Monday, October 18, 2010
I met "X" in the Navy. I was 21 or 22 at the time. He was 19 or so. He was big (a bodybuilder) and typical of the sort of corn-fed, All-American, boys from the mid-West we had running around in the services in those days. It was 1969 or 1970.
I had never in my life, up until then, felt those sorts of feelings about another human being. In fact, I was pretty sure by that age that I was incapable of feeling feelings like those. I was convinced that, due to growing up in the emotionally traumatic situation I'd grown up in, I was too shut down to feel anything for anybody -- including myself.
For nearly a year I wanted to be near "X" all the time. But I knew I had to be careful. I couldn't let the Navy find out about it. I couldn't even tell "X" how I felt about him.
Of course, I was deluded. He did know how I felt about him. So did the rest of the little tribe of intellectuals we hung out with. I remember one Friday night, all of us getting bombed in my barracks room, and them staging a "fake wedding" for "X" and I.
So, yeah, he (and they) knew. One other thing was playing under the surface of all this, though. "X" hated the military and was willing to do, and say, anything to get out of it so he could go back home to west Central Illinois, to his mom and girlfriend, and have nothing more to do with the Navy. I had another goal. And that was to stick it out long enough to get honorably discharged so I could collect the GI bill and go to college.
When I saw his obituary on my computer screen last week, I realized that I still had feelings for him. Strong ones. But there was another feeling there, too. A feeling of betrayal because it dawned on me that "X" had studied me closely during our time in the service together. He made my feelings for him the grist for his eventual, dishonorable, discharge from the Navy. For the whole time I knew him, he was seeing a shrink in Washington, D.C. who was building a case for "X" to be discharged as a homosexual.
For 40 years I was emotionally invested in something that could, and would, never be. Worse, I was emotionally invested in someone who, like the people who raised me, betrayed my love by being incapable of returning it.
He didn't do this to me. I did this to me. I know that now. I have re-enacted my childhood pain by carrying torches for the most unavailable people (men) I could find. If someone actually wanted me... I'd leave skid marks trying to escape. If someone was aloof and remote... they were perfect. I could pine away on the inside... alone in my solitary splendor, rather than building a life with some nice guy who really cared about me.
How stupid am I?
Oh, and RIP "X". My heart still flutters a little when I think of you. A very little.