Dateline: Beaumont, Texas-
Yep, a full day of driving and I’m still in Texas, albeit very close to the border with Louisiana and I could have crossed it before stopping for the night, but I was tired and it’s my trip and I’ll stop when I want to. Hot and dry this morning has been replaced with hot and humid as I’m only a couple of miles from Port Arthur and the gulf.
The most notable thing about the Texas drive was the sudden switch from brown to green, right after passing through a little town called Ozona, microclimates of some sort that lead to more rainfall in the central state than in the western state. Today also involved navigated two huge sprawling metropolitan areas, San Antonio and Houston. Both are about 35 miles across and seem to be full of endlessly repeating national franchises. At least that is what’s visible from the interstate. I have been to Houston before and can’t say I really liked it very much. I gave up on San Antonio when I found out the Alamo tour does not include the basement.
I will be home either tomorrow evening or Saturday lunchtime, depending on whether I stop in NOLA tomorrow. It’s a favorite city but it’s very tied up in memories of Tommy so I don’t know if I’m up for that quite yet.
Tonight’s story is a continuation of last night’s. Becoming a committed couple is more than just meeting. This is particularly true for gay male couples as, until recently, there have been very few social supports for couplehood and, when the going gets rough as it does for everyone, all the energy to maintain and renew has to come from the two of you. You can’t count on all of the things that straight couples take for granted that are built into society. So this is the story of how we went from casually dating to being ‘Tommy and Andy’ (one word).
Throughout the first part of 2003, we continued to date casually. We occasionally went out with others, but always seemed to come back to each other after a date or two. A sequence of events in the spring solidified the bond.
The first was the lead up to the Iraqi invasion under George W Bush. Everyone was aware it was coming and the progressive community was looking for a response. An actress in, I believe, New York, came up with the idea of as many theater companies world wide as possible all doing a reading or production of Lysistrata on the same day (3/3/03) as an antiwar statement. This was picked up in Birmingham by Ellise Mayor and the Birmingham Peace Project. Ellise asked me to be the narrator and provide continuity and Tommy played one of the denied soldiers, complete with balloon phallus. Diane McNaron was also part of the production. It was the first time Ellise, Diane and I worked together and was one of the seeds of Politically Incorrect Cabaret. It was the first time Tommy and I worked on the same theater production. And it was my first time on stage in Birmingham (other than a church fundraising entertainment).
The second was a trip I took to Mexico in late April. I went on an Atlantis Events excursion to the Riviera Maya for a week of fun in the sun. As we were still in the casual dating stage, Tommy did not go with me. While I was there, two things happened. The first was that a friend and I won free cabins on the next cruise, sailing out of New York to the Caribbean in late June, for coming in first in a treasure hunt. I hadn’t planned on that trip but a free vacation is a free vacation. The other happened on the last morning as the group was waiting to board the bus back to the airport. While milling around the lobby, one of the other guests, a guy of about my age (40 at the time) collapsed in sudden cardiac death. It was rural Mexico. There was no defibrillator. There was nothing to do. As I watched him die and his partner collapse in grief, I had an epiphany. I decided I didn’t want to be alone. I quickly called Tommy (no mean feat for rural Mexico prior to ubiquitous smart phones) and asked him what he was doing in late June. ‘What should I be doing in late June?’ was his reply. I told him he was going to NYC with me for a few days and then we were getting on a cruise ship together for a week and, at the end of that time, after being closeted in a small hotel room and a small cabin, we would either be moving towards a more committed relationship or running screaming in opposite directions. I will tell the story of that vacation at another time. Suffice it to say, at the end, we were not antagonistic.
The third was my 41st birthday. My 40th had occurred the previous year when I had not yet established much in the way of friendships in Birmingham so I hadn’t had a party. Tommy organized my 41st at the church and, during the festivities, put me in a chair and publicly serenaded me with two songs. ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and ‘These Foolish Things’. Our courtship was now very public and being encouraged.
He moved in that September.
I’ve been sorting through Tommy’s music this weekend. Trying to decide what I can use and what should go to new homes. I found his sheet music for those two songs from that birthday party. I cried a little.