Eastern Standard Time:
This column appeared June 19, 1992, in The Washington Blade.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
It's the A train, express below 168th Street. Through the window opposite our seat the white tile of a local station is relieved by a lovely antique rhythm of mosaic wall signs: 135th St. -- 135th St. -- 135th St. -- 135th St. Then we rocket back into the dark tunnel and our reflections reappear in the glass -- Patrick, staring ahead; Alex, head tilted thoughtfully as he studies an ad above the window; Chris, also staring ahead; and me, glancing now sideways at the three of them, now at our swaying impermanent snapshot in the window.
We are on our way to the Cloisters, a museum that overlooks the Hudson from the northern tip of Manhattan. There we see tapestries showing a unicorn hunt and gold reliquaries that held splinters of the True Cross and the mortal remains of obscure saints. I try to picture the monks who once gathered in the museum's reconstructed chapter room, but I cannot see their faces, their eyes.
What relics of our own lives will museums display a hundred years hence, or 900, assuming that all traces of our existence have not been obliterated by some future hatemonger? Will a pink-triangle pin worn in a St. Patrick's Day parade rest on velvet in a glass case? Will a roped-off room recreate part of the gym my friend Tom goes to? Will a curator's note explain an AZT dispenser, circa 1985, with a timer that buzzes every four hours?
Perhaps museum-goers will struggle with archaic idiom in a copy of the letter Alex wrote to his parents from college this spring, when he explained why he was spending the summer in New York with a 39-year-old man. Will anyone be able to picture Alex's face? Patrick's? Neither Chris nor I had a camera along when Alex put his arm around Patrick's waist for the ride up the escalator at Battery Park City, so the museum-goers -- and Alex's parents in Illinois, to whom the scene is just as remote, and Chris's grandmother in Wisconsin -- will have to take our word for it that Alex and Patrick make an exceptionally cute couple, that they belong together.
Patrick's tour of the city also took us to the Stonewall Inn, where a plaque marks the beginning of the revolution that enabled us to love each other publicly. More or less publicly, I should say, since Patrick's profession is still one of those in which to come out is to deny yourself promotion and partnership. When his previous lover died of AIDS, Patrick said nothing about it at the office, a fact I'm going to remember every time I tell someone how easy it is for me to live my life the way I want to.
Patrick told me that story at brunch, while Alex and Chris were talking with my friend Terry at the other end of the table. I always like showing Terry off to people who have never met him -- he's one of my role models for living my life the way I want to. He doesn't worry about what other people think. "I'm not shy," he says, almost always with a big smile.
When I persisted in asking him what was new, what he'd been doing lately, Terry grinned and told the table: "Well, not too much. I did get fucked silly yesterday, if that's the kind of thing you want to know. I had a great time."
We all laughed. But in a way his answer distills the Stonewall riots and everything that has come afterward. The marches, the court cases, the conversations with anguished parents, even the monthly transsexuals on Donahue -- they've all been about assuming for ourselves rights society would never confer of its own accord, about assuming rights and then growing into them. The point is that we should each be able to speak as freely as Terry did at brunch, and be as comfortable hugging our lovers as Alex was on the escalator at Battery Park City. Walking along New Hampshire Avenue with my friend Scott, I saw what I guess are words to live by: "Every kiss is a revolution."
"OK, so I'm not a very convincing revolutionary," I told G. Hiroshima later that week. We were drinking coffee on the balcony, surrounded by petunias and basil. "But not to be able to tell your office that your lover died? Can you think of anything more horrible?"
"That's exactly why we all have to come out, Lar," said G. Hiroshima. "Exactly."
"Did I tell you about Chris's grandmother? Who thinks I'm Jeffrey Dahmer? The latest is, apparently she's telling all his relatives that I won't let Chris use the phone. She left a message on the machine while we were in New York, and he didn't call her right back -- "
"Because you had him chained and drugged, obviously."
"And never mind that we were out of town. Actually, she started asking questions as soon as Chris told her he was going to stay with me for his last six weeks in D.C. Unmarried? Thirty-four?"
"A homosexual murderer. No question."
"None whatsoever. She's done a pretty good job of scaring Chris's parents."
"They don't know he's gay?"
"Until he met David up at Brown, there wasn't any reason to say anything. Now that he and David are an item, Chris wants to tell them in person. But he's not sure when he'll be home next, and in the meantime his grandmother is slandering me all over Wisconsin. Ticks me off big-time, too -- I really want to tell her she's picked the wrong faggot to fuck with."
"But you won't," said G. Hiroshima.
Of course not. She's causing Chris enough trouble without my making it worse, and after all she has yet to be given all the facts -- such as that her grandson will leave here knowing how to make a mean pesto, and that the only wild thing he and I have done is run all the way to Pierce Mill and back, and that he has learned, in the time since he met David, to be comfortable with who he really is.
We plan to watch the Pride Day parade on Sunday with Tom, who this time last year was still in the closet at age 34. In case you're looking for us, Tom will be the one with the gym body and the great smile, and Chris will be the one wearing faux Ray Bans, and I'll be the one glancing sideways -- proud of them, proud of Alex and Patrick, proud of us all.
Copyright © 1992 Lawrence Biemiller. Published June 19, 1992, in The Washington Blade.