Past the Point of No Return
Faye, his friend
Mark, a romantic prospect
Norman, his father
Victoria, his mother
Beth, his sister
Mary, his stepmother
Kate, his aunt
No New Messages
I click 'sign in'.
There are no new messages.
I look at previous communications, from him:
we have been exchanging messages for the past week.
I want it back again, the excitement of reading his replies,
the satisfaction I felt after composing a sparkling response,
the thrill, the anticipation…
It was gone now…all that remains is numbing disappointment.
He said he would call me tonight to make plans.
I had waited, hour after hour…
I feel foolish and humiliated. Why would he make a promise and break it?
Did I do something wrong? Did he get cold feet?
I shut my computer down and flop down on the bed.
I have been on this dating website for four months,
sending notes across a virtual chasm,
trying to make a connection with strangers,
hoping to find someone who was real, and
not hiding behind lies and head games…
But in all that time, it had never gone past this point…
The initial exhilaration had always given way to painful reality.
I had hoped the city would be a chance to meet the one,
the man I dreamed about, the person I would share my life with.
Anything had to be better than the redneck town I had come from,
a place where 'fag' was part of the daily vernacular,
a spot devoid of all culture, refinement and sophistication…
But the city, the city I had dreamed of coming to,
was an impersonal jungle full of strangers…
there were gay men out there, but I didn't know how to find them.
And after half a year in the city, I was still alone and no closer to
finding a boyfriend.
Should I call Faye to complain about the latest disappointment?
No, it was late, she would be sleeping.
Let her sleep, she was still upset about not being able to visit
her home country this year...she needed to rest.
I put my headphones on and listened to an old showtune,
a wistful song my mother liked; like my mom, when I am sad,
I don't fight my feelings, I give into them and let them wash over me;
I close my eyes and let the lyrics carry me away.
Maybe this time, I'll be lucky, maybe this time he'll stay.
Maybe this time for the first time, love won't hurry away,
He will hold me fast, I'll be home at last…
I let the pain and hope of the song flow through me…The shame and betrayal I feel, gradually ebbs and I fall asleep listening to
my mother's song.
"Do you like this one?" Faye asks, holding the blouse up.
I nod complacently, I actually think the color is unflattering
but I can tell by her faint smile that she loves the outfit.
Faye and I have been friends for about three years now;
we met at the local library…she is a beautiful girl,
with a trim, firm body, big breasts, every boy's dream girl.
Faye was used to having guys hit on her;
we quickly became friends after she realized I wasn't going to
try and get in her pants. She knew I was gay before I told her,
and she was one of the few people I could talk to about my crushes and my dating life,
such that it was. It's ironic, being gay allows you into the Forbidden City of Women,
the place all straight men are dying to get into. The Forbidden City is a fortress
with a moat, high, walls and armed to the teeth. Outside, knights shiver in the cold,
plotting in vain to breach the City's defenses. But what those knights don't know is
that there is a secret entrance to the City, known to only a select few.
Gay men are among those rare few. I entered the City when I met Faye,
after she was sure I was definitely not interested in women.
Inside the City I see and hear everything men are normally denied.
I hear about the inner, secret thoughts of women, what is really going on
behind their smiles: their secret longings and desires,
what they really think about the men in their lives,
what turns them on…
Faye tells me everything, she holds nothing back,
because she knows I will never take advantage of the information she gives me.
That is the secret to gaining entry to the Forbidden City:
you must not be sexually attracted to women.
I take my obligations to this city very seriously,
I would never betray the secrets that have been entrusted to me.
Faye is a sexy, enchanting woman,
but I would never pursue her, even if I wanted to.
It is the price of being a citizen of the Forbidden City.
The fact that I would rather ride off into the sunset with one of the knights,
makes my obligations much easier to honor.
Now Faye is holding up a pair of sexy lingerie.
"Do you think Steven would like these?"
Steven is the latest man in her life.
I will get to hear all about their relationship,
their arguments, their problems,
she will cry in front of me before she does in front of him.
She will confide in me and I will never abuse her trust.
I will keep the Forbidden City safe
from prying eyes and groping hands.
The Forbidden City of Women has entrusted
gay men with its safekeeping for decades.
And so, with the help of queer men,
The City stands strong, safe and secure.
Faye is waiting for an answer.
I smile and give her a thumbs up.
We walk on, laughing, whispering and sharing.
Eyes filled with animal despair, wretched, desperate,
peering through the plate glass…
I wrenched free of the image and sat up straight in bed,
breathing hard, trying to escape those haunted eyes.
I had returned in my dreams,
returned to the Place, the hell I had escaped,
the nightmare I had survived.
There was no lucid memory of that time,
it remained cloaked in misty denial,
a series of terrifying images that were
trapped inside my mind, fluttering about like demon fireflies,
never escaping, burning, searing themselves into my brain.
It was those bestial eyes, however that returned to me again and again.
I don't remember a voice or face…just the eyes.
I somehow know that it was a woman staring out of her cell.
Staring into the darkness, I restore my breathing to a steady pace,
and gradually the eyes recede back into the mist.
It had been four years this August, four years
since I had been released after spending a month
confined within those terrifying walls.
No one outside my family knew I had been there;
I had never spoken to anyone about
the four weeks I had spent in the Place.
I kept the broken images to myself,
floating around inside me like shards of glass.
Every so often, they would force their way to
the surface and I would awaken, drenched with sweat.
I had gone into the Place fighting my urges,
turning my feelings inwards, pushing them down…
my urges had coalesced into toxins that poisoned my mind and body.
The only way antidote was to let them free and give them free rein;
I had learned that there, it was a painful lesson amidst much horror.
The eyes that haunted me, the anguished screams I heard in my dreams,
were reminders that I had to move forward, that I had to accept who I am:
going back was not an option.
I lay in bed, breathing slowly, allowing the adrenaline to seep out of my
The eyes were gone.
I could sleep in peace.
The outburst over, he stands before her unmasked,
pleading, imploring her to see beyond his disfigurement
and see the beauty in his soul.
Ever since my mother introduced me to Phantom of the Opera,
I have been obsessed, memorizing lines from the musical,
acting out scenes, singing the lyrics over and over.
When the movie came out, I dragged Faye with me to see it opening night,
and I bought it the day it came out on video.
Faye will no longer watch it with me…she doesn't understand my fixation.
I don't completely understand it myself.
I just know the story touches something deep inside of me:
the Phantom, Eric, has been despised his whole life because of his disfigurement.
His mother loathed him, his father beat him, he had no friends.
Eric falls in love with the one person who can save him from a life of misery,
he finally reveals himself to her, he takes her to his candle lit lair,
unburdens his deepest emotions to her.
Christine is captivated by this mysterious figure,
but as soon as she removes his mask the spell is broken.
She abandons him for someone more conventional
and allows him to fall backwards into the night,
back into a world of misery, despair, pain and madness.
I hate Christine. I think she is a self-involved, superficial
snob whose only winning attribute is her voice.
How could she leave Eric? He thought she was different from the cruel world
he had known; but she is no different, in fact, she is worse.
I watch the scene where she hands him back his mask…it disgusts me.
Eric completely exposed himself to her, he shared his most intimate self with her
and her response is disgust and fear.
Sometimes I feel like I am Eric, trapped in a world where I can never be myself.
If I took off my mask, I would as hated as the Phantom.
Homosexuality is worse than disfigurement; it is viewed as a disgusting blemish on the soul.
Sometimes I am Eric, sometimes I pretend that I have found him after Christine has betrayed him;
his head is in his hands, he is utterly heartbroken. I approach him and put my arms around him;
he does not resist..he has been searching for someone to hold him for his entire life.
I hold him and whisper to him that he is beautiful to me, that I will never abandon him,
I will stand by him and love him as he deserves to be loved. We both cry in each other's arms.
We escape the hellish cellars of the opera house and flee to the south of France,
where we live in comfort and peace; Eric finally has found someone to love him
unconditionally…I imagine that he is a gentle and sensitive lover,
who sings to me as I drift off to sleep and designs beautiful
jeweled musical boxes for me. He forgets about his unhappy love for Christine,
who is left penniless after Raul deserts her for another young diva.
The Phantom of the Opera for me symbolizes the cruelty of the outside world.
One must always be one's guard and be cautious about removing the mask
that conceals your inner, true self. If you are lucky, one day you will find
someone who will allow you to remove that mask, and who will love the
beautiful soul that exists underneath.
Most of the world, however, are Christine Daaes:
flighty and without substance, and ultimately without a heart.
I long for someone I can sing to in the darkness. Faye is
the only person with whom I can truly be myself, but despite
the closeness of our friendship, it is not enough. I will never kiss Faye
or hold her in my arms. I will never wake up beside her.
I feel warmth when I think of her, but no passion.
Eric. I need an Eric. A lonely artist longing for love.
Where are you Eric? I am waiting for you.
Faye listens as I describe him, I cannot help myself from gushing
as I relate the things I love about Paris11's profile:
he is a college student like me, loves music, including Broadway,
is interested in theater, and describes himself as 'looking for someone
to share true love with'.
"Oh, a romantic too!" Faye bubbles with excitement.
I am delighted with my discovery too.
He sounds perfect, sensitive and charming;
but is this my fantasy taking over,
my dream of a soul mate substituted for reality.
He could be like the rest of the men I had met thus far:
someone who could not be trusted or relied on,
a liar who played games.
How many times had I eagerly scanned a profile,
trusted a virtual smile, only to be disappointed?
I am holding back after telling Faye about him;
she senses my caution and gently nudges me forward.
"You'll never know until you write him."
She's right…I won't know.
But maybe I don't want to know.
I have trapped in this dangerous game for three years,
with nothing to show for my effort.
I have chatted on MSN, flirted, flattered, and for what?
I am sick of this world, where everyone hides behind
a virtual mask, and refuses to expose even the slightest bit of humanity!
I want to meet someone, a man, a breathing, bleeding man, with flaws,
insecurities but also a heart that needs my love. All I have found so far
are fuzzy replications, not men, shapeless forms hiding in the dark,
who scurry away the second anyone tries to get close to them.
I am tired, tired of constantly being disappointed, of getting nowhere.
But where else am I going to find someone?
I could go to the bars…but at that meat market, at best, I would
only gain a one night stand with a man who is still hiding in the closet,
drowning his sorrows in vodka and tequila. No, the world of the gay nightclub is not for me.
Virtual dating is the only way…I hate it, but what choice do I have?
Faye is right…I won't know unless I send him a message.
This virtual frog might turn into my prince.
Faye is looking up at me, imploringly.
I laugh…when she thinks she is right, she doesn't back off,
but her intensity is one of the things I love about her.
It is decided, then.
I will re-descend into the world of virtual dating
and send paris11 a message.
Don't Tell Your Father
I am halfway out of the closet, my face is out of the shadows,
the front half of my body is hanging out the door,
but the rest of me is still left inside, unable to enjoy freedom.
I say I am halfway out of the closet because
I am still reluctant to inform certain people that I am gay.
Its frustrating: I know who I am, what I want, and
I am fairly comfortable with my identity but
a lingering fear remains with me, a tightness
in my stomach that prevents me from achieving complete freedom.
My father doesn't know I'm gay. My mother knows, my stepmother knows,
my sister knows, but I have never been able to tell my dad.
I accepted my sexual orientation when I was in the deep confines of the Place;
the fear, shame, and anguish I suffered there pushed me to face my darkest fear.
I remember lying in bed in the darkness, listening to the raspy breathing of
my fellow inmate. I remember saying to myself "I'm gay" out loud,
again and again, as if I was trying to convince myself to stop denying my true self.
Then I tried acting out coming out to various members of my family.
Mom I'm gay.
Beth I'm gay.
Aunt Kate I'm gay.
When it came to attempt rehearsing telling my father, I froze.
I just couldn't imagine telling him.
I tried to picture his face, create a reaction that he might have.
I tried to imagine what he might say.
But it was too hard, it was too…
Not scary, but definitely not pleasant.
Since that time, I have been completely unable to tell my dad I'm gay.
I have tried to work up the courage a few times…but I froze and changed the subject.
You might have some idea about my father as a macho, intimidating guy who loves
football and would disinherit me if he ever found out his son was a fairy.
It's not like that at all.
My dad raised me and my sister after Mom moved to Toronto.
He cooked for us, helped us with our homework, comforted us when we were upset.
We always felt loved and cared for.
Dad played football when he was in school but he was not upset
when I became involved in drama; he drove me to rehearsals, came to opening night performances;
he even helped me pick out stage makeup for one play.
My dad is a very open minded, laid back person.
He likes sports but he also likes reading novels and listening to many different types of music.
I love my dad and I know he loves me…so why can't I tell him?
My dad is very big on family.
He is always going to visit my grandpa and his brothers and sisters.
He makes it to every family gathering and likes my sister and I to go with him.
Six years ago my Aunt Sarah had a baby around Christmas.
We were all together for our Christmas Eve party and my dad was holding the baby.
He had this look of complete happiness on his face…his eyes were dreamy
and he was captivated by the baby, rocking it back and forth in his arms.
Later that night we were driving home in the car.
My dad thought my sister and I were sleeping.
He was talking to my stepmom Mary about Sarah's baby and how special it was to hold him.
"I miss having a baby around the house…I remember when Luke was a baby I could spend hours
holding him as he slept. It was such an amazing feeling holding his little body close to mine, I think those moments were among the happiest day of my life. I hope Luke and Beth experience that feeling one day. Especially Luke. I think he would be a great father. He was so good with Beth when she was little. He helped her learn to read when she just started grade one. I don't know Mary, there's something about having children that just makes you realize what's important in life. It's a legacy you leave, a breathing, bleeding legacy. And I want my kids to know how that feels too."
I still remember how happy he was that night.
Now, years later, I remember that night and I somehow can't
bring myself to destroy my father's dreams of family and grandchildren.
After all my dad has done for me, I can't bear to think of hurting him.
But how long can I go on pretending?
How long can I lie to him?
Mary and my sister both tell me that he would understand,
and that I shouldn't worry about it.
They think I should tell him.
But I still remember sitting with my mom in her garden, telling her I was gay.
She took a sip of lemonade and looked me straight in the eyes:
"Don't tell your father…it would kill him."
My mom hasn't spoken to my dad in years, but her words stayed with me.
My mom and I are both extremely good at sensing other people's feelings and thoughts.
Her warning blended with my fears and they swirl around in my mind, a red funnel cloud that
rampages through my consciousness, sucking in my resolve and my courage, leaving me
wedged in the closet. I look at my computer screen…Paris11 has written me a message.
I look up and see my father and Mary's wedding picture,
his smiling face looks down on me.
I look furtively away and open my email.