The other night I had a dream, so simple that a blind man could see where it was going.
I am in my car in New Jersey and while the details are scarce, clearly I am on my way to meet a man – a gay man. I turn onto a small street – more an alleyway and I come upon some debris illuminated by the headlights. I throw the car into reverse and back out at high speed, straighter than I could ever drive in real life. I make it to the main road, back out at an angle and throw the car into drive and head into the Lincoln Tunnel, head back to New York, back home.
Clearly my sub-conscious is continuing to battle the obvious – I have crossed the river, there is no going back. It was a manageable dream – no surprises, no massive depth. Eventually I fall back to sleep – not easily, not soon, but the fatigue eventually overcomes all.
Then from my deep sleep I hear a man talking loudly, an altercation maybe. It is coming from the window, from the back yard. I am in terror, paralyzed. I try fighting to sit up; hell I am just trying to move my limbs. They are not cooperating. Finally I struggle to a sitting position and then it strikes me – the dogs are quiet. Three dogs, an intruder out there and no barking: at that moment I realize it was a dream, what other explanation could there be. I get up, go upstairs and all is quiet.
I am hard pressed to remember a moment of such paralysis, such abject terror. Carrie asks was the scream me or my father. I neither know nor care: what matters is the degree of the terror and from whence it came.
This week for the first time there is the realization, the clear knowledge, that there is no going back, there is only going forward. And going forward means I will have to confront my demons, I will have to come out from behind the skirt; I will have to leave the closet behind. Last night at dinner my friends tell me: true friends will be there for me and the hell with the rest. They are of course right, but there are still so many emotions.
Shame – not warranted, but there all the same: shame for being gay, shame for a second failed marriage.
Fear of the whispers, the comments not meant to be heard. Yes, to hell with them, but that is an intellectual statement: those moments will still have an emotional effect – maybe hurt, maybe anger, probably both.
Concern for my children, girls starting middle school, a difficult time at best: we do not live in Chelsea or the like. Statistically I suppose I am not the only gay dad in our school district. I will just be the only one who is out. What might be said to them by the “mean girls”?
Hurt – hurt over what I have wrought on Carrie, hurt for hurting her and hurt from the knowledge that I am typing away in the basement and not lying next to her.
There is much good in my life – a loving and supportive family – immediate and extended, friends who are there for me, for us. New friends – gay men who I can talk to, have a drink with and yes, get hugs from: the base for building a new life. There is a career and colleagues who will support me when they learn of the struggles. There is Carrie – still best friends, still a mutual support system as we start our new lives. And of course Sis who manages to “bitch slap” without ever leaving a bruise.
Most importantly is the thing I tend most to ignore. I am healthier now than I have ever been in my life. I am more confident at work and at home. The rages are less frequent, more controlled. My children refer to the new Daddy – they like him so much better than the old model. (And the older children tell me the model they knew a decade ago makes the “old” model look downright mellow.) Somehow I try to convince myself that the honesty and self-acceptance that made this possible is not necessary to continue the trend. How ridiculous a thought is that?
It’s funny – as I started this post I was in “wallowing” mode. As I finish it, as I think of the good, I realize that ultimately the good will win out. I am where I need to be. And someday, hopefully sooner than later, I will internalize that reality.