- Byliner Original
From the time I became a writer, I was compelled to write about men. It was never a choice, it was an obsession, and while I assumed that there must be a reason for it, I had no idea what that reason was.
In fact, I wasn’t seeking reasons, but had I been, I might have looked to the black-and-white photograph, pinned to a corkboard above my desk, of me and my first boyfriend. His name was Lee Kingsmill, and he was five years old when the picture was taken, a year older than me.
We are standing in my backyard. I’m wearing overalls, and I have a Buster Brown haircut and am holding what appears to be an Oreo cookie in one hand. Lee is a lot taller than I am. He has freckles and curly dark hair and his arm is slung around my shoulders, and I’m looking up at him with an adoring expression and a smile so broad that it looks as if my face is about to burst.
Initially the appeal of this picture was its cuteness factor, and I failed to deduce the obvious: that before I believed in much of anything, I believed that being with a boy meant being happy. And so, from my early teens, there were many boys, and many of them made me happy—at first, if not at last. There was the boy who taught me to smoke Camel cigarettes, the one who gave me a wrist corsage of scarlet cymbidium orchids, the one who gave me my first kiss, my first heartache, my first sip of Jack Daniels. I picture them—fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old—boys whose images remain oddly indelible even now, having long since be...