Monday, October 20, 2008

How to Break an Ankle, Part 3

(Fred, left, and Monroe in my dorm room, 1968)

The two-lane road to Perrysburg was 14 miles long, and because no one would stop to give me a ride, I had to walk all the way, in my slippers. Dusk and I reached Second Street at the same time, and I was hot, tired, footsore and discouraged.
A quiet had settled on the town; the birds had quit singing, and only the faint humming or air conditioners and the occasional creaking and slamming of a screen door could be heard.

Earlier, walking backward with my thumb stuck out, I had daydreamed of walking into town quite differently: My friends would come running out of their houses, yelling "He's here! By God, he made it!" Their sisters would throw their arms around my neck and peck me with kisses, and we would all march arm in arm to some beer bash held in my honor.

The blue light of television sets flickered and smells of finished suppers emanated from the old houses shaded by sycamores as I reached my friend Monroe's house and knocked on the door.

Monroe and I lived on the same floor of our dormitory our freshman year at W&J. He, his roommate Fred and I became close friends, but both of them left college after that first year, Fred flunking out and Monroe on his own accord. Monroe had the look of British entitlement about him – powder-blue eyes, ruddy cheeks, prominent teeth. Put him in a pair of jodhpurs and riding boots and you'd swear he was one of Queen Elizabeth's sons. He was funny, and kind, and although it never dawned on us at the time, gay. "Gay" was not a term in use at that time. If anyone had ever broached the subject – and no one did – we would have said, "Are you kidding? Monroe's not a homo! He's just… sensitive." We were in denial, despite all the obvious clues. Fred let Monroe do all the decorating in their room, which had posters of Dionne Warwick and Barbra Streisand on the walls, a beaded curtain in the doorway and Judy Garland on the stereo.

I knocked again at the door, but the house was dark and silent.
With a heavy sigh, I lifted my pack and padded down the walk toward town, feeling invisible, in search of a pay phone and, I hoped, an offer of a bed for the night from one of my other Perrysburg friends.

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