By Jody Valley
Prison of love
Q: Two years ago, I was pretty lonely and had no one in my life. A friend of my mother’s had a gay nephew who was in prison. My mother and her friend didn’t know that I was gay so when I asked his name I was told, along with what prison he was in. I began writing to him, “James.” We exchanged many letters and even pictures. We got to know each other very well. He was in jail in another state so I didn’t, at first, visit him. We fell in love long distance and without seeing each otherÑin person that is. I finally decided to make the trip and visit him in prison. The visit to the prison only strengthened our love. So, I visited him several times after that. All the time, since I started my communications with James, I have not dated or fooled around with anyone.
Now, James is about to be released. I should be very happy and I guess I am. However, I’m feeling pretty scared, too. I’m not scared of James because he was in prison. (He was in prison because of a robbery that he was involved in with some other guys when they got drunk. He had never done anything like that before and has been a model prisoner and gone through counseling. He doesn’t want to be in that lifestyle ever again.) I’m scared because I’ve never had sex with a man. I know that I am gay, but I’ve just not had sex. I don’t know if James will like me, and sex kind of scares me. I got my courage up and wrote James about my fear. (The good thing about his being in prison is that we have developed a very honest and open relationship not based on sex.) He said that didn’t matter to him and that he would be honored to teach me. Still, what if I disappoint him? And, after all this time of knowing I’m gay and not having sex, it seems so weird and scary.
I know that this will sound strange, but I’ve only known James through letters and a few visits in person. I wonder how it will be when we can actually be together. I had gotten used to a life of waiting for the mail, hoping for a love letter from him. I would devour the letter over and over again. That was my life outside of my work. I am used to that life, like he was used to his prison life.
Things will all change. What if James doesn’t like me in real life? What if he isn’t the man I think he is, like what if he doesn’t mean what he said and that he really had been in more trouble than he has told me and will get into trouble when he gets out? What if what seems like a good person is just a cover because he wanted someone to write to him, like he wanted love letters, too? Maybe, I was just a time killer for him.
It’s funny, I just started writing this all out on paper to you and realize how scared I am as all these fears just fall on to this letter to you. Right now, I just wish he were going to stay in prison and life would go on as it always did, with me going to the mailbox and hoping for a love letter from James.
By now, you must think I’m crazy.
Waiting and Worried
A: Actually, I don’t. You have sort of been living in a “fantasy world,” of love letters. Now, the reality of James being up close and personal is upon you. Of course it is scary to find out whether or not this relationship is going to pass the test when he is out of prison. You have given up pursing others or having much of a life; you’ve put a lot of stock in this relationship. You are leaving the fantasy of love letters and moving into life outside the protective bars. Certainly, you need to beware of red flags, but don’t expect them at every turn. Having said all that, hopefully you can relax a bit in all this and just let things unfold as they will, remember that if this relationship doesn’t work out, life won’t end. After all, when any of us embark on a relationship, we never really know how it’s going to come out; we can only hope. Your relationship with James is the same, that way. The only real difference is that it had a prolonged beginning. And, in many ways, if you both were being truthful, you and he have the advantage of really getting to know each other, probably a more solid foundation than many relationships. Try to calm yourself and enjoy, otherwise, what’s the point!