Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
It’s been over 50 years since I last saw the young man who now sits across from me. He has at 19 what a friend calls “the poetry of youth” – an eager freshness that’s a joy at my age to see.
He hasn’t changed much. (Still thin as a rail. Tall as ever. Same deep blue eyes.) But I have changed. Oh, my, my . . .
There’s a kinship between us. It’s hard not to make comparisons. Yes, it was summer 1956 when he first stood on the corner of Farmer & Bates streets in front of the Hub Grill in downtown Detroit. It was a big step for him. (Gays were less tolerated then than they are today.)
I’ll give him credit for wasting no time to begin what has proven to be for him a long, long journey.
Yes, so much has happened since then. So many people we knew are gone. A whole world has vanished. I’m bewildered by the sideshow that’s taken its place. A nonstop carnival of glitter, guns, guttersnipe. It scares the hell out of me.
As my young visitor looks out my studio window, and the six-o-clock sun weaves carefree in and out among the clouds, my visitor seems both friend and curiously, stranger. More than anything I’d like at this moment to give him a reassuring hug, an embrace of acceptance, but how might he react?
I wonder did we ever exchange glances or greetings on that long-ago downtown gay thoroughfare? Did we take time to ever get acquainted? The important thing is that he somehow, unexpectedly, stopped by today.
It’s nice to have visitors, especially on a day that’s not quite sure whether it’s budding spring or last-chance fall. It would be a bit of luck if he could stay through June. Perhaps for Pride. (I’m sure it would be “like old times.”) But what’s youth got to do with old age?
I’m curious how he found me. I’m not in the phone book. Like everyone with nothing important to hide I’m AT&T unlisted. (Foolish I know, but I find myself wondering what he thinks of me: overweight, bald-by-choice, retired fuddy duddy. Have I become someone he respects? Would he likely trade places with me? Or I with him? Foolish question.)
He smiles. Not an open smile, but a smile of introspection. Thoughtful. Troubled? (Maybe he’ll be a writer, a poet, an artist. He certainly has sensitivity. Will he make something of his life? Or, get by on his looks. Ah, the age-old dilemma.)
I hum absentmindedly and he speaks. “If you’re wondering why I dropped in out of the blue, it’s because I thought you might have answers. I’ve taken important steps to be me. A gay man. You’ve been down that special road. What’s it like near the finish? Would you do things differently?”
Direct and to the point.
“Near the finish?” (Hey, guy: I’m not over the hill yet.) “Different? Yes! I’d stay out of debt. I’d get a college degree sooner. I wouldn’t drink to excess. I’d have fewer lovers, many more friends. And I’d tell anybody who put us down to go chuck it. Would I be gay again? Silly, silly boy!”
Ah! I’ve said the right thing. He laughs, wholeheartedly.
“Great! he beams, taking his leave. “It’s important to know someone who’s been there. Goodbye. For what it’s worth: God bless you.” And, as we hug long at parting, maybe for the last time, he adds, so softly, “Thanks ever, Charles, for being me.”