May 1998

I was going to start off by writing this, my first column, on the nature of love -- what we think love is and what it isn't and all that. But I've shelved that idea for now. While the whole idea of analyzing love intrigues me by its inherent slipperiness, this month I'd rather write on a personal note that I think a lot of people might benefit from.

First off, let me introduce myself. I'm Chuck, a 21-year-old art student in Savannah, Georgia. I'm bisexual, and this particular tale involves a woman -- so if anyone out there is offended by this "breeder" talk, bail now. I won't mind. Some anecdotes are universal no matter who you're dating. Now, where to start...?

It all started two Christmases ago. Because of the wacky way that my college sets up its trimesters, we get the entire month of December off because it falls between the Fall and Winter quarters. I spent the winter back home in Michigan. It was my first year going to school away from home and I was anxious to get back and hang out with my friends and all that. I hung out a lot at the theatre of my old community college because I knew most of the people there. One of the people I hung out with was a girl I had actually gone to high school with. We'll call her Dottie. Now Dottie and I hung out quite a bit over that month of December, going to the mall and watching movies, neither of us quite sure what the other one was interested in until one night, at a play, she brushed my knee with her hand, fumbled a bit, and then we were holding hands. Later that night, as we stood near her car in the freezing cold with the wind pelting us with wet, sticky snow, she asked if she could kiss me. Over the next three weeks we were inseparable. We talked about anything and everything. We bonded. I came out to her after watching The Birdcage together and the world didn't fall apart. Life was great.

Then I came back to school, 17 hours away, to Georgia, and soon I had a boyfriend who I quickly fell in love with. My boyfriend and I lasted six months before we separated on good terms. And all the while I stayed in close contact with Dottie through email. There were no secrets between us -- we talked about our respective lovers and our problems and hopes and fears. I went home again that Spring Break while I was still with my boyfriend, and once again Dottie and I were like magnets. She even helped me pick out materials to make a dreamcatcher for my boy's birthday present. I hung with her again when I went home over the summer. Whenever we were both home, we were together. And finally I saw her again this past Christmas, when I was home again for the holidays, one year later. Nothing happened. She had gotten back together with her previous boyfriend long before, and then they broke up again. Still, we were just friends.

Now you know where this is going, don't you? Somewhere in there I came to the same realization you did in the middle of that last paragraph -- like the floodgates just opened up and God came knocking on my common sense saying "Work with me here, boy!" God has a Brooklyn accent, by the way. Anyway, I realized that I cared about Dottie a lot. Everyone else I had ever been with I'd started out dating. With Dottie, we had started out friends. There was a bond there that went deeper than anything I'd ever had with anyone else. She could babble for hours and everything she said interested me. We could make each other laugh continuously and yet be comfortable with each other's silences too. With her, I didn't worry about relationship stuff. I was the most comfortable I'd ever been.

I could've told her all this, but I didn't. I figured, what's the point? I go to school in the South and she goes to school in the North. Why weigh her down with my affections when the disclosure won't do anybody any good? So I held back and didn't say a word all winter. But when I came back here, and Valentine's Day made it's way around, I was inspired. Or rather I conspired.

I hatched a plan. I brought together an amateur strike force to assault her campus and send her a rose on Valentine's Day. I knew no one else would -- she wasn't seeing anyone and none of her friends would do that for her. So it was delivered: a single red rose, complete with trimmings (whatever those are) and a card that read:

"You can't blame gravity for falling in love."
-- Albert Einstein

I didn't put a name on the card. I figured I'd play the mysterious romantic. This, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is where things went awry. Befuddled by this anonymous gift and assuming that I couldn't possibly have orchestrated it, she looked for the perpetrator. Finally, she laid the blame on a T.A. of hers, who we'll call Senor Clueless. She even went so far as to send him an equally cryptic thank you note which read: "E=mc2." Over the next week or so, she spied on Senor Clueless, interpreting his every move in completely the wrong ways. When I found this out, I was stricken. I didn't know what to do about it. My sole saving grace lay with the fact that she was coming to visit me on her Spring Break, which was fast approaching. Rather than trying to explain myself over email, I waited. Ladies and gentlemen, let this inaction be entered into evidence as Exhibit B.

So I waited, and she arrived, with our mutual friend "Country Music Girl" in tow. We'll call her Scary Spice (I'm really likin' this "change the name to protect the innocent" stuff). Now my plans became more convoluted because Scary was in the picture, not affording me much of a chance to talk to Dottie one-on-one. Finally, I get her alone and explained to her how the rose was from me. She, of course, was doubtful, but I pulled out shocking and indisputable evidence. Just as this revelation was sinking in, Scary returned and other friends showed up. My full romantic surprise was abruptly aborted.

I believed that everything was alright, that all was good and right now that I'd come clean. No. No, no, no. Slowly, Dottie began to fume. She was trying hard not to act unhappy. Her last night here, I took them to the local gay club and she drank quite a lot, which made her emotions flow more easily. (Incidentally, if you ever need a quick high, just have a group of five congregating guys in a gay club turn around and all ask you if you're straight or gay. It's a definite ego boost.) Throughout it all though, Dottie refused to get specific. Now she was the one waiting. Finally, the next afternoon, the car was packed and her and Scary were set to return home. I stood outside with them, the sun finally shining and the temperature finally getting warm again. Before they pulled away, Dottie handed me an envelope and told me not to read it until they were gone. I waited, watched them go, and tore it open. Inside was a letter, a not nice letter. I had hurt her. She thought the whole thing was a joke, the whole rose fiasco was set up to garner some good laughs at her expense. She accused me of letting everyone else in on it and leading her on while she made a complete idiot out of herself to her TA. She thought she might have loved me, that she could trust me when everyone else had betrayed her, but she was wrong, she said. Nobody had ever done anything so cruel and vicious to her, and if she didn't care for me so much she would cut ties with me altogether. She'd no longer be able to trust me again. Something special had been desecrated.

So there I was, sitting on the porch, crying for the first time in years, with no way of explaining myself, no way to tell her that it wasn't a joke. They'd be on the road for the next 17 hours, and then busy the rest of the weekend. No way to tell her that I love her -- I love her but I've been too afraid of losing one of my best friends to do anything about it. It's happened before, when I admitted a crush I had on another guy. Our friendship was never the same, and we rarely speak any more. I didn't want that to happen between Dottie and I. I immediately whipped off a letter telling her everything -- every last thought I had about her and the situation -- and sent it off, trusting that a handwritten page is more intimate than email anyday. And I waited, again. I'm still waiting, almost a week later. Silence. Absolutely nothing.

I screwed up -- we're talking worst case scenario come true here. I've never screwed up like this before, because I've always acted honestly. Every other person I've ever been friends with, every other person that I've ever dated, I've always given them everything. But this time I held back. I went at it half-baked, and look where it got me. So I guess that means that there's a moral to this story, and that would be the reason I told it to you. If I would've kept my mouth shut and hid my feelings, everything would still be on an even keel. Conversely, if I'd gone all the way, told her all my feelings up front instead of being sly and mysterious, I wouldn't be waiting here now, not knowing if I can ever make things right again. I guess I've realized that life is too short to take the circuitous route. Sure, stopping to smell the ragweed is nice, but if you know what you want then by God go get it! If you take the long way around, your destination may not be there when you finally arrive. Those are my words of wisdom for this month. Everybody have a good one.


Chuck is a 21-year-old bisexual and a Michigan native who now goes to school in Georgia to learn how to draw pretty pictures. His email address is bacchus@g-net.net and his website is at http://g-net.net/~bacchus/

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