Posted by: facetothewind | March 5, 2011

Learning to love alone in a mad, mad world

What a couple of months it has been! Oy vey is all I can say. I’m back in Tucson and deliriously happy to be home alone recovering from so many dramas of late. All I have wanted to do is putter in the garden hiding from humanity, baking pies in the sun oven. Today’s pie mixed berry…

In January it was the infamous Tucson shootings (scroll down for that blog entry). We started out that month with a bang. Then February arrived bringing a HARD freeze that killed much of the greenery of Tucson. Then all hell broke loose…

LET THE CHAOS BEGIN :

It all started on the  afternoon of February 16.  I was in my office enjoying the sun and emailing a friend when I hear what I think is a girl screaming holy hell. I go down to investigate and see my next door neighbor with her door wide open on the sofa with her head in her hands crying. The landscaper was sitting next to her trying to calm her down. I walk in and ask her what’s wrong. She points to the office door, “Gerry killed himself!” What? No! Not Gerry.

Gerry Barton was the sweetest, smartest, kindest neighbor. Gerry and Nancy were married 35 years and she came home to find her life shattered. My body got all hot and the hair on my back stood up as I knew the office door was behind me and I didn’t want to look. But I had to, maybe he was still alive. I turned around to see a slumped figure in his office chair, legs akimbo and hands hanging over the arms. There was a bag on the floor which Nancy had ripped off to see if he was still alive. He wasn’t. He was still and cold. Next to the chair was a helium tank with a hose. I walked in there quickly to see. Maybe I shouldn’t have but I felt it was necessary to assess the situation. I felt sick to my stomach and sweaty looking at his empty and pale face…the shell of a friend now gone.

The landscaper Peter and I spent the next 2 hours sitting with Nancy, holding her hand and at her request drinking some wine to calm down and talk about what had happened. He had been struggling with depression much of his life and felt that he just couldn’t do it any more. We read his suicide note left on the table with a printed copy of Final Exit open to the page on inert gas. He had a post-it note with an arrow to the paragraph with instructions on how to take your life with helium. He obviously had a plan and executed it.

This all triggered in me the grief of losing Sebastian. It also changed my opinion of suicide. Whereas once I felt that suicide was a viable option, I feel now that it needs to be very carefully considered for what it does to the person who discovers your body and the betrayal that your loved ones feel after you’re gone. Nancy has to start her life over now, single at 63. She (and I) will never be able to erase that image of Gerry in his office chair with that bag. It is indelibly burned into our minds and Gerry left a big hole in the lives of those us who loved and cared about him.

Nancy, Peter and I waited until she was ready to call the authorities. They soon burst into the house and I assured them they could calm down that there was no emergency and pointed to the office. They saw and quieted down. There’s nothing like the sobering effect of a dead person. Two hours after that, the morgue came and took his body. I watched it go into the white van, leaving the neighborhood for the last time. I scanned through my mind to remember the last times I saw Gerry…at the mailbox and at the annual meeting. He did seem to be withdrawn but I wasn’t aware of his suffering. I’m glad that has ended but for Nancy it has just begun.

I couldn’t sleep that night as I couldn’t shake that image of Gerry out of my mind.

NEXT DAY…

I get an email from Patrick saying that he has been very ill with an unexplained rash and high fevers. I called him immediately and his voice was about an octave higher than normal. It was the voice of desperation. I could hear how scared he was — something I’ve not heard in the 2o years of knowing him. I told him I would come to see him. I hung up and lit a candle by a photo of Patrick and set it by my bed and cried myself to sleep that night fearing that his death might come before I could get to San Francisco. I felt so sorry for him always struggling with his health.

Larry was migrating north and so I hitched a ride with him to San Francisco. We managed to have a few little adventures along the way and stopped for the night in Indio, Palm Springs’ ugly step-sister. Larry and I had an argument because I wasn’t allowed to watch TV while eating my breakfast in the hotel room. The noise bothers him. Everything bothers him. Everything bothers me. I think we had spent too much time together at this point. Remind me not to drive to San Francisco. Being cooped up in a car with someone, anyone, really, is just too much togetherness. Here’s something from the semi-unpleasant motel where we stayed in Indio…

With all of its unrenovated mid-century modern architecture, it’s enough to make a Realtor moist…

We did see some nice scenery of snow capped mountains and then green, green hills of the Central Valley…

We arrived to find Patrick in desperate shape sitting in a dark room with a hoodie and sunglasses. He was radiating heat with a high fever and absolutely covered with lesions. He really didn’t want to go to the hospital and I figured when I went to bed that he could die that night. Fortunately at 6 am, Harry woke me to tell me Patrick had conceded and was going to go to the hospital. We jumped in a taxi and spent the next 15 hours in the ER.

I spent the week with him helping manage his care in the hospital. (Scroll down for the hospital entries.) Now Patrick is at last home and feeling better but not perfect. He still has some skin issues.

WHILE IN SF…

I can’t say that I really had much fun in San Francisco. It’s a cold and dreary time of the year to be there. But more than that, San Francisco has really just lost its softness. It’s a combination of cold weather, harsh economics, overcrowding and competition for everything. The wealth/poverty divide is astounding. I spent a lot of time in taxi cabs (thank you to an angel who gave me cab fare to and from the hospital for the week).

I like hospitals. I think they’re fascinating cauldrons of emotion where people from all walks intersect. One afternoon I had an interesting intersection…that I thought would be a bit of fun and some stress relief from the hospital duty. I saw a beautiful man on the elevator as I was waiting for the up elevator from the cafeteria. He was going down. I smiled at him and he back at me with a nice gap toothed grin. I returned to bedside with Patrick and just for giggles I put an ad on Craig’s List in the Missed Connections section…”You the tall sexy black guy on the elevator at SF General. Me…the guy in the striped bell bottom pants. I made you smile. Would like to make you smile again.” The next day I got an email from him describing himself and what floor I was on. It was HIM! He saw the ad. I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe it. Fate meant for us to meet after all. He said he would come by the hospital to meet me.

Alas, he didn’t show up at the hospital as he said he would. He didn’t show up at the dance performance I went to that evening that he said he would join me for. I gave up. But just when I was getting back to Harry’s house late that night, my phone rang and it was Elevator Man asking if we could get together now. So I hopped back in a cab and rode all the way out to the ocean to meet him at his place — couldn’t disappoint destiny for a good night’s sleep could we?

I rang the bell in the quiet of the foggy night and he opened the door and was as cute as I remembered him. He flashed the gap toothed smile and welcomed me into the house.  But it went downhill fast. Elevator Man seemed really docile and smiley as he showed me down the hall.  He introduced me to an older black man in a bathrobe and someone naked on a bed in room watching porn. They all seemed a little spacey. Some little guy was wandering around in a hoodie, “Anyone seen my dope bag?” I thought to myself, Oh dear…what have I gotten into?

So we get into his room and start making out and he tells me that the guy in the bathrobe was his partner of 20 years and the naked guy in the bed was his fuck buddy and they want me to have a 4-way with them and they’re all doing ‘liquid ecstasy’ (GHB). WHAT??? Why didn’t you tell me this beforehand? I could have gotten a great night’s sleep. Now I was stuck in a very awkward situation at the edge of the continent. He was getting restless and wouldn’t take no for an answer and so we went next door to see BF and FB. They were deeply engaged in unsafe sex. I mean DEEPLY. The giant porn screen was showing leather and fisting videos. The three of them immediately pulled me in as if I were fresh meat and they were about to begin practicing unsafe sexual acts on me right then and there. Wait!!! I’m not signing on for this. I very gentlemanly said, “Sorry, I’m not going to do that.” “Why NOT?” they protested. Because I only do that if I’m in love. “Oh, been there done that,” said the FB. I was like a wet blanket on their party. After about a half hour of awkwardly lying on the bed while they lost their erections for each other, I declared that I really should go home and that I could use a little help with the cab fare since it was a $50 round trip and I agreed to come if they would help with it.

“Oh sure. I’ll go with you so I can pick up Danny,” said the older BF. Danny? Who’s Danny? I guess he was my replacement since I obviously didn’t give them what they really wanted. BF started bumbling around the house trying to get dressed. He pulled all his clothes out of the closet. Each outfit had a story and he needed to tell me each one. He gave me a sweater that he had outgrown and wanted me to try on various pants and shirts. I humored him trying to gently nudge him toward being ready. While getting dressed he was knocking over glasses and stumbling on clothes and bunched up rugs. He couldn’t find his wallet, then his phone. I thought we’d never get out of the house. It was already 2:30 in the morning. I sat on the sofa missing Sebastian so much…my sweet Sebastian who would never, ever get into a mess like this. He seemed so pure and sweet and Lutheran and was probably just beginning his day in Germany as I’m desperately trying to end mine. He seemed so far away.

In the meantime elevator man disappeared. Completely. Left the house without a goodbye.

BF and I call a cab and wait on the street. His zipper was down. No cab. They had gone to the wrong address. (The party boys couldn’t remember their correct address when they called the taxi.) So the cab finally arrives with $5 already on the meter and we hop in. BF is seriously chatting me up on the way to get Danny. The plan was that BF would get out at Danny’s and then he would give me cab fare for the rest of the way home. BF is inching closer and closer to me. I could tell he was intrigued with the one who got away. There was something sort of fun about being so desired at age 47. Unfortunately he was so drugged I couldn’t really take it as a compliment.

We arrive at Danny’s place. BF hands me $25 for the cab fare and I would continue on. B’bye, kissy kissy. Finally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s now 3:30 am. We arrive in front of Harry’s place in Chinatown and I jump out and hand the Pakistani driver the bills. “Keep the change. Goodnight.” I scamper off eager to reunite with the guest bed. Suddenly the cab driver is racing up the hill backward, tires squealing and he’s screaming out the window, “This money is COUNTERFEIT!! You ripped me off. Give me real money or I call the police on you and your friends.”

BF handed me a fake $20 bill. Well whaddya know…the perfect end to a perfect evening! I’ve never even seen a counterfeit bill and so I examined it by dome light for watermarks. It was indeed a fake. I calmed the driver down saying “Wow, that’s horrible. You saw the guy who gave it to me. You should go get him.” So we call BF and he is shocked (really?) and promises to make good on it. So the cab driver takes off in pursuit of real money and I’m finally free, feeling like I barely escaped a dangerous tangle that could have resulted in me having HIV and going to jail. I definitely used up one of my 9 lives.

I never heard a word from any of them again. And I never want to. Sometimes a pretty man on the elevator is just a pretty man on the elevator and one should just leave it at that. But what I found most disturbing was how cold San Francisco has become. That is the dominant gay men’s sex scene – and honestly – it’s not the first time I’ve seen it. High tech drugs, heartlessness, disregard for health. What about love and intimacy? They’ve “Been there done that.” What about choices and disclosure? Boring. I seemed so square, such a misfit that I should want to just have a one-on-one, drug and disease-free evening with legitimate currency. Ah well. I did get a really nice hand-felted woman’s cardigan sweater that night. It might have been worth it.

Chinatown these days. It’s San Francisco’s last ghetto. But not without some bleed-through…

I did get a nice lunch out with Charlie and Lark in Chinatown and fun walk and visit to a pet store with Francoise (Patrick’s sister).

Now I am back in Tucson dealing with a painful negotiation to buy out my land partner from a property and dealing with a squatter in my Hawaii house. Gee, just when things were looking up.

So now you know why I’m happy to be home, swimming in the pool alone in the dark at the racquet club, puttering in the yard, singing by myself at the piano and baking pies. I think maybe I learned something significant in the past two months: sometimes a little alone is a good thing.

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Responses

  1. David!!!! Come to mama! I want to give you a big motherly hug and tell you never, never to go to nasty San Francisco again and NEVER take candy from strangers, especially if they are looking for their dope bag. WHAT were you thinking?

    You know, I woke up feeling terrible this morning. Nic and I are selling our house, which entails many stressful trips to the storage unit on my very painful knee, and much worry about money and how to make the living room look as if no one lives here, etc. I was feeling very sorry for myself indeed when I woke up — but now, somehow, I have more sympathy for you.

    P.S. Get back together with Sebastian. It’s like the difference between light and dark.


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