Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

This post is something of a sequel to the article entitled "Dance Me to the End of Love" and is part of a series of entries on my first love, Farid. I have said it in previous articles, but I will repeat it here: the love was not reciprocated. My holy male virginhood remains quite intact, even with respect to kissing on the lips. I also don't use that word, "love," casually. I'd been infatuated with people for as long as a year or two in the past, but this was different. This was not a fun fantasy, all daisies and lollipops. This was real and mature, and I've never cared so intensely for someone in my life. It was painful. It was torture.



Love's Labours Lost

It was, however, mostly a one-sided affair. I was the only one who really cared. I think Farid appreciated the friendly overtures and the attention I afforded him but had long previously written me off as a sexual or romantic interest. The change in tone of our relationship came sometime in May when we went on vacation together. There were flashes of attraction and romantic gestures when we first went there, but our relationship was unequal (he depended on me to some extent in the anglophone environment), and I thought I was being respectful toward him by not coming onto him when he felt more vulnerable. But he seemed too timid and needed me to make some kind of move or demonstrate some level of attraction, and when I respectfully didn't, he quickly moved on in mindset and decided not to pursue anything. I didn't realize at the time, but apparently that was the end of that. Spending a lot of quality time with him made me fall in love, at the very moment he started to lose interest. What horrible luck.

As the summer turned to fall, my love grew and grew. Then came that fateful night described in the last post "Dance Me to the End of Love." I went to surprise Farid at his favourite dance club, the Stud, and not only did he not seem appreciative of the gesture, he appeared to be downright embarrassed. No effort to let loose ameliorated the situation, and I returned home a dejected, shivering mess. The following month was a difficult period for me. Virtually no communication from Farid, except very terse and occasionally insulting notes on rare occasions. I lived for these e-mails. In general, the nearly three months following the night at the Stud was a period of cycles, of downs and extreme downs, and the worst of it was not the week after the Stud but actually a month later.

I could hardly concentrate at all, work or elsewhere, and there were times when I was almost sick with the pain of what happened. I had moments, quite randomly and even weeks after the Stud incident, when I would feel like crying and duck into an alley to avoid being seen. The funny thing is that I never cried, even though I truly wanted to, just to let it all out and let it go. The feeling was there, but I could not muster the tears. It was like a sneeze that keeps building up but never comes out. It was an awful feeling.

In the process of mourning the loss of both love and friendship, my sexuality was entirely erased. I closed all online profiles and completely cut myself off from the gay world, retreating to the comforts of family and the straight world (aka, “reality”). I felt no attraction to anything, except for Farid when he came to me in my dreams, and that led to a regression to my fiery passion for him as well as huge messes in the bedroom. I went back and forth--cycles of intense feeling for him, being turned on for days following such dreams, proceeded by cycles of penetrating sadness or anger. I was overly sensitive and emotional, expressing parts of myself that I normally keep hidden for reasons of respectability, behaving defiantly and abnormally. I did not feel like myself; I was going through my own dark ages.

At the same time, I tried to retain a façade of having been unaffected and retain some level of continuity. I left a large box of Lebanese pastries for Farid on his balcony for Eid-al-Adha and called him in the morning to tell him about this surprise gift and wish him happy holidays (surprising him with Arab pastries for Eid was a new tradition had begun at the end of Ramadan). He told me he was taking it into his workplace to share with his new colleagues. Ok, his reappropriation of my gift kind of annoyed me. Then the next weekend, when I had left some more baklava at his place for him and his roommate, after distributing most of my batch to the homeless, he wrote me and told me not to do that again: "it is not necessary." I was just trying to be neighbourly, as I told him in a reply e-mail--it's not like I didn't give baklava to other friends as well.

At the same time that I pretended like nothing was going on, I had to make some effort to explain the disappearance of Farid in my life to friends and family, who were used to hearing about him. I told the truth--to some with whom I am out, I talked about what happened--falling in love and the lack of reciprocation of even my platonic overtures. To others, including my mom, I just said what I believe very well may be the truth--things changed when he found a job.

I think to a certain extent that I was a distraction for him during his unemployed period, and now that he was employed again, he was trying to erase elements from his former life that symbolized his failures. No one else, other than his fuckbuddies, probably represented that past life he was trying to forget more than me. I had known him when he was temporarily employed, but most of our friendship together had evolved while he didn't have a job. I made a bilingual website for him and put it online. I had volunteered to give him 14 hours of free work per week to help get his business off the ground. I told him when I offered it that such daily contact and pressure from me would make him hate me and would ruin our friendship, but that was ok, because all I wanted for him was to have work and be happy. He took my offer seriously but could never motivate himself to get the business off the ground.

I quite simply told my mom and others that, while our friendship began while he was employed, Farid's context for me was mostly within this difficult period without work. I saw him fail. With time, I saw all of his faults. Now that he's busy at work, he's trying to reconstruct his reality and erase the past. I told my mom in mid-November, with precise reasoning, that I doubt I'd ever hear from him again for this reason. With less free time, he was going to simply cut me out of the picture and concentrate on what is truly important for him--cooking, taking naps, doing the housework, keeping up with his roommate, and finding sex. The latter was easy to understand--he had prioritized meetings with "friends," as he called them, over spending time with me in the past. The sex addiction that had begun the summer before, after an attempt to initiate a relationship with a young mexican muslim had failed (see the last paragraphs of "Finding our Way: My Friend's Story" from February 2010), didn't just disappear when he got a job.

Farid and I didn't see each other again in 2010 after that night in the Stud (which was at the beginning of November), except once randomly in the street one Sunday night in early December. He was coming back from having loveless, affectionless sex with a guy in the neighbourhood, and I just happened to be going for a walk. Even though it was over a month after my fateful second visit to the Stud, I was experiencing my lowest and saddest moment. I was fuming with anger toward him and thought, if I were to see him, I would probably hit him and should avoid being near him at all costs.

As a very wise young man once said to me, it's only when you're trying to avoid something that it pops up in your face. Sure enough, Farid appeared right in front of me at the end of that obsessive, angry weekend. However, unlike what I would have expected, when our eyes locked as he was coming up the side street, I took him into my arms to give him a hug, and I didn't want to let go. Dopamine flooded every ounce of my body.

We talked for maybe 20 to 30 minutes in the street as I asked him what was new in his life, then we gave each other bisous as we parted and I hugged him again. Something about being in his physical presence again, even though it was a surprise encounter on a cold winter night, filled me with joy and also turned me on. My head was swimming again with affection for him. I went home and immediately wrote him an e-mail, "It was nice to see you in the street tonight, Farid. I miss you, my friend. Don't be a stranger." I was disappointed by my weakness--it was then that I realized just how powerful my attachment had been. A month of trying to move on was erased by a brief random encounter in the street. At the same time, it was something of a relief—I needed a reprieve from the heartbreak and the sadness.

But he responded, and suddenly we were back to writing each other more regularly. They were shorter e-mails, but at least he was responding to me, and we were writing on more equal terms. He apparently now discovered the joy of reading e-mails during his lunch hour. I was a little more at peace with the situation as it was. I was regressing a bit toward my old feelings, but the blissful puppy-dog innocence had disappeared--the night at the Stud in November had changed me forever. I was generally miserable in Montréal anyway, as it was getting very cold, and I could see San Francisco on the horizon (where my work was sending me for a week in mid-December). I had invited Farid to go to San Francisco with me a while back, as the cheapest room I could find had two beds with it automatically. However, having a new job meant that he couldn't go, and he had communicated that to me before my appearance at the Stud. Still, I thought about him a lot when I was in San Francisco.

Sex Addiction vs. a Higher Love



One of the reasons Farid and I had never really been on the same wavelength was because of his attitudes toward sex. He told me back in August (see the post "Coming to Terms with God: Islamic Wisdom" from September 2010) that he was not able to erase the memory of previous sexual encounters, and that he had been "ruined" by an excessively active sex life, which would forever prevent him from being able to appreciate sex with one man. He said that it would have been best if he had, like his parents, just developed a sexuality with solely one person. But he had made mistakes, fallen into the trap of gay sexual promiscuity, and could no longer fit into a monogamous sexual reality. My perspective: I saw a man who was capable of appreciating and idealizing monogamous romance but who did not have the willpower to move beyond his sexual appetite, habits that were no doubt encouraged somewhat by the permissive enabling lustfulness of his ex and current roommate--Pietro. So I fell in love with a man who was a romantic at heart, still with that leftover dream of wanting to find a life partner, even a husband, but prioritizing his sexual needs over human relationships (whether that be friendship or a romantic partner).

His confession to me in August did not make me love him any less, even though it should have. The heart can be a powerful thing and can kill even the greatest cynic within us. However, I'm not stupid either, and it did show me what I was up against. So I watched and waited for any signs of the Farid I met back in Autumn 2009, the return of the guy with hope and his own sense of how the world should work. Not the MSM (Man who has Sex with Men) that he had been the previous months, but the man with real sexual and romantic convictions about whom I wrote in the article "Finding Our Way: My Friend's Story."

Sure enough, with almost cyclical predictability, my old friend, the guy I met before his relapse into sex addiction, reappeared. The person with sexual restraint and hope for the future, he was back. I was in San Francisco when Farid started a new online profile, and he said "hi" to me from it. When I read it, I was taken aback. He wrote so many beautiful things that touched my soul in that moment. He wrote about his values, his dreams, and his failures. All of it may have seemed quite ordinary to most people, but for me, who had seen him struggle for the past several months, it was almost like a minor miracle.

The guy who did not have the resolve to do anything but satisfy his base sexual desires, he had reestablished his equilibrium and was looking for a higher love. Farid said explicitly that he wanted a monogamous relationship, an affectionate, loving union, and that he wanted to erase his overactive sexual history and start over with one man. He also made it clear that he was going to remain chaste until he found that person. Suddenly, I was confronted with the guy, whom I still loved despite his lack of reciprocation and appreciation, who was putting forward almost word-for-word the same values and dreams that I had expressed in our conversations. He was looking for the same thing as me; he wanted to be like me and live my values.

I had been waiting and waiting and waiting for this moment, and it finally arrived. I loved so much about Farid, but the one thing I never liked was his sexuality. It was the self-centered "Farid the Gay" (or, perhaps more aptly, Farid the MSM) who I had problems with and could never be reconciled with. Then, suddenly, the Farid that I loved most of all reappeared, and that ugly part of him (the MSM that I could never relate to) seemed to dissolve. Although nothing in life is ever really that simple, now more than ever was the time. After sitting on the sidelines for so long, I had to make my play.

Sacrificing the Lamb

It was my last day in San Francisco, and within earshot of the sea lions of Fisherman's Wharf, I responded to his profile: "My God, Farid, you've really destabilized me here with what you said in your profile. I'm going to send you an e-mail tout-de-suite!" He wrote back, "ok :)" Then I wrote one of the boldest declarations I have ever made in my life:

"Wow, Farid. Wow! What can I say? I have just woken up to read your profile. Wow, you have moved me deeply with your courage. You are finally and again the Farid that I met more than a year ago. I told you in my e-mail the other day that I was proud of you, and this was the e-mail that I wrote to my Farid that only wanted sex (from what he’s been telling me these last few months). But now, wow, I could not be more proud of you. You are incredible, my friend. You are not “simple” like you describe yourself in the profile, not at all (sorry :)), but you are incredible. In this moment, you leave me without words (and that is very difficult to do, as you know), but I just wanted to share with you this feeling.

You asked me once what seduction is and how to do it. Well, what you said in your profile, that is true seduction, and you are apparently a master! You are looking for the same thing I have always looked for, and you put into words what I have always felt but could never communicate as clearly or directly as you. Your words penetrate to the bottom of my soul. I have never been seduced before, but you have done it so easily and beautifully here. I want to be this guy for you, the guy that you describe that you want to discover and share with, to mature and age together. But yes, don’t worry, I understand that your instincts do not lead you too me, too bad I’m not your type :). Thus I tell you this just to share with you a true feeling and pay you this compliment. I have never reacted to a profile like I did to yours. I believe that you will succeed, if you keep your confidence and your conviction for your life goals and your faith, and I see clearly that these two fundamental parts of you mix here in your profile. Farid the Gay and Farid the Believer are again the same person. You have found your equilibrium, and you will succeed to realize your dreams, I have no doubt. You will be happy, my dear friend. Beating all the odds, God has responded to your prayers to come here to Canada, and I see you are trying to realize your promise to Him. He will not abandon you now—I see now that He is holding your hand and taking you on the right path.”

The e-mail continued to describe the mundane aspects of what I had planned for the rest of the day in San Francisco and cracked a joke about a photo I had sent him the previous evening. After writing it, I let it go, and put it to the back of my mind. I had things to see and do that day, and I wasn’t going to let my bold romantic play preoccupy me. My e-mail foreshadowed the impossibility of such a union and my acceptance of that fact, without requiring him to respond affirmatively or negatively.

He responded while I was out enjoying my day: “Hi CT, it doesn’t surprise me that you enjoyed my text. I know that these are your values as well. I never changed, I just permitted myself to live other things to understand them, but it’s just a text, and I don’t think that there will be other guys online who will truly understand what I wrote. I only wanted to affirm myself and show my true colours. You are my friend and I don’t want that to change!” Then he proceeded to wish me a good rest of my day in San Francisco and talk about mundane things about his plans for that weekend.



I received his e-mail that evening when I was at the airport waiting for my flight to leave. I responded immediately with the following e-mail:

“Thanks for your response. Yes, you really took me with your text. Should I have shame? Be embarrassed? I don’t think so :). I see a handsome guy with a cute cat that says all the most important things in life. I see there in your profile a man of God and a tender person, my philospher-friend (a nickname that I had developed for him). I couldn’t help but react. It was a moment where I saw the radiant beauty in what has been in front of me all of this time. What you wrote, as you said in your recent e-mail, it’s deeper than just you. But it comes from you, because you understand my world, my values, my God. In reading this, I am entirely innondated in a way I have never experienced before, as if I am on fire, a fire that hits me harder than waves in the Pacific Ocean did just two days ago. I see again my brother, the good guy, the right guy! I see the man who understands my joy (Agape Love), my pain (the failure of love), and is my best friend. In reading that, I was ready to marry you, seriously, and you know that I am normally emotionally reserved and careful with my words. I do not say things that I do not want to say. I could not keep my silence for my appreciation of my friend. Reading your text, that gave me real hope, more than you know. I saw your faith and God inside, and it’s incredible. I copied your text into a document, and I will keep it with me until my death. My friend wrote that! You see now that the pen (or the keyboard) is mightier than the sword.

And yes, I understand. It takes two people to make a relationship, a passion from two sides. I also want you to remain my friend. It’s just something beautiful that I needed to express to you, because you truly moved me with the words in your profile. You are a poet of prose. In any case, I hope you find the sexy guy that sees you the way I see you, and I will remain your brother and your friend. You have convinced me. I could not be more honoured to be your friend. But if you ever change your mind and decide you want a guy more like me, don’t hesitate to let me know :)

Then I continued on with a description of my day for a while, told him to have a good night of dancing at the Stud, and closed with “a guy in Walgreens today told me that I had a 'pretty smile,' and it’s thanks to you! :)”

I sent the e-mail and boarded my plane for Phoenix. The funny thing was that there was no sadness in me at that point. It was warm, I was far from Montréal, and life was good. I was heading home to see family, my refuge, so I was coming from a position of strength. And I was proud of myself—I had finally said what I needed to say, but in a neutral and passive manner so that he didn’t have to address my feelings or reject me directly. After sending that e-mail, I felt happy. I didn’t ever receive a response to that particular e-mail, although I did receive a reply for another, shorter joke e-mail I sent a day or so later. I didn’t expect anything to come of my heartfelt expression and didn’t really want a response to it either. I said what I needed to say. And on the upside, it’s not just anyone who gets to say that they left their heart in San Francisco. Leave it to me to find a new, complicated, and technologically-innovative way to do just that.

The Farid Chapter Comes to a Close

Farid and I stayed in touch fairly regularly through e-mails and calls until the Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath (see the article of that title), at which point my patience was tested to the max. While I hate being clichéd, it was the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Everyone has a limit, and I reached mine then and there.

I decided it was my turn to isolate myself and be withdrawn and busy with other priorities. What I have resolved to do is focus on the positive of our history, all the fun and meaningful moments we shared together and the beautiful feelings and high-quality work that he inspired in me. Most of these feelings and moments were not featured on this blog, but if anything they were more important than the negative experiences discussed here. Quite simply, writing here about the bad times helps me express them, put them into context, and move on. My words here are my “tears” so to speak, the building sneeze that is finally released.

In retrospect, I feel kind of like one of those women who thinks that she is pregnant and undergoes all the symptoms of a pregnancy, only to find out at some point that the entire thing was in her imagination and all that's really happened is that she's gained weight. I fell hard for someone and felt all the symptoms of a relationship without ever even having the joy of being in one, of having a real friend, of experiencing real reciprocation. The whole affair, entirely created by my overactive imagination, disgusts me and leaves me feeling emotionally, sexually, and romantically drained. I've lost time, I've lost opportunity, and all of it was for nothing. I think I'm disappointed in myself more than anyone else.

If I see him on the bus or cross him in the street, we’ll talk amicably. If he wants to, I will remain open toward a generic friendship with him in the future. But in order for me to permit that, he will have to invest in it as much as I do. The relationship has to be equal. Without further effort and reciprocation from his part, Farid will remain an integral part of my past, my ‘special’ best friend for a time, and my first love toward whom I will always be fond. But he will not play a role in my future, as a friend or anything else. I’d rather be alone than in bad company.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dance Me to the End of Love

As I'm writing this entry, I am waiting for a call from a gal pal of mine to go dancing. While I don't really know how to dance (and am not necessarily good at it when I make the attempt), it was me who extended the initial invitation to go out this weekend. Since that fateful night where I was offered oral sex by Pietro (see the previous post "The Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath"), I have been missing having real fun with friends who treat me and respect me as such. One thing that came to mind: a carefree night of swing dancing with my best (female) friend in high school. That was a beautiful memory forever lost to time: that friend has now sadly passed away. But inspired by that loving innocence, I asked a female friend of mine to go out with me dancing tonight. Just for fun, to have a girl who would dance, physically, with me.



My experience dancing in the gay community, if it really could be considered experience, started with Farid (see my article: "First Time in a Gay Bar", July 2010). Farid was a very close friend whom I fell in love with, as discussed in the last two articles of this blog. I went with Farid to the Stud, his favourite weekend hangout, one time as his invited companion. When he went out to the dance floor, I naturally assumed that he would need someone to dance with. I was sadly mistaken: apparently dancing with people was a tradition lost to us somewhere back in the 19th century. Farid had talked to me about dancing with guys at the Stud before. But that right was not reserved to friends like me, even as his invite for the evening. Oh well, it's not my scene. Whatever floats his boat.

Sometime over the summer and autumn of 2010, a year after my friendship with Farid had begun, I found myself in love with the guy. It wasn't my intention, as I've discussed in previous posts. I'm only human. We went on vacation together in May and went to the Stud together in June. By August I recognized that my feelings were indeed dedicated to Farid, to such an extent that I was no longer homosexual but rather 'Faridsexual.' The thought of no other man could please me, the thought of him pleased me a bit too much, and I was often unenthusiastic about dating anyone new for that reason. I jumpstarted my "online dating" life as a distraction, and despite being more popular than ever (with 80 messages a day for a while), I didn't really go on any dates. I prioritized Farid. By October of last year, I was head over heels mad for him, and I knew I wanted him to be my guy, my husband, my whatever. I wanted to love Farid openly and physically, hoping to help realize for him that dream he expressed to me in the previous article "Finding Our Way: My Friend's Story." I even started practicing what I knew I would have to master, sexually-speaking, to be a good mate for him. In order to relate best to him, I knew I had to compromise, accept him for who he is, and play at his level.

The same gal pal (Lily) that I am going dancing with this evening has been very encouraging toward me developing a relationship with Farid. She recognized that I was in love with him before even I did, and even after I saw it in myself, I wouldn't admit it to her. So she would always ask me about him. Apparently people are more intuitive about these things than I am. Finally, I caved and told her all about how I felt.

The Kiss

Through the late summer and fall, Farid went through one of the most difficult and depressing periods of his life. He couldn't find a job, had lost confidence in himself to find work, and isolated himself (except to have anonymous sex--he used it to get off and make himself feel better). I was there for him during this period, visited him regularly, and wrote him every day just to keep him company so that he knew someone was thinking about him. He read my e-mails religiously, even if I didn't have much of interest to say (although he wouldn't check his e-mail with the same frequency that I wrote them).

I wanted to make the big move with him--to kiss him on the lips. I was going to confess my strong feelings for him in person, with two letters written to him (one to give him if he accepts me and one if he rejects me). However, no man as 'instinctual' and 'visceral' as Farid would find that very romantic or sexy, and any such confession was doomed to fail. Polling a large number of people on the topic revealed that such confessions fail 100% of the time anyway, regardless of the people involved. I needed to find a way to show him physically how I felt. So I abandoned the letters and the confessional speech and opted for a "spontaneous" kiss.

My friend Lily invited me back to her house, taped gauze to her mouth, and coached me as I practiced kissing her. Farid and I tend to kiss very tenderly on the cheeks twice when we part (bisous), so close to the lips that the fact that I hadn't accidentally lost my kiss virginity to him was a minor miracle. So my best strategy: a bisous malfunction, a kiss on one cheek and then 'slip' and go in for the gold! What an amazing experience that would be, I thought--my first kiss, with a man I feel so passionate about.

While I was ferociously lunging at Lily's gauzed lips, she pointed out that I was being a bit too forceful and strained. I just needed to lighten up, relax, let it happen. Then, if he pulled back, just end it there (without any apologies or looking down--a 'have no shame' approach). But if he remains close, it would be possible to go in for another kiss, and another, and another. Then, charmingly, she performed oral sex on her dildo to give me some pointers there. Her homework for me--go home and practice kissing my pillow for the big day. It was certainly an evening to remember!

I didn't succeed to kiss Farid that next day when I came over for dinner. He only kissed me once on the cheek and then turned his head and went in for a hug instead of a second kiss. It was sweet, but I was already nervous and flabberghasted by the change in routine, to such an extent that I didn't even really return the hug with any enthusiasm. But everything was still good between us.

This was mid-October 2010. A week or two after the failed kiss, Farid got a call from a company seeking his expertise, and they wanted him to come in for an interview. I just happened to randomly intersect him on the street when he was coming back from his meeting, and he seized me and kissed me happily on the cheeks to greet me this time (a rarity for a greeting between us). As it turned out, the outlook was really promising for him getting the job. Indeed, a couple of days later, he got an offer and e-mailed me with the good news--he was starting work on Monday. Even my mom was shrieking with delight that night when I told her the good news on the phone, and she didn't even like the guy (because Farid had refused to meet her when she was visiting Montréal and happened to be across the street from us once). I was, needless to say, overjoyed and proud of my friend.

I called him and set up a time for us to meet for dinner that weekend, to celebrate his last moments of freedom, and I let him choose the restaurant and the time. So on Halloween, I cleared my schedule (which only involved accompanying Lily and her daughter for trick-or-treating with several other people) and met Farid at the restaurant. He tried to position himself closer to the cash register, but I didn't let him get near it-- it's a party, dinner's on me!

We had a great conversation, as usual, and at the end of the evening I gave him five of my favourite type of baklava, one for each day of the work week. Then I walked him to his place to keep him company. Outside of his apartment building, he said that he would write me an e-mail the next evening to tell me how his first day at work went.

Then, we went to kiss each other on the cheek, and something weird happened. Our heads were crossing each other head-on instead of sliding past each other. I froze, we approached again with our heads all crossed up, I froze again, then he pushed my head to the side and we gave each other kisses on the cheek as usual. I sometimes wonder if Farid had wanted to kiss me on the lips--this was the beginning of a new era for him, he felt reenergized, and there I was with him to celebrate his coup. Lily thinks so, and I know he felt quite tenderly for me in that moment, but I'm more inclined to conclude that the head mixup was just an accident.

The Dance

In any case, Farid didn't write his e-mail. I didn't necessarily expect him to, as I knew he would be exhausted after his first day of work. I just kept writing the daily e-mails as I usually did, although no response. I was dying with anticipation to see how he liked it. I thought about calling (and should have), but I wanted to be respectful and not interrupt his now only 4 hours of free time in the evening (he is, generally speaking, a man who exhausts easily). If he didn't have time with me, that was fine. Things have to change between us to adapt to his new reality. But that didn't mean I didn't squirm any less, or that I didn't think of him any less.

So, drastic action was needed. Why not intersect him when I knew he wouldn't be busy adjusting to his new reality--why not go back down to the Stud? We had a reasonably good time the first time we went last June, and while his promised other invitations to go out dancing never came, I figured it was high time I make a special appearance. Furthermore, just in the last week his good friend that he always chatted with at the Stud moved away quite suddenly, so I knew he wasn't going to have his usual company there.

Not only that, but I should go a little wild, express myself a little. Farid is a visceral guy who likes people who act and react and feel over rationalizing an analyzing. I, on the other hand, have already proved myself to better at the latter than the former. One example, Farid told me how much he enjoyed it when one of his beautiful (now ex) boyfriends was dancing with him at the Stud and took his shirt off. Why not try to dance with him, then let off a little steam and take my shirt off? Not necessarily "for him" like his ex, but casually in his presence?

I literally HATE taking my shirt off in public and rarely do it, even at the beach. Even though I'm in shape and reasonably well-proportioned (although not particularly muscular), when I was an adolescent I used to be embarrassed by my abundant hair and pimples on my chest and back. That mentality of keeping my shirt on at all costs remained to some extent with me, even though the rationale faded. The pimples are long gone, and there's more hair than ever on my chest, which these days I have more manly pride in than embarassement. Still, taking my shirt of in public, particularly in a hypersexualized environment, is a big deal to me. With a thorough rationalizing, I figured I would be ok taking my shirt off in a place like the Stud. It's kind of a 'bear' hangout, and the guys there tend to be chubbier (although not often that muscular) and think that facial and body hair is really attractive (as does Farid).

The other factor was age: considering the average age of the clientele at the Stud seems to be somewhere around 45-50, I figured coming in as a 25 year old and taking my shirt off would not be a strongly unappreciated gesture, even if I'm not hugely muscular. I would likely be the youngest person in the bar, and my youth is apparent in the form of my body. And considering the gay subculture does worship at the altar of youth, I could work that to my benefit. The first time we went to the Stud, when we left together, he was behind me leading me out with his hands on my thighs. I figured that he wasn't embarassed to be seen leaving with me. To the contrary, he made a production out of it, as if to show off the prize he was taking home. So, I already knew that, in the environment of his peers (many regulars of the bar that he knows and has probably had sex with), he wasn't embarassed and perhaps even proud to be seen with me. That is a huge relief to know, going into such an environment, where everyone is so intent of standing around trying to out-cool each other (even though they are all several decades too old for that kind of behaviour).

The other factor, of course, was to consider whether Farid would be hunting for prey that night. He had told me a while back that he only meets guys online for sex and no longer picks them up in bars. He just goes there to dance, and he dances alone and talks to his one friend who is now gone. But I figured I should keep an eye on him before approaching him, to make sure that I am not inserting and interrupting in such a hunt, lest he had something in mind. I understand how ridiculous this must sound (and what a dick he must sound like), but Farid is very keen on his privacy and is very stubborn in his plan of action. If he's going to do something, it's best just to shut up and not to get in his way.

So, given all of the above, I figured that approaching him to dance a bit and taking my shirt off all sounded like reasonable plans of action, other than of course conversing with him at some point about how his job is going. I also strategized that, to surprise him, I should pinch his butt (which is how he always joking about as the way people greet each other in that bar) and startle him, as a prank like my jeans prank (again, for more on that, see the article "First Time in a Gay Bar").

So that weekend would be the weekend when I descended the ladder from my cloud of adult high-minded manners, intellectualizing, and civility, and get my hands dirty in the visceral world that Farid knows and loves: the Stud, where people dance the night away, stare each other down, watch each other piss, watch porn, and touch each other inappropriately. In other words, I figured I could have the opportunity to court Farid in the place and the way he would like to be courted, treat him in the way he would like to be treated.

I'd go the extra mile for him (literally), just to catch up and learn about his week, and try to let loose and have a little fun in the process. Most of all, I just wanted to dance with him, like I know he's done with other guys in the past (why not dance with friends, it's fun!) and like I want to do with Lily tonight as I write this post. Dancing is only really truly fun, in my opinion, when you do it with someone. Not all alone, like Farid is most of the time.

I wanted to surprise him and didn't know what night he'd be there, so I went down there Friday night, made a couple of revolutions of the dark, dingy dive wrapped up in my thick winter coat, scanned the room, and headed promptly back out into the night. Mission not accomplished. I knew he'd more likely be there on Saturday anyway, as that's the only day that's not a week-night. I assumed he'd probably be too exhausted to go out on Friday his first week of work. But I wanted to cover my bases in case he was feeling energetic.

Saturday night was the more likely option, and I found myself thinking about it and squirming all day before that fateful night, my second visit to the Stud. I tried to play all of the possible scenarios in my head, consulting others on what they thought of such an environment. Everyone around me seemed to be encouraging. Even the concierge of my apartment buiding mysterious said to me, "have fun tonight, really, get out there and enjoy yourself." She had no way of knowing that I was going out, so I saw it as a sign. The stars were aligned, tonight was my night! Things were going to happen, my life would change forever.

Lily, being more in-touch with the more 'physical' and 'visceral' aspect of the romantic pursuit, thought my strategy was awesome (couldn't believe that I was going to go dancing crazy and half naked) and could help Farid see me differently. She only had one bit of additional advice: try to kiss him on the lips in the club! I told her that I was pretty sure what I was doing was enough as it was, and I shouldn't go overboard, but we would see. Another friend of hers and mine was encourging as well: "your friend will be really happy to see you and know that you thought enough of him to search him out in his favourite bar." The problem with all of this great advice, and it was great advice, was that it was from women--rational, logical, emotionally coherent women who could understand my viewpoint. There's a reason why there are no women in the Stud. That is one ugly bunch of people.

So tonight was the night, I had to make my impression. I had had a lot of soda to drink that day, and I always feel a little bit chubbier after drinking a lot. However, my body looks good in my eyes when I wake up dehydrated in the morning. If I was going to take my shirt off, I wanted to look my best, so I was going to try to dehydrate myself. I had an hour and a half to do so, so I got in a scalding-hot tub of water and suffered there, sweating, until I couldn't take the heat anymore. Then I lay out on a towel to sweat until I stopped sweating. Then I'd plunge back into the hot bath to start sweating again. I repeated this cycle several times, then showered off at the end. I didn't feel I looked as good as in the morning, but it would have to do. One thing was for sure--I had sweated a lot, and I had arrived at being very dehydrated and somewhat tired.

So off into the night I went. Tonight is the night! The mystery, the excitement, the adrenaline, the possibility! What's the worse that could happen? Considering I wasn't going too too overboard, with kisses and inappropriate touching, I figured that any rejection I could possibly receive would be mild and leave the friendship intact. That was the downside. The upside, the hoped-for goal, was a reciprocation of my gestures, and my life changed for the better--with my beloved at my side. Only a madness would make the overly tame, sedate, and reserved me consider any of the course of actions I've discussed above.

I entered the dingy, dark, crowded bar, as on Friday night, and made several revolutions around the interior, exploring its various cubbyholes (but not daring to go to the second floor) without seeing Farid. I was a bit disappointed: after all that buildup and anticipation, I'll have to wait until next weekend. Then, as I was heading out, I caught sight of him on the dance floor, wearing a simple white t-shirt and jeans. At first, it was almost an instinct--in a room full of men I could "feel" him in my presence. I recognized an outline of his body--his head, his well-proportioned chest, his shortness. I approached from behind, and saw him (from behind) well enough to confirm--it was him, it was my best friend, my guy. The whole room faded. Ishah! Wow! In that moment, he was the most beautiful man, not only in the room, but in the world to me. His beauty was flawless and infallable. He was amazing. I had to press on--he was worth it.

So I abandoned my coat at the coak check and headed back to where I was standing before on the edge of the dance floor. He wasn't there anymore, however. Where could he have possibly gone? I had to be careful at that point not to be sighted by him, as it would ruin the surprise. Then I spotted him, directly opposite of where I was, leaning on the side wall and watching the dance floor between us. He didn't look like he was having fun. I moved over to his side of the dance floor and wedged myself next to some guys, probably about three bodies from where he was standing, waiting for the appropriate moment to perform phase 1 of my operation: the surprise butt pinch, which would be easiest to carry out once he was back on the dance floor so I could get behind him.

There I waited and waited. The good news was that he was just waving and saying a simple unenthusiastic 'hi' at people he knew passing by, and he definitely didn't seem to be on the prowl that night for anything special. But Farid also wasn't going back on the dance floor. I tried to play it cool, but at some point he started staring in my direction and then, yes, directly at me. I had to abandon Operation Butt Pinch--he'd seen me, was staring at me and trying to read me. He clearly recognized me somehow but couldn't identify me with certainty in the dark. So I just approached him, and a surprised smile spread across his face. "What are you doing here?" he asked me, "did you come down here all by yourself?"

I was laughing and told him that I was there to see him and ask him how his first week on the job was. He said it was great, he was learning alot. I don't know what I expected to hear, but he seemed to have relatively little to say about it, all things considered. He told me about his difficulties finding a place and time to pray in his workplace, about the fact that he was going to have to miss another interview, a little about his new coworkers. It was difficult to keep up the conversation, as he would drift off and lose his concentration as he watched the people around us. I asked him if I could get him a drink, and he said no, he wasn't thirsty. I was tired and dehydrated myself, so I just tried to fill the gaps in the conversation by watching people and laughing (rather fakely and half-heartedly) at some of the odd interactions that were unfolding before us, trying to make conversation from it. He wasn't the gentle, caring protector he had been with me the first time we went to the Stud in June--he wasn't touching me all over my arms or my shoulders like before. So far, not what I was expecting, based on previous experience, and not going as planned. But the night was young.

Then he went out on the dance floor, and for the first time, I followed suit and danced on the dance floor right next to him. The first time I went to the Stud, as described in the previous post "First Time in a Gay Bar!," I had danced but not actually gone out on the defined dancing space itself. This time I was out on the floor itself, with him, dancing in whatever way I could think of. It was a crowded night, and there was hardly any room to dance, period. I tried to keep my mom's advice from long ago in mind, "it's all in the shoulders."

However, as the previous time, he refused to orient himself toward me--I found him ignoring me completely and then eventually found myself squeezed directly behind him. The dance floor at the Stud is fairly small anyway, surrounded by posts, and I was further wedged between him and a post with no room to move. After about 5 or 10 minutes out on the dance floor, Farid bailed. I followed suit. Too crowded for him, he said. It had been too crowded for my tastes from the start, but perhaps that was a good thing--I didn't have to be as good or try as hard.

So we stood on the side and talked a little, him moving his body at certain points in the music and not at other points. I said something about feeling hot, and I was sweating heavily in my sweater. I couldn't figure out what was making him tick, as none of the music was really my style (and with very ugly English lyrics that Farid couldn't understand), and I was having a hard time motivating myself to move to it at all.

Then eventually, he went back on the dance floor. There was more room this time, this was my chance! I went out to the dance floor with him, we were there for a few minutes. Again, he just absolutely refused to orient himself toward me. I surveyed the room--there were plenty of other guys with their shirts off, and most of them were much less impressive than I was. So hey, why not, just do it! At least you won't be the most atrocious-looking shirtless guy in the room. I'm not among a bunch of hypermuscular maniacs, just average guys like me, but older. I'm in good company, so go for it! I first maneuvered my arms out of their sleeves, and I stayed like that for what seemed like ages (it must have been only a second or two, however). Then I whipped off the shirt and started dancing again.

I'm sure part of it was my imagination and fear in that moment, but suddenly the mood changed. It had been crowded enough around me earlier that guys behind and to the side were knocking into me. All of a sudden, it was like the dance floor around me started to vacate. I suddenly had way too much room to dance. I looked at Farid and smiled. He noticed that I had taken my shirt off, and scanned over very briefly and apathetically, only the slightest smile, and lowered his head to ignore me. While I kept dancing, I felt like a million eyes were staring at me at that moment, judging me. The dance floor was surrounded by a ring of men looking toward the dancers, many probably looking at me. I'm very good at shutting out the world around me, and I dared not look back. But I could feel it, it was so powerful; it was awful! Farid continued doing his thing, ignoring me completely, for another couple of minutes, and I stayed to his side. But the fact that the floor around me was evacuating, no one was bumping into me any longer, it was all just too creepy. And there was absolutely no interest on Farid's part to dance with me.

So I made a moved to position myself behind Farid, next to one of the posts on the edge of the dance floor, to be less obvious. I was trying to think of anything to develop an interest. Was it too late for the playful butt pinch? At that moment of my repositioning, Farid turned around and bolted without saying a word. I had to charge after him, in my shirtless state (no time to react to put a shirt on), as he protruded through the crowd of onlookers. Most of them were staring at us, and particularly me. I grabbed Farid's shoulder and said, "Farid." He retorted quickly, pressing forward and hardly looking back, "I have to go to the bathroom." I continued, "I'm too hot, I think I'm going to go home now." He nodded, again without stopping to look back, almost all-too vigorously and affirmatively. We reached at that point the entry way into the well-lit pool room on the way to the bathroom and the vestiary. At that moment, I didn't know how to think or feel--only vulnerable (without my shirt on), unwanted. Generally, I felt like a freak. I threw on my sweater, as all the guys at the entrance to the pool room turned toward me to look at me with their typical ferocious, unfriendly stares (as described in "First Time in a Gay Bar").

In the better lit, less crowded space, and with my sweater finally back on, I got Farid to stop for me outside of the toilet. I told him that it was nice to come down to see him considering he hadn't had the chance to e-mail me. He promised he would e-mail in the future. Then we wished each other goodbye. He gave me the typical tender, very close-to-the-lips bisous. He at least wasn't entirely averse to being seen with me, I guessed, but certainly almost a 180 degree turnaround since my treatment like his young prince the time I came to the bar with him. I plastered a huge smile on my face and said goodbye, retrieved my coat, and then walked by again and looked into the bathroom (door wide open) to see him standing there waiting for the stall to become available. In that moment I thought: how cute, he's too embarassed to use the urinals, like me. He had a particularly sad, tortured expression on his face as he looked out at me, cowering from the protection of a bathroom that I could have easily entered. He was obviously going to stay a while longer. I waved slightly, probably also with an equally sad expression on my face, and finished throwing on my sexy Parisian winter coat.

The Aftermath



It was my turn to bolt--straight out of the bar into the nearby McDonalds. There, I took care of my most immediate problem--my dehydration--with a large Sprite, downing the entire thing in probably 30 seconds. I ate the ice on the way home, despite the fact that it was a particularly cold autumn night well below 0 C, and I was chilled from my sweaty pullover. As I was walking home, so many things were pulsing through my mind. Maybe it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. Maybe there was no reason to see it as a rejection. Having a bad night in a gay bar is probably something of a rite of passage. But there was no way to see anything that happened that night in a positive light either.

The shock of my friend's poor treatment was even greater than what I imagined. My friend Farid did not want me. Not only did he not want me, which was hard enough as it was, but he also didn't want to be seen with me. He seemed even embarrassed and also implicitly wanted me to leave, as soon as possible. His behaviour demonstrated nothing but profound apathy for me (shirt on and esp. with shirt off). And for what? So that he could be all alone and dance all alone in that room full of hairy arses?

After all of my investment, my friendship, my attention, my time, my love, that's what I get in return? As far as I was concerned, it was tantamout to a betrayal. It was the ugliest thing a friend could ever do to me and the worst way he could ever treat me (at least that's what I thought, until the Night of the Musical Candlelit bath three months later). This betrayal was on top of the fact that I was already highly sensitive from mourning the death of the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this e-mail (she had died in the previous week), the one I had had so much fun dancing with. She danced with me, she held my hand. But she was gone.

I couldn't go home. I just sat in a residential part of the Village on a staircase leading up to an apartment building, not thinking, not feeling, just empty. I was there for so long, Farid probably even passed me there on the bus on his way home. Then I found myself just standing in the middle of Parc Lafontaine for nearly an hour, at 2 a.m. on a cold wintery morning, walking back and forth. Every bone in my body was shaking to try to keep me warm, but I was unable to make myself go home.

Finally, I did end up going home, a shivering heap. I hardly slept. The next day, I was still in shock. It was the first day in what was to become a very long period of terrible sadness. All of this was coming at bad time--when my Seasonal Affective difficulties (winter blues) were beginning to rear their ugly head. It was going to be a bad winter, I could tell that already.

My psyche had been fundamentally altered, but I wanted to put on a façade so that Farid wouldn't know that I was hurt by that night at the Stud. I told everyone that my sadness was solely due to my friend's death. I continued writing Farid daily e-mails for three more days before stopping altogether (it's not like he bothered to respond anyway). I also dropped off some baklava with his roommate Pietro for them to share after going on my weekly Sunday baklava run. Then I went promptly to the Basilique Notre-Dame to light a candle for my friend who had passed way. Now that was a real friend.

When I came home, I needed to show to myself and the world that something had changed in me. I grabbed at my rasor and shaved every last follicle of my beard down to the naked skin. I loved my beard, and most certainly it was something that Farid found attractive in me considering his tastes. But I didn't care about being attractive to him any longer. I wanted to see myself again and separate myself from his world and the world of the Stud, a place I have vowed never to return to. I needed to see my face and feel young again. The beard makes me look about 10 years older than I am--and it was my choice to seem older to reflect my mentality. But in reaction to what I had just experienced, I needed to enjoy my youth and be treated like a young man again. I needed to be appreciated. That was my way of surviving one of the most depressing and vulnerable periods in my life.

So I end this post preparing myself to leave to go dancing with a real friend. Everyone deserves someone to dance with.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Night of the Musical Candelit Bath

I've been called a lot of things by my peers in the gay community. A young idealist, "juvenile," a young man in love with love. I've forgivingly and patiently put up with a lot of it, despite the fact that my attitude often tends to be as (if not more) reasoned and mature than those who provide such judgments. I recognize my faults. I am verbose for one, obsessive for another. But at least I'm a polite, respectful individual, reasonably well-balanced intellectually and emotionally. I live a good life, with adventures around the world each year. In 25 short years I've lived across the world, and experienced more of it than most well-traveled people do in a lifetime. After about 13 years of sexual maturity, I'm still a virgin (yes, I'm so virginal, I haven't even kissed/been kissed on the lips!). I've even had a few romantic adventures, albeit they tend to be mostly my own creations--unrequited courtly love: repressed, burning passion. Love--deep, innocent, and unreciprocated--but love nonetheless.

I've had infatuations and crushes, some over the matter of a month or two, some for as long as a few years. They can be intense: I have absolutely no feelings left for one guy from my infatuations, but I still wake up with his name on my breath from time to time. Despite my penchant for repressed emotion and my history of crushes, I've loved only once. It wasn't just a crush--it was physically and emotionally intense (described more in my previous post "Madness: the Five Senses of a Man"). My first love, how precious. Big sigh... From what I've already said about my kiss virginity, it's pretty easy to figure out that I didn't get to have any fun!

I talked about my first love in previous posts using the name Farid. He makes his first appearance in this blog starting in November 2009. Nearly a year and a half later, he's still in my life, but he's gone from the anonymous friend offering bits of wisdom to front page news as far as this blog is concerned.

As such, I like to think of my feelings for him as a pot of water placed on a stove burner on low heat. Something clicked in me (the stove turned on) the first time I saw him--a cutely short, older, handsome, well-proportioned bearded Arab guy--like a mini-Hercules without the bulging muscles. I will never forget how adorable I thought he was the first time I saw him standing in his doorway with a huge smile, beckoning me in. Or later that day, after a couple of hours of conversation, when we were heading out (him to a hair appointment, me to my bike). He wanted to change clothes, so he went into his room and came out in a sexy pair of jeans and a leather jacket. Wow! As we headed out, he gave me this sexy, satisfied look, gazing out with a sparkle in his eyes from underneath his brows, the faintest smile on his face. Then when we parted, he gave me a hug like no other I had had before in my life. I'm certainly no hug virgin, but never before had I felt so connected and fused to someone in my life than during that one hug. Part of me seems to have melted into Farid's arms.

The pot of water began to steam, but it was a long time yet, many months, before it came to a boil. I liked him--he was very personable. He always made time to talk to me, always enjoyed conversing with me, and exchanged on deeper subjects with me. He was, well, a perfectly charming gentleman, not to mention a concerned friend and a good listener. He would keep in touch with me, no matter where in the world I found myself, often on a daily basis. He told me once, "CT, it is such an honour to be your friend." He got me there--those are the words that I have always needed to hear, and in this case they were genuinely expressed. The first bubbles started forming at the bottom of the pot. With daily contact, with time, with me helping him on his business, vaction time together, as the months became a year, the water came to a full boil. It hissed and steamed; it frothed; it overflowed.

And then, at some point, Farid picked up the pot of boiling water, my churning but contained emotions toward him, and poured it all over me, leaving me pocked with the burns and the scars. Yet the pot is still too hot--if you were to put water back into it, even without placing it back on the stove, the water would still come quickly to a boil. A year and a half later, with very little to show for my first love except the disappointments, the pessimism, and the sadness, and after being implictly rejected and scorned time and time again, the hot excitability, the weakness, is still there.

Fortunately, the pot is hot, but it is empty. It was never really refilled with water (only he could do that), and the drops that were left have sizzled and evaporated. While there have been several notable, charmless, hurtful encounters that I could elaborate on, nothing probably highlights my current state of disgust more than what I will probably forever remember as the Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath.

I recently went off to Berlin and Paris, and I felt like I finally turned the page once I arrived there. After months of lingering depression, in part related to feelings of rejection from last November and December (more on that night in a later posting), I was no longer feeling sad and tortured. Back in the civilized world of art, culture, and science, I felt recharged, reenergized, and it was a good feeling. The burns were there, but they no longer hurt. I wasn't thinking as much about Farid anymore, but as had become tradition with us (and him still being, despite everything good and bad we have shared, a good friend whom I love), I wanted to bring him back a little something from my latest trip. I wrote him a message on a non-decorated, still-standing part of the Berlin Wall and sent a photo of it to him in an e-mail. I sent him postcards of the things I liked best from my trip. When I arrived back in Montréal, I went straight to his house before going home with a cornucopia of delicate pastries that I had purchased earlier that day in Paris. He was very surprised and happy to see me, I was my chipper, chatty self, and we had agreed to get together on Saturday (this last weekend) to talk in a more casual setting and catch up after almost two months of not seeing each other.

After some encouraging remarks from a new friend who understands Farid's cultural and religious outlook and could more readily interpet his behaviour, I decided to give the whole possibility of an affective relationship with Farid one last chance. Some personal time together, that's what we needed. There are quite a few aspects of our different personalities which seem to really compliment each other. We also have very similar values (his values match mine more than another other gay man I've ever met), and he, although nearly 20 years older than me, is just as much the hopeless romantic as I am (yet with the maturity that characterizes most of my friends, who are in their 40s). So hey, the feelings are already there, the pot is still hot. I'm attracted to him, I love him, so I figured I'd give him the chance to pour some water back into the pot last Saturday.

Instead of pouring water into the pot, he put the pot in the freezer. I've never been treated with such a lack of charm or considerateness in my life. I came over, and he was doing the housework and continued during much of my visit. I knew this would be a likely eventuality and arrived late in the afternoon (when I had been invited to come over since 10 am) for this reason. There was another time recently when he invited me over to watch him do the housework, when I had told him that I some little gifts to give him from the United States. I just didn't bother to show up at all. I had never neglected him like that before, and that clearly drove him crazy. All of a sudden I was getting worried messages on my answering machine from a guy who has always been too passive and apathetic to call. A little bit of water back in the pot there, but I went to Berlin for a week, and it must have turned to steam and re-evaporated. So last saturday, he was doing the housework in my presence. I even helped him make his bed when the sheets were dry. Ok, while charmless and somewhat obnoxious, I could turn it to my advantage. At least we were doing something together, not sitting, but standing, moving, and the conversation was intense, directed, personal, and between us.

Then, after about two and a half hours together, his roommate (the owner of the condo where they live) of many years came in. The social dynamic changed fundamentally and completely. Pietro (nearly 60 years old) is also Farid's ex. Farid and Pietro have a long history together, and have been entirely platonic (aka, sexless) in their relationship for about four years. At the same time, they have a certain level of mutual dependence and live like an old bickering couple. Pietro is "real family" to Farid, for lack of a better description (and believe me, there isn't one). In turn, Pietro depends on Farid to have an audience and a sense of self-importance--someone who will attend to him and look up to him. They are, for all intents and purposes, married, virtually always together, fundamentally united, but without romance and sex. Over the course of my friendship with Farid, I've gotten to know Pietro quite well, and we're also on friendly terms (and I am his client). Pietro had made it known to Farid that he finds me attractive, and Farid has told me that in the past. Although I remained jovial with Pietro, I was always careful never to reciprocate such an interest and remained unresponsive or negative on the subject if it ever came up in conversation between Farid and myself.

Pietro invited me to stay for dinner. This had happened in the past, where they had invited me to stay over for a meal, and it was perfectly fun and charming at that time. But this time was starkly different. Farid began bickering with Pietro about their earlier plans to eat out, but Pietro quashed them and said that he had changed his mind and that this would be cheaper. I chipped in and said that I couldn't impose myself in that way, and that I was tired and was just going home to have something light before calling it a day. Well, they insisted that I stay, so I did. But not long later, Farid, charmlessly, showed both Pietro and I a rash that he was developing on his stomach, a stomach that had flabbed out quite a bit since I described it in the previous post "Madness: Five Senses of a Man" (not that I couldn't still find reason to be charmed by it, lol, in spite of its increasing girth). He said that he was, consequently, going to go take a bath while Pietro prepared a succulent dinner of langoustines.

Ok, while it is totally rude to go take a bath, even for medical reasons, while you have invited guests to stay over (the rash had developed the day before and was not new by the time we saw it), I figured he'd be as fast as possible about it. In and out. He wasn't. Instead, much to Pietro and my surprise and annoyance, he took his computer into the bathroom. Pietro exclaimed in consternation, "Farid, why are you taking the computer with you?" Apparently to play music. Pietro then started boastfully elaborating to me about how Farid started this quaint little tradition from imitating him and his musical baths, and how relaxing it was to take a hot bath while listening to music. Farid ignored us and disappeared into the bathroom, listening to Quranic chants, while Pietro continued fixing dinner. The whole scenario was almost too ridiculous for words, and you could tell Pietro didn't know what to do with me at first (he gave me treats to go feed their cats). But eventually the awkwardness eased as we started a fluid conversation, and it was honestly fun talking to him.

Then, after about 30 minutes into his musical bath, Farid emerged nude (although behind the door so I couldn't see him) and interrupted our conversation. In such a circumstance, nude at the bathroom door (while a guest is there) calling out to his roommate, you might think that he was dying of an asthma attack and in need of his inhaler. But, in fact, he was instead calling out for Pietro to bring him the lighter. Pietro explained to me that he wanted it to light candles in the bathroom, and jumped up and raced over to bring the lighter. Farid was totally nude in front of Pietro, you could tell, and Pietro surveyed the interior of the bathroom (with Farid in it, but lacking any personal interest in his regard) before shutting the door. Just earlier that day, Farid had said that Pietro is often nude in front of him, and he in front of Pietro, and that there is no passion or interest remaining between them. I don't know if Ahmed was trying to demonstrate that personally, or testing Pietro (who was more interested in returning to me). You would have thought that Farid, given my presence and the fact that the bath had already been going on for quite some time at that point, could have lived without candlelight on this one occasion. But apparently not. I started snickering.

Farid had thus returned to his now candlelit musical bath, where he remained for about 40 more minutes. In the mean time, Pietro and I sat down to dinner, ate slowly, and enjoyed our conversation. We talked about many things, although I probably divulged a bit too much about my sexuality after he learned that I was a virgin, then started asking about how I managed that. That led to him saying that he was like me, that he could survive fine by himself for long periods of time, but every several months or so he needs some "carnal contact," and apparently one such carnal tryst had occurred just the previous evening. I tried to change the subject by asking him if he was enjoying my Parisian pastries. He said, "yes, they're great! Just yesterday evening, before my "fuck" arrived, Farid was eating the chocolate cake in the little box, and I ran over to him and said 'Give me a bite, Farid, I need some energy for my fuck tonight!'" I changed the subject back to the where I got the pastries, and how it is my favourite salon du thé in Paris.

As we were finishing dinner, Farid reemerged from his long, hot, relaxing, absolutely absurd, musical candlelit bath, in an undershirt and his boxers. I thanked Pietro profusely for dinner and told Farid that I was going home. However, to my surprise, Farid absolutely insisted that I stay to sit down and watch TV with them. Being weak with Farid, I of course obliged to stay. Farid at that point heated some leftover Shepherd's Pie in the microwave for his own dinner, claiming that he didn't like what Pietro had fixed that night and wanted something different.

We were talking together, although Farid seemed distracted and tired. Pietro, when he learned where I had recently moved, mentioned casually that I now live near a sauna (gay hookup place), but I tried to neutralize that conversation by turning it into a discussion of Turkish hamams. We were watching Quebec singers on TV, and Pietro was singing along at various points. Eventually, Farid excused himself, he said that he was now really tired after his bath and needed some sleep. Farid lifted his boxer leg up to his crotch to show me his rash, as if to excuse himself with such a demonstration, then he jumped up despite Pietro's protestations to stay, at least through the end of that song. I jumped up myself at that moment and said, "Farid, I'm going home..." And he said, "No, stay! Discuss!" Then he disappeared promptly into his bedroom (door open and lights off), not to be seen for the rest of the evening.

So I stayed, as Pietro did seem to be very excited about that particular song. As a guest who had just been entertained for dinner, I figured I should at least provide Pietro some after-dinner company. We had a fun, casual, light-hearted, sexually-neutral conversation, actually, and I stayed for about another hour. It was the best conversation of the night. Then I started making noises about going home, and Pietro wanted to show me something before I went. He then changed the channel to a gay porn station, a three-way oral sex between young men with unnaturally large penises. I couldn't have been more turned off, but instead of reacting negatively, I just laughed and said, "Pietro, that's nothing I haven't seen a million times before." In the proceeding conversation, I looked at it and back toward him as if entirely unphased by it, as if we were still watching the singers. I was entirely stoic, entirely asexual. Any discussion of sexuality was at that point ingenuous but clinical.

Then Pietro offered very earnestly, "I could show you that if you want." I said no, elaborating that I was already too spent, sexually speaking, and not really in the mood. He was surprised that I wasn't turned on, and I said, "as I said earlier, I use my imagination to get off, films don't do it for me , the brain is a very powerful tool." He thought maybe I wasn't interested because I wasn't watching it with the right person, and I said no, I was jetlagged (having been back in Canada for only 48 hours at that point), tired, and thus not really in the mood. He changed the channel, and I talked to him for about 5-10 more minutes amicably about neutral subjects, to lessen the awkwardness of the situation. He then mentioned, "well, I'm kinda turned on now that I saw a bit of that porno" grabbing very briefly into his pants (but, to my great relief, taking nothing out). I responded, "well, I'm really tired, why don't I leave now so that you can take care of that" and then made my final move to exit.

He accompanied me to the door, wrapped me up tenderly in my scarf, put my coat on, and gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me good night. I returned his kiss on his cheek with another one, and told him to say bye to the "sleeping Farid" for me. We both rolled our eyes, and I made my exit.

An interesting evening indeed. I could analyze it time and time again in many different ways--the musical candlelit bath, the nude appearance before Pietro, the showing of the rash (to both me and Pietro), the late evening nap. I was insulted, so horribly insulted, it wasn't even funny (even if the story is somewhat). Never had I been so rudely disregarded by a friend before in my life than by Farid that evening. The entire evening was so bizarre!

I thought for a while that perhaps Farid and Pietro had planned this, and that Farid was using my blaringly-obvious affections toward him as a way to keep me there so that Pietro could make his move on me. But several variables work against this hypothesis--the fact the Farid knew that I would not be interested in Pietro (as I had demonstrated before) and would not succumb to anyone's sexual advances outside the context of a previously-established relationship. If Farid knows anything about me, it's that. Furthermore, according to the open invitation, I could have arrived as early as 5 hours earlier, in which case I wouldn't have still been there when Pietro came home from work for dinner. Furthermore, the bickering about dinner that night, Pietro's reactions of surprise to Farid's behaviour, and the awkwardness when he disappeared into the musical bath, couldn't have been faked. Indeed, if giving Pietro space and time to seduce me (or abhorr me with porn) was indeed the goal of that evening, then surely Farid wouldn't have emerged from the bath to interrupt us and ask for a lighter.

I don't think it was a concerted effort on their part to disgust me, to repel me from their lives, to see how far I could go, to seduce me, or to test me. Neither one of them is that deliberate or that organized. What I do think, however, is that both of them felt comfortable enough with me to introduce me to their unadulterated, domestic reality, musical candlelit baths and all. I saw both of them as they are, as if I wasn't there, without any façade--totally self-centered and dysfunctional. Neither one cared enough to bother to provide a polite, respectable environment appropriate for a guest--they just slacked off and carried on with their evening as they would have without me. This is especially true for Farid, who most certainly was continuing his usual routine with the musical bath and the late evening nap. Then Pietro made his sexual advance, which I declined in the most neutral and respectful way I could think of at that particular moment. I had probably overshared earlier in the evening, which had contributed to the sense of comfort and permissivity in which Pietro felt ok showing me the porn. All in all, that evening was a smack in the face if there ever was one, and a huge letdown considering the polite society and civility of Europe, where I was just coming from.



It was then that I realized--Chez Farid + Pietro is not all that complicated and doesn't really require an exhaustive analysis. It's a prototype that people have been discussing for millennia in churches and synagogues, and recorded in fewer words than in this posting. Using an important moral theme discussed two articles ago in this blog, their condo is the modern-day version of Sodom and Gommorah. A land of utter disrespect (and sexual permissiveness and depravity) toward guests. Like in the Bible story, I saw Farid's sin of inhospitality as being far graver than Pietro's sexual inappropriateness. I say, let the trumpets sound!

I'm weak with Farid, so I will probably look back on Sodom, like Lot's wife, as the walls crumble. But if I were as smart and strong as I like to say I am, I won't--to avoid morphing into a pile of useless, mushy salt as a consequence. So, as for the scalding-hot pot (my heart) I introduced at the beginning of this article, let's keep it in the freezer for the time being. That's where it belongs until it cools to room temperature again!

I ran into Farid on the bus this last Tuesday (a few days after the musical candlelit bath incident), and while he was tired and distant after a long day of work, he sat next to me and we chatted amicably. He seemed surprised that I was learning Italian and going to Italy soon. He told me about passing a test for a government job. I asked him about his rash in the bus full of people, if it was feeling better. Just everyday friendly conversation. Then I came to my stop, wished him a good evening, reached around to push his head toward me and landed a big fat juicy kiss in his beautiful beard. Hey, my new attitude: just because I fell for the wrong guy doesn't mean I can't have a little bit of fun, while I'm waiting for the pot to cool :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Madness: the Five Senses of a Man

Yes, I'm the idealist who wrote an article (the first one of the blog) lambasting “chemistry,” but even I know what physical attraction feels like. In fact, I’ve lived through the most beautiful of experiences—falling so hard for someone that you wonder what kind of new, horrible mental illness has possessed you. Such a feeling probably only comes once in a great while, often with a guy that might not particularly astonish the rest of the world like he has struck you.

In my case, I’m thinking of one person in particular. I've mentioned him before in this blog by the name of Farid. He's not the hottest guy in the world, but man, he might as well be-- he sure took my breath away. Something clicked in me the first time we got together, and a year and a half later I'm still wheezing. Let's just say, it was so painful it felt amazing! Then, with time, it just became painful (more on that later). I didn't understand it, I thought he was just a close friend, the best of friends, even a brother. But just under a year on into my friendship with him, I realized that what I felt for him was altogether different--not a crush, not an infatuation, and certainly not so innocent as my myth of a platonic friendship/brotherly love. Nothing but pure, hot, sexy, sultry attraction and chemistry toward both his body and soul. Even with the passing of months and years, none of his many very visible faults could sway me--it was maddenning, heady, juicy romantic passion, at least from my end.

We can all go out on a date being “open” to starting a relationship with someone, enjoying the date and the conversation that ensues. But there is a difference between being “open” to a relationship in such a setting (accompanied by a personal willingness to get to know him better) and being entirely swept away by him, touched by his kind demeanor and physical presence from the very beginning, captivated by his every word and utterly speechless upon first seeing his face. I have enjoyed this attraction, and now I feel like I’ve been more cursed than blessed by the experience. I often feel guilty about it. This is not a typical infatuation/crush or relationship I'm talking about. Of these (romantic infatuations) I've had plenty, two of which lasted well over a year and were quite moving, but they felt nothing like what I'm about to describe. The topic of this posting is a deeper connection, a feeling that comes along probably only once or twice (maybe a few times) in a lifetime. It shakes you to the core and leaves you reeling for months if not years, fundamentally altered, and it never really leaves you. Yes, even us sedate, unattractive people have passion; the only difference for us is that it is unlikely to be reciprocated. The good news--unrequited love can madden us to the point of being creative, which can have its own rewards.

I described him one day, back during my relatively 'quiet' period on this blog, in a conversation with a friend. While my words sound rather melodramatic, they were entirely true to how I felt: “When I see him in front of me, it's like the world's greatest wonder is before me. Part of me can't believe that he's real each time I behold him. Sometimes when I think of him, I feel so much pain, because I know he can't be mine. We’re probably both better off that way. But something is there, in the way he makes me think; it simply sets my soul on fire. This infernal joy possesses me, a joy that I can't distinguish from pain. It feels so sad, yet I delight in it; I'm addicted to it. Part of it is our differences, which I relish as much as the personality characteristics that we have in common. He keeps me always learning and growing in the way he challenges my world. The way he makes me think, it’s just so beautiful, so incredible—after our (often hours) of conversation each time we see each other, new thoughts pulse through my mind for days, and exhausted, I can't concentrate on anything else. And I can't stop thinking about the way he makes me feel and how he brings out the best in me. I’m entirely taken by the beauty of his heart and his mind, which he's opened up to me (but to so few other people; I am among the lucky ones). I try so hard to move on (in terms of looking elsewhere for romance), to try to achieve something for myself, something real. But I just can't; I have no enthusiasm for it. The most intelligent, handsome, charming man in Montréal could walk up to me and ask me for a date, and I'd just look for some excuse to avoid seeing him. All this in an attempt to save myself for one guy who certainly doesn't have the same feelings nor would care to save himself for me. I know how crazy this all sounds.”

The majority of the text of this blog entry was taken from a letter that I wrote to a different friend and discusses ONLY the physical side of my attraction, which was perhaps the most inconsequential aspect of what I felt. My aim is to write a series of articles which mounts Plato’s ladder of love, from its base physical aspects to spiritual bliss. First the sensual, and I must say that being with him was as much a sensual as a celestial experience. I was entirely overtaken by what I beheld, stimulated as I was to be in his presence as if I was experiencing an amazing work of art. In fact, never has any artwork echoed through all of my senses in the way he touched each and every one of mine. At the same time, it was only admiration from my part. Yes, I admit, I am massively attracted to him, to his incredible thoughts, to the way his entire face smiles at me. Travelling with someone is always an intense experience, this one being particularly so considering that, for me, getting to spend time with him was the greatest attraction. Perhaps I should go through each of the senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste--as I describe what I mean.

First, sight, and what a visual splendour he presents! He looked good in everything he wore. It was a little annoying, actually, in that he never not looked good, never even a little dishevelled. When he was waking up in the morning, he looked flawless. He always wears jeans that are flattering to his figure and tucks his shirt into his pants. Even in just a plain white t-shirt (which he says that he likes a lot), he looked amazing. When I was with him in the hotel room, he was often shirtless and wearing nothing other than some black shorts (or sometimes his jeans during the day), sprawling like a river god on the bed with a book or his computer. Every time I looked at him half-naked like that, I had a hard time concentrating on anything else (although, being respectful, I was well behaved and didn’t look too much).

Certain images I suspect will never escape my memory, such as on Thursday night when he was wrapped in the white duvet of his bed around his mid section, but sitting up with legs spread apart on the bed while he talked engagingly to me until after 2 am. He looked like he might have been nude under the drapery (although he wasn’t), with his amazing chest and legs sticking out from the sheets as he used one arm to press the drapery in toward his pelvis. It was like a scene out of a painting, but real and less than a meter from where I was perched (fully-clothed). He was so beautiful like that, his eyes wide and directed at me, his shoulders curled and in and relaxed as he concentrated on our conversation. That night we had been out late, but afterward we were discussing history for over an hour. I also remember the following morning when he got up. I think I heard him discretely, softly tugging at himself in the night, and he had stripped off his underwear and shorts. When he got up in the morning, I was already awake, but he waited to get up until he knew I was awake. Then when I turned around he greeted me warmly and leaned forward. He covered his midsection with a sheet as he slipped his underwear on, but his legs were outside of the bed as well as his upper body. I didn’t see anything, but I saw more of his legs than I had ever seen, all but the very tip of his buttocks. My mouth had to have been open at that point, and when I realized what he was doing I respectfully looked away.

He is well-proportioned, certainly with a ‘defined’ body that I wouldn’t necessarily say is muscular (but that’s ok, as I’ve never really been in love with overly muscular bodies). He’s got a pudge to his tummy, which rippled beautifully like a Doidalsas Venus when he bent over, the effect doing nothing to destroy the inverted triangle of his upper body. My eyes secretly worshiped his every feature, both perfect and imperfect. For example, the red ‘squares’ on his upper back, a couple of small pimples that I noticed came into being by the end of our stay. I was charmed by even those, the tiniest imperfections being so beautiful in my eyes. He wasn’t hairy like I am—only a light patch on his chest and another on his stomach and again on his lower back and legs. His body is perfectly balanced in that regard, hairy enough to seem masculine but leaving room to enjoy the lovely light tan colour of his skin. His beard and hair both blending into each other in thickly curling locks, hugging his lovely head, which is itself rather wide at the top (to house his intellect) and narrower toward the bottom--a symmetric trapezoid with a strong jaw.

At night, I had a hard time sleeping, often waking up around 3 am or 5 am. Laying there, I would look over at him. He always looked so calm and peaceful with his eyes closed, his face more radiant than ever, framed by the powerful profile of his bare shoulders. Watching him from this perspective, I couldn’t help but feel tenderness for him in his serenity. At night or taking a nap, to me he represented some strange combination of perfect beauty/harmony and the adorable. Occasionally he would breathe heavily, on the verge of snoring, but any snores were very short-lived and soft. I could have watched him sleep forever and never tire of the view, but I feel like people can sense when they are being watched, even in their sleep, and I didn’t want to disturb him like that. At the same time, I would lie there in bed awake, with or without looking at him, and a kind of energy seemed pulse through my body just by his very presence in the room. It was like the next step after being turned on, but not entirely sexual.

I ached to feel his body next to mine, but didn’t dare make a move. Yet, at the same time it was almost impossible to talk myself down from the state I was in, even imagining the sunny meadow of birds and flowers I use to calm myself down, as my thoughts would inevitably drift back to him. I was always well-behaved, but a part of me wanted to be fused to him physically, to feel his body against mine, and it would have been almost impossible for me to resist had he wanted the same thing. But we were both, as I said, well-behaved. He would have been hard-pressed to think I wanted him that way, and I definitely never got the impression he was interested in me. But in the daytime there was always something of a tenderness between us that is hard to characterize, probably because it was more of a masculine tenderness (the fuzziest, most indeterminable kind).

What I did do, however, is become more open with being semi-nude myself in the same way he exposed himself in my presence. He was beautiful to me, a beauty that I could not come close to matching, but with time I felt more and more comfortable with the limitations of his body and my own.

While I was pleased by his stature, his enchanting profile, it is his face that I find the most mesmerizing. When we were together talking, we always seemed intimately close, his face right next to mine. I enjoyed this feeling of closeness during our conversation, which seemed to demonstrate to me how engaged and devoted he was to talking to me at any given moment. I could look into his gorgeous wide green eyes as he talked and listened, me concentrating carefully on his every word, my eyes dancing to his mouth, surrounded by that gorgeous, thick, rich dark-brown beard. Because I was often so close to it, I came to memorize even the hairs on his beard, the one white whisker to the right of his nose in his moustache, the charming splay of isolated white hairs at the centre of his chin, the occasional strand of red or light brown hair mixed in—what a visual splendour when admired up close. His beard is nothing less than golden in the sun. What haunts me the most are his eyes, a light green that seemed rather to glow like a star, seemingly guiding me to the beauty in his mind and his soul. They have such directness, openness, and sincerity, with a hint of sadness. But when he laughs or smiles, his entire face lights up and smiles with his mouth—even his eyes turn upward. He seemed to be smiling at me all evening when another friend, he, and I were out to dinner. I was the animator of our conversation, and I must admit that his constant smile that gave me my energy and charisma to carry on. All in all, there is little about his presence that didn’t please me. When he made a comment about seeing a hot guy, which he did often with a subjective expression, I would look, but I couldn’t help but think that the most beautiful man in the city was right next to me, and I was glad to have him there. Not so much because he was physically beautiful, although he is, but because he has a truly beautiful soul that I feel very connected to when we talk, more so than with anyone else. Even sometimes we didn’t have things to talk about, but when I’d look in his general direction, he’d look back directly at me, then I’d look directly at him (such as on the bus or walking), and I’d just smile at him without saying anything and he’d smile back. It was a nice feeling, to have someone there to just smile at me. That’s probably the best ‘sight’ of all.

Scent:

I don’t know what the guy wears, but he puts something on him that makes him seem irresistibly fresh. I had a hard time characterizing it, but I told him I didn’t understand how he could always smell fresh like he did and resolutely insisted that he showed me what he uses. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery, and this is one way in which I would like to imitate him. In fact, he was just using various lotions from different hotels. Perhaps it was that, perhaps it was that and the deodorant, perhaps it was all of it combined with some element of his natural smell that I might find particularly appealing. I didn’t understand it, but I never tired of it, I loved getting whiffs of it along with a taste of his hot breath as we talked side by side. He told me: when you get older, you have to put more effort into these kinds of things. He was always refreshing himself with the lotions to make himself smell better, and each time we left the hotel he made sure his hair looked good. I didn’t have it in me to tell him, but I never saw him, even in his sleep, even getting up in the morning, look anything less than a Greek god. But apparently he could see his imperfections more readily.

Touch:

Touch is probably the most delicate experience between men, but we seemed to be more open to it than most. I think it had a lot to do with my feelings of comfort and connectedness with him as a friend, and on his side his culture, which more readily encourages such gestures. He never recoiled or shied away from me whenever I would touch him gently (briefly) on the back or when our arms would be against each other (which sometimes they were for a surprisingly long amount of time). Perhaps our most tender moment of touch was when we discovered on our second sunny evening together a flowering Jasmine bush on our walk back toward downtown. He picked off a group of flowers and put it to his nose. I echoed him to also enjoy the sweet fragrance, and when I looked at him he had yellow pollen on his mustache. I told him about it, but he didn’t manage to get it off, so I reached over and brushed his nose with my fingers. He looked at me and smiled, in a way not quite like he has smiled at me before or since. Other times he would kindly grab my wrist or hold my waist if I was going to walk into the street on a red light.

Most of the time, however, there was no direct physical touching, but it still felt (to me) like we were touching in some deeper way. We were often sitting close together, a distance more typical for a couple, leaning in toward each other even when we weren’t looking directly at each other. I remember sitting this way when we are on various benches around town, motioning toward each other in our intense conversation, and even when we sat next to each other when he came to attend my speech. We also had other memorable moments of closeness, when I would be sitting on his bed (him often without a shirt) to look at something he wanted to show me on his computer, or he sitting on my bed with me when I was showing him something our last morning together.

Sound:

I remember that I didn’t use to find his voice all that pleasing, but when we are together talking in a more one-on-one setting, I couldn’t think of anything more gentle or beautiful. He spoke to me in a rhythmic and face-paced French that I could understand perfectly and had a comforting quality. When we were in the hotel, he would also watch tv series that he was downloading, which I also found strangely beautiful (even though I normally don’t find his native tongue (not French) to be a beautiful language outside of song). When he speaks English, though, I get tickled to death. He claims not to know English very well, and perhaps he doesn’t (we’ve never really talked in English). I ordered for him for the most part in English (he really wanted me to), and I translated questions directed to him in French. But when he says things in English, it is always so perfectly (almost boringly) pronounced that I nearly always giggle and chide him about it.

Speaking of French, however, it was a true pleasure having him around not only for the amazing conversations but also for the quality of his French. I was talking for many hours a day in French, and I loved it. It was weird being in an anglophone city but speaking for hours mostly in French. But it was there where I realized just how playful and intricate I could get with my French and the ideas I expressed. And whenever I got stuck, I could explain what it was I was trying to say and he would give me the word or explain it to me. He was always so patient with me in that respect. That, I found, really added to the depth of our conversations. And I learned so much and other words/expressions were reinforced in my memory, just in talking to him. He thinks mostly in French, and he likes to share and live the language.

Taste:

While something deep-down inside might have yearned to “taste” him (LOL), there’s really very little to describe there :). The only thing I really have to offer with respect to taste is that we did share each other’s meals from time to time, and he sometimes bought me dessert.