Once, when I was bartending, I waited on a 50s-something couple. They had returned from a move of some kind and had stopped off at the bar to sit, enjoy a few beers, and partake of the delicious burgers that we served at that place. I can’t remember if I knew them prior to this day…it feels as though I did…at any rate, we were friendly with each other during their service and they shared with me the story of their relationship.
They had found each other later in life. During the discussion, I got several whiffs of a relationship that wasn’t quite right. Worn around the eyes, with frayed edges of need, they clung to each other. They were that day a happy, if slightly mismatched pair. They were in some ways less desperate together, than they had been apart.
I grabbed at Adam with the same intensity. I found him after having been adrift for months if not years. In him, there was acceptance from the straight boys I grew up with. There was admission into a straight (or straighter) world that I had always wanted to be a part of, but for ever reason never felt worthy enough to join, although it may have been due, in part, to the jeering I often experienced at the entrance door.
Adam’s decision to break up has left me as anxious as I can remember. I wake up with my insides falling.
I rationalize that how he feels has no bearing on my worth. His feelings are his feelings and his journey to his decisions are unique to him, his own experiences, and his own take on things. Why does his decision to not be with me cut me so deeply?
Because I love. I was born a child to whom love comes quickly and fully. I am exuberant, yet I was mismatched into a family in which love was not as easily accessed by the other members. My mother wasn’t as expressive about her feelings. Indeed, I don’t think that they mattered nearly as much…probably one of the reasons why she emerged from her childhood fairly in tact.
The arguing that my parents did, the death of my father, left me fearful and feeling alone. I reached out to the other boys in my community because I was afraid and in need. My love was reproached by these men because it came within the context of possible homosexuality. I wasn’t pushed away because of who I was per se, but because what a relationship with me might represent and that isolation only made me more fervent in my pursuit to love.
Oh time, time, time, time, time. So many years have gone by without me understanding why I was and who I was. I am sorry for my aberrant behavior that was born out of a need for love. The affection, the loads of affection, that was heaped onto me over these many years…so much of it went misused. So much of it went unrecognized. That clinging boy inside…his tantrums, his fear, his tight grip. Too many tender chicks were crushed and blithely killed in his care.
When i was in Turkey, David and I met a young street kid, Mohammed. He was a child! He was 12 or so, but so wise for his age, so clever, but desperate. He insisted on being our ‘guide‘ and in the ensuing days displayed sudden bursts of selfish, grabbing need. He was quick to anger and to pout. He was a hungry kid, hungry for food, clothes, safety and love. Adam was like that. Adam is like that.
In my deepest self, I recognize the same anguishes that are inside the Mohammeds and the Adams of this world; the fear inside the broken boys on my hometown street; the shame in my mother, that she buried so deep; the insecurity of my brother, locked tight inside a shell of protective bravura.
But we differ in this way. After everything that has happened, I still have the ability to notice, to care and to reach out, however clumsily. After stormy, windswept years of mental anguish, there’s still a votive candle of light that remains lit and flickering. Somehow, mercifully, God has stayed with me, these many years that I have stumbled so pitifully. I think I can see it now, a lighthouse, however small, from which a right of passage can be bridged.