As you know, one of the things that has been keeping me Too Busy For Love is my photo scanning adventure. I had to put that on hold a few months back when Drag Season hit full throttle. I'm back to it a little and I stumbled upon some of these pics from the 90's. This reminded me of a little story ; a painful event and my "me" way of handling such things.
Picture it, the early 90's, I moved into this building, very close to the University of Texas at El Paso where I could walk to school and work (alright, I usually drove to work.)
It's interesting to me because I had attended a party in this building about a year prior and thought to myself, "Golly, I'd love to live here." Lo and behold, here I was moving in...
Ever reliable best friend, Ted, helped me get my stuff in (actually I can't recall where I got any of my bedroom furniture...) and stock my fridge with yogurt and sandwich fixin's. It's college people. I didn't need living room furniture because that was being brought in by my new roommate, This Guy
I'll call him Shelby Davenport, because that's his name. We had recently met in the theater department and had experienced the tragedy of JULIUS CAESAR together. Believe me, that production put the tragedy in the Julius Ceasar that Shakespeare hadn't written. We hit it off as friends immediately and I remember thinking he looked like Ted Shackelford on Knott's Landing, which I LOVED, so yeah, he'll prolly be a good room mate. Cut to a year later where there are sch strange goings on in the apartment, including an attempted friend-steal (as reported by Ted) wherein Shelby actually kissed Ted in an attempt to seduce him away from me. Here's the thing, the only person in this scenario who was gay at the time was Ted! I don't remember where it all started going wrong in the apartment, but Shelby and I were at major odds. I started spending much less time in the apartment, keeping busy with rehearsals & shows - which left Ted to hang out with Shelby, which I didn't mind, Ted is his own person. When I was with Shelby in the apartment, we got to the point where we wouldn't talk to each other, but he would work out shirtless just outside my bedroom door in full view of me or towel off fresh out of the shower with the bathroom door open in the shared bathroom that was between our two bedrooms. Finally, at the end of the semester, he decided to move back to Austin. While he was moving out, I spoke to him just to ask if he had "accidentally" packed my Coors Light mug (It had great sentimental value, you see, I drunkenly stole it from the Surf Club on my birthday the year prior.) He took that as his cue to punch me in the face- with some fancy ring on. If I recall correctly he mocked me asking the question then said, "I've been looking for an excuse to punch you." I replied with perfect aplomb, "That's clear." I went down to my friend Cody's apartment and called the police. They came and took him away. Interestingly, enough, they only took him because he had some traffic ticket over due and had an arrest warrant out. They weren't very interested in the assault or my profusely bleeding lip. While they were asking questions about my assault, they asked if we were lovers, "because that makes it different." I was confused. That may have been because I was losing blood out of my mouth. I went to the ER and got 12 stitches 6 on the inside of the top and lower lip. His ring had split my lip by smashing against my sharp I-teeth.
That's my real blood, right where I was warshing dishes before that fateful and non-sexual,
sexually frustrated blow!
Looking back at it, I surmise that what was going on between me and Shelby was good, old-fashioned, MOONLIGHTING sexual tension. Since we were both living in a time where one is told to believe everything that says they are not gay and gay is bad and YOU'RE NOT GAY, all that tension had nowhere to go. It manifested in weird arguments, desperate acts and violence. All that tension cost me 12 stitches.
I must admit that when I came home from the hospital, freshly stitched and feeling VERY vulnerable, I was very anxious coming back to the apartment. What if they had released Shelby and he was back in the apartment waiting for me? They police made it clear that they weren't interested in enforcing any laws against assault. I made it in and spent the next few days looking like a b Actress overacting in a horror movie, reacting to any little sound or cautiously opening closed doors. It was no fun. How did I deal with it?
The next weekend I had an exorcism! I invited friends over and re-enacted the events of that day
including Cody playing himself as nonplussed neighbor with phone.
Then, I took a tube sock Shelby had defiantly left behind and burned it in a frying pan on the balcony and then lit sage from the burning cotton/polyester foot cover and went room to room allowing the smoke to spook away all the bad energy. Then we proceeded to have a great time
I even got aggressive playing a game on the table Ted stole from Taco Cabana for me.
Later I went through my photo albums and recast Shelby in our fun time photos, like these...
(I've always been crafty)
I also went back and added quotes from magazines that I thought were appropriate or funny, like in the first pic of Shelby. It was then, that I took some markers and exacted therapeutic revenge on Shelby in the cover photo. I think it made me feel better, then. I think it's hilarious, now.
About 2, or so years later, I finally accepted that I was gay and came out to my friends. I don't know if Shelby is actually gay, but I do know that that tension is undeniable and I still have the scar from it. It was all so strange while it was happening and the assault, while not terribly dramatic or life threatening, stays with me. When I feel the scar tissue with my tongue from time to time, I don't much dwell on Shelby having punched me with that fucking ring on, I ponder more how different it would have been if it were okay to acknowledge our feelings without shame and figuring out what was going on with us, instead of the bottled up frustration exploding all over my face.
Mostly, when I remember my time in that apartment, I see my bedroom window from the street,
on the second floor, complete with tiny Evita balcony. Then I remember the happiness of my independence, fun times with friends and finding out who I am.
(Looking back, I think I understand now why I didn't mind that right outside my window was a very active and loud Fire House, with firemen who'd wash the truck...)
Most of that is all possible, because not long after Shelby left, the best roommate of all time & eternity moved in...
(Danny accepted and celebrated my craftiness, including the vinyl cow dots
applied to our refrigerator with magnets)
Danny Lopez moved in and taught me all about patience, generosity, acceptance, self security
and true friendship. We stayed room mates until he married his lovely wife, Lisa, with whom he shares two lovely children and a fabulous house. We are friends to this day, even though we rarely exchange more than a few sentences in any given year, when I see him it's like we saw each other just the day before.
As a Gay of A Certain Age, I know how important it is to look back and see where we came from, re-examine our experiences, see if we can solve any mysteries, as well as looking back and cherishing the things that contributed to us being our BEST us. Also, it helps to have a sense of humor even in the face of violence.