Brother Love Ch. 03byqhml1©
Deb never really got my sense of humor. When she found out my real name was Love, she got bitchy.
"Why did you say your name was Silversmith?"
"Because I always liked the name. Sometimes I'm Goldberg. Sometimes I'm Jones. It's just a game."
"You're a little off, you know that, right?"
I had to agree with her. Elsa taught me that, playing games.
"Sometimes you have to be someone else to be yourself."
It took me years to understand what that really meant.
Julie came to me six days before our show debuted,
expressing some of her concerns.
"You can't just go out and talk for an hour without breaks, it won't work."
"Why not? Isn't that what I set out to do, talk?"
"Yes and no. You're getting a lot of buzz on campus, thanks to a viral campaign Josh and Amy started. We're the gamer, Facebook, Youtube, Iphone generation. We can absorb large amounts of information, in short doses. After about fifteen minutes our mind starts to wander. True for older people, but it usually takes five or ten minutes longer. You have to take a break every once in a while, to give people time to digest what you've been saying."
I thought about it.
"Excellent point. I'm sure you have a suggestion, say what's on your mind."
"Well, on commercial talk shows, you have commercials. We don't have that. so what about a musical guest? They could come on, play a song or two every twenty minutes. It might even boost viewership?"
I frowned, it sounded more commercial than I liked.
"What would this cost?"
"Nothing, most will do it for exposure. You don't even have to plug them on the show, just mention a link on your website where they can go and see them perform."
"Do you have someone in mind?"
"Already got them lined up. A duo, folk and blues, some originals. I thought it would be best to start with, light, nonthreatening, upbeat. Would you like to see them play? Sarah and I will take you, let them meet you and see if it's something they might be interested in. They're at The Grind, that coffeehouse over on Flint Street tomorrow."
The whole crew went, including Carlos, Ed, and their wives.
Two girls, playing under the name Dirty Blond. Mostly pop stuff. Nancy Griffin, Natalie Merchant, Melissa Ethridge, they even did an Adele song. They were technically good but not remarkable. I think they they could tell I wasn't impressed and asked if I had any requests.
"Not really. I'm into older stuff, thanks to a great aunt who had a tremendous record collection.
Play something from last century."
I heard them whispering as they returned to the stage.
"We're going to play something now we haven't done in a while. It's sort of a request. Brother Love, this is for you.
I knew it instantly. Uncle's John Band, the great song from the Grateful Dead, done in the Indigo Girls version. Unbidden, tears came to my eyes.
It was one of Elsa's all time favorites. She sang it constantly in her soft soprano. She taught me the words when I was twelve, so we could sing it together, while she played guitar. If my greatuncle was home, he would chime in on the chorus from wherever he was in the house.
It made me an official, card carrying Deadhead. I had all their work on cd and later on my mp3. My friends just used it to reaffirm their opinion that I was a little strange.
As much as I loved the song, when I heard the Indigo Girls do it, it blew me away. They were really big into Lilith Fair then, lesbian power to the max. I did not care. It was still good music.
I played their version for her, and she really liked it.
"It's good to hear their music again, being carried forward to a new generation."
She was actually friends with the band, from her days in San Francisco. She would talk about it sometimes, if a song sparked a memory. She had pictures, lots of pictures from all phases of her life. There was one of her and Jerry Garcia, hugging and laughing, obviously at a concert somewhere.
"They were good guys, most of the time. Phil had a bit of a temper, and when they got into drugs they could be irritating at times, but when they played, it was magic. They would put aside the pettiness and anger, and let the music flow. They once did a sixteen minute version of Uncle John's Band at the Winter Palace that left a lot of the crowd in tears."
I made sure it got played at her funeral. Both versions. I also had them play "Miss Me When I'm Gone" at the very end.
Finally, the night of the show had arrived. We had a little meeting with the guests, just to lay ground rules.
"Say what you feel. We'll be on a eight second delay, just to make sure no profanity slips out. We'll probably leave in the 'damns', but anything else is a no no. We'll introduce you, give a little background, but we won't be using any last names. This is for your protection. Everyone understand? Good."
"I can't thank you enough for doing this. If you're uncomfortable at any time, stop. I'll go to someone else."
"One more thing, we have musical guests, and we're in a closed studio. Even with the crew, that's only ten people. So please, applaud after they play. Like you, no one is getting paid, and I'm sure they'll appreciate it."
"We have water and soft drinks available, if you'd like something, help yourself. Ready?"
I shook every hand, and went to my desk.
Taking several deep breaths, I nodded at Sarah. I was as ready as I'd ever be.
She started talking in my earbud.
"Show time. Camera one, in four, three, two, GO!"
I looked at the camera and smiled.
"Good evening. I hope everyone has had a good week. This is our very first full length show, and we appreciate you investing your time with us. I hope we entertain you. I hope you learn something."
"I apologize ahead of time, I'll probably screw up sometime during the show. I have good people working with me to keep me on the straight and narrow. In fact, before we get into the topic for tonight, I'd like to introduce them."
This caught them all by surprise. I hoped they could get used to it.
"Carlos, show them Sarah. She's my producer/director. She's the one who'll maintain continuity, make sure I don't stumble too badly, or generally make an ass of myself."
Carlos panned to Sarah, in jeans and a tee, wearing a headset and holding a clipboard. She had the deer in headlights look before she gave a little wave.
"Manning the computers, my researchers and technical staff, Josh and Amber."
They were prepared, so they smiled and waved.
"Carlos, show them Ed, then I want Ed to show you. These are the guys that run the cameras."
They showed each other, smiling and waving.
"One more. I know she's here somewhere. Julie, come on out. This is our business manager. I didn't even know I was in business until she came on board. Have to render unto Caesar and so forth."
She actually had on a nice dress, but wasn't really smiling. You'll get used to it, I thought.
"So there they are, the group that is aiding me in my journey. I want to say right now, anything said or done on this show, is my responsibility alone. So if you have issues, direct them at me and leave the rest alone."
"Before I forget, we have some musical guests, Dirty Blond. They're really good, I think you will enjoy them. We have a link to our website if you're interested, that will show their upcoming performances as well as booking information."
"And while this show about sex, it isn't about the actual act. I think everyone has a basic grasp of what that is. It's about the emotions involved, the personal views of our guests. I can't remember who said it, but the biggest sexual organ a person had is the mind."
"Now, off we go."
The nun, Sister Angela, wanted to know if we could start with a prayer. I stunned everyone by saying I thought it was a good idea.
So the first three minutes of the show saw me, the guests, my crew, and the girls from Dirty Blond, as well as a guy they brought along, standing in a circle holding hands while she prayed.
She asked for guidance, she asked for understanding, and she ended it by asking God to bless me and what I was attempting to do.
We all took our seats and I thanked her.
"Let me introduce everyone, give you a brief background."
"This is Sister Angela, of Holy Trinity over on Fourth. When the call went out for guests, I was frankly surprised when she answered. We sent each other a few emails, followed by a call, and here she is."
Sister Angela smiled and waved. She was tall, wearing a navy skirt and a white blouse, with the standard head covering of a nun. She wore a small gold cross. I asked, she was forty two.
"Beside her we have Mary and Harvey, married forty eight years next week. I hope you join me in wishing them an early Happy Anniversary.
He was midheight, with a little belly and a bald head. She was about the same size, with jet black hair and a leaner body. She looked pretty good to be seventy one.
"Next we have Joe. He's single, by his own admission an unrepentant sex addict."
He smiled and waved. Thirty four years old, he wore a nice suit, was physically fit, could be considered handsome.
"Just past Joe is Mike, a student at the local university."
Twenty three, with a brush cut and weight lifters' body. He had an open, happy face. He looked like your neighbors' kid.
"Finally we have Shannon, just recently graduated from high school."
The only black person in the room, she had the optimism of youth on her side. Petite at just five feet, she was curved very nicely. Joe almost drooled on her when we met before the start of the show. She was a virgin.
Light skinned, the blush was obvious when I introduced her.
"Well, there you have them. A happily married couple of many years, a sex addict, a virgin, a nun, and an average guy. Who better qualified?"
"Let's start with a definition of sex. According to Wikipedia, and the American Standard Dictionary, the word sex is generic and has many definitions, but for the purposes of this show we all know we're talking about the actual act, intercourse if you will."
"The Wikipedia definition is pretty straight forward. Sexual intercourse, also known as coitus or copulation, it the act of inserting a penis into a vagina for reproduction or simple gratification."
"A bit oversimplified but direct. And before we go any farther, this is about standard heterosexual sex. Gays, lesbians, polygamists, S&M practitioners, etc., you'll all have a chance to speak your mind, but it will be another show. But sex is sex, no matter how you practice it, so I hope we all can walk away with something of value from this show."
"Since Joe is an admitted sex addict, let's start with him. Since it's about sex, when was your first sexual encounter?"
The camera zoomed in on his face when he started talking.
"I don't want to say exactly, but it was way before the legal age. I think it had a lot to do with how I turned out. I was a kid, and she wasn't."
"But she was very good, from years of practice, no doubt. She taught me just about everything I know. If she didn't, she shared me with a few of her friends to round out my education."
Harvey was frowning.
"That sounds a lot like statutory rape to me."
Joe paused thinking.
"It probably was, but realistically, it was anything but rape. I was more than willing. I'm surprised we didn't get caught. It kind of ruined me in high school. Here I was surrounded by all these silly girls, and I had experienced mature women. I hardly dated in high school, the thrill just wasn't there."
I stopped him to ask a question.
"If that's true, and your sex drive is as high as you say, what did you do for relief?"
My 'friend' and her cohorts kept me steadily supplied. I was basically a teen gigolo. I would tell my parents I was doing chores to earn money, and off I would go. They gave me gifts, clothes, one even bought me a car. Of course it had to stay at her house, my parents could never know. And they were always slipping me money, sometimes as much as five hundred."
Sister Angela looked askance, and I nodded.
"If all this was true, how did you do in relationships in your adult years?"
For the first time his smile slipped.
"Not well. I married once. I loved her deeply, I just couldn't keep it in my pants. She was right to divorce me. It's because of her I learned I was a sex addict. It came out in counseling. We've been divorced for seven years. I doubt I'll ever love again like I loved her."
"Have you had any serious relationships since your marriage?" I asked, genuinely curious.
Again the look of sadness crossed his face.
"Twice, for about four months each time. That seems to be my fidelity limit. I told them about me beforehand, but they were both convinced their love would be enough to change me. I wish it had been."
"Excuse me for asking, but isn't that lifestyle kind of dangerous?"
He looked over, and frowned.
"Yes it is young lady. I don't recommend my lifestyle to anyone. I've had four different STDs, two of them at the same time. I'm basically gambling with my life, and the odds aren't in my favor."
Mary, quiet until now, burst out suddenly.
"Then why on earth do you risk it? Do you want to die?"
"No, I don't. If you've never had an addiction, it's hard to describe. It's similar to gambling, or drug use. You know it's wrong, you know it's bad for you, but it gives you such a rush you keep doing it."
His face became enraptured.
"I've bedded women of every race and size. Some were beauties, some not so much, but I loved them all. The tastes, the textures, the variety of skills and enthusiasm, fuel my hunger."
"And I always try to leave them satisfied. Not bragging, but I've learned things. I'm a very accomplished lover. Believe it or not, part of the gratification is giving them the best experience I can."
He seemed to draw into himself, talked out for the time being.
Sister Angela went next.
"I haven't always been a nun. I was married once, to a kind and handsome man. Had a daughter, a beautiful child."
"If you were to look at me then, you'd think I had it all. The perfect family. A husband so successful I never had to work."
"And it was perfect, for almost twelve years. I got restless, bored with the life everyone thought was so perfect."
"As he got more successful, we had to move twice. He worked a lot of hours making sure we had everything we wanted. His promotions just kept coming."
"I fell in with a group of women similar to me. When I expressed my boredom they laughed, telling me about their lovers, their spa visits that were nothing short of drug fueled orgies. I let myself get sucked right in. I partied, I did drugs. And eventually, I was unfaithful. Once I crossed that threshold I couldn't stop."
"I need to tell you now, I loved my husband deeply. But I was alone so much. I started neglecting things, missing appointments, ignoring my child. When it got really bad I would forget to pick her up from her private school. It finally got bad enough that my husband did an intervention."
"He sent me to detox, three times. It never worked because I didn't want it to work. Finally, he had me followed and documented. The divorce was quick, but very public because he named names. There were six divorces in our little group."
"I got a good settlement and three years of alimony, but I wasn't allowed to see my daughter unless I could furnish a clean drug test."
"I moved in with another divorced woman from our group. We partied hard until the money ran out."
"When you've got a habit and no money, it doesn't take long before a woman becomes desperate and starts doing favors. I got deeper and deeper in, until my dealer sold me to a pimp."
"It was not a pleasant experience. He was too cheap to spend money keeping us drugged up. He would give us a taste every once in a while, then beat us to keep us in line."
The screen changed to a photo of a woman's back. You could plainly see the evidence of beatings, heavy scars and discolored areas.
"That's me, taken four days ago. I've been away from him for four years, and you can still see the damage."
There was a collective gasp from the group.
"How did you get away?" asked Shannon in a trembling voice.
"I didn't, child. One of my johns gave me some pills and a bottle of cheap vodka. I took the pills and guzzled down the bottle. When I didn't bring him his money, my pimp came looking for me. Thinking I was dead, he threw me into a dumpster behind a restaurant. I was barely alive four hours later when the guys on the sanitation truck found me."
"They thought I was dead at first. So did the cops. It was the medical examiner who figured out I was still alive."
"I survived. I was in rehab, physical and mental, for almost a year."
"Not to belabor a point, but I found God in that dumpster. After I was released, I entered a convent. I took my final vows two years ago."
"I didn't mean to get off point here, I just wanted to set the scene. As a former practitioner of the second oldest profession in the world, I feel qualified to speak on the subject. I've probably had sex with hundreds of men. This far removed, they're all just a blur now, but a few stand out for size or cruelty."
"Despite all that, I remember what it was like with my husband when we were young. Physically I don't miss sex, but emotionally, when I think about him, I sometimes cry over the memories."
"And that's what I wanted to add to this discussion. Sex should be a physical expression of love, a bonding that only two should share. When it happens, it's almost magical. Although my religion doesn't condone it, I still understand physical needs, so I'm not too hard on kids I counsel from time to time. I just stress that without love and commitment, it's just exercise."
She sat back, talked out. Shannon spoke up in a small voice.
"Thank you for sharing that. I've got a couple of questions, if you're up to answering them. Do you have contact with your child? Did your husband ever forgive you? And how in the world did you avoid diseases?"
Sister Angela looked up, tears plainly in her eyes.
"I didn't avoid them, young lady. I caught almost all of them, including Hepatitis C. My immune system was considerable damaged by my lifestyle.
My doctor won't give me an estimate, but I figure I'm only good for five or six more years. Then I'll get to go home."
"I don't know if it's because I'm sick, or the amount of time that's gone by, or the Grace of God, but my exhusband forgave me. I got to see my daughter graduate from college last year. He's been remarried for years. She calls her Mom, as she should. But she calls me every month, and visits as often as she can. I count my blessings."
It was a good time to take a break, so I introduced the band, and passed out tissues, making a mental note to make sure I kept a couple boxes on the table and desk.
They played Uncle John's Band, but it seemed sadder to me somehow. I led the applause when they were done.
"Who's next?" I asked. No one stepped up so I asked the older married couple about their life.
"Forty eight years. Quite a record. Not a lot of couples this day and time reach that milestone. What kept you going strong?"
Mary reached out and took Harvey by the hand.
"Stubborness, I guess. I can't bear the thought of him leaving me first, so we're trying to outlive each other. We were young, in our teens when we married. We were both virgins and had no idea what to do."