I came here to DC to tell a story. I am leaving this city with this mission that has been substantively fulfilled but, also, with it abruptly and most unexpectedly taking on a radically different form in the most shocking yet welcome manner.

Kevin is a friend back in college. In those years long gone when school was hard and life was easy, Kevin and I shared a bond borne of the same passion for self-fulfillment and social justice. We adhered to religious tradition and succumbed to social convention. We drifted apart when I moved to NYC. I have since found so much of myself being in that place and he has since followed me when he pursued postgraduate studies in international relations in Columbia. We barely hung out since we both belonged to different scenes. I was a gay professional and he was a straight graduate student. Yet despite the infrequency of meetings and even the rarity of emails, we managed to maintain a consistent and faithful friendship. He moved to DC to pursue a year-long research stint at the World Bank which was ending in March. I was excited to visit him this weekend after not having seen him in 2 years. I was delighted to finally have the courage to come out to him.

Kevin didn’t know I was gay. Then again, I realy didn’t know it either until I moved here so many years ago. I have since found a deep-seated comfort in this profound acknowledgment and am quietly consumed by the desire to share this empowering news to all my friends. Now, I wanted Kevin to know.

He picked me up at Union Station (after I mistakenly got off at the Baltimore Washington station and barely made it back to the car when I realized my folly) and took me straight to his apartment in Addams-Morgan. His studio struck me as a designing mind’s beginner’s bachelor’s pad. There was a bed laid out like a tatami mat in the center of the room. Twin bookshelves that held portraits of his friends, his favorite books and his own artwork flanked either side. There was a flaming Indian mat that hung above his bed and a flowing African runner that flowed from his table. A glazed porcelain bowl with a single apple adorned it. His space was cute and cozy; it was inspired and intimate.

I felt the air thicken enough with tension that one could cut it with a knife and get it to bleed. I was anxious to tell him. Apparently, he was anxious to tell me something too. I let him break it and I was floored by his story. He told me that he was heartbroken. He fell in love with someone in NY but they have since broken up. His name was Greg.

Suddenly, my story became the tingle of a pindrop compared to his blast of thunder. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was looking at the same person from so many years ago and yet, I felt like I saw someone I didn’t know anymore. In a situation wherein the expectation is intimacy owed to reminiscence, an unexpected plunge into the blankness of memory is terrifying. I began to dig deep for signs that could have prepared me for this revelation and I came out empty. I felt like falling from this pit of not-knowing-then-suddenly-too-much-too-quickly. Yes, it was most shocking news but as I calmed down and composed myself, I also found it wonderful.

He was talking about falling in love so deeply and so completely for the first time. Kevin and Greg were roommates in NY. My friend was working at the UN then while his friend was pursuing his own postgraduate degree. Their simply hanging out became intimate conversations that blossomed into them sleeping together. Kevin had always had heterosexual relationships before. I find him to belong to that rare breed of sensitive (straight) men who hold out for the romantic and the most real. His grounded but suddenly extraordinary affair with Greg was utterly groundbreaking. It was also earth shattering when it ended. Kevin broke up with Greg after professing uncertainty in the midst of their long-distance relationship (since he was in DC while Greg remained in NY.) That was 2 seasons ago. Now, he has become confident in who he is and what he wants only to realize that it is too late. Greg is already in another relationship and Kevin is left to face this reality alone.

Break-ups are always hard to read and even more exhausting to talk about. It becomes doubly exasperating when one has to deal with it because his close friend is going through it. How does one help? What can one say? Suddenly, I felt like all the plans for this weekend were enobled with new purpose. I was hoping that our hanging out would provide a nice diversion from his pain. We went shopping in Georgetown. We saw the Arena Stage’s production of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ Damn Yankees. We saw the Studio Theater’s staging of the Neil LaBute play, Fat Pig. We went to see the Holocaust Museum. We had delightful meals at Pizzeria Paradiso in DuPont Circle and Tenpeh and Jaleo downtown. I soon realized that cluttering one’s schedule with too many things really doesn’t do much as a salve for the heart’s wounds. It really isn’t the quantity but the quality that pervades each or any acitivity that really matters. It is not how many things one does that will make him forget but it is how one works in each distinct situation to face the pain, hold on to it and find meaning in it which will empower him to move on.

It must have been the Catalan wine or the pitcher of potent sangria or, simply, the sheer energy of Spanish food done really well. But whatever it was, there was something charged in the air that night that spiced up the conversation at Jaleo. Kevin, who had been terse throughout that day, suddenly opened up about his story. He was basically bearing the burden of blame for the relationship. I could only but respond to his outpouring of emotion. I couldn’t tell him what to do but I could tell him my story and, hopefully, provide him a sounding board for what he’s going through. I told him about my first boyfriend in and my first break-up with Eric. I told him about my last relationship with Carter. I shared to him those many cycles of defiance, regret, desperation and quiet denouement in my post-break-up phase. There were so many different tangents I went off on but the common line that bound them all was time. It took time to get over someone. It will take a lot of time to get over that one who broke your heart for the first time in that defining first relationship. It took me a year to ger over Eric, my first boyfriend, especially since we had a disastrous fling the second time around the following summer (but that is a totally different story now altogether.) It took me 6 months to get over Carter. It takes time to move on from someone you built such a profound connection with in this day and age of such rampant disconnect. But, in those times of regret or overwhelming loss, I always look back to what broke us apart in the fist place and beat meaning out of it. People break up for a reason and there will always be reassuring wisdom in it in hindsight. Ultimately, people move on from those they fell in love with. One lets another go because if he was really loved, then he well be let go to find the joy where he sees fit. Isn’t that what love is anyway? We desire the utmost joy for our beloved, whether he be current or former.

I said goodbye to Kevin a few hours ago. He was still forlorn. He still didn’t have much of an appetite. He still talked about bouts of crying. I kissed him on the cheeks and wished him well. I looked at him and I saw a glimpse of myself for a moment. Stubborn in his passions and seemingly reckless in his abandon but ultimately unyielding in his hope. I hope he fares well and I know he will. His story will continue onto a new chapter as will mine. Time will bind the books that our spirits will pen. Our every ending is a new beginning from which each other will share and grow from. We are kin and we are never left to either take pleasure or to suffer alone. To live and to love is too wonderful to bear by oneself.

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