You can’t tell from the photo because the print is sepia for some reason, but the wall we’re standing in front of was royal blue. This was in the apartment of Frank’s friend Sam, who had painted each wall in the place a different bright primary color.
I was going to strain for a Skittles joke or something here, but as I was thinking about writing this post, I read a David Sedaris essay in The New Yorker, and at one point the author mentions being shown a snapshot of a repainted basement. “[It] looked like a Scandinavian preschool,” Sedaris writes, “each wall a bold primary color.”
Works for me. Sam’s apartment looked like a Scandinavian preschool.
Which is fitting because Frank and I were pretty much preschoolers.
Anyhow, that’s how 25- and 27-year-olds seem to me nowadays—tiresomely enthusiastic, curiously optimistic, and liable to look insane if you let them dress themselves, just like all the 4-year-olds I have known.
At the time of the photo, Frank was the one who was 25 and I was 27. This was 13 and a half years ago. On the night we posed in front of the blue wall for our sepia portrait, we had been dating for about a month. It was going okay.
After meeting on Gay.com, we had our first date at a gay bar during its show tunes theme night. I am struggling to think of a more homosexual-sounding sentence.
Chicago was experiencing a torrential downpour that night. On the way to the bar, my phone got wet and stopped functioning. It was one of those slider phones you had to open by separating the screen from the keypad, and those devices were always breaking down.
Without my poorly designed personal electronics, I had no way of texting Frank to let him know that I had arrived for our show tunes date, so I called a friend from the bar’s pay phone (I believe I have established by now that I am elderly, yes?), asked her to log in to my Gay.com account, get Frank’s number, and call him, in turn, to relay my whereabouts in the bar.
When Frank tells this story, he stresses the allegedly great lengths I went to in order to make the date happen—an interpretation in which he comes off as desirable and I come off as desperate.
But what was I supposed to do when my phone broke? Just go home? Leaving poor little rain-soaked 25-year-old Frank to sing “Suddenly Seymour” all by himself while crying into his gin rickey or whatever we drank back in the olden days?
I’d hate for someone out there to think I had stood him up. Especially when the someone in question had previously at least entertained the notion of having sex with me. So all right, fine, maybe I was a little desperate.
My first impression of Frank was that he was nice to a mushy-gushy, namby-pamby degree—a common misconception among those who fail to see past his ultra-friendly demeanor to the reserves of feistiness hidden underneath.
I learned the truth during our first disagreement. I don’t recall the details; I just know that I was pouting about not getting my way in some matter. Frank calls such episodes my “diva moods,” and they do not cow him in the slightest.
That’s a shame because I really do think I’d enjoy dating a doormat. I promise I wouldn’t take advantage of my imagined partner’s weakness. I would be magnanimous in victory after our conflicts of will, and, though I would maintain absolute control of the TV remote, I would have us watch only high-quality programming.
But that was not to be my destiny, and so the last 13 and a half years have been filled with exhausting negotiations and demoralizing compromises. I have had to seek forgiveness at least as often as I have granted it, and I have sat through more episodes of SVU than I care to think about.