Dinner with an Old Friend

The other night I had dinner with an old friend. Actually John is much more than an old friend although he certainly is that as well. Thirty years ago I had a six month romantic affair with him and to this day I regard him as one of the great loves of my life. I met him in a popular gay bar in the Castro neighborhood as I was watching Pat Benatar’s Love Is a Battlefield video. I had just returned from a trip to New Orleans where I first saw the video and was reliving happy memories of my trip. As fate would have it John had only recently moved to San Francisco and had lived in New Orleans so conversation with him was quite easy and enjoyable. I was quickly smitten with him; besides being physically attractive, he was intelligent, articulate, soft-spoken and sincere. My partner of five years and I had an unspoken agreement that extra-curricular sex was permissible and up to this point I had never allowed myself to enjoy anything more than a one night roll in the sheets with someone else. Despite my primary relationship being very satisfying, John was someone who touched me in a different way and throwing caution to the wind I allowed myself to fall in love with him. While my six month fling was wonderful I did pay a dear price for it, hurting my partner deeply and causing a serious rift in our relationship requiring a period of time that we needed to live apart so we could work things out. Happily eventually we did and now 35 years after we first met he and I remain very much a loving couple. From time to time I have wondered if I had not already been in a loving relationship would something more lasting between John and I have happened. I of course will never know that and certainly am not suggesting that I wish that would have been the case. After all this time I do though still remember what my feelings for him were and believe that at least from my perspective that was a possibility.

Over the years the two of us have stayed in touch although often there are long stretches between phone calls and emails.  My life partner long ago got over the notion that he was a threat to our relationship and in fact has told me on multiple occasions that he enjoys his company. A week before John’s birthday I contacted him and told him I would love to take him out for a birthday dinner, giving the two of us plenty of time to catch up on what was happening in our lives. And so we did on his birthday eve. The three and a half hours we set in the restaurant there was never any awkward silence or a sense that one of us was bored or restless. As had been the case that first night we met, conversation flowed freely as we discussed a wide range of subjects about both our individual lives and more global matters. A year earlier in an exchange of emails he alluded to a series of bad things that had happened to him and told me he would go into more detail when we next saw one another. Even though I did see him once briefly between our 2012 email exchange and our dinner engagement, the timing was not right for heavy conversation. And so after talking for hours about so many other matters I inquired about the details of his misfortunes. As I listened to the painful account of his recent past I felt not only deeply sad for him but despondent that I had not been there to help him in some way. Here was a man whom I truly loved, someone with whom under different circumstances I might have had a much longer intimate relationship. I felt that I had failed him as a friend by simply not making the effort to stay in touch better and I was disappointed in myself for my shortcoming.

I will not beat up myself too much over all this; I do though feel I have learned a valuable lesson about the importance of not letting a lot of time pass without touching base with those for whom I care deeply. John if you should read this and from our dinner conversation I know you do check out my blog, I hope you are neither annoyed or embarrassed that I have taken such liberties about discussing our past relationship and recent conversation.  I want you to know that I am there for you even if it’s just to be a good set of ears, a shoulder to lean on, or a set of arms to give you a big hug when you feel you need one. I love you and am so happy that we met 30 years ago and have stayed in touch. Stay well my friend and know you are loved.

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