When I was but a wee thing of seventeen, I fell in love—nay, plunged desperately in love—with one of the teachers at my high school, M.R., whom I knew of course as Mr. R. I never actually took any of Mr. R.’s classes, but he was also one of the drama coaches; it was in this capacity that I worked with him, in preparation for debate tournaments and for the senior play. Furthermore, I went to a pretty small school, so everybody knew everybody else, and since I had few friends my own age I ended up hanging out with the teachers more than most of the other kids.
But I digress. As I say, I was desperately in love with Mr. R., who by the way was GORGEOUS, and I spent approximately half my waking hours during senior year thinking about a) whether he was gay and b) whether, if he was, I could get him to love me.
But I graduated from high school without ever learning the truth about either of these questions. Mr. R. and I stayed in touch, however, and before long I understood that the answer to a), at least, was “yes.” By this time I had moved away and plunged desperately in love with more boys than I could count, so my passion for Mr. R.—whom I could finally begin calling M.—had receded from the forefront of my mind, but my affection for him remained.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to see him for the first time in many years, when I was a visiting artist for a week and a half at the school where he teaches now. During the day I worked with the drama students; at night, M. and I revisited those halcyon days of yore, long gone, when we could both laugh in the teeth of wrinkles and fat; each of us remembered things the other had forgotten, so I found our conversations were deeply satisfying, in that they served the purpose not only of reconnecting with an old friend but also of enlarging my understanding of my own history.
He had forgotten, for example, the hair-product episode. At one point in the fall of 1990 I discovered that the guy who stood next to me in the choir I sang in was Mr. R.’s hairdresser. This fact filled me with a gleeful joy, because my friend Y. and I had been trying for months to get Mr. R. to tell us which product he used on his spectacular hair. Mr. R. had thus far resisted our efforts without breaking a sweat, but I made excellent use of my new connection and was able to surprise Mr. R. during fourth period with a bottle of Vavoom for his birthday.
He in turn reminded me, over dinner with a friend of his, of the Christmas episode, which had completely vanished from my memory. Shortly before Christmas vacation, school was canceled one day because of snow. (This was in Charleston, South Carolina, where it snows once a year, exactly one inch, and the city shuts down because nobody knows how to deal with it.) I wasn’t about to let the snow stay me from the swift completion of my appointed round. So I walked to his apartment, which was a couple miles from my house, knocked on his door, and, when he opened it, handed him his Christmas present.
Which was a copy of Tales of the City.
I’d hoped, of course, that he would ask me in and ravish me or at the very least open his heart to me and let me open mine to him so that we would discover we were kindred spirits, but this did not happen. Instead, he stood in the doorway, thanked me politely for the gift, and shut the door, at which point I—lithe, nubile, seventeen-year-old, unmolested I—trudged home.
When M. had finished the story, his friend’s only response was, “Gee, M., you really know how to not get arrested.”
I for my part found myself wishing ever so slightly that I didn’t have a boyfriend so that I might try again. But the Tales of the City had been over for years, and when one has lost opportunities they tend not to be found.