3 min

Road Warrior: The masked man of San Diego

Matthew Link’s road trip put unrequited infatuation and heart break in perspective

I had been in love, or lust, with Ben for many years. Actually, it was since I was 28 and I first met him on the gay part of Waikiki Beach. He had a white rippled torso gleaming in the stark sunshine, a dimpled chin, sandy brown hair, bulging Speedo and an aw-shucks Oklahoma smile. He was in his mid-thirties and gorgeous, and he knew it. But he also seemed a little insecure, and the more he tried to hide it, the more apparent it was, which just made him sexier. 

We never had sex, but the fact that he held my hand that night under a table at a gay bar and that his gorgeous face and body even spent time with me was all that my young ego needed. 

A couple years later, I called Ben up when I was in his hometown of San Diego. “Sorry, I’m just crazy busy with work,” he told me. “Call me next time when you’re in town.” My heart sank.

My Achilles heel is my tenacity in the face of aloofness, and the next year I called him again. “Uh, sure, why don’t you meet me and my boyfriend for a drink?” Boyfriend? My heart sank again, but I still needed a Ben fix, just to see him.

His boyfriend was an older guy, nice enough, but I wondered why Ben was with him. Of course I was jealous that I apparently didn’t have enough money to keep Ben interested in me. Even a fuck was out of the question now that he had got himself hitched, the bastard. I also got the feeling that the only reason Ben was interested in seeing me was because now I lived in New York City and worked for some impressive magazines.

I should have given up on Gorgeous Ben, but I didn’t. I met him a year later in San Diego. He was now single, and somehow I finally got his white torso naked in bed. I couldn’t believe that I was at last inside of my fantasy, and it was just as good, terrifyingly good, as I had imagined it would be.

I invited him out to Palm Springs for the weekend, and he relaxed by the pool at our gay guesthouse. I tried not to be jealous or insecure at all the guys ogling him, and instead tried to look at him like he was my trophy boy. He mentioned wanting to have a three-way with a hot Latin guy he saw by the pool, and I tried again not to be jealous.

When Ben would look at you, he looked past you out to some far horizon. He was like one of those thin clouds high up in the stratosphere. Being with him was like talking to someone behind a pane of clear glass — you could see him and hear him, but there was something opaque between you, something that you could not touch.

On the way home from Palm Springs, that glass between us shattered. A hundred unattractive traits burst to the surface, including his bragging to friends during a cell phone call about his all-expenses-paid weekend in Palm Springs. I looked over at him, and his chiseled face and cleft chin appeared disjointed, cubist almost. He literally grew ugly right before my eyes, as his carefully formed persona of all those years melted and formed a puddle. 

I kept my mouth shut the whole ride back, and couldn’t wait to get him out of the car. My heart broke once again, but this time it was not for unrequited infatuation, but that people could keep their masks so firmly in place so well. I had been staring at the glass so hard I had never actually seen through it. 

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay San Diego, see our City GuideListings GuideEvent Guide, and Activities Guide.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay New York, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Palm Springs, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.