The Spiral began the morning after.
The light in the room felt unusually bright, and then I remembered – the blizzard that had holed us up. I rolled out of the guest room bed and approached the frosty window. The streets were clear – the blizzard turned out to be merely a dusting, so my parents would not be stuck in Boston for much longer. It needed to end anyhow, like these things do. Time to return to the normal swing of things, to enter my room and get Dan to leave, to let things be silent for a suitable amount of time, and then finally, to tell him I am just not interested in guys. The plan would work if I stuck to the script. The snow began melting as the heat cranked up from the day’s sun, and soon it would be gone completely.
Time to go Dan. And let’s never discuss this again.
It took less than a day for Dan to ask to discuss it. He messaged me that night on AOL Instant Messenger well into the evening, almost 24 hours from the initiation. I gave him the updates – slept most of the day, parents got back, hid any evidence – but he cut straight to the chase. This shouldn’t be the last time we hang out like this. I let the comment stand before he said We could be boyfriends.
I said No. The exact words… I cannot remember. There was some dancing around, some sidestepping. I know I told him I was straight (or perhaps I said, I am not gay). Whatever I said, he got the point. Our friendship ended that night, despite the promises to “stay friends,” to “stay normal.” Closet cases cannot recover from such experiences. We cannot face ourselves much less anyone else. And those with our secret… they need to go. It is self-preservation, as primal as the fight-or-flight instinct. Because make no mistake, to be gay is death.
It took a year before I took a second lap around the Spiral. My theater club in college, aptly named No Refund Theatre because all our shows were free, hosted a party every weekend to coincide with our weekly performances. When I joined the club my second day of Freshman year, I believed whole heartedly that I had met a group of people passionate about theater. In fact, they were most interested in drinking, and theater was the excuse. I had not drank since that night with Dan a year earlier, but that did not stop me from going to the cast parties to watch everyone drink.
I did not know Oliver, but I knew of him through a fellow No Refund Thespian. Oliver partook in the booze provided at the parties and insinuated himself around, gliding on sure feet and a swimmer’s demeanor. His voice hovered in a register between distinguishable ages, and his eyes changed color on a daily basis from varied contact lenses. I did not like him right away, and that was his intention. This was Freshman year at a college 50,000 students deep – he did not need to make the life-long friends yet, just the acquaintances to keep him entertained. He had a way of talking to someone just long enough to make an impression and escaping before the real connection was made. And his strategy seemed clear to me from the get go: clipped, broad conversation and repeated physical touch.I think he enjoyed keeping people at arm’s length. Be a myth, not a man. And it worked: Everyone knew of him, but no one knew him.
The party thinned until Oliver and I could not be separated any longer. We waited in line for the bathroom when he told me that he was glad to have met me.
But we didn’t really meet. I said. His eyes were blue that night.
“Well we’re meeting now!” He exclaimed, throwing his voice up a notch and back a few years. We talked for a few minutes while waiting for the bathroom, about theater and friends, college and change. He told me he danced, and I said I had no interest, but I admired it. He leaned against the wall and slid down it to the floor – drunk. He told me to join him down there, but I helped him back to his feet instead. He called me a gentleman and continued to hold my hand even after regaining his footing.
And then he hugged me. He hugged me for about three seconds too long.
Two weeks later while eating brunch – the gayest meal of the day – I sat across from Oliver and stared into his eyes, freshly turned hazel. I told him simply, We could be boyfriends.
And he said No.
Intuitively, you think a rejection might stop the Spiral, but actually it does the opposite. It launches you around at twice the pace as before.
And the moment he said no, off I went for another loop.