Jeez, it's been a while since I've updated, huh? There's a LOT that's gone on in the past several weeks, but for simplicity's sake I'm going to limit this post to one thing. Even so, this will be a long entry...so grab some popcorn, put your feet up, do whatever you need to do to get comfortable for a while.
So. Where to start?
I guess I should mention that you're reading this because you've given me every indication that I can trust you to be truthful without being judgmental towards me (or anyone else, for that matter). Having lived in the Twin Cities for most of the last four years, I've come a long, long way towards coming to terms with myself and who I am. I no longer feel that I need to hide the fact that I'm gay from the people around me...I don't generally advertise, but I won't deny it either. That being said, I still haven't worked up the courage to actually tell my mother, though I think and hope that she may have a pretty good idea already. Anyway, I trust that you won't blithely gab about someone just for the sake of fueling the gossip mill.
I almost wrote this entry on Sunday night -- I had a rather emotionally trying weekend, and for most of Sunday all I could think about was how much I need to write everything out of myself. In retrospect, I'm quite glad that I waited; the past few days have given me some perspective and the opportunity to actually think through the things I was feeling rather than react to them.
Anyway, details, I guess they help, right? Be careful of what you ask for...I'm trying to put everything in a nutshell here, and it's still a monolithic post.
Some of you already know this, but most don't -- about, oh, five or six weeks ago, I went to a gay bar in downtown Minneapolis with some friends. While I was there, I met a guy (more like got knocked into him while at the bar, but whatever) who I was immediately attracted to -- not a supermodel by any means (else, what would have been there to be attracted to but a pretty face?), but a good-looking and engaging guy. With the "help" of one of my friends...she threatened certain treasured parts of my anatomy...I eventually sought him out and started talking to him over cigarettes outside. Somehow, I lost almost two hours talking to Ryan, which for those of you who know me best should say something rather telling...not only did I overcome my own shyness to talk to him, there was more than enough substance to the guy that I kept talking. I wasn't smitten...there are far too many connotations to that word...but I was certainly intensely interested. As it turns out, the interest was not one-sided.
I think I'll gloss over most of the details here and simply say that I ended up leaving the bar with him and going back to his place. Nothing monumental happened...certainly nothing capable of inspiring bad poetry or constant longing sighs...but I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.
And so begins the emotional f**kery. Not that I recognized it as such at the time -- I have the advantage of several weeks of reflection, and this past week of intense self-evaluation. That's putting the cart before the horse, though.
So, Rob meets Ryan and good things happen. Rob then fixates obsessively on what just happened. It's not quite like I was a shy and blushing virgin heading into that night...well, I guess I technically was, but I've fooled around with guys before. However, this was the first time where something happened between a guy and I where there was the possibility of something happening the next day, or the next week, et cetera. Before this, all of my experience came from fleeting encounters where there was no expectation of something more serious developing. *That* was enough to set the obsessive-compulsive part of me free. On top of this as well was the fact that I've lost a significant amount of weight this summer...I have *always* been extremely self-conscious, especially about my physical appearance. This one night with Ryan was like the refutation of all the garbage that's been rattling around in my head for 22 years -- not only did something happen between someone I was attracted to and I, but there wasn't any awkwardness the next day. I think I'm losing my point here...this was the first time in my life where I overcame everything in my past and in my head to actively seek out something I wanted, and it worked. It was exhilarating.
And it was short-lived. I'm sure you all know that there's nothing more difficult in life than overcoming the demons inside oneself. For me personally, my insecurities and self-doubts came rushing back by the end of that weekend. Ryan and I continued talking, but about superficial things...I could not bring myself to broach the emotions running through me for fear of, not exactly being laughed at, but of being rebuffed and then *pitied* for reaching too far. Rejection and neglect has been a cornerstone of my life for a very long time, one that I'm still trying to eliminate from my personality...it would have been devastating had I found that again after meeting Ryan. I recognized that, and went into complete and utter emotional dog-lock.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks -- Ryan goes on vacation for a week, and when he returns we agree to meet up downtown again. While at the bar, we meet a couple of interesting people in the smoking room. Thus enters Jack into the picture. We all talked through a pack of cigarettes each that night, and then made our separate ways home. Well, not really...the last bus I could have taken to get home had left almost an hour ago, so Ryan and I eventually decide to split a taxi back to his house and crash there. I can't find the words to justly describe just how elated I was...how much of that was the alcohol talking, I honestly don't know. I don't know if my feet were touching the sidewalk, though...I can't remember ever having felt so...buoyant. All my doubts, all my insecurities, all my nervousness...it was all unfounded, right? Here I was, going back to Ryan's Place after another night at the gay bar. Shit, everything I type here just feels so puerile...it was indescribable. It was...amazing. It was taking the Hajj of my emotions and seeing the face of God...*finally*, just finally, I was going to overcome all the baggage in my head and just Live. My. Life.
And then nothing happened. We shared a bed, we talked for a bit, and then Ryan drifted off to sleep. I won't be so melodramatic as to talk about how crushing that was, about how I lost the will to live or love or blah blah blah. To be crude, f**K that bullshit. I was frustrated and confused, yes, but that's about as far as it went...and I was drunk as well, so that made falling asleep pretty easy. It even kept the voices in my head quiet until I got home the next day and slept off the rest of my fuzzy-headedness. But then...
I don't know. I don't know what I should talk about next...should I talk about Jack and Ryan, or about the emotional handbasket I've been riding in? Ugh...I just don't know.
Okay, I've had a smoke and I've made up my mind. Considering that the entirety of the emotional backlog I've been holding in my head only fully manifested itself this past weekend, I can't really jump right into it. So, the back story continues.
In hindsight I can say that Jack and Ryan's interest in each other was utterly obvious, but I think it's also fair to say that it was pretty obvious to me even as it started. Certain friends of mine can personally attest to exactly how obvious it was to me a few days later over drinks at the Triple Rock (the first and I hope to God only time I ever drink myself sick on beer...I mean, come on, who does that?). I'm trying only to present what happened here, not my emotional reaction to it...that comes later...but I do have to say this right now: I realized then that I had to make a choice about what to do in the situation I was in. I could either decide that Ryan was a f**khead and remove myself entirely from the situation, or I could suck it up and see what happened. It makes me feel somewhat sleazy to say this, but I must admit that a large part of my decision was the hope that an opportunity would arise to assert myself to Ryan again. I rolled with the punches and continued to meet Ryan (and Jack) downtown, and started coasting emotionally. And, wouldn't you know it, that exact opportunity arose.
About two weeks after Ryan and Jack started becoming Ryan.and.Jack, I got an email from Jack asking me to "be there for Ryan if he needs a friend;" Ryan's drama-mongering ex was planning to come up to the Cities, and Jack was going out of town for a wedding. That weekend, I think I spent maybe two hours at home before Sunday night...Ryan was housesitting at the time as well, so we stayed there most of the weekend. I realize now that the way I described how I felt in the last paragraph...hope that an opportunity would arise...looks utterly and completely manipulative. It wasn't...I was not (and would not, and will not, *ever*) planning to try to poison what was happening between Ryan and Jack. It was more that I just wanted to *be* there...in case Ryan changed his mind? Something like that? I honestly don't know...what I do know is that once I moved past the initial shock of the situation I found myself in, I started to realize that in actuality not much had changed. I was still having greatly enjoying the time I spent with Ryan and Jack; I did then and I especially do now value the both of them and roles they have played in the way I've grown over the past six weeks...more on that later. Anyway, Very!Drunk!Rob and Very!Drunk!Ryan slept in the same bed both nights that weekend, and absolutely nothing happened. I made sure of that...hell, I nearly fell off that damned futon four times on Friday night making sure to protect the "friend zone," if only because I know how touchy-feely I can be when I'm half-asleep. I've always said that I would never do anything to f**K up someone's relationships, no matter what I was feeling -- well, here it was, getting drunk and passing out next to someone I was still quite attracted to...twice. And nothing happened. It's good to know that when it came down to the test, I didn't fail myself.
Anyway. I guess this brings us up to last weekend. We should try to avoid chronology discontinuities, shouldn't we? I wrote everything above this on Thursday night, September 20...then I got tired and/or busy, and it's now Sunday the 23rd.
Last weekend, though...it was a bit of a mindf**k for a few different reasons. I'm going to limit it to what directly pertains to this entry, though, and to my own person in general. I met Ryan and Jack downtown on Friday after work for drinks, and after a bit of wandering between bars I found myself having a pretty extended conversation with Jack in which he said something to the effect that he's "shocked that you're still willing to spend time with us [he and Ryan]." Quite honestly, this caught me completely out of left field...but not nearly so much as Ryan saying on Saturday night that he "wouldn't blame me for thinking he's a douchebag." That's as close as I remember...I was pretty drunk at the time so the wording might be off, but I'm sure I'm remembering the context pretty well. And again, I was floored...that was the first time that I actually thought to myself, *should* I be pissed off about everything that's happened? I was completely unprepared for that thought, and unlike the past several weeks I wasn't able to put it aside and move on...it kept coming back, circling like the first shark around a bucket of chum. Did I get f**ked over here? I'd have *known* if I were getting f**ked over, right?...right? Each time, the responding refutation in my head got weaker and weaker until I just kinda, I don't know, shut down. It was too much not to think about, and I was too drunk to actually process everything. It was unintentionally torturous, and it lasted off and on into Sunday.
God, it's so hard to accurately describe what was going through my head...not even so much because everything happened a week ago now, but because there's such a confluence of emotions surrounding that night. What I can do is describe the conclusions I've come to now.
There's a part of me that really wanted to be angry with Ryan about what's happened...I first typed "wants" there, but even that isn't the case anymore...especially when coupled with the fac that I went through about two weeks of intense self-doubt when he first started seeing Jack. The more that I've thought about it, though, the clearer it's become that that self-doubt was *not* unfounded. Maybe I did "have my chance" at finding something more serious with Ryan and blew it by being too afraid to take a risk and talk to him about it...I don't know. I can't profess to speak for Ryan -- for all I know there was only that transitory moment of attraction that faded. Regardless of what is actually the case, I truly think that I needed something like this to happen. I needed to realize what the cost of inaction is, and to realize that there truly is nothing to lose by being frank and upfront about seeking a relationship. Over the past week, all of the emotions running rampant through me have receded into a still-significant amount of frustration and a certain kind of rueful amusement.
The frustration stems from the fact that when nothing happened between Ryan and I, I automatically assumed that it was "my fault." It never occurred to me that there might be no fault to be ascribed...it just didn't work out. I don't really believe that, actually...like I said above, there are several things that I could have approached in a more constructive manner, or in any manner at all. I don't have a single good reason to have so little self-confidence, and every time I think I've finally learned that I discover another way for it to rear its head. Will this be the last episode in my tale of self-effacement? Probably not, but I think I at least have a better perspective on how I fit into the whole thing.
I'm not blaming myself for everything, either, despite what I just said...I think it's completely fair to say that Ryan could have communicated much more just as I could have. I'm absolutely certain that this situation would have been much uglier and painful had I been replaced with almost anyone else -- I'm just not very good at holding grudges or taking offense. I think there could have been offense to take, had I wanted to or even recognized it at the time...but doesn't the past six weeks kind of negate any right I have to be angry about it now? If there is any resentment left on my part, it's with the nagging question that still occasionally hits me between the eyes: "Why not me?" For this I do wish that Ryan had expressed more of what he was feeling, both after we first met and after he met Jack...uncertainty always trends downwards for me, and it would have been nice to avoid the more unreasonable self-doubts I've had. Then again, I don't think I really have a right to hold him strictly to this expectation -- as I said, I certainly did a poor job expressing my own thoughts, and he'd have to be either a mind-reader or a better studier of behavior than I am. And that, I believe, is unrealistic...even coming from someone who has always considered himself a very good noticer of nuance and undertone.
All in all, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in my life right now. In six weeks I have found two good friends who are both eerily similar to me in their own ways (Ryan in a physical and experiential sense, and Jack more emotionally) -- I've never had someone that I could relate to on so many personal levels, much less had two such someones. Even in this short amount of time, I can't quantify how much both Ryan and Jack have helped me to grow as a person...for the most part unknowingly. I don't want to jeopardize these friendships, especially over something so short-sighted and petty. As I've said to several of my friends, even if something had initially resulted between Ryan and I, I would have managed to catastrophically ruin it within a few weeks -- in retrospect, I honestly don't feel that I was ready for something so emotionally intense. I'm not so naive as to think that I'm completely "cured" of that in such a short amount of time...but I think I've recognized of my own volition that nobody is ever "cured" of that. Everyone has insecurities and doubts, and there is no reason for me to automatically place myself "beneath" someone because of my own. These new friendships are blessings for me, and if I haven't fully expressed how much they mean to me before then I'm for damned sure doing it now...even if it took a period of uncertainty and reflection to fully realize their importance to me.