It was August, 1982 when
they arrived in Chicago.
Brandt and I had talked
about it and we decided to make a trial at having them live with us.
I was apprehensive, but
the location was good for Matteus, whose school was in the heart of Chicago,
near Grant Park. Will had a lengthy commute to school by train, near where
his parents were living.
Matteus had scholarship
money and some from his parents, Will had student loans, and was trying to
hold down some part time work to help out, and I just figured I had to make
a contribution too. I knew the Colonel had offered, because Eleanor called
me to see if I could persuade Will to accept, but he wasn’t hearing it. He’d
take money with reluctance from me, but not from them.
Brandt got the worst of
the deal, but he did his best to be supportive. He worked long hours and
traveled a bit so it wasn’t as bad as might have been, and he genuinely
liked the boys, especially Matteus. I was lucky to have Brandt.
One day he dragged me
outside for a walk along the shoreline, it was a blustery fall day, and I’d
rather have been inside but he had something on his mind.
He wanted them to go.
Will had been making passes at him.
Thing is, I wanted to be
good. I really did.
And when I said Matteus
was better than a thousand dicks, he was. Really.
But even that day in
Paul’s bed in Amsterdam, where I found something I was looking for, as I
always knew I would – though I expected it to be something else – didn’t
change the fact that old habits die hard.
My ass itched for cock
sometimes, almost all the time.
I had resisted for a long
time, in A-dam it hadn’t been such a problem, but here Mats and I didn’t
even see each other what with his schedule and my school and work and
But even when we had time
for sex, even when I knew it was wrong and sick, I couldn’t always resist. I
loved Mats, but this wasn’t about love. I knew, Paul had told me, that there
was a hole in my soul, it was because of that I was doing all those guys.
And Mats was the one to fill it for me, I knew that. But it wasn’t really
filled all the time.
Sometimes I’d just find
myself cruising the bathrooms on campus, not really meaning to but there I
was. Usually I’d walk away, usually. I didn’t want to be there, I just
couldn’t seem to not be there.
One evening Mats was at a
late rehearsal and Brandt went out and Paul and I were sitting in the living
room, I was ready for a rare evening where I could relax, watch some TV.
Paul turned it off and looked at me and I knew there was trouble.
It was my initiative and
I’d had some time to think about how to have this conversation. He wasn’t a
child anymore, and yelling had never worked anyway.
“Will, the tough thing
about life is, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another
tough thing about life is, we keep having to learn the same lessons over and
over again. Will, do you know what I want to talk to you about?”
“No, not for sure,” he
said with some poise; this wasn’t a child anymore, “I’m thinking I’m in some
“You tell me.”
I waited. The silence
stretched. His countenance slowly sank into sadness, he looked at me with
those black, sad eyes and I saw that puppy dog I’d first seen seven years
He was not avoiding my
gaze, he was looking into my eyes. Pleading.
“I don’t know what to do,
Father.” He said it very softly, almost to himself. “I don’t know how to
control myself. I don’t know how to be full without looking for dicks to do
it.” Tears began to inch their way down his cheeks. “I know the hole is
there, but I can’t seem to do anything about it.”
That was more insight
than I’d ever expected. But insight doesn’t mean solutions.
“I’ll try to find a way
to help you, son.”
We talked late into the
evening, trying to understand the issues, to see a solution. It seemed that
more therapy would be the place to the start.
First he tried the
counseling center at his college.
You know it made me feel
like shit, going to the counseling center. They gave me a straight man to
talk to, a guy about thirty-five. A jock. Well, I hadn’t told them what the
A straight man couldn’t
even conceive of a five-cock-a-day habit much less figure out what to do
about it. After thirty minutes he just said “I can’t help you.” I bet he
went off and threw up.
In fact it turned out to
be really hard. I figured out as time went on that no one knew anything
about this problem. They couldn’t even find a concept to work with. I tried
half a dozen places, spent hours filling out forms and telling the same sick
story over and over again.
Some didn’t figure there
was a problem, They were all politically correct, they knew “Gay is OK.”
they thought I was lucky. They thought I was just good at it.
Or they thought I was
just like every other faggot. They all get laid a lot, right?
Anyway, those tried to
get me to accept myself as I was, which didn’t solve a fucking thing.
A brilliant few figured
since I wasn’t happy with my homo self, the solution was to make me
I wouldn’t sit in a room
with them once they suggested it. Those people were too stupid to breathe –
five cocks isn’t enough so substitute pussy?? You’re the ones need a shrink!
I finally found someone.
Mary Beth was about Mom’s
age but more gray, and she would wear these long, loose, beaded dresses with
arms that flowed down like drapery, knitted loose shawls, scarves, shit mom
wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. But she had that same kind of stiff upper
lip Mom had, and the same way of making you feel warm and toasty all over
when she talked. And she had big sad eyes, Paul said eyes like mine, that
you could kind of just sink into. I did like them, those eyes said “I accept
you,” I thought they were eyes full of wisdom. Eyes that never missed
Mary Beth kind of
reminded me of mom to be honest, and yet I could still talk to her without
being ashamed too much. She said “I don’t know much about this problem, but
let’s just talk and see what we come up with.”
It helped. Everything
At first I just talked
about what I was doing. She zeroed me in on what I was feeling when I was
That helped, because
thinking about the feelings, about that big hole in me, did help me to
understand things. We decided to keep a record of my feelings, and then
after a while I could sort of predict the times that I was likeliest to get
in trouble. The feelings that led my asshole to itch, so to speak. And then
we had some ideas about how to avoid getting there.
I wrote them down on a
poster board in her office. The list was scary.
We did something about
that. Started to get into what it was that made me feel empty, lonely,
worthless, abandoned, fucked-up and man that was a can of worms.
And we talked about
things I could do, things to help me to feel filled, loved, supported,
cherished, worthwhile, appropriate.
Things to do, of course,
that didn’t take somebody’s cock.
One day we were talking
about the day in Amsterdam after I threw Mats out. And I talked about how it
felt when I found that guy to fuck me. That it was Mats’ cock I wanted
instead. So I focused for a long time on how that had felt, on recreating
that feeling when I was tempted.
Then she went back to
what I was actually doing, and we did some behavior modification stuff to
help. Avoiding places that were problems, times, situations, walking away,
not wearing clothes that made me think about getting boned. Reminding myself
of it when I went to get another dick, that it wasn’t Mats’ dick, and it was
his dick that felt the best of them all. Lots of things.
Every little bit helps.
But you can’t avoid
bathrooms, and hell I could get laid just walking across the quad. So it
helped, but it didn’t solve the problem.
And then Mats left me and
it all fell to shit.
I knew this was going to
be bad. Matteus finally caught on to what was happening, and I came home
from work one afternoon and he was gone. No message, no forwarding address,
nothing at all. Will was devastated.
For the next week Will
searched for him, found him at school but he wouldn’t see him, finally he
was asked by security to leave the campus. Warned against returning.
I asked Will to stay away
for a bit, to let me see what I could do. I also told him that he could
react to this badly or well; it was his decision. I pointed out that in the
past he’d have run away, drugged up, or acted out sexually when things went
“If you want him back,
Will, those would be the worst possible steps you could take.” But I wasn’t
sure if it got through to him.
I went to find Matteus,
it took several tries, but I found him on his way out of a practice room
late one evening about ten days after he had moved out.
“Matteus, can we talk a
“Yes, of course, Paul, I
am expecting you for some time now.”
“Matteus, are you all
right? I’m concerned about you.”
I think he assumed I’d
launch into something about Will first. Of course I was concerned about
Will, but in some ways I was even more worried about Matteus. Here he was,
not quite eighteen, all alone in a foreign country, cut adrift in a big
city, and no doubt his heart broken as well. And he seemed such a delicate
He looked at me, his eyes
limpid. Then down a moment and up and he fixed me with a resolute gaze, then
spoke with an even strength.
“I am not so very well,
thank you for asking. I am not so happy. But I am not to need anything if
that is what you mean.”
This little guy amazed me
with his strengths. I knew what a mess Will was, and if I’d been in this
situation I’m sure I’d be shaken to the core. Maybe he was but he didn’t
“You have a place to
stay, you are safe? I’ve been worried.”
“Yes, Paul, thank you
again, you have not to worry. I have moved into a place with some other
students, it is not so bad, much nicer I think than our apartment in
Amsterdam was. I apologize, I am somewhat to hurry, Paul, I am expected
“Okay, Matteus, I don’t
want to hold you up, but . . .” I didn’t quite know what to say, then it
came to me.
“I miss you. So does
Brandt. And I know you know Will does.”
Before he could say
anything I continued, “I know you need time to think this out, and I want to
help both of you in any way I can.”
“But I’m not here to
pressure you, I want you to understand that I care about you very much. You
have become part of my family, and I am sure you are hurt. I hope you will
let me stay in contact, no matter what. Of course I want to see if there’s a
way to repair what’s broken too. But my concern is just as much for you as
it is for Will.”
He set down his music
case, and walked up to me, reached up and touched his delicate fingertips to
my lips, sealing them. I began to understand the way he handled Will. He was
so direct. This kid had balls.
“Thank you Paul, I am
loving you too. I will call later so you can have my number. For Will I am
not so sure I will want to hear from him again.” Then he paused a moment.
“But I will not be stupid and say it unless I am sure. I may change my mind
on this. I must go now, you are very sweet, Paul, to come to see that I am
well.” And he gave me a peck on the cheek, stretching up to reach.
And with no further ado,
he was off.
I understood what Paul
was saying to me, but I hurt inside so badly. I wanted to get some drugs,
some cock, anything, I wanted to pick up and run away, he was so right about
Talk about feeling empty,
lonely, worthless, abandoned, fucked-up.
And so I called Mary
Beth, asked her if I could possibly see her right away. Before I went crazy.
I started seeing her three, four times a week, buried myself in my studies,
anything to keep from what everyone called ‘acting out’.
It was very hard.
In school we heard that
the CDC announced a new name to cover a puzzling set of medical conditions
then known by a number of different names: lymphadenopathy, GRID, gay
cancer. The new name was Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
As weeks passed, it
didn’t get all that much easier, but some of the pain went away and I
started, with Paul and Mary Beth’s help, to work out some ways to handle the
impulses, the temptations. I wasn’t always successful.
Part of it was just
talking to myself, reminding myself of why I wanted to do these things. Part
of it was talking to someone else, having someone else to distract me,
reassure me, hold me.
Even the teddy bear got
some of that.
Part of it was keeping
busy. Part of it came from the Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings Mary Beth
suggested I go to.
At first I thought it was
a dumb idea.
“Mary Beth, I’m a lot of
things, and I know I’ve drunk a lot of booze and been wasted to kill my pain
a lot of times, too. But whatever I am I’m no alcoholic. I could never drink
again, it wouldn’t matter to me. I have abused it, but alcohol is not my
“I accept that Will. But
I think you may learn some very useful things there.”
“Think about this, there
is a similarity here, isn’t there? Alcoholics are compelled to seek out a
particular item, a particular experience, no matter what harm it does to
them. No matter what pain it brings to those around them. They must do it,
they need it to dull pain they cannot tolerate. Does that sound familiar?”
“OK, I see that, but . .
“They are very practical,
Will, in finding ways to deal with compulsions. With addictions.”
So I went. And then I
started to listen to what people were saying there and I thought it wasn’t
so different. She was right.
That really was turning a
corner for me. They were using alcohol to fill up the holes, I was using
dicks. Many of their stories were worse than mine. All of them sounded
I couldn’t get up and
talk, not even once I found a Gay AA meeting, I didn’t think they’d
understand, and it wasn’t about alcohol. But listening helped a lot. Then I
decided to go back to the straight AA meeting. They might not understand,
but they didn’t hit on me and make it harder.
Well, most of them didn’t
And from them I learned
about one day at a time, and sometimes one minute at a time. I just won’t go
look for a cock right this minute, just not now for this next one minute.
Just for the next ten minutes, I’ll not go cock hunting. Whatever works.
So the weeks passed, and
then months passed. I knew Paul was talking to Mats, went to meet with him
now and then, told me he was OK.
Paul asked me to work on
myself, just be patient about Mats, try to make myself ready if there was an
I ached for him so badly.
I wept. I screamed sometimes.
Paul was so good to me.
He forgave me for tempting Brandt. Brandt put up with having me there, and I
wasn’t so tempted with him.
And once or twice, when
Brandt was travelling, I found myself crawling into Paul’s bed again. I felt
very small then, like a little boy. But he just kissed me and said “Welcome
It was safe there, and I
didn’t want to have sex with him any more. Probably the only man on earth I
knew I didn’t want to do. Sleeping with a boy he never wanted
to do. Well, not a boy anymore.
But still, late one night
I asked him about that.
“Paul,” I whispered in
the dark, “I understand why you never had sex with me. And I thank you for
it, you were so right about that. But I wonder. Weren’t you ever tempted?”
He was drowsy, but he
turned over and squeezed me.
“You mean that?”
“Son, it helped that you
weren’t quite my type, that, like you, I prefer my men to be a bit older
than a teenager, but when I was alone, after Dennis left me, I was so lonely
and often very horny.”
“It would not have been
so much temptation to have had you around but in your own bed. But lying
there next to me, warm and soft, and I knew you would be enthusiastic, all
it would take was a little hint. Just letting down my guard for a moment.
There were a lot of nights that it was a close call.”
“I never knew.”
“You weren’t supposed
I thought for a few
“So how did you resist,
how did you make it? I need to know how to do that.”
“I just kept reminding
myself why you were in my bed in the first place. What it was that you
really needed, what it was that you didn’t need.” He paused. “And how much
I had come to love you. How important it was that I not do anything that
would hurt you.”
“And it would have
hurt you, Will; and I knew it even if you didn’t.”
“What about now, Paul? Is
it a problem for me to be here?” I didn’t want that from him, I wanted to
know if he did, though.
“Why,” he said puzzled,
“you’re my son, Will. You have been for a long time. It wouldn’t even occur
to me now.”
Then one night when
Brandt was home I crawled in between the two of them and they both held me,
and then I really felt like a little boy. That night I cried myself to sleep
in their arms.
All in all, I think Mats
leaving was a good thing, painful as it was. It was the first thing that had
ever really gotten inside him about his behaviors. I think he understood
this would always be difficult for him, but I’d never seen him not act out
before, never seen him handle pain positively.
I worked on Matteus, he
was a tough little bugger. Not hostile or defensive, strong. But he was
feeling the betrayal and the pain. His way of handling it was to retreat
into his music, burying himself in it. Will didn’t know, but I set up a
regular Wednesday night meeting with Matteus, when Will had a late class.
We went out for dinner, a
treat for us both. I took my cues from him, sometimes he just wanted to
enjoy a break, a nice meal, a nice restaurant, idle talk. But often he
wanted to be serious, and he was such a forthright speaker.
Will better get him back
or he’s on my list as a backup for Brandt. Nah, I couldn’t get past that
little elfin body of his, really, no attraction at that level. But he would
make quite a catch for someone. This young man had a heart of gold, he’d
sweep someone off their feet.
Finally, as Thanksgiving
approached we were sitting in an Italian restaurant that was one of my
favorites, a table next to an open fire, it was warm and mellow and we were
eating tirimisu. He put down his spoon, looked sad, then back up at me.
“Paul, I am still so hurt
because of him, but also I am missing him very much,” he told me. “I am very
“Well, Matteus, I can
understand those feelings. What do you think, is it possible for you to take
him back? Can you give him another chance? He did forgive you when you
let him down. I’m not saying it was the same, though maybe in his eyes it
was pretty serious.”
He was quiet for a long
“It is not for what he
did, but for the future I am so concerned. I can forgive him perhaps, I can
forgive a man here or there if he still is loving me, but I cannot think he
will not have another hundred lovers this year, so for what does he need
He could always cut to
the heart of the matter.
“OK, I understand that
“But I’m going to give
you a shove now. I’ve been watching him for these past two months, and he
has made enormous strides. I’m not telling you he’s perfect, I’d have to be
honest and say you might have to be ready for a slip up at some point, it
I took a breath.
“But Matteus, you know
you both love each other so much, you have to give him a chance; it doesn’t
all come together perfectly for him. But he’s doing it, has been doing it,
without you, for months. Compared to what he was the first day I met him,
it’s been a miracle.”
I took a sip of my
“Talk to him, son, tell
him your pain, let him tell you his.”
Two weeks later Matteus
moved back in. Just in time for Thanksgiving. He thought it a thoroughly
excessive experience, “very American,” he said, diplomatically.
The Colonel and Eleanor
stopped by for dessert.
We were both overjoyed at
the reunion. I had spent many sleepless nights worrying when they separated.
I thought losing Matteus would throw Will into a spin, push him back over
the edge. Matteus’ love was the one thing that I thought had saved him, and
I was truly petrified.
In fact, the Colonel and
I had met with Matteus three times, though no one else was aware of it, I
It was my husband’s idea.
“We can’t lose both of
them, Eleanor. We have to do something.”
Well, I said he was ever
a man of action. We asked Matteus to come to our place for dinner.
When we were together
with Matteus I was amazed further to see how Thomas doted on that boy. For
once he did most of the talking.
“Matteus, we are sorry
that Will has hurt you. We don’t want to lose you from our lives, not from
It was enough to make me
take a deep breath.
“We think of you, both of
us do, as another son. And we hate to see our family split apart like this.”
It seemed that wonders
would never cease.
I had my life back.
It was so painful to face
him, but there was no pain I wouldn’t take to get him to come back. I told
him all about Mary Beth and the things I was doing to be good. And he told
me about how much I hurt him, and instead of getting crazy, I stored it all
away to remind myself when I needed it.
Like Paul reminding
himself why I was in his bed.
So a bitter cold winter
settled down around us yet I was warm, and spring came and we thawed and
still I was warm, and our first year of college was done.
And Mary Beth got me
started talking about my father.