Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Open and close

While in San Francisco last weekend I visited a former boyfriend. I don't have many of those and I am not one of those "keep all exes as friends" type of person. This one however was spectacular. And by spectacular I mean in many wrong ways.

I met him while visiting California many, many years ago. I thought we were a perfect match. I also thought he was too good to be true. I was right on one of those.

I moved to Southern California to be with him. I loaded up my then car, a 1964 Ford Galaxy, strapped an X-Car-Go container to the roof and motored off by myself.
Those red shorts with a mock turtleneck, multi-colored topsiders and my hair...
why there's only one era this could be, THE 80's!

I'd been there about a month and saw the writing on the wall, it wasn't working well. My mother was going to be in San Francisco for a Tupperware convention and I needed some motherly advice on my life, my alleged career, and this crazy thing called love. I drove up from LA to SF to get some mom face time. Trouble was I was not yet out to my parents. So there I am at a hotel by the airport in San Francisco having a cookie with my mom. This frustrated, floundering, pent-up moment that I seized upon to come clean with my mother in what I viewed as the gayest city in the world.
How's the move been?
Uh, okay.
Are you working?
Uh, not really.
You seem pretty unhappy. What's really going on?
IhatemylifeIhatemyjobthecarisactinguptheguyImovedheretobewithisnotwhath appearedandsinceImnotgoingtolivewithhimIdontknowwheretoliveandImaysoonrun outofmoney. (It all seemed to come out as one long word, but I've broken it up into separate words so that you can understand what I said - I hate my life I hate my job the car is acting up the guy I moved here to be with is not what he appeared and since I'm not going to live with him I don't know where to live and I may soon run out of money.)
My mother the ever clever one caught that little slip up in the middle of the long blurted out word. "Guy you moved to be with? I didn't know you were gay?"

We sorted it out, me relieved that I could finally be honest, her flooded with about an equal amount of angst as to what I was releasing onto her. And then she had to go back to her convention and I went to visit my grandparents in Sacramento for a week to think about my life.

When I returned to LA I went by my boyfriend's place to check messages on his machine. Now I was not a crazy stalker. We had worked out that I could use his phone number for all my job hunting and resumes. I even had a key to his place. But there were no messages for me. There was however a conversation recorded between him and another guy.

It was someone on a phone chat line. My guy admitted that he had a boyfriend but that it wasn't working and he was going to break up with him (that would be me). Then they discussed various parts of each other's anatomy (that was uncomfortable to hear). Then they made plans to meet up right after they got off the phone (and now I was very angry).

See what I mean, SPECTACULAR.

So I sat and waited. When he came home I confronted him and he easily admitted it all. He accused me of being the twisted one who kept listening when clearly is wasn't a message for me. My final words to him were that he was "a loser because I was a great guy and he was never going to find that out!" At the time of course I did not believe that. I thought I was a loser because I picked someone so handsome who would treat me so poorly. And that I probably deserved to be treated poorly because I didn't see myself as handsome, this was what I deserved and if only I hadn't listened to that message I could be blissfully unaware and keep going out with him.

I jumped in my car thrilled to have gotten in such a movie worthy last line and hit the gas to speed maniacally back to where I was staying with a different friend.

That's when the car threw a rod and shuddered to a stop on the side of the freeway. Movie worthy indeed.

Since I was now out to my mother I could actually call her up and cry on her shoulder. She and my sister concocted a plan and were both at my door in 24 hours having driven non-stop from Washington State overnight. They packed me up, called a tow truck to take away the car and recycle it, loaded me into the station wagon and we were on the road North 2 hours later. Me driving their car now as they had not had any sleep all night.

And I really hated that guy.

But then I went to London for the summer (hey, I had no plans anymore) and discovered the world was huge and my problems were very small. That allowed me to forgive a few people I'd been holding grudges against. But not that guy.

Then I met Lyle and I was so thrilled that someone so handsome could actually be nice to me. And that changed some of the bad feelings I still held inside about myself. But I still hated that other guy.

After about 10 years I think I became ambivalent. No longer so pissed off, but not seeking anything out to do with him either.

Finally, I moved on. About a year ago, I found his e-mail address at the end of a mass email a mutual friend had sent. I dropped him a note:
Hey ____, it’s Jim _____(I included my last name so he'd know it was from me).
I found your e-mail address and thought I’d drop you a note.
No, I am not selling insurance. Where do you live now? I live in Los Angeles.
Shoot me a note back when you get this (if you’d like).
And to my surprise he responded:
Hi Jim - What is up?
I live in San Francisco and have been here about 13 years - I can't believe
it. I work at ____. What is new with you?

So I wrote back:
Met a great guy. He wanted to go to school in LA. I told him ABSOLUTELY NOT. I’d had a bad go of it before in LA. So of course we moved to LA Day two of the Riots (back when I must have been, uh, um... 20?).
(and then I added a whole bunch of other pertinent details of my life)
To which I received this response:
You are going to hate me...I wasn't exactly sure who you were, oh the mind
is the first to go! Thank you for the update it triggers a flood of
thoughts. (and he shared a lot more specifics about his life)
See, what I had been stewing over for so many years, he didn't even have filed away. All that was a year ago. Last weekend we were headed up to San Francisco (which we never seem to do). I made vague plans to connect if we both had time.

I made the time. I dragged Lyle with me. I kept joking that I hoped he weighed 500 lbs and was bald. Each time promising myself that I wasn't really bitter. Then we met up and he looked good. Not exactly the same as he did 20 years ago, how could he? (not everyone is holding up the way that my friend Carolyn is.) But he is good. He is happy. He's been with his boyfriend for about 10 years and they have cats, a house and a full life. We nattered away for a while and then Lyle and I needed to leave to get packed to fly home.

After we left Lyle asked me if I got closure. Closure? I don't think I went looking for closure. I think I went looking for an opening. I really did like the person I first met long ago and perhaps would like to meet the person he's become today. And I also realized that somehow I just wanted to know that he was "okay". Because I thought he was probably pretty messed up back when I first knew him and I had always hoped he'd sort himself out as he matured. And now I know he has.

As we left I sent him a text, "Getting on BART. Officially out of earshot. You can start talking about me now."


Christopher said...

Great post!

Love the & I share(d) the same fashion sense.

Carolyn said...

I love hearing (reading) stories about your life. Didn't we all have one of those relationships where we just knew it was doomed but we kept hoping that those feelings of foreboding were just bad shrimp or something?
Thanks for saying I have held up so well. I should post a picture of me 20 years ago so you could see how right you are!
Tell me another story, Daddy!!

The T-Dude said...

Man, we have all been there. I have an ex that frankly, I don't care if I ever see her again. She let me support her in her efforts to be a lawyer, then she went over seas and boffed another dude or two. I was glad to see her go and now I am with a hottie who looks just like she did 20 years ago!

Rachel said...


I love that you compliment Carolyn and Lyle in this post. They both deserve it.

You are a great person. Not sure "no-name" deserves the non-negative press you give him, but I'm glad it went well.

Jim said...

Aw, "no name" and I have a history from long ago that is quite literally ancient to me now. I've moved on.

I probably should have mentioned that without him I would never have run off to London that summer, come out so soon to my parents, and a few other things that make up who I am.

I'm not glad it all happened the way it did. But I like who am now and that got me here.

Rachel said...

Yeah. Werd.