He would’ve been 55 today. And it’s doubly sad to realize that he’s now been gone for more years than he’d been alive when we first met.
It was the night of the summer solstice, and typically warm for Tucson. I’d just come out of a disastrous three week affair with stunningly beautiful mortician’s assistant, newly arrived in Arizona from the wilds of upstate Michigan. The man was gorgeous and the sex was great; unfortunately he was completely and utterly unavailable. This was turning into an all-too-common scenario that had played out again and again in the year or so that had passed since I’d begun exploring life and love after having moved out of my parents’ house and into a place of my own.
In fact, I was becoming so disheartened by these turn of events that I started questioning whether this “lifestyle” was all it was cracked up to be. Did straights have it any easier?
Angry and depressed—and against my better judgment—I went out that evening. I was young and horny and figured what better way to get over a broken heart than to try and score a little skin-on-skin action with someone new? (Hey, I was 23. Cut me some slack!)
At the time there were less than a handful of gay bars in Tucson, and of those, there was only one real dance club: The Joshua Tree. JT’s as it was known, had been around in one incarnation or another for years and never failed to draw a nice crowd from the university. Just what the doctor ordered.
Not unexpectedly, the evening had not gone well. It was one of those nights where everyone sensed the thundercloud hanging over my head and steered clear of me completely. After about an hour of being summarily ignored, I decided to give up, drive down to the Bum Steer (a straight pickup bar a few blocks from campus) and see how the other team played. I mean, no harm in a little “experimentation,” right?
As I was getting ready to leave, I remember telling the Universe, “If you want me to keep on being gay (like I had any choice in the matter), you’d better send a sign—and quick—because I’m walking out of this bar—and away from everything it represents—and I may never come back.”
As I was pushing my way through the crowd streaming in through the narrow entrance hallway, I locked eyes with this cute strawberry blond boy coming in. He looked at me and smiled. Even as the crowd behind jostled me out the door, time stood still for the brief instant our eyes met.
Once outside, I thought about what had happened and I immediately turned around and went back in.
A few minutes later I found him sitting out on the back patio sipping a beer. There was only one place to stand where I could get a clear view to safely flirt from a distance (because there was no way I could just go up to him and say hello) and I grabbed it straightaway.
It didn’t take him long to spot me standing there. We kept making eye contact, and I was trying very hard to look cool while swatting away the insects swarming around the neon sign that was unfortunately located right over my head.
After several minutes, with a big smile on his face, he nodded for me to come over.
Conversation was easy, and it took very little time for us to decide to go back to my place and get to know each other better. During all this I remember thinking, “Oh LORD…what am I getting myself into this time?”
Little did I know.
Sex wasn’t great that first time, but there was something that drew us back together the very next night. And the night after that. And the night after that. And it was then that something happened. As we lay there, looking into each other’s eyes we simultaneously blurted out, “Something special is happening here, isn’t it?”
Yes there was. And apparently those simple words were all that were needed to help him come to a decision about something he’d been struggling with; he returned home the next morning and came out to his mom.
It was not well received. I believe her exact words were, “You can either not be gay, or you can get the hell out.”
All of a sudden, and quite unexpectedly I had a housemate boyfriend lover.
It was a first time relationship for both of us, and given the option, I don’t think either one of us would’ve chosen this particular way for it to begin. But as they say, you deal with the hand that fate has given you. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly do all I could to encourage and nurture it, either. Being fiercely independent, after two weeks I was climbing the walls having this other presence invading my personal sphere. Sensing my discomfort (no doubt because I’d gotten absolutely surly), after long, drawn-out negotiations, he came to a working truce with his mother and moved back in with her.
But after only one night alone, neither one of us could bear the solitude, and that “something special” we noted would not be ignored. He started spending nights with me again.
This was in direct violation of the agreement with his mother, and a week later, finally accepting the sweet inevitability of what was happening between us, I opened my heart and home to him fully, and he moved back in.
Six months passed and we moved into a new apartment—one that was ours—but now neither one of us was happy. Once again he made peace with his mom and returned to his childhood home, leaving behind most everything he owned “to pick up later.” (I think he must’ve known it wasn’t going to last this time either.)
He was right. While we didn’t see each other for the next week, we were on the phone every night until finally his mother picked up one of the extensions while we were talking and said, “It’s obvious you boys love each other. Get back together and work things out, will ya?”
We did. And while as lovers we didn’t last more than a couple years beyond that fateful conversation, our friendship deepened and endured for another decade until AIDS snatched him away forever.
18 March 1961 – 29 January 1991