Under My Beautiful Flesh: unraveled
Like a wounded animal . . . a betrayed heart can strike a deadly blow. It’s just a matter of when.
Release date: Late fall 2018
Some memories never leave you no matter how hard you try to expel them from your mind. A lifetime of them has pooled in a lake of toxic, stagnant water – dammed up by an infectious legacy which confines those recollections and therefore impeding them from flowing freely and enabling them to dissipate into a sea of forgiveness and rebirth. For some time, those memories have been trying to drown me, and the only way I know how to save my life and let the contamination flow out of my soul is to tell you this story.
I am no different than many of you - I trusted someone completely and took their words and actions to be truth. It took me four years of darkness trying to keep my head above those waters to realize I had allowed my life to fall into the hands of a psychopath. Do not be fooled as I had been by their charm - for they lack any real emotion or empathy for the train wreck their selfish and reckless actions leave behind, but only mimic those traits to suit their needs and narcissistic desires. After all, when the Devil comes to entice you for your soul – he/she doesn’t reveal the horns coming out of their heads.
Since I started the writing of this book, it has been hard to know where to begin or even if I can survive its telling, but I’m still here.
Chapter: All the Margaritas you can Drink
There are just some things that can never be unseen—erased from my mind’s eye, even if it were figuratively possible to beat my head against a brick wall to knock them out. For that, I wish I’d never gone out that Sunday, late afternoon on May 17, 2009. Although, I had every right too. Zocalo was a popular Mexican restaurant on 10th Street. Every Sunday, good weather permitting, as the sun dipped into the western sky, it became one big extended happy hour for gay men, doing what they do best in such a setting—cruising for their next hit of pure protein, and I don’t mean the kind you scoop out of a container of whey.
There were always a few lesbians, along with a smattering of not-so-self-identified bi men and women on the down-low. Dotted around in the multitude were your token straight celibate wannabees, fascinated by the pejorative — yet irresistible — homosexual lifestyle – all told packing the parking lot, drinking, and carrying on. Since there was no attendant on the street checking IDs, it was also a great place for the under-twenty-oner’s — so easy to get an adult to go to the bar and get all the drinks they wanted. Plus, they provided an endless supply of fresh meat for those who preferred a taste of young ass and dick.
The closest I’d ever gotten to Zocalo before that night was walking Dugan on our usual and oft-practiced route — through Piedmont Park — leaving the park at 12th — then west along 12th one block — then left down Juniper, passing Einstein’s and Joe’s on Juniper, two more ever popular Sunday afternoon gay hangouts, their patios’ filled to the brim with revelers — then left on 10th — passing Zocolo on the opposite side of the street — then crossing Piedmont again — then five more blocks back to — Charles Allen Drive, on the right — then right again on 7th, back home.
On that May afternoon, I decide to forgo the weekly Sunday walk and be one of those random gay men standing in the parking lot with a beer in one hand, while gesturing with the other, talking to friends. I thought I might even meet someone there. It was time to make a strong effort to move on from Christopher. I was still a good catch, but I needed to believe that and not the little destructive voice inside of me telling me otherwise. I knew I needed to look at the bigger picture: bigger than the boundary lines of my property of my Midtown home, bigger than Atlanta, and certainly bigger than Christopher. I still wanted him to come back to me but that desire was out of my hands.
I felt it safe to go — more like force myself — because I’d talked to Christopher over the phone earlier in the day. He had called, yet again, for money. I told him he could take what he wanted out of our joint checking account, I’d set up when we were still a couple, but once the balance hit zero — the bank was closed. During that conversation, Christopher told me he had a shit load of studying to do, and it would most likely continue into the late hours of the night. I knew I had to stop isolating myself in my house, only venturing out to the gym or the grocery store, or to walk Dugan. And as much as I’d grown to dislike gay bars over the years — it was time to put myself out there again even if it was a bit scary at fifty-four.
I remembered the first time I went to a gay bar in Atlanta — the infamous — long gone — Backstreet — the veritable ground-zero for Atlanta’s gay scene from the early ‘70s through the early ‘90s. I drove around the bar at least seven times, not because I was having trouble finding a parking place, but because I was scared of what I would find once inside. I was young and still wet behind the ears – as they say. I’d purchased a new pair of boots for the occasion, and my feet hurt like hell.
So, on that Sunday, I got cleaned up, put on my best pair of jeans, a pale-blue button-down short-sleeved shirt (that unmistakably highlighted my muscled yet mature body and made my gray-blue eyes stand out), and a pair of Kenneth Cole tan slip-on shoes, with no socks, of course. I had to highlight my best assets. It was just part of being single and gay. In truth, for the most part, the best three assets of an older gay man were first, money, second, a big dick, and maybe a distant third, a decent body. Good looks did play into the formula, but from my experience, it was an add-on. So, I’d surmised Christopher must have found someone with more money than me — and if he were really lucky, a bigger dick.
I didn’t know that afternoon would become one of those — at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I decided to drive over instead of walking from the house: my shoes were fairly new — I’d only worn them a time or two — and I didn’t want blisters on my feet. I drove west on 7th, a relatively secluded residential street, which jogs in uneven blocks, punctuated with stop signs, in-and-out, slicing through Midtown, with purpose, all the way to the storied Peachtree Street.
For the uninitiated, the two principal commercial thoroughfares in downtown Atlanta are Peachtree and West Peachtree. For that, one might reasonably assume that West Peachtree is the west end of Peachtree — when, in fact, both streets run parallel to each other, south-to-north, finally merging, in a traffic light engineer’s worst nightmare, at a semi-controlled perpetual collision called Pershing — aptly nicknamed Perishing — Point. Added to that, owing to its historic cache, there are seventy some-odd other streets, avenues, roads, and various byways, in the metro area, which have adopted some avatar of Peachtree in their sundry monikers, all severing to everlastingly confound newcomers, visitors, and residents alike.
I parked my car on Juniper and walked north a few, short blocks — turning right on 10th. Zocalo was in clear sight from the intersection. To my surprise, there were very few people in the parking lot.
“Perhaps I’m a bit early,” I thought. I walked past a few guys who stood outside, toward the ramp leading to the open-aired restaurant. The first person I saw was the last one I’d expected, or in fact, wanted to see that evening: Christopher. He was leaning against a rustic column, surrounded by four guys, each in a various stage of groping his ass and junk.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I thought to myself, blinking, trying to assimilate what I was obviously seeing. He was wearing a pair of familiar, loosely fitting, linen pants with a drawstring that I intensely disliked. Then I realized he was obviously quite drunk, and if it weren’t for the column, and the four guys furiously fondling him, he would surely have been passed out on the floor. At that moment, by all rights, I should have turned around and walked back to my car, but inexplicably I didn’t.
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