Last night I walked in the rain with you
Recap: CP finally spends some private time with Jeff and gets all dramatic about it.
I was lucky to have three very nice guys as my college roommates that year, even if I would have been terrified to come out to them. Although they are still good friends of mine today, heaven knows what they might have felt compelled to do or say back in 1987 if they had found out they were living in such intimate quarters with a gay guy. The four of us shared one large room containing bunk beds, other assorted furniture and a marked lack of privacy. I think (or hope) that today, at least in major metropolitan areas and/or non-Kristian colleges, a gay roommate would no longer be such an issue. But back then my friends would have had cause to have me removed from their midst. Retelling this story reminds me that I want to ask them what they think they would have done had they found out.
The gay-straight conundrum notwithstanding, my roommates and I were lucky to have such a large room because we were able to use at least half of the space as a living area with a carpet, large armchairs, a stereo, television and extra bookcases. It was a charming and cozy spot, perfect for hanging out in and pontificating as 20 year olds are wont to do.
When we entered my deserted lair, Jeff sat down and made himself comfortable while I fetched my stoner bag from wherever it was that I used to hide it. I filled my mini water pipe and lit up, offering the first toke to Jeff. He accepted, much to my pleasure.
“I don’t do this often,” he sputtered, obviously trying to hold his breath and not cough.
“Me neither, “ I lied. I smoked far too much pot that year, my junior year of college. I had experienced an emotional summer before, having been fired from an elite on-campus job, a trauma that rocked my good-boy image of myself to the very core. I responded to the situation by enrolling in two visual art classes, giving myself a strangely lopsided haircut and dressing primarily in oversized sweaters, rolled up pants and moccasins. It all made pot smoking seem that much more sensible, and at times I even secretly reveled in my new artsy-mischief-maker self image.
Once I got our heads swimming with the pot, Jeff and I began conversing. I don’t remember the topic of most of our conversation, because that night I had only one item on my true agenda: to figure out whether Jeff were gay, or at least curious, and if so whether he were in a mindset to admit it. Because unless any of the former were true, I knew that I would probably be screwed. And not in the good way.
“So Jeff,” I said through the fog of my high, “what do you see yourself doing in the future? Are you going to try to make a lot of money? Or save the world? Get married? Have a family?” Of course I could not have cared less about the answer to the first two questions; they were just there to help me hide my true mission, which was to calculate my chances with Jeff.
“I’m not sure what I’ll do as a career,” he replied. “I’ve thought about dentistry maybe.”
“Oh, dentistry would be cool!” I replied with as much fake enthusiasm as I could muster in this tense moment. “So are you planning on getting married?” He was killing me, forcing me to ask a second time. What was he trying to do, blow my cover?
“Yeah, I guess I’ll probably get married. Maybe have kids.”
My heart sank that very instant.
It’s interesting how far we’ve come in the twenty-plus years since the night of this conversation I had with Jeff. Not only am I now legally married to a man (in a few states at least); many gay people get “married” to each other and have children, either by adoption or, in the case of those lucky womb-bearing lesbians , the old-fashioned way.
But for a closeted guy living in gay-hostile territory in 1987, the only way to reach out and break the isolation was through code. “No, I don’t plan on getting married” was code for “yeah, maybe I’ll make out with you and we’ll see where it goes from there.” By stating that he would probably get married, Jeff was clearly not offering to make out with me, despite my quarter-ounce bag of fresh weed and deserted dorm room. Double-triple rats. I hoped I wouldn’t cry.
We talked for a while longer until one of us claimed sleepiness as a reason to end the evening. I didn’t bother inviting him to crash in my room rather than schlepping to his dorm on the other side of campus, a 10 to 15 minute walk. I needed Jeff out of there so that I could have some time alone to process this devastating conversation.
But when I looked outside, I saw that it was raining. Jeff had on a polo shirt, jeans and a light jacket. Nothing warmer and no umbrella. So I did the gentlemanly thing, even though I was stoned: I offered him my grandfather’s black & white checkered hunting coat and an umbrella so that he could get himself back to his own room without getting soaked and/or freezing.
“But it might rain this weekend some more, Tom. Do you have an extra umbrella or is this your only one?” What a thoughtful guy. I could have murdered him for giving me the wrong answer to my earlier question.
“Well, it is my only umbrella,” I admitted. “But you know what? I’m actually in the mood to go for a little walk, so why don’t I walk you back to your dorm and then I can return with the umbrella. That way we’ll both stay dry.”
I guess I may have possibly been a catch too, huh?
Out we went into the rain together, Jeff in my grandpa’s wool jacket and I holding an umbrella over the two of us. I nearly swooned at how romantic it felt. I almost didn’t care that Jeff and I were never going to make out because just walking with him like that was such a beautiful experience.
When I got back to my room I didn’t break down or anything as I had feared I might. Instead, I stayed true to my art-fag form and got out my typewriter (remember those?) and composed a heartbreakingly dramatic poem called “Last Night I Walked in the Rain With You.” I wonder if I still have it somewhere.
Now, you might think that my story with Jeff comes to an end here. But you would be wrong if that were your thought, because there is more yet to come.
……to be continued………