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This column appeared originally in The Washington Blade in 1987.|
By Lawrence Biemiller
The first thing G. Hiroshima's mother said to him about his brother's wedding was that G. Hiroshima was not even to think about bringing "a friend," unless it was "that nice girl Kristin." The way she pronounced "friend" -- as though it were italicized in her script for the phone call -- led G. Hiroshima to understand that what he was not to bring was, specifically, a man.
In a way, this represented a breakthrough on the part of G. Hiroshima's mother: Most of the time she refuses to acknowledge even indirectly that he has gay. "Queer, queer, queer," she says. "That's all you hear these days. Just another fad, I suppose."
The woman Kristin lives with is not a fad, however -- they've been together for six years. So G. Hiroshima went alone to the wedding. He stopped to visit on his way back to Philadelphia, arriving one morning as I lounged with the newspaper on the parlor sofa, coffee tray at one hand. He was tired and cranky. I brought in another coffee cup.
"Well," I said. "How'd it go?"
"My mother," he said, "is a dragon. A dragon, Lar. Remember I told you there was going to be a pool party the day before the wedding, and how she called to warn me not to wear" -- he mimicked his mother's disdainful tone -- "'one of those skimpy little Speedo things'? As if I would ever be seen in a Speedo.
"I wore shorts," he said, and then paused. "Well, they were lavender and green madras. With a lavender shirt. So when it's time to drive her to the party, I knock on the door of her hotel room. She opens it. She looks me up and down. And she says, 'No. No, absolutely not. Go change your clothes.'"
I should mention that G. Hiroshima is 30 years old.
"And did you?" I asked.
"Yeah. I had packed another pair of shorts, just in case. The madras ones aren't even mine -- I borrowed them from Jorge."
"Jorge?" I said.
"Didn't I tell you about Jorge? Twenty-two, olive-skinned, from South America?"
"Olive-skinned?" I said. "Twenty-two? Are you sure I want to hear this?"
It turned out that friends of G. Hiroshima's had set him up with this young man several weeks before. "He's kind of sweet," said G. Hiroshima. "And he has this incredible, hard-muscled body."
"Sounds like someone I ought to meet," I said. "Perhaps you'd better bring him along to the march." G. Hiroshima is one of five or six people from out of town who are planning to stay with me this weekend.
"I don't know," said G. Hiroshima, for a moment intent on the napkin he had been folding and refolding. "I've been avoiding anything that smacks of commitment. He's so young, Lar -- it scares me. I mean, what does a hard-muscled 22-year-old want with me?"
"Don't be silly," I said. But I know well enough the kind of doubts a handsome 22-year-old can give a man about his age and his appearance.
At a party, G. Hiroshima met a man who holds an influential post in a gay-rights organization, and the man asked G. Hiroshima whether he was going to Washington for the march. G. Hiroshima said he hadn't decided yet -- he'd never been to a march before. The man gave G. Hiroshima a friendly lecture about how uplifting and unifying a march could be, and eventually G. Hiroshima agreed to give this one a try.
I will too -- for G. Hiroshima's mother, that she might know homosexuality and gay culture are more than fads; for j.-with-a-small-"j," whose father hasn't spoken a word to him since December; and for the members of my own family who made such a distasteful scene about AIDS this summer. But most of all I want to march for a large, handsome young man who was, of all the people I have known, the most traumatized by society's attitudes toward homosexuality.
He was traumatized, of course, because he wanted to sleep with men. He knew, or thought he knew, what his family and friends would say if they found out. To protect his reputation, he slept with more women than I could keep track of.
What made me suspect they were all for show I don't remember -- probably it had more to do with hope and desire on my part than with any clue on his. Once he realized I had guessed, however, he took advantage of my interest to try some things he'd been wanting to try.
Our acquaintance was as tumultuous as it was secretive. He ridiculed my candlelight-dinner visions of romance; I was unsympathetic to the struggle going on within him. But I still think of him fondly -- even though, in the end, his fears won out over his desires, and he stopped seeing me.
"You always want everyone to be all the way out of the closet all the time," Kristin recently complained to G. Hiroshima. "That's just not possible for everyone. You've got to stop being so judgmental." G. Hiroshima, recounting her argument to me over our coffee that morning, said he had promised to try to be more patient. I suppose I have to be patient, too. People like the handsome young man will not come out unless and until they're ready to.
"What are you thinking?" he asked me one night as we lay resting beneath a tangle of sheets and blankets. The bedroom was chilly, and I was grateful for the unaccustomed warmth of his body next to mine.
"I'm thinking how tragic this is," I said, staring up at the ceiling. "You're going to hate yourself again tomorrow, and there's nothing I can do to stop it -- society has taught you that you should. You're going to hate me, too. So now I'm lying here saying to myself, I shouldn't have done this. That's what's tragic. Love's not supposed to be like that."
He propped himself up on one shoulder and stared into my eyes. "Don't be sad," he said, in a voice that was little more than a whisper. Then he leaned over, very slowly, and kissed me for a long time.
"What are you thinking?" I asked afterward.
He smiled. "That straight people don't know what they're missing."
Copyright © 2002 Lawrence Biemiller. Published originally in The Washington Blade.