Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 10

Sitting in his dorm room alone, Atwood couldn’t sleep. He was tired, but not tired. His eyes wanted to close, but his brain wouldn’t shut off. He was craving. That was the best way to describe the feeling building in the pit of his stomach. Craving. He was craving sex, alcohol, drugs: all the things that would occupy his mind—numb his mind was more accurate—and keep him from having to deal with his feelings for Kinlin and, for that matter, his life.

As he was under age, the alcohol wouldn’t be easy to come by until he was back at the frat house. 

Since he had been dismissed from Bobby’s life by Clancy the easy access he’d once had to marijuana had withered like the plant’s dried leaves when they’re ready for smoking.

Sex was something he could get on his own. He could go out or—the lightbulb clicked on above his head—he could stay in. There was a portable device called a laptop computer that he just happened to own and with his connection to a little thing called the Internet he could connect with different guys from the comfort and safety of his dorm room until he found someone that peaked his interest.

Through a Google search for online websites dedicated to guys hooking up with guys, Atwood discovered Using a few of the pics he’d taken with his phone he added his image to his newly created profile and let his time wasting begin. Chatting online could be boring and tedious, but it could also be a turn on. There was no end to the embellishment of what one might want to do, or be willing to do, or desire to do, with another person.

Atwood found himself easily addicted to the compliments he got from online gawkers looking at his naked pics. He became obsessed with getting laid, or at least with being propositioned. 

It was easy. Atwood was a good looking guy. He was thin and toned; the perfect twink for those who went after that boyish look. He found that he never lacked for mail in the inbox of his Adam4Adam account. He also discovered a large concentration of guys on and around the UCLA campus. He hadn’t even realized how much he craved the attention, not even after he’d added the Adam4Adam app to his phone; not even when he checked it every five minutes. Even though he was still blowing off classes more than he was attending them, he wasn’t always in his dorm room. The app was a necessity he told himself. He wanted (needed) to be able to see who was interested in him at any given time and to see who might be looking to make a connection sooner rather than later. He was a man obsessed, but the excitement of it all prevented him from seeing the obsession.

Life had certainly taken an interesting turn for the boy from Ryland, Massachusetts who was smart enough to get a partial scholarship to UCLA and good looking enough that girls and boys were interested in him. Without even realizing what was happening to him, Atwood was spiraling down the rabbit hole, and there was no one waiting for him when he hit the ground to show him which direction was up.


The first guy he met from A4A was Jessie. Jessie was good looking enough. Kinlin and Bobby had both been more attractive, but Jessie had a nice smile. Something about his smile, his blue eyes, and blond hair attracted Atwood. He didn’t have a full nude shot on the website and told Atwood through email that he didn’t have one to share. He did have a shirtless photo and while his body wasn’t as hot as Bobby’s he at least wasn’t a fat man. He wouldn’t hear his own thoughts. Thoughts that were screaming YOU’RE SETTLING!. Through their conversation of several emails Atwood got the sense that Jessie was a nice guy and decided to invite him to his dorm room. 

Jessie was older than Atwood; a man in his mid thirties. He said the idea of showing up at Atwood’s dorm room was the fulfillment of a teacher student fantasy. He went on to admit that he’d had the fantasy for so long that when it started he, Jessie, was the student looking for the teacher, but fulfilling it either way would be hot. Atwood had gotten so worked up from the conversation that he thought the role play idea would be fun—hot—and couldn’t wait for Jessie to get there.

When the knock sounded on Atwood’s door it was the first time he’d actually felt nervous. He opened the door and instead of feeling like a man he felt more like a boy. He thought to himself that feeling like a boy was definitely de rigueur for this scenario, but he hadn’t wanted to feel like a boy. He’d wanted to feel like a man playing the role of a boy. He wanted to be excited and turned on by Jessie. However, upon seeing him standing in the doorway—looking older than he had in his pictures and knowing what they were getting ready to do—he wasn’t sure he could go through with it. That realized, he still didn’t want to send Jessie away.

Jessie put him at ease right away with the smile that he’d liked from the pictures online. They shook hands and sat down on Atwood’s bed. Trying to calm his nerves Atwood heard himself talking about stupid things that were doing nothing but filling the air with sound and keeping him clothed. He then remembered he’d had a menage a trois with a guy and a girl, and gotten sucked off in a back ally. This was nothing. This was getting naked with a guy in his dorm room who had a teacher student fantasy. Atwood felt his dick start to harden and leaned over and kissed Jessie.

That was the moment Atwood couldn’t erase from his memory. Jessie was a terrible kisser. Atwood hadn’t kissed a lot of people in his life, but he’d kissed enough to know that kissing was important and when the kissing was bad, the sex was probably going to be bad as well.

Also, Jessie was a licker. He licked Atwood’s chin and his cheeks. He even licked the tip of Atwood’s nose. Whenever Jessie tried to make eye contact, Atwood made sure to attempt some look of enjoyment, but he was so turned off. 

He should have found a reason to end this hook up before it happened but instead found himself naked, lying underneath a man who was licking him. Not seductively licking him, but licking him almost like a dog. It wasn’t as if Jessie was trying to lick him like a dog, in fact Atwood felt that Jessie probably thought he was seductively seducing the “student,” but nothing about it was sexy or seductive. Atwood was fighting to keep his dick hard.

He just wanted it to be over. He was lying on his back as Jessie alternated sucking his dick and licking his balls to the point of slobber saturation. He was thinking of Bobby: Bobby’s body, Bobby’s cock, Bobby’s cock in his mouth, Bobby’s cock inside his body. Anything that would keep the erection up and make the orgasm happen quicker. Then Kinlin popped into his head. He didn’t fight it. He could see his best friend’s cock and could remember how it felt to hold it. He reached down and grabbed Jessie’s dick and began stroking it hard. Jessie moaned as he sucked and licked. Atwood couldn’t help but remember the old Tootsie Pop commercial they’d watched in journalism class back in high school. He could see the wise old owl sitting in the tree licking the Tootsie Pop attempting to answer the little boy’s question, “How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” He could even hear the distinct accent of the owl’s voice as he said, “Three.” Jessie was treating his dick like a fucking Tootsie Pop. His erection was limping. He had to block out the commercial.

He got back on sexual track. He continued to think of Jessie’s cock as Kinlin’s. The more he thought about stroking his best friend’s dick the harder he got. He could feel the orgasm building. He wanted to shoot his load before Jessie decided to give any part of his body another tongue bath, least of all his balls.

“I’m coming,” he heard himself say and before he exploded he felt the warmth of Jessie on his leg. Jessie’s moan was almost a whimper as he came while Atwood, despite the licking, had worked himself mentally into such a frenzy that he came almost as hard as he had when Bobby had fucked him.

He was not prepared for Jessie “the Licker” to lick his own cum from Atwood’s leg followed by Atwood’s cum from his stomach. The kiss that followed was in no way as hot as the back ally kiss where the man had transferred Atwood’s own cum to his mouth and told him to swallow. 

Jessie looked elated, so pleased with himself. Atwood thought that must be the look of a fantasy fulfilled. Without knowing what that must feel like and not taking a moment to ask, Atwood faked having somewhere to be in order to rush Jessie from his dorm room.

He felt like an asshole for the way he’d behaved. He hadn’t even given Jessie head. It wasn’t completely his fault though. The licking had been a real turn off. He hadn’t bargained for that. How could he have known from conversation and pictures through a website?

Before going down the hall to shower the remnants of cum and saliva left behind from Jessie, Atwood signed on to his A4A account and quickly blocked “the Licker” from being able to contact him again. He was already feeling like an asshole for not sucking the guy off and for lying about having somewhere to be. By blocking him he had cemented his asshole status. He had taken down the “For Sale” sign and actually bought a house in Assholeville.

©Michael Rohrer 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

"They Never Gave Up"

My dad’s parents, my mamaw and papaw, passed away in 1998 and 1999 respectively. My mamaw was the first to go. Cause of death: unknown. The family didn’t want an autopsy. Speculation has it that an aneurism may have burst or that she may have had a heart attack. The cause is not important and I guess we’ll never know. The fact is she was gone before the ambulance could get there. I don’t remember the last time I saw her. I do remember without the use of pictures what she looked like. I remember how she sounded when she spoke. Sometimes I can hear her laughter even still. My mamaw was a beloved member of her church’s congregation and she loved serving God (she passed away on a Wednesday night sitting in her pew at her church). Her nails and her hair were always done, and she loved playing the game Trouble. 

She was the first loss of that kind that I experienced in my life. An immediate heartache. I was already a resident of New York City by then so I was fortunate enough to be nearly 27-years old when it happened. I was an adult and could deal with the loss with a greater understanding than that of a child. Of course that didn’t make the loss any easier, or hurt any less.

I can still remember my granddaddy (mom’s dad) telling me. My mom had left me a message, on my answering machine, to call home. That was back in the day before we were all reachable at any given moment through our attached-at-the-fingertips smart phones. Her message didn’t set off any alarms. She just plainly, with no emotion in her voice, asked me to call home. Unable to reach her at her house, I called her parents, my grandparents. I can hear my granddaddy telling me the news to this day. I remember clutching a shelf that ran the length of my, then, kitchen on West 45th Street. I remember going into a squat position as I cried, a hand still holding that shelf. My tears fled my eyes as if they were running from something trying to extinguish them. They came fast, hot, and furious. I remember choking out the word “No” many times alternating with the inability to speak. I remember being unwilling to hang up. I remember my granddaddy’s calm voice calling me “son” as he tried to calm me.

When death catches you by surprise it is an overwhelming emotion that isn’t soon forgotten.

Within a year-and-a-half my papaw was in a coma. The doctors determined he had leukemia. It was shocking. Leukemia? How was that possible? We weren’t sure how long he was going to be with us. I debated what to do, and finally made the decision to fly home to see him; and if I’m honest, to be with my family, to see my dad. The last time I saw him he was in that coma, but I know that he knew we, his family, were there crowded around his bed. I saw a tear slip from his closed eyes and fall to the pillow. One might argue that tear could have been anything, but I choose to believe that he felt our presence and could hear us talking to him and just couldn’t wake up to answer back. I choose to believe that tear was his joy that his family was at his side and his frustration at not being able to defeat what was keeping him from joining the song we sang around his bedside.

I flew back home to New York City, but was back in Kentucky less than two weeks later to attend his funeral.

I wasn’t writing my blog back in 1999. There wasn’t even a thought in my head that I might one day write about my life, or rant about social issues, or create characters that I would weave into stories of fiction. One thing that did happen in my life was I started to write songs. I was shocked, I won’t lie. It all started with a break up.

My first boyfriend and I broke up in 1998, a month after my mamaw passed away. I worked through that ending by pouring my feelings into lyrics, but not just lyrics, full songs. I love country music and somehow I opened myself up and allowed all the emotions I was feeling to be channeled into songs. I wrote the lyrics and the music; the two always came together, never separately. It was so interesting because I didn’t know I could do that. Sometimes the lyrics flowed out of me faster than I could write them. I carried a notebook with me everywhere I went. Songs came from nowhere. Some were good, some were bad, some are still unfinished. It was an exciting and fruitful period in my life. On a side note: as quickly as this song writing ability entered my life it seemed to dry up.

My sister and I, calling ourselves AJ & Mike, teamed up as writing and vocal partners during that time in ’98/’99. After my papaw died we wrote the below song, eventually recording it and giving it to my dad and his siblings as a tribute to our grandparents and to the strength of our family.


(Verse One)
A prayer went up to heaven
Through a circle of held hands
While a family waited patiently
On news of things that were not planned.
He had always been their solid rock
But now his strength could not be found.
This family bound by God and love
Knew a miracle was needed from above.

They never gave up
Though they couldn't see the light.
They stayed together
And held each other tight.
They didn’t know what they would face each brand new day.
They never gave up
And through love they found a way.

(Verse Two)
A year ago in springtime
Through a circle of held hands
In a churchyard filled with flowers
They gave her body to the land.
How would they ever live without her?
Who would they take their problems to?
They put the pieces back together
‘Cause her love would live inside of them forever.

They never gave up
Though they couldn’t see the light.
They stayed together
And held each other tight.
They didn’t know what they would face each brand new day.
They never gave up
And through love they found a way.

With her gone
And him barely hangin’ on
They know miracles happen
And prayers go unanswered.
They don’t know about tomorrow.
They’re waiting for time to tell.
But they’ve got faith, they’ve got hope, they’ve got love,
And they never gave up

They never gave up
Though they couldn’t see the light.
They stayed together
And held each other tight
They didn’t know what they would face each brand new day.
The never gave up
And through love they found a way.

Families don’t always get along and they don’t always support one another’s lives, but it’s nice to know that in times of sorrow and real need, belonging to one that will give a shoulder to lean on, an ear for listening, and something to wipe away the tears is a blessing. 

No matter our differences I’ve always known I was blessed to be a member of my dad’s family and to have had William “Dub” and Ella Rohrer and my papaw and mamaw. 

The song writing may have dried up, but the ability to write just went on hiatus for a while. These days it comes in a very different form: funny/sad/dramatic/interesting/boring stories about my life, social rants, and fiction. I no longer carry a notebook in lieu of my iPhone “Notes” app, but I still have that notebook, and the humble beginnings of my storytelling past, albeit stories told through song. Hey, that’s what country music is, right? Stories told through song?

“They Never Gave Up” ©AJ & Mike 1999

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Granddaddy

Memories are an interesting thing. They come back to you when you least expect them. Sometimes something you haven’t thought about in years can appear in your mind with a picture so clear that you’d think it had just happened. Could that be what Memories, light the corners of my mind means in “The Way We Were”?

My earliest memory of him comes from a time when I was no more than 3-years old. I know this because I was three when we moved from our trailer, in the lot that adjoined that of my maternal grandparents, to a house in the next town over.

It was Halloween 1973 or ’74. He showed up at the door in plain clothes and a bag over his head. There were eye holes cut out so he could see. He said nothing. He stood on the step. Just stood there, unmoving. I stood staring at him. I can only assume my mom or dad answered the door and knowing who it was called me over. I don't recall if I was scared of the man standing in front of me with a brown paper bag over his face, those empty eye socket cut outs allowing him to see me but preventing me from seeing his eyes. I looked down. It seems natural to me that I would look down as being a toddler I was closer to the floor than his height of more than 5'8”. And let’s face it, I wasn’t getting anything from the brown paper bag in the way of recognition. Looking down though, I recognized his work boots immediately. I knew the man with the bag covering his head standing in front of me was my granddaddy.

As his life winds toward an end I'm struck by the fact that I knew him even when I couldn't see his face. I've take for granted that he is present in my life even when I'm here and he's there. I never reach out enough, but I love him.

My granddaddy is a gentle, generous, compassionate man who loves his family and has always taken care of all of us. Whatever "taking care" entailed. 

As I began to think about him and to write this story I remembered that in 2007 my mom wanted to give my granddaddy a scrapbook for Father’s Day. She asked her siblings, their spouses and children to write a letter to granddaddy to be included in that scrapbook. I was convinced I still had mine and sure enough there in my sent email was the letter I wrote to my granddaddy. Funny how it starts with the same story as this blog.

Dear Granddaddy,

One of my first and fondest memories of you is when we lived in the
trailer and you came over for Halloween with a brown paper bag over
your head. I knew it was you because of your work boots. Everybody
laughed. We should have known then that I had a gift for comedy and
making people laugh.

All my life you have been on my side and made sure I knew I was
welcome in your house and loved--always. I appreciate that you and
Grandmother always listened to me when I was having problems with Dad.
You are a wonderful grandfather. I love you and I am truly blessed
that you are part of my life.

I am very happy that you have found happiness again in your own life. Happiness is so important.

You are surrounded by so much love in our family. It's the love you
have always given. It's the love I have always felt. To look for an
example of loving, compassion, and strength we only need to look at

I love you, Granddaddy.  Thank you for all that you are.

Happy Father's Day!!


I’m the oldest grandchild. Seven-and-a-half years before the next one. There’s roughly the same distance between my mom’s youngest brother and me as there is between my sister and me. I’m the grandchild who's known him the longest. Then I think about how much I really don’t know about him. I’ve asked him questions about people in our family, but don’t know that I really ever asked him about his life. I think I was too intimidated to have a one-on-one conversation with him. Those are my own issues and nothing that came from him. But the fact remains that as the end nears I wish I knew what it had been like to work the projector at the Arlington movie theater, the Arly. I wish I knew when he knew he’d fallen in love with my grandmother and wanted to marry her. Sometimes I even wish I knew how it felt to become a grandfather under the circumstances in which he did. Maybe I will never know these answers, but I know that I love him and cherish what I do know.

For instance, I remember him always squeezing foot powder into his white socks before putting them on and then putting on his work boots. Knowing me I questioned what it was. I don’t remember that part. I just remember watching granddaddy do it and the small cloud of foot powder dust that would float from the opening of his sock. Of course, as you age you acquire the knowledge that the foot powder is to keep your feet dry and from smelling bad. Smart move, Granddaddy.

As more of granddaddy’s children had children of their own and our little town of Arlington acquired a convenience store, my granddaddy would take the smaller grandkids to “the little store” (his name for said convenience store) where they could fill their small brown bags with penny and nickel candy. That convenience store will always be “the little store” for all of us. I was too old to be bothered with those bags of candy, but now I can look back on that as something he loved to do for his grandkids and something that each grandkid looked forward to in turn. Interesting way to bring the brown bag back into play, Granddaddy.

He thinks Garth Brooks ruined country music. Hey, music tastes are subjective. He’s allowed his opinion and will still voice this one if you ask him.

My most recent visit home had us sitting down to a dinner of chili and cornbread one evening. There were also baked taco shells for those who might want to use the chili for a taco salad. Granddaddy wanted a hot dog. So there on his plate lying next to the bowl of chili was a plain hot dog, fresh from the boiling water. Another memory flashed across my mind. When my grandmother was still alive and they were both still working, Friday night had always been hot dog night. No one questioned it. It just was. My grandmother would cook the other nights of the week, but on Friday it was easy-breezy-boil-some-water-we’re-having-hot-dogs. So on that night of chili and fixin’s, my mother boiled that hot dog and my granddaddy treated it like the comfort food that it is.

I never really had anything in common with him except our blood, but I knew he loved me. Back in 1994 after I’d graduated from college I was in the process of moving to Nashville, Tennessee. My friend Billy had come with me to Kentucky to help me move my things. I took him to my grandparents’ house. 

My granddaddy said, “Are you the reason Michael’s moving to Nashville?” 

I felt the heat rise to my face. I didn’t know how to proceed. My mind was reeling with the idea that granddaddy was questioning if Billy was my boyfriend. He wasn’t my boyfriend. He was merely a friend who happened to be gay. Without giving Billy a chance to answer I jumped in with the explanation that Billy was choreographing a dance number for the First Night Awards--Nashville’s answer to the Tony Awards--and had asked me to be in it. The time needed for rehearsals, the friend network that already existed there, and the desire to get on with my life post college made Nashville seem like the perfect place to start. We never spoke of it again, but to this day I believe that my granddaddy knew I was gay and whether he approved or not, never made me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in his home.

When my grandmother died, I burned a CD for my mom and her sisters. Music that  ran the gambit from emotional to uplifting--music that would allow you to cry, but would also make you smile. I recently decided that I wanted to listen to that playlist again. It had been a while. Of course I’m one who is constantly in touch with his emotions and it wasn’t long before the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. Partly is was the muscle memory of my heart’s my loss of grandmother, but partly it was because it occurred to me the he was going to see her again. Maybe sooner than I wanted. It was that sudden realization that increased the stream of tears. It was the first time I’d allowed the thought of him dying to penetrate the armor of denial around my brain.

As for memories, granddaddy still has them, but the short term ones are fleeting. He’s not getting enough oxygen to his brain due to a severe decrease in heart function, so he doesn’t remember the most recent things anymore. Thankfully, my family has created a lifetime of memories, that, even though they are old, can still bring a smile to his face when he recalls them. 

I know he’s tired. It takes more energy to get out of bed, or walk from the bedroom to the living room, than he has to exert. I’m trying to understand his desire for the big sleep and how that might be the most welcome respite from the daily struggle that has become his life. It’s selfish of me to want him to fight to stay with us. That is me being human. 

My heart breaks for my mom who is watching the decline of her last living parent. My heart breaks for my niece and nephew who will be touched by this kind of loss for the first. My heart breaks for me as the inevitable passage of time that takes with it my last grandparent.

The cool thing is that since 1971 he’s been my granddaddy. He always will be. Nobody can take that away from me.

Breathe deep, Granddaddy
Godspeed as this journey ends
And your next one begins

I will always smile, Granddaddy
Because one-eyed Jacks will always remove
And you’ll always be one step ahead

Thank you for loving me, Granddaddy
Try not to be too scared
And I’ll try not to be too sad

Into her arms you’ll fly, Granddaddy
But until that journey's day
Our strength will be yours

My granddaddy (and grandmother for that matter) gave me money for no reason. He listened to me when I was having a conflict with my dad; he listened and gave constructive advice. He attended my high school and college graduations. He comes to see me every time I’m in Arlington for a visit. He still plays a mean game of Sequence and will do everything he can to kick your butt in Dominoes, you just have to make sure he plays on the right train now. He’s proud of me. I’m proud of him. I’m thankful for the kindness, understanding, and respect that I learned from watching him.

I wonder if grandmother is waiting for the right moment to call him to the dinner table. I can hear her calling “Jimmy” in the distant memory of my childhood mind. Again, I know it’s selfish, but I hope she keeps everything on simmer for just a little while longer. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Return to Winthrop St. - Part 9

Atwood couldn’t go back to his dormitory; couldn’t go back inside his room. He walked back to campus and wandered around for about an hour before deciding he would go to his fraternity house. He guessed somebody would be awake. Somebody was always awake. Even if no one was he knew where the key was hidden and would let himself in. The refrigerator wouldn’t care who was awake or asleep, it would freely divulge its contents of beer to anyone who opened its door. Atwood knew that’s what he needed, a cold beer in a welcoming place. A place where there was no essence of nightmare lurking in every shadowy corner. The fraternity house was a place of laughter and brotherhood and friendship. He would be safe there.

Alternating between pools of streetlight and shadow he wove his way to the Delta Sigma Phi house. Three of his fraternity brothers were awake when he arrived. They weren’t only awake, they were sitting around drinking. He was a welcomed addition to their circle jerk of alcohol consumption and shit talk.

Before long the beer began to take its toll on him. He had a good buzz going and had already decided subconsciously that he was skipping class the next day. Pete, Steve, and Ronnie, his comrades in too many beers and too many laughs, had peeled away one by one until Atwood was the lone drinker left to his thoughts and phone on the couch in the Delta Sig living room.

Atwood: I wish I could kiss you right now.

Kinlin: What?

Atwood: I wish I could feel your arms around me. 

Kinlin: Atwood!

Atwood: I know it’s stupid but I wish I could kiss you right now.

Kinlin: It’s not stupid, but it’s not what I want and it’s not going to happen.

Atwood: Don’t be mad.

Kinlin: I’m not mad. I’m glad you’re talking to me.

Atwood: I’m not really talking to you.

Kinlin: Yes, you are. These are your words.

Atwood: I’ve been drinking. I shouldn’t have texted. I’m being stupid.

Kinlin: It’s okay. I’m glad you did.

Atwood: really?

Kinlin: Yes. I’m glad you did.

Atwood: Don’t be mad that I want to make out with you. I’m so lonely. 

Kinlin: I’m not mad. We can’t do that again. You know it. I’m sorry you’re lonely.

Atwood: It’s my own fault. You didn’t do it. I gotta go.

Kinlin: Don’t go.

Atwood looked at his phone. He didn’t respond. He put the phone on vibrate. He was sitting on the couch looking at the thread of conversation between himself and Kinlin. He started to sob. Beer and loneliness can do that to a man. He couldn’t stop himself. What was happening? How could he be this person? He had his act relatively together back in high school. His best friend lived across the street from him. They were inseparable. Everyone knew that where Kinlin was, Atwood couldn’t be far behind. 

And then it dawned on him. He had had feelings for Kinlin. He hadn’t realized it because Kinlin had always been there. He took him for granted. They were always together. Atwood would rather hang out with Kinlin than any girl or other person for that matter. The beer and the text messages and the realization swirled in his mind like a twister, like the water spout from his nightmare. His lids were heavy and he allowed himself to succumb to the darkness of sleep.

The next morning it was Ronnie who shook him awake.

“Atwood.” Ronnie gently shook Atwood’s shoulder.

He tried again.

“Atwood.” This time he shook with more force. He saw the muscles in Atwood’s face begin to twitch and waken. Slowly Atwood opened his eyes.

“Hey, buddy,” Ronnie said sitting down on the beer can littered coffee table that fronted the couch.

“Ronnie?” Atwood replied. “Where am I?”

“You’re on the couch in the living room of the frat house.”

“What time is it?”

“A little after 9am.”

Atwood groaned.

“Do you have a class?” Ronnie asked, more to be asking than out of real concern.

“Yeah, but I’m not going.”

“That’s cool, man,” Ronnie replied. “Listen, why don’t you head into the bathroom and wash your face then go try and get some more sleep in your dorm.” 

Atwood look at Ronnie like he might look at his mother telling him he should be sure to wipe his butt after taking a dump. Ronnie picked up on the look.

“Some of the guys took advantage of you being passed out on the sofa.”

Atwood didn’t know what that meant, but his eyes widened to reveal his blood shot whites.

“Don’t worry. They just wrote on your face. I don’t think it’s permanent marker. Just scrub it with some soap and water.” Ronnie stood. “I got a class in a few. Gotta head out. It was cool hanging with you last night, Atwood.” He started toward the door. “Who’s Kinlin? He’s sent you a bunch a texts.”

Atwood grabbed his phone from the coffee table. He breathed a sigh of relief that it was still there and that it was locked so the texts couldn’t be read. Now to the bathroom to assess the creative prowess of his fraternity brothers on his face.

Once locked inside the privacy of the bathroom he made the choice to read Kinlin’s texts before looking at his face.

Kinlin: Are you okay?
Kinlin: Atwood?
Kinlin: Atwood, I’m worried about you.
Kinlin: Are you okay?
Kinlin: Please let me know you’re okay.

Five text messages and three missed calls. He hadn’t been this popular with Kinlin since before he’d arrived in California. 

Now for his face. They had done the clich├ęd Hitler mustache on his upper lip. They had also written, “I kiss boys” on his forehead and “cock” on the right side of his mouth with “sucker” written on the left. Someone had gone so far as to draw an arrow from his chin to his bottom lip. He felt the heat redden his marked face as he watched the color change under the words. He didn’t think any of his fraternity brothers knew of his sexual exploits and wasn’t sure that many of them would even care, but he knew and seeing those words on his face was deeply embarrassing to him. He knew that the guys were just being guys and picking on him as a new brother, but his knowledge of his own truth clouded the comedy of the situation. 

Atwood scrubbed his face raw erasing all traces that the words, and other markings, had ever been there. When he exited the bathroom the house was quiet and seemed empty. He slipped out and began the walk back to his dormitory.

©Michael Rohrer 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Segregation (We Can Never Go Back To Before)

When I saw the television news clip of Diana Medley, a special education teacher in Indiana saying that she doesn’t think anyone is born gay and when asked if she thinks gays have a purpose in life responding, "No I honestly don't. Sorry, but I don't. I don't understand it," I just wanted to scream at the top of my lungs--EDUCATE YOURSELF. You’re a teacher for God’s sake.

I would never want to put myself in the shoes of a gay student who needed to take a problem to her. That student is prejudged before he gets into her office or classroom. She doesn’t understand. Oh my God. She is also quoted saying, “We don't agree with it (homosexuality), and it's offensive to us. Homosexual students come to me with their problems, and I don't agree with them, but I care about them. It's the same thing with my special needs kids. I think God puts everyone in our lives for a reason."

Is she saying that she doesn’t agree with her special needs kids either? Are they offensive to her? I’m assuming no, but if you read the quote it’s easy to mistake her statement. So, Ms. Medley, thinks everyone is put into her life for a reason, but she doesn’t think gays have a purpose in life. Very interesting I must say. Maybe the purpose for gays in her life is to educate her on the fact that we’re all people, and to help her understand our similarities out way our differences.

The reason Diana Medley has even entered the realm of my life is because a group of students at nearby Sullivan High School, as well as, parents and religious leaders in Sullivan, Indiana want to ban the gay kids from attending prom. Ban. The. Gay. Kids. BAN!! Diana Medley doesn’t even teach there, but she was very vocal in supporting the ban.

What year is this?

According to the story published on (Where Ms. Medley's quotes were obtained) one student (whose name was withheld) says, “We want to make the public see that we love the homosexuals, but we don’t think it’s right nor should it be accepted.” Kynon Johnson, another student, says, “If we can get a good prom, then we can convince more people to come and follow what they believe.”

These students are the voices of those looking for a “traditional prom.” Nothing like keeping up with the traditions of making those that are different feel less than. The KKK has traditions, too.

High School is hard enough, and I realize this in one fucking dance, but come on. All the kids deserve to attend their prom. ALL of them. Do you think the gay kids are going to look at you twice when you dance with your boyfriend or kiss your girlfriend? Get over yourself. This is about your own insecurity and it’s hidden behind Bible verses. Prom is about having fun. It’s a night to dress up and listen to music and share a few laughs and make new memories before the school year ends.

I was a student who was hiding the secret of being gay. I know how difficult it is to not be able to talk to a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a friend--anyone--about what’s going on inside of me. I was always afraid of the same reaction that many of these people interviewed for this story had. A reaction that was captured for a television news broadcast. Putting the face to the quote is worse than just the quote. We can see your hate and condescension. 

Diana Medley stirred such anger inside me that I could do nothing but sit down in front of my laptop and type as fast as my fingers could hit the keys to compose the sentences forming in my brain.

Why do some Christians feel they are so much more superior than others? There are Christian people in Sullivan County where Sullivan High is located that don’t feel the same way as Diana Medley or the other professed Christians. I find it so interesting that we can all read the same Bible and believe in the same God yet be so divided on what the text means and what God wants.

Don’t try to tell me that I woke up one day and decided this life of fear, new segregation, social ostracization, and daily fight-for-rights was something that I chose, Ms. Medley. Hell no!! Life would be infinitely easier if I was a heterosexual man. I may have the same hang ups that I do now, but the fact that I would be a man attracted to women would make my daily life less stressful than being a man attracted to men.

I had to take a deep breath and remember that I live in New York City where there may still be bigots and haters, but where there is also acceptance and understanding.

I may not feel represented by the drag queens, go go boys, leather men, twinks, or porn stars in the NYC Gay Pride Parade, but damn it at least I live in a place that allows all of us to be who we are. 

I struggle enough with my own worthiness. These kids in high school today who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out about who they are elate and terrify me. I’m elated that they have the courage I did not have, but I’m terrified for those who live in places where the good Christians ban together to fight against them.

So if you choose to segregate us don't ask to attend our more fabulous parties or drink from our much cleaner water fountains. Don’t ask us to arrange your flowers in beautiful vases or pick design your clothes. Don’t ask us to cut your hair. Don’t ask us to sing for your charity event. Don’t enjoy a moment of us dancing on stage. Don’t watch the television shows or movies we write, produce, or star in. The list could go on. I know. I’m kind of adopting a holier-than-though attitude. It’s hard not to. Much like a parent is supposed to calm down before punishing a child I should have calmed down before writing. Oh well, anger, much the same as alcohol, is a truth serum.

I was reminded today of the song “Back To Before” from the musical Ragtime. The story of Ragtime, based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, is set just past the turn of the 20th Century. Times were changing and people where realizing they had to change with them or they would be left behind as relics of the past. 

There are people out there
Unafraid of revealing
That they might have a feeling
Or they might have been wrong
There are people out there
Unafraid to feel sorrow,
Unafraid of tomorrow,
Unafraid to be weak...
Unafraid to be strong!

The above lyrics represent to me the new crop of gay kids coming into their own in this, the 21st Century. They’re unafraid to reveal themselves, they’re unafraid of tomorrow, and they unafraid to be strong. Lets hope that the good Christians who want to segregate the gays become unafraid to admit that they might have been wrong.

The article on ends with Southwest School Corporation Superintendent Chris Stitzle saying the school plans to go on with its prom April 27 as planned.
"We're planning on having our prom just like we always have. We encourage all students to participate," he said. "We treat all students with respect and dignity."
We can never go back to before. Change is hard and growing pains hurt, but if a child is gay they deserve all the same privileges, rewards, discipline, and experiences of a non gay child. They deserve a human experience. We deserve a human experience. We can NEVER go back to before.

lyrics from "Back To Before" by Lynn Ahrens reprinted without permission
video of Christiane Noll from the 2010 Tony Awards telecast