It's dark, I'm alone because he just climbed out of bed. Turned over and kind of grabbed his pillow cause it feels better like that. Seems cold, too, but he'll have the heat turned up soon. He's sweet that way. But there's this knot in my stomach, I think. Maybe I'll skip coffee this morning to see if that takes care of it. Thinking, wondering, tossing. I remember a similar knot. Sixteen long years ago today.
We had met in 1980, the two of us in college age Sunday school together at church. She in her pretty blue and white dress. God knows what I was wearing in those days but I'm sure it was accompanied by some locks of nicely feathered back hair. We became the best of friends. Vacations together, plenty of movies, shared food, friends and experiences. Me at her parent's house for holidays and she at mine. We both joined a traveling Christian musical group and criss-crossed the US, Europe, and Asia together. What's so wrong with that?
And it was on one of those musical tours in the summer of 1990 that I went to see her perform at a big evangelical church in Salt Lake City. She played in the orchestra. Bass guitar and damn good at it. I had struggled for the past couple of years with the gay thing...but we didn't call it that in Idaho. Was I? Wasn't I? Did anybody really care except for me? Do you think anybody knew? Tried the roommate thing. Yea, right, sure he's your roommate. Let's not say anything to him and maybe this phase will pass. But, my god, these emotions. Up and down. Back and forth. It sure felt comfortable to be with him. But it just wasn't right. That's what they said. The church. The Bible. And so, I join her in Salt Lake City with a handwritten letter from me to her. We sat in the car on the very hot August afternoon. "Will you marry me." I just knew that I could get past these feelings. Past the weirdness and uncomfortableness of being too close with her. Or any other female for that matter. Jesus would help me. And, plus, it can't be that hard. I mean, you just do it. Like walking down the street.
November 17, 1990, found us at a huge Assembly of God church in Lewiston, Idaho. Me scared to death. She nervous as a hen. My best man was my former roommate (yep, THAT roommate...oh god, the tangled webs that we weave). He was trying to be so understanding. But he didn't. Neither did I, but I could, in time. Another groomsman and his family were such close friends. Surely if they had thought I was making a crazy decision they would have said something. I mean, I'd spent more time with them than practically anybody....they would be able to tell. And there was my brother, the third groomsman. God bless him....he's the only one of the three still around in my life today. Thankfully. Do you think he knew? We'd never been close but I'm sure he'd say something. So the wedding begins with that ever-so-popular After All. You do remember, don't you....right at the top of the charts in 1989. Peter Cetera and Cher? I will never forget standing in the long hallway that ran alongside the sanctuary. Standing with my good friend and pastor, looking through the narrow windows into the sanctuary. All decorated with tons of flowers. Special-order flowers that they didn't have in stock in Lewiston. Ironically, Birds of Paradise flowers. A couple hundred friends and family there. All dressed up, hair coiffed, wedding gifts and cards left properly at the door on the gift table. Everybody on their best behavior. (I'm shaking inside.) I couldn't believe that the day was finally here. (Still more shaking only now with dry mouth and heavy swallowing.) And I couldn't believe I was actually going through with this. Remember, Jesus will help you.
Collapse. Failure. Pain and heartache. As in any relationship, there was no shortage of struggle and sleepless nights. Anger built and tempers flared, regularly. Marriage counseling. Personality tests. Prayer time and special sessions with the pastor. Workbooks to complete. Answers to be had. For god's sake, there had to be answers to this mess. There's absolutely nothing worse than being in the wrong situation at the wrong time with the wrong person and living the wrong life. It was totally obnoxious. And nobody knew it better than me.....and she. And us. Together in the house on Kalmia. Built from our ideas, our plans, our interior designs. (And why nobody knew about me at this point was more than I'll ever know.....I mean, the house looked good.....really good........gay good.....but in Idaho we didn't call it that.)
I remember laying on the couch at the home of the only gay people I knew at the time. They couldn't figure it out. (Well, looking back, I'm actually sure they had it figured out.) Nobody had ever been able to, not even me. I squirmed, digressed, unable to say to anybody that "I was gay." I just remember the tears. And the two of them sitting across from me in separate chairs in their beautiful home. Trying to help me. Trying to make me comfortable. Trying to pave the way for me to come out! And being very good at letting me know that they were there for me. It would be OK. And the heavy words finally fell from my mouth "I don't know how much longer I can do this." And I couldn't. And I didn't, very well.
And so, the knot. The knot on the day I asked her to marry me. The knot on the day I looked dazed through the sanctuary windows at all of those people ready to watch us get married. The knot in the ceremony when the two separate candles come together to light the one unity candle as the couple kneels at the alter for prayer. The many knots during the hateful and disgusting times when you say things and treat someone so badly that you just know it's not right. And, now, today, the tears as I write. Running down my face. Tears streaming into the lake where God says he'll collect all of our tears. I hear a siren now. Outside, blocks away, off to some emergency or somebody in trouble.
I was in trouble once. Bad trouble in a worsening situation. Going absolutely nowhere. I'm glad I'm not there any longer. Very glad. She has nothing to do with me any longer. I tried. I think she tried. She just couldn't do it. "Please don't ever contact me again" were the last words I ever heard from her. In an email. Ouch. They still ring in my ears. I know nothing of her story or the road she has traveled since the day she moved out and left a note that "I just can't do this any longer." And I know she couldn't. Me either. So, today, the knot. Remembering, reminiscing, thinking, feeling, crying. Sad that it ever happened. Glad that it's over.
And very glad that my husband turned up the heat this morning. He's sweet that way.