Monday, March 28, 2011

Chapter 9: Background

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
--From Peter’s Second Letter to the Churches

Chapter 9: Background

“So Don, tell me about your family growing up,” I inquired.
“I am from a family of crazy people,” Don started. “My parents divorced when I was eleven. My mother reared my sister and me here in Dallas. She is one of you people: a devout evangelical Christian. But back then she was really off the wall backwoods underground Christian who believed in Bible and healing, women being submissive, and taking us to strange camps in the woods where revivals would last all weekend. There would be screaming and loud praying. I was scared to death all the time. We lived in the inner city and were poor but not broke. We always had clean ironed clothes and went to private Christian schools. Mother somehow got us scholarships. We were the poorest kids in very affluent schools. Some schools were more theology based, some were college prep, but all were Christian.”
“Hold on Don,” I said. “You said you didn’t know what sin was, but now you’re saying you went to Christian schools. Where’s the disconnect?”
“I can regurgitate the words, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense to me. I don’t understand your God and why he is so hung up on this thing of sin—Like who cares.”
“Okay, go on with your story. Just wanted more clarity,” I said.
 “My life was surrounded and engulfed by this theology. I knew nothing different. That was my adolescence. Prior to my parents’ divorce we lived in a small town 35 miles south of Dallas. My father’s family was rural. My father worked along with my 5 uncles for my grandfather—He had a trucking company.” Don took a long sip of coffee as Scott Michael and I finished our chicken fajita salad and Brazilian burger.
“Hauling cotton in the 40s, 50s, and 60s made him pretty rich,” Don continued. “He was the big fish in a small pond.  Having rich grandparents was nice—it was the only thing normal, since the kids in school were rich. My neighborhood kids were poor and mostly Mexican. I didn’t fit in—anywhere. My father was the oldest son of 7 children. For a wedding gift my grandparents built mother and daddy a garage apartment behind their home to be close to them and the trucks. I felt very happy. I looked up to the truck drivers and my uncles were teenagers—James Dean, Marlon Brando types.
“I became fascinated with Levis, boots, and dirty greased guys back then.” Don continued and I tried not to flinch or make a face. “We had a farm—about 400 acres. Daddy would take me out there. I’d watch him drive his tractor and bulldozer around. It was nice.” Don paused again and drank his coffee.
“The only bad memory I have of my father was a beating he gave me for not eating my vegetables, he locked me in the bathroom, took off his belt and whipped me. I screamed and it seemed to last forever. Mother was in the hallway outside the door banging on it, and begging him to stop.” He paused sipped his coffee and looked past me. “I haven’t told anyone that story.”
For a moment I wondered why Don trusted Scott Michael and me so much. I mean we just met the guy and had supposedly been the enemy to him as the Christian evangelicals and now he felt comfortable to share his whole life.
Don continued, “After high school I moved back to that town and lived with my grandparents while I went to a local college. I still did the church thing, but not an evangelical church. It was more of a social church, all the prominent people attended. My grandparents, being prominent, gave me clout. I liked that and used it, too.
“I started drinking during college and went to a couple of different colleges before quitting. Continuing my education in drinking and debauchery was more fun. This was mid-1970s. Disco was invented and it was brand new, Chris. I loved the lights and music—and drugs. I, at that time, was still a virgin—I think. I may have had sex with a second or third cousin, but he was drunk and so was I—I can’t remember.
“Mid to late 70s until early 81 my life spiraled downward into a drug and dungeon filled world of sex parties. I was young, hot and extremely easy. I was the typical party boy. I loved the attention of these older guys in their 30s and early 40s. Now remember this was pre-AIDS. There were no consequences.  Life was all hallucinogens: acid, LSD, PCP, pot, mushrooms, Quaaludes, and valiums, I came out of the closet and started hustling in the sleazy, greasy leather bars in San Francisco and Dallas.
“By coincidence, back in Dallas, I ran into a girl that I had dated as a security blanket in high school. She had always had a crush on me and I liked her, and her family. We ran into each other became roommates for a while. It had been about 8 years since I had last seen her. We’d been close then and it was easy to be close again. One day, she asked me out of the blue, ‘Don, why didn’t you ever ask me to marry you?’
“I responded without thinking, ‘Fine, why don’t you marry me?’
“The next second she was on the phone with her mother and then within five minutes they were on the phone with Neiman’s for Wedding Dresses and Silver patterns. It all spiraled out of control. I just stayed drunk not knowing who to talk to or how to stop a bride, her mother and the inertia of a Park Cities Wedding. In my lucid moments, I convinced myself that to get married was to do something acceptable and responsible with my life. I didn’t know responsibility—it was a disaster.”
“Wow, where did you get married?” I asked.
“We had a huge formal wedding at Highland Park Methodist Church, they were a socially prominent family with people coming from the resort towns in the East coast. After a year of planning, picking silver and china patterns, dress fabrics from Neiman Marcus, all the bells and whistles. It snowballed, and I was too drunk and confused to stop it. After that wedding we went to Florida for our honeymoon. I remember the wedding night, she was a virgin and I definitely was not. I couldn’t have sex—it just didn’t happen. I lay on top of her and thought, ‘if there were a hell, it would be like this.’”
I glanced at Scott Michael and he looked down.
“She was beautiful, large breasts, long blonde hair, most guys would’ve loved to be in my place.”
“Did you consummate the marriage?” I asked.
“No,” Don smiled. “I did consummate the concierge. I gave some pathetic excuse of being too drunk, and passed out. The next morning on the way to the pool, the concierge and I made eye contact. He led me to an empty hotel room and we had the only sex of my honeymoon. I then went to the beach, became very sunburned, and used that for an excuse for no sex the rest of the trip—yeah it was weird.
“I fortunately wasn’t going to run out of vodka.”
“Did you get divorced or what happened?” Scott Michael asked.
“We had the marriage annulled. My mother in law came into the apartment and found me and a bartender from a leather bar, nude on the bed with a can of Crisco and a paddle. I didn’t even know his name and proper introductions were a moot point by that time.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “That is crazy, Don.”
“It was—my marriage was over and my life was ****. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I met a rich older man and he became my sugar daddy. I had everything that a young gay guy could ever want outwardly. I had the perfect life. Cars, restaurants, hotels, drugs, and clothes. He had a penthouse in a luxury high-rise. I kept an apartment on a lower level. In private I was being tortured. I never knew when the abuse would stop.”
“What do you mean abuse?”
“I was his slave. He would hit me just randomly, just to show his power over me. He would loan me other men to have sex. He would talk to me like I was a piece of ****. I remember him throwing a glass ashtray at me. He barely missed, I couldn’t help but think if that would have hit me, I would have been severely hurt.”
“How did you get out of that?” I asked.
“I was 26 and during my time with him, I started going to AA. I got a phone call one day a little over two years into our relationship. I’ll never forget it. I had my foot in some guy’s…” Don continued the story and I cut off the visuals as he described the most bizarre and disgusting thing that I am sure would have made the average gay man quiver. I couldn’t imagine how Don had the capacity to do such twisted things with another person. Don continued.
“Someone from the hospital called and told me that Bill was dying and I needed to get there.”
“I don’t even know what to say to that,” I said.
“Bill’s death freed me in a sense. He had reinstated the manners and civility of my childhood. I was socially acceptable and now, a much higher class hooker and I promised myself I would never sell myself that I would never be owned by anyone. I might sell myself, but I would never be owned. My trade was primarily Sn’M.”
“What do you mean by Sn’M?” Scott Michael queried.
Sadomasochism,” I said.
I was good at it. Eventually AIDS and maturity took a heavy toll on my life. The extreme loss of so many people, friends in such short time was overwhelming. Sn’M prostitution, and my AA group were the only things I knew, I found a real job, had a real lover and he died. Then I met the man I’m with today. I love him and he loves me. We have built a good life—almost 18 years now and we own a home and a business.”
“The Vintage Clothing shop,” I said.
“That’s right,” Don said.
“Hey guys, I think I need to jet. I actually have to work tomorrow,” Scott Michael said.
“Well, I guess we will have to hang out again and hear more of your story, Don,” I said.
“You two can’t handle it, every time I mention having sex with a guy, your faces get sour,” Don responded.
“Don, we wouldn’t want to get graphic about heterosexual sex if that makes you feel better, I mean I think we get the point when you mention Crisco,” I said.
We paid Seema and tipped her well and headed to our cars. On the way home I wondered what I could expect with Don. We gave awkward hugs to Don and Scott Michael and I walked to our vehicles.
“I don’t know what to think,” Scott Michael said playing with his keys. “AIDS, family disowning him, drugs, male prostitution.  Shivers went up my spine as he talked about that. This little man has been tormented through so much of his life. I can’t get that out of my head. Good God, Chris, I mean, I’m glad for the opportunity to share part of his life with this lost soul, but I’m still skeptical that this will really amount to anything.
“I don’t know either, bro. I’ll see you.”
I didn’t know if I wanted to get to know his world. What would it cost me in terms of reputation? I mean those stories alone are things that you could never repeat among Christians or civilized people. It was too—dark.
But then, I wondered—is that what the tax collectors and prostitutes talked about when Jesus hung around them. No wonder the Pharisees were a bit perturbed. They might have overheard what Jesus was allowing to be said in front of him and thought he was condoning their behavior.
I wish Matthew, Mark, Luke or John would have written down what Jesus was talking about inside the tax collector’s house. I wish when Jesus hung out with sinners there was a reality TV camera following him around and watching him change the world right before anyone’s eyes.
How and why did they change? I think that is the thing as I sat in that coffee shop I just kept thinking about. What made anyone fall in love with Jesus. Was it the miracles? Or was it that he listened? I mean he really listened to people. He heard them. I wondered if I had enough Spirit in me to cause people to change just by hanging out with them. I did believe that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lived in me. I did. That is how Rob had come to Christ—not by being argued into it, but by recognizing the power that lived in me.
If Jesus could stomach it and extend grace and love, what choice did we as Christians have but to do the same thing?

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