Him: Thanks for meeting up with me. It’s good to see you again.
Me: Yeah. How’s Chicago?
Him: Eh. Chicago is small. It kind of holds you down. It’s stifling sometimes.
Me: I hear you. Hey, sorry about the email. I meant to email you back and I had a busy week.
Him: Yeah, I was wondering. You probably get a lot of email, though.
Me: I do. And sometimes I’m having a busy week, and they pile up, and some of them are really long and detailed questions about relationships.
Him: That must… Does that ever feel heavy?
Me: Ha… Nah… It’s uh… it’s fine….
Yes. It feels extremely heavy, sometimes. There’s a guy I correspond with sometimes who lost his lover last year in a car accident. He’s paralyzed with survivor’s guilt and he’s trying to find a way to mourn his boyfriend. He’s having an awful time and sometimes I don’t know what to say to him.
Him: Yeah. That seems pretty difficult.
Me: How are you feeling?
Him: Yeah, I dunno. I feel strange. I’ve been in my situation for so long, that I don’t know what to do about it.
Me: I take it you’re still in the closet.
Him: My friends and family don’t know that I’m Gay. I don’t want them thinking of me that way.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m Black. So that’s always been a thing with me. I feel like I want to be known for someone who’s me, and not someone who’s Black, and now if I come out of the closet people will look at me and see a Black person and a Gay person, and I just want to be known just for being me.
Me: I understand that. But don’t you think you’re making the world better by coming out?
Him: How so? I don’t get why I have to run around saying I’m Gay all the time. Straight people don’t have to do that.
Me: But they do, in a way, don’t they? Doesn’t every movie or tv show feature Straight love interests and such? Isn’t proclaiming your heterosexuality kind of ubiquitous?
Him: I guess so. I just don’t want people to think different of me.
Me: They won’t. Or, if they do, it will only be for an adjustment period. Sooner or later they’ll realize you’re just the same person you were before. I think if we live our lives openly we give Straight people the opportunity to digest our sex lives as normal.
Him: I dunno…
Me: Well, it’s certainly a load off your shoulders, when you come out. It feels like a heavy weight is lifted off you, and you don’t have to pretend anymore.
Him: I’ve heard people say that. There’s a guy at my office that I have a crush on. I kept asking him to coffee, and I’m pretty sure that he can’t tell if it’s social or work related coffee. I thought about that for weeks, before I asked him to coffee. I planned it out forever.
Me: See? If you were out, you could just ask him out, and not worry about it for weeks. I mean, you’d still worry about it for weeks anyway, but not for the same reasons… Hey. What if he’s Gay, and he likes you back?
Me: If he’s Gay and likes you back, what will you do? Won’t he want to go places with you as your boyfriend, eventually?
Him: But then it would be okay. If I had a super hot boyfriend it would be okay that everyone knew I was Gay. Or if I made a lot of money. Then it wouldn’t matter, either.
Me: Is that how it works?
Him: That’s how it works. Do you want another drink?
Me: No. I have an early day tomorrow. But thanks for getting in touch with me.
Him: Thanks for meeting with me. It makes me feel better to talk to you. I think you’re great.
Me: I think you’re great too. Can I have a hug?
(we hug for a long time)
Me: Take care of yourself?
Him: Of course. Always. But who takes care of you?
Me: I do.
(pause. we hug again for a long time)
Him: Okay, bye.
(I turn to leave. I start walking away.)
(a smile spreads across my face)