

Sometimes Albert would think that it wouldn’t make a difference. Sometimes Albert thought, hoped, that it wouldn’t make a difference that he was gay to his congregation as a whole. Sometimes he thought, hoped that it wouldn’t make a difference to the Methodist church. He hoped most people would accept him for who he was. He hoped, prayed about it. He prayed every day. He realized how it effected his marriage. He expected as much, but marriage … being married to a gay man was different. It was an impossible situation. It was an intrusion. And Albert understood why it was impossible for Alice. It was impossible for him. And not only that, but how Alice effectively handled herself during this difficult time also hurt him. He couldn’t be more proud of her.

They grew up in a world where gays were ridiculed. They grew up in a church that didn’t accept gay people, and Albert knew he served a church that did not fully accept gay people, and Albert knew Alice was disappointed, disillusioned, and devastated. How in the world then could she face people of their church? He could he face them? How could Albert stand in the pulpit and face them Sunday after Sunday, week after week. He would have to let them know he was gay. He did not regret being gay, but now he was faced with a dilemma, perhaps the biggest dilemma of his life (no, the second dilemma: the biggest was facing Alice). Now on his own he had to fend for himself. His mother, his father, his sisters were shocked, yet they tried to understand, but there was no way they could. They wouldn’t come close to understanding until he came out of the closet. There was no one who understood except for Buddy. Luckily, he had Buddy.

Although he still loved Alice, he was now glad they were separated. For his girls’ sake, he was glad they were separated. To Buddy Albert never hid that he was glad. They talked about it, and Albert didn’t hide it. They talked about many things. They talked and talked, talked about many things. They shared everything. So Albert shared his dilemma, about having to face his Bishop. He sounded down. This is an understatement. He felt wretched. His eyes and voice said it all. Buddy could see it before Albert said a word, but Buddy knew there wasn’t much he could do for his friend. There wasn’t much he could do about it. There wasn’t much he could do about it except be there … be a friend … for Albert.

Albert, far from being helpless as he first felt, knew he could face his Bishop with the truth. He knew he could tell his Bishop the truth. He assumed his Bishop knew part of the truth. He would know … surely he would know about the separation, surely. There was no way his Bishop would not to know. He would’ve heard rumors. Someone from Albert’s congregation would’ve told him.

What the heck could I have done about it?” Albert asked Buddy while they were talking about the situation (he felt like saying what the hell). “I’m not going to continue to live a double life.”

I don’t see how you could, really …” Buddy laughed,and as exasperated as Albert was then. He would never figure out how they came to be that way.

What?”

It’s not you Albert. I shouldn’t have to explain, really. I never said I was gay. I never had to say I was gay. I was always gay and never had to admit it to anyone. Oh, my parents … yes, my parents worried about it. My father gave up and walked away. Mother was never convinced when there was never any reason why she shouldn’t be. Going to them didn’t mean anything. It didn’t change anything. It didn’t change a thing. So calling me gay didn’t mean anything other than the obvious. Everyone knew.”

I didn’t.”

Yes, you did.”

I knew, and it wasn’t because of where we met.”

Shortly thereafter Albert went to his Bishop. Then he left, left without a decision. It was almost uneventful. His Bishop simply responded by saying he would have think about what Albert told him and pray: THERE WERE NO OPENLY GAY MINISTERS IN THE METHODIST CHURCH THEN. And a week later, Albert began moving a few personal belongings out of his church office.

Albert thought it was strange but he didn’t recall any specifics about his conversation with his Bishop other than his confession. Yes, it felt like a confession when Albert knew it shouldn’t have felt like it. All he remembered was that he felt trapped in his Bishop’s office. He wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. He wanted to run to Buddy. He didn’t run but walked out of the Bishop’s office.

Albert was about ten years old when he first heard the voice of God. One Sunday while sitting in church he heard God speak to him. He recognized God’s voice and knew it was God’s voice because it was so clear and because until that day he hadn’t heard anything like it. He heard God call his name. “Albert!” It was clear. It was God’s voice. It was clearly God’s voice. That day Albert convinced himself that he would become a minister of a church like the one he then attended, and next Sunday he talked to his minister about it. But though his minister thought Albert was too young to make such a decision, his minister didn’t dismiss it. Or discourage him.

I’m going to be a minister when I grow up,” Albert told his mom. “I’m going to grow up and be a minister. Who’s going to stop me?”

No one,” and that was that. Who would stop him? His mother felt very proud, very proud of him. And had his sister laughed, laughed at him Albert didn’t know what he would’ve done.

Albert’s family were church people, God’s people, had been always been church people, God’s people, and Albert’s decision was like gold. Yes, his mother felt very proud him, her only son. They were really really religious. So when Albert said he wanted to become a minister they were pleased. They were all pleased.

Many people heard Albert say he wanted to become a minister. He said he heard God’s voice. He told many people he heard God’s voice. He said it often enough and loud enough for many people to hear it.

Once he heard God’s voice, he never got it out of his mind. He talked to God and it reverberated back, but never as clearly as when he first heard it. Sometimes he thought he was losing contact, which made him intensify his conviction. He came in and out of those moments more committed. And Albert’s love of God increased. It increased as he aged.

At other times (and these were most unbearable) Albert questioned his faith. He questioned his faith, like Thomas. And in what we may rightly call his darkest moments, his darkest hours, again like Thomas, he questioned himself. Albert suspected that God created these questions, these moments to test him. He wanted this to be true because he wanted to believe in the existed of God, and hoped if he ever lost his way he would find it again. He wanted to hear God’s voice because it made him feel good.

During conversations he had with himself in which he questioned everything about faith, he could not accept the idea that God didn’t exist, that a loving God didn’t exist. He heard God’s voice, recognized God’s voice, heard God call his name, so he knew God existed, but now God was testing him again. “Why?” He asked “why?” as he started moving out of his office. Albert chose to move at night when no one else was around. He would move everything himself, without asking for help. “Why? Why?’ he asked himself. Why was God testing him? As a minister, he should know the answer to this question. Why was God testing him?

He asked this question over and over again. He couldn’t come up with an answer. He wouldn’t come up with an answer. He couldn’t come up with a good answer. He never would because he was the same person he always was. He hadn’t change. And all this can only be said to be a a small part of what he was thinking as he packed and moved out of his office. All this went though his mind as he realized everyone’s attitude toward him had changed or would change. It was a time in his life referred to as the Big Freeze.

What was Albert to do?” Albert asked himself. He didn’t want to lose his church; yet hadn’t he already lost it? (Albert knew he would work in the church in some way. He would work in a church even if he had to work in a church as a janitor. He would ) Albert could see he would have to move out of the church parish, and although he could move in with Buddy he wasn’t yet ready to make that kind of commitment. It also appeared to him that he was going around in circles, around and around in circles, back and forth. Albert was ready to move in with Buddy, yet he wasn’t yet ready to make that kind of commitment. Round and round, back and forth even before Buddy brought it up, round and round, back and forth and obviously distressed.

Oh, Albert, stop …!” Albert groaned, thanking God that he was by himself. He was in the habit of thanking God for everything. “Enough. Maybe I can find an apartment. Maybe I can live alone for a while. Maybe I can find contentment. Maybe I will find myself.” Then Albert realized that he had been living alone for a while.

Albert! Enough!” But Albert didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. And he kept asking the same question. “Why? Why? Did he need a church? Albert knew he could worship God without a church, but did he need one? He would have to find a new one, a new church. Once Albert sat next to Buddy he saw that he wasn’t totally forsaken. A lot of the time now Albert felt forsaken, but when he was with Buddy he didn’t feel that way. He felt like throwing his arms around Buddy, like thanking Buddy, like hugging Buddy, like kissing Buddy, hoping to be rescued from his despair, only that was too much to ask of Buddy. “Let’s talk,” Buddy suggested and arm-in-arm they walked back to their coffee shop. It didn’t matter then that they were seen in public, so they walked back to their coffee shop.

Once they were together and they hugged each other, Albert began to talk about his faith. “I … I believe in God. Now I don’t care if you believe in God or not.” Albert added, “But it would be nice if someday we went to church together. Together! No! It’s not possible. You can go, but you can’t go with me. Not now!”

Buddy looked at Albert knowing what he was saying and knowing why he couldn’t go to Albert’s church, or if he went they couldn’t yet acknowledge their connection. Not yet anyway. Not in that church, even though Albert knew he would soon lose his position. He needed Buddy more than ever. “I told you earlier Buddy that it didn’t matter to me whether you believed in God or not, but that’s wrong. It matters, but I would accept it. You were the one who reached out to me. When it seemed as if there wasn’t anyone I could talk to … I was lucky to find you, lucky you pick me up, lucky that we went to a coffee shop for tea and coconut pie. If it weren’t for you I don’t what I would’ve done. It felt like God had forsaken me … something I knew wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true. I couldn’t afford for it to be true. I feel you were sent by God. God sent you. To me, you are a god.”

If it sounds as if I was desperate. Yes, I was desperate. Yes! Desperate! But … you saw it, didn’t you? You can read me.”

I knew what you were going through. I’ve been there. I’ve been there in a different way.”

I felt half dead. Until I met you, I felt half dead,” Albert went on, feeling pretty good, since Buddy understood. “Heavens, I lost my wife, and my children went with her, and they live over two hundred miles away. And I knew what my church’s reaction would be. EVERYBODY looks down on gay people, and I’m gay. You’re gay. You know because you’re gay. They try to make out that it doesn’t matter … But you know this. You know it as well as I do. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”

I don’t want to hear you talk about yourself in this way again. This is who we are. This is who I am. That won’t change. We should be proud of who we are. So let’s respect ourselves, do you hear me, Albert? It doesn’t matter what other people think. I don’t think it matters to God.” Buddy squarely faced Albert when he said this. He said it with such conviction that Albert didn’t need to reply.

That was enough for Albert. He never talked about himself in that way again … at least not in front of Buddy. Maybe Albert was losing something. Maybe Albert was losing a lot of things. But he was also gaining something … gaining many things. Once he was with Buddy he saw that everything would turn out alright. Being around Buddy calmed him, calm him down. Buddy helped him center. .

Meanwhile, Albert could remembered when he and Alice got married. He had really changed since then. He remembered how back then, when he married Alice, it didn’t feel right, but he went through with it anyway. Getting married was something he was suppose to do. It was expected. He had always gone with Alice, always said he loved her (and in his own way he loved her, loved her in the way he still loved her), but it wasn’t official until they were married. So he married Alice. Now he faced a major challenge. Now Albert faced the biggest challenge of his life. He didn’t want to lose his church, and he didn’t know how to reply to his

Bishop’s request that he resign. What was he going to do? How was going to fight this? Albert was offered a deal. He had to fight it. And he fought it instead of accepting the deal his Bishop offered him.

Secretively gay Albert (although he was not nearly as secret as he needed to be, nor open as he should’ve been depending on your point of view) when he was followed by a private detective hired by a member of his congregation. No one said anything to him about his separation from Alice or suspicions about Albert’s secret life until confronted by his Bishop. Everyone left it up to his Bishop.

Albert knew it would eventually come out, so he wasn’t surprised when it did. He wasn’t surprised, relieved even until he started thinking about consequences. What did it mean for his career? He knew. Of course, he knew. Even though he knew he hoped, hoped that he could fight it in some way. And this must have been terrible in deed because he had wanted to be a minister of a church, a Methodist church, the rest of his life. He had wanted to be a minister ever since he heard the voice of God … the voice of God calling him into the ministry when he was a boy.

Members of his congregation now didn’t seem to want to talk about it. Once it came out … once Albert came out … once Albert made a statement from the pulpit… some considered it a confession, many felt betrayed … members didn’t want to talk about it. Once rumors stopped they didn’t want to talk about it. But when someone brought it up, Albert didn’t feel embarrassed about it. Once rumors stopped most members of the congregation, though they now disapproved of Albert, felt it was now their Bishop’s call, their Bishop’s business, their problem, but their Bishop’s business.

Oh, God!” Albert prayed.

Tell me, Albert, what can hurt you now? You’ve taken a big step, the biggest one. Now you can face anything. With God’s help, you can face anything.”

Albert shook his head and looked up at Buddy. He couldn’t believe Buddy said “with God’s help. “They’ll take my church away from me.”

No doubt they will,” Buddy agreed, which got him another stern look from Buddy. Obviously Albert didn’t like the idea. Obviously it made Albert angry, and obviously he couldn’t fight it. Or was it so obvious? Could he fight it? Was there a way? Would it do any good? The nearest he came to answers then was “I don’t know.” What did he know?

Who? Is there someone out there who can help you? Is there a process?” Buddy asked.

No. In our conference the Bishop makes the call. And the Bishop asked me to resign. He offered me a deal.. No, no, now wait a minute,” Albert said. There was the Board of Ministry and then … there was a process according to the Discipline. A process according to the Discipline … a lengthy process with several steps according to the Discipline … and finally, finally Annual Conference. So Albert wrote the Board of Ministry a letter in which he stated: “I am a homosexual. This is not something new or a frightening facet of my personality. I am still the same Albert Humphrey you have always known. I have decided to address this issue publicly and during the upcoming North Central Texas Annual Conference session. I love my church. I love the Methodist Church. I love God. I want to serve God as a minister in the Methodist church. That hasn’t changed. I don’t see it changing.” And in Albert’s case this was nothing short of explosive.

Yes, this made Albert feel better. Yes, after that Albert felt better. He felt better since he couldn’t continue to live a lie. He felt better because he felt in control. He didn’t know how to lie, so he couldn’t live one. Yes, he felt better, and this could be attributed to his public stance. And it wasn’t long before he joined the Gay Liberation Front in a few rallies. He was invited to speak.

But before it went that far, his Bishop offered Albert a deal – resign from his current position as an ordained minister and seek another non-parish position and the matter would be dropped. When he heard this, Albert swallowed hard. He didn’t know what to say. Albert had already composed his letter and sent it. His Bishop may or may not have seen it. “Nonsense. He saw it. His Bishop saw it. His Bishop knew, knew he was gay. It was addressed to his Bishop, so he saw it.” It seemed like a done deal … offered a deal when it was a done deal.

What Albert faced was hard … hard. He felt unsure … unsure of himself. He felt lost. He felt angry … angry and lost. Again it came back to the question of why. Why? He knew he didn’t have choice. Once he came out he didn’t have many choices, except he decided to fight for his job … fight for a church. Fight! He would face the North Central Texas Annual Conference rather than resign. People may not like it, but he wasn’t about to resign. They would have to defrock him.

Then who was he? He was Pastor Albert Humphrey, and he wasn’t going to easily give in. He wasn’t going to go down easily. Since he was little, he knew he wanted to be a minister. Since he was little, he felt called by God to be a minister, so he wasn’t going to go down easily. And he told this to Buddy before he broke down. Buddy held him. They held each other. It calmed Albert, but he was still upset. He still felt spent.

And so that was when Albert and Buddy became intimate. Although they had sex before then, this time it was different. This time they were intimate. Other times were different. This time it was in the bedroom of the church parish, and they didn’t care if anyone disapproved. Buddy had wanted this for months, long before it was possible or Albert thought it was possible. No one knew this or would know it, but it was important to Albert and Buddy not to have to hide their relationship. They would still have to be discreet, but it was different because it was no longer news … no long something they had to hide. Yes, they would remain discreet, but they felt less pressure. In a letter his Bishop offered Albert a deal … resign from his current position and seek another non-parish position and the matter would be dropped. Albert considered it a raw deal.

Albert refused the deal, by saying “this arrangement would be neither healthy nor Christian.” Then his Bishop and the Board of Ministry reached a decision. They concluded that Albert was “unacceptable in the work of the ministry” while giving no particular rationale for their conclusion.

His Bishop knew more than anyone else about what went on behind closed doors. His Bishop knew more than anyone else about what was said, what was said by various people about Albert behind closed doors. No minutes were taken concerning his Bishop’s and the Board Ministry’s discussions and decision, and though there was quite a discussion about homosexuality and the church, none of it was recorded.

Albert and Buddy went to see his Bishop, thinking that it might make a difference if the Bishop met Buddy. Now that everything was out in the open, they hoped meeting Buddy would make a difference to the Bishop, while they knew it wouldn’t. They knew it was hopeless. They knew it was hopeless before they went. They knew the Bishop wouldn’t changed his mind. They knew the Bishop couldn’t change his mind. They knew it wasn’t up to the Bishop, but they went anyway knowing it wouldn’t/couldn’t hurt. It couldn’t help, and it couldn’t hurt. The Bishop seemed sympathetic to them, but the Bishop said what they knew he would say. They returned home more frustrated and sadden than they were before they went. Although they never gave up thinking there was a chance … there had to be a way, they surely realized they couldn’t change minds.

What still remained at hand here, however, was: did Albert have the courage to face the whole North Central Texas Annual Conference and all it would entail?

A minister whom everyone knew … who turned out to be gay … now wanted to “flaunt” his sexual preference in front of the whole North Central Texas Annual Conference. The Bishop advised against it. The Bishop was against it. Of course, he was against it, adamantly against it but telling Albert he shouldn’t do something the Bishop knew it wouldn’t work. It never would.

Other than the Bishop, no one told Albert he couldn’t bring his case to the North Central Texas Annual Conference or anywhere else he wanted to. For that was Albert’s right.

Albert called on God for help. Albert spoke to God. He spoke directly to God. The idea of talking to God because of Albert’s experience always appealed to Albert, so he asked for God’s help. Furthermore, the Church taught that praying to God helped, when in distress praying helped, when in trouble praying helped, so why did Albert feel alone now? Albert always felt close to God. Then why did he feel alone now? Albert asked himself this when he wasn’t with Buddy. Unlike Albert, Buddy wasn’t afraid of losing everything. Perhaps because he already lost most things that were important to him, Buddy wasn’t afraid of losing everything. He wasn’t afraid of God punishing him for being gay. Intellectually Albert wasn’t afraid of this either because he believed in a loving God, but he couldn’t help thinking “God’s going to punish me for it. No! No, God made me that way. God made me gay.”

The Board of Ministry was hostile, or seemed hostile to Albert, and the Conference was more hostile. If Albert thought the Board Ministry was hostile, the Conference was more hostile. Just like Albert expected it was: polite but hostile. Once, Albert may have been a minister in good standing of the Methodist church, a rising star in the Methodist church, now he was an outcast in the Methodist church. It would’ve been unchristian to consider him an outcast, yet now he was gay, openly gay and “unfit” for the ministry. And they deliberated and deliberated, discussed and deliberated … they beat it to death, but what they didn’t consider was that Albert had always been gay. Nothing had changed … he was the same Albert, the same Albert except now everyone knew he was gay.

Albert had not left the church. He had not left his family, On the contrary, his family and church left him, his church family left him, and he felt like an outcast And all his life he had been around that family, his family and church family, and he and Alice had been childhood sweethearts. Albert thought he first noticed Alice in the second grade.

In the second grade, Albert gave Alice a pearl necklace for her birthday. Albert saved his allowance and bought Alice a pearl necklace, not that it was real but his sentiment was real enough, and that was what a boyfriend did, and that was in the second grade. Sure, that was a long time ago, in the second grade or third grade. In the the second grade or third grade, Albert bought and gave Alice a pearl necklace for her birthday, and they were boyfriend and girlfriend, only then it didn’t have the same meaning it later did.

Now he didn’t like to think about back then. Except he couldn’t help thinking about it, sometimes, just like he thought about many things about his and Alice’s relationship. Like when his girls were born, and how happy it made him feel … like it made him feel like he was flying … like it was the happiest two days of his life. It was hard for him not to think about his life with Alice and his girls.

We were boyfriend and girlfriend since the second or third grade,” Albert said, as he relived it all in spite of it all. “And I must have been attracted to her. I must’ve been attracted to girls. Yes, I was attracted to her. Yes, I was attracted to Alice. Why was that? Why was that when I’m gay. Buddy, I want you to know. Why was that … when I’m gay?”

Then, startled by his question, puzzled by it, Albert sat next to Buddy and held his hand. They held hands, held each other, clung to each other, and later made passionate love. Luckily, Albert could not revive his feelings for Alice. Luckily, he couldn’t think of Alice when he and Buddy made love. Albert still loved Alice in a way, but not in the way he once loved her or pretended to love her, and back then when he did, he tried, tried very hard to fool himself. But he did realize that he was grieving, grieving over the loss of his two little girls. And he still believed in the institution of marriage … the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

So after Albert wrote his letter to his Bishop and Board of Ministry stating that he was turning down their deal by saying that he found this arrangement “neither healthy nor Christian” and gave them notice that he would address the issue publicly and before annual conference. (This encounter received widespread coverage in the media. Albert made sure it got widespread coverage) Meanwhile having moved out of the church parish and knowing now that he would soon have to move anyway, he and Buddy moved in together.

Even if Albert were not someone who would normally want to lead a demonstration, members of the Gay Liberation Front appeared with him before 600 clergy and laypersons, demanding that they “cease harassment” of Rev. Albert Humphrey. But after this, it didn’t make a difference. All members of the Gay Liberation Front wore buttons reading “I am gay,” but it didn’t make a difference. After a lively debate by clergy members with opinions ranging from ignoring the matter to pressing for a church trial, it didn’t change anything because they ended up voting to suspend Albert from the ministry and having him surrender his clergy credentials. There was no mention of misconduct or homosexuality in the action, simply that he was “unacceptable” as a United Methodist minister.

Where better but the church should the spirit of Christianity be found, and if not there, where? To Albert his sexual preference shouldn’t have made a difference. To him in the eyes of God, it wouldn’t make a difference, so it shouldn’t have made a difference in the church, his church, the Methodist church (before man got in the way that is). It was nothing short of a revolution, but it shouldn’t have been. Albert wasn’t someone who normally would’ve led a demonstration,yet now he found himself in front of one, and the start of a revolution. Which was where, after that, that Albert was often seen. And perhaps, too often for Buddy.

Yes, seen, not only by people who knew him, but also by the press. After Albert addressed the issue publicly at the Annual Conference, he became a public person. As a minister, Albert was a good public speaker. When addressing a crowd, he felt at ease. The first time Albert and Buddy were seen by the press holding hands they found their picture featured in THE DALLAS TIMES HERALD, and Albert found that his notoriety didn’t hurt him. But how did Buddy feel?

Alice also saw an article down in San Antonio about Albert. And she saw the photograph of Albert holding hands with Buddy in the paper. How did it make her feel? Maggie also sent Alice a clipping, but Alice didn’t show it to anyone else. She didn’t have to. Knowing this Alice went over to her mother’s house, and the two women simply looked at each other. They didn’t have to say anything. They didn’t know what to say. Now that Alice’s parents knew that Albert was gay they didn’t know what to say. Alice was glad her father wasn’t home. She also kept a scrap book of all the stories about Albert, although she didn’t like to look through it. To her it was a nightmare she wanted to forget, but, of course, she couldn’t forget it. Yet she kept a scrapbook.

And of course, Albert requested consideration for readmission as a minister several years in a row. And each time he applied to the Conference Board of Ministry, and each time the board deferred a decision in order to get legal clarification, which was obviously a delaying tactic. Legal clarification! It seemed absurd to Albert.

Then Albert changed his tactics. He saw he was getting nowhere and changed his tactics. He was tired of long discussions. He was tired of the back and forth … tired of delay, delay after delay. Most of it was one-sided, and he considered it misguided and certainly not guided by God, about how gay and lesbian clergy were being discriminated against. Most of it was behind closed doors. Albert had dramatic ideas. But he really didn’t understand politics, or maybe he did and saw it wasn’t getting him anywhere, so Albert decided … decided to address the conference in a dramatic way.

He didn’t talk to anyone about what he was going to do. He didn’t talk to anyone about what he was going to do except maybe Buddy. Albert gathered his main prop: his liturgical stole. Buddy watched him as he put on his liturgical stole, and while he waited for Albert to leave for the conference. And why in the heck would it be any of Buddy’s business? All Buddy knew was that Albert was planning something Albert called a defrocking protest. Albert had a dramatic flair, had always had a dramatic flare Since he was a child he had been a showoff, but now it was different. Since he was a child, he craved attention. Now it was serious. It had nothing to do with showing off. He was serious. He wanted to remain in the ministry. Now that he had his prop, props he decided to organize a protest, a defrocking protest. And he needed bodies. You can’t have a protest without bodies.

Then there were things Buddy knew about Albert that no one else knew. They talked many hours, and Albert told him things, many things he never told anyone else, things Albert never told Alice, and in this way their intimacy grew. And it was how they took charge of their lives. It was a two-way street. Then Albert decided to include Buddy in his defrocking protest. And he needed bodies … more bodies. You can’t have a protest without bodies.

Among other attributes that made Albert a leader was his ability to organize. With Buddy’s help, Albert organized a protest at the Annual Conference assembling in Dallas. When Albert appeared before the Annual Conference session of about 600 clergy and laypersons the first time, members of the Gay Liberation Movement, and a few of Albert’s friends also appeared and demanded that they stop harassing Rev. Albert Humphrey. Rev. Humphrey appeared, as reported in national media, “in mod clothes and a pink lapel button reading ‘Gay!’” Albert told the conference that he wished “to continue the ministry as a Christian and hopefully as a Methodist.” Well, it didn’t do any good, but there was considerable debate with opinions ranging from ignoring the matter to pressing for a church trial. They voted 154 to 97 to suspend Albert from the ministry. No charge of misconduct or mention of homosexuality was part of the decision, simply that he was “unacceptable” as a Methodist clergy. And since Albert was who he was, he didn’t accept the decision and went ahead with his plans for a defrocking protest.

Buddy also helped him plan. Together they planned, and organized, but first they decided to wait and for Albert to request for readmission as clergy. From there there was a lengthy process. His request was first refused by the Dallas District Committee. Then Albert again applied to the Conference Board of Ministry, which deferred a decision in order to get legal clarification. They sent Rev. Humphrey case to the denomination’s highest court, the Judicial Council. The Judicial Court ruled that since his suspension did not involve “charges and complaints of character” he was eligible to be considered for readmission. Albert, of course, reapplied. Meanwhile, Albert also became a spokesperson for the gay movement within the Methodist church. And he became known as a gay minister in the Dallas area.

Since Albert no longer had demands of a church and did not have a family to worry about except for child support and trips to San Antonio to see his girls, he had time for a part-time job, gay activism, and planning for a defrocking protest. If nothing else worked out, he was still planning a defrocking protest. If nothing else worked out, a defrocking protest was in the works.

By then Albert and Buddy were living together. They shared a small apartment. They shared a small apartment near Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Buddy knew how to cook. Buddy loved to cook. Albert loved Buddy’s cooking. They both put on weight. Every now and then, they went out to eat. Sometimes they frequented the same coffee shop they first went to. This had special meaning for them.

If you want to get along, you need to conform,” Buddy started out in a solemn tone with Albert (who Buddy was meant he would listen to him and made him proud of Albert), “you have to realize that change is often slow. People don’t change over night. It’s going to be a long struggle. We may not see what we want to see happen within our lifetime.” Buddy believed in a need for patience. By nature, Albert was impatient.

Albert had already taken big steps. He took big steps when he requested readmission into the ministry and confronted the Annual Conference. He took big steps when he went public. He took big steps when he accepted that he was gay. Confronting the conference not once, but twice, three times were also huge steps, but where did it get him?

Since Albert refused to give up and felt he had nothing else to lose, he asked Buddy to help him plan a defrocking protest for the next Annual Conference. And above all it took courage. And it would take patience like Buddy suggested, but it would also take courage, courage to “crash” Annual Conference.

Now, first we have to gain entrance,” Albert told Buddy. “And of course, that’s easy because ordination services are open to the public. They are open services like church services are open where everyone is welcome to come. Buddy was skeptical about participating because as a gay person he hadn’t felt welcome in churches before then. Albert wasn’t quite sure Buddy would participate. He wasn’t quite sure. Albert wasn’t sure if Buddy wouldn’t back out at the last minute. Albert planned for that possibility by saying to himself that he didn’t need Buddy. He reassured himself by saying that he could participate in a defrocking protest without Buddy.

After carefully selecting which stole he would wear (since Albert had three stoles corresponding with the Methodist liturgical calendar.: purple, white, and green … purple for Advent and Lent; white for Christmas and Easter; and green for Epiphany and Kingdom Tide} Albert went out and bought himself a new suit, a dapper suit, a loud suit, a suit a hot gay man would wear. He could ill afford a new suit, yet he bought one. Next he chose an appropriate tie, one he used Sunday after Sunday. It was a tie most members of his old congregation would recognize.

Now he was ready for his demonstration, his defrocking demonstration. Date, place, and time were chosen for him.

Another thing Albert wanted for closeted gays from the church was a positive word, any positive word, any word. First he knew he needed to strike a balance, as he called for more openness for homosexual clergy, he drew attention to his own plight. He still wanted a church, a Methodist church, his old church, his old church back He wanted to remain in the clergy. Since he wanted to remain in the clergy, he didn’t want to blow his chances. On the other hand, Albert knew he needed to make a strong statement, strongest possible statement. Hence, defrocking protests.

Then, one afternoon, he decided that to make the greatest impact he needed to protest alone, but he also knew that he wouldn’t simply be protesting for himself. It wasn’t simply about him. In any case, this time he didn’t have bodies and it didn’t seem right to Albert to draft some of his gay friends, which he thought about doing but dismissed it for after all an ordination service was a religious service. At least the first time he would try not to be disruptive or disrespectful. (In later years, Albert would be less incline to show such restraint.)

Then, when day of the conference came, Albert in beard, jeans (instead of the suit he bought) and ecclesiastical regalia, showed up at the Annual Conference. By then many of conferees knew him or knew of him, and knew he was gay., (Everyone would know him after the ordination service.) And when time came for the ordination of new pastors, Albert rose and went down front of the hall and stood, silently, respectfully stood.

And while new pastors knelled and went through ordination, Albert stood silently, gagged with his liturgical stole bound and tied around his mouth and head. He stood where he couldn’t be ignored. He stood where everyone there could see him. He obviously didn’t want to be ignored. He obviously wasn’t ignored.

Why was it that it took that? Why was it?” Yet it didn’t help him get his position back. It didn’t help him get his church back. Yet he couldn’t be ignored. Some there shrugged their shoulders. Their irritation was obvious. It angered many there. “Didn’t Albert know better? He knew the reception he would get. He knew attitudes hadn’t changed. He knew, and yet … yet he made a spectacle of himself. He was raised in the church, the Methodist church and knew attitudes hadn’t changed.

Then what would Albert do next? “What next?” Buddy asked.

Buddy, I haven’t thought … thought that far ahead. “ Albert said, once he was home at their apartment. “I got their attention. At least I got their attention. Media was there. Someone gave them a heads-up. My family wasn’t there.”

I was there. Remember?”

‘I know that.” Albert said. “And now that I think about it, we went together.”

And I’m family. Don’t forget. I’m family.”

Albert did not answer, but instead he grabbed Buddy, held Buddy, and they kissed. And kissed for they enjoyed kissing each other. Albert was alive then. He felt good about what he did. He always felt alive when he was with Buddy. Buddy made him feel alive. He felt good and considered his defrocking demonstration successful though it didn’t achieve what he hoped.

So what was he going to do next? He decided to try again.

 

 

Chapter Eleven

That year Albert received national attention. Stories about him appeared in newspapers throughout the country. Long and short accounts of his defrocking demonstration appeared in secular publications, which surprised Albert. And it was more publicity than he wanted. NEWSWEEK did a piece on him. NEWSWEEK published a full-page story on him. Albert hadn’t expected it. Many gay people were closeted then. Gay ministers were closeted then, and ones that weren’t no longer had a church. He no longer had a church. So he made a spectacle of himself in front of the church, the whole church and made news and Albert considered that important. Yet it was more publicity than he wanted.

That year was also the year that Albert and Buddy decided to live together. Yes, live together, at last … not to frequently visit each others apartment but to share one and share the same bed. But above all, they decided to make a commitment to each other.

But not, however, before they worked out an agreement that gave each other space … Albert wanted time and space for his girls whenever he got visitation (since he had visitation rights and wanted to continue to be a father), but Buddy didn’t want to move out every time Albert brought the girls from San Antonio. So Albert didn’t bring the girls to Dallas. He wasn’t ashamed of whom he was. Yet he didn’t bring his girls to Dallas. His girls knew their father was different before they knew the word gay, or the words fag or queer.

And all that made it difficult.

Three months after they started living together, everything came to a head … came to a head when Albert decided he wanted to spend more time with his girls. They had their commitment and agreement, but Albert wanted his girls to stay with him for a week … (Albert had a right to take them for a week or longer) with an agreement and Buddy not planning to stay elsewhere for the duration … with Albert’s girls sleeping on a couch in the living room and the men sharing a bed in their room because they decided the girls weren’t old enough to see anything wrong with two men sharing a bed (which, by the way, in Albert’s mind and Buddy’s mind, there wasn’t anything wrong with it), and when his two girls, though more aware than Albert thought, still didn’t care as long as they got to stay with their dad. Despite all this and more, Albert felt uncomfortable about the situation, but he also wanted to be with Buddy, and Buddy wanted to be with him. And he wanted his girls to stay with him. And thank God! Albert’s and Buddy’s home soon became a-home-away-home for the girls. Again, thank God. And thank god, Alice didn’t make a fuss.

And meanwhile, most people that surrounded Alice … who knew about Albert … didn’t understand why she allowed her daughters to stay with their father … allowed their father to take them for more than a week. She didn’t know what she could do about it anyway, and it didn’t matter that she felt uncomfortable allowing them to go with their father. She didn’t know Buddy. Alice didn’t know Buddy and didn’t know that Albert felt uncomfortable about it too. Then Albert realized that his fears were unfounded and that his daughters accepted the situation as long as he and Buddy acted normally. He knew it was something his daughters would get used to if their parents didn’t make a big deal of it.

But it wasn’t going to be easy for them, and when they got older, they didn’t want to stay with their father when they had a stepfather who made their mother happy. They saw that there mother looked sad whenever she mentioned their father and equated sadness to their father’s relationship with Buddy. And they felt sad too … you know why … and it had nothing to do with their father and Buddy being the same sex … being the same sex and living together … being the same sex and sharing the same bed. To them it had nothing to do with them being gay. It became sadder to them when their mother announced her upcoming remarriage. They would’ve been happy, happier to hear that their parents were getting back together, but that was not to be. They would’ve been happier, though they liked their step-father-to-be.

What’s-his-name married their mother and after that they saw their father less. What’s-his-name worked as an insurance salesman and made good money. What’s-his-name made good money and made their mother happy. Meanwhile, Albert was also happy. Albert and Buddy were happy, happy together, except Albert missed his ministry, and except Albert missed seeing his girls as often as he wanted, so Albert decided to stage more demonstrations. Stage more demonstrations, though it didn’t seem like it was connected with missing seeing his girls. Albert said, “Well, Buddy, it’s up to us. It’s not fair! But it’s up to us.” And then added, not being able to restrain himself. “God damn it! It’s not fair!”

Buddy couldn’t believe it whenever Albert swore. He couldn’t believe Albert actually swore. He couldn’t believe Albert said, “God damn it.” Sure as sure, he said “God damn it,” and Albert never apologized for saying it. Of course, it was perfectly human, and Buddy knew Albert was human. He also saw his soul mate didn’t get much pleasure out of swearing. What Buddy didn’t know was that Albert swore all the time to himself. He didn’t Albert was a closeted swearer.

They said nothing more about it but went to bed and made passionately love and when they finished they peacefully slept. When they made love, they were no longer shy, all too glad to share their bodies and they rejoiced in their union. They took turns and enjoyed every moment of it. They took turns sharing their bodies. They shared their bodies, joined together. They shared their bodies, up and down, and afterward peacefully slept. Not even in their dreams had they expected anything better.

Back in San Antonio, meanwhile, Albert couldn’t have been further from Alice’s mind. And considering what she suffered after she found out Albert was gay, Alice couldn’t have been happier, except that, of course, she was concerned when her girls went to see their dad in Dallas. She didn’t know Buddy, so she was concerned. On the other hand, she knew Albert wouldn’t do anything to hurt them. She knew Albert would protect them. She knew Albert, or she thought she knew Albert. She thought she knew Albert before … yes, before … It was still hard for her to think about that hard period of her life. Alice was still concerned. She couldn’t help but be concerned. She didn’t know Buddy. She was the girls’ mother. It was a mother’s prerogative to worry. Worry was a mother’s prerogative. It would’ve been unnatural had she not been worried, though she knew Albert wouldn’t do anything to hurt their girls. She knew Albert loved them. She knew Albert would protect them. She knew Albert loved their girls as much as she loved them. But she didn’t know Buddy. Finally she decided her worries were unfounded.

As opposed to Albert and Alice belonging to each other and creating a single family, now their girls were part of two families. And they had three fathers. They grew up with three fathers. Three fathers! Imagine! Something to brag about. They grew up with three fathers, and how many of their friends had three fathers, three fathers who loved them? Imagine. And they each taught them something different. And with Buddy teaching them how to cook and Albert telling them stories … so if they could’ve had it, they wouldn’t have wanted things differently.

But where were they going to get a role model that counted for something when two of their fathers were gay or outsiders, outcasts as far as society as a whole was concerned, and what’s more their real father made no attempt to hide his sexual preference? And as for as Albert, he was becoming more visible. Somehow, he attracted national attention. Albert was a natural born leader and somehow attracted national attention. And an extravert. People followed him. He was making waves. People followed him.

And Albert wasn’t about to forget he heard the voice of God at an early age because he knew he heard God’s voice, he recognized God’s voice. He described God’s voice, as everyone in his family well knew. Since Albert started demonstrating, however, he thought less about God and more about his cause. That was how he was able to move on and expand the scope of his demonstrations, as anti-war and civil rights protests swept the country.

That was all fine and well, and to Buddy, wonderful. It inspired Buddy, like it inspired other gay people, most of whom were still closeted. Buddy was also a hard worker and joined Albert’s effort. They both wanted more for gay people than was possible then, and anyone could see … anyone who knew them could see that they were made for each other. Anyone who knew … who knew them saw they loved each other.

But since this was before Stonewall … even though Albert’s defrocking demonstrations had invariably gotten him publicity … Albert was a public figure … little progress was made. Few minds were changed.

It was like this: Sometimes while lying in bed at night and if they weren’t asleep (not to imply they spent a lot of time in bed), they thought maybe they heard a noise of someone prowling outside their bedroom window, a soft rustling but distinct. Maybe it was their imagination, they’d agree, or maybe it was a cat in the flowerbed, the natural sound of a cat walking through leaves, or a dog for that matter.

And eventually they noticed they were under surveillance, in actual daylight, in public places, wherever they went, since Albert was well-known as a gay activist. They couldn’t go anywhere without being followed. It was so obvious. Or it seemed obvious. They were sure they saw someone following them. They were sure. Then they weren’t sure. They often looked around and always thought they saw someone … not always the same person but someone. But as it was happening, they couldn’t have proved it, proved in fact that they were under surveillance.

After a while, there was no doubt that they were under surveillance, but who was responsible? Who? Why? Who would care enough to spy on them, follow them, photograph them? They thought about calling the police … confronting whoever it was, but they didn’t dare. It seemed too risky. Remember those were dangerous times for gay people.

They couldn’t shake feeling afraid, Instead, they stayed home more. Instead, they altered their lifestyle, and they heard more rustling outside their bedroom window. Was it a cat? A dog? Why were they under surveillance? What they didn’t say to each other was that they both were having similar symptoms … that both of them were afraid, equally afraid.

They both finally went to the police, filed complaints, and the police took reports and told them they would check into it. It was not like the police would do anything because maybe the surveillance was conducted by the police. And the police never gave them assurance, and it was pretty much what Albert and Buddy expected …. that their complaint would be ignored. Then for a while surveillance stopped.

But it didn’t make Albert and Buddy feel anymore secure. They of course locked their doors, locked their doors at night, kept their doors locked . In Dallas then, people always kept their doors locked, locked day and night. Locked because there were areas of town with a high crime rate. And locking their doors gave them assurance. They also had a telephone and could always call police. Well, maybe. Maybe they could call police, would call police, could call police. Trouble was they didn’t like police, didn’t trust them. “Let’s be careful,” Alfred said, thinking about surveillance. Then remembering noises outside their bedroom window, he said, “It pays to be careful. Maybe we’ll buy a gun. Maybe we should buy a gun. That would be okay, wouldn’t it?” But Alfred knew he could never own a gun, He didn’t believe in owning guns. And Buddy said nothing because he too wouldn’t own a gun.

Meanwhile, Albert was determined to live as normal a life as possible. This showed that he considered his and Buddy’s relationship normal, just as normal as any heterosexual relationship. “To hell with them!” Buddy said whenever Albert got down on himself. “Everything is going to be okay.” Yep, that’s how a survivor thinks. And they were survivors. Albert knew what Buddy was trying to do. It was something he would try to do himself. But also, as his lover, Albert knew Buddy cared for him very much. And even though it really wasn’t clear what was going on, they knew they cared for each other … loved each other. Like even when they felt lost, they were there for each other. They shared their love without hesitation, and just as quickly expressed their love.

They both had experimented with other men. They both knew what they liked and what they didn’t like. Albert preferred down, or catching. Buddy preferred up, or pitching. Albert was a natural born catcher. Buddy was a natural born pitcher. They both enjoyed holding each other. They both enjoyed holding each others penis. They enjoyed warmth of closeness. They enjoyed calming affect of having their penis held. They enjoyed the flush and rush of coming. Also they talked to each other and spent hours talking, and since Albert no longer had a church, he could give more of himself to Buddy, more than he ever gave Alice. It felt good. It felt beautiful. It felt wonderful. It made them happy.

Albert usually drove. He owned a car and picked Buddy up from work and it was when they had their big meal … in the evening, after work. They were in love. And like newlyweds, they cherished their time together, so sometimes when they were together they lost track of time. And it was going to be like that until they began to think they were under surveillance, so they had something on which to build a relationship.

In fact, they made a formal commitment in a small private ceremony, which included a few gay friends, but they didn’t know then that they were under surveillance. “At least in the eyes of God we know where we stand,” they agreed. “Someday … “ And they didn’t have to finish the phrase. They didn’t have to say it. They agreed.

You know,” one of those in attendance said, “someday society will catch on. I don’t know how long it will take, but it will happen. Someday society will catch on.” And there they were celebrating Albert’s and Buddy’s commitment to each other. If they could, they would’ve gotten married. Why shouldn’t they get married? They weren’t kids and loved each other in the same way straight adults do. There weren’t kids involved. So why shouldn’t they get married? Yes, but there were kids involved. And so … but it didn’t make a difference. To Albert’s girls, it make a difference. Now Albert’s girls had two families. Many kids had two families.

Well, at least you have two kids,” another attendee said, having met Patricia and Becky. And everyone knew about Albert’s girls because Albert was proud of them and enjoyed showing them off.

There did seem to be something odd about it for it was different, something odd and different about having three fathers, but Patricia and Becky didn’t mind having two families, or three fathers. Albert was certainly thankful for this.

It went along like this for a long time. They went about there daily lives without a major incident, although Albert and Buddy were careful not to express their affection for each other in public. They never held hands in public. They never kissed in public. And they had the same routine every day. Other people, if they didn’t know them, would never have guessed they were gay … except many people knew they were gay … thousands of people knew … people across the country knew Albert’s story. But they only let a few people … those friends, lesbian and gay friends, others, friends they came in contact on a daily basis … see expressions of their love. Otherwise, they were discreet.

By then Albert’s picture had been published in newspapers across the country. He made NEWSWEEK. He was known nationally as a gay activist, but it seemed strange to Albert when he was recognized on streets of Dallas, and consequently Albert and Buddy couldn’t hide when they were together.

Dallas police was in the business of keeping track of potential troublemakers. Supposedly, they kept files on potential troublemakers. True or not, the gay community thought the police kept files on gay people or so called troublemakers like Albert. They were attempting to clean up parts of the city, which meant keeping tabs on certain people, certain people like Albert, people that did not seem dangerous but who were considered undesirable by other people. As far as Albert could figure out, that was an excuse the police used when they placed him and Buddy under surveillance. Who else would place them under surveillance?

Very unconstitutional when you thought about it.

Being openly gay before there were many openly gay people in Dallas meant Albert and Buddy were subject to prejudice. Though they were subject to prejudice, they tried to carry on their lives as normally as possible, even though it was hard, very hard for someone like Albert, someone as well-known as Albert. It was not like they flaunted their sexuality, but because of publicity surrounding Albert’s demonstrations, he was frequently recognized whenever he and Buddy went out together. It was hard for them to escape. It was hard, very hard, especially hard for Buddy. These incidents weren’t always pleasant, and therefore Albert spoke from first hand experience when he spoke of prejudice.

Well, stares and taunts were enough to anger anyone, but Albert got used to it, got used to being called fag and queer or worse or said he was used to it. So Albert was an exception. Albert had always been an exception.

Sure … we’re fags! Queers! Queer. It’s that simple,” Buddy said, tired and irritable, since having experience prejudice himself. Then he explained. Since high school other boys called him a fag … called him queer or worse. Buddy knew teenagers liked to call other kids names, like fag or queer and liked to be cruel. Buddy didn’t like high school. Buddy hated high school. In high school Buddy refused to be caught alone in a bathroom and hated PE and never played sports because of how he felt when he saw a naked boy’s body, but hating PE didn’t keep him from being forced to dress out and participate in physical education. Whenever Buddy saw a naked boy’s body, he felt an attraction. He got excited and felt aroused and felt bad about it, so he didn’t like to dress out or PE. He was always afraid he’d get an erection … get an correction and everyone would know. Everyone knew anyway, so why was it such a big deal? Fag! Queer! Cocksucker!

So one semester to avoid dressing out for PE, Buddy joined the chess club and became a high school chess champion. They were looking for someone to shine, which was how they referred to Buddy’s chess ability. Nothing else mattered to Buddy. Nothing matter more to Buddy. As long as he avoided dressing out, nothing else mattered to Buddy. Throughout Buddy’s final year of high school, nothing else matter to him.

But Buddy eventually felt less enthusiastic about chess since it didn’t change people’s attitudes. He was still ridiculed, teased, so he stopped going to school. Other students still called him fag, queer, cocksucker. He dropped out and wouldn’t graduate until he was grown, until after Stonewall. Yes, Stonewall. Stonewall meant everything to Buddy. Stonewall meant everything to many, many people.

He and Albert were already living together. Buddy and Albert were already living together, and it wouldn’t have mattered to Albert that Buddy didn’t graduated from high school. They never talked about high school. Albert just assumed Buddy graduated. High school was so far in Albert’s past that it didn’t matter to Albert. So they never talked about it. “Oh, no,” Buddy said with smile. “We never talked about it. Yeah, it was something Albert assumed I accomplished, and it didn’t matter. Anyway I’m an over-achiever, so it didn’t matter.”

Then they talked about what it meant to be openly gay when there weren’t many openly gay people in Dallas; and that they would have to carry each other. “Because they were openly gay,” they later said, “they didn’t have anyone else, so they had to carry each other” So they stuck together. It didn’t matter that Buddy didn’t graduate, that he didn’t graduated from high school before Stonewall. And then he didn’t get his GED. They were equal in so many ways, compatible intellectually and physically, so it didn’t matter. They talked and shared and were intimate in more ways than Albert could imagine. And there was nothing harmful about it. It seemed natural, Albert told himself. Love never killed anyone was another thing he kept telling himself, whenever he had negative thoughts.

After he first realized that he was attracted to naked boys and other boys started calling him fag, queer, and cocksucker (in front and behind his back), Buddy got depressed. In high school, he never got used to being called names. He never got used to being different, and to having unnatural urges. It was hard to ignore. His feelings were hard to ignore for someone like Buddy, for someone as sensitive as Buddy.. It would’ve been hard for anyone to ignore, so he dropped out of high school.

Not that Buddy liked being gay, anymore than he liked dropping out of school. That day he just walked out of class and never went back. And he never looked back. He wasn’t made to go back by his parents, so he didn’t go back and spent most of the time he would’ve been in school reading. Somehow his parents realized that it wouldn’t do any good to force him to go back to school, force him to go back to simply make them feel better. They also knew that he hated high school, though they didn’t know why he hated it.

Fag! Cocksucker!” Buddy said to himself (though had never sucked a cock, or had his cock sucked or knew how it felt), since he was alone all day and his parents left him alone when they went to work. After they saw that Buddy was educating himself and that he wouldn’t go to school, they gave him “special treatment” and home-schooled him. (So he was able to get his GED after Stonewall.) But they wished he would attend school. They wished he would attend school and be “normal.” They wanted him to be normal, but they couldn’t force him. They wouldn’t force him, couldn’t force him to be normal. They thought he needed help.

When he was young, very young, Buddy played with stuffed animals, which his parents considered harmless. He only wanted to play with stuffed animals, when his father thought he should be interested in sports, sports like baseball or football, but Buddy bawled and threw a fit when his father tried to take stuffed animals away from him. Buddy’s father felt stupid for having tried to take stuff animals away from him. And if it was so harmless, Buddy didn’t understand why his father tried to take stuffed animals away from him, but he clung to the animals and cried from rage since he didn’t understand why his father made such a fuss over it.

And after a while Buddy’s father gave up.

Buddy considered himself odd, different, and later queer because he wouldn’t give up his stuffed animals, and as a matter of fact he felt queer because of it. So, he finally gave up his stuffed animals. He found a big box and placed the animals in it and reserved a place in his closest for the box of animals. Afterward, he tried out for a Little League team, tried out for first base, but never learned to catch a ball, so he didn’t make the team. It didn’t upset him that he didn’t make the team.

But he learned to play chess. Soon Buddy found out he could play chess better than anyone else in school. For chess, he didn’t have to dress out. If he played chess, he didn’t have to play sports. He was allowed to play chess as a substitute for PE. Still Buddy faced trials and tribulations whenever he went into a restroom.

Buddy came out of a restroom one day and ran into a group of boys he knew as a clique (mostly all football players), and they told him that one of the boys saw him jacking off in a restroom stall.

Jacking off?” Buddy repeated, eyes with tears in them and very upset, though he didn’t know what jacking off was. This was before he began masturbating in earnest. This was before he knew masturbating was normal, though masturbating in a school restroom was inappropriate and he would’ve been in trouble had he been caught masturbating. “Jacking off? Is it something … bad?” he asked. From the way the boys made fun of him, he didn’t need to ask.

They snickered, and it didn’t matter that Buddy didn’t know what they were talking about, but he felt humiliated just the same, and furthermore they kept teasing him about it, not even when he started to scream. They had him, and Buddy knew it. They would always have him. It would always bother him.

There was nobody he could talk to about it, nobody at school or home, since Buddy felt shamed … ridiculed. (This was before people recognized bullying as a problem.) After that Buddy hated school and finally he dropped out. Buddy was so upset, he could hardly face anyone much less talk to anyone about it. Meanwhile, he became more aware of his penis, learned about jacking off, and began masturbating in earnest. He noticed his penis more. He became self-conscience about his penis. He thought his penis was bigger than other boys’ penis. He thought his penis stuck out. He felt everyone noticed his penis. Walking down down a hall at school, he thought his penis was as obvious as his nose. It made him feel naked.

Mom,” he went to his mother one afternoon after she school, “I hate school, and I don’t want you to ask me why!”

Well, Buddy, I don’t think it’s serious. We all go through phases.”

Mom, I’m serious. I hate school, and I’m not going to school … since I hate it. I hate it more than anything. And you can’t make me go.”

Can’t we talk about it?”

No. I’m not going,” Buddy told his mother. “It’s because of you and dad. Look at you and dad.”

We graduated from high school.”

Yes, but …”

No buts. You’re going to school, and you’ll graduate. You’re a good student, so there’s no reason why you won’t graduate.”

I hate school, and I’m not going,” Buddy told his mother, seizing the opportunity to make a stand in a mysterious struggle he wasn’t about to talk about. He certainly wasn’t going to tell his mother why he hated school He certainly wasn’t going to tell his mother about being called names All his parents knew was that something wasn’t right. Something was definitely not right. Something happened at school. Buddy’s mother could see that something definitely happened at school, but Buddy wouldn’t talk about it. It broke her heart that Buddy wouldn’t talk about it. She and Buddy glared at each other. She saw she wasn’t getting anywhere. She always thought that she and her son had a good relationship.

Buddy waited with apprehension for his father to come home, like he was waiting for a prison sentence. It felt like waiting for a death sentence, and then realized his parents couldn’t make him go to school, but he still had to face his father.

When his father came home, he told Buddy, “Tomorrow morning I’m taking you to school, and we’re talking to the principal.”

And that’s what they did.

And that was when Buddy’s parents found out that he was bullied, and that was why he hated school. Buddy was bullied, and they realized that the school couldn’t stop it, or they wouldn’t stop it. But they didn’t find out why he was bullied. They would have to wait to find out. And because the school couldn’t or wouldn’t stop bullying, they allowed Buddy to drop school as long as he continued studying at home. He wouldn’t graduate but he had to study at home. Buddy didn’t care, as long as he didn’t have to go to school.

The rest of this story is more complicated.

Because Buddy dropped out of school, he had to come up with a reason why he was bullied, a believable reason, Shortly thereafter he decided to tell his parents he was gay. When someone tells his parents he is gay, it is never easy, It’s never easy. It can be torture. Buddy’s father always wanted his only son to play football and be manly, so in Buddy’s case it was doubly hard for all concerned.. And that was why it was torture for Buddy.

First Buddy already knew his father was disappointed in him because he hadn’t gone out for football but instead chose chess. Having Buddy choose chess over football was agony enough, but then to add to this, the idea of having a gay son, his only son gay, would cause Buddy’s father great distress, and Buddy then knew he would probably have to live with it because he didn’t expect his father to change. And he wasn’t sure he could count on his mother.

The next person he would have to deal with was his mother, which was supposed to be easier, which in Buddy’s case wasn’t true. She had dreams for her son too. As it turned out, they were her dreams and not her son’s dreams. Buddy knew he would have to tell his parents he was gay. (It is not exactly clear when Buddy realized he was gay, or knew what to call how he felt about himself.) He knew he would eventually have to tell them he was gay, or it would come out. Buddy couldn’t keep being gay from his parents. Then one day, out of the blue, Buddy’s mother said, “If you’re gay Buddy I don’t know how I could live. I couldn’t live without grandchildren.” Until then, Buddy hadn’t known how much his mother wanted grandchildren, and he went around for days without realizing what his mother was really saying. Would she really kill herself? When she found out her son was gay, would she kill herself?

Meanwhile his dad asked Buddy what he was teased for. Cocksucker! Buddy couldn’t give him the real reason, but before Buddy could think of anything to say, his dad asked him, “Does it have anything to do with you not wanting to play football?” Cocksucker! And since it sort of did, it was something Buddy could dodge … for a while. It was something his father expected. Football, football, football seemed to mean everything to his dad.

When Buddy finally told them, his parents didn’t accept it, not at all. Especially his mother, who said it was her fault and threatened to kill herself again. Buddy’s mother blamed herself. She told Buddy that it was her fault. She told Buddy that it was her fault that he was gay and threatened to kill herself again.

Thank you.” Buddy knew it was the wrong thing to say as soon as he said it. “If it’s your fault, thank you. I thank you.” But that was as far as Buddy got before his mother stormed out the room. It’s hard to explain how Buddy felt then after so much anxiety (having heard his mother threaten to kill herself]. He felt relieved when everything was dropped, just as quickly as the subject was brought up. Thank you. Buddy felt thankful and relieved when he finally told his parents he was gay.

Buddy’s dad told him to go somewhere for the night. This took a lot of restraint by Buddy’s dad to stop Buddy from following his mother. It took a lot of restraint for him to keep from telling his son that he was disappointed. It took a lot of restraint for him to keep from striking Buddy. Buddy’s father was a big man. He played right end in high school. Buddy now knew how his parents would react to the news that he was gay. But was it news? Was it news to them? How could they have not known, not suspected that he was gay. Didn’t his mother say she would kill herself if he was gay? Buddy heard his mother say she would kill herself but thought she was exaggerating. Didn’t she sometimes exaggerate?

Finally, the next time Buddy saw his mother, she blamed herself again, although Buddy was wise not to tell her when she again said it was her fault that he was thankful. So Buddy’s mother sat down with her sobs and tears and had a pity party. Of course, Buddy wouldn’t participate because he was indeed thankful. And after she calmed down, she was not a mother faced with her worse nightmare but a mother who would defend her son, which took all her strength. She was forced from blaming herself to defending her gay son. She always defended her son. You could say that about her.

Buddy would always be her son, her only son. “Love” was what she said made the difference. The power of love should not be dismissed. The power of love should be reclaimed. It should not be underestimated, because in the case of Buddy’s mother (and this really got to Buddy) it made all the difference in the world.

And if change can be attributed to the power of love, it still wasn’t easy for her, but she did change. Both of Buddy’s parents changed. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for them. They let Buddy go. They let Buddy live his own life … Buddy, a gay man who wouldn’t change… couldn’t be change, but who would want to change him? In those days there weren’t books or manuals informing parents what to do. It was uncharted territory for Buddy’s parents, so it wasn’t easy.

It was something they faced … they had to face. They had no choice, but it took all their strength. And eventually they would accept Albert, but then they could only face one thing at a time. Yes, just accepting that they had a gay son was a big thing.

And that was when Buddy’s parents, who moved away from feeling sorry for themselves and their son, could finally say they were honest. Before then, the whole time they were living a lie. And now they could be themselves because Buddy’s parents let go, let go down to the idea that there son should be/could be a star. It didn’t matter whether they were talking about chess or football. And all three of them, meanwhile, were working on it. And they did work it out.

 

 

Chapter Twelve

Why?” Buddy asked Albert, shaking his head, as they sat handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. Albert didn’t look up, as Buddy asked again “Why? Why can’t they let us alone? Why? Why can’t they let us be? Why? Why? Why?” Albert was not objecting. He knew why. He knew Buddy knew why. They had not resisted. No, they were caught making love in their bedroom, in their bedroom, doing something strange to the two men who arrested them; that was all.

Well, this is it, Albert said to himself, trying to place his best face forward, trying not to upset Buddy anymore than he already was. He couldn’t upset Buddy more than he was. They were both upset, very upset. Albert found it outrageous that police found marijuana in their flowerbed, or said they found a joint, one joint in their flowerbed and used it as an excuse to enter their home, and then entered their bedroom, entered their bedroom without knocking. This was too much. They knew what they were doing. The police knew what they were doing. Albert knew too. Or what they weren’t doing. But what could Albert and Buddy say? What could Albert and Buddy do about it? Albert was known to the community as a gay activist. He was known across the country as a gay activist. Now it would do no good to deny that he was gay, that they were gay, and since he and Buddy where caught together, caught in bed together they were charged with sodomy, then a crime in Texas (still a crime in Texas, even after the Supreme Court ruled what they were doing constitutional). But what were doing? What did the police actually see? There would always be confusion about this.

Buddy finished thinking that their rights were violated. What gave police a right to enter their apartment, enter their bedroom, he thought and cursed. What gave them a right to intrude? Didn’t police at least need a warrant? Didn’t they need a warrant to enter their apartment? And as for finding a joint in their flowerbed, what was that about? Didn’t police have to also follow the law?

Albert and Buddy decided not to talk anymore, having decided that by talking they could incriminate themselves, and knowing they had a right to remain silent. They didn’t think they were doing anything wrong, and even when they were caught without clothes on, and after having endure mortification from reactions of police officers … having endured slurs they were familiar with.

And as Buddy became more and more angry, more and more upset, more angry than ever before, Albert became more determined to fight, to fight prejudice, to fight prejudice against gays like himself, to fight prejudice and laws against gay men like himself and Buddy. He became more determined to fight regardless the price. “Fight a system that made him a criminal. Fight laws of discrimination,” Albert repeated. “We only have to answer to God, but I will not be entrapped by man.” He moved his lips, but didn’t let words come out of his mouth.

And yet, despite his defiance (if only internal at this point), he was scared. And if not for his faith, he would’ve even been more scared. In his eyes, he and Buddy did nothing wrong, and they were proving themselves to be brave. And he knew in God’s eyes, he and Buddy did nothing wrong.

From when he first saw Buddy, Albert knew Buddy was a special person. There was something … many things actually … about Buddy that made him special to Albert. Despite their differences and his situation, Albert knew that there was something special about Buddy that drew him to him. An attraction was there from the beginning. One might say it was love at first sight had Albert believed in such a thing. Albert was still married, and what he saw in Buddy he didn’t believe was true. He felt something he wanted and something he wanted to deny, something he wished he could overlook, yet he felt emotions and yes passion like he never felt before. And Albert somehow knew that it was nothing short of a miracle … an undeserved reward for years of suffering. Yes, suffering. But yet, no, no, yes, he still felt thankful he had children. No, no, yes, he still felt thankful for Alice. It wasn’t simple.

When he saw policemen break into his and Buddy’s bedroom he already knew what would happen. He already knew they would be arrested. He expected to be arrested. He expected to be arrested when policemen broke into his and Buddy’s bedroom. And despite what anyone had to say about guilt or innocence, he felt … knew they would be arrested. Maybe they were not innocent according to the laws of Texas, but Albert knew they were innocent in the eyes of God. And he would say it before thousands of witnesses. He would say it … if he got a chance. And he would get chances, many chances.

He already demonstrated in front of thousands of witnesses, when he stood before the Methodist church … demonstrated before the Methodist church … stood before the Methodist church defrocked and gagged. Everyone knew about him in the Methodist church or heard about what many of them called a tragedy, and while they may not know him and his family personally, many of them pitied him, pitied him, Alice, Patricia, and Becky. And as for his children, Patricia and Becky were really not that small by then and heard people talk, heard people talk about their father. Now their father was arrested, and it made the papers … made the papers because Albert made sure it made the papers.

What Albert then would have given to know his girls reactions when they first learned of their father’s notoriety and learned a secret kept from them for so long. To them it was normal, normal to grow up with three fathers, but to hear what other people said about it, Albert assumed was hard for them.

Albert ignored slurs, slurs as best he could, slurs that were intended to hurt him, which were sure to cause a reaction because he was human, but as nasty as these slurs were, he didn’t let his emotions show. (To say he demonstrated before the gay rights movement began says it all. No, it wasn’t true that he wore a coat of armor: he cursed in a closet! He cried in his shower! He cried ‘why me Lord!’ Yes, he was human, and slurs hurt him, but he didn’t show it. He never showed it. He instead talked to God. His secret was that he talked to God. Though he lost his church, he still talked to God. But how Albert remained faithful was remarkable.)

Albert went to a favorite place in in his mind while he sat in a police car with Buddy, where, while he prayed, repeating a family prayer he committed to memory as a child. He listed his sins. He asked for forgiveness. He recited the Ten Commandments. Asking for mercy and strength, he talked to God and soothed himself with words he said to himself. And he listened for God’s voice.

And yet he was still scared. Who told him that God would look after him? Ah, poor Albert of such human frailty had a long way to go before he could stand before a judge without being scared..

Meanwhile, his lover and soul mate Buddy sat next to him staring out the window, Buddy, who never went to church. “What is he thinking?” Albert asked, while thinking “he is less upset than I am. How can he be less upset than I am?”

Buddy wasn’t looking at Albert because he was so angry. He couldn’t understand how police could barge into their bedroom and he was angry about it … very angry. What right did policemen have to be so invasive? Didn’t he have rights? Didn’t they have rights? They? No, Buddy wasn’t thinking of Albert when he thought didn’t he have rights. Before he knew what happened he found himself handcuffed and sitting in the back seat of a police car. Arrested! Arrested for what? All they were doing was expressing their love. Yes, it was love because Buddy and his lover were arrested for making love.

To make it worse, they were taken to jail … Dallas Detention Center … and booked in the Dallas Detention Center. Buddy would never have thought that he would find himself in a cell but, after a few blocks of city traffic in a police car, Buddy realized that there was room for him in jail. But something else was welling up inside him and cause him to explode. He didn’t remember being so angry. To his surprise he was angry at Albert.

I think we need a lawyer, a good lawyer,” Albert said and surprised Buddy when he said it, since Buddy could no longer think. “After all, we’re entitled to a lawyer.” And at that point Buddy realized they were in deep shit. Deep shit. In deep shit. It startled Buddy. It got Buddy’s attention. “Albert said we needed a lawyer, a good lawyer.” They were entitled to privacy, weren’t they? No? Yes! But there Albert said it, and they were in deep shit. But where were they going to find a good lawyer? It shouldn’t be hard. Why couldn’t they make bail? Why wouldn’t they make bail? And now Buddy was thinking the same thing. They were in deep shit. It should be easy, but they were in deep shit. Shit! It should be easy to make bail. Bail, in their case, shouldn’t be high. In other words, they weren’t criminals. Then why did they have to be reassured if they weren’t criminals? Why did they need a lawyer, a good lawyer? They weren’t criminals, so why shouldn’t they make bail.

Albert grinned, looking at Buddy. Albert grinned, though he was angry. Albert grinned, though he was sad. Albert grinned, though he was worried. Albert grinned through his teeth. And before Buddy could stop him, Albert began laughing. What’s was so funny? What could be funny about being arrested? How serious a crime was sodomy?

Albert looked at him, startled back to the reality and found himself praying, laughing and talking to God as they heading to jail. Buddy sat, staring through a grill that separated them from two policemen. Buddy didn’t say anything. Buddy didn’t laugh like Albert did. He didn’t pray like Albert did. He wasn’t in mood to pray. So Albert continued a conversation with God, feeling more relaxed as he prayed, since he felt presence of his Lord. Talking to God always relaxed him.

Seeing Buddy was still upsetting, so upset, scared and upset …as he should be given the circumstances, Albert began giving his lover what comfort he could: He reached out a hand.

We’re not being punished for loving each other. We’re being punished because of prejudice. Remember I love you, and we’ll be protected from the rest.”

Buddy nodded. Buddy wanted to say something. He couldn’t say anything. Words didn’t come to him. Well, this was understandable. Given the circumstances this was understandable. There were reasons why Buddy couldn’t speak. Unless of course, “beat up for being gay.” Buddy shook his head because he couldn’t believe what was happening. He was beat up for being gay. Now he was heading to jail for being gay.

They barged into our bedroom and arrested us for sodomy!” Albert stopped for a moment. “Well, it was not sodomy.”

Yeah. So?”

God approves.”

Who says God approves?”

God says He approves.”

No, you got it wrong, man,” Buddy said. Buddy was one person … agnostic let’s say … who was unsure about God … who didn’t know where he stood with God … who wasn’t sure there was a God and Albert hadn’t tried to convert him. “If there were a God, there would be no prejudices, no prejudice against gays, no prejudice against lesbians, no prejudice against blacks, no prejudice against Jews, no prejudice against anyone on earth. So, Albert you have it wrong.”

Both men were then silent. They heard chatter on the police radio that they didn’t understand. It was like a foreign language, a language filled with numbers, a language that didn’t make sense to them, a language they didn’t understand, so they ignored it. Albert resisted an urge to talk back, to talk to policemen in the front seat, to say something. Instead, he tapped his foot, trying to hold his temper, or at least trying to look calm.

Buddy, who then wanted to continue their debate, continued without as much as looking at Albert. He didn’t wait to see Albert’s reaction.

Albert,” Buddy said after thinking. “How did we get here? When we were in the privacy of our home? When we were in the privacy of our bedroom? When we weren’t hurting anyone?” Buddy wanted to ask the police but stopped himself just when Albert was trying to stay calm.

Okay,” Albert swallowed. He wasn’t afraid to speak out, something he did a lot, despite knowing odds were against him getting anywhere by speaking out. Hadn’t he led demonstrations? Hadn’t he expected to be arrested then. But in privacy of their bedroom! When they weren’t hurting anyone! Didn’t Buddy have a valid point? Okay, what was he going to do about it? “Okay. I’ll do something. When we get to court, I’ll do something,” Albert said with a big grin. “I traveled the East Coast speaking to gay and lesbian Methodist, gay and lesbian Methodist groups. I wasn’t bashful then. I wasn’t bashful then. I wasn’t afraid then. Then why should I be afraid now? Why hold back?” Before he got attention, national attention, but now he knew he didn’t have a forum … the same kind of forum. “Too bad.” Then he would create a forum.

No, no, you’ve got it wrong,” Buddy said. Buddy was one of those people who took a pessimistic view about gay people ever getting justice. “Hell will freeze over before we see justice. You know that, don’t you?”

So you suggest that we do nothing.” Whereupon Albert stared at Buddy harder.

After that both men remained silent. Albert said nothing more as he looked out the window, seeing Dallas from a new perspective, which Buddy didn’t appreciate in the same way. Albert turned a page. Buddy didn’t. Albert looked forward to facing a judge in court. Buddy didn’t But Albert resisted telling Buddy about it. He resisted but knew he was having an affect on Buddy. He knew he didn’t have to try to look profound. He knew he looked profound. He knew the pose.

Buddy,” Albert finally said as they were driven passed where Oswald was shot and without looking at his friend and lover to see how his friend and lover was feeling. Albert surely knew that Buddy was upset and suspected that he was very upset, very upset at him. “Buddy, maybe this is happening for a purpose.”

Shit!” Buddy yelled. He wasn’t thinking where they were, something he rarely did, without thinking despite his personality.

Haven’t you always wanted to go to jail? Haven’t you always wanted to find out what it’s like? Haven’t you wanted to have a record, have it on your resume?”

No. I’m law abiding, a law-abiding citizen. Or was until today. Or thought I was until today.”

Well, we’re not the first gay men arrested for being who we are. And we won’t be the last. So here we are, and I can’t wait.”

You can’t wait!”

Albert knew he got Buddy’s attention, so he decided he said enough.

We need to get ourselves a lawyer, a good lawyer, Albert. Let’s fight this.”

I’m not sure. I’m not sure we need one. Maybe … Maybe. I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to fight it.”

Still Buddy felt he got Albert’s attention, so he repeated, “I think we need a lawyer, a good one.” Buddy wasn’t afraid to confront Albert. They were different. Obviously they were different, and Buddy was scared and didn’t want to go to jail. He knew what often happened to fagots and queers in jail. He was used to hearing slurs like fagot and queer.

Albert shook his head and became emboldened by the idea of facing a judge, whereas Buddy was scared. Albert clinched his fists in defiance.

Hey, man, this is serious,” Buddy said.

Albert laughed. Albert didn’t know why he laughed. It was unlike Albert.

Don’t be like that!” Buddy pleaded.. Veins on his neck showed his anger and Albert saw his anger. “Hey, man! I’m not you! I don’t want to go to jail. So cut the crap. So let’s get a lawyer … a good lawyer.”

We weren’t doing anything wrong, Buddy.” Albert knew he was repeating himself. “We have rights. We love each other. We were making love … that’s all. So stand up! I know we can’t stand up now. I’m saying … I mean when we go to court … let’s stand up. Let’s fight for our rights. We have rights.“

I know what you’re saying.” And still Buddy was as angry as he had ever been … as they took Albert and Buddy out of the squad car and booked them into the Dallas County Detention Center.

Albert, meanwhile, hatched a plan. He planned what he would say to a judge. He decided he would face a judge, confront a judge, just as he confronted the Methodist church. He had a voice for it, cultivated over the years when he had a church, and he would’ve reassured Buddy had they been placed in the same holding cell. It irritated Albert that they were separated.

It was worse for Buddy. Since Buddy wasn’t interested in taking a stand like Albert did, he became more despondent than ever. And Albert … who, the more he prayed, the more sure of himself he became, while Buddy was more angry because he couldn’t be with his lover. He needed to be with his lover for reassurance. He depended on his lover more than he realized.

Always remembering how much he loved Buddy, Albert found strength in this love and his love for Christ, for he had faith that his love for Buddy and Christ would last. Nothing would budge him from this belief, so why, despite being in jail, should he fret?

Buddy felt himself powerless,, while Albert felt strengthened, which didn’t mean he didn’t feel afraid like Buddy. So Albert got it into his head that as long as he held onto Buddy (figurative speaking) and talked to God, this trial would soon be over. If he could stay close to Buddy (again figurative) and God, he believed he would find joy, and it would soon be over. Albert had God. Buddy didn’t.

When Albert thought of Buddy, he felt powerless, powerless to help his lover, and tried to relate it to his love of God. (He prayed for Buddy.) He knew Buddy was the one person for him and that they would live the rest of their lives together. Sure he loved his daughters and would always love them without reservation, but his love for Buddy was different. And he still loved Alice, but it wasn’t like his love for Buddy. He didn’t need to explain it. Perhaps he couldn’t explain it. Perhaps it would’ve been ludicrous and tedious to try to explain it. So why explain it?

For Albert it was more than an exercise. Yes, he felt powerless. He loved Buddy. He was committed to Buddy. Albert was more in love with Buddy than he had been in love with anyone else, and if truth were known he loved Buddy more than Buddy loved him. Yet Albert was still a relentless devotee to God, and he didn’t complain about being booked into the Dallas County Detention Center. He didn’t complain, even to himself. Why complain when complaining wouldn’t do any good? Why complain when he knew what he was going to do?

Doing nothing but wait and see, Buddy meanwhile tried to calm himself after the initial shock of being arrested. He didn’t have anything to do but wait. Surely what was happening was surely a mistake. However, Buddy knew about sodomy laws in Texas. Any gay person in Texas knew sodomy was against Texas law. But how often were sodomy laws of Texas enforced? And Buddy blamed Albert for being singled out in the way they were singled out.

On the other hand, cops who swooped down or rather swooped in had not changed a thing, since they knew nothing about a man loving another man. Anyone looking in from the outside might have felt odd, strange and embarrassed and may only be inclined to look down on the two men.

However, when two cops swooped into their bedroom, Albert and Buddy had an unquestionable sense that they were right, weren’t hurting anyone, and (for Albert) weren’t sinning. To them, what they were doing was a sign of true love.

That evening they went home, that is to their apartment, filled with ecstasy, and as they shared a pizza and went early to bed early .. early to bed they anticipated what would follow. No not an intrusion, lovemaking. They shared a bed, as they shared their love, they shared their bodies, and by then their love making was an obsession. It wasn’t long before they just said “I love you.” They meant it with all their heart. They didn’t have to say anything else. Then they were interrupted, brutally interrupted. It was an intrusion.

Shortly after that they were arraigned. A judge asked Albert, “how do you plead?” Well, by then he decided to represent himself. If he couldn’t afford it, he still had a right to an attorney and he was read his rights, which he already knew, though he was never arrested before, He was not a jailbird, so when a judge asked Albert, “how do you plead?,” Albert said, “Guilty! I’m guilty. I’m guilty of expressing my love to another human being. I’m guilty of expressing my love to a person I love. I’m guilty as sin.” The word “sin” slipped out his mouth, though he didn’t believe it was sin.

But how do you plead,” the judge repeated.

Guilty!”

Are you sure?”

Yes, I’m sure. Guilty! Guilty as charged.”

Are you sure?”

Guilty! Guilty as charged.”

In that case Mr. Humphrey I am remanding you to the Dallas County Detention Center for sixty days.”

Rev. Humphrey, sir.” Albert responded.

And as a deputy ushered him out of a courtroom, Albert saw Buddy waiting his turn in the hallway, which didn’t make either of them happy because Albert could see that Buddy was having a hard time and Buddy didn’t know what just happened in the courtroom. They would’ve felt better had they an opportunity to talk to each other. For Albert it was over. For Buddy it hadn’t started yet. Albert also felt worried for Buddy because he couldn’t touch him and reassure him. He felt worried for Buddy because he couldn’t hold him. He wanted to reach out to Buddy. He wanted to hold Buddy. He knew his love for Buddy would never faulter. The only time Albert ever doubted it was when he couldn’t confer with Buddy about how he would plead, which was when he was in his cell alone. And he felt alone in spite of having a cellmate.

His only possession was a Bible a former colleague brought him. Somehow someone in his former congregation learned of his dilemma, (or his stand depending on your viewpoint), though Albert didn’t considered it a dilemma. Albert knew someone would come see him, but he only wanted to see one person, so that he would know what happened to Buddy. He wanted to see Buddy. He wanted Buddy. He only wanted Buddy. He asked his former colleague to look for Buddy for him and notify the press. Then his ex-wife came to see him. Alice came to see him. It surprised Albert that Alice drove up from San Antonio to see him. He also asked Alice to notify the press. She refused to do it.

How are Becky and Patrica?”

Great. But they miss their father.”

Not their step-father?”

‘Yes, but … They miss their father more.”

Although he did not express it, while thinking how lucky he was, Albert said, “Alice, I’m glad you got yourself a new husband.” But how could Alice know how glad he was, how since he was … how she didn’t know how in love he was with Buddy. How could she know, know his true feelings? How could anyone know? “How’s Ralph,” he asked.

That night, Albert slept soundly. In spite of everything … in spite of a hard stainless-steel bed, in spite of a loudmouth sleepless cellmate, in spite of lights that were never turned off, and in spite of guards that were constantly checking on prisoners … he slept soundly. He felt good. Having seen Alice, he felt good and thinking about his daughters helped him sleep without Buddy.

Next day, after talking to God, he fell into a routine, an easy routine. Small things didn’t upset him. Big things! Big things … well, the biggest thing … the biggest thing was not knowing what happened to Buddy and not knowing what happened to Buddy upset him more than anything else. He assumed Buddy’s fate was the same as his and that Buddy was sitting in a cell and in a different pod in the same building. This was unsettling. It was unsettling that he couldn’t see Buddy, that they weren’t allowed to see each other, and that they were placed in different pods. It was upsetting that Buddy hadn’t tried to contact him. He tried to contact Buddy, but everything he tried failed. This upset him more than anything else.

He asked about Buddy and never got a straight answer from any guard. He never got a straight answer. He never got anywhere. He never got anything. He never got anywhere with anyone connected with the jail. He thought about asking Alice to help find Buddy. He thought she could find him, but he chickened out before he asked her. There were other people he could ask. He could ask a another former colleague to help him. He kept asking He knew he could ask another former colleague, except he hesitated, and hesitation for him wasn’t good. Consequently, he waited … would have to wait until they could find each other. So he had to wait until one of them got out, assuming Buddy was also in jail.

Then Albert started wondering how Alice found out he was incarcerated? How did she know? How did she find out? How did she know he and Buddy were arrested? How did she know where to find him? What did she know? How much did she know? And most puzzling, why had she come? She never said. He never asked. It was something he regretted not asking her. Then he remembered the press and knew then his arrest received press coverage. Yes, he regretted asking Alice why she came. Maybe … except there was no word from Buddy. Now everyone seemed to know, or if Alice knew everyone knew, or … so he began thinking his and Buddy’s arrest received press coverage. Thinking became dangerous. Albert had so much time on his hands that thinking became dangerous.

Why weren’t they placed together? Why wasn’t he placed with Buddy? Why weren’t they placed in the same pod? Albert didn’t understand why he and Buddy weren’t placed in the same pod, though in a way it made sense. Given what his conviction was, maybe they felt they couldn’t take a chance. Maybe … maybe … then he began to worry. Was Buddy safe? He knew horror stories. He had heard horror stories. He knew what sometimes happened to gays in jail. He couldn’t stand it. Not knowing … he couldn’t stand not knowing. Thankfully he only had to stay in his cell at night, so he made friends with other prisoners, other prisoners and guards on his pod. He easily made friends with other prisoners. They talked. They shared stories. They watched television and played cards, checkers and cards, and played basketball in a small yard, anything to kill time.

But it wasn’t long before Albert couldn’t stand suspense any longer and asked a guard to check the center’s roster again for Buddy’s name. He got a guard to do it for him. It was easy. Why not check it again? Maybe Buddy went to trial and his trial was delayed. Albert wished he had thought of it sooner. Sooner or delayed, the results were the same. There were many possibilities. No Buddy! Where was Buddy then?

When he didn’t know and thought Buddy was placed in another pod, perhaps on a different floor, he hadn’t expected to hear from him. Of course, they received mail. They received mail, but Albert hadn’t thought to write. Buddy knew he was incarcerated. Surely Buddy knew he pleaded guilty and was incarcerated. It was a great mystery to Albert but he decided he couldn’t speculate on what happened to Buddy and remain sane. Still Albert spent every night worrying about Buddy, while thinking he knew Buddy better than anyone else. And since if he knew anything he knew Buddy loved him, Albert couldn’t make sense of it.

Of course he was going to maintain his composure. The last thing he wanted anyone to think was that he was out of control, but because inwardly he was out of control, it was hard on him. At least he could talk to God. At least he had God for a friend. God gave him comfort. At least, for a few days in jail, God gave him comfort. But after a few days, he found himself crying, and this brought him to his knees. “God, who am I?” He found himself crying when he least expected it.

Albert looked up, scanning a blank canvas, the ceiling of his cell, like a penitent searching for something he lost, as if somehow there was an answer up there. “God, who am I?”

God … loving God … have mercy. Have mercy on me. And on Buddy. Who am I, Lord,” Albert asked again, aware that he might not get an answer. He knew that he had never gotten more than a glimpse of God. Yes, he heard God’s voice when he was small, but had never gotten more than a glimpse of God. Now he wanted more. Now he needed more. More! Now he needed more than a glimpse of God. Had he really heard the voice of God? Maybe. He had been out there in the world waiting for more and now when it felt like he lost everything … a church, a person he loved, people he loved …, he questioned, asked questions about who he was. The only thing he could rely on, he guessed, were his children who he couldn’t see because they weren’t allowed to see him. Stupid rules. But maybe it was for the best.

Who made rules and why? He knew the answer, of course. Of course, he did, so why was he asking these questions. Yes, he knew the answers. He was being punished, punished for something he didn’t think was wrong. And why, oh why, couldn’t they be left alone? Why, oh why, couldn’t he and Buddy be left alone? Why, oh why couldn’t he go home and sleep with a person he loved? Why?

Buddy is more than a friend. He is more than a lover,” Albert said, while he sat alone in his cell as his cellmate played checkers out in the pod. But the truth was that Albert was no longer sure about Buddy. He was himself sure but not sure of Buddy because … He remembered seeing Buddy in the courthouse hallway Buddy was waiting for his turn to go into the courtroom … was waiting for his arraignment. How did Buddy plead? They hadn’t talked about it. How did he plead? They seemed to be on the same page, but they hadn’t talked about it, so Albert wasn’t sure. But now Albert knew Buddy wasn’t incarcerated. That could only mean one thing. In Albert’s mind it meant only one thing.

Buddy?” Albert uttered with great longing. “Where are you? Yes, you didn’t come see me.” Albert tried to call Buddy from the detention center phone, tried to call Buddy at home, tried to call their apartment, like he called his ex collect. He had to call his ex because he wanted to talk to his girls after missing a visit. He missed his girls. They were expecting him in San Antonio. His girls were expecting him to visit them. He tried to call Buddy at their apartment. There was no answer. He tried to call Buddy several times. No answer. Where was Buddy? Why didn’t Buddy come see him? Why wasn’t Buddy home?

They were both in the incarceration center, maybe, and there was some kind of mix-up, maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe there was a good explanation for Buddy not coming to see him. Maybe there was a good explanation for Buddy not checking on him. Buddy had to know … knew he was incarcerated. But Albert knew how shy Buddy was! No, Buddy approached him first. Albert knew Buddy never wanted to be in the limelight. He never wanted to participate in demonstrations. He never wanted to be part of Albert’s defrocking demonstrations. Albert knew this. Albert had always known this. At least, that was what he thought since he thought he knew Buddy, and still he said to himself, “I’m not sure.”

Albert worried. After that Albert stopped calling their apartment and didn’t want to know if Buddy was there or not. Still he worried. This was just the way Albert’s mind worked then, kind of off-track … sane thoughts over and over again … all the while thinking he was making a statement, a statement, just like he made with his defrocking demonstrations. So he wrote an open letter to the newspapers. He wrote about his and Buddy’s arrest. It never appeared in either the DALLAS TIME HERALD or the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. So Albert assumed, after he learned his letter didn’t appear in either paper, … assumed it wasn’t news.

Albert watched Alice through a glass that separated them. He watched her get up from a chair and leave. “Oh my,” he said to himself with a little moan, and cried, “God!” She looked happy, happier than he last saw her, and “why not?” he thought. She had a new husband … Ralph. Happily married again to a man named Ralph. He knew Ralph was a lucky man. Albert felt happy for both of them. He saw her hesitate at the door of the visiting room before a guard came for him, and he wondered what she was thinking. They never talked about it.

Meanwhile, Albert couldn’t help but think about Buddy. His own obsession was, of course, on Buddy and how he felt for Buddy and how he loved Buddy for many reasons. First, because Buddy didn’t pressure him. That was what he loved most about Buddy: he didn’t pressure him. And Albert knew he didn’t love anyone as much as he did Buddy.

But also, Albert didn’t have anyone else. Everyone, or almost everyone, after they found out he was gay, shied away. Sure he had gay friends, but many friends he and Alice had were no longer friendly to him. And he lost contact with all but a few of his former congregation members, but once a minister left a Methodist church, this wasn’t unusual. There were still his two girls … and maybe his parents, particularly his mother … and Buddy, but wasn’t that enough? But then, of course, he lost his church and his marriage. So marriage was still important to him, in a way. It was a loss in a way.

Marriage only in a way, because being true to himself was more important, He was no longer living a lie and that was important to him. It was out in the open. His being gay was out in the open. And Alice was still around. Hadn’t she come to see him? But had she only come because of their girls? So it was hard for Albert to not see Buddy, having depended on him as much as he had.

But Albert, who heard God’s voice at an early age, when he was very impressionable, knew he wasn’t alone. He could describe God’s voice, or thought he could. He knew how hearing God’s voice made him feel and could describe it. (Note: teachers said Albert … noted that he had a vivid imagination. One teacher wrote on his report card, “has trouble distinguishing truth and fiction.) And you couldn’t defeat Albert as long as he could call on God, no matter what happened.

No, he would stand tall and let what happened happen, just because that was how much faith he had. He would depend on God. He had that much faith in God. And he knew he couldn’t go back had he wanted to. Now he couldn’t pretend he was straight had he wanted to. He knew he couldn’t go back into the closet. He knew he couldn’t close the door and hide. He could no longer pretend, pretend he was someone he was not. So he put aside regrets and counted days until his release from jail.

So, every day Albert, whose sleeping pattern was often interrupted by light and noises in the pod … interrupted by guards and other inmates … interrupted by coming and going … cursing and yelling – either he spent days alone reading in his cell or out in the pod playing chess, or playing basketball in the yard, usually after praying in the morning. He always said the same prayers and listened for God’s voice. He always prayed for his two girls. He always prayed for his ex-wife, and of course, he prayed for Buddy. It was not that he thought anything bad was going to happen to them. It was not that he thought anything bad was going to happen to Buddy. He didn’t pray because of that. He prayed for them out of habit. By then praying for them had become a habit – just as praying had. It just made him feel better to pray, to talk to God, as he listened for God’s voice. Yes, he had always known God was there. He knew. How could he not know? How could he not know God. He was raised with God. He would never accept there was no God, one God … though he no longer believed in a masculine God. He would never accept the idea that he might’ be abandoned … abandoned by God. And he always knew he was different. Before he knew anything about being gay, he knew he was different. Before he knew the word gay or the word gay was commonly used and he heard the words fag and queer and even cocksucker, he knew he was different. He, however, attributed it (feeling different) to having heard God’s voice, but somehow he also knew there was more to it than that.

As for Buddy, Albert continued to worry. You might say it was normal for Albert to worry, worry about Buddy because Albert loved Buddy, which grew more and more as he missed him. The idea that Buddy might have abandoned him never crossed Albert’s mind, of course. There had to be another explanation. Albert knew Buddy loved him. Albert was sure Buddy loved him. He knew it so there had to be another … a good reason why he hadn’t heard from Buddy. He knew he loved Buddy more than anyone else. As for Albert, they were committed to each other … committed to each other the same as if they were married … the same as if their relationship had been consecrated … consecrated by God, though there had not been a formal ceremony involved.

Buddy had always been reliable. The Buddy Albert knew was always reliable. Albert always thought Buddy was faithful. Faithful, loyal, and reliable, it didn’t make any sense … make any sense to Albert. Without having to say anything, they knew what each of them were thinking. They shared everything. They did little things for each other. They didn’t have to share much, talk much. But now Albert couldn’t figure out what was going on with Buddy.

The two men never said much to each other. They didn’t have to say much, didn’t have to say anything and still communicate. They communicated all the time. They never stopped communicating. Albert thought they communicated when they were asleep. Albert thought they communicate when they were apart. In any case, this seemed to be true. If they didn’t speak to each other, they were still a comfort to each other. They felt comfortable, knowing and trusting each other. They didn’t have to be in the same room. So it didn’t make any sense to Albert that he hadn’t heard from Buddy. It didn’t make any sense.

Albert prayed for Buddy. He prayed for Buddy out of habit, and he prayed for Buddy because he wanted to, but this time he prayed for Buddy sincerely because, not knowing what happened to him, Albert was afraid for Buddy. There he was. There he was in jail, incarcerated in jail. Albert knew where he was, but didn’t know where Buddy was. There was no way for him to find out what was going on. There was no way for him to find out. Something had to have happened.

Guards were no help. He asked to see a chaplain. A chaplain didn’t come see him. He didn’t have money to make a phone call. He called Alice collect. She accepted his call. Albert knew she would accept his call. It felt awkward.

After a brief conversation about their girls, Albert asked her to help him find Buddy, but he knew she couldn’t do much because she lived in San Antonio. And she wouldn’t know where to look … look in Dallas. He knew she didn’t know where gay hangouts were. That was when she asked him what she did wrong and he told her that she didn’t do anything wrong. He couldn’t understand why she was talking about it after so much time, even after she remarried and seemed happily remarried, and before he knew it his three minutes were up without settling anything. Yes, three minutes was all he was allowed on a phone call. Rules! Jail rules. Other inmates were waiting in line to use a single phone, so he was out of luck. From then on, he lived on prayer since he still talked to God.

Jail, understand? Jail. Jail! Lord! He never thought he would end up in jail, since Albert was a Methodist minister … a Methodist minister in jail … jailed. Albert still considered himself a Methodist minister, a sinning Methodist minister. Except he didn’t think he and Buddy sinned, and he talked to God about it. Sinning? Could he believe in sin, when he didn’t think and Buddy sinned? Of course, he knew where his church stood on homosexual ministers. Well, call the police, the holy police. There wasn’t a holy police force. Albert thought of that night … recalled the night police barged into his and Buddy’s bedroom. Something was wrong. Something was wrong with the law … laws of Texas … laws of the land. He paced his cell, cursing God, half out of his mind, not knowing what happened to Buddy and suspecting the worse. Well, nothing. nothing short of the worse. He hoped Buddy wasn’t dead. He feared the worse. He feared Buddy was dead. Nonsense!

Albert had never seen the inside of a jail cell before. But of course, he had visited people in jail, but he had never been inside a pod. (Prisoners were always brought to him.) He never thought it was possible that he would commit a crime. He didn’t think he was capable of committing a crime and didn’t consider what he and Buddy were doing a crime. He only knew that the law was wrong. Or maybe Albert was naive. No. No, the law was wrong, wrong and needed to be changed. Like he told the judge, he felt sure he was only guilty of expressing his love to someone he loved. But Albert could say nothing now because he pleaded guilty, guilty of sodomy.

So Albert did not fight it whereas Buddy probably did. Albert didn’t know. They hadn’t talked … hadn’t had an opportunity to talk. They weren’t given an opportunity to talk after they were arrested. Except in a squad car where they couldn’t really talk. In the squad car they were in a state of shock, state of shock and unable to talk. Albert felt like saying “See you later, honey” and shock the officers. He was sincere and felt like shocking the officers. He wished they had an opportunity to kiss. He wished they attempted to hug each other. He wished they held hands. Then they were separated. Why were they separated when there was no reason for them to be separated. They were separated for no reason that Albert could see.

Alone. Yet there was so much noise around. Alone in his cell, Albert felt angry. Albert felt alone while alone in his cell and felt angry about it. (God help him.) He was afraid, too much inner fright. (God help him.) He was alone, felt alone, and was afraid he was losing everything. He already lost his church. He was defrocked. If he knew ramifications of coming out, he wasn’t sure he would’ve done it. There were too many bruises. (God help, help him. Where was God?) Was he afraid of the future? Was he afraid of what he couldn’t see, what he couldn’t know? Yes, he was afraid. Yet he felt free, afraid and free. Sitting in his cell, alone on his bunk, with so much noise around him, he felt free but was afraid of losing his girls because they now had a stepfather, Ralph, a good stepfather, a loving stepfather by all accounts. He knew he wouldn’t lose his girls. He knew Alice would not let it happen. He knew Alice and knew she wouldn’t let it happen. Yet he was afraid he would lose them. He knew his fear of losing his girls was irrational (God help him, or more importantly God forgive him.) Yet fear can be irrational. Loss of love. Loss of love ones. Loss of Buddy. Separation. Separation from his love ones. Separation from his girls had already occurred. Now Albert was afraid he lost Buddy. Where was Buddy. He loved Buddy. That was all he knew. Prayer didn’t seem to help. He didn’t hear God’s voice. So he didn’t like being alone in his cell.

The pod offered him a sanctuary from loneliness, loneliness and fear. It gave him an opportunity to talk to other men, to get to know other men, and to get to hear their stories, stories about their lives, good and bad, a perspective Albert hadn’t heard before, and he found he wasn’t that much different from them. By hearing their stories, he was able to relate to them and suspend his fears. He found he was like them but knew his situation was different. He knew he didn’t have to be there.

It was as nosy as always in Pod D that afternoon as fellow inmates where ushered back from court. Many of them went to court more than once or left the pod to see their lawyers. They were allowed to see their lawyers whenever their lawyers wanted to see them. Other visitation was only allowed on Saturdays and Sundays. Albert didn’t know if it applied to all prisoners. Not all prisoners had visitors. He didn’t have many visitors, and because of it he sometimes felt abandoned.

Although he was not expecting visitors when his Bishop arrived, Albert was excited to see him and surprised and wanted to use the opportunity to question his Bishop about how he learned about his arrest. Had he read about it in a newspaper? He also wanted to see if his Bishop would look for Buddy.

Albert, meanwhile, knew how His Bishop felt about homosexuality … over the years it was a topic of conversation between them … before and after Albert came out and became a Gay activist. They could agree to disagree, however, because they were both devout Christians and Methodists … because they both had served churches and were devout Christians, they could agree to disagree. Albert wanted his Bishop to know that he was still devout and wanted to serve a church again. Albert knew his Bishop knew he wanted to serve a church again. He knew his Bishop knew he was just as devout a Christian as he was before he came out, but after all that happened, he wasn’t sure where his Bishop stood and why he came to see him.

He looked his Bishop in the eyes. It wasn’t easy for them to hide their feelings. As for as Albert could see his Bishop hadn’t changed except a little … a change caused by the situation. (If the situation were reversed, Albert knew why he would come.) Glass separated them. More than glass separated them. They talked through telephones; yet to Albert they seemed closer together than before.

There were things they couldn’t talk about. There were things they could talk about. There were details, so to speak, his Bishop wanted to avoid. (Perhaps his Bishop prayed for clarity before he came. Perhaps his Bishop planned what they would talk about and what they would avoid.) They started with small talk. Then they went into questions, and still there was something awkward when it came to why Albert was arrested. There was no mention of sodomy.

Are you surprised to see me?” the bishop asked. “Are you surprised to see me here?”

No. I’d do the same,” Albert said.

I’m sure you would. This must be hard.”

Albert winced. When it came down to it, Albert didn’t know what to say, but he was pretty convinced then that he would do the same thing. He would visit a parishioner in jail, and wasn’t he the Bishop’s parishioner? Yes, of course, he had visited parishioners in jail, just as Jesus would. But Albert also knew he could only consult with his own inner voice and God. He gave up on his Bishop a long time ago. It was hard for him to admit it, admit that he gave up on him … gave up on his Bishop … gave up on his church a long time ago. Now his Bishop was talking to him …talking to him on a telephone with a glass separating them … talking to him in jail. “If the situation were reversed, what would I say?” Albert thought.

And still, Albert had no idea why his Bishop came when he caused his Bishop so much grief, which was why, as they sat there with glass between them, Albert didn’t have much to say. What did his Bishop expect? What did his Bishop expect him to say? Now there was no way his Bishop could get him out of jail. He was convicted of sodomy. Sodomy. Albert wanted to ask his Bishop to look for Buddy. He wanted his Bishop to look and find Buddy. He wanted his Bishop to find out what happened to Buddy? He wanted to ask his Bishop to go by his and Buddy’s apartment. “No!” Something stopped him, and all he could say to himself was “No, it would be too much to ask. And Buddy would think I was …” Albert couldn’t finish the thought.

And if only he had the nerve to ask and had no regret that he hadn’t asked … perhaps his Bishop would’ve found Buddy and Buddy would’ve come to the jail and see him. Oh, how he missed Buddy. Oh, how he ached for Buddy! How he longed for Buddy … his touch … his embrace … his kisses. And when Albert failed to ask his Bishop to help find Buddy, he could do nothing more than sob inside. Oh, he didn’t sob in front of his Bishop, or sob in front of anyone, but he sobbed once he got back to his cell. He sat down and with a weeping face looked up to God. Weeping, he couldn’t hide what was inside him. Sobbing and weeping, he felt close to God. He sat on his bunk and sobbed. He knew God heard him sobbing.

What is it?” a correction officer asked when he heard Albert sobbing and came to see what was going on.

Nothing.”

There, there,” he said, not knowing what Albert’s tears were about.

I’ll be okay. I’m okay.”

You can’t shut the door. I wish you could shut the door.”

I know. It’s okay.”

Then, after he was left alone, Albert looked up and pleaded with God because he missed an opportunity and missed Buddy so much. He wanted to hold Buddy. He wanted to be held by Buddy. And while we know that Albert was a man of God he cursed God. Then he started to scream. No, he didn’t actually scream. He screamed inside himself. He knew if he screamed out loud a contingent of correction officers would come. Then more questions. “What’s up!” There would be backup and an officer ready to handcuff him. He hated handcuffs. Handcuffs hurt. Handcuffs hurt his wrists. “Calm down, Albert!” Until he calmed down, they would be ready to handcuff him, and maybe Albert would be so upset that he would hurt someone, though he never hurt anyone in his life. Normally, he would never think of hurting anyone. No, he wouldn’t hurt anyone. He wouldn’t hurt himself.

I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.” Correction guards heard him and believed him. They sent for a mental health specialist anyway. They wanted to make sure Albert was going to be okay. Albert told the mental health specialist that he was a counselor, a spiritual counselor. So the mental health specialist, who happened to be on duty that afternoon, came but couldn’t help him. The mental health specialist wouldn’t do any legwork for him. The mental health specialist listened (he was a good listener), and Albert knew from listening to him that the mental health specialist wouldn’t do anything for him outside working hours. Albert knew before the mental health specialist came that he wouldn’t do anything for him outside working hours. But still talking helped. As a counselor, Albert knew talking would help him.

Albert didn’t ask his Bishop to look for Buddy because he knew what his Bishop would say. Albert didn’t ask his Bishop to look for Buddy because he knew how his Bishop felt about homosexuals. He knew his Bishop would never admit that he was prejudice against homosexuals; yet Albert knew his bishop well enough to know he was prejudice. He was prejudice in spite of himself.

Meanwhile, Albert knew, just knew that something drastic happened to Buddy. Albert was afraid and angry … afraid, angry at himself … angry … Albert feared the worst and felt abandoned, alone and abandoned, and found peace only when he prayed. He felt nothing except when he prayed. And God called to him loudly in return. Only God’s voice sounded hollow. Instead of full, God’s voice sounded hollow.

Albert wouldn’t know what happened to Buddy. He would never hear from Buddy. He would never hear from Buddy again, so he never knew what happened to Buddy. But he knew that God hadn’t forsaken him. He had to wait until he got out jail before he could search for Buddy. And he searched and searched. He never knew Dallas was so big until he started searching for Buddy.. And then later he hated himself for not thinking of Buddy in court when he pleaded guilty for loving someone. And he hated himself for caring so much.

Jail gave him time to think, which was how he put it and how it was remembered when people remembered what he said about being in jail. Jail gave him time to think. And jail gave him time to talk with God.

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

Without knowing what happened to Buddy, Albert assumed Buddy would’ve contacted him if he could have since he trusted Buddy and they loved each other. He assumed it, though he knew Buddy could’ve contacted him had he wanted to. Yes, they were committed to each other. On Sundays they started going to church together, sitting together, though they weren’t totally accepted in church. Sitting together was a way to alleviate pain, pain of rejection. They were never barred from a church. Albert knew that sometimes they went to church for the wrong reason. Sometimes Albert went to church to make a statement rather than worship God.

Not that the loss of his church wasn’t difficult for Albert to think about. Not hearing from Buddy and not knowing what happened to him was harder … harder than losing his church. Being separated from Buddy was hard, hideous. Being separated from Buddy was the worst thing that ever happened to him, or it seemed that way at the time. Not knowing what happened to Buddy hit him harder than anything else because it didn’t make sense to him. Albert couldn’t understand it.

Albert’s relationship with correction officers and other inmates was good, good for him and good for them. He found balance. He found friendship. As he killed time, he found balance between being alone and interacting with other people. But this, unfortunately, did not keep him from worrying about Buddy.

Albert’s life always raised questions, not so much internal questions, but questions he knew other people had about him, or how they viewed him. Had he changed? He knew he hadn’t changed, or had he? He knew he was the same Albert. How could he say he was the same Albert? He was, and he wasn’t. He tried to tell himself that he didn’t care what other people thought. He tried. And tried. He, of course knew what many members of his church thought, and while he was aware of these things, he changed. He had to change to survive. He had to change, and maybe the world was changing around him, but it never got easier.

Meanwhile, the stakes for Albert got higher and then higher and then came a day when had to face Alice and his congregation … and since it didn’t take long after that for him to lose both ,,, when Alice said she had enough and forced the issue.

Then all of a sudden, like the devil calling him out when he didn’t believe in a devil … yes, so clearly! “Sinner!” Albert could hear people saying though they didn’t say it to him. They didn’t cry out; yet said it. “Sinner! Sinner!”

As he thought of Buddy and their relationship, Albert now thought about how they met, how they met in front of a dark, dingy place that showed illegal gay porn and how in those early days that was where gay men met for sex … met for sex, sex in a dark, dingy place … never in the light … in restroom stalls … illegal sex in restroom stalls … sodomy. Just like that, they were attracted to each other. Yes, Albert and Buddy went to a coffee shop and talked for hours. No, it didn’t seem like hours.

Believe it or not, Buddy saved him. Or it felt like Buddy saved him, saved him from what? Albert couldn’t explain it since he didn’t believe in sin. How could he believe in sin? He had never preached about sin. He only believed in human weakness. Buddy made it feel like it was okay. With Buddy, it felt like it was more than okay. With Buddy, Albert learned that there was nothing wrong with him.

But for twenty-eight years (starting when he was born) he was around people who considered homosexuality an illness or a sin, and that was pretty bad because there was nothing worse than being called a fag or a queer or a cocksucker. Fag! Queer! Cocksucker! Place a you in front of fag or queen or cocksucker… “You fag! You queer! You cocksucker! … brought it home for Albert except he kept it a secret. And he lived this secret for a long time. He couldn’t give up a church. He couldn’t give up a wife or a family (which he probably would have, had he fallen in love with someone like Buddy earlier), because he wanted to live a so called normal life. He wished he met Buddy earlier. If he met Buddy earlier, he wouldn’t have suffered so much.

But urges, attraction to men and desire and lust, didn’t go away. Urges, which he couldn’t control, and for that matter, he was born with, didn’t go away … he didn’t want them to go away …that so called illness … that so called sin belonged to him. Sinner! It was his. Sinner! So he wasn’t normal, and he hid it.

Law based on community standards, was clear. Sodomy was a crime, or at least in Texas. Albert didn’t know about other states. So he was a criminal. Criminal!

Then one day he met Buddy (in front of a dark, dingy place), and his life changed, not that people didn’t know that he was gay before then, but Buddy helped him by putting a face on his emotions and such and such became clear, and he didn’t have to sneak around anymore. He loved Buddy, and that made a difference, which made everything else seem unimportant. Loving Buddy made all the difference in the world. Buddy helped him feel normal.

Immediately Alice knew something was different and gave her, well, let’s just say, permission to move on. (By then she knew, and they were divorcing.) Yet, Alice knew Albert wouldn’t abandoned her or their girls. For heaven’s sake, Albert wasn’t that kind of person. He was by profession a minister, a man of God. That wouldn’t change. Alice knew it wouldn’t change. Since Albert was a good minister, Alice didn’t worry about being abandoned, so she trusted him. Yes, she still trusted him. And she knew Albert wouldn’t abandoned their girls.

Yes, indeed, Alice moved on and remarried Ralph, and Albert felt happy for her. Albert also found happiness, found happiness in Buddy. Albert felt Ralph wouldn’t mistreat his girls. This was important to him.

Now he sat alone in a jail cell, feeling alone and abandoned. Now he sat alone in a jail cell not knowing what was going on. He couldn’t imagine what happened to Buddy, why he hadn’t heard from Buddy, and he imagined the worst. He couldn’t imagine Buddy would abandoned him. A person who always felt God was on his side, now felt abandoned. He felt alone. He felt abandoned and alone. How could he be abandoned? Where was Buddy? “Buddy! Where are you Buddy!” Albert cried aloud.

Well, there was an explanation. There had to be an explanation. But it was no less fair knowing there had to be an explanation than having one. He didn’t want an explanation. He only wanted to see Buddy. He wanted to hold Buddy. He wanted to kiss Buddy. He needed to. He needed him. He needed Buddy. Buddy had been his salvation. He needed to be reassured.

Knowing that he loved Buddy and wanting to see him, Albert suffered in jail and had many bad days. He however tried to make the most of the situation, without letting other inmates and correction officers know that he was suffering so much or that he was a minister, a defrocked minister. He wanted to be like other inmates and not a minister, and if he weren’t out in the pod playing checkers and talking to other inmates and correction officers, he was shooting baskets in the yard. He spent less and less time in his cell. He however couldn’t lose weight .. too many carbohydrates. He refused to sit demoralized in his cell. He preferred to play checkers, watch television, talk, or shoot baskets to being alone. It was a weird time for Albert, a time he didn’t feel like he could call on God. He still payed (perhaps out of habit), but he no longer expected to hear God’s voice. So Albert had to let matters go. It was the first time in his life he let matters go. He had no control. He knew he had no control. It was the first time in his life that he felt as if he had no control.

Albert found it in his heart to forgive the church, the Methodist church, forgive the Methodist church for defrocking him. He no longer had need for resentment. He no longer needed to protest like he protested before. He no longer felt resentment. He no longer needed to change the world.

What do you think?” he asked himself. “Have I forgiven the church? Can I forgive the church? Do I need a church? And then why can’t I build my own church? Except … like always there’s always an ‘except’ … I know what it would mean. Me. Me! Me! It would revolve around me, and it shouldn’t revolve around me. It should revolve around God. It should be God centered.”

You know I grew up in a church, an established church, the Methodist church. I am a Methodist, a homosexual Methodist. Why should the homosexual tag matter? It shouldn’t matter. It should only matter to me and my partner. It happened fast. I grew up fast. I heard God’s voice at an early age. Then gradually, little by little, I realized I didn’t belong. I didn’t belong in the Methodist church. I was a Methodist minister, and yet I didn’t belong in the Methodist church. I turned my life over to Christ, and I didn’t belong. I went to seminary and didn’t belong. I became a minister, and I still didn’t belong. Gradually, I realized I didn’t belong, didn’t belong, didn’t belong except in dark dingy places. Now all I have is Buddy, but where is he? Where is Buddy? Now that my wife divorced me, and I had to leave the church, defrocked, I don’t have so much to worry about. It’s just me and Buddy, you know … Buddy, God, and me. And we’ve been able to manage.”

Albert now talked to himself more than he talked to anyone else. His conversations were all over the map. Some were happy. Some were sad. Some were loud. Some were soft. Most were private. At least, people didn’t pay any attention to him. People didn’t care. People in jail didn’t care. If he told people in jail that he heard the voice of God, they would think he was crazy. Wasn’t he crazy to be in jail? Everyone there had troubles. Albert knew everyone there had troubles. They wouldn’t be there unless they had problems. At least Albert wasn’t heading for prison. But Albert didn’t want to be reminded of how many more days he had to serve. And that was important to him. By now he was counting the days.

So, Albert killed time as best he could and wasn’t sure he was learning anything from the experience.

But back when … when he was defrock was more devastating to Albert than he let on; not to mention going through a divorce and not seeing his children every day. He was no longer sure what was worse: missing his children or missing Buddy. If anything made him question his faith, this series of events made him question it, so he had a hard time in jail.

Albert had devoted his life to being a good pastor, a good Shepard, a good father, a good person, and now he asked himself, did he commit adultery? Adultery! Adultery! Yes, he had sex with other men when was still married. Still married! Married to a woman. Of course, he couldn’t be married to a man. He said this, repeated this, and thought of sin. Did he believe in sin? If he did, he enjoyed sin. The joy of sin. Now there was no church to tell him he sinned. No church to tell him he was a sinner. No church to condemn him for sodomy. Was sodomy a sin? The joy of sodomy. Was sodomy a sin? It was certainly a crime in Texas, but was it a sin? Nothing to worry about. Albert never believed in sin. He only believed in human frailty and human fragility. Albert now knew what it felt like to feel frail.

If sodomy were no longer a sin to Albert, it was also no longer simply a sexual act. Since he loved Buddy, it went beyond sex just as intercourse between loving heterosexual couples went beyond sex. Just as he once honored Alice, he now honored Buddy. If he could, he would marry Buddy. He wished he could. He wished he could marry Buddy. He would marry Buddy, if he could. He wanted to hold Buddy. He wanted to be held by Buddy. He wanted to kiss Buddy. He yearned for Buddy’s kisses. He wanted to feel Buddy inside him.

After he and Alice separated, Albert allowed her to take most of their belongings. He didn’t care. For their girls sake, he allowed Alice to take most of their belongings. He felt he didn’t need many possessions. Why yes, with Buddy, it was like starting from scratch.

Albert didn’t get rid of everything, however. He kept pictures of Alice and their girls, pictures of Alice and their girls when they were a family, a scrapbook with pictures, and home movies which he shot on vacations, but which he never watched. He never look through the scrapbook; yet he kept it. Alice allowed him to keep pictures and a scrapbook and movies, movies of vacations as a family. So, in terms of memories, Albert still had them. But you and I know, they weren’t all happy memories.

In their divorce settlement, they maintained joint custody of their girls, thinking that they could work out visitation amicably. And that was what they did.

But Alice no longer wanted to live in Dallas. There were many reasons why she didn’t want to live in Dallas.

After Albert and Buddy moved in together, Alice noticed that Albert drove to San Antonio less frequently. Albert drove less frequently to San Antonio to see his girls. (He saw them even less when he started his activism.) And as he spent more and more time at home with Buddy, he ignored many things that once interested him, hardly seeing old friends, establishing a new life for himself, and when it came time for the divorce, he moaned, which to him seemed funny. He had to forgive himself before he stopped moaning.

And though he gave sermons on forgiveness, forgiving himself wasn’t easy for him. It wasn’t easy for him even though he knew there was no reason for him to forgive himself. Forgiveness was never easy. Look, Albert knew why forgiveness was so important, knew forgiveness was a release; yet it was a struggle for him. It was easy for him to get down on himself. And it was easy for him to feel guilty when he drove home after seeing his girls.

Problem was how he was raised and how he knew his parents felt about homosexuality. He knew they were disappointed, disappointed in him Albert knew his parents were disappointed in him and knew they felt betrayed. He hoped Alice understood. She said did, but did she really? How could she not feel betrayed? But Albert didn’t feel like it was betrayal. Albert interrupted himself when he started thinking about betrayal and adultery connected with sin and sinning and entered a dark place. “God hates fags. God hates queers. God hate cocksuckers. No. No. No.”

Sin! Sinning! Joy of sin! Joy of sinning!” Albert declared and forgot to add adultery to his list. He went on trying to explain, but he couldn’t explain because he didn’t want to. He didn’t have to explain. And he didn’t know how. Why explain? It wasn’t required, and he didn’t want to. Albert explained that if he betrayed anyone he betrayed himself. He betrayed himself because he knew for a long time that he was attracted to men. If he told his story, he would have to admit that he was always attracted to men (or from when he was a boy, boys) more than girls, women.. “Hell,” he said, “I was always attracted to men, and blaspheming God, he said, “God damn!” Yes, he cursed, sometimes, cursed to himself … cursed in a closet … cursed in a shower. And It was never simple. And sin, well, sin was sometimes joyous yet guilt was hell. And oh yes, he added, “everyone sinned and fell short of the example of Jesus.” He felt sure Jesus wasn’t a homosexual, but .. but how would anyone know if Jesus was a homosexual or not? Given the times when Jesus lived, how would anyone know? He knew God loved homosexuals. Albert knew God loved him.

How did he first know … how did Albert first know he was a homosexual or gay? Was it in high school? Was it in elementary school? Was it when he first walked into a boy’s locker room? When he first noticed his penis … when he first noticed his penis rise and get hard when he saw … saw other boys … saw other boys dressing out in a locker room … naked boys … hot boys in tight jeans. For some time he felt odd whenever he walked into a boy’s locker room and never knew why. He knew he felt different, or thought he felt different and felt as if he were the only one. He knew he was attracted to other boys. He felt attracted to other boys before he knew what fag, queer, cocksucker meant. He knew he was attracted to other boy’s penises. When? When? He knew he was different before he knew what gay was. There was a boy who lived on Gay Street … Gay street in San Antonio. Why wasn’t that a secret? He felt confused.

Albert looked for some kind of verification. Before he didn’t need to look for verification. Before he found verification wherever he looked … before he found it in his work, in his church, in people of his church and his family, he found it by talking to God, and he heard God’s voice. So he knew God didn’t hate homosexuals. But now, in jail, he felt abandoned, So he felt disappointed … disappointed in God.

Instead of praying like he used to pray, he killed time like everyone else in his pod, counting days until he got out … counting days until he could look for Buddy. Because Buddy consumed his thoughts, he couldn’t pray, and because hadn’t seen Buddy he couldn’t think of anything else.

There was so much Albert didn’t know about Buddy. He thought he knew Buddy, knew all about Buddy, but now he wasn’t sure. There was so much he didn’t know. Though he thought he knew Buddy, knew all about Buddy, he knew there was so much he didn’t know about him. Despite … even though they were lovers, despite … even though they lived together and talked long hours, Albert wasn’t sure. Sitting on his bunk in his cell, he wasn’t sure, sure, wasn’t sure of anything anymore. Luckily, Albert went only so far in thinking like that. He wouldn’t allow himself to go too far. That was it. He wouldn’t allow himself.

He was never totally despondent. He was never suicidal. He never forgot to pray. He just didn’t spend as much time praying. (Above all else Albert was concerned when he no longer turned to God, but within his heart Albert knew God had not turned his back on him, when in the past he always relied on God and when never before he thought God turned His back on him. And then to Albert embarrassment and joy he again heard God’s voice. And it actually seemed like a revelation. God sounded like He did when Albert first heard Him. God sounded like he did when Albert was small.

Albert actually recommitted himself to his cause, though he was stripped of his church. Albert actually recommitted himself to Christ. So he came out of jail more committed than ever. Not because Albert heard the voice of God again and knew God’s affection for him and knew God didn’t hate queers (or whatever you wanted to call gay men) but because Albert absolutely refused to give up. Albert walked a thin line between giving in to despair and given up, or continuing, but he refused to give up. To Albert, the saddest part was that he never saw Buddy again. And Buddy never offered an excuse for not seeing Albert. They never talked again. They never held each other again. They never kissed again. They never made love again. Albert wanted it, all of it, and thought they should talk about it, at least talk about it, but Buddy never gave them a chance.

They had been proficient in expressing their feelings. Albert knew all about how good relationships worked. He knew about communicating and how important communication was. He felt he had a good relationship with Buddy… Then! Then! It never made sense to him. They had been equals, or had they been? Then when Albert thought about it … really thought about it … he realized after those first encounters he was the engine in their relationship, and Buddy was the caboose. He hadn’t thought of it in those terms before. He only thought, no, hoped they were equals. Albert considered them equals. But what did Buddy think?

And though their relationship was far from perfect, they stayed together, and surely they could work on it, surely. Surely a minister knew what to work on. Surely a minister knew what to say. He felt sure they could always work it out. He felt sure he knew what to work on.

So it may be said that Albert was fooling himself. Maybe they weren’t meant for each other, but then, there weren’t then many openly gay men. Still Albert was never sure why they why they weren’t more open, or at least more open with each other.

How Buddy turned him on. To Albert, Buddy was hot, really hot. Buddy still turned him on … still turned … just thinking of Buddy turned him on … on when Buddy wore tight jeans, very tight jeans. It exasperated Albert when he saw Buddy in tight jeans and couldn’t touch him. It exasperated Albert when he saw Buddy in tight jeans and couldn’t kiss him, kiss him on the mouth, kiss him with an open mouth. It still exasperated him. Thinking about it exasperated him. And whenever Albert saw Buddy in tight jeans he remembered the night he first met Buddy. He remembered how he thought Buddy was hot, really hot, hot, hot.

They shared an apartment. They shared a bed. Buddy kept the same hours, leaving Albert at home alone during the day.. Albert worked part time at a church as a janitor. To this, he said, “I want to stay in contact. I want to stay in contact with a church. I still feel drawn to a church. God called me to work in a church.”

Albert never got a chance to confront Buddy. He never got a chance to say anything about his lowered expectations, how he lowered his expectations for Buddy, and never had to explain himself … never explained himself. Albert never got a chance to ask Buddy why he abandoned him. Albert never found Buddy. Albert wondered if he would’ve had courage to confront Buddy. He never found Buddy, so he never got a chance to confront Buddy.

Albert still loved Buddy, although it may be hard to believe it given everything. Albert believed he would always love Buddy. He knew he would never get over Buddy/ .But it made sense given their attraction for each other. But it made no sense to Albert why Buddy disappeared, why Buddy never came to see him in jail. It never made sense. It would’ve been easier had Buddy not disappeared without a word. Naturally Albert was angry and disappointed about it. It affected him as much as losing his church did. Why? Why? Why! But whoever expected people to be perfect.

No,” he said. “You live with someone, and of course, there are expectations,” in his tireless search for answers, he said and at the same time thought of his girls. Albert always considered himself a responsible person, a responsible parent, and he felt as if he needed to convince the world that he was a responsible person. He still didn’t come up with answers.

And loneliness grew deeper until Albert couldn’t stand it and he began trolling for other gay men, hot men. Albert began trolling for sex again … began trolling for sex with hot men again. And when, whenever Albert trolled for sex he felt guilty, afraid and guilty. He didn’t want to go back to jail. He didn’t want to go back to jail … once was enough … once was enough when now it seemed pointless. It felt worse than divorce, a second divorce for Albert, though Buddy and Albert were never married. They couldn’t marry then. Two men couldn’t marry then. Albert wondered if it felt like a divorce to Buddy too. It felt like a divorce to Albert when divorce was becoming more and more acceptable for a man and a woman.

Well, all that aside, Albert tried to remain positive since he felt that he didn’t have a choice but to remain positive. It was up to Buddy, and Albert felt he didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t easy for Albert, but he tried to remain positive for his girls’ sake. He tried to remain positive since it was his nature to remain positive. What happened? Albert wondered. What happened to Buddy? What happened while he was in jail? What was Buddy thinking? He wished he could ask Buddy: what happened to him?

It would’ve been easier for Albert had Buddy walked out after having an argument or something. Then Albert could’ve confronted Buddy. If Buddy had blown up or something, then Albert would have an explanation and not left in the dark. So Albert was left with an empty apartment, and it felt empty. Without Buddy, it felt empty. It felt like all he had in his apartment were memories of Buddy.

Now besides this, there was nobody Albert felt he could turn to. There wasn’t anyone he could talk to. It appeared so, since no know knew how much he loved Buddy, no one to whom he ever mentioned the matter. There were those people who knew they lived together, but there was no one who knew how much he loved Buddy. No one he knew would believe he loved Buddy as a man could love a woman. They did not know such love was possible. They didn’t know such love existed. How could they know, and how could Albert talk to anyone who didn’t know such love existed. Still, although he didn’t think it would help, Albert was tempted to talk to his Bishop.

Nobody knew many personal things about Albert because he felt uncomfortable talking about personal things. Nobody knew much about Albert’s and Buddy’s relationship and nobody cared. Nobody asked because nobody care. No! No, that wasn’t true. Alice cared. Alice did. Alice cared because of their girls. Alice cared because of their girls and because she still loved Albert. In spite of everything, Alice still loved him. But they were divorced, divorced and she was remarried. She lived in San Antonio, with her new husband and her girls, and Albert lived in Dallas. And whenever he went to San Antonio to see his girls, there wasn’t a good time to talk to Alice. There never seemed like there was a good time to talk to Alice. And people were just glad not to have to get involved when they didn’t approve of Albert’s and Buddy’s relationship, or didn’t approve of Albert’s lifestyle. Such things wouldn’t have matter to Albert had Buddy been around.

It is true, however, that over time attitudes change, but it would take a long time, a very long time. And there was something particularly disturbing about a fever Albert had, since it didn’t go away after a few days. Albert didn’t think of going to a doctor thinking it would go away like it eventually did. Albert refused to see a doctor because he dismissed his fever. Instead he took it easy, drank plenty of fluids, and thought it was the flu. … a strain of flu that was then going around. He had flu before and thought he knew what to do about it without seeing a doctor.

Now, Albert had flu before, so he didn’t think he needed medical attention. Even when he lost weight, he didn’t think he needed to see a doctor. He needed to lose weight anyway. He tended to be over-weight. Since Albert thought he was taking care of himself by taking it easy and drinking plenty of fluids, he didn’t think he needed to see a doctor. Unsurprisingly, growing up, Albert never got sick or missed school because of sickness, so he didn’t think he needed to see a doctor. But this time Albert felt exhausted and spent more than a week in bed.

Even if he got worse, Albert probably wouldn’t have seen a doctor. It simply wasn’t in his DNA. It wasn’t in Albert’s DNA to see a doctor. He didn’t have anything against doctors; yet he was reluctant to see one. He didn’t have a personal physician. Albert later admitted that he had sudden unexplainable weight loss, a sore throat, not to mention he felt terrible … and yet he didn’t see a doctor. Then when he got better or as he thought well, he thought no more about it.

In those day there was no one to pull Albert aside and ask, “Are you protecting yourself? Are you having unprotected sex?” It wasn’t questions anyone would’ve asked him. Unprotected sex? Perhaps people weren’t open enough to ask such questions then. It wasn’t something people asked then. A connection between a few, and then ever increasing, gay men in San Francisco dying with unprotected sex hadn’t yet been made. And San Francisco seemed far away … under the radar. Albert was divorced then, divorced and living alone. People were then still beating around the bush about his being divorce. Besides his marriage status wasn’t anyone’s business, so why would his sex life be?

Did Albert simply have flu? No, but it was an understandable assumption, since most people wouldn’t have known what to look for. Like most people, Albert wasn’t prepared for the worst. He went about his business unprepared, not thinking the worst, because the worst was unknown to him, just as the future was unknown. Albert had no reason to lower his head and fear the worst. He didn’t feel ashamed, shame. What was he going to do anyway? He was already infected. He didn’t know he was infected. He didn’t know he was infected with a virus. He didn’t know he was ill. He didn’t feel ill. What are you saying? He was ill; yet Albert didn’t feel ill? What was he ill from? What did he have? Now we know. Then we didn’t. Word of the disease had just begun to spread throughout the gay community. And Albert should’ve known about it. He should’ve been one the first to know.

If Albert had known, he would’ve been willing to try anything because he wanted to live. Of course he wanted to live. And not for himself. He had two daughters, Betty and Patricia. He thought of Betty and Patricia when he later developed sweats. That was when he decided to see a doctor. Yes, he would’ve tried anything, if doctors knew what to do. The great unknown, uncharted territory, gays were dying in droves. By then he knew two things about it: it had developed into a frightening epidemic and there was no cure for it. Homosexuals were dying in droves. Why? There were theories. There was fear. Naturally there was fear. There were accusations. There was blame. Some Christians … it didn’t matter what some Christians thought. It didn’t matter what some Christians preached. “See, God hates fags!” By and large, however, there was sympathy. Yes, Albert wanted to live … for his two daughters, for Alice and his daughters, and he felt God still had more for him to do. But what could he do except ask God for help? Yet to himself he said, “I don’t expect God to do everything,” and then he went to get tested, and then … then he had a diagnosis. It wasn’t flu.

Albert … may I call you Albert?” his doctor hadn’t called him Albert before.

Sure.” But Albert wasn’t sure.

Before I say anything else … “ Albert knew then the news was bad. The doctor had just finished his examination and seen a rash on Albert’s back where there were rarely rashes. “Tell me about your diarrhea.”

The shits?”

The shits and fatigue.”

You know I’m now a great devotee of the toilet, and I don’t have any energy. I’m normally an energetic person.”

And you’re normally energetic?” Didn’t Albert just say he was an energetic person?

Yes,” Albert repeated.

Then please let me see your tongue.” And then after the doctor examined Albert’s tongue. “I can’t say for sure, but … “

But?” Alarmed; of course, alarmed.

I can’t be sure. I haven’t seen it before, and I’m afraid to say …”

Say?” While Albert thought, come on Dr. Irving; say it,

I know I’ve frightened you. I’m sorry … sorry for that … really sorry … except I want to be sure before we go there. Do you have headaches?”

Sure. I’ve had headaches for a long time … for over a year, maybe more. I’ve always had headaches. Who doesn’t have headaches?” Albert heard himself get testy.

I want to see you tomorrow. I want to talk it over with a colleague, get his opinion, and maybe have him see you. Tomorrow … I’ll arrange it with my receptionist. Thank you Mr. Humphrey.

As he went out the door, Albert shook his head and didn’t sleep that night. He didn’t sleep because he knew his doctor hadn’t handled it well. Albert knew he (Albert) also hadn’t handled it well and was resigned the next day to hear bad news. In this case, Albert would call on God … called on God. And you know, most of his life Albert had relied on God. Except in this case, Albert knew God couldn’t/wouldn’t promise him anything, so he didn’t sleep all night. He didn’t sleep … couldn’t sleep until after he head bad news. He had AIDS. He then worried about Buddy. But where was Buddy? He had to find Buddy. He had to tell Buddy. He had to tell Buddy the bad new. He had to tell Buddy he had AIDS. AIDS, AIDS then was a death sentence. So he again searched for Buddy.

It wasn’t like Albert to worry about himself. It wasn’t like him. He knew God would take care of him. And he knew that God would not … could not promise life, and he knew he was going to die. Contracting AIDS then was a death sentence, so Albert tried not to worry about it except he couldn’t help worrying about it. And he worried about Buddy and his kids. And he was now thankful that his kids would have a father (Ralph) and that Alice remarried and his kids would have a father after he died. He was thankful that Ralph seemed like a good man and would make a good father. But pray, he did. Afraid he was. And of course, he worried.

Albert realized then that his doctor was only trying to protect himself when he didn’t say what he immediately thought and why he didn’t handle it well. It was true he hadn’t seen AIDS before, though he knew what was going on in San Francisco. Of course his doctor knew what was happening to many gay men in San Francisco, too many gay men in San Francisco. This was before Dallas joined the Age of AIDS, and his doctor wanted to make sure. He wanted to alleviate Albert’s skin rash like he alleviated many other skin rashes. He wanted to make sure before he said there was no hope. So why did he say anything? He simply didn’t handle it well.

Dr. Irving became Albert’s friend, more than a friend in many ways whenever after that they met. Dr. Irving walked Albert through the dying process when Dr. Irving didn’t need to do it. (Albert had walked many people through the drying process.) Dr. Irving visited Albert. He held Albert’s hand. They prayed together. They connected without words. They didn’t need words. They could do it, while Dr. Irving didn’t need to get involved in that way. Without an explanation, Dr. Irving got involved in that way, but Dr. Irving didn’t have answers in his black bag. No one did then.

Dr. Irving continued to see Albert and continued to hold his hand. Albert wondered if Dr. Irving were gay. Albert should have known if Dr. Irving were gay. He should’ve asked, asked if Dr. Irving were gay. If Albert wanted to know if Dr. Irving were gay or not, he should’ve asked Dr. Irving. (Albert knew he couldn’t always tell if someone was gay or not.) Albert continued to get sicker, and Dr. Irving continued to hold his hand. He sat with him and held his hand, and Dr. Irving talked him through the dying process, thought it was unnecessary.

Dr. Irving also treated Albert’s symptoms as best he could. (All Dr. Irving could do was treat Albert’s symptoms.) And Dr. Irving acted more like a nurse than a doctor, and as he treated Albert’s various infections his patient developed a nasty cough, soaking night sweats, and chills and fever that caused him to shake. Dr. Irving treated these symptoms as best he could while he knew he was only treating symptoms. He knew there was nothing else he could do.

They did not notify Alice until it was almost too late, and Albert did not seem to notice her when she came to see him at the hospital. It was almost too late. Albert was lifeless. He didn’t seem to notice her. Alice felt great pain when she saw him lying there and was glad she hadn’t brought their girls. She was glad because she knew she couldn’t explain her pain to them and knew they would see it. She didn’t want their girls to see their father like that. She didn’t want their girls to see their father dying. She knew she couldn’t explain it because she had trouble explaining it to herself. Later she considered it a mistake. Later she considered it a mistake to deprived her girls an opportunity to say goodbye to their dad.

They were continuing his treatments, managing his pain as best they could, while he talked to Someone outside the room … someone or God … as he talked directly to God. Alice thought he was delirious. Dr. Irving tried to treat this symptom too. People didn’t realize he was really talking to God. He always had an ability to talk directly to God. His relationship with God was still solid …. more solid than ever before.

By this time there was nothing more Dr. Irving could do, though he still held Albert’s hand. He didn’t just pass through Albert’s room, but he held Albert’s hand for hours at a time. There was nothing more that he could do or that could be done. No one knew why Dr. Irving took time out of his practice to be with Albert, why Albert temporarily became his only patient, which of course surprised everyone. Dr. Irving treated Albert like a dying son. Dr. Irving held Albert’s hand and wiped his brow with a wash cloth.

What’s going on, Albert?”

I’m okay, doc. Just hot, like always. Burning up, but I know God is with me,” and then Albert closed his eyes.

Sometimes Albert and Dr. Irving prayed together. Albert would utter a prayer, and Dr. Irving would follow his lead. Albert knew he was talking with God. He didn’t have to convince himself that he was talking with God. He convinced himself that he and God were having a conversation. And he convinced himself that he was “okay.” “I’m okay,” he told God. “Amen.” Okay. But as Dr. Irving told him he would, Albert died. Albert was okay when he died because God and Dr. Irving took an interest in him. He was one of the first victims of AIDS in Dallas, while officially he died of complication related to chronic hepatitis.

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

Albert also went through hell, as he went through the last stages of AIDS, alternating between consciousness and unconsciousness ((Albert didn’t believe in a hell except as it existed on earth.) Dr. Irving did as much for him as he could. We say Dr. Irving did as much for Albert as he could by alleviating pain. In this, Dr. Irving was also limited and Albert knew Dr. Irving was doing all he could and knew there was no cure … no cure for AIDS victims then. And he without Buddy and unable to see his girls, Albert would’ve felt utterly alone without God and Dr. Irving. But Albert never felt utterly alone. 

Dr. Irving came to see Albert as often as he could. Dr. Irving spent as much time with Albert as he possibly could. Dr. Irving came so often that Albert, though thankful, began to suspect the doctor had some other motive than compassion for seeing him. In spite of himself, Albert was suspicious. Maybe, Albert thought and hated to think maybe Dr. Irving was watching his suffering not out of compassion but through eyes of a researcher. Researcher? Why else would Dr. Irving come to see him so often?

Anyway, Dr. Irving was a comfort. No matter what, he was a comfort to Albert. Since Albert was a minister, you probably would expect he could handle pain better than most people. When he had been around many sick and dying people, you would’ve expected it. And he surely did. But he didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. He wanted to watch his girls grow up. He wanted to see his girls mature … mature into women. He still had many things he wanted to do. He wanted to see churches accept gay and lesbian people. He wanted to see churches accept gay ministers. He wanted to become a minister again. Yes, he wanted to see many things. No one will know when he finally let go. It wasn’t easy for Albert. It wasn’t easy for Albert to let go. It wasn’t an easy death. Not by any means or measurement was it easy.

Albert was relieved when his mother and dad came to the hospital (a Methodist hospital) to see him. He was glad to see them. They wanted to see him. Albert was glad that his parents wanted to see him. They of course wanted stay with him, sit by his bedside as he died, and of course hold his hand, but he requested that they don’t, which hurt them of course. Of course, he couldn’t prevent them from staying with him and sitting by his bedside as he died. By then, he was mostly out of it. It had been over fifteen years since Albert became famous for his defrocking demonstrations, over fifteen years since he publicly proclaimed his homosexuality.

Although he never wanted anyone to see him suffer (and was glad his girls never saw him in the hospital), he was thankful whenever someone came to see him. Even when he barely knew they were there, he was glad. He was thankful for Dr. Irving. He was glad to see Alice. He greeted his parents. Albert greeted his parents when they saw him in the hospital. He hoped they accepted him, finally accepted him, finally accepted him for whom he was. He wanted to see his parents. He missed Buddy. Albert wanted to see Buddy. He wanted to see Buddy more than anyone else. A wave of sadness came over him whenever he thought of Buddy. What happened to Buddy? Why!

And when he died, they all paid Albert tribute … paid him tributes. When he died, they packed pews. People who knew him and didn’t know him packed pews. They came in droves, gay and straight (since many gay people were still closeted then often one didn’t know one from the other … gay from straight). Perhaps some came out of curiosity. And yet there were many who genuinely moaned Albert’s passing. Albert’s father was thankfully there weren’t demonstrators. For a defrocked minister, it was quite a gathering, or maybe so many people came because he was defrocked. They came to Albert’s old church to send him off. They filled pews, gay and straight.

Someone wrote an article for the Dallas newspapers, which was picked up by AP (which didn’t make Albert’s father happy) and someone found an old photograph of Albert in a file and published it along with the article. Other papers quickly followed suit, sometimes with a picture and sometimes not. It didn’t help, as far as Albert’s father was concerned, that the word “gay” kept coming up. Gay, gay, gay? Wasn’t there more than one meaning to Albert’s life than being gay? Gay. Wasn’t there more than one meaning to that word? Gay and straight, aren’t we all creatures of God? Yes. And appropriately, at his memorial service the caption under his picture simply read REV. ALBERT HUMPHREY.

Accolades, meanwhile, quickly arrived, while no one expected so many people, and people acted as if everything was forgiven. And word quickly went out, that Rev. Humphrey died from complications related to chronic hepatitis. The word was Albert died from complications related to chronic hepatitis, chronic hepatitis, while some people, even then, spoke of AIDS.

Alice, meanwhile, while Albert was still alive, knowing she wouldn’t get another chance, spent an afternoon with him in the hospital. Yes, she had a lot to say. Yes, they had a lot of fond memories to share. They shared memories of their girls, of their girls firsts, first steps, first teeth, first words, and most of all they shared their loved for each other. Yes, love for each other. (Ralph understood.) Alice tried not to show her sadness, her sorrow. She didn’t mention Ralph, her new husband, “Albert’s replacement.” Thanks to Dr. Irving Albert wasn’t suffering much pain. Dr. Irving did all he could do for Albert. Alice came prepared. Dr. Irving spoke to her before she saw Albert.

So visitor after visitor came, and that went on until Albert died and as he became increasingly apathetic. He lost interest in eating, and after a while he slept most of the time. There were some things Dr. Irving couldn’t do. There were no drugs then to keep him alive. Everyone knew there wasn’t a cure, and it was fatal. Fatal! And yet Albert remained upbeat until the end. Or he seemed upbeat. Well, who really knew?

Well, he hadn’t heard from Buddy, and he wouldn’t hear from him. Albert hadn’t heard from Buddy since they were arrested. Since sitting with him in the backseat of a squad car, Albert hadn’t talked to Buddy, and this, as much as anything else, saddened him. And he often thought about it. He often thought about Buddy. And all who have lost a love would understand.

Given his illness, there was little anyone could do for Albert, except control his pain and make him as comfortable as possible. Dr. Irving did his best.

There were many other things people did for him, and not only people who knew him, but still in many ways related, people from the gay community, people far and near, as word got out that Albert was dying. It was remarkable how fast word spread. It was remarkable it made the papers. It was remarkable. Albert never knew he had so many friends. And speaking of friends, his Bishop came to see Albert and asked if there was anything he could do. This time his Bishop seemed more concerned, more genuinely concerned than he was when Albert was in jail.

His mother, who stayed by his bedside, as his father came in and out of the room, practically became his nurse and used her authority as his mother to boss real nurses around. They didn’t object. Nurses didn’t object. His mother even gave him an enema when he needed one. Albert acknowledged it by saying it was like Jesus washing feet. Although his mother never expected such a response, she was pleased. To be compared with Jesus pleased her. The cause was an obstruction of the large colon – but regardless of the cause, Mrs. Humphrey considered it a small miracle. In other words, it made her feel better to help her son in this way. To have him say that it was like Jesus washing feet made her smile, smile for a moment or two. That was important, memorable, memorable, always memorable to her. In many ways, it was important, important to her. To her it was a miracle, a miracle she took away with her.

Albert didn’t have one symptom. He had many symptoms. It was complicated, too complicated and mysterious for doctors and the public then. It was complicated and mysterious for doctors and the public then, but simple for Albert.

Mrs. Humphrey prepared for his death by nursing him. She would’ve preferred taking him “home” to San Antonio. She would preferred he died at “home,” where she could nurse him without opposition from medical staff. She became cantankerous. By nature, she wasn’t a fighter, whereas Albert was one. “Home” was where she wanted her son to die, but Albert would not give his consent. So Albert’s mother fought medical staff and nursed her son as much as she could.

I understand,” Dr. Irving said once he gave his approval, officially gave his approval by writing it in his orders. ”It will be a form of hospice and a great benefit to my patient,” he wrote carefully so that there could be no mistake as to what his orders were. The hospital had protocol; yet Dr. Irving felt he could override it, and he did. So it may be said in the end that everyone in the hospital showed compassion for Albert and his family, compassion for Albert and his mother. There were many “options,” as they explained to Albert and his family, hospice in a nursing home being one of them, and cost was not as big a factor as it would be now. So Albert decided to die in a hospital, a hospital in Dallas, a Methodist hospital in Dallas surrounded by family, friends and Methodist clergy, and where his mother could nurse him.

Dr. Irving sat down with Alice, Alice’s new husband, Ralph, and Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey in a small private lounge and talked. Albert gave his permission for Alice and her new husband, Ralph, to be there.

During this epidemic (and by then it was called an epidemic),” Dr. Irving said, while thinking he didn’t know what to say, which he didn’t, “so far we know so little. I wish I could tell you more. I wish. I wish we had an answer. I wish. I wish. I don’t know how many more will fall from it. I know you wonder why. No one at this point can say … why.”

I used to think my son had all answers,” Mrs. Humphrey said, but because of sad recollections, she couldn’t finish. Instead, she cried. Everyone knew it was appropriate for her to cry.

It’s too bad,” Dr. Irving said. “Some may accuse me of getting too involved with my patients, this patient, Albert … too involved. And it may be true; in this case, true. A weakness? No. No, I became a member of his congregation. He became my minister. He taught me where to look for God. I consider him family.”

Mr. Humphrey didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say.

And Alice said she was thankful their girls got to see their father for a last time. (She finally allowed them to see their father. Albert wanted to see them, of course.) She tried to explain, “You try to cover everything, or cover what matters. You try to explain, and hug them, hug them and hold them and … give them what they need. They’re still so young, too young … too, too young to lose their father There is never a good age … never a good age to lose a father. He was a good father … and a good husband.” Alice said “and a good husband,” as she looked at her new husband. She said Albert was a good husband even though she and Albert were divorced and she had remarried, happily remarried …. and Albert was gay.

Alice, while flourishing in San Antonio with her new husband, as many divorcees do, often thought of Albert and blamed herself when she knew she shouldn’t blame herself for their breakup. She didn’t think it was her fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. She knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault. Why should she blame herself? She knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault. She didn’t think it was anyone’s fault. It just happened she reasoned. And she knew she and Albert couldn’t remained married. She still cherished her past relationship with Albert. She cherished memories. She held onto memories, good memories and tried to forget bad memories. Without Albert, she wouldn’t have two beautiful daughters. Now she was pregnant again. Yes, she had a lot to be thankful for.

I understand,” Alice’s new husband told her, told her in a way that said her new husband loved her. He told her that he understood, when they were in the car heading back to San Antonio. So it may be said that he was understanding, and he loved her. They loved each other. They loved each other just as Alice still loved Albert. It seemed complicated to Alice. There were differences, as expected. Likewise, as for her love for Albert, it had changed. And as they headed back to San Antonio, she moaned, and her new husband understood. When they got home, he offered a shoulder for her to cry on, and the two sat and talked.

We would go to the zoo and the Chinese Gardens,” Alice said thinking of Albert, thinking how pleasant it was with Albert and their girls when they went to the zoo and the Chinese Gardens and how she and her new husband ought to take the girls to the zoo. She felt that she and her new husband needed to have more such memories, many more. Life was too short. Albert’s situation illustrated how life was too short. Yes, there were differences, as expected. Now Albert was dying, and soon he would only be a memory. Yes, she had many memories, more good memories than bad. More people would die of “it,” many more. Why did she have difficult calling it by its name? What was it? AIDS?

Yes, there are good memories, dear,” Alice said to her new husband, but despite her sadness, she was enjoying telling her new husband about those memories. At least, they could talk. At least, Raph understood. At least, he was understanding.

Remember the sloth?” he teased her. For surely, if he remembered going to the zoo together, she did. He didn’t mean to be mean.

I’m not being fair to you.”

I understand. I really do. You didn’t know me back then. We didn’t know each other. We hadn’t met. I’m not naive. You still love Albert. I understand.” He seemed understanding to Alice. Somehow it didn’t seem right.

You’re too good to me.”

Ah, yes, I understand,” he said smiling. Why was he smiling, she thought.

Don’t say that again. You’re getting on my nerves. My nerves are shot already. I love you.”

And I love you.” That’s where it got mushy. Then they went to bed …

We couldn’t continue being married,” she continued. “After I found out he was gay, we couldn’t continue being married.”

I know that one. Remember I went through divorce too.”

Right!” she said with a frown. “But there was always a difference.”

There’s always a difference. And will always be a difference.”

Well, we won’t repeat ourselves, will we? Once is enough for me.”

Ditto. Never. I learned my lesson.”

She held him, as if she wasn’t about to let go. Then she let him do what he wanted to do and enjoyed it. More than anything she was glad that her new husband wasn’t gay. Yes, she knew that she didn’t want to go through it again. She didn’t want to feel slighted again. And from what she remembered, Albert tried to please her, as best he could.

 

Chapter Fifteen

That year, AIDS was identified and was spreading rapidly across the country … except this virus was often diagnosed as something else such as complications related to hepatitis. Regardless, it was a death sentence. News of Albert went throughout the country. AP and UP picked it up.

For the record, Buddy never forgot Albert. How could he forget Albert? He followed Albert’s activism, though at a distance. Buddy always wore his GOD LOVES EVERYONE button, wore it in memory of Albert, and Buddy always thought of Albert when he put it on. But he never contacted his former lover again and later regretted it. Reasons why Buddy never contacted Albert were complicated, too complicated to explain. It was something he never talked about with anyone. It was always something he regretted.

Whenever Buddy thought of Albert, he always thought of their union … always felt their union, their deep union. Whenever Buddy thought of Albert (and it was often), he thought of how their union felt. He thought of how it felt being inside Albert and Albert being inside him. And he remembered feeling like wanting to stay inside Albert, stay inside Albert for as long as possible. His goal: delay, delay, delay gratification for as long as possible so that he could stay inside Albert for as long as possible. And he always remembered closeness and warmness of being inside Albert and Albert being inside him. Pitcher. Catcher. Relaxing. To Buddy, nothing was more relaxing than holding each others penis. Albert: ditto. Catcher. Pitcher.

On the day of Albert’s memorial service, Buddy, not intentionally, chose the shirt he was wearing when he first met Albert. It was a neat, blue polo, which in itself wouldn’t say he was gay. By nature he was inconspicuous. By nature he didn’t want to stand out. Not that he was shy.

Buddy, like others who had been close to Albert in life, sometimes had unsettling feelings about Albert’s activism. For Buddy, it hit too close to home. And getting arrested changed everything for him. It was too personal until Buddy couldn’t stand it anymore. Particularly after they were arrested, Buddy couldn’t stand it anymore. Buddy knew he should’ve stood by Albert. He knew he should’ve explained … should’ve explained how he felt to Albert, shouldn’t he? He knew he should’ve given an explanation. He knew he should’ve talked to Albert. He knew he shouldn’t have disappeared like he did. He knew Albert deserved an explanation and knew he should’ve said goodbye. He knew he should’ve, should’ve.

He couldn’t sleep the night before Albert’s memorial service and knew why. When he found the blue shirt he wore, he ironed it and laid it out on a chair, then bathed and shaved. Then just like he always did, he chose a perfect tie (one with a rainbow on it, in tribute to Albert.) He remembered Albert liked bright colors. Albert would approve.

Buddy made himself breakfast, peach jam, butter and toast, real butter (he always insisted on real butter), and coffee. He felt full before he finished. “Bastard!” He already missed Albert, although he hadn’t seen Albert in over two years. He missed Albert before then. He missed sharing a breakfast table with him. “Bastard! Jesus!” Buddy knew he didn’t have HIV. “Why not me?” He wondered where Albert contracted HIV and felt guilty about it. He wondered why Albert contracted HIV and why he didn’t and felt guilty about it. Something else to feel guilty about … bad about.

But for some people, guilt was good and led to good things. If it weren’t for guilt, Buddy might’ve ignored the piece in the paper about Albert’s death, and if it weren’t for the piece in the paper, he wouldn’t have known about Albert’s memorial service. It didn’t mention AIDS. It didn’t mention how Albert died. If Buddy hadn’t known Albert was gay, he wouldn’t have suspected AIDS. If he hadn’t been gay, AIDS would not have been on his mind. Because he was gay, AIDS was constantly on his mind. And how could he forget his love for Albert? That’s simple: he hadn’t He still loved Albert.

But as far as Buddy was concerned, Albert didn’t fight hard enough. He didn’t fight hard enough for his life. If he fought harder, he might still be alive. Back in his protest days, Albert was a fighter. Buddy knew Albert was a fighter then, so when he heard at the memorial service that Albert died peacefully, Buddy was angry. Albert didn’t fight hard enough. Back during his protest days, Albert was angry. Now Buddy was angry. Why had Albert say it was okay? Okay to die? That he was ready to die? And how would Buddy have known about it had he not gone to the memorial service, Albert’s memorial service? Buddy felt like a stranger at Albert’s memorial when he should’ve been family. Should’ve been … should’ve been … should … should. Why wasn’t he considered family? Why wasn’t he? Why wasn’t he sitting with the family? Why wasn’t he sitting with family in the front rows of the church? Why didn’t more people know who he was? Why was he able to sneak in and sneak out of the church? Why did he sit in the back pew and sneaked in and sneaked out?

Then he met one of Albert’s old high school friends. Buddy was caught before he got out the church by this old friend and the worst thing was that this old friend wanted to talk … perhaps needed to talk, talk about Albert. Buddy could tell that this friend’s relationship with Albert died when Albert came out. Buddy didn’t want to talk. He was too sad to say anything. He wanted to simply sneak away.

This old friend knew Albert and Alice before they were married, when they were in high school together. Alice was pretty and loyal and most of all, wanted Albert. She set her sights on Albert. She would go to the Humphrey home, ring the doorbell, and ask for Albert. She was a cheerleader and one of the prettiest and smartest girls in high school. She was a flirt then. She thought Albert was the most adorable boy in school. He was chosen as the best-looking boy of his class. Buddy always thought he was hot. Oh, Albert why did you have to die? Why?

This friend didn’t know what being gay was about. He didn’t think two men could love each other the same as a man and a woman could. He would never know, really know though he considered himself Albert’s friend before Albert came out and before Albert “made such a fuss” about it He was a friend during Albert’s marriage and said he was afterwords. “Why did he have to make such a fuss about it?” And here he was at Albert’s memorial service and wanted to talk to someone. “Oh, why did he do what he did? Why did Albert make such a fuss about it?” And Buddy couldn’t answer him. Instead of answering him, Buddy said, “please” and excused himself. Buddy then left without speaking to anyone else for after all he wasn’t ready to talk to anyone. He was too sad to talk to anyone, and no one recognized him because he sneaked in and sneaked out the church.

What was wrong?” the old high school friend wanted to ask and then was joined by other moaners. “What was wrong with Albert? What was wrong with gay people?” And this was how Buddy was rescued. He was rescued when the old friend was joined by other people, people who perhaps wondered “what was wrong? Why were so many young men like Albert dying?” And this was how Buddy was able to leave without speaking with anyone else.

So it was that people filled a large Methodist sanctuary (Albert’s old church) for Albert’s memorial service. Both gay and straight came, as if labels meant anything then. It didn’t matter then. Albert died, and it didn’t matter then. Both gay and straight sat together. For once, it didn’t matter. And if it did matter, it wouldn’t have matter to each person who came. And of course, Alice came and brought her new husband (Ralph) and the girls. The girls weren’t underfoot. They came to say goodbye to their father.

This farewell … which wasn’t solemn, comprising as many as five hundred people, celebrated Albert’s life. There were no regrets expressed or sad songs sung. It was like Albert wanted it with no regrets or sad songs. As tribute to Albert, many people spoke, many whom one wouldn’t have expected to speak, tributes, all tributes and not a word about AIDS. As a highlight, Albert’s Bishop spoke, and though he was expected to speak, it surprised Buddy. And what he said surprised almost everyone.

No one carried his cross more diligently than Albert. No one carried his cross more proudly than Albert. There was no doubt about it. Those, like his Bishop, who remembered his demonstrations (who could forget them), recalled how Albert stood in front a North Texas Conference session, tall and bearded with mod clothes and a pink lapel button reading “Gay!” and addressed the assembly by saying, “I am a homosexual and wish to continue the ministry as a Christian and hopefully as Methodist.” Buddy remembered it. No, Buddy wasn’t around then, but he read about it, but there were those at the memorial service who remembered it … who were there. Love ones certainly did. Those who were embarrassed by it then certainly did. And people spoke of many things Albert did.

Yes, the sanctuary was full. Chairs were added. Standing room only.

When Albert was buried, a spokesperson from the gay community spoke.

Alice knew for sure God was there. Alice felt God’s presence there, God among the living, God with Albert, God everywhere. Albert with God. When a spokesperson from the gay community addressed the mourners, he declared that Albert carried a cross for all gay people. Buddy wasn’t at the grave site for him to say Albert carried a cross for all gay people. Worst of all, there was no certainty that Buddy would’ve agreed. The one person, outside of Alice, who knew Albert better than anyone else may not have agreed. Buddy wasn’t sure Albert carried a cross for him.

Albert heard God’s voice, and always said he first did when he was small.

God met Albert, and God knew Albert was gay when he was small. Of course, God knew Albert was gay when he was small, and gay people at Albert’s grave site believed that God didn’t care whether Albert was gay or not. Of course they did. Why would God care whether they were gay or straight? Those who believed in God … those gay people who believed in God believed God didn’t care whether they were gay or straight. “We have ‘Our God’, one God, and God loves us too … like all other beings in the universe. That’s what’s important. It’s important to know that God created us gay. God doesn’t care if we’re gay or not. God created us too.”

There wasn’t more to say … fewer words the better.

Alice wiped tears from her eyes, while her new husband (Ralph) held her hand. Albert’s two girls stood by their side. They didn’t know what their dad died of. They didn’t care what their dad died like other people cared. All their mother told them was that their father was gone and went home to be with God … went home to be with their father’s God … God who spoke to their father when he was small … small like them.

AIDS would spread throughout Dallas. Young men would die from AIDS throughout Dallas. Yes indeed throughout Dallas, just as it did in San Francisco, LA, New York, across the country and around the world. It became a merciless plague indeed, and Albert had the distinction of being one its first victims in Dallas. It started in Africa, from people eating wild game and swept around the globe, taking anyone in its path. It showed no mercy. And there was great mourning, not just in the gay community, but it caused lamentation and mourning in families around world. And Albert and his family and friends were among the first in Texas, a pretty big state.

While Albert sat in a jail cell, Buddy ran around free. He never went to jail. He didn’t go to jail because he didn’t plead guilty.

Men had sex together and died as a result. “Vengeance of the Lord,” said some believers, and there were those who had pity. Eventually pity spread like the plague.

Ay, ay, ay! Buddy couldn’t take the heat. No one understood. He simply couldn’t take the heat.

No one understood then why homosexuals and drug addicts (needle sharers) too often faced death, and Albert faced it reluctantly at first, faced it reluctantly until he talked to God and faced his parents, although his parents knew he was gay but as parents they had never fully accepted it. Now they had to accept it. With his death, they had no choice but to accept it.

Albert had to face his own death first. He knew he was dying before his parents knew it. Accepting his death helped Albert’s parents.

At the time that Albert was laid in his coffin, diagnosis he was given wasn’t AIDS and few people knew he died of AIDS because complications related to chronic hepatitis was then more acceptable. Chronic hepatitis? True enough. So few people knew Albert died of AIDS. It progressed very quickly, too quick, or it seemed too quick. No one foresaw it. Few people in Dallas had seen anything like it before.

It was nearly three months after Buddy failed to show up that Albert started having sex again, except he didn’t have any feelings for men he met. He trolled for sex. He trolled for hot men. He needed sex. Sex, sex, sex. He wandered from bar to bar again, when such behavior wasn’t natural for him. He troll for sex before it was considered dangerous. Albert felt too weak to resist this temptation, too weak.

And even though he didn’t feel right about it (he knew about addiction … sex addiction), he was too lonely and too horny to resist this temptation. Wherever he went, he saw hot men and couldn’t help it, so he couldn’t resist this temptation. Albert used to go and stand outside the dark, dingy place that showed illegal gay porn, near the same spot where he first met Buddy and take this risk, hoping to meet his true love until he decided it was useless. It broke his heart. It made him cry.

This was not the man Alice married, by the way. This man wore bright mod clothes and a button that read, “I’m gay!” He advertized being gay. He decided to advertized being gay and decided to take the consequences. (He decided to take slurs and a chance of getting beat up.} It was a fact he was gay, gay, a defrocked minister because he was gay, so why not advertize it. But he wasn’t acting like a minister, and if he were a minister or a former minister, he was different, even different from other gay ministers, and he was different because he was openly gay. And Buddy, after awhile, after his and Albert’s arrest couldn’t take the heat. Albert wanted to find out why Buddy never showed up. And he would’ve asked Buddy why he disappeared.

Even if it was during the night when he picked up a date, it was risky for Albert. Except Albert didn’t think it was risky. He didn’t know how risky it was. He knew it was risky, but didn’t think it was as risky as it was. And he didn’t think to practice safe sex then because he didn’t know how fatal it could be. To him risks were minor compared with getting arrested. Then he didn’t know about AIDS. Then there wasn’t anything known about AIDS.

Several times he went into to that dark, dingy place, with seamy, seedy sofas instead of theater seats, making Albert feel uncomfortable, like entering a whorehouse, for instance, and say okay to men who wanted to touch him, and things like that … touch his penis, and things like that. He had better odds of meeting someone there than anywhere else. He had better odds contacting someone hot there than anywhere else. (It was safer than a restroom.) And he always looked for Buddy.

Each evening, just before going to bed, sometimes on his knees, he talked to God, and he still heard God’s voice, while he never asked for God’s forgiveness. Although Albert still considered himself a minister, while defrocked, he never stopped looking for Buddy, or the right man. He said, “there should be someone out there for me. Buddy has to be out there somewhere.”

Albert would go to sleep thinking of Buddy, his girls, and Buddy, and not to mention Alice and, as long as he could, continued to drive to San Antonio, so he knew quite a bit about the intrusion of being gay in a straight society. And Albert lived in his own way and with his own kind peril.

 

Chapter Sixteen

Contrary to wishes of his parents, they buried Albert in Dallas, near his church, close to where he died. They followed Albert’s wishes. He wanted to be buried in Dallas, near his church, close to where he died. (He considered cremation and considered donating his body to science.) His parents wanted his body taken to San Antonio, or cremated. He was laid to rest where he wanted to be, and it was paid for by his old congregation. (His parents could’ve paid for it.) Many parishioners came to his memorial service.

Over the years people have learned to live with AIDS. With help from modern drugs, people have learned to live with AIDS, but not all people. A lot of people still died (die) from AIDS. A lot of people worldwide died (die) from AIDS. Furthermore, now, it is pretty evident that contrary to what people hoped when modern drugs first made great strides in helping people live with AIDS, AIDS is still an intrusion in too many people’s lives. With or without drugs, it is an intrusion, and expensive, an expensive intrusion. That is, gay people are more free today than they have ever been, but AIDS is still out there. Contracting AIDS may no longer be a death sentence, it is still out there.

All the uproar over Albert’s demonstrations started because he refused to give up. Albert, never gave up, over a period of ten years, kept challenging his church. He never gave up. He wanted his congregation back. He wanted a church. He wanted his church back. The thing was, of course, they weren’t going to give his church back.

Everyone knew this, including Albert.

Albert, meanwhile, divorced his wife (or she divorced him), fell in love with a man, was arrested for having sex with that man, and lost his man because of their arrest. “It was what he deserved,” some would say. Others would say, “He never deserved it.” While Albert’s mother said, “I think it just killed him!” She was right. Losing Buddy killed him. And of course, she wasn’t wrong. She never thought her son died of AIDS.

The question as to whether gay people can be ministers is still touchy for a lot of people. It is still touchy for the church, the Methodist church, a lot of churches. To be a gay defrocked minister, of course, is a lot easier to accept. ( Defrocking them makes it easier.) Sex, as always, is a hot topic, just as it was when Albert saw a hot man. (It has always been a hot topic) He was programed. (We have all been programmed.) He was programed that way. He was just that way. There was never a question about it. God made him that way. God made us that way. From when he was small, Albert knew he was different. Albert, before he knew what to call it, knew that he was gay. And he knew it when he saw a hot man, especially when he saw hot men.

As a boy, Albert didn’t live with the stigma of being gay. He didn’t have to live with the stigma of being gay because he was considered a good christian boy and good christian boys weren’t gay, good, straight Christian boys. Good Christian boys weren’t gay. Not then anyway. From an early age he was going to be a Methodist minister because he grew up in a Methodist church … because he heard the voice of God … and because he felt called to be a minister. Albert didn’t look gay. He didn’t act gay; yet he was gay. And though he looked straight and acted straight, his being gay transcended everything. And after he realized it, Albert felt trapped by it. After he married, had children, he felt trapped by it. After he became a minister, a Methodist minister, he felt trapped by it. … although outwardly he carried on as expected and although he looked like a straight man. And he wasn’t noted then as an activist. In other words, many people never could figure out what happened to him. Although he was outgoing and personable, a leader, he was not considered an activist. (He couldn’t afford to be an activist.) It was so out of character, but truth was that it wasn’t … wasn’t out of character. But he didn’t act on it when he was more or less living with his family and could control himself. With God’s help, for many years he thought he could control himself, control his urges. And then it became an intrusion.

As much as feeling liberated, Albert felt a sense of loss when he came out, more specifically a huge loss with the loss of family and church. Yes, it was an intrusion, a huge intrusion. And if you were to ask him, he would’ve said it was worth it, but was it, really? He wasn’t sure until he met Buddy.

Gay liberation eventually became a reality. Stonewall brought Gay Pride parades. Stonewall made gay pride possible. Gay Pride parades became worldwide events each year, becoming bigger and bigger each year, giving people like Albert more and more exposure. People participated with high hopes while others watched with heavy hearts. Each year it was heartbreaking for Albert’s parents. Each year Alice celebrated, celebrated along with paraders. She felt sad, yet she celebrated. She celebrated Albert’s life while she felt sad that he wasn’t alive to participate. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alive to participate. AIDS brought sadness but also acceptance.

One year Alice took Becky and Patricia to see the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco. She bought them T-shirts from venders with stenciled rainbows and told them to wear them with pride when they got home. By then they they could do it, wear T-shirts with stenciled rainbows with pride, and if it were true, even in Dallas or San Antonio, you could say you were bi-sexual, lesbian, or gay in Dallas or San Antonio … proudly. Maybe …

This was more or less true and more or less a revisionist version of reality. Alice, as a mother, may not have allowed Becky and Patricia wear the T-shirts she bought them in San Francisco to school. She may not have allowed them to wear them to many places in San Antonio. She may not allowed them to wear them at all once they got back to Texas. She knew she shouldn’t have made such a big deal about it, though it was a big deal to her. Going to the Gay Pride parade in San Francisco was a big deal for Becky and Patricia too. It was like going to a circus..

It was not as if Alice hadn’t told her girls their dad was gay or anything like that. She never kept it from them or anything like that. She never kept it a secret. She never tried to keep it a secret. She never tried to keep it from her girls. Usually she celebrated Albert’s life on Stonewall Day and later took her girls to Gay Pride parades. She celebrated Stonewall Day and later took her girls to Gay Pride parades because Alice always loved Albert and never stopped loving him (eventually, her girls knew why their mother always celebrated their father’s life in that way and always later took them to Gay Pride parades … that was when there finally were Gay Pride parades in San Antonio.) And wandering among gay and lesbian and bi-sexual people at the parade was as refreshing as a shower on a hot summer day.

She went to commune with Albert, as well as with all his friends who died from AIDS. She brought her girls so that they would know their dad. She didn’t want them to forget their dad and wanted to show that she thought he was special because he was gay. But oh, what a beautiful sight it would’ve been to see their father and her first husband in the parade strutting his stuff, strutting like other hot men. Yes, Alice thought Albert was hot. She always thought he was hot. And how wonderful it would be to see him reappear, as he was in life when he was man of God and a gay minister of the Methodist church. And everyone happy to be there in church with a gay minister, no matter what their story was before Stonewall.

One final thing: Albert never served another church as minister. Defrocked, he never did. To serve a church as a minister then, of course, you couldn’t be gay. Coming out for Albert was an intrusion. If you applied the word intrusion, it also included his family. Albert continued to love Alice, Alice, Becky and Patricia, Alice, the girls, and his parents, and along with Albert, they all bore scars. And he continued to miss Buddy.

A bell rung after a reading of each name. Richard Hahn, Allen Harris, John Howard, Rev. Albert Humphrey …

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- DADDY’S PARTY

DADDY’S PARTY

by Randy Ford

CHARACTERS (in order of appearance)

Dr. David Wayne Johnson, Father
Nurse
Mrs. Johnson, Mother
Penny, Next to the youngest sibling
Clint, Oldest sibling
Jude, Youngest sibling
Olga, Jude’s wife
Alice, Next to the oldest sibling

Act One

(Part of exterior and interior of Dr. David Wayne Johnson’s home.

In master bedroom, Dr. Johnson lies in a hospital bed. Close by, a nurse sits at a small table. In same room, Mrs. Johnson lies in a small bed, where she rests and falls in and out of sleep. On wall, there’s a clock that ticks at the rate of Dr. Johnson’s heartbeat. When he dies at the end of the play, it stops. While nurse goes about business of attending to Dr. Johnson, Penny helps her mother get up from her bed and head for master bathroom. It is slow going.)

Penny
Come on, Mamma!
(Giving up on pulling her, Penny gets behind her mother and places her hands on the elderly woman’s waist.)
Let’s play choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
Goodness, Penny, I’m not a child.
Penny
(Winking at the nurse)
No you’re not. But train is late. Got to hurry.

Mrs. Johnson
Please.

Penny
Choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
I don’t need your help.

Penny
You don’t want to mess up your pretty party dress.

Mrs. Johnson
I can walk by myself, thank you.

Penny
Yes, but last time you didn’t make it. I don’t want to have to clean up again. You don’t want that. I know you don’t.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, please.
(Mrs. Johnson breaks away from Penny and goes to her dying husband.)
Dr. Johnson! Oh, my! Oh, Dr. Johnson, don’t leave me. Don’t.
(Penny tries to move her mother away from the bed.)
Can you believe how Penny has taken charge? See how she mistreats me? She mistreats me. She mistreats me all the time. No! Get your hands off me. You know how Penny is.

Penny
Okay! Wet yourself. No, no, no, I’ll have to clean it up. Come!

Mrs. Johnson
Let go!
(Penny gives in.)
Is that my baby? After sixty years, I don’t know why he’s leaving me. Why? Why would he do it? After sixty years? He’s such a kind man. Why would he leave us? He’s such a kind man.

Penny
Yes, he is.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, you’ve got to remember how much he loved you.

Penny
I do, Mamma. I remember.

Mrs. Johnson
When was the last time you told him you love him?

Penny
Just a while ago. Now don’t disturb him. Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
No.

Penny

Mama, you’re disturbing Daddy.
(The nurse starts to take over. Then both she and Penny decide to back off, while Mrs. Johnson looks intently into the dying man’s eyes.)

Mrs. Johnson
All of those lies! Those horrible lies! It’s bad enough to have to listen to them. Lies, lies, lies, all lies.

Penny
Mamma, he’s dying. Don’t torture yourself.

Mrs. Johnson
Yes, but Dr. Johnson never…. Well, Dr. Johnson, we don’t have to pay attention to them, do we?

Penny
Still he knows I’ve been here for him.

Mrs. Johnson
Yes, Penny, you may have been here for him, but has your heart been in it? We’re going throw him a big party, a big party with lots of balloons. He deserves it.

Penny
Yes, we’ll celebrate … like on his birthday, but first we have to get you to the pot … get you to the pot before you mess up.

Mrs. Johnson
(Kissing)
Oh, lover. Where is your charm? I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t sure. I was young. I wasn’t sure. You were impatient. You couldn’t wait. You knew what you wanted. Please say yes! Yes. Yes, yes. You wouldn’t accept no. It was 1942, with the war. There was a rush. You wanted to go over there. They needed you over here. There was a rush because of the war.
(She touches his face.)
Clammy. Oh, no! He’s not so yellow now, is he?
(She slowly and gently caresses his face.)
I hate you for this! The very idea … the very idea … the very idea …

Penny
Mamma!

Mrs. Johnson
(To the nurse)
His lips are parched. He’s thirsty. Can’t he have a drink?

Nurse
No, Mrs. Johnson, he can’t swallow.
(The nurse gets a popsicle swab from a cup on the table.)
Here! Moisten his lips and inside of his mouth with this.

Penny
Let me do it.

Mrs. Johnson
(Slapping Penny’s hands)
Let me!

Penny
Mamma!

Mrs. Johnson

Let me!

Penny

The same stubbornness! You have to be careful.

Mrs. Johnson
Please, Penny, don’t be mean.

Penny
Suppose now we let the nurse do it.
(Penny gives the swab to the nurse and guides her mother toward the bathroom. The nurse cares for Dr. Johnson.)

Mrs. Johnson
I now see what you’re trying to do.
(As Penny directs her toward offstage bathroom, Mrs. Johnson continues to talk.)
I can see you’re hell bent on interfering. But what’s new?

(In the living room, Clint returns one of his father’s books to a bookcase.)

Clint
All these books and not a one I’d want to get lost in.

(With long hair and an emaciated body, Jude watches him for a while.)

Jude
Clint, I can’t think why you would. You hate physics.

Clint
No, I don’t. I’ve just taken great care to avoid the subject.

Jude
Pop’s son. You surprise me.

Clint
And you?

Jude
Since I had to sleep and eat it, I hate physics too. But thanks to Olga, I’ve forgotten all of it. I’ve forgotten how to boil water. I’ve forgotten physics.

Clint
I have to do those things for myself.

Jude

What?

Clint

I have to make coffee and tea for myself. But I find no joy in it. I drove all night. Explain that to me! Can’t see much at night.

Jude
You love the bastard.

Clint
Sure. Let’s say I do. I don’t like controversy. What’s all this and what lack of sleep is doing to me?

Penny
(From off stage and in the bathroom)
When did you last give Daddy morphine?

Nurse
(Reading a novel)
‘Bout half an hour ago. That should last him for a while.

Penny
Just checking. Don’t want to disturb you. Mamma, let’s take off the dress. We can do this.

Mrs. Johnson
I can do it. I can do it.

Penny
Okay! Now sit!
(Penny reappears and goes to the living room. She ignores
Jude.)
Sorry, Clint. Mamma!
(Laughs)
I think we’re too much alike.

Clint
You’ve had your hands full.

Penny
With Daddy… before we had a nurse, we did have our hands full. Well, you know… It’s been hard… to see Daddy go so quickly. You know how he is. Goodness, I’ve even had to wipe his ass.

Mrs. Johnson
(Calling from the bathroom)
Penny!

Penny
Imagine that with Daddy. With Mamma, no sweat … Oh, she can be difficult. No sweat. So sweet. No sweat.
Mrs. Johnson
Penny!

Penny
With Mamma, you have to keep reminding her. But Daddy… as he lost control … you know. I suppose we’ll get our reward.
Mrs. Johnson
Penny!

Clint
You’re heading for sainthood, Penny.

Penny
In which world?

Clint
Take your choice. Since I’m here, use me.

Penny
Well, thank goodness for Olga. She’s … Well, Jude, it’s the truth. Clint, Jude doesn’t like to admit his wife is a dud. Clint, you look wretched.

Clint
Thanks. Coming out of exile has taken a lot from me. I drove all night.

Penny
I knew that by how quickly you got here after I called.

Clint
Shows how frightened I was. I couldn’t be late. Not with Pa.

Penny
I’m afraid he’s beyond caring. Anyway, you’ll find towels in the bathroom, and soap is shared here.

(Mrs. Johnson stumbles out of the bathroom in only her underwear. Before she straightens up, she takes a few steps into the room. She is more hobbled than when the audience last saw her. Reading her novel, nurse ignores her.)

Jude
Be kind to Clint, Penny. We don’t want to run him off.

Clint
I’m not going anywhere.

Penny
Good. And don’t listen to Jude. He’ll mislead you.

Jude
Snooty you! By the way, Clint tells me that he’s got dibs on Pop’s books.

Clint
I didn’t say that.

Jude
Tell the truth. But we agree. He can have Pop’s books. All of his books. I don’t want them.

(Mrs. Johnson stumbles to the head of her husband’s bed.)

Clint
We agree on one thing. We both hate physics.

Penny
All of us did: Alice, Sally, and me? Now you’re telling me Jude did too. That’s news.

Clint
I call it solidarity. Now all we have to do is act as a family. I sound pathetic, don’t I? But that doesn’t mean that if one of us coughs, all of us have to.

Jude
If we cough, we cough.
(Mrs. Johnson throws herself on top of her husband.)
Penny mentioned Sally. Clint, you never met Sally. It’s a shame that Sally was taken from us. Sherman!

(The nurse finally pays attention.)

Nurse
Aw! Aw!

Jude
What do you think really happened on that boat? I’ll never forgive him. Sherman!

Penny
We’ll never know. Never will. It won’t bring her back.

Jude

Sherman!

(The nurse goes over to Mrs. Johnson and pulls her up.)

Nurse
Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
Leave me with Dr. Johnson.

Jude
For me, there was no closure. I wouldn’t care, except Sherman walked. Have you met Sherman, Clint? Slick. Slick and dangerous as black ice and just as devilish.

Penny
Easy, now. You know how Mamma feels about Sherman.

Nurse
Come on!

Mrs. Johnson
Okay. But why are you so cruel?

Penny
Which reminds me that I left her on the pot.

Nurse
(Guiding Mrs. Johnson over to her bed.)
This way.

Mrs. Johnson
Will he get better?

Nurse
No, mum.

Penny
It’s pitiful how I’ve become her parent. Well, Clint, if you’re set, I’ve got to get back to Mama before she makes me pay.

Clint
You shouldn’t have left her because of me. Sooner or later we’ll get some time. Question is, will we be graceful about it? I don’t know what you’re going to do with Ma. I couldn’t handle her. I can’t handle myself, much less Ma.

Penny
Daddy would say, as I wiped him, “Look at that turdie!” and would just laugh.

Jude
Which would’ve made it a treasured moment. Relief comes with constipation.

Penny
He knew it wouldn’t be long before he wouldn’t been able to get out of bed. Knowing this, Daddy placed me in charge of Mamma. That was unfortunate … unfortunate that I’ve given her almost as much as I can. I can’t give her any more. I can’t do anymore for her.

Jude
About all I can do is embrace her legs. That’s about as high as I can reach while I know her weary heart might not survive grief.

Penny
I wish I were sure. I’ll let you know when I am. Now I’m off to see the witch.

Clint
Go!

Penny
Make yourself at home. Clint, it’s good you’re here. It was time you came.

Clint
Are you sure?

Penny
Of course. We’ve gotta find strength somewhere. We need to gain strength from each other. Gotta, gotta, gotta. Gotta give Daddy… a proper send off. He wants a party. Excuse me. We’ve gotta give him what he wants.
(Penny rushes to the bedroom.)
Oh, what’s next! Mamma! No, no, no.

Jude
Sooner or later she’ll have a coronary. She’s in mad pursuit of one.

Clint
And you’re more laid back?

Jude
Comparatively. I’m beyond caring while Penny obviously does. I can’t understand the rush. Not just that. You see, if I go into his room, Pop will get going again. It’ll set him back. He wouldn’t be able to resist taking a potshot at me. I’m afraid I’m like him. Sometimes I’m a villain, sometimes not. I can be a traitor, ugly, and only accidentally pleasant. So watch out.
(Pulling Clint to the side)
Say, Clint, loan me twenty bucks?

Clint
What?

Jude
A loan. Twenty bucks.

Clint
No. No, why should I?

Jude
Clint, Olga and I haven’t gotten our checks yet.

Clint
Don’t beg and ruin our fledgling relationship over a few lousy bucks.

Jude
We’re brothers and brothers remain brothers regardless. Twenty dollars won’t break you.

Clint
Nor would it help you. No! God! God no!
(Then he digs into his wallet and gives Jude all of his money.)
Here! And don’t ever put me in this position again.

Jude
(Accepting the money)
Thanks. Forty dollars. For you, small change. For Olga and me, equivalent of our life savings. We’ll pay you back.

Clint
I trust you will.

Jude
He trusts me.
(Jude stuffs money into a front pocket.)
Now excuse me. I’m sick.
(Jude goes back to his bedroom and disappears behind a closed door.)

Clint
(To himself)
Amazing; he does resemble Pa. But how would I know? I’ve been gone for so long.
(Penny comes out of the bathroom with Mrs. Johnson’s new party dress, dripping wet and wadded up.)

Penny
Mamma! What’s this? Your new dress! You’ve ruined your pretty new party dress! What are we going to do … do with you?
(To the nurse)
Please help! Take this and throw it in the drier. It’s in the garage.
(The nurse accepts the dress, walks through the house with it, and goes out the kitchen door into the garage.)

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, I didn’t mean to.

Penny
That’s hard to believe. Now we’ve got to get you dressed.
(As Penny looks for a dress in her mother’s closet, Clint looks for a specific book.)
Here we go.
(As a transition, Penny roughly pulls her mother downstage, where they struggle over brushing and dressing. Nurse comes back in and returns to her novel.)
Like it or not, I’m taking charge. Pretty for Daddy and pretty for all your kids.

Clint
Columbia, Pa’s Columbia. “You’ll go to Columbia, my boy.” “No! You can’t make me.” Pa: “Where are we today, Knucklehead? What have you learned?” “Today?” “Not tomorrow.” “I told you not to lie to me!” “I’m not lying.” Pa would slap me. “That’s for lying.” Slap, slap. He’d slap me, kick me, and pull my hair. Goddamn, him! “What did you learn in school today? On and on. “At this rate, you won’t be worth a tinker’s damn.” Well, Pa, guess what? You were right.
(Penny joins Clint in the living room.)
Clint (continued)
If I’d had a knife handy or a skewer, anything, I would’ve stabbed him.

Penny
Pardon?

Clint
Nothing. How’s Ma?

Penny
Mamma!
(Laughs)
I think we’re too much alike.

Clint
Don’t say that.

Penny
Do you hear my frustration? Well, we all get frustrated. However, more importantly, I see my big brother. It’s good to see him after we thought we lost him.

Clint
For sixty… not bad, eh?

Penny
For sixty… not bad: gray hair, a balding spot, and a slight paunch. Watch stooped shoulders.

Clint
I bowl.

Penny
Blue jeans and a T-shirt. Wouldn’t expect anything else. Handsome. Let me see your left hand. No wedding band.

Clint
Couldn’t stay in one place long enough. She got fed up with it.

Penny
That sounds lonely. Couch is yours.

Clint
That can be lonely too.

Penny
Luggage?

Clint
Just baggage. I wish I didn’t have it. But we all have our horror stories. I didn’t take time to pack. I’m sure I’ll pay for it. I’m basically happy. What about you?

(Mrs. Johnson wanders into the room.)

Mrs. Johnson
Is that you, Clint?

Clint
Yes, Ma!

(Mrs. Johnson sits in at the kitchen table.)

Penny
I won’t criticize you, nor will I loan you my toothbrush. Welcome home.

Clint
This will never be my home.

Penny
Nor is it mine. Remember I have a hubby.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you need a bone density test.

Penny
I’m beginning to think she doesn’t have a brain.

Clint
Henry? Well, how’s Henry?

Penny
I wish I knew. He’s been decent about this. For how much longer, I don’t know. He’s opposite of Daddy. He has more patience than I have.

Clint
You’re lucky. You didn’t marry someone like Pa.

Penny
Around our house, we bang pots and pans and slam doors. It’s a rule.

Clint
I haven’t had your luck. Right gal hasn’t come along.

Penny
Henry found me. I didn’t find him.

Clint
What was going on?

Penny
(Uneasy)
Man, you’re nosy.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you better get it checked. Osteoporosis runs in our family.

Clint
I’m told to be patient, but I waited a long time for Patience. She was an old-fashion gal and didn’t put up with me for long.

Penny
What went wrong?

Clint
I kept a harem.

Penny
Oh, Clint.

Mrs. Johnson
Have you heard from Sherman yet?

Penny
No, Mamma.

Clint
Sherman. That was Sally’s husband, wasn’t it? I always liked younger women.

Penny
Henry and I are exactly the same age.

Clint
You never answered my question.

Penny
About what? Oh, yeah! It was same-ol’ same-ol.

Clint
By and large, for me, wounds have healed.

Penny
Healed?
(Nervously)
Thank God nothing happened to me like it did to you guys. You and Jude! Only Jude won’t help himself.

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s Jude? Have you seen him?

Clint
Jude seems to deserve his problems.

Penny
I’m not so sure. Olga doesn’t deserve him. That woman’s not deserving. There are problems there, but I don’t know what they are.

Clint
Then we have Penny.

Penny
You don’t want to talk about her. We don’t wan’t to talk about Penny. But Alice.

Clint
Alice is not on my radar yet, so tell me about Penny.

Penny
Penny? Yours truly? I wonder about her, though I don’t put too much effort into it.

Clint
Be honest.

Mrs. Johnson
My back aches.

Penny
What are you looking for, Clint? Keep looking, but don’t expect to find it. Not here anyway. I moved out as soon as I could.

Clint
And you claim nothing happened to you?

Penny
Yeah.
(He sticks his finger up his nose and tweaks his finger.)
Gross!

Clint
Yeah. No disrespect intended.
(Silence)

Penny
Then … don’t do that in front of Jude. For God sake, don’t! Gross! He has enough bad habits.

Clint
Like farting in public or similar releases … similar satisfaction. Despicable. But for a boy who grew used to digging for buggers or farting for attention, it’s hard to change. Needed help to change. Take, for instance, wetting your pants or wetting your bed. Over sixty years old and I still wake up from nightmares about it.

Penny
Interesting.

Clint
I wouldn’t call it interesting. Not after having endured Pa’s pinning a wet diaper around my head and making me wear it like a crown of thorns.

Mrs. Johnson
That’s not true.

Penny
Christ, you’re dramatic.

Clint
Like a crown of thorns. You can’t make something like that up. Pa made clear his frustration. Each morning he greeted me with a diaper. I thought it couldn’t get worse. Why can’t we make clear our frustrations? I thought it couldn’t get worse, but it did. And for you, Penny?

Penny
Would it surprise you that I plucked my right eyebrow so that it matched my left?

Clint
No. But did it make you a candidate for Columbia?
`
Penny
You’re thinking of Alice. I hated Columbia. I see that perked you up. I survived Columbia for only one semester and then got married. Sort of like Sally.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, why are you ignoring me?

Clint
I wish I saw Pa’s reaction. All his children … except for Alice.

Penny
What happened to her? What happened to Alice? Where’s Alice? Is she really coming?

Clint
You’ll have to ask her yourself. As for me, I don’t know what happened after I left. That’s why I wanted to hear from you. I expected to hear that you had been …

Penny
Oh, no, no, no, no. Nothing of that nature happened to me. There came a point when Daddy assumed you were dead. We just figured you were dead.

Clint
I already asked you once, but I’m still curious. What was it like when you were young?

Penny
I had a normal childhood. Clint, believe me … so normal that it defined normal. We moved here right after Sally’s death.
(Pause)
I stood up for Sally. Stood up for Mamma. I even stood up for Daddy, but especially Sally. Sally, Sally! Catch Sally if you can. I said to Daddy, Sally had just died. Sally had just drown. I said, “Look here: forget all the bad things said about Sally, Sally wasn’t a bad girl, there’s more good in her than bad.” I’ve had to stand up for Jude too.

Clint
It sounds as if you were everyone’s big sister.

Penny
Oh, no.

Mrs. Johnson
Clint, you don’t want to be like me. You need to get your bones checked.

Penny
Clint, you make me feel unappreciated. Fact that I could approach Daddy means nothing to you?

Clint
Tell me….

Penny
But he wouldn’t buy it. Daddy told me, “I’m afraid your sister always had a propensity….” That was an example of his vocabulary… “a propensity for giving it away.”

Mrs. Johnson
My mouth is sure dry.

Clint
So even with you he wouldn’t observe boundaries.

Penny
“Give it away.” I told him I had more self-esteem than that.

Mrs. Johnson
My shoes hurt my feet.

Penny
Yes, Daddy, I do. Daddy always called me special. I thought I had him wrapped around my finger. He always called me special. Special, special, special, imagine!. Me, special.

Clint
I thought you were about to say that you gave him the finger.
(To himself)
What awakens an urge to find delight in crudeness? Penny, did he ever…?

Penny
No! Never!

Clint

What is it?

Penny

You sounded like daddy.

Clint
Are you sure? Why?

Penny
Now let’s remember he’s dying. Now we have to focus on Mamma. She can’t live by herself.

Clint
Speaking of Ma.

Mrs. Johnson
I can’t sit here much longer. See how my legs are.

Penny
She did her best.

Clint
Did she?

Mrs. Johnson
I’m hungry.

Penny
Why were you incontinent?

Clint
I’m sure it was a combination of things.
(To himself)
By golly, Clint, admit that you were angry with Ma.

Penny
How old were you?

Clint
Old enough to know better. What are you thinking?

Penny
About our mother over there seeking our attention.

Clint
Yeah. But why should we give her any?

Penny
I find myself defending her.

Clint
Is it difficult?

Penny
Absolutely.

Clint
She was never there for me.

Penny
For me, she tried to make up for it.

Clint
Then you had the same experience?

Penny
I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.

Clint
Not sure? All of us had problems with Pa, except you say … you didn’t. You say you didn’t. Why was it?

Mrs. Johnson
Make me a sandwich. I’m starving.

Penny
I bet she’s not hungry. But how about sandwiches for lunch? I have the drill down pat.

Clint
Let me help.

Penny
You can first help by moving Mamma out of the way.

(Clint and Penny descend on their mother.)

Clint
Ma, let’s move you.

Mrs. Johnson
(As she stands)
Clint, when did you get here?

Clint
This way, Ma.

Penny
Mamma, how about a bologna sandwich?

(Before she does anything for anyone else, Penny spreads Miracle Whip on two slices of bread and slaps a slice of bologna between them.)

Mrs. Johnson
You had lunch?

Clint
No, Ma. You sit here.

Penny
(Handing her mother the sandwich)
Here!

Mrs. Johnson
I’ve had a headache for two hours. Nobody cares.

Clint
Wait. I’ll get you something to drink. You can’t say you’re neglected. How about milk?

(As Clint serves his mother milk, Penny begins pulling fixings for sandwiches out of the refrigerator. There are a variety of different meats, lettuce, tomatoes, spreads, and relishes.)

Penny
Tomatoes. Unfortunately they’re not homegrown.

Clint
And she’s a big, ripe, juicy tomato.

Penny
Who’s a tomato?

Clint
Patience, a woman I slept with. Is it tomato or tomato?

Penny
Tomato. Daddy wants a party, a celebration.

Clint
Celebrate, jump for joy, games and cake. Balloons, game and cake. It’s not what I’d choose.

Penny
Let loose! You don’t want to take it all to the grave.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, where’s the tomato?

Penny
Don’t spare the tomato. Give Mamma a whole one.

(Clint serves his mother a whole tomato.)

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s salt? Can’t eat tomato without salt

Clint
I’ll get you salt, Ma.

Mrs. Johnson
You’re so nice to me.

Clint
Thanks, Ma.
(He takes her a salt shaker.)
Believe it or not ….

Penny
I don’t believe it.

Clint
I don’t see any onions.

Penny
You can’t cry without onions. Onions are in the produce drawer.

Clint
If I cry, I’ll cry for you.

Penny
Don’t be silly.

Clint
Cry and unlock your heart’s coffin.

Penny
Now …

Clint
Go on.

Penny
You’re tricky… even tacky. I don’t know what’s wrong with Alice. Do you?

Clint
I haven’t talked to or seen Alice since … I don’t know when.

Penny
She won’t communicate. At least she’s on her way now.

Clint
That’s a good thing. I’m looking forward to seeing her

Penny
Maybe it’s a chance we’ve missed until now.

Clint
I don’t think Ma could do more for herself.

Penny
If you want to take over let me know. She seems content now.

Clint
That’s something.

Penny
I’ve had help, if you can call it that. Sweet Olga! Twit!

Clint
Olga? Oh, Jude’s Olga. So you don’t like her.

Mrs. Johnson
I need a napkin.

(Clint gets her one.)

Penny
I like her enough … We all do; however… especially Daddy; however… and her husband, our baby brother, hopefully does …. Twit? Or is it twerp? Is there a difference?

Clint
I don’t know.

Penny
Twit!

Clint
It sounds like the name of a bird. Titmouse! Twit-mouse!

Penny
Clint, please, when you’re around her, don’t do that thing with your finger or give her the bird.

Clint
Twit-mouse, I like. Twit-mouse. I have to remember twit-mouse.
(Laughing)
And I haven’t even met her. Brilliant! Scoot, scoot, scoot! Go tell Pa! I want to know his reaction.

Mrs. Johnson
I need another napkin.

(Clint gets her another napkin.)

Penny
You’re forgetting he’s …. Clint, you really should go in there soon…talk to him before it’s too late.

Clint
I will, but I need to … collect myself. He always said we’d go fishing.

Penny
You’re really angry, aren’t you?

Clint
Naaah!

Mrs. Johnson
We used to grow our own tomatoes.

Clint
Where was that?

Mrs. Johnson
Dallas, stupid! Here it would take too much water.
(She stands and tosses salt over both of her shoulders.)
I’m tired, and nobody cares.
(No response.)
I need a nap. I always take a nap after lunch.
(No response)
Where are they?
(As if she were looking for someone or something)
Penny, Penny, where are you, Penny?
(As she leaves room)
They forget I’m not well. They forget about me. They forget I’m alive.
(Mrs. Johnson hobbles back to the bedroom.)

Penny
Clint, as long as you’re angry, you won’t be much help. No, no you won’t. I know how that works. I’ve been angry. Angry at Alice…angry at you …angry at Mamma….angry at Jude…Olga, Sally, Sherman, especiallySherman … yes, angry at you. You! YOU! You Clint … pretty much angry at everybody for one reason or another … especially Sherman … .angry at people who use my towel … angry at men, men who need a new blade for their razor, people who can’t keep their dogs quiet, people who don’t keep their children under control, people who don’t put things back where they belong, leave cabinet doors open, don’t trim their fingernails. Yep, I’m … was angry all the time.
(She begins to cry.)
Christ, Jude! Cint, where did you put my giraffe cup?

Clint
Giraffe cup?

Penny
See! That really pisses me off. That you’d use my cup. I wasn’t going to say anything.

Clint
What about Pa? Concerning your anger, you didn’t mention him.

Penny
(From tears to a visage of horror)
I can’t get angry at him. I only get angry at his bed.

Clint
Then why don’t we bury his bed with him?

Penny
That’s a thought … bury his bed with him.

Clint
What’s Alice’s eta?

Penny
She called from O’Hara. Alice should be in the air now.

Clint
Really?

Penny
It makes me sad. But what is your excuse?

Clint
I don’t have one. I don’t an excuse.

Penny
Well … ready or not, it’s time to wash up. How’s this for a spread?
(Olga’s loud voice comes from hers and Jude’s bedroom. She screams and laughs.)
Olga. Twerp, or is she a twit?

Clint
Twit? Twerp? Like I said, I don’t know the difference.

Penny
Today she’s a twit. Go knock on their door and tell the twerp lunch is ready.
(Clint follows his sister’s instructions.)

Clint
Anyone who hasn’t washed, do so; it’s time to eat!

Penny
We shouldn’t wait for them. They’ll come out only when they’re good and ready. Let me! There’s only one way to deal with a twit.
(She pounds on the door.)
There! She sleeps in the nude, so she’s looking for something to put on.

Olga
(From inside the bedroom)
We’re almost ready.

Penny
No rush! See! Twit! They’ll make us wait. You’d think she were a queen. So go ahead.
(Olga and Jude come in. She is wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers.)

Olga
We didn’t know it was noon.

Penny
Duh!

Olga
You could’ve warned us.

Penny
Duh-duh-duh!

Olga
It would’ve helped.

Penny
Duh-duh-duh-duuuh-duuuh-duuuh-dah-dah-dah!

Olga
Ha! Ha!
(Pause)
Okay, we’re adults.

Penny
Can we eat now?

Olga
She always treats me with such kindness.

Penny
Trollop!

Jude
Ignore her, Olga!

Olga
Thanks I get for staying up half the night with Dr. Johnson.

Jude
Clint, I don’t think you’ve met Olga.

Clint
(Extending his hand)
Olga, welcome to the family.

Olga
Oh, we’ve been married forever. Jude and I have been married forever. Only sometimes it seems like forever.
(Clint still has his hand extended.)
You can do better than that!
(Olga gives Clint a huge hug. She clings to Clint and stares straight at Penny.)

Penny
Trollop! Oh, she’s such a cutie pie! Trollop!

Jude
Penny, I wish you stop using that antiquated word.

Penny
Slut, then!

Olga
Oh! I’m mortally wounded!
(Jude begins shaking.)

Penny
Whore!

Clint
Truce, girls! Truce!

Olga
I try to be nice.

Jude
Penny! Please.

Penny
Let’s eat! Pile it on!
(Except for Jude, they all begin building their own sandwiches. They have to reach over each other and ask for items.)

Jude
Penny! Why do you have to ruin everything?

(Jude crashes his fist into the table, injuring his hand, and, trembling, stands. He moans and inquires of God, “When will this end?” He cries, as heaving and internal tremors continue. Soon his sobs become heart-rending wails, and only gradually does he regain control of himself.)

Clint
Hey, Jude!
(Penny shakes her head. Olga goes to her husband and holds him.)

Olga
(To Penny)
Now you’ve upset him.

Penny
The best thing to do is ignore him. Pass the Miracle Whip.

Olga
Easy, now easy.
(Slowly Jude’s emotions return to normal. He sits.)

Jude
I’m okay. It just gets overwhelming. Only, now I’m exhausted.

Penny
Olga, I don’t hate you. It’s your hoity-toity attitude I can’t stand.

Olga
That’s absurd!

Penny
You’re also an intruder.

Olga
You won’t let go, will you?

Jude
They both love to fight!
(Jude begins crying and hyperventilating again.)

Olga
I don’t understand this family. I have never understood this family.
(To Clint)
Pickles? I took too many.

Clint
Sure.

Penny
Olga knows why I’m upset.

Olga
Ignore her. She’ll go away.

Penny
No! I won’t.

Olga
What did I tell you? It’s character assassination.

Jude
All Penny wants to do is cause trouble.

Penny
This is between Olga and me. It’s hard and she …. With Daddy…it happened so fas t…way too fast. Too fast. Too, too fast. Why just last week Daddy sat up all night, talking and playing Scrabble. We couldn’t shut him up.

Clint
Did he know then that … that he was dying of cancer … dying of cancer?

Penny
We weren’t prepared. We weren’t prepared for this. It’s been so fast. He declined so fast. We sat around a card table, played and daddy talked and talked. He wouldn’t let us put him to bed.
(Pause)
He appeared healthy. We never suspected … until Daddy turned yellow. Csncer!

Clint
Cancer. So he failed that quickly.

Penny
Not a clue. He was very private … alone really. He was concentrating on taking care of Mamma and didn’t take care of himself. Mamma was so … well, we didn’t have a clue. All these years he never got far from his library and lecture halls. He had his books.

Clint
His books … I eagerly looked at them. Do you know the names I. I.Rabi and Enrico Fermi and Polykarp Kusch?

Penny
Columbia. Physicists. They may have taught at Columbia around the same time as Daddy. Why?

Clint
I think … from what I remember … They snubbed Pa. You knew that, didn’t you?

Penny
I kind of did and kind of didn’t. I knew Daddy would get extremely upset whenever he heard or read about one of their accomplishments. I never paid much attention. I guess I didn’t want to know … know why he kept losing jobs. I guess … I guess I knew. From Mama’s perspective SMU treated Daddy like a piece of dirt.

Clint
Dirt? Did he ever reach tenure?

Penny
Obviously not.

Clint
So his bullying and head banging never impressed anyone. Don’t try to tell me he wasn’t a violent man.

Jude
Poor ol’ Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Horrid, I’m going to tell on him. Stupid, stupid. He should’ve known he would get caught. Then … hee, hee, hee! This seventeen-year-old pixie, fairest sin of all. Well, so much for Humpty Dumpty. Slain. That’s what happened at SMU, where Methodists behaved accordingly. After the fall, he never fully recovered. Never recovered. He was a broken man. Bastard.

Penny
What we had was an old man who was too ornery to admit an illness until it was too late. Everybody keeps trying to bring up dirt. We should be concentrating on sending him off in style. He wants a party. We’ll give him a party.

Jude
A shindig, a big ol’ shindig! As long as we’re using antiquated words, let’s have a shindig. Should we anticipate fireworks?

Penny
I need to check and see if Mamma has another party dress. She ruined one she was wearing.

Olga
Dr. Johnson deserves it. He’s been awfully nice to me.

Penny
We’ll send him off right.

Olga
With confetti, streamers, and balloons.

Penny
Something outrageous and fun.

Clint
We can blow up condoms. I didn’t say that.

Jude
Oh, yes you did. I’ll buy condoms. And how about a cake in shape of an anatomically correct doll?

Clint
Male or female?

Jude
Male, with an erection and all.

Penny
(Begins to cry)
You two. It’s not funny.

Jude
Pop would love it.

Penny
You both are so insensitive. No condoms or cakes like that. You’re so crude. There’s no excuse for it. It’s offensive. Daddy deserves … No wonder Johnson boys have a terrible reputation to overcome. No wonder.

Clint
Like people around here know me. That was Pa.

Penny
Dignity. That’s right. He deserves dignity. Daddy told me he wasn’t afraid of death. A proud man he was. What do you want to drink? tea? juice? milk? Or simply water?

Clint
Water, please.

Penny
The rest of you? Olga? Jude?

Jude
Same.

Olga
Same.

(Penny takes a pitcher of cold water from the refrigerator and fills six glasses.)

Penny
Back to game of scrabble. Mamma kept passing. “Mother!” he yelled. “Don’t pass again.” I don’t know why Johnson men insist on being so crude. If, let’s suppose, he didn’t say those horrible things, then why can’t I get them out of my mind, and unfortunately I’m not mistaken.

Clint
What did he say?

Penny
Fudge! No, no! He used an O … Two Ns …U … E … another N … D … and O … INNUENDO! Eight letters. 50 bonus points for using all seven tiles. Innuendo! There’s certainly been enough of it.

Clint
Innuendo. Eight letters. How many times in your life have you seen it? Innuendo. Perfect.

Penny
It happens. And then he searched for a “P.” Okay, “P” could be for Penny. On the other hand. Help me.

Clint
“P” could’ve been for penis. Penis, Penny. Say penis. Penis! Say penis Penny.

Penny
I hate Olga. She came into the house and took over. That night as Daddy searched for a “P,” he asked me if I considered him a pervert. No. He’s not a pervert. I have no reason to think it. And then he searched for a “C.” Yes, a “C.” He blames mother. “C”…

Clint
For what? Cunt?

Penny
Clint! No. And not castration either.
(Clint laughs.)
It’s not funny. “Consider castration,” he said. How horrible! We’re not cattle.

Clint
When I met the man that I most hated, he fondled me affectionately as if he were a friend; he was stronger than I was. I wouldn’t tell on him.

(Penny hands Clint the glass of water.)

Penny
That’s wrong.

Clint
I could’ve murdered him, Penny. You don’t understand. I could’ve murdered him. Castrated …

Penny
No. Daddy, he … No, no, you’re not going to get me in the middle of it. You’re not going to get me to say I …I hated Daddy. Say I lived a loveless life until Henry came along and rescued me. So when Daddy complained to me and tried to …. Well, I told him he didn’t need to apologize. I don’t know. Maybe I should’ve…
(Clint drops his head; then stands. Penny joins him, where they exchange a long hug.)

Clint
That was a good sandwich.

Penny
It should’ve been. You made it yourself. This waiting … you think you could hurry it up?

Clint
I don’t have influence.

Penny
I can’t confront him.

Olga
I like Clint.

Jude
She’s friends with everyone.

Penny
And unashamed.

Olga
Ignore her.

Clint
Girls! You need to land, Penny. I’m sorry.

Penny
Sorry for what?

Clint
For doing nothing. For staying away.

Penny
It’s okay. I’m okay. But poor Henry.

Jude
My gut is beginning to grumble, so beware!

(Jude farts.)

Olga
Are you coming, Jude?

Jude
No, I’m needed here. Out of the bunch, I’m Reason.

(Jude farts again.)

Penny
She told me that it wasn’t what it seemed. I struggle with it. Twit.

Clint
You can’t assume…

Penny
I know what I saw.

Jude
What’s the harm now?

Penny
I see through Olga.

Jude
And what do you see?
(Jude carries a huge box from the floor to the table.)
Now for this. It’s Sally’s box.

Clint
Sally’s box?

Jude
Pop’s present. We all have a box. Part of the party. All these years he saved these things … saved things that belonged to all of us and put them in boxes for us.
(Olga comes back into the room with a wedding dress in her hand.)
Here she is! My bride!

Olga
Look what I found in my box.

Penny
A wedding dress, hey?

Olga
It’s unreal. Satin … gold thread … lace bodice … a long … a rhinestone tiara and a veil of lace. Everything I never had.

Penny
Huh!

Olga
(Showing everyone her new necklace.)
And I found this too.
(Penny goes and rips necklace off her neck.)
Oh!

Penny
You!
(After Olga yanks her hair)
Oww!

Clint
Girls!

Penny
(Throwing the necklace at Olga)
Here!

Olga
Of course it goes with the dress.
(She dons tiara.)
Now, how does it look on me?

Jude
Magnificent!

(Penny shakes her head.)

Olga
(Holding the dress up to her body to show how it fits her)
Jude, what do you think? Can I keep it?

Jude
It’s yours. But hopefully you won’t have an occasion to wear it.

Olga
Jude, it’s the thought that counts.
(Penny starts crying.)

Penny
You see I never … only Sally had a wedding dress.
(Olga also begins to cry.)

Clint
Pa always bought me any toy I wanted.

Olga
Jude, this reminds me of our wedding.

Jude
Holy macaroni!

Clint
Where was Clint? Where had your traveler gone? What became of him? Where were joys of home? Missed weddings, death of a sib … and so on.

Jude
Aw shucks, Clint. We didn’t miss you.

Penny
We missd you, Clint. I missed you. Jude missed you. Don’t let him kid you. Daddy planned all this. It’s his party

Jude
I’ll bring the white bread. Can’t let Pop down.

Clint
And you know what? This damn room is Pa’s box. That’s the same desk.

Jude
I was going to claim it.

Clint
Don’t touch it.

Jude
I know the rule. Don’t touch it.

Clint
The same, same rules. If you touch Pa’s desk, you lose your fingers.

Penny
Mamma told me we could start taking what we wanted from the house. But we should wait for Alice before we start.

Jude
Clint can have Pop’s books.

Clint
I’m impressed by your generosity.

Jude
And Penny can steal what she wants. Alice?

Penny
She should be calling from the airport soon. Clint, you look nervous. You won’t …

Clint
Given what’s happened to me, this is a breeze.

Penny
I don’t know if you could’ve made a difference … considering age difference between us. You had your own life to live.

Clint
I could’ve reported Pa.

Penny
Don’t Clint! Don’t! No. How could you have?

Clint
I wanted to.

Jude
Buy a megaphone, heh?

Clint
No a bullhorn! I’m a sixties child. But a telephone would’ve sufficed.

Penny
Come! Talk to Daddy. Tell him what you’ve always wanted to say to him.
(She grabs Clint’s hand and drags him toward the master bedroom.)
Daddy wanted me to speak with his doctors.
(Penny goes to her father’s bedside.)
Daddy, Alice is coming. Here’s Clint. Clint! We’ll all be here for your party.

(Clint joins her; Penny puts an arm around her brother.)

Clint
I don’t have a reference for this.

Penny
I know. Just speak from your heart.

Clint
Can he hear us?

Penny
Oh …yes. Clint you need to tell him … you know, start with something easy. Tell him about overseas …where you traveled … he would’ve liked … like to hear about your adventures. Daddy, we’ll bake you a cake. Nothing fancy. A white layered cake with chocolate. Listen, let me skip out and let you two talk.
(Silence)
Okay. Clint, it’s your turn. Talk to him.
(She leaves the room. Clint stares at his father, fixated on his eyes.)

Clint
You wanted to talk to me?
(No response)
You always said we’d go fishing.
(No response)
Well, it doesn’t look as if it’s the day for it … less than satisfactory. I don’t have anything to say. Pa, I only found comfort in places where people didn’t know me. It got so …. I could find comfort only when … Be easy, easy on me. I didn’t know what was up.
(No response)
Well, well, well…
(Clint waits and waits for a response that doesn’t come. He finally gives up and leaves the room.)

Penny
How did it go?

Clint
I guess I expected too much.

Penny
It’s happened to me. But you didn’t stay in there long enough. You should’ve planned exactly what you wanted to say.

Clint
Yeah. I planned … I planned …
(Without the aid of anyone, Mrs. Johnson comes back into the living room.)

Penny
Mother … Mamma, what are you doing up? Mamma!

Jude
(Looking through his box)
Guess what I just found in my box. Look, Mom, my Mensa card, which shows I’m smart.

Penny
Yes mister smarty-pants, you are. Mamma, where’s your walker.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, I didn’t fall. I got here in one piece. I don’t see Clint using a walker.
(Clint smiles.)
Penny, I’m going to fall, but I want to fall without your help. I want to be independent, but you people don’t listen to me. I could die tonight in my sleep, and I’d be happy. I’m afraid I’m going to live forever. I want to go with Dr. Johnson. What do you think, Jude? Oh, my God! Where’s Sherman? Sherman better come. I called Sherman to let him know about Dr. Johnson.

Jude
Why did you do it?

Mrs. Johnson
I want him here. Sally would’ve wanted it. I want Sherman.

Jude
If he walks through that door, he won’t walk out again.

Mrs. Johnson
No, Jude, don’t!

Jude
Mom, Sherman hurt our family, but you don’t care. I hate the bastard for what he did. He better not show up.
Penny

Jude…

Clint
I need to go for a walk. Pa didn’t respond to me, Penny. His breathing still looks strong. What good did my seeing him do?

Penny
Don’t go far.

Mrs. Johnson
Penny, they’re starving Dr. Johnson to death.

Penny
The same thing over and over again, the same thing. And, oh yeah … Yeah, he can still hear … hear every word.
(The doorbell rings. Penny answers, and there stands Alice with her luggage.)
Alice! Welcome to Daddy’s party.

Mrs. Johnson
Alice! Someone would’ve picked you up. We need some milk.

Alice
So this is where they live.
(At this point, the women exchange long hugs, and there’s more hugging.)
Clint!
(He gets a hug too. Jude asks for a turn.)
Oh, my God. You must be Jude.

Penny
He’s married.

Alice
So I heard. Come here, my married baby brother.
(Another hug)
How’s Father?
(Penny shakes her head. Silence.)
But before I go in to see him, I need to get rid of these bags and take a comfort break.

Penny
Alice! Tell us about us Chicago.

Alice
How about those Cubbies!

CURTAIN

DADDY’S PARTY Act Two

(The setting is the same as the first act. Only now it is dark outside, and the clock hanging over Dr. Johnson has slowed until it has almost stopped.
Dr. Johnson’s breathing is labored and loud and, for audience, amplified. It is like a loud snore. There are long pauses, during which everyone thinks it has stopped. Then he catches his breath. It is violent and looks as if it hurts him. He is fighting and won’t let go.
Family has gathered in the room. Except for Mrs. Johnson, who is curled up on her bed, they are all circled around dying man. They have been told end is near and are watching and waiting. All are silent, each in his or her way showing different levels of grief and concern.
Nurse is checking Dr. Johnson’s pulse, holding the old man’s wrist and looking at her watch. When she’s satisfied, she nods, lays Dr. Johnson’s arm down and pulls the sheet up. Everything has to be just so. She makes a few adjustments and, when satisfied, she pats her patient’s shoulder.)

Alice
Father, can you still hear us?

(Mrs. Johnson gets up, goes to her husband’s bed and stares into his eyes.)

Nurse
Almost … almost gone. Weak. His pulse is weak. Note his color, how it’s changed. There’s not much time.

Alice
I’m sure he still hears.

Penny
Daddy, Daddy, oh, Daddy….

Jude
What’s matter with you?

Alice
Sh! She has something that she needs to say to him.

Clint
I bet we all do.

Alice
But I don’t think Penny … I don’t think she was ready … not before we talked last night.

Penny
I didn’t sleep much.

Clint
Go ahead, Penny.

Penny
I don’t know about this.

Alice
I think we’ve shocked him, bless his soul.

Penny
Where do I begin?

Alice
Just tell him what you told me last night.

Penny
I’m not sure…

Alice
You can do it.

Jude
Ashes, his ashes, blown by the wind. Carrion eaten by birds.

Alice
Hush, Jude. Let Penny…

Olga
I watched my mom die. I never had a dad until … Dr. Johnson. At least he’s not suffering.

Mrs. Johnson
Honey, please don’t go.

Clint
Heaven forbid anyone stop him.

Jude
He makes dying look easy.

Olga
He was a father I never had.

Penny
Please, Olga!

Olga
I want him to know. I don’t care if it upsets you.

Alice
Don’t respond to her, Penny! It’s not worth it.

Olga
I changed his diapers!

Penny
So did I!

Alice
Tell him, Penny! This is your last chance. We’re all behind you.

Penny
But Mamma’s …

Alice
She needs to hear ….

Penny
No. It’s not fair to her.

Alice
She knows.

Penny
I can’t.

Mrs. Johnson
Honey, take me with you.
(Mrs. Johnson throws herself on to top of Dr. Johnson and holds him. Penny steps back and starts crying. Alice holds her.)

Clint
This is difficult.

Penny
During scrabble … Daddy … Daddy … he … he … talked about … he tried to draw a “C.”

Mrs. Johnson
Oh, Honey!

Jude
Bastard!

Penny
Jude!

Alice
Did he draw one?

Penny
What?

Alice
A “C”? Did he draw a “C”? Did Dad draw a “C”?

Penny
No.

Clint
We all suffered. It’s only fair that he hear us.

Jude
He took his knuckles! Like this! Like this! Right in my head! Yes, he would. Yes, you would.

Clint
Listen to me, Pa! Why do you think I ran away? Think about it. It shouldn’t be hard for you to figure out. You should be pleased to know that you were right about me. I own no property and have very little money. I’m not worth a tinker’s damn. But I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Alice
Clint, you’re just being hard on yourself.

Clint
It’s all true. Did you hear me Pa? I don’t care. I never cared.

Alice
He heard you. He’s nodding his head.

Penny
No.

Alice
Okay. Now it’s my turn. Father, this … this … this is Alice here.

Mrs. Johnson
Alice!

Alice
Penny, take care of mother!

Penny
All aboard! Choo-choo-choo-choo!

Mrs. Johnson
Take your hands off me!

Penny
Mamma!

Olga
Let me.

Mrs. Johnson
(Going with Olga over to her bed)
You’re nice.

Alice
Father, I guess you’re waiting to hear from me. I hear you saying to yourself, who is this girl? What does she want? You can die before I’m finished, if you don’t want to hear. I’m doing pretty well. They’re still paying me to teach at Loyola. But I’m about ready to retire. I’ve wrestled with this for a long time … a long, long time. I know it’s a form of quitting and know how much you hate quitters.
(Pause)
Father, you’ve stolen everything from me. But I don’t expect you to say you’re sorry. I no longer hate you. You never gave me a chance to beat you in Scrabble. Now tell me. What do you expect me to say?

Mrs. Johnson
Alice, you caused him all kinds of grief.

Olga
Let him go in peace. Please let him go in peace.

Alice
I thought I’d make a minimal appearance.

Nurse
Excuse me. I think this might be it.

Mrs. Johnson
What!
(Pushing herself off the bed)
No!
(Sobbing)
Honey!

Nurse
Sh! Sh!
(Dr. Johnson struggles for breath and seems to lose the struggle.)

Mrs. Johnson
No! Lover, why? Why are you doing this to me? Please don’t!

(As if Mrs. Johnson’s outburst jumpstarted it, Dr. Johnson’s breathing begins again)

Nurse
Close.

Penny
Damn! I can’t believe it.

Jude
Stubborn! I don’t mind him jerking me around once or twice. But three times? This is ridiculous. It’s getting personal.

Nurse
Why is he hanging on?

Alice
Who knows!

Jude
Why not trip him up? Next time let’s don’t come in here.

Penny
We can’t let him die alone.

Clint
Excuse me.
(Clint goes to the living room.)

Olga
Mom, you need to lie down and try to relax.
(She pulls back the bedspread.)
I’ll tuck you in. Dad wants you to take care of yourself.
(Mrs. Johnson follows Olga’s instructions. Then Olga sits in a chair next to Dr. Johnson’s bed and holds his hand.)

Penny
Someone get a camera.

Jude
Don’t say anything else, Penny.

Alice
I want everyone to know … I’m thankful for Penny. I’m also very impressed by how well the house has been maintained. I expected far worse.

Penny
Yes, it’s been difficult.

Alice
I was surprised … with what I experienced.

Penny
If you don’t want to deal yourself a blow, you better stay out of Olga’s and Jude’s … the honeymooners’ room.

Olga
There she goes again. I’m out of here!
(Her feelings hurt, Olga runs to her room.)

Penny
She’s so phony.

Jude
That’s not fair.

Alice
Excuse me too.
(Alice joins Clint in the living room.)
Do they ever stop? Penny, Jude, and Olga?

Clint
Not since I’ve been here.

Mrs. Johnson
He’s my lover. My only lover. We had an agreement.

Penny
Daddy made the decision. No life supports. To die at home. We should respect it.

Mrs. Johnson
What decision? I should’ve been consulted.

Penny
And what would you have said? It wouldn’t have changed anything. It’s a bad kind of cancer.

Jude
You’ve insulted my wife. When you insult her, you insult me. Here she’s taken care of Pop. I warn you … this has got to stop,
(Hyperventilating, Jude starts to leave. Then he changes his mind and sits next to his father’s bed. The scene shifts to Alice and Clint.)

Clint
Alice, Alice, Alice.

Alice
My big brother!

Clint
Yes, I’m your big brother, and I feel bad that ….

Alice
Don’t. We’re here now, and we can’t go back.

Clint
Why are you here?

Alice
Clint, I hear you saying to yourself, “I don’t belong here. All I have to do is bury him, and then I can leave and get on with my life.” You don’t quite understand all of this, but you know that somehow you’re connected. Let me ease your mind. I feel the same way. It’s just for a few days. And how have you been?

Clint
Me? Oh. I don’t do much. Alice, do you hate me?

Alice
Well, I haven’t thought about I … to be truthful I haven’t thought about you in a very long time.

Clint
Well, good!

Alice
Hate you?

Clint
Yeah…

Alice
Maybe I’ve hated you.

Clint
I held out hope.

Alice
Maybe … I always looked up to you.

Clint
I love you, Alice.

Alice
How easily you say it. “I love you, Alice.”

Clint
Fancy it! Well?

Alice
I hope it’s true.

Clint
It is. There aren’t many people I’ve loved … love.

Alice
Can I count on it?

Clint
I can be pretty unreliable.

Alice
I believe it.

Clint
I’m sorry, Alice.

Alice
Don’t be.

Clint
I hurt you.

Alice
No you didn’t. You just ….

Clint
Why would you say I didn’t when I did?

Alice
It’s not how I remember it. With Father dying … Well, I don’t blame you, no. I can’t. For pity’s sake, no. It was his fault. You know it.

Clint
But I ….

Alice
Sh! Sh!

Clint

Pa did the same thing…

Alice
Sh!

Clint
… to me, and I turned around and did it to you.

Alice
Sh!

Clint
I …

Alice
Sh!

Clint
I knew what Pa was doing to you too.

Alice
Clint, it’s over.

Clint
Is it?

Alice
Now listen to me. The only thing I feel bad about now is that we didn’t stop him. We could’ve …

Clint
I should’ve killed him.

Alice
Will you give me a hug? I need a hug.
(They hug.)
When you reach a certain point in your life … Well, you should’ve gotten there before I did. You should be telling me what to expect.

Clint
For the past so many years, Ma has been trying to get me to come over. Everybody’s tried …

Alice
I used to try to imagine how this would be. Do you know what I would do with an ache?

Clint
No. I just know what I do.

Alice
I cut myself.

Clint
Cut yourself?

Alice
I once carved “I hate you” on my arm. At that stage, there wasn’t anyone looking after me.

Clint
You cut yourself.

Alice
You can’t fathom it, can you?

Clint
No, I can’t.

Alice
So Father had big plans for you. And you had to spoil it for him. Okay, I understand it. But how could you expect a little girl to know how to protect herself?

Clint
I know I let you down.

Alice
You didn’t let me down. I just worried about you. One day you were around, and then suddenly you weren’t. Before that, you were rarely at home.

Clint
You shouldn’t have relied on me.

Alice
I don’t think that.

Clint
Yeah. I wonder. What would I have …what would’ve happened, if I’d stayed. I really would’ve killed him.

Alice
I would’ve helped you.

Clint
I had a lonely time. And you?

Alice
Quite so, but … I had Willy. At least for a while I did.

Clint
Willy. Really, Willy?

Alice
Willy. Really.
(Clint starts laughing.)
What’s so funny?

Clint
Willy.

Alice
Well, that wasn’t Willy. He was too serious to be funny. It’s a strange feeling not to know someone you once loved.

Clint
Willy?

Alice
Yeah. I’m talking about Willy. Willy. Do something, Willy! Willy, if you don’t want to be here, do something about it! I don’t blame him for leaving me. I never gave him very much. Know what else? I wouldn’t touch him.

Clint
Pa? Or me?

Alice
Clint … Willy blamed it on a midlife crisis. Coward! And what about you? Willy blamed it on a midlife crisis.

Clint
Oh, more of the same. Only characters changed. I’m surprised you still care about me. I don’t deserve it.

Alice
You do.

Clint
No, no.

Alice
Yes, yes.

Clint
You’re overwhelming.
(Pause)
There’s so little I can do to make up for what I did to you.
(Pause)
When you consider it all.

Alice
Don’t, Clint! I’ve moved on.

Clint
Ah, then … I haven’t changed. I’m still a dirty old man.

Alice
No.

Clint
I am. You don’t know. Nobody does. I made sure of it. I sneaked around. I went to a part of the world where laws weren’t enforced.

Alice
Clint … frankly, I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t need it.

Clint
I’d go. I’d try not to. Is it possible to control? How often have I said, “I’m not going to do it anymore?” And failed. Back to Willy….

Alice
Well, nine years ago …Willy sat across the dinner table from me. He gave me a long, pitiful look, bowed his head, and told me that he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. When he left, he left a door wide open. It took me a long time to close it.

Clint
It had to have been hard.

(Penny comes into the room.)

Penny
Have I missed something?

Alice
No. We were just talking about growing up in the Bronx. Stuff … just stuff … stuff we hadn’t thrown away. Look around here. It looks as it they picked up the apartment in the Bronx and moved it here. Except, I couldn’t make this my home. Here? No.

Clint
No fire escape. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to let off steam. Nowhere to escape. Escape. A fire escape, out the kitchen window in our old apartment, was where I’d hang out. Out there I had a safety ladder. I could always fly down those rungs quicker than Pa. Alice, I should’ve …

Alice
Sh! Sh! I only would’ve gotten in the way.

Clint
Yes, I can see you complaining … take me home.

Alice
There are a few funny things that I could tell you about Clint.

Clint
Funny?

Alice
Ha! Ha! That was about it, you were funny.

Penny
Ha, ha, funny?

Alice
Ha, ha, sad. With him, you didn’t know when to laugh.

Clint
I’m standing right here, and listen to her make fun of me.
(He starts off.)

Alice
I want to tell you a secret about Clint.

Penny
We don’t keep secrets here.

(He goes back to the bookcase.)

Alice
So he disappeared. So what?

Penny
That’s no secret.

Alice
I’ve always said things would’ve been different, very different had mother…

Penny
Alice, Daddy may have had his problems, but …

Alice
Go on … make excuses for him … make excuses for him … excuses … excuses … excuses … why you shouldn’t remember… create a false memory…go on, forget … forget what you told me last night … never again admit it … never admit …

Penny
Alice!

Alice
Don’t get hysterical. Look! To avoid Father I had to stay away… not come straight home … not come straight home after school … had all these activities. I joined clubs, was this special girl in charge of everything … editor of the school newspaper, Student Council member, cheerleader. But it didn’t work all the time, I mean …

Penny
No.

Alice
Believe what you want.

Penny
People change. People change all the time.

Alice
Oh, yeah, sure. You can continue to believe whatever you want. I know what happened to me … how he slipped into my room at night.

Penny
You don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about.

Alice
All I need now is my grown-up brother.

Penny
Why are you so quick to criticize Daddy?

Alice
Hello … Father… eh? What happened between last night and now? Did he get to you in some way? I remember him coming into my room. He’d tell me I was his special little girl. My guess is Mother knew. I’d pretend to be asleep.

Clint
That’s called …

Alice
I’d call it exhaustion. My hope was he’d give up.

Penny
He always was strong-willed.

Alice
Clint, wouldn’t you call it a conflict of wills? Penny, you don’t believe me anyway. I don’t want to bother you with details.

Penny
I never said I don’t believe you. I said Daddy…

Alice
Forget it! Father would come to the breakfast table …. Well, we had to get out of his way, especially Clint. “Pull your chair up to the table! Sit up straight and tuck your landing gear in!” Fuck! Yes, fuck! Yes, fucking. Let’s have a fucking good time at Daddy’s party. But Clint …

Clint
Penny, I’m afraid your sister has the wrong person. However! The “however” in my case, mind you, was far worse than beatings. I’m afraid we’ve all been less than forthcoming.

Alice
It’s funny, because I considered our family to be normal. I just thought that was the way families were.

Clint
I thought that too.

Alice
We grew up with it in our heads

Clint
(Laughing)
Normal. So we should’ve counted ourselves lucky?

Alice
I felt shame.
(Then with nervous agitation.)
I don’t know how Father ever made the commute.

Clint
He faced it everyday, everyday a long ride to Columbia, where he taught, and commuted back.

Alice
He complained about it all the time.
(Pause)
I could never look at Mother.

Clint
As far as I was concerned, she was never there.

Alice
There’d be a smile on her face. I detested him. I detested her. I detested my own mother. I destested my parents.

Penny
Well, I didn’t detest him. I love him.

Alice
Then define love. You can’t.
(Pause)
But who would’ve believed me … with Father teaching at Columbia and all. Now, here we are, except for Sally.

Penny
(Becoming very agitated and uncomfortable)
You know, I can’t believe Daddy just a week ago paid cash for his casket, his funeral, and his burial. He paid for Mamma’s right then too. Wrote a check for twenty-five grand.

Clint
Ain’t that grand.

Alice
If that’s everything, it’s cheaper than what it would cost at home ….

Penny
Yes, it covers everything … except the party.

(Alice stands, then goes to her father’s desk and looks at the piles of papers. Jude enters from his parents’ bedroom.)

Jude
No home run yet.

Clint
Let’s hope we’re down to the last out.

Alice
I think we are. I don’t sense a rally.

Jude
A rally? No!

Penny
There might be one. Daddy’s a fighter.
(Clint and Alice frown.)

Clint
I never had grades for Columbia.

Penny
Daddy could’ve pulled strings and gotten you in, I’m sure.

Clint
Columbia was not for me.

Penny
Well, I only went to Columbia one semester … until I got married.
(Pause)
But Alice…

Alice
What about Alice?

Penny
I can’t blame you for getting a good education.

Alice
Well, yes. But an education will only take you so far and then …. You can graduate from Columbia with honors, acquire a PhD., and think you’re set. Okay, fine, you have an education. At the same time you created expectations.

Clint
Man.

Alice
Letters after your name. Letters on your office door. Thank you. Thank you; thank you. I’m going to have a good job. I’m going to be at top of my profession. I can’t believe it. I’m going to obtain heights our father never obtained.

Jude
And make money. Lots and lots of it. Lots and lots of money.

Alice
No, wait a minute. You’re missing something. None of it’s good when you don’t have support.

Jude
So you created a hypotheses as to why you haven’t succeeded.
(Alice does not respond.)
Take me. I could’ve been Pop’s prize physicist. Then I bungled a college career. Even so, I’ve had all kinds of offers dangled in front of me.

Clint
That’s different from me.

Jude
Don’t complain. Don’t let it get to you. It’s all in the head, yes, yes, all up here, where it gets all mixed up. Oh, this tiny voice, “you’re not worth shit, sssst, piss on you,” and those moments are repeated and repeated until the voice becomes garbled, without knowing I recognized it. It’s a silly little voice created by laughing gas, so that instead of running, I laughed. I laughed at Pop. I saw humor in it. I laughed in Pop’s face. And I’m still laughing.
(Silence)
Pop always said I could win a Nobel, if I put my mind to it. I think he’s right. I’m brilliant. I had a high IQ. 150 IQ.

Clint
Then why don’t you? Didn’t you?

Jude
You wouldn’t think I was the same guy as then.
(He turns and looks at everybody.)
Well!

Alice
I brought some old photographs of Clint and me during our New York days.

Clint
Sis, what do you remember about the Bronx?

Alice
I can still see those Venetian blinds with broken slats that Mother hated to touch.

Clint
You’re still making noise about that?

Alice
Penny, I never imagined one telephone call would ever have had such a profound impact on me as your call two days ago. I half forgot our connection. “Hello?” “Who?” “Oh ….” “Ye s…” “Yes ….” “I understand.” Was all I could say. “No, no, I’ll come. I’ll be there.” It stunned me. There was something about it. I knew the voice, but it was as if I hadn’t heard it before. I mean, up until that point, I hadn’t paid attention. She sounded like me: only panicky. It was Penny’s voice, intonation, accent. It blew me away.

Jude
Voices.

Alice
Penny’s voice.

(Olga comes in. She has on her tiara and veil.)

Jude
Olga, I told them how much I love and depend on you. How you saved my life. I told Alice, I told Clint, I told Penny… Olga, God made you with finest heart, finest heart in the world. If something were to happen to you, I’ll kill myself.

Olga
Don’t pay attention to him. Your brother has always exaggerated.

Jude
Olga’s going to make sure I toe the line, take my medicine, and provide oversight. She’s my life preserver.

Olga
I couldn’t ask for a better husband. I know it isn’t his fault.

Alice
I know that. We all do.

Olga
I’ve heard Dr. Johnson talk about Jude’s brilliance. It seemed to frustrate him.
(Penny comes back into the room.)
Dr. Johnson said Jude was his cross. I can see that, but it didn’t give Dr. Johnson cause to treat Jude the way he did. I didn’t mind being his maid, but I couldn’t stand the way Jude was treated. I’ve been a motel maid most of my life, so …. I mean I didn’t mind the way he looked at me, how he flirted, his hands, and… But for him to treat Jude like a piece of shit! Now that’s something I can’t forgive.

Penny
Jude, get her out of here! I can’t stand sight of her.

Jude
Leave her alone. She’s my life preserver. She’s my life preserver.

Penny
You’ve got to get her out of here.

Jude
If she goes, I go. Pop let us live here.

Alice
Olga has the right to be here. She’s Jude’s wife.

Penny
She’s not good for him! She’s not good for Mamma.

Jude
(Shaking)
She’s not a maid anymore. She’s my wife … my life preserver … my love.

Alice
Apologize to her, Penny.

Penny
No.

Jude
(Sobbing and hyperventilating)
She always does that. Oh, Sally, I’m coming.

Penny
What about Sally?

Jude
Sally…

Olga
Breathe! Now breathe.

Jude
See how she helps me. If I’m up, she’s standing under me. If I’m down, she’ll be there too. Penny, she’s also been there for Pop. I haven’t heard her complain.

Olga
(Taking off the tiara and veil)
This feels silly. It’s too late for it now.
(She tosses it to Penny.)
Here! Dr. Johnson meant to give it to you. Not me! You!

Jude
See!

(Jude salutes and follows Olga to their room.)

Clint
All this sorting, sorting, and going through boxes. I can’t believe there’s so much stuff.

Penny
Accumulation of a lifetime. Piles and piles of it.

Alice
It’s crazy, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense that Father would save it all.

Penny
Piles of discardables.

Alice
I’ll call the Salvation Army.

Penny
Not yet. Alice, please!

Alice
I’ve been itching to dig through my box. Honestly. I suppose he’s trying to make up for all missed birthdays.
(They each go through his or her box. As disappointment sets in, Penny pulls out a jar.)
Penny, don’t look so disappointed. Disappointment isn’t becoming. Let me see. A jar.
What’s in it? Nothing.

Penny
Cobwebs: nothing of value, but it fits me: Penny, of little value.

Alice
(Holding up a photograph)
This must be Sally. Jeez, she was beautiful.

Clint
Let me see. So that’s how she looked. I never met her.

Alice
Look what Clint has!

Clint
(Pulling a switchblade from his box)
A switchblade anyone? When I was a kid, Pa wouldn’t let me have one.

Penny
Please put it away. With Jude here…
(Clint puts it in his pocket.)
Thank you.

Alice
(Holding up a mirror)
Look at this.

Clint
A mirror. Perfect.

Alice
I don’t think so.
(Jude comes in, but, when he sees his siblings with their boxes, he steps back into his bedroom. Alice holds up a pigtail.)
And how much for a pigtail? Who wants it? Father whacked it off.

Penny
I want it!

Clint
(Going through his box)
Anyone would think that my old my catcher’s mitt and some old photos would mean something to me. An old picture of us standing in front of Yankee Stadium pretending to be Yankee fans.

Alice
As long as Mother doesn’t need money, let Jude and Olga live here.

(Enter Jude with Sally’s box)

Jude
Here’s Sally’s box. I took it into our room for safekeeping. I went through it and halfway down it I found …

Penny
(After taking Sally’s box)
A teddy, barrettes, curlers, Rose Bath, coloring book, jumping jacks. Goodness!

Alice
Did all of it really belong to Sally?

Penny
They’re old, used. Sure, they could’ve belonged to her. Well, if you want to know about Sally, ask Jude.
(Pause)
Listen.
(Pause)
Maybe you shouldn’t ask Jude. Maybe we should save it for Sherman.

Jude
I don’t want to hear that stinking bastard’s name. I know he murdered Sally. I know Sherman murdered Sally.

Penny
We don’t know it. Don’t let Mamma hear you talk that way about Sherman. He and Sally would get us out the house. Sally knew… knew the reason … Well! Sherman. The police didn’t implicate him. Sherman was not arrested. He remained a grieving husband.

Jude
Fuck him! And give Pop a fucking sendoff. Look, Pop also left Sally a pair of nose plugs, intact. Sally’s dead, drowned, yet Pop left her a pair of nose plugs, intact. She hated water in her nose. A great swimmer, but Sally hated it. Let’s see what else we can find. Oh, here’s one expired Red Cross Life Guard Certification card. And a fancy dress. And would she have gone swimming in this dress, this fancy evening gown? See water stains

(As he begins to hyperventilate again.)
Sherman … Sherman … Sherman. You’re … you’re … you’re … piss … fuck you! Mother fucker.

(Jude begins to sob.)
My stomach hurts. You don’t want to mess with my head.

(Olga grabs her husband and holds him tights. It seems to calm him.)

It’s still hard to believe. Accident or suicide? It’s still hard.

Penny
Sally never … well, she never … never, ever talked to me about it. Maybe …

Alice
I shouldn’t have come. Do you think I wanted to? Because I knew … I knew … Boy, did I know.

Penny
You think it’s been easy for me?

Alice
It can get a hell of lot worse … prescription pills: Tylenol, Advil, you name it and lots of drinking … as I told somebody. I used to cut myself.

Penny
Cut? Castration. Two “C’s!” Cut. Cut. Cut.

Clint
Give her a knife. It would serve the bastard right.

Penny
Clint! No, no, no. Daddy NEVER…

Alice
Penny, remember what you told me last night…

Clint
You’re wasting your time, Alice. As soon as he’s dead, I’m out of here.

Penny
I’m confused.

Alice
It wasn’t your fault.

Penny
No.

Alice
He did it to all of us.

Penny
No.

Alice
Okay. Whatever you say.

Penny
I guess …

Alice
It’s okay, really. No, it’s not okay, really.

Penny

It’s not.

Alice
You’ll get there.

Penny
I’m not so sure. Most of the time I put up a good front.

Alice
Penny, you don’t have to anymore.

Penny
I don’t?

Alice
You don’t.

Clint
She doesn’t.

Penny
I don’t. Christ, I don’t.

Alice
He did it to Clint. He did it to me. To Jude too. I don’t know why he skipped you.

Penny
I was his little Miss Precious.

Alice
So? I was his little Miss Precious too.

Penny
So! What do you want me to say? Okay, I hate my body. If you want to know, I hate … I hate, I hate, I hate … I hate people who use my giraffe cup. My giraffe cup. It sounds horrible, but … I didn’t hate … It felt good. I never hated it, and I craved his attention … craved it. Yes, craved it. Craved, craved, craved. That’s the truth. You want to know the truth. I craved it!

Clint
She craved it!

Alice
Clint!

Clint
It’s a “C!” I’ll take a “C!” She craved it. Penny craved it.

Alice
Clint!

Clint
Clint.

Penny
I craved it.

Alice
It’s okay, Penny.

Clint
“A” for Alice. “C” for Clint. And give Penny an “A.” She deserves one. She craved it. She craved attention. At least she has an explanation.

Jude
Whoope-de-do!

(The nurse comes into the room.)

Nurse
It’s time.

Jude
I’ll get Olga.

Penny
Yes, of course, Olga. .

(Olga comes in from the bedroom with a full suitcase in hand. Jude takes her hand.)

Jude
Come on!

(As the family gathers together, they watch in silence as the old man dies. None of them cry.)

Alice
He’s dead.

Penny
Peace.

Mrs. Johnson
Lord take me.

Clint
God, I’m glad it’s over.

Mrs. Johnson
Where’s Sherman!

Jude
I’m here.

Olga
Christ! Jude! Christ!

Nurse
Let’s pray.

(A crescendo of rock)

Penny
Let the party begin!

Alice

Let the fucking party begin.

Clint

Let’s get it over with.

CURTAIN

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Randy Ford Author-AMOUR PROPRE OR LOSS OF FACE

AMOUR PROPRE OR LOSS OF FACE  

by Randy Ford

Put aside commonsense. Disregard assumptions. Try to understand power of passion, power of passion. Passion and excesses committed by Moros, by Moros when pushed to desperation by amour propre or loss of face.

He was an impulsive youth, an impulsive youth, as passionate as any you man, and he went straight for her with his arms stretched out. His voice wasn’t aggressive. His voice was filled with passion.  His voice was filled with love.  He was in love.  He was in love with her.  It was a voice she knew, or she imagined she knew, and it was directed at her in a reassuring way. He was not from there, yet she knew who he was.  They were friends.  They were more than friends. They couldn’t have been friends. He was not from her world. They hadn’t spoken to each other.

As far as he was concerned he didn’t need to pass a test.  He was in love and didn’t need to pass a test, but he knew that there was a social code that he had to follow … a social code he didn’t want to follow.   His running toward a girl with his arms outstretched, while speaking to her in a voice with nothing aggressive in it, filled with passion and love was reckless. When you could attributed it to impulsiveness, she could also be blamed for not running away.

  She didn’t run away, so there was enough blame to go around, but he paid a higher price.   Yes, indeed a higher price.  He paid a higher price indeed.  For indeed there was a price to pay for a kiss, and a connection between a kiss and what happened years later, many years later.

By then the offense was forgotten, but loss of face wasn’t.  It wasn’t enough to say that the young man didn’t know what he was doing or that a kiss was a kiss and nothing more. While his intentions were good, he never wanted to hurt anyone. He was in love and didn’t intend to hurt anyone. Nevertheless, he was caught in the act, caught in the act of kissing her, and nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter how she felt, how she felt about him and that she would never have told on him. And the reasons she gave for not defending her honor were inadequate. She enjoyed it, though she never admitted it.

To the impulsive young man, and someone who generally got what he wanted, a kiss was nothing more than a kiss. He was in love and nothing else mattered. He could have married her. He could have, but they were young, very young and came from different worlds. And the girl hadn’t lost her virginity, but she was anxious about it and was afraid where a kiss might lead. And the idea that he wouldn’t keep it secrete was absurd, but it didn’t matter because they were observed. So it became widely known that he kissed her, which was the same as a proposal except that was out of the question because of his place in society. He was the nephew of the Sultan and wasn’t free to marry her. They were from different worlds. Hence he was sent away.

There were those who said it was only a kiss. But how much more serious would it have been had he touched her breast? How much more serious would it have been had he seduced her? Many offenses were more serious when merely touching a woman’s wrist or forehead, if intentional, was considered as serious as rupturing a hymen. Note the importance of the word intentional, and certainly kissing was intentional. Now a kiss may be forgotten, but loss of face wouldn’t be. And it was complicated even more because it involved a Sultan’s nephew.

The young man … “Where did he go?” wondered the girl, like any girl her age would. But it wasn’t long before the whole village was talking about it. “Where did he go?” The girl continued to wonder. She was taken by him … she more so by him than he by her, or else he wouldn’t have left. Not that a kiss didn’t mean anything to him. It did to both of them. He was in love. He knew the risk, but to him it was a risk worth taking. He was in love. He was young, very young and in love. Worth it because she was beautiful and he was in love but foolish because as they both knew he couldn’t marry her. Not someone of his status. He couldn’t marry her because they came from different worlds, and they couldn’t change it. What she didn’t know was that he was sent away because of her. He was sent away because he kissed her. He was sent away because someone saw him kiss her.

The young man would live to benefit the world, while the victim … she was quickly considered a victim… could never be more than a curse to her family. He was liked. She was blamed. She was beautiful and blamed. She was blamed because she was beautiful. She was beautiful, so she enticed him. He was royalty and destined to become an influential person. The victim’s family felt insulted and thus experienced loss of face.

The headman of the barrio listened sympathetically, but he should have responded before the offender got away. The situation called for a remedy, but because of who the young man was there wasn’t much the headman could do, or would do, and somewhere else it would’ve been the end of it.

They hadn’t thought of a remedy. She was startled seeing the young man run toward her with his arms outstretched. She was started by his kiss. She knew who he was and was startled by his kiss. It happened so fast and out of the blue that it startled her. Then she told her father, but he already knew, but it didn’t make sense to him. He knew who the young man was. He knew everything. And the kiss was already becoming irrelevant, and his biggest worry then was what the Sultan would do.

The Sultan was deciding what to do when he sent for the young man, the young man his nephew, and when confronted, his nephew could only answer yes or no. Yes, yes, he kissed her. Yes, yes, sir. Face to face with the Sultan, he confessed. Yes, he did it. He was made to answer other questions … some to the point and some of them not. Then he held his shoulders upright and accepted his banishment. And this should have been it. Or so he thought.

Could she then have thought that it meant more than a kiss? She was never sure.

She carried on as best she could. But God help her! What did she do to be singled out? Could it be her fault? He kissed her. Was it her fault? Was it her fault he kissed her. And talk? And why did she and her family listen to it … listen to all the talk … talk, talk, talk? Why did they have to listen? Why did they have to talk? And why didn’t they leave her alone? Why did they wallow in gossip? And why did the whole barrio engage in it? And she kept looking for him. And they kept looking for him the whole time he was in Mindanao. You understand that the young man and the young woman never had a ghost of a chance. They came from different worlds.

By now the whole barrio had gotten involved. This no longer had anything to do with a kiss, or directly, but rather loss of face. By now the kiss had been forgotten. The young man was a fellow who didn’t think or worry about other people, and he couldn’t believe it when his uncle sent him away. There were those who would’ve liked to see him squirm, though he didn’t think he did anything wrong. He didn’t think. He wasn’t thinking and never felt sorry. There was never indication that he felt sorry. There was never an indication that he ever thought of her again.

And never expecting anything from him, she was willing to forget it, forget him, only people wouldn’t let her forget it, forget him. They always brought it up. The barrio wasn’t about to forgive or forget. It was impossible. It was impossible for them to forgive or forget. What did they see? Not a kiss but amour propre or loss of face. You could be critical of him, but it actually fell on her and then her family. It fell on her and her family because she was beautiful and her beauty enticed him. Then just what did it mean for them? They felt ostracized. They were ostracized. They couldn’t escape it. Ostracized. But most of all loss of face. They couldn’t ignore it or ignore their neighbors. They were forced to do something about loss of face. So they kept an eye out for the Sultan’s nephew. They watched for him. And watched for him. They had to watch for him, you know.

The winds of the tropics were not constant and as such were as unfair as a winter’s gale, but don’t point fingers before you know everything. The young man shouldn’t be blamed. Neither should the young lady. Nature played a part, and we have it on the q. t. that the young man couldn’t help himself. And how wonderful it was. He let go of her shoulder after he kissed her, and she had to restrain herself. No one saw that part , but it could have been true, couldn’t it? Everyone was asleep, weren’t they? No. Evidently not. Those two fools had no notion of what they did. But weren’t they engineers of their fate?

The Sultan’s nephew should have known better than to come back. The authorities later thought the same thing. The lost of face hadn’t been forgotten. And it didn’t matter that he was the Sultan’s nephew.

Everyone knew what would happen next, or what should happen. Pressure was immense. Pressure built up. Pressure never let up. There had never been anything like it, nothing like it there before, and the young woman couldn’t go out of her home without facing ridicule. And it was in the wind, a tropical wind as harsh as an arctic blast.

The loss of face called for action. It always had, so it wasn’t a sudden impulse. AMOUR PROPRE OR LOSS OF FACE … if you understand anything about it, you understand it. It appears that when the nephew of the Sultan came back into the barrio he ran into the young lady’s father. They didn’t speak. They didn’t have to. Their positions were clear. They came from different worlds. They wouldn’t have spoken because they came from different worlds. It was dark and clear, but their positions were still clear. Too much, too, too much. And the clock couldn’t be turned back. And glances and sneers couldn’t be taken back. They couldn’t go back. And that was the bind that the old man found himself in. His family lost face, and it didn’t matter to the young man.

They looked at each other, recognized each other and nodded.

Don’t be a fool. They knew what was going on.

He looked at him and then got his spear. He couldn’t and wouldn’t. But there was no way he could get out of it; no way he could face his family, face his neighbors, without taking the young man’s life. And letting on that she didn’t care, the young woman cared a great deal. One might think then that killing the young man would’ve settled a score; but with discovery of the young man’s corpse, the barrio now had to reckon with something worse, far worse, far worse, and immediately knew it.

The old man fled the island without saying goodbye to anyone. He fled and when his neighbors looked for him, he was already gone. With sharpened krises they came looking for him. It was his daughter who stood in front of them. She blamed them for her loss, loss of her father, but it was too late. Her father was already a hunted man, and already he knew that he could never return … return home on the island And indeed he wouldn’t, but his daughter’s honor (amour propre) had been restored.

For the rest of his life her father was unable to get himself out of his difficulties. Still in trouble, he died in 1902, fighting U.S Expeditionary forces. Hunted all those years, he never knew two of his brothers were murdered for his crime. Murdered!

None of it was right or fair … when normally memory fades over time. Apparently it wasn’t the only case similar to this and like many such cases. it didn’t end with the death of participants. The kiss itself had long been forgotten. Names were also gone. And how a young lady and her family lost face and the feud started, gone. It was always an uneven match, but over the years it evened out. With luck and shrewdness, the grandson of the killer became a rich man, as rich as the Sultan. For over thirty years, until the outbreak of World War II, he owned a coconut plantation on Basilan, but bad blood between the two families continued. And continued. And their common fate … more blood was shed.

Sometime in 1935, a distant relative of the slain nephew came to Isabela to buy smoked tuna and learned that the plantation owner was a grandson of his great uncle’s killer. He had an obligation then and knew it. An obligation, yes. Throughout his whole life he was reminded of it. Throughout his whole life he was reminded how if he got a chance he would have to avenge the slaying. That was the only way that he could remove a stigma. But one would think that he knew better. For many years he did nothing about the obligation because he feared a long prison sentence. Then came the war and the chance he was waiting for.

There were coincidences, and timing was everything. To save his plantation, the owner collaborated with the Japanese. The avenger couldn’t help picturing the deceit … regrets, none no doubt … and saw a traitor. So as a guerrilla officer, he became a hero by killing a Jap spy, and he received a medal from General MacArthur for it. Even though he entered the residence of the plantation owner and massacred a whole family, he was never considered a killer. And the plantation owner died without knowing his killer, the connection, or the reason for his death.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- THE GOOD OL’ BOYS

THE GOOD OL’ BOYS

by Randy Ford

Sheet? Sheet. Sheet!

No, sheet, I ain’t never saw nuthin’ like it. Nuthin’! What with drinkin’, drinkin”all the time, callin’ ‘em forth. Lucky’s ma’s and ol’ man’s drinkin’, drinkin’ all the time and concern I have for ‘em and them drinkin’ all the time, with a kitchen counter-top filled with bottles, more empty than full, and unwarshed glasses and necessary jiggers and all dishes and pots and pans in the house, all of ‘em durty, all durty at the same time, fillin’ sink and counter waitin’ for somebody to lift a gotdamn finger. I was thunderstruck by it. I was thunderstruck when I saw it but aimed for it not to git in the way of my relationship with Lucky, so I wasn’t gunna say nothin’ about it. How somebody keeps their house is their own business and who was I to say that my house where everything had its place and everything out of place usually got put back mmediately, who was I to say that it was inny better and that the way we lived was inny better than the way Lucky’s family lived when Lucky and me was barely in our teens.

Lucky’s ma was well known for her Agnes Moorhead voice (Agnes Moorhead I know from “Citizen Kane”), offen sported a towel wrapped ’round her head, with lips painted red I thought she looked like a movie star comin’ out a shower; given heinousness of choices I’d chose Lucky’s ma over Agnes Moorhead any day ‘cause Lucky’s ma was there in flesh and Agnes Moorhead wasn’t; had several snapshots of his ma in his wallet Lucky did; showed them to me more than once, showed how proud Lucky was of his ma when she was dolled up and ready to go out and dressed like Agnes Moorhead.
We was white boys, red-blooded white American boys, red-blooded white Americans to this day and at home and when we went somewhere we was noticed; once was we sure and once was we smooth and once was we in a driver’s seat, and once we drove around town,we turned heads and dames looked our way; we had swagger, swagger to our step that said who we was; dared each other to knock our hats off as we stood up for ourselves before; was to take a dame for a soda, was to take a dame to a picture show, was to make woopee … murder, wow … woopee and go almost all the way; from boondocks to drive-ins, from my rumble seat, we was smooth operators; big shots, into cars and dames amid those who didn’t have cars and dames, casting moonbeams brilliant upon their dreamy eyelids; threatening rain and thunder on day of our parade, when a homecoming queen sat on her float and listened to “You Made Me Love You,” and sweet mamma come to me, makin’ woopee by light of the moon, cussin’, crusin’, making woopee in my rumble seat, hoppin’, rompin’, murder, murder, murder! Wow! ’, etcetera, etcetera, lovin’, and way you turn me on. Murder! Wow! Getting your batteries charged. Murder! Wow!

Makin’ a meal of it. Makin’ a meal out of buttermilk and saltines, crumble saltines into a tall glass of buttermilk, sweet! Is with a long spoon best way to eat it? If we’re to believe our grandparents, to our grandparents and parents we owe everything; everything arranged and attained, listed and approved, given to us and sacrificed for us, bought us a snazzy car for graduation and endorsed our desire to go to college; it took brains to go to college, handed us an education, got to go to the college of our choice. Had to work our way through.

Called us to dinner, indulged ourselves, lemon moraine pie and fried chicken and chicken fried steak, sorrow and heartburn was much same thing, while beans and franks was more like it; showed we was common folk when we chose beans and franks over chicken and chicken fried steak.

How does some ice cream sound? That more peaches you peeled, more milk ya need, or do ya prefer half of it cream, more bananas ya had, more ya could stretch it, and more freezers, more crankin’, more sugar, more milk, bananas, ice and rock salt ya need.. Person who owned a cow could bring milk. Add a child to sit on top, and had Lucky turn the crank and the more he did it, less likely he ended up in trouble, so makin’ ice cream was well worth doin’.

Politics aside and still garbage disposal plant survived; was a drop in a bucket worth fighting for, and Edith McKinney (bless her soul) fussed and fumed after she swerved to miss a feral cat and drove her brand new Ford Roadster up a light pole; was a discussion whether fault laid with cat or Edith McKinney, bothersome, shouldn’t there be a law, something on our books; agreed upon by city council that would keep old ladies and feral cats off our streets, hold their feet to the fire, and in no uncertain terms, they count sure but for the record; existing records reduced to old high school annuals, and to our detriment the law passed was overreaching; and we all eventually paid for it.

Now go back and look at pictures in the Mirage of ’38 and bask all over again in all of our high school years, when our motto was “to be rather than to seem.” If those carefree gay student days could be relived, and we had plenty off time on our hands, we’d dream great dreams. On homecoming our queen would reign, and where at this junction our lives would be in flux, we would attributed it to growin’ up too fast and to ambitions that far exceeded our prospects.

Now back then we was a small town, and our main street was no more than a block long. Post office sat on one end and a drugstore next to it. Our water tower located us. Noted for skunks, we was also known for football. Go Gophers! It was with great satisfaction that we skunked our rivals.

Our dog was a collie. She loved to chase cars. She thought she was herding sheep instead of cars. Part collie, mostly mutt her features were more collie than any other breed. She exhibited next her speed. She followed me ’round town and chased cats and rabbits whenever she saw them. What name do you think we gave her? Bear! Bear! Come, Bear! She became unhappy and wouldn’t mind us. And loved funeral blues. Mercy! We all loved blues. And most beautiful girls I knew got blue sometimes. That didn’t mean they was unhappy. Bear! Come! Bear! Fetch!

We thought when we was cruisin’ with top down was sweet. With nowhere in particular to go, we’d go sometimes as far as California Crossing and sometimes out to Little League field (and it was when we and they were seniors), which was sweet. At same time our parents worried ‘bout us gittin’ mixed up with wrong crowd but little did they know that Lucky and me was the wrong crowd. And we had our reputations to protect, so we snuck off, went to the Little League field, where I smoked my first cigarette and drank bathtub rum from a flask I kept hidden in a special place under the dash of my 1929 Ford convertible, … makin’ woopee … murder! Wow! … sport in my rumble seat. And as I was tooling around in a dream, half-dozing as I drove, I thought I knew what the future held for me but I didn’t see how my small town would grow into a midsize city and how I could’ve taken advantage of it if I saw that far ahead.

Lucky! Lucky! I couldn’t wait to git grown. With my spurs and deep base voice, I learned to ride a horse. Yes, this was before zoning came to my hometown. Before it was an actual town. When my hometown had one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. And before everyone had television. And lo, when we boys was looking for somethin’ to do we drove to the levy. Now, it was sweet to go fishin’, sweet to fish, sweet to eat fish, fried fish. Well look we was boys and boys was boys, I admit that we liked to hunt. Ah, unlimited space for chickens and cows and horses ‘till my hometown grew too big, my hometown incorporated and zoning began (that was my folk’s opinion, not mine ‘cause I had as much ambition as the next guy). Who would ever dream our little town would git big? If we had, we would’ve bought as much property as possible. Yes, we would’ve, that’s who. Blessed assurance and Jesus was mine, we was religious too. Yes, Lucky who so often held sway over me. Lucky was religious. I was religious. Yes, Lucky was religious, Lucky, who often convinced me to do something wrong. Me! Me prompted by a pro. He in his beret and his old dark brown velvet coat, with fake fur trim, yes fur (remember it gits quite cold in my hometown in winter), and he’d talk me into drivin’ north to California Crossing Bridge and, after we crossed it, to the Bloody Bucket. Only we was too young to git in the Bloody Bucket. Oh, what a painful realization it was when we found out that we we was too young to git in the Bloody Bucket.

All horrible, awful, awful poverty we knew… por but not like por kids these days (ah, then we had Felicity Welfare Club, Relief Cannery, and WPA!) rather than (and hundreds of thousands Hoover stocks daddy burnt, and Hoover steaks and Hoover pockets) have us thieve out old man Baker’s apple orchard. Shame on us.

Those were the days!

Had I a dime for every complaintI hear these days. If I had a dime I dare say that I’d be a rich man but back then we didn’t complain much. Yet I thought that Lucky in his old dark brown velvet coat with fake fur trim, Lucky in his beret, (this during a time when most of us had to make do with clothes made from flour sacks, feed sacks, and three-year-old cotton gabardine) looked sweet. Only problem was that he thought he looked sweet Now my mama wouldn’t have none of it. She was more down to earth ‘cause she canned, made jam and put up fruit, crocheted, darned, yawned, and knitted. And what we wore yesterday, we made do for the whole year and the next. We kept chickens and cows in our backyard ‘cause there was no zoning then. Then in between butcherin’, milkin’, egg gatherin’, washin’, ironin’, neck wringin’, boilin’, pluckin’, there was housecleanin’ and managin’ of a household for her to do. She was a sweetheart too.

Now Mrs. Avery (Lucky’s mom) never did none of that.

Had I a picture of Ann Marie Avery alongside my mom, I give you my word that Lucky’s mom compared to my mom looked like a million, if there was a person with a million in those days. What? Now there’s no doubt that she looked grand when she got dressed for work. There was no mistakin’ her dimples when she smiled. She was one who kept her job throughout the depression ‘cause what she did was needed. If she had been out of work, she still wouldn’t have been like anyone else ‘cause of glances she got ‘cause of her dress.

Eessence of sweetness! Sweet. And she dressed like that just to go to work. She was slim, slimmer than any other woman who had a baby, a switchboard operator, out of sight, most of the day was inside and out of sight. If you want to know, it was during a time when telephone rates increased to $2.25, which nobody could afford but paid anyway. (A two party line cost you $2.00, and for 50 cents more you could git a wall extension and for 75 cents more a desk extension).
Now Mrs. Avery thought that she played craps and won, and she let everybody know it by clothes she wore. There was no doubt that she was pretty. There was no doubt that she was beautiful. There was no doubt she was on a winning streak. At least I thought so. And admired ‘cause she was town’s emergency operator and admired ‘cause everybody knew it. We was in hands of this five-foot-three redheaded pistol whenever some crazy yahoo cut loose, and she had enough finesse to keep situation from gitting out of control before the police or fire department could git to the scene. It didn’t matter whether it was respondin’ to heart attacks, car crashes, stabbin’s, robberies, or little Tommy Turner fallin’ out a tree. She had a knack for it and could almost anticipate somethin’ before it happened, which was a blessing for us all, and to Lucky, (he was prejudice, of course) she was best mom in the world, except when she was drunk. For her heart was as big as herself, so it was, yes, and bigger. And best mom ever. While she served everybody regardless who they was, and that included niggers who lived ‘cross the river in Sowers.

Since I was very, very young, going back to when I was as innocent and naive as I’ve ever been, I’ve heard black people called niggers. From mouth of my father, from mouth of my mother, from mouths near and far, it came out in every day conversation and without, to my knowledge, there being actual hatred involved. And no oftener than around my town where not a single nigger lived. And it was somethin’ we all was comfortable with.

We luved our Little Black Sambo. And luved our Aunt Jamima Pancakes with real butter and Aunt Jamima a in her red-poked-dotted apron and her kerchief that matched. And that big grin that we all associated with delicious, yummy pancakes and maple syrup, ” From clay we all came from to the wrong doin’ that led from time to time to a lynchin’ (actually the Forks never lynched nobody ‘cause this wasn’t the Deep South).
And it was asked:

does it mean that we was prejudice? Lucky would never answer a question like that, even as he grew smarter, since him and me grew up close to where people say, or just past where they say, “this is as far as we dare go.” Over there, across the bridge, “it’s too rough. It ain’t safe.” Sure enough with memories of shootin’s, stabbins, robberies, and stuff, while addressing ourselves as superior and complaining that they should do better with what they have.
Well, I’m literally disgusted from seeing myself in this light. How all too unworthy I am, a good ol’ boy from North Central Texas, a por member of the workin’ class, with no land and without a title, for such eminence would never stick, rather to be more exact, I’m down to earth while you and me know that nothing should be handed to us. I speak for me, only for me and not for niggers across the river.

It was so close that as a general rule we knew almost everything that went on over there, knew of killin’s and rapes that occurred most every Saturday night, or at least we thought we knew. But as fate would have it, our river acted as a natural border and on each side there was two separate towns as distinct from each other as any two countries that shared a border, with our side relatively quiet and sleepy and their side exact opposite. But we formed our opinions without really knowing each other, typecasting each other as sure as anything, utterly and it was literally like a pot calling a kettle black, it was all we knew (later disgusted with ourselves when we thought we knew better) in a rocky place we loved, once covered up to our knees in prairie grass, and when they had best black river bottom land imaginable. And look at them! Compare them and us! Them and their shacks! And us. Them and us.

By then it was too late to settling down and too late for innocence. By then we hung up our scooters and Lucky had invested a hundred dollars in fixin’ an old Alco tourin’ car he found mostly buried in a crik bed. It made him leader of our troop, and I became more of a friend of his … not that I was ever less a friend. I can remember like yesterday good times we had in that old car when we piled in and just ‘bout fit. Those was simpler, carefree days when we shared so much, and because of cars we could go almost anywhere and get almost any girl and whatever Lucky did I tried to repeat it, for we said we didn’t care what people thought but we did, deep down we did. Deep down we had high hopes of ‘mountin’ to somethin’ ‘cause that was what was imprinted on our brains. Tune in, be with it, ol’ pal, and we’ll git there someday. We was buddies. Be mature! He ate all the time, imitated me, like he had a hollow leg. I was very fond of him, as you can see. On a dare we did things. Really. Really. Really. We became Junior Federal Men and came from the right side of the river. I ought not to brag like I do, but we was something else, and Blackie Flint never stood a chance. I still take off my hat to Lucky, our chief. But he was no Boy Scout. He was no Boy Scout. Lucky was no Boy Scout. And how did I know? ‘Cause he and I was like twins, and where did he stand? I know where ‘cause I stood in the same place. We was like twins. We went to the same places. We went together. We went together to the same places. First like I said he stood on the right side of the river, and last he stood on the right side of the law. We stood on the right side of the river. We lived on the right side of the river. Take niggers over in Sowers that sold us licker. We was underage, but they didn’t care. And shame and shame on ‘em again. Sure enough they was on the wrong side of the law. They lived on the wrong side of the river. We was no angels, believe me but we was on the right side of the law. And yes, we may have slipped up once or twice. Gracious, give us a break. Your honor. Give us a break. Everybody slips up every once and a while. He was only a nigger. Caught us a nigger. Made him pay. But, Judge, he was itchin’ for a fight. I’ve always heard that we have right to defend ourselves. Down by the river on our side. On the levy. Not his side. Nothin’ major. Somethin’ minor. Yes, I admit that I was there. What was he doing on his side?Yet I can swear that nothing happened that wasn’t well deserved. He started it. We wasn’t invaders. He was an invader. Stayed on the levy. Never crossed the bridge. Stayed on the levy. Stayed on our side. Never got close. We didn’t git a chance, sir. He came to us, sir.

But even if my life depended on it, I couldn’t identify the nigger, who, who, who, who … well … though I got a close look at him, to begin with, ‘cause all niggers look the same to me. He invaded us. We didn’t invade him.

He swung at me first,” Lucky replied, with a voice that sounded convincing and with a cowlick he couldn’t control, while his temper was just about as bad. That’s right. Lucky. Yes Lucky had a temper and always carried a comb with him. Oh, darn it. It did no good. A comb. A comb was his signature. Lucky’s temper always got him in trouble. … always. How was them niggers! Lord, have mercy. They was never up to no good. Troubling, very troubling.

1942 A.D. Lucky married Molly, and her father gave her away. Just as Pearl Harbor started a war, so did marryin’ Molly. A simple weddin’, bride, groom, and their parents. I was Best Man. A Justice of the Peace, a repented mobster. After the war, settled then, owed a three bedroom house; drove a Chevy, purist blue you’ve ever saw, 53, a good year for blowin’ rods. Blowed his stack every time he blowed a rod! (What I wouldn’t kill to own that car now.) Up to their eyeballs in debt. Who wasn’t?

No kiddin’. Up in our eyeballs in debt, Charlotte and me too. Who was we foolin’ with two kids and a mortgage to pay? No kiddin’. Trips to the store. Drive or walk? Drive! A few pennies saved ain’t worth a drive ‘cross town. Who was we kiddin’? . Little League. Ballet. Boys. Cars. Molly worries gotdamn. Bleached or tinted? Remember bleachin’ leaves black roots. No kiddin’. How ‘bout a wig? Less trouble. No kiddin’. Who’s kiddin’?

Lucky loves old cars. No kiddin’. Have you ever heard of the Russo-Balt K? You know nuthin’ ‘bout it? Leave it to Lucky to know. Russian, no sheet. 1913, 1914, some year like that. 4 cylinder, 24 horse power. Convertible two seater, imagine that. Russko-Baltskij vagonnyi, Riga.

Whaat? Who was he joshin’?

No kiddin’. No, not at all. Heavens, man! We intended for just a few to come when we set up our TV set in our backyard and invited neighbors over. Since we had a big yard though we had more or less room for everybody. By the way, how is Mrs. Humphrey? All of us, I might say, liked Ike, and over the radio listened to the Blues and watched baseball and the Indians play in the World Series on television, and we saved Indian Head Nickels for luck. O joyous time, it was New York Giants over Cleveland Indians (4-0) (and forgit all those ill-wishers and spoiled-sports, Mrs. Humphrey!) Giants won, and that was that. In the over all scheme of things that year was huge. With Bob Lemon, Early Winn, and Mike Garcia, how could the Tribe lose? But they did. Also among our basic tenants was the idea that I was breadwinner and head of household. What I said (as breadwinner and head of household permit me to tell you if you’re uninformed) was never questioned. Nor did I worry about housework. It was a rule. Charlotte took care of it, and it worked as long as Charlotte stayed home and took care of our kids. And this brings me to the point I’m trying to make: those was simpler times. We didn’t lock our doors then and our kids more or less minded us, and if they didn’t … well, we spanked ‘em. And thank God, by and large, niggers stayed in there place, but we still worried ‘bout our children marryin’ one. It had nothin’ to do with prejudice. Now! It was just the way it was. Worrisome.

Our biggest worry then was communism. Thank God for Joseph McCarthy. Be on the lookout! For communists! Hold fourth! For democracy! I apologize for mentionin’ it, but I’d rather play it safe than be caught sleepin’. Let us not forgit Russians. Soviets! We must respond now!
The Texas State Fair was always the biggest state fair in the United States. (Everything has always been bigger in Texas.) We always had the most fun on the Midway, or, if not it was because we ran out of money, money for food, for games, for rides and for shows, and we snuck in where we could, so that we could have more money for more food, more games, more rides and more shows. We of course spent most our money on serious eats such as Frito pie and corn dogs or latest widgets and whirligigs. It took all day to see it all, statues, barns, science exhibits, and famed Cotton Bowl, and…and…and… Or, if we wanted a little excitement we could take in Joie Chitman’s Thrill Show or the Sky Review; or for music go see “The King and I,” which had just come to the music hall in 1954. Sometime around then they brought Big Tex up to date. They made him talk. Then before you knew it they put him on WRR, broadcastin’ live from the State Fair of Texas. You could also catch the Blues. “This is WRR broadcastin’ live from Fair Park and we’re proud to present Mr. Ray Charles.” Whereupon the best we could do was acknowledge how big Mr. Ray Charles was to become. Yes, we guessed it.

There was something more. Something about those days at the Texas State Fair. I mean to tell you! Something more. All I can tell you, my friend is that during all those years that we went to the State Fair of Texas I cain’t remember running into a nigger. Come now! Come now! Come now! But if you want to know the truth, we never thought about it. Where we lived, we never saw a black face, so when we went to the fair we didn’t think about it when we didn’t see a black face except for those that worked there, those that work there such as waiters. I kaint believe I remember a single time, while a black man sang on the radio, which was broadcast over loudspeakers do I remember seeing a black face except for someone who worked their. Face it head on. They had their day at the fair; we had other days. And there was somethin’ to the idea. Nigger day at the state fair? Nigger day was no different than the rest of the days at the fair, except it was for niggers. No embarrassing situations that way. And with signs tellin’ ‘em where they could go and where they couldn’t, there could be no mistakes. You hardly expected white people to drink out of same water fountains or use the same toilets, would you? Take Lucky’s take on it. The first thing was it took most of the worry out of it. With “you don’t want no trouble” Someday and someday and someday. Someday it may be different but at that time there was the way they lived, and the way we lived, and it was totally different. Truth was you had to keep niggers off the Ride and Laff. In there amongst creepy rats, snakes, and a vulture, we screamed and laughed, frightened by a real live sparrow that somehow got loose. Now we didn’t want no trouble. We didn’t want no trouble in the Ride and Laff.

Hurry you ‘cause there’s still the OU-Texas football game to see, and we won’t git a second chance to see it.

So we hurried long past Dart Throw and Ring Toss, guy who could guess your age and one who could guess your weight. Well cheese graters and vegetable slicers was wonderful in their own way. Won! Won a plastic poodle. A sawdust-stuffed velor bear. A white stuffed weenie dog! Now fightin’ our way through crowd, past rides. Past the Tilt-a-whirl, wormin’ our way past Ferris wheel, and sideways past Merry-go-Round. Past con games. Pretty hot still in midday sun. Who wouldn’t pay to see a fetus in a bottle or freaks with extra toes or a cow with an extra head. Elsie the Cow, where was she?
Well, corn dog stand well was in the way and so was lemon aid stand and French fries with vinegar (vinegar?) but I preferred corn dogs every time. With mountains of yellow mustard and, with one in each hand, I relished each bite. But I still had room for Frito Pie, as good if not better than homemade. Proof was in the tastin’. Give us a couple more bowls, please. Don’t forgit the please! That was damn good! You couldn’t beat it. I enjoy crunch, Fritos, and onions just fine, I did, more than … Oh, man, (sublime!), best damn chili I ever ate, Texas chili (with beans or without) chili you would die for if you’ve acquired t taste with my gotdamn stomach in an uproar and hereby warn you that it wasn’t wise to eat a third bowl. For relief we brought Tums. Okay. Oh Lucky! When I die and go to heaven, I hope they have corn dogs and Frito pie. When you die and go to hell … he interrupted me … you’ll miss Texas chili. And with Frito Pie go heavy with cheese. Then a syrupy drink, make it sweet, make it tall, make it two. Hurry now, we don’t want to miss next show. Save some for later Lucky, for the Midway was always crowded and was always hot for October.

Teasin’! Bump and grind! Bump and grind! But we saw nuthin’ that we hadn’t seen before. Bump and grind. Step inside and you’ll see more. Bump and grind. In fairly prompt order, she’ll take it off for you. Fig! Because of mix crowd, it was no longer “fuck.” Boys, step right up! and take a look! Take it off! Bump and grind. Take it off! Here’s none other than, Miss Panama Senorita, straight from South America and ready to be plucked, with nothing on but three roses statically placed. We tried to restrain ourselves and not go in ‘cause we saw it before. What Charlotte and Molly and kids don’t know we thought wouldn’t hurt ‘em. Yes, we was grown men. Yes, we was married men. Why a little sin in our lives was healthy. Enjoy life more and live a little longer and for that rejoice for maybe for it you can fit in an extra trip to the Bahamas. Wouldn’t it be nice? The Bahamas? Which would go to show that vitamins work and you still have strength and stamina to endure a full day at the fair. Still I’m strong as strong as I ever been and it’s off to see what we normally saw since we’d been comin’ to the fair ever since I could remember, and if you can understand that you can understand how we was drawn to Dunk the Nigger.

Every year we tried our skills at Dunk the Nigger (it wasn’t as if we practiced for it all year either), and it seemed like harder we tried and harder we threw the ball we got madder and lost control and more we lost control we got even madder, which meant we tried harder. (Well, here’s lettin’ you save face without lettin’ nobody know that you really enjoyed dunkin’ a nigger.) I knew what the nigger was doin’. That he was gittin’ us mad on purpose so that we missed the target so he wouldn’t git dunked. I know that I enjoyed it, I know that Lucky enjoyed it; and it looked like the nigger enjoyed it too ‘caused he laughed and laughed, teased us and smiled and laughed each time we missed the target. But then a payoff came when we caused the seat to collapse and watched a nigger fall into a tank of water.
Well, he got our goat. Like I wish it wasn’t so and wish we wasn’t drawn to African calls over a PA system. Unceasin’ chatter. Chatter, chatter, chatter. Him chattering like a chimp. Missed! And we went back more than once. Yeah man! Me mad gittin’ madder and madder. Lucky, you can’t stop, can you? Oh, shut up! And cursed in vain when we missed again and cursed in vain until we was red in face and all tired out. Devil if he cared. With our shirttails hangin’ out, we forgot the good time we was a havin’ and would git down to serious business of dunkin a nigger! If I had a quarter ever time I missed that red round target, I’d be a rich man. That’s for sure. I’d be a rich man. We played agin and agin, workin’ up a sweat and that damn nigger makin’ us madder and madder so mad that we couldn’t hit a target for nuthin’ and just had to .. had to … dunk a nigger. Let him take his shot, I’m ready. Come on, nigger! I’ll teach him manners. Console yourself, come on. Can’t you see that he’s doin’ a number on us? Next time duly, next time truly I’ll … I’ll dunk him. Look at us always when we’re at our worse and we’ll miss every time. A tear or two for us honey when we lose rest of our money honey. Too bad, too bad, he saw us comin’, didn’t he? Then it came down to our last quarters and our last balls, and by then he got us so damn mad that we threw our balls directly at him. Don’t worry we never hit him … only rattled his cage.

Yes, yes, my pet. We were too happy before we began playin’ with the nigger. Lucky knew somethin’ would happen to him when he got home. I understood but listen he shouldn’t have been trusted with his paycheck, while you knew he’d spend it when he got a chance. He knew his paycheck was spent before he got it. Honestly, I tried to intercept, pull him back, but I couldn’t stop him, and I know, Lucky, he tried his best, but he couldn’t. Listen, next year you should be forewarned. Gotta keep us away from dunkin’ the nigger. We was like all those out there, you included, and some others who caint be expected to control our urges. Of course, dear, I’m ashamed of myself for him (let me clear my throat) for us spendin’ so much of our hard-earned dough, which we’re sorry for now. And we spent the biggest part on what? Corn dogs, Frito Pie, naked women, and dunkin’ a nigger. Well, it was just money, just more money. And there was more of it where it came from. All the same, listen, Lucky, I don’t in no way blame you ‘cause I was as much to blame as you. We was only talking about money. There are more important things in life than money, more important things like home and family and you know between us we know it, that’s the beauty of it, see, we know what’s important in life. It’s perfectly priceless our families. And, listen, now that we’re on the subject, what upset our wives more … upset our wives most was our Sunday love affair with the Green Bay Packers, and of course, we never made a big deal about it, only on Sundays, and please kindly remember, and never forget that we worked hard all week long … worked all week long for our money and deserve … Ahim. And that was the stupidest thing for ‘em to get upset about … us wantin’ to relax on Sundays with the Green Bay Packers after working hard all week long. It was one thing we shared with our sons. It was one place where the color of a guy’s skin don’t matter. As long as they can play ball, it don’t matter. Women just don’t understand (you know, dicey). So she thought she’d go crazy to speak of it, and we didn’t hear her. A new Westinghouse mixer would gain us a few points. We could used a few. Let us spend money on them. Harbor no more ill will, Molly. And cease your fummin’ Charlotte. Yes, em, life is too short for fummin’ and ill will. We was like most men. We liked our beer and our football. Besides you got your house. Let us have our football.

Only be sure you don’t catch a cold and pass it on. And don’t stay out all night and come home drunk. Molly won’t put up with it. And this, Lucky, a warning is to remind you to mind your p’s and q’s. It’s tough to watch what’s happening. Someone should tell you the truth. Of course, Lucky you know you can depend on me, through hard times and good, mercy, after we’ve screwed up, lost a bet, wrecked a car, put our foot in it, not always pretty of course, and it’s never fair, apart from our helping each other. Of course, we’ll keep it between us, won’t we? You know that you can count on me, 100%, until the very end we’ll be friends, and, thank you for it, friends since we was in diapers and your mom was friends with my mom, and we got spanked for throwing rocks at cars. I’m curious to know what they was thinking when they spanked us ‘cause it didn’t do no good. We was always gittin’ in trouble, but we was basically good kids, in case you think otherwise. And thanks so ever so much for not givin’ up on me and for treatin’ me as a brother. I know I’ll never forgit you as long as I live, even if somethin’ happens that changes everything, as I am given to understand that shit happens so don’t expect life to be perfect ‘cause you and I know it’s far from perfect, and I’m happy as long as I can make a livin’. Yes, I’m satisfied if I can make a livin. I’m gittin’ a reasonable wage and don’t want nothing that ain’t mine and we live pretty simply, and we’re all happy. Well, as happy as can be expected. Well, here’s to motherhood and wifedom, part and parcel and in many ways one and the same, for my guess is that it will be a long time before things change, then in increments, out of frustration, partial revolt, more because of economics than anything else, perhaps under guise of a movement and out of sync with Betty Crocker and Dr. Spock. So we can’t tell what’s gunna happen. What do you think? Listen, since! Lucky! So you live ‘cross town from me, and we never see each other now. You have your life, and I have mine. Rats! Someday I’ll jump in my car and drive ‘cross town, and we’ll go for a beer and rehash ol’ times and I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the world and you can tell me I’m wrong about the world. It would cheer me up, I’m sure. And I know we have a lot to be thankful for. Yes. Yes, I know we have a lot to be thankful for. I cain’t complain. Can you? We’ve got the GI Bill, got an education, new homes, and start of an interstate highway system. There’s Arthur Godfrey, Dinah Shore, Uncle Milt, and Friday night boxin’. Breakfast with Godfrey, enjoy him, and enjoy Dinah Shore just as much, with our wives havin’ a definite bias ‘gainst boxin’. And don’t forget the Packers. What more do you want? And Charlotte, I have to love her for how she manages. Simply stunnin’ way she fixes her hair! I call her my pet because she’s sassy while I try to be sweet to her and she says why don’t you give me a hug while I say scratch my back and she talks about how I don’t never want to go nowhere and that’s not true ‘cause places that I like to go don’t interest her; she’s good at saying what she wants and she loves to tell me off. Truthfully, she’s terribly nice really, and I wouldn’t trade her for nothin’. Not once have I betray her or no more than I betrayed myself. Can’t you understand? Lucky, I love her. Oh brother, Lucky, I have to tell the truth. I love her. You wouldn’t say she is beautiful, but she is to me. Why I love taking her out someplace we can afford. Yep, Lucky, I do. You heard me say I love her. I fell for her when we was in high school. I felt her kindness, her strength, and her specialness. She’s a special, ordinary woman. I suspect you heard this before more than once. And, of course, dear friend, she can’t hold a candle to your Molly. You can trust your Molly would come to your rescue, just as I trust my Charlotte would do the same for me. Never mind whether we deserve it or not. Like I said I wouldn’t trade my Charlotte. You can be certain of it, Lucky, but for love of money don’t take me for a saint. That’s somethin’ I ain’t, you villain, and I wouldn’t want to be one, or I’d embarrass you by doing somethin’ embarrassin’, you swine. You don’t deserve my respect, you swine. And it’s about time I told you. You won’t like it. You’ll be furious. Swine! It’s a cutthroat world where we stalk what we’re after. Where best friends race to see who’ll git there first. And I’ll git there when I git there but who knows when? When we say we’re gunna do something we better do it. Can we trust each other? When we’re game playin’? When we’re out for blood? Are we havin’ fun yet? But the river will run dry before we actually do somethin’ significant. The Trinity will run dry before we do somethin’ significant. Whoever heard such a thing? Waitin’ ‘till the river runs dry. Waitin’. Waitin’. Waitin’ for the Trinity to run dry. So we make it up as we go along. And I write down what I absolutely need to remember. And I’ll remind you everyday if I have to, every day until it gets done. (But don’t tell ‘em and spoil it for everybody.) Lucky, what’s that I wasn’t supposed to tell? O I understand. I can keep a secret. And as years go by I resemble you more, more and more. And listen, Lucky, don’t be annoyed at me. If you won’t be annoyed at me, I won’t be annoyed at you. And never mind me tellin’ those bad jokes and laughin’ at whatever. About this hour, I’m always sorry ‘bout whatever I’ve done during the day. Lucky, I was all nerves when I drove over here.

 

One of the sadder situations still talked about three years later was the Lewis/Marciano fight. What if, instead of the other way around, Lewis knocked Marciano through ropes in the 8th? Undoubtedly since then, over tall ones in bar after bar, the illustrious boxin’ career of Joe Lewis, includin’ his defeat and his final bout, has been held up there with the greatness of Jim Thorpe, our Oklahoma Redskin who we all know stuck it to the Nazis. Go Jim, go Joe. Give ‘em credit, but Joe was still a nigger.

For as often as the subject was brought up, placin’ all prejudice aside because of color of his skin, before some idiot made a big deal of it (no doubt some people did), Joe’s fight with Rocky Marciano ranked up there with the greatest defeats ever. And more awful and wretched, substantially more devastatin’ to Lucky than anything that ever happened at home! Christ!
“Men!” Molly exclaimed loudly in frustration, imitatin’ other women ’round town and her justification for the outburst seemed correct to her. A sock on the floor, see, a sock, see, see! Crumbs left on a counter, see! Forever pickin’ up after him while molehills become mountains. And we truly are cherished slobs. Also he wants, um, sex and she wants intimacy. Ain’t the two the same? He asks. Well, ladies and gentlemen, maybe they are and maybe they ain’t, so let’s argue and see where it gits us … ‘cept we don’t never talk about such things, heaven forbid. Livin’ under same roof and never sayin’ what we think. Lucky! What! A stiff dose of medicine for someone who thought he had it down pat, a coup over the dinner table that he didn’t see comin’ as she put one over Lucky. Molly, don’t git in one of your weepy moods. To git you in the mood he’d do almost anything. Like breakin’ out best champagne, givin’ her her favorite flowers, and surprisin’ her with candy. Be game. Roll the dice. Add a little sugar and spice. Do something different. Do something nice. Why not tonight? I swear, why not! Hot and sweaty! Hot and sweaty! Git inside her undies and she’ll love you forever. And talk dirty, if you think it’ll do some good. I’ll never prove that I’m a man of your likin’ so long as you don’t let me try. Not tonight, honey. I have a headache, honey. I have a headache, honey.

So, by golly, Lucky por Lucky! Well, I’m not forgettin’ the inner man, what we tell ourselves about ourselves, when we leave our old self behind, leave our old self behind for good, for I’m tryin’ to change, but we men have to try or be left behind. Let’s hope we’ll arrive at a place without losing our manhood. We’re tryin’, and that should count, so stop quibblin’ over things that ain’t important. Now Molly cain’t no longer be judged by her meatloaf. Long ago she acknowledged she wasn’t a great cook. Mother of latchkey kids and a Bandstand girl, as her children passed test of reliability: more Slim Willet and “Don’t Let the Stars Git in Ya Eyes” but no opera. Hank Williams? Hell, yes, he’s daddy’s favorite. “Vaya Con Dios.” Required readin’: Macbeth. Moby Dick. Loved Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in “High Noon.” So much for movies and growin’ up too fast. Lucky is the greatest bull-shitter of the bunch. Be sure and link him, me o my, as often as you can to Ralph Cranden. Be fair and please don’t encourage him to cry. But wait! Can’t be. He don’t talk. Sometimes he mumbles. Sometimes he’s intelligible. Now! Return of the working stiff. Now what do you expect after he’s worked hard all day? Who can match his stress? Ain’t he the provider? So stay off his case. Ain’t our town a small place after all? I knew I smelt garlic on your breath. Why, bless me Charlotte. I smelt garlic on his breath. Here I am, darling, like I’ve always been with garlic on my breath. Comin’ home workin’ all day and expecting a kiss (even with garlic on my breath). Comin’ home and zonin’ out on the couch, zonin’ out watchin’ television, and watchin’ news and later expectin’ more than a kiss. But she could be in her cycle, ever think of that, and in a bad mood, of course it’s ‘cause she’s in her cycle. I could go through it blindfolded and on and on ‘cause it’s happened so often! He’s not too timid or ashamed to try anything and not above beggin’ for it, and when he gits some braggin’ about it. We all understand. We’ve been there. He’s like us, our altar ego and our excuse we say is that we don’t understand women, and we can’t be expected to be romantic all the time, even as good as we are, forever tellin’ ourselves that, and since we’ve taken our vows seriously. And it’s not a laughin’ matter. Lucky has some novel ideas about it though, but he’s not always on the mark, I admit, but believe me, he’s a man of his word, but events conspire and his timin’ is off (Molly says always off). He may be enormously full of himself, and she may be out to make him say he is. Got his goat again, sucked life out of him, sucked life out of him with one word, one wrong word does it, one encouraging word does the opposite. Cry baby! I hate him. I love him, the lug. I love the lug. I love his curly hair. I love her … um … I love the lug. There’s natural temptation to complain about every little thing, but it just don’t work to try to be nice all the time. And we’re the closest chums. Years moved swiftly, too swiftly. Together thirty-seven years and Lucky and Molly are still married. By now they know each other very well. It’s no longer a mystery, and they know answers to most things ‘cept…’cept why the country is goin’ to hell in a hand basket.
Notice how we’ve changed. As aware as you of changes. It’s a pity that we can’t do nothin’ ‘bout it now ‘cause we did nothin’ ‘bout it to begin with. A big dark cloud now hangs over us, still hangs there as we speak. Holy smokes, a mushroom cloud, what are we goin’ to do? Most smartest men! Where have they been? Woo, I say it took smartest men to figure out how to stop it. We wasn’t smart. We let it happen. We live in a Democracy and let it happen. An invasion, what it has done to our neighborhoods and all. How can we take ‘em back? Don’t say there’s no way now. So a day has come that I hoped would never come … the day they moved next door, so we have to live with hot links, and soul food, and Playin’ the Dozens. Not that Lucky knows ‘bout Playin’ the Dozens, he don’t. Now we have to call ‘em Colored. Fine! So they’re Colored. Is it Colored or is it Blacks? And they’ve moved next door and there’s nothin’ I can do about it but move and what happened on the football field and the baseball diamond is now happenin’ all ‘round us, and why is it happenin’ where we live? We want to know. Ah, it would take a genius to figure it out, I guess, when I guess we’re not geniuses, or else this wouldn’t have happened to us. But to say something now out in public would let the world see how we are really. We are really! Lucky when we hear somebody spout off ‘bout somethin’ they tell us we should know, what do you say? Welcome to the real world Lucky! But we’ll have to see, won’t we?

And here’s how a recent exchange between our neighbors would’ve gone had we felt free to say what we think. Give us your attention! You may be tired of hearin’ from us, but you’ll hear from us anyway. Ah! It ain’t fair! It’s plain wrong. It’s not right. And did you like how they didn’t ask us? And if I’d felt free to say somethin’… Was Charlotte, my own love, more sympathetic to them than I was? Them? Our new neighbors. Pretendin’ that there was nothin’ wrong with it when there was? What we never said. This has been our home for generations. We’ve raised our kids here. Now who’s goin’ to speak for us? Who’s goin’ make it right? There’s nobody goin’ to. Nobody. Nobody who’ll compensate us. We heard all sorts of explanations, but none of ‘em makes sense to us. How we’re suppose to carry on with our lives. Wake up, go to work, and sleep at night. And bowl and eat? What we’re not sayin’… that we can’t sleep at night. And they’re threatin’ war, and we’re supposed to lay down and let ‘em run over us. Not fogittin’ how it’s affectin’ our property’s value and extra expense of private schools. We can’t afford to join a country club just so our kids can go swimmin’. And we could organize and form an association, but would it do some good? I’m afraid they’ve opened a door that can’t be shut. We’re proud people, gotdamn it! Be introduced to ‘em, no!

Over there is the Millers, and over there is next door, and there used to be a river between us, but now there’s a hedge. He used to be a garbage man; now he’s a sanitation worker, and it beats me what the difference is. That’s his daughter. She’s ‘bout the same age as my grandson. But he’ll know that he’s not suppose to talk her. Well, what’s with you? What are you lookin’ at? What do you expect? Come on, you can’t git away from ‘em bein’ colored folk. Always ravin’ about somethin’ now there’s this. Don’t tell me it don’t matter! Well, there was plenty of room for ‘em where they came from? And their schools was as good as our schools. They could better themselves there. Raise their kids there. Enjoy themselves there and not bother us. Let us be honest and them being the same, I bet they’d say that they don’t like us very much. So they think that we should fall in line when we’re bein’ had. And there’s nothin’ like bein’ had without being asked.

Molly, caution! You can’t call ‘em niggers no more. Black people they’re called. Black people, colored people, I don’t know which. No way can we keep up with it. And then … like we’re learnin’ that they ain’t bad folk. You can see they came here determined to change places with us. If I was one of ‘em, I’d probably want the same thing. But I’m not one of them. Now we’ll see. I meanwhile have a ringside seat.

The Millers’ unappreciated joy in life is their yard. They edge and cut the grass themselves. There’s never a blade out of place. There’s no crab grass, only green, dark green grass, green from waterin’ just the right amount. They invest in appliances. They don’t accumulate junk. Every tool has a place. It’s there when a tool is not in use. They always own new cars. They never sale one without a trade in. Horny toads don’t stand a chance in their yard.

Lucky lets Johnson grass grow in their ditch. They don’t cut the grass. They don’t pick up the yard. They let paint peal off outside of their house. They don’t got no sidin’ like the Millers do. They don’t invest in their home. They don’t take pride in it. They allow junk to accumulate. It’s scattered all over the place. It looks like a junkyard with a couple of old cars left out back. And I repeat Johnson grass has taken over. With crab grass and goat heads, it’s a gotdamn mess ‘cept the horny toads love it.

So the Averys has to catch up with the Millers. They tear in and out of the driveway, as if they have just filled a book of Green Stamps.

Randy Ford

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New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest- ACCEPTING SCRIPTS

New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest- ACCEPTING SCRIPTS
 
Now in its 14th year, New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest is accepting scripts