My friend A_____ turned 50 last year. I organized a nice little birthday gathering for him, which was especially meaningful for everyone since he’s battling mantle cell lymphoma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantle_cell_lymphoma), and optimistically has another five years to live.
I’ve known A_____ for at least five years. I certainly considered him a friend before his cancer diagnosis several years ago, and as soon as I knew what he was facing, I promised myself that whatever support he needed, I would always be there for him.
We’ve always had a very easygoing, normal friendship. He has always treated me with nothing but kindness and respect. We’ve always had a great time playing backgammon together, laughing and ragging on each other in a good-natured way. He trusted me enough to go down to Tennessee with me for the big solar eclipse back in 2017, even when he know we’d be sharing the same motel bed (I had made the reservation a year earlier), which I’m sure was no small thing for him.
And YES, he is a perfectly normal, well-adjusted, relentlessly heterosexual guy. He is as Straight as a two-by-four, as we say. So imagine how horrified I was when I realized I had fallen in love with him.
It was one night in February of 2018, down at the little dive where we play backgammon. On this particular evening it was pretty crowded, and I was seated at a table with some friends of mine. At one point I spotted A_____ up near the bar talking with some other people, and he was laughing and gabbing and carrying on as he does. And I sat there, watching him, listening to his voice from across the room …. and suddenly I realized that as I was watching him and listening to him, I was slowly stroking the beard on my chin.
And I CAUGHT myself doing that, and I thought, “Whoa whoa WHOA, what are you doing? Stop that! What the fuck? Don’t even GO there, ha ha!”
But suddenly I was very alarmed at how I would be watching A_____ like that. And when I started thinking about it and examining my feelings, it began to dawn on me that I had been thinking about A_____. A lot.
And that’s when I really , really started to PANIC.
As soon as I got home, I got online and started furiously Googling words and phrases and questions, and cross-referencing things in a desperate effort to find a website or a chat room or a discussion group where someone could give me some advice, because if I didn’t nip this thing in the bud, I was doomed. I was thinking, “I can’t believe this had to happen to ME! I don’t WANT this! I don’t NEED this! What do I do? What do I DO????”
Eventually I made contact with people who knew what I was going through. None of the answers were good. Some people said, “Look, just hang in there, you’ll eventually get over it.” Others said it was best for me to stay as far away from A_____ as possible. But how could I abandon my friend? HE’S the one with CANCER!
So panic gave way to pain. And the pain eventually gave way to deep, deep despair.
Even worse is that over the past year I have learned something very ugly about myself: My capacity for JEALOUSY. I’ve never had to deal with jealousy until the past year. And I HATE it. It’s NOT who I’m supposed to be!
I have always striven to be a kinder person, the best friend anyone could ever have, so that when it’s my time to go, at least I’ll be well spoken of and well remembered. I think that’s all any of us could ever ask for. And I was at peace with that, even if I finished out the rest of my life alone and unloved.
But when THIS happened, sixteen months ago, that peace of mind I had achieved was fucked all to hell.
Sixteen months of despair. Some days have been better than others. But every time the despair hits me particularly hard, it wears me down just a little bit more. And now I’m at a point where there’s nothing left to wear down.
A_____ did nothing wrong. I have done nothing wrong. The only thing I’m guilty of is having a heart, and no one ever said the human heart was logical.