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February 14th, 2014

Repost: Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown: No Rescue For The Rescuers…

There was the guy I met on the path in Rock Creek Park. I was bicycling to work in those days because I didn’t have a car, and the path through the park was a good shortcut that allowed me to stay off the main roads. It was also a peaceful ride through the woods early in the morning. No busy buzz of traffic, no early morning commuter noise. I saw a cat laying on the side of the path and as I got close noticed it wasn’t moving.

At first I thought it was dead, but as I slowed down next to it the poor thing raised its head and looked at me. It was in distress. Another guy about my age comes bicycling up and together, me gently carrying the cat and him walking both our bicycles, we get the cat to his house, which was nearby. By the time we get there the cat has perked up a bit, but still isn’t moving much. It was a longhair of some sort, there was no blood anywhere on it and its coat was in good condition. But there was no collar so no way to tell who its owner was. Nothing seemed broken but you couldn’t be sure. The guy and his dad agreed to take it to a nearby vet. I went off to work.

After work I stopped by their house to ask about the cat. But I had nefarious motives. The guy who helped rescue the cat was beautiful, and had set even my dull gaydar ringing. On the walk back to his house we began chatting about this and that. There was an air of sadness to him. He spoke in soft, quiet tones as though he was sitting in church. His mother he said, had passed away some years ago and he and his dad lived together. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life but for now he was working part time and in school part time and hoped to get his degree soon. Somehow we begun talking about books we’d read and I’d thrown in a couple trolling comments about Lambda Rising bookstore, which he was familiar with enough that he knew where it was and where it had moved from, and when he mentioned he often used the path for an early morning jog I mentioned Billy Sive, the main character in the novel The Front Runner, and he replied that he was a vegetarian too and it was a better diet not just for runners but everyone.

So there I was at his front door, and his dad answers and invites me in. The guy I’d met was there and the three of us sat in the living room and chatted for a bit, first to assure me that the vet had said the cat would be okay and they were going to take care of it until its owner could be found. Then the talk turned oddly to me…what did I do for a living, how long had I been living in Rockville, what were my interests, and so on. I didn’t mind the inquisition, which came almost exclusively from his dad. In fact I was wanting just then to make myself seem interesting enough to the guy who knew who Billy Sive was that he’d want to see more of me.

Oh yes…I work at a custom plastic shop over in Kensington, and in my spare time I paint landscapes and and draw cartoons. Plus I do photography work for a couple local newspapers and I’m working on a book of my art photography. I emphasized as I usually do when I’m trying to get someone’s attention, my creative side.

As his dad chatted with me about my photography, I noted that I had his son’s absolute attention, and from the occasional sideways glances I could tell that his dad saw it too. His dad asked about my political views and then, as casually as he could manage, asked how I felt about gay rights. And with all the nerve I could manage I replied that I was completely in favor of gay equality. At this point I almost expected to get shown the door, but his dad nodded his head and…smiled warmly. “That’s good,” he said, “that’s good.”

 Dad…approves?! This was unknown territory for me, but I was more than willing to explore it. His son seemed very uncomfortable. Shortly after that his dad excused himself, saying he had work to do. When we were alone, his son set me straight. Dad was a happy agnostic apparently, but when the mother died the son converted to Catholicism. And to be homosexual was a very grave sin (it later became a mere intrinsic disorder…).

I could have argued it with him, but there’s a point where you just see it in someone’s eyes that it’s going nowhere. Perhaps he saw it in mine too. He didn’t try just then to get me to believe it too, just to make sure I knew he believed it. 

So we shook hands and I left. Years later I experienced for myself the bottomless grief of my own parent’s deaths…dad first and then many years later, mom…and have never doubted since how despairing and vulnerable it leaves a person. And I have wondered ever since if that gay guy’s dad had been trying, not so much to set his gay son up with a nice boy, but trying somehow to awaken him out of grief. Life goes on…find someone to share it with…

But there are those who prefer gay people pass the hours of our lives alone, and in despair. I have no idea if, absent one life hating priest somewhere anything might have come of it between us, but a even a brief walk in the garden might have done wonders for both of us just then. Which, of course, is exactly why he had to believe that love between men was a grave sin, and I had to believe he believed it

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