Rastus lived here. The white door on the left at the end of the hallway was the entrance to his bedroom.
There was a time when Lenox the landlord rented this house out only to ‘family’– other gay people. Too much drama and too many missed rent payments from party gay people caused him to rent out to heterosexuals. Not too long ago, this was a house of homos.
I never asked Shawn about his roommate, Rastus or the other gay people who lived here. I assumed Rastus was just another one of Lenox’s gay tenants. In New York City, it’s common for gays and lesbians to live as roommates and for gay landlords to choose gay tenants. To visitors of this place, It seemed that Shawn and Rastus were gay roommates– nothing more.
The brownstone was too wild for my tastes in homes. Music was always blasting, from all three floors. I never dreamed I’d end up here, in this formerly, gay halfway house. Shawn and Rastus had mutual respect for each other as living partners; staying out of the way, and giving up the living room when guests stopped by.
I was Shawn’s guest almost every night. I’d see Rastus step quickly out of his room into the bathroom, directly across the hallway from where he slept and listened to a radio. He was cute in just a house coat. He said hello a few times, but quickly went away, leaving Shawn and me in the living room to cuddle closely on the sofa, watching the Matrix on VHS over and over again, rolling on E pills.
It was only after Shawn died that got to know Rastus. Although Rastus moved out several weeks before Shawn passed away and I moved in, he stopped by after hearing that Shawn was gone to tell me how sorry he was. He ran into Lenox at a gay bar in Bed-Stuy who told him the news.
“Shawn was such a good man, Charles. Do you know how I met him?”
“No. I always meant to ask him, but never did. We were always making love, as you may have already known.”
“Oh yes. I heard you guys fuckin’ in the living room all the time. Well, I met Shawn on the subway. I was homeless at the time. He invited me to come live with him. He wanted only $500 a month in cash with no security deposit. He trusted me and didn’t even know me. I’ll never forget that. He changed my life.”
“You were a homeless gay man as handsome as you are?”
“Oh yes. Addicted and wanting to recover. Do you want to know something? I managed to stop when I moved in here. I stopped smoking crack like that. I didn’t want another gay party lover to spoil me with unlimited rugs. I wanted to change. I was tired of sleeping on the subway.”
Shawn was addicted to crack once too. He spent six years in a Los Angeles prison for dealing it. Perhaps he felt pity for Rastus and let him move in, knowing what it’s like to be down and out in Bed-Stuy. I thought for one brief moment that perhaps Shawn was smoking crack again with his roommate.
“Are you still smoking?”
“No I stopped. What I tell you is the truth. He pulled me out of the gutter. It was the most horrible time of my life, sleeping on the train like that. They police started arresting us the homeless. They sent us to prison for days for simply being homeless. It was horrible. I had nowhere to turn. Shawn saved me. And I’m clean now. Shawn was a very special man, Charles. I think he was a god.”
“So do I. I believe he was Jesus,” I explained to Rastus, who somehow, briefly, believed it too. I could see it in his eyes.
“I’m a Buddhist, Charles, and I don’t think he was Jesus– someone like that perhaps, but not Jesus. You’re acting a little crazy now that Shawn has died. Take it easy. Why not go home and visit your family? You don’t look so good.”
Rastus helped himself to what was left of Shawn’s E pills. We went out clubbing. I couldn’t imagine being high on the drug again without having Shawn here to rub.
We took the A train to a gay club in mid-town. He shared a little more of his life as we sat in the car that once served as his bed.
“I was going to be a trans-gender,” he explained. “Had tits and everything.”
“You must be joking. You’re so butch.”
“Nope. It’s the honest to God’s truth. But I got on crack and forgot about it and woke up a man again.”
“What will you do now?”
“What do you think?”
“You Buddhists are nuts!”
The club was great. We came home together and had sex. He was the top. I never saw him again, but I was thankful for what the he-she told me about my dead lover. I never realized he would do such a thing– bring a homeless person home to give them somewhere safe to sleep.
Perhaps Shawn just was smoking crack again, who knows. But I believed what Rastus told me about Shawn having reached the Christ Consciousness on our way home from the gay club that night. It was a Buddhist concept he tossed at me like a rock hard Black cock, soon after we finished having sex. Suddenly I believed in reincarnation.