As I was growing up, I always felt as if I were the black sheep of the family. I had a beautiful mother, with thick locks of pearl black hair, hazel eyes and an hourglass figure,
a father who dressed to the nines, and always had a quick wit to whatever he said, and a brother who was blessed with my mother's stunning looks, chiseled features, crystal blue eyes, a firm, toned body from workouts in the garage, a succession of muscle cars he worked on himself, and a bevy of beautiful girls who seemed to increase in succession each week, from buxom blondes, to willowy brunettes. They were hopelessly enamored of him, and I was always the one to console them on our back porch when he dumped them.
His friends ranged from ROTC trainees, to muscle bounds playboys who reveled in my brother's never ending debauchery. I was short, fat, with short, stringy hair, brown eyes, and never seemed to be able to find clothes I looked good in. My parents always complimented my brother to their friends, how good he was with cars, how he excelled at his job at the local filling station, how they loved his newest girlfriend. Whenever they mentioned me, it was always, 'Oh, yes, John is so polite. He's got a good heart. He helps around the house, and you should see the way he takes to the stove.' In the back of my mind, I wondered if I was adopted. I also wondered if they would ever figure out that I was gay, unlike my straight as an arrow brother. I knew I could never tell them, being raised in a strict Baptist home. I felt completely alone, an outsider in my own family.
One particularly hot summer I was sitting on the back porch, reading a book, when I heard a pair of particularly loud tail pipes hit the block. Pulling up to the house was a beautiful 1965 Buick Skylark painted in shimmering black. Whitewall tires accentuated it's beautiful lines. From the car stepped a tall, dark haired man with a trimmed beard in a flannel shirt and torn jeans, with high topped sneakers. My brother gave him a hug and they headed towards the house.
Stopping on the steps, my brother picked up a rock and threw it at me. It hit my book and I looked up, shooting him an angry look.
'Hey, I'm reading, you jerk'.
'Fuck you, punk.' He laughed and headed into the kitchen. The young man stood there for a minute, looking at me, flashed me a smile, and followed my brother. I returned to my reading and a few seconds later, the young man was standing before me, two sodas in hand.
'Here, thought you could use this.' I accepted it and he extended his hand in greeting.
'I'm Joe Greenwood. You must be Phillip.'
'I am. It's nice to meet you. Your car is absolutely beautiful. Did you restore it yourself?' He smiled proudly and nodded.
'From the ground up. Would you like to see it?'
'Oh, very much.' We headed out to the curb, and he opened the passenger door. I looked inside and marveled at the beautiful leather interior, the original AM radio, a floor mounted manual transmission, all lovingly taken care of.
'It's like you just drove it off the showroom floor', I remarked.
'I keep it covered most of the time with a tarp. The trees and birds can be murder on the paint. Would you like to go for a ride?'
'I'd love to'. I started to get in, but my brother's bellowing voice called out to me from the kitchen.
'Hey, fuck face. Mom wants you in here.' I looked at Joe, and smiled wanly.
'Sorry, it's dinner time, obviously. Maybe another time?'
'Sure. Would you like to drive it sometime as well?'
'I've never learned how.'
'How old are you anyway?'
'Nineteen. No one's ever given me a chance'. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.
'Tell ya what. I'll teach you myself. It's not hard, trust me. We'll keep it our secret, OK?'
'OK, thanks.' I got out of the car and headed into the house. Mom was setting the table and gave me a puzzled look.
'Who was that young man?'
'Joe. He's one of Jimmy's friends'.
'What were you doing with him?'
'Just talking, Mom. He-' I started to mention the driving lessons, but I stopped.
'He what?' She shot me a questioning look.
'Nothing. Let me finish the table'. I quietly picked up a plate and silverware as she returned to her cooking. Joe was standing outside the garage with my brother, holding a beer in his hand. He looked over at the kitchen window and raised his bottle to me. I smiled and waved back. I anticipated our rides together.
I'd walk to the library near the center of town, and Joe would meet me there, taking us to a secluded wooded area with a long road. He'd get in the passenger seat, and slowly take me through the motions, how to shift, when to use the clutch. He was patient, keeping a steady hand on the wheel at first, his voice soft and reassuring.
It was scary at first, but after I got the hang of it, I felt liberated, like I could do anything. Soon I was flying down the dirt road at speeds of about 45 miles per hour, with Joe laughing as dirt blew up behind us.
Sometimes he'd put his hand over mine to guide the gear shift, and i'd feel myself become excited at his touch. I closed my eyes to suppress the thougths I had been thinking, afraid of what he would think if he found out.
One day my father and I got into a huge fight and he punched me in the face, and threw me out of the house, with my clothes behind me. He'd found a gay male magazine under my bed and demanded to know where I'd gotten it from. I finally came clean and told them I was gay, and there was nothing that they could do about it.
I picked up my clothes, and put them in the duffel bag he'd tossed out the window.
'Get the fuck out of my sight, you goddamn little queer. You're no son of mine.' Blood came pouring out of my nose, and my eye began to swell shut as I walked down the street, not knowing exactly where I was going. I had about $100 to my name from working at the local bakery down the block, grateful I still had a job. But where I was to live, I hadn't a clue.
Heading towards the large park on the other side of town, I recognized Joe's car in the apartment complex. He was outside, washing it, clad in nothing more than a pair of skimpy running shorts, his chest covered in fine dark fur, as were his trim, tanned, muscular legs. His arms were also covered in the same fine mane. I tried to walk past, hoping he wouldn't see me, but he called out to me.
'Hey, kid. Come on over.' He waved to me and reluctantly I walked over to where he was dousing his car with the hose. His smile turned to a look of shock when he saw my face.
'Jesus Christ, what the hell happened?'
'Dad kicked me out.'
'For what?' I held my breath, not sure of what else to say. I was terrified to tell him, knowing he'd probably hit me as well, and shun me. Joe took my duffel bag and grabbed my shoulders, looking me in the eye.
'Phillip, what happened to you?'
'He found a gay male magazine under my bed.' I stood there, frozen to the ground, unable to move, awaiting his next move. He put his arms around me and squeezed me in a massive bear hug.
'Fuck. I'm so sorry, man. Come on, let's get you cleaned up'. He took me inside his apartment, which was sparsely furnished with hand me downs from thrift stores, an overstuffed floral couch, rattan coffee and end tables, a cinder block dining room table, a TV, some records, a record player, and a new VHS machine, with a few random tapes scattered across the room.
We went into the kitchen, where he pulled out an ice tray. He placed some cubes in a washcloth for my nose, then pulled out a large steak from the fridge.
'Put this on your eye. You need it worse than my stomach'. We went into the living room and he sat me down on the couch. Sitting next to me, he asked what I was gonna do.
'I don't know. I don't have anywhere to go, no friends. I do have a job at the bakery, but it doesn't pay much. I could find a sleeping room'.
'You are staying with me. Ain't having you on the street or in some rinky dink boarding house.'
'But I don't wanna be a burden. And what would my brother say if-' He stopped me in mid sentence.
'The only reason I hang around with him is because he helps me with my car. Other than that he's a major dick.' We both laughed as I relaxed a bit. I didn't feel as anxious anymore, knowing that I had a place to stay for awhile at least.
'Don't you have a girlfriend or anything?' I asked innocently. He uttered a loud sigh and leaned over, picking up a VHS tape with two half naked men on the cover with the words TOP BUNS. I stared at him in astonishment.
'Yup. I'm gay, too. Welcome to my world, kiddo. Hey, how's that nose bleed?' As he checked the bleeding, I looked at my 'savior' with a mixture of eternal gratefulness, and desire. I was very attracted to Joe, but now I was living with him, and how would this all play out?
We waited for a couple of days before calling my parents. Dad refused to speak to me, but Mom asked me where I was, and was ok, and when was I coming home. I told her I was fine, wasn't sure when I'd be home, and that I'd call her again soon.
For the next few months, we saw each other every morning, having breakfast together, making dinner, watching TV, and even going out to a couple of clubs. I felt as if I had a new life, as if my old one never existed.
It was late one night, around midnight, and I was asleep on the couch. The windows were open, and a nice cross breeze was wafting through. I stirred a bit and turned over on my side. I immediately awakened to the scent of of pot coming from Joe's bedroom.