There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
October 28, 1918
Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Va.
There is a chill smack of winter in the air. In the morning the bugle blows at the unearthly hour of six, and twelve minutes later we are expected to form outside beneath the starlit sky….
After classes we drilled on the athletic field. The sun was a blood-red ball showing through the fog. When we broke ranks, Poole wrestled in the ghostly fog with a pale-eyed freshman from Company C. The boy looked like a god, thrillingly beautiful. He got a good hold on Poole and wrestled him to the ground. Poole cried out, laughing, “All right, Dasham—all right!” The boy straddled him, and seemed about to whisper in Poole’s ear, but Poole didn’t like that and they stood up.
Tonight I asked Poole who the boy was. He looked displeased. “Oh, that one! I don’t like his sort.” I said, “But you were laughing—” He said, “At first I was.” I asked again. Poole stared at me, and then told me, “If you have your reason you want to know, his name is C.C. Dasham, he hails from Mississippi…and I hope, Alexander, that he isn’t your kind.”
From September 1918 through May 1922, Jeb was enrolled at Washington & Lee University. He spent his summers in D.C., where he worked in his father’s grocery business and lived with his parents. Unwilling to reveal his homosexuality to his family, he familiarized himself with popular gay “cruising” spots in the city.
July 19, 1920
At the Municipal Beach the sun shone across the water into my eyes. I waded into the cool ticklish water and plunged forward, delighting to strongly bear my body across the water. Then my enthusiasm vanished. Nobody paid attention to me; all were shouting and frolicking….In all the great city I have not one friend. Those who might be my friends, who are capable of giving me companionship, are hidden away from me, buried in the crowds.
August 25, 1920
I have at last found a friend, a lovable, handsome fellow, a realization of the friend I have dreamed of during all those lonely nights while I walked alone through the streets. Above all, our friendship is mutual. It has burst into full blossom like a glowing, beautiful flower. It happened like this: I went to Lafayette Square and found a seat in the deep shade of the big beech. It is the best bench in the park. A youth sat down beside me, a youth in a green suit with a blue dotted tie….He wants to become a diplomat, but is devoted to music. Earlier tonight he had been singing at the Episcopalian Church, and is taking vocal lessons. His name is Randall Hare.
We strolled down to the Ellipse, where we sat affectionately together on a dim bench. Later we came to rest on the moon-misted lawns near the Monument. With an excess of nervous caution I gazed about, watching for some prowling figure. “We are safe,” Randall whispered. And he was right….Afterward, we lay close together and gazed at the stars above, becoming fast friends, exchanging confidences.
September 12, 1920
On this day I realized complete disillusionment. My “friendship” with Randall Hare was a fabrication! Friendship indeed! We went to Washington Cathedral. As we left the beautiful open-air service and strolled together across the lawns, we had an unpleasant exchange with some rudeness on his part. I became somewhat stammering. Randall said scornfully, “What have you been believing? Did you think that when I wasn’t with you I was singing?”….He leaned back looking disgusted. “If I wanted a clinging vine I’d find—a woman.” End of my friendship with him!
August 25, 1921
The anniversary of my first experience of love and its consummation with Randall Hare. To observe the anniversary I went to Lafayette Square. Sat on the self-same bench, the Wishing Bench under the beech tree. How well I recall the ecstasy of that dewy moonlit night, the knowledge (as I thought then) that I had at last found the friend I had so long looked for. Later I sat near “Nighthawk” ‘s bench. He was there, attired in a dark suit….
Whenever I glanced at Nighthawk he looked in the other direction. When he looked at me I turned my head away, and that seemed to make him look at me oftener. On my way home, I saw a fellow I had an adventure with last month. He looked slim and fluffy-haired, strolling along beside a short dark companion. I pretended not to notice him, though I should have spoken had he been alone.
August 27, 1921
A good-looking youth sat down on the next bench. He made a beckoning motion with his foot. I repeated the motion. He got up and walked slowly away, glancing back. I followed. He sat down near a bed of flowers behind the Wishing Bench. I asked for a match, just to open the conversation. We sat talking, then strolled down past the White House offices, around the Ellipse and across the Monument lot. It was a lovely night. Behind the Bureau of Engraving we passed the greenhouses and slipped through a hedge. There seemed to be few people or cars. We lay in the shadow of the hedge, facing the moon-silvered lawn, fretted with trees casting dark shadows. The experience was exquisite, but later as we walked down the street, the dear lad was remorseful and conscience-stricken. When we parted I walked up the Avenue with a feeling of detachment and exhilaration. The artist’s life is the only life.
Upon graduation, Jeb continued to live with his parents; his father hoped that he would continue in the grocery business, but Jeb had other plans and sought a government job.
June 27, 1922
Up at ten after Mama’s irritating call up the stairs, “You oughtn’t be lying around!—it’s lazy.”….Thank heaven I don’t have to spend the summer with her. She and Dad will be up at Cape Cod until November. When I went downstairs, Mama told me that while they are in Cape Cod the house is to be rented to Italians attached to the Embassy. I asked, “But if you rent the house to the Italians, what will happen to me?” She said, “You’ll take a room at the YMCA.” [The YMCA, at which single young men could live, was then at 1736 G St. NW.] I sat down at the table. “Really?”
September 9, 1922
Say it is Saturday and nothing more is necessary. My youth is being wasted in slavery and desperation. At night, tired and wretched, I smoked a Fatima in the chilly, almost deserted realms of Lafayette Square, a farewell to the season. Along came a person with crudely high collar and curly hair and it was Randall Hare. He went over to a boy in bi-colored sport shoes. Across the street in the White House, Mrs. Harding was lying near death, but here in the square, life went on oblivious of her. Poor simple woman—the world will wag on and never miss her. Gradually Sport-Shoe-Boy seemed to thaw. He and Randall were getting along nicely, so I came away. Everything is black and hopeless.
March 19, 1923
After rainstorms I heard in dreams through the night, a gray morning broke into vivid sunlight as I started toward my first day as a Government Editorial Clerk. Good-bye to the grocery business, with its stench of rotten potatoes! Up to the new offices. From my window I have a view to the Potomac, blue and misty, winding past the War College among the hazy hills….
Mrs. Utott put me to work editing contracts. Ye Gods! What fantastic sentence structure! I could have written a dozen sentences of my own while I was twisting into decent form the words of some hazy-headed officer. After work I walked out joyously into the polar air. Around the Ellipse, past the Monument, around the gray and tortured waters of the Basin, past the dismal shuttered bath house and the beach, and across the bridge in the teeth of the bitter wind. I was warm and refreshed when I returned to my room. At night, wanting a celebration, I drifted into the Strand [the Strand Theater, 401 9th St. NW]. I no longer ignore the fact that one of the theater’s attractions is the same that Lafayette Square has in summer, that is, the opportunity for amorous intrigue with other males.
April 14, 1923
It occurred to me today with something of a shock how horrible it would be for this diary of mine to be pawed over and read unsympathetically after I am dead, by those incapable of understanding, who would be filled with disgust and astonishment and think of me as a poor demented wretch, a neurotic or a madman who was better off dead. And then the thought of the one thing even more dreadful and terrible than that—for the diary never to be read by the one person who would or could understand.
June 6, 1923
To Lafayette Square. Sat listening to radio concerts from in front of the White House. A spectacled idiot of forty-five flopped down on my bench and tried to make conversation but I got rid of him. Three bitches sat opposite and seemed interested. They got on my nerves. They sat and sat. I moved over to the Wishing Bench. That damn plain-clothes man, the one I call “the Sneak,” strutted up and down staring at everybody until I got disgusted and left. The idiot might as well wear a uniform if he is going to act like that.
Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: William L. Brown.