Continued from yesterday.
Of course my first impulse was to leap immediately into the street, into the path of oncoming traffic, and hope that there was a Mack truck very, very close by.
Paralyzed by cold and horror and guilt and shame and wishing I’d never been born, however, my body refused to act on this impulse, and so instead I sat there in silence, staring at my lap because naturally I was about as capable of looking him in the face as I was of sprouting wings and flying to the moon. I’m sure only a minute or two went by, but it sure as hell felt like I remained mute for the length of all the Cretaceous Period plus half of the Tertiary Period before I spoke.
“I’m trying to figure out what to say that won’t be meaningless,” I said.
“Just say the truth,” he said.
So I did.
And what followed was an extraordinary conversation about honesty and letting people in and fear and facing your emotions and telling other people what you really think. None of these things has ever been my forte. My M.O. is, in general, to tell people what I think they want to hear so that they won’t despise me when they find out who I really am. But in this case, there was no escape route open, there were no evasive tactics I could employ. I had to talk about what I actually felt.
And it was wonderful.
To detail the actual feelings would be too soporific for even the most avid readers, and, besides, they’re more or less contained in the narrative of this blog. So I’ll summarize: ambivalent, cavalier, affectionate, all mixed up together.
It turns out that, about a month before the conversation I’m writing about, he’d seen somebody’s profile on gay.com that had a link to that person’s blog; that blog in turn had a link to mine. He realized it was me after about two seconds—so much for the pretense of anonymity here—and went back to read the archives from the time we were dating.
In the end, he said (I’m paraphrasing somewhat), “I understand why you did what you did. You were just out of a serious relationship; you should have had ‘rebound’ stamped on your forehead. What upset me was that you didn’t tell me—I didn’t have informed consent.”
Finally, the cold made it impossible for us to continue the conversation, so we headed towards the subway. “At first I was furious,” he said. “But now I feel like it’s actually pretty funny.”
“Give me a month to get there,” I said. “Right now I just want to go home and throw myself out my window.”
“Don’t throw yourself out your window. You live on the second floor. You’ll just hurt yourself.”
The thing is that the next morning, when I woke up, I still felt great about having actually been honest in a difficult situation for once in my life. (I don’t mean to imply that I’m a pathological liar—though I’ve told more than my share of untruths, I’m speaking here of emotional honesty.)
And then I started thinking, wait, what if it wasn’t him who was the problem when we were going out?
What if it was me?
Could it be that my complete inability to let him in or trust him or show him any real part of myself or see any real part of him had something to do with why I felt it wasn’t working?
He does, after all, fit all of my requirements: he’s handsome, smart, funny, compassionate, stimulating, and a top. Furthermore, he’s a med student, and he says things like, “I can’t figure out whether I want to join Doctors Without Borders when I graduate or run a gay community health center.”
In the days following The Conversation, we hung out more frequently than we ever had when we were dating—he said that he felt a lot better having gotten things off his chest—and I found myself wanting more and more to try again, if he’d even remotely consider such a thing, that is, given the cad I’d turned out to be on the last go-round. So, in fact, this post was about him.
Eventually I realized that the only thing to do was to ask him. I was completely ready for rejection—what sane person, after all, would want to stick his finger in that pencil sharpener again?—but held out a slim hope that he might not be sane.
So we went to the movies (this time it was Runaway Jury, the quality of which augured better for the subsequent conversation than Underworld had) and then to dinner. I sat through the whole dinner completely distracted and unfocused, wanting at every moment to speak and being unable to. If I can just get one word out, I thought, I will have committed myself and I can finish.
So finally I got out “There’s,” thereby committing myself, and followed it with “something I want to talk to you about.”
“Okay,” he said.
The silence that followed this exchange lasted for eras, not just periods, making the silence described at the beginning of this post seem positively infinitesimal. Staring at the table, because once again I couldn’t look him in the face, I kept beginning:
“I . . . I wa— . . . I . . .”
And finally, from some place hidden in the depths of my psyche, I found a store of courage previously hidden from me; having found that courage, I screwed it to the sticking place and said:
“I want to ask you out on a date.”
He looked at me briefly without saying a word. Then he spoke:
“Let’s go for a walk.”
To be continued.