Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
My regret, as it relates to an incident which first occurred forty-five years ago, is a testament to the idiom, “What goes around, comes around.” It suggests that my intermittent regret is atonement for the pleasure discovered so many years ago. This regret appears when loneliness is in full bloom; this deep seated crater, evidence of a familiar collision between bond and betrayal. It’s then, at that point of emptiness, that my pleasing recollections tease like Saturday double-feature matinees. The collection of memories occurs as thirst, my unquenchable devotion; or reappears every once in a while like time’s patina on my beloved silver tea service.
I was hoping for a magnificent catharsis upon my reconciliation of the incident and my fractional culpability; that my written admission might forgive years of verbal omission; that truth is lighter than shame; that recollection isn’t always significant and time’s forgetfulness would diminish the episode in the tent to childhood antics. But that humid summer night awareness arrived like an overdue letter, the content of which landed like a heavyweight’s right hook to the kidneys burying his fist deep so as to eventually become a part of me. But that is not the case. Instead of a breeze wafting past my memory and snagging itself on the thin fan blades of time, I discover that recollection and the question of responsibility are loans against my character, and which will one day, demand to be settled. That is, someday everyone will confront actions which involved someone else to determine what fraction of the incident belonged to them, and what, if any, reparations they needed to make. I’ll pony up whatever it costs to finally discharge this forty-five year debt. And yet, I remain suspicious as to the degree of honesty, because truth is an All In bet played foolishly by amateurs then followed by ruin. The same with truth; uncovering white-lies is hardly threatening. But to declare my behavior publicly after four decades of denial is dangerous and alienating. We as a society avoid the truth: Just tell me what I want to hear and keep the truth for Mr. Jones, nothing more and nothing less.
“Let’s not burden our remembrance with a heaviness that’s gone.” – William Shakespeare
It was a torturous July night, one which promised cold fronts: instead Mother Nature kept Hot and Humid to work a second shift; it was hot and quiescent and a blanket of humidity wrapped itself around the tent like a gauze dressing. A bright summer moon shot its light through the opened, netted windows and collected at the foot of our sleeping bags. ‘Ihe only sound was the whisper of a passing Impala or Nova as it whispered down Lapham Street. Pete and Jimmy were fast asleep on their half of the tent; Jimmy laying on his side, Pete on his stomach, both facing the wall. David and I were both lying on our backs staring at the tents’ nexus. The heat kept chained dogs to bay for relief; thank God for their suffering as it was the only distraction rescuing us from Serendipity; Our slow, repetitive breathing, and perhaps the scratch of a bare foot on nylon. Calm to kids was known as bored and bored kids look for action. But calm with David was breathless. Perhaps we fell asleep; perhaps I turned on my side to face him and found him naked; perhaps it was all an accident; perhaps it was a cosmic collision, a misdemeanor in which one of us crossed the double yellow line of personal space and found ourselves in the middle of an adolescent fender bender.
Perhaps it was calculated; perhaps appetite and thirst were presented at auction to the highest bidder; perhaps I signaled to the Great Auctioneer in the sky my silent bid and purchased a lifetime of homosexuality. But in reality it was, simply, memorizing David. Naked. Nothing more and nothing less.
“We rarely regret of having eaten too little.” –Thomas Jefferson
I don’t know if it’s my self protection but I need to complicate the simplicity of this moment: as though my whole life were riding on this one throw of the dice. I need to turn this into something larger than life; a Busby Berkeley production filmed in Panavision or CinemaScope; a film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. I was in desperate need of an epiphany; I ransacked my memory for the appearance of an oracle; I hoped for a deity’s prophecy which I could present to friends and family foreshadowing my unexpected interest in the physiques of men? Christ, there must be some significance that I can assign to the reruns of a deteriorating memory which has been nailed to my consciousness for twenty five years? It can’t possibly be as simple as being mesmerized by Jim’s baby brother’s exhibition of arousal. It can’t be naïveté when David rolled to his side, pleased by my curiosity. it can’t be as careful as two boys fingers dancing along ridges of goose-flesh. It can’t possibly be as innocent as that. Christ! It could have been any boy, any night, any chance glance. And I cannot remember if I touched David or if David touched me or what we did, if anything, while we were naked. Or if we just laid there undressed and studied each other. It seems hard to imagine that David and I would have merely laid there, inactive for ten minutes. It seems plausible that there was activity. But if there was, I cannot remember it. And yet I was fascinated. Much more than curious, I was drawn, I could feel my attention consumed, my hesitation devoured. It wasn’t that he was completely different than I, it was that he was simply different than I. He was thin and lean, I was husky; I was dark haired, hazel eyes, he was blond and blue. All I knew was that I wanted to have a body like his, and if I wasn’t going to have a body like his then the next best thing was to get my hands on as many bodies like his as I could.