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changing the subject

i’m forcing myself to change the subject today. not, understand, because this massively messed-up election and electorate isn’t on my mind twenty-four seven. because it is. i dream about it, and i daydream about it. and i’m far from finished with telling you what i think. i haven’t even really started yet on the governmental and economic inequities between red and blue states, which is becoming my obsessive passion.

but i have to force myself to take a break, because my little inner voice is telling me to do so. not those big loud voices that talk to me inside my head, which i’ve had to name to palliate them a bit. not those. my little self-preservation voice is telling me to do so.

so i’ll tell you about richard teeter, and el goya.

el goya was the first gay bar i ever went to. it was in tampa, florida, and i was in high school. i’m really really bad with remembering time references, but i’m pretty sure it was senior year. it may have been early in my freshman year in college. i may be mushing years together here. but the place and the people, i remember specifically.

richard teeter, a friend of mine who was on the yearbook staff in high school, and i used to go to rocky horror together nearly every weekend. we were really into it, to the point that we were in the cast together. i played dr.scott, and eddie if there wasn’t an eddie, and he played rocky. i rented a wheel chair from the local drugstore, and he bought, or maybe had already, a gold lamé speedo which he wore to spectacular effect. the way he looked, that i remember very specifically.

but i digress. i was too clueless and shy to do anything more than just sneak glances and be his friend. although, and here’s the kicker, he was out. out in inverness, florida at citrus high school in 1980. well, at least he was as out as anyone could be. and i’d had sex with other guys. almost exclusively in my head, and when i thought about sex, always with guys, but it was just that, sex. i still didn’t put the two halves together, love and sex. i still thought that guys you had sex with, and then at some point you stopped and got married to some woman and had children and all. i know it sounds crazy, but you have to remember that i had no role models.

except that i did, and that’s the really crazy part. lots of them, among them richard teeter, who as i found out later went to gay bars and had it all figured out, or at least more figured out than i did, which was not at all, and would have been a great help and a wonderful resource and might have saved me many years of brainless dithering. except that i never talked to him about it, because guys to me were fuck and don’t talk about it.

but finally, god knows why, he told me all about going to gay bars in orlando and tampa and i said, “cool, i could go and have fun,” never of course letting on that i was gay too, because i didn’t really think i was and didn’t know what that entailed anyway. and he obviously knew or was pretty sure i was gay.

maybe because i never dated except for the obvious lesbian i took to the prom. that might have been a clue for him.

but it wasn’t for me.

so off we go, to el goya. el goya was enormous–five bars in one. a show bar with a drag queen hostess named gilda golden; a country and western bar i never really went into except to walk to somewhere else; a disco; a cruising type of bar (or what i figured out after i stopped going was a cruising type of bar); and a garden-y quiet area bar. also various backrooms with people having sex that i heard about but never went into. that was just too much for me to process at the time.

el goya burned to the ground some years later, long after i’d stopped going. i don’t know whether it was arson or an accident. i found out it had burned to the ground when my half-sister who lives near tampa, and who did not at the time know i was gay because i still didn’t either, laughingly told me about the gay bar in tampa burning down and how funny it must have been to watch all the gay men swish hurriedly out of the burning building. except she didn’t actually say that. instead, she acted it out for me.

i think maybe she wouldn’t have said that if the situation was different and i had been out. but would she have thought it? or laughed with her friends about it? that i don’t know.

and did people get injured or die in the fire? that i don’t know.

but in 1980, with gilda golden lasciviously discussing cute latin boys and el goya disco cascading down into my ears, richard introduced me to some very nice, quiet, cute guy who i danced with for hours. he was just out of high school, was working at a convenience store while going to community college. he was a good conversationalist, obviously intelligent, worked hard, lived on his own, made his own way, a good-hearted solid citizen. we danced, we talked, we laughed.

at some point after midnight, he said he had to leave because he had to work the next morning. the responsible type. he kissed me. i walked away confusedly. he came over, asked if i was ok, asked for my number.

yes i’m ok. no you can’t have my number.

hey there, guy i don’t know your name but your face at that point i may just remember in my dying moments.

i’m sorry.

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