I Hate Gay Man in Doorway (Money, Part 8)

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When I fled Waverly’s, I went to my friend Andrea’s. (More on her at a later time.) She and her sister, Bonnie, had a small cottage apartment near the University of Alabama and since I had found myself homeless again, they agreed to let me stay with them for a while. It’s hard not to dive into the story of my friendship with Andrea but I do want to keep the focus of this series on the financial part, although as you can tell very well by now, its hard for me to talk about money without talking about how addiction had come to affect my mental health, my hope for the future, the important relationships in my life, and all the rest. It’s hard to compartmentalize life, I think. I’m learning about that more and more with the goals as well, how it’s all connected. The reason it’s hard not to launch into the story of my friendship with Andrea is because she has been a very important force in my life and I want you to understand how close we were before I continue with this next part of the story. Suffice it to say that there was a time when Andrea and I could be sitting in the same room in silence and she would comment on what I had been thinking.  As the Grateful Dead put it, she “paid my tickets when I [sped].” She was my Sugar Magnolia. I’ll leave it at that. Tennessee Williams wrote a play called Out Cry, (later produced as The Two Character Play). I’ve often thought when I write the play about my friendship with Andrea, it will be my version of Tennessee’s play. She has been in and out of my life (mostly out for the last 20 years) since the day we met. When we’ve been together, we’ve been very close together.

So it was into Bonnie and Andrea’s place that I moved, again with my bag of few clothes. Although it was the late 80s, I dressed like it was the late 60s and was more likely to be seen without shoes than with them. I had an unhealthy and worshipful obsession with Jim Morrison and even though alcohol was far-and-away my drug of choice, (having mostly to do, I think, with availability) I did every drug I ever saw.

The front and back doors of the sisters’ cottage stayed open most of the time and there were at least fifteen neighborhood dogs who felt completely at home strolling through. Andrea and I slept together on a mattress on the floor and she had a grey cat name Gray Kitty who seemed to have the ability to transverse between multiverses with ease. We subsisted on Vlasic dill pickles, “cheese” slices, and an occasional Papa John’s pizza– mostly on Andrea’s dime because every dime I had went to procuring more liquor. Those “dimes” came form what was probably saddest and most bizarre in a long line of go-nowhere jobs I had during this period of my life. (I had been fired from Red Lobster because I was too drunk to come to work).  I worked for a marketing company trying to get people to do surveys in Tuscaloosa’s University Mall. I stood there, reeking of vodka (yes, it does smell if you drink enough) and patchouli oil in my best approximation of business clothes. Can you imagine? There possibly could not be a worse job for someone as sensitive to rejection as I am (unless of course it is being a writer). I’d stand there, hiding myself as best I could behind the indoor jungle decorating the atrium until just the right moment and then I’d lurch toward an innocent passerby with questions like, “Would you mind if I ask what kind of dishwashing detergent you use?” or “Do mind if I ask if you smoke and if you do, what brand you prefer?” I must have been a horrible sight and it is no wonder that about half of the people practically sprinted away from me. The point of the job was not just to stand there and ask them questions–that would have been bad enough– but to lure them down a labyrinth of plane sheet-rocked hallways and into a decor-free office to complete a list of questions greater in length than those hurled at Supreme Court Justice nominees. I would blatantly lie to the people about how long the survey was going to take. I would usually give them an approximate time that equaled about one-third of how long the whole ordeal was really going to last. I’m sure that full-on half of them would have attempted escape if they thought they could have found there way back through the labyrinth and into the real world again. The only real bait we were armed with was a small financial stipend (usually five or ten dollars) or in some cases a sample of the product the sponsoring company was trying to market, perhaps some detergent or (believe it or not) cigarettes. The smokers were the easiest to nab. I eventually got the feeling that for those plain white, unmarked cartons of cigarettes,  they would have followed me into hell. It was a horrible job but at the end of the day it was a paycheck and that paycheck went straight to the liquor store. Andrea provided the cheese slices and the mattress and, for as long as the money lasted, I provided the liquor.

There are a couple more tertiary characters I have to introduce before I tell you the next part of the story but in the movie of my life they would be played by “under fives” (screenwriting term for characters with less than five lines). One was Mims, an affable and handsome young man with shaggy brown hair and those kind of brown eyes that I love– the ones so dark you can’t tell where the pupil stops and the iris starts. He was athletic and cool and didn’t mind my tagging along on mountain bike rides. One of the things I admired most about him was that when he walked along beside his bicycle, he could guide it by using only one finger underneath the back of the seat. I couldn’t have been more impressed if he walked on water. Into my dismal existence, he was a ray of sunshine. To call him handsome doesn’t really do him justice as I found him to be beautiful. It was a weird mixture of hero worship and desire– not so much that I wanted to have him (he was straight and even if he weren’t, why would anyone like him ever want anyone like me?) but that I wanted to be him. To me, Mims represented everything that I wasn’t. Mims was a real man.

The other “under five” character is Gay Man in Doorway. He doesn’t rate a name because to give him one would belie the disdain I had for him. He was every single thing found in the most negative stereotypes of gay men. When he opened his mouth, it was like a malodorous flood of effeminate bitterness filled the room. The world had hurt him and he was going to make sure he dumped it right back out into the world. He hissed and lisped his bitchy diatribe so constantly that I literally developed a visceral reaction to his presence. He was the anti-Mims and in the same way Mims represented everything to me that I felt that I was not but so earnestly wanted  to be, Gay Man in Doorway represented every loathsome thing I was desperately afraid that I was. He mirrored for me the parts of myself that I found most disgusting. His flaming affect on top of the kindling of my homophobia created a inferno of contempt  that I could barely contain. He was friends with Bonnie so I really was in no position to make him go away. When he showed up, I usually just retreated to the bedroom.

People, like the dogs, seemed to just pass through this place. Both Mims and Gay Man in Doorway made appearances on one particular day, a day that would prove to be a very important day in my life. I was the day I decided to die. The day I had thought would be my last.

The next part of the story is bloody and scary and not for the faint of heart. Some of you have hung in there with me every day since September 1 and I appreciate it. I’ll understand if you skip tomorrow. I wouldn’t hold it against you. For those who are wiling to hang tough…

I’ll see y’all tomorrow. 

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