During my junior year at Rocky High, back in 1977, my best friend/ersatz boyfriend was Verne, son of the local Nazarene preacher. A senior, hoping to become a minister, and painfully handsome -- you look at him, you wilt.
He was one of those guys who could get anything he wanted -- extra dessert from the lunch lady, an extension on the homework from the teacher, a date with anybody, anywhere -- just by flashing that smile.
And he was massive, and tanned, with enormous hands and enormous everything else.
We didn't do anything sexual. I hadn't figured "it" out yet. But we talked about going to Olivet Nazarene College together and then becoming preachers at the same church, senior pastor and youth pastor, living next door to each other forever, a gay couple in everything but the name.
But Verne was also canoodling with girls. In September 1977, the start of my senior year, his freshman year at Olivet, one of his girlfriends ended up pregnant, so he dropped out to marry her.
Verne's dad resigned immediately, of course. He couldn't continue to preach after that sort of scandal. And I was so upset over Verne's "betrayal," the loss of our future together, that I cut off all contact.
Years passed. I went to college and grad school, moved to West Hollywood and New York and the Straight World, had boyfriends and lovers. Verne receded into memory.
Until a few months ago, when I was snooping among my sister's Facebook friends, and found Verne's sister, and then Verne himself.
59 years old, but still painfully handsome, with no cragginess, no wrinkles. You still look at him and wilt.
Which, I imagine, is good for business. He smiles at you, you're signing up for his service.
Verne was delighted to reconnect. "Man, remember all those crazy nights? The double dates? That camping trip? Our plans to conquer the world?"
And then: "Hey, why don't you come out for a visit? After all the stories, my daughter and her family would love to meet you!"
Well -- seeing old friends after 40 years is rather awkward, but with that smile, he could say "Why don't you hop here on one foot?", and I would do it.
Besides, I could fly out to Charlottesville to visit my friend Jonathan Peng Lee first.
And I was very curious. Was Verne gay? Was he single? Could I get back a lost love? Or at least get a sausage sighting?
So on July 30th I flew to Charlottesville (Bob stayed home with the cats) After three days with Jonathan, it was time to visit Verne.
Flights were like $500, so I rented a car and drove down, 272 miles, with stops in Lynchburg and Durham, finally arriving at Verne's house about 5:00 pm.
He lived south of downtown Charlotte, so close to South Carolina that you could jump over the border. A middle-class house, Georgian style, not the mansion I was expecting from the $700,000 thing.
Verne answered the door, smiled -- sigh -- and drew me into the back yard for iced tea and cookies. Oddly, we didn't talk about high school. He told me about his business, and about his life in Charlotte -- coaching kiddie basketball at the Y, going to 49ers games (whatever that is), going hiking and fishing, church (not Nazarene), canoodling with an endless supply of lady friends.
"What do you want to do while you're here?" he asked. "I have the whole weekend free. We could drive down to Crowder's Mountain -- some great hiking trails. There's some museums in town."
"Well, I definitely want to go to the gym," I said, images of Verne and his locker-room sausage sightings rushing through my head. "And I heard that there's a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Clover, South Carolina."
"I didn't know you were into Buddhism now. You should meet my grandson Daniel. He's 21 years old, majoring in Asian Studies at Chapel Hill. Fluent in Mandarin!"
"Wait -- you have a 21-year old grandson? How is that possible..." I trailed off. Daniel must have been born in 1997. His mother, born in May 1978, was...19 at the time. Pregnant in high school, or just after?
Verne grinned. "It's hard to believe that we're almost senior citizens, isn't it? But you know what they say about snow on the roof -- I'll bet you get a lot of action, out on the Plains."
I gulped. Surely he looked on my Facebook page and found out that I was gay. I didn't make hotel reservations, so if he suddenly got violent....
Reaching into my pocket for my car keys, I said "Well, I have a steady er...boyfriend. His name is Bob. He's 21. Would you like to see a photo?"
"Really? 21, huh?" Verne seemed delighted. "Now you have to meet Daniel. You guys are going to hit it off like nobody's business. I'll give him a call. Hey, want to see a picture?"
Was Verne trying to fix me up with his grandson?
The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.