During my journey Chicago has become a second home, if not physically, emotionally. It was, like many things, an accident. Every year I go there for a few days at the beginning of May. Going back to 2005 – pre-blog, pre-out, in my mind pre-gay – I find myself downtown at my hotel and as I go for a late night walk I pass the sex shops, the discrete signage and solid doors and the small print: Buddy booths. The quick look around and then a dart and then you are in and anyone who sees you there should be just as embarrassed. I sidle to the back and know what I want – a man, no, just a specific body part back then, but this night it was not to be. Then it is May 2006 and bi / gay is in the air. I blog in advance fishing for approval – should I go on Craig’s List, maybe just go to Boys Town and practice the walk.
Craig’s List it is and I make a few dates, blow off the annual dinner with my group and take what in hindsight was the plunge. The details have been covered in From 35,000 Feet and Accede To Reality, posts that even today three years later I hesitate to read: remembering the pain is enough. Suffice to say the entry into gayness was all I hoped and the re-entry from it was all I feared. I make a new friend and with the knowledge that it is a moment, a good moment but a moment none the less, I still want to go back. Chicago is my private playground, a land where I can climb the jungle gym away from prying eyes. So I decide to go back – a quick weekend to open up 2007, a quick weekend to close down nearly two decades. Before I pack my bags, the discussions of my return and then I am packing, but more than my bags: the basement era begins.
And then it’s May again and again my trip to Chicago. I will go to Boys Town, but will not blow off my conference. And after dinner that first night I am bought back in time leaping from 2007 to 2005 in an instant, brought back to a moment – a phrase I had forgotten uttering: "I Am Lost". As I re-read the post I cannot help but notice the connection between art and pain, a post that sears in a way that I can no longer muster. I still remember the night – unable to sleep, unable to be: wanting to be straight, wanting to be connected, my hotel room as cell. As I re-read the post this weekend I was thankful my little diary still existed, a reminder of where I was and where, if poor choices are made, I an end up yet again.
This year my journey was a little different. My boyfriend was in Chicago for business and waited a day for my arrival. The first night was the group dinner – spouses and guests are invited though only a few come. In advance I considered the potential consequences of bringing Phil – would they think him a friend or would they guess more. After more thought than it ever deserved it struck me that I am out of the closet at home, at work, places where it impacts, or doesn’t, every day. Yet here I am worried about what a group I see once a year will think. I consider it some more and realize that the truth goes back two years and then two years more. It goes back to flirting with one of the women; it goes back to again wanting to be the straight guy. The fact that after dinner I will go back to the room with Phil, that we can have a night of great sex if we want… but what if Lori wants me, wants to relive a past that never happens… It is hard writing this not because of shame or embarrassment. It is hard because it is so wildly out of touch with any reality. Here I have what I want and somehow still looking to complicate.
Phil joins me for dinner – maybe people thought he was just a friend, maybe some suspected more. I cannot say because neither did they. The next day I have my conference and Phil wanders the City, and then I am back in the room, the conference is over and I am in Chicago and I am gay and I am with my boyfriend. It does not make for exciting reading – no tears, no angst, none of the conflict central to drama. No, not much for reading, but not so bad for living.