The Ballad of Connor McCoy 12 to 26 My name is Muhammad. Just kidding, it’s Connor. I turned 26 three weeks ago. There is something very disturbing about my memory lately. The first 25 years of my life were not overly strange. I was born in Brooklyn NY at age zero and lived there for 12 years with regular parents, an older sister and a younger brother. If any one day should stand out and be told about, it would probably be the day we packed up and moved to Long Island. That I can remember.I was twelve, my sister Denise, 14, going through teenage girl nonsense and Brother Bill, 7, just going along with the flow.My two best friends, Patrick and Steve gave me a hard time. I still think they were only joking around.“Connor, if it wasn’t gay enough that you had to grow up with a sister as a role model, now you’re gonna live on Long Island where you have to be a fag or they don’t let you in. You’ll probably become a Yankee fan and wear girls’ underwear.”“I might try the girls’ underwear but no way am I going to be a Yankee fan.” All my friends were raised by Brooklyn Dodger fans that eventually became NY Mets fans. All the kids would say Yankee fans are gay and the few in our school got it so bad they stopped wearing Yankee caps or shirts. We were like a little mafia changing the opinions around us.The guys enjoyed my sense of humor and they didn’t rib me so much when I shot a little back at them. “So maybe we’ll get to Shea sometime again.”“Yea, my dad will call your dad.” “Sounds good.”My dad came down the stairs and started up the U-Haul. We were on our way.The Belt Parkway was its usual bumper to bumper mess of angry drivers. We didn’t even reach the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island before my father had me hand him a can of Meister Brau from the Styrofoam cooler that shifted ice around with each lane change.Mom drove a few cars behind us gripping the steering wheel with both hands and a cigarette dangling from her lips with Denise and Bill in the family Nova. They listened to eighties music while dad and I listened to the Mets playing against the San Diego Padres.“God dammit! He’s only pitched two and a half innings and you’re taking him out?” Dad liked to yell at the radio.By the time we reached the new house, the sun had set and the Mets won 3 to 2. I guess taking the pitcher out after two and a half innings wasn’t such a bad move.Dad was wiped from the 8 or 9 Meister Brau’s that I served him and the aggravating traffic. He said the lifting could wait till tomorrow. That’s when mom, Denise and Bill all fell asleep on the living room carpet and dad and I sat on the back swing set. He gave me my first beer, a can of Meister Brau that floated around in the water remaining in the cooler. It was disgusting but I felt like a man. If only Patrick and Steve could see me now.Dad shared some of his favorite jokes. The swing set got him started. “A man and woman are in bed at 2 in the morning when there is a knock at the front door. The man angrily gets up to see who it is. It’s a man who had been drinking and he asks if he could get a push. The man closes the door on him and goes back to bed. His wife asks who it was. The man tells her it was some drunk asking for a push. The woman refreshes her husband’s memory with a time when his car stalled and he needed a push. The man gives in and goes to his window and calls out to the drunk, are you still out there? The drunk responds yes. The man asks, do you still need a push? The drunk responds yes once again. The man asks, where are you? The drunk responds, in the back yard on the swing!” We cracked up and then he went in to a few others. “Why is there a fence around the cemetery?”“Why?”“Because people are dying to get in.”Yea, my first beer with dad, that was a night to remember. I still tell those same jokes today. The new school on Long Island wasn’t so bad. The kids didn’t play stoop ball or stick ball like in the old neighborhood. They also didn’t seem to be gay like Patrick and Steve swore they would be. There were plenty of Mets fans and I even made friends with a couple of Yankee fans. I felt I could maybe change them as time went on.The memory that sticks with me from that period was when I was 16. Sure I snuck a beer or two between the time dad gave me my first and now but it was the first time I had a drink with the guys.My buddy Chris, a real metal head, long hair, denim and leather, he looked like trouble. The truth is, he had a good soul, full of love, even went to church with his mom on Sunday’s. Chris organized a Friday night with a couple of six packs for us and three other friends. One of the others was punished and couldn’t make it and the other two were just too afraid to join us.Chris and I sat by a creek behind a Hess gasoline station and cracked open a beer each. Off in the distance and headed our way were 3 black kids’.“Should we run?” I had the urge to run when outnumbered by black guys. When I was younger, I was chased by a couple of them who knocked me off of my bike and then stole it.“Be cool.”As they got closer, we recognized them. It was Darryl, Sebastian and Terrence from school. At first I don’t think they recognized us. Sebastian opened a Colt 45 malt liquor can right in front of my face. “What you guys doing in my place?”“Hey Sebastian, we’re just hanging out, having a couple of beers.”“So, you know my name.” He held up his can for me to tap mine against it. Darryl put down a brown paper grocery bag. Each one of them grabbed a can.We sat at that creek and talked for hours. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. We learned all about each other. I explained my fear of them and they filled us in on some hard times their families went through. Terence’s dad lost his job a few years back and that put anger into his whole family. He didn’t know he was feared. He was just mad. Darryl lost his mom to sickle cell anemia just before he began at our school and Sebastian’s parents split up leaving him with a tough decision. He picked his mom. “I best be gettin my ass home. My momma don't play.”They gathered up their cans and made their way out. Chris and I made three good friends at that creek. We drank all twelve of our beers and a Colt 45 each. We may not have been drunk but we wanted to be so we acted real dumb. We swam in that dirty creek with all of our clothes on. We went and bought 5 dollars worth of quarters to call all the girls we had phone numbers for. We ended up with 4 dollars and 25 cents worth of quarters left over. One of the three girls, Sharon, said we could stop by her window on our way home. Liquid courage! We snuck up slowly on Sharon’s house. We thought we were quiet but our foolish laughing and carrying on only warranted attention. We got close to a window and knocked. The bed moved and a body stumbled to the window. It was an extra large muscle bound body. It was Sharon’s brother, Donny. He wasn’t happy.I think that was the fastest I ever ran in my teenage years. I didn’t even look back to see if Chris was keeping up with me. Just before I ducked into a bush, I turned to see if Donny was close. Chris was right behind me. He ducked into the bush also. We sat there like two scared school girls. There was no bigger fear than getting an ass kicking from a pretty girl’s older brother. We watched a car pass by every ten minutes or so wondering if Donny was behind the wheel of one.That night we shared some deep thoughts. We were two horny teenage boys that never did more than make out with a girl. I told him how I just wanted to put my arms around a girl so tight and feel her against me and he spoke about his wishes of kissing a girls neck while she whispers that she loves him. If any of the other guys heard this they would say we were gay. We lived in a time where being sweet, loving, or romantic, even with a girl was considered gay. It’s funny, and I still to this day would call a friend gay if he told me he held his girlfriend or wife. Guys just want to hear stories about oral sex and how far you got. They don’t want to hear any mushy girl stuff.Chris and I took a chance and shared some dangerous thoughts that night. I still remember exactly where that bush was. High school was a pain in the ass but once it was time to graduate, I knew I was going to miss it. I dreaded the end because it meant the beginning. Chris went to college and I found an office job. At 21, Chris was in his third year of school and I was in my second year of work. I didn’t spend as much time with the family as I used to. Bill was 16 and Denise 23. Denise was working part time at a clothing store and going to school. Bill was trying to make it through high school when our small town was reaching its demise. Dad was considering retiring and becoming a full time Mets fan. Mom spent most of her time cleaning up after us and taking long naps throughout the day. Gin was her “mothers little helper”.I had a grand old idea one Saturday night. Since Chris and I were of age and I knew Patrick and Steve were too, I extended invitations to all of them and “The Brothers”, Darryl, Sebastian and Terrence for us to meet at a bar in Queens.Darryl wanted me to refer to those guys as “The Brothers” after we became friends so that’s what I did. It was 9:00PM or so when I walked into Austin’s, a well kept bar and club. The Bee Gee’s were playing from the Dee Jay booth. I guess that’s not as bad as the other music that could have been playing. I was already a bit tipsy from the six pack on the ride over. Patrick and Steve were off in a corner already lining up girls for the night. They were excited to see me and surprisingly, so were the girls that I never met before.“Oh no. Looks like there’s gonna be trouble.” Patrick motioned to the entrance. In walked The Brothers.“I’ll straighten this out.” I walked to the door and whispered to the guys to help me play a joke.“What’s he doing?” Steve feared for me.Chris walked in as The Brothers walked out. He accompanied me back to the corner and I introduced him to my old Brooklyn friends.“What did you say to those black dudes?”“I told them that my friends didn’t want them in here.”“Are you nuts?”“Why? Do you think they’ll come back with more guys and guns?” I just enjoyed feeding their fear.“That’s exactly what I think.”The Brothers came back in and walked right for us just as I asked them to do.“Which one of you’s is Patrick?”The fear raced through Patrick’s body. You could see him trembling. Sebastian took hold of Patrick and gave him a hug. The look on Patrick’s face was priceless. Soon after the hug, I let them in on the joke and made introductions.We had a wild night all around. Each one of us made a new girlfriend. I also made two other friends, Randy and Scott. I’m not ashamed to say it but some of my friends may have been. I made friends with a gay couple.Sure the guys and The Brothers were respectable towards them. I don’t know if they would have been the same if they weren’t all drunk.The fact of the matter is that Randy and Scott were good people. I learned things about them and their lifestyles just as I did about The Brothers when I first met them. I learned about their fears and how family and friends turned on them. I learned that these guys had good hearts and I was happy to become their friend.So, I left a bar full of gorgeous women with two guy’s phone numbers. I know that’s funny for a straight guy to say, but for the record, I also got the phone number of a hot little fire cracker named Amanda. I felt that this was the perfect night in all ways possible and then something happened.Denise entered the bar with a man. I noticed her through the crowd. She spotted me and we stepped outside while the man grabbed a drink at the bar.“What is it sis?”“Connor, you’re drunk.”“No more than usual. What’s going on?”“Can I tell you something important right now?”“You’re not marrying this guy are you?”“Connor, I’m serious.”“Okay.”“It’s Grandma.”“No.”“I’m sorry Connor. She passed a few hours ago. You couldn’t have helped it.”I took it very tough. My Grandma was one of my favorite people in the world. I used to visit her and Grandpa every chance I had. Now I had to see her in a box and that was all I could think about. I insisted that Denise leave the bar and I would be home shortly. I got a beer and walked outside. I stood outside behind the bar drinking one for Grandma. She too loved her beer. She taught me many things but the best had to be about the little girl and the needle point. A little girl sat on the floor as her mother worked on needle point above. All the little girl could see were the strings hanging from her mother’s project. She was confused as to how her mother was to create something beautiful when all it appeared to be were different color strands of string. Her mother picked her up and sat her on her lap when her project was finished and the little girl seen the beauty when looking at it from the correct direction. Grandma said that is how we see God’s project. We are like the little girl watching it from below. Once God places us up on his lap, we’ll see the entire beautiful picture.Now I wanted to drink the pain away and drink to forget the news. I fell flat on the back of my head while crying over my loss. It hurt but the alcohol lessened the blow. The liquid courage helped me drive home. I never said good night to my friends. Grandma’s funeral took a toll on me. I switched from beer to Jack Daniels because it was easier to sneak into the funeral parlor. I felt so bad for Grandpa. He was so sad and I could tell he was not happy with me for being in the condition that I was. I also didn’t realize that Bill had been watching me over the last several years and he too was boozing it up. I don’t know for sure, but I think he also snuck a bottle in with him.All of my friends, new and old came to pay their respects. I was cordial but I didn’t want anyone to see how hurt I was. I hid behind my dark sunglasses and my buzz. On the way out of the car later that night I fell and hit my head once again. It left a mark. At the age of 23, me, Patrick, Steve and our dads went and did what we spoke about 11 years earlier. We got together and went to Shea Stadium to watch the Mets play the Phillies. The Mets won in extra innings. They weren’t serving beer anymore by the end of the game but that didn’t make no difference. We all snuck our bottles in. I had Jack, I don’t know what the rest of the guys had. I told my dad I was thinking about marrying Amanda. He told me I was insane. In fact all of the dad’s said marriage is the biggest mistake a man could make.“You think things are real nice now don’t ya?”“Yea.”“Well if you wanna keep things real nice, don’t get married.”“But I think I love her.”“Exactly. I promise you that you will stop loving her when you’re married.”“You’ll see.”“No, you’ll see. You’ll be stuck. She won’t be giving you what you need no more and if you leave her, so will half your pay check for life.”“Is that why you stayed married?”“Bet your ass. I could never afford to get a divorce.”I did my best to change that subject. Patrick’s dad was making a lot of points that I couldn’t argue because I was inexperienced on the subject. We went out and had some fun and just to feel like I was getting back at those guys, I proposed to Amanda when I got home.In the morning, I wasn’t sure if I did the right thing. Amanda was extra nice to me, even woke me up with a little surprise. The guys said that wouldn’t last very long. I felt they were just joking. Marriage couldn’t be that bad. At the age of 25, I ate those words. We were married a year and all we did from the moment we said, I do, was fight, fight, hate each other and fight more. Just like the guys said, we hated each other, the sex was gone and if I leave, I’ll be broke. I even thought about suicide. Good thing there were no kids because they said us guys made it even worse when thinking about leaving.So, I’m 25. I don’t see Chris or any of the guys too much anymore. Amanda felt that they were immature and I shouldn’t be around them. She also felt that I shouldn’t watch baseball or football. She really didn’t want me out of the house or out of her sight. It was like I was a ten year old kid again and she was my mommy. I felt that I lived through that already. Why am I going through it again? Maybe I should run away from home.After a few phone calls, I was able to get Randy and Scott to meet me at the bar. The Brothers weren’t available, Patrick and Steve didn’t return my calls and Chris was away with a girl.I got to the bar before 8:00PM. Randy and Scott were already there having a conversation with some others. Once we began talking, I remembered how easy it was to speak to them. I felt comfortable sharing the Amanda situation with them. Gay guys are great listeners, and they also have a way with words. “There are 2 old sayings Connor, one, when a woman gets married her life begins, when a man gets married his life ends.
And two, a woman gets married hoping her husband will change, a man gets married hoping his wife won't change. If both do not happen, the marriage is usually finished.”Randy made sense. Scott also had some words of wisdom. “They also say that happily married is an oxymoron and that it is impossible.”“How do you guys manage to stay together so happily?”“We share so many interests. We’re both Yankee fans.” I thought that was a funny coincidence and held in my laugh.“We understand each other’s wants and needs.”“I guess that makes sense.”“To be quite honest with you Connor, we think you may drink a little too much.”At first I took offense to that but then I realized I was asking their opinions and all they were doing was sharing them. So I told them I would try to lay off the alcohol.I guess that wasn’t the best time for that decision because just as I made that promise, Denise walked into the bar. It was Grandpa this time.Randy said that when one half of a couple goes, the other is not far behind. They couldn’t live without one another. How does that work? People tell me that marriage is awful and I learned for myself. How do other couples end up not being able to live without one another? Maybe he changed and she didn't. There must be a secret formula.Denise made sure I was okay before she left. “Maybe this is a good time to test your ability to stop drinking.” Randy made an attempt but I wasn’t going for it.“Screw that!” I ordered a beer and two shots of Jack.“I think he needs to drown his sorrows.” Scott was definitely the man in the couple.I got hammered making toast after toast to grandpa. I recalled some of his words of wisdom. Never hit a woman, especially if she deserves it. Guys who carry combs in their back pockets and guys who were sandals are fags. Randy and Scott laughed at that one. If you can stand up at the bar, you’re not drunk. That’s when I stood up and fell down and banged my head once again.Randy wanted to take me to the hospital but I was able to sit back down for a couple more shots. I made sure not to stand up again. Grandpa was right. I was drunk.In the morning, I was served breakfast in bed by Randy. I was insistent not to go home to Amanda. They honored my drunken wish.“Good morning sunshine.”“Thanks Randy.”“Do you remember what you said last night?”“Oh God no.”“You said you wish you were gay.”“I can understand that. You guys are so happy.”“That’s what gay means.”“Alright, enough of the gay talk.”“Eat your sausage.”“Excuse me?”“Breakfast.”“Oh. You know something? This is the first time in all my years of getting smashed that I recall blacking out.”“You drank a lot. And it is time to get on the wagon.” After living with the guys for a month, I only drank three times. The withdrawals were hell. I made my first 5 days and got most of the alcohol out of my system but it was like I was going to die. Chest pains, sweats, dizziness, vomiting. It was awful. On the sixth day, I fell off the wagon. Scott was understanding but Randy was mad at me for a day or so. I joked to Scott that I would by him some flowers, maybe pansies. So, I drank two more times and went ten days without a drink. That’s when things got real strange. It was like I was blacking out every night. My memory was fading on me. It could have been all of the drinking, the countless falls on the head, the bar fights with the bottles over the head. I was losing my memory and at first I was scared. Then I started to forget why I was scared. Randy and Scott checked me into a hospital when I began forgetting who they were. That’s his final memory of us. Taking him and leaving him at that hospital broke my heart. I felt so close to Connor after taking care of him for over a month and he was so accepting of my relationship with Scott. Scott and I would come by and visit him once a week or so in the beginning. We met his family there. His mom and dad were a mess over it. Denise tried to hide her emotions. She knew he was headed for disaster from the way he was living. He told her one of the last times she seen him, “I’m a drunken Irish boy. I learned some good things from some good people but now that I have no memory I can’t share any of the good. My neighbors and acquaintances will possibly be racists or gay bashers. I can’t use my past to heal them.” Bill came up to visit as well. He was usually drunk off his ass also. The first few times I seen him there, I tried to get him to come home with Scott and me so we could try to straighten him out. I know that sounds odd, two gay guys trying to straighten out a straight guy. All Bill did was make anti gay remarks and swig from his bottle in front of us. He was upset about life and the fact that Connor didn’t recognize any of his family or him.Patrick, Steve and The Brothers also visited and Connor had no idea who any of them were either. When The Brothers came around, Bill was usually so drunk he would make insinuations against blacks. Out of respect for Connor, The Brothers blew it off. One afternoon Bill cried on my shoulder. I was in shock. He was ready to be helped. Scott and I took him home with us and set up our own rehab for a second time. Amanda visited Connor with open arms. He didn’t recall her either but he did become attracted to her as if he was meeting a pretty girl for the first time.After a few months, Bill was clean and sober and Connor and Amanda were living together getting to know one another. She wanted to share the news that they were married but she felt they should take this relationship slow. He seemed to have changed for her and now it was up to her not to change. We would occasionally stop by their house for dinner. He met his parents and brother and sister each Sunday. They were a new family. The Brothers and Patrick and Steve would stop by from time to time. It wasn’t until one Sunday when Chris visited that everyone could not believe their eyes. Connor sat on the couch watching the Mets. “You say I know this team? I can't remember anything
I can't remember any of the Mets players, numbers, positions, where the stadium is, what it’s called.”“It’s Shea.”Amanda let Chris in the door and Connor lit up. “Chris!” He jumped from his seat. They hugged and quickly went through memories. Connor remembered drinking behind the gas station, Sharon’s window, her brother Donny, hiding in the bush. He was the old Connor for a moment. Chris had obviously been drinking. He glanced over at Bill in the corner, then to Connor. He pulled a bottle of Jack from his coat and poured three shots. THE END