As I’ve mentioned before, it never really dawned on me until I was in my mid-20’s that I was gay. I had always attributed my lack of success in relationships with guys to just not being good at it, and/or because I didn’t want to just have sex with them all the time. Similarly, I attributed the strong feelings I had towards some of my female friends as just being very strong bonds of friendship. In retrospect, it should have been completely obvious.
There was one event in particular that should have been a giant red flag, except to say perhaps that it was the early 80’s, and — Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Boy George notwithstanding — sexual orientation was still something nobody talked about. Also, I was 15, and really didn’t know anything about anything.
My sister, who was a year behind me, had a friend we shall name “Christine”. Christine and I were friends also, in our own fashion — you know how it goes with being friends with your sibling’s friend, there’s a sort of pecking order involved. She was my sister’s friend first, mine second. That’s just how these things work.
One summer weekend, my sister and Christine had planned for Christine to come over for a sleepover. My sister had a tent setup in the backyard, and was planning all the fun things they’d do together. I really paid little attention at the time. That changed, however, when Christine came over that Saturday afternoon. It ended up the three of us, hanging out and having fun. Christine and I especially enjoyed one another’s company, much to the mounting chagrin of my sister.
I don’t remember exactly the details of how we planned this, but later in the evening I snuck out of the house. We lived on a farm, and below the house beyond a field was a wooded area with a meandering stream. Next to this stream was an old sunbleached fallen tree, long since bereft of bark or branches. I don’t remember if we met there, or somewhere along the way, but in my mind’s eye I very clearly see us sitting on that log. The moonlight was the most brilliant I’ve ever witnessed — ok, well maybe it’s my romantic look back that makes it seem so, but it was bright enough to give everything a blue-tinted almost-daylight. We sat talking for what felt like hours, very close together, our bare legs touching in our summer shorts. One of us reached for the other’s hand, and still we sat, talking and holding hands in the moonlight. I remember thinking how beautiful she looked, her long hair, her smile, her brown eyes. We … almost kissed. We started leaning towards each other, about to .. and then I think embarrassment overtook us both. It was literally the most magical night ever. Eventually we went back up towards the house, she back to my sister’s tent in the backyard and me sneaking back to my room. I didn’t sleep at all the rest of that night as I lay in my bed reliving those moments over and over again.
The next morning, my sister was (understandably) livid. Things were very stilted and awkward between Christine and I, we really didn’t meet the other’s gaze. Once she had gone home, I got reamed for “stealing” my sister’s friend.
Almost 30 years later, and it’s quite clear to my adult self what was going on. I sometimes wonder what happened to Christine, as not long after that we moved a good distance away and we fell out of contact. And I wonder if she remembers that night, and if it heralded for her the same truths about herself that it belatedly did for me.