My Life as a Teenage Medium Among Other Things
Here’s a little history that will be useful in a few pages:
I started hanging out in bars and pool halls with older kids when I turned twelve. Columbia, South Carolina had no real place for teens to gather other than church basements so we always ended up inside bars sticking around in back in the shadows, smoking cigarettes to look older.
I turned fourteen in the early 1970s, and that’s how old I was when I walked through the door of a “gay” bar. A couple of days before that entrance, a tall kid I knew named Ricky talked about where he saw a bunch of queers gathered. I knew that’s what I was too, so I staked out the place he spoke about. And I even went in when none of my friends were around. What they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. That I was able to sneak in and out of the town’s one gay dive bar was miraculous. Malachi on the lookout for me, right? She helped me guard more than just he secrets.
It’s about this time you should be wondering who let a fourteen year old into a “gay” bar in the first place. The answer: an alcoholic chicken hawk bartender named Bob working in a seedy beer garden that didn’t sell hard liquor, and who could be bribed with a Pepsi can filled with some of my father’s Johnny Walker Bourbon. More on him later, okay? More on Bob, that is, not Johnny Walker or my father, even though their relationship was very close and dramatic at times and would make for a rollicking story. But if I told that, this would be a very different tale.
Let me tell you, it is easy to be popular boy when you are young, pretty and more than a little wild in a gay bar servicing a Bible-thumping repressed burg like Columbia, South Carolina was in the 1970s. People needed an outlet and I was it. Malachi often helped me out, showing me what people were thinking, or at least their frames of mind. She taught me to concentrate so I could “smell” their thoughts, feel a little of what they are feeling. One look, one second, and I knew who wanted to do what to whom. The wild child in me wanted to do nothing but drink, party and have sex. Malachi wouldn’t allow me to do everything that I wanted. Each time anyone showed interest in me, she shouted in my head until I got the message- HOMEWORK FIRST- so I went from bars and sex to ninth grade physical science in one quick swoop.
Sheesh. Even though my impossible delusions, reality, and illusions bitched at me, she cared about me. I guess it was for my own good. My rotten loser friends were dropping out of high school, getting into drugs, being arrested. I was a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a member of the National Honor Society. See? I listened to Malachi. She showed me everything through the movies in my head, including the probability of what would happen if I screwed up academically in school (and nothing looked good on that front), so I made sure I had all my schoolwork done before I hitchhiked into town to be manhandled by old men with youth issues. I stayed out all night, sneaked back in before my parents got up, and made it to school in time just about every day. I spent the first two years of high school already having having a multi-layered life, and those layers fit together only because of Malachi.