11:Eleven — Peace

Loves Won and Lost

I’m no authority on relationships. I mean, I’ve always wanted to meet the right person to spend the rest of my life with but the relationships I’ve gotten myself into over the years have been anything but healthy or lifelong (but no two have been exactly alike).

You never forget your first love but seldom are you ready for it. The first guy who broke my heart, I met while I was employed with EDS. I was working in the Tape Library and Paul worked in Data Management; we were both only twenty-one at the time. Paul was a little heavier than I but so cute with his blonde locks (and he was a musician at heart which has always been a weakness of mine). He had a wonderful voice and played the saxophone beautifully. The only problem between us was, once again, religion. Paul and I were both influenced by our Christian upbringing; he probably more so than I as his father was a preacher back in his home town. What is it with me and preacher’s sons??? Anyway! Paul’s mindset was that if he chose to “give in” to his sexuality that God would take away his gift of musical talent. It just spiraled downward from there…

I continued dating around casually until I met Rodney. Rodney was and probably remains to this day my one ‘great’ love. It’s important to live your life with no regrets but that is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. Rodney IS my one regret; that I did not fight for the two of us to stay together.

Rodney and I met when I was twenty-four and by the time we celebrated my 25th birthday together, I’d fallen pretty hard for him … it was unreal! While dating, Rodney proved himself to be the most sensitive, caring man I’d meet and he was gorgeous. He stood 6'2" – had a medium build, jet-black hair and eyes that were the bluest of blue. He was also very intelligent and not afraid of work. He worked for an office that bartered services and products; kind of a clearinghouse of sorts. (I don’t know HOW to describe it really but basically, he was a mediator between various clients who had either services or products to offer and rather than “sell” their service/products, they went through the clearinghouse to trade or barter for other things they might need.)

To give an idea of how sensitive and romantic Rodney was, he arranged to take me out for my 25th birthday. When he picked me up he kept our destination a secret until we arrived in front of a classy restaurant, an establishment that was seemingly built just for couples and romantic evenings.

We drove up and I saw a planter overflowing with flowers by the front door. The lighting was subdued and the mood was romantic from the moment we parked the car. I looked around as we were being seated and the patrons were all couples; no families, no children. Just couples having a nice quiet meal together and out on the town for a special evening of their own – and there I sat with the man who had stolen my own heart. I admit I was a little uncomfortable at first, realizing we were two men having a romantic dinner in a setting where all the rest of the couples were straight but I worked diligently to let go of my apprehension. After all, he had gone to a lot of trouble in order to make this evening a special one for me. He DESERVED to be appreciated.

I wish I could say I remember everything about that evening but I can’t. The evening was simply too overwhelming. I’d never before had anyone go to such lengths to make me feel so special. To this date it remains the one birthday that will stand out from all the rest.

Three weeks later the world as I knew it would fall apart. We discovered (due to the homophobic attitude of his boss while pressuring Rodney for an HIV test) that he was HIV-positive. Granted, by this time I'd had plenty of experience with HIV/AIDS via friends and acquaintances but the experience had never hit so close to home; I panicked. I didn't break up with Rodney but when he made the decision to leave rather than risk infecting me with the virus I wasn’t capable of seeing that he was overreacting. I wasn’t the supportive kind of boyfriend I should have been or that he deserved. In time, he chose to move back home to be with his family. This would prove to be the one moment in my lifetime that I would always regret.

Ten years later I would sit straight up in bed a little past midnight, realizing (or sensing rather) that Rodney had passed on. That was about the second week in January, 1998. I'll never forget the feeling I felt that night. It was a terrible feeling that left me with a sense of loss and dread that was very, very real — just as the loss I’d felt ten years earlier when we broke things off.

My Biggest Mistake Ever (Greg)

I met Greg approximately a week before Halloween (there’s an omen for you) in 1994. He had come to Dallas to work. When we first met, he informed me he was Vice President for a company called Audiovox; they developed and marketed electronics. Greg’s background was in cellular technology but what he was best at, as I would find out over the course of our relationship, was bullshitting.

There was a time when I felt he could charm the pants off Tammy Faye Bakker. He certainly had me fooled but then, I was choosing to ignore all the signs (and there were plenty) of trouble.

If there is ANYTHING I have remorse for, it’s having met and developed such strong feelings for Greg so quickly and disregarding what my intuition was telling me. I know I did so (in part) because I was tired of being the breadwinner of every relationship I’d ever been in. For once, I wanted to be loved by somebody who was sincere and willing to put as much into the relationship as I was. If the person I loved made my life a little easier along the way, so much the better.

Listen To The Little Inner-Voice!

The signs suggesting this relationship was unhealthy were present during the first month Greg and I were together.

He would fly back East for a week at a time and during these periods he couldn’t be reached, refusing to answer his mobile phone (with no other number to reach him at). Calling Audiovox, they didn’t seem to know him (though his excuse was he had worked out of another office).

One of the biggest signals something was not right was that he'd get these strange calls from a "cousin" (cousin translates to ex in this case). These calls were really bothering me one evening so I checked his voicemail and listened to one of the messages from this so-called cousin. The message I heard was definately not one a cousin would leave. She was obviously someone who was feeling neglected and in the dark regarding his intentions, a feeling I would come to know intimately in time myself.

I eventually called Sharon (his "cousin") at the number she’d left for Greg and filled in the missing pieces for her. She in turn filled in many of the blanks for me. We talked for almost an hour and a half before Greg drove up at which time I walked out on the porch and informed him she would like to talk to him. He knew he was BUSTED!

I could have avoided six+ more years of torment that night but...

Forgiving Greg and allowing him to stay was likely to be one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life. I should have told him to just get the hell out and never, ever darken my door again. What followed was an abusive relationship of 6.5 years during which he would infect me with HIV, lie continuously, beat me down mentally and emotionally and cheat. "Why would I stay in a relationship without trust(?)" was a question I would later spend a lot of time thinking about but lying was something Greg had refined to perfection. I think partly because he would first convince himself the lies he was telling were actually the truth. Those lies represented his own warped sense of reality.

Movin’ On Up (or Diggin’ In Deeper)

We later moved into a home with an in-ground pool and hot tub that I couldn’t afford on my own and so I began to feel even more trapped as our relationship continued tracking a downhill slide!

Greg would stay out all night while I would either stay home and cry or smoke cigarettes in the back yard (pathetic, I know). When he did eventually come home we would fight about what had just happened (again). He would always claim he was just out driving around but, once, when I did go out looking for him — I found our jeep parked outside of a tenement in Oaklawn (the gay area of Dallas). He had gone there to meet someone to have sex with. I’m certain if you were to ask him he’d either deny having been there or he'd have some lame excuse. Whatever; it’s a moot point.

While I am writing about it here I don’t lose sleep over the man anymore. I’m happy he’s somebody else’s problem.

Back then, just how depressed was I?

On November 1, 1998 we moved out of the house and into our motor home (RV). I’d always said I would never live in a trailer; now I lived in not only a trailer but one with an engine and only a shower.

I was so depressed by this point I really didn’t care. Living out of the RV and staying in State Parks (usually just outside of Dallas) gave me a chance to do some much-needed soul-searching though. Many was the night Greg would be gone (sometimes days at a time). I would spend the hours walking around the park. It wasn't uncommon for midnight to roll around whereupon Bobby, one of the guys responsible for keeping an eye on the park late at night, would see me out and ask if Greg was out-and-about again. Walking was just something for me to do to stay preoccupied and it was better than drinking cough syrup and taking sleeping pills in order to sleep.

During the summer of 1999, it all came to a head for me. I taped a hose to the exhaust pipe late one night and ran the other end through the driver’s window of my Chevy Blazer — and I started the engine; me inside. I was tired of being depressed all of the time and I wanted out of the relationship but I’d been told so many times that I was stupid and couldn’t live on my own that I’d actually bought into Greg's bullshit.

What a lying jackass my manipulating, so-called, partner had become and what a jerk I was for believing his lies. He’d clearly (and often) demonstrated that his only two priorities in life were self-gratification and control.

But better today, Obviously...

I obviously didn't go through with the suicide attempt that night but it would be another two years before I would wake up and decide I’d had enough and another two years before I'd leave my abusive partner. If you're in an abusive relationship don't wait to get out. As Nike says, "Just DO it!"

Any Decent Guys Out There?

It often seems we run a higher risk of misplacing our trust when we first begin dating. It’s all new and we haven’t yet figured out that people aren’t always honest with us. Add to this the drive we feel to be “in a relationship” because we often think that’s what is going to make us happy and, well, you get the picture.

In some ways I think it’s preferable to face such mistakes as teens because then we have our family to fall back on for support and also, it gives us experience to draw from when we’re older and more inclined to involve ourselves in more serious relationships. I think what I’m trying to say is that teens who date and establish relationships, successful or not, early in life have a little bit of an advantage over those of us who wait until we’re much older to date. I was too afraid to pursue the kinds of relationships I was interested in as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was into my twenties that I began to date and by then I was all alone to deal with the aftermath when the relationships went south.

After things fell apart with Rodney I took a short hiatus and began dating a young man (John) who was adorable and sweet but too young for me (or maybe I was too old for him). I was in my mid-twenties and he was twenty. John was in the theater working with a company that in time travelled to Germany for a bit. Ours was not a serious relationship but after we went our separate ways I met a guy I did fall for, for a time. Charles, like Greg, turned out to be a liar. We lived together for approximately seven months, during which we fought like cats and dogs. He couldn’t be trusted and as it turns out, when I’d leave for work in the morning his much older “sugar mama” would show up at our door. Yeah, it’s pretty sick to think about. Try having to face the truth of such a situation in your own home.

After he had moved out (twice) and was staying with his wench I finally came to my senses, packed up the balance of his crap and loaded it into the car. I drove over to her place, rang the doorbell and had him come to the door … at which time I told him, “We’re done; you won’t be moving back in. Don’t even bother to try the door as the locks have been changed. Enjoy your life!”

I think it’s safe to say I’ve had a pretty lousy run when it comes to boyfriends.

Imaginary Boyfriends, Win or Ruse...

Have you EVER gone out on a blind date or initiated a conversation with somebody on the computer who turned out to look nothing like their description? I have but none compares to what began early on in 2005. I mean, it’s not uncommon for people to misrepresent themselves online. (It isn’t right but it’s not uncommon.)

I’d decided to get a membership to an internet site (“Gay.Com”) so I could make some friends and perhaps, in time, meet someone worth putting a little more effort into. For the most part, I discovered the site was abundant with guys who just wanted to hook up for sex or get off over the computer. It was basically like what I imagine a bathhouse would be like, only in digital form. I was somewhat disappointed with the site, overall.

I was growing bored with the site until one day I struck up a conversation with a guy whose profile picture was absolutely gorgeous. “Alexay” and I began to exchange emails; we would chat on Yahoo Messenger (sporadically in the beginning and for hours on end, as our friendship grew). We chatted about a good many subjects. Alexay described himself as having been brought up in a privileged, though strict, environment. Conversations we would have later in 2005 would indicate he was carrying around his share of baggage, both from a prior relationship and from something that had happened in his home at a young age while growing up.

“Alexay” represented his origins as 1/2 Russian (Father) and 1/2 American (Mother). He always seemed to be at ease sharing stories of his life so long as we kept the conversations light. We talked a lot about values and what we would like to realize in our own lives. He spoke of the many hours he was putting in, studying to become a neurosurgeon. In late 2005 and January of 2006, our friendship seemed to take on a more serious nature. That was when I finally dropped my guard and fell in love with him – but that too was not all it appeared to be.

To make a long story short we made plans for him to come to Dallas to spend about a week with me during Valentines Day in 2006… It didn’t happen. I had been on a business trip in Richmond because of work, having flown home the Friday before Valentines so that I could pick Alexay up at the airport. He was a no-show and then I received some vague, odd voicemails from a girl friend of his (Sarah Wu from my hometown of Carlsbad, NM) expressing concern that neither she nor their other friend had heard anything from Alexay since that morning when he was supposed to have left for the airport to fly to Dallas. I say “odd” because she later changed her story claiming that she didn’t know any “Alexay.” The entire situation smelled rotten and I guess that’s the last time I let anyone into my heart, as far as boyfriends are concerned. It's not like I'm averse to the idea; I'm just very, very hesitant to put myself out there again unless I'm "reasonably certain" he's worth the risk. So far, in Dallas at least, I just haven't come across anyone who is genuine enough to risk getting hurt over again. Maybe in time that will change. I'd like to think so...