The Best for Last

Paul is cheerfully marching ahead of me, wearing a backpack, shorts and sneakers looking like a very tall and very mature school boy. I stare at the back of his head. I know it well. When God gave us our legs he was in a joking mood. He made Paul’s extra-long and toned and mine short and spindly, so that I would always be playing catch up.

“Just four more blocks sweetie!”

Behind the glitzy lights, dancing water fountains and high end retail stores lay vacant lots of arid gravel baking in the desert sun. On the distant horizon red mountains ring this dustbowl. If I had been blind folded, hog tied and thrown into the back of one of those trucks that endlessly drive up and down the strip advertising “Hot Babes, direct to you!” and subsequently dumped here, I would not be able to discern the difference between this place and Mars. But you cannot say that you have been to Las Vegas if you have not walked three miles in the hot sun to a grocery store with a five martini hangover.

“Maybe you should have worn sneakers.”

Paul says this as he glances over his shoulder at me. I shoot daggers with my eyes at the back of his head as I pick up the pace. My flip flops barely hang onto my feet and my arms flail up and down like a baby bird’s wings.

“Maybe we should have eaten breakfast first.” I say in my most feeble and pathetic voice sounding as if I may faint at any moment. But he doesn’t buy it.

“Come on, we walk further than this in the city before breakfast. It’s worth the walk. We’ll make our own drinks and avoid the fifteen dollar drinks by the pool.”

Paul has been to Las Vegas with a couple of his previous boyfriends. Those relationships ended shortly thereafter, one actually ended during their stay in Las Vegas. I begin to understand why.

Even in the relationship department, Paul had a head start on me. On our first date, he relayed his method for remembering each of them.

“Take the first initial of your last name and give them a nickname. My last name starts with a B, so I have the Boozer, the Bastard, the Biscotti, the Bald Eagle, the Box boy…” My head began to swim. The number of serious relationships I had didn’t need a mnemonic device to recall them.

Over the years I have learned the details of Paul’s relationships. The Boozer was his first after coming out. Not surprisingly, they met in a bar. From all accounts he was a very outgoing and fun guy, as long as the liquor was flowing. Their relationship took a sharp turn for the worse when he drank the entire weekend away in their Las Vegas hotel room. While Paul was out winning at the gambling tables, the Boozer grabbed Paul’s wallet and plane ticket and left him.

While the Boozer may have been his first relationship with a man, the Bastard was the first man he loved. I know this because it is not in his nature to hate anyone, but the nick name says it all.  The Bastard was wealthy. He had two beautiful homes, a lucrative career and a fine southern family that refused to acknowledge that their golden child was gay. Paul was just a friend in their eyes. Consequently, the Bastard hated himself and ruined his relationship with Paul by cheating on him. Their relationship ended shortly after Las Vegas. Perhaps the fakeness of Vegas too closely mirrored the Bastard’s own life.

Always a meticulous photographer, Paul has recorded scenes from these relationships. Before we travelled together, he travelled to all of the destinations we now love with someone else. Here is a photo of Paul and the Boozer on Miami Beach, here is a photo of Paul and the Bastard in Las Vegas, and again in Key West, San Francisco and New York. Because he was always one step ahead of me, I have had a glimpse of my future.

Even on the plane ride home, he sits in the seat in front of me and my immediate view is again of the back of his head. I know it so well that I could pick it out of a faceless line up. It is lovely, really, perfectly shaped with a whorl of thick salt and pepper hair. It is perhaps divinely ironic that even though I am always one step behind him, I will in all likelihood reach the finish line first because I am several years older. Knowing this I once asked him what his nick name will be for me when I am gone. He thought for a second then said “The Best”.

I think it was more than blind luck. Maybe God made Paul’s legs longer so that he could walk ahead of me to learn that even though the path is the same, it looks completely different with the love of your life.

And anyway, everyone knows, you always save the Best for last.


This is the way

This is the way I make the bed because this is where he will sleep.

This is the way I clean the kitchen because this is where he will eat.

This is the way I vacuum the floors because this is where he will walk.

This is the way I fluff the pillows because this is where he will rest his head.

This is the way I scour the shower because this is where he will wash his body.

This is the way I clean my face because this is where he will kiss me.

This is the way I watch the clock because he is not home.

This is the way I drive the car because his plane has landed.

This is the way I can't stop smiling because I see him.

This is way I love him because this is the way he loves me.


My Brother, My Enemy

Author's note:  Sometimes words can be just as deadly as knives. The pain and self-hate they inflict, especially from family and loved ones, can become toxic. There was no physical harm inflicted on me.

PLEASE read this in the figurative sense, not the literal  and remember to love one another.

At eighteen years old, I became the victim of a hate crime. My assailant, who I knew well, pushed a knife deep inside my body with a surgeon’s precision. The pain was unbearable, but perhaps even more unbearable was the feeling that I had provoked the attack and was therefore responsible.

Being openly gay in North Carolina during the 1980’s was riskier than I was aware. I should not have declared my sexuality. I should have kept it hidden. But I was emboldened by spending a summer with my aunt Sheila in Colorado, who was also gay and living openly. I came back to North Carolina feeling confident and sure of who I was. After the attack, a part of me died. I learned to keep the secret in order to survive. I passed.

But the wound was more severe than I realized. Because most people considered the attack warranted, I never received the medical attention I deserved. Over the years it began to fester and became septic. I ignored the symptoms, but eventually the infection travelled through my bloodstream and infected my brain. I became irrational and started exhibiting uncharacteristic patterns, such as suicidal thoughts and depression, followed by life threatening behavior.

I was ready to give up on life, but life would not give up on me. And because life stubbornly disagreed, I lived, begrudgingly at first. I sought the medical attention that should have been available to me as a teenager. Day by day, I tended the wound and eventually became stronger. Until one day, I felt strong enough to confront my attacker.

“When you told me I was sick, dirty, sinful and needed conversion therapy, you killed a part of me.” There was anger in my voice.

“I was wrong. I figured it out years ago. I hope you can forgive me. I love you.” She pleaded.

Years of anger and bitterness melted. The pain was replaced by love. It was the final step of healing that I needed. For several years I lived without fear.

But tonight, unbelievably, I was attacked again. The knife hit the same spot.

You people choose this sinful lifestyle. God didn’t make you this way. Satan did.”

The pain was immediate and severe. I pleaded with my attacker, who I knew well, but he couldn’t see past his hate.

Amazingly, my first wound caused my body to produce anti-bodies. While the pain will take time to dissipate, the infection will never take hold. My body learned what my mind should have figured out years ago. Where there is love, there is hope.

I just wish someone would tell my heart.


The Marginal Way: 100 Words

There is a place where water, sky and earth meet. On a narrow strip of craggy rocks, a path meanders for one and a half miles dividing lush green lawns on one side and the lonely beauty of the New England Sea on the other. Pink beach roses nod in the sun and mist. A grove of sentinel cedars bend to form a shaded canopy. Under this shade couples have paused to search for answers in the deep blue green sea. And the sea’s response is as slow and sure and steadfast as the rising and falling tides.

 “Look within.”

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