The next few days things are back to normal. On the weekend, Robby brings Tim over to the hangout in his room and we all get high there. We train him to not put his shoes on Robby’s bed. He’s a cut-up, taking his sneakers off and tossing them out the window. That night Dave leaves the back door open to Holy Family’s church, after altar boy practice. We sneak in and go up the bell tower to get high. It’s a great viewing spot with all the streets and fountains lit up below us. Robby gets antsy and crawls out onto the church roof. He pretends to jump off the roof. Tim and Dave run over and see him standing below.
“Com’n. It’s easy. Just grab the drain pipe and slide down.”
“Shut up,” Dave half-whispers. “You’ll wake up the priests.
It’s too late, as lights go on in the parish house. Tim jumps on the drain spout and slides down. The rest of us run down the bell tower stairs where an angry, old priest stops us and proceeds to harangue us for trespassing. He lets everyone go except Dave, the altar boy. Led away by the ear, Dave is given additional punishment. We run off, finding Robby and Tim laughing their asses off at us in the bushes across the street from Holy Family. Off we go to get high at Robby’s. I’m confused by Tim’s foolish bravery and the idea that fags are wimps. I know I’m a wimp and Jeff always calls me a fag. Maybe all wimps aren’t fags, I hope. Or, maybe, all fags aren’t wimps, which explains Tim. I’m pretty sure that Jeff is a fag. He isn’t brave, just a bully to those smaller and younger than him. These thoughts run in my mind as I wait for Jeff to be through with me again. All I could think is that summer is almost done and he’ll be back to college soon.
Tim is really funny. When Robby mocks him about his jock clothes. He runs home and changes into this crazy Cuban disco outfit. We all donate ratty jeans and long sleeve shirts with missing buttons for him to join our stoner clique. Robby makes him swear to never wear shoes to school. He hides a pair in his locker but never has to use them. Our fashion style, if you could call it that, has built up over the years. He just adopts it and instantly is a stoner. He brags that his coach walks right past him in the hall, not even recognizing his star swimmer. He seems so normal, until the day his boyfriend shows up and calls him a waste case for hanging out with us stoners. Tim makes him leave. We cheer that Tim is standing up for us. Maybe he won’t be a fag anymore. Then, he breaks down crying on Mary’s shoulder. Robby is pissed that Tim is hitting on Mary. She defends Tim, saying she knows what it’s like to break up with the first love of your life, meaning Ned.
At the end of summer, Tim has an accident on a trampoline. He’s in the hospital for five days. We sneak into his hospital room. While I keep watch, Robby takes him into the bathroom and gets him stoned. He’s a cut up, flashing his butt at us from the untied johnnie he has to wear. As soon as he is released, we move the pot clubhouse to his room in the tower.
Edith comes home early and finds everyone ditching in the garage. The marijuana smoke totally busts us. She kicks everyone out, except for me. I get a long lecture on failing to meet her standards. She warns that my day of judgment is coming soon. John gets a pass because she blames me for leading him astray. I’m not that worried. What could be worse than what was happening in my room every night.
John and I celebrate Jeff’s return to college by taking everyone to the BK Lounge. It turns out Dad owns it, so we get everything for free. John learned this perk from Jeff. For several weeks we become regulars at the Lounge. Too bad they don’t serve drinks. For that reason alone, Sorrento’s is our favorite hangout, and pizza and beer beats out free burgers every time.
Tim’s room is busted when the neighbors complain about noise. We just move back to Robby’s. One night Robby teases Dave about being an altar boy. Robby stole holy water from Holy Family. Tim sprays him and it seems to boil on his skin. Robby invokes the devil, asking for protection from the holy water. He threatens to send us all to hell. Dave spazzes out, trying to pray for protection. He and Jazz run off screaming. I just cower in the corner with John. We already know what hell is and are prepared for it. Michael just laughs. It turns out to be another Robby Magic Mean Show. Tim is in on it, although it seems like he is protecting us from Robby.
Edith’s day of judgment arrives. The cover-up of John’s injuries from being raped is only to protect the family from shame. They remind me of how much my real mother screwed up, being a waste case and abandoning me. I’m judged to be her devil spawn. I’m going to a camp in the Everglades near Fort Lauderdale. It’s called The Program. I ask some seniors what they know about it.
“Their goal is to break you. They’ll eat you up. If you fail, you’re sent to prison in Raiford,” I’m told.
Another new guy, Iggy, has become a regular. I can tell that the Program scares him. He’s been to juvie and heard stories about the Program. He’s tough, much tougher than me. I know I’ll never last. I’m desperate. I make a plan. I’ll ask Tim if I can stay with him, hiding until The Program people give up looking for me. He’s still hurting from his accident. He relapses after playing the trick with the holy water. I go to his house after school. He’s laying on his bed, bored and glad to see me. When he tries to get up, I see him flinch.
“Just when I play devil’s advocate with Robby.”
We both laugh. I have no idea what an advocate is.
“Let me loosen it up,” I move next to him on the bed.
He lies on his stomach and I massage his back. When it loosens up, I stop.
“That feels so good,” he sighs.
“I can come over after school and give you massages,” I offer.
“I’ll let you know.”
“Any time. Just say the word.”
We smile at each other.
“Sure, Jace. I’m bored anyway.”
I’m so happy. John gets to stay over at his friends’ homes. I never thought that Robby or the others would let me stay overnight. I promise Tim back massages any time he wants. I look around his room. No ashtrays, no stereo, no posters. The boy is a blank canvas.
“No music, man,” I complain.
“Just radio. You like salsa?”
I refuse to answer that question. I find the radio and instantly change the station to my metal favorite and reset the treble and bass to reduce the bass’s heavy salsa beat. I turn up the volume and Robby shows up within minutes.
“I’m moving in with Tim,” I can’t help myself.
Robby instantly gets possessive and mocks me for being fag for giving Tim back massages. Tim defends me. It makes me glow on the inside. No one has ever defended me, except for old Rosie Butt and that didn’t end well. Robby pulls out a joint to celebrate my being saved from The Program. We even go to Sorrento’s. Tim complains he’s out of money. Robby just orders a second pizza. We go ‘home’ after pizza. Robby is hanging about closely. He stays with us, until I pass out, falling asleep on Tim’s bed. I wake up in the morning. Tim slept on the floor. He says he always slept on the ground while camping in Alaska.
“I’ll sleep on the floor,” I offer, knowing I’m being a bother.
“It’s no big deal,” Tim smiles. “I like having you here.”
Tim brings me the leftovers from his breakfast. The eggs are so good. I skip school and we sit around in his room all day. He tells me about all his camping adventures in Alaska. All his friends were military brats. He is one as well. He is so normal, it makes me envious. I need to just worry about hiding from The Program goons who are coming to take me away. John comes by after school and tells me that the guards came to both schools looking for me. He says Edith is going crazy from anger that I escaped her plans to get rid of me. He says Dad is more sympathetic but she runs the show.
John stares at me, wondering why I’m so weird. He promises not to tell where I am.
“Did we do anything?” I ask tentatively.
“You still have all your clothes on. I missed my opportunity,” he laughs.
“Jeez, Jace, haven’t you ever slept over at your friends’?”
I feel badly that he thinks I don’t trust him.
“I’m not going to jump you. It’s part of my not being so gay plan.”
After bringing me a share of his breakfast, Tim asks me a lot of questions about my home life. He tries to convince me I can get Edith to let me stay. I just need to lie about pot and promise never to do drugs. He says I have to stand up to them. I promise I’ll try, just not yet. After two more days, John tells me that the guards have given up. Tim walks me home to confront Edith. We go to the garage first. Max is so happy to see me. He bucks up my spirits. Edith and Dad are getting ready to go out. When they come downstairs, I’m waiting for them.
“You are in big trouble, you little prick,” Edith is not so happy.
“I promise to be good. It’s hard being by myself. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll stay out of your way. Just don’t send me away.”
Edith is not about to budge. Dad seems to soften as I remain quiet while they discuss me. She finally gives in.
“One more problem and you’re out of here,” she threatens after they agree to cancel my stay at the Program.
I run out to the garage where Tim and John are waiting with Max. We celebrate by walking him to Robby’s where we all violate Edith’s edict against smoking pot. Max celebrates the most.
I get to pretty much stay at Tim’s after standing up for myself. Edith is fine at never seeing me. I’m relieved to find out that Tim doesn’t like just salsa music. He seems to like all pop music and knows the words to about every song from the last twenty years, even his parents’ show tunes. We always sing along to the songs on the radio. I go to Michael’s and retrieve my/Ned’s Gibson SG guitar. Tim says we can’t use the practice amp for fear of upsetting the neighbor’s again. I’m not about to upset anyone who can jeopardize my refuge at Tim’s. I play the guitar acoustically (without amplification) and get better at the fingering. We play every day, jumping around his room. I can hear the notes and get better at turning sour chords into harmony. Often, we play for hours, eventually lying on the floor, exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. Tim’s singing is always on key. It helps me find the right chords to songs I know in my head. When the radio plays long solos, like Clapton on ‘Layla,’
I improvise my own leads, pretending I’m jamming with the rock god. With no lyrics to sing, Tim hums his own harmonies to link Clapton’s leads to mine. We believe we’re geniuses. Rock is so easy once you play what’s in your mind, instead of trying to copy what’s playing on the radio. We’re often out of whack with the real songs but somehow find it easy to get it back together. Tim is a good at knowing how to get to where we match actual chords in the songs.
“It’s singing from my heart, not trying to reach specific notes printed on a bar and clef,” he explains.
I just try to make the guitar stay in tune with Tim’s singing. Often we just play around. He would bend notes and I follow him, or vice versa. Our favorite band is Pink Floyd with their long instrumentals and spacy lyrics. One night we end up lying on the floor after rocking out to Kiss. We’re panting from our exertions. It’s late. Tim pulls me to my feet and leads me to the bed where I plop down. He goes over and puts on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ album.
He slides into bed with me and grabs my hand. We squeeze the rhythm of the songs together and fall asleep.
It’s an incredible dream. I’m asleep in Tim’s bed. An angel wraps me in his arms and we fly above the trees in the neighborhood. I laugh seeing Robby trying look into the windows at a nearby house. Michael is sitting outside, talking on the phone to his underage girlfriend. Dave is riding his bike home from altar boy practice. He doesn’t look happy. Max is in the backyard with John rolling around on the grass. When we fly over, Max looks up and barks once. He should know I never have pot. We fly over the BK Lounge; no one I know is there. We continue down Red Road to the park where I learned to swim as a kid. The angel banks to the right and we swiftly fly into Tim’s room and land in the bed. I’m shocked that Tim is asleep in the bed. My eyes fly open. For just a second, the angel is laying there with me. Quickly my vision clears and it’s Tim next to me. He wakes up and laughs that I’m staring at him. We’re still holding hands.
“Did we do it together,” I ask him if he flew with me.
He laughs, thinking I mean sex. “Don’t worry. You slept in your clothes.”
I realize I’m no longer dreaming and am embarrassed for the misunderstanding. I’m afraid he’ll throw me out. I need to stay here. I want to stay here. It was the most incredible dream of my life.
“I dreamt I was flying with an angel around the neighborhood. We saw Robby trying to look into the neighbor’s bedroom window.”
Tim jumps up and closes the curtain. I get up and we sit on the window sill together. Instead of sitting in opposite corners of the window, he pulls me into a hug, turning me so I lay back into his arms. Unable to see his face, I pretended he is the angel again.
He sighs. He’s Tim again.
“I love my window. Scott and I lay here like this. I think that’s how Robby knew we were fags.”
I want to ask about his boyfriend, but I keep quiet. It’s too perfect the way it is. I’m not about to spoil it. I know he broke up with his boyfriend. Maybe it’s like Ned and Mary. I pull his arms around me and lay back.
He sighs even longer. I think I sigh too. Maybe I’m dreaming again. At that moment I decide to give all of myself to Tim, my angel.
After the Pink Floyd night, Tim and I are together constantly. He comes with me to feed Max. He suggests we walk the dog to Robby’s. For the first time, I get high smoking pot. Max is so pleased. John is giving me funny looks; he knows that something has changed for me. Once I’m high, all I want is to fall asleep at Tim’s and hope to find the angel of my dreams again. I can’t remember what I dream. I do know that it is wonderful waking up next to Tim. He asks if I saw the angel. I’m not sure. He laughs and makes some crack that maybe the angel brought me to him. We look at each other and shake our heads. What is different is I now trust Tim. I can relax and follow his lead. He never sleeps on the floor again and often pushes me into bed when he’s ready to go to sleep. We’re just friends. For the first time, I stop being fearful that Jeff is going to show up.
We continue to sing and play guitar acoustically to songs on the radio. Robby’s room has a stereo. He only plays his favorite records. We all love singing Steely Dan’s hit (which we change to) ‘Robby Don’t Lose that Number,” pointing and laughing at him.
After about a week, John is upset that I’m never home. With Jeff far away, we have nothing to fear. Edith is less critical after The Program blow-up. I leave Robby’s with John and stay at my ‘old home’ that night and other nights randomly. I never dream about the angel there. I feel lame for wanting to tell John about it. It seems so gay, almost as much as liking Tim is. That is special. It isn’t like what happened with Jeff. I’m not ashamed about how I feel. Anyway we aren’t doing anything, just massages and sitting in the window together. Robby keeps making cracks about Tim turning me gay. One night we’re in bed as I give Tim a back massage. We realize Robby is standing right next to us. I about jump out of bed. Tim tells Robby that nothing is happening. From the bulge in Robby’s jeans, I know he’s disappointed. All three of us sleep in Tim’s bed. I make sure Tim sleeps in the middle. I think the angel comes that night and protects me from Robby. I can’t figure out why he acts so gay when he has a girlfriend. Tim says he uses sex to control people. It sounds like what Jeff does.
About two weeks after I start staying at Tim’s, I go to sleep holding hands with Tim. We max out on Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’. They’re pretty gay – ‘which one’s Pink?’ When I wake up, the angel is holding my hand. I lean over and kiss it. The angel wakes up, changing into Tim. He gets real excited. I’ve never told him I thought I was kissing an angel. Like angels aren’t really male or female, right? There is no question that I’m gay after that. Walking to school, Tim agrees we won’t tell anyone unless we want them to know. We’re ‘lunatics on the grass,’ and say our song is ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond.’
The other good thing after we do it is pledge to get a band together.
“I need a real amp,” I complain.
“Don’t worry. You’re a musical genius. We’ll get Robby to get you one.”
Tim is so sure of himself. Then it happens. He makes a deal with Robby that we’ll perform some weird satanic ritual, more Robby Magic Mean Show for Halloween. Robby will make the band happen. We all take this weird drug potion that makes me go blind. Robby, Mary and Tim spend hours inside a deserted crypt. They all trip together. Everyone else is on their own trips. I wander around blindly running into trees. It’s like walking in my sleep. Finally Iggy catches two little kids spying on us and scares the crap out of them. Robby strips them of their costumes and they run home in their underwear. I’m really burned out and sleep in a dreamless state until Tim comes home. Robby has him all worked up about seeing pagan gods. We write our first song together, ‘False Gods.” We decide to call the band by the same name.
‘We rushed in where angels feared to tread
They gave up hope, gave us up for dead
Our memory lingers on eternally
From the abyss we heard Lucifer’s plea
But we too wanted a world of our own
Dreamed of ruling from a throne
We ran away from them to see
How we’ll be happy for eternity
We are false god,
We are false gods
We found this world so meek and blind
We stand here laughing at your kind
You cynical fools don’t understand
Fall to your knees useless man
This world so full of flaws
Facades and miracles applause
Eulogized not despised
We are false gods
We are false gods
From up the hill we hear your pleas
Bring us presents, fall to your knees
Pray and speak in semaphores
Sacrifice your hallowed sheep
Pitiful slugs that you are
Dance and sing around the fire
Arms waving all around
We’re so happy
This world we’ve found
Omnipotent beneficence astounds your broken minds
You’re just like toys
We’ve made our minds to be
We are false gods
We are false gods
We will live eternally
To hear your painful screams
Just wait 20 years or so
You will know just what we mean
Copyright MIB Lyrics by David Delgado
Robby fails to come up with equipment or even a place to practice. Tim bans him from coming over and refuses to go to the pot hangout in his room. John has to take Max over for his second-hand smoke fix. Robby humbles himself by asking Michael to join our band. We’ll have two drummers, like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. I surprise everyone by being able to play any song they want to hear. Michael’s dad becomes the band’s manager. We all get new equipment from Spec’s Records in downtown Coral Gables. Michael’s house has a music room where we hang out after school and practice. A college guy comes by and promises to pay us $100 to play at a party over Thanksgiving.
The party is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the Gables. Tim invites me to have dinner with his folks in a fancy restaurant. It is much more complicated than going to the BK Lounge. I remind him that Robby made us promise to never wear shoes again. As we’re driving to the French restaurant, we pass Robby and Mary walking on the street. We take our shoes off and wave our feet at them. Tim’s mom makes us put our shoes back on. I let Tim order for me. Later we laugh about the dessert looking like cum. We swear it goes right through us.
The show is a big success. Tim is a crazy fag, all over me while we play Glitter bands like David Bowie. I just keep playing as Tim sings from his knees. He slides under me, so I thrust the Gibson guitar at his crotch. The girls go crazy. Their boyfriends get angry when Tim sings into my ear and is licking it. I’m hard the whole time from the excitement of playing to a live audience. The rest of the band realizes what was going on with us. Since the crowd, mostly the girls, likes us acting faggy, they accept we’re hit perverts. There are even gay college students who want to be our groupies.
Our only problem is we have to rent a truck to move equipment as no one drives. Hippie Greg comes back from Iowa after being sent there for smoking too much pot. His granddad gave him an old station wagon and he has an Iowan drivers license. We make him the bass player which solves the transportation problem. He’s terrible at first. Tim shows him how to dampen his strings when he gets lost in a song, standing there playing without any sound coming out of his amp. He gets better quickly, especially after we send all the groupies, who besiege us about gay sex, to Hippie. He quickly is no longer a virgin, although it takes him a few shows to figure it out.
Tim knows many ways to have gay sex. I just shut my eyes and see the angel participating, instead of Tim. I’m confused on who I love more. I finally tell Tim why I keep my eyes shut. He’s hurt at first, until he realizes that he is the angel. I’m the one deluding myself. That sounds reasonable. I agree that angels are male and embrace my sexuality. Everyone else already has. Tim makes me agree I’ll never have sex without him or the angel being there. I’m not making other plans. Having gone so long without being horny, now I have a hard-on all the time. Tim says it might break if it doesn’t get used. I’m not the only one who’s deluded.
Before Christmas we meet this twinky guy in Coconut Grove. He drives us to North Miami Beach where we put on a sex show at a gay bar, singing to Abba. We make $100 each but have to escape the cops who bust the place. Running down the street naked makes my night. I can’t keep my mouth shout and spill the beans to Robby. Now everyone knows Tim and I are having sex. We’re official gay boys with $100 to prove it.