I never minded playing the girlfriend. I never minded knowing that he would never kiss me or try to put his hand up my skirt. I didn’t mind being his teflon coating. This was small town Ohio in the eighties and the last place anyone wanted to be gay. I met him in fifth grade. He was the boy everyone wanted to know. The boy you could see living in Hollywood or New York. The boy on the front of a magazine for anything because he just had that thing. I sat behind him and watched him draw the most amazing things with a number two pencil. He loved boobs and nipples and women who were superheroes and that made me want to know him. He turned to me one day, said something witty, so I said something clever. After that, the rest is history. I fell in love with a gay boy that day.
He lived six houses down from me and the first time he showed up at my door in worn combat boots and a leather jacket, I fell in love again. My father said only a man who’s fought a war should wear combat boots. I thought that Andy earned those boots with every ‘faggot’ and ‘homo’ and ‘dick sucker’ he had ever been called. He handed me a cassette of Siouxsie and the Banshees/A Kiss in the Dreamhouse and told me to stop listening to Wham! This wasn’t just a boy saying…”Listen to this!” This was a boy saying…”I know you’re different . You’ll get this.”. When I listened to Siouxsie and the Banshees for the first time, it was like hearing something from another planet…the one that I was from. Siouxsie was sexy and strong at the same time. She was beautiful but not the kind of beautiful that every man would feel. Andy had a poster of her on his door. She was on all fours, like a cat crawling into bed. It was the sexiest thing that I had ever seen. He was fascinated by her, which made me believe that maybe, just a little bit of him wasn’t gay. But the fact was, he loved her because she was exactly what he wanted to be. He introduced me to Lydia Lunch, the Plasmatics, Missing Persons, Kate Bush, and the Cocteau Twins. He made me feel more than ok with being a strong, unique, and intelligent woman. I wasn’t quite ready for sexy, so he helped me with that by buying me a bustier and convincing me to wear it without a jacket (think early Madonna). It was the first time in my life that I felt raw, female sexuality and it felt great. And not only did he introduce me to the music that would shape my life, but he introduced me to myself.
But Andy was hard to get to know. He had a wall that few could climb high enough to get over. He was the town enigma. People were fascinated by him but didn’t care about him. I did. We laughed at the same things. Saw the world in the same way. Understood that high school was the best acting most of us would ever do. And I watched him act sometimes because he had to survive. His mouth was a canon full of broken glass. I wondered how he escaped so many ass kickings. I wanted to set him free but I couldn’t. The only thing I could do was love him, knowing he would never love me the same. He pretended that I was his girlfriend but made it clear to me that I wasn’t. I never got used to it, but I was ok with being a buffer between him and the rednecks and the football players…some of them my own cousins. He never said…”I’m gay.” But he didn’t have to. I could see it in the way he looked at other boys because it was the way I looked at him. The year he moved away I stood naked in the hallway of a high school that never knew me. He was part of my identity, he had become MY refuge. The next year he was at a different school. He took me to prom. We were so ridiculously out of place but people love seeing something from outer space. We danced to every song but the slow ones. I lost him at after prom, he left with a boy. I watched them swimming as I stood outside looking in. I knew he was where he wanted to be, even if that meant he wasn’t with me. I grabbed his hand when we left so he would know that I was ok being his bridge home. Afterall, he was mine.