8:5 THE FIRST DATE

8—HOW I CAME OUT
5—HOW I MET MY FIRST BOYFRIEND. I WAS WALKING A FINE LINE, BEING DEVOUT AND READY TO SERVE A MISSION BUT WANTING TO KNOW WHAT (GAY) LOVE WAS.

Salt Lake City, Utah, August ’98—I had been trying to make sense of my relationship with the Church I had joined and still wanted to belong to and I was learning how to deal with the newfound and fragile acceptance of my homosexuality. Logan (the Utah gay cop I had met last summer) had provided long-distance support when I had been disfellowshipped from the Church. But I was back in the fold of God now. And I was going on my mission in September. I And I was back in Utah. I was going to serve in France and I wanted to see Logan before being away for two years.

Now I knew that a relationship with Logan had been the fantasy of a young and inexperienced closeted gay Mormon. He had made it clear—and it was becoming quite evident to me too. I am glad he did not take advantage of my inexperience and feelings. There was honesty and and respect between us and his firm kindness guided me through the woods. I like to think that it was not just one-sided but that I was good for him too. We both were at a crossroad: me slowly and painfully coming out; him learning how to live again after the passing of his partner. I had always been able to sense it when people were unhappy and I was able to find the right words in my broken English. “You’re making me cry!” he once said before hugging me. “Thank you for your words”. He said he felt “like a father walking his son to school” when he took me to the local LDS meeting house. And he liked that. He wanted to feel needed and matter to someone. His strength and vulnerability were a lesson for me.

Now I was relaxed around Logan and more at ease with myself too. In fact, I felt at peace for the first time since I got back to Utah (and for the longest time with another person). I can see that soft summer evening when he brushed his shoes and I handed him mine to brush too. Two good friends (who sometimes did stuff) getting ready to go out. I enjoyed that male bonding I did not have back home. Because there was no pretence with another gay man.

And we hit the bars. I did not know it—but I had a date with destiny! We went to the Trapp (a private club for members) and you could feel the buzz from the outside. People were coming and going. The bar was busy and noisy. The patio was for the men in Stetson hats line dancing. I was talking and laughing with Logan’s friend and his two sisters when some lean guy in a sleeveless flannel shirt introduced himself with a cheeky grin. The music was loud and the place was crowded, so I could not hear him asking the girls if I was with Logan. I liked his short light brown beard and his burning green eyes but I wanted to watch the men line dance to Shania’s Any Man of Mine.

He’s gotta be a heartbeatin’ fine treatin’ Breathtakin’ earthquakin’ kind

—Shania Twain, Any Mine of Mine

“What is a pretty thing like you doing here on his own?” Though naive and unaware of the ways of the gay world, I found that line comic. But Terrence was handsome (in that redneck/’white trash’ kind of way that really did it for me back in the day). The bar was not as busy now. He bought me a Seven Up and we sat at one of the tall rounded tables. He was 28. He was working in construction, and right now worked on the new LDS Tabernacle. I liked his shirt. He took it off, revealing a well-defined torso with a golden tan. “It’s for you. You can keep it.” He was drunk on Budweiser but I put it on. He said he found me sexy. He wanted to spend the night with me. “That’s not what I’m used to… I had a boyfriend for five years, and been single for two.” But I was his type. Today I would just walk away, but I believed most of what he said. Still, “I’m going home with my friend”. But I enjoyed the attention he gave me and felt good in his company.

When I found Logan, Terrence had put his shirt back on (but it was still mine) and he was calling a cab from the phone box in the bar. “Do you want to spend the night with him?” I could not. “Yes, you can!”. I thought about it. With my heart beating fast I went to tell Terrence. The bar was quite quiet now but I went outside and leaned against the door to get some fresh air. Terrence appeared at the same time as the cab and Logan came out after him. He talked to Terrence privately and then came to me to remind me that I had his number and pager.

The Utah Cab taxi was a big new car and I felt small in the leather back seat. Terrence gave me one of his redneck winks and he took hold of my hand when the meter stopped to let a train go by. It felt amazing. But I nervously looked to the driver. “He does not care,” he whispered. 

The house he shared in Rose Park was nice. We talked some more and we had our first kiss. He was not as good a kisser as Logan (but I found him so handsome). He took me by the hand and led me downstairs to his messy bedroom with a big US flag pinned on the wall. We lay on his bed and kissed and touched, stopped and cuddled before starting again for about two houres. He was kind, attentive and respectful of my boundaries. We went upstairs to get some water (and pee) and back to his bed he brought the covers over me to keep me warm.

It was now 3:00 in the morning but I could not sleep. I could hear a night freight train in the distance. And I suddenly started to panic. Where was I? I was in a stranger’s bed. Welcome to the gay world, I suppose! He sensed that I was not comfortable and gave me some water to drink. He talked to me. He held me. It was as if he truly cared. I managed to fall asleep in his arms and we woke up at around 10 in the morning.

He had to go to work at 11. He got out of bed and put on torn jeans that revealed his US flag boxers. I put on yesterday’s clothes (and his sleeveless flannel shirt) and got out in the bright burning sun. An old big rusty Cadillac was parked in the driveway. This guy gave me all the American clichés that I loved.

There was nobody at Logan’s. I put Terrence’s shirt on a hanger in the wardrobe. I lay in bed, still sleepy, but got up again to smell Terrence’s perfume on the shirt. The obsession had started and it would last for so long. And it scared me. That evening I showed Logan where I was from on a map and where I was going on my mission. In the back garden he picked up a praying mantis from the plants and let it climb up his white polo shirt. We talked about the purpose of life and he let me talk about the Bible. He went back inside to put on a CD. “This song reminds me of you”. Calling All Angels filled the house and Logan’s eyes filled with tears. I had seen him cry when spotting flowers he said his partner had planted in the garden. Yet I thought he was lucky to have loved and have been loved so much by someone. I wanted that too. Although my religion held me back (and would make me unable to handle a relationship for a long time), Logan’s tears opened my heart, and that song had floated around the house and out of the French windows like some sage smoke during a smudging. I wanted Terrence to become my boyfriend. Even if I was not staying.

On the Sunday morning we tidied the garage when I heard the phone ring. I saw Terrence’s number on the Caller ID. He would pick me up “at 2:30 this afternoon. We’re going to a pool party.” My first real date with a man! 

Church was at 1:00. I waited on the pews for the meeting to begin. No one talked to me. But I did not care. An hour and half later I had a hot date! I did not feel weird sitting in church looking forward to a gay date. Last summer, my LDS friend had kicked me out of his house on a Sunday night because I hung out with gays. I had dealt with enough guilt. I had willingly faced the consequences of what I had done, and accepted that I had been disfellowshipped, but I was done feeling bad for just being different! 

Last summer I had gained a new and fragile confidence, born from the notion of not being alone in this anymore. I had gay friends now. And that was a new sort of fellowship. Last summer I had started learning how to deal with my newfound self. I figured that no straight guy would get in trouble with the Church for drinking Seven Up and kissing girls. This is how I rationalised this. This is how I was able to pray each day without feeling any worse for being gay than I did before all this. Even though I did more than kissing. This summer was me learning about the gay community, more self-acceptance and opening up to love. Missionaries had girlfriends waiting for them. So why couldn’t have I a boyfriend?

The first talk was inspiring and the second one boring. I almost fell asleep. I would have had more fun in the bright house having brunch with Logan and his loud friends than listening to boring stuff in this dark and silent meeting room. During the third talk I slipped out. It was already 2:00 and Terrence was picking me up soon. Back to the house I got out of my church clothes and put on some shorts. Logan shouted that someone was here for me and his guests cheered. I remembered the double date my LDS friend had organised with these two girls last summer (before he kicked me out). How awful I had felt back then. How amazing I felt now.

We drove to Cottonwood in the big rusty white Cadillac. I never understood what the Barenaked Ladies sang in that song that was always playing on the radio. I did not know what to make of this thing with Terrence either. I was only visiting. I was going on a mission the following month. But when he looked at me and touched my hand I was the happiest guy in the world.

We knocked on the big white door and we were let in this gigantic house, with bright rooms and beautiful furniture. Outside, a huge swimming pool and many guests in their swimming costumes walked about or sat down with drinks to the sound of Savage Garden. The cabins where we got changed into our trunks had huge mirrors and ceiling loudspeakers now playing a modern cover of Time After Time.

Everyone thought I was from Paris. A girl wanted to hear me speak French and said she would be OK with a marriage of convenience. I glanced at Terrence. He never stopped holding my hand. He was always asking if I needed anything. Always refilling my glass. We jumped in the refreshing swimming pool together and kissed. And when I came out of the water to lie down on a sun lounger he rested his tanned back on my stomach. It felt amazing to be against his body, lying in the sun. That was a new experience too.

Terrence said he wanted to know everything about me. We talked for a while. He talked about his mother and his father who did not accept him. They were Jack Mormons who did not raise him in the Church. He felt emotional. I stroked his hair and kissed him. He went to get another beer. I realised that was his coping mechanism. Someone shouted to me from the pool to get back in and I did.

“Do you need a room?” someone shouted half-jokingly as we were all over each other on a sun lounger. It was the evening now and he had to wait before standing up and go sit around a big table to have dinner with the few people left. I had felt a bit embarrassed all day long. I never liked PDA (and I still don’t) but I was so drawn to him. After dinner Terrence went back in the pool and I watched the lightening lit up the darkened sky from the sun lounger. He looked so beautiful when he came out of the water. We jumped in the hot tub. Then the host turned the music off. It was time to go to bed.

This time we did need a room and there were plenty in that big house. Our bedroom was cosy like a five-star hotel. He said he was serious about us. It was a first date but I was so inexperienced that I believed him and said I was too. I was tired now. The end of a long first date. Maybe not exactly a proper date. My first gay date anyway. And I loved it. And I felt serene, happy and slept like a baby.

We’re tryin’ and we’re hopin’ but we’re not sure how…

—Jane Siberry and K.D. Lang, Calling All Angels

Today—It is embarrassing to see how naïve I was. But that was not the issue then. The question was how was I going to handle that dating? I was going on my mission and I had repented and there was no way I could jeopardise that. I remember telling Logan after a few dates with Terrence that there was something wrong with me. I was pressing my shirt before going on another date. Logan looked at me from across the room and walked towards me. He looked me in the eye and said, “Look at me.” And as I looked down with tears in my eyes he took me by the chin and forced me to look him in the eye. He cupped my face in his strong hands in a way that made me feel safer than I had ever felt. And he said in a voice both commanding and soft, “There’s nothing wrong with you! There’s nothing wrong with you.” And then he said, “I hate what they did to us!” And the extraordinary thing about this is that at that moment I believed him. And I felt something so strong inside that told me that he was speaking the truth. And I never felt there was something wrong with me after that. Not like before anyway. 

From now on it would be a balancing act, trying to enjoy the dating life while keeping myself worthy to be an active member of the Church. I believed I could have both. It is embarrassing to see how naïve I was.

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