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smalltown boy

dance hall

Mother will never understand why you had to leave

But the answers you seek will never be found at home

The love that you need will never be found at home

The fall of 1982 didn't seem all that different from any other. The weather had turned from shirtless abandon to hoodies and wool socks. The crimson leaves crunching under feet after being covered in frost the night before. It didn't seem all that different from any other except this was my last time crossing the lawn and disappearing into the woods to catch a bus.

A few weeks earlier, an old friend of my mother's had visited. He was in town and wanted to see her. He traveled with another man as his companion. The man had this ethereal gentleness to him, and wore giant hoop earrings in each ear. Mom laughed about her younger days and the trouble they'd caused here or there. They gave each other a strong hug.

"Do you understand what is different about them," she asked me shortly after they left.


"You know what I'm talking about. They are homosexuals."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Never turn out like them, hear me? There is no happiness in that life. It will make you an other - an outsider, a "them" for the rest of your life. Can you understand how they are choosing to be less?"

"Yes, ma'am," I said, lying to her.

Within six months of setting out across the lawn from my small town life, I was just about to turn 18 when I became one of them.

"Where are you hitchhiking to, boy?" he'd asked.

"Vancouver I think."

The driver looked down at my small high school pin clad backpack, then back up at me, then back at the road. It's like he knew a jar stuffed with cash, a crusty Louis L'amour novel, a few pictures I'd stolen from picture albums. He knew that was all I had.

I slept on an old mattress in his basement for a few weeks before I got my first job. Before I found other clothes than hoodies and blue jeans. He lent me books and introduced me very carefully to his friends. On my next birthday - and he and his boyfriend announced they thought I was ready to out to go dancing with them.

"Now - Bearzone can be really intense. but you know we've got your back right? if it's too much we can leave whenever you want."

"Dressed like that, he's going to get consumed out there," teased his lover.

Smacking him upside the back of his head, my friend said, "We don't want the boyo broken on his first dance night."

That was their nickname for me, "The Boyo" or "b" for short.

The entire evening is one of those memories that's a blur but you can remember every specific moment simultaneously. I remember someone strapping the dollar store party hat on. I can remember walking past someone glistening in sweat, and realizing I walked that particular route a few more times just to remember how he smelled. I remembered a man suddenly leaning in and kissing me like he was going to go on to incredibly intimate things to me, then just as suddenly getting pulled away in the pulse of the dancing crowd. I remember my first sniff of poppers. I remember my face hurting from smiling for several days afterwards.

It's an interesting moment when you find your tribe. When you realize you'd rather be one of "them" than anywhere else in the entire world.

To Ned and Mike, I'm still the boyo, even though I'm now in my fifties and have had my own string of broken hearted relationships.

I still spend all the real important holidays with them. I send Ned Father's day cards, I send Chuck the frothiest, sparkliest Mother's Day cards I can find. They keep a box of stationary in a drawer somewhere.

Ned writes back on father's day, "Couldn't be prouder of you, boyo. Love, Dadbear."

Chuck writes, "Bitch! Love, Mom"

Cry, boy, cry, boy, cry

Cry, boy, cry, boy, cry

Cry, boy, cry, boy, cry

Cry, boy, cry, boy, cry