How do I look? This was the about the fifth time I asked my wife that question. It was a Sunday morning about five years ago. I kept trying to grab her attention as she folded laundry and watched T.V. Parading around in nothing but my boxer-briefs I kept jumping in front of her. Look at me! What do you think? "Stop it, get out of the way!", she snapped back. "You look good." She was annoyed. Just okay? "For the hundredth time, you look great!" "Your arms look good and your ass looks great!" "Now stop it!"
Really, do you mean it? I asked sheepishly. "Oh my god!" she said. Looking straight at me she smiled and covered her mouth with one hand. "You are becoming gayer by the minute!" I froze, slightly stunned. I walked over to her and put my hands on her shoulders. We started laughing. We hugged and held each other for a while. Do you still love me? I asked. "Yes, you know I do", she replied. I love you too. I said.
Not long before that, on a different Sunday, I hurried out of the house to pick up my teenage son who was caught in a severe thunder storm. I ran to my car. "Goddamnit, we told him not to go out." In my rush to leave, I forgot to log out of my email account. On screen were a string of messages I should have deleted. I had been self-employed as a consultant in New York for a few years and that kept me away from home during the week. During this time I met a younger man at a bar. We hit it off. Those emails weren't the typical banter between two men.
That Sunday night, after rinsing off the dishes, my wife asked me to join her for a walk. We stepped out of our condo and I locked the door behind me. Half way down the hallway she turned toward me. "Henry, who is Stephen"? Before I could answer, she fired another question. "Henry, are you gay"? My chest tightened, I felt pressure in my ears. Stephen. Gay. I leaned forward and wrapped her tightly in my arms. "Not you Henry! "Please God, not you!" We started crying. I tightened my embrace.
Now, that moment in that hallway defines everything. Everything is now marked as either "pre" or "post" September 28, 2008.
I met my wife on a blind date. I was 24 and broke. She was a 26 year old single mom putting herself through nursing school. A mutual friend had given me her number (he knew her from college). For several months he hounded me to call her. I got tired of him so I made the call.
I dialed the number hoping to get her voice mail but she answered the phone. We talked for a while and agreed to meet for dinner. She picked The Olive Garden (our mutual friend told her I didn't make much, so, she should "take it easy on me"). When I saw her, I immediately concluded she was out of my league. There is just no way. She's way too beautiful. At dinner she talked about the Psych class she was taking and I impressed her with my knowledge of the DSM.
I paid the bill and still had $30 in my pocket. "Want to go dancing?," I asked nervously. She agreed. Yes! I said to myself. After a great time, I dropped her off and shook her hand. Goodnight. I said. "You know, I'm not looking for anything serious," she said. She was too busy with school and the baby. I know. Me neither. I said. Two weeks later we went out for ice-cream. Me, her, and her beautiful seventh-month-old baby boy. Plus a diaper bag, a few bottles and a stroller. I got really good at hauling that stuff around. Eighteen months later, on December 3, 1994 we married.
I was almost 10 the first time I remember being different. Mrs. Reilly had just called our group to the corner for our weekly reading circle. We took turns reading out loud. I always sat across from Tony. Tony was cool. He wore nice clothes. Expensive stuff. His pants fit nice and tight and he always carried a comb. It was Jill's turn to read. Before she started a few of the girls started giggling. One of them pointed at Tony. He had a hole in his pants! Right between his legs and no underwear! I couldn't stop staring.
My excitement didn't last. At school, sissies and faggots got teased all the time. Some got worse. At church, preachers constantly talked about special flames in hell that burned brighter and hotter just for the sodomites. By the time I was twelve, I would get sick every time I thought about other boys that way. I would get angry and disgusted with myself. Me a faggot? Hell no! Not me. No way. Every time the sissy in me tried to come out, I beat him down. Go ahead, just try it! Go ahead you faggot! I will beat the shit out of you! I locked him up in the darkest corner I could find. He got the message.
A few months after I was outed by my wife we agreed we should try dating other people. Am I still your soulmate? I would ask her. "Yes, of course you are." she replied. "Am I still yours?", she would ask me. Forever and ever! I replied. We promised never to let other people come between us. No matter what, no matter who, we were "non-negotiable".
Almost immediately we created a vision about extended family and new partners. All of us together, surrounded by stainless steel appliances and marble countertops. I could see it now. "Henry, how are the mojitos coming along?," she yells as she hangs in the patio with my partner. Relax, we're almost done! I shout back. If your boyfriend Bill knew what he was doing we'd be done by now! (I wink at Bill so he knows I'm kidding). I know we can do this, we can make this work.
No sooner than we start dating other people, she finds a credit card receipt in one of my pant pockets. "Did you sleep with him?" "Did you fuck him?" "How could you do this to me?" "I fucking hate you!" She went on a few dates too. One night she called to tell me she was running late but would soon be home. I've had it. Jesus fucking Christ, it's almost midnight! What have you been doing all night! .
Sometimes we compare notes and laugh. I tell her one of my first dates wanted to know if I was a top or a bottom. "A what?", she asks. Another wanted to know if I was just looking for sex, a boyfriend, or an activity partner? "An activity partner, really?" She has a few stories too. We share too much information.
On September 26, 2009 I came out to my son. He was 16. The next day we told our daughter. She was nine. Seven months later I moved into my own place three miles away. The first night there, my wife, my kids, my mother-in-law, and one of my nieces all slept over. For the entire first month my daughter slept by my side. We didn't get much sleep. We just cried.
Getting to gay has not been easy. Everyone that knows accepts who I am, but I still struggle. Everyone around me believes everything is going to be fine. Why can't I? On more days than I want to admit, I want to pack it all up and run as fast as I can back to my kids and back to the life I had. Back to my wife. But it's getting better.
Today we have dinner as a family almost every night, mostly at their place, sometimes at mine. I like to think I'm over there more because my kitchen is poorly equipped, but the kids remind me that I can't even make a decent grilled cheese sandwich. We are taking our time. We will figure this out.
I've told myself I'm gay. I've whispered it in my head and I've said it out loud while standing alone in front of my bathroom mirror. "Henry, you're gay." I'm gay? "Yes, you are." "Ok, maybe I am." I'm desperate. I want to find my way back to that little boy. I want to tell him I'm sorry. I want to hold his hand and walk him out of the darkness of the closet and into the light.