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When going to war is easier than coming out

'Now I know I'm not gay,' he said. I didn't believe him.

Oh man, can love ever suck. It can also bite you right in the ass.

Once again, I’ve had to learn the hard way that falling in love is not only one of life’s greatest joys; it can be one of the most painful things you can experience.

It was an ordinary day and I was headed to my regular haunt, the local bathhouse. I was in a good mood and had a feeling I might just get lucky and find a halfway decent guy to mess around with.

Then I walked up to the check-in window and I saw him, the new guy on the job.

A young, exceptionally handsome and muscular man stood behind the counter. He smiled and politely asked me what he could do for me. I looked him right in the eyes and that’s when it happened.

I saw the most dreamy ocean blue eyes you could ever imagine. But they were more than just beautiful; they betrayed a hint of vulnerability and an abundance of kindness.

He checked me in and I went straight over to my friend the bartender for a full report on the new guy.

“Oh, that’s Jim,” he told me. ”Everyone thinks he’s hot. But don’t get your hopes up, he’s straight.”

“Straight?”

He explained that Jim was married with a kid and just took the job because he needed the money and gays didn’t bother him.

“Hmm,” I thought to myself and headed off to my room.

Over the next couple of weeks I was very cautious and played it cool with Jim. I didn’t pursue him or show any overt interest. I just kind of lay back and watched.

What I saw in the many interactions between Jim and the other customers was a warm and friendly man with a terrific sense of humour and an energy that kind of wrapped you in its arms.

Of course, men were lined up to try to take him home and quite a few of them were neither subtle nor respectful about saying so. But Jim just laughed it off and politely declined all offers of marriage, gifts, flowers, money and picket fences.

One day I was upstairs having a drink with the assistant manager and I asked about Jim. “So what’s your feeling about him? Do you think he’s gay?”

He just looked at me and smiled. “Of course I think he’s gay,” he responded. “But he’s more likely to join the military and go off and get himself killed in Afghanistan than come out any time soon.”

I was perplexed by his comment. He explained that Jim had been increasingly talking about joining the army and going off to “serve his country.”

We both looked at each other knowingly. “Sounds like he has some issues,” I said.

One night I was at the club when Jim came up to me and asked if I wanted to play a game of pool. I’m not really a pool player, but saying no would have been dumb. I said I would only play if it was strip pool and the loser had to bare all. He laughed, but he agreed.

I tried really, really hard to win that game. But alas, I really sucked and lost badly.

So I told him he was getting his just reward and dropped my towel and gave him a peek. He looked kind of stunned but I noticed that he looked for a long time.

Then he came up to me and gave me a big bear hug.  Despite the fact that he is so strong and so muscular, he was incredibly gentle.

Jim had to work the bar on the other side of the baths later that night, so I decided to get dressed and go over and visit with him. He was very happy to see me and suggested that we go out for a smoke. Although I no longer smoke, I went with him just to hang out.

We immediately got into a very intense conversation. He confided in me that he was very conflicted about his sexuality and having a hard time dealing with it.

He said that he wanted to experiment with a man but it had to be the right guy because most of all he had to be able to respect himself afterwards. “It would have to be a guy like you, Joseph,” he said to me softly. Then added, “Someone who is a decent human being as well as good looking.”

I was very touched by his kind words. Then he reached out and gave me another hug.

We went back to the bar and spent the evening drinking, laughing and generally having a good time. Then he did something that really surprised me. “You showed me yours, so I’ll show you mine,” he offered.

And with that he dropped his pants and flashed me his wiener. My goodness, what a pleasant eyeful. Then he gave me yet another big bear hug. I really felt that we made a connection that night, and it felt really good. In fact, I had butterflies in my stomach. Something I had not experienced in a very long time.

Unfortunately, I had lost track of time and missed the last bus home. I thought I was in luck when a friend of mine offered me a ride. I thought nothing of it when I said goodnight to Jimmy (that’s what I started calling him) and left with my friend. It turns out that I should have thought about it.

Jimmy had told me he was working the next night and to come back and see him, which I was eager to do. But I was very surprised and distressed when I walked in and saw Jim sitting at the bar on crutches. He was quite cold to me and explained that he had tripped and put his foot through the glass door and cut himself up pretty badly.

He was only there to see the manager before going home for a few days to recover. He left without talking to me further or even saying goodbye. I had no idea why he was so cool towards me.

A few minutes later another acquaintance came up to me and asked how my trick was last night. He said that they were all wondering how he was in bed because he was such a good-looking young man. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

It took a minute before it dawned on me that he was talking about my friend who gave me a ride home. It was purely innocent and nothing happened, but that’s obviously not what everyone else thought, including Jimmy. He thought that after making such an intimate connection together, I went home with someone else. No wonder he was upset.

I saw him a few days later and he was equally cold to me. I wanted to explain but he wouldn’t give me a chance and didn’t seem to be the least bit interested in hearing it. I asked him if he wanted to have a beer after work, but he declined saying he had something else to do.

A few more days passed before I saw him again. This time he was totally back to himself, all friendly and chipper. He was warm and seemed genuinely happy to see me. I couldn’t stand him blowing hot and cold, so I pulled him aside and talked to him.  I told him it was hurting my feelings the way he was acting.

Then he just let go. He explained that he was in a great deal of pain. Ever since that night we talked all he had thought about was sleeping with me and it was tormenting him because he felt so guilty about it. I told him it was okay and gave him a big hug.

We spent the next several hours again enjoying the night and joking around. We were both “on” that night and everyone at the bar either wanted to take me home, him home or both of us home.

I don’t know what possessed me, but in the heat of a round of jokes at the bar, I said to him: “Jimmy, what’s the difference between a straight man and a gay man?” He shrugged and said he didn’t know. “Two beers,” I replied.

Everyone laughed and then I said, “I’ve got a six pack at home, what do you say?”  He laughed and said, “Domestic or premium?”

Once again, I had lost track of time and missed my bus. I said to Jim, “I’ll trade you that beer if you’ll give me a lift home.” I was surprised and delighted when he said yes. “But you’ll have to wait until I close up the bar and it will be after 3 am before we get out of here,” he said. I told him I’d rather wait than walk and to pour me another drink.

When we pulled up at my place, I was nervous when I suggested he come up for that beer. I wasn’t at all sure that he would. But he did. In the middle of the first beer he said he had to be careful because sometimes his inhibitions went out the window when he drank too much. I immediately said, “Oh look, your beer’s almost empty. Bottoms up, have another.”

Thank God I had plenty in the fridge and I just kept them coming.

Then he said he was feeling warm and if that kept up he would have to take off his shirt. When I got up to give him another beer I shut the window and turned the fan off. “Gees, I can’t understand why it’s so hot in here,” I said to him without a hint of what I was up to. Sure enough, after four beers and almost three hours, he took his shirt off.

Good lord, what a body. Biceps and pectorals sculpted by the gods themselves. Then he shocked me. He reached out and grabbed me from behind and kissed me. When I regained my composure I said to him, “You kiss like a straight man. Let me show you.” Then I demonstrated why the French are known as good kissers.

Once again, Jimmy had a surprise for me. He stood up and took off his pants and revealed Mr Magnificent. He has one of the most beautiful penises I have ever seen.

“Well,” he said to me, waiting for me to take off my clothes. I stripped and led him to the bedroom.

I was treating Mr Magnificent to a tongue massage when he said, “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right. Come here.”  With that he really got into it and did everything to me that I did to him.

“You’re not half bad for a beginner,” I said of his first blowjob ever.

In the middle of sex, I looked up at him and saw that he had this big smile across his face. I said to him, “You’re smiling.”

“That’s because this is so wonderful,” he replied.

When it was over I put my head on his chest and he confided in me that he had never had sex with a man before, that I was his first. “I would say that was about 10 out of 10,” he told me. I was glowing as much as he was.

Despite the fact that I was dog-tired, I went to see Jim at work the next day to check on how he was. “I’m so glad to see you,” he said to me as soon as I walked in the door. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

We headed out for a smoke and I couldn’t help but notice how happy he seemed and how genuinely pleased he was to see me. I can tell when someone likes me, and Jimmy liked me.

When we got outside he immediately said what was on his mind. “I owe you such a debt of gratitude,” he said to me. “You’ve answered my question. Because of you I know what I am.”

I was looking forward to what I thought was coming next. Then he said, “Now I know I’m not gay.”

I was shell-shocked. “Was it that bad?” I asked him only half-joking.

“No. It was terrific and I’m not at all sorry. But now I know that I’m not gay.”

He told me again what a wonderful man I am and how smart and nice and good looking I am, then told me to go on with my life and forget about him because he was more sure than ever that he could never be with a man.

In a weird way, I took it all as a compliment because I didn’t believe a word of it. He wasn’t lying; I’m sure he needed to believe what he was saying. But I was also surer than ever that he was gay and that not only did he like me, he liked me a lot.

I wasn’t too worried about it at the time. I really believed he’d come around soon enough. Unfortunately, I was unable to go and see him again at work for several days because of things that I had to do for my own job.

When I next saw Jimmy, he was like a totally different person again.

He was sad and withdrawn and immediately told me that he had given notice at the club and would no longer be working there. He said that since he now knew that he wasn’t gay, there was no reason to keep working in a gay club.

Apparently, he had also been to the army recruiting office and had an appointment in a few days for some testing.

I don’t know what it is about me that makes men want to go halfway around the world and throw themselves on a grenade, but I’m not impressed.

I felt very sad and thought that I had nothing to lose and so I tried to talk to him frankly. I told him that his problems and his pain would follow him wherever he went and that changing locations wouldn’t help him.

I pleaded with him not to join the military but he said it was something he felt he had to do. I asked him to come over for a beer later to talk some more and he said he would call, but he didn’t show or phone. My friends at the baths said he turned up there instead and got totally pissed drunk and passed out in a room.

A few days later I was heading for the baths and I ran into Jimmy on the street, who was also on his way to the club. It was very awkward and he seemed like he was deeply unhappy and in a lot of pain, which I could feel as if it were my own. We made some small talk until we got to the baths. He waited for me until I checked in, which I took as a sign that maybe he didn’t want me to disappear.

He went next door to open the bar and I had one of the other staff let me in so I could talk to him. We barely spoke for the longest time and then he said, “I did it. I joined the army.”

The words ripped a hole in my heart like nothing I had experienced before. There seemed to be nothing more to say between us. I was in pain, he was in pain, and despite the fact that he was right there, we were worlds apart.

I got up and asked him if he would unlock the door so that I could go. I figured it was best to put us both out of our misery and just leave. I could tell he was nearly on the verge of tears, but always the gentlemen, he held the door for me.

I wish he hadn’t done that. In that moment I walked out of his bar and out of his life. But I’ll always remember him and wonder what might have been if only things had been different.