I was cracked. Torn down. Torn up. It had everything to do with a recent break-up. My first really. The first time I could actually say that I had a boyfriend and that using “we” when referring to him and me was no longer making any sense. I had just turned 40 and was facing a hundred mutinies of confidence.
Roughly ten years of my life were tied up with him and me, us, we two. Ten years snapped…those ten good ones between thirty and forty, between This is what I’m doing with my life and What the fuck have I been doing with my life. I was feeling too old to want to start again looking for a new boyfriend. I was thinking that the older the gay male the more financial freedom he needs if he’s going to find a mate. In youth, beauty is its own currency. With age, all of that post-adolescent competition and aggression is turned from sexual conquest towards acquiring power and power in this world comes from money. Forty and broke is no way to be for sure, but that’s what I was. I was writing screenplays that didn’t sell and working for chump change as a freelance assist film director on small film projects. I was not fulfilling the urban gay middle-aged male stereotype by clothes shopping, taking Brazilian vacations or hanging out in a fantastic new co-op apartment. No, indeed I was feeling broke, and broken, and this break up set me down hard.
Pulling into myself emotionally, while also plunging deeply down into bitterness, I was angry that Kyle had left me for another guy, an older, richer man. A man fatter than me in every sense of the word. Searching myself for some clue as to why I was being cast aside I remember standing in front of a mirror examining my naked self: supple taut coffee au lait skin covering a muscled slender 6’1” frame, supporting 165 lbs…..a face of angles and clean lines…eyes that are yellow and green and grey and brown…altogether a handsome man, and yet here I was dumped decisively and assuredly for another man sagging in the flesh, but bright blue in the eyes. Perhaps it was the fact that I was pushed aside for a fat blond-haired blue-eyed guy that irked me so. Perhaps it was the fact that I had always thought myself a better person in a relationship than out of one, relationships requiring, as they do, one to be less selfish, more open to compromise. Turning 40, breaking down, discovering this wholly irrational but sadly real internalized sense of being someone less culturally valuable than a middle-aged fat white man, I thought there might be something noble in tracking this fracture from end to end. My mind raced along the fault lines like a child’s finger across unfamiliar words on a storybook’s page. I wanted to understand. I wanted to fix this. I was working my last good nerve. I wrote him a letter:
The last time we were together, the last time we made love you said that in my arms, my lips to yours, my arms across your body, in my bed with me holding you, was home to you. Your words were wine to me. Do you remember what it was like for both of us when we met? I listened to you talk about being a country boy from Pennsylvania. Laughing when you told me that you had scored the highest points on the SAT of any kid ever in Monongahela county and that the local paper wrote about you being the first person in your family to go to college. Knowing you had dropped out after a year, and knowing that you’d been bouncing from one mentor to another, finding better jobs with each beat I marveled at your luck rather than become alarmed by your clearly expert use of your charms. You quoted The Tempest saying, “Oh brave new world that has such creatures in it” and I remember thinking you were trying too hard and this alone made me kiss you deeper, and in that moment I think you stopped being a country boy finding his way in the world but a man who knew everything about the art of making his way in the world. I was caught and learning and felt that your tongue was beyond me, your kiss deeper than I had experienced and more soulful for its total mystery to me. Why were you into me then I wondered, and wonder now if you were at all, but then you’d not have spent ten years kissing me if had gotten something out of it. You’re nothing if not fully committed to taking care of yourself. Do you remember how I collapsed in your arms, your breath in my ear, your hand supporting my back? Do you remember us? As we kissed I kept my eyes open, disbelieving the weakness in me. Funny how all of our friends always thought it was me who was the strong one, the one in control.
I have spent ten years chasing that first kiss with you. You told me that first night you didn’t believe that someone like me would want someone like you. My vanity smiling while my insecurity reversed the statement. It was all too much. We two in bed naked, sweat scented and what? You said, “I love you,” startling yourself. I knew you didn’t mean it, but I wanted to hear it and believe it and quickly rolled you over before you could speak and take it back.
Now you are taking it back and again I don’t want to let you. I love you. Ten years of this up and down, back and forth, and with each swing I have only grown more in love with you. No debates or doubts in me about this. See me Kyle. You are doing and saying things to justify your decision…buying a house with and moving in with Richard…three weeks after we broke up. I get it. You’re done with me, but really Kyle, we don’t have to end this way. Rumor says he is or was paying you for your company. I don’t care what the truth is about that. I do care that when we broke up we made love, and it was not tepid or hesitant or remote or rote. We made love. The day you said, “goodbye” to me, you clearly still loved me: my body and my soul. So what is happening now, three weeks later? My fears forgetting manners, I am ashamed that I want you so, but want you still, I do.
With all my heart,
And with that my last drip of self-respect was mailed away.
Four years later, I introduced my new partner, a man fifteen years younger than me, a handsome male model from Germany, to Kyle. Mathias wanted to meet the infamous Kyle. When they met, on the Mall in Washington, DC, they stood side by side, sizing one another up. Kyle, always the charmer, charmed Mathias, smiling easily, gingerly moving through our first meeting since the break-up. Years had not been added to or subtracted much from either of our faces, but time had certainly placed a comfortable distance between the old hurts and the present neutrality. Mathias was primed for this meeting. To him, Kyle was the Adam of my homosexual life, the man from which all other men sprung. “Not so,” I’d tell him, saying, “Kyle was just the guy who broke my heart. Be grateful to him, because I don’t want a man who hasn’t had his heart broken. Until it happens love is really just a game. Afterward one gets serious about when, where, and how one gives one’s heart away.” I’m never quite sure that Mathias understands what I mean by that, so whenever he mentions Kyle I just say, “Remember: Kyle is a middle-aged house-wife and former escort, living in small town rural Maryland with his middle-aged, slightly overweight blond-haired blue-eyed boyfriend and their three cats. There is nothing to envy there.” That usually causes Mathias to smile. I am never quite sure what to do.