I miss him. For about 20 years, he was a constant in my life. And then we weren’t there for each other. I wish I could understand, but I can’t figure it out.
When I first came out in my 20s, I began to go to Shreveport, Louisiana to experience the nightlife. As luck would have it, my first trip to the gay bar in the city was a bit of a jolt. As I approached the door, I saw the younger guys (like me) pulling out their IDs to show the man just inside. I pulled out my driver’s license and walked into the bar. Who was working the door? A guy from my hometown. Not only a guy from my hometown, but one of my old school mates. He had boxed with my cousin in middle school. He and I were in high school band together. When I saw him, I almost turned around and made the hour drive back home. But I took a deep breath. I approached his podium and handed over my ID. He raised his eyebrows as he looked at me. “I thought that was you!” he smiled. “I didn’t know you were gay!” The truth be known, I had always had my suspicions about him.
Although we had not been close in school, he and I became good friends: he introduced me around the gay scene, telling me who to avoid, helping me when I didn’t take his advice, being a mentor in my early queer years.
One night, he had a party at his house. He had invited a photographer from the city paper. Let’s call her “Sherry.” Sherry brought a guest. A tall thin guy with fair skin, high cheekbones, green eyes and glasses. He was a bit quiet. He and I played darts in the gameroom. He was horrible at it. He had a bit too much to drink and seemed to only hit the drywall around the dartboard. I liked him. Let’s call him “Greg.”
Another night, another party at my classmate’s home. When the party got a bit rowdy, Greg suggested that we hang out at his place and have a couple of beers. Before I got into his car, he had to move a pile of cassette tapes from the front to the back seat. When I got in, I looked at the back seat. It was stacked with tapes. I laughed. He smiled sheepishly. I was a big music fan. When we got to his place, I was really impressed. He had about a hundred albums and a turntable. “Play anything you want.” We drank beer and listened to music until late in the night.
Another night, my classmate and I were at the bar. Sherry was there and more than a little drunk. “Greg loves you, you know.” She slurred at me.
“He told me so”
The next time I came to Shreveport, I dropped by Greg’s house. We were just hanging out in his kitchen as he prepared coffee. I decided to drop the bomb. “So…Sherry told me that you are interested in me.”
He blushed and turned to face me. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
It didn't work. It’s as simple as that.
We maintained the friendship, and it became stronger than ever.
He began looking for work in Houston. I visited Houston myself and ran into a man who fell for me. So I began looking for work in Houston myself. I got a job and relocated. About a year later, Greg found a job in Houston. We never missed a beat in our friendship. We hung out together a couple of times a week, went to the clubs together, listened to a lot of music.
He saw me through a lot of men. I would go through a new one about once a year. He would roll his eyes a lot. He would say that people didn’t need to be coupled.
I met “The Man” about five years ago now. Around three years ago, Greg, The Man and I had breakfast together. I was in an especially cantankerous mood, complaining about the long lines and generally making a scene over nothing. Greg was distant as we said our good-byes.
I called him about a week after that breakfast. I had to leave a message. I called again the next week. I had to leave another message. I called a couple of weeks later. Another message. He never called me back. After a year and a half (about six months ago), I called again. Another message.
A couple of weeks after that call, I grabbed a six pack of his favorite beer and headed to his house. I knew he’d be there, since he works from home. I knocked on his door. He answered the door with a look of bewilderment. “Hello?”
“You want a beer?”
“I’m working right now.”
“Can’t you take a break?”
“I really can’t. Can you give me your number? And I’ll call you.” (He deleted my number?)
I was shocked as I drove away.
Greg did call that evening. “You want to come over?”
When I got to his house, Greg was quiet. We made small talk until I couldn’t take it anymore. “Greg, did I do something wrong? You just disappeared on me.”
“I just thought that we needed a break from each other.”
We made plans to meet for lunch. And then we did a couple of times. We made plans to meet one day for lunch, and work got busy for me. I called him and asked if we could reschedule. “Sure,” he said. “Just call me next week.”
Work didn’t slow down until a month later. I called him and got his voicemail. I left a message. A couple of weeks ago when I didn’t get a call back, I sent an e-mail. No reply.
It’s a mystery to me. And it hurts. Does there come a time when you just let go of a friendship? This guy introduced me to Elvis Costello, to the Clash, to the Pretenders, to Rancid, to Joni Mitchell. I may call him again.