On a dark night in December during winter break, I sat across the table from my good friend Marty at a crappy diner. Teresa was with us too; the perfect mini-reunion of friends. It had been years since I had seen her smile, and even if I had last seen Marty yesterday-that’s always too long of a span of time.
The first time I saw Marty, he was baby faced and hyper-we were sitting in a drama room poorly disguised between the hours of eight and three as a science classroom. Everything about the unique room oozed theatrics; the spirit of performance and progress touched every atom of space. My favorite part of the room aside from the make shift stages we would create was the closet. It went well beyond what a typical closet could. Modified for storage, we were able to climb up into it, sit atop the plywood near the ceiling, crane our necks at one another and have long meaningful conversations.
Marty and I were cast in the same Samuel French play, Nit Wits. We developed British accents and an overly energetic eighth grade affinity for one another; akin to tripping over your soul mate. We were always outrageously excited to see one another, speak with one another, and laugh; we embodied unbridled joy. Our mutual love of The Beatles followed us around, held us together. I can still see Marty as Milton Geer with green tinted glasses, quoting Keats in a clunky British inflection before he busts out the door in a dramatic exit.
Freshman year of high school Marty and I attended the winter ball together. A year after that, we were there for one another again for the awkward formal dance experience. He made something contrived into so much fun. My eagerness for love and acceptance by the male gender fell away when I was with Marty, I never felt self-conscious and slow dancing with him was like hugging a teddy bear.
Whenever we saw one another, we greeted the other with a loud, growing, exaltation of the other’s name. A call and response exercise in absurdity, nonetheless so much fun. Years later it has yet to fade and I am convinced we will one day be holding our own infant children as we walk up to one another, our voices singsonging each other’s names as high as the ritual of our youth will allow.
So as I sat across from him, my hands avoiding the sticky table in December, I was dumbstruck when he told me that he was gay. Thank God Teresa was there to take impact the way I could not, she smiled and was stoked. She celebrated him in a way I could not fathom. In fact it was not until months later that I realized the reason for my reaction. Homosexuality, gay rights, quips, this culture I had consistently observed like a visitor at a museum finally meant something; it finally touched me and had nothing to do with me. I had never known anyone close to me who was gay, Marty was the first. I went home to my mother that night, to tell her the news; she said something to the affect of always having known. I told her that he was always just Marty to me; fun, loving, excitable, hilarious, Marty. And he still is. Marty’s subtle coming out changed my perspective on love; it cracked me out of my hold of being adamantly uncomfortable by what you don’t understand. And for that I am forever grateful to my friend Marty for always being himself and making it impossible for me not to love him.
His marriage is going to be incredible.