A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late April, 1995
by Richard Grayson
Sunday, April 23, 1995
7 PM. It was around 1:30 PM and I was about to finish the Times Arts and Leisure section when I got a call from Noor.
Half an hour before, I answered the phone and nobody was there, and in my usual optimistic (grandiose?) way, I thought: It’s probably a secret admirer.
I ended up talking with Noor for an hour and then seeing him. He was here, at my tacky, dirty apartment for a couple of hours.
All we did was talk. I’d told myself I wouldn’t make the mistake I did with Jody, and I remembered Hillary Cosell saying how sex on the first date gave one a false sense of intimacy.
(Hillary’s father died today; his obituary was just on ABC News, and I hope Hillary takes comfort in knowing what a remarkable person Howard Cosell was.)
Anyway, I’m not sure what Noor wanted. At first, on the phone, I just talked about my job at the law school and asked him about his life.
He’s graduating in a few weeks but doesn’t have a job yet. He plans to leave Gainesville in June; even if he doesn’t have a job elsewhere, he’ll go to Kansas City and stay with his brother and look for work from there. He’s kind of got a lead on a job in Dallas.
Anyway, when I got more comfortable, I asked Noor why he called me now, and he said he lost my number and found it only today when he cleaned up a pile of old papers.
I told him I had the impression when we met on Labor Day weekend that he was turned off by me and couldn’t wait to get away.
No, he said, he didn’t feel that way.
Later, when we spoke sitting on the floor by my bed, he said he shouldn’t have met anyone then because he just broken up with his boyfriend and was still too emotionally involved with him.
He’s still friends with the guy, who’s seeing someone else. Noor hasn’t seen anyone all this time; mostly he’s just been busy with work.
Over the course of the afternoon, as usual, I blabbed and blabbed, probably telling him more than he cared to listen to.
But my impression of him, fortified by Sat Darshan’s prediction that he would marry and live a lie, was wrong. Noor said he’d never do that to a woman.
He seems to have a sure sense of himself as a gay person. It’s sad that his Pakistani friends couldn’t approve or accept him as gay. That’s probably why he doesn’t care if he moves to a city where there isn’t a big South Asian community.
Noor knows as much as I do, or more, about gay life. He’s been to the University Club twice (he made it sound like what I expected: a loud, smoky meat market) and to The Quake, the new club.
Noor is a sweet, intelligent, valiant person, though he’s not quite as good-looking as I remembered.
He says he’s losing his hair, but it didn’t look that way to me. His body is okay – he’s not muscular and he’s got a slight paunch – but I still think he’s really cute. (I remembered his nice legs from Labor Day weekend when he was wearing shorts, but today he was wearing jeans.)
I gave him a copy of With Hitler in New York, only later remembering what could be construed as a bigoted remark against Pakistanis in “Garibaldi in Exile,” something I’m deeply ashamed of.
Whether Noor will call again, I don’t know. He didn’t give me his phone number or his last name, but I did drive him home.
I’m goofy enough so that I found it hard to pay attention to the news on this day of mourning for the Oklahoma City victims.
Oh God, I just realized that I told him about my prostate and so many other stupid things.
Well, I was honest at least. I trust him, and it was nice to open up to someone because I’ve been so lonely.
Monday, April 24, 1995
7 PM. Last evening I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over because my mind kept wandering to Noor.
I didn’t get to sleep until about 3:30 AM because I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy. It’s not so much that I’m crazy about him, but he’s an awfully nice person as well as being pretty cute.
Oh, I’m such an idiot. I never really learned to handle adult romantic relationships, let alone sexual ones.
It was about two years ago tonight that I met Jody. He stayed over and it seemed he had me questioning the way I lived.
Right away, Jody noticed the dust accumulating on my ceiling fan, something I’ve been oblivious to because I never looked up there.
Crad once wrote me, early in our correspondence, how for a person like him who rarely travels, every new place makes an enormous impression.
In my life, with the strict boundaries I’ve set for myself, every intimate relationship – or just the possibility of one – has so much importance that it makes me question the way I’ve been living.
On less than three hours’ sleep, I managed to put in one of the longest days at the office I’ve ever had, with no break for lunch.
This morning it was cool and rainy. At 7:30 AM, after bringing the car into Von’s repair shop, I got a bus to the law school almost immediately.
I didn’t have much to do at work other than read. Christy took the DSR grant proposal for the National Trust over to the main campus, and I gave Stacey – who finished her computer law seminar paper – some cases to look at for a future Schoolyear 2000 memo.
I also chatted with Liz about Oklahoma City and the Virginia Supreme Court’s taking away a child from her mother just because she’s a lesbian (I hope the U.S. Supreme Court takes the appeal) and all the right-wing paranoia (people are accusing the federal government of executing the bombing as a pretext to crack down on militias).
At 4:30 PM, I waited an interminable length of time outside the law school for a bus to the Mobil station, but at least the repair bill was less than I expected: $342.
Tuesday, April 25, 1995
4 PM. Today was a bright, cool day, and the change was invigorating.
Last evening I called Alice. Her mother had spent a long weekend with her in the Village, a difficult undertaking given Mrs. D’s frail condition. She uses a wheelchair, walker and canes, and has all kinds of disabilities.
But although it was difficult to wheel a 260-pound woman around, Alice was able to take her shopping and restaurants and to see Crazy For You on Broadway.
With her brother in Mongolia, Alice has had to deal with her mother by herself.
She’s concerned about the Medicaid cutbacks that have already taken away some hours of her mother’s home care attendant, who cooks and cleans.
Alice says Medicaid’s been a godsend because it’s paid for medicine, equipment like the wheelchair, and so much else.
Alice said she’ll make the June 1 deadline on the Rodale book now that they’ve given some chapters to one of her co-authors. Since her name’s not going on the book, Alice can’t get too excited about it.
The menopause book is coming out in July, Alice has signed a contract to co-author a book with a doctor, and her Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Cat? has been delayed again.
Alice told me about an idea for a book that I should write: an unauthorized biography of Santa Claus in the Kitty Kelley mode.
She even faxed me an outline she wrote, saying she doesn’t have the sense of humor needed to write the book.
I said I’d think about it. “This could be a perennial,” Alice said, “an annuity for your old age.”
When I came home for lunch today, I was startled to get another acceptance. “Boniatos Are Not Boring” was finally taken – by a new magazine in Daytona Beach called Sun and Shade.
What a thrill. I just hope these magazines actually appear and don’t fold before they can publish me.
This spring is almost like the spring of 1975, when my first story came out in New Writers, or in the following two years, when I kept getting acceptances from little magazines all the time.
Elated, I got a haircut after lunch – getting the same weird cut where they clip the bottom and leave a line where the thicker hair rests above it.
Usually I think I look awful in the hairstylist’s mirror, but I felt I looked okay today.
At 3 PM at work, we had an ice cream party for our departing student aides, Nikki and Veronica, whose last day was today.
Russ, Liz, Ellen, Julia, Linda, Laurie, Laura, Carol, Christy and I gathered in Jon’s office, and everyone but me had ice cream with topping and whipped cream.
I sent Tom a copy of the newly-accepted “Suspicious Caucasians” and the pieces in Southern Lights, as he has always given my writing career a lot of encouragement.
I now am certain my Moldova story will eventually get accepted, too. It’s nice to feel like a writer again after I thought this kind of experience was behind me.
If I can continue with writing half a dozen stories a year and getting them published, I’ll be satisfied – at least for now.
I wonder what Noor thinks of Hitler. Is it torture or just fantasy fun thinking about him?
Thursday, April 27, 1995
8 PM. When I woke up at 6:30 AM from a deep sleep, my biceps and obliques were sore from yesterday’s workout. I kind of like the feeling, as it lets me know my body is still capable of being surprised and of changing.
At work at 9 AM, I got a disk from Stacey and downloaded the most recent summary of cases I asked her to look at.
An E-mail from Elihu came with the subject heading “Yes!”
Les has accepted an offer to be the pastry chef at the Essex House in New York, and Elihu thinks the job begins in July.
It’s enough of a great career move for Les to take the position even if Elihu weren’t in New York, and Elihu seems glad about that.
After listing all of Les’s virtues, Elihu asked me why he still feels anxious. Perhaps it’s 20 years of his being alone; I can relate to that.
I told Elihu now that his own romantic situation is resolved, he would have to listen to my story about Noor.
Well, I actually didn’t think about Noor too much today. I’m certainly not going to go through the UF directory of all 30,000 students to find out his phone number and last name. Just the Muslim ones, maybe. (I’m kidding!)
You can tell the Internet is going mainstream when I turned on the ABC soap All My Children at lunchtime and saw a character responding to a personals ad via computer.
It’s a little hard to show dramatically: he had to type quickly and talk his words out loud (and read the responses) as the camera would cut to a very legible computer screen.
The copy of Happy that I ordered arrived, and I was glad to see that it’s not only nicely designed, the fiction in it is lively and interesting. I will be, well, happy to be included in their next issue.
At our Social Policy Division meeting this afternoon, we decided to use whatever money we had to keep our research assistants (Stacey, Julia, and Ben’s fiancée Dana).
Liz gave me $700 in state money for travel that she can’t use because of the kids. The money has to be spent by the end of the June fiscal year or we lose it.
So I looked for some conference or symposium I could justify attending. At the downtown public library, Adrian got me the Events In Academia issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, but so far I haven’t found anything relevant. I’ll look some more tomorrow.
I spoke to Rosalie. Apparently everyone at the law school thinks the faculty vote to grant Jon a tenured professorship (“a majority, but by no means unanimous”) is a way to save his job.
Rosalie said that Jon serves as President Lombardi’s emissary to the legislature, and even though his appointment is extraordinary, she figures that Dean Lewis will be pressured from above to okay it.
I left voicemail messages with Teresa (“happy birthday”) and Ronna today from work, where I have not been doing much of anything except reading law review articles.
Saturday, April 29, 1995
7 PM. My fantasies about Noor seem more foolish than ever now that he hasn’t called. I haven’t given up hope that he’ll call tomorrow, but my brain tells me he won’t.
In retrospect, it was kind of mean of him to call me last weekend. It took me a while to get over the disappointment when he didn’t call me back in September, and now, after spending last Sunday afternoon with him, I’m going to have a harder time.
My hunch is that he felt really lonely and decided to see me even though he wasn’t interested in me when we first met.
Maybe he wanted to see if I look better to him now, or if he had become desperate enough to tolerate me.
In any case, I bear the responsibility for my own situation. If I hadn’t been so lonely myself, I wouldn’t have suggested getting together with a guy who called me out of the blue eight months after rejecting me.
And when I did see him, I should have made certain I got his telephone number so I could call him and at least initiate getting rejected rather than just waiting helplessly.
When the phone rings, I first think it’s Noor, but then it turns out to be Mom or a telemarketer.
Last night I fell asleep early, and it’s a measure of the excitement in my life that my dreams are far more interesting than my waking hours.
I put up two loads of laundry at 7:30 AM, and I did some errands before getting back at home and putting the wash in the dryer.
I’ve looked at conferences and symposia, but none seems related to the law and policy issues in education.
There’s a National Educational Computing Conference in Baltimore on June 17-19, more than three weeks from now, so I can get plane tickets that won’t eat up too much of the travel funds.
I don’t know how Liz would feel about my going to another computer education conference, but that Saturday – according to what Mom said yesterday – is also the day of Cousin Scott’s son’s bar mitzvah at a D.C. synagogue.
Rather weirdly, Scott and Barbara sent an invitation to “Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Grayson and Family,” as if my brothers and I were all still children.
Mom said she had no intention of going: “Besides, it’s just a luncheon and an evening skating party for kids.”
I told Mom that the big catered affairs of 30 years ago no longer exist. Probably the last bar mitzvah I went to like that with Scott Wagner’s, and that was about 18 years ago.
People my age don’t have those Goodbye, Columbus-type bar mitzvah affairs anymore, and the people who really enjoyed them are mostly, like my grandparents’ generation, dead or dying.
Mom said she’s sure that neither Robin nor Michael – Scott’s other relatives – will go, so Aunt Sydelle will probably be all the family he has there, unless a few of his cousins from his father’s side attend.
Still, I wouldn’t mind going, just to see what it would be like. I could also try to see Rick Peabody or Shelli and her family or just ride around Baltimore and Washington. I’ll speak to Liz about it on Monday.
This afternoon, for a buck at the Plaza, I saw Muriel’s Wedding, an offbeat Australian film about a rather dense ugly duckling. One day I’d like to go to Australia.
The mail brought a lot of stuff today.
From New Mexico, Miriam wrote to thank me for sending her that review of her anthology, which came before the publisher sent the clipping.
Along with the letter, she sent a copy of her latest book of new and selected poems, The Art of Love.
Miriam says that Isabel is now 6 and very curious about everything. But Robert has been very ill for the past 18 months with severe ulcerative colitis. He’s trying to get on disability after losing his job when he could no longer work.
Robert hasn’t had surgery yet, but he’s on lots of drugs, and he was bedridden most of last winter. He’s still “a great dad” and has kept his spirits up.
Miriam has had to work hard to keep the household going: teaching at the other Santa Fe Community College (which she loves), teaching private classes, doing commercial editing and lots of freelance work, including kids’ nonfiction books to order. (She’s currently doing one on Malcolm X.)
It’s good to be in touch with Miriam again. She asked to see my recent work.
Another piece of mail came from the Authors Guild, which sent material for their local anti-censorship project. I haven’t looked at it carefully, but they’ve given me letterheads with my name and address so I can send out press releases when there are cases of local book censorship.
I also got the new issue of Poets & Writers. After going through the ads for submissions, I sent out to three magazines. This: A Serial Review, mentioned my name as a contributor to recent issues in an ad.
Basically, with my three recent acceptances, the only current stuff I have is “E-Mail to the Next King” and “Moon Over Moldova.” I no longer feel desperate to recycle old published stories anymore.
This evening I’ll probably read P&W and watch a film from the public library.
Marc left a message today, but when I called Davie, Mom said he was house-sitting in Miami Beach for Daniela’s parents.
Mom said Marc needs a résumé, so of course I said I’d compose one on the word processor.
I don’t mind, but I wish someone else in my family besides me knew how to keyboard and owned a computer or even a typewriter.