Dedicated to Larry ‘Allen’ Amstutz
A month before he died, Allen stood facing the shelf with the colorful bouquet of free flags in his staff cafeteria, that were put there in honor of Gay Pride month. He was unsure exactly which one to pull from the jar they were housed in. He was never sure if he fit in any group, truly. There, on the 40″ screen mounted next to the flags, multiple definitions were displayed with the coinciding colors, meant to teach the employees to acknowledge and respect all the different nuances of homosexuality. He chuckled to himself, thinking what some of his classmates would say if they could see all the new choices back in Paulding, Ohio, the little town where he grew up.
Allen came here to San Francisco from Ohio. They used to label his condition, slightly confused. Later, they called it bisexual but the truth was that he rarely had sex with anyone and not until he was much older and only had successful sex, as he called it, with the opposite sex. Not for lack of trying, but he found himself too self conscious and awkward to be comfortable attempting more than a couple of times before he became frustrated and upset. Besides, sex was not as important as feeling deep affection for another person, he believed. On the screen just then appeared, Demisexual, forming sexual attraction only after forming a close, intimate relationship. Not every time, but certainly the most satisfying, he concluded to himself, and then his thoughts drifted to the the romantic movies he loved so dearly and got lost in regularly. There on the big screen, it was so natural, so free flowing that he could never settle for this bumbling, klutz he felt in the bedroom of his real life.
There were no flags to choose where he came from. Most everyone was straight, but a few oddballs were unwillingly labeled what they called, fags or lez-be-friends, as the kids said, always with a smirk to ensure you knew what they meant even though there was never any doubt. Allen was very effeminate, but as far as his heart was concerned, he was hopelessly in love with Patricia, the petite Mexican-American girl who perched her dark mysteriousness on the desk in front of him at the Catholic School of the Holy Spirit. It was love at first sight. He used to sit behind her, transfixed on each strand of her long, thick black hair in grade school. She wore a yellow patent leather mini dress for photo day that sealed the deal in his mind that she was the cat’s pajamas! Patricia’s sister was Allen’s younger sister Connie’s best friend and he had overheard her say that Patricia had her hair ironed, on an actual ironing board in the morning before school. How utterly glamorous! he imagined. He longed for that task. To be able to stroke the silky strands, being ever so careful not to burn them. Patricia had the biggest moon-shaped eyes that Allen also found mesmerizing. He was sure this was love and that he would marry her one day, have big-eyed children and live to make her very happy.
Some years later he unwittingly and surprisingly fell hopelessly in obsession with several boys in class. One year, both Lindy Screeton, the blonde, shaggy haired roughian who swam in his basketball shorts and who Allen found completely adorable and Mark Mueller, one of 9 brothers from a family that lived near the slaughterhouse. Mark had kind eyes Allen thought, a sort of innocence that he found inviting. He was confused about his feelings for these boys but they were real and his whole body reacted to them. At times he could think of nothing else. Nothing ever became of it for fear of retaliation should he make his feelings known. Kids got their asses kicked for far less and Allen was not about to invite any more trouble than he already dealt with just being himself.
Back in San Francisco, as he stood pulling up, then putting back each of the flags, he considered one called Polyamorous, where you can have relationships with multiple people at once. What a thought, but could it ever really work? He remembered back on all his newfound affections for the two boys back in school but at the same time his love also grew for Patricia. She had become his bestest friend who he both admired and adored. They shared everything and would laugh for hours together at school and on their walks home, then later on the phone until his mother would insist he hang up before his ear fell off! Secretly he witnessed all of Patricia’s changing attributes and each year she became even more beautiful to him. She was everything he wanted to be but he was also satisfied to simply be in her presence, to experience all of her lovely girliness. But he did love her as much as he could love a person. He cared for her deeply. For the boys, it was a different kind of love that he fought like the burning itch of a mosquito bite.
He laughed as he fingered the Polyamorous flag, thinking Patricia would say loving two different people would be called divorce where she came from. He treasured how she could make complex issues black or white with such conviction. She knew who she was and what she believed so early on. Allen was more fluid and wasn’t sure if he concretely believed in anything.
After high school, they would drift apart and only speak from time to time. Allen moved to California, the land of fruits and nuts, as Patricia called it and everytime she said it, they would laugh but it held meaning and was always followed by quiet moments of reflection. She knew he was different and searching but they never talked openly about his sexuality. They only communicated their pain through the sharing of pills Allen would snatch from his mother’s purse and mix with alcohol for maximum effect. They would be numb together and that was a comfort to them both. He knew she could never look at him as she had begun to with the other boys in the following years. They would not have drunken sex like she did with random boys for reasons they also never speak about. Still, his heart broke for her when he left.
In San Francisco, there were many young girls that dressed like cute boys and he became very interested in this particular group. One, Dylan, worked as the receptionist at his job, and was at the early stages of his transitioning when hired. At first he was so pretty, unable to hide his feminine uniqueness in the oversized t-shirts and jeans that shown his long slender legs and slim figure. His hair was styled in a short layered cut but his long bangs always fell in his face when he spoke. Half the conversation Allen became distracted by their placement, always showing a slightly crooked smile or just one timid eye peeking out. Something he found completely irresistible. He marveled at Dylan as you would a rare bird and began to feel protective of him, an even different kind of love. Never did he feel any sexual urge but was happy to simply revel in all his uniqueness from afar. Although he did daydream about escorting this extraordinary creature to dinner and how honored he would feel on such a date, to treat him like royalty. But months in when the boy became more and more masculine, Allen’s intrigue diminished and although he always wished him well, he no longer felt such a strong desire to know him further, as if he no longer needed Allen’s protective type of love.
Allen never fell in love with another woman but would often fantasize about being the doting husband of Patricia, the house they would build together and the way it would feel comfortable and inviting. His heart was broken too many times by boys only interested in having him sexually but would end it after too short a time. He had traditional values and considered having a forever love with a partner. He could not continue with a lifestyle where sex was meaningless and empty, it was killing him.
One of those fleeting romances, who called himself Danny, and who he met at a bar late one night, introduced him to a deeper numbing. Although that relationship would not last, one formed with this strong new drug. Too quickly, heroin became the missing hugs and comfort he longed for in a partner. It would have to do in place of the cuddling and sweet kisses he needed so badly and knew he could give unconditionally, to the right person. Alone in his apartment, with his thoughts and emptiness, the fast rush of the drug put a blanket over all of those desires and lulled him to oblivion each night until one day he did not wake from it’s grip.
He was a good person, a little conservative, maybe slightly repressed due to his upbringing and the separating of his alcoholic parents early in life. He only wanted to live his life without repercussion but early on had come to rely on those nurturing pharmaceutical drugs he stole from his mother years ago. His mother, a nurse, who learned the helping attributes of those same pills to get through her failing, painful marriage. His mother, who he longed to be accepted by and who shared his need to escape all of the suffering, if only for a night at a time. He never meant to overdose, it just became harder and harder to reach the level of lethargy he required. On the night he passed, he would drift into thoughts about those darn Pride flags at work and how they became such an obsession each day as he would eat lunch, contemplating if he was indeed gay and could finally pick a flag and finalize this never ending struggle to define himself. He could not honestly commit to any of them and in fact, found them increasingly more annoying and divisive. As he drifted in and out of wakefulness, he thought of how he would like to make his own flag one day. Yes! he came to for a moment, considering on. But instead of describing sexual preferences or identities, something he was less and less interested in, this one solid banner would stand for all the types of love. That would be the flag he would be proud to carry, he thought. Suddenly, as he fought nodding out, something inside tried to shake him alert saying, You are not lonely and lost! He was falling deeper into this dark void but still able to comprehend these ideas implanted in his mind. You are so lucky! Lucky to have known so many different types of love. As many as there are colors of the rainbow. He could see them now, like a warm breeze flowing through his body. Those loves were the only things that didn’t divide him from everyone. Love is all inclusive, he thought. As his body grew too heavy, he surrendered his last breathe and slumped over to his final resting place.