Milton and I agreed to meet at Planet Bean, a coffee shop in downtown Guelph. He originally responded to my Craigslist ad but didn’t provide pictures, a telephone number or even his real name. I knew it was sketchy, but decided to give him a chance.
When I arrived at the coffee shop, I saw three guys in their 50s. One was kind of handsome in a suit, but was talking on a phone. The next was just ahead of me in line, wearing a beige golf shirt and oversized cargo pants, though I couldn’t see his face. The last guy was dressed in khakis and polo with a briefcase in hand. Since I’d given Milton my face pic and I didn’t have his, I had to wait for him to come to me.
I accepted the situation, but I couldn’t help but think how silly all of this secrecy was. It almost made me feel like I was closeted. I suppose it’s mandatory when you’re like Milton — married with kids. Anyway, I went up to the counter, ordered a dark roast coffee, then took a seat at a table in the back. From the corner of my eye though, I noticed that the guy in the golf shirt had followed me and was hovering around the table.
“Michael?” he said when I finally looked up.
“Hello,” I responded, surprised how dishevelled he was.
His thinning hair looked unwashed, his teeth were stained with nicotine and his fingernails were uneven and dirty. He also didn’t have big arms as promised — so much different than my colourful 3D online rendering. I tried to keep an open mind, but I couldn’t help but feel that I’d been somewhat duped; that he hadn’t been honest with me. I suppose it was silly of me to be fully surprised about that.
As much as I wanted to feel bad for his situation, his lack of honesty was off-putting. Everything that he says and does must be a lie, I thought. Has it become a way of life for him? From the outset, I promised myself that I would be friendly no matter what, so I was.
When we started talking, he asked the exact same question that he asked on the phone: “Do you like to play sports?” I assumed that he repeated himself because he was nervous, but I responded as though I hadn’t answered it before.
I explained, again, that I’d gone on a canoe trip earlier that summer. That it was great. I also added that I trekked through the Appalachians, Sierras, Laurentians and the Himalayas; that it was something I really enjoyed doing.
“I could never do that,” he said. He disliked traveling to foreign countries and hated big cities. He claimed that they were too intimidating. He could cope if need be, but they didn’t interest him.
He asked what other things I enjoyed doing. Aside from camping and traveling, I like reading and writing, I said. I also enjoy indie films and I’m a news junkie. He admitted that he didn’t read anymore, and he only liked sci-fi flicks — Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were his favourite. He also didn’t really pay attention to world affairs. “There’s enough going on in Milton, Ontario,” he explained, laughing.
I chatted with him for a whole hour and midway through, I honestly did try to like him as a person. I was as nice as I could be, considering his dishonesty, but the truth was that I couldn’t stand his company for another second.
“Anyway, I should get going,” I finally said.
He seemed surprised. “Are you parked out front?”
“No, I parked a few blocks away.”
“I’ll walk you out then.”
As we went our separate ways, he said something about leaving things in my court. I didn’t respond — I just smiled and said goodbye as quickly as I could.
Maybe I was too hard on him, but as an openly gay man, I’ve always found it challenging to embrace myself, open and honestly, but I made the decision to. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with family and friends who refused to accept me. I had a huge falling out with my parents and it took years for us to start rebuilding, and we still are. I’ve had problems at work because I’m gay, and have had roommates freak out at me and damage my property after finding out.
But being honest with myself and those around me was too important to ignore. I’m not judging Milton for not doing the same — everyone has their story and reasons for the decisions they make, but after all I’ve been through, I just couldn’t be around someone like that.