I was a junior at the local university, working towards a degree in psychology. During the summer prior to the fall term of my senior year I enrolled in a class entitled Practicum In Human Services. It was slated as a class which gave the student a first-hand experience working in the human service field.
Since I was planning on doing some type of therapeutic work with juveniles I was looking forward to taking my practicum at the juvenile residential center listed in the class prospectus.
The address said Thorndale Road, which was in a rural setting in the northern part of Maryland. When I made the right hand turn off of the main road I thought at first I had turned into a private lane. The road was narrow and paved only with crushed stone.
I drove for what seemed like a long time until I came to a blind turn in the road, which after maneuvering it, brought into view my destination. There were two fairly new, large homes on the property each of which I came to find out housed ten boys. I was assigned to the older of the two buildings, which was called by the boys, “the brown house,” because of its cedar shake shingles.
When I opened the door I was greeted by the head counselor, Amanda Warrington, who told me immediately to call her Mandy. She was a tall stocky African-American with short black hair and glasses for eyes, which I quickly learned said everything about her sooner than any spoken words.
We walked across the hall to her office, which we were to share for the summer. Most of the ten boys were outside playing half court, one on one, basketball, something which Mandy, who then excused herself and went outside, could beat them at almost every time. The other three boys who were not much younger then I sat in the living room watching television. I figured out from the photos in each boy’s folder who they were and after reading a little bit about each one went out to meet them.
They were certainly a very eclectic group sitting as a trio on the sofa, all three dressed in a distinctive version of the street kid they were.
They turned in unison and looked at me when I walked into the room. Two got up without saying a word and immediately went outside with the others.
The young man left had a look I knew all too well. Although handsome he reminded me so much of the street kids I saw downtown, standing on just about any corner of what was aptly named the gay ghetto, which was also the location of the university.
His name was Seth and as I have come to learn looks can be deceiving. From the information I read in his folder he was far from the “rough trade” I saw each day on my way to class. Instead he was the youngest son of Frank Garrison, a wealthy restaurateur, who preferred to be at his eatery then home with a seventeen year old who had showed up one to many times in the back of a police car after being caught shoplifting. Most of the arrests were at local stores whose owners were members like Frank of the local business association. The embarrassment at the monthly meetings had gotten to the point that no one spoke to him when he attended and ignored any suggestions he made. After Seth attempted to steal a Nintendo his father had enough and took Seth’s parole officer’s advice and sent him to this juvenile center.
Seth gave me the once over and then got up and introduced himself, in a way that made me wonder if he hadn’t practiced the life style his dress depicted. The way he stood his tattered shirt only went half way down his upper body exposing his fair skinned abdomen. His jeans were also very worn and slung so low that he was continually pulling them up to keep from exposing body parts he wasn’t sure I wanted to see.
I led the way back to my office and he quickly walked in front of me with his pants falling down to expose his butt like a bent over plumber. He made himself comfortable in the chair alongside of my desk, slouching down in a suggestive pose.
“So, Seth what’s been going on?”
“I can see by your dress you must be into Grunge.”
“No, not really.”
“Well then why the torn up cloths?”
There was no answer.
We sat there; Seth with his head down so as to not make eye contact, with the person he figured already knew the answer to his own question.
After a few silent minutes Seth raised his head and looked at me, “Why the questions about my clothes. I know you know the answer.”
“Yeah, I probably do. I just wanted to hear it from you, so I don’t get any wrong impressions.”
“I’ll tell you why! I’m queer and I’ll be eighteen soon and legal. Is that what you wanted to hear! Are you looking for a twink?”
“No, Seth I’m not. But I know what it’s like to grow up gay and I’m just here to show you it gets better.”
I wasn’t sure I should have told him that already but it just came out. I had a feeling someone was watching me and looked towards the door to see Mandy.
“Excuse us Seth, I need to talk to your counselor.”
Her eyes had that look I was going to see often.
“You did all right. Just like being gay it does get better.”