Chapter 13. Attempting gay love
January 1. At last night's party, I met Ken, 33. He struck me as a cultured man, actively involved in theatre and arts. We went back to his place. Ken lives with other artists in the old Group of Seven studio building in Rosedale. He's the first man my own age I've slept with. I'm fascinated that Ken keeps all his theatre programmes; he spent an hour sharing his memories of plays with me. It's a habit I will adopt.
January 13. How I yearn for a close friend, a "soulmate." Paul Bennett is a good gay role model, but no candidate for lover. Bob Miller is ever faithful and wise, but always a little distant. He says my greatest flaw is lack of patience, but how long must I wait for a soulmate?
February 22. One year after coming out, my horoscope today promises "the missing link." I must go out tonight.
February 23. In preparation for a late night I napped after dinner, and woke at eleven. Last call in Ontario bars is 11.30 pm. I rushed to Letros' just in time to be admitted. Toronto's reigning queen, Peter Marshall, was making his courtly way through the bar, announcing a party at his Rosedale mansion. He invited some guys and ignored others. I was lucky.
At Peter's mansion I met Chris Larkin, a graduate student at St. Michael's College. Chris is his monastic name; his baptised name is Peter. Chris was instantly attracted, because my face, dark hair, and tall, thin build remind him of his high school boyfriend, none other than actor Anthony Perkins.
Now five months pass without an entry in my journal! Obsessive love drives out all other meditations. I have reconstructed events from my office daytimer and my correspondence.
Chris Larkin was born on January 17, 1934, thus he's a few months younger than me. He's a Capricorn with moon in Pisces fated for a life of spiritual quest. He's shorter than I and of medium build not fat, not slim. His head is egg-shaped, and the main facial feature is sensuous lips. His smile is kindly, as is his voice. He has hair on his upper body which he is slowly (and painfully!) having removed.
Chris suffered a broken heart early in life when Perkins dumped him after high school, to take up an acting career. Chris fled the world to spend the whole decade of his twenties in a Benedictine monastery.
I was besotted with Chris's monkish manner and serious mind. I began phoning him every day. My attentions flattered but worried him: "You're coming on too strong. We've only just begun."
In March, Chris and I spent a snowy weekend at Camp Three Arrows, staying in the cooking cabin. I was in a state of sheer bliss.
Later that month I travelled to James Bay, Ontario, to conduct a steward training course at an isolated hydro construction site. Chris sent a song:
We have nothing to remember so far...We've just begun to know how lucky we are...now at last we've met. Now we can look forward to the things we'll never forget.
On April 5th we had sex for the first time. Chris secretly kissed and cuddled with men at the monastery, and had naive teenage sex with Perkins, but he'd never fucked or been fucked. He recited the Lord's Prayer before we began.
Next day, Chris gave me a handsome blue knit tie, and matching cuff links. Now I was head over heels in love. One afternoon as we had sex in Chris's simple student room, he introduced me to his favourite classical guitar: Rodrigo's Fantasy for a Gentleman.
In May, Jean began co-directing an SCM work camp based at the Queen Street mental hospital, taking our children. I continued to spend Saturdays with them. On May 18, Chris flew to Texas to visit his wealthy parents, who gave him a new station wagon. He drove it across the southern states, arranging to meet me in California. On that same day, I was formally welcomed as a member of the Toronto Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The membership interview was by Nancy and John Pocock two of my favourite Friends. When they asked why I wanted to join, after a decade of sporadic attendance, I replied: “I don’t know if I will do much good for Quakers, but I believe being a Quaker will be good for me.”
Chris and I connected at the Los Angeles airport and drove north on the old Spanish road, a sensational coastal route with luminous views of the ocean. At each day's end we found an isolated country road and slept in the back of the station wagon.
On May 30 we had a very close call. We parked for the night on a dark side road. In the morning I woke first, and began to nuzzle into Chris, and eventually began to suck him off. Just as I was raising my head, I saw a man and a dog walking along the road beyond our car. He must have passed by, seeing what was going on. We got out of there fast!
Carmel enchanted me a quaint "model town." But our trip was not going well, because Chris wanted to stop at all the cruising places listed in a gay travel guide. After years of restraint in the monastery he was eager for sexual experience. With me he was kind and friendly but not passionate. I was stricken. There's such a chasm between friendship and love.
On June 5 we reached San Francisco, and booked into the YMCA. Chris met someone who turned him on, and left me alone in our room.
The shower room was just down the hall. The water ran all night, as guys used the showers to meet. The ritual was simple: get under a shower and soap yourself until you get a hard-on. Other guys come and go, checking the action. When someone likes what he sees, he gets under another shower, soon has an erection, and the two guys go back to a room for sex.
Noise from the showers and anxiety over Chris denied me sleep, and when he returned in the morning I warned: "I'm going to fly home to Toronto unless we stop cruising gay places. This is my first time in California, and we've hardly seen any of the major sights no museums or art galleries, nothing I can talk about when I get home, just gay bars and discos."
Chris succumbed. We toured the SF museums then headed for Yosemite for a peaceful night of camping. Next day we reached the Grand Canyon. Chris was polite but subdued, obviously feeling trapped by my passion.
At the Canyon, we were blessed by a sensational rainbow. I was at the wheel, and stopped to take a photo of Chris sitting on the canyon railing. The angle made him seem to be sitting at the end of the rainbow. The hopelessness of my love began to drown me in self-pity. Nothing but this low railing separated us from the abyss. Somehow I resisted Death and drove on.
On June 15, I was back in my Toronto bachelor, bereft, abject, and pouring my inconsolable grief into my long-neglected journal:
June 17. Today I visited Bob Miller: "I'm afraid I might jump from my balcony, I'm weeping all the time." To my relief, Bob is about to take a vacation. He invited me to join him if I can get the time off.
June 19. Keeley has given me sick leave for a week. He doesn't know the reason but can see I'm completely dysfunctional. Bob has set one condition for our holiday: I must never refer to Chris in our conversations.
June 28. Once again Bob has saved my life. Back in Toronto, I lunched with Del Clark, my academic godfather. I've kept in touch since graduation in 1956. He's often urged me to consider an academic career. Each time I've asked about the starting salary, and airily assured him that I was making more money than the university offers.
This year money doesn't matter. I've decided the only hope I have is to go into the academic world. Chris intends to work on campus as a chaplain; I could continue to "bump into" him, and remind him of my existence.
My timing is bad academic openings are filled in early spring, and it's almost July. Clark offered to try anyway, and asked: "How far are you willing to go?"
"What do you mean?"
"Would you go to Memorial in Newfoundland? I think there's still an opening there."
"Is there nothing closer?"
"Well, let me call my friend Bernard in Peterborough. He alone is the sociology department at the new Trent University and I know he was hoping to get some help. Maybe he didn't find anyone."
June 29. Amazing luck Bernard Blishen found no one, and faced the prospect of doubling the size of his classes in order to teach all the sociology students next September.
June 30. Clark's recommendation was good enough for Blishen; our interview was over in half an hour. I'll teach two courses at Trent. Clark will hire me to conduct tutorials at Toronto. Between the two jobs I'll make almost as much as at the OHEU. I'll drive up to Peterborough on Tuesday, teach, stay overnight in a guest room in the college, and teach again on Wednesday. On Monday and Friday I'll teach in Toronto.
[ Thus my romance with Chris was one of the most consequential turning points of my life. I left union work for academe. A truly "manic" love experience first brought me near-suicide, then a new life. That inspired me to conduct sociological research on passionate love].
July 5. Timothy, an employee at Bob's bookstore, has learned about my heartbreak. When I saw Bob today, to thank him again for saving my life, Tim confided that he'd welcome a date.
July 10. I can hardly believe my luck! First a new job and now a new love affair. Timothy is exactly my preferred physical type: 21, slim, smooth, slightly feminine, with a sweet face and butterscotch buns.
How odd that I went crazy over Chris, who is not near my favourite type. But as Maugham reminds us in Of Human Bondage, mad love usually chooses an improbable target.
August 1. One fire burns out another's burning (Shakespeare). Timothy is helping me forget Chris. We’ve found an apartment to share: two bedrooms, a living and a dining room, and even a working fireplace. It's right next to Yorkville village, which is full of hippies.
September 25. I enjoy being a professor. The drive to Peterborough is not difficult about ninety minutes. I eat at high table with the Robinson College faculty, who are genial if a trifle snobbish. Here in Toronto I teach tutorials for Rex Lucas in small group studies. By strange coincidence, Rex happens to be gay, and has a lover as astoundingly tall as he is.
September 30. Although I spend every Saturday with the children, I also like to give them "story letters." I've just finished illustrating one with autumn leaves:
"Leaves are turning from green to many colours now. Do you know why? Once upon a time, far far away, in a lovely green woods, a poor little boy lived with his mother. He wished he could be king, because he wanted to make everyone happy - his mother, the birds, the flowers, the trees, everything.
"He was good boy, worked hard, went to school and studied many books. One day the people of his land made him king. All the trees in the woods were so happy for the poor little boy that they put on royal dress to please him - red and orange and gold. Every year since, the trees have done the same thing. Love, Daddy.
October 13. Today is Timothy's birthday. I prepared a fine dinner and a cake with candles. We enjoyed wine by the fire. Life is fantastic. I don't even have to worry about bumping into Chris: he's left Toronto to take a chaplaincy at Yale.
October 24. Tim and I are having troubles. He is not a happy homosexual. About once a week he goes out, gets drunk, and has sex with a stranger a different one every time. He reports that the sex is not gratifying, and in fact, seems to be a way of punishing himself.
October 27. Bernard Blishen likes me, but he thinks I have no future in the academic world without a doctorate. My part-time MA is now complete including an MA thesis for Del about the assimilation of French Canadians who move to Toronto to live.
Today I had lunch with Leo Zakuta, my first soc professor in 1952, to discuss a Ph.D. at Toronto. Clark is willing to supervise a thesis on the peace movement. Bernard has proposed checking out English universities, where I could get a doctorate in a much shorter time. He promises I'll be rehired at Trent if I can return in two years.
December 10. Tim is furious with me, and he has a right to be; I've behaved badly. He went out, got drunk, and returned to collapse into bed. During the night I greased his asshole and slipped in. He didn't wake up. In the morning I admitted what I'd done and he considers it a flagrant violation of his privacy.
December 21. After another drinking bout and a quarrel over his grubby escapades of impersonal sex, Tim has decided to move out.
Christmas Day. Thank God for the stability of Christmas dinner with Jean, the children, and the McIntoshes.
New Year's Eve. A thought for 1966: the intensity of romantic love seems to reflect not its own strength but only the intensity of the preceding loneliness.
January 10. I’ve had this month free so far classes begin today. I gave Jean a nice break and myself a treat by having the children with me all week. Bob Miller is having lunch with me, and separately with Jean, to see if there’ s any basis for a renewal of our marriage.
January 28. I’ve got gonorrhoea. I’m seeing the only doctor known to be gay and willing to treat gay patients without reporting them to the authorities. I was at a conference at the Unitarian Church, and used the washroom. A sensation like pissing boiling water seared my penis. I called a friend and he confirmed my suspicion. He gave me Russell’s number.
Not knowing anything about the procedure, I assumed the doctor would take a urine sample. On my way to his office I stopped at a pub for a beer to make certain I could pee easily. When I got to Dr. Russell’s office I had to wait. As soon as he called me in, I begged to pee immediately. “Oh, no, you can’t do that. You’ll wash out the pus. I have to take a swab first” By the time I could pee I was frantic.
Dr. Keith Russell is a shy man with a big heart. What an hilarious way to meet him for the first time!
February 10. Chris Larkin now at Yale has finally responded to my letter asking if we might meet: "You ask if I ever loved you. As much as I can reconstruct it, I discovered someone in you who was attractive, and could become a close friend. I thought that was as good as love. My long pent-up years were also a factor. In the process of time I have discovered the difference between a dear friend and someone I am in love with."
He describes a gorgeous guy who is attracted to him, but Chris does not feel the same: "These things are mysterious but real." He assures me he is lonely too, and would not stand on his pride if he thought a second try would work for us. "I don't have any answers about what you can do to get over me. Unrequited love is a deep experience, essential in order to learn to truly love somebody and to know how completely gratuitous love is, how little we possess any control over it.” With his usual monkish kindness, he invites me to visit him.
April 2. Paul Bennett, now my closest friend, must move out of his apartment on Avenue Road. He has proposed that we join forces to rent a house on nearby Bedford Road. It’s a great idea. The house can accommodate five people. We’ll form a sort of commune. It's like starting a gay Howland House! And the house is only a stone’s throw from Quaker Meeting House, where I attend quite often.
May 8. The peace movement is helping American draft dodgers reach safety in Canada (in violation of immigration laws). One method is to arrange for a “job offer” to the dodger, giving him a legal reason to cross the border and stay here. Most of the job offers are phony. As long as they’re on official stationery, it works. Bob has generously given me an offer from the bookstore, and Paul has agreed that Bedford can serve as a “safe house” for dodgers arriving in Toronto. We have one staying in the house right now.
June 14. This summer is proving to be my most promiscuous yet. I'm bringing home three or four tricks a week. Bars, discos, baths, parks, the street I'm cruising everywhere. What voracious hunger!
I've taken the cherry of four gay men this month (fucked them for their first time). I've learned how to do it painlessly, by encouraging the guy to take control: "I'll just put my cock there, you take it in at your own speed. Don't hurry. There's lots of time. Once you begin to want it, you'll be surprised how much you enjoy it." And they do.
July 1. I spent the holiday weekend visiting dear Yvan Corbeil (Howland House 1957) and his wife in Montreal. What a great thinker he is.
July 4. Ruth and Peter are spending July with me, here in Bedford House. I’ve built bunk beds in our tiny spare bedroom.
July 17. Misery! I’ve got venereal warts and they must be the worst affliction sex can impose. I get treated every week. Dr. Spence, a specialist, dabs each wart in my anus with caustic soda. For the next couple of days I sit in salt baths. Defecating is like shitting barbed wire.
July 22. Back from a holiday in Provincetown with the children. We stayed at a house Chris has rented. What a lively town, full of artists and gay people. I had a singular adventure with a handsome coast guard named David. He even went AWOL to be with me.
August 20. Today I was operated on, while under a general anaesthetic, to rid me of all my warts at one time.
August 24. I’m spending my birthday week in Algonquin Park with a new boyfriend, George, 30, a financial advisor. It has rained every day. On top of that, I must sit in a pail of warm water and salt every day to relief my recuperating anus.
August 26. Today we got lost! George insisted on bringing his grandfather’s compass. I asked him for a reading each time I checked the map. The topography is much the same everywhere in Algonquin but after two days I could see the landscape did not match the map.
I asked for the compass and took a reading. George was using it upside down, assuming the silver end of the needle (not the red end) pointed north. We finally found a forest ranger who located us on our map. Never again depend on someone else's compass readings! That's a good metaphor for life as well.
Labour Day weekend: Tonight Peter and Ruth are sleeping in a tent in our garden. Yesterday we enjoyed a lively day at the Stratford festival. My collection of theatre programmes is growing fast.
October 1. In spite of that disastrous camping trip I’ve continued with George and now he's moving into our communal house.
October 28. Lunch with Orca. She continues to admire me, and is now comfortable with the fact that I am gay.
November 17. Here’s a mystery: I was scheduled for a second operation after Dr. Spence found that my warts had reappeared. I used self-hypnosis for weeks to rid myself of this curse. Today Dr. Spence gave me a pre-op examination, and found no warts. Operation cancelled! He was not startled; suggestion is often used to “cure” children of warts.
December 17. The OHEU invited me to their annual Christmas party. I took Jean, who is still willing to “cover” for me. Sweet of her. I’ve been doing some contract work for the OHEU, until they can replace me.
Christmas Day: A wonderfully reassuring dinner at the McIntoshes, twelve of us in all. My children are sparkling jewels.
January 3. Over the holidays George and I discussed the lack of passion in our sex. I casually remarked that one problem for me is that he is uncircumcised. Today he alarmed me with the announcement that he has arranged to be cut. It's awesome testimony of his attachment to me. He's already made sacrifices, such as selling his grand piano because it could not be moved into the house. I feel trapped with a man I like, and find decent, intelligent and cultured, but for whom I feel no carnal lust.
January 17. George is now cut and I'm mortified I do not feel any greater attraction.
January 21. While George was visiting his parents, I went out to a disco tonight. I met a gently lissome Austrian, Helmut, age 28, who’s recently arrived in Canada. He fled the trauma of a romantic disaster in Vienna. He's a ballet dancer, but also supports himself by practical skill in typesetting. We spent a rapturous evening of dancing. I'll meet him again, but say nothing to George, who is fanatically monogamous.
January 25. I have done a terrible thing out of sheer lust. When everyone was out at the house I snuck Helmut in and we had sex. It was transcendent. He kisses extravagantly. He loves to be fucked, and is vigorously active in receiving.
February 2. Helmut has gone overboard. He sent a telegram to Trent University to tell me (in German) that he loves me. I wonder if the secretary understands German, and realizes Helmut is a man’s name?
February 19. Tonight I finally told George about Helmut. I put forth that Helmut is only a physical thing, while George is a peer companion. I proposed that we establish a menage, but George is incensed.
February 26. George is gone. He sold all his property, and is moving to Hong Kong. He can't get far enough away from me. He says our affair cost him at least $10,000. I fear he will hate me for the rest of his life.
[ I badly mishandled that breakup and I've been ashamed ever since for my failure to "let him down gently." In subsequent breakups, I’ve tried to arrange that my partner rejects me. That may be manipulative, but it gives him a sense of superiority. My self-esteem is almost always stronger than my partner's; I can better bear the cost of being "rejected."]
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