Despite trying not to use, it didn’t take long before I fell back into old habits. With no new friends, I revisited Zack, hoping things would be different. Yet instead of being greeted warmly like before, now he kept busy arguing with the new kid in town, Kurt. Feeling a little rejected and unwelcome, I invited Kurt to hang out at my new place to get away from all the noise. He agreed and we left together much to the disapproval of Zack – but that was his problem. Not wanting to be a bad host, I resigned to being the best me I could possibly be.
At the hotel door, two guys paced back and forth. Paranoid of being manipulated or setup, I hurried to deal with the situation head on instead of secretly like most things in my life. They both swung around catching me off guard. So I reached out to shake hands in true gentleman like fashion – catching them off guard. Then I recognized Dick, a well-mannered quiet young man from the West End. To my surprise the other guy was Tom all dressed up to the nines! I smiled and quipped if he had a job to go to, before remembering his short temper. Still I couldn’t get over how good he looked dressed like a normal human being: clean-shaven, a clear complexion, dressed in clean blue jeans, a nice dress shirt, vest, clean shoes, combed hair and a strong scent of cologne. “Wow, you look great!” ‘Thanks,’ he beamed. “It’s nice to see you’ve come to your senses.” He gave me a puzzled look, but didn’t reply. “What’re you guys doing?” ‘Waiting for you.’ I beamed back loving the attention just like anyone else. “I’m not supposed to let anyone in this time of night, but pretend you’re not with me and just walk in and go up to my room okay.” I introduced them to Kurt and we all made our way up to my room.
Kurt immediately laid back on the bed in such a provocative manner I had to stop myself from blushing. At least I hadn’t drooled, I thought secretly to myself. “So what’ve you guys been up to?” I asked Tom, trying my best to make conversation. ‘Hustling.’ I shook my head at his slap-in-the-face social faux-pas. I looked him in the eye while an intense wave of sadness erupted. Here was someone I actually liked as a human being, yet he was bent on destroying any chances of being liked back. All dressed up, but unable to handle the attention, he was just like me!
Tom had mentioned Dick being a hustler, but the concept of ‘tag-team’ hustling was out of my conceptual ballpark. So I just let him act, talk, play host, but I wasn’t as naive as he thought. From my point of view, anyone who walked into another person’s home and acted like they owned the place had issues. Yet, he seemed oblivious to it all. I’d seen it before: ‘The Runaway Train’ game where you kept a few steps ahead of everybody else to keep them on their toes. Fueled by the need for control, it’d got me out of a few sticky situations before, but it always ended up in derailment somewhere down the line.
“What else you been up to,” I interjected, trying to set my train back on track. ‘Smoking crack.’ “What!” Even I was surprised at how shocked I was. “I thought you’d given up the drugs and were getting on with your life.” ‘Who told you that?’ His cold stabbing laugh cut to the bone. “Well, I thought by the way you’re dressed and what we’ve been talking about all this time that…” ‘I’m never gonna quit the drugs, ever. That’s what I live for. You do drugs, so why should I quit?’ He was right. I felt like such a fool expecting something from him I couldn’t do myself? “So what’re you guys up to tonight?” I cut off his laughter trying to save face. ‘I told you crack.’ I was getting really annoyed by his flippancy. “Do you have any?” I asked knowing full well that he didn’t – at least I hoped he didn’t. ‘No.’ “Good,” I blurted back, thanking God for his predictability. ‘What d’ya mean good?’ “Good,” I stabbed back. “I hate the stuff. Look at the people that do it.” ‘Hmmph!’ he snorted like I’d offended family. “I tried it before. All it takes is one hoot and five minutes later you want more, a whole lot more. Great for the business man though. Besides, it made me turn evil. I started to hate my friends, nasty, nasty stuff.” I shuddered as the visuals flooded my mind. ‘So that’s you. I’m feeling great.’ Blushing, I told him I was doing the best I could by helping others to deal their own addictions and lives. ‘Yeah right!’ he interjected harshly. Another slap in the face! He was right. I was talking the talk and not walking the walk. Suddenly I realized just how much I didn’t want him around anymore. He tuned into my feelings and told me everyone he knew was a hypocrite in some way. I smiled at his humanity.
Unable to see the tell-tale signs of sweat, agitation, paranoia and jonesing, I waited silently for his facade to crack. “You’re not on crack. I can tell from the way both of you are acting. How much crack have you guys done?” I asked a red-faced Dick. He tried looking at Tom for help, but I held him in a vice grip with my mind. ‘About fifty dollars.’ he said, taunting me with nasty memories of my first encounter with him. I stabbed a knowing smile back at him playing his game. We’d snorted crystal together under those same stairs by the medical clinic with a rolled up fifty-dollar bill from my wallet. After zoning out, I woke up to see him open the gate and sit back down again. Then I zoned out again for another minute or so. When I came around the fifty dollar bill was gone. I pretended to look for it, hoping he’d get the hint and put it back with no questions asked. He didn’t. When I confronted him he said someone must have come in and took it while he was passed out too. I knew he was lying, but couldn’t prove it without making a scene. He said he could get four more points to cover it, but I remembered the saying: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me! So I just left making sure he knew I was pissed off.
“Do you have any money?” Tom blurted in. “Yeah I got money, why?” ‘We wanna get some more crack,’ he snarled like I was stupid. That time I was the one who laughed. His smile turned to a scowl. “Of course you want money. What crackhead doesn’t want more money for more crack? I told you. It’s a waste of time, money and everything.” ‘Yeah, well I’m doing jib too,’ he said defensively, but I didn’t buy into it.
Once on one of my little adventures, I’d found a suitcase with a crack pipe and a tic-tac container with a little crack in it. As far as I knew someone had come to town to start a new life and get away from the drugs. Anyway, I smoked the crack while I was already high on jib to see how the two drugs would feel together. It wasn’t pretty. Both drugs vied for space, pulling my mind one way and my feelings another. Near the end I almost threw up. I looked at him down the length of my nose letting him know what I thought.
“Yeah, so what’s the scoop?” I asked trying to cut to the chase. ‘I want thirty dollars,’ he said bluntly. Then before I even had time to collect my thoughts he said he’d do anything, anything, looking at me then into me in a most knowing manner. Desperate, self-justifying, fidgeting and gesticulating I watched as his lightning fast mind began to derail. Reading him like a book, I wanted him to squirm a bit like he’d made me squirm, so I kept quiet. Dick simply sat there frozen. Who did he think he was asking me such a thing in front of company? Whatever I was, I wasn’t that. Well, not in front of guests anyway. His lack of discretion went against the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy I’d encountered before. Instead, he’d put me on the spot and insinuated something about my character and in front of others. He knew nothing about me, yet assumed everything! Angry, tired and in no mood for mental games, I was thirty-nine years old and, like my dad used to say: I wasn’t born yesterday.
I hardly knew him. Maybe he was a hustler or ‘gay for pay’? The fact he knew anything about those games spoke volumes. At least the gay people I’d met were real – after coming to terms with their lot in life. There were so many other ways to make money. To me pretending not to be gay but having sex with men was simply foolish. Like a friend said: ‘if they weren’t gay they’d be hustling women and not men.’ Still, I empathized with them on their journey to sexual independence.
Anger stopped me from vomiting. I’d always given him the benefit of the doubt, but now he’d gone too far. Not wanting to play his games anymore, I told him to keep his ‘anything‘. I’d gladly givehim the thirty dollars later that night after I’d eaten and gone to the bank machine. Sure I had the thirty dollars in my pocket, but maybe he’d change his mind if he waited long enough. Whether it was self-respect, maintaining pride or taking back control of the situation, they both agreed and left.
After smoking a few bowls with Kurt, we left intending to meet as planned. After all, I was a man of my word. Fortunately or unfortunately they didn’t show up. Oh well, too bad for them, but good for my wallet!
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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