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I had been a musician and singer for many years with family, church groups and friends.
I was proficient in 5 or 6 instruments and really enjoyed singing harmony parts and very clear, high leads.
I had worked on the Opry with an artist after being a teacher of music, in a local music store for a duration of roughly 10 years.
I had a lot of patience and could convey thought easily to others all my life.
It was a natural thing for me as I related to people on different levels of their mindset and personality.
I was very friendly and had never met a stranger, even as a child.
I remember running into a big black lady's arms when I was 3 years old, and that was something a white child didn't do in those days, but I was fearless and free from any inhibitions or discriminations.
She hugged me and told my mom as she tried to pry me away, "this here is my baby boy."
My mom told her she would bring me back in 5 minutes flat after she saw how aggravating and mischievous I could be.
I knew I was different even at a young age, and was attracted to men more than women.
That didn't mean I didn't like them, but it seemed I had more comradery with men.
I was sexually assaulted by a neighbor when I was about 4 or 5 .
It was nothing too serious other than oral copulation, but it opened the door of exploration, as most kids sometimes do out of curiosity.
It doesn't mean they are deviant, or perverted one way or the other, it is just a phase of curiosity and discovery of our bodies with accompanying feelings.
I liked what I saw and felt for some reason, so I was drawn to men even more after that experience.
I had other covert explorations with certain older relatives and other neighbor's kids until I was about 10.
I never was the one to initiate anything, with anyone.
Maybe the other kids talked, maybe it was just something they saw in me, I don't know, but it just seemed to happen.
I stopped that completely, by distancing myself from those kinds of behaviors and remained in a celibate state of mind until I was 17 or so.
I dated a couple of girls after that, giving into the peer pressure, and like most other young men, lost my virginity with a girl.
It was on the third time I had sex with a girl, when the switch flipped and I knew I was really different.
Part of it was the growing pressure and expectations in that involvement, and for me, the smell was not a pleasant one at all.
I backed away, taking the blame for that failure after a lot of thought about my part in that life experience.
I decided that if the relationship kept going, sooner or later I would get myself and someone else in trouble, thus possibly bringing another life into this already scary scenario.
I took the blame, guilt, anger, and responsibility seriously one day, and ran, knowing that I would be in the wrong and unnecessarily hurt a lot of people by my own lustful and selfish actions.
This didn't have to be, and I made the conscious choice not to let it happen.
I am sure my parents were wondering about the sudden shift as I began to concentrate more and more on my musical abilities, then becoming more introverted.
I worked, slept, stayed home and out of trouble, but still had a lot of friends.
In the back of my mind I knew who I was, but refused to act on it, as I felt more pressure and guilt, with the possibility that it would bring shame, thus reflect back on my parents.
This wasn't about them, it was about me and I chose to do the right thing in that respect.
I lost my mom in 1984 and in 1989, I lost my dad.
I came to realize at that point, as I looked at my other siblings, they had a life, with children of their own as a family unit.
I had no one but me and I was in a rut with my life, in a routine that no longer was in need.
It was time for me to take care of me, become who I really was and I realized it in that moment.
I had cared for my mom until she died, my dad had remarried and moved off, leaving me alone when I was 24 years old.
The fact was, that I had always been alone, even living with him in what seemed like isolation, my whole life, as we were really different people.
I think he was scared of me when he figured out my preference, around the age of 4 years.
He had accused me of messing around with my friends while I lived by myself, but that never happened and I never gave it thought.
I was pure hearted, considerate only of others and innocent until he died.
I forgave him of the abuse while he was on his death bed, as he realized that he had cheated himself out of a relationship, with the only chance to appreciate and really know me, as a young man.
I had changed so much that he didn't even recognize me when I stood beside the bed in the hospital room.
That was a sad realization on his part and touched my heart, as I gave it a lot of thought while standing at his bedside.
He had a hard struggle telling me that he had loved me.
I had even more of a struggle telling him that love, isn't mistreating, abusing and degrading another person, regardless I let go of those feelings
Ignorance is bliss for some folks.
I had a psychic friend, I had known since I was 16 years old, so I decided to visit out of curiosity one day, to see what she had to say.
She had told me a lot about my life in the past, regarding changes that were coming in my work and life.
She asked me about my music career and then mentioned a young man that would be around a couple of other men by name, describing them in detail.
She then told me about loosing weight and body building with another man that I met 2 weeks later, exactly as I was told.
I worked out with this man for about 2 years , changing my body shape, enhancing muscle and structure.
I was a nice looking young man back then, thanks to that friend, and green as I could be about the gay scene and lifestyle.
I had started working at the gym the same time I was working the Opry.
My boss and everyone else seemed to think I was gay, but I had never done anything to give them any proof of such an accusation.
I even had a few guys at the gym hit on me and expose themselves to me in the dressing room, but my workout partner took care of that with one conversation.
He had been married 3 times the duration of our partnership as a workout team.
He was a womanizer and was often curious about me.
I never got too close with him other than workouts and going backstage with me from time to time with his girlfriend.
We were like brothers in every sense of the word and I loved him like one.
People at the gym thought we were brothers, then rumors that we were lovers started, and I use to laugh about that because we did look a lot alike.
I did discover after working out with him, that he was possibly bisexual, so I quit laughing about the teasing, and accepted that as fact anyway.
Nothing really changed with our relationship, and it was never mentioned.
One day I was reading the paper, noticing the ads for single men looking.
I didn't have any gay friends, so I was wondering about that lifestyle and how they met.
I was discreet about my curiosity and had met only a couple of guys that I was sure of at the gym.
They told me I should meet other guys and see if that was what I was into.
I thought about it more and more, then I answered a couple of ads.
I got 2 calls the next week and was overwhelmed with the prissy flamey voice of one guy, as I answered the phone.
I quickly got off the phone thinking, I had dodged the bullet.
Then the other guy called and he sounded a lot like me, masculine, very much a gentleman and down to earth.
I gave this more thought and agreed to meet for pizza one night.
The meeting went well as we talked about family and friends, along with our professions.
We decided to go to the mall and look around, and as we were in a store, my friend put his arm on my shoulder.
I looked at him and just reacted.
I was not a touchy, feely type person at that time and I decided it was time for me to go home.
I said my good night as I went to my car with him trailing along right behind me, asking what he did wrong.
I told him, it was nothing, it was me and I just needed to get home and had to go.
I told him we would talk later.
I drove off leaving him standing in the parking lot, looking like he lost a puppy.
I had not been home 5 minutes until the phone rang, then I heard his voice on the other end asking what he did wrong and apologizing for upsetting me.
I finally got him off the phone and sat down in my comfortable bear sized chair, asking myself, "what have I got myself into now?"
The next week he called me a few times and I reluctantly agreed to go to dinner at his apartment, so as to meet some of his friends.
When I got there, I remembered my psychic friend telling me about this and it hit me ,as this was the man she mentioned by name.
When I saw the other friend, there was no doubt as she had also mentioned this guy by name as well, with a perfect description of him.
A week later, I met the ex who she had also mentioned by name, and got the whole story about my new friend, Mike.
It seems that Mike met that guy in Memphis and fell for him, so he moved to Nashville to be with him, only to find he had a partner already when he got here.
There was no plans to break that relationship, and the guy wanted both of them in his bed.
That just didn't work out, so Mike dated other people after he settled into an apartment.
After a couple of dates, and placing the ad, he ran into me.
Until then, nothing had happened between me and my new friend except friendship.
That night he wanted to know why I was so distant and not curious.
I replied that the friendship was enough right now, and I was in no hurry to jump into anything with anyone as I didn't know much about how the gay mechanics worked in the relationship.
Mike came over beside me and hugged up to me, very closely.
It was then another one of those times, I had to get home in my own space, so I did.
Much to my surprise, he followed me home out of curiosity, and wanted me to come back with him.
After a lot of persuading, I agreed to come visit the next day and called it a night for the time being.
The next evening, we went out to eat and drove around the city.
I saw a few places that I didn't know existed, and it should have been an indicator of Mike's experience in the gay world, but it wasn't.
I don't think I cared at the time and was too consumed by the moment.
It seemed to be moving along really quickly, for my level of comfort.
I had accepted him as a friend and didn't worry about how anything else unfolded in my level of comfort, as I became more and more conditioned to where everything was leading.
One evening after a good 8 weeks, he got close to me again and pinned me down on the floor to kiss me.
I was scared and trembling, but not freaking out like the first few times he got close.
He noticed and asked why I was trembling and shaking.
I replied that " I had never been kissed by a man before."
I felt like everything was moving way too fast, as he asked me if we could explore each other to see if he may have a problem with me in that area.
I should have known that sooner or later this moment was going to become a reality.
He had shown me the HIV test results a week before and he was negative.
That night is when he told me that gay men have anal sex like a man and a woman do with a penis and vagina.
I told him I thought that would be painful as the out hole don't receive something going back in it, by natural design.
I thought gay men did oral things and other manipulations for pleasure.
I told him I thought that a person could bust a gut or tear a hole in the colon or something, couldn't they?
He told me that it was painful the first time, but if a man relaxed it would not hurt as bad.
There were lubricants that had pain killers in them if it was needed.
He told me the best thing to do is void and clean out the area before activity.
He then took his pants down and out flopped this thing that looked like a dead catfish, and as the inhibitions broke, I did the same thing.
I told him he wasn't normal looking for his size at all.
He then took me to the bedroom and told me that I could be as oral as I wanted to.
I was a little taken back, but we were excited enough, that right then and there, I realized the plumbing worked well however, the wires were crossed in the normal sense of sexual conduct, at least the way a girl would see it.
We were both oral and touchy in moments of foreplay.
He tried penetration, just enough to hurt as he climaxed, telling me that he didn't want anyone but me and to be true to him only.
I went to the bathroom and noticed a little bit of blood swirling around in the ceramic bowl as it went away.
I didn't want to stay with him, as I had a lot of mixed feelings in that moment including guilt, fear, shame and doubt.
All kinds of thoughts run through my head as I went home that night.
I wrote that date on the calendar ... November the 11th.
I listened to a love song on the radio that next afternoon, and I heard it entirely different, than I ever had before.
I understood its meaning more and wondered if this was some kind of omen.
Had I found the truth about myself?
I went back to his apartment the next weekend and we went out to eat, he then took me to a gay bar after dinner.
I had never been in one before and didn't know what to expect, nor the reason why we were going, other than to expand my horizons.
We went in the door and there were men all over the place who stopped what they were doing to get a look at me.
They looked at me like I was a piece of candy as I began to shake a little inside and I didn't like that feeling very much.
As he took me through the crowd, there were some guys he pointed out to me that he had dated.
They took one look at us together and their noses went up in the air as they seemed to be upset and began glaring at me and then Mike.
He left me alone and went to the bar to get a drink, when this guy that looked like a cowboy began talking to me, smiling and asking me how I was that evening.
Mike came back over with the drink and looked at the guy, then rudely told him "buzz off cowboy."
I had no clue the cowboy wanted to pick me up, as I was thinking to myself, I must seem like easy prey.
The guys Mike pointed out to me didn't want to talk to me or him, and I never really "Got it."
He was showing me off to them, and I didn't have a clue because I was so occupied noticing the other men looking at me, my ass and build, then each other.
I could feel the lustful stares and chemistry in the air that night from 20 feet away.
If I had been a used car, I just knew one of them would have come over and kicked my tires.
The crowd got thick and it was hard getting through the doors on the way out, when someone grabbed my ass, not once, but a couple of times.
It seemed to me they were indeed going to kick my tires and check out the trunk space.
I was shaking and really got in a hurry trotting, then almost trampling through the crowd to an opening of some kind, hopefully away from that place.
I knew at that moment, I didn't belong there.
Mike took me back to his apartment and lay beside me on the couch.
I was almost drunk and carefree, watching a riverboat going around the Cumberland river, shining its search light out on the water and at times into the apartment window, illuminating a lude sexual act in progress.
That night he went all the way with me and I had trouble walking the next morning.
The pain was so intense that I screamed several times into the pillow.
Then with turn about being fair play ... he screamed a couple of times into the pillow as well.
I had never experienced such a pain of pleasure as the grunts and screams were muffled into the soft down pillow, as rows of sweat beads flowed across each other's foreheads.
I had indeed discovered the truth of my preference.
I had never been around a man before, that just set me off like a rocket by touch and thought, leaving spots in my underwear all the way through to my jeans.
I was always safe wearing camoflauge pants.
Being with a woman never had that effect on me, as I remembered those past experiences.
Excerpted from Playing My Heartstrings by Terry Hampton Copyright © 2011 by Terry Hampton. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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