My entrance into any kind of gay community was very limited, unfortunately. I look back and I have a lot of regret that I wasn’t able to spend a little more time in that kiddy pool while I could. On the other hand, I was also self-destructing at the time and very likely would have ended up travelling a very dark path. Like with most “missed opportunities,” I’ll never know what could have been.
Right when I started dating Travis a little establishment opened up in downtown Bakersfield that was a beacon of hope for young gay youth. The club was titled “Bam-bams” and it was an experimental 16 and up disco. There was no liquor served, just looks, attitude, and dance moves. There was a cover charge, which is why most weekend nights it was more entertaining outside of the club than in. If you happened to hand over the $5 cash, you would find an empty black-box room filled with multiple video screens and dance music. Mirrors adorned the walls, to entertain the one lone dancing queen, wearing a crop top and shorty-shorts. The first time I went in I was so disappointed. It turned out that I was one of a few f*gs in this little town. I’d make the rounds and then tote myself back out front to chit-chat with the poor kids and the young queen working the door.
“Heaven” was one of the songs I discovered at the club. I still remember the music video, and one time even asked the lone bartender/owner to play it in the mix. He gave me a thumbs up and a wink.
Every Friday or Saturday night I would tote myself and my friends to Bam-Bams (aka BSqaured). I was beginning to build a community and make new friends that quickly replaced my hetero ones. None of the connections I had made during that time are currently in my sphere. They’re not even Facebook friends. It’s almost as if they never really existed. They were just phantoms. They helped me come into myself as a gay man and through my break-up of with Travis. I also frequented this little establishment because it was just around the corner from the actual bar my tatted ex liked to haunt. If I went I had the off-chance to catching a glimpse of him.
Oh, youthful infatuation.
As I was want to do at that time, that guy was quickly replaced by my next relationship, which happened to be to my future husband. One of our first ever pictures was taken outside of Bam-Bams.
My friend Eddie had taken the photo. He did it as “side shade.” He HATED Charlie with a passion, but that was because he had wanted to date me. (Good Lord I sound conceited.) He was one of the ones who encouraged my “bad habits” at the time. Regardless of his intentions, this moment is forever with me.
The last time I went was when I had been caught making out with a dude who was not Charlie, by a couple friends of ours. They pulled into the parking spot me and this guy happened to be macking in front of. Once they got out, and I saw who it was, I tried to pull it off like nothing had happened. But we both know they had seen what I had been doing.
That night I got unbelievably wasted. Charlie picked me up on his way home from the bar down the street, and walked me back to his apartment. On the way there he found my pack of cigarettes, Camel Turkish Gold, in my pocket.
“What are these?” He said and proceeded to leave them on the lid of a trash can.
“Hey!” I had said, but he acted as though nothing had happened and ushered me further down the street. And being so drunk I quickly forgot about them.
He hated it when I smoked. And this discovery went against my previous statement that “I was quitting.”
That night I sat on the floor of his bathroom, at the edge of his toilet, puking my guts out. At one point I demanded he give me bread, as one of my friends had said it helps sober you up. He laughed and brought me a slice of sour dough.
“Not this,” I had said and threw it in the trash.
In the morning I came clean about what had happened that night. I was caught. And when I am found out I don’t lie my way out of it. I rather face the consequences than make it worse. Plus, I didn’t want him to hear it from someone else. The truth would be better delivered from me, than a casual acquaintance.
He was angry and barely spoke to me. For whatever reason he kept me around the rest of the day. We went and did his laundry at a laundromat across town, where he continued to ignore me. I didn’t know what I was doing there and all I wanted to do was leave. Little did I know he had been working out if I was worth the trouble of keeping around.
As the present can attest, he decided to not break it off. (Stupid man.)
It did however initiate my pattern of doing horrible shit and getting caught. And our subsequent knee-jerk reactions of implementing restrictions to my life to avoid any more of these cruel/stupid choices.
In reality he should have ended it with me. I was mess at the time and didn’t, even remotely, have my shit together. It didn’t occur to me until doing this project, just how fucked up I was. In the span of a year I was dumped 3 times, by 3 different guys. That’s bonkers. I was newly out and discovering who I was as a gay man, and that wasn’t the most simple of tasks as I was coming from a very, very religious background/upbrining.
If he hadn’t stuck with me, I am genuinely curious how I would have ended up. More than likely I would have contracted HIV, because my sex education focused more on the “don’t do it” than the “USE A GODDAMN CONDOM!”
I don’t think I would have abused recreational drugs. That was the one thing about Christian school that had stuck. I would however, have been a raging alcoholic. And most likely would have jumped from one job to the next without ever having any ambition to go back to school or start an “adult” career.
But this is all speculation. None of this could have happened. I could have moved away and started an entirely different life. Who fucking knows. All I can say with certainty is that I wouldn’t be where I am now.