Even when they filled with tears, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was tall, dark-skinned, gorgeous. And singing in slow tempo, almost in lament, “There is no map for where we go . . . .” He was a soloist with our capital city’s gay men’s chorus, performing Naked Man, a song-cycle that voices the experience of growing up gay in a less than accepting society. I identified with his words. I’ve felt in me the aching loneliness in his voice, the yearning, the presumed being lost. Years now have passed but his voice still rings in my heart: “There is no map for where we go . . . .”
When I came out at age 35, I had no idea where I was or where I was going. I’d been so deep in the closet I believed I was the only gay man in Indiana. In 1995 I was that clueless. Felt that alone. Knew no role models, had met no gay men, found no Damron guide to gay life. Somehow I found Dave. (Or he found me, we’re not sure which.) Oh, happy day.
The 70-year-old poet Mrs. Stevens, a character in a May Sarton novel, reflects on her past loves: “I lived with their faces. I knew their every gesture by heart. I stalked them like wild animals. I studied them as if they were maps of the world — and in a way, I suppose they were.”
At this moment, my map of the world is lying on the davenport near the wood stove fast asleep. He laid down about 20 minutes ago still wearing shoes and eyeglasses, stocking cap and three sweatshirts. It’s wintery cold in the house and the couch sits near the heat. While my husband of 18 years naps I study his face.
He looks youthful, though time is making tracks, especially about the eyes. He’s sleeping with cap pulled down, blanket pulled up. Still, Dave’s is a face I know well. I tell myself that were I blindfolded in a room full of sexy men I could identify him by touch alone. (OK, it’s a favorite fantasy of mine.) Still, my fingers know the contours of his cheekbones, silkiness of skin, scratch of stubble beard, drop of droopy eyelid. I think I’d know him even in the dark.
Dave grounds me in ways I recognize, but can’t begin to fathom. My boss told me her husband nearly died last week in a work accident.
“You were that close to becoming a widow,” I said.
“Don’t even go there,” she said. “I know I’m a hothead and act like I have it all together, but I can’t open a jar of peanut butter without that man. He’s my rock. He keeps me anchored.”
I know what she means. As my map of the world, Dave offers a sense of direction, helps me stay the course, gives me the confidence I can make it from Point A to Point B. Heck, were it not for him, I sometimes wouldn’t know there is a Point B. He helps my world make sense—or better, helps me make sense of my world. Comedian George Burns was not joking after his beloved Gracie Allen died when he said, “My world is much less safe.”
Indeed, for each one of us, the world is a safer saner place when we are loved, known, accepted and embraced as we are. This the gift we offer one another. This the gift we give ourselves. There may be no map for where we go—few the footsteps and faint before us—we may stumble forward, grope in the dark, but as the soloist intoned, “we’re not lost, we’re here.”