Rereading Tennessee Williams’s Memoirs recently, I came across this line: “But then life is full of transient loves when you are young.”
His poignantly poetic line sent me searching for reminders of my own transient loves of youth, which is how I rediscovered my list, long forgotten, written in pencil on tablet paper, smudged and yellowing for dramatic effect. I don’t remember when I compiled the list. 1985? 1990? It’s hard to be sure now.
Though I didn’t put a title on it then, I will now: “My Trick List.” There they are, the 123 men I’ve had sex with. There’s no use denying it: many were one-night stands. Some were repeats over days or weeks. Some were periodic fuckbuddies over years. Three or four were even lovers, though “lover” sounds so dated now, in the age of husbands.
One hundred and twenty-three: not very many, maybe, compared to sexual super-gays like Samuel Steward, aka Phil Andros, who meticulously noted on index cards details about thousands of his own tricks over a lifetime—including names like Rudolph Valentino, and Rock Hudson. In defense of my own gay prowess, I’ll note that mine all happened in a few short years in the 1970s, before I met the man who is now my husband. His name is the last one on my list.
Not all 123 are “names,” exactly—more like identifiers in many cases, because sometimes I forgot the names, or never knew them. Drugs, sex, and discotheques don’t make for great name recall. For example, Number 6 is “American in Paris” and Number 73 is “Largest Personality (in Chicago).”
How I wish I could remember more about Number 1: “Flyboy in Cotton Field.” There was an Air Force base in the town where I grew up, and I do remember how good he looked, standing at attention in uniform, and out of it. It’s probably best that I don’t remember more about Number 47, “Awful,” or Number 82, “The One I Walked Out On.” I’m sure they would both agree that it’s best to admit your mistakes early and just get out.
I seem to have had my international period: “Brazilian in New Haven”; “Hot Italian”; “Key West Portuguese.” And my religious phase: “X-Mormon”; “Franciscan Brother”; “MCC Minister.”
“Callipygous redhead in K.C.” sure takes me back. “San Francisco, Into Bondage” and “Abuse from NC” make me a little queasy now, and “FFA, Fist Full of …” makes me a little faint. “Hard As Two Rocks, St. Louis” is unforgettable, but “Cincinnati Airline Pilot” is only the vaguest memory. He was not a flight to remember.
“First True Love” I remember vividly, his corn-silk hair, his lean chest, his blue eyes—cutting, steel-blue eyes as it turned out—and the memory brings a wistful tear to my own eye even now.
Since this is the information age, I decided to see what I could find out about some of those who are actual names on my list, rather than just identifiers.
I didn’t find “First True Love,” but I did find “Rush, in New York”—such a sweet, hot guy—though he lit my first cigarette for me, so I really shouldn’t be so indulgent toward him. He went back to his Mississippi home to die in 1983, the cause not much doubt. And I located “Gary Who Loved Sex”—at least a memory of him in a church bulletin from later on. He moved to San Francisco at exactly the wrong time for a man so into having other men so into him.
I had no idea that “John the Professor,” now also gone, was so much older than I, or that he had a wife. “Med Student Karl” is still with us, having practiced medicine in a Midwestern state for forty years. “Jason the gorgeous” I found in another memoir via Google Books—Young Man From the Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall, by Alan Helms, a handsome, glamorous “golden boy” of 1950s Gay New York, who later transformed himself into an English professor. He’s my one degree of separation from the gay, beautiful, and famous of another age.
I found a few more, but not many. It was long ago, and many didn’t make it to the Internet age.
When I wrote my list it seemed like life was winding down—certainly youth was—and that I might not have much time left. I figured I’d better write things down fast before my memory faded. Now, thirty-plus years later, life is still winding down, but I can still pretty much remember. As it turned out, I’m one of those lucky enough to get old, but certainly there can’t be much time left now.
For many of my 123, there’s no time left at all, but perhaps it means something that I remember them, even if only as “Hair Weave on Westminster” or “Banker and Urologist” (oops, two for one that time—make that 124). Maybe some of the ones who are still around remember me too. Maybe they’ve even written me down. That would be “Insecure, buns not of steel, drank too much, but not absolutely awful” (except probably for one or two), or however they identified me on their list. I admit I’d sort of like to know.
I guess I could ask my husband how he listed me after that first night way back when. But maybe I won’t. After forty years together, I’ll just assume I rated at least okay with him.
Randy Tibbits is a former librarian who lives in Houston with his husband of forty years. He has launched a retirement career as an independent arts researcher, writer, and curator focusing on the pre-Stonewall LGBT artists of Texas.