I've forgotten what it's like. Oh, I have an image, but it's from all those romantic comedies that I'm a sucker for watching on The Women's Network. What's it like to have someone look at you, as if you matter, as if in that moment, you're everything?
I saw it today. But I was a mere observer. There, in line to get coffee, a woman pointed to a particular muffin behind the glass and touched the man's arm. He gave her that look of longing. The look that says How did I get so lucky? and What would I do if you ever left me? And then she left. For the bathroom. The man stood dazed for a moment, part of his identity snapped out from under him. He seemed to give himself an invisible shake, like a dog coming out of the lake, and then smiled while gazing at the menu board. She'll be back.
Of course, there's a good chance I could have gotten the scene all wrong. I'm rusty. Like a 1988 Buick that's gone through too many winters in Kapuskasing. What do I know anymore? The woman may have pointed to the muffin, insistent that he order the one with the biggest chocolate chunks and DEFINITELY not another low-fat pastry as he'd foolishly done last time. You do remember what happened, don't you? And just to make sure he did, when she touched him, she pulled a few arm hairs. He looked into her eyes, thinking When will you ever let it go? and Why don't you just leave me...again? This time I won't beg you to take me back.
And she was gone. A short bathroom break. A reprieve. He stood in a stupor for a few seconds, as if adjusting to the light peeking through a sky of ominous dark clouds. He smiled as he took in the other patrons, the activity behind the counter. She's gone...at least for now.
But having watched all those Meg Ryan movies and having shaken that nagging inner voice that told me I wasn't supposed to watch The Women's Network, I always see the former scenario. True love...meant to be...perfect match...our Kraft Dinner looks so good on the wedding china...blah, blah, blah. (Only not so blah at all.)
Even in my days frequenting coffeehouses and bars in West Hollywood, that kind of look directed at me was a rarity. In the movies—heck, even on TV commercials—, it's so easy. Grab a grocery cart, linger in the frozen pizza aisle and he sees you. There's that melting moment. Eyes lock. We can't see it, but two hearts simultaneously experience a stronger thump-thump. Goosebumps spread across at least one person's arms—and it's not on account of opening the freezer window to grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs. And then it's over. As he rolls his cart by, the oversized package of Pampers says it all. But that moment—oh, what a moment! I know it's not real, but maybe that's the reason I have to dash to the store every day. Needing more soy milk or a bunch of bananas is a façade for what I really need.
It doesn't even have to be a romantic, eyes-sparkling exchange. I'd take a look of lust, even an unwanted ogle at this point. Something to affirm that I exist, not as a dog owner or a customer with a wallet, but as a gay man. Coming out took years—in many respects, it continues to be a work in progress. And now I'm not sure what it was all for. I no longer exist as a sexual being. Aside from a couple of twenty-year-old baristas, I haven't noticed a gay man in my community in months. My gaydar isn't broken; it's just in storage along with my peach band-collar Girbaud shirt and my baggy jeans, waiting to come back in style. Single gay men in rural areas should get some sort of protected status. It feels like I'm that last Dodo—clumsy, flightless, stunned to find myself alone.
In order to survive, species must gauge their habitat and move on if survival in one environment comes into doubt. Yet I'm still here. House unsold despite radical slashes to the asking price. I've given up on the online dating sites. No point really. You're from where?! So many gay men in Vancouver won't leave their own neighbourhood, be it the West End or Commercial, to venture across town. To think of a potential life partner being a ferry ride away is too great a stretch of the word potential. Not gonna happen.
And so I trim the hedges and get new windows installed. The ocean view is that much greater with the broken seal removed. I had dreamed of someone standing beside me, taking in the natural beauty, someone laughing at me after I step onto the deck and jerk to the left to avoid the kamikaze hummingbird intent on taking my eyes out. (Yes, that happened last night. But the sole witness can only bark.)
I wait. Life is on hold.
It's a bad TV night. Must stop watching "The Bachelorette". Must stop thinking how sweet (and perfectly natural) it is that five guys say they're falling for Ali. Must stop admiring a woman who gave up her job and her apartment to find love—she reminds of this every week, no? Must realize that kissing five different guys and carrying on speed dating conversations is not the path to love at all. Just a chance for eye candy in swimsuits.
I'll probably pop in my copy of "When Harry Met Sally", feel Meg's pain when she realizes Joe was never going to be the one, feel her joy when Sally and Harry find each other again on New Year's Eve and then experience my own hangover while walking the dogs, keeping an eye out for coyotes...and rogue birds. What's it like to be wanted, to be desired…even if for a moment?