Here’s an archetypal tale from my Thanksgiving day.
I was happily spending the week house and pet sitting, and on the actual feast day, after rising and watching the Macy’s Parade, I made my way to the home of friends where I would be sharing the meal. Early on, it was time to slice and arrange the hors d’oeuvres and ensued a discussion and criticism of the way in which the host and then his mother-in-law were slicing the cheeses and meats, denigration in which I actively, eagerly joined, along with predictions that they would soon wound themselves. We all agreed it would be best if the slicing and arranging were left to me.
Within moments of taking on the chore, I had managed to inflict upon the middle finger of my left hand a deep and impressively blood-gushing knife wound.
I wish this were one of my apocryphal accounts, embellished and tweaked to make a point; alas: No. Again and again I have had this experience of everyone (including me) thinking I ought to be fabulous at something – the task at hand, the chore ahead, the life-duty in line to be attended to – and I segue confidently from advising others (at which I am REMARKABLY good and quite comforting and empathetic) to go at it myself, only to do some ridiculous sort of damage to myself in the process of miserably failing or, sometimes, barely succeeding.
Thanksgiving. Week of. In addition to the finger slicing, I had another goodbye. I don’t really talk in detail in this blog – or in my life – about my family, my past, people with whom I am friends, was friends, or people I am seeing. I don’t talk about these things because to do so would constitute an invasion of the privacy of others and too, would only be MY interpretation – and when it comes to ANY sort of relationship – one interpretation is never the whole story. So, I don’t.
But, here’s the thing. I had been sort of – for me – what counted as “seeing” someone. No one knew anything about it. He wasn’t married. He wasn’t what others would consider too young. He was smart. He was friendly. He was nice. He read. He actually asked questions and listened to the answers. He was employed – very nicely in fact. He was attractive. And he was only in Maryland for a few months, the end date being up in the air, his job being such that he could be – and likely would be – at any moment, re-assigned and sent to the next project.
With which I was okay. Because, truth time, I am HORRIBLE at relationships. I have horrific taste in people. I trust too easily, too completely, believe almost ANYTHING anyone tells me, and have such horrid self-esteem that the tiniest hint of someone caring about me feels both miraculous and hideously undeserved. I am ALWAYS surprised when anyone likes me, and when it’s someone who I like in return, well, I am in constant panic mode waiting for them to discover that I am not at all someone with whom they wish to be.
So, I played it cool. I didn’t count on this lasting. I knew it was a lark. And so when he called me last week and said, “They’re sending me out – wanted me to go tomorrow but I got it delayed two days.” I should not have been surprised or upset or any of those other things I was. He asked to see me one last time and I said, “Oh that’s okay – you must have a lot to do. No worries.”
He said, “Hey, that’s how you’re going to say goodbye to someone who DOESN’T think your name is Sebastian?” And I started to cry. Of course. Because he knows my real name. I let him in. Not only did I tell him my real name and let him in, but I told him how I usually DON’T tell people my real name or let them in anymore.
And I was pissed. And I was sad. And I saw him. And I confessed that I found him to be very nice, and very warm, and very human, and very real, and I wished he was not going. And he said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this before?” And I explained – again – my abysmal track record and my sad inability to trust the right people, and he said; “Charlie, I have those same feelings for you. I didn’t tell you because every time we were together you kept reminding me that this was just for fun and … look, I get you’ve been hurt by people you thought you could trust and your family and friends and – I know that every time you open up you take a risk of getting hurt – but, don’t you think that risk is less dangerous than the risk you’re taking by not opening up? By deciding you’re never going to trust anyone again?”
I wish. And he was leaving – one way or another. It’s what he does. It’s why he’s single. He doesn’t stay in one place. And look – for a gay boy like me who grew up on “Funny Girl” and the scene with Fanny and Nick at the train station where she hadn’t seen him for a year and pretended not to care and – LOOK – it was NEVER going to be anything except temporary so WHY WOULD I CARE? Why did this hurt?
So, he left, and I gave in and answered a message from another guy I’d sort of been seeing and sort of liked who turned out to sort of be a hustler – although he never charged me – and not just because I have no money. But, I didn’t think it was good for me to see a hustler. I know me. But, I did. And we made plans. And after weeks of him having asked me to see him again and on and on – he stood me up.
And then, I met someone else. People. Honestly, I have THE WORST TASTE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
He is too young, first place. WAY TOO YOUNG. And he is the MOST BEAUTIFUL PERSON I AM EVER LIKELY TO BE ANYWHERE NEAR. Just. Fucking. Gorgeous. I cannot (did not do not) understand why he would have anything to do with me. EXCEPT … he is damaged. Of course. And he wants to be healed. Of course. And that is ALWAYS what I have done. He can barely read – extreme dyslexia. He only graduated from high school because a military recruiter intervened in order to get him as a number he’d enlisted. He is in the service. He is not out to anyone. He grew up in a tiny little shacky thing in Lakeland, Florida – which – some sort of divine joke on me – has its own resonances for me and felt like some sort of sign – and –
He is – well – I am not at liberty to give any more details – but – he wants to see me regularly and he is stationed not that far from me – and – I want to see him because – well – he’s beautiful – and – he’s so sad – he said that no one had ever in his entire life been as tender and kind to him as I was in the first hour we knew each other – and then he told me he couldn’t really read so the fact I was a writer seemed – and I quote – “like you’re something magic.”
I am, of course, in love. This is, of course, ridiculous. He’s a trained killer. It’s what he does, what he ended up doing by accident so he wouldn’t go to jail. And no one, of course, knows anything about him. Or, ever will. And no one he knows will ever know anything about me. Why? Because he said to me, “I know now, since you happened, that I really belong with guys so, it’s just gonna be really harder to get married now.”
I said, “You mean, to find a guy like me?”
He answered, “No. I can’t marry a guy. You don’t marry guys where I’m from.”
I said, “Just because you’re from there doesn’t mean you have to go back there.”
He said, “You people with college degrees and fancy lives like yours, you don’t understand what the real world is like. You think I want to be a (insert here the branch of service he’s in which I cannot divulge out of resspect for his privacy)? It was all I had. Or end up in jail. I’m not smart like you.”
I was crying by then, of course. Holding his face. I said, “You can’t spend your life trying to be something you think you’re supposed to be, trying to make someone else happy – it just won’t ever work. I’m telling you- you can’t let yourself be defined by the places you’ve come from.”
Yet, there I was, here I am, going, with a man who will never be able to come out, to introduce me to his friends, to admit he cares about me, to be himself. I just can’t seem to stop gashing myself.
When the fuck will I finally bleed the hell out? Oh Charlie, just because you’re from there doesn’t mean you have to go back there . . . so why do I?