We had our own gang -- me, Bill, Joel, and Greg -- who liked looking at men with muscles.
We stayed friends in junior high, but we drifted apart into other interests and social circles.
The last time I was at his house was for a Halloween party in tenth grade, probably October 31st, 1975. I spent most of the evening talking to his big brother Mike, who used to call me "Bud" and drive us places.
The last time I saw Bill was during our senior year in high school, when we visited David Angel in the mental hospital. He thought we were a couple. We laughed it off as ridiculous.
The years passed: Augustana College, Indiana University, Texas, West Hollywood, San Francisco.
I didn't hear anything from or about Bill, though I often spoke of him as my first boyfriend.
The years passed: New York, Florida, Ohio, Upstate New York. I started a blog about my childhood memories, and recorded all of my Bill stories.
I tried to look him up, but none of the high school or college friends that I was still in contact with remembered him, and he had a common name, impossible to google.
Before I knew it, I was 54 years old. Nearly 40 years had passed since the day Bill and I visited David Angel.
Then out of nowhere I got a friend request from him on Facebook.
Was he gay? Were my memories real, or a misinterpretation of a straight boy's friendship?
We exchanged life histories in that stilted, obituary style that you use when reconnecting with someone after many years. He studied culinary arts at Black Hawk College, then worked as a chef at Jumer's Castle Lodge, across the river in Bettendorf. During the 1990s, he opened a restaurant near the resort of Wisconsin Dells. It went bankrupt after the stock market downturn of 2004, and he moved to Reno, Nevada, where me now manages all of the restaurants in the Circus Circus Casino.
"But I've dabbled in other businesses, too," he continued. "In 1999 I became co-owner of a strip club in Moline, out by the airport."
My heart sank. A strip club? Straight!
"I insisted that we were equal opportunity," Bill continued. "We had male strippers on Tuesday nights."
"I've been there!" I exclaimed. "Christmastime 1999 or 2000. On male stripper night. I saw my old Sunday school teacher's sons, Mickey and Dom!"
Bill was nonchalant. "Sure, I remember them!" Bill said. "College boy act. Very good, very professional, and they had the goods. I always auditioned the strippers personally, to make sure they were up to speed."
"Of course! I have a pretty good eye for beauty, as you saw with Mickey and Dom."
Bisexual? Or straight and nonchalant about gay people?
"What about romances?" I asked. "Any long-term relationships?"
"I was married for 15 years. We had an open relationship, though. We both saw other people. Since then I've been single."
Bisexual? Or straight and wild?
"But what about you?" Bill asked. "Any boyfriends, lovers, husbands? After Dan at Washington, I mean."
Boyfriends, lovers, husbands -- he knew about me! And he interpreted my friendship with Dan as a romance.
I told him about Fred the Ministerial Student in college, Raul and my celebrity boyfriend in West Hollywood, 10 years with Lane, 5 years with Troy. 7 years with Yuri (we were friends, but closer than many lovers).
"You've been busy!" Bill exclaimed. "Me too. I'm single but not lonely. I can still attract the hotties -- look."
He sent me a nude photo.
It was eerie looking at Bill's face again after 40 years. He was a little chunky, with a muscular, slightly hairy chest and big biceps.
In all of our sleepovers, I never saw Bill nude. He was a little small beneath the belt, uncut.
"Hot!" I told him.
"Thanks. It gets me a lot of action."
Ok, still noncommittal. Time to ask.
"Action with men or women?"
Bill didn't hesitate. "Oh, men, of course. Women are nice and all -- I wouldn't kick Scarlett Johansson out of bed -- but at the end of the day you really want two muscular arms around you and a baseball bat pressing against your leg. We knew that back in third grade, didn't we?"
"All but the baseball bat part. That took me a few years to figure out."
"Well, I was precocious. Remember Aaron, the Rabbi's son?"
The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.