How strange to know that J.D. Salinger is dead now. I guess everyone is gonna say it this week, but me too. Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey changed my life. Not so much because I recognized myself in them but because they blew wide open my notion of what art could be. I had never imagined that art could be so sad and puzzling. I loved the Glass family because they were so fucked up.
For a few weeks or months around 1990, I dated a guy whose name was Tommy Glass. I never knew much about him, never met his friends or family, and I imagined that he was one of Salinger's Glasses, maybe a child of one of the Glass siblings.
I met Tommy in the Ramble in Central Park. He was movie star handsome, tall and dark-haired with a bitter sense of humor. We didn't have sex in the park but passed each other as we were both leaving and he flashed me a smile. He invited me home. He lived in his grandmother's apartment on the Upper West Side. I'm not sure where the grandmother was, but the apartment was still filled with her things, dark antique furniture and damask curtains, doilies.
We never went out anywhere when we got together. I met him at his apartment, we had sex, and then we ate ice cream in bed. Edie's, back when it was a local brand. He was aggressive in bed, talked about opera a lot, didn't have a job as far as I could tell.
He didn't call for a few weeks once, and then he did, and he told me that he had joined SCA (Sexual Compulsives Anonymous). His sponsor told him that because he had met me in a public cruising spot, he should stop seeing me. But he said we could get together again if we met somewhere besides his apartment, like say a restaurant, so that our meeting was not just for sex. We could then go to his apartment and make out, but we had to stop short of actual sex. It was sort of a reenactment of the beginning of our relationship, this time more chaste.
So we met at the coffee shop on his corner, had a quick coffee or bowl of soup or something, then went up to his apartment. The only rule (according to him) was that we couldn't take off our underwear. Which really just made it hotter. Seriously, try it some time. And then ice cream.
Every time I left his apartment, he would walk me downstairs. (He had impeccable manners.) But if I started to step out on to the stoop, he would pull me back into the vestibule to kiss me goodbye. I didn't for a long time understand why he was doing this, but then I realized that he was afraid for us to be seen kissing. I found it irritating. I was very Queer Nation back then. I started to take longer and longer to return his calls, and eventually he stopped calling.
Months later, one morning when I was running to the corner for cigarettes and milk, stinky and bleary-eyed, I ran smack into him on the sidewalk. His black hair was combed straight back, his teeth were bright white, his blue eyes sparkled, he was every bit as sexy as ever. He was with a friend, they'd come downtown for brunch. He was exuberant, thrilled to see me, and told me that he had just been accepted to Tulane law school and was moving to New Orleans in a few weeks.
I wished him good luck. He grabbed me and kissed me long and hard on the mouth, right there on First Avenue on a Saturday morning, and then he walked away with his friend and I stood there with my pint of milk and pack of Marlboro Lights.
I google Tommy Glass every once in a while, but as you can imagine it's a pretty common name.