On a recent trip to Los Angeles, I stayed with my university friend Susan and her husband of seventeen years, Tim. Back when they were still dating in L.A., they tried to match me up with Tim’s gay work colleague, Matt. It wasn’t as though Matt and I had a lot in common. I was gay, he was gay. We were Susan and Tim only homosexual friends...and conveniently single! I attended a barbecue at their apartment complex, excited to meet the highly regarded gay-mate. Yes, I was so much younger, so much more hopeful. I was no better than Susan and Tim. Every encounter with a gay man brought the possibility of love. Yes, I believed!
Matt and I exchanged five minutes of conversation about our jobs, him a keen architect, me a doe-eyed attorney. After a few follow-up questions, we sipped our wine coolers in awkward silence. Hope can be so fleeting. We had another chance to mix as someone insisted on a game of croquet. I gravitated more to Susan as we shared the same silly sense of humor while Matt felt the game was a chance to show his winning ways. I don’t recall how to score croquet or if he did win...let’s say he did. Matt and I ran into each other during a few other occasions, including their wedding, but we never shared more than a courteous hello after that. No love match, no possibility of friendship. A pair of gays with nothing to show for it. Go Fish.
On my last night in town on this most recent visit, Tim announced that we were heading to a friend’s for cocktails and then going out for dinner. “You remember my friend Matt, don’t you?” Thankfully, he added, “He and his partner Josh have this amazing place just outside of West Hollywood. You’ve got to see it! Josh should be a landscape designer.” Although it went unsaid, Matt and I were still their only gay friends. No, wait! Add Josh.
Hope resurfaced. No, I do not set my sights on breaking up gay couples, happy or otherwise. I have enough challenges with the single gays. Why add complications with the taken? But since I am planning to move back to Los Angeles, I realized it would be nice to have some gay friends to connect with right away. My good friend Ray moved to Boise, Jed returned to Bakersfield (and still hasn’t confirmed me as a Friend on Facebook!) and things are just awkward when I reconnect with best bud Blake and his permanently velcroed partner who constantly comes across as abrasive.
We pulled up to Matt and Josh’s bungalow on a charming, tree-lined street. Large green and red lanterns adorned the coral tree in their front yard, where a stone walkway created an artful maze amongst succulents and sculptures. Oh, god. These guys are too together for me, I thought. Perfect little home and four years of blissful togetherness. Matt had rebounded well after what Tim told me was a dysfunctional relationship with a meth addict. (Okay, I think the word dysfunctional is superfluous.) Hooray, Matt!
If only I didn't use his success as a point of comparison for myself. Twenty years after meeting Matt, I am more aimless than ever. My stomach tensed.
Josh warmly welcomed us inside. “You haven’t changed a bit!” he gushed as he hugged me.
Okay, not Josh. Matt was totally different. His blond hair was now a dark brown, he sported long sideburns and facial hair and he had a thick Southern accent. Sure, I suppose the accent was always there. Either my memory is that bad or he made even less of an impression back then than I recalled. No worries. We could start this friendship thing from scratch.
Everything inside was perfect, from the ninety-song Christmas playlist to the glasses of Pinot noir Josh handed us immediately upon entry. The scent of pine emanated from the garlands draped from the chandelier to the four corners of the living room. The den had four new antiquities they got for a steal when the elder member of a California tycoon (whose name only I did not know) died and the family started dumping possessions, not interested in an estate sale. (No, Josh and Matt did not call attention to their new acquisitions. They were the perfectly modest hosts. It was Tim who inquired about them.)
I could keep using perfect to describe Josh and Matt’s home—I haven’t even gotten to the backyard!—but you get the idea. That is not my main point. Just as I realized five minutes into a conversation two decades ago that nothing clicked between Matt and me, I got the same non-vibe as to the friendship track after five minutes this time around. Did the setting and the relationship intimidate me? Sure...at first. But we had four hours of conversation at the home and at the restaurant and there was no common ground despite the clear fact that Matt and Josh were outstanding hosts and often animated individuals. Sometimes people just don’t mesh.
On the ride back to Susan and Tim’s, Susan noted that I was particularly quiet. “I’m just taking in the places we pass,” I said. “I like looking at what is familiar and what’s changed.” Actually, I just needed time to think. So much of my thoughts about moving have focused on establishing a writing career and the humiliations that will come as I take on peon gigs, making coffee for up and coming writers half my age. The social challenges will be just as great. Guys my age will be just as settled as they are in Vancouver.
Second thoughts? No. Just necessary thoughts. The resolve remains. Change always brings discomfort. I will simply have to rise to the challenges. And create my own pathways.