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San Francisco Story
"You look nice! Got a date tonight?" I asked.
"Yeah, a date." Ron spoke softly as he checked himself out in the mirror. "I met
this guy at the café at the DeYoung."
"What's he like?"
"Well, he works at the DeYoung. He's a docent. He's been around the Bay Area for
a number of years, but he's originally from Texas."
"Are you getting any 'hot vibes?'" I asked as I got up and stood next to him in
front of the mirror.
"'Hot vibes?' What's that?" He blinked at my reflection.
"Well, if things look promising, I could always make myself scarce. That's what
roommates do, right?" I reached over and adjusted his tie.
"Oh, that," He laughed. "Well, we can always go to his place." Ron walked away
from the mirror and fished around in the top drawer of his desk, eventually
pulling out a roll of breath mints. He placed the mints in his vest jacket
pocket. As he eased into the chair in front of the desk, I noticed that the
corners of his mouth were sagging and his skin tone grew pale. A small seed of
glinting silver coalesced in the corner of his right eye.
"What's this?" I leaned against the desktop bracing myself with my right hand.
"This guy is really nice." He wiped the tear from his eye.
"Yeah, I can tell...what's up?"
"Feeling sarcastic, are we? Oh you...We've been meeting, in the middle of the
day, for the past two weeks." The smile returned to his face. "Yesterday, after
having lunch at Lee's downtown, he invited me to his place."
"Oh..." I thought about the many possible explanations for the
mini-emotional-breakdown and the connection that it might have with the
rendezvous the previous day. "Was there a fight?"
"No, no fight. He's a very quiet fellow. "It was all very nice."
"Something is bothering you."
"Well, yeah, sort of." He sighed and got up from the chair. He walked toward the
window and turned his back to me to look out at the backyard.
"Go on." I approached him.
"Well, things were going well. Really well. Then he invited me over to his house
after lunch." He turned around but kept his eyes cast downward. "He introduced
me to his wife when we got to his place."
I said nothing. Although I don't think of myself as naïve, I wasn't prepared for
the blunt and direct way that Ron laid out the situation. Ron, during the whole
time that I had known him, tended toward more passive/aggressive, indirect modes
of communication when forced to say something "difficult."
"He says that he's bisexual and that his wife knows."
"Did you talk to her yesterday?"
"No, but he claims that she knows. She said 'hello' to us and then left us for
"Her room? Are you sure that those two are married? They sound so distant from
one another. I mean, she has her own 'room,' he picks up other men while he's at
work. You know what I mean?"
"Yeah, but they seemed happy to me. I mean they were nice to each other. He
didn't trash talk her or anything. It's just that..." His voice trailed off.
"Well, he wanted to do 'it' while his wife was in the other room. We didn't, of
course, I didn't want to. I felt, well, odd."
"How long has it been since you've had a date?" I asked him.
"Well, let's see...it was before Clifford died, so at least 8 years ago."
"Do you feel desperate for a boyfriend?"
"Oh, I don't know. Really, I'm fine being alone. I mean, I've got friends,
family. Well, maybe sometimes, I feel like I'd do anything to be in a
relationship again. I guess I don't know why what happened yesterday disturbed
me. Really, don't think about it. Everything's fine." He walked into the kitchen
and put a glass under the faucet. I followed him. "I guess that if his wife is
gone or in her room tonight, this will be the night." He chuckled as he turned
on the cold water and let it fill up the glass.
"I try not to get involved. I always end up passing judgment when I do. But,
Ron, you don't sound like you want to do this, or that you want to do this, but
not this way." I could see, for the first time since I had met him, how
vulnerable and needy he was. I was not familiar with this Ron. It also brought
to the surface my own transient feelings of need and insecurity. I flinched at
the memories that cascaded down through the years; one stuck firmly, imprinting
a large "L" brand into my neo-cortex.
...we were engaged to be married. He was a lawyer and I was starting Pharmacy
School soon. We moved back to his native Minnesota to start this dream life. I
left California, all my friends and family. I was totally dependent upon this
man for my emotional, social and mental well-being. But, life was going to be
grand. I was optimistic. There would be exactly 2 children, a boy and girl. We
would have a house in the suburbs with a two car garage and a large backyard,
one large enough to accommodate a built-in swimming pool and a tennis court.
And, eventually, I would make friends. We would be a popular couple, a social
couple, an enviable couple. Yeah, life was going to be so wonderful. Then, "she"
started calling. At first, she would hang up whenever I answered the phone.
Then, one afternoon when she called, she actually asked to speak to him. I told
her that he wasn't at home but that I could take a message. She told me that she
was his girlfriend and that she would call him back...
"Ron, it's not my business, but, fortunately or unfortunately, I do have an
opinion." He turned his back to me. From his back, I watched his shoulders slump
in and his head droop. "If you had other options, if you were dating other men,
this wouldn't appear so sad to me. But, you don't. You haven't had a date in,
what did you tell me? 8 years? This guy is 100% of your social life, 100% of
your love life, and I fear, 100% of your self image. What happens to you when he
suddenly decides to start acting married to his wife again?"
"I know!" He gasped in one giant sob. His shoulders shook with each mammoth
spasm. "I know, I know, I know!" He turned around and looked at me. His face was
beet red. Tears, in steady torrents, formed river valleys running south to his
chin. "I just want someone to think that I'm hot..."
"I know..." I could feel my eyes burn and water, and began to taste the salt
water leaking into the corners of my mouth. "I know exactly what you mean..."
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