1975 Dodge Colt
Nothing fancy about this car. It wasn’t even a real Dodge. It was a Mitsubishi incognito. After a crash and a fill in car, it was a new start from a bad place in life. It was easy on gas and ran well so it fit the bill.
Leaving John’s house in my ”67 Olds, I drove up to the apartment building where Ben and Don lived to unload my things and climbed up three flights of stairs. Ben opened the door welcoming me in with a great big a hug.
The song, “What I Did For Love”, was blaring throughout their apartment when I arrived. It was from the soundtrack “A Chorus Line.” There was a gay character in the musical that I seemed to resonate with and my new life felt like a blank page to be filled in.
That’s the way I saw it, the old is gone, the new has come and John Smid is going to redesign his life.
I stayed in the guest bedroom at Ben and Don’s apartment for about a month. I went to bed the first night in a haze, like it was a dream that I was living in. I felt safe and yet I recognized nothing around me. I had only been around these guys a few times. Their conversations, their friends, this was all so strange but at the same time exciting. I felt relieved that I didn’t live in the tension that I had been in for so long.
Ignoring the reality of what I had just done, I could hardly wait for the next weekend when I could spend time with my new friend, John. I wondered what he would show me, or open my eyes to next. It was a discovery process to find out what my new life was really all about.
On Friday night, we went to the “Stage Door Lounge”, a local gay disco, where he introduced me to some of his friends. The scene was full of excitement, dancing, men embracing each other. Some men were standing alone, postured to gain attention. John said they were hoping to find someone to go home with that night. The cultural education of the local gay scene began. The place smelled of smoke and alcohol making it pungent. But, with the loud, energetic music like “Evita” and “Donna Summer” songs, John and I enjoyed the music and the evening and went back to his house with yet more sexual contact.
Going to work on Monday morning was quite different from all the many years before. I was now getting a divorce and my friends around me knew but no one really said much. I kept my reasons for the divorce vague to most of them. So, the questions on Monday morning were as usual, “What did you do this weekend?” I talked about partying, going out, enjoying new friends. It felt so odd but yet I was proud of my answers because for the first time in my life it seemed I had something exciting to talk about. I was now popular in party circles. Unlike my high school years and those following, I was now like others who enjoyed their social lives intensely.
The next weekend I went out again. But this time some of my friends and I decided to go out to the local pancake house after the bar closed. Once we arrived in the door two girls came across the room to greet me. “John, come sit with us for a minute.” It was Pat and Randy. These girls had been high school friends and bridesmaids in my wedding with Kristy. Pat had actually introduced me to Kristy in high school.
“John, you need Jesus!”
So, I sat down and right off the bat, “John, you need Jesus!!” It seemed like they were speaking in unison. They began to tell me how they had found Jesus and how exciting it was to be Christians. They were extremely energetic about their new belief. We all knew that the life they had lived after high school was less than moral. They were party girls who lived together. I remember going to a party at their apartment. Since I was the conservative married guy at the time I was surprised at the atmosphere they were living in. So this was really strange to think of them as “religious” people.
I had no idea what this was all about. I had been raised Catholic, Pat was too. So she talked about that, “John, this is nothing like going to Catholic church.” Oh, boy, what did I get myself into? I felt trapped by these two girls who cornered me to tell me about Jesus. I didn’t want to hear about Jesus. I wanted to be with my new friends. After some time of listening to their spiel, I got up to go back to sit with my friends. In my entire life, I had never been approached like this about religion, much less such a strong emphasis on “Jesus.”
What? Where did they go? My friends had left and they didn’t even say goodbye. I felt rejected, abandoned and all alone. These girls had robbed me from time with my friends then they just left me. So, I went home and didn’t really want to think about the discussion with Pat and Randy. It was all too confusing and certainly contrary to the direction I was heading.
The time had come for me to find my own apartment. Ben and Don had been extremely hospitable but I wanted my own space. I found a great apartment that was just right for me. It was a classic midtown apartment and cool. It had a living room, a bedroom, a long primitive kitchen and a small sun room. Old woodwork with wood floors added to the feel of the place. It wasn’t very clean so I scrubbed it to a shine and began to dream of how I could decorate it to be really cool. I gathered a couple of things to make it a home and started my new independent life.
Then one afternoon, my life was once again challenged. After the shock of the “Jesus girls” it seemed like “someone” was trying to get my attention. I was driving to the mall after work one day and a huge storm came into the city. I felt the winds pick up, the rain started to fall and it soon felt like a cyclone was hitting. Going down a hill the water began to rise and the winds blew harder and all of a sudden “CRASH!” I heard the back window of my car cave in. Leaves were blowing all around inside the car. It felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz! As I was going down the hill a large tree branch had fallen on the back of my car. The car stopped suddenly and it was trapped underneath the tree.
I got out into the street and the flood of water took me off of my feet. My shoes, my glasses, and my watch all went down the gutter . I got out of the water, socks soaked and hanging over the end of my feet and ran into a garage close by where others were standing.
The storm subsided and not knowing what to do about my car, I decided to walk 10 blocks to my home in my flopping socks. As I stood in the bathtub taking my wet and muddy clothes off, for one moment I pondered my life. I felt confused and alone. But surely, there would be a time when I would find someone to help fill my life again. Much like when the girls talked to me, this was a moment of personal honesty, but I didn’t want that right now. I just wanted to get on with where I was headed. My office had a little newspaper they compiled for moral building and my “tornado” experience made the next issue. It was titled “John Smid was mugged by Mother Nature.”
John was pretty social and remained uncommitted to a monogamous relationship with me and would often proudly speak of other sexual conquests. This was not my plan. I wanted to find that one person who would love me, and me alone. Even though I was heading towards promiscuous relationships, there was something in me that still wanted something stable, trustworthy.
The New Guy
One evening John said, “Hey, John, I think you should meet a guy that I just met. His name is Steve.” I was interested, so John set up a meeting with Steve and we seemed to hit it off well. It felt like John wanted to expand our relationship boundaries so I wasn’t so focused on him. Steve invited me to spend the afternoon at his suburban home one Saturday afternoon. We sat outside in the sun while Steve fixed Pina Colada’s. Steve seemed really interested in spending more time with me. He talked about working in town just a few blocks from where I lived. I was so romantic to share a quiet afternoon sipping cool drinks. Steve pridefully talked about his roommate being a very wealthy business owner in Omaha. He seemed to have a strange connection with him, but I was so enamored with the attention he was giving me that I just ignored the thoughts that it might have been a sexual relationship.
Steve came by one night after work and the evening ended up with one more sexual encounter with yet another guy. This was now the fourth man that I had sex with. This one seemed different. He seemed like he wanted some kind of home, some kind of committed relationship. He was good looking, energetic, and seemed to enjoy life. To top it off, he made me feel really special, significant. That night, Steve stayed at my place since he was close to work. This began to reoccur and I thought he wanted me.
We soon talked about moving in together in our own place. This seemed fast but it was what I was looking for and it seemed to be mutual. So, it happened that there was a great apartment open in the same building that Ben and Don lived in. Amongst our friends, that building was thought to be a premium building to be in. It was all gay, and right in the middle of the mid-town location that we all wanted to live in.
Since my 6 month lease was up, Steve and I moved in together I had found that one person to be with. I put all of my energy into making this a home for the two of us. Steve was excited and it felt like we were married! I didn’t go to the bars anymore and just enjoyed every minute I could have with the new man of my dreams. Steve drove a 1978 Pontiac TransAm. It was bright red and boy did I love riding in it. I got to drive it sometimes too. I felt like I was really something when I would drive this hot car around town. At times I would drive it to pick up my kids. I felt pretty puffed up showing up in the driveway with a car that I knew Kristy would be jealous of. I wanted her to think my life was going pretty well.
My birthday was coming up that first year away from Kristy. When it arrived I waited for something special from Steve. But actually this birthday was one of the hardest ones I had ever had. I received nothing from Steve and as a matter of fact, I didn’t get a card from anyone. I felt so hurt that he had not done anything and everyone had forgotten my
This was just the beginning of an extremely painful season of my life. Steve not only didn’t acknowledge my birthday, but worse, he started going out without me to be with other friends. He said he needed some freedom outside of our relationship. I sat home grieving over him being somewhere without me on many nights. I would go to bed worrying that he may be getting involved with someone else. It got to the place where I was desperate to keep him even if it meant that I had to put up with whatever he may have been doing. I became sarcastic and manipulative because I was so fearful of losing him.
Our sexual life became a bargaining ground. He began to ask me to sleep in my own room because he said he needed his own space. I often begged him to allow me to sleep with him. He didn’t always agree and I wondered what in the world had happened to the “dream relationship” that I thought I had with Steve.
Halloween was coming and Steve and I decided to host a party. Since everyone around us thought of us as a couple and Halloween was a big gay holiday, this party was the talk of the town and many of our friends were coming. There were people I didn’t know because of Steve’s independence, but it didn’t matter, it was Steve and I that were hosting this party so there was still a resemblance of “the perfect gay couple.” At least he was living with me, believing I had the better end of the deal.
The Tin Man
During party, Steve seemed to be absent. I went into the kitchen asking if anyone had seen him and they seemed kind of awkward as they answered, “No, we don’t’ know where he is.” So, I went through the house to look further and found the bathroom door was closed. “Steve, are you in there? Are you sick?” From the other side of the door I heard, “Just leave me alone, get away from the door!” I was devastated at his response and couldn’t understand why he seemed so angry. A couple of minutes later the door opened and Steve came out, not alone, but with another man dressed as “The Tin Man.” Needless to say, the word devastation couldn’t begin to describe my broken heart about what I knew was going on.
When the guests all went home Steve was really drunk and he laid on the floor. I’ll never forget the picture of me sitting on the floor next to him sobbing, “Why would you do this to me?”
Our relationship obviously took a turn for the worse that night but I did everything I could to try to keep him. I did anything he wanted, let him do whatever he wanted, begged, suffered and cried. I couldn’t be alone without him.
Some of the greatest wounding I have experienced came from what happened between Steve and me. One day Steve and I talked in the kitchen and I’ll never forget him saying, “John, I have to be honest with you. You just don’t have what it takes to please me sexually.” The next day he moved out and I reached a new low in life. I was completely broken.
He told me that Don had said he could live with him. Don had broken up from Ben and was living alone. I felt deeply betrayed by Don. Why would he allow Steve to live there? Don was my only true friend and I needed him right now, but he had chosen Steve over me. He seemed oblivious to how I had been hurt.
With all of Steve’s things moved out I tried to put things together at my apartment. I used the coping mechanisms I had used other times to just shut down and move on. I just looked forward. I would find someone who would love me. But, the devastation went so deep this time I wasn’t sure I could move on.
1975 Dodge Colt
I had to get rid of Don’s car and it was time to look for a more economical one other than the gas hog V-8 of the Chevelle. I began the search and found one at a small local used car dealership. It was bright metallic green with white interior. Kind of sporty. It was a 1975 two door Dodge Colt. With a four cylinder Mitsubishi format, this was the one for me. It was a whopping $1300 dollars and I could afford that. It smoked a little bit, burning oil, but it was clean and easy on gas.
I haven’t said much about my kids. That is because I didn’t want to think much about that and saw them on Sunday afternoons and sometimes on Wednesday evenings. In the community I was in, kids weren’t really celebrated much.
When I was with my kids I knew that my friends didn’t really want them around and I am not sure I wanted them around these people anyway. The only friend that understood was Don since he had kids of his own and by this time, Don was out of the picture.
I had been attending a gay Alcoholics Anonymous group. Some of my friends said it might be helpful for processing my grief. One particular day in the group I shared some of what I had been going through and a young girl stood up and said, “I can relate to what you are feeling….” Something switched in me and all of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone in my pain. I learned the “Serenity Prayer” from this group that would come to be very helpful.
Driving across town to pick up my kids one Sunday was another turning point for me. The route to my kid’s house took me right past Don’s house where Steve was living. It became apparent to me that Steve had moved into Don’s life further than just a roommate so my personal pain had just increased. This house was the “scene of the crime” and the anxiety that I felt seemed unmanageable. As I drove by and entered the interstate all I could think of was how I could drive off the road and hopefully die. The suicidal thoughts were pretty heavy and then I thought of the prayer and began to cry out; “God, grant me the serenity…..”
Something miraculous happened that day. I had spoken to God in a very personal way for the first time in my life and it seemed that He answered.