A Writer’s Diary Entries From Late December, 1997

Monday, December 22, 1997

11 AM. This is the morning after the longest night of the year, which I spent with Gianni. I don’t know if what happened last night will be repeated, but I can live on the memories of it for a long time.

We didn’t have sex – to orgasm, anyway – but as Gianni said, it was pretty intimate. He got here very late. The poor guy spent half an hour in the complex before he could find my apartment and he did that only by going to the building manager.

So he was tired: he’d also gotten screwed up on my directions on the drive over here, too, and seemed upset.

Gianni lay down on the couch and smoked and relaxed and we talked for a while until finally he said, “Would it be okay if we cuddled?”

I immediately got next to him and began holding him and hugging him and kissing his back, shoulders, chest. WLRN was playing jazz Christmas songs, and I guess we lay there for hours, shirtless, in one another’s arms, though it was mostly me who was the aggressive one.

It was wonderful. For me, someone who’s gone for a long time without physical intimacy, it was something important. And Gianni is beautiful to me: his face, eyes, body – which I know is not perfect, but certainly neither is mine. I liked the stubble on his chest, a result of not having his body waxed recently; it was nice to rub against it and kiss it.

Does that sound sappy? Well, I felt sappy and I still feel sappy. How can I describe something so sincere without being either ironic or sappy? There are things about him I find really cute and I guess I could go on. I’ve still got the feelings of him around me.

Earlier, he’d talked about us going to meet his friend Kelly in Fort Lauderdale (after he left me on Saturday night, he went out dancing with Kelly and other friends), but we just kept lying there.

Around 11 PM, he felt hungry and I made him Weight Watchers Sichuan chicken and noodles and gave him kimchi as he sat wrapped with the sheet around him. Somewhere around there, it was decided he’d spend the night.

I stripped to my boxers, and he to his briefs, and things got a little too close to being more intimate than either of us had wanted.

“This is such bad timing,” Gianni said, more than once, meaning he’s just starting a life with Alejandro, moving in with him in Coral Gables. He doesn’t want to deceive Alejandro, and I don’t want to be a party to that, either, but is it superstition to pretend that just because we didn’t have “sex,” there wasn’t a physical and emotional intimacy between us?

At first, I figured I’d sleep on the couch and give Gianni the bed, where all 6’2” of him could spread out, but I joined him in the bedroom, determined to stay awake all night if I couldn’t sleep and just enjoy sleeping next to a guy and cuddling.

I did sleep, actually – not all that much, but more than I thought I would. We awoke late – maybe 8 AM – and didn’t get out of bed for an hour, again getting a little carried away as I lay on top of him with us grinding into one another.

He doesn’t seem to like to mouth-kiss, which is something I really like, but I like kissing, so I kissed his cheeks, forehead, his cute ears with the studs in them, his neck, back, stomach, etc. I’m certainly not an accomplished lover – and know I’m probably inept – compared to guys I’m sure Gianni has known.

But whatever I do, I do with feeling. Still, I’m glad we didn’t go further, if only so as not to reveal what an incompetent lover I am. We talked, agreeing that we don’t want this to interfere with our friendship, and I don’t know if that’s bullshit, but we decided that we probably won’t let this happen again.

“I don’t connect with that many people,” Gianni said, and that’s even truer of me. If I don’t lose Gianni as a friend, I can try to take satisfaction and comfort of our one night of physical intimacy.

This morning I learned – he thought he’d told me before – that Gianni was once in the hospital (Sheppard Pratt) for eating disorders, which doesn’t surprise me. His first partner, Eric, was a psychiatrist: “I scored a Jewish doctor on my very first try.”

I kissed Gianni lightly as he went out to go home to Coral Gables and shower and change before he goes back to work at the Galleria later today.

How do I feel? Weird and snuggly.

Snugli was the name of that carrying bag Ronna and Matthew had for the baby. Anyway, I feel pretty good as 1997 comes near its end. Life has a lot of possibilities, and my connecting with Gianni – someone so different from me – makes me feel good.

I did say “I love you” once, not being able to help it – but it wasn’t in the heat of sexual passion, at least.

Monday, December 29, 1997

4 PM. As I came into the apartment just now, I was greeted by the smell of stale cigarette smoke, which I thought would have had dissipated by now. Gianni, of course. He spent the night here. That meant I didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours, but certainly I was happy for his company.

Gianni showed up at 6:30 PM, and after I let him use AOL to send email, I drove us to Pine Ridge Plaza, to the restaurant Chinatown, which was fairly empty except for a loud group of Jewish seniors holding some kind of reunion. Gianni decided to have the buffet, and I had vegetables wor ba.

Although we sat in the smoking section, Gianni told me he’s planning to give up cigarettes for the new year. I was glad to see him eating well and happy to pay for the meal.

In bed later, he told me he weighed closer to 135 pounds rather than the 155 pounds he’d put in the personals. He really does need to live healthier, as he said. Gianni has joined a gym near his house in Coral Gables and says he’ll go regularly.

After dinner, we came back here – I’d already asked him to stay the night – and talked, or rather, I went on giving a long monologue to a simple question he’d asked (“What do you think of historically black colleges?”).

When I finished, he just said, “Wow, do you chatter,” and immediately I felt totally embarrassed. I apologized and told him to stop me – if he could – if I ever do that gain. I’m so narcissistic.

Okay, part of it is, I love to talk about ideas, and my mind flits from one topic to another so I go on these verbal riffs. But you don’t do that with your friends. That’s one New Year’s resolution I need to make: no more long-winded lectures.

We watched a video of the film Another Country while lying on the couch and cuddling. He wore his usual dress pants and shirt but had taken off the sweater he drapes elegantly over his shoulders.

What’s weird about me and Gianni is that our styles are totally different.

I’m embarrassed to say that in the restaurant I wondered what other people made of us because we look like such an odd couple, given the difference in our ages, races and heights.

He’s obviously gay, and while I’m certain that I don’t care what anyone – especially strangers – think, I haven’t completely gotten over the hangups of a closeted youth. But that is something I’m working on.

The movie got a little fuzzy as we became more interested in each other than in the plot, but we just lay there and talked, and when I could sense that Gianni was beginning to doze off, I shut up.

When I could tell from his breathing that he was asleep, I got up from the couch and lay on the floor near the kitchen and read Plato’s Symposium.

Yesterday I’d discovered a quote from Judge Posner saying he’d read it to fill in a gap in his education and was surprised to find much of the Symposium was a well-reasoned defense of homosexual love.

In reading it, I did recall various details – like about the three sexes, when people had two faces, four legs and arms, and how, after humankind was split, all of us now search for our missing halves: the man/woman search for the opposite sex and the man/man and woman/woman for the same sex.

Around 12:30 AM, Gianni stirred and we got into his bed, he in his briefs and me in my boxers. By that time, I’d already turned on the heat so that it was warm.

He doesn’t like to be against the wall, and when we weren’t holding one another or having sex, I was too uncomfortable to sleep. Part of it was my usual difficulty in dropping off, but Gianni tends to spread all 6’2” of him diagonally. Luckily, I’m fairly small.

We got up a couple of time in the night to hug; it was nice to feel his warm body against mine. I guess I wasn’t sure I’d experience that with someone again, at least not this soon – even though it had been years since I last slept (really slept) with another person in the same bed.

Late last night, Gianni cried out, “Oh, Richard, what are we going to do?” He meant what we’re going to do about our relationship. I told him I was too tired to talk about it then, but we do need to talk about it.

At 5 AM, we were both wide awake, and Gianni was ready to explode, so we mutually masturbated, and I think his sense of relief and pleasure was about like mine.

We held each for a while, and then he got up at 6 AM because he wanted to drive to Pompano to get more of his things. I opened the door to get the paper and saw how hard it was raining so I gave Gianni an umbrella.

He bent down so I could kiss him lightly on the lips (either I have bad breath or he’s afraid he does or he’s just not into kissing as much as I am), and after he left, I ate breakfast and then got back into bed to listen to NPR’s Morning Edition.

It was 7 AM when I really “got up” and exercised and went on the computer. I emailed Gianni a short note and later got a reply; we’re so exquisitely polite with one another, me formally thanking him for his company, him expressing gratitude for dinner.

I did give him a copy of With Hitler in New York last night, warning that I wrote the stories twenty years ago and saying he shouldn’t hold me responsible for it now.

I didn’t do much today. At the South Regional Library, I found the 1996 compilation of H.W. Wilson’s reference book Short Story Index.

I Survived Caracas Traffic is listed, and I leafed through the volume to see what subject categories my stories were listed under.

The title story surfaced under “Florida,” “Homosexuals,” and inexplicably, “Brothers.”   Other subject listings for my stories were “New York City,” “Experimental Stories” (I’m always there), “Grandfathers,” “Roommates,” “Psychologists,” and “Fantasies.”

I got a call from Unemployment, and the woman didn’t seem to understand why I wasn’t working, but after I read her my adjunct contracts, she sounded satisfied and said she’d be sending my paperwork through to Tallahassee.

Even if I don’t collect unemployment, it’s not the end of the world; I may even be better off, forced to work. This is the start of the third week I’m not teaching, and I feel unproductive. Still, I’m not going to berate myself for being lazy, not just yet.

It’s supposed to get down to 45° tonight. My refrigerator light burned out, but I didn’t get a new one yet.

Tuesday, December 30, 1997

4 PM. Yesterday, after I finished eating at 5:30 PM, I went for a half-hour walk along Davie Road and SW 39th Street, buying a refrigerator bulb at Eckerd’s. Although I had on my Walkman, my ears were chilled by the time I got back in.

I slept very, very well. Although I awoke at 6:45 AM and turned on the radio, I drifted in and out of sleep for the next two and a half hours before I made myself get up and have breakfast.

Gianni called at 10:30 AM and we ended up talking for two hours. He gave me his Coral Gables address and new phone, along with his parents’ address and phone in Owings Mills so I can always get in touch with him.

He related a sadly typical story about getting stopped by the police last spring, when he lived in an apartment in the nearly all-white area of Mount Washington. One night he was at his door, about to put in the key, when a cop yelled, “Drop the knife!”

“What knife?” Gianni said. “I don’t have a knife.”

“Drop the knife!” the cop repeated, and Gianni’s instincts told him not to talk as smartly as he would have liked. He dropped the keys, and then, on the cop’s orders, Gianni fell to the ground and lay face down.

He explained that he lived in the apartment. “Yeah, you mean if we tried these keys, they would fit the door?” the officer – now joined by three others – said sarcastically.

The cops explained that they got a report of a black man running from a nearby burglary. Gianni explained that he worked as a colorist in a posh salon, and showed them his manicured fingers: “Do you think I’d risk these fingernails to burgle houses?”

They let him sit up, still on the ground, while they checked things out. Of course the key did fit the lock; the only thing that surprised me was that the cop in charge (not the first one) apologized.

Gianni was smart to keep calling the officers “sir” and to resist the temptation to challenge their authority. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Gianni thinks O.J. Simpson is innocent. I told him Mom does, too.

We talked about a lot of things, including the line of succession in the British royal family, the perks that accrue to former U.S. presidents (for some reason, Gianni gets incredibly agitated about this subject), and Gwyneth Paltrow and her mother Blythe Danner.

I got off the phone when Gianni got another call, exercised lightly, showered, and then spent the afternoon reading and watching TV. Maybe I’ll take a walk now.

Wednesday, December 31, 1997

8 PM on New Year’s Eve. I went over to my parents’ house at 4:30 PM yesterday, just as Mom and Dad and China were driving up. After seeing that I got no mail, I offered to join Dad on his walk.

He got ready, but I didn’t need to change, as I was already in my jeans, sneakers, and denim jacket.

Although I was afraid Dad’s pace would be too fast for me, I had no trouble keeping up with him as we walked around the curves of Oak Knoll Whatever-the-Development-is-Called, along Nova Drive, and left onto the main street of Pine Island Ridge.

Dad showed me how one could take a short cut to his backyard from the apartments behind the house, which are about a mile away, by walking with certain streets.

It was a chilly night, so the weather was perfect, and we ended up walking for 45 minutes or what Dad said was 2½ miles altogether.

Tonight marks ten weeks since Dad’s heart attack, and he said he’ll never forget lying on the table in the Coral Springs ER with the doctors frantically working on him.

Next week he has his stress test in the hospital, and he has to sign a waiver because some people get heart attacks during the stress test, although if they monitor Dad the way they did a week after his coronary, they’ll stop the test if they see something’s wrong.

Dad mentioned how hard it was raining on Monday morning, and I replied, “I know. My friend stayed over and when he left at 7 AM, it was pouring so I gave him an umbrella.”

Dad didn’t say anything, of course, but I’m sure he understood what I was saying. For some reason I want my parents to know that I’m seeing Gianni.

Back home at 6:30 PM, I had dinner, read, and then watched the video of Spike Lee’s School Daze, which Gianni had recommended. It had some brilliant moments, but it seemed uneven because Lee was trying to do too much.

Still, as Gianni said, you rarely see the issue of color prejudice among African Americans the way School Daze presented it.

I was a bit restless during the night, but eventually I slept well, and I can remember some good early-morning dreams that took place on the block, East 43rd Street between Church Avenue and Linden Boulevard, where Grandpa Herb and Grandma Ethel lived from before I was born until 1968, when they moved to Rockaway.

I got some email replies to my Christmas cards. Renee said she enjoyed my Orlando Sentinel career-switching essay “as someone who still hasn’t figured out what she’s going to do when she grows up.”

Harvey in Santa Barbara told me about the time he tried his luck as a standup comic and comedy writer. He eventually became pretty good, but the smoky nightclubs made him ill. Harvey hopes we might get together while I’m in California.

Sat Darshan expressed her anger with her sister, who refuses to help with caring for their father.

“She and her sons came to visit last weekend, but left after a day and a half because, they said, they couldn’t stand being around me,” Sat Darshan wrote. Her father is now totally incontinent, and Sat Darshan said they didn’t even notice that he’d peed all over himself and the floor.

I wrote back supporting Sat Darshan’s statement that maybe it’s time for her father to go into a nursing home.

She’s made incredible sacrifices to take care of him while her sister has done nothing. Even Sat Darshan’s daughters have given up their bedroom for their grandfather.

Of course, I come from a family where nobody takes care of elderly relatives at home; even seventy years ago, Great-Grandpa Max put his elderly parents in a nursing home.

Yesterday afternoon I got a call from the editor of the Jupiter Courier, who wanted to confirm the letter I’d written about Florida changing its gay adoption law. He said he’d run it soon. I found the paper on Nexis and see that it comes out on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Not ten minutes later, Randall Murray of the Boca Raton News phoned, saying he planned to run the “column” on the editorial page on Thursday, New Year’s Day.

So just two weeks after I wrote the article, it will be in a newspaper. That gives me a lot of confidence in myself as a writer.

This whole year, my acceptances from newspapers for my op-ed columns and other pieces and the five New York Times letters gave me the same boost and sense of accomplishment that I got twenty years ago from all the little-magazine acceptances of my stories and poems.

After “seeing” each other on AOL, I spoke briefly to Gianni. The only time I can see him before he drives up to Maryland on Saturday is just before he goes. He’s leaving directly from the Galleria after his workday ends at 3 PM, so I said I’d meet him there for coffee or some food.

The next few days, he’s busy, obviously, with Alejandro and his friends, but I’m content with seeing Gianni once a week. He won’t be back from Maryland till the middle of next week, and then he’ll be taking off in a few days for New York City.

I got a phone message from Special Counsel, one of those legal services temp agencies I faxed my résumé to; I’ll call them on Friday.

At 4 PM, I went out for another 45-minute walk. Today was sunny and milder, warm enough so that I was comfortable wearing only a short-sleeved sport shirt and jeans.

Walking into the rodeo grounds and then over to Davie Town Hall on Orange Drive by the canal, I was reminded that it’s sixteen years ago – 1982 – when I ran for the Davie Town Council. It’s nice at the end of the year to have accumulated so many pleasant memories.

Well, that’s all for 1997, folks. . .