Here is the second chapter of “Prohibition,” let me know if you like the way I end it.
“Ok, ok, so you think if they legalize pot, they have to legalize all drugs, including heroin, and of course they can’t legalize heroin, so therefore, they can’t legalize pot.”
“Sorry, but I believe the zero tolerance method works.”
“They should include cigarettes and alcohol too,” his young partner said.
“Bring back Prohibition?” The rookie looked at him. “But if they reinstated the 32nd amendment and alcohol again became illegal, would you quit drinking?”
“And if they added cigarettes?”
“Without a doubt. I’m a cop.”
Three years later they actually un-repealed prohibition of alcohol. Cigarettes were banned. The Religious Right was steadily gaining popularity and the split that started in the 1960s grew to unpredictable depths and unending widths
That was the win for our side, we’d pushed the similarities between the two drugs as far as it would go, and finally convinced congress that beer was just as bad for Americans as dope. All banned. All of mans’s vices. “ Take away beer and you may as well repeal football too,” was a common sentiment.
This is when Dennis discovered he was an alcoholic, and when he realized I wasn’t such a bad guy for a fag.
I never expected to be able to repay the favor some 13 years later. I had bumped into Dennis at a little coffee hut one morning. I recognized him immediately, even out of uniform. Tall, almost regal bearing; kind of a King of Texas walk. Cowboy boots and hat, which on him, seemed appropriate.
“Excuse me,” I said. Dennis looked at me. “But you’re with LAPD, right?” He looked at me sideways, sizing me up, wondering what I knew about him. “Leary, Dennis Leary.”
He stood there, his latte in one hand, the other trying to remember where he’d put his gun.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry. It’s just that you arrested me once, a long time ago,” I added as he seemed to consider. “Any way, I always wanted to thank you. You really did me a favor by arresting me that night.”
At this he smiled. A beautiful smile, full of nicotine-stained teeth, but that was warm and sincere. I smiled back.
“I’m glad it made a difference.” He shook his head and took a seat on the patio. I followed quickly behind.
“Look,” I said, my hand on the chair. “Do you mind if I sit down?” He looked at me with those Robert Redford-blue eyes and nodded. “Thanks. I just figured, you know, that you guys have a tough job, and I don’t think enough people tell you when good things happen. I just wanted you to know. After you and your partner arrested me, I thought about what I was doing with my life and promised that I would change. And I did. Thirteen years and I’ve been holding a steady job. Going to night school. Now I own my own business.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
And so our friendship began. Dennis was wise enough, or maybe just callous enough, to never ask too many questions about my business—before or after my arrest. It just seemed to be an unimportant subject. Instead when we bumped into each other at the coffee hut, which happened every two or three weeks, we sat and discussed the latest topics. From who the President was sleeping with, to whether or not the U.S. should provide aide to this Third-World Country, or that one.
Dennis and I didn’t really know each other well. He was the one who made me turn my life around, though he didn’t know it at the time. See, Dennis was a cop in Hollywood, where I happened to be a gay prostitute. He and his partner weren’t easy on me the night I was arrested. I “fell” numerous times well “resisting.”
“The fuck you think you’re doin’ kid?” asked the younger one while he handcuffed me and tucked my 5’7″ frame into the back of his cruiser. The not Dennis one.
“It’s because he’s a faggot, that’s why,” sneered Dennis. “It’s almost like being retarded—they just can’t help it. It’s as if they’re missing a chromosome, or something.”
“Missing a chromosome?” I couldn’t believe my ears. Did either of these patriotic, war-fighting, communist-hating white anglo-saxon- protestants know what eon we were in?
“What you mean?” asked Not Dennis as he stood with his clip board in hand. “Like Downs Syndrome?”
Dennis nodded. “Exactly. Downs Syndrome has varying degrees of severity, but every instance is caused by the same extra chromosome. With these guys, it’s the same thing. Missing chromosome, they get addicted to drugs, then move to prostitution. Before he’s 30 he’ll be accused of murder.” Dennis sounded so sure of himself, his partner nodded in reassurance. Then he looked at me as if I were some sort of strange bug he’d never seen, and never wanted to see again.
Not a very flattering picture of Dennis, I’m afraid. But you have to realize, even then he was as opinionated as Archie Bunker, but four times as smart. Being a cop for just years, he’d already seen more than his fair share of tragedy. You want to understand cops? Go to a war zone, or a riot, see a child sick with drug withdrawals, her mother passed out on the bed in some pay-by-the-hour motel. Do all this day after day until you are twenty-five. Of course, in Dennis’ case, he’d really been in a war zone, having served in the Army during Korea, he’d seen men at their worst. He was a harder man because of it. I didn’t know all this at the time of course.
Dennis was absolutely certain that I would one day be involved in a murder. Could he be right? I was only 17 and wasn’t really sure of myself, drugs were certainly part of my scene, but murder? Of course, I heard stories of rape and murder in the alleys. I knew Dennis was a bigot, and probably an idiot, but I had a lot to think about during my 180 days in jail. I knew I’d never murder anyone, but the thought that someone might murder me, grew in my head.
I decided I could get some kind of legitimate job, and as soon as they let me out of jail, I went down the street and auditioned for a male dancer job. The only bad thing about it was dancing for the ladies. But it was a legitimate job. . I slept in the dressing room for two months till I found a place. Later the owner actually let me do a drag queen emcee. I always felt I owed my success to Dennis. I was only a dancer for a few years. I made so many friends and so many of them seemed drawn to me when they had a relationship issue. They all came to me for advice. So, of course I eventually, I became a psychologist. I now charge strangers for relationship advice.
I saw Dennis shortly before November 6. Hotly debated was the drug war. I smiled as I saw him getting his coffee.
“How’s it hangin’ Dennis.”
He grinned. “To the right, my friend. Always to the right.”
I laughed and sat down. “So you think it’ll pass?”
“Will what…oh, the Prohibition Act.” He paused, considering. “If that’s the only way we can get drugs off the streets, yeah I hope it passes.”
“You kidding? It’s the worst thing that could happen. Now not only will we have a bunch of drunks running through the streets screaming with the DTs, we’ll flood the emergency rooms with heroin withdrawals. And you’ll enforce it?”
“That’s what they pay me to do.”
“You, would you give up alcohol?” I asked, knowing by this time that Dennis had a bit of a drinking problem. I didn’t know then how serious it was. Didn’t realize until that idiotic law actually passed. The one Dennis voted for.
It was 13 days after they’d reinstituted prohibition when I saw Dennis next. He’d been 13 days without a drink. He looked like hell.
“Christ Dennis, you look like Hell,” I told him.
“I feel even worse.” He sipped his tea, clutching it in two shaky hands. “I can’t seem to get over this flu.”
I almost laughed. “You’ve been sick since New Year’s Day. I don’t think it’s the flu.” He looked up at me, his cop instincts deciphering what I meant. Did I know about the tiny men who marched on his chest at night? And the thing in his sink, and the strange attraction he felt to his gun?
“Can I trust you?”
“I’m a doctor,” I told him.
“I think I may have had a drinking problem.”
I looked suitably concerned, while trying not to reveal that I’d suspected as much.
“I see things,” he said, and looked over his shoulder. Reflexively I did the same. “At night, while I try to sleep. They come out of the walls and march across my chest, and there are these noises. Like my brain is bubbling.” He wiped a hand across his face and looked at me, fear in his eyes. “I thinking I’m losing my mind.”
“Look, Dennis, you’re going through withdrawals. I can help you through them.”
He had obviously hit bottom, because he said: “Can you?”
I told him to make arrangements to take some time off work. I gave him my address. “Be there tomorrow, 5:00 p.m.” I gave him that long because I needed to talk Kyle into vacating his place for a couple of weeks. Not that he didn’t understand my need to bring home the occasional stray drunk, or druggie to help them through the bad days. He didn’t like Dennis.
“Him?” He screeched. “You’re bringing that Neanderthal into our home?” He pronounced it Neandertal.
“He’s as much a human being as anyone else and deserves a chance to be happy.”
Kyle looked at me, and threw his hands up, “Oh, don’t go giving me your Buddha stuff.” He came over and hugged me. “You’re a better man than I.” Kissed me tenderly. “That’s why I love you.” Then he flashed me his adorable smile, and waved as he went to the closet and brought out his suitcase. “I know I’m going to need the big suitcase. You’re going to have a tough time with ol’ Dennis.” He babbled on about which clothing to bring and what to leave, who he should stay with, and all the negatives about Dennis. “He’s worse than Archie Bunker, my sweet Sam. But if you want to try to help him, you go right ahead,” he said as he closed the suitcase and looked at me. “If I were a betting man, I’d put money against him getting through this.”
I walked Kyle to the door, kissed him goodbye, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“Oh, no, you’ll pull him out of this, but his kind, they never change.”
“I’ll do my best to help this one become an educated bigot.”
Dennis did not arrive at 5:00 PM and I began to worry about what this might mean. The man was a cop, I suppose the chase doesn’t end at 4:00 so he can be home by 5:00, but I had serious doubts about Dennis’s commitment.
I was asleep on the couch when I was wakened by a thunderous booming on my front door. I stumbled to the door and looked through the tiny window. Dennis.
“Knock Knock,” he grinned as his pistol butt bit chips of wood out of my oak door. I unlocked the door and he fell inside, landing with an awful thud on the marble floor.
I got him fully inside, his gun safely stowed, got him showered and got some food in him and then as he sobered up he started to talk. Like he always did. I did most of the listening in our relationship. “I was watching a friend’s place for him, while he’s in Europe. I found his bar, still fully stocked.”
“As an officer of the law I was duty bound to clear all that alcohol out. Dump it all down the drain. Then tell my buddy when he gets back what I did for him. Only I couldn’t toss it down the drain. I wanted just one sip. I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything else in my life. Wanted it more than I ever wanted my wife back. I took one shot, for old time’s sake, you know, and well you saw the result.”
It took a week of intensive therapy with Dennis for him to come to grips with breaking the law. Another week to get over the fact that he drove to my place drunk enough to have blacked out. I told him it helped to admit he probably had driven drunk numerous times.
It was a month before Kyle came home to visit. I’d been keeping him apprised of my progress with Dennis via phone and email. Now I was talking via Skype when Dennis came screaming into my office.
“What that hell,” he screamed. “What kind of therapist are you?”
“A very good one,” piped in Kyle.
“Thank you, Kyle. I’ll handle this and call you later,” I signed off and turned to Dennis who punched me in the jaw and sent my glasses flying across the room. I found myself against the wall, wondering if my jaw was broken, when he came at me again. It took all my mediation skills to convince him not to bust my head in with an alabaster paper weight.
“You’re that little faggot Me and Dwight arrested.”
I tried to make light of it. “Nice of you to remember me.”
Dennis pulled me to standing by my tie, and I allowed him to do so only to show him I was willing to continue a dialogue. I knew Dennis’s feelings toward gays. After 13 years I had grown used to this fault and saw him for the lonely truth loving and very confused man he was.
“So how did you find out?” I asked him.
“I got to thinking about it, who you were, where we met and I went looking through some old files.”
“Just because I was a gay prostitute, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m gay,” I can’t believe I just said that. It doesn’t, but in my case it did.
“I know you are. Everytime I comment on an art piece or a recipe its always ‘Kyle picked it out,’ or ‘it’s Kyle’s recipe.’ I know Kyle isn’t your maid.”
“So does punching me in the face make you feel better about my being gay?”
“No, it didn’t.”
“What would help you understand?”
“Why? Why did you help me, of all people?”
“You needed help and I knew I could help you.”
“You didn’t help me, I still want to drink. I want a drink every day.”
“You probably will for quite a while.”
Dennis sat and looked at me in my wrinkled suit and loosened tie, a red swelling the size of a grapefruit growing on my face. “I can’t reconcile the two of you.”
“I’m only one.”
“The good you, and the bad you.”
“There is good in all of us, Dennis.”
“I know people like you.”
“No, evil, gay people like you.”
“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”
“It is a bad thing. It’s a terrible thing to be. You’re a rapist and probably a murderer.”
“Where did you ever hear that Dennis?”
“Everyone knows that.”
“My dad was a cop. One night when I was a kid he came home real late. Everyone was asleep but I woke up and found him in the living room staring at a blank TV. He hugged me real tight and told me about a murder scene he was working. He said ‘gay people are terrible, they’re all murderers.’ My dad was not a liar. I’ve seen evidence of the violence gay men are capable of.”
“I’m not saying your dad was lying to you, but he was wrong. You have to realize that being gay doesn’t make someone commit a crime.”
Dennis moved back home the next day. We didn’t see each other for a very long time. He didn’t come to the Coffee Hut any more. After he kicked nicotine and alcohol, I guess he had to be free of caffeine too. Our lives came together one last time.
I’d been riding my bike when I was hit by a truck and left along the side of the road. No one could see me, I guess, because when the police found me I’d been laying there much of the night. I remember seeing Dennis’s face as they moved me from the stretcher to the ambulance and again from the ambulance to the hospital. I lay in a coma for three days, and when I came out Dennis’s was the first face I saw. “Where’s Kyle?” I asked.
“I don’t know, hasn’t he visited?”
“How would I know, I was unconscious until today?”
“I just assumed someone from the hospital called him.”
“I doubt it, we’re not married, no one would think to call my partner would they. God, how long have I been here?
“And Kyle doesn’t know what’s happened?”
“You say he doesn’t.”
“Well, besides you, who knows I’m here?”
“Your mother and sister.”
“Did they call Kyle?”
“I don’t know.”
I was getting frantic. Poor Kyle, me hit by a car and he doesn’t know anything about it. “He must be worried sick,” I said as I tried to get up out of bed. The nurse quickly came in to sit me back onto the bed, and stop the machines from beeping alarmingly.
“Not yet, dear,” said the kind Jamaican nurse.
“Someone get Kyle on the phone, now!” I yelled.
Dennis hovered nearby tall and straight in his uniform, the nurse in her whites, both looked at me, unsure and wide eyed at my outburst.
“404-555….” I recited the number for them. They both disappeared into the hallway when suddenly all hell broke loose at the nurse’s station.
“You will let me see him,” a voice said emphatically. “I’m not leaving until I see him.”
“Kyle?” I cried from my room.
“Sam?” Kyle’s face materialized at the door and he came to my bedside for a vigorous hug.
“You’re not family,” the nurse said, “You can’t be in there.”
Dennis stood in front of the door, barring the way. “Neither am I.”
“But I thought you came to ask him about the accident.”
“I did. Kyle can stay.” Dennis said in his best no nonsense cop sort of way.
The nurse meekly left saying, “I don’t see nobody in dis room.”