Paradise Lost

How much of an impact does our first relationship have on defining our identity and who we become? Years after my first sexual relationship with a man I still feel the impact it has on my current state of being. I was in my twenties when I first fell in love. Some guy had picked me up and had invited me to his house. It was the cold of winter and he lived on the other side of town, so it kind of just started as giving him a ride to his house. One we got there he invited me in for a drink. His house was a mess and freezing cold. He was a student from the University and studying computer science before any of us really know that computer science was even a curriculum. My body trembled terribly to the point I could not control it and began to shake. I could not tell if it was from being so cold or where I suspected this might lead. I remember he gave me a beer and he went in to use the bathroom. I guzzled the beer and almost bolted for the door. I was torn between not being able to follow through and a desire to finally make this happen. When he emerged from the bathroom, I began to make excuses, saying I had to go. But he grabbed a hold of me and brought me tightly into his arms and kissed me. Instantly the tremors in my body melted and the rest become natural.

I think I actually did fall in love in the moment. We spent a year together. When spring came he needed to return to his hometown in Illinois; I quit a very good job to follow him. We spent the summer at his parent’s house in the Midwest and in the fall decided to head to Texas to find work. We finally settled in Dallas where I worked construction on high rise buildings to get us set up in an apartment and up on our feet while he looked for work in the computer business. All the time we were together he never did really find a job or work. I believe in this idealism of finding that one true love and being fully committed to our relationship. I began to slowly find out he did not. He was obsessed with sex; I guess as we all at that age, and while I was always out working was picking up tricks. The more obvious it became, the more emotional pain I seemed to have to endure. It festered the self-doubt and loathing I had already felt for myself. Was I not good enough? Was I not satisfying. All I remember from that time was so much anger and rage and anxiety. Finally he completely abandoned me all together in a strange city with few friends. I have never felt so alone. Eventually I abandoned everything I had there, jumped on a bus taking only what I could carry in my suitcase and headed back to Montana. I knew I had changed and not for the better. I was now cynical and bitter, the innocence shattered. Why had I been lead to believe in a dream that was false from the beginning? Where did these ideals actually come from? Was this the way of being a gay man? I was disillusioned.

It took me years to get over this relationship so I could date others. In fact I am still not sure I trust others to this day. I know I don’t put myself out there, fully committed, even in relationships that have stood the test of time, but I still remember that extraordinary moment when my body trembled in the darkness in a cold dirty house when I still believed in romance and a connection to someone could mean forever. I now see this at the core of a lot of my images. The dark, the cold, lost in a shadow, looking for a bit of kindness in a frail light. Somewhere deep in my heart the romance still remains, because it still emerges within the context of my frame. I can feel it and I can see it, perhaps it is only a dream an illusion I create only for myself.

“I traveled around a great deal. The cities swept about me like dead leaves, leaves that were brightly colored but torn away from the branches.” By Tennessee Williams. Tom’s final speech from The Glass Menagerie.