Vol. 1 No. 2
Fiction by Leo MacAlbert
Originally published in the Nov. 1965 issue of Tangents
We came from The South.
The family came north when I was five.
I’ve never gone back there. We moved to Englewood.
My mother died. She left my sister and me.
She’s the one I’ve always been close to. I don’t remember my mother much. My sister really brought me up. She’s old. Then I brought the other kids up.
My father married again. A woman with kids.
And then the two of them, my father and the woman, my stepmother, had more kids. There were thirteen kids in the house.
My father built a little house in the back. It was really for the younger kids but I used to go there. There and the “attic.’’ I kept my books. I read.
I remember reading Forever Amber.
I was a cute kid and had a good singing voice. I used to take girls out on dates, but I wasn’t really interested.
I was always out for men, but I didn’t know it. not for a long time.
The kids at school were always looking for sissies. Punks they used to call them. But they didn’t call me that. I was strong from helping around the house. I used to wrestle with the boys, really to feel them close up, but I didn’t know it then.
One of the boys caught me, said I was a sissy. But I beat him up and he stopped talking like that.
First time I made out was when I was eighteen, in New York City, the balcony of a movie theatre on 42nd Street. I didn’t know anything about the balconies then, I was so innocent. But one night, why I don’t know, I don’t smoke, I drifted up to the balcony. It was really wild then, all the kids lined up at the back, standing up groping each other.
This guy groped me. He must have been 22, 23 at the time, took me home but I was scared.
Next time I came to his place he had another kid, a kid I knew, gay boy, there, and told me “Look, I’m not going to make a play for you.”
And he didn’t.
But next time when I was there I made a play for him.
Then he took me inside and he said he was going to break my ass and he did.
I was so sore I cried later. I swore I would never do it again.
And I didn’t until I was in the Army in Germany. And then it was with a German and he was gentle.
I was singing in the Army and then when I came out, I sung at the Apollo, twice. First time was with a kid star. I hate to sing against kids. Everyone loves kids. We tied for first prize.
Next time I got 3rd prize. We had half-of-Englewood there clapping for me, this was amateur night, but there are more people there from Harlem for their boys.
Bob was my first lover, first real lover, first person I “lived’’ with, probably the last.
I met him first at the St. Marc Baths. He likes to go there. I don’t. It’s filthy. I like to go to the Everhard.
Then I didn’t see him for about a year and when he saw me again, he dated me, didn’t recognize me.
But we made it.
He was a sex-pot. He could come twice without pulling it out, then be ready for more in the morning.
I moved in with him.
It was a nice apartment, Danish Modern, two rooms but very separate so we had lots of privacy. I used to cook. At first we shared the cleaning but then neither of us were cleaning so we had a woman in once a week. We paid her $5 for a half-day, then later seven. She really cleaned.
I was a good cook too. Later when he was sick with the mumps, he had a girl then and she tried so hard to cook it was funny, but she just couldn’t cook. Anyway when be was sick she came over, but she couldn’t come in because she’d never bad the mumps, she came to the door with a big, big bowl of chicken soup and Bob came to the door and said be didn’t need it, that I was there and I was doing for him. It really shook her up.
You only bear the bad things about Bob from Basil but I knew the good things about him. He was very good to me. We shared everything we had. When we were going to go away for vacation we saved together.
We went to Haiti. We were going to go to Guatemala for another vacation when we broke up.
I knew we were going to break up but I wouldn’t admit it to myself.
He was always going off. So was I, but be wanted to lie about it, make a big scene, or confess and make a big scene.
And then there was this big thing about his going straight. Whenever he went away on vacation alone be met a girl.
And he found he could make it with her.
At first, the first time, when be came back be didn’t tell me.
But I knew something was off. He kept going into the bathroom to get undressed. And I said, “What is it?”
And then be confessed.
And I said to him, “Well Bob, what’s going to become of me if things really work out between you and the girl?”
And then he said, “Well, I really don’t know.”
Just like that: “I really don’t know.”
But he knew.
Anyway it never worked out with the girls. After a while be just couldn’t get it up, to be very blunt about it.
But he was very nice to me. Any time we went out together be took me along. I met all his friends. I never met his mother or father.
His mother called on the phone. I talked to her. I explained that I was the person who was taking care of the cat and watering the plants when Bob was away, cause he always had someone to take care of the cat and water the plants.
She was very mad because she had wasted the money for the phone call. It was long distance.
His father is really funny.
He’s a manufacturer.
Once the family took him to the ballet. He turned to them afterwards and said, “What do you think these people do during the day?”
He couldn’t imagine anyone spending their time dancing.
Bob never worked for the family business. His mother had an independent income and his father was rich. Whenever he needed money they would send him some.
He worked in public relations.
He’s 40 now but he’s really kept himself. He takes vitamins, wears ear plugs, eye covers at night, takes special pills for his nails.
He was good for me, but I wasn’t after his money. Some of his friends used to say that. Once when I moved out of the apartment to a rooming house, because we quarreled, one of those bitchy queens that was a friend of ours said I only stayed with Bob because of his apartment, but it just isn’t so. I thought Basil was a gold-digger though. I just felt it wouldn’t last….
We had been together five years.
Now we were still in the same apartment but it was over. I was sleeping with other people; he was.
That was when he met Basil.
“Now he’s got another colored boy,” I said to myself.
He used to tell me about Basil but it was just like the girls. He didn’t want me to meet him. He was afraid of hurting my feelings.
And he still wanted me.
Once we met in his apartment; I had moved out by then but I still had things in the apartment. And we made out and he said: “This is madness.” So the next time he wanted to make out, I said to him: “The last time you said ‘this is madness’ and if it’s madness we don’t have to do it.”
After that he was very cold to me and we didn’t really see each other any more. Last birthday card I got from him was a week late.
I heard that he and Basil broke off after a few months. Basil never lived with him.
I heard they broke up at the Pines, that Basil left crying.
But he didn’t know the good things about Bob that I know.
So I left Bob and moved into a rooming house. I’ve lived in rooming houses and hotels since. I like it that way. If I had an apartment I’d have to buy furniture. I never had enough money for furniture. Bob offered me his Danish Modern when we split because he was going to get a whole new set of furniture but I didn’t have any place to put it.
There was this queen I knew named Sonny. And she had an apartment which was always noisy and jumping. Something was always going on. Beds all around the place, even in the kitchen.
First time I met Paco — that’s short for Pablo — he’s Puerto Rican — was at a party and he was Sonny’s boy then. Next time was when I’d split with Bob. Everyone knew about it.
I noticed Paco was making up to me. It was getting later and later and he wasn’t leaving and he was sitting on the arm of my chair and lighting cigarettes for me (I was smoking then), and Sonny told me, “It’s all right, Paco and I are just friends now.” It turned out they had split because Sonny is such a whore. He was doing people in the bathroom right in front of Paco’s nose and Paco’s Spanish and they don’t like that. It offends their pride.
And right off I told Paco: “Look I know you want me because everyone is in couples around here and I’m on the rebound and you’re on the rebound. But let’s just play it cool.”
But you know there are things that don’t play cool and one of them is sex.
And we were hot.
All those queens around there in Sonny’s apartment were jealous because Paco was the most beautiful thing in the world. He was 17 going on 18 and real beautiful with big curly lashes and wild curly hair and all those bitchy queens were jealous and mad as hell.
One night Sonny came out of the bathroom and said, “You got to go in and look at Reggie. Reggie’s got what you like.” So I turned to Paco and he nodded like he didn’t care if I took a look and I went in for one second and looked and it was very nice looking. Reggie was standing, leaning against the sink with his fly open.
But I just took one look and went out and Sonny was so mad, you could see he was mad, because he wanted me to stay in there and do Reggie and get Paco mad, but I didn’t want to. I had Paco. And he was the same. He never made a play for any other queens when I was with him.
He used to say to the other queens, why don’t you girls behave like Miss Truman here. She is a real lady. She don’t spread herself out like a two-bit whore.
Well, in fact, I was making out, but not when he was around.
We split, but only because he wouldn’t keep appointments.
He did keep the one appointment we had to go to the ballet. Oh he loved the ballet! He just sat there with his mouth open, his eyes popping out. I had told him to wear a white shirt and he wore a white shirt but no tie.
“You didn’t tell me to wear a tie!” he said.
But he couldn’t keep appointments. He was a kid, but he was built like a man.
He was the best kind of Spanish kid there is. The kind that is sort of straight. Otherwise they get too femme.
And I got enough sisters. Need some men in the family.
After we split he wanted to make up, make out again.
I saw him at a party. And he was staying and staying, thinking I was going to sleep over. But I could see what he was thinking and I said, “Goodbye all. I’m going home.”
You should have seen his face fall.
The first time I moved away from Bob I moved into a rooming house in the 20’s run by a French Canadian lady. She was really nice. She had a daughter who was hot for me, always coming in to clean when I was asleep during the day (I worked at night then) and not even turning on the light to clean. Just sneaking looks at me to see if I had a hard on when I slept.
I told her mother to keep her out.
That old lady was real nice. I drank 4 Roses with her. She knew the ropes. Always looking at the towels for shit stains. That’s how you can tell gay boys. Their trade wipes themselves off on the towels.
But there are no shit stains on my towels.
I use a douche. I’m clean.
But the old French Canadian woman died and a Puerto Rican took over and the place was awful, full of junkies and whores. A guy moved in right next to me with a piano and he played all the time. He fancied himself a piano player but he wasn’t.
He was drunk all the time. Once he invited me in to talk; showed me pictures of his wife, who left him. It was her song he was playing all the time on the piano. And I couldn’t sleep.
And then some crazy whore moved next door and had parties all the time so I had to move out.
I got this hotel at 45th Street and I’m going to keep it. It’s really nice. Those 42nd Street whores are really crazy. A lot of them don’t want to make out, just show off, dye their hair, have people stare at them. And you know what it’s like. Only ones who stare at them are the tourists. But they really think they’re something; they tell their sisters how they broke up the whole street. That’s how they talk. I don’t think they even make out.
45th Street is a real swinging street. Lots of whores, pimps, gay boys, some of them in drag.
Last week I was with my friend Henry and I saw a colored girl across the street and I said that’s some piece and he said that’s Louie and sure enough it was.
Louie and his friend make out with drunks and roll them.
I asked Louie don’t the drunks know you’re not a fish. And she said, “A drunk man is a fool. I put a piece of liver down there and he don’t know the difference.”
I never go in drag myself. I wouldn’t even think of it.
You know when I cruise along Central Park West lots of times guys won’t take me home when I tell them I don’t have a place because I’m colored. They want to screw you but they don’t want to be seen with you. Or they’re afraid you’ll rob them or something.
It’s not that way in Montreal.
That place is real, wild, swinging.
They have special expensive rooms at the Y and all the queens take them. The showers run all night long.
Then some of them stay at the Queen Elizabeth just to say that they stayed at the Queen Elizabeth.
Queens are like that.
But the Canadians love colored boys. We get grabbed up.
Last time I was there a painter said he wanted to paint me. I knew that was a lie.
And he took me to his place, an old Protestant Church converted. He used it as his studio; had his living place in the loft.
And there I was with my legs up looking at the old church ceiling.
It was a gas.
Only bad thing happened to me in Montreal was Jesu. That’s what the Spaniards call him ’cause he got long hair like Jesus.
I dug the long hair but he was a drag. Spent a whole night working me over, kissing, kissing, nothing else. Then he said he had to go to work and I said, “We haven’t had sex.” And he said he prefers it that way.
So next time he wanted to spend time I said, look we can go out but then we got to split because I want to make out.
After I came to NYC he kept writing me passionate love letters, but I was wise and told him when he came that I was busy. And busy I was till he left.
I had to. I had given him hints but he is not one who takes hints.
I think I’m making out okay.
The hotel likes me. They lend me money whenever I need it.
I like 45th Street. It is swinging. I wouldn’t like to live on the East Side or in the 70s or 80s. I’d feel conspicuous with all those screaming queens with their dyed hair hanging out on the stoops.
I’ve only got a clerk’s job. I don’t save much but it’s okay.
I’ve got a bank loan for my next vacation, a week in Montreal, and there’s $50 in it I’ll use to repay Bob the money I owe him. I borrowed money to leave the apartment.
He’s probably forgotten.
I don’t think I’ll have another lover. I’m not looking for one. I just want good company. Some of the guys I’m sleeping with I’ve slept with for ten years. It’s exciting meeting new people.
Someday I’ll be old I guess,
I’m thirty-three now but I don’t look it.
When I’m old, I hope my ass still looks good.
Then I’ll get the darkest room at the Everhard Baths, lie on my stomach and wait.