Okay, here's a confession, don't laugh at me because I am really trusting you here: I once was almost a hippie. I had long hair, wore tye-dyes, went to Grateful Dead shows, hiked a lot, smoked copious amounts of dope, and said things like "Dude that's TRIPPY!"
I say "almost" because I have never been able to fully get behind a prefabricated image or clique- itís always seemed totally useless and counter-growth to me. The reason I bring this up is that during this period of my life I was bone thin, kind of effeminate, socially awkward and a longhair. Traits like those can lead to misinterpretation.
The guy who ran the candle making shop next door once said "The problem with your culture is-Ē Hippies?
"Homosexual culture. You are gay, correct?"
I told him I wasnít and he shrugged continuing as if I had said nothing.
Odd. I didn't think I pitched a vibe at men, so it just felt inexplicable... Hell, I must've just been real damn cute.
My boss was about 23 or so and a pretty quirky guy. He was a drummer and the kind of guy you'd expect to be in a bad-pop-cover bar band: feathered hair st shoulder length, leather jacket, 'ain't I cool' attitude and a charm that just didn't quit. He was real good with the tourists though, always able to make them believe they were having a ball changing into ill fit "western" era clothing to get their photo snapped and developed to look like it were aged for few decades.
Over a few weeks I ascertained that he was a dope smoker so every now and then we'd smoke dope together during work- sure made the many "dead" hours pass a bit quicker. The only problem with getting stoned with this guy was that everytime he'd get a good buzz on he would start playing some song over and over and over on the box that he'd bring into work so that he could figure out the drum lines to it. There is no Humane excuse for subjecting someone to Journey tunes more than once in a lifetime LET ALONE 20 MOTHERFUCKING TIMES IN A ROW!! Well, everybody has their peculiarities I suppose...
This one day I had rolled up a fairly good-sized joint to smoke one Wednesday (which was always a dead day) and stuck it behind my ear for safekeeping. With my longhair it was not only invisible, but completely secured. I came in and sat around for an hour or two until the maddening lack of business prompted me to as him if he wanted to partake. That went like this:
"Yeah?" he looks up from his copy of Rock Drummer- or some such publication.
"You wanna close up for a bit and-" I lean in a little toward him and pull back the hair on the side of my head to reveal the joint, "-go upstairs?"
"You wanna go upstairs for a bit?"
He smiles all mischievously and nervy, "Yeah... sure..."
Upstairs was where we had our darkroom and was well away from anyone who might care that we were smoking dope, and the stench of developing fluids would hide any scent that might be generated. As I walk in I hear the door lock behind me. I think nothing of it, after all, we're partaking in an illegal activity- caution is good, don't want to be burst in on. I pull the joint out from behind my ear and turn around. Rob is standing like six inches from my face, I jump back from the unexpected proximity and put the doob up to my lips a little jared.
I say, "Uhhh, so you wanna smoke this right?"
He looks at it, then at me, "...Oh yeah, sure, sure, of course!" and suddenly his entire demeanour transforms before my eyes. He shrinks down by inches, backs off away from me, won't make eye-contact, gets all fidgety and stammers.
I realize that he never saw the joint downstairs, I must not have moved enough of my hair, and it hits me: he thought I was coming on to him, inviting him upstairs for sex or something.
Jesus, that attempt at moving my hair must have looked like some weird pose! I feel REALLY bad because one can tell at a glance by his reaction that he is heavily closeted and that this experience just REALLY fucked him up. Fuck, I don't know what to say- I mean I'm only 18 or so and its not like the topic had been verbally broached, just obviously vibed. I feel terrible because, as we smoke the jay in relative uncomfortable silence, I can see him inverting on himself in terrible circles- he wanted to be with a man, thought he was GOING to be with a man, only to discover that it was all just a big misunderstanding... an employee of his, at that.
The experience probably added a year or two onto the time it would take for him to come to terms with his sexuality and I stood there mute to it. That was/is a moment that makes me feel ashamed:
I should have said something, made it into a good natured joke to show that what he felt was okay and wasn't dirty or offensive, just not my cup of tea.... but I didn't... and for that I have a guilt that still continues to carve me into a more compassionate person... we all have our peculiarities, I suppose...