Meadows, Tracy



Him By Tracy Meadows My celly has a subscription to Harper's Magazine and recently I read an essay concerning the definition and joys of "frottage" - which, the author instructed, is pronounced like "cottage". My memory is usually a stew of subtle reflections rather than clear recollections, but as I read, the stew was stirred and suddenly there rose a steaming memory of him. I remember him standing on the top floor staircase landing in the music building. We were college freshman and he was beautiful. He had light brown skin, dark eyes, curly hair, and was the sexiest human being I had encountered in my eighteen years of alienation. I don't think I intentionally forgot him, he was too beautiful and it felt too good to be with him. Now that I am locked away behind razor wire he is probably even more attractive, his touch more profoundly erotic, when seen from life's distance. At first I did not remember where we met. In 1978 I was a band and choir geek attending an agricultural college that happened to have a good music program, and I was still learning about cruising. Gays of a "certain generation" remember when cruising demanded commitment because it required travel. Cruising was more than a swipe of a phone or the click of a mouse. You had to get up, leave where you were, travel physically to another place and make decisions. The front or back trail at the park, or maybe the bowling alley. There was an antique shop in town that had a magazine rack discretely located in back. Rural Arkansas didn't tolerate gay bars. Up from my memory soup floated the campus library, where the artsy queers hooked up with the jocks. The aisles of philosophy and mediaeval studies across from the restroom were very popular at certain times of the day. We met at the library and because I was a music student we ended up in a practice room in the music building. Much of what life is all about was practiced in those small rooms on the top floor. Sometimes that even included music. I remember the frottage with which we started, our bodies rubbing together, kissing, touching. I remember the weight of him, every inch of him in contact with every inch of me from our feet, to our cocks, to our lips pressed together. We groped, rubbed, and explored till we both came and then held each other tighter as the warmth spread between us. That memory crossed an ocean of indifferent touches and a desert of empty sex to make my heart race thirty seven years later. I am sure I did not know the word for the act. I was more experienced than he, but I still had much to learn about both words and life. Then when the eighties and nineties came, I learned about death. But at the innocent end of the seventies, if you had asked me for a definition I am sure I would have said fun, wonderful, and right. Completely right. Soon we had graduated from frottage to other words; fellatio, anilingus, and intercourse. Why did I continue through the years to remember superficial experiences and less relevant men, yet forget him? Perhaps I elevate his importance because I am in prison and feel the press of time and bottomless solitude. A loneliness not unlike that of the closet I hid in for so long. My wrong thinking and actions brought me to prison, where I have chosen to live my personal truth in a system which denies the legitimacy of my sexuality. I sit behind the wall and watch the positive changes that are happening for gay people. At a time when gays are encouraged by much of western society to live openly and freely, I live in an environment that actively encourages retreat into that closet from which I finally broke free. As American society's view of sexuality matures, the correctional system regresses into disingenuous word games such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act, policies and "procedures" meant to paper over the marginalization, verbal and physical abuse of LGBTQ people. I am faced daily with this culture of ignorance and have learned to carry myself in such a way as to assert my personal worth in the face of those who would deny my dignity. Prison is doubly frustrating, because it encourages the deception I practiced for much of my life and now, because I refuse to participate in that subterfuge, I am open to being ostracized and even criminalized further. It may have been fatigue from the daily fight against hopelessness, or simply the desire to remember some better time, that made me think of him. He was standing on the stairwell landing. He had stopped there and I had stopped a few steps below him. We had just come from one of those sweet times together in a practice room. We had spent time talking, but not much else. We were both scared, and still searching. I was afraid of my parents, who had begun to suspect that something might be wrong with their son and had made it clear that what I might be was completely unacceptable. We had talked enough that I knew his fears were similar to my own. We stood there looking at each other, and he suddenly asked me if I would go to Little Rock with him for the weekend. We could get a motel room and be together. I had been with other men, but had not had a real boyfriend. It was, after all, not something done at that time in that place, at least as far as I knew. I was still trying to get accustomed to dating girls, which I had tried to do since I was a sophomore in high school, since I figured that was what I was supposed to do. That moment on the landing is strongest memory I have of him. I remember my hesitation and my answer. I said no. lam sure I made up some lame excuse. The rules I lived by said I couldn't be what I was or do what he was asking me to do. I was the good son, the boy who followed the rules, the mamas boy, the boy who never got in trouble or did anything that could be embarrassing to my family. I knew my place. I liked pleasing people and being exactly what I thought everyone expected me to be. It is a disastrous way to live. That thinking led me to spend a great portion of a duplicit life trying to self destruct, and I finally succeeded. At that time in other places, there were people my age who had the courage to live honestly, people who were stronger than I. In 1978 on the staircase landing, I was a coward. Like many incarcerated people, prison life has driven me to self examination. I have had to stir the memory stew. Remorse, regret, anger at myself, anger at the world and this system have come to the surface. I have run a gauntlet of emotions that has put a lock in a sock and beat the shit out of my mind. Now finally, with my ego bruised and bleeding, I am getting closer to being able to embrace the two forces that comprise the universal law of love; faith and forgiveness. It has not been an easy journey and after almost eight years, it is only a little more than half over. I have tried to understand not only my mistakes, but also my strengths and my fears. In the Symposium, the philosopher Plato tells a story about soul mates. All the souls that will ever exist were created in the beginning; male, female, and a third sex which was both male and female. After creation, each soul was divided in two. The story goes that each of us, lifetime after lifetime, is trying to find that other half of ourselves. For those that are straight, the other half is the opposite sex. For those of us lucky enough to be gay, our other half is someone who has the same kind of parts, but more importantly, the same kind of mind. In my search for understanding, I have learned that I am no longer afraid of what other people think. I am not scared of myself, or life, or being locked up, or even death. Yet it seems I still search for something to be afraid of. It is as though I need to feel scared just to feel normal, because I was scared for so long. What if it was him? Was that moment our miss for this life? Maybe it was not him. After all, I forgot. But then I remembered. 5 The Roman philosopher Seneca said "Certain moments are torn from us, some are gently removed, and others glide beyond our reach." Whatever caused that memory to slip away, I found him again waiting patiently to be rediscovered in my mind, and that gives me hope. I do not know what my future holds, but I know this: I have known the possibility of love, and I will find it again. I have seen that promise at the top of the stairs. I know I do not have to be afraid, because I remember him.

Author: Meadows, Tracy

Author Location: Arkansas

Date: October 20, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 4 pages

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