[This is episode two of My Gay Life. If you haven't read the first episode, check out the Oasis archives from last month and read up. It keeps getting better as the episodes go on.]
I met him during a yoga class. I'd never seen him at the Tuesday night class before, and I was immediately curious about him. He sat one row ahead and three people over from me. When first came into the classroom we met eyes and then looked away, almost embarrassed. But by the end of the class, however, we had met eyes a few more times and become comfortable taking long side-glance looks at each other. Our yoga teacher, Dorothy, realized what was going on between us and shot a look at both of us that said, "I'm glad you're having fun, but can it wait until I'm done?"
"Now," Dorothy said in her nearly hypnotic voice, "I want you to lay on your back and close your eyes. I want you to breathe slowly, deeply, and continuously. Don't stop between breaths ˆ keep your breathing fluid and smooth." I was grateful for the chance to lay on my back. Dorothy's floor routine had exhausted me. "Now," Dorothy continued, "I want you to take a walk. In your mind I want you to place yourself near a body of water. Find an ocean, a lake, a river ˆ anywhere you feel comfortable. I want you to walk along the edge of this body of water and breathe the air into your lungs. Keep walking and explore the boundaries of this beautiful, smooth body of water." Dorothy fell silent for a moment. "Now, I want you to imagine that you see someone up ahead. You cannot tell for sure who it is, but immediately you are comforted by their presence. And, as you get closer, this person smiles at you and offers you their hand. You feel safe, you feel free, and you explore this place together."
My heart jumped. The only person I could think of was this stranger across the room. In my dream I saw him in his blue sweatpants and tank top, holding my hand and walking with me. I looked at his short brown hair and his smooth, soft features. His golden, sinewy body moved effortlessly. I admired his face ˆ Kate would later say that his features were "chiseled like a supermodel."
In my guided meditation he didn't say a word to me. He didn't need to.
When class finished we both moved to the corridor to put on shoes and gather coats. He grabbed his shoes and then made his way over to me. My stomach did a somersault as he walked over to me, smiling.
"Dorothy is quite a task master, isn't she?" He said, his deep voice oozing friendliness and playfulness. I could smell a subtle, sumptuous cologne.
"She really is," I added, trying to sound as casual as possible. "I've been training in yoga for almost five years now, and she's the best instructor I've had." There was a momentary pause in conversation. I pulled on my right shoe and tied it tightly. I could tell he was trying to figure out if he should continue further.
"I usually have class on Tuesday nights, but my biology class was canceled tonight, so I thought I'd stop by for class."
I finished tying my shoes and stood up to talk to him face to face. "Oh, where are you going to school?"
"I'm at the U of M," he said. "I'm pre-med," he added quickly. "Our biology lecture is usually Tuesday nights." He laughed suddenly, almost embarrassed. "I'm Jared Logan, by the way," he said, offering his hand to me. His smile almost knocked me over.
I laughed too. "I'm Josh Stafford," I said, taking his warm hand into mind and giving him a good, firm shake.
"So," Jared said, smiling and doing his best to pretend that he'd had a spontaneous thought, "would you like to, uh, get some coffee?"
"Sure," I said, still playing the casual game with him.
We kept talking as we left the meditation center and headed to the nearest café.
When I finally arrived home at 11:30 I was so happy I thought I was going to explode. We had ordered drinks and talked for a few hours. The conversation had moved from superficial to fresh, interesting, provocative banter. We'd become comfortable with each other in a very short time.
"It's weird," Jared said at one point. "I feel so comfortable around you, and I barely know you."
"I know," I said. "It's almost uncanny."
I called Kate as soon I had stripped off my yoga clothes and changed into a pair of gray sweatpants. I started speaking so fast that Kate had a hard time following everything I was saying.
"Hold on there, kiddo," Kate said, laughing. "Slow down and breathe."
I sighed and smiled. "Kate, I just had so much fun with him." I flopped down on the couch in the living room. The night was black, but I could see the twinkling lights of the huge houses across the lakes. "The best part was that he was giving me his complete attention. He listened to everything I said and asked me questions and told me stories and talked about things I had never even thought about. I didn't know that was possible."
Kate laughed. "I'm glad you had a good time," she said softly.
Suddenly my mind shifted. Kate didn't sound like her usual self. "Kate, are you okay?"
Kate took a deep breath. "I'm thinking of going with Allen to Duke next fall."
I almost dropped the phone. "Wait, last night you said that you two were going to break up and that you didn't see your relationship going anywhere."
"I know," Kate said apologetically, "but Allen and I sat up talking all last night and we really want to give this a try. I think that we could make this work."
I fought the urge to judge or give advice. "So, when are you moving?"
"Well, if I do decide to go, we'd be leaving in May, after we finish our finals."
My brain struggled to comprehend all of this new information. I couldn't imagine not having Kate around. I hadn't honestly thought of her leaving as an option.
"Listen, Katie... I want you to know that I love you and that I'll be here for you as a sounding board or a listening ear or whatever you need."
"Thanks," Kate said, obviously warmed by my words. We talked for a few more minutes, agreed to see each other soon, and then hung up.
My Delta boys put me in charge of the huge Spring Out festival to take place at the end of April. Every year the Delta Phi frat and the Gay and Lesbian Student Center put together a week long conference on tolerance, coming out, AIDS, gay history, gay marriage, and a slew of other gay subjects. Each year we have keynote speakers -- last year we booked Ellen DeGeneres's mother and Matthew Shepard's mother -- and this year we planned an even larger event.
Forty-five of us -- gays, lesbians, and our straight supporters -- gathered in an empty classroom in Lind Hall for one of our planning meetings. Everyone found a seat and I stood at the front of the room at an overhead. I wore my glasses and a stunning sweater, absolutely in my element.
"Okay, Meg," I said, talking to one of the lesbians in the fourth row. "What's the status of our funding? Has Dr. Yudolph agreed to give us the additional $8,000 we've been asking for?"
"Kara and I have been putting together the proposal. We're expecting that he'll say yes."
"Okay," I said, crossing funding off our list of things to talk about. "Mark, have we secured the rights to show Ma Vie En Rose and Beautiful Thing at our film festival?"
"I talked to the people at Channel Four Films yesterday and they said their lawyers would be in contact with us within the week."
"Great," I acknowledged, crossing that off our list. "And Carolyn, do we have the five thousand flyers back from Kinko's yet?"
"We do. They actually agreed to incur thirty percent of the cost because it was a campus sponsored affair."
"Really?" I said, pleasantly surprised. "Remind me to get a thank you card to them," I said, scribbling down a note to myself. "We'll have to keep putting posters up throughout the next few weeks. We all know how fond a few of our right-wing Christian cohorts are of peeling them down." A few chuckles resounded through the crowd. "Well," I said, looking up at the crowd and smiling at them, "I think that will do it for us tonight. Thank you all for coming. If any of you have ideas or things we need to talk about, why don't you come and talk to me one on one?" The room stirred and people began milling toward the door. My cell phone rang and I answered it.
"Hi, is this Josh?"
"It is." I glanced at my watch.
"Hey, it's Jared," the familiar voice said. "Are you busy right now?"
"No, I have a few minutes," I said, lying. A line of people waited to talk to me, but I really wanted to talk to him.
"I was wondering if you had time to go for dinner tonight," he said, sounding hopeful. It was Thursday night and I had two sections of calculus to finish and a few chapters of Brontë to read. I decided Brontë could wait.
"I'd love to," I said into the phone, noticing a small group of people waiting less patiently to talk to me. "Where did you have in mind?"
"There's this place across town called The Local. It's an adorable place with dark oak carvings and gorgeous chandeliers. They often have live entertainment and they've got the best salmon I've ever had."
"What time should I be there?"
I could hear Jared smiling. "Let's meet there at seven. Do you know where it is?"
"Exactly," Jared said. "I'll see you soon."
I rushed around my apartment, frantically pulling clothes and shoes out of my mini-size walk-in closet. I had never showered, shaved, and groomed as fast as I did that night.
I finally settled on a deep blue flannel shirt and a pair of light khaki pants and pulled them on in front of the mirror. My eyes looked incredibly blue in the shirt, and I hoped he would notice. I was going for the all-American boy look -- without any pretentiousness -- and I was nearly out the door when the telephone rang.
"Hello?" I said, feeling a bit rushed and checking my watch. I had a bus to catch.
"Josh? Is this Josh?"
"It is," I said, pulling on a pair of socks. The voice was very familiar but my busy brain couldn't place the voice with a name.
"Josh, it's Cameron."
I stopped moving. "Cam?"
Cameron laughed. "Hey," he said slowly. "How are you?"
"I'm... I'm great," I said, caught off guard. The connection was terrible. It sounded like he was on a satellite telephone.
"I'm about twenty minutes from the Minneapolis airport."
Shock set in. Cameron had been my one and only high school boyfriend. We had dated through my junior and senior year. He went to Dartmouth after graduation and we had lost touch. I took a breath and regained my composure.
"Are you here visiting your parents?"
"No," Cameron said, "I'm moving back."
"What about Dartmouth?" I asked, confused. Dartmouth had been his dream.
"I've decided to leave Dartmouth. It's a long story. I finished my finals and now I'm coming home." I shook my head. I hadn't heard from him in more than year and now he was moving home? "I was wondering if you wanted to get together tonight," Cam said hopefully.
I flopped down on the couch again. This day had almost too much action to comprehend. "I'm, uh, I'm actually going out tonight."
"Okay," Cameron said casually. "Well, I'll be staying at the Nicollet Island Inn tonight. Should I give you a call tomorrow?"
"Sure," I said. We made plans about what time to call and then we hung up. I quickly found a mirror, fixed things one last time, and ran to catch my bus.
The pub was delightfully full of noise. The Local was a beautiful little place and I actually felt that a real European restaurant had unfurled before me.
"So, tell me about this Spring Out project you're doing," Jared said, smiling and working on a big salad. "I've heard it's a big deal."
I was flattered he asked. "Well, it's something we've been doing since 1979, but now it's on a much larger scale. We get a ton of funding and we fly in famous speakers, we have mini-classes, and we try to do a lot of activism and education work. We get people flying in from all over the nation to attend every year."
"And you're in charge?"
"I am," I admitted, on the verge of being embarrassed. "I'm trying."
Jared laughed. "Don't be so modest. You seem to be the powerhouse behind this whole thing."
Our waitress -- a blond stick of a woman named Kimberly -- set out plates of salmon before us. "Here's dinner, gentlemen," she said, eyeing up Jared. She stared a little too long and smiled a little too brightly at him.
As she walked away we both laughed. "Jesus," I whispered to him, "did you see that?" Jared laughed.
"If only she knew."
Three weeks went by. I worked diligently with my crew to get Spring Out put together. I studied fiercely for midterm exams. I checked out moving costs with Kate. And, best of all, I spent time with Jared. We went to a Delta party together, went ice skating together, went to dinner again, went to a reading by a prominent local author, visited a few random coffee shops, went shopping for a new pair of shoes for me, and even managed to study together at the library.
Things are going well, I write in my journal. Almost too well.
"Why don't we rent a movie and go to your place tonight?" Jared suggests bravely. Most of our activities so far have been out in public, wandering around doing things. He's been to my apartment twice already, but just for a few moments while I picked things up or changed. I look at him and smile. We both realize we're taking this -- whatever "this" is -- to the next level.
Jared arrives at my apartment at seven o'clock. He smiles brightly as I open the door to the apartment and let him in. Without even asking he takes off his shoes, sets his backpack in a reasonable place, and moves to the living room. He walked to the sprawling living room windows and looked out at the lakes.
"You've got such a great view," Jared says as I walk over to him. I walk behind him and put my arms around him. So far we haven't really moved to the physical realm, but Jared takes a hold of my hands and sighs. "Beautiful," he whispers.
"The lakes are really beautiful at night," I agree quietly.
"I'm talking about you," he says, putting his arms around me. And then, ever so slowly, he leans in to kiss me. It's our first kiss, and it's a soft, gentle, long kiss. My eyes are closed and I almost lose my balance. "Whoa, steady there," Jared says, laughing and stabilizing me. Jared has been very patient with me, knowing that Kyle and I had just broken up. I hadn't imagined being with somebody so soon after Kyle and I broke up, but here I am. It's been a month, and being with Jared feels right.
I open my eyes and look into his eyes. I see love. I'm tempted to turn away because I'm not ready to see love so soon, but I can't help continuing to stare at him. He kisses me one more time, slowly and gently, but this time the kiss lasts only a few seconds.
I clear my throat and look around the room. "So, how about a movie?" We both laugh. Jared rented a movie on the way over -- a remake of a Charles Dickens novel, starring Gwyneth Paltrow -- and we grab a blanket and curl up on the couch together.
When the movie is over we move to the kitchen. The lights in my apartment are dimmed and we hop onto the kitchen countertops where we have a great view of the skyline and the lakes.
"Well, that movie was pretty good," Jared says, reaching for my hand. I take it.
"Have you ever read the book, though?" I ask, wrinkling my nose. "Whoever did the screenplay for the movie totally betrayed the book. Dickens is turning over in his grave somewhere."
Jared laughed at my commentary. "I picked it because I knew you were an English major and you were taking a British literature class, too." He pouted playfully. "I was trying to impress you."
I laughed and then wrapped my arms around him, pulling him close to me. I kissed him on the forehead and he sighed.
"I'm just a silly pre-med boy. I should take some English classes so we can talk about Dickens intelligently." He slowly slid himself off the counter and stood in front of me. He held my head in his hands and kissed me again. The kiss was more passionate, insistent.
"Ca serait amusante si tu prendais une classe d'anglais avec moi," I said between a kiss. With his lips just an inch from me he asked me to translate for him. It was the first time I had spoken French to him. "I said that it would be fun to take an English class with you."
Suddenly he put his strong arms beneath me and scooped me up off the counter. I laughed with delight as he carried me off to my bedroom. We were almost the same weight and build, and I was impressed by his strength as he brought me to my bedroom. Our clothes hit the floor minutes later as we slowly made love by moonlight.
At midnight we got up, showered, and curled back into bed. It started to rain and I opened the window in my bedroom. A cool breeze blew into the room and we pulled ourselves under the fresh, crisp sheets. The rain made a pitter patter sound against the sidewalk outside and thunder rumbled in the distance.
I looked over at Jared and smiled. "You know, I had a few hours worth of reading to do tonight for British Literature." I sighed. "Tomorrow I have an audition for a soap commercial. And if you come over, there is no way my homework is going to get done."
"Wait, a soap commercial?" Jared asked, obviously confused.
I became embarrassed. "I pay for my tuition by doing odd job work. I've done a few little commercials, I've been in a hand full of ads, and I even ended up with a tiny part in an independent movie called Finding Sister Sarah." I laughed at myself and almost blushed. "But, you know, it pays the bills."
"Don't be embarrassed," Jared said, curling closer to me. He kissed my shoulder softly and then rested his hand across my chest. His expression became mischievous. "Have you ever done anything... naughty?"
I laughed. "No I have not, thank you very much."
"That's too bad," Jared said. Suddenly he rolled over and grabbed the book Pride and Prejudice off my nightstand. He pulled one of the lit candles closer so he could look at the book.
"Is this the book you're reading for class?" Jared asked, reading the back cover.
"Yeah. It's standard Jane Austen."
Jared opened the book to the page I had marked. "Okay," he said sweetly, "I want you to lay back and close your eyes and I'll read you your assignment." I found the occasion quite sexy. I pointed to the exact spot where I was at and then laid next to Jared. He put his free arm around me and used the other one to hold up the book. "Do not make yourself uneasy, my love. Wherever you and Jane are known, you must be respected and valued; and you will not appear to less advantage for having a couple of -- or I may say, three very silly sisters," Jared read, using a soft, sexy British accent. "We shall have no peace at Longbourn if Lydia does not go to Brighton. Let her go then. Colonel Forster is a sensible man, and will keep her out of any real mischief; and she is luckily too poor to be an object of prey to any body."
Jared continued reading until we had finished three chapters. The whole time I laid next to Jared, listening to the rain, feeling the coolness breezes of the April showers, snuggled up to a fresh, clean, wonderful man. He read to me and the words melted into honey, sweet and pure. Finally, noticing that I was growing sleepy, Jared set down the book and blew out the candles. He quietly slipped out of bed, closed the window, and curled into bed behind me.
"Good night," Jared whispered, resting his hands on my thighs and pulling me close.
"Good night, Jared." I paused. I almost said the three magic words, but then I stopped myself. It was too soon. "Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful night," I whispered. He kissed the back of my neck, and I faded off to sleep.
In the morning Jared borrowed some of my running clothes and we both went for my traditional run around Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. Afterward we took a little too long in the shower together and had a long, lazy breakfast of fresh fruit and cereal. I readied myself for my audition, getting myself into a clean pair of clothes and grabbing a resume. At noon we headed out the door, kissed each other, and I went to my audition.
Candice Brighton, my agent, booked me for this audition two weeks ago. I caught my bus and took it to a tiny studio at the end of Lake Street. The studio was filled with young men in their twenties, well muscled and holding their resumes and head shots. I joined the crowd, uneasy to be among such company. At least forty men were crowded into the room, preparing for an on-camera audition.
A tight-lipped, stressed out casting manager soon appeared. "Okay, gentlemen, thank you for coming," she said, her short red hair standing out like spikes. "We need you to wait patiently while we get this done. Once you get inside we need you to take off your shirt and say a few lines for the camera. After that, you're done. We'll be calling back four men within the next week for a final audition. The commercial will be shot on Saturday from 8am until approximately 4:30pm. If there are any problems with that, please save us time and leave." I laughed quietly at her blunt manner. I was caught off guard, however, when somebody tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and was shocked by who I saw.
"Cameron?" I asked, looking him up and down. He was tall and strong, a blond with piercing blue eyes. He had achieved the All American Boy look with stunning perfection.
"Hi," he said, dressed in a suit, giving me a hug.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, surprised and yet happy to see him.
"Well, I remember you doing this stuff back in high school and making good money. I'm living here and trying to make it on my own dime, so I realized I needed another job."
"Another job? Where are you working now?"
Cameron grinned. "You're going to love this," he said with nervous laughter. "I'm dancing at this new club downtown."
"You're dancing at Boi?"
"Yeah," he said, laughing that nervous laugh again. "Listen, I'm sorry I didn't call you sooner. It's just been really busy the last few weeks with finding an apartment and getting settled."
"Wait," I said, still grinning, "you're a stripper now?"
"I just need to make some money quickly. I don't want to have to work very much during the school year. I want to focus on school." Good old Cameron. We had spent many hours in the library together when we dated in high school. "So," Cameron said slowly, "would you like to get coffee after this?" Cameron said, obviously suggesting a date. The line began to ebb as boys stripped off their shirts and disappeared onto a small set with a little shower and a pile of towels.
"Uh, I'd like to, but after this I need to go and work on some grant proposals for Spring Out and I need to get some studying done. And," I added, feeling a bit brash, "my boyfriend is supposed to take me out tonight."
"Oh," Cameron said, taking the hint. He looked thoughtful for a moment and then started to unbutton his shirt. "Well, while I was out east I worked for a non-profit organization, and I helped to write some grants. Maybe I could help you out with this Spring Out thing you're talking about."
"Really?" I said, suddenly excited. Meg and I needed some help. There was too much work and too little time to do it in. Another person with experience would help us tremendously. "Well, why don't we meet Meg at Vera's after this," I said, smiling.
Cameron pulled his shirt off and wrapped it around his bare arm. "Sounds good to me," he said, winking at me. Oh God, I thought to myself, this is going to be trouble.
At midnight Jared and I were again wrapped up in my bedroom, making love after a long day. I had finished my grant proposals with Cameron's expert help and Meg's extra patience. I even finished all the studying I needed to get done. Jared and I had gone grocery shopping together and prepared a gourmet feast. We talked at our candle lit table until Jared took my hand and led me to the bedroom.
The phone rang. I never let the phone interrupt action in the bedroom. But when the voice on the answering machine turned out to be a very panicked Meg, I stopped and rolled onto my back to listen. Meg hardly ever panicked about anything.
"Josh, this is Meg. Listen, tonight the campus police found a series of our posters for Spring Out torched by some sort of flame thrower. Whoever did it left little white crosses with pig blood on them by each torched sign. Call me the second you get this."
[Josh, 18, lives in Minneapolis. In the next episode look for more romance, and trouble with Kyle, Cameron, and Jared. Thanks for reading My Gay Life. If you want more information, would like to comment, or want more of the inside scoop into next month's episode, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]