The Unmentionables

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 12th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>General Non-Fiction

After over three decades two best friends from high school are reunited after losing track of one another. The secrets they never were able to share back then are about each are now truly remarkable and ongoing!

The Unmentionables

(Author’s Note - While this story is totally non-fiction in its entirety, all names used in this piece other than mine have been changed for the sake of privacy for all individuals.)

In high school I would have called him and I best friends or virtually so. At least really good ones. We hung out in the same small circle of friends that in later years came to be referred to as The Nerds. We didn’t know ourselves as that back then. Sure, those of us who traveled in that group were smart. But we were just . . . us. What were we supposed to do, play dumb? Funny thing was, everybody wanted to be friends with us at test time.

At any rate, Bill and I were buddies enough. We hung out at school a lot and even after school on a rare occasion. Of course, that would be me over at his house. No one ever knew one of my unmentionable secrets.

I had moved into this area and thus a new junior high school and new friends in the 7th grade, so all of my friends here were new from then onward. And none of them had been eye-witnesses to the beatings both private and public I’d suffered in my old neighborhood at the hands my demented mother, nor had they seen her other public humiliations of me too numerous to mention. She had become so famous in our old neighborhood on the west side of town that she eventually grew weary of her heated battles with the neighbors and decided in our family’s best interests for us all to move to the east side. My new friends were blissfully unaware of the emotional scars I would forever carry as a result, and I wasn’t telling them. The physical scars they could see, but they had no idea they were inflicted upon me by my mom . . . all unmentionable and staying that way. I could never bring anyone home to my house, and quite frankly I was almost scared to go to anyone else’s.

But Bill’s family was so great! He was the oldest of I believe five kids if I remember right with three younger sisters and a younger brother. But his parents were always smiling! ALWAYS! I came to cherish their company, and I truly wish that I could have been there much, much more than I was.

I was on the wrestling team during the winter term every year from our freshmen year through our junior one, and that took time out, but that was the only sport which I pursued. But the truth of the matter was as time kept passing my mom kept appearing more unhinged. Just little things. These were all of the years when everything went undiagnosed with her. Many years later she was treated for depression, but for these years . . . nothing. And I felt guilty about so many things. Most notably, my other unmentionable. My homelife was a tinderbox which could go up at any moment during those years. Nobody knew.

This being the late-1960’s I felt so totally alone. As close as I felt to Bill, I still didn’t feel close enough to open up to him about my sexual attraction to men. And I really knew nothing about sex. I thought to be a homo you had to be a girly-man, and I wasn’t really one of those. I was so damned confused. I ate lunch everyday with Larry. He was a friend of mine. Not a good friend of mine, but a friend. He may have been one of those, but even that I wasn’t sure about, and I wasn’t going to ask him.

After high school graduation, we all went our separate ways, although we kept in touch for awhile. Sometimes we’d get together every few years at our friend Lacey’s house for a potluck dinner and to catch up. Oddly enough, many in our circle became teachers, Lacey, Bill, and I, although over the years I was in and out of academia and in private industry for awhile, but mostly in teaching, and so when we got together there was a lot of teacher talk. But then after we turned 30 Bill and I sort of lost track of each other for some reason. I’m not really sure why. We both kept bouncing around the country I know. While Lacey kept herself in our old home area, Bill would move from one end of the country for awhile to teach for years, and then I’d hear he’d popped up at the other end until I completely lost him. And I went to South Carolina myself only to return to Michigan and then eventually resettle in Chicago where I finally found my lasting teaching home.

My mother eventually developed Alzheimer’s Disease and slowly wasted away passing from it only recently in June of this year. Unfortunately, due to lack of funds, my husband and I weren’t able to be at her funeral (that was a really tough call). However, some good things came from a sad situation. When my sister posted her obituary in the local hometown Michigan newspaper we didn’t plan for the joyful result. But a few of my high school friends noticed. One of Bill’s younger sister’s left a message of condolence for me at the online site with her e-mail address (the modern age is a marvel). And so I contacted her, and she is now my Facebook friend. And she also gave her brother Bill (who is not on Facebook) my e-mail address, and we are in regular correspondence catching up after three decades. Additionally, Lacey (who also is not on Facebook) came to the visitation and gave my sister her snail mail address. I still owe her a letter. I’m working on it.

As for the previous unmentionables: Bill and I are both 62 years of age now, and we are both gay. He recently lost his partner to cancer I’m sorry to report. I’m married to my husband of almost five years and living in the Rockies though hubby and I are both fathers and grandfathers from our previous lives. Bill and I should have been able to talk about all of this 44 years ago, but our generation back then was way too repressed. To be totally honest here, when I came out of the closet at the ripe old age of 53 years and 10 months, one of the first thoughts I had was of Bill though I had no idea where in the United States he was. But I had the feeling then that he may be gay, that there was this unresolved issue between us, that finally my Gaydar was developing, that all the things I should have been noticing in 19fucking69, I was suddenly remembering and understanding in 2005! Oh well. Better late than never.

I miss Bill. I really hope I get to see him sometime before I die. He’s number one on my Bucket List. He’s the friend that got away.

Link to beginning of my autobiography . . .


Coming Out, Coming Out Of The Closet, Gay, Gay Experience, Gay Men, High School, Lgbt, Memories, Memories From Childhood, Memories From My Young Days, Non Fiction, Reflection Of Ones Self, Reflections

Meet the author

author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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