It was so easy in the beginning
When you didn’t feel like running from your feelings like you are now
What happened? What do I remind you of?
Your past, your dreams
Or some part of yourself that you just can’t love?
Madonna – Waiting
I finally had the moment of silence I was craving all weekend.
Surrounded by evergreens and vegetation, I found the peace that evaded me on this trip in New England. A wedding invitation prompted me to reach out again and here I was visiting him for the first time. Only things were different…much different.
We were fighting about everything; breakfast, leaving hickeys in the wrong places, going to the gayborhood…it was never this bad when he came to visit me in New York. It was like I was dealing with a different person.
And for the first time I realized I represented White gay values in his life, which was a mindfuck in itself. Men of color often talk about having to “choose” between their culture and their sexuality, but how that plays out in lived experience is so nuanced and heavy.
Nothing screams “I get fucked in the butt” like bringing a 6’1” Black man to a Pacific Islander barbeque.
And I felt terrible: I could see the conflicting messages in his brothers’ minds. The wheels were turning at fever pace, it was a lot to process…even for me. They could sense the love and affection, but instinctually wanted to defend their brother’s
masculinity honor. What do you say do when someone says, “You guys make a cute couple,” then follows it up with a homophobic butt sex joke? Thank God the microaggressions from the White people at work allowed me to perfect my John Cage smile.
Did I mention there were hickeys in visible places? ::sigh::
Despite all the craziness, I was having a good time. It was nice to meet everyone I heard so much about the last two years. I also got to see this family garden he was so proud of. We managed to slip out of the barbeque for a minute to pick up some plants. It was a tall order; the garden was a nice size plot and he was trying to coordinate color, seasonality and upkeep. He didn’t find what he wanted at the outdoor nursery so we made our way to Lowe’s. While he chatted up an employee I found myself in the exotic plants section.
“Why don’t you get one of these!”
“Orchids are stupid,” he shot back. “They’re so fussy and take too much time and energy to keep alive.”
I didn’t have the courage to tell him orchids were my favorite flowers.
We ran back to the barbeque for a minute to drop off the goods, but it was time for me to say goodbye. On the way to the bus station, we were fighting again about nothing. He stopped yelling for a minute as he realized I would soon be gone.
“So what did you think? Was everyone nice to you?”
“You have a beautiful family. I would choose them over a relationship too.”
Two years of this and he was rarely speechless. I think he knew there was no sarcasm laced in the statement and didn’t know how to react.
On the bus ride back to New York, I realized there was prior botany foreshadowing that I missed. The first time he came to my new apartment I sent him out for breakfast and he came back with a gift.
“What is that?”
“It’s a Desert Plant. You need something living in this place.”
It was meager and sorry looking. He could tell I wasn’t impressed and tried to sell it some more.
“You know how most people kill their plants? They overwater them.”
While the statement is true, I would still advocate for the orchid. It needs the right light, is very sensitive to temperature, etc. But I like the challenge of nurturing it. The payoff is worth it, they’re absolutely beautiful, especially the purple varieties (my favorite color).
It was in that moment on the bus I realized we were fighting for two very different types of love. He preferred the kind with low responsibility, low upkeep (emotional and otherwise). Like an oasis in the desert, he knew how to find me when he needed
dick to get away and could then return to his journey.
Me, I want an orchid kind of love; a relationship where my partner would be sensitive to my needs and make sacrifices knowing we would eventually blossom together and create something beautiful. Historically the orchid has been a symbol of love, luxury and beauty. Adapting for millions of years, it continues to thrive today.
I still believe in love. The resilient kind that takes hard work in service of something bigger.
And deep down, I still believe I will find it.