One of the first things he said as he rejected my feelings for him was, “Wow, you must really hate ambiguity.”
It said a lot about our relationship. Ambiguity was at the core of it, though not in the way you might think. It wasn’t the ambiguity of a string of hookups where drunken lovemaking edges towards something deeper, or even the gentle flirtation of two lab partners whose hands mingle over the test tubes before making nervous contact. We were just two dudes who talked to each other. A lot. There was no sex, no kissing — not even hand-holding. Besides sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a bed or the occasional prolonged leg touch, all we did was talk.
Of course, it didn’t feel like just talking. It was the sort of talking where I not only felt like I knew what the other person was thinking, but also how he thought. We were completely different in so many ways, yet our differences fell in just the right places — we were perfect complements. At one point, I even felt like he was a part of me.
When it all began, I just went with it. First one conversation, then another. Soon I was seeing him every day. I rationalized my desire to see him as my need for closer friends at Princeton. Never did I question my sexuality. I’d hooked up with girls; it was fun, so why would I want to kiss a guy? We were just hanging out.
At one point before we had to return to our separate home states over a break, he said he realized that he was really going to miss me. I had never heard those words from someone before. Something about them even tore into me a little bit. When he left, though, I immediately felt a pit in my stomach, and on my plane ride home, I learned what it really meant to miss someone.
A week later we returned to campus. We had emailed each other every day over break, and I wanted to see him as soon as possible. When we did see each other, I felt myself wanting more. I would be slow to leave his room after studying there in the evenings, and I began to wish I could stay the night and start the next day with him. The thought of sex never crossed my mind. I just wished I could lie next to him, be close to him. I knew better than to ask to stay, though. When I was in his room, the door was kept closed. If a suitemate discovered I was over, the excuse given was, “Oh, he just came to drop off a book,” often when I had already been there for hours.
I became desperate to understand the feelings I was having, and I finally admitted to someone close to me that I thought I was gay. She was really accepting, and the positive reaction I got from her helped me begin to realize that my life was not over simply because I loved another man.
Eventually, it felt important for me to tell him that I had had a revelation about my sexuality. When I did, I didn’t even mention him or our relationship. He reacted completely differently from my close friends and family. He said, “Oh, I don’t have any experience with that, so I can’t help you,” followed by, “We don’t talk about that where I come from.” I tried to explain that I wasn’t asking for help or anything, just sharing something new and important. Needless to say, the conversation was pretty strained after that.
Despite what I said to him then, part of me was hurt that he hadn’t had a similar revelation. In the past, he had said that while he felt like he knew most people in one way, he felt like he knew me in many different ways. He’d told me that I was his first close, personal relationship. He’d told me that I was different from other guys and that he could tell me things that he couldn’t tell other people. I thought the logical extension of this was that he, too, had deeper feelings.
We kept talking for a while, but after my revelation I felt like there was a bit of a wall between us. When I talked about my sexuality, things always got dicey. On one night in particular, I learned not to push the subject. I was angry at him for saying something about me behind my back, so I explained how happy I was now that I had come to face my sexuality and that I wished he could realize the same happiness in himself. He glared at me and said, “I know what you’re saying.” He continued to stare into my eyes for what felt like minutes and then changed the subject.
Things couldn’t go on forever this way. In some sense, I felt like I was losing my mind. I felt like I was connected to this person on a ridiculously deep level. I could look into his eyes and feel like I actually knew him. But what our relationship felt like to me, or perhaps what it felt like it should be, was nothing like reality. Reality was so close and yet so far from what my heart said I wanted.
I decided that I had to do something. I called him and told him I needed to speak with him. He told me to come over. I don’t know if he was expecting another one of our usual talks, but that’s certainly not what he got. I told him that for the past few months I felt like I had been involved in an emotional relationship with him and that I loved him. I told him that as long as he was around, I couldn’t be with another guy, emotionally or sexually. And I asked him if he felt the same way.
After a pause, he said, “I don’t have the same emotional investment as you.”
My mind was sent into a tailspin. I couldn’t understand how this could be. I thought there was reciprocity. Struggling, I tried to ask him about specific moments in which I thought there had been evidence of him liking me back. He gave an explanation for each one. When I couldn’t think of any more, that’s when he said, “Wow, you must really hate ambiguity.”
His rejection was pretty awful, but his comment about ambiguity felt even worse. It made me all that much more aware of how unclear things were between us. I said it felt like an emotional relationship. He said it didn’t; so what was it? I felt I had no way of ever knowing what was actually happening. If he was repressed, I was powerless to prove it. He said he was straight, but my own feelings would never let me let go of my doubt. Believing in the possibility that he was simply repressed hurt less than not being loved back.
I ended up asking him to stay out of my life. I realized I couldn’t be happy or healthy as long as I saw him. His presence only made me fixate on his sexual orientation and whether or not he might be harboring feelings for me. I had to begin the process of letting go.
Things were not easy. A few months later, he began dating a girl, and the sight of them together actually made me want to puke. I felt like I was being rejected by him not only on a personal level, but also on a societal level. Despite what I thought was an emotional connection, as another man I was not someone he would be committed to or love.
Time has passed. I’m single, but happier with myself than I was when I came into Princeton. I see him around occasionally, but I don’t talk to him. In spite of the whole ordeal, though, I actually feel a bit lucky. When people talk about sexuality, they tend to think of the “sex” part of it first. But for me, sexuality has little to do with sex, partially because I didn’t even kiss a guy for the first time until well after I had come out. It’s about the type of person I miss when they’re not around — the person who completes me. I’m not sure that I would have ever come to that realization at this stage in my life if I had had a relationship where things went smoothly. By having to suffer some, I was forced to question what the act of loving actually meant to me. And that suffering never would have come had it not been for the overarching ambiguity of my first love.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/11/31403/