Deadly boyfriends, doomed 'love'
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”Mad, bad and dangerous to know” was how Evelyn Waugh summed up one his acquaintances.
A phrase I’ve swiped many times in referring to John Emmett Belue whose name has never appeared in my weblog before as other than John.
My two gay friends
On emerging from Georgia’s Milledgeville youth reformatory for vandalizing his high school Victor returned to Savannah after several years back in Alma (in Bacon County, now famous for its pot farms). Fellow inmate, John arrived with him.
Until they kissed and sparked my own sexual self-discovery I didn’t know they were lovers.
Victor had been my friend since I was ten. Our friendship was full of confessions but we never resented the other’s silences. We never talked about how they’d come to be lovers.
Part of their bonding may have been that they were among the few white inmates. Equally strong they were bright and literate. The prison they were housed in was only a few steps above the infamous insane asylum located a few blocks away.(Think of every nightmarish story of abuse you’ve ever heard being visited on the mentally ill – they’ve all been told of Milledgeville, most Georgians never distinguish between the town and the asylum.) Maybe they fell in love because there was no one else to even like.
They may have had some sort of sex when they were locked up. John kept himself completely in the closet in Milledgeville. He emerged with violent race hatred. Gay boys were regularly raped. Brutally a long line would form leaving a whimpering guy with a bloody ass. His racism was hard to stomach even if I could comprehend its origin. Hopefully as the years have passed the anger born of fear abated.
With Victor and John I discovered pot, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, barbs and many other drugs including the prisoner’s pastime of chugalugging Robitussin-DM. Young Richard may have been alienated but he was damned square.) And rock music, none of which I listen to now except for CSN&Y and the Beatles.
Do you have Prince Albert in a can?
John and I took great pleasure in annoying, discomfiting and annoying the average citizen. It made us fast friends. For a long stretch neither of us worked. While Victor was laboring we’d wander the streets of Savannah bothering people.
Crimson burns the star of madness
All that was hope seems but madness.
- H.P. Lovecraft (said by me to various folks on the street)
We spent many, many hours at it; I’ve forgotten most of it. We’d walk up to people on the street and say the most outlandish things. John would walk up to cigar smoking suits and shouting, “Get that dick out of your mouth!” We were equally mean and weird. Best of all I liked puzzling things, John perhaps was more direct: we were both joyously rude. I was startled by the effrontery you could subject people to without reprisal.
Phone pranks were exhaustibly entertaining when we were sitting around the house. John would call random people on the phone and ask why they hadn’t called him. He’d tell the suckers that they’d met him on the street, become fast friends and exchanged phone numbers. They all apologized for forgetting. I knew a poor drip that went to a small Pentecostal church. John called up his pastor pretending he was the brother of a girl the drip had gotten pregnant. Knowing the ways of sin the pastor bought it before John laughed at him, confessing that it was all a lie. Watching the cars and trucks that pulled up to her door delighted me to no end when I was weary of a mean-spirited old bitch of a neighbor. And I happily shut off all of her home’s utilities when abused by an unscrupulous employment counselor.
The great divorce
Months later John showed up in Atlanta where I’d moved with Gordon and Ebba. Victor had left him for a woman. Victor had once said that he wish that somehow he, John and I could’ve together shared a relationship. That was the closest I ever heard him express desire for a guy other than John.
Why did he leave John. When we were kids Victor was always noted which woman teacher or girl was pretty. He was the first person I knew who looked up sexual words in the dictionary (not much back then, the American Heritage Dictionary had yet to surprise the world with the definition of fuck). It was from Victor that I’d learned to masturbate.
My first speculation was that Victor had unsatisfied heterosexual needs .(Which I’d later understand encompassed not just sex with a woman but for a children or family. He’d stay with Nancy until his death a few years ago.)
I’ve never known anyone more strongly conscious of personal honor, loyalty and fidelity than Victor. I hated to think that he’d left John just for pussy. Later when I was back in Savannah he told me that John had become completely out of control. I’d seen some of this in his quick rages, casual sadism and spasms of senseless enthusiasm. I believed Victor when he said he’d never have left John if he hadn’t become intolerable to live with.
John was one of the four people I was close to (The others being Victor, his sister Ebba and her lover Gordon). I fell in love with John. I kept my mouth shut about it for a time. It may have been the time we smoked some joints laced with angle dust that my inhibition cracked.
Was John attractive? Most people thought so. Unmuscular he had a strong v shape. Sharp features with strong, sometimes fanatic’s brown eyes. His bouncy, butt-wiggling walk was very sexy. And he was visibly gay (and my first sight of an outstretched limp wrist).
Thus began an on and off again, perpetually aborting relationship that lasted almost two years. At first we slept together in an attic atop the building that Gordon, Ebba and I had an apartment in. Later John and I rented an apartment together across from Piedmont Park.
What, he isn’t out of that can yet?
We had a good time annoying people on the phone. We’d call people in the middle of the night asking them what the time was. A gaggle of girls we persuaded that we were Tel-A-Time “The national wakeup call and timing service.” We’d wake you in the morning or help you boil a three-minute egg. I suggested that someone had bought them the service as a present. They were quickly sure they knew the boy’s name. I got up early to give them the wake-up call they’d asked for and tell them they were gullible as hell.
I had to see on of my nasty phone calls reacted to on the 700 Club back when Jim Bakker was host.
Our triumph came from a witless joke. We rang up the last person in the Atlanta phone book, something like Z.Z. Zzzzhhh, to ask him if he knew he had the honor of being at the end of the directory. Annoying Z.Z. became a nightly entertainment. One morning I got up and bought the Atlanta morning paper. Our phone calls were on the first page of the second section. Z.Z. wasn’t his real name. It had been the pet name of his high school girlfriend had given him. After his wife died he’d listed himself as Z.Z. hoping his old girlfriend would one day see it and give him a call and perhaps reunite with him.
Knowing I could never stop that I gave up on prank phone calls. (Barring many years later the fun I had at the expense of a small, local Christian station that didn’t have a delay on their telephone. Hearing my voice boom out of the TV announcing that I was “The Lord Thy God and was pissed” was very citifying. They wised up, bought the necessary hardware and I surrendered.
Love is not loving
John and I went to bars sometimes. Mostly so he could drink and dance. John was a crazy drunk. Many nights he’d call his parents in Florida and cuss them out. After they hung up he’d start screaming for the operator and hitting the phone with the receiver. I’d peel him off the phone and call a taxi. One day I came home to find him with someone else. Shocked, unable to even try to cope, I fled.
John and I lived together on and off. Our reunions always ended quickly. John would vanish off on the quest of liquor, pills and pot. I’d be left crying. Once while dreaming that I was sleeping next to a demon and hit him. When I explained why I’d struck him neither of us could deny the truth of the dream. I remember Gordon and Ebba saying they should lock me up in a closet to protect me from myself.
I don’t remember why we hitchhiked from Atlanta to Savannah. An alcoholic gave us a ride. He had John drive and passed out in the back seat. The man had a bunch of pills. Even though he didn’t know what they were he filched a handful. We took them later after being dropped off near Statesboro.
Waking up in the Statesboro jail we were told we’d been “barking at trucks” on the highway.
Daddy at first told me I’d deserved what happened. A couple of days he drove up and gave me a carton of cigarettes. A couple of more days and he calmed down and paid my bail. . (Later I’d learned from Victor that John had called him asking for help. A few years later Victor said John said he didn’t care what happened to me as long as he got out.)
Back at my parents house Daddy asked me what I was doing hanging around with John Belue. Pressing on he wanted to know if John weren’t a “queer” (back before the day had been reclaimed as a word of gay pride). I assented that he was. Relentless, I’m sure he’d later wish he had been, was I? Yep. Getting busted was a fair price for finally telling him (and not getting thrown around the room).
Once I dropped a sweet, very pretty blonde boy that I was living with so I could go back to John. The apartment building we’d first lived in had been condemned and we squatted in an apartment there (the hall lights had been left on and you could get electricity with drop cords). It was the last time.
John disappeared. This time I didn’t seek him out or run into him.
My lesson was learnt. Not just that living with John was a fool’s exercise. That being forever anxious for Love would maim, eventually ruin me. Many years would pass before I said “I love you” to anyone.
Junk & booze
Years later he called me in Durham. (Tricked my mother into give him my number. She never knew of our involvement. ) I learned he’d been living with a woman. It was never clear but I think he’d moved in with a wiccan faghag. No sex but it lasted for years. And I remembered Victor once being disturbed that he’d caught John trying to practice black magic (Victor was wholly a materialist)>. John called again. I was too busy, he hung up bitterly wishing me a “Nice life.”
Yet more years later, living with Charles I had an urge to see what people I’d known were up to. Last person I tried, only person I reached was John. The initial response to my call was odd. The woman on the phone asked who was calling. Awed the woman told unknown people that Richard Evans Lee was calling. You’d think that St. Paul had just dialed up the local Baptist church. John had never met a pill he wouldn’t try, as I said liquor left him out of control, no surprise that he’d become a junkie. He’d kicked heroin and ascended to alcoholism.
Talking with John it was as if the years hadn’t passed. Sounds nice, doesn’t it. Sadly it seemed as though John’s inner life had ended about the time I’d last seen him. Thirty years ago.