February 01, 2007

How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone?

“Happy New Year, darling! How is my should-have-been-husband?” I asked my dear friend Tom at a recent gathering of friends.

“Just swell, Buttercup,” he answered. “I have news.”

“Praise Jesus! You’ve seen the light! Does this involve you switching teams?” I asked playfully.

The thing is, you see, Tom is what I call the perfect male. He’s funny, super smart, and cute. He’s also straight. But he’s the good kind of straight, in my opinion. Not threatened by diversity, extremely open minded, honest, and loyal. I lovingly refer to him as the man that got away, he lovingly refers to me as Buttercup, and then we talk about life, politics, and sometimes, women.

Stop smirking. I can talk women just as well as the next fella. I watch Sex & the City and The L Word. But I digress.

“No, I’m still painfully straight,” Tom answered. “But I am moving to California.


“Wow…um…that’s really great! I know you’ve been itching to get out New York. That’s…um…really cool,” I answered.

The truth is, dear readers, this news left me feeling anything but cool. I felt depressed and disappointed. Even as Tom went on to explain the details surrounding his move, a million different questions swirled through my head. Is something so terribly wrong with New York State people are being driven 3000 fucking miles in the opposite direction to find peace and contentment? Why would someone move across the country when their whole world is HERE? Don’t the people in your life count for anything? Is it so easy to just grab your shit, head for the door and holler, “See ya later!” And the biggest question of all: why Robby, do you care so damn much anyway?

Once I had calmed down and found my happy place (this involved Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Wild Cherry Pepsi, Kool 100s, and a marathon of The Judy Garland Show Collection), I realized there were legitimate answers to those questions, which were: perhaps, because they can, usually, seldom, and the kicker, because I still live in a land where love, camaraderie, and goodwill are enough to keep things the way I think they should be.

I know. Poor, sad Robby. Do you hear the world’s smallest violin playing?

I confess I have a strange relationship with my friends. At some point, they stop being just friends and become as close as family. A number people, hetero and homo alike, find themselves cut off from their biological families, whether it is estrangement or, as in my case, distance. I didn’t grow up around my extended family. They live in the Midwest. I’ve spent most of my life on the east coast. My older brother moved out when I was 11. It was always just my Dad, my Mom, and I. Always.

Doesn’t really scream growth and development does it?

So in lieu of a “real” family, I did what any creative, self-reliant isolated queer boy would: as I got older, I “built” my own. The close friends I have made through my years in school and work have become the family I grew up without. And it’s no coincidence the people I’m drawn to (emotionally speaking) practice the very same philosophy.

Unfortunately, I never stopped to think about the reality of this happy little scenario of mine. As our twenties give way to our thirties, I’m seeing a lot of my friends pick up and move on. Friendships mean a whole lot more when you have nothing. But when careers, lifestyle, and other relationships start to fold into the mix, realistically speaking, just being someone’s friend doesn’t carry the same weight.

I think about my friend Tom and how his move will impact my “family”. I don’t mean to sound selfish. I mean, after all, no matter how much you care for someone, you can’t live their life for them (if only!). I mean, the rational voice in my head says, “You go with your bad self!” cause it takes balls to shake your life up in order to better it. And God know he’s more than likely dealing with his own set of insecurities that come with picking up your life and dropping anchor so many miles away. Conversely, the other voice, the not so rational one (you know, the one that convinces me my hair doesn’t look like an abandoned nest), tells me to tackle him, pin him to the floor and sit on his head until he says this whole moving thing is a joke (and while we’re in this position…um…well, never mind). But I know that’s not going to happen. First of all, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stall change. People have got to grow and change on their own accord. And second, well, no offense to myself here, but if I were to throw myself on Tom, he would be critically injured.

So though I want to be a more mature and accepting person when it comes to the people I love and their life plans, I also need a similar amount of reassuring. It’s important for me to know the people in my life know how loved they are and how much they are needed. Of course I want them to feel the same way about me. No matter where any of us are or where our journeys take us, these bonds are not so trivial they have to erode because of distance or circumstances. I want to hear that just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that it’s out with the old and in with the new. I NEED to know I still count for something, because no matter where my friends are or what they’re doing they will always count to me.

Thank God for free nights and weekend minutes. I’m going to need them.

Essential Download:
"How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone?"

Artisit: Diana Ross and the Supremes
Available On: Love Child

Originally published in the February 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

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