Last week’s chapter began sometime in December, 1974, with Jimmy agreeing to move to Washington. But not wanting to leave North Adams right after Christmas as Jeff proposed, Jimmy suggested he move there sometime toward the end of January after Jeff was settled in.
Partly this seems to have been an effort to avoid any suspicion if both Jeff and he left town at the same time. North Adams is a small town after all, one where suspicions are easily aroused and gossip all too common.
But the more important factor in Jimmy’s decision seems to be that his best friend, Tommy, is coming home after his first semester at college and will be on winter break for most of January. Jimmy apparently wants to spend time with his friend, so much so that he quits his job at McDonald’s even before Tommy gets home.
Most of the chapter recounts their time together just before Christmas; a long telephone conversation the night Tommy gets home, a trip to Albany, New York, to pick up Tommy’s brother at the airport, an exchange of Christmas gifts, and then a long conversation at the lake on a bitterly cold Christmas afternoon.
We learn quite a bit in all of this, some of it quite interesting indeed. We learn that Tommy has been working out at UMass and is now in much better physical shape than when he left for college. Indeed, Jimmy barely recognizes his friend. In spite of that (and like Jimmy as well), Tommy doesn’t have a girlfriend and doesn’t think he’ll have much time for dating.
We learn Kevin, Tommy’s older brother, has moved to San Francisco, California, where he’s trying to figure himself out. Even in the 1970s San Francisco was already a gay mecca, a place far from home that attracted tens of thousands of young men trying to come to grips with their sexuality.
We also learn that Tommy and Jimmy like each other enough to exchange Christmas gifts, a rose-colored UMass sweatshirt from Tommy that it will comfort him to know Jimmy is wearing when he gets lonely at school; and a picture from Jimmy to Tommy showing the two boys cuddled up close together at the lake when they were younger.
And finally Jimmy learns what he already suspects, that Tommy won’t be coming home to work at the local newspaper once he graduates from college. That seems to make leaving town easier for Jimmy, but the two boys pledge to remain best friends forever.
Maybe it’s just me, but is there more here than meets the eye? But, then again, this is the 1970s after all. Showing your feelings to another guy isn’t easy or encouraged.
Last week’s chapter marked the end of Part II of our story. Part III picks almost immediately with Jimmy in Washington. It’s late in March and Jimmy’s been in the District of Columbia for almost two months. How well he’s doing remains to be seen.
Tonight’s chapter takes place in a large gay bar, what we would call a club today. It’s the first time Jimmy’s been there and the chapter begins with a song playing loudly. If you click on the link provided and close your eyes, you’ll be able to experience it with Jimmy.
I know quite a few of my readers are older so I would just ask you to try to recall your first time in a large gay bar. That’s what I’m trying to capture in Chapter 9, which I’ve now posted at The Annex. Have fun reading and let me know whether you think I got it about right.