This story is about a little foolishness I recently indulged in. Now, foolishness is not a particularly unusual story for me. That said, this is a somewhat unusual situation for me to be in. You see, quite recently, I have been wooed by a young suitor. The rational realist in me knows that the relationship will probably never work out. Still, the hopeless romantic in me wants to see what happens anyway and is enjoying every moment.
You see, it’s not every day I get to go on dates. I just hope I don’t end up hurting him, or myself. There will be more stories posted about this topic, but so as not to offend the sensibilities of some people, I am only linking to the story here. You won’t find it in email subscriptions or in RSS feeds, only from this link. If you don’t want to hear about my sordid love life, please, don’t click on.
It all started on the second to last day of my holiday with Sarah. I received an enigmatic email from someone who had found my email address on a site I had signed up to quite some time ago. I’d signed up with the intention of looking for friends in my region because I was lonely and wanted to at least find someone with similar interests to spend a Saturday or two with. This was not for a date, I’d given up on finding someone to date long ago and was going to wait patiently till my return to New Zealand.
This “someone” happened to be an 18 year old guy looking for friends in the Garland / Rockwall region. I confess that I felt my heart skip a beat. Though he didn’t say as much in his email, he was quite possibly gay. Perhaps I would get a chance to spend some time with him. I didn’t go so far as to think it would be anything other than platonic. I have many wonderfully supportive platonic relationships with other gay/straight/other men of all ages and that suits me just fine.
So, it was with pure intentions that I responded to him, telling him I guessed he was gay and that I would like to just get to know him better as friends. I sent him my MSN username and a link to my blog. That was the fastest way to get to know me, if he didn’t like what he saw on my blog, he could just not respond and that would be fine by me. I also prayed about it, the prayer was the usual simple one: “your will, not mine, be done”.
Within 5 seconds I got a message from him on MSN. I raised an eyebrow. “Keen” We chatted a bit and flirted a little (as we all do when we’re single, I am sure). His name was also Stephen, spelt the same way, a coincidence that caused much confusion in the ensuing days. He’d had a rough childhood and broken family, which I won’t elaborate too much on here. He had tried to make it alone in life quite early on (17). As a result of the strain he suffered a nervous breakdown, was robbed and was now sleeping on his sister’s boyfriend’s parents’ floor at a cost of $500 per month. He also suffered from panic attacks and I guessed he was probably on medication. Still, I am not afraid of that sort of thing, my mother suffered panic attacks and I don’t judge people for something beyond their control.
In fact, I think this kind of appealed to me in some strange way. Some part of me thought I may be able to help him get out of this funk in his life. What he needed right now was some stability and a supportive friend to talk to. My theory is: we’re all broken in some way, the great temptation for me is to try and “fix” other people’s brokenness with my own. Sometimes I suspect I understand why my father married my stepmother. She was 21, he was 42, and she had lived through a lot in her young life.
With these conflicting thoughts in my mind, I told him I’d like to get to know him as a friend and maybe we could go ice skating sometime. I like to take new friends ice skating. It’s public, non-threatening and doesn’t have to be construed as anything more than two friends out for some family fun. Plus, I love to skate and everyone sucks at ice skating, it’s a great leveler (especially when you fall). Now, I admit I was kind of looking forward to some male company with someone “approximately” my own age. The last guy to show an interest in me was 9 years older. This guy was 9 years younger. I wondered if I would ever get it right.
He gave me his phone number and asked me to call. I thought this was rather odd. I don’t like phones and I wasn’t going to call him. Instead, I sent him a text message with my phone number so as not to be rude or to spoil his trust. I also sent him a link to more stories on my blog. We started a text message conversation the next morning.
The next evening I was surprised to receive an email I can only describe as “gushing”. He loved my blog, he loved my writing. He, himself an aspiring writer, thought it was fantastic. He said some very exaggeratedly flattering things about my writing which I brushed off as his exuberance, or perhaps he was just trying to ingratiate me to him. Then he did a strange thing: he compared me (favourably) to the Reunion Tower in Dallas, a place he said he had always wanted to go, a place which held a special significance to him, a place where he expected to have a very powerful memory someday. He also intimated that he wanted to come over to my place at some time.
I was a little taken aback, if not extremely flattered. Wanting to come over rang a few alarm bells, no matter how excited it made me. It sounded forward, way too forward. I replied back as I would to any of my young friends in this situation (no, this doesn’t often happen to me). I explained to him that he was experiencing a crush, that it wouldn’t last and that while he was allowed to have those powerful feelings, he shouldn’t think that they meant anything more than chemicals buzzing around in his brain.
I also went on to list the many reasons why he and I would not make a good couple. Including the large, insurmountable age gap and the fact that I would be leaving for New Zealand in 5 months. I also told him that if he tempted me, I was at risk of giving in to feelings of lust and that he should not only protect his heart but protect his body from me. I asserted that he sounded emotionally vulnerable at the moment and that he should be careful, even around me.
I concluded with a list of promises. I promised that I would not have sex with him (though implied I wouldn’t say no to a cuddle), that I would take him out ice skating and follow that up with a nice dinner. I promised to be a good friend to him, to listen and not to judge. I also asked him to slow down and to stop worrying about whether or not I would like him.
He had enclosed a picture of himself, which he said was old. I noticed that he looked really young, and a small part of me (the part that slightly regretted the promise about no sex) really hoped he looked older by now.
Meanwhile, he had been text messaging me and I had been responding as rapidly as possible. I must confess: it was quite exciting to have someone so obviously interested in me trying so hard to contact me. I ended up unsettling Sarah by trying to send text messages while driving. I have never spent so much money on text messages and I probably never will again.
He replied to my email and agreed that we should just be friends. He claimed to be over his crush and that he was really grateful I was being so level-headed. He still wanted to see me and couldn’t wait till I was back in Dallas. Via text message, I promised to take him ice skating and somewhere nice on the Friday that I returned to Dallas. He was very excited. To be honest, so was I.
It was about then that he repeated his request that I call him. Now, I hate phones, because I don’t like the sound of my voice. He simply begged me to phone because he didn’t have Internet access and wanted to “hear my voice” before he went to sleep. After tossing and turning about it, I finally relented and called him late that night. He was having difficulty sleeping. A very embarrassed, very cute sounding voice answered the phone. He was so grateful for the phone call, I didn’t think a little thing like that could make anyone so happy. I managed to convince him to just go to sleep.
He did ask me to call at other times and I grew suspicious. My paranoid mind guessed he was trying to exercise some form of control over me. I told him I wouldn’t stand for such behaviour. I got the impression that he was used to using manipulation as a form of control over people so that he would not have to fear them abandoning him. I promised not to abandon him and he promised not to try manipulating me. To my shame, I am still somewhat suspicious of his motives.
At the very end of our holiday, Sarah and I ended up in two different transit lounges. While at the airport in LA, awaiting my plane to Dallas, I looked up the phone number for the restaurant at the top of the Reunion Tower and made a reservation. Now, you may think I was mad to do that but this is my reasoning. You see, I believe in God, love, beauty and magic. After speaking to him, I realised that Stephen had had a hard life and all he wanted from me was a little attention and a chance to feel special. If I could do that for the price of a fancy meal, then it was well worth the cost twice over. I like to make people happy for selfish reasons: it makes me happy.
After the flight and drive over (at 5am) I collapsed into my bed. I awoke around midday, jet-lagged and woozy from my plane trip. I checked my phone. I had received yet another text message. He was off from work (sick) and wanted to know if I could pick him up. Alarm bells went off in my head but I ignored them. Truth be told, I really wanted to see him now. He had been playing on my mind these past few days with all his text messages. The more selfish part of me wondered if he’d let me have a little hug or a cuddle.
So, it was with mixed emotions that I got into my car and drive to pick him up. He only lives about 30 minutes from where I live. I drove up to the apartment and was about to send him a message to tell him I was ready when he popped out of the house.
My jaw dropped. He told me later that I looked absolutely shattered. Not only did he not look older than his photo, he looked a little younger. He would be 19 in a few weeks but his unusually young face told a different story. Any lustful thoughts I was entertaining at the time fled instantly from my head, to be replaced by fear.
“You’re so young!” I said stupidly, my mouth still open in amazement. “Sorry” he apologized unnecessary, throwing a bag into the back seat and sitting down next to me. He obviously knew where he wanted to stay tonight and part of me knew I wouldn’t stop him. Well, I was committed to this course of action. I drove him home, trying not to insult him too much by repeating “so young” over and over again like a broken record.
When we got home I wasn’t sure what to do. I turned around and regarded him: “maybe I could get a hug?” I began. He literally melted into my arms.
Now, it probably won’t surprise any of you that I am completely naÃ¯ve when it comes to the affairs of the heart, having come out not too long ago, relationships are new, exciting and scary things for me. I also don’t have much sense or experience when it comes to other people’s feelings. So, I was more than a little surprised when he kissed me, wrapping his arms around my neck. It played out like every romantic scene I had ever imagined in my head, only so much better. It was clear he really liked me.
I kept my promise not to have sex with him. Despite his attempts to dissuade me from that promise, he quickly relented, announcing that he “respected” me. From that I got the impression that had he wanted sex, he was quite able to get it whenever and with whomever he wanted, so that did actually make me feel rather good.
He was incredibly romantic. He told me how much he loved my eyes, complemented me on how handsome I was. He knew just what to say and when to say it and he was an absolutely superb kisser. I told him he was just in the throws of a crush and that although I thought he was cute, it was far too early for such strong feelings between us. I made him show me ID as well, just in case. True enough, he was 18, 19 in a few weeks. I let him stay the night, after making sure his family knew where he was.
That night, I took him out to eat. Nothing fancy. I have had dinner with other people before, guys and girls, so it wasn’t odd for me to take friends out like this. I walked up to the counter and said “table for two”. The girl behind the counter literally did a double-take. She thought I was in with the woman who walked just before me, she was surprised and confused when I indicated I was to be seated with Stephen. We chatted and I know he enjoyed himself thoroughly, as did I.
That night we indulged in my favourite pasttime: cuddling. I don’t know about you, but I sleep far more soundly curled up with someone next to me, or with someone lying on my arm. Judge me how you like, think of me what you will, but those are happy memories for me.
The next day at work (my first day back) I found myself worrying about my new-found friend. I even broke down crying. There was no way this could work, he was too young and he was coming on too strong. Plus I wasn’t sure if his apparent feelings for me were real, fake or just a passing infatuation. I didn’t need this stress in my life. I resolved to reaffirm with him that we were “just friends” and leave it at that. It would be so much more stress free that way.
That afternoon, I was taking him ice skating. I drove out to where he was staying with the speech all ready. I practiced it to myself in the car. I started with: “I had a speech all prepared…” He knew exactly what I was going to say before I said it and he accused me of not even being willing to give a relationship a try. I didn’t really know what to say. Truth be told, I actually did want to get to know him more, but things were progressing far too quickly for my comfort, I just wanted to be friends first.
I thought about it a bit and finally agreed not to rule out my potentially being his boyfriend. With that I took him ice skating. As we walked into the mall he slipped his arm into mine. Now, you may not see that as particularly significant, but I have never ever had that experience before. It’s something I’ve dreamt about, something I’ve selfishly wanted for myself for a long time, but not something I have ever had: some guy unashamedly attracted to me, hanging on my arm. It embarrassed me no end, not so much because of his gender but because of his apparent (and actual) age. I pushed him away a few times but that only served to embolden him, he likes making me blush.
I managed to unsettle him in return on the ice. Though he pretended to be far more sure of himself than he really was, his two melodramatic falls onto the ice humbled him a great deal.
Later that evening, over a cup of tomato soup, I told him we were officially dating, since dating involves trying to find out if you like someone enough to want to commit to them and that’s what I was doing. You should have seen the look of joy on his face. I never thought I could have that effect on someone and I confess I was enjoying it.
The crying at work continued. I was still conflicted about dating this guy. For one, he just looked too young for me. For another, I didn’t even know if I liked him romantically yet. I wanted to find out whether I wanted to spend more time with him, but I didn’t want to commit to anything long term. I guess that’s the same for any new relationship, I can’t say that I am much of an expert in these things. I assumed, however, that he was going far faster than normal and it made me worried.
I had told him I was taking him somewhere nice on Friday but I hadn’t told him where. He eventually figured it out when I dropped a few hints. He was floored at the idea he would get to go to the place of his dreams. I bit my lip. He may read more into this than was intended. This was not a proposal, this was just me showing him he could have a good time, a romantic time with someone he liked, without sex.
I was already having a positive impact on him. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had been hoping that spending time with me would somehow make his life better. I continued to pray that I do God’s will in this and nothing else. On Thursday, he made peace with his (adoptive) father and came out to him. This was a watershed in his life and I am proud to say that he credits my influence for having helped him do that. His mother also started noticing a visible improvement in his mood at work, it looked like he was at a turning point in his life and though I was not responsible for that, I am proud to have been there to support him through it.
On the day of the date, I drove nervously over to his parents’ place to pick him up, praying quietly before ringing the doorbell. I introduced myself to his mother and shook hands with his father. Stephen had borrowed his father’s dinner jacket and shirt and was looking quite dapper that night.
Neither parent blinked an eye when they met me, I sensed no hint of animosity towards me whatsoever (I was expecting it). They had already known about me, my age and my circumstances and it seemed quite apparent that they approved. Later, Stephen told me that his mother didn’t approve of homosexuality, but she approved of me. His father also apparently approves of me. Meeting his parents calmed my frayed nerves a little. I didn’t feel so much like a cradle snatcher after having spent some time with his parents. Stephen wanted to make out on his couch, I gently refused but was amazed to see his parents didn’t object at all. I guess I missed out on all of this couple stuff when I was younger.
So, we drove into the city and he played me some of his music in my car (Sinatra, Jazz, and Macy Grey). I silently thanked God. The last one was into heavy metal and I simply couldn’t connect at all with that. Before we went up the tower I said a little prayer, took a deep breath and reminded myself: “this is your life, now live it”.
That night can only be described as magical. As first dates go, it has to be the very best. The restaurant at the top of the tower is a revolving restaurant and for the longest time we just sat there, staring into each other’s eyes, holding hands over the dinner table, our food going cold in front of us, as the entire restaurant revolved on its axis, giving us panoramic vistas of the city.
Even if this wasn’t going to last, even if he was too young, even if I never saw him again after tonight, I thanked God once again for this experience, it was truly wonderful. My ears, always on the alert for criticism, heard a gaggle of drunken girls mention “gay” a few times. No doubt they saw us. I wasn’t so concerned with gender as I was with age at the time, though. He insisted on holding my hand as we left the restaurant, much to my chagrin. He knew that’s what I wanted, but I was ashamed. He accuses me of personally carrying all the shame of gay people on my shoulders. Perhaps he’s right.
We went down a few levels to the observation deck, to look out over the city. He wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his head on my chest. We just stood there, perfectly still for about 10 minutes, listening to the wind whistling through the mesh that prevented people from throwing things off the tower. It was so peaceful and romantic. In a word: perfect. I was just so grateful to have had this experience, I had convinced myself it would never happen to me. I decided that if this relationship didn’t work out, I would be content to face celibacy with nothing but this memory to keep me warm at night.
It was later that night when he first said he loved me. I couldn’t reciprocate because I can’t be dishonest about such a thing. My heart aches every tie he says it because I cannot reciprocate and don’t know if I ever could. He claims I swept him off his feet. I honestly wasn’t trying, I just wanted to make him happy. He has a lovely laugh.
More to come.