Jul 5, 2015

A Boy Named Twilight

I had a recurring dream, or an especially vivid memory, of being attracted to a boy in my earliest childhood, maybe even before I felt the biceps of the bodybuilder on the beach.

A very short house with a tall palm tree out front.  A woman, blond in a flowered dress.  A fat, blustery man.  A girl eating strawberries with whipped cream. A baby. And the boy.

Older than me, but still a kid, and taller, with blond or dirty-blond hair. I remembered his name as Twilight.

There were three main images:

1. We are watching tv in a room with oak panels. I think that a guy on screen is cute, and turn to Twilight for  validation.  He smiles.

2. In a car, driving somewhere: Twilight is sitting next to me in the back seat.  He says "Look at that" and reaches over my lap to point it out.  His warm, tanned arm rests briefly on my thigh.

3. Twilight is trying to coax me into a warm, salty ocean.  He splashes through the surf, yells, "Come on!"  His dark-tanned skin glistens in the sun.  There's a line of white on his back, where his swim trunks have ridden down.

Over the years Twilight grew in symbolic importance, until he became a Harlequin figure, a Jack of Shadows. The smile reveals the existence of same-sex love.  The touch demonstrates that it can be be physical as well as spiritual. And the cry of "Come on!" invites me to embrace its warmth: "don't dream it, be it."

Or was he a real boy that I actually met?

In the fall of 2004, when I was living in Florida, still glowing with the success of tracking down my Grandma Davis's gay friend from art school, I decided to try my sleuthing skills out on the mysterious Twilight.

1. First problem: we always took the same vacation, camping at a lake up north, in Michigan, Minnesota,or Canada.  I remembered only one variation: when I was 12,  to the Smoky Mountains National Park, where I met  a teenage Indian god.

I called Mom and asked if we ever visited anywhere with palm trees and a beach.

"We went down to South Carolina in 1967 -- just after you were in 1st grade -- you took a bath with your Cousin George, remember?"

"What about a house with a palm tree out front, and a boy named Twilight?"

"Oh, you must mean Twyla!  My friend in high school.  She and her husband moved to Florida, so after we visited your Cousin George, we drove down there for a few days."

That explained Twilight.  "Did they have a son about my age?"

"I don't think so.  Just a daughter.  What was her name...Suzie, maybe?"

2. Then who was the boy? (I still thought of him as Twilight.) My next step was to find Twyla and her husband Bill.

Mom lost track of them over the years.  Their address and phone number from 1967 was no longer valid. But there weren't many people named Twyla in Florida, so I found one -- a student at Florida State -- and emailed her, hoping for the best.

3. The return email: "Oh, you mean my grandmother!  I was named after her!"

Did she have a son who was around ten years old in 1967?

"No, my only uncle was born in 1965."  The baby in my memory.

"Could I get in contract with your grandparents?"

They had both passed away, but Twyla gave me the email address of her mother -- Stacey, not Suzie. The girl eating strawberries.

4. "I used to play with a boy from down the street," Stacey wrote.  "He might have come with us to the beach when you were visiting.  His name was Teddy.  I don't remember his last name, but I can tell you where he lived."

5. So I drove three hours from Fort Lauderdale to Titusville, and stood again in front of the "short house" (ranch style) of my recurring dream. It was a shock to see it again in real life.

I walked to the end of the block and knocked on the door of a pink-painted ranch house.  A middle aged man answered -- tall, balding, bearded, husky, wearing a t-shirt advertising the Florida Gators.  He eyed me suspiciously.  "Can I help you?"

"I'm trying to track down a friend who used to live here when I was a kid.  Do you know anyone named Teddy, about fifty years old?"

"That's me. You say we were friends?"

The mysterious Twilight was actually Ted Spencer, a computer systems engineer from Orlando, in town visiting his parents.

Straight: a wife and three kids, one in high school and "quite the ladies' man," the other two "married and out of the house."  And a newborn grandson.

"So you only knew Ted during that one vacation when you were six years old?" The Wife asked as we lounged in the pool in the back yard.  "He must have made quite an impression on you!"

"You have no idea!"

Twilight grinned and hugged her affectionately.  "Haven't I always told you that I'm an unforgettable character?"

See also: The Muscles of Morris Street.