Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 3

Catching A Boy

I realized I liked boys at eight or nine. At seventeen I still liked boys. I knew what that meant by the time I was ten. It didn't mean I intended to act on my feelings until I took control of my own life. I saw no reason to hurry.

Even today, it was risky to let a boy know you like him. I was careful, probably more careful than I had to be, but I had no desire to be labeled in a way that might keep me from being successful at what I decided to do.

Each time I heard someone on television screeching about how evil I was and how boys like me shouldn't be allowed to grow up and fall in love with the boy of his dreams, it made me sick at my stomach.

I didn't want anyone to be homosexual if he wasn't, but I was. The biggest threat to boys my age were the screechers who claimed I had no right to my feelings. These were the last people who should be lecturing any one about his feelings.

If the screetchers were as passionate about peace and understanding as they were about putting an end to LGBTQ people, the world might become a safer place.

Why was I condemned for being able to love? What did it say about the screechers who ignored violence and cruelty.

I liked boys. I knew acting on those feelings wasn't wise, but I'd never met a boy like Glenn. I had little control over my feelings when I was near him.

Glenn was the honey bee to my flower. I didn't want to be stung. I saw no way to avoid it. I didn't know I wanted to avoid it. He absolutely had taken over my thoughts. I never imagined I'd meet a boy and not be able to stop thinking about him.

At first I heard talk about boys liking other boys and they grew out of it. I no longer believed that was the case where I was concerned. I thought about boys a lot. I fantasized about them in my dreams.

I had no thoughts about catching a boy or of letting one catch me, until I met Glenn. Now I'd accept either outcome.

My reaction to him told me I wasn't going to wake up one morning and decide I liked women. I was working on a way to get Glenn to notice me. I wanted to get to know more about him without ending up on the pocket rocket he kept in his pants.

It was a lot to wish for, but in spite of his adolescent behavior around Eddie, I was more attracted to him than any boy I'd ever known, except for maybe Brad Pitt. At least Glenn knew I was alive.

He seemed to know what I was thinking and what I was thinking didn't bother him. So far all we'd done was joust. He knew what he wanted and he thought I might be willing to give it to him. I didn't want him to think that, even if he was right.

I wasn't fond of school but now I had to go. It was the only place I was certain to run into Glenn. We graduated at the end of May and weren't likely to run into each other after that.

The last time I saw Glenn, he'd left chaos in his wake. There was no serious damage, only angry adults with short tempers. Nothing unusual when adults encounter a saucy boy.

I found Glenn quite unusual. Whenever I saw him, he got my complete attention. Even when I thought abut him, he had my attention.

I watched as he analyzed my interest in him. My interest in him immediately turned into a discussion about his penis. It was crude and Glenn used it to put me in an awkward position. He knew more than I thought or he guessed well.

When I realized there was no damage beyond frayed nerves, I started for home. I'd lost all interest in the Saturday morning comic books.

My mind was full of Glenn. It always was after we met.

No one inquired about the identity of the 'idiot' as I walked past the arguing drivers. No one involved saw us together. If they saw me talking to Glenn, they didn't regard the situation serious enough to think I might identify the bad boy biker in question.

Popular wisdom had it that military brats followed in their father's footsteps after high school. It was a life military kids were already adapted to and time was running out. Glenn showed a little interest in me but he always side stepped any serious conversation.

Meeting him at the Five & Dime would have been the perfect time to find out more about him, but we always ended up talking about his endowment. What was that all about? It certainly kept me off balance.

I had to figure out how to run into Glenn accidentally. Once I did I'd find out more about him. Find out what he liked to do and figure out where I might run into him.

We had gym together, but with Eddie there, he wouldn't give me the time of day? I'd do what I could to see him in gym class but we needed to meet away from school if we were to develop some kind of friendship.

Crossing path's with him in the showers was fun but hardly a place for a fact finding mission. Not with him always diverting the conversation to his favorite topic.

'Haven't I seen you before, hot stuff,' seemed a bit forward. 'How's it hanging, stud,' was gross, but he had done everything but put it in my hand. Because he was determined to get me to give him pleasure didn't mean I had to go along with him.

I'd never approached another boy. There had been no boys I liked the way I liked Glenn. Underneath that wild and crazy guy had to be a real boy. That's what I needed to find.

It was Glenn who suggested I ask the gym teacher to pick me as one of the boys digging his volleyball pit. Maybe he did know I was alive. Why did he want me to join Eddie and him to dig the pit? Maybe Glenn noticed me in a way I didn't recognized.

I was always careful around the boys I'd grown up with and it wasn't a problem keeping a low profile. I'd wait until Glenn and I crossed paths. I'd say, 'Hello,' and then we'd talk like two normal boys who went to the same school. It was a good plan.

This was the kind of stuff songs were written about.

If meeting someone like Glenn was the thing I'd write songs about, it didn't happen right away. When I looked at him my mind went blank. My hormones took off. Maybe I'd write the song later, after I knew him better.

Richie's voice was in rare form Monday afternoon at band practice. He belted out two warm and fluffy love songs, while I kept thinking about Glenn. I detoured off the music we were playing while daydreaming.

Richie glared my way. Bobby and Andy stopped playing. I'd become the center of attention. My departure from the love song was the kind of thing I criticized others for doing.

"Sorry!" I said smiling.

Being his biggest supporter when most Bobby and Andy never wanted him in the band, the handsome Richie let me off with a warning. I need not fear a tantrums if I mended my ways.

I was usually all business when the Mad Monks played.

After giving us about half of what came out of him during a performance, he dismissed us, saying, "My voice. I've got to save it for our gig this weekend."

I stifled a laugh. The boy was delusional.

"What an asshole," I said, as he shut the door behind him.

Now Richie was totally handsome. I didn't miss that little detail, and with the girls flocking around Richie, it wasn't some incredible discovery I stumbled across. His adoring fans made him feel a the star. It worked out fine for my band. More people came to listen to us. We were just another band without Richie.

My band mates looked at each other after Richie made his exit. They didn't say anything. We'd argued about it since Richie arrived to woo the girls and increase our audiences.

This is what we'd been waiting for. After humoring Richie, we were ready to rock and roll.

I struck a cord for the first song on our play list. We began to jam. In no time at all we were making the sound we lived to make. It was full-tilt-bogie for the next hour or two.

The Mad Monks played rock and roll. After Richie left, our small audience stayed. Some came to hear Richie sing, but they stayed to hear rock and roll.

Richie was a chick magnet. He had a fair voice, but we were and always had been a rock & roll band. We needed Richie but we didn't like him. He was a temporary annoyance to allow us to get in front of bigger audiences. When the time came, we'd part company with Richie.

In Beatles history, I remembered that on the eve of the Beatles ushering in Beatlemania, they dismissed pretty boy drummer Pete Best in favor of the less attractive but more mature Ringo Starr.

Some of the earliest Beatles releases still had Pete Best on drums, but it was Ringo Starr who rose to the top of the rock and roll world with the Beatles.

Pete Best, a footnote in rock history.

I had a good imagination and while Richie served a purpose, I knew we would be the Mad Monks with or without him. He played some simple love songs that required little talent to sing.

We kept Richie away from the instruments, dismissing the idea he had to play the keyboard. We had a sound I liked and I didn't want Richie believing he was a member of the band. We let him stand up front and sing a half dozen songs. It's all we needed from him. The Mad Monks played behind him and we made the music.

Richie ate up the adoring girls who stood below his microphone and swooned over his lovely face, black hair, and piercing blue eyes. Once Richie was done, it was all rock and roll. The Mad Monks let it rip.

During breaks I took sips of water and wondered what Glenn was doing. There were guys I'd known all my life and I rarely pictured them in my spare time.

Richie had it all but I never once gave him a thought beyond his voice. Richie was a cartoon character that had come to life to sing for his supper. He was perfect in every way, except all boys hated him, because their girlfriends loved him.

I didn't hate him. He was no competition to me, but he was way too hung up on himself. I doubted anyone could love Richie the way he loved Richie.

I'd known Glenn for a few days and I couldn't get him off my mind. I decided to get a hamburger and fries on my way home from band practice. I'd eat myself into oblivion. That usually worked if I made a bad grade or got criticized in school for making a poor effort.

It was worth a try and I loved burgers and fries. Maybe I'd get a chocolate shake too. I'd drown my sorrows.

I wondered what Glenn was doing just then.

It was a few days later when Glenn next crossed my mind. The memory of him was fading and the urgency of my feelings had begun to wane. There I was coming out of the shower after gym class, when I glanced down that section of lockers where I always left my clothes, Glenn and Eddie were almost dressed.

They came toward me as they were leaving.

"Hey, Gordo," Glenn said, passing behind me.

I acted as cool as I could, but as I leaned into my locker for my underwear, Glenn slapped my bare butt. He made it sting.

I nearly fell inside my locker but Eddie caught my arm and help me recover my balance.

"He's a character," Eddie said.

They turned toward the exit and I was more pissed Glenn didn't stop to chat as I was over him making my ass sting.

"Yes, funny as a heart attack," i said, seeking to engage them.

They kept going. Even fully clothed, I couldn't keep my eyes off Glenn.

I was sure Glenn would call me Gordo forever. I wondered if this was forever. Would I see him again? Time was ticking away. We had nothing in common. How would I attract his attention.

I watched them. My ass was still stinging. Glenn's hand shot up in the air in what looked like a wave.

How'd he know I'd be looking?

I should have been happy that Eddie and Glenn were such good friends, but I felt left out.

I'd never had a close friend. I'd never really been close to anyone. I found it safer that way. Eddie and I were friendly but once I left dance class at fourteen, I didn't see Eddie, except at school. We no longer ran into each other after a while.

I'd always been aware of my feelings and I tried not to develop strong feelings for any one. School wasn't a good place to cultivate close friends if you were gay.

The inevitable question would arise.

'How come you don't have a girlfriend?'

There was no suitable answer beyond the same tired old cliches.

'I'm waiting for the right girl,' even sounded lam.

I was friendly while keeping a safe distance between me and other boys. I had band practice and that took up a lot of my time. My band mates and I weren't friends. We made music together and we appreciate what each of us brought to the band.

At times we went for pizza together. There were times we went for burgers and soda together, after playing a gig. We mostly did that when we were paid for playing.

Any gig with an audience gave us incentive to hone our skills. It was good practice but we didn't encourage requests for us to play without a fee being paid for our services.

Once we played our music, Bobby, Andy, and I went our separate ways. We had nothing in common once the music was played.

Perhaps I was too cautious. I was in no hurry. I knew boys and we might pal around from time to time. I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I suppose I was happy enough without being close to anyone in particular.

I was doing time and that time was almost done. I'd graduate at the end of May. Then I could make plans for the rest of my life. Everything was up in the air right now.

I'd seen the bullying in school. I knew kids who couldn't or wouldn't stay in the closet. In some ways I admired them. They held their head high and took the abuse. It's what you expected if you were different from the automatons who insisted on everyone being a like.

You didn't need to be gay to become a target. That was one way to attract the attention of the Neanderthal class. They needed to feel like they were better than somebody, but they weren't. These were the true losers.

I didn't see any point in making waves at school. My rage against the machine came out in my music. Getting involved in petty politics and the fight for status wasn't my style.

After I was out of school, I could make my stand and refuse to be put down by a system structured to put you down if you didn't turn out according to the wishes of the folks running the show.

Before my parents asked me to go to dance class, I played an acoustic guitar they bought at a garage sale and that allowed me to begin learning something about music.

My parents wanted me to have an appreciation for dance and the ability to make music. I ditched dance before I started high school. It wasn't what I wanted to be known for.

Now music was my only after school activity. When I started out as a member of the Monks, we practicing at a band member's house.

I joined the Monks my first year in high school. By then I had an electric guitar. The Monks needed a guitarist, after their second guitar player graduated. The band was patient with me while they taught me the tricks of the trade.

We could get pretty raunchy at times. Our music became louder and more raucous as it began leaking out of our souls. Our parents thought it was time we practiced elsewhere, and that's when we first got permission to play in one of the band rooms after school..

I was happy to be playing anywhere. Being in a band with two juniors and a senior was cool to this sophomore. They even talked about the band being mine once they graduated. It was quite a motivator, thinking I'd have a band of my own one day. As a sophomore it was more of a dream than a possibility.

I began high school wide-eyed and full of wonder. Everything was new, exciting, and big. The seniors ruled, the juniors were in waiting to become seniors. Sophomores and Freshman were lower than dirt, but the Monks elevated my status.

Being a Monk meant I didn't need to be political. I didn't need to join a group. If any one wanted to know about me, the first thing someone said, 'He's a Monk.'

It had been my ticket to an easy road through high school.

Besides finals and term papers, I knew my fate by April of our senior year. Little would change on my way to graduation.

The Mad Monks might go with me. We were all seniors. I'd tried out a few juniors and a sophomore, but none stuck with the band. I didn't feel obligated to leave the band with someone at school. It's the way it was when I came along.

Bobby and Andy had no more idea about what they intended to do than I did. Music created possibilities but one band in a thousand made enough money to support its members. One band in a million were headliners.

The Mad Monks had permission to practice in a secondary band room after school three days a week. We had to be out by six and we were usually out by five thirty. When I reserved that band room, the music teacher noticed the name change.

"Might I ask you how the Monks became mad," Mr. Woodly asked.

"You know that bust of Beethoven. The one with his hair sticking straight out?"

"It's one of the standard images of Beethoven," he said.

"It makes him look mad. Not angry mad but a little crazy mad. I decided it wouldn't hurt the Monks to be a little mad too," I revealed.

Mr. Woodly laughed and signed the book authorizing us to use the band room.

There was a joke to the original name. When the band was founded three years before I came along, the boys were all very much without girls. One of them said after practice one day, "It's been so long since I made it with a girl, I feel like a Monk."

The Monks became my band in my senior year. I wanted a name change and so we became the Mad Monks.

Our music became louder and more raucous. No one suggested we should tone it down. We were free to make the music we wanted to make.

The music teachers knew what we were doing. One had stepped inside the door a few times. He tapped his toe and listened for a few minutes, slipping out as silently as he arrived.

Word spread and kids came after school to listen to our sound. Some came often, bringing friends. They sat on the floor. .

We had a well developed sound. We improvised, starting with a solid foundation the original Monks left us.

It wasn't easy listening. If their had been more room, some of our fans would have danced, but it was a secondary band room with limited space. I liked it best when people crowded in.

I was told about Richie and I went to hear him sing in the school play. He'd recently transferred into our school. He had a solid voice but it wasn't his voice that I thought would bring the Mad Monks some needed attention.

The first time I saw him, I knew that Richie was hotter than a ten dollar pistol. It wasn't the kind of hot I'd be interested in. He was way too pretty and way too smooth for my taste.

I liked boys who were boys. Being handsome was fine, but you needed something to go with your looks. Girls loved how Richie looked almost as much as Richie loved it.

I saw Richie as the face that could bring in larger audiences. We weren't going to change our sound, but we'd add a few love songs for Richie to sing.

The Mad Monks were a rock & roll band. We weren't known for being easy listening. When I brought Richie in, no one wanted him. No one missed how handsome and slick he was.

I got the final say and Richie became lead singer for the Mad Monks. I'd catch flack on my decision but when Richie drew in a lot more girls, and they brought their friends, you could hardly get into the band room where he told everyone he sang.

My band mates no longer protested his presence, but they didn't like him. We were suddenly in demand. The people who heard us play before, made sure Richie was part of any date they booked us to play.

As a senior, I was known as a musician. That identity was created in my first couple of years with the Monks. I was now a musician with my own band, which gained me status. Of course Richie told everyone it was his band. That didn't worry me.

To prove to Richie it wasn't his band, I pulled out my acoustic guitar and I made Richie learn 'Yesterday,' and if he wanted to stay our singer, he'd sing it at every gig, while I played the first song I'd learned to play.

Arriving back at my roots was far more beneficial to me than it was to Richie. I felt the song as I played the first guitar I owned. It reminded me of the classic rock and roll sounds I'd played at ten and eleven.

Because of the nature of the song, it's simplicity, it fit Richie's voice perfectly. It became his favorite song. The girls never failed to swoon while he sang it. That wasn't what I had in mind when I made him sing that song, but sometimes you do something for your own reasons, and it turns out to be the right thing to do.

I'd never been singled out for petty abuse that was reserved for those who were different enough to attract attention to themselves. I was different in a good way. I was a musician. We were supposed to be a little peculiar. Artistic people always are.

As a senior I was long past any danger of being singled out for liking boys. As long as I didn't kiss a boy on the lips in front of the student body, I wasn't going to be found out now.

I realized Glenn represented some danger, but the danger was more psychological than physical.

I had to find a way to get my mind off him.

School was about education. I wasn't enthusiastic about going but I took it seriously. After graduation, I'd have an entire lifetime to explore what it means to be gay, chase boys, and make music. I intended to keep doing it my way.

Considering those things, I'd never met a boy like Glenn. No one had made me feel the way he made me feel. The first time I saw him, my path through life had been altered.

The first time I saw Glenn, it was like going fifty miles an hour and suddenly hitting a speed bump. He rocked my undercarriage. I couldn't be sure what it meant but I intended to find out if I could.

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