A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early March, 1993
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, March 3, 1993
9 PM. I haven’t been able to sleep much these last few nights, and it’s starting to catch up with me.
There were two messages on my machine when I got home this afternoon at 5 PM. The first was from Jody, “the guy whose ad you answered.” He said he wouldn’t be home till after 11:30 PM.
The second call was him again; he realized he’d forgotten to leave his number. I got a pen and wrote it down, which is a good thing, because my machine swallows up messages once they’re played.
Although I know what I said on Monday was true – “nothing will come of it, of course” – I found myself fantasizing about a relationship.
Obviously, fantasizing is what I do best. Relationships, I’m not so hot at.
Jody sounded slightly effeminate, which he said he was in the ad – but I’m not bothered by that unless he’s incredibly fem.
With Sean, I thought it was touching, and it made me want to protect him. I remember how, over 20 years ago, it was Ronna’s vulnerability which attracted me to her.
Well, at least I’ve made an attempt at reaching out to somebody.
This morning, after reading the usual slew of homophobic hate in the Alligator letters to the editor – the SFCC students who wrote that anti-gay shit on the 34th Street Wall actually had the nerve to sign their names – I felt really depressed, and I resolved not to read the Alligator anymore.
Last year I mostly stopped reading the Gainesville Sun, and this new try at getting a human rights ordinance passed will spur more hate, I’m sure.
I feel myself getting more paranoid, almost to the point where I can empathize with Josh.
The people at school I smile at, the ones who say hi to me: Are they all homophobic? Some of them have got to be. Maybe one reason I haven’t been good at intimacy is that I don’t trust people.
The other day I thought about that traumatic experience I rarely think about: the time when I was in second grade and four feet tall, and big kids – seventh and eighth graders – in a crush actually trampled on me when they opened the doors to the lunchroom (the auditorium) and I fell as the crowd surged.
I must have been only 7 years old, but I so clearly remember the image in my mind as people literally walked over me: I saw a headstone in a cemetery with my name on it.
Gee, in all the years of therapy I had, I don’t know if I ever even brought up that experience.
True, a nice big kid rescued me and treated me to part of his lunch – I had lost mine in the crush – and let me sit with him and his older friends.
I think I felt love for that kid, if only because he showed me that people, some people, will stop to help a stranger.
When I went to see Grandpa Herb in New York Hospital after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1980 – that summer I was so depressed, sick, poor and jobless – he told me that wherever I’d go in the world, I would always find good people.
Tonight I called up Mom to wish her a happy birthday. She said the Florida Review sent me a copy of their latest issue because I’m a member of the Literature Grants Panel.
School today was fine: both Nunn’s Crim Pro class at 9 AM and Smith in Estates and Trusts at 3 PM. D.T. nearly went over the line from outrageous to offensive today by telling people they should write out $1,000 checks to someone they pick up in a bar in the Keys over spring break and then stop payment after they “had a good time” with the person.
Our wills group gave a great presentation in Legal Drafting, thanks to Kathy, who did the lion’s share of the work.
During the long break between classes, I read and exercised (I definitely need to get a higher-impact aerobic workout tape) and showered and lay about.
This afternoon it was warm enough to wear shorts, and the expected heavy rain started only a little while ago.
I’ve been spending too much time reading newspapers on Lexis/Nexis – but I learn so much. I had never realized that Paul Zweig, the poet, professor and Walt Whitman biographer who died at 42 in 1984 was the son of Celia Zweig, my sixth-grade teacher at P.S. 203.
Thursday, March 4, 1993
8 PM. I spoke to Jody for an hour tonight. I’d left a message on his machine, and then he returned my call. I don’t know if I can bridge any gaps between us – our ages, races, backgrounds – or deal with my own reluctance to reach out to another guy.
Wanting to have time to think, I – who had said I was honest – told him I was going to New York for spring break and that we could talk again in a week.
Of course, I’ve lied to everyone else about my vacation plans. I’m not sure why I did.
Anyway, Jody was born in Brooklyn in December 1969 – when I was being called up by the draft board – but his mother, feeling the neighborhood was getting too scary, moved to North Florida when he was five.
He’s lived in a lot of little towns and neighboring counties; his mother lives in High Springs and he moved here on his own three years ago.
After attending SFCC, he’s now working two jobs and hoping to raise enough money to return to college because he’d like to go to law school eventually.
Jody works as a paralegal downtown and told me he enjoys running around serving subpoenas; at night he works as a cashier at Hardee’s on NW 43rd Street.
As I tend to do all the time, but especially when I’m nervous, I talked too much. We didn’t exchange last names or addresses, but we have each other’s phone numbers. (He’s got a car phone.)
How I came off to him, I have no idea. He said I sounded like someone in his twenties.
It’s highly unlikely that Jody and I will take this any further, but I’d like to see if we can. I don’t know what he wants, and more importantly, I don’t know what I want and that’s why I need the week to think about it.
I’m such a control freak that I get scared of rushing headlong into anything. With Sean, it was easy because I knew him for four months in a different context. I guess when it comes to intimate relationships, I’m stuck in the past where most post-adolescents are.
Anyway, apart from Jody, I’m looking forward to the end of classes tomorrow – although I’ll probably find I’ll miss school.
I enjoyed today’s Crim Pro, Professional Responsibility and Race Relations classes, and during the break, I shopped at Publix (using $10 worth of coupons), worked out to Homestretch, and read.
Some students are getting out of town early for spring break. When I parked next to Laura this morning, she said she’s leaving this afternoon for Coral Springs.
When I came back to campus at 2:30 PM, I went to the lounge and saw Acting Attorney General Gerson announce an arrest in the World Trade Center bombing.
He wouldn’t say much, but leaks have come out saying it was a New York area group of Muslim fundamentalists who used dynamite. It’s surprising that they had a break in the case so soon.
Kim told me that they moved next week’s moot court competition from the Vista to the Grand Hyatt – which is a lot better, I told her, because at 42nd and Lex, it’s closer to more interesting sights. I advised her to just walk around and explore.
I do wish I were going to New York, too.
Since talking to Jody, I like feeling what I’ve been feeling because it’s so long ago that I felt like this.
(Does that last sentence make any sense whatsoever?)
Friday, March 5, 1993
4:30 PM. “Free at last!” I said as Nunn let us out – those few of us who came – of Race Relations.
“For a week, anyway,” said Shawn, who’s driving up to New York City with his girlfriend.
I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in a week.
Last night I was so discombobulated after talking to Jody, I began having all these fantasies and feeling hypersexual and just totally stoopid.
I actually looked through the Gainesville phone book for people with the first name of Jody so I could find out his last name and address. I stopped after the C’s. He would have just told me his last name if I had asked.
I suspect I’m going to call him tomorrow and tell him I changed my plans about going to New York. (Well, that’s partly true, though I did it weeks ago.) I need to meet him so I can dispel feeling so goony.
Once I see that he’s grotesque or dopey or a heavy smoker, I can be turned off and at least get rational again.
It’s been really bad for me to be celibate and nonsexual all these years because now, once even the possibility – however remote – of an intimate relationship comes up, it’s like an earthquake triggering a tsunami of feelings I’ve forgotten how to deal with.
I’m so inexperienced and inept. I really want somebody to love; as usual, I don’t even care if the other person loves me back just as long as he treats me well and lets me love him. I have a pretty terrible sense of self-esteem, no?
It’s no coincidence I answered an ad now – and put one in myself. (I got a notice from that 900-number thing that I got a response to my ad. It’s probably a scam to take my money.)
Anyway, I didn’t sleep much.
At school at 8 AM, I read the material on the right to a speedy trial before Crim Pro. This afternoon, Lawrence, Doug G, Donna, Amira, Dan M and the majority of our Race Relations class cut.
During the five hours between classes, I worked out lightly and did the reading for 3 PM and thought about Jody and these weird feelings.
I guess I’m scared to fall in love, but I also want to fall in love. It’s a risk I need to take again.
Saturday, March 6, 1993
6 PM. Jody is going to call me in a couple of hours and we’ll get together tonight.
This morning I left a message on his machine that I postponed my trip, and when I got home an hour ago, there was a message from him, so I called.
He sounded tired after working all day and said he needed to relax for a while. I think I’ll probably tell him to come over here.
That’s a risk I probably shouldn’t take, but I trust this guy and have no fear for my safety. I know he works at the Hardee’s on NW 43rd Street, and I drove by there today and think I got a look at him – but it was so far away, I couldn’t tell.
Anyway, I’d just like to see him so I can forget about fantasies and realize that we have nothing in common, least of all in mutual attraction. Then I can get through the rest of my vacation.
I’m not going to do anything to dress up or fix myself up. If he doesn’t like me the way I am . . . well, I wouldn’t want him, would I?
Last night, after sleeping for nine solid hours, I felt a lot better this morning. Actually, I began feeling better by late last night.
Mom called to tell me about her and Dad’s visit to the Social Security office in Tamarac.
It turns out that with Dad’s lower income, he would be able to collect over $1,000 in benefits now – plus they’re going to give him benefits for all last year and the last months of 1991, after he turned 65.
The woman at Social Security, whom Mom said was very nice, told Mom that because she never really worked, Mom got Social Security taken out only around 1970 and 1971, when she worked at the Pants Set in Kings Plaza.
She said Mom should start also collecting now because waiting until she’s 65 won’t get her much additional money.
It will take a while – at least a few months – until they can give Mom and Dad their benefits. Hopefully, they’ll declare bankruptcy in the meantime so the money won’t all go to their creditors.
Because Dad’s Jacksonville customer canceled her appointment, Dad probably won’t be coming here in two weeks.
On Monday he’s going to Puerto Rico on his first sales trip there. Mom insisted that Marc go with him because the samples are so heavy. Clarissa wasn’t happy about that, but they’ll be back on Thursday.
Jason enrolled in the high school in Sunrise, and already he’s called Clarissa to take him home because he felt sick.
“He’s either going to be a great businessman or a con artist,” Mom said, referring to Jason’s way of talking people into things.
He came back from school in South Carolina without any underwear and couldn’t explain that. But he did have someone else’s class ring, which Jason said he “found” after he got here – even though Marc spotted him wearing the ring when he picked up Jason at the airport.
This morning I did the usual reading and exercising – but no law school studying today.
In the afternoon I went to the dollar theater on Newberry Road and saw Matinee, a delightful comedy about a horror movie producer showing one of those schlocky atomic monster pictures (Mant – half man, half ant) in Key West during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
I identified with the boy in the movie and his little brother although I was younger, only 11 and in the seventh grade at the time and Marc was about 7.
Sunday, March 7, 1993
1 PM. I can’t believe what happened. I slept with Jody last night. He left here only an hour ago, but he’ll be back later to pick up his contacts, which he forgot to take.
I didn’t sleep a wink all night, mostly because I couldn’t sort out my feelings. I still can’t, and I feel afraid.
Well, for a change, I did take a risk, an emotional one.
The AIDS risk is minimal because we didn’t do anything truly unsafe and Jody said that two months ago he tested negative for HIV. (I’m pretty sure he’s an honest person, most likely more honest than I.)
He’s nice-looking with dark brown skin and broad features and straightened hair. (I think I’d prefer it natural.) He’s pretty effeminate; I guess he’s obviously gay.
When we were leaving Shoney’s restaurant last night, I heard the teenage boys at the next table say, “Did you see those fags?”
Obviously my relationship, if that’s what it is, with Jody is going to force me to confront my own self-hatred, shame, racism and homophobia.
Jody is bright, but of course he’s a kid, at least compared to me. Sometimes he’ll use the wrong vocabulary word, but he surely knows more about the day-to-day business of a law practice than I do.
He works at one of Gainesville’s big firms; they mostly represent insurance companies, criminal defendants and personal injury plaintiffs.
He’s got a smart looking Honda with “Jody” stenciled on the windshield. He lives alone, not far from here. Before that, he lived with roommates and also an abusive alcoholic boyfriend whom he left after getting up beaten up so bad he now needs contact lenses.
His mother is from Lake City, one of 14 children; she moved to New York City when she was in her late teens. He has an older sister from a different father and a sister a year younger.
Jody doesn’t remember his father, who his mother doesn’t like to talk about except when she compares Jody’s style and good taste in fashion, etc., to his father’s. His mother also has said things that makes him believe his father was in the Mafia back in New York. Obviously Jody has a lot of unresolved feelings about him.
Jody’s got incredibly long thick eyelashes, a lean body, washboard abs, just the right amount of chest hair – basically a really good-looking guy.
He adores Whitney Houston, John Grisham legal thrillers, and cologne.
Jody said that if he were a UF student he’d be outraged that his student fee money was going to bring in speakers like Sister Souljah and Ice-T. But later he agreed with me when I said that they also bring in right-wing white speakers like Dan Quayle and so there’s a need for this kind of diversity.
He’s “very independent,” he says, and proud of it. With two jobs, he’s a hard worker.
Okay, so how did this happen? He came over a little after 8 PM and we sat on the living room floor talking for a couple of hours.
All I gave him was water; he said he doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke or do drugs, and like me, he’s got bad sinuses.
I apologized in advance for talking too much. (This morning on the phone he told me I was “loquacious.”)
Finally he got hungry and we went to Shoney’s on NW 13th Street. (I told him I thought I read they discriminated against blacks in hiring, but he said that the class action suit was settled.)
As we were waiting to be seated in the restaurant, he ran into a friend with an old man, presumably his grandfather.
Later, he left our table for a few minutes to talk to the guy, a young black kid who went to UF and is now at UNF in Jacksonville.
Although I wasn’t hungry, I followed Jody’s lead and ordered the breakfast bar – only I ate fruit and not pancakes, sausages and ham.
(Jody says he can eat anything and not gain weight, but he also said he usually eats only once a day.)
Back home, we again sat on the floor and I showed him some of my clippings and my CNN videos, which he said put me in “a different light,” as something other than just a law student.
We were watching rap videos on The Box and the sexual tension started to get unbearable till I finally made the first move and kissed him gingerly on the forehead.
It’s been many years since I held or kissed anyone, and over a decade since I’ve been with a guy, so I’m surprised I even remembered how. We kept things steady and low-key for a while and then slowly cooled off.
Jody was sleepy and jumped at the chance to stay over when I suggested it.
While he was taking his contacts out (luckily we use the same saline solution), I confessed that I was really nervous.
He said not to worry, he “had morals” and wasn’t used to sex on the first date, and I felt relieved.
We lay under the quilt in the living room and came into my bed later. When he fell asleep, he took a up a lot of the mattress, and I couldn’t get comfortable.
My restlessness and my going to the bathroom made him sleep badly, so at 5 AM, I got up and went to “sleep” in the living room.
Mostly I ruminated, feeling slightly – but not really – nauseated. I was shivering, but it was more from the strangeness of the situation than the cold.
Thoughts kept going through my head:
What was this stranger doing in my bed? Was this guy going to give me AIDS? (He didn’t tell me about the negative HIV test till today.) What would people think of this – not my New York friends, but people at law school, my parents? And what if he starts getting really clingy? I don’t want to change my habits and routines for this guy.
When Jody finally woke up, at about 10 AM, I’d been ruminating for hours.
He came into my bed up front and we ended up back in the bedroom, getting into a pretty heavy workout.
I felt inhibited (I need condoms!), but Jody told me I didn’t need to apologize.
After lots of hugging and cuddling following the rougher stuff, Jody took off at 11 AM.
I’ve been doing loads of laundry since, and I’ve bought, though I haven’t glanced at, the Sunday Times. I’ve showered, but I didn’t exercise today.
Just now I smell Jody’s cologne in the palm of my hand. I’m totally blown away and don’t know what I feel.
This is the first time I’ve slept – been intimate – with somebody I just met, let alone somebody I don’t feel love for.
Am I going to be struck dead by a bolt of lightning?
“See,” I told Jody, “you’ve never had a relationship with a neurotic New York City Jew before.”
When I remarked how weird the whole thing felt, Jody said he didn’t like the word weird.
4 PM. I did loads of laundry, lightly exercised, and mostly walked around in a daze the last few hours.
Jody just breezed in and out to put on his lenses. While he was doing so, I glanced up at the ceiling fan above my table and noticed it was caked with crud.
I mentioned this, and Jody said he noticed it last night, the first time he was ever here.
Why did it take me until today to first notice it? Is this a metaphor that Jody is teaching me to see things that were always there but that I never looked at before? Or is that a writer’s fantasy?