Eastern Standard Time:
This column appeared in April, 1991, in The Washington Blade.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
When I woke up it was very late -- 3:30 or 4 -- and Mark was sitting on the end of the bed, taking off his shoes. "Hey," I said. "How was it?"
"Oh my God, we had the best time -- you should have seen us. They played all these great songs, and Jeff was, like, making up his own words and doing all these great dances. We danced for three hours with only one break. We were even getting requests. You have to come with us one night." He pulled his shirt over his head. "We were very silly," he said happily. "Popsicle stick!" he added, throwing the shirt at the chair.
He climbed under the blankets and lay staring up at the ceiling. I knew he was wide awake. "Hey," I whispered, but just as I did he moved and the rustle of the sheets was louder than my voice.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, we drove home from Philadelphia, where we had spent the weekend with G. Hiroshima. "The other thing about that dinner party," I said, looking out at the passing countryside, "is that there was only one person at the table who isn't part of a couple."
"That Paul guy?"
"Yeah. All of a sudden it's no wonder Gregory puts up with so much from Ed, you know? Ed may be working halfway around the world for two years, and when he comes for a visit he may bitch about where Gregory planted the shrubs, and he may think his straight friends don't know he's Gay, but Ed's a husband, and all Gregory's friends have husbands. That whole crowd Gregory knows from the beach is couples."
"And they've all been together seven years," Mark said. "Every couple I meet lately seems to have been together seven years."
"And to have bought a house at the beach, and had a new deck put on, and started inviting each other over for dinner," I said. "If Gregory leaves Ed, well, the beach house is Ed's, for one thing. For another, if you're single, you don't fit into that whole scene. All the men in it are spoken for, and all the cocktail conversation is about real estate and renovations. They don't want to hear that some guy you met last weekend never called you and now you're completely neurotic and you don't know if you'll ever date again, unless of course that guy with the red hair from last summer calls you, which he hasn't up till now, but still, if he did you'd date him in a second."
For a mile or two we rode in silence. "No matter how richly Ed may deserve to be dumped," I said, "if Gregory breaks up with him, Gregory has to find a whole new circle of friends, a whole new way to spend his weekends. And he likes being married more than anything. All he's ever wanted is to have a husband and a house and a station wagon."
"With wood panelling on the side, don't forget. Can you get a dollar out of my wallet for the toll?"
"Actually, that's only the second party we've been to together, isn't it? Other than the ones we've thrown, I mean. I guess parties have a whole different dynamic if you're going with your lover. Not only aren't you under any pressure to meet someone, but you get a kind of automatic validation as a human being -- you walk in with living, breathing proof that you're not a such bad catch after all, that somebody loves you. It's a real nice change of pace."
Four days later we broke up. Several times I wanted to cry, but I never could.
I have realized since how much I liked being married myself. While we were together, I didn't really stop to think about how much my life was changing -- I was too busy getting dinner on the table, I suppose. Now that I have no one to cook for, I make myself a sandwich each evening and eat at the kitchen table. Between bites I stare at the food processor, thinking how much fun it was to cook regularly, how easy it was to have guests when there were two cooks and two dishwashers. Meanwhile, lettuce rots in the crisper and the cream cheese grows mold.
Some of the other things I miss surprise me. For instance: Sleeping alone I can handle, but while we were together I got used to touching and being touched -- a hug here, a minute's back rub there. For the first few weeks after we broke up, I had to make a conscious effort not to touch people at work.
More than touching, though, I miss having someone for whom I don't have to weigh every word, someone to whom I can say anything, someone around whom I don't always have to act like I know what I'm doing. And I miss having someone whose sentences don't have to be vetted for reluctance, or disinterest, or disapproval, or eviddence of greater affection directed at some third party. Frankly, the prospect of dating -- of wondering for days what someone really meant by this or that -- is so horrible that I would almost rather stay home deciphering the owner's manual for the compact-disc player I bought to console myself.
Even now, more than a dozen CD's later, I find I am still ashamed to tell people that we've broken up. For weeks I've put off phoning friends to whom I know I owe calls -- they'll ask what's new, or how Mark is, and I'll have to explain. What will they think? Have they been wondering all along how I ever nabbed such a nice guy? Have they been taking bets on how long we'd last? Will they think I left him, or he left me?
For Your Own Safety Please Do Not Stand On The Platform. I'm on the last car of a southbound Metroliner, coming home from a story assignment. The car is almost empty, and I walk back to the end of the train and stand for a long time in the vestibule, looking out the rear window. Suddenly I think: "Popsicle stick!" It's how Mark and j.-with-a-small-"j" referred to a favorite dance tune whose words they were never able make out. Behind the train the rails come together in a clean line.
Copyright © 1991 Lawrence Biemiller. Published April, 1991, in The Washington Blade.