View from the Inside
By Lizabeth S. Tucker
"This is Mark McCormick." That's how Judge Hardcastle always introduces me to his friends, never explaining further. I can see the strange looks on their faces, the appraising glances at Hardcastle and then at me. I know what they're wondering, the conclusion they come to about us. I mean, I probably would've, too, considering our age differences and the very different backgrounds we have. I sometimes wonder if the Judge catches those looks, the smug smiles.
I've gotta admit, after the first nervous moments, his friends have always accepted me, even if they do think we're getting it on. God, that's crude, isn't it?
I was so scared the first night I came home with the Judge, thinking the old geezer was looking for some young stud from prison, a guy who was used to male/male relationships. Now, it's a common enough practice in prison, especially with long-timers, but I always managed to talk my way out of it. I was the prison clown, the hustler who took bets for the inmates on pro-games and managed to get them to bookies on the outside, the kid who never cheated anyone on their wins. Anything and everything to stay on the really dangerous guys' good sides, if they had one. Always joking, I was, and terrified for every minute of my two years inside. San Quentin was hard time and I was determined to survive it.
Yeah, I was scared and angry and grieving over Flip's death that night, but with that first abnormal game of one-on-one, I began to realize that the Judge, who I had hated for my whole time inside, was a regular guy, normal in every sense of the word. Hold it, let me rephrase that. Hardcase isn't normal, but he certainly wasn't what I expected and definitely wasn't after my beautiful bod.
I ran into an old buddy last year, and he asked me if the Judge and I were close. I knew what he meant, but I deliberately misunderstood him to see his reaction. I know I was surprised what he said when I told him that while Hardcase and I were friends, close friends, that was all. "Just friends? You mean, he never…you aren't…"
It was funny. I've never seen Jake at a loss for words before. But he did make me think about it. It hadn't crossed my mind since that first night, despite reminders when a new cop friend of the Judge's checked me over, or an old school buddy hemmed and hawed about my presence, whether the talks were private or not. I watched the old donkey, how he handled himself. I saw his concern for what I thought, how I felt, whether I was happy. He really cares about me, I thought.
If I did have relations with Hardcastle, it would be like incest, ya know? He's been more of a father to me than Sonny, or Flip, or the various racers I looked up to as a kid. Flip came closest to filling that need inside me, but Flip Johnson was a kid at heart and we were more like brothers than father and son. I was older than my years in many ways, from being on my own. Flip was always on the lookout for the latest scheme to make money.
By the time I got out of prison the second time, courtesy of Judge Hardcastle, I was dead inside, the childlike nature frozen. Or so I thought. Now that I'm with someone who cares, a man who looks out for my best interests, I find myself free to play the kid. And Hardcastle encourages me, shamelessly.
Could I ever feel that way about Hardcase? Nah, not in this life. Nope, wouldn't work. We are tied together somehow, so maybe it happened in another life if you believe in that reincarnation stuff. For this one, I content myself with the fact that I love you, Milt. I really do love you, in thousands of ways I can't begin to explain to you. Just not that way. And I know, deep in my heart, that it won't change, hasn't changed in millions of years. Oh, we'll spend time at each other's throats, that's inevitable. Two strong-willed people living in the same house, well, almost the same house, makes it impossible not to fight. We're both stubborn as mules, though I'd never admit it to him. But even the fighting is fun. It makes me aware there's someone who cares about me, cares enough to buck my tendency to take the easy way out.
So, I'll brave the looks of speculation and amusement and even those of disgust, few as they surprisingly are, 'cause being with Hardcastle is worth it.
They don't make 'em like that anymore.
A/N: Originally published in Zines My Father Sold Me in 1985.