A New Chapter Starts Parts 1-16
A New Chapter Starts Part 1
So what happens next? I immediately begin screaming for Leo as I reach into Crawford’s cage. Blood leaks out of the corner of her mouth and her head twists around as I lift her. Tears begin to fall from my eyes as I slide to the floor.
Leo is at my door and by my side in less than one minute. The rest of the kids from the group home quickly climb out of bed and gather in the hallway outside my door. The kids who are awoken in the middle of the night and run to my door, are in pajamas and shorts.
While I explain to Leo what happened, he begins to pace back and forth, punching the wall. The counselor, who got stuck doing overnight duty this week, runs up the back stairs and pushes through the kids to get to my room.
She stands and stares at me with her hand on the doorjamb. She is trying hard to catch her breath. The counselor stares at me because I am sobbing and blubbering. I have blood is all over my shirt and I am holding a close-to-dead rat. “What the hell is…….?” the counselor starts to say, when Leo takes his arm and sweeps everything off of Jonathan’s dresser.
“I’ll kill that Mother Fucker!” Leo screams as he leaves in search of Jonathan. Instead of going back through the group home, he storms down my front stairs. The bell jingles and jumps when the door slams closed.
On his way out, Leo vows that he will not come home until he finds Jonathan. The kids from the group home stand in my doorway with their mouths open, as I cry over Crawford who is now lying dead in my hand. I hold her close to my chest and rock back and forth. She was all that I had, and she was now gone.
Leo finds Jonathan hiding in the bushes behind the group home. Leo grabs him by the back of the neck and once again, Jonathan gets dragged back into the woods. The police and neighbors are attracted to Jonathan’s screams and he is found beaten and tied to a tree.
Leo is arrested and the court sends him to Juvenile Hall where he allegedly stabs a nurse to death on the grounds. Jonathan is removed from the group home Independent Living apartment and sent back into the system. He will end up at another group home in the system and no one will read his records. He will find that he has a clear slate.
I will be sent to live in the apartment of the man from Africa. A counselor calls a cab for me and I pack it with all my worldly belongings. I am given cab fare and a check to give the man for rent and that’s it. The next day I am starving and eat a little of this and a little of that out of any food that I can find in the man’s apartment. My hopes are that he won’t see I am stealing food.
Two weeks later I am out on the streets. I spend my days sleeping in a laundromat. That way I look like I am waiting for my clothes to dry. At night I am in Washington Park hiding under bushes. The rats are bold and will walk right over the top of you to go where they are headed. I spend most of the nights wide awake.
A New Chapter Starts Part 2
I start to sleep wherever I can and my friends start to pass me around. I sleep on different floors, in hallways, in people’s yards, anywhere I am invited to sleep, I sleep. The nights that I am on my own, I wander through the streets of Albany. I nod off sitting on people’s porches. I vow that someday I will have a home that I can call my own.
Friends of friends even volunteer. I sleep on a couple’s floor so they can go out on a date. They leave me in charge of their daughter who is one year old at the time. This is where I start to have a belief that “Angels” appear and do good deeds to help you get through rough times.
The husband of the couple is a horrible racist who refers to me as, “Queer as a three dollar bill.” He is a chain smoker with a Nazi tattoo on his upper arm. They live over the pharmacy on the corner of Lark Street and Western Avenue, and show me such kindness. I get to stay with them for a whole week, so I am able to stay somewhere a little more consistent.
They feed me, give me cigarettes and let me shower. I listen to him say horribly racist comments every time he looks out the window and across the street to the “poorer” section of Albany.
I spend my days looking for a job; any job that I can do I will. I start to clean people’s houses to make any money I can. I meet three rich spoiled college girls who hire me to clean their apartment on a weekly basis. They have no idea that I am sleeping on the streets. One of the girls holds her nose and mouths the words, “He stinks” while I am scrubbing their toilet. I pretend that I don’t hear her.
I am making $40.00 to clean their home. The list they leave consists of scrubbing floors, cleaning bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, washing and folding clothes, making beds, and cleaning their rooms. The whole job takes me hours. When I am done and I survive the finger test (this is where one of the girls walks around the house and wipes her finger over everything that I have cleaned) I am told I will be paid “Next Time.” I don’t want to tell them my living situation because I am afraid that I will lose the job.
My friend Rich tells me that I can sleep at his house on the floor of his room for a couple of nights. He also tells me that if I hear his father come home, I am to make no noise at all. He says that his father will kill him if he finds out that someone is staying there.
It is just Rich and his Dad living in the apartment. His Dad was recently divorced. The house is filthy and newspapers are everywhere. This is the lowest I have ever felt in my life. I spend so much time silently crying when I realize that this is my life.
One day while Rich is out of the house I lie down on the floor of the kitchen after I have opened the stove and turned on the gas. Rich returns home because he has forgotten something and finds me. My suicide attempt has not worked and Rich tells me I can no longer stay on his floor, so I am back on the streets.
My friend Anna sees me on the street and invites me to come to her house. Her father is rich and divorced. She will let me hide in her basement.
Anna sneaks me into her house where I can take a shower. She makes me some food and takes my filthy clothes and throws them into the washer. She gives me a pair of sweats and a tee shirt to wear until my clothes are clean.
We listen to Simon and Garfunkel, Jodi Mitchell, and Anna’s all time favorite band “The Who.” We dance around her room and when she gets called to dinner she tells me to hide under the bed.
It doesn’t take long for Anna’s father to get wise to what’s going on. Anna makes a plea to him as if she just found a puppy on the street she wants to keep. The answer is, “No!” and I am once again back on the streets.
It is several days before I return to the Gay Community Center looking for any help that I can get.
Bill at the front desk listens to my story as I sob uncontrollably. He is moved and explains to me that he has an apartment down on Madison Place where I can stay. He has two roommates named Adam and Tom, and there are four bedrooms and two baths. It is only an hour later when he tries to step into the shower with me that I realize what he expects in return for his help.
A New Chapter Starts Part 3
When I threaten to rip Bill’s balls off by reaching down his throat, he steps quickly from the shower. I open the curtain and point one finger at him. “This will never happen,” I say. “But I … ,” Bill stammers. “I’m not playing,” I snap back and point at the door. “Get the fuck out of this bathroom.” With that said, Bills head drops forward and he skulks away.
This scenario will repeat itself again and again with both Bill and his roommate Tom. The result is always the same. I have to give it up to them for believing that it will happen, but this is a clear-cut case of the definition of insanity.
Their third roommate, Adam, is very quiet and keeps mostly to himself. We become fast friends and share similar experiences dealing with Tom and Bill. One of our favorite things to do is to wait until Bill is taking a shower. Then we go up on the roof and lean in through the bathroom skylight. All we have to do is say, “Hello,” and Bill jumps and runs in place. Scaring him becomes a weekly treat for us.
Tom and Bill go out almost every night to bars, dressed in leather gear. The parade of losers that they bring home becomes a daily walk of shame for us to view over breakfast.
There is something fun about watching a grown man with ass-less chaps trying to act nonchalant as he pours himself a cup of coffee and nibbles on toast. Tom and Bill never see their tricks off, so it becomes something that Adam and I have to do. I offer more than one pair of pants to help them maintain their dignity.
Adam and I develop a rating system and a secret code so we can talk about the trick in front of him without him knowing or feeling bad. If the guy is a total ass we will just speak in easy to decode “bad pig Latin.”
One night Bill brings home a twink named Billy who needs a place to crash for a couple of months. He has come to Albany after leaving home in Lake George. He talks like a Kennedy, and actually one corner of his mouth curves up when he laughs. It is clear from the first moment we meet him that he comes from a family of privilege.
Billy’s sister is a fashion model with an eating disorder. She lives in New York City and is battling anorexia. He tells us that she actually sews rocks into her clothing so she will weigh more at the doctor’s office.
Billy, Adam, and I now become a close-knit clique that waits by the skylight to scare Bill when he showers.
He is quick to pick up our secret code and rating system. There are no extra rooms so Billy and I share a common bedroom wall. We communicate along with Adam at night by knocking out another secret code. We soon rough shod over Tom and Bill. They go crazy trying to decode what the hell we are talking about.
Bill and Tom throw parties in the living room that is the size of a small ballroom. People who don’t make it home end up spending the night.
You can go to sleep and then find someone trying to climb into your bed. In the beginning it’s a little shocking, but we soon create a code to throw the bum out of the house. A couple of mornings I find out that Adam and Billy have not always thrown out late night visitors found in their beds. Billy comes home one night and tells us he is, “Hopelessly in love with a guy named David,” that he met at the center.
A New Chapter Starts Part 4
Over the next couple of weeks, Billy tells me and Adam all about the wild love affair that he and David are having. “I couldn’t be happier,” he says one morning while buttering his toast. Adam shoots me a glance and kicks me under the table. Adam and I are happy for him, but I become perplexed when Billy won’t introduce him or even bring him home for us to meet. We are not sure that David even exists. Billy dances out of the room eating his toast and I turn to Adam and say, “Ow!”
Bill slides into the kitchen and slips into the seat that was just occupied by Billy. He leans into Adam and me with his elbow on the table, “Tom and I have met David and he is just lovely.” Bill tells a story about the night that David and Billy met at the center.
According to Bill it turns out that he and David almost have a thing, but then Billy swooped in and grabbed David when he was about to make his final move. David, it turns out, is an ex-Marine who looks like George Michael from Wham. Adam and I look at each other.
Bill reminds me of and looks a lot like Charles Nelson Reilly. Now add severe buck teeth and a bigger lisp and you have Bill. Bill pours himself a bowl of cereal. He makes a face when he sniffs the milk in the carton, but carries it along with his bowl into the living room.
Later that morning after everyone has gone to work; Adam and I climb up to the roof. I have paused from looking for a job. Everywhere I go, they don’t need anyone or they just hired someone. Today we will spend hours up there getting sun. It’s a quick trip up through the trapdoor in Tom’s bedroom at the back of the house.
We learn to be quiet, because every day there is someone new sleeping in Tom’s bed. While he is at work, Tom lets his “dates” from the night before wake at their leisure.
When Tom is approached randomly by us about what he does for a job, he skirts around the issue. Every morning he sneaks out the front door wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase. Even Bill doesn’t know what he does. Adam and I begin or quest to get an answer and question everyone. We even try to follow Tom one day but he becomes wise and gives us the slip.
Adam and I joke that Tom aka “Leatherman” is a mild-mannered accountant by day but keeps bad guys in a “Sling” at night. Bill almost kills himself with laughter when he overhears our scenario. ‘That’s hysterical,” he says, sounding like Sylvester the cat. The spit even sprays off his tongue when he says it.
Bill is gross, weird, not smart, sad, and slightly dumpy. As much as I torture him, I regard Bill as my lifesaver and I find a protective place in my heart for him. I would never let him know this, but I show him in other ways. I am Bill’s ear when someone has lead him on all night and then leaves him flat at last call.
This becomes a nightly conversation. Bill weeps at the foot of my bed while I listen. “I just want to be loved,” lisps Bill.
A New Chapter Starts Part 5
The day finally comes when we get to meet David. It’s true, he is George Michael in his late 20s, tight white tee shirt, cigarette hanging from one lip, tight blue jeans, no imagination needed. I am immediately jealous of Billy.
David walks in slow motion across the room, extends one hand to me and I hear him say blah, blah, blah. His hazel—sometimes green—eyes reflect back light that bounces into mine. Billy jumps around behind him and mouths the words, “This is the one!” while pointing at David.
Adam jabs me in the ribs with an elbow after five minutes of my talking to David. Apparently, I am mumbling incoherently and babbling. Billy continues to flit around David.
I am blown away by David and everything about him. While we talk, he winks. I am suddenly in “All about Eve” as Billy’s understudy and I want to go on. It’s been ten minutes since I’ve met David. Billy now becomes a whiny bore.
I have rarely felt a connection like I have after 30 seconds of being in David’s presence. I want to be his everything and I want him to want me as well. Adam stops me from making more of a fool out of myself and drags me away.
The weeks that follow become all about David. I ask Billy what kind of toothpaste David uses, how often he sleeps at his house, and “Does David always smell so good?” I secretly seethe when Billy talks about David and how often they bathe together.
My friendship with Billy is spinning out of control. I am so jealous of everything in his life and I am beginning to hate him. When Billy talks about how happy he and David are, Adam grabs my hand and stops me from choking him.
I talk to Adam and tell him everything. I am a horrible person. I am a pile of shit and I need to stop. Bill sits on my bed at night and I imagine that it is David. He has snuck in the house to break up with Billy and carry me off. It gets me through the day, but I stay far, far away. Friendship is very important to me.
David asks via Billy to have me come to the house and have dinner with them. I am busy until he dies, I think.
Weeks fly by. I finally get a job. I am the only man working at The Dora Dee Figure Salon on Central Avenue. I am teaching exercise classes to fat housewives who wonder when the place became integrated. Daily, I am ignored by women who wear black tights, lie around in the exercise room, slip into thinness on the fat rollers, and smoke cigarettes in the parking lot.
It is the ’80s and Jane Fonda (that bitch, but that’s a future story) is all the rage. I am the women’s Richard Simmons. Anyone who is gay and in the health field is compared to Richard Simmons daily.
There is actually a Dora Dee. She is 4 feet 2 inches tall, has hair blown up to Jesus, and talks with a Texas accent. “Suck it in girls and oh yeah ,.. Geoff,” she says as she slides behind the front desk. “Steers and Queers,” she says as she looks in my direction, but doesn’t explain any more before walking off.
A New Chapter Starts Part 6
Working at Dora Dee’s Figure Salon for women, is pure hell. The little Texas spitfire that the place is named after has a folksy way of telling you what to do. The problem I have is that I cannot understand a goddamned word of it.
Dora speaks, looks at me, and can’t seem to figure out why I’m not moving. She’ll then clap her hands and shout, “Feet on a Jackrabbit.” I begin to understand that this means “Don’t just stand there, move!” Where I am supposed to move is another thing I’m confused about.
Rachel, who works at the front desk, explains to me how things work around here. My job consists of several duties that I need to check off on the daily chart. These I will rotate for the next eight hours.
My first job of the day is to start on the floor. I am supposed to be helping women understand what they are doing and teach them the proper form for lifting weights. There are a couple 2.5 pound weights. These are the heaviest weights the gym has. They can usually be found propping up the bookcase overflowing with old dusty issues of The National Enquire and People Magazine.
I suck in my breath as I approach two women. They are both in their late sixties. One of them wearing a long sleeve black turtle neck and full black tights. The other woman is wearing the exact same outfit except she is wearing the turtleneck version of the leotard.
The first woman looks up at me and says, “Meow.” The woman with the turtleneck crosses her arms to cover her bosoms. “Good Morning. Do you ladies need any help with anything?” I say pushing on. “Anything?” purrs Catwoman, rolling into a reclining position. Turtleneck keeps repeating “We’re fine, thank you,” without once ever looking into my eyes.
I smile and walk away. Catwoman purrs. “Shake it, don’t break it,” she says loud enough for me to hear then breaks into laughter.
There is not a lot of equipment in the club.There are two body rollers, a pull down, and a leg machine that just opens and closes. The body rollers are these large tables with spinning rollers that roar to life when the switch is turned on. The theory is that if you lie on the roller the fat will be pushed out.
I offer magazines and to the women on the rollers and dump the ashtrays. That’s another job I find I have. Dumping the ashtrays that line the workout floor and the club. This is supposed to be done while walking around.
My boss and the second in command is Sharon. According to Dora, “Sharon had the big balls to hire you,” even though I am all “Catty Whompus.” Dora never says this to me, but I hear her through the wall of the men’s room.
The men’s room is nothing more than a broom closet with a piece of paper that’s says, “Men’s” taped to the door. It is also located directly outside of Dora’s office. The smell of Dora’s Aqua Net hair spray penetrates the Men’s room and I am always in a giddy state when I change my clothes.
Sharon explains to Dora that “The world is changing,” and that they need to make this club co-ed or they will have to close the doors for good. “Hell rules the day this place gets pole-axed,” shouts Dora at the top of her lungs, slapping her hand on the desk for emphasis.
Sharon is an expert at the rolling machines. We are supposed to get her anytime a new member wants a rolling.
A New Chapter Starts Part 7
I knock quietly on Dora’s Door. I am looking for Sharon. Dora calls me into the room. Takes one look at me and says, “Hell’s bell’s what the hell do you have on?”
My uniform consists of tight black shorts and a tee shirt with a Dora Dee Figure Salon logo on it. The logo is a shapely pair of older woman’s legs wearing heels. “I was told to wear this,” I stammer. Dora sighs and looks at the ceiling.
Sharon stands and walks me towards the door. Dora glares at me. “Rachel is wearing the same outfit,” I say to Sharon. “I know, honey,” she says, walking me into the hall. Motioning her head in Dora’s direction she says, “Sometimes it takes her awhile to know what’s best for her.”
“You have a line forming at the rollers, can you show me what to do?” I ask. Sharon picks up the pace getting to the front. The line is now three large women deep. Sharon motions one of the women onto the table and directly on the roller.
Sharon speaks loudly enough for everyone on the floor to hear. She explains the health benefit of letting the roller massage the muscle and the fat surrounding the muscles. Apparently lying on this machine forces the pesky pounds to fall right off. Sharon reaches over and throws the switch. The rollers sound like a small airplane taking off. The woman’s entire body begins to jiggle at a rapid pace.
“I, I, I, I, I, can feel it working, the woman on the rollers moans. The other two women giggle and clap their hands. “I’m next.” “No, I’m next,” they argue and begin to push each other out of the way. I bite the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing.
“Geoff, go find Isabelle in the back to finish this up for me.” “She should be in the exercise room.” I walk to the back of the club and into the exercise studio. There is blue shag carpet on the floor, paneling on the walls, and an old crusty wall-length mirror in the front.
Isabelle is finishing up class. There are two women in there with her. She has her hands on her waist and is twisting back and forth.
Isabelle is in her late 60s. She is wearing a turtleneck long-sleeved black unitard. Her long grayish hair has been braided and piled on her head. On her feet she has high heeled character shoes. “Three more, two more, and done,” she yells into the corded microphone. The women clap their hands to signal their gratitude.There is not a drop of sweat on anyone.
“Hi, my name is Geoff,” I say extending my hand to Isabelle. She looks at me as if I am handing her a fish. She turns her torso away from me and mindlessly covers her breasts.
I am the first and only man to ever work at Dora Dee. The women’s enthusiasm for me being there runs the gamut. Several women are excited that the club is changing and others are horrified that I am there and tell me so to my face.
Isabelle looks at me as if I just got off a UFO and I am asking to probe her. She quickly realizes that her mouth is hanging open and quickly composes herself. “Hello Geoff,” she says to me and looks at the other women.
“Are you in here to teach class?” she asks me. “I teach in about an hour, but Sharon sent me to find you.” Isabelle straightens up and suddenly looks as if someone finds her being here important. “Then I shouldn’t keep her waiting,” she says to me, as she walks past. I return to the desk and finish my training with Rachel.
A New Chapter Starts Part 8
Two o’clock rolls around and it is time to teach my first class. Behind the front desk is a microphone that can be heard through the entire club.
Isabelle has warned me not to make my announcement until exactly five minutes before two o’clock. She is teaching a step class for beginners from one until one fifty-five. I am told that she doesn’t want any announcements to mess up her class and distract her students.
The ages of the women in Isabelle’s class range between sixty-five and eighty-five. The only stepping they do in class is to step-touch again and again in different directions, resting for ten minutes for every five minutes of exercise. Watching her class, I’m sure that Isabelle was quite the tomato in her time.
It’s five minutes before my class. I pick up the microphone and announce, “Come take step and stretch with Geoff at two o’clock.” I can hear it booming through the club. Then I add, “It will be fun.”
Nothing happens. No one in the club moves.
“Maybe people are already in class waiting for you,” Rachel mumbles under her breath to me. I walk into the exercise studio and see that there is no one in there. The clock on the wall reads exactly 1:59 p.m. I walk back to the desk and ask Rachel what to do. Rachel grabs the microphone and announces “Only one more minute before Geoff’s class. You want to get in there to find a space before it gets packed.”
Again, nothing happens and no one moves. I see Dora standing around the corner with her arms crossed looking at us and looking at the clock. Suddenly she walks behind the desk and grabs the microphone from Rachel. “To hit spit in the wind you have to catch it yourself,” she says, looking at us before bringing the microphone up to her lips.
“Hello everyone this is Dora, of Dora Dee Figure Salons,” she shouts into the mic. “You have exactly thirty seconds to march your fannies into the back room to take this class. I want to know that my money is well spent or I’ll have to fire him,” she says. She then plunks the mic onto the desk causing it to feedback.
Rachel does a slow pan to me. Her eyes are wide open and she is shaking her head back and forth. Dora points to me and says, “Lickety Split.” Then she walks back towards her office.
The women begin to file into the exercise room very slowly. “At least you now have a class,” Rachel adds.
I walk into the room and it’s now packed with women milling, standing, sitting, and literally lying on the floor. I have to step over people to get to the front of the room.
“Hi everyone,” I say. “My name’s Geoff and I …” “Use the microphone,” someone screams from the back of the room. I apologize, walk over, and turn the mic on. “Hi everyone, my name is …” “Too loud,” screams someone else from the back of the room.
The rest of the class follows this pattern. The women scream out, “Too fast, too slow, talk louder, talk softer, speed up, slow down!” I constantly lean over and manipulate the speed control on the cassette player. I also have a corded microphone in my hand the whole time. Unwinding the cord with every move becomes part of my routine. I am sweating my ass off, climbing up and over the step, swinging the cord into the air so it doesn’t trip me up.
Several women in the back of the class have done nothing but sit there and talk the entire time. Every now and then one of them will do a random leg lift.
The class goes on forever. With ten minutes left, I do a cool down. Several of the women walk out of the room during this time.
I can see Dora standing next to Sharon in the back of the room with her arms crossed and shaking her head. As I collect my cassette tape, more women file out. No one thanks me for class. I am a disaster.
Dora walks past me on her way back to the office. “Well, that was one hell of a waste of time,” she says to me as she passes.
A New Chapter Starts Part 9
The rest of the day I am sent to the phone room. The phone room has four chairs and four phones and stacks of old members’ files.
We are supposed to call to renew past memberships. Rachel sits next to me, one stack of files in front of her and a discard “already called” pile on the floor.
The first call I make is to a woman in her 70s. After ten minutes of my yelling into the phone, she understands that I am calling from Dora Dee Figure Salon and that I want her to renew.
After realizing that I am male and that the club is not going co-ed, just the staff is, she hangs up on me. I write, “Doesn’t want men in the club,” under her reason to not return. Her file gets tossed into the discard pile.
Rachel seems just as enthused as I am to be making these phone calls. She constantly holds her middle finger up to the phone when she talks and writes, “Die” on a piece of paper that she holds up for me to read. After an hour of rejection on the phone, I begin making calls using a feminine voice and saying that my name is Genevieve. Rachel has to mute her phone after spitting water out her nose.
Thirty files get thrown into the discard pile. Rachel writes, “Dead” under reason to not return on 50% of her files and then launches them Frisbee style across the room. She tells me that she does this so she doesn’t have to call them back. It is our job to take the discard files of someone else and call them. Past members will be called at least seven times before they are completely removed from our paper system.
Isabelle peeks her head into the phone room to make sure we are working. Dora told her that someday she could be second in command under Sharon. This way she is guaranteed that Isabelle will spy for her and report back.
The day is finally over for me and I have to punch out on the way out. Sharon waves to me from the front office. Rachel punches out moments after I do, waving to Sharon and then rolling her eyes when she looks away.
Halfway down the stairs Rachel bums a cigarette from me. “Oh my lord, I need to graduate and get out of here,” she says. “How long have you worked here?” I ask. “Not much longer than you,” she says taking a deep draw of the cigarette.” “I didn’t know you smoked,” I say as she heads into the parking lot. “I don’t,” she says and flicks the cigarette onto the pavement.
I stand around the corner and wait for the bus to bring me back to Albany. The sign that reads Dora Dee Figure Salon gets turned off. I wait about 45 minutes for the bus to arrive. The trip home is slow and we stop at every bus stop on the way. No one is on the bus except for three people and no one is at the stops. I am supposed to stop over and pick Billy up from David’s on the way home.
A New Chapter Starts Part 10
I arrive at David’s house later than I thought I would. David answers the door and immediately tells me that Billy has already left. David holds the door open and asks me to come in. David’s house is a tiny two-story residence that sits right on Washington Avenue before it splits into Western Avenue.
The house is decorated in floor to ceiling Art Deco. Statues and cherubs line the walls. There is a bar that sits on a push cart just ready for entertaining. An antique decanter filled with Scotch sits center surrounded by several glasses with designs cut into the crystal. David pauses briefly on our tour and introduces me to a woman who is sitting on the couch knitting.
David lives on the first floor with his best friend Anne. Anne is a 65-year-old woman, who briefly pauses her television watching to sneer in my direction, then goes right back to knitting. We immediately dislike each other.
David goes on to tell me that his mother died when he was very young. His father remarried a woman that he never connected with. It quickly becomes very clear what Anne represents to David and the apartment.
He takes me on a tour of the rest of the house. It’s a cute two bedroom apartment with a living room, dining room, music room, back porch, and fairly large back yard. The appliances in the kitchen are all from the 1920s to 1940s and the stove has to be lit with a match that he keeps in a tin on a shelf. Every room has glasses that hold several cigarettes which he buys by the caseload.
There is a screen door that creaks when opened and slams shut behind you. I’m reminded of camping. From his backyard and by standing on the stoop you can look directly into the back entrance of the Waterworks Pub. Over the fence he points out his car, a 1935 Packard that sits in the shared parking lot. He tells me that he also owns a 1965 Pontiac that he keeps in a garage several blocks away.
He has a hammock in the backyard and several folding chairs that sit around an open fire pit. He excuses himself for a minute as he runs back into the house. Moments later the sounds of The Policemen’s Other Ball and Sting singing Roxanne can be heard in the backyard.
David returns carrying drinks and several cigarettes. An hour later I am sitting in the hammock with him. My defenses are no longer up but thoughts of Billy are in the front of my mind and I stop David as he leans in for a kiss.
“I can’t do this,” I say, “Billy is my best friend”. “Do what?” David asks. “Cheat on Billy with you,” I respond coming to standing. “Billy and I aren’t together,” David says, standing next to me. David goes on to explain that Billy and him are not sleeping together because Billy doesn’t want to. Something about Billy having issues with letting someone in. Several hours later I realize that I am not going home.
In the morning I step from the shower, leaving David there. Anne has already left for work and we are completely alone. I am standing in the hallway completely naked, drying myself off when I hear a pounding on the back door. I look up to see Billy pounding on the glass. He has jumped the fence and climbed in through the porch.
A New Chapter Starts Part 11
I quickly wrap the towel around my waist and take a step back into the bathroom. “I see you Geoff, you fucking fucker!” Billy screams. He begins to pound and kick the door harder. “What is that?” David asks, grabbing my arm. My eyes are huge and I can feel the color draining out of my face. “It’s Billy,” I whisper. “Open this door, you fucking fuck!” Billy screams.
David wraps a towel around his waist and steps out into the hallway. “Stay here!” he tells me, putting up his hand and then closing the bathroom door behind him. “Where am I going to go?” I ask myself out loud. I quickly look around the room for a window. No such luck, there is only a shower and toilet in the room with me.
I reach over and turn the skeleton key in the door until I hear a click. Then I palm the key. I press my ear to the door. The key clatters to the floor and I scramble to catch it. My heart is beating quicker than a jackrabbit’s. I grab the key as it bounces off the tile and put it on the sink. I can hear Billy screaming louder and then I hear David screaming back at him. It is hard to make out even one word of what is being said.
The fight continues to escalate and now I can hear things being thrown, breakable things. “Mumble, mumble, mumble …” and then smash! Something hits the wall. It sounds as if the house is being destroyed as the mumbling, screaming, and smashing continue.
I slide to my knees and press my eye to the keyhole. I can only see shadows moving in the kitchen but I can’t tell what’s going on. Then I can hear Billy screaming again. “I’ll kill you Geoff, you fucker!” Billy screams, as something crashes against the bathroom door. I jump back and Billy yells, “Come on out, you chicken fucker!” at me. I am not about to correct him from inside the bathroom, but I suddenly realized that this isn’t me. I don’t hide from problems and I can’t lie. I have been caught. It’s time for this to end. As I make sure that the towel is tight around my waist, I grab the key off the sink and stick it in the door. The lock clicks open and I step out into the hallway.
David’s wet towel is lying in the middle of the floor. I step over it as I look up and down the hallway. I creep toward the kitchen. There on the floor are broken plates, glasses, and everything else that seems to have been within Billy’s immediate reach.
David is standing naked with one hand around Billy’s throat and the other around his wrist. Every time Billy starts to talk, David presses his hand tighter on Billy’s throat. The only sounds leaving Billy’s mouth now are dry grunts. I slide quickly into the room. The look of hate on Billy’s face when he sees me enter the kitchen says everything that he is not able to say at the moment.
“I … , I … , I … , I’m going to leave now,” I say, trying not to look at Billy. Billy struggles against David’s hand.
A New Chapter Starts Part 12
David tells me to have a seat in the kitchen; we are going to talk with Billy, so have a seat. Billy eyes me as he watches me walk into the kitchen. David slowly releases Billy after he gets Billy’s promise that this scene is over. Billy rubs his throat with his free hand. “Clean this up,” David tells Billy, pointing to the debris. “I am putting clothes on and I will be right back in.”
Billy is on his hands and knees, slowly picking up broken plates, dishes, and everything else that got swept onto the floor during the argument. I look around the kitchen and find a box of plastic garbage bags. I pull a couple of them out and walk towards Billy.
“I am so sorry,” I say, as Billy tries hard not to meet my eyes, but he takes the bag I hand him. “I don’t know what to say,” Billy says, dropping broken plates into the garbage bag. “I thought you were my friend.” “Do you want me to leave?” I ask. Billy shrugs. “I’m sorry,” I say, opening a new bag. Billy shrugs again.
Ten minutes later David is dressed and we are all sitting around the kitchen table. The whole story begins to unwind directly from Billy’s lips. David and Billy are not dating, nor have they slept together.
Billy has issues about letting anyone get close to him. He is still mad at me and feels as if I cheated on him. I am wrong and ready to take the blame. David tells Billy that he has feelings for me and that he wants to date me.
I tell David that I need to return to Madison Place to get ready for work. Billy asks if he can have time alone with David. I leave the house with my head hanging down. How do I even begin to repair this? This is another time that I will just shut off and run from the situation. After telling Adam the whole story when I get back, I decide that I need to find a new place to live. It will just be too uncomfortable for me around here. I quickly get ready for work and head out the door.
I don’t see Billy for about two weeks. It is clear that he is staying out of my way on purpose. Our paths cross briefly as I run into the bathroom as he heads out. He refuses to even look at me. On the other hand, I have been seeing David every free minute that I have. David told me that Billy was fine that he wants to date me. I have no problem with that. David has asked me to move into his house, but it was just three days after the Billy episode and I am still not ready for that commitment.
I have a meeting with a potential roommate named Bill M. at a potential apartment located on Jay Street. I have spoken to him on the phone and we meet at the State Street Pub. Bill M. is a button-down, tie-wearing reporter who works for several news stations and does his news over the phone. It is broadcast on the radio. There is nothing special about him and he seems like a really nice person.
We meet at the apartment that night and once again hit it off. The apartment is on the corner of Jay and Dove streets. It is located in the basement and the landlords —Tommy and Roy— live in the building above us.
Tommy and Roy seem very happy with us and waive the security deposit. It’s all set with a handshake that we will be moving in. Bill M. and I go over all the particulars. He will move in one day before me because I will have to work and can’t get there on the first of the month. I turn over my month’s rent to him to pay Roy and Tommy. Adam is sad to see me go, but we know that we will still see each other a lot.
I move into the apartment on the 2nd of the month. My key isn’t working and I am forced to pound on the door. After about ten minutes, Bill M. answers the door. He is dressed in pajamas, bedroom slippers, and a bathrobe. It’s clear that he was asleep. I tell him that my key doesn’t work in the door. He mumbles something about changing the locks and walks back into the apartment. I drop my suitcase and follow him towards the kitchen. He stops, looks at me, and asks me where I put the toilet paper. My Spidey sense begins to tingle.
A New Chapter Starts Part 13
Living with Bill M. gets strange fast. At first I think it’s just the usual getting used to living with someone, but in short time I notice a lot of things that I have to take note of. These are things that should have rung warning bells very loudly to me.
The problem is that I tend to like to see where something is headed before I react or speak. I have been told that I am over-dramatic and tend to speak too quickly.
Bill M. calls in his newscasts to the various radio stations for which he works. Watching how this operates is fascinating to me. Bill M. speaks into the phone, which is attached to a recording device on the back of the earphone and then looped it into a mini tape recorder. The station adds their on-air logo and he records the whole thing. Bill M. then runs around putting all the radios onto the station that he just called, so he can hear how it turns out.
It starts to get weird at these moments. Wherever I am, he will walk in, place one finger to his mouth, shush me and start talking. Places I can be found when he does this are: 1. sitting on the toilet. 2. I am in the bathtub. 3. sleeping. And my favorite, 4. while I am locked in my bedroom, dancing in my speedo in front of a tanning lamp that I bought at a garage sale.
Bill will knock and knock and knock and knock and knock, until I open my door. The tanning lamp has one timer switch and I have to wear goggles. I give myself a zap 15 minutes a day. Bill M. won’t let me turn it off, but will stand in my room and talk into the phone.
One of the first things I notice in the house are his bottles of pills. These pills line the counter in the kitchen, the bathroom, and from what I can see from the doorway of his room, all over his dresser.
The bottles have various medical prescriptions written on them. I write them down and I go to the library to do a little research. He is doped up so bad. Most of the medications point towards schizophrenia. What I also notice is that his behavior leans the same way.
Bill looks completely normal, almost scarily so, but once in the middle of the night, I turned on the bathroom light to find him standing in the dark, staring into the mirror. While he mumbled, I walked him and his matching pajamas back to his room.
I am not allowed to “ever” enter his room. I need to rap loudly three times, stand in the doorway and speak in a loud voice before he will talk to me. I can hear him talking to people that don’t exist and some weeks he doesn’t bathe.
The rules quickly become crazier and I turn to David.
A New Chapter Starts Part 14
I walk into the kitchen one morning and find Bill M. cooking eggs, making toast, and talking to someone that doesn’t exist. He is excitedly explaining the news business and how to get things done. I pause in the doorway and Bill M. notices me out of the corner of his eye. He quickly turns, faces me, and with a spatula in one hand, he raises both shoulders in a shrug that clearly says that I interrupted his talking to his guest. He pauses for a moment, listens to the air, and then “poof” it’s just the two of us in the kitchen again.
“Who are you talking to?” I ask. Bill M. makes a face and says, “Just you.” There are two place settings on the kitchen table and Bill M. begins to spoon eggs onto both plates. “Coffee?” he asks, walking over to a fresh brewed pot. I just stare at him, Bill M. and I never have breakfast together, never discussed it, and it wouldn’t be in my top 100 things to do before I die. Truthfully, Bill M. scares me. It is clear that something he is doing is not working. One of his medicines is not playing nice.
I slowly slide into one of the chairs at the table. Bill M. pours juice and adds a piece of toast to my plate. Sitting down across from me, he brushes the crumbs off his hands, unfolds his napkin, and tucks it under his chin. “Did you have a good night last night?” he asks, crunching into a piece of toast.
“Yeah,” I say, dragging the word out. He is creeping me out big time right now. He is staring into my eyes and chewing his piece of toast until I am sure there is nothing left of that toast in his mouth. Bill M. looks like the male version of Frida Kahlo to me.
I reach out and grab my coffee. “How was your night?” I ask. “Did you know that the Borgias also poisoned members of their own family?” Bill M. says, without looking away from my eyes. He crunches another piece of toast. “Fascinating,” I respond.
“Bill?” I say, cutting to the chase, “Are you okay on your meds?” “What do you mean?” he asks.“Well, you seem to be under a great deal of pressure.” I say, not breaking his gaze. “Pressure?” he begins to repeat the word louder and louder and each time he says it he begins to stand up. He has now said the word about seven times and spittle flies from his lip. “You don’t know the pressure!” he screams at me. We have now gone from 0-100 within five seconds.
“Bill?” I say, reaching out for his arm. The minute I touch his arm, he returns to earth but seems to be confused by what has happened. Slowly he sits back down, picks up his toast and begins crunching again.
“Bill, are you taking your medicine?” I ask “No, I don’t need it, I’m feeling better.” he responds.
A New Chapter Starts Part 15
Soon I start sneaking around the apartment, reading every medicine bottle I can find. I follow the directions on the label and start grinding up his medication to put in his orange juice. In the fridge he keeps a large pitcher of juice and every day he finishes it and replaces it. I start to notice an immediate change in his behavior: Bill M. no longer speaks to invisible people and seems to be in the same room with me at the same time.
David and I are great. He is still working downtown at Jack’s Steak House. He comes home late every night with his shirt unbuttoned, black bow tie still around his neck, and a cigarette behind his ear. Imagine George Michael coming home to you every night, sweaty, needing a cigarette, and bringing food. I become possessive and watch my friends with caution.
David also has a lot of friends that make me nervous and jealous. One of them, Ralph, has steely blue eyes and looks like a Norwegian sailor. Not just any Norwegian sailor, but one that Tom of Finland would create. He lingers all over the house and only speaks when spoken to.
I come home one day and they are both fully clothed and sitting on the bed. I am sure that I am not crazy and that I’m not imagining anything, but what is really happening?
David also has a friend named Joe, who I thought was in his 90s. It turns out that Joe was in his 60s, but looked 90 up until his death. Joe would come over early to David’s house and for some reason, he had his own set of keys. One morning, David tells me Joe’s story. Joe, it turns out, was a leading fighter in the Gay Rights movement. He gave up everything, and in the late 1950s, suffered through much. He suddenly had a life of people screaming horrible things at him, burning things on his lawn, and blowing up his house just because he was gay. I understood, but why did Joe drive around town shirtless, with his car top down, while wearing ripped shorts that would peek out a testicle every now and then? It was hard for me to let him be himself, because we were all supposed to be quiet and we had been taught not to flaunt our lives.
If you were really lucky, Joe would be dressed in an electric blue thong and drop his shorts. Joe would follow this up with a noise that sounded like he was slurping on sticky candy. It made me dizzy and nauseous.
I was bouncing between David’s house and my apartment with Bill M. I rarely saw Bill M. and he seemed to be out of the house every time I came over. The apartment was usually filthy and I would clean it as quickly as possible. Often I would be there just to grab a quick change and head right back out the door.
Today Bill M. was home in his room. He was screaming at someone I assumed was on the phone. I slid into my room, grabbed some clothes ,and slid back out into the kitchen. Bill M. was in the middle of his argument when I noticed that the phone was in the cradle on the kitchen table.
A New Chapter Starts Part 16
I look at the dishes in the sink: they are stacked one on top of the other and climbing towards the ceiling. Food has been left out on the counter to rot and there is the strong smell of decay. I open the fridge. It looks as if Bill M. hasn’t touched any of his orange juice in days. I begin to wonder if he has gone off his medication again. The screaming coming from his bedroom is intense. It’s time to check on him to make sure that he is okay.
I knock on the door and he continues to scream. I raise my fist and begin to pound, he immediately becomes silent. “Bill, are you okay?” I ask. It takes a few moments, but he responds with, “Just a minute, I’m busy.” “Can you come out and see me?” I ask through the closed door. “I want to make sure that everything is all right.” A few more moments go by, and then I hear him turn the lock and open the door. Bill M. steps out of his room and takes a step towards me. The look on his face immediately worries me.
“Hi, I was just checking. I haven’t seen you in awhile,” I say. Bill M. keeps his gaze steady on me. It is clear that he hasn’t taken a shower in days; his smell is overpowering. He is wearing matching red pajamas covered with green Christmas trees. He is unshaven and has several days of beard growth on his face; his eyes are pinched and bloodshot.
“You haven’t seen me in awhile?” he asks walking towards me, every step he takes forward is a step I take back. It takes me seconds to realize that Bill M. is clearly off his medication and delusional. “You haven’t seen me in awhile?” he asks again his voice rising. I step back and put the kitchen table between us. “Really? Really? You haven’t seen me in awhile?” I counter his every step around the table. I will not let him get that close to me.
“How come you’ve been listening to me?” he screams. “Do you know what it’s like to have you and everyone hovering over me and listening into everything I say? Do you know how hard it is to do all of this?” he says, waving his hands around the kitchen. He slowly starts to walk around the table. Step for step I keep away from him. It is a scene out of every horror movie, where you realize that you are talking to someone who is not there. His talking becomes faster and I can’t follow his thought pattern. “This!” he screams pointing to the sink. “This!”
“Bill, are you okay?” I ask, trying to change whatever subject we are on at this moment. “Am I okay?” he screams, “am I okay? Why wouldn’t I be?” he screams, as spittle flies from his lips. “Bill are you on your medication?” I ask. “I don’t need medicine!” he screams. “You are all the same!” he says, as his hands rise up and grab his face. He then begins to pull handfuls of hair in opposite directions. Bill M. is flipping out and I am going through the index box of my brain trying to figure out what to do.
“If I take the pills then they can hear what I am thinking and I don’t want them to do that.” Each word is slow and punctuated, and he starts to get even more distressed. “Bill,” is there someone I can call for you?” “Call for me? Call for me?” His eyes roll towards the ceiling “Maybe they need to call someone for you!” he screams and points at the ceiling. “Holy fuck, I’m screwed,” I think. My brain tells me to remain calm, keep him talking and head to the front door. I am going to ring Tommy and Roy’s bell. Hopefully they are upstairs.
I take a step to my right and Bill counters my steps. ‘Stop!” he screams. “Stop, listening in on me!” Suddenly Bill lunges and I jump out of the way. With one arm he sweeps everything from the kitchen table onto the floor. I fake a step to my left and make a run for the door. Bill pushes the table out of the way and is right behind me. I bolt towards the door. “All of you!” he screams “All of you!” Bill M. is right on my heels as I make it to the front door. I get one hand on the knob and the next thing I know I am flying through the air.