Friday, July 14, 2006

A Congregation of One, part 6

I was not well. Becky, my wife, was in class in the Library and Information Science Lab in the main campus library while I was sitting on a toilet on the second floor. And had been for a while. Oddly, a foot belonging to the man in the next stall inched toward me under the wall. It started tapping slowly and insistently. Deliberately. I recognized the proposition. One of the many skills my 35 grand yearly tuition had paid for. Placing catheters, IV lines, and recognizing anonymous gay sexual propositions.

Human Sexuality was an integral part of the Foundations of Clinical Practice course in medical school. Our small group was visited by a member of “the community” in an educational venture that was criticized by conservative students for its irrelevance and liberal students for its sensational “petting zoo” feel. There we were edified on the definitions and customs of tea rooms, Turkish baths, and “the family” by a middle-aged gentleman who audibly sighed as he expressed his deep regret that barebacking with strangers was no longer safe. When the meeting was over and the physician facilitator was gone, two of my peers began loudly endorsing the lesson, among other things. “I can’t believe people in our class are so narrow-minded. I mean, those guys who left the cerebral palsy video the other day just missed out on the most profound lesson we’ve had in months.” They were referring to an optional video in which sexuality for handicapped individuals was eplicitly explored. During this exchange, the two students steadied their gaze far away from me—a subtle clue that this conversation was being broadcast in my direction. They knew I was Mormon. And, I doubted the fact had escaped them that I was one of those who excused myself from the video. They didn’t know that my reason was a scheduling conflict. Or that I was gay.

Gay, perhaps, but uninitiated. Thanks to my tea room friend, I knew that the main library second floor bathrooms were once the best place on campus for gay pickups. Ostensibly in the past. And yet, there was the tapping foot.

Had I been tripping gaydar? I knew I had in the past. When I left my long-time girlfriend before coming to medical school, I finally decided to level with her. We sat under the stars on the edge of a playground in Sandy, Utah. The playground felt familiar. It felt as if our whole five-year relationship had happened on a playground. We were giggling children—fun, happy, and platonic. I stammered out an explanation on that night as to why our relationship had never gone anywhere—why she had suffered as I retreated from commitment again and again. She replied that she already knew. She hadn’t always, but she did now.

What tipped her off, I wondered? How many people suspected? Would most people be surprised if they knew, or would it have been like me with Jeremy—a confirmation of what had already been suspected.

The foot tapped.

This was ridiculous. I was in a filthy restroom feeling sick, and yet there was a feral urgency in me that wanted to tap my foot back. Something was inexplicably taking hold of my thoughts and desires. Allowing me to wonder what would happen if I tapped back.

After coming to medical school, my long-time girlfriend moved to Iowa as well. We were soon engaged, then married. We had taken the risk despite the weighty realization that only about 6 or 7 percent of marriages with one gay partner last beyond 7 years. We loved each other enough to move forward. The years being married had been difficult not only because of uni-directional sexual compatibility, but also because of clinical depression on Becky’s part. We made it through the depression and being gay, and we sure as hell were going to make it through the disembodied tapping foot.

I had read on a gay Mormon blog once,

In my studies of relationships, I've come to understand that every pairing, after two years on average, settles into things, and whatever feelings of infatuation they had for one another dissipate and either the union crumbles (if there is no fundament of true friendship and real love) or is replaced by a more profound love (if it is founded on true friendship and love). I avoided that entirely. I don't have to worry that one day I will wake up and not be "in love" with my wife because those twitterpations that convinced me to forge a union with her have dissipated... no. Our love HAD to originate from the real and the profound and the deep swellings of actual interpersonal comprehension and appreciation and real communication and mutual desires for true happiness... the things that LOVE truly is.

A few minutes later, the foot walked past me in the library hall while its head glanced sideways and then steadied its gaze ahead.

Index for A Congregation of One
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8


Beck said...

Wow! 6 to 7% of relationships with one gay partner last 7 years? What is the percentage of those that have lasted twenty? Am I that odd? I mean, what odds are we pushing here? Talk about being a congregation of one!

L: I enjoy these vignettes of your congregation-of-one series! Keep 'em coming.

Samantha said...

I would guess that those stats reflect the male gay partner, not the female. Probably because I've heard of so few marriages in which the female homosexual will talk openly about her sexuality.

Me, too--twenty years, and still counting.

I find it interesting that the signals put out by men are so inherently understood by those for whom they are intended. Women seem to interact more intuitively and verbally.

Oh yeah...this is a literary sketch of memory, not a male/female comparative exploration. Sorry.