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This column appeared in December, 1991, in The Washington Blade.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
One of you tricked with Luke Thanksgiving night while I tossed and turned on the sofa. All I know about you is that the next day Luke left behind a box of matches, presumably yours, when I asked him to leave my apartment. In case you've forgotten, Luke was the cute out-of-town redhead with the tiny silver earring. Which I gave him.
I'm not in the habit of throwing houseguests out. I wouldn't have done it, wouldn't even have thought of it, if Luke hadn't spent so much of Thanksgiving Day coming on to me. That was the really strange part. True, he and I were lovers once -- he was the first man I kissed, in fact -- but that was years ago.
It took me a long time to learn how to be friends with him after he broke up with me. I was still single and he was still great fun to be with, but eventually I put all that out of my mind. So when he hugged me by the kitchen sink Thursday afternoon and the hug lost its innocence in an obvious way, when an impassioned kiss followed, when I opened my eyes and saw the look on his face, well, I was surprised and confused and excited all at once.
"Brussels sprouts," I said, breaking away from him. "People are going to be here in an hour and a half." I handed him a bowl. He looked at me blankly.
"Peel off the outer leaves and cut a little X in the bottom," I said. "It helps them cook through."
"Cut an X in the bottom," he said. A minute later he added: "Since we're running so late, I guess we're going to have to shower together, aren't we?"
"No," I said. "Not with eight guests on their way over. Save it for later, okay?"
All evening Luke attempted to entice, and fairly successfully. After he made the gravy, which was excellent, he kissed me so intensely that I wasn't sure I'd be able to carry things to the dining room. But when the meal was over he decided he wanted to go see some Washington bars. I said it was late and I was going to finish the dishes. "Sleep in my bed," he said, as he and Ben went off for a drink. "I'll wake you when I come in."
"We'll see," I said. After a three-day effort to get dinner on the table, I needed to sleep, not awaken old feelings for Luke. I finished the dishes at 12:30. Handel's Messiah was on the radio, and the phrase "be raised incorruptible" stuck in my head, playing over and over with its distinctive theme. I carried sheets and blankets out to the sofa.
Sometime after three I woke up. Luke hadn't come back, and I knew what that meant, and I couldn't stop myself from picturing it -- from picturing several different positions' worth of it, in fact. Reluctant as I had been a few hours earlier to think about sleeping with him myself, the thought of his abandoning me to sleep with someone else made me absolutely miserable. I was awake for hours, which did nothing to help me think clearly the next day.
By early afternoon he still wasn't back. I wrote a note asking him to leave and then I went out for a bike ride.
Maybe I was just ready for a scene. Maybe I took out on Luke the anger I felt about having been dropped months earlier by someone I cared for. Maybe I unleashed an ordinary-looking 33-year-old's bitterness at having to compete in a subculture obsessed with youth and beauty. Maybe I was still smarting from the discovery that the handsome young man, having helped me get over being dropped, had gone back to his girlfriend and once again wanted nothing to do with me. Whatever.
When I carried my bike back upstairs Luke was in the middle of packing. I got a glass of water and stood in the bedroom door. "I guess one of us has to say something," I said.
Luke straightened up and looked at me.
"I think it's just lousy timing," I said. "If I hadn't had such a confusing couple of months, if you hadn't kept trying to cuddle yesterday, if I hadn't been so tired -- "
"I'm sorry, Lawrence," he said.
"Thanks," I said. "Listen, any other time it wouldn't have been a big deal. I mean, meeting people in bars is part of what being Gay is all about, isn't it? Meeting people and sleeping with them? It's not like you're the first person who ever did it."
"I wondered whether you'd be upset."
"Yeah, well." I stared at myself in the mirror, disheveled as I was after my ride. I was wearing a T-shirt with a pink triangle on it that I'd bought in Rehoboth the weekend before the big break-up.
"I'm a fraud, you know?" I said, pointing to the triangle. "I don't do bars. I don't do gyms. I've never slept with anyone I didn't know. When you started all that in the kitchen yesterday, you were looking for a quick tumble. Which is perfectly okay, but it was a lot more complicated for me. Last night it seemed like I'd managed to get myself rejected by all three of the men I've been in love with in the past ten years. I know that's not the way you'd look at it, but you and I are playing by completely different sets of rules."
I looked over at Luke and he was crying. "I love you, Lawrence," he said.
I was so tired then that I didn't know what I was feeling. I put my arms around him. "Apparently I love you too," I said. Then I drove him to the train station.
A few hours later my friend Mark and I stood looking down at the Kennedy Center's Grand Foyer from the Eisenhower Theater's balcony tier. Mark had put his glasses back in his shirt pocket when the intermission began. "All that red," he said, meaning the carpet. "It looks like a sea of Jello."
"Jello?" I said. "I thought I was supposed to be the confused one here."
"And that must make the people walking on it Jello messiahs," he said. "'Cause they're not sinking. See? It's not easy walking on Jello."
I laughed, for the first time all day. "They're raised incorruptible, you know," I said, leaning closer to him. "And very well balanced."
Copyright © 1991 by Lawrence Biemiller. Published December, 1991, in The Washington Blade.