I just needed to give voice to something that was making me feel ashamed.
Chatting with my mom the other day I was informed that an old friend of mine was in the middle of getting divorced.
Memories came flooding into my head unbidden. Some good, some bad, all nostalgic and melancholy. I haven't spoken to him in many years.
Ok, some back-story. This old friend of mine, we’ll call him Bill, was someone I worked with and had become chummy with due to our shared Air Force experience. We didn’t serve together. We met after both of us had left the service.
The girl he married, we’ll call her Pam, was my High School girlfriend. We were both in ROTC together, though she was a year behind me and in our little ROTC world of geekiness we were the prom king and queen. She was on the girl’s exhibition drill team and I was the commander of the guy’s exhibition drill team. Our teams won more trophies than any of the other organizations at our school, so we were the fair haired children.
So, fast forward to many years later. Bill and I are friends. Really good friends. He always knew I was gay, and it never mattered to him. Our friendship was, for lack of a better word, a bromance. Always together, joined at the hip, but nothing at all in the way of sex or actual romance. Bill was/is as str8 as a laser beam.
Pam and I had lost contact. Unbeknown to me, she had remained in good contact with my brother. One day I get an e-mail from her. I was shocked and elated and scared all at once. You know the feeling you get when the adrenaline dumps into you bloodstream, and not exactly in a good way. Yeah, that feeling. So, we meet, and have dinner, and exchange all the things that had gone on in our lives. We talk about the obvious first (me being gay) to get it out of the way. And then after a few couple of hours and a few beers, the years out of contact melted away as if they had never passed.
A year passed, and I had unconsciously kept Pam and Bill from knowing each other. One day Pam says to me, “This Bill guy you’re always talking about. Is he your boyfriend or what? I thought we were in a place where we could talk about stuff like that honestly.” So I explained the strange friendship that I had with Bill. No, not boyfriend, but I could see how an outside eye might think that. I even admitted to Pam that Bill’s sister had once asked me much the same thing. She (the sister) was a year older than Bill and we got along awesomely. I think the idea of Bill and I dating would have struck her as a grand because she was kind of the black sheep of the family and the scandal of the suddenly-gay-son would have taken the unwanted limelight off of her.
I arranged a night where Pam and Bill and I would all hang out at the watering hole Bill and I frequented down on the Banana River. I was nervous and cagie and just weird, I have to admit. Pam and Bill meet each other and it is resoundingly obvious that there is chemistry. Sparks are flying, jokes are passing, there is a heady cloud of hormones in the air above the table.
I proceed to get the worst case of undefined, misplaced, bad feeling I have ever had. A week later, Bill tells me that he can’t hang out with me that weekend because he was going to visit Pam in Orlando.
I don’t really have a name for how I felt when I hung up the pone with Bill after that information. All of the feelings I was having, and there were many, were all ugly.
I tried my best to keep everything down, but my best was not good enough. I pulled away from both of them without much explanation and with a great deal of pain to all.
I retreated into an ugly pit of jealousy and hurt feelings and generally feeling like I had been cheated on then dumped with an incongruously cheery phone call.
A bromance gone bad. All of it my fault. I had allowed the coolness and the understanding of a very nice str8 guy to walk me into lands where he was unable to go. Though there was never anything in the least bit sexual between us, everything else had been so perfectly in place. We had similar interests, we had all kinds of fun together. We fished together, we drank together, we partied together. It was just like having a boyfriend, but with no sex. I can blame him for nothing other than being a nice guy who was good looking and enjoyed hanging out with me.
I had fallen in love with him.
When they started dating, I acted like a hurt child, cruel and with little room to understand the feelings of others. I wanted what I wanted even though it had never been mine to have and ended up losing what I did have for my selfishness and lack of maturity.
I was a jerk.
I miss him.
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