Relationships are always complicated. Sadly, though, I think mine are a little more complicated than average. My father tells me that I suck at relationships about as badly as he does. Still, this genetic disadvantage doesn’t stop me from trying, over and over.
The day after our romantic dinner in the reunion tower’s revolving restaurant, I took Stephen to church with me. Strange place to take your gay date, you may think. I thought he needed to be introduced to some loving, welcoming, caring Christian people who wouldn’t judge him, no matter who he was. Ironically, though, I was nervous of judgment myself. You see, Stephen looks younger than he actually is. And he already is quite young. I feared what people (even gay people) might think of me.
I led Stephen into the church and sidled up to Bill, the stalwart of my church-friends. Bill is always there, without fail. Without Bill, church and the traditional lunch thereafter would be just that little bit less warm and inviting. Bill welcomed us both with a big smile and open arms. O judgment here.
“This is Stephen, my boyfriend” I said haltingly
“He’s older than he looks” I added dejectedly.
Bill smiled “Don’t worry, I used to look young for my age, till my thirties”
I don’t doubt him, Bill used to be quite the man about town, but that was 50 years ago.
I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of the old crowd as well, most of them didn’t even bat an eyelid at Stephen or his age. After church we had lunch as usual and Stephen proclaimed it to be his best church experience ever.
“You know, it gives me back a little faith in humanity, seeing all those people there all with good intentions.” he confessed to me quietly one time.
We returned to his parents’ house and he told his mother (Jo) about church. She looked at him as though he had a fever. “You? Church? I thought you would never set foot inside a church!” I think that was the moment she really started liking me. Though she herself doesn’t attend a church, she does hold dearly to her faith in her own way.
When we had a moment alone, Jo (Stephen’s mother) confessed to me words to the effect that she didn’t approve of homosexuality, but she thought the world of me, so if Stephen had to be dating a guy, she was glad it was me. That made me feel really good. Truth be told, I have always wanted a relationship with someone where their parents knew about me and approved of me. Sadly, none of my past boy/girlfriends ever wanted to tell their parents about me. It was a really good feeling to be accepted as a legitimate part of the family for a change.
From that point on, the Atwoods invited me over for Sunday dinner every weekend. It became something of a habit for me to turn up and try whatever it was that Jo had planned for that week. We would watch house (Stephen’s favourite TV show) eat, drink and be merry. It was nice, it was normal. Despite appearances, I really do just want to be normal. Normalcy, I however, is short-lived.
Apart from spending time with his family, I spent time with him. Since one of my favourite things to do is go to the movies, the next weekend Stephen & I spent together, we decided to go to the movies.
Now, in the short time I have been here, they have been doing construction on the waterfront nearby. They have created a beautiful paved area overlooking the lake, which gets bathed in the vivid orange of a classic Texas sunset every night. Looking out over the lake at Dallas is quite an awesome sight.
Once the place was complete (and even beforehand), I would wander around, past the people come to see this romantic site and silently wish I had someone to bring here and share it with. When Sarah came to visit, I brought her there around sunset, but it was too cold for her to really enjoy it.
This time I walked down to the waterfront, with Stephen hanging pleasantly on my arm. I was incredibly embarrassed, but my embarrassment was easily overcome by my joy at having someone to share this moment with. It was chilly but we were wearing jackets. He was wearing my jacket, in fact, and for some strange reason that made me feel warm inside.
“Sit here and let me hold you for a bit” he gestured towards a spot on the steps.
I hesitated “No, wait till those kids are gone, please” he rolled his eyes at me.
Personally, I don’t see why children need to see two guys embracing in public. I guess I am still big on self-censoring.
We waited for the family to pass by and I sat down on the stairs, he sat behind me wrapping his arms around me, resting his chin on my shoulder.
We watched the sunset for a while, the chilly January wind biting at us through our thick clothing, though we didn’t notice much.
“So, this is how hetero couples feel” he mused.
“Yeah,” I said absently “it’s nice isn’t it?” I felt him nod.
We walked around the water fountain a bit and bought tickets to the movie: ironically, the pursuit of happyness (sic). He insisted on paying. He kept the ticket stubs for that movie for many weeks afterwards. I think he still has them somewhere.
The movie was actually really good, Will Smith certainly has mellowed out in his old age and is quite a good actor. Much to my chagrin, however, half-way through the movie, Stephen turns to me and says: “put your arm around me, please?”
I refused. I didn’t want to be so blatant in a crowded movie theatre.
“You’ll regret it if you don’t” he warned me, raising my hand to his lips.
I pulled my hand away, realising how that must hurt him but too embarrassed to let him continue.
I tentatively put my arm around him and he rested his head on my shoulder. This would become a common theme for our cinematic experiences. If I’ve learnt one thing from this, it’s that one needs to make the most of a romantic situation when it presents itself.
For those of you wondering about the title of this blog post, it’s taken from the first line of one of the world’s most famous love poems, written by William Shakespeare and addressed to another man. It begins: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.”
More to come.