by shukyou (主教)
illustrated by KMO
December 2, 1962
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I hope that you and
December 2, 1962
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I hope that you and Madeline will be very happy together for many years to come. Aimee told me about your engagement. I confess I was surprised to hear
December 2, 1962
Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I hope that you and Madeline will be very happy together for many years to come. Aimee told me your wonderful engagement story. A beach seems romantic indeed. I hope that Madeline knows how lucky she is to have a husb
December 2, 1962
February 11, 1963
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Dobson,
Best wishes for the both of you on your new life together! I am sorry that I could not make the wedding itself. I’m sure that Paris is lovely this time of year. I wouldn’t know, as I didn’t marry some rich French girl who could afford to fly my whole family across the Atlantic for a stupid
Jesus, Freddy, get your shit together
April 19, 1963
Thank you for the postcards. I’ve got the one from the Champs-Elysees tacked up to wall behind my desk right now. Every time I get my head out of my books, I get to look up and see the sights from the other side of the world. It’s a good kind of inspiration, something to push me through two more years of law school. Once I make partner at a firm, I’m sure I’ll have lots of chances to go see the world.
My mother heard all about the ceremony from your mother. She told me Michelle’s dress
Madeline Madeline Madeline like the cookie Madeline goddamn
Mrs. Madeline Dobson
maybe I’d remember her name if I’d ever met her
June 1, 1963
Thanks for finally writing me back so I don’t have to keep hearing all this from your mom
June 1, 1963
Thanks for the great letter about France. I loved hearing all about it. It sounds like you had an amazing time. Definitely when I go there someday, I’ll check out the Louvre. You know how happy I am just staring at paintings all day. No, though, to answer your question, I haven’t done any new paintings lately, so I’m in no immediate danger of having anything of mine exhibited there. Even though the semester is over, I’m clerking for a judge this summer. It keeps me pretty busy. Still, it’s about the best position a guy like me can hope to get, without a dad who can talk one of his golf buddies into taking me on. Judge Davidson is a good man, though. He’s been on the bench for a lot of important integration decisions, and that kind of work is important, even if it doesn’t make good money. Mom says I have to look like a credit to my race, so I’m turning in lots of long hours in the office. Not a lot of free time for socializing.
How’s Madeline? Are you two enjoying living in Connecticut? Is her dad a tough boss to work for, or does he cut his new son-in-law some slack? Never thought you’d wind up living in Connecticut, did you? Do you remember the time when we were eight and we were going to run away to New York? I had almost forgotten about it until I opened up a book the other day and came across the map you drew. Houston looks much closer to Connecticut that way.
The family’s fine, thanks for asking. Mom’s having a little more trouble getting around these days. You should probably address things to her house for a while. I’m probably going to end up moving back in, at least for a little bit. Because of course the only one of her children who isn’t married or engaged surely has nothing else going on in his life
October 15, 1963
Happy birthday! At least, I hope this doesn’t arrive too far after your actual birthday. Sorry I forgot to send this on time, but things with Mom have just been
October 16, 1963
Happy birthday! Best wishes for your twenty-third year on Earth!
I know this will get there after your actual birthday, so
16 18 23, 1963
Happy birthday! And many
May all your
Well, today’s your actual birthday, so I guess it’s stupid to try and salvage this. I don’t have anything else to say anyway. I’ll just give you a call later. Mom will flip at the long-distance charges, but she’ll understand if I tell her it’s your birthday. She doesn’t
She’s not doing so well lately.
I don’t know what I’m going to do, Cal.
January 5, 1964
It was great seeing you over the holidays and finally meeting Madeline! She seems like a great girl. I mean, if you like girls
January 5, 1964
It was great getting to see you and meet Madeline over the holidays! I know Mom really appreciated your visit. She’s been saying every day since you left that I need to get out there and find a girl like “Miss Madeline”. I told her she’s out of luck, there’s only one of those in the world and you snatched her right up!
Mom’s doing better even than she was when you were here. I think seeing all the grandkids really put a spring in her step. She’s talking about moving out to Las Vegas with Bob and Patty and their boys. Apparently the dry desert climate is supposed to be better for her health than coastal swamp air.
If she does, maybe I can pick up classes again where I left off. Or move out near you! I’m sure Connecticut’s got plenty of integrated law schools that I could visit. We could be neighbors again!
February 18, 1964
Great news about the house! Fingers crossed the closing goes smoothly. I bet it’ll feel great to own a place of your own rather than just renting apartments forever.
Aimee called the other day to check on Mom, and we got to talking a bit. She says she misses being near you and Madeline, but that Cleveland is great and her husband’s job is going fine. She’s still got your number, though, so expect her to check in on you every so often. You’re still her other little brother, after all, even if yours is an honorary degree.
As for me, I’m doing all right. I know you hate it when we talk politics, but I’ve been in touch with some people from school. They’re forming an action committee and they want me to join. Things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse and more violent. I’m going to my first sit-in action tomorrow, so I can tell you more about what it’s like then.
Apr 22 64
Doc finally gave me permission to hold a pen
– broken wrist
– two cracked ribs
– black eye
I’m sure Aimee made it sound worse when you talked to her
But you should have seen the other guy!
Kidding. I didn’t get in a shot, there were three of them. Doc says I got lucky.
Says they brought in another young Negro last week who
Worst part is police rept
Mom sitting there while white cops confirmed “your assailants also called you a homosexual”
had better days
have to transcribe this later, cn barely read my own handwriting
September 10, 1964
You know, I don’t think it’s any of your goddamn business what I
September 10, 1964
I am being careful. It’s not my fault you’re too
September 14, 1964
I know you’re just trying to look out for me. I know you’ve always been trying to look out for me. But you have got to understand, not everybody is like you. You were the ten-year-old who saw the new Colored kid sitting alone at lunch and decided to come sit by me. Did you count how many other kids in the cafeteria didn’t?
No, of course you didn’t. Because you want to believe all this hate comes down to an honest misunderstanding. You think it’d all be fine if everyone just got to know me. You want to look at how much better it’s gotten and think about how, with a little time, it’ll be better by that much more.
I’ve got a wrist that aches when it rains that says we don’t have that time.
And you know what? I did mean it. I don’t care if “we were only kids” or whatever excuse you made when you left, when you left me and ran away to your precious snow-white fraternity school. You think I don’t think it through before I say things. No, I didn’t think it was going to be easy. I knew parts of it would have been hell. But I knew that we would have been together, you and me.
You made me lie about it. You made me laugh like it was a joke and say, no, of course not, I didn’t really mean I was going to give everything up for you, how silly would that be? You made me out like a goddamn liar. You broke my heart and you made me lie to your face.
The worst part is, I think you even believed me.
December 1, 1964
Dear Calvin and Madeline,
Thank you for the lovely bouquet you sent. I’m sure Mom would have loved
May 12, 1965
There are sit-ins happening in your part of the country too, you know. Or even less direct action, petitioning and writing letters. Or something. So what if your in-laws don’t approve? So what if they think we “sound angry”?
What’s the worst thing they
This isn’t like you. You used to have more courage for the fight than I did. What happened?
October 2, 1965
Like I said in last month’s letter (and the dozen I sent before that)
March 16, 1966
As promised, I am lifting my head from my books to write you back. I’m counting the days to when I’m out of here. And then I promise I’ll have even more free time to write you back, maybe even come visit.
I know I haven’t written much this semester, but I have been thinking about you. Wondering how you are, how you’re doing. You sound good. In your letters, I mean, you sound good. You sound happy, and I’ve been thinking a lot about happy lately. How it always seemed to come so easy to you. You could be happy with anything. Whatever you got, you’d grin and roll with it. Maybe I thought something was wrong with me, that I couldn’t do that. You seemed happy to be sedentary, while I was nothing but unsettled.
I thought that school was the problem – of course I wasn’t happy, I had to leave things half-finished. But I’m coming to see that there’s a greater dissettlement for me, a larger problem that gnaws at me even when my immediate life seems right. I’ve thought for the longest time I was made wrong. That there was something broken in my very construction, something cursed. Like I came out of the factory with a crack in me. No good, they’d say, they’d have to put me back.
For a while I thought you were broken like me too. That maybe we could get along like that, just two broken things together. Nobody would want us, so nobody would mind much what we’d do. But then you left and you got married, and I took it as proof that I was mistaken. That what I’d seen as a crack down your side was really just a bit of paint, easily rubbed off. I was back to being the only one like me.
But now I’m starting to think I’m not broken, any more than a horse is broken because it can’t climb a tree. I’m starting to think that dissatisfaction I’m feeling is not because I’m broken, but because I am a horse in a world that wants me to climb trees. There must come a point where you say, it’s not that the horse is broken, but that the task you are asking is unfair.
Cal, I am a homosexual. And I
Texas State University
Thurgood Marshall School of Law
announces the graduation of
Frederick Xavier Brown
with the degree of
May fourteenth, nineteen sixty-six
five forty-five in the evening
3100 Cleburne Street
It would mean a lot to me if you could be there. -F.
April 24, 1966
Don’t worry about not being able to make it down for graduation. I know you would if you could. Your father-in-law keeps you pretty busy, huh?
14 15, it’s past midnight now
dearest darling best friend Calvin—
I got fucked tonight. Seems like the sort of thing you’re supposed to tell your best friend so I’m telling you I got fucked tonight and it was good
Few of the people from the office came to graduation, one of the partners, his wife, two
secretarys secretaries, paralegal named Jorge, thirties maybe, handsome, dark hair, mustache, huge cock but I’m getting ahead of myself
Took me out for drinks after and took me to a bar (a GAY bar) where the men in blue denim and hats and boots, and Jorge in his denim hat and boots, and me still wearing a suit and I said I don’t think I’m dressed for this, and he said it’s okay, you look cute
he said YOU LOOK CUTE
and he bought me a drink and he DANCED with me, right there on the dance floor but all the other men were doing it to, it wasn’t wrong or dangerous, it was just all of us together he put his head on my shoulder
Have you ever sucked another man’s cock? No because you were a chickenshit
He was so
genn gentle just put his hand on my head and let me go. I got my mouth around and let me just taste him. what do women taste like? Probably not that. All salt and musk and skin and hard and he let me be there, he pet my hair and said you look even cuter like that, even cuter with my mouth around his big cock, getting it all slick and letting him fill my mouth
Jorge kissed me and got me over the bed and when he put his fingers in my ass, I came right there, shot my load all over my bed. I’m made to get fucked I guess! Passed my
homsexu homosexual bar exam with flying colors.
When he pressed into me it was like Jesus and ice cream all at the same time (fuck, I’m still drunk) He got my hips and told me I wasn’t cute like this I was beautiful. Beautiful enough to be fucked. Not like a woman but like a man. Like me. Could feel his balls slapping my ass as he went to town on me and I said yes, yes I want more of this. That was what surprised him for my first time out that I took so much and wanted more. He tried to pull out and I said finish in me, I want you here even after you go.
It feels so good to have a man inside you like that all hard and needy. It feels good be wanted. Just pushed my face into the pillow so the neighbors dont hear the shouts and let him take me. Mounted me, fucked me. My ass hurts now but it was so good, I just said goodby to him at the door half and hour ago but if he came back said he wanted it again I’d give it to him. Bend over on the floor and say fuck me, take me, hurt me good, make me feel like
could have been you
December 10, 1966
I’m sure you got the change-of-address card, but in case you didn’t, my new address will be on this envelope this goes in. Jorge Munoz — you remember, my friend from the firm — has a spare room in his house that he rents out, so that’s where I’m staying now. We carpool to work and fix meals on Sundays, so we eat a lot of cold leftovers during the week. A pretty good setup for two busy bachelors!
How was Switzerland? Cold, I imagine, but that’s the best weather for a ski vacation. Was it an early anniversary trip or just for fun? Travel sounds like such a pleasant hobby. You get to go so many interesting places, meet so many interesting people. At least, I assume they’re interesting or you wouldn’t keep going.
How’s your mother? Does she enjoy Connecticut? Send her my best and tell her I’ll miss having her around for Christmas. It’ll be strange not to have her or Mom
April 2, 1967
What was it like when you met Madeline? How did you know that she was the one? I never got to see you with any girls before her so I don’t know what it was like for you. I mean, how it was different for you with her, than it was for you
How did you know you loved her
and not me?
January 1, 1968
Happy new year! Best wishes for you and Madeline in the months ahead.
Jorge sends his best. He’s watching some college bowl game on our new television in the other room. Of course, not our new television. It’s his, I’m just allowed to use it. One of the perks of being roommates!
He also reminds me to thank you for the recommendation about a propane grill, and says you were right, it’s better than charcoal. It’s been raining and miserable of late, and he can’t wait until the weather turns nice again so he can get back to it. He’s threatening to make hamburgers for every meal if I don’t stop him. I have to confess, it’s better than warmed-over casserole five nights a week. We’ll have to get you down here in summer so you can show us some of your fancy New England grilling tricks.
Gone to deposition in Galveston, back by noon. Don’t forget to call plumber.
Plumber 3:30. I’ll be home by 6:00. Also, make sure your note paper is actually blank next time.
Stop leaving your half-finished letters to your ex lying around.
April 4, 1968
Hello from Washington, D.C.! I thought I’d take advantage of the hotel stationary, which you have to admit is pretty nice. I’m sure you’ve been here hundreds of times, living so close, but I’m just amazed by everything. We got to walk along the National Mall yesterday, all the way up to the Washington Monument. I know it’s probably silly to say it’s bigger in person than it seems in photos, but it really is.
When I say “we”, Jorge was kind enough to accompany me to the conference. There’s not as many sessions of specific interest to paralegals, but the firm still thinks it’s good for more of its people to have grounding in civil rights law. I have my fingers crossed they’re actually thinking of branching out into civil rights cases in particular, and when they do, I want my name to be the one they think of first, not as just their token Negro lawyer, but as their best lawyer of any race. Maybe someday even as a full partner! There, aren’t you proud of me for being ambitious? Don’t congratulate me too soon, though, or as Mom would have said, count my chickens before I’ve hatched them.
Oh, he’s yelling at me now, saying I have to come see something on the news
July 14, 1968
If you keep tearing up my checks, I will get a money order. Don’t test me.
The firm has been real cool about it, considering. I can’t say they’re too fond of having two of their employees picked up on riot charges, even if we ourselves were doing nothing of the rioting. A couple of the partners even told me privately they wished they’d been there to protest themselves. They would probably have defended us in court, too, had it come to that. But since the charges got dropped and they didn’t have to get involved, they’re more than willing to let it go.
And now you can hold it over my head for the rest of my life that you hard to wire me bail money. So at least let me pay you back.
Again, I can’t tell Madeline enough just how sorry I am, and thank her for being understanding. I know I wouldn’t like to be awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from D.C. central booking, and I’m sure she didn’t care for it either. I hope she’s not still sore at you about it. She sounded
November 29, 1968
I know I said it when you called a couple weeks ago, but I want to reiterate: I’m sorry about Madeline. I truly am. I know every marriage has its own problems, but I was hoping yours could last past those. I can only hope that
maybe definitely it’ll work out for the best for the both of you.
“It’ll work out for the best”
Jesus, that looks even worse written than it sounds when I say it, doesn’t it?
January 15, 1969
I don’t even know where in the world I’d address this right now, so I guess I’ll hold off on sending it until you get back. I just wanted you to know that I’m still thinking of you, even when you don’t have an address or a phone number. Every time the phone rings, I pick it up hoping the voice on the other end is some operator with a foreign accent, telling me I’ve got a long-distance call from Germany or Australia or Brazil or somewhere.
I hope you’re okay. That is, I know you’re not okay. I’ve known you long enough to hear through the smile in your voice when you call. I want to be take you at your word when you tell me it’s going to be all right, but I’m also worried you’re going to lose yourself. Or break down. Or disappear into the, I don’t know, the streets of Florence and never emerge again.
You see, I always thought that was going to be me. The forgettable youngest son, not the precious only child. I thought I’d be the one getting on the airplane to somewhere and fading into the world.
But I found an anchor. I don’t know if Madeline was yours. I don’t know if there’s a difference between a good anchor and a bad anchor. One keeps you in place, the other drags you down. I don’t know which one she was to you. I could never see inside your relationship. Or maybe I could and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to look in and see that you were actually in love, and happy.
And now I guess I got what I wanted.
So why do I feel like shit?
March 24, 1969
If I’m reading the itinerary your mother sent me correctly, you should be somewhere in Greece by now. (Or maybe just one of the islands? Her handwriting is a little hard to read in places.) Aimee says she says you’re doing well, though I wish I got reports through something other than the family grapevine.
She says she wants to plan something for your 30th but doesn’t know if you’ll be home by then. So I guess we’ll celebrate when you get back. Though if you wait too long, you’ll have to share your party with me. So, you know. Hurry back, I guess.
I worry about you there in Greece, all alone. That is, I don’t worry for your safety, not really. I do, but that seems less of a real concern. You’re still big enough that I bet most folks would think twice about messing with you. Can’t tell you how many times my skinny ass was grateful for that when we were kids.
Even still, I worry about you, alone. Before this, you never really had to be alone. You always had your mom, or your other friends, or me, and then you were married and you were a package deal. Couldn’t go anywhere without bringing her along, couldn’t stay anywhere if she was somewhere else. So I guess I understand this big “See the World!” adventure you’re out on. I’m not judging. Maybe if I was white, I’d have done it too.
But hey, at least you called before you left. At least I didn’t have to hear about it secondhand. Even if from a pay phone in the terminal as they called your flight would not have been my first choice, at least it wasn’t my last.
Maybe I’m just an idiot. A damn fool kid who had the bad sense to fall in love with his straight best friend. Sad stories like that are a dime a dozen, I don’t think there’s a homosexual out there who doesn’t have his own version. Which makes you realize there must be millions of straight men out there who never really know just how much they’re loved. Maybe if they did, the world would be a better place.
Or maybe they’d punch all of us just that much harder to make us stop.
Hope Greece is nice. Hope you’re having a good time. Wish you were here.
April 11, 1968
I got your postcard from Sicily
2 3 cans cream of mushroom
4/30, 5:15 AM
Just woke from the strangest dream. Will try to capture it before it goes.
Don’t remember how it started, doesn’t matter. I’m in a bed, on all fours, naked, not a stitch. In the dream, I know what this means: I’m about to get fucked. Hard as a rock. Cock just aching. I know I have to stay put, to be patient, but I can’t. I don’t know how long I’ve been waiting, but it’s been a long time. My ass slick and ready. Someone’s warmed me up, but not enough. I’m waiting for the main event.
I hear a sound behind me and don’t know who it is at first. Whoever it is, he’s here to fuck me. I hear footsteps and I moan. My skin’s on fire. I need to be touched. I’m ready to beg if he wants. Anything he wants, I’ll give it. I don’t know who he is, but I’m his.
But he’s not moving closer. He’s pacing, keeping his distance. I need to wait, he wants me to wait. But I can’t wait, so I turn to look.
He’s you. You from high school, gorgeous, naked, erect. Your cock just the way I remember from when you let me hold it, you let me touch it, you wouldn’t let me kiss it, but you want me to kiss it now. You’re standing there not saying anything, but I know what you want. You want me to suck you, swallow. I love it and you know I suck other men, and now you want me suck you. You want me to suck you down the back of my throat and bend over while you fuck me raw. You want to come inside me til I’m full, to give me everything I’ve dreamed about since fifteen.
And instead of begging, I say, “I can’t. I have a boyfriend.”
My dream self understood. You’re not Jorge. And Jorge’s not you.
I’m still so hard, though.
Maybe I need to wake him up and tell him too.
May 6, 1969
We’re going to buy a house together. Turns out he’d been wanting to for a while now, but didn’t know how to ask. We got to talking and it seems we both felt the same way about this place, like it was always going to be mostly his, and not actually mine. And that was fine for a while, back then, when I could go at any time, when we were both having our share of other lovers and hookups. All my clothes are still in “my room”, not his closet. We didn’t want to get too attached to something that was never supposed to be permanent anyway.
But we realized that it’s been almost a year since we’ve been with anyone but each other, and two since we’ve been with anyone without the other present. And maybe that’s not a real marriage like you’re thinking but maybe it’s also the closest men like us get.
So we’re going to buy a house together. We’re going this weekend to look at places. He knows a lesbian realtor who knows all the places that’ll sell to men like us. There are entire neighborhoods of homosexuals, he tells me, living and working near one another. Not just bars and bookstores, but businesses, cafes and hardware stores and radio stations. Even a church! A homosexual church, could you imagine telling my mother about such a thing? I don’t know if she’d die all over again or just be happy something might get me back to Jesus.
I’m so scared and excited. I wish I could tell you.
Hope you’re okay.
October 15, 1969
Dear Cal the Birthday Boy,
Happy 30th! Wherever in the world you are today, I hope you’re as happy as I am. I truly do.
January 9, 1970
How’s Pensacola? I bet you’re glad to be in Florida in the middle of winter instead of Connecticut
January 9, 1970
How’s Pensacola? Are you settling into your new place? Your mom must love the weather. I told Jorge your new address, and he says he’s made that drive before and you can do it in a day, so maybe we could
January 9, 1970
How’s Pensacola? I hope you and your mom are enjoying the warm Florida winter. I found your address in my road atlas and realized that we’re so far away. I could drive there in a day. Maybe I’ll come visit once you’ve settled in and are ready for guests.
I’d love to have you come visit too, when you get the chance. Jorge’s new house is closer to work and downtown but smaller, so there’s not a third bedroom like he had before. Still, he says you’re welcome to visit. You can have my room, and I can bunk up with him while you’re here.
like normal roommates
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
March 2, 1970
I rang you yesterday, but was surprised to hear a woman’s voice answer at your home! So surprised, in fact, that I didn’t think to ask who she was when I left a message. Is love in the air?
April 30, 1970
Dear Mrs. Dobson,
Thank you so much for the birthday cookies. It was very sweet of you to think of me. The lemon frosted ones were especially delicious.
I’m doing quite well, thank you for asking! I’m afraid I have to confirm what Calvin has said: yes, I do work too hard, and no, there’s no special lady in my life just now. You’re right that my mother did always worry about that, and I’m sure she’d be grateful to know you’re still looking out for me. However, I promise I’m not lonely! I am part of several civic organizations and I have started attending a new church recently, so maybe I will meet a nice girl who
June 29, 1970
On the plane back from San Francisco. It’s a red-eye and Jorge is asleep in the seat next to me. The friends we came with are rows ahead, and probably asleep too. I can’t sleep, though, and I can’t concentrate on anything else. So here I am, again, writing to you.
“Gay Freedom Day”. I keep running the phrase over and over in my head. My being gay has never meant freedom for me, not until standing there in Golden Gate Park with thousands of other homosexuals. The organizers called it a “gay-in”, like the love-ins. It was just about existing while gay in public spaces. Just holding hands! We held hands in public and weren’t afraid!
And it hurts a little to think I can’t share this with my best friend.
I know you’re not stupid. At least, I think you’re not stupid. I want to think you know. I’ve come so close to saying it on so many occasions. But each time there’s that fear — what if you don’t know? What if I’ve actually lied to you so much that you believe me? What if you find out and you’re disgusted? Or mad at me for not having trusted you in the first place?
I don’t want to lose you. Even if I feel like I’m losing you anyway. Bit by bit, we each become someone the other doesn’t recognize. I don’t tell you about loving Jorge. You don’t tell me about your problems with Madeline. We live in this quiet fiction of each other that we’ve agreed to believe, right until we can’t. I fear the only way you can abide my deviance is if we both pretend it’s not there.
I still love you and I always will. Maybe I’ll always be in love with you. Jorge doesn’t mind. He teases me about it, you know. Calls you my “real boyfriend” sometimes. Tells me, your real boyfriend called while you were at the store. And we laugh, because it’s as false as it is true.
I wish you could have been there, with all of us. Maybe you’re not one of us, but maybe it would have been a good thing for you to see. You could have seen me.
I should call you when I get back. We should talk. We have a lot to talk about.
November 10, 1972
I’m so sorry about your mother. She was such a great lady. She always looked out for me,
Look, I know we haven’t talked in
February 2, 1973
Long time no
February 5, 1973
Blessings on your new arrival!
February 7, 1973
Aimee called the other day and told me you and your w
February 19, 1973
Christ, I’m just sending a card
August 8, 1973
Dear Calvin and Kitty,
One of the girls Jorge and I work with
August 8, 1973
Dear Calvin and Kitty,
One of the girls at my work knits the most darling baby clothes as a side job. When she showed me this little pinafore she’d made, I knew little Elise would be just the cutest thing in it, so I had to get her a six-month birthday present. It may be a little large for her now, but that’s room to grow. I remember when my nieces and nephews were that age. They just sprout up like weeds!
I’m sure you’ve got your hands full taking care of her these days, but if you get a chance,
we’d love to hear from you.
December 29, 1973
Dear Calvin and Kitty,
Thank you so much for the wonderful Christmas card. What a perfect family you
January 26, 1974
Happy first birthday from your Uncle Freddy and Uncle Jorge!
January 26, 1974
Happy first birthday from your
April 22, 1974
I feel like I said it a hundred times while we were at lunch, but I just want to say one more time how wonderful it was that you, Kitty, and Elise were able to stop by on your way through town. Don’t tell any of my sisters I said this, but she’s about the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. With those big brown eyes and her little curls, it’s easy to see how she’s got both you and her mother wrapped around her little finger.
It was also so great to finally meet Kitty. You two seem very happy together. She’s very sweet and so good with Elise. I’m so glad your mother got to see you married and happy again before she passed. I know she’s smiling down from heaven on you and her little namesake.
Maybe next time Jorge can come too
September 1, 1974
Greetings from the firm’s newest junior partner!
The announcement came as a surprise to me — but not to Jorge. It turns out he’s been sitting tight on that for two months now! That man can keep a secret. Even when we were out in San Francisco at the end of June, he managed to keep it so I didn’t even know there was a secret to be had. He’s being incredibly smug, but I think he earned it.
Of course, a promotion like that means more responsibility! The whole firm is in the middle of a big case right now, and the senior partners want me to step up and take a bigger role in it. You know, to let me prove myself, and to make a statement, having the only black junior partner at the firm speak for the team. You see what I mean about responsibility. When it’s over, though, we’re going to celebrate, both my promotion and the case being done.
It would be great if you could come. I know you’re busy with work and being a father, of course, and that takes priority. But you could stay with us and meet some of our friends!
Calvin and Kitty Dobson
901 Maple Shade Ave.
Pensacola, FL 32522
and best wishes for 1975!
February 19, 1975
How’s the little princess doing? I hope the terrible twos aren’t off to too terrible of a start for you. How does she like that Nerf ball? All my sisters swear by them for their kids, especially the little ones. No danger of breaking anything, which I figure you’d appreciate. Do you remember the time we broke that lamp in Nana Jackson’s parlor? I guess it’s a sign of being in my mid-thirties that I now understand why she was so upset about it. (It was still an ugly lamp, though.)
I’m so grateful to hear that Kitty’s treatments are off to a good start. Her name’s permanently on the prayer list now at our church, and Jorge lights a candle for her every time he takes his grandmother to mass. So tell her if she feels strength coming to her from the west, that’s us.
And how are you? I’m always glad to hear you sounding cheerful when you call, but you know I worry. I want you to know you can call anytime. I’m not just saying that. Middle of the night, I’ve got the phone right by my bedside. Even if it’s just because you want me to read Elise a bedtime story. I hope she likes the Texas Law Review, though, because I’m fresh out of Dr. Seuss.
On second thought, it’ll probably put her to sleep as fast as it does me. Maybe I should get you a subscription for your birthday. I have to wonder how many subscribers aren’t attorneys, they just need help boring their children at bedtime.
Not much to tell around here, except that I’ve started painting again! I’m embarrassingly rusty, but it feels nice being creative again. I spend all day here in the office where everything is straight lines and black-and-white, then get to go home in the evenings to color. Jorge even set me up a little studio of sorts out on the back porch. It’s mostly just an easel and a comfortable chair, but I’m not fancy. If your house desperately needs a mediocre watercolor landscape to hang somewhere, let me know. I’ve got dozens by now.
Speaking of your house, we’ve been looking ahead to summer and thinking maybe we’d like to vacation this year in Florida. Jorge hasn’t been since his teens, and I somehow haven’t managed to get there at all. We’d love to swing by,
2/25 – Charles (Charlie) Delgado deposition
Hernandez v TX, US v State of TX, Hope v sec of Health, US v Lilley (?),
Hammets Hammonds v City of CC
pull Randalls settlement files
get all to Lizzie by Tues. p.m.
rep. by Alan Kissel, Markowitz & Hammersmith, Beaumont
April 28, 1975
Whatever, man. No matter how old I get, you’ll still be older.
Tell Elise thank you for the beautiful art, though. Clearly she’s entered her Crayola Realism Period. It looks just like an elephant. Or an acid trip. Toddler art is so subjective. I hope she’s not being too much of handful while Kitty’s in
June 10, 1975
How’s Kitty doing? Hope everything went well!
June 10, 1975
Tell Kitty that we’re thinking of her!
September 29, 1975
Don’t worry about having to cancel any of our calls! In fact, why don’t we make it from now on that you call me, and if I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you’re busy being the World’s Best Dad or World’s Best Husband, or both. You know when I’m around in the evenings, so call whenever. Even if you think we might be out. The firm just installed some answering machines. Maybe I should wait until after everyone’s left and steal one and bring it home. No one would notice, right?
I want you to know I understand. And I’m not just saying that. When Mom got sick, near the end when it got worst, she had a nurse, but only during the day. I was doing most of the caretaking over nights. It’s hard! Nobody knows how hard it is, unless they’ve had to do it themselves. I know what it feels like, just putting one foot in front of the other, doing one little thing so you can do something else right after, never having to focus on the real thing as long as you can just clean up one more mess, make one more trip to the laundromat, fix one more supper, help her to the bathroom one more time. Maybe it’s a good way to survive, but it feels in no way whatsoever like living.
Of course, I’m sure Kitty isn’t going to
November 9, 1975
I’m worried about you
March 20, 1976
Dear Cal and Kitty,
The tickets are booked! We’ll be on Eastern Flight 573, arriving at 4:15 on
Friday the 7th Friday the 6th August 6th is a Friday, I’m sure of it.
I may need to speak to that travel agent again
July 4, 1976
Happy birthday America!
Was going to sit down and write you before festivities started but Jorge declared Margaritas At Dawn (or really, brunch) because he’s Mexican and anyway Texas didn’t become a state until
1945 1845 and it’s all very complicated and
birthdays are hard
Anniversaries are hard too. Did you know Jorge and I have been together for
7 8 years? But it depends on how you count. That’s a lawyer thing right there, it depends, everything depends. Never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to. Do you count it when we first fucked? moved in? fell in love? It’s tricky, not knowing when things begin, not having a date. You get a date for ending things but not the start. When is our avnv anniversary? I don’t know. I buy him flowers every time I think of it so I don’t miss it by accident
I love him, Cal, I love him so much
I know you don’t I know you don’t want to hear about it but I do, I love him like my heart is going to burst, I wish you could too, you’re my best friend Cal, ever, and
I used to think I needed to be born different, that I came out broken, but I don’t think that now, I don’t think anybody’s broken we’re just different
maybe need a nap
Te amo, borracho ♥
September 8, 1976
I’ve forgotten to mention this the last two times I’ve talked to you, so I’m writing it down while I think about it, and if I forget to bring it up again tonight when we talk, I’ll send this tomorrow morning: My left brown loafer is still somewhere in your house, probably Elise’s closet, could you check?
November 12, 1976
The weather got so warm today I put on the pair of khakis and realized I hadn’t worn them since visiting when I stuck my hands in my pockets and they came away sandy. Also, a peppermint. I think I know who our culprit is. (It was wrapped, fortunately! So don’t send me a fifty-cent check for a dry-cleaning bill.)
I got that photo of the four of us framed for my desk, so now all my clients can ask, who’s the beautiful young couple standing on the boardwalk with those old queens? As I was looking at it the other day, though, I was looking at the photo of Elise next to it and realizing just how much she’s grown since it was taken. That picture is a picture of a baby, but what you’ve got on your hands is a genuine young lady. Who gave her permission to grow up so fast?
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have her in my life. Even if it’s only at a distance. I can’t say I did or didn’t ever want to become a father myself. It was just never an option, and not only because I barely remember my own. Once I knew what I was, I knew you couldn’t be that and a father. I can’t spend time thinking about what like would have been if I’d chosen other things. The road never taken, isn’t that how the poem goes? Something like that, anyway.
I like to think I’m good at being an uncle, though, even if I don’t get to do it nearly so often as I’d like. I caught myself thinking about how we haven’t had all us children together in the same room since Mom died. But since it seems like nobody’s missing that but me, I’ll keep it to myself.
That’s the thing about distance, where I can pretend that silence just means they’re too busy to talk, and not that they don’t want to. I can tell myself that they would love to talk to their baby brother, if they thought about it, if they had the time. I can tell myself they’d be happy to see me. I can pretend that they don’t know about me what I’m sure they know about me. I can pretend they’re sorry the only contact we get is when I send my nieces and nephews birthday money and they send me little thank-you notes like I’m someone they know.
I thank God every day for Elise, though, and for you and Kitty. We are blessed beyond measure that you have made space in your family for Jorge and me.
Ah, I’m just rambling again, pay no attention to me.
each new day
That’s YOUR way
Best wishes on your
third birthday! isn’t she 4 now?
Lots of love,
Uncle Freddy and Uncle Jorge
May 13, 1977
Hello from Miami, where I wish I felt like a noble crusader, but mostly I just feel tired. Got spat on today by a white woman with a very “Christian” sign. I’m sure she’s right with Jesus.
Jorge couldn’t come, so it’s just me here to consult. Well, to “consult”. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what good I’m doing here, other than looking respectable in a suit and carrying a briefcase. Some days that just has to be enough. Especially since “out” attorneys aren’t exactly a dime a dozen.
It’s amazing to me to see these kids, though. Most are under 25, so many are just teenagers. I got a few up front to the media to talk about how they got kicked out of their houses for being gay, talk about how this anti-discrimination ordinance helps make sure they don’t go homeless, hoping that might pull some heartstrings. At this point, it’s going to be a battle between the people who have sympathy with those kids and the people who think their parents did the right thing. I wish I liked our odds a little better.
The kids, though, they’re keeping me going. I see them and I can’t help wondering what things would have been like if we’d had that. Not that exactly, not getting kicked out of our homes. But just the idea that there was more to the world and life and love than we saw around us. I can’t imagine being their age and looking at the television and seeing someone say, on camera, that he’s gay or that she’s a lesbian, and they’re not ashamed of it, they’re proud of it.
For a long while there, I had no idea other homosexuals even existed except for me. No wonder I mistook you for one too
July 1, 1977
One of these years, we’ll manage to get you out here on the 4th! Until then, we
August. Jorge keeps making references to something you and he talked about
won’t tell me. Well, all right! I won’t stick my nose into whatever you two are
ridiculous old men.
Tell Kitty that I was thinking about her the other day, when I was in Dillard’s
scarf with little blossoms stitched all along the edge. I had to double-check
kind of thing she was talking about. Should I get one for her? I owe her for
gracious hostess. She looks so much brighter in the photos you sent from
can’t believe it. It’s been a long three years, hasn’t it?
The new house has its quirks, but we’re settling in just fine. Jorge even
gardening. Between that and his grill, I’ll never get him indoors again!
tomatoes and peppers. Oh, and he keeps threatening cilantro, which
soap. I’d ask you to talk some sense into him, but you’re just as bad
tastebuds. Leave room in your suitcase for all the jars of salsa next
San Francisco was great as always, even if it makes me keenly
older every year. I found my first white beard hair the other day,
considering what Uncle Bo looked like by the time he turned
forget? You’ll still look twenty when you’re sixty, you lucky
look better in blue jeans. At least I’ve got that going for
I’m just kidding, you know. I don’t actually mean I
Has Elise discovered Legos yet? My brother’s
never too early to start making plans for
the living room Christmas morning
unless you were going to, so
Jorge’s nieces, who only
the drama! Not my
When are you
[coffee stains render the right side and the rest of the text illegible]
December 20, 1977
You son of a gun, I know a pregnant woman when I see one! Tell Kitty that Christmas card photo is
A Get Well Message
You’re a very special person
So this wish is sent to you
That you’ll soon be up and out again
Feeling just like new!
See you on the beach this summer! You bring the bikini, we’ll bring the martinis!
All our love,
Freddy and Jorge
May 24, 1978
Christ, I don’t know what to say
June 18, 1978
I know it sounds hollow to say it was a lovely service, but it truly was. Kitty always looked so lovely in her yellow
July 5, 1978
If you’re not going to answer the phone, then I’ve got to hope you’re at least opening your mail
July 27, 1978
I know you’ve never been comfortable with the idea of faith, and I understand that, truly I do. However, during Sunday’s service, Rev. Lee put on my heart
August 4, 1978
It breaks my heart to think about
August 12, 1978
Of course I’ll come. Jorge and I both will. We even still have some moving boxes left in the garage, if that’ll help. He sprained his elbow last week playing racketball at the Y, but even if he’s not healed up by the time you find a new place, he’s capable of keeping track of Elise one-armed.
But I have to ask: Is staying in Pensacola really what you want?
August 27, 1978
I’ve been thinking about your call last weekend. Maybe I should have said something at the time, but I can’t stop thinking about how desperately alone you sounded. I can hear it through the smile you wear like it’s armor. Does it fool other people? Because it doesn’t fool me.
September 15, 1978
Remember the kindergarten I told you about, the one over by the art museum? I called today and they said they’ve got an opening. I can even put down a deposit so they’ll have to hold a spot for her.
September 15, 1978
You’re a great father, the kind I know we both wish we’d had. But there’s only so much you can manage on your own. We loved Kitty so much, but she wouldn’t want you to
September 16, 1978
Please don’t run away again.
I can tell you want to, maybe not to Thailand this time, or Peru or Sicily or Kenya, not with Elise to care for, so I’m afraid of where you’ll go instead. We both know you’ve never done well alone. I’m afraid you’re just going to run again into the arms of the nearest woman you find who’s willing to fill that gap.
You deserve love. I was so bitter about that for so long, and
maybe I didn’t always do the best job of hiding it. (No, if I’m being honest: I know I didn’t.) I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I didn’t mean it now. But you do, you deserve all the love in the world, no matter who it comes from. However, I don’t want you to settle for its nearest facsimile just because you’re scared of being alone.
I used to think you were the stable one and I was the one adrift. Then for a while it was the opposite. But maybe what we need is each other.
September 19, 1978
Why don’t you just come live with us?
September 25, 1978
I am writing this letter so I can read it to you over the phone and not chicken out mid-sentence. (A prepared statement before the court, if you will.)
Jorge and I have talked, and we think that you and Elise should move to Houston. More than that, you should move in with us. This is not just a polite offer. You two have been such a big part of our lives these past several years that it would be more of a hardship without you. The house is more than big enough for the both of you to join us, and I’ve already anxiously painted a garden’s worth of flowers on the third-floor bedroom’s walls. Jorge says you’ll make him mad if you make me waste all that time and paint.
You know we love Elise and would do anything for her. You’ve always been an amazing father and I know you’ve been doing a wonderful job on your own. But you don’t have to. Not when Elise has more people who love her and want to help her grow. Give her six months here and she’ll have every gay man in Houston eating out of her pretty little hand. (Jorge wants me to promise, not literally.)
But more than that, I love you, Cal. Maybe not always in ways we both understood, or were comfortable with, but I love you. And what’s more, I know you love me too. We’re more than just friends, you and I, and we have been for a long time. We’re family. We’re the longest relationship either of us has ever had. In many ways, we’re all we’ve got.
Once upon a time, you took a leap of faith and took care of me. Now let me take care of you.
So as planned, as soon as you tell us you’ve sold the house, we’ll be there the next day with boxes and a moving van. We’ll help you sort and pack everything, just like we said we would. And whatever you can’t do, we’ll do for you. We’ll make sure everything is in its right place.
But when we leave, we’re bringing you two with us. Bringing you home.
What do you say?
Today is your sixth birthday and the day we get to be the luckiest uncles in the world, because we get to have you and your dad come live with us.
We know you miss your mom and the little brother you never got to meet. We all miss them, your dad most of all. But we’re sure they’re looking down on you right now, along with your grandma, whose name you wear so well. We’ve put up pictures of them on your walls, and we’re going to tell you all about them all the time.
This is your house now too. You can change your room any way you want. You can paint the walls any color you want. You can grow whatever flowers you want. You can dress any way you want, and act any way you want, and love anyone you want. Our promise to you is that we’re going to help you become the best you that you can be. No matter who that person is, we love her already.
You’re too young to really understand this all now, but we’ll keep this letter for you. And when you’re ready, we’ll tell you the whole story as many times as you like.
Happy birthday, Elise. We’ve got lots of wonderful adventures ahead of us.
All our love,
and your Dear Old Dad