I was no saint, and in a pledge for honesty in writing this, I confess that I was a hell-raiser and a drunk for much of my young adulthood. I still enjoy the thrill of doing the dangerous or the slightly dangerous, but alcohol and I parted ways some years ago.
When I visited Memphis friends after Wanda and I broke up, one of them sat on me before we went out to a gay bar and demanded, “Are you straight or are you gay?” I had no truthful answer, but she was my friend; so I answered, “I am gay.” I still am not certain of the answer to that question, but I know more clearly that I prefer the social company of women, and I trust women more.
We went to the bar and my friends introduced me to a woman named Jaye, a short, firmly built, blonde with twinkling eyes. I was 21 years old and had been using alcohol as a prop for about five years. I didn’t drink every day, but weekends were filled with laughter and sex (when I could find it) and alcohol. Jaye was barely a drinker at all. Bars were our only social venue though we were still wary of being raided by the Vice Squad. And bars were mostly segregated – men and women. I don’t recall seeing anyone of color in a woman’s bar, but I do remember several men of color in other places. The Twilight was a bar that was mixed, and in later years I attended a drag show there. Whenever we went to a bar, we were careful where we parked. The bars were not located in really safe sections of town, and we often walked to our cars together – feeling there was strength in numbers. Gangs existed in Memphis even then, and they occasionally prowled the bar areas for loners.
Jaye and I shot several games of pool. Gay bars were the only places that women could access a pool table. A couple of weeks later, I moved to Memphis to live with Jaye, and was with her when I lost my first job for being gay. And, I began drinking more heavily. Two doors away from us on the corner was Margie’s Diner, a small bar with a table shuffleboard, which I loved. I can remember crawling down the alley some nights before Jaye got home from second shift so drunk that I couldn’t walk. I don’t know why she put up with me, and I owe her many amends for how I treated her. I have named her as she was known then in hopes that someone out there in the blogsphere will see this and send her this way so that I can acknowledge the goodness of her love and make amends as much as possible.
Somewhere along in our second year, a young girl and I began an affair. She was a tall, butch with dancing eyes. I think it’s the eyes that get me. I was her first voluntary sexual encounter; she was very under age. And, I was very in love with her, as I had not been with Jaye. Finally, I got the courage to leave Jaye and move out on my own. My promiscuousness caught up with me with Chlamydia, and I was seeing a doctor regularly for treatment. That’s when I lost the insurance job. I could not afford, even with what they called a decent wage for women, a telephone in my apartment. So, I received the call that I had been fired at the doctor’s office…partly I suppose because of my illness and time off from work, but the stated cause was that I did not fit their family image.
During the time I lived with Jaye, we attended many women’s softball games, had friends for dinner, went to some horse show and rodeo events with friends. Those were relatively safe public places for women to be seen in pants, shorts and jeans. We did not gather in groups in restaurants.
I moved back to Mississippi to live with my mother once again. Both Jaye and the young girl came down to see me regularly.