This was a long time back—in the 1970s, when Provincetown was still one of the only places you could go to be yourself. I was in college in Boston, and I was still pretty much in the closet. I know I used to go to Dignity services, and I can’t even remember where, now, what church it was at—that was the only place or time when I dared be openly gay in town. But Provincetown was something else! The first time I ever went there, I’ll admit, I was a little dazed. It was a hot day in the summer and everything seemed just a little brighter than usual. I went to the A-House that night and danced until they closed.
I didn’t even have a car back then; the first time I went to Ptown, I took the bus. That seemed safe. Anonymous. But then someone told me about the ferry, and said, man, don’t wait until you get here to start partying, the party starts on the boat! So my second trip, I took the ferry. And I loved every minute of it. It felt like our boat, our space. I got on board in what I used to think of as my straight clothes, and the first thing I did was change into something outrageous. Then I’d get my first drink.
I can be honest: I wasn’t much into relationships then. In fact, I hadn’t had any! I’d had some anonymous sex with some men and that was enough to affirm to me that I was gay, that that was what I wanted; but like I said, it was anonymous. But on the ferry, I met my first fling. I won’t call it a relationship because it only lasted a few days, but it was a definite step up from what I’d experienced before.
I knew this guy was eyeing me the minute I came out of the restroom. I had lime-green shorts on, they were kind of hard to miss. And he was hard to miss! He was a real dreamboat. I use that term on purpose, too: the rock group Heart was singing Dreamboat Annie all that summer on the radio, and I just replaced the name. He was Dreamboat Henry.
It was immediate attraction. We were making out on the ferry before we even had really introduced ourselves to each other. And—well, we spent three days together. Inseparable. There was sex but there was more, too: we went to a drag show and we ate at restaurants and we even (I know, cliché alert) walked hand-in-hand on the beach. Henry was staying for a week, but I had to get back, though I can’t remember why now. We didn’t pretend we’d stay in touch, nothing like that. But I’ll admit that I cried on the ferry trip home. I’d had something substantive for the first time. I guess you’d call it a fling! I don’t know if he knew just how important that was to me.