Jeff

by
James Savik

 

 

beneath the stain of time

the feeling disappears

you are someone else

I am still right here

what have I become?

my sweetest friend

everyone I know

goes away in the end

 

-Trent Reznor, NIN Hurt

 

 

I hurt myself sometimes. When people ask me why I'll tell them that I'm clumsy. If they are more insistent, I tell them that I don't know why.

 

I really do know. The burn here or the cut there is a distraction. It let's me focus on something so I don't have to feel what's really going on inside. It's just a little bit of the punishment that I really deserve.

 

A long time ago in a shopping mall far away I met Jeff. He was so unlike me. He wasn't hurt. He wasn't damaged goods. He was one of God's own creatures full of a glow that drew me too him like gravity. The boy with laughing eyes captured me. I was drawn to him. His gentleness, his openness his sweetness of spirit. He tamed me like a wild beast.

 

It took years of abuse to fuck me up that bad. He could see it and he didn't care. He saw that I was hurting. He saw my scars. He saw that I wasn't a movie star or rich or any of those things that I am not. Why did he love me? Was he sorry for me? It didn't matter to me. I didn't ask. I was so starved for real affection that his touch was an addiction to me.

 

I was pathetic. I recoiled from touch. Anything could startle me. I shook like an old man. I couldn't sleep without ludes and it took a few joints to calm me down enough to be around people.

 

I had never really had a lover, or at least one that knew what he was doing. I had a lot of sex partners that used me for their pleasure and my enrichment. I had some friends that I had sex with but that fucked things up. I never had one that loved me back and didn't care to hide it. He was so good for me when we were together. He was understanding and calm like a soothing balm on my seared soul. When we were together I wasn't that feral, predatory animal thing from the streets. Maybe I wasn't quite human but I was tamed and that was OK. It was an improvement.

 

A person can starve for affection just like they can die of starvation or thirst. It does horrible things to a person in that condition. When we met I had no idea of how much we really were alike.

 

Jeff took me in. I hadn't lived anywhere for a while. Just trick to trick and score to score. I was sick. The sicko that was using me as his flavor of the week had spiked my coke with heroin. That's what it took so I didn't have to remember. I had to get away. I was going down the drain fast.

 

There are a few days that I don't remember very well. Just hazy, like I'm looking through the bottom of a glass. I remember how sick I was. The cramps, the chills, nausea: but some how I knew it was going to be all right. As bad as if got, he held me. He didn't let go. I cried. I pleaded. I cursed God and wished for death but Jeff hung on to me. He was my anchor in a deadly storm. He helped pull me back from the brink.

 

When it was over, he took my clothes, put me in the shower and cleaned me up. He fed me soup. He led me to his bed and I went into a deep sleep. He did not leave me. His gentle touch soothed my rage. He tamed me. Someone had loved me and I was a beast no more.

 

What was left exactly, remained to be seen?

 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

 

That summer had been a jumble. I hadn't lived at home for a while. Itís not like I couldnít. I just hated the emptiness of the place. My folks were in DC or on the coast or in the Midwest- where ever FEMA sent them. Dad was a senior bureaucrat in the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mom had been a retired schoolteacher but now she was a consultant with FEMA on how to facilitate recovery and restoration of schools and students emotional welfare. What they did was cool. I was proud of it but the irony was that as much as they were able and willing to help others, they had no idea of what to do about the disaster within our own family.

 

Mississippi is a cruel place to be gay. Many people don't survive growing up here and no one gets through it unscathed. I didn't have the luxury of staying in the closet. I was outed in a very cruel way when I was 13. I was separated from my friends, isolated, alienated. My parents told me that I could not be gay and live in their house. So I wasn't.

 

That didn't matter to other people. School was a war zone for me. So was the neighborhood. I spent most of my time just trying to hide or survive. The worst part was that I was alone with it. I couldn't tell my folks what was going on. They had made their position quite clear.

 

I lived in fear, all the time. Fear of rejection. Fear of violence. And anger. Lots of that.

 

No. It was more than anger. It was rage. And it was a struggle to contain it. I fought all the time.

 

The principles and teachers at school were so stupid. They were clueless. It was like they were the only people in the school that didn't know what was going on. They constantly lectured me on how I needed to get along better with other people. I needed non-violent skills to resolve problems.

 

Drugs were my refuge. They took it away. The pain, the fear all those feelings that I was overwhelmed by.

 

It started out innocently enough. A kind soul saw how messed up I was and smoked a joint with me. It was love at first toke.

 

It helped. It really did. It took the edge off and made me more functional. My emotional typhoon wasn't gone but it was manageable.

 

Usually drugs cause problems between parents and kids. In my case it was just the opposite. When I was stoned, I was calm and didn't fight my parents. My Mom even commented once that it was good to have her sweet boy back.

 

It's like a whirlpool though. At first you just float but then it starts to pull you under.

 

My junior and senior years my folks were on the road a lot. That was fine with me. At least I didn't have to fight with them and I could relax.

 

It was during that time that I started to lose it. Not everything at once mind you. It was control that I was losing my grip on.

 

It took more. It always took more. More ludes to sleep. More coke to get me up. More weed to calm me down. More booze to have a good time.

 

I found out how much money a good looking 17 year old could make if he just didn't give a shit. All those old men wanted to touch me. It made me sick but I had long since learned how to retreat into a place inside myself when things were intolerable. It made me... even more worthless than I already felt. I couldn't wash or shower the dirt off.

 

It always took more.

 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

 

I went to the mall looking for a trick. There was always some old John there with a roll of cash.

 

I looked good but it was for all the wrong reasons. I wasn't eating regular. I was bed hopping through the summer. Five or six tricks a day. Didn't matter. It was just a job.

 

Some of the men I didn't mind so much. Some were kind actually. Some of them even tried to help but I wasn't about to let them get too close.

 

Then there were the guys that were all paws. Couldn't wait to get their hands all over me. They creeped me out. Always wanting to kiss me with their tongue out. Yeech. Married fatasses. They wanted to do this shit but they didn't want to take the heat for it. They disgusted me not because they were older, fat or just plain gross. They disgusted me because they were sniveling cowards that wanted what they wanted but didn't have the guts to admit it.

 

I walked around the mall for a while and saw one of the old guys. I could make an easy fifty or even two-fifty if I had the stomach for it.

 

I had nicknames for some of my Johns. I called this one "Mr. Piggy" because he was fat and acted like the muppet character. I couldn't deal with his sorry ass that day. It wasn't even worth the money. The mere thought of it was just too wretched to bear so I lost him in the crowd.

 

I went to an arcade and picked my favorite machine to play and threw in a few quarters. I was good at it and could kill some time. Some younger kids watched and a little crowd formed to see me play Defender. That was something I could be a star at. A tall kid put a couple of quarters on the machine.

 

When I finished, I could release my concentration from the game and see who that tall kid was.

 

He was tall and thin with bright blue eyes. He had wavy black hair and an engaging smile. He wasn't beautiful in the classic sense of the word but there was an openness about him. There was innocence, a vulnerability about him that invited you closer.

 

He said, "Hey, you are pretty good. Want to play doubles?"

 

"Well, I'm short on quarters."

 

He smiled and said, "That's OK. My treat. I like to play with skilled players. That's how you get better."

 

We played for a while and I could tell that the boy with smiling eyes was taken with me. We got a chicken sandwich and he invited me back to his place.

 

It seems that we had a little more in common than I thought. His Dad was away too. His folks were split up because his Mom was a lush. There was nobody home. He was lonely too.

 

We started talking which was something that I was apparently starving for. I talked to my Johns but this was different. I didn't have to keep him at arms length. He touched some scars on my arm and asked what had happened. For the first time I felt comfortable enough to tell the truth.

 

It was such a relief to not have to lie or at least conceal the whole truth. I opened the floodgates and it all came rolling out. All of the hurt, the pain, the fights, the anger. As it did, silent tears rolled down my face.

 

My emotional abortion took a while and I was astonished by his reaction. The uglier the things were that I was telling him, the closer he got to me. Tears were rolling down his cheeks too. By the time it was done, I was slumped across his lap and he was holding me as I sobbed.

 

That's when I started cramping up. I had been without for too long. I started getting sick.

 

*           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *           *

 

I woke up. It was still dark.

 

Where was I? I was conscious of being naked. Who was this with their arms around me?

 

At first I thought that it must be some John. I thought about ripping him off and running.

 

Then I remembered who it was and recoiled at my thoughts. Maybe I wasn't feral anymore but I wasn't housebroken just yet either.

 

How long had it been since I had awakened in the arms of someone that I cared about? God it felt good. For the first time in as long as I could remember I wasn't alone. It was an amazing feeling, one that I wasn't quite prepared for.

 

I started shaking and tears rolled down my face. I was confused by my own emotions. Why was I crying?

 

Jeff stirred and quietly asked, "What's the matter baby?"

 

"I'm not sure exactly. It's just a little overwhelming to wake up here after all that's happened in the arms of someone that cares about me. I think that I'm happy. No, I know that I am."

 

Jeff didn't say anything. He just held me closer. I kissed him with a passion and a feeling that I did not know that I was capable of. He returned that kiss with a tenderness that stunned and humbled me.

 

As the first golden rays of dawn broke though the windows we made love. It wasn't just a fuck. All of those things that I kept hidden, all of my feeling and passion were safe with Jeff. I released those feelings and he gladly accepted and returned them.

 

It was pure somehow. Like snow. There was no holding back: A perfect moment in an imperfect life. In the light of that moment, that most perfect moment, nothing else mattered.

 

It's amazing what a little love can do.

 

As bad as I was, as dangerous as I had become, one person had decided to let me in. With no strings and, no expectations, Jeff had given me something quite rare: acceptance. I had told him all of my worst shit and he didn't seem to care.

 

We spent that Sunday morning on a sofa talking. Jeff had his own stuff to deal with. Jeff was like me. When he was 14, his Mom had caught him in an awkward position with a kid from their neighborhood. He said she just looked and them closed the door and said nothing.

 

She had been a drinker before but after that incident, it got much worse. Most of the time she was cold to Jeff saying nothing to him. Sometimes when she would get really hammered, she would say horrible things to him.

 

Things were not well in their home. Jeff's Mom and Dad had been having difficulties before his Mom had discovered his sexuality. Afterwards things deteriorated steadily. Verbal abuse became an occasional punch, slap or kick. Then one day Jeff said the wrong thing to her and she hit him with a lamp.

 

It put Jeff in the hospital for a week. Jeff's Dad was left with no choice. His parents separated during his sophomore year.

 

Things were not well for Jeff at school either. He was tall and thin and his sexuality was fairly obvious. He took some abuse for it but not to the extent that I did. Jeff's personality and easygoing manner was somewhat disarming. Most people liked him and didn't seem to care. He had friends that wouldn't let people push him around too much.

 

Jeff's Dad got them an apartment but he needed to make more money. Like a lot of men in the area, he got a job working off shore with a 14 on/14 off schedule. For two weeks at a time, Jeff was by himself and he hated it. It was a constant reminder of the conflict within his family and his estrangement with his mother.

 

Like me, Jeff tended to blame himself for too much. He blamed himself for his parent's divorce and Mom's drinking. As we talked about it, it was my turn to be his refuge and comfort. When it hurt, when the tears rolled down his face, when he began to shake, I just held him tighter.

 

As it had been my pattern for dealing with difficult emotions for years, I pulled out a joint and Jeff got a funny little crooked smile on his face.

 

He smiled, snuggled in close to me, kissed my ear and whispered, "OK. Just be warned. Weed makes me really horny."

 

I laughed, "I'll take my chances."

 

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