Home Up


Chapter 40:  Stranger in a Strange Land... my life gets weird





Written by Rick Archer




Mark had taught me to confront people about my misgivings.  So on Monday following the Dance Intervention, I marched into his office and demanded that Mark to confess he had put Donna up to it.  Mark didn't even bother to fudge.  He simply lifted his hands in the air to surrender.

"Guilty as charged!  Therefore I have earned the right to be punished.  Will you spank me?  Please?"

I laughed in spite of myself.  "You've been a bad boy, Mark!  Maybe I will paddle you, but not with my bare hands.  You would like that too much.  Do you have a ruler handy?"

We both laughed. I put my hands on my hips and wagged my finger in mock anger. "You are such a terrible person!  What made you do that?"

"For crying out loud, Rick, you should look at yourself some time.  You really are the party guest from hell.  Seeing you sit there frowning, I was afraid you were going to ruin my party.  I was sick and tired of watching you stay rooted to that chair all night, so I took things into my own hands.  I enlisted Donna into my little conspiracy and she was more than happy to comply.

Hey, I'm glad I did it.   They said you were very stubborn about cooperating.  Donna told me you are as strong as an ox.  I told them you actually are an ox.  I promised her if you gave her any more trouble I would purchase a cattle prod.  I think that's what you need.  Isn't it about time you rejoined the human race?"

I nodded quietly.  Mark was right.  I had been in mourning for Rachel for two solid weeks.  It was time to rejoin the land of the living.  Besides, when I realized how proud he was, I was tickled.  We both laughed at his clever stunt one more time.  I had come into Mark's office ready to chew him out for being so sneaky, but ended up thanking him profusely for his timely help.

As I was about to leave, Mark spoke up.

"By the way, our party was so successful that I decided to do it again this coming Saturday.  Do I have to beg or will you come willingly to our next Casa Mark extravaganza?"

I smiled.  "Wouldn't miss it for the world."

I was excited to know there would be another Casa Mark party.  This time I would dance my ass off.  Encouraged by my talk with Mark, that night I returned to my Dance Project full force.  As I practiced in the Magic Mirror, I could not get over how difficult it was for me to summon the courage to take a risk without the Universe using a cattle prod on me.

I was angry at myself.  Although I was grateful that Mark had intervened in my life, I don't know how I would have broken through this mental barrier otherwise.   Why couldn't I do these things on my own initiative?  Why did I always have to depend on some Fateful event to get me over the latest hump?  Who would be there to help me the next time I got stuck? 

I needed to be more like Rachel, a young lady who deliberately sought out adventure.  Rachel didn't wait, she took matters into her own hands.  Amen to that.  In the future, I would try to be braver when the next obstacle arose. 

As we will see, Mark's Intervention would become one of the most important Stepping Stones on the Dance Path.  I had no Rachel and no career, but at least I was dancing again.  Mark had done me an enormous favor.




Saturday's party at Casa Mark had given me other things to think about.  There were many people there, maybe 50 or 60 after adding up all the people who had dropped by.  And yes, there had been many women at the party just as Mark had promised.  Most of them were obvious lesbians, but there were three or four women I wasn't so sure about. 

For example, what about Mariah?  The book was out on her.  And what about that shy girl I had asked to dance at the end of the party?  She had blushed just like a girl would react to an offer from a man whose request pleased her.  The girl had smiled appreciatively, then offered me her hand to help her out of her seat.  She seemed genuinely happy to be asked to dance.  If I didn't know better, that girl seemed 'straight'.  What was the story with her?

At the Second Casa Mark party, I looked for the shy girl without luck.  Oh well.  I didn't let that stop me.  I was on a mission.  This time I wasted no time looking for someone else to dance with.  Where's Donna? 

As I walked around the house looking for potential dance partners, I overheard two older women named Jill and Lucy at the buffet table.  Pretending to show interest in the food, I listened to their conversation and decided they were probably straight.  They seemed harmless enough, so maybe I could ask them to dance.  Jill and Lucy noticed me paying attention to their conversation and asked who I was.  One thing led to another and pretty soon I was dancing with both of them at the same time.  The nice thing about Freestyle is that three is not a crowd.

Jill and Lucy were not exactly my type.  They were both quite plump and quite plain.  They both wore unflattering oversized dresses to disguise their roundness.  I didn't care about their appearance.  I liked them because they were funny and friendly in a non-threatening way.  They were both very sarcastic and knew how to make me laugh.  I could not believe some of the things that came out of their mouths.

Pretty soon I was making the wisecracks too.  Even some of the men who overheard our conversation laughed.  The swimming pool conversations had prepared me well for gay-speak.  I was starting to feel right at home here at Casa Mark.

I fell silent for a moment.  This was the first time I had really laughed since Rachel left.  These two women were bringing me out of my shell and I loved them for it.  The three of us danced all night long.  At the end, noting our 15 year age difference, Jill said she was thinking about adopting me so I could take care of her in her old age. 

I was about to quip that incest was best and I could start taking care of Jill right now, but then I bit my tongue.  Bad idea.  Wearing some sort of outfit likely designed by Omar the Tentmaker, there was a strong possibility the ample-breasted Jill outweighed me considerably.  For my own safety, I wisely decided to stick to Gloria for those sort of needs.

The next Monday, I asked Mark about Jill and Lucy.  He said they were Mariah's friends.  They worked in a different branch of the Welfare Department.  Curious about their 'orientation', Mark confirmed my suspicion that they were straight.  Mark explained that some women were just as terrified of men as I was terrified of women.  That surprised me.  I could not imagine anyone being more scared of the opposite sex than me.

"Rick, you will find there are lots of women like Jill and Lucy who enjoy socializing with gay men.  First and foremost, gay men do not threaten them.  These kind of women aren't sexually interested in the men and the men aren't interested in the women.  They can all have a good time without any sexual tension in the air.  In particular, the girls love the catty sarcasm that gay men are famous for.  They all seem to think alike.  No surprise there.  After all, some of the more effeminate gay men are practically girls themselves.  When the gay boys and the shy ladies get together, it's Cindy Lauper time... Girls just want to have fun

In addition to Jill and Lucy, I had noticed two other women at Mark's party who did not seem to be lesbians either.  Mark confirmed I was right about them too.  Like Jill and Lucy, these women were overweight and didn't seem to care about their appearance.  They wore dresses so big they would have fit over my shoulders as well.  None of them wore any makeup.  I guessed these women had lost interest in fixing themselves up, most likely because the Dating Game was out of the question given their size.  However, they still wanted companionship, in which case the Gay Community was perfect.  The women appreciated having a fun social outlet where they would not feel threatened. 

Mark said, "Lucy and Jill are a couple of misfits.  They let their figures go, so now their boobs hang down to their knees and they are too embarrassed to hang out in the Straight World.  Gays have nicknames for these kind of women... Fag Hags, Fruit Flies, Floor Whores."

I winced.  Mark was being particularly blunt for some reason. 

"Mark, what is a Floor Whore?"

"A Floor Whore is short for 'dance floor whore'.  The women can't wait to get out on the dance floor along with the men.  Just because they aren't dating anyone doesn't mean they want to stop dancing.  The Gay World gives them an option to party and ignore the straight world where they don't fit in."

'Where they don't fit in...'  There was something about that expression that bothered me. 

Mark was right about Lucy and Jill.  As hostile as those nicknames sounded, there could be no denying that Lucy and Jill and various other women in Mark's group enjoyed hanging out with Mark and his gay friends.  Mark was mother hen to a wide circle indeed.  Of the 40, 50, 60 or so people who had floated in and out of his parties over the past two weeks, I would guess as many as 8 of them were non-gay women.  

Or maybe some of them were bisexual.  Heck, I didn't know.  I never asked.  What I did know was that these women seemed to be just as lonely as me.  Ever since Rachel, I felt like the ugly duckling again.  Ugly ducklings of a feather, we flocked together.   

Mark's Saturday night parties continued every Saturday in December.  I was a regular now and looked forward to each party.  Saturdays at Casa Mark was the only event on my weekly social card other than basketball and volleyball.  Now that I had met Lucy and Jill, I was having fun.  I felt very much at ease dancing with these women.  I noticed my Rejection Phobia was non-existent when we danced.  Not only was my dancing improving, I was making progress with my fears of women laughing at me.  I blessed Mark again for the Intervention.

At first I danced exclusively with Lucy and Jill, but then I branched out and danced with some of the lesbian ladies such as Donna, my chief of dance police benefactor.  The lesbian women in Mark's group had eyed me with suspicion.  However, once they realized I was a friend of Mark's and saw me dancing with Donna, they didn't mind dancing with me at all.  They just needed to know I was safe. 

I was so grateful to Mark for his Casa Mark parties.  Mark had singlehandedly solved my Dilemma Prior to Casa Mark, I was upset that I had no courage to go out and ask some strange girl to dance at a club.  Consequently, since I never practiced my dancing in public, I never improved.  Now the fruit flies and the lesbians were perfect for my needs.  They didn't want me and I didn't want them, so let's dance.  My Dilemma was solved!  I was finally getting a much-needed chance to practice dancing in the Real World. 

Well, maybe not the 'Real World', but Mark's dance parties were definitely a step up from the Magic Mirror on the Wall.  Maybe if I kept practicing in Mark's Gay World long enough, my Magic Mirror fantasies of beautiful women asking me to dance might come true someday.

Lucy and Jill always had a way of making me laugh.  One night Lucy and Jill said the adoption papers had come through.  For the entire party, they announced to anyone dumb enough to listen that I was their long lost son.  It was some sort of joke that made them happy, so I played along.  I probably shouldn't have encouraged them because things got crazier every week.  For example, the following week they told me after careful deliberation they had decided not to rob the cradle.  They told anyone dumb enough to listen that they were too old for me. 

When I heard that announcement, I raised an eyebrow.  Gloria was older than they were, but that didn't seem to stop her.  I decided I would keep that secret to myself for my own safety.

Jill took the lead. 

"Although Lucy and I are positive we could teach you considerable lessons in Art of Love Making, you are much too young for us to entertain incestuous thoughts.  We prefer to treat you as our precious child."

I grinned and told them how disappointed I was, then begged them to reconsider.  "C'mon, Mommy Dearests, your long-suffering child needs your guidance in every possible way.  I am completely inexperienced with women.  Surely it is okay for adopted mothers to pass on carnal knowledge."

That cracked them up.  Now Lucy chimed in.

"Oh no, tough luck for you, Rick, we don't dare cross that line.  You are too young to understand the reasons for our noble unselfishness.  We are doing you a favor by not allowing you to fall in love with us.  Once you enter our love nest, you would never be able to fly away.  You would be unable to break free of our bonds and find a girl your own age.  Due to our unselfish nature, we allow you to remain free to mate one day.  Your children will be in debt to us as will your wife, so we expect you to name any girls you might have after us.  And maybe your boys too." 

I replied gracefully.  "Well, I confess I will always pine for both of you.  By denying me your affection, I am understandably heartbroken.  But deep down, I see the wisdom.  You are correct, I find you both irresistible.  If we were to touch, I could never leave your side.  I just have one wish... will you remember me?"

The girls answered as one.  "Absolutely, we expect to stay heavily involved in the upbringing of your children."

"And will you continue to dance with me here at Casa Mark?"

It was Jill's turn.

"I don't if that's a good idea.  That is taking a real chance, my son.  You must promise to never touch.  Men historically have trouble keeping their hands off my enticing breasts when I start to turn it on.  Maybe you should just dance with Lucy from now on.  She is easier to resist."

That crack earned Jill a well-deserved thump on the side of her head from Lucy.

"Girls, girls, act like ladies or I will spank both of you."

Lucy said, "I didn't start it.  But you can go and whack Juicy if you want to.  She's been asking for it all night."


Jill grinned sheepishly.  "That's how Lucy insults me whenever my mouth gets carried away."

Lucy chimed in, "Yeah, plus it rhymes with Lucy.  That's better than Bosom Buddies."

I admired Jill's generous bosom with a smile.  "Hmm, Bosom Buddies is pretty descriptive, but I do like Lucy and Juicy better.  I don't know, Juicy, I don't know if I can quit you.  You are the definition of temptation.  When you dance, your breasts have a way of moving like an ocean swell.  Knowing how my hands tremble with desire, maybe you're right.  Maybe I should stay away.  But I cannot bear not to dance with you.  If things get too tough, I will let you tie my hands."

"Ooooh, bondage!  I love bondage!  Maybe I will forgo my vows of chastity and let you molest me a little.  That will give me an excuse to tie your hands and then we will really have fun!"

And so it went, back and forth.  When we weren't exchanging taunts, we would dance.  Lucy or Jill would grab me and haul me out there whenever a song came on that they liked.  I didn't mind a bit.  Most of the time, we all danced at the same time.

The Saturday night before Christmas, it seemed like the three of us danced non-stop.  After all that dancing, Lucy, Jill and I were spent.  No more dancing for a while.  We went outside to sit on the patio to enjoy the Christmas lights and chat in the crisp air.  Soon the jokes were flying. 

Lucy quipped, "Good grief, Rick, if you keep making us dance with you, I may up end up getting skinny again.  I've dropped two sizes since I met you.  If I get any skinnier, I am real danger some guy will ask me out.  Thanks to you, I may have to start dating again.  Perish the thought."

"No kidding, Lucy, you look great.  Forget about dating.  Just let me know when you're ready and I will claim you for myself.  I know Juicy is off limits, but I might just sweep you off your feet."

"If so, make sure you land on top or it will be your funeral."

While we were laughing, I was reminded what a mismatch we were.  For one thing, I was 25 and the ladies were somewhere in their 40s.  While I was tall and thin, Lucy was short and plump and Juicy was shorter and plumper.  I noticed Jill and Lucy had never met a potato chip they could resist. 

While Jill made a visit to the buffet table, Lucy returned to the earlier theme, "You are so lucky Jill and I have taken a vow of chastity in your regard.  One night of hotdog sex and we would smother you to death." 

"What may I ask is hotdog sex?"

"You are the hotdog and we are the buns."

I grinned at the thought.  Caught between the Plumpettes was at best a remote possibility given my lack of interest, but it was still amusing to visualize.  As I towered over them, we were an odd threesome to be sure.  So what?  We liked each other and that was all that mattered.  The funny thing is that we never met beyond Mark's parties.  I didn't know a thing about their private lives.  Heck, I didn't even have their phone number.  All I knew was that we had a standing Saturday night date so we could dance and talk about sex.

As Christmas approached, I had known these ladies for a month.  I decided that tonight I would pry a little.  When Jill returned, I asked, "Ladies, I am curious about something.  Can I ask a nosy question?"

The two ladies looked at each and shrugged.  "Sure.  What do you want to know?"

"By some chance, are you two girls an item?"

They both laughed and said no.  Jill said, "We met at work and have been friends forever."

Lucy added, "We like each other's company, but we haven't crossed any lines.  Jill's okay, but I prefer men.  However, I am taking a break for a while."

Jill chimed in and agreed.  "I've sort of given up on men, but I figure if the right guy came along, I would be willing to try again.  But for now, I am taking a siesta." 

I frowned.  Their story wasn't any different from mine.  I was in the same boat as they were.  I hadn't exactly given up on women, but I was definitely taking a siesta of my own.  I saw my friend Gloria Robinson whenever the call of the wild got too strong, but as far as girls my own age, Rachel had taken the wind out of my sails.  For now, I was content to dance with my roly-poly girlfriends. 

"Someone whose name shall remain anonymous once said that women who hang out with gay men are misfits.  What do you think about that?"

"The nerve!" replied Jill.  "That damn Mark."

"How did you know it was Mark?"

"Because he calls us Misfits all the time.  Mark loves to insult us."

"Do you have a name for Mark?"

Lucy and Jill answered in tandem.  "Of course we do.  We call him 'Mark Malicious'.  Once upon a time Mark was Delicious, but then he turned Vicious.'"

"How does Mark react to that?"

"Oh heck, Mark loves it.  He loves to be insulted.  But usually we just call him 'Asshole'.  He answers to that too."

"Good grief.  What do you call me behind my back?"

Lucy and Jill answered in tandem.  "You are the Boy Toy."

"You've got to be kidding!"

Jill answered, "No, we're serious.  You are still just a baby plus you're pretty damn cute.  Besides, now that you've started to let your hair down a little, you are a lot of fun."

I nodded.  I had heard the same comment before.  Sometimes it was hard for me to let down my guard.  I silently blessed the two women.  By drawing me out of my shell, they were very good for my Rachel-ravaged ego. 

Lucy said, "Now it's my turn.  Since you opened the door, what's your story?  I've been dying to ask."

As I explained my situation, Lucy and Jill were incredulous.  They gasped.  "You mean you're not gay?!?!  What about Mark?  Aren't you guys secretly together?"

I was taken aback by the strength of their reaction.  Gee whiz, Lucy and Jill almost had a heart attack!   I could have said I was an Alien from Planet Mars and they would not have been less shocked. 

"No, Mark and I are just friends.  I am not interested.  I just come here to flirt with you guys."

"Rick, stop it.  No fooling now, tell us again that you and Mark are not an item."

"I swear that Mark and I are just friends.  We have not had sex.  Nor do I intend to do so.  I am straight.  How can I think of Mark when you are the ones I want?"

Lucy spoke up.  "Have I ever told you that you're full of shit?  If it's not Mark, is there another man in the picture?"

"Lucy, listen to me.  I am straight."

Lucy shook her head in disbelief.  "C'mon, Rick, knock it off.  Tell me the truth and no fibbing allowed.  Look me in the eye and tell me you are not bisexual."

I leaned forward till our noses nearly touched.  "Lucy, I am straight.  I am just like you.  I am taking a siesta from women just like you are taking a siesta from men."

Now it was Jill's turn.  "Are you nuts?  Look at you.  You are a total stud.  If I was 5 years younger and 50 pounds lighter, I'd be crawling over you like horny ants on honey ham.  Man, what in the hell are you doing here?"

"It's complicated."

It was Lucy's turn.  "Don't give us that shit.  You're going to tell us the whole story or we will sit on top of you till you cooperate.  Comply or die."

So I spent a while covering my ups and downs... Vanessa, Yolanda, Rachel.  Lucy and Jill shook their heads in wonderment.  Now that we had laid our cards on the table, the three of us talked till the party ended.  Lucy decided to take matters into her own hands.

"Rick, it is plain to see that you need our help.  We will find you a woman.  Jill and I will be your agents.

Jill agreed.  "Absolutely.  We are your 'Ladies in Mating'.  We're going to get you a woman." 

I laughed.  "I'm not so sure about that.  It would do a lot more for my self-esteem if I could find one myself."

Nevertheless I was amused.  The Plumpettes always cracked me up.  We had a lot of fun together.  Starting with Mark and now Lucy and Jill, I was becoming friends with everyone in Mark's group, be they gay, lesbian, fruit fly, misfit, bisexual, or just plain mixed up like me.

These people were nice to me.  That was all that mattered.




Now that I was a regular at Casa Mark, every Monday during December I would walk into Mark's office and share gossip from his latest party.  On the Monday following my long talk with Jill and Lucy, Mark went off on some harangue about how one Fruit Fly said this and some Fag Hag said that.  I flinched when Mark referred to Jill and Lucy as my personal Fag Hags.  My loyalty to Lucy and Jill prevented me from thinking about them in these terms.  Yes, they were self-described misfits who enjoyed hanging around the gay scene, but they were also super-kind women with a heart of gold.  There wasn't a mean bone in either woman's body. 

I recalled how Mark once said Lucy and Jill avoided the Straight World because they did not fit in.  Now I knew why that statement had bothered me.  What about me?  What was my category?  I wasn't a Fruit Fly or a Fag Hag, but I was definitely a social misfit in my own way.  So what exactly was I?  Did Mark have a term for me too?  

"Mark, I have a question.  What do gays call straight guys who hang out with gay men?"

Mark shook his head in consternation.  He couldn't think of a name.  Finally Mark said, "'Confused', maybe.  Sorry, but 'Confused' is the best I can do." 

I frowned, but said nothing. 

Mark stared at me for a moment.  "Now that I think about it, you are definitely one of a kind.  I have to admit I have never run across a situation like yours before.  We don't have a term coined for you.  The men I know who still show interest in women are considered bisexual." 

Mark paused a moment, then leered.  "Are you ready to admit you are bisexual?" 

"No, Mark, I am not bisexual.  We've been through this before." 

Mark rolled his eyes and grinned lasciviously.  "Maybe it is time for a test.  Come here and kiss me.  One taste of my sugar lips and you will be persuaded otherwise."  Mark puckered his lips and beckoned me to come to him.

"Okay, Mark, knock it off.  Here I am dealing with existential issues and you're using my confusion to get laid."

Mark gave me a feigned look of guilt.  "What was your first clue?"

I knew Mark was only half-kidding.  He was pleased at the opening I had given him to make a pass.  It was his standing claim that I was secretly gay but hadn't realized it yet. 

No, I was not gay.  Nor was I bisexual, at least not to my knowledge.  But I did enjoy hanging around with his group, so this issue bothered me a lot.  Jill's words rang in my head.  "Man, what in the hell are you doing here?"  

The more I thought about it, I didn't really belong.  I decided I was a misfit just like Lucy and Jill.

I didn't tell Mark about my concerns.  Instead I went back to my office and thought about it.  I had no business devoting every Saturday night to gay dance parties.  I should be out there chasing girls.  But then I let my shoulders sag.  I wasn't ready yet. 

It was scary to admit that ever since my ill-fated week with Rachel, I had absolutely no desire to be chasing women.  Rachel had hurt me badly.  Her stunt with Aaron had turned me inside out.  Like Jill and Lucy, I was taking a siesta.  Except that I had a different term for it... Phobia.  I was dancing in the Gay World as a way to hide from my fears about women.  I was convinced the next Rachel would find me wanting just like the previous Rachel had.  All it took was one word to reduce me to mush... 'Career'.

I shrugged.  If I wanted to go to Casa Mark, then let people gossip.  It sure beat spending Saturdays alone in my apartment.  Besides, I enjoyed working on my dancing.  Right now the most important thing in the world was learning to dance.  I was unbelievably grateful to Mark.  His Casa Mark dance parties had turned out to be the perfect venue for my odd self-improvement project.  I liked having a place to practice my dancing without fear of rejection.  Thanks to Mark, I was making great progress.  Now that I had made friends with Jill and Lucy, each week I could not wait to show the Plumpettes my latest move from Disco Dave's class and have them giggle over it. 

I had fun at Mark's parties.  Despite my occasional discomfort with this strange world, I was a lot happier here than sitting at home dancing in front of a mirror on a Saturday night.  Now that I wasn't quite so lonely, chasing girls could wait till I learned to dance.

Mark's dance parties were exactly what I needed.  As long as it was fun, what was the harm?  So I continued going to Casa Mark each week even though Mark lacked a precise term for my status.   If Jill and Lucy were the Misfit Misses according to Mark, then I suppose I was Mister Misfit.  However, there was a distinction.  While Jill and Lucy were permanent members of the Misfit Club, I preferred to think of myself as a 'Visitor'. 




Now that I had been coming to Casa Mark for five straight weeks, people were curious about me.  My continued presence raised eyebrows.  Until I 'crossed the line', I would never be a card-carrying member of the group.  Lucy and Jill explained that gossip and speculation followed me everywhere.  There were wide-spread suspicions that I was secretly gay.  One rumor suggested I had already crossed the line, but was afraid to admit it.  Another rumor suggested I was going to cross the line very soon.  Lucy and Jill added that the men they talked to were convinced that even though I didn't think I was gay, I had to be self-deceived. 

"Give me a break, girls.  How many times do I have to tell you I am not gay?" 

I groaned.  This was an instant replay of the Branard Apartments swimming pool crowd.  That's when I caught the expression on their faces.  Suddenly I realized Lucy and Jill believed the gay men more than they believed me.  I was incredulous. 

"Okay, you two, whose side are you are on?"

Lucy replied, "The people in the group are taking bets to see who will get you into bed first."

"I hope you had the sense to bet on yourselves."

They did not reply.  They just giggled which irritated me.

"Okay, Lucy and Juicy, confess.  Where did you put your money?"

Jill replied, "We think Mark is the favorite."

"Why is that?"

Juicy said, "All the money is on Mark because everyone knows how much you like him."

I scoffed.  "Don't be ridiculous.  Mark is just my friend."

Juicy looked at Lucy and Lucy looked at Juicy.  They both smiled at each other knowingly.  I was irritated. 

"Sorry, girls, you're backing the wrong horse.  If anyone has a chance, it would be you gals.  I am true only to you."

Lucy said, "Oh, Boy Toy, you are so silly.  You don't have to hide the truth from us.  We both think you are a 'Marked' Man." 

I frowned.  ha ha ha.  Very funny. 

Lucy continued, "Rick, you should see the way Mark looks at you when you dance.  I have never seen anyone so horny in all my life.  Mark wants you even more than we do!"

I rolled my eyes.  These girls could speculate all they wanted, but I had a secret... her name was Gloria.  Or as Van Morrison would put it, 'G-l-o-r-i-a'.  Gloria had no trouble arousing me.  Mark on the other hand did not interest me.

There was no doubt I was living in a strange world.  I had been picked up by a drag queen one week after moving back to the Montrose area.  I had been propositioned at my first dance class.   My apartment complex was teeming with gay men who made half-hearted passes.  A quarter of the people at my social work job were gay.  My best friend Mark was gay.  I hung out with Mark's gay friends every Saturday night.  The only straight part of my world were the basketball and volleyball players at the JCC and the child abusers I investigated at work.  Other than that, my entire world was painted Rainbow Gay. 

There was no point in denying it, I was deeply immersed in the gay lifestyle.  I could certainly see why Juicy and Lucy would be skeptical about my sexuality.  So I asked myself again if there was any truth to their claim that I was self-deceived.  The answer was no.  My time with Gloria and Rachel had made it clear my true nature was straight.   Whenever I undressed someone with my eyes, it was a woman.  Whenever I got turned on involuntarily, it came from being close to an attractive woman.  Whenever I desired sex, I would knock on Gloria's door. 

Meanwhile I sat in Mark's office every day without the slightest stirring in my loins.  Mark could discuss Freudian theories of latent homosexuality till he was blue in the face, but no fantasies of sex with men invaded my mind's eye.  My conscious desires spoke volumes... when I dreamed of sex, I dreamed of women. 

However, try as I might, Lucy and Juicy remained unconvinced.  "You must be bisexual.  Why else would you hang around here?"

I disagreed.  "How many times do I have to tell you girls I come here to dance?  I also come here to see you two.  I am around gay men every Saturday night and not once have I ever been turned on by a guy.  So what do you say to that?"

Lucy looked at Jill, then they both looked at me.  "Tell that to Mark.  He is so convinced you are gay, he tells everyone it's just a matter of time."

These girls were barking up the wrong tree.  To me, my lack of interest in men was apparent.  I didn't even want to dance with men, much less have sex with them.  Hence I dismissed the 'secretly gay' theory out of hand. 

That said, Lucy and Jill had a right to be confused.  They knew damn well I wasn't telling them the whole story.  I was so ashamed of my fears about my scars and my lack of career that I did not share the whole truth why I was hiding from women.  Nor did I explain my Phobia.  I did not want to tell the women about my fear of being laughed at when I danced and have them tease me about it.


Perhaps the Plumpettes would have gotten off my case if I had confessed my other secret.  There was one person in Mark's group I was seriously attracted to.   Take a wild guess.

Knowing that Jill and Lucy were Mariah's friends, I didn't dare tell them.  With their big mouths, I would have taken a real chance they would go blabbing to Mariah.

I wanted Mariah in the worst way.  The memory of seeing her naked at the beach haunted me whenever I saw her at Mark's parties.  Mariah was the only person in the room who awakened my desire.  Most of the time, Mariah was a cold fish, but the dance floor was her domain.

Whenever Mariah started to dance, the Ice Queen transformed into a sultry vixen.  I could not take my eyes off Mariah when she started to dance.  The moment the woman began to move her body, damn, I wanted her so badly it was embarrassing.  However I didn't dare go near Mariah.  I nicknamed her 'Salome' after the Biblical icon of dangerous female seductiveness.  I was convinced that Salome would lead me straight to trouble. 

However that didn't stop me from admiring her.  This was my darkest secret... it wasn't Mark I wanted, it was his wife!! 

One reason I did not dare act on my forbidden lust for Mariah is that she had never signaled interest in me.  Not once had we shared a word past 'hello'.  One time I was very tempted to say something to Mariah.  I wanted to compliment her on her dancing and see her reaction.  But I held back at the last moment.  I figured if Mariah was interested, she knew how to smile in my direction.  Or she could ask me to dance. 

Always afraid of making the first move, I decided the smart thing was to keep my distance.  Look, but don't touch.  Nor did I dream of asking her to dance.  That was asking for trouble.  Once I saw her move that sensuous body of hers, I could not imagine how I would ever keep my hands off those inviting hips.  No, I was not gay.


If I was secretly gay, trust me, it remained well-hidden.  Furthermore, if Mark desired me, he was out of luck.  When it came to Mark, there was no steam, no sizzle.  However, Lucy was right about one thing - I was definitely a Marked Man.  Now that Lucy had pointed it out, I noticed Mark couldn't take his eyes off of me when I danced.  This had all the makings of a comedy.  Mark wanted me, I wanted his wife.  But who did Mariah want?  Mystery Mariah had me baffled. 

Not long after my conversation with the Plumpettes, Mark decided to take his best shot.  One day when I was in his office, Mark invited me to come over to his house that night and sleep with him... with our clothes on, of course.  No hanky panky!

Yeah, like I'm going to believe that.

"I mean it, Rick, let's have a Sleepover.  You're my friend.  We have so much in common.  Why confine ourselves to this office?  Come have dinner and stay the night.  We can share a bed and share our deepest secrets.  Don't worry, it would be very innocent.  We would keep our clothes on and just cuddle.  Nothing else, promise!  Wouldn't that be fun?"

Darn it.  I could have done without this.  I had hoped Lucy was pulling my leg, but now I knew she had been right all along. 

"I'm sorry, Mark, but I don't think that's a very good idea."

What I wanted to do was ask Mark for permission to pursue Mariah.  'Uh, gee, Mark, why waste a fine woman like Mariah on a gay guy?  We can have dinner, but then do you mind if I ask Mariah if I can sleep with her instead?  We would just cuddle, I promise.'

I laughed out loud at the fantasy.  Seeing my strange reaction, Mark frowned.  "What's so funny?"

Uh oh, I had hurt Mark's feelings by indulging my dark fantasy a bit too much.  It must have taken considerable courage to proposition me knowing full well I had never given him a bit of encouragement. 

"C'mon, Mark, a Sleepover?  Can't you come up with something more original than cuddling?  Between you and Disco Dave, you gay guys don't use any better pick-up lines than straight guys use on women.  Besides, I already have a teddy bear to cuddle with.  My teddy bear would be jealous." 

Mark replied, "Well, bring your teddy bear with you.  We can have a three-way."

I laughed and then Mark grinned a little.  "You never give up, do you, Mark?  Are you going to let Teddy Bear kiss your sugar lips?  What will I do if my Teddy Bear turns out to be gay thanks to you?"

Mark laughed and then we both laughed.  Thank goodness.  The laughter broke the tension. 

The subject never came up again.  Now that Mark had struck out, I guess he spread the word.  No one in his Circle ever approached me.  Never.  It was a taboo subject from this point on. 

For the record, I never had sex with anyone in Mark's group be they male or female.  No smooching, no fondling, no cuddling.  I hugged Jill and Lucy a few times and held their hands occasionally, but that was the extent of it.  I know they thought I was weird, but no one gave me a hard time about it.  I was there to dance.  Just dance. 




Thanks to the friendship of Lucy and Jill, my Christmas Holidays were the most fun I had in ages.  In addition to Casa Mark every Saturday in December, we had an extra party at his house on New Year's Eve.  I had a great time dancing the night away.

The Christmas Holidays had been good to Mark.  Just days after I said ixnay on Mark's sleepover idea, he met a man named Sean.  Sean was very special, so things moved quickly.  Sean was a tall, handsome blonde man about 30.  I liked Sean.  He was polite, clean cut and very friendly.  Mark had chosen a man with real style. 

As for Mark, well, he was gaga over Sean.  "Sean is my best Christmas present ever!"

Mark was all over Sean here at the party.  As I watched Mark go hot and heavy with Sean, I noticed Mariah was watching.  She did not look happy.  I wondered if Mariah was about to become available.  Wouldn't that be nice?   Maybe I could catch her on the rebound.  However, I never saw her cast an eye in my direction, so I continued to keep my distance.

During the party, Mark came over to talk about Sean.  Mark was drunk and horny out of his mind.  All Mark wanted to do was talk about having sex with Sean.  Good grief, I could not get Mark to shut up about the guy.   Finally I had to tell him to knock it off. 

"Mark, enough already!!  I don't want to hear this stuff."

Mark laughed loud and hard at my discomfort.  "Don't you want to know more about my love life?" 

"Mark, don't you have anyone else you can boast to?  Why pick on me?"

Mark laughed again, but then he got serious for a moment.

"Listen, Rick, there's something I've been wanting to tell you."

I felt uncomfortable at the change in his tone.  Was he about ask me to comfort Mariah?  Unlikely, but it didn't hurt to wish.

"What's up, Mark?"

"I think my dance parties have outgrown my little house.  Sean and I have talked it over, so this coming Saturday, no more Casa Mark.  Instead I think the group will be heading over to a gay bar called the Farmhouse.  I want you to come with us."

Damn it.  This was not what I wanted to hear.  How about loaning me your wife instead and let me end my epic losing streak?   But such was not to be.  Mark was serious.

My heart began to pound.  Me go to a gay bar?  I wasn't happy about this development.  No, not at all.  Since I had never been to a gay bar before, I had no idea what to expect.  As always, I was scared of the unknown.  In particular, I was afraid of being attacked.  Or discovering I was secretly gay after all.  I was very intimidated. 

At that moment, I thought of Rachel.  I recalled how Rachel had fearlessly agreed to go down to Galveston Beach with a bunch of gay people she had never met.  Rachel wasn't afraid of anything and here I was scared of my own shadow.  It wasn't like I would be going by myself.  I knew Mark and I knew Juicy and Lucy.  Maybe I needed to take a risk for a change.  So with a deep sigh I gave in.

"Okay, Mark, I will go, but only on one condition.  You need to promise you will stay by my side throughout the night."

How absurd!  I had just asked a man six inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter to be my bodyguard.  Fortunately Mark understood what I meant.  

"Of course, Rick.  I promise to protect you from everyone but myself."

I gave Mark a dirty look.  "You can do better than that."

"Okay, okay, change that, I promise I will look out for you."  Mark winked at me.  "You know you can trust me, right?"

I rolled my eyes and smiled.  "All right, Mark, if you say it's safe, then I guess I can give it a try."

About that time, Lucy and Jill came over to grab me for more dancing.  Mark used that as an excuse to disengage and go look for Sean.  As I watched him leave, one thought lingered in my mind.  What on earth am I getting myself into??

I had thought I was a Stranger in a Strange Land, but we were just getting started.

Things were about to get Stranger.  Much Stranger. 





   1974: December   Stranger in a Strange Land, Mark meets Sean
   1974: November   Rachel (23), Casa Mark, Mark's Dance Intervention (24)
   1974: October   Gloria, Mark
   1974: September   Dilemma, The Prize
   1974: August   Magic Mirror (22), Rematch with the River Oaks Seven
   1974: July   Child Welfare job, Courtesan Book (19), Yolanda, Stalled Car Incident (20), Drag Queen Lynn, Rejection Phobia develops,
   Decision to Learn to Dance, River Oaks Seven, Dance Class from Hell (21), Parking Lot Inferno, The Dance Project begins
   1974: June   Couch Catatonia
   1974: May   Dismissed from graduate school
   1974: April   Debbie and the Cow Eyes (18), I teach a Psychology class
  1974: January    Therapy with Dr. Hilton, Jason suggests I study Learned Helplessness, Phantom of the Opera
  1973: December    Rocky Mountain Menstrual Cramps, Vanessa leaves for Portland, I receive a 'D' in Interviewing, Jackie reveals the truth about Vanessa
  1973: November    Love Affair with Vanessa begins, Vanessa two-times me, Dr. Fujimoto criticizes me
  1973: October    I meet Vanessa, Portland Woman song (17)


   1959-1968   St. John's
   1968-1972   Johns Hopkins
   1972-1973   Interlude
   1973-1974   Colorado State
  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960: 4th Grade   Divorce, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me, Feelings of inferiority begin to develop, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961: 5th Grade   Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962: 6th Grade   Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963: 7th Grade   Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to Invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964: 8th Grade   Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's , Discovery of chess book (03),  
  Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965: 9th Grade   Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)
  1965-1966: 10th Grade   Father denies third skin operation, Locker Room fight, set of weights appears (06), Mr. Ocker hires me out of nowhere (07)
  1966-1967: 11th Grade   Weingarten's Resurrection, I buy a car
  1967-1968: 12th Grade   Mr. Salls asks me to apply to Johns Hopkins, Little Mexico, Father's $400 insult, Cheating in Chemistry,
  Caught stealing gym clothes, Caught cheating in German (08), Jones Scholarship lost to Katina,
  Parking Lot Meeting with Mrs. Ballantyne (09), Ralph O'Connor hands me a scholarship to Hopkins,
  Close Call Car Accident (10), Senior Prom Cheryl (11), Mr. Salls Blind Spot (12)
  1968-1969: Freshman at Hopkins   Emily at the Train Station (13), Sanctuary at Lynn's house, Car stolen in December, Night School Computer class
  1969-1970: Sophomore at Hopkins   Connie and Company Kill Shot, Dr. Lieberman, Susan and the Witch at Quaker Meeting, Magical Mystery Tour,
  Antares-Astrology eye injury (14),  Sťance Night with Vicky and Terry (15)
  1970-1971: Junior at Hopkins   Camp Counselor Daydream (16), Colvig Silver Camp in Colorado
  1971-1972: Senior at Hopkins   Savitria, Koinonia, The Manor
  1972-1973: Interlude   Mental Hospital, Arlene


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