Got an email from a friend this week and I wasn’t sure how to reply. You’d think it would be easy. Something simple would suffice, like: “I wish I were there to go with you. Sounds like a lot of fun.” But for some reason I found it difficult to say even that. Here’s why. We’ve been friends for a long time now. Since our first teenage years. We were friends by nature of a mutual friend first, but over time our own friendship grew. He was quiet and reserved, introverted. He like to have things just so. His room was always in order and he paid attention to the details but without getting bogged down by them. He seemed to know what he liked and what he didn’t like without much hesitation. All quite different from me. My room would go through fitful bouts of cleanliness and disarray. My likes and dislikes related much more directly to my mood rather than to any empirical method of elimination of less appealing options. Even my favorite color varied from day to day. He and I did many things together over the years: campouts, hiking trips, birthday parties, and many nights of nothing more than hanging out or playing computer games. We had classes together and did scouts together. And sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes we we just needed our space from each other. We were very different personalities. I grew to love his family. They had a crazy intensity somehow blended with a matter-of-fact approach to life, all the while maintaining an admirable sense of order. Everything seemed to have a place in their house. It was as if even the junk in the junk room under the garage knew that it belonged there and it was only a matter of time before someone would organize it. Which they did. And I belonged there, too. Somehow I fit in to a place reserved just for me. Taking a family trip? Make sure you invite Lucas. It was wonderful. For many reasons, including this, his friendship was special. One other reason was he was the only one that I ever talked with about girls. Ever. I remember camping one night in his backyard. We talked of things we wanted to do, things we were going to do, and things we might never do. The darkness fell without notice, my mind full of the light of possibilities and our conversation. In this space we began talking about girls. I remember trying to sound casual about it, as if I talked about them all the time. I don’t know how often he talked with other friends about things like this. I assumed he had more than I had, which I felt safe assuming because I never had. I remember talking about whether we liked big breasts better or small, firm ones. I think we both decided on the latter. We talked about bicycling from Mexico to Canada with a group of friends. This group, had it existed, would have included mixed company. In his subtle intense matter-of-fact way he stated that he thought he’d probably end up having sex on the way if the opportunity presented itself. I thought deeply about it and agreed that I probably would, too. We were seventeen year old boys, after all. That night, for the first time in my life, I felt like one of the guys. I felt included in something bigger, something manly. This was something other guys did, something that somehow I had missed getting the instructions on how to have. This was guy bonding time. I felt as if I had finally graduated to some mysterious level of existence in which guys are able to share feelings and hopes and dreams. Talking to girls always came naturally to me, not so to guys. But tonight was different. Even though I felt like the newest of novices in this world, it felt wonderful. Exciting and fun and joyful. I felt a wonderful sense of happiness flow over me and stick to me. I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face. It was a night of many first-time thoughts for me. For the first time in my life I began to have a comprehension of what it might feel like to be interested in breasts. I never thought about them on my own. Not really. I remember seeing one or two in films in french class, and seeing Juliet slide out of bed topless towards the camera during Shakespearean lessons in English. The images stuck in my mind and I can still recall them. I remember feeling rebellious for seeing something I shouldn’t have seen. Having been entirely more interested in the ‘N Sync pinups in the girl’s lockers, to now be talking with a guy about breasts in this way opened up new worlds of possibilities to me. Never before had the thought of me actually having sex with a girl and enjoying it entered into my mind. Even though the drives and the desires were not innate to me, I could now imagine feeling that way. That night the possibility felt like a reality. I think that one talk on that one night in all my life did more for me than years of counseling have done for other guys I know. Eventually college happened. He ended up out of state, we both married and moved on in our lives. We communicated occasionally throughout this. My wife and I would refer to him as my best friend even though it may have been months since we’d talked. And I missed him at times. I missed having him around, his cheeky smile, the funny way he’d get excited about something. I would find myself grinning when he’d yell, ‘Wheeee!’ and then laugh, never fail. I missed camping and hiking. I missed his encouragement to try new things, to get me to do things that were hard for me. I missed him helping me grow and become a better person. I missed his matter-of-fact faith in God. Years later, my wife and I began having children. It took us a while. But we would end up having three before they were able to have any. I knew how hard it had been for me in the few years before we had our first. I could only imagine what it would feel like for them. During this time he also took a job that put him in a place where it was exceedingly challenging to maintain a friendship. His geographic location was remote and the details of his job were such that there was little that he could share and less that he wanted to share. I don’t remember ever seeing him sad. I remember him being nervous about things, but never really afraid. He so rarely expressed feelings. None of those things seemed to exist to him yet emotions were so strong for me. Not knowing how he felt, I imagined how I would feel in his place. I wanted to reach out to him. I felt completely helpless. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him about any of it. This made me feel distant from him, which made me feel sad. I didn’t want to feel it. It didn’t do me any good to feel it. So I moved on and tried fairly successfully to put it all out of my mind. I filed the happy memories away and they began to gather dust. We’d see him and his wife occasionally, rarely, and I’d dust off the mental photo album and leaf through it, but it was hard to see the friend I had in the face of the man standing next to me. And the frustration was there also, each time I brought out the memories, unresolved. I hated it. And I told myself it was just me. He was OK and I was just being overly sensitive. “You shouldn’t care so much,” I told myself. “Because guys aren’t emotional like that.” And while I tried to believe that, I couldn’t because it wasn’t true for me. Because I did care. What I really wanted to tell him, more than anything, that not having him be part of my life sucked. That he meant more to me than I knew how say. And under it all was the nagging surety that it was gay to have feelings like that. That it was not something guys should do to share feelings like that with their friends. That if I did, he would think I was gay. Which was the worst feeling of all. Pause story. My brain has just checked out. I felt that detach that comes when my feelings are so intense that I disassociate because I can’t handle them. The feeling that was coming up was a feeling of utter and complete worthlessness. A feeling that the dirt and filth of the earth has more value than I do. Because I’m gay. It is a dark, black feeling, it is the essence of distilled, concentrated, utter loneliness. Blacker, thicker, more durable than tar. And there’s a pit of it inside of me. OK. Back to the narrative. One day an amazing improbability presented itself. Out of the blue an opportunity came for us to spend three days together driving most of the way across the continental US. With the reality of this feeling as fragile as a soap bubble, we planned the trip and made it happen. Here we were again, as if the years between then and now hadn’t existed. Here he was with his smile, the ‘Wheeee!’ and the laugh. There were the sunglasses he always wore while driving, the look he’d get while nodding his head with the beat of the music, his careful way of doing things. But there was also a lot more there. For both of us. The boxes and bags in the car seemed nothing compared to the weight we now both carried on our shoulders. We were men now, with families and jobs. We talked hesitantly but freely. We talked about how we’d changed, about fears of parenthood, about what we liked now and what we liked then. We listened to tunes, saw the sites, watched Nacho Libre, and got to know each other. Somehow strangers and friends at once. He dropped me off at the airport; he was staying and I was going. The worry of how to say goodby, what to say, had been growing on me. Driving to the airport it was constantly at the back of my mind. How inept I felt at expressing myself. I had no idea how to let him know how much he meant to me. At how much I’d missed him and how good it was to get to spend time with him again. I wanted so badly to be able to tell him how I wished I could have been there for him when they were trying to have kids and couldn’t, how I wished I could have sat up late at night listening to how challenging his job was, even if he couldn’t tell me the details. I just wanted to let him know that I cared. I didn’t know how to say any of it. And I didn’t know how he felt. Maybe it was just me, I thought. Maybe he was really OK and it was just me that missed him. I just wanted to give him a hug but worried about how he would see it. Turns out I didn’t have figure it out. He hugged me first. Fast forward some more. I knew keeping in touch wasn’t his strong point and that he used words sparingly in correspondence. We have traded email more frequently since then, every few months. Maybe a quick email to say, “I saw this cool thing and thought you’d be interested.” But this week he shared on his wife’s blog about his mountain biking adventures. Something we might have done together. I sent him one of those quick notes to say, “Sounds like fun. Do you remember when we did things like that?” And he responded, “Yeah man. Those were good times. Now I have to go alone because no one wants to go with me :(“ I couldn’t even think of a reply. What I wanted to say was, “I miss you and I wish I was there to go with you.” But I couldn’t. Because it’s not what I want to say. What I want to say is all of this. But I’m afraid to. Afraid that he’ll think I’m gay. Afraid that he’ll care that I am. Because I’m still afraid of it at times. Afraid that this will be too much. Afraid that he won’t know what to say. Because I don’t. The problem is I no longer know how not to say it. I’ve learned that the only way to not keep doing the same thing is to do something different. Not saying all of this hasn’t worked for me. Saying nothing worked even less. Because I think about him and he is still part of my life. His friendship has had such an impact on me. So I’m going to do something different. I’m going to take courage and pray that he’ll understand. I’m going to reply to him, to let him know that “I miss you. I’d go biking with you if I were there. :)” And I’m going to share this with him.

Posted by Lucas Jones On 11/06/2013 11:45:00 PM 6 comments

6 comments:

  1. Oh, Lucas...if only I were there to go biking with YOU right now!. I was entranced by your story and did not expect the ending to move me to tears. I've been there. I still haven't work up the courage to tell the best man from my wedding that I "am" and I'm "out." That seems odd to me because every one that I have told or has found out on their own has treated me with an increased outpouring of love, acceptance and compassion. Some have even asked for my forgiveness for not being the kind of friend I felt I could have told earlier in my journey. But, just in the last year, I have learned two very important truths about myself. The first is that, just being able to be who I am with fear of discovery has been the most liberating feeling in the world. It has made life itself just seem SO much easier. The second thing is that, for so long, I did the people in my life a disservice by taking their agency away from them and, instead, decided for myself in advance how they would react if they knew. In effect, I had decided that the Christian charity the professed to possess was merely a façade and, when called upon to be put into practice, it would to be nonexistent. That assumption was hurtful and unfair. As I have become more open this year about what my four adult sons call "the whole gay thing", my friendships, old and new, have taken on a deeper, more meaningful quality as I no longer cared if something 'seemed' gay or not. If I loved someone, I told them. If I was thinking about them, I called them. I started unabashedly hugging people whenever and wherever I felt like it, no matter how it might look to others. It took 55 years for me to get to this point on my journey. Nothing like time well spent.

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  2. Yes, share this with him :) and be sure to share his response with us. Lucas, your writing here beautifully describes your feelings and emotions, and I don't think he'll think 'it's gay'. I think you will be blessed for your courage to be real with a great old friend, and I'll bet he will love you (in that healthy male bonding way) just the same

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  3. Awesome, amazing and full of so much love. Thank you Lucas!

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  4. Do you think you might be in love with him? The beautiful way that you describe your emotions here - really emotive and stunning - does sound like you might be in love with him. As a straight man, I certainly love my male friends and am quite free in telling them so. The feelings I have for them are not as you describe here though. Might you examine your heart to determine your real feelings? I think you should definitely still share with him about your being gay.

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    Replies
    1. As Lucas and I have talked, the main thing that Lucas said that caught me off guard but is true:  but does it matter if he was in love with him?

      The world makes it look like “love” is something you have to act on and that it is always romantic love when it is between a male and a female.  Growing up I thought the same thing, that if I loved a guy I was “in love” with him.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that this was not true.  So for Luke, while the potential is there for him to fall in love with a guy, it’s the same.  It doesn’t mean that he’s going to fall in love.  But I have learned, at least for Lucas, it means that he does love his friends more strongly than most guys do.

      As far as the intensity of love goes, love doesn’t diminish for one person because you love another and it doesn’t get less because you love someone else. Parents have been known to wonder if they can love 2+ children as much as they love their first.  How is that possible?  It is though.  I remember in High School not believing I could love anyone more than I loved my boyfriend at the time (and I would say I still love him). When I met and fell in love with Lucas I couldn’t imagine loving anyone more and I loved him so much more than this boyfriend I had had.  Having children and a family, I can’t imagine loving anyone more and I love them all SO SO much more than I loved Lucas to begin with. It wasn’t that that love wasn’t real because it very much was but my capacity to love is just so much more now. That is the beauty of love.  It grows with use.  

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    2. I think I get it - you are accepting that he may fall in love with other men or think that he is in love with other men but that he will still love you just as much. That he can share his love type thing. That he can think of another man constantly in his mind and heart and want to be in their lives and also still be completely faithful to you.
      I don't think a person can control who they fall in love with - but of course he can control what he does with it. It's great that it doesn't bother you that he may fall in love with other men, that you feel no jealousy.

      Delete

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