Its been a while since we have gone on a road trip but one is in order. For those of you who have read these pages for a while, you may remember that the first Friday of May, 2006 has become a totemic evening in my life – a milestone. It generated two posts – From 35,000 Feet and Accede To Reality, but for those who are new here, and still have a life beyond reading blogs, the facts are simple enough:
Nate goes to Chicago on his annual conference and in advance puts a post on CL looking for a friend for dinner and maybe more. Nate has an e-mail correspondence with Jerry and eventually spends Friday night with him – fifteen hours, fifteen perfect hours: it is hard to go home and make believe I am still the straight guy with a passing penchant for giving head. Especially after Carrie accidentally reads the second post, the post on how much I enjoyed the time, the post on how Jerry and I spooned in bed.
So this year I return for my conference – third annual – but things are a little different. I am gay, I am living in the basement, and Jerry has a local boyfriend – a keeper as he likes to say. I am fine, I will have dinner with him and his friend on Saturday night: life goes on.
But I did mention a road trip, more through time than geography. Two years ago, first Friday of May 2005 I was also in Chicago for my conference. I was of course straight back then and as any straight guy would do I found the local sex district and determined which shop had a buddy booth. Friday we have our conference dinner, good food, liquor flowing, old friends. And after dinner I find myself in the hotel bar sitting with four others: one man and three divorced women. It is comfortable and we have a few more drinks. The other man leaves – conveniently just ahead of the bill – and then we all part, me gladly picking up the relatively minor tab.
I can tell you where everyone was sitting, I remember some of the conversation, and I remember how badly I wanted to go upstairs with two of the women. Of course I did not – both respect of my marriage (its okay to chuckle guys) and social ineptitude. Instead I went to the elevators, basically went up and then right back down to the sex store where I was unsuccessful. Back up to the room for my first CL post ever. And finally to bed, alone, thinking of the men I had not met and the women I had.
All of this has resided in my memory, not forgotten but not overly dwelled on either. I came home from the trip and told Carrie of the drinks and the women. I left out my desires – for them and for men. I suppose that in retrospect what I shared with her did not really count for much.
Last night it all came back, with a vengeance, in a torrent. One of the two women I was very interested in was at the conference this year and she and I walked over to the restaurant together. She reminded me that I had missed last year’s dinner and she remembered my excuse – seeing an old kindergarten friend. She smiled as she said it, she smiled with polite disbelief. She had heard me say earlier that I was now separated and she heard me say that I was meeting someone after dinner, someone who ultimately stood me up, but we are getting ahead of the story.
After dinner, Lori and I lead the group (we are thirty plus strong) back to the hotel, we are arm in arm, we are a little drunk, we talk, we hug, we flirt. We end up at the bar of this years hotel, get some more wine in case we had not had enough already and we toast. She refines what she taught me at dinner – the importance of looking in the person’s eyes when you click the glasses, when you say cheers. She now teaches me to first look right eye to right eye and then left to left. She asks what I see. The answer became apparent to me later – it was not what I saw, it was what she saw – right through to my soul, my very tormented soul.
Then she reminded me of our drinks two years ago, how she and her friend would have slept with me that night, how they expected it after all the talk. Then she said something which cut to my core – so much so that I am typing at 7 AM having maybe slept an hour last night. It seems that over the drinks I simply said: “I am lost.” Last year I knew I was lost, this year I am working on finding my way, but two years ago. And as I listened to her I was struck by the fact that she remembered the words and the fact that I undoubtedly uttered them. I tell her I am finding myself and am ready to say much more – the whole truth if you would, but she puts a finger to her lips, nothing needed to be said.
Around then another member of our group comes in to announce they had gone to a club and he had a cab waiting for us outside. He hops in the front and I throw some money on the bar and pile into the back next to Lori. We kiss – kiss deeply – and then we are there. Once inside its noisy and at one point we kiss again, again a real kiss, and then she heads towards the ladies room and then quietly to the exit. She never returns: an early flight and what could have happened two years ago will not happen tonight. Given the opportunity, I am not sure what I would have done – as strange as it may sound, I am married still and while at this point I will gladly fuck my way across America with men, it is still different when it comes to women. (As I have re-read and done my usual editing, I realize that I am again lying to myself: I would like to say I would have done the “right” thing but the truth which we all know is that I would have gone to her room in a heartbeat and just hated myself that much more in the morning.)
So here I am, a gay man, on the second anniversary of being “lost”, on the first anniversary of being “found”, sitting up all night in my hotel room, feeling alone, feeling isolated, eventually crying into my pillow. And maybe in the strangest twist of all waiting for it to be a civilized hour back home in New York so I can call my best friend for comfort and support. Carrie took the call as any best friend would.
I will move forward today – life marches on – I will go to the Art Institute to visit some of the paintings I befriended last year, I will have dinner with Jerry and the keeper, and I will dry the tears. But I will not lie to myself about just how fragile I have become, just how tough the road ahead may be. And I will also not lie to myself about how much I need to continue my journey.