It Was 20 Years Ago To-Gay

The defining moment of my life happened two decades ago, in either late March or early April.

Yes, the ambiguity at the tail end of that bold declaration makes the whole thing seem a little dodgy; I'm aware of that. But the accumulating years have robbed me certain facts that used to come with the swiftness of Mercury when called for.

I do remember using a Pilot brand Razor-Point 0.5 mm pen to jot down, with enormous pride, all the details in that Week-At-A-Glance planner I used to keep. I haven't a clue as to where it is now, although I'm sure it's around here somewhere.

It happens, you know, as you get older. You either forget things or forget where you keep the things that help you remember. This is due mostly to the ravages of time, but also because you're thinking of how hot Mercury looks: all young and cut and sweaty from running... and not a big fan of clothes, which would only slow him down and, let's face it, make him considerably less fun to look at. Nobody wants to buy a statue of a guy with wings on his ankles, wearing a bulky winter coat.

You know what else happens as you get older? The focus, it comes and goes.

So I will grant you, some of the details are no longer with me. But I'm damn straight about this: It's 1994 and it's the first really nice day of spring. I've just come out of Boston's Back Bay [subway] Station. We called it the "T" back then. People in that town still do, and always will -- until we're all giddily pixilating ourselves through the ether, thanks to the work of our friends across the river, at MIT. Dibs on 2070, if anybody's taking bets.

By that point, slang for underground transportation will be largely forgotten. I will not mourn the loss, just as I won't have anything other than an adoring smile for the young gays who don't know about Stonewall because they're far too busy having fun to question where their freedom of movement came from. However, if they don't possess an encyclopedic knowledge of The Golden Girls, the downloaded soul in my digital avatar will most certainly subject them to an unsolicited history lesson.

But let's stay focused on the present. It's 20 years ago, and I'm scanning the horizon for a car driven by Fred, this guy I met through a personals ad. He'll be just my type and then some, and we'll have an experience that exceeds all reasonable expectations. This appointment was made only after several years spent reading Bay Windows newspaper, behind closed doors and never without a wave of nervous chills.

So I'm rocking back and forth, with my feet half way off the curb. I'm 27. Other than two recent (brief and disastrous) stabs at same-sex intimacy, the most overtly gay thing I've done is spend four years at a college where you could major in musical theater -- and even then, in the hallowed halls of ember-hot flaming Emerson, I couldn't get it together to face the facts.

I'd like to blame the era I grew up in -- and I did. To this day, it remains an enormously satisfying go-to plan for coping with my shortcomings. But not everything is society's fault, or even nature's. They're right about one thing, though, the haters: certain aspects of being gay are a choice.

No matter. In another hour or so, I'll be headed back to the T with a noticeably different swing in my step and a vastly improved way looking at things. It was like a dye had finally sunken into the fabric and taken root. This, as Blanche Devereaux once said, would become "the definitive where I lost my virginity story."

Flash forward 20 years, and I've stood on the peak of the mountain so many times that the weight of my efforts have reduced it to a mound of dirt holding no further mysteries worth exploring. Saturday nights have become more about Suze Orman than multiple suitors, and I'm absolutely fine with that.

Footnote: In the course of getting this piece ready for its self-imposed, 20th-anniversary-sensitive deadline, I actually managed to come across the day planner I took with me to NYC upon my 1996 move. It had two numbers for Fred. One of them still worked, but it just rang and rang and rang. I keep trying, but no answer.

So in the interest of closure, here's my alternate universe ending: Fred picks up, and I proceed to pour my heart out, all about how meeting him set me on a path that, although not for the prudish, puts a smile on my face at least once a day. I suggest we get together, and he says he's been married for a few years. Then he tells me about walking down the aisle, gushing over how that one brief moment gave him an absurd amount of happiness that he once believed would never occur in his lifetime. And I tell him I know exactly what he means, and thanks.