I had just moved to Montreal from Ontario. I was now living in a brave new world one that I had never experienced. One with charm, culture, energy, flavour, a joie de vivre, and one with a gay village.
I was a virgin in the sense of never really experiencing or tasting the gay culture or milieu before. Hence, I was quite anxious to hop on the Metro and drop by the Village to satisfy my curiosity. So when the clock struck 10, after a tiring day of moving, I headed out into the warm August night and I met him.
I had never been to a gay bar before, hence I didn’t know what to expect other than expressions of the stereotypes that I could think of with respect to gay men, built up, or should I say concocted, by the straight media throughout my life. I was expecting a club full of drag queens or really flighty men, but when I walked into the club that Tuesday night (yes, in those days, you could go out practically every night to packed clubs and have a great time) I didn’t find one drag queen; not one queeny guy. It was a bar full of “regular looking” guys and men .
Considering it was my first time in a gay bar, I was totally shy that night. I basically planted myself under the DJ booth and glued my ass to the wall, not moving from that spot, which had a perfect view of the dance floor, for at least two hours. I just stood there. I couldn’t muster enough courage to dance, let alone walk around. And then I saw him ..dancing in a very masculine way, something I didn’t expect from a gay guy. Very sexy, the way he moved his body and carried himself. He was older than me, at least by 10 years, tall, with strong facial features, wide shoulders, and from what I could tell in the dark environment we were in, smouldering piercing eyes.
He walked over to the bar, got a drink, and then looked in my direction. Could he be looking at me? No he couldn’t, He’s waaay too hot. But maybe he is . Yeah he IS looking at me ? Don’t look at him . What do I do?
This went on for a few hours – whenever he looked at me, I’d look away, and when he wasn’t looking at me, I couldn’t help but stare at him. I knew nothing about the social workings or pick-up techniques in a gay bar.
Finally, I guess he realized that not much was going to happen unless he made an executive decision and headed my way. I didn’t know what to say to him after all, I had never been approached by someone like him before. I was only 19.
We met for drinks a week later since I had to leave town for a while. We discussed the possibility of a relationship blossoming between the two of us. He expressed his concern about the 9 year age difference his concern that I would leave him; that by being young, I had power within the gay community I could get whoever I wanted .that I could be mesmerized and sucked up the Village, the clubs, and and that I would dump him in a heartbeat for someone better younger. I spent a while trying to explain to him and convince him that I wasn’t like all the other boys’ he mentioned and that I was seriously interested in having a stable, monogamous long-term relationship. It worked. He believed me. But then he let me in on his secret. He was HIV positive. It was like the world stood still when he told me. My first potential boyfriend and he’s positive.
He told me that he contracted the virus when he visited a sauna at the age of seventeen the first and only time he had unprotected sex. Imagine, he went to a sauna, had sex with a guy, got caught up in the moment, and walked out with HIV. He assured me that he didn’t have AIDS, that his T-cell count was perfect, and that he’d never been sick in all the years he had the virus. He told me he stayed physically active and that he was in great shape. He told me that there were safe ways to be intimate and that I need not worry. Yet if the whole idea of being with him, and the virus, made me uncomfortable he would understand.
In those days, little was known of the virus and disease. Hence, the feeling of hysteria was only natural. Yes, I was totally freaked out but I thought I could be a bigger person than the others that left him once they found out his secret. I convinced myself that I had no problem with it . But I did. Every time he would come close to me, I would freak. Every time he tried to kiss me, I would freak. I couldn’t be intimate with him, the idea just scared me . And over a month after we met the inevitable happened . I broke up with on the phone. A cowardly way of doing it, but I knew I just couldn’t face him. I made up some stupid excuse that I met someone else, someone younger . I just couldn’t tell him the truth. He was totally crushed. He couldn’t believe that I would do this to him. He truly believed that I was honest when I said I wouldn’t leave him for someone else and get caught up in the scene. He began to cry…and then hung up. I felt awful.
As years went on, I would occasionally run into him at a bar or club, drop him an email or give him a call and have a cordial opportunity to talk to him. He still hadn’t had a stable relationship or met anyone. He would always look great and be in great shape like the first night I met him. Yet a few years ago I ran into him and couldn’t for the life of me recognize who he was. He looked tired, his face looked thinner , the energy and charm he always seemed to exude was gone. I was afraid for the worst but while briefly talked, I pretended like I didn’t notice a thing. The subject never came up, nor did I bring it up. I wrapped up the conversation, since the friend I was with was quite anxious to begin a Saturday night of partying, turned the corner, and left the bar.
That was the last time I ever saw him or heard from him again.