Dallas Long

September 1998

The clock says 2:44 p.m. and the box of doughnuts is sitting on my desk and my hair is still mussed and I'm wearing yesterday's clothes and my teeth are not yet brushed. Damn. I need to start getting up earlier. (Did wash a load of laundry today, though). Yeah, I'm having fun. I went barhopping last night with some friends and drank too much. My best friend and I went swimming at a watering hole in southern Missouri the previous weekend. Our last hurrah, I suppose.

Six more days shall find me on the highway to Colorado. By the time you read this, I shall be starting my first year of law school at the University of Denver. I'm not sure how I feel about this. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to escape Missouri. Plain and simple, I hate it here. I cannot recall very many moments when I felt like I belonged in this Irish Catholic town. The thought of starting over in Denver entices me -- freedom to come and go as I choose, a chance to explore my identity, a chance to escape from a family who never really bothered to understand me. I can be myself at last. I won't have to smile and nod every time my uncle cracks a joke about niggers and Jews and fags. I won't have to wince each time my cousin jeers at me for going to college as he prepares for work at the factory. I can explore gay culture and meet other people like me. I won't have to always fall in love with straight friends and feel the anguish of knowing that I can never hold them in my arms. All this, and beautiful mountains to greet me each morning and not the stench of the Mississippi.

Sounds great, huh?

I'm scared as hell.

For the first time in my life, I will be completely and utterly on my own. Time to start cooking my own meals, washing my own laundry, paying my own bills, buying my own groceries, and balancing a social life with the rigors of law school. Time to say goodbye to my parents and the house in which I have lived for my entire twenty-two years. Time to stop going out at 2 a.m. with my best friend to sit in the parking lot of Walmart and smoke cigarettes under the stars.

Time to grow up.

Believe it or not, I'm crying as I write this. I surprise myself. I remember the last time when tears streamed down my face. The night my parents screamed at me for the offense of making friends with a black girl. The night my father threatened to throw me out of the house. Three years ago.

I'm not sure why I'm crying now. For the beauty of the swamp trees which hang down and shade the banks of the rivers? For the love of my best friend? For the happy memories of my six-year-old self sitting on the stones of the railroad station, waiting for the trains to come and flatten my pennies on the tracks? For the summers I spent reading novels while lying in the hammock and getting brown? For the smell of my grandmother's biscuits, and eating grapes straight from the vines each August?

I turned down a good scholarship to Saint Louis University because it meant it staying here for three more years of my life. But am I leaving for the right reasons? I don't know. God, I wish I knew.

As if I weren't confused enough... I went out with a girl a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, I know, I'm bisexual, so that's allowed. But I have not dated a girl in years, not since I started coming out to myself and to other people. I've been more interested in meeting other gay people and finding a boyfriend. I was starting to doubt whether or not I was even attracted to girls anymore. Maybe I was just gay now.

One of my ex-girlfriends from high school moved back to St. Louis after finding she cannot abide life in rural Illinois. She sent me e-mail after a mutual friend gave her my address. I went to see Erica at the vintage clothing shop where she works, and we agreed to meet for coffee that evening. She showed up at the coffee house wearing a beautiful white dress from the 1950s which emphasized her slender waist and stunning figure, and she wore her glorious black hair long and flowing. She was beautiful. Completely vanished was the goth girl who was fond of Jane's Addiction T-shirts, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and black lipstick. Here was a woman. She had not changed a lot - she looked exactly the same as she had at age 18, but the past four years had taught her poise and the subtle but controlled movements of her body exuded grace and maturity.

Erica paid for our coffee and pizza, and we caught up on the past four years of our lives and the lives of mutual friends. The she suggested we go for a walk. We went to the campus of Washington University. There was a power outage, and the campus was plunged into complete darkness. It was very eerie, especially as it was the middle of the night. We sat on the steps of a building and talked.

She asked me if I had come out of the closet yet. I was not surprised that she knew, but surprised that she was so bold about it. I confirmed her suspicions and told her about my ex-boyfriend and Oasis and everything. She said she didn't care, and then she kissed me. I was uncomfortable. I hadn't kissed a girl in a very long time.

She asked me if it was okay, and I said I was okay, and she kissed me again. She was very gentle and tender with her kisses, and soon we were making out. She said that she was still in love with me, and four years did nothing to diminish her attraction to me. We parted for home a few hours later with her promise that she will always be there for me, whether I needed help or consolation. We exchanged a few more brief kisses, and I drove home with my head in a whirlwind.

She had stirred passion in me. That was certain. I wanted her, and I enjoyed making out with her and letting the electricity of her soft, exploratory touch caress my body. It seemed strange to me to know what it was like to make out with both a man and a woman, and I compared the two experiences. I fantasized about her that night, and I have found myself looking at women again. I guess I am definitely bisexual. Perhaps I prefer men, or maybe bisexuality operates in phases and maybe I was in a guy phase for a long time before the pendulum swings back to women. I just don't know. But I remember now that it does feel different to be with a man than with a woman. I enjoy the soft skin of a woman's cheek and the delicate curve of their breasts, as well the tender aggression of a man's kisses and the strength of his arms wrapping around me.

Erica and I made no promises to each other about maintaining a long distance relationship. I know we're both thinking it, but four years is a long time to be separated, and then spending a few days together before we're separated again is not enough to cement a committed relationship. We needed each other in a way we did not quite understand when we went out four years ago, and we are still strangely drawn to the other's presence. Maybe we are still in love with each other. I don't know - we're awfully confused right now.

This is an upsetting summer. Here I am, soon to be a first year law student. I feel so unsure of myself. What do I want from my life and myself? I thought I knew the answer to that when I graduated from college only three months ago. A lot can happen in one summer. Maybe I will find the answer in Denver.

Wish me luck.


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