Hello, Gentle Reader. You’ll have to forgive me for posting two moderately unhappy posts in two days, but I’m on the verge of one of, what my very dear Miss E. termed long ago, “bouts” again. I struggle with a number of mental issues; they run in the family; pay no attention to them, if you please. I just feel that they will probably colour the tone of the next few posts. Or few dozen; it’s hard to tell.
You have all, of course, heard me go on about my grand amour, the Ex-Husband. We’ll get to him in a moment. While I like to say, for simplicity’s sake, that we’ve been together for ten years, in truth we’ve broken up more times than there are stars in the sky. While my love for him is enduring, he is not the only person with whom I have been in love. I would like to talk about the three times I have, foolishly, fallen.
J. came into my life during a very tumultuous period. I was sixteen, freshly out of the closet, and he represented the apex of masculinity, for good or ill. If Plato had envisioned an ideal Red-Blooded American Man, it would have been J. He began dating my best friend at the time, A., and the three of us did everything together. At first, I insisted on walking two paces behind and a pace to the left, as a chaperone ought – I was a bit peculiar. Despite the fact that J. ought to have been blatantly homophobic, and irritated by my constant presence, we became very close. I was terrified of straight boys at the time (I still am, a bit), and he – he was kind to an overly-emotional train-wreck. He taught me to fire and clean a rifle, to fish, to drive; he once picked me up from jail. We were constantly camping, hiking, and so on. One evening, as the three of us lay in bed (not in that sense; we were having a movie night at my folk’s house; I was still in high school), I began sobbing. I was too crazy, too broken, too anything to be able to be accepted by anyone, ever, in any capacity. I swore that I would never be touched, by anyone, again. At that moment, he released A. from his arms, and took me in them. I plunged, headlong, into a love I had no right to.
When J. and A. broke up, he apologized to me for leaving her on my doorstep; he had met another woman. I could never look at him in the same way again. He and I had gotten contracts to work at a cannery in Alaska, which we fulfilled, and he and R. soon wed; he got me a job working concrete with him for a number of years after that, and I counted him a good friend, loving him a little less each year. We drifted out of eachother’s lives – he had children, I’m a degenerate old rake, and those things don’t mix. This fall, his vehement opposition to Washington’s gay marriage law erased the last vestiges of affection I held for him – I’ll spare the details of how, precisely, he referred to people like me. Kindness, the reason I had ever loved him, was not involved.
You must understand that, while I loved J. when I met the Ex-Husband, I was perfectly at liberty to love another; J. and I were never more than friends. We were uncomfortably close for his girlfriend, and for his straight, male friends, but that’s another matter.
I met the ex-husband in my senior year of high school. I had been browbeaten by the counselor to sign up for a P.E. class, without which I couldn’t graduate; I held that it was unfair to everyone if I should share a locker room with objects of lust – everyone would be uncomfortable, and I would meet a bad, and bloody end. We compromised; I was to change in one of the bathroom stalls. Now, bear in mind that I’ve always had body issues, and while I was in much better shape than I’d ever been in my life, having just lost forty pounds over summer, I still detested having my shirt off, at all, ever, for any reason, even when I was alone. Naturally, I was enrolled in a course that involved swimming. I was huddled, towel wrapped toga-like over as much of my torso as I could cover, quivering like a sodden kitten in a storm. I felt a touch at my shoulder, and this gorgeous, dark young man with full goth eye-makeup sits beside me, and -surprisingly perkily- asks me if I’m alright. I tend to be closed-mouthed with my emotions, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He insisted that I join him, and his group, in the pool, and after the class was over, he walked me to lunch. Our hands brushed, and I felt an electric jolt throughout my entire body. I swear that that is actually literal, and not just hyperbolic metaphor – we later discussed it, and he felt something similar. While probably just static discharge, I was instantly smitten. I’ll spare the details of how and when we’ve quarreled – and we have quarreled many times, over many years, but I have never fallen out of love with that man. Circumstances have placed us in different spheres, now, and he’s happily engaged to a wonderful lady, but we still plan on growing old together.
A few years ago, when I was first coming to grips with the fact that I – I! – might have some sort of mental illness to cope with, I had to make a very difficult decision. In order for Ex-Husband to be happy, he dated many girls (we had an odd arrangement at that time, known as the Romantic Friendship – think Stein and Toklas), and the jealousy would just set off one trigger after another, causing discord in what was otherwise a fairly gentle period in our lives. I told him, for both our sakes, our prospects, our present and future happiness, that we could never communicate again. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. He accepted it with good grace – though a phone call the next night showed it to be a lie – and while it was difficult for both of us, ultimately, I think it was a very healthy time. The events I am about to disclose occurred during the months following; it was the nadir of my life, and I was an absolute mess. I can’t count the days where I’d lie on the floor, cradling an undershirt he’d left behind, drinking vast quantities of champagne.
Enter A., the young man from a few posts ago with the detestable, forgettable girlfriend. I still can’t be having with her treatment of him. A. was – is, I suppose – a friend of mine’s younger brother’s best friend. She started bringing the boys around our social circle, and they were captivated by the eccentric jewel of an old sinner that I was. I was between jobs, squandering my savings on baubles, booze, and tobacco, being seen in the best venues, trying to plaster a veneer of bright, glittering LIFE! over the remains of my heart and head – how could they not be drawn in? They were both a fresh-faced nineteen, and I was unlike anyone they had ever met before.
Now, I detest driving, as you know, and A. was trying to achieve his driver’s license. Seeing as I’d just taken driving back up when the Ex-Husband and I parted ways, I was glad to help teach A. to drive, in return for him driving me around. We began to spend nearly every waking moment together, which alienated his girlfriend, I daresay. However, it was entirely his choice. After his license was attained, we continued spending our time together; he held me while I sobbed over my beloved, I held him while he cried over his deceased brother. The time we spent together, the time he invested to help me put my soul back together, slowly caused me to feel a singular devotion, a devotion that I recognized as presaging that familiar condition – love. I cursed my rotten luck – I was a scoundrel, a madman, and I drank too damned much. Not to mention the fact that the boy was nineteen! I tried to distance myself; he would have none of it.
Thus, I came to plan what would be a magical day, and an evening that was an intoxicant all by itself. I knew what all his favourite things were, you see. He was so bright-eyed when he spoke of Seattle – he thought of it as another realm, like Narnia. Everyone knows that the Space Needle is the jewel in the crown known as the Seattle skyline – I made dinner reservations. A. would become full of wonder at the thought of Christmas; he loved dressing up in sharp suits. All was in readiness – he was terribly excited. There was just one problem – I had moral qualms about trying to spectacularly woo the boy, fulfill all his ideals, without telling him why I was lavishing so much attention upon him. Gratitude played its part, of course, but I had to confess.
We remained friends, of course, but distantly, broken, as is right and proper. It didn’t sting as badly as with the Ex-Husband. It helped me put things in perspective. Things were clearly never the same, but there was a distance, an obstacle between us, that I was unaccustomed to. In certain ways, this clash hurt worst of all – it hadn’t happened organically; I had forced the moment to its crisis. For a time, I indulged in certain debaucheries, to assuage what was left of my soul. Predictably, it didn’t.