Sep 6, 2013

Spring 1975: Dan Makes a Phone Call, and the World Ends

When Dan and I were boyfriends, from 7th grade to 9th grade (1973-75), we were obsessed with escaping from the mandate to date girls, go steady, and eventually get married.  We decided that Saudi Arabia was a "good place," where same-sex loves were validated, so we became obsessed with the Middle East.  (This isn't him; I'm almost out of Dan photos.)

We scoured Readmore Book World for any books they had on Islam, Islamic art, Islamic literature, the Arabs, or the Middle East in general.  We learned to eat olives and drink coffee.  We practiced sitting cross-legged on the floor, since one of our books (slightly out of date) said that "chairs are a rarity" in Arabia.

I often suspected that we would never actually get on the plane.  During the summer after 7th grade, I caught Dan kissing my old boyfriend Bill.  I often saw him talking to other boys -- and I sometimes felt drawn to other boys myself.  But I never suspected that our relationship would end with a "discovery of girls."

One night in the spring of ninth grade -- I don't remember the date, but it was after my wrestling match with the Estonian brothers -- we were sitting on the bed in Dan's room, so close together that our arms and thighs were touching, watching Barney Miller.  I was talking about how cute Wojo was, but Dan cut me off.  “I’m going down to the kitchen to make a phone call," he said.

“Who are you going to call?”
“Cindy Wagner.”
My stomach started to hurt. "What for?” I asked, weakly.

“I’m gonna ask her to the Fort Armstrong (theater). Hey  -- you could get a girl, too, and we could double.”

“Why. . .why do we need girls?” I stammered, struggling to find some explanation other than the Big Discovery.  "Girls are gross!"

I expected him to agree, as he had a dozen times in the past.  It was our secret code. But he said: “Not every girl. Cindy’s nice, and she always smiles at me.”

“What about Saudi Arabia?  We're going to live in tents with the Bedouins!"

"We can still do that. Our wives can go with us."

Suddenly feeling sick, I said goodbye and went home.  The next morning I checked the picture of Raquel Welch on my dresser. No sudden shuddering gasp of desire. No feelings at all. I was alone, the only boy in the universe who liked boys.

Sometime during the morning, before I left for school, Dan called.  “Hey, why'd you leave?” he asked. “I got crazy news: she said yes!  I got a girlfriend!" (In those days, saying "yes" to a date implied consent to a long-term romance).

I thought of the sci-fi novel The White Mountains, and the tripods who scooped up all of the fourteen-year old boys, capped them with wire, and changed them forever. “What are you telling me this for?” I asked in a low bitter tone.

“You’re my friend, aren’t you? I thought you’d be happy for me.”

“Yeah, I’m thrilled. Overcome with joy. Congratulations!” I slammed the phone down.

 Mom made him call back and apologize.

But that was the last time I called him.  We were still friends; we ate lunch together in the cafeteria, and worked on school projects together.  But we didn't hang out after school, or on the weekends.  I couldn't explain why, not even to Darry.  I didn't really know why, myself.  I just knew that I wanted to cry.

See also: A Pilgrimage to Mecca and The Estonian Wrestling Brothers.