The One That Ran Away
Some people have “the one that got away” packed into their emotional baggage. I have “the one that ran away.”
I met him in community college in the fall of 1981 after I got kicked out of Bible College. His name was Sam. He had blue eyes and dark hair; he was brilliant, charismatic, and witty. He was the president of the Christian association on campus and every girl I knew wanted to get his attention. I never thought I had a chance with him, but I liked him so much that I didn’t want to give up without trying.
I thought long and hard about how to stand out among the competition. Finally, I sat down at my typewriter and crafted an “Application to Be Your Girlfriend.” I switched to handwriting and filled it out. I left it in his campus mailbox.
Days later he called and asked me out. In many ways we were perfectly suited for each other. Three months into our relationship he sat me down and told me about the one way we were not compatible.
He said he was gay. He told me he hadn’t expected to feel the way he did about me. He asked what I wanted to do about his revelation and our dating.
Quite frankly, Sam was an awesome relationship for me. I preferred not to have a sexual relationship at that time. And the pros of dating Sam outweighed the absence of a physical relationship. His adventurous streak made every day exciting. His insights helped me grow. His companionship was beyond satisfying. Him being gay, while a shock, was not something I had a problem with.
We dated for a few years before the end came. He was open and honest with me about what it was like to be gay in a culture that would not accept him for it. I accepted that he expressed his sexuality without me, and while, because we were close, he shared somewhat, he was very discrete. We even talked openly about men he (and I) were at attracted to. But Sam had intensity that, when it was focused on me, made me feel like I was number one with him. Ours was one of the best relationships of my life. Why he ran away was horrible and heartbreaking. It happened with rare fights between us, a series of conversations that always went something like this:
Sam: “Julie, I want to be able to take our relationship further and to be able to offer you a family some day. I found a program that will turn gay men straight.”
Me: “Sam, you’re gay and that’s okay with me. If you want to have a family we will figure it out when the time is right. We could adopt. Please, don’t leave me! You’ll never come back!”
Sam: “I will come back! I’m doing this for you!”
Me: “You are not doing this for me, because I don’t want you to change! I love you the way you are! And if you go, you will never come back! I know it! Please, don’t go!”
I lost that fight, and just as I had known I would, I lost Sam forever. What happened at the place he went, the quest he undertook, would have been his story to tell.
Our relationship, thankfully, wasn’t exactly over. I lost my Sam, but I gained Guy. During his experiences at the program he went to, he embraced his sexual identity, came out, and from then on preferred to be called by his middle name. We kept in touch on an off through the years, though our lives were very different; while I was putting diapers on my babies, he was wrapping naked men up in saran wrap at parties.
Over the last decade we had become close again. We would get together about once a year, and we would chat by phone in between visits. Last year he told me he still had the application to be his girlfriend. He asked me, more than once, to move to Georgia to live with him. He let me know that the relationship we had had been as significant to him as it was to me.
This year I had planned to go see him in Atlanta over Labor Day weekend to attend Dragon Con together. He was so excited he sent me last year’s program and would call to talk frequently about my trip. Neither of had any inkling he’d be going on a much different journey.
Guy was hospitalized June 1, 2018. The reports of his progress varied a great deal, some days he improved, some days he had set backs. But the set backs increased and on June 27th I received the call that he had, once again, left me.
I grieved hard for weeks. Then one day I realized it’s not myself I should feel sorry for. Sam/Guy had left me before, and I had learned how to get by without him. Now my heart grieves for those who loved him who have never lost him before. His close friends, his neighbors, his family. It is a big adjustment to live without the benefit of his wit, his intense passion for social justice, and his magnetic charisma.
Just like before, Sam/Guy has travelled on without me. I am wiser now. I have hope that one day we will be together again.
He impacted my life, and he impacted the world my books take place in. Here are three ways that early and awesome relationship influenced the world where women rule.
- When he was Sam, he encouraged me to write. He read all my stories and even remembered them better than I do. Guy also encouraged me, and this year he gave me the constructive criticism I needed to fine tune a chapter in book three.
- The experience of watching Sam live a lie about who he was in a culture that would not accept him with open arms had a lasting impact on me. It is why, in the alternate earth where women rule, that love between women and men is forbidden. Women partner (and unpartner) with women romantically. Pregnancies are scheduled for population stability by the Quickening Committee. For fun, I thought heterosexuals should have to experience the world I had to watch Same live in.
- Sam/Guy was my inspiration for a character in books one and two. One of my favorite characters, Octovin, is brilliant, charismatic, opportunistic, and gay. And like Sam/Guy did, Octovin flirts with a lot of gray areas in the civilization he lives in.