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Peter Wang

December 1997

Pulling Apart

November 3, 1997

Recently, a friend and I were sitting on a too-comfortable couch in front of a fireplace at 4 in the morning in the lounge of our house, having the kind of conversation that college students typically have -- or at least students here have. Eventually, the conversation turned toward the issue of my sexuality. Well, I guess I did most of the talking at that point. I mentioned that most people in the house (and I guess most people in general) don't view homosexuality as a parallel to heterosexuality. Their first thought when they connect my personality to my sexuality is usually something to the effect of "oh, he likes to have sex with guys." And I asked him, "do you think that when people pass by you in the hall, their first impression is that you like to have sex with girls?"

His reaction was not unlike a lightbulb suddenly switching on in his head.

"I never really thought about it that way," he said, and I laughed -- not because I thought he was naive or stupid, but because I was glad he got the point.

To the vast majority of heterosexuals, and a sizeable number of gays as well, homosexuality is something "different," as if it was something far from heterosexuality. Being straight is about attraction, but being gay is about sex -- which, of course, isn't true. And personally, I don't believe that being gay requires a sense for fashion, or taste in Broadway musicals, although those things are certainly okay to have.

Now, I'm not saying that I totally reject the hypothesis that being gay has transcended the realm of sexuality. Ever since I accepted myself for who I am, I realized that it's more important to maintain what you know to be true in your heart, that I had to learn how to think for myself instead of letting others think for me. But rather than becoming more self-confident, for a time I became paranoid and insecure, worrying that I was alone and nobody understood what I was going through. Well, that's a different story. The bottom line is, yes, I would be a very different person if I weren't gay; not so much because being gay caused me to behave differently, but because being straight would not have provided me with many valuable lessons and experiences, painful and joyful alike, that shaped how I viewed myself and those around me.

In the five years since I first started to come out, I have not once encountered a situation in which I was openly criticized for being gay. Nobody has spit on my face, no one has told me that I'm sick. But I have been told that it was "wrong." Wrong like adultery, or something like that. I have also been told that it is a "choice." Like picking what you'll wear in the morning. I usually laugh at that because it's just so totally ridiculous that you have to. Those reactions don't bother me; what I can't stand are people who say "oh, that's nice...." and then don't discuss it and pretend I didn't say it. That bothers me the most, because I know what they're thinking:

"He likes to take it up the ass."

And because they have come to know me and respect me, their way of resolving this logical inconsistency is to pretend that my sexuality doesn't exist. They mentally castrate me, and I am completely powerless to change that, because I can't show that part of my identity to them without having them think that I'm forcing my "gayness" on them. At the other end of the spectrum, there are others who exaggerate my sexuality and make it the lens through which they look at my personality, which I suppose is just as irritating and distorting.

I guess what I really wanted to tell my friend is that I just don't understand why I have to be either a eunuch or a pervert.

Assumptions

November 6, 1997

It's damn cold in this room. The sun's coming on strong this morning, but after a sleepless night I couldn't care less for its warmth. Not that it's reaching me. My fingers are frozen -- it happens every time I type.

Last night I discovered my ex-boyfriend has recently entered a relationship. With a girl.

And I tell myself that I shouldn't be upset -- why should I, when I was the one to leave him -- but I am. I'm upset that I'm upset, and I don't know why. This is not for endless painful analysis of insecurities. I'm pissed.

No, I don't have any lingering feelings for him. He was a selfish, dependent, immature, needy, suffocating child who needed to latch onto me for every little thing, who all but wanted to spend the rest of his life in my arms at the expense of my own personal freedom and needs. He made it my duty to fix everything that didn't go right for him, whether or not I had anything to do with it. It took months of repeated attempts to finally gather up the guts to pull free, but the damage to my emotional health, not to mention my academics, was done. He told me he'd love me for the rest of his life, that he'd never want to be without me. Those are awfully strong statements at the age of 20. And all the time, I tried to tell him I didn't need his undying devotion. I just needed him to grow up.

But that's not to say I didn't love him.

I'm not blind to the fact that we had some very wonderful times together, that our interests meshed well. I'm not saying our existence together was a round-the-clock living hell. He was my first love, and it meant a lot to me -- it always will. But I had found it one-sided to begin with, and the dependency issues were pushing me into a corner.

I thought he wanted to be friends. I thought he just needed some time to deal with breaking up. I thought he would learn how to cope with not getting what he wanted for once.

I thought he was gay.

I mean, at least he never gave any indication to me that he had *any* sort of attraction to women; not once did he mention to me that fact. He never hit on any of them. So it comes as no small surprise to discover that, after weeks of not speaking to each other, that he is in a relationship with a girl who I have little respect for. The questions left in their wake are countless and unanswered.

Is he bi? Pretending to be straight? Why do I feel like he has betrayed me somehow? Is this just so that he can find someone else to latch onto, to feed his needs? Why do I care? Does he spread rumors about me? Has he been lying to me? Why am I suddenly so angry, upset?

Maybe I've already answered the important ones. Maybe I've already figured it out, I just don't want to believe it.

Maybe I still love him -- the good parts, the latent image impressed upon my mind of the way he held me, the warmth of his breath, the curve of his body against mine as we slept at night. Maybe because it felt so real, that it was tearing me apart that I wanted to be with him but couldn't handle his neediness. And his relationship with some girl I don't particularly like forces me to wonder if he really felt that depth, if he really wanted ME, instead of the giving arms, the need-feeder.

Somewhere deep inside I think it's still buried there, this dark slimy pathetic creature capering about in my heart. The one that whispers in my ear at night. The one that my mind tries to ignore, but for all its frailty, finds immense strength in every scrap of paranoia. The one that tells me that nobody really wants me for who I really am; they just want me for what I can provide them. That I'm not really attractive. I'm just someone to be used.

I'm shivering.

Scared.

Lonely.

Am I the only one?

November 13, 1997

He somehow caught my eye as I walked by the aisle. I stopped abruptly, not realizing until later how obvious it must have been to everyone else in the store that something -- or rather, someone -- had caught my attention. Well, I was looking for office supplies anyway. I mean, you can never have enough scotch tape, or flourescent highlighters. Or so I was trying to convince myself.

I walked into the aisle, wondering why I was obsessing over this total stranger, and got a better look. He couldn't have been older than 18. A backpack was slung over his shoulder; he wore these biker's or weightlifter's-type gloves, the kind with open fingers. His hair was a shock-dyed yellow, cropped close. He wore a very...VERY form-fitting shirt, which revealed a thin but athletic frame.

He was apparently examining an electronic pencil-sharpener.

And as I was pretending to be intensely interested by the variety of pens and writing implements, I asked myself why I was doing this, why I was stalking this guy who doesn't have a clue in the world that the only reason why I was standing there was because of him. But really, I was just curious; obviously I didn't intend to interact with him in any way -- I just wanted to watch. In other words, I was being a voyeur. Great. Am I a freak? What the hell is wrong with me? And then all these fears started to rush into my head: I imagined that he might suddenly turn around and demand to know why I was staring at him.

He was fumbling around with the pencil sharpener, taking it out of the box and examining it, apparently to decide whether to get it. The disconcerting squeaking sound of styrofoam padding tightly encasing the sharpener echoed through the aisle as he removed it. Suddenly, my head whipped away from my view of the ballpoint pens as I heard a crashing sound--he dropped the pencil sharpener. His back was to me as he knelt down to pick it up, muttering a few obscenities. I stared, unabashedly, noticing that the back of his neck was flushed with embarrassment.

I left.

I kinda felt bad for him, not that it was a big deal or anything. I mean, I've dropped things in stores before, and it seemed like I was vicariously reliving the awkwardness of such things through him. Besides, I knew that once he put everything back, he'd look around to see who'd witnessed his clumsiness. And I didn't want to be there.

To my surprise, I saw him once again before I left the store; I got a good look at his face. He was, well, gorgeous.

Outside, I began to think about how there must be countless people, strangers among strangers, whose paths intersect for a few seconds only to diverge. And how there's importance in that unrealized potential, how different our lives would be if we wouldn't be so afraid of exploring the possibilities presented to us at every turn. What was his name? What was he really like? Was he gay?

On my way home, the image of his face slowly faded from my mind.


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