Best Gay Friend

Lots of us hetero girls start out with crushes on our best gay friend. I was no exception. I had a massive crush on my friend Jon but it didn’t outlast the friendship. In fact I knew it was silly and ill advised and it was just a phase I got over. I was never upset he put me in the friend zone- it was as it should be. Jon also had a crush on my boyfriend at the time which made things interesting, it was also something I was not overly worried about. We all just knew where things were because we were painfully honest about all of it.
In spite and maybe because of our crushes, we managed to form a tight friendship that stood the test of all the ugly things we were going through as teenagers.
I met Jon at Rocky Horror, he played Frank though he was about as wrong physically for the role as he could be. It didn’t matter. We loved him so. And he was the most fun. One whole summer, we spent every day together, going to the drive in, hanging out at the airport, walking the mall. And in the winter, his parents threw him out of the house he lived in. His dad never accepted that his son was gay.
Jon got a car with no plates on it and lived in it that winter, along with my boyfriend. He would drive to pick me up every day and we would just spend the day together just doing whatever teenagers do. Hanging out in the central west end, ordering coffee and soda and taking up a booth all day long. At night, they would take me home late and I would sleep in my bed while they would find a place to park where they wouldn’t be bothered.
We spent the days in deep conversation about all the things we cared about and wanted to be. We talked about stupid things, about important things. About growing up with abusive fathers.
For a while, Jon shared an apartment with a girl down on the south side and we all ended up crashing there. I ran away for a few months and we all lived there til we got kicked out.
My best memory was planning our birthdays together. Jon’s birthday was May 6 and mine is May 12. I was turning 16 and he was turning 17 so we planned a party at my house. I took the bus to Clayton one day and bought this elaborate cake at Lake Forest Bakery.
Half of it said “Happy birthday Vanessa – sweet sixteen ”
His half said “Happy birthday Jon– 17 BS 4711”
which was a kind of a sideways reference to the tattoo Tim Curry had when he played Frank.
My mom was not happy about the rowdy party that followed with spiked punch and loud friends. But we had fun and it was over before midnight because we all went to Rocky.
When I was 17, I moved in with my boyfriend (it didn’t end well but that is another story) and somehow, we lost touch with Jon. I got pregnant before the end of the year and once I had the baby, I pretty much was abandoned by most of my friends. With Jon, I just don’t know what happened. Sometimes we are close for a long time and then things change.
He was going through his own struggle. I spent two years of my life with him as one of my best friends. And at some point I found out he had AIDS and that he had died. This was long after I had gone looking for him and had failed to find him. This was one of those rumors, but it is probably true.
During the times that Jon got repeatedly kicked out of his house, he had been making money by being a male prostitute. There was always some gross guy to be serviced in the park back then, and it was pretty much the only way as no one wanted to hire him. Jon was a good kid. I wonder who he would have grown up to be and who he would have been today.
I still miss him in that wistful way and I never forget his birthday, which is today. Happy birthday, Jon. I still love you.

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