A Writer’s Diary Entries From Early May, 1996
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, May 1, 1996
4 PM. I’m going to see Terence this evening – at least I hope so. He called after 8 PM last night; his friend Anthony was with him.
Terence obviously likes me, but when I pressed him about seeing me, he told me he’s a little scared.
“I’m scared, too,” I said, of the vulnerability that comes with intimacy.
So then he said, “Okay, come over tonight,” and I said I wanted to, but I thought it would be better if we waited a night. Besides, I had to call Scott Koestner.
I have no idea where my relationship with Terence will go. On the surface, we don’t have much in common and it looks as if fitting each other into our respective lives won’t be easy.
I did assure him that we’re not going to have sex – not tonight, anyway.
When I called Scott, he said I should be sitting down before he told me his news: He had a major heart attack.
Four weeks ago, he got sick in his office, with chest pains and labored breathing, and EMS rushed him to Beekman, where they put him on an EKG.
By that time, he felt fine and the doctor assured him the EKG was normal, that he could go home just as soon as they checked his blood work. Then, still hooked up to the EKG in the ER, he went into cardiac arrest.
The next thing he knew, there were eight people standing over him and he saw one nurse give another the high-five sign. “Did you see a white light?” she asked Scott. His heart had stopped for 45 seconds and it took the electroshock to bring him back.
Scott stayed in the hospital for a week. He had microsurgery to scoop out the 60% blockage from his lower descending artery; a blood clot had gotten stuck there.
“I was wide awake during the four-hour operation and watched it on TV,” he told me.
He’s now in better shape than he was before: he stopped smoking, and he’s taking aspirin and a beta blocker.
I remember that Scott’s mother had a serious coronary in the late 1970s, and he said that except for family history and smoking, he had no risk factors.
He did have a warning the week before on a Colorado skiing vacation when he had to shovel snow continuously to keep the path to their cabin clear.
Although he tries to be careful, especially at that altitude, he suffered a sudden bad chest pain and heavy breathing before it went away.
Similarly, the morning of his heart attack, he had to shovel the last New York snowfall of the season.
Scott told me they’re having a hard time getting Brianna, now four, into a gifted program; their school district won’t take her and she needs stimulation because she’s reading on a third-grade level.
They had a great time in Seoul last October, and Scott said it’s a great city and he wants Brianna to be more in touch with her Korean heritage. He, MJ and Brianna will be in Fort Lauderdale this weekend and he thought I could come over, but then I told them how far Gainesville was and said I’d see him in New York.
Since I owed Sat Darshan a call and Scott had told me to send his regards, I phoned her.
Her daughters had just returned from school in India the day before. They are 13 and 16 now, big girls. Sat Darshan has been busy working.
When I asked her how she’s coped with her father living with her, she said, “Paxil, 20 milligrams a day.”
Her father understands he can’t be on his own and he accepts that he’s not where he’d like to be. As long as he avoids the Phoenix rush hour, he can drive to have breakfast or lunch period. He took some of the money from the sale of the condo so they can build a swimming pool in the backyard.
When I asked how they could ever go outside to use it in the desert heat of summer, Sat Darshan explained that misting systems used everywhere people have to be outside provide some relief; they spray a mist to cool people slightly.
Ravinder is returning to India to visit his parents, and he’s going to try to bring back a baby for them to adopt, hopefully without the problems she had with the girls.
This morning I used Liz’s edits to finish the memo (except for the footnotes) and e-mail it off to Wendy.
The literary magazine Sun & Shade accepted “Willie 95” for their July 1997 issue. But who knows if they’ll last that long?
8 PM, and Terence hasn’t called. Am I a total idiot or what? He has my phone number but I don’t have his. Yesterday I told him that if he didn’t call today, “I’m gonna be really depressed.”
He still may call, but I’ve been so anxious to see him that I’ve been waiting for hours. I bought him a little artificial carnation in Walmart this morning, and I was thinking about him all day.
I can’t believe Terence is the kind of guy who do this just so he could joke to his friends about what he put me through.
Well, this isn’t the first time that this has happened to me, but it’s made me more cynical and sadder.
I do know where Terence lives, but of course I’m not going there without an invitation. I feel very foolish – probably because I am.
11 PM. I did at least come to closure with Terence. He called at 9 PM, saying he’d been helping Anthony to pack. He had no idea what it had meant for me to see him.
When I went over there and met Anthony, who’s going back home to Nashville for the summer, and later when we were alone, I listened to him talk to his friends who called and watched him fuss over the music he played, I wondered what possessed me to think we could ever have a relationship.
I stayed an hour and felt uncomfortable. We hardly looked at each other, and there were silences and misconnections, and when I left, I’m sure Terence felt relieved.
There’s no way I could fit into his world or he could fit in mine. He’s beautiful and he’s a nice guy – but he’s not for me.
Terence said he’d call, but I hope he doesn’t – and he won’t.
Thursday, May 2, 1996
Noon. Last night Terence called at 11:30 PM, very upset.
He was furious with me for being so cold and so rude to him. The last straw was when he said at the door, “I’ll call you tomorrow,” and I said, “Don’t say your call if you want. Just call me if you want to.”
He said he had almost decided never to call me again, but he wanted to express his frustration and let me explain why I was so “nasty.”
I couldn’t, not very well. I told him how I felt that he had wanted me to leave, and he said that wasn’t the case, and that I left so abruptly.
He asked why I treated him so badly: “I thought you were, I hate to say this, so precious . . .”
My heart melted, and I started apologizing and crying, and then he felt bad and said this isn’t what relationships should be like and maybe he didn’t want to be in one, and asked how could I care about him so quickly. I said I didn’t know, maybe I’m crazy.
We seemed to go round and round, and then his mother called – he has call waiting – and he got off and just called me back at 12:30 AM to say goodbye, that he had to go to sleep.
I slept terribly for the fourth night in a row. This morning I bought a card with a heart on it and wrote “I’m sorry if I make you crazy. – Love, R” inside and I taped the envelope to his apartment door.
Maybe I should leave the guy alone. It’s obvious we don’t fit into each other’s lives: I’d feel weird with his friends and he’d feel weird with mine.
He’s like a kid, the way Sean was even though he’s six years older than Sean.
I guess I couldn’t integrate Sean into my life, either, but that didn’t stop me from loving him.
I don’t know where this will go. I do know that Terence feels something for me. He says there are plenty of guys “I won’t let into my apartment because I know what they want,” but with me, it’s different.
Terence hasn’t been in a real relationship and he doesn’t know the weird, complicated feelings that come up. I do understand that some of our communications problems are a result of cultural differences.
When I was upset about him not calling by 8:50 PM, he viewed it much more casually. I know that “colored people’s time” is a stereotype, but whatever the reason, Terence looks at the clock differently than I do. And I do a lot of things from a totally different perspective than he does.
At work I managed to get the footnotes done and send off the legal memo on coursepacks to Tallahassee.
Christy emailed that she’s off to New Orleans, and even offered to let me accompany her since her extra driver back down.
Kevin emailed, “I’m going to see Bigfoot. Smooch, Kevin.” I responded just as playfully and succinctly.
I’ll go back to work this afternoon, get another Diet Pepsi with caffeine if I need it, and come home early to exercise.
Friday, May 3, 1996
It’s just Friday: 12:30 AM. You’d think I’d be able to sleep at least one night this week. Why did I have to call that stupid Matchmaker phone service last Saturday night?
I feel as though I’m throbbing with fever. I can’t stop thinking about Terence. This can’t be the way normal people begin attachments.
Well, if I can get through tonight without his calling, that will be the worst of it.
I’ve thought about dropping by Goody’s to see him at work, but that’s crazy. I don’t want the poor guy to think I’m stalking him.
Either I let him go or accept the fact that if it’s meant to be, he’ll call me. I know how stupid I sound.
When I got back to work this afternoon, the computer system went down and it stayed down for hours even though they’d told Cari that it’d be back up in ten minutes.
4:30 PM. If I had known last night what I found out this morning, I probably would have felt differently about Terence.
Liz asked to speak to me after I read an e-mail from Wendy, telling me my memo looks good and asking if I could get her the remaining memos by June 1.
I had a feeling what was coming. “Bad news,” Liz said, and she handed me a printout of an e-mail Wendy had sent her.
The Legislature and the Education Commissioner have decided not to renew Schoolyear 2000, so the whole operation has to shut down on June 30. All technology efforts are going to the Florida Distance Learning Network Board of Directors.
Liz was incredibly bummed out: “I thought somehow that when you said you’d stay on if the grant were renewed, that meant it would be.”
While I’d tried to think of staying, not leaving, as my alternate plan, that really didn’t work, so I am sort of shocked. However, it’s not like I really wanted to remain in Gainesville another year.
Laura and I we’ll have to talk to Laura when she gets back on Monday about how long the no-cost extension or whatever can keep me on and what’s the story with the money I can get for unused leave time.
The upside of this was that when I met with Tucker, I could tell him I didn’t want to work on the CGR business plan and there was nothing he could say. After all, I’m leaving and won’t be here in August, much less in 1999.
I occupied myself by deleting the word processing files I don’t really need.
It still hasn’t quite sunk in, as we had another interminable loan forgiveness committee meeting this afternoon. It’s getting quite hot, and I plan to take my car into the repair shop tomorrow to see if they can fix my air conditioning.
Brad Richard sent me a nice letter in response to my note about Umbra. He’s visiting Tom in Germany this summer and has been too busy teaching to write poetry.
George Myers he-mailed to say that my story and Christy’s are up and that NetSurfer has praised George Jr. in their latest issue, which means that people are going to read the website.
On the Web I found some Federal Election Commission documents that list me as a candidate for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s Congressional seat, and now that there’s nothing preventing me from running as a write-in, I feel totally comfortable about it.
Wednesday, May 8, 1996
11 AM. I called in sick today, and indeed, my neck has been hurting me again. I’ve got an appointment with the doctor tomorrow.
At 7:30 AM, I drove the car over to Von’s Mobil station. Later he told me I not only need a tune-up but one of my fuel injectors has to be totally replaced.
It will cost $400, which means I’ve spent $1,000 on the car in the past week. That depresses me, but at least I’ve got the available credit on my cards.
I had to pay cash for a cab ride home. The black driver guessed that I was a New Yorker; he was from Brooklyn, too.
At 9 AM, I walked over to Cuts (formerly Fantastic Sam’s) and got a haircut, which I also put on a credit card.
Money is so tight. I wish my Nova check for teaching would come already because that will at least cover the car repair.
Because of finances, I need to think seriously about remaining at CGR. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation. I won’t have as much free time, and I won’t be able to enjoy my work as much as I did with Schoolyear 2000. I’ll also have to work closely with Russ, who sometimes drives me up a wall.
The advantages of staying on are mostly financial although I doubt I’ll get out of debt completely. But I can leave CGR when I want to; I’m not committing myself to a specific time period beyond this year.
I talked to Scott in the rental office and he said he’d speak to the bosses about renewing my lease only until December.
Otherwise, I could move into some other complex – maybe back to Camelot or another place where I could walk to work.
It’s weird that people at work really seem to like me and want me to stay on. Yesterday I was going to get a Diet Pepsi in the storage room, and Joann said, “I need to talk to you when you come out of the closet.”
“I’ve been out of the closet for years,” I joked. It’s not every workplace that will be comfortable with my being openly gay.
Speaking of which: Craig, Bob, Tim, Abby, Sue and I attended last night’s HRC Board meeting.
We did not have elections but instead discussed various programs, like Pride Week in June, during which we’re sponsoring a forum on the Johns Committee.
Bob had some testimony and a copy of the notorious “purple pamphlet” that Professor Baldwin treasures: that unintentionally funny publication that was so graphic that it was declared obscene.
At home at 9:30 PM, I read my e-mail. Ronna and Matthew went to the Kingsman reunion with Susan and Evan and Felicia and Spencer, and they saw old friends like Henry, Melvin and Artie.
Maddy was supposed to come but didn’t; Ronna told me that her husband was killed in a car accident a few years ago. Also, I didn’t know that Karen died of lung cancer, apparently quite a while ago.
Last night I still couldn’t help thinking about Terence and how I’d like to go over to Goody’s, where he works in the late afternoon. I dreamed I did that.
Would going there be foolish? On the other hand, the worst thing that could happen is that he would reject me.
Even if no relationship developed, I’d like to be friends with Terence. Maybe that would help me get over my infatuation.
I get bad crushes on people too quickly. It happened with Javier, Jody and Noor. Am I so lonely and desperate for affection that I latch onto people and create fantasies about them without even knowing them all that well?
My car will be ready at 5 PM. What if I drove over to Goody’s to see if Terence wanted to go out to dinner or something?
I guess I don’t want him to think I’m a maniacal stalker, but I can’t call him. At least Jody trusted me enough to give me his phone number – all of them, in fact: home, work and car.
Right now I feel so mixed up about work and what direction I want my life to take. I feel as though I’m that screwed-up 18-year-old I was 27 summers ago.
I really wanted to spend time in New York this summer, and I need to find out if I can do that if I stay on at CGR.
One thing’s for sure: I need to make a flight for Teresa’s wedding in the next week or so.
8 PM. I did a little work on the Eleventh Amendment memo and read the study guide from the South Florida Water Management District on water issues that Joann gave me.
Immediately, I got some ideas on how to improve it. I could see that my intellectual curiosity is gearing up to do something interesting. The upside of dealing with water management is that I’ll be learning new stuff.
In today’s New York Times I found the obituary of Mr. Dorf, the Midwood High School and Brooklyn College science teacher who was my homeroom teacher senior year.
The orange cat came around for some food for the first time in a long while as the taxi arrived to take me to Von’s Mobil station, where I picked up the car. The repair cost only $289, not $400.
Dressed neatly, i nervously drove to Goody’s, where I approached Terence’s cash register with a pair of socks. I told him I’d wait the half-hour till he got off and drive him home.
He asked me to go next door into Kmart and buy him hair gel. It’s weird going down an aisle of hair products that I probably have passed hundreds of times and never looked at closely because I’m white.
It was good to see Terence in public and to watch him interact with other people.
I stayed about 40 minutes in his apartment. He went home to Live Oak for the weekend, so he wasn’t around to call.
He’s a good guy, and I’m glad I saw him again, mostly because I realized how, in my lonely state, I had idealized him.
Terence is a kid who loves fast food, “movies with dragons,” and Madonna (whom I like but don’t idolize) – but even beyond that, he’s so much more fastidious than I am: no hanging out barefoot or lying on the carpeting at home.
We can see each other occasionally, but he has no interest in whatever fantasies I had about introducing him to Sichuan food, foreign films and gay politics.
He’s never shown the slightest curiosity about my job or my writing, and that’s fine. Terence deserves the respect not to have some narcissistic 44-year-old “mentor” him.
Thursday, May 9, 1996
7 PM. Life’s been so weird lately. Last evening I started writing this story in fragments, “Spaghetti Language,” using the Netscape commands as markers.
I wrote more this morning and I finished the first draft tonight. I’m not sure if it’s any good at all; the segments seem fairly inconsequential.
Still, it shows that I’m still capable of sitting down to write fiction.
This morning I went to the Hampton Oaks clinic at Shands Hospital and filled out a lengthy patient history and got put in their computer.
I weighed 149 fully dressed (less than I thought) and my blood pressure was 140/80, probably because I was nervous.
This young guy, a UF med student, talked to me in the examining room and he did the basic exam. After he conferred with Dr. Kantrowitz, she came in and saw me along with him.
My neck/shoulder problem is probably a trapezius muscle inflammation, and Dr. Kantrowitz, a friendly woman who looks like Meg Wolitzer, told me to take an anti-inflammatory medication.
I hate that stuff because it upsets my stomach, but she said to try Aleve and make sure to take it with meals. I forgot to buy it but I’ll get it in the morning.
She said that the one tablet of Triavil 2/10 I take every day probably doesn’t do me much harm, but she doesn’t like combination drugs, and it’s partially an antipsychotic, which I don’t need, so if I want something else for sleep or relieving panic disorder, I should let her know.
My prostate is slightly enlarged, the medical student found, but basically okay, and Dr. Kantrowitz said she didn’t recommend a PSA until I turn 50.
Because I’m gay, she’s sending me to get lab tests for hepatitis B and C – I told her I tested positive for B once – and a new HIV test, which required me to sign a consent form about being counseled and knowing that it’s confidential but not anonymous.
The blood tests will also check cholesterol and the usual blood sugar, etc.
I was really open about being gay, and it felt good. The med student, obviously having learned that people who live alone are prone to get sick, asked me if I had a “significant other” or a pet.
I told him I like living alone and rarely get ill, and I have a good diet and good health habits, and I exercise regularly if not strenuously.
I was told to continue using the moist heating pad and to do shoulder shrugs once it’s loosened up from the pad or the shower and I should take Aleve for 7-10 days because after three weeks, my neck and shoulders are probably inflamed.
After having lunch at home, I went to work at 12:30 PM.