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    AC Benus
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 43. Carter Newman Bealer “Draw the curtains, Malcolm, will you?” “Certainly, Malcolm.”

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“Draw the curtains, Malcolm, will you?” “Certainly, Malcolm.”

 

Thursday, 15 September 1921 (Lexington, Virginia)

Back to school. Lansing Tower followed me to my room to use my whisk broom, shoe brush, hair-brush, and mirror. He is changed – dressed up in a gray-checkered suit of fashionable style, with the mental outlook of a man of society. His conversation was of girls, dancing, and cars. The damn fool makes me positively sick with his affectations. He insisted I study physics with him, on his schedule he has set up. He and I bought a pint of corn liquor; dividing it. It cost $3.50 and a quarter to Howard for getting it.

 

Wednesday, 5 October 1921 (Lexington, Virginia)

At the post office I found the following letter, which pleased and surprised me:

Dear Mr. [Bealer]:

You have been elected and are hereby invited to become a member of The Sesame, of Sigma Upsilon Fraternity. Please notify us of your acceptance by speaking to the local secretary or writing him about the matter. The initiation will be held in Dr. Shannon’s office Friday night, the 14th of October, at 7 p.m.

Sigma Upsilon is an honor literary fraternity limited to twelve active members. I showed the letter to Lansing. He already belongs. It means something to me to belong.

 

Wednesday, 12 October 1921 (Lexington, Virginia)

Earl Podboy, with his grammarless language, was discoursing about some trivial matter. What a hell of a place this is, with these yokels and their tawdry talk. I wanted gentlemen, culture, elegance. Brushing through the bunch, I started off for the library. “Where ya going?” […]

One of the Brisbane twins joined me as I returned from the library. I can’t tell which twin is which. One, presumably Tommy, but possibly Malcolm, smiles at me in physics class. This one walked with me to my room and sat on the bed talking. A nice-looking boy with pink skin, dimples in clear-complected cheeks, and dark hair combed straight back.

 

Friday, 18 November 1921 (Lexington, Virginia)

With the Brisbane twins on a walk. Near the bridge, a company of gray-clad cadets on horseback. Mountains ahead of us, hazy in the sunshine. Bare trees. A man ploughing. By the river in a thicket we took off our clothing, though not shirts and vests, and in the chilly air one twin and I engaged in lovemaking, with the other watching, though not dispassionately. Then the other twin had his turn. A little man with a red-headed wife passed nearby, both with fishing gear. On the other side of the river, a yellow dog was caught on the cliff, unable to go up or go down. He whined and moaned piteously. Two hunters whistled and called the dog.

Afterward, the twins and I sat on a rock, gazing at the river. A flock of noisy crows flew over our heads. I got up reluctantly when the twins suggested going home. We rode back to school with a black man driving a motortruck full of sand. At the covered bridge, four fresh-faced cadets with surveying apparatus scrambled over the rocks.

 

Wednesday, 18 January 1922 (Lexington, Virginia)

Out walking with the Brisbane twins on muddy roads. They both had on a pair of those sporty white-and-tan shoes. We went down to the boat house and gamboled somewhat. Returning home, skylarking on the road, we popped green-jointed pliant reeds so the water squirted from the stalks into one another’s faces, and made and threw snowballs, and tossed walnuts, and performed exercises remembered from physical education classes. We laughed a great deal. I have begun to tell those cavorting cherubs apart. The first says: “Malcolm?” The other: “Yes, Malcolm?” Then, “Draw the curtains, Malcolm, will you?” “Certainly, Malcolm.” “Thanks, Tom.” “You’re welcome, Tommy.” Malcolm is the handsomer one. I still can’t identify them in what could be called personal circumstances. My sense of lacking a real relationship is accentuated when the curtains are drawn, the room darkened, by not having the most basic information—the identity of the boy in my arms. “It doesn’t matter,” they say, and they seem to mean it.

Sporty White-and-tan shoes. Almost the only drawing found in fifty years’ worth of diaries accompanies this entry. [Carter's] tiny, charming cartoon shows a saddle shoe. [Note – Ina Russell]

 

Friday, 31 March 1922 (Lexington. Virginia)

The first ball game of the season. It had begun raining, but not hard. I sat with Tommy and Malcolm in the grandstand. Love is a curious thing. I genuinely love the twins yet if I never saw them again I wouldn’t think a thing of it. Baine Howard came over and made a few remarks, though we had never spoken before. I watched students streaming up through the gate, and saw the one I call “Jean Christophe,” bareheaded with his hair smoothed down by the rain. His raincoat was slung carelessly about his shoulders, giving him an air of graceful insouciance. Little Walton sat alone with no protection from the rain. I might as well be in love with the stars as all these bonny lads.

 

Sunday, 21 May 1922 (Lexington, Virginia)

Baine Howard came up to my room. He was lying on the bed and I sat beside him. He was very affectionate . . . Later I went with Tommy and Malcolm to go swimming. It was hot walking with the sun on our backs. A lad about fifteen joined us on the road and accompanied us to the boat-house. He was coarsely dressed, but had gentle ways and a curious sleepy expression about the eyes. I fell in love with him. He undressed and put on his bathing suit but didn’t go in because of the complaints Tommy made of the coldness of the water.

I hesitated long and then jumped in. I hadn’t realized that the current was so swift. Before I knew it, I was some distance from the landing, and struggled, and then decided to drift with the current and land farther down on the bank. Malcolm too was having a hard time getting back. Tommy dived from the rock but didn’t go far out.

[Later,] I looked at my little “Absalom” (l have given him that name, in accordance with my custom), sitting on the step, then dressed with the others. Dreams of Absalom on the walk back – living with him as my little comrade, loving him, teaching him, and fathering him.

Those childish roughnecks, the fraternity boys, had torn up and wrecked Tommy and Malcolm’s room in our absence. The twins were furious. I helped them clean it up.

—Carter Newman Bealer,[i]

diary entries, 1921-22

 

 

 

 

 


[i] “Draw the curtains, Malcolm, will you?” “Certainly, Malcolm.” Carter Newman Bealer, a selection for his 5-decades-long journal, Jeb and Dash: A Diary of Gay Life 1918-1945 [Ina Russell, Editor] (Boston 1993), ps. 43-47

https://archive.org/details/jebdashdiaryofga0000alex/page/42/mode/2up

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Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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It is the absorbing, daily, ordinariness of his affection for Malcom and Tom that stands out to me. They’re young men enjoying each other, and their college lives - and it appears that not much is hidden in shame. There is a golden, sunlit cast to these entries. 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

5 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

It is the absorbing, daily, ordinariness of his affection for Malcom and Tom that stands out to me. They’re young men enjoying each other, and their college lives - and it appears that not much is hidden in shame. There is a golden, sunlit cast to these entries. 

Yes, Parker, you are right. All of Carter's entries are the living, breathing refutation that Gay men were shame-faced in this era (or even that they lived very secret lives). Carter is the Pepys of the early 20th century Washington D.C., and his diaries are now safe at the Smithsonian (thanks to the efforts of his niece Ina Russell to keep them together and promote their content).

Thanks for reading and commenting :)

Edited by AC Benus
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