Chapter 23. Starting Over 1991-94
September 2. Toronto. I'm safely home from the most gruelling drive of my life. There were times when I seriously considered a violent twist of the wheel to plunge us into the St. Lawrence River.
September 3. I'm afraid to meet my classes. I'll be teaching as a single man for the first time since 1977. In supreme irony, Dane has asked me to remain his executor: "You're still the only person I can trust!"
Johanna is a godsend, allowing me to talk to her anytime. My son is supportive: "I also hate being single; I can't stay home evenings."
When I called Adam with my sombre news, he took me out to dinner. Adam does not believe in coupling, and sternly counselled: "Except for nature's need for reproduction, our destiny is to fulfil ourselves. You don't need validation by anyone else." But I rejoined: Margaret Mead says that man's most ancient need is: "Knowing that someone will notice, if you don't come home tonight."
September 11. Dane is staying with his friend Gary until his Savings Bond matures at Hallowe'en. He started to save for this breakup one year ago. He's been looking for an apartment starting at the $600 he paid here. Now he's at $1000 and finding nothing he likes. At least he knows what a bargain he's had all these years with me.
September 25. I’ve been asked to chair faculty meetings, because I have such a good reputation for "integrity." I need compliments like that right now.
October 12. Tonight I met Adam's new secretary, Andrew, and his seven-year lover, Alex. They are a fortunate, contented couple.
October 13. Over dinner, Johanna suggested that I give her a "veto" over anyone I get involved with. It's a good idea. If I choose a man I can't proudly introduce to my best friends, something is wrong.
October 15. I had my Tarot read tonight. My silent question: "Can I find love again?" The cards were eloquent: The Love card crossed over the Futility card, with the Romantic Love card beside it. The Defeat and Fear cards balanced by the Gains and Prudence cards. My final destiny is the Magus card, portrayed as Hermes, a lithesome male nude. The message overall is that finding true love will continue to be my obsession, but against great odds.
October 17. Dane and I shared a joint VISA account for years. When he broke off, he promised to cut up the card. Last month's billing arrived today, and none of the charges are mine but there's more than $2000 for him. I phoned and fumed: "I won't let you move your stuff until I see proof of a cancelled account."
October 31. Dane is supposed to move his belongings out of Kairos tomorrow. Today I called VISA. Far from cancelling, he now has $5000 outstanding. "You can close it yourself, without his signature," the bank clerk explained, "but you must pay the full amount." I paid it all, and changed the front door lock.
November 1. When his key wouldn't work, Dane burst into a frenzy of door banging. I opened, and sniped: "You broke your promise!" He wrote me a cheque for the VISA amount. I promptly went to get it certified, while Johanna guarded the house.
As revenge, Dane let me know that he will take a two-week holiday in California as soon as his chattels are moved, “with a guy on the bowling team I've been seeing for the last year."
When the last of Dane's property was out and Dane slammed the door, I wailed like a child. Johanna held me for long minutes. A vision filled my eyes: I saw a boy eight years old, sitting alone on a concrete porch.
November 2. I had the foresight to cancel today's lecture and substitute later tutorials. I have three days to prepare myself to face classes. I've already gathered things from the rest of the house to refurnish Dane's sitting room. I'm starting over at 58 years of age .
November 12. Today Dane left a message on my answering machine, in a limp voice: "John, sex is one of the things we did well; do you want to have a scene in the dungeon?" So callous. [I still have the tape].
December 4. I hate living alone, but finding a suitable room mate is difficult. Now that I own so many valuable art objects, I can't take just anyone, the way I could in 1975. Meanwhile, I'm exorcising the ghost of Dane with new wall colours and wallpaper.
December 6. Brief rays of joy: skiing in the park on soft snow under bright sun, with the dogs yelping happily behind me; a student comment after a lecture: "That was the best two hours I've ever had in college," and another, after an office consultation: "Thank you for being really helpful."
December 7. Bob Miller has written his sympathy, but argues: "You've had a better run than most. You must now resign yourself to single life."
December 18. My son is here tonight; he gave me lots of hugs. Table talk was confessional. He longs for a partner who loves both culture and nature. I'm amazed at the feelings we share. For the first time, I told him my story of being left on the porch at age eight.
December 23. Adam was here for dinner. He asked: "When should you let go of a dream?" and riffed his own answer: "When you realize you already have let go."
December 24. Dane now screens all his calls, but today I managed to get through. He was polite, and agreed to meet.
December 26. Home from lunch with Dane. In a soft and forgiving tone, I manipulated him into confirming that he was "just going through the motions" for a whole year, while dating "Doug" and saving up enough money to leave me. All his "negotiating" was in bad faith, but Johanna exculpates: "Secrecy was the only weapon he had against you."
I ran into one of Dane's old tricks, and he recounted how Dane often aggrandized his situation by claiming that he owned Kairos, that he hired a maid to do the cleaning, and so forth. I used to believe Dane was honest!
January 8. Tonight at the bar I finally met the new boyfriend Dane has done his best to hide. They tried to avoid me, but I deliberately accosted Dane with a cheerful hello, then turned:
"Hi, you must be Doug."
Dane stepped between us, his face a malefic mask: "John, you're interrupting a private conversation." I bowed out, after a close look. Doesn't every "ex" want to meet his replacement?
[ There are many pages of journal at this time, in which I "talk to myself." It was important self-therapy, but would make interesting reading only for a psychiatrist! ]
May 15. I felt so defeated I crept into Dane's old bedloft and fantasized ending it all. The garbage truck came rumbling along and it struck me that I'd forgotten to take out the garbage. I jumped from the loft and ran out. I wish it was that easy to discard all the garbage of memory.
May 17. I’m on Prozac. I can feel a difference, like someone throwing me a life preserver after I’ve trod water for days.
May 27. A possible room mate, Robert R, stayed here overnight as a test. His parents are old SCMers. I felt better with someone else in the house, and was able to fall asleep at 10 PM.
May 29. Robert has decided to move in. But he has no job.
June 19. Today I sent Ruth a letter begging her to forgive and forget, and be friends again.
July 3. On a whim I called Kirk, an ornamental young man I met last September. He was free for the evening so I drove to Whitby to take him to dinner. He looked as splendid as ever: blond, willowy, satin smooth, with a wide beguiling grin. The surprise was his apartment, which he's decorated as a cozy nest of colours, plants and fabrics.
July 6. After a two-hour lunch Kirk decided: "It's a deal." He will take a vacation from his job, for a trial run with me. If that works, he'll quit, spend the summer with me, and go to school at my expense.
July 7. Ruth writes that she has no desire for contact "just leave each other in peace." I have rewritten my Will to exclude her from any inheritance except a small monetary gift.
July 10. The Shaw Festival with Johanna was top notch five plays in two days. Over dinner, we talked about my intention to end my life in a few years. She asked: "When you plan to go, will you promise to say goodbye first?" I agreed, providing she pledged not to try to stop me.
July 18. A busy week with Kirk: we canoed the Black River (returning in the magic of a soft rain) then drove to Upper Canada village and Montreal. We stayed in a gay B & B, went to a wild disco, walked about, heard a concert at Notre Dame. On the down side: Kirk has no close friends; he's a loner. He's constantly role-acting, with off-putting mannerisms. He pulls away whenever I try to discover what he's feeling. And he's playing "hard to get" about sex.
July 23. Rob's straight friend, Simon, is here for dinner. We shared talk about our searches. Three needy men. Simon has invented the term "PIGs" - "Perfectly Incompatible Goals" which romantic men seek. For example, I fall in love with beautiful young men too young to have the stable character which is also an important goal.
July 26. Dare to declare: "I did what I want with my life, and I own all that I did." Sartre, The Prisoner of Altona.
July 27. I'm off Prozac, and on Kirk instead. Johanna laughs: "If you want sweet dreams, drugs will do it cheaper.”
July 31. Tonight, walking in my garden, with all the lights on, streams flowing, waterfalls tinkling, I cried aloud: "What a wonderful place to live!" I’ve decided not to sell this house, though it will take time to erase all Dane's fingerprints. Remember when thinking of suicide: I won't find there what I can't find here.
August 5. Kirk brought a carload of things to create familiar surroundings. I'm happy that the Fates have bestowed on me this gleaming youth, for a little while.
August 24. My birthday a fine day for Kirk to choose to break off and go home. At least he got me off Prozac. Our affair was a sweet summer madness.
September 3. I've just dropped Peter off at the airport; he's returning to Oxford. We spent four days on a heartwarming canoe vacation. He is so even-tempered and affable. We enjoyed fine campfire talks about soulmates, lovers, hopes, and loneliness. May the gods bless him!
September 14. I've commissioned a painting of two male angels, one older, the other a young blond. Each angel has only one wing, based on an aphorism by Luciano de Crescenzo, 1598: "Some of us are born angels with only one wing. To fly, we must embrace another like ourselves."
October 2. Alas, still not a day passes without thinking about Dane. Yet there are good moments when I catch myself humming.
October 25. Tonight I ran into Dane, sporting a full beard. He knows I hate facial hair; it's a consummate device to declare his severance. I said hello, and he spat out: "You're interrupting our conversation." I turned to his boyfriend, Doug, and said: "I hope, when he drops you, he's not as nasty afterward as he's been to me." They skedaddled out of the bar.
November 1. At a play tonight, Adam introduced me to a fellow doctor, Nicola. After the play we had a late dinner together.
November 23. Another futile date, this time with "Kyle." I started with a kiss. "I don't kiss" he sputtered. I tried his ears and neck. Nope. His tits. "That doesn't turn me on." There was a No Trespassing sign on his ass, so I concluded: "Sorry, I'm not a foot fetishist. I'm going to sleep."
December 12. Peter called. He has a new girlfriend, Lucy. They walked together for three days in the moors near Oxford.
December 23. Adam dropped by to deliver an Xmas gift and chat. How kind! Nicola has invited me to an Xmas eve party. I have more friends than when married to Dane!
December 29. I'm just home from a relaxed three-day holiday with Jean and Peter at Brucefield. We had a great hike, and some fine table talk. Such a civilized way to behave, so many years after divorce.
January 1. Thoughts from friends about my Search: "You have to find something in yourself to marry.” “The hard work and extra flak of a marriage are not worth the small gain in joy."
January 7. I went to dancing classes four nights this week! Nicola is often there and we partner well.
January 14. So far this week Rob has not generated even the minimal energy to go out and shovel snow for money. It's time to try living alone.
February 5. I've decided to adopt Shelly's methods of teaching, and abandon my first-hand-research requirements. Shelly uses multiple choice exams, easy to set, easy to mark. What is the point of fighting the system any longer?
February 8. Today I gave my son $1000 so that he could fly back to Oxford and see Lucy. Peter still finds me a difficult person to deal with: "I prefer to avoid conflict the British way, not talking about touchy issues."
"What issues?" I asked. "Well, your kinky sex for one."
February 25. Home from a holiday in San Francisco. With Steve I enjoyed gladsome dinners, a visit to the Rodin museum, a walk along the Pacific rim, a brunch on Castro, and much good talk. I helped him organize some of his horrendous mess of files, and proofread some manuscripts. He's in good cheer despite ten years battling AIDS.
February 28. Sleep is becoming a major problem. Is there any need for caution in using sleeping pills, at my age?
The play Torch Song Trilogy has many memorable lines, such as "If it's true that in every relationship one person loves more than the other, I'd rather be the one with more feelings." And a great line to a pretty young man: "If you've got brains too, there is no god."
March 14. I've been asked to chair the committee to renovate the old George Luscome "Workshop Theatre" into a new Buddies in Bad Times gay theatre. A real compliment.
March 18. Two blind dates have stood me up this week. I wonder how many I'll have to screen to find a new partner? I've just passed 300 guys interviewed on the phone, in eighteen months.
April 2. Home from chairing a profitless sociology department meeting. Academics! What asses and egotists. I warned: "If you keep making personal attacks on each other, I'll bring a metal detector to the next meeting and confiscate your hatchets!"
April 4. Rob is gone, and as a result of reading Judith Sills' Excess Baggage, I'm sleeping in Dane's old sitting room, to reclaim it as part of Kairos. For too long it's been a psychological no-go area. Sills’ book is a great help in other areas too; she is both wise and funny.
Eostre (Easter). I drove to Prospect Cemetery this morning, with flowers, to visit Orca's grave for the first time since she died. I stopped at 297A Oakwood on the way home. A trip down memory lane.
April 20. Dinner with Allan Millard, who is as mild-mannered as in 1952 but now he carries much grief and anger over his first wife, Kathleen, and even more over his second, who left him high and dry at Xmas 1989. His ex-wives have tried to alienate all their kids from him. Only his firstborn, David, is really close. David is gay, and has AIDS. Allan has not done well financially, and David is a destitute artist.
April 28. Tonight over dinner, Adam provided helpful comments about the content of a flier I intend to hand out at Pride Day, seeking a lover. This will be another "first" in Toronto gay life.
May 15. Johanna suggested we conduct a wiccan funeral service for Dane. We buried some memoirs of him among the roses, to banish his ghost forever.
May 24. Will (one of last year's brief affairs) called from Vancouver. He was so impressed by my kindness last September that he's thought about me ever since. Learning that I am still single, he's decided to fly here on the 26th! He wants to "find out if we have something."
Adam's comment: "It staggers me, how many pieces of yourself you give to others." I replied with May Sarton's observation that "libido is not lost when it is given away." (At Seventy )
"Go ahead and be romantic" Nicola advised. "Giving love is like drawing water from a living well. It is replaced by fresh water."
June 1. Will is in town. He's more weather-beaten and gaunt than ever (AIDS) but warm and affectionate. We dined and danced, and he was very attentive in public. Nicola joined us for dinner, keen to see this super-romantic who crossed the continent. Will exploited Nicola's presence to make statements he knew would upset me. Not a good sign.
June 4. Sex with Will is not gratifying he allows himself to be fucked as a "sacrifice." A way of paying for my affection, not a desired pleasure.
June 5. It's all over! Will objected to my classical music, and suddenly plangented about the house, shrieking abuse. He cornered me: "I'm going to tell you a few things about yourself."
"No way. I do not listen to people shouting at me. Please leave.”
He made a menacing step toward me and the dogs growled, giving me the chance to get round him to the front door: "Get out of here or I'll call the police."
He exited, but continued shouting to impress the neighbours: "Goodbye professor. Find yourself a real man. Stop fucking boys." At 35 he still sees himself as a boy! There must be a deeply wounded child inside. With great relief I locked the door, pleased that I avoided injury.
June 13. Home from two days on the Black River with Stuart. Perfect weather, high water, exciting rapid runs, tolerable bugs, and warm friendship.
June 17. The garden abounds with wonders: skyblue iris, over seven inches across, with white and gold beards. I've pasted in a poppy that symbolizes me. The stem broke while the flower was in bud, but the bud hung on by the slenderest thread of tissue, until the flower bloomed. Tenacity!
Gay Pride Day. This year I had something to do besides march in the parade. I handed my flier to a small selection of attractive men.
July 5. So many nasty gay men! I've just returned from an attempt to pick up a blind date at his apartment, my canoe loaded for a daytrip. The street number he gave me did not exist, and when I called the phone number he offered, that did not exist either!
July 6. I've decided to stop saying my longterm partner "left me." From now on, Dane died of heart failure. It has an air of finality and is symbolically true. Twice on Pride Day, Dane was within six feet of me and turned away both times.
July 23. Peter and Lucy are visiting, and joined me for a canoe picnic to the islands. Lucy is a pretty and sophisticated woman of 21. Peter (ten years older) is clearly overjoyed to have found her.
August 4. My "Lonely and brave enough to admit it" ad brought 30 replies. After weeding through smokers, the overweight, those with no taste for classical music or the outdoors, and finally the workaholics, I was left with a couple of blind dates, neither of whom showed up!
August 24. My 60th birthday party was glorious; all my best friends were here: Jean and Jo, my son Peter, Lucy, Adam and Nicola. Jo read a salutary testimony to my life, and I recited: "My candle burns at both ends, It will not last the night, but oh my foes and oh my friends, It casts a wondrous light." (Millay). I read a wise letter from Bob Miller, which is pasted here: "Dear John, your best years are about to begin. The first sixty years are prologue, full of striving and driving. Now you can beginjust begin to know life and to live. JUST LET GO." Peter and Lucy stayed the night; they are a romantic and happy couple.
August 27. Nicola and I went canoeing. He argued: "Remember that most younger men are attracted to an elder for stability and guidance. If you allow your dark pessimism about the future to show, it will crush their hopes and make them doubt your wisdom."
September 13. First day of classes, like starting a new job (after a long summer break). I got there early, well-organized and boisterous with energy.
September 14. Quentin Crisp sent a note today, encouraging me to go on searching, because: "Shaw said people who had happy marriages will find another." Crisp is good at saying what others want to hear.
September 23. I've just got my merit review: I'm earning $92,000 a year for a job I enjoy. I can now rest on my laurels; the accumulation of academic articles I’ve published over the years brings me more citations per year, than the rest of the sociology group put together. [ An international “citation” review of academic articles lists all the scholars who have published that year, and which other scholars they cite as references].
October 1. Allan Millard's son, David, has died of AIDS only a few weeks after his trip to Crete. What a loss for Allan.
October 17. Harry Hays, great gay pioneer, spoke of his yearning for "flower-faced boys." Larry Kramer, in The Destiny of Me, speaks heart-rending lines about his lifelong search for love, the pain of rejection, the resilience to keep on trying, and finally the willingness to settle "for someone who would just stay put and let me love him."
November 22. I've organized a continuing seminar: Improve your dating skills. I may as well teach others what I've learned. Seventeen guys showed up for the first meeting.
November 28. I have just composed this: MY LOVE HAS BEEN PURIFIED IN FLAMES OF LONELINESS AND TEMPERED IN TEARS OF GRIEF.
November 29. Last night Adam, Nicola and I attended the Casey House benefit, Laughing Matters. There were warm fuzzy feelings between the three of us. How I need these good friends! Nicola says he is tired of doing most of the loving in his affairs. He wants to BE LOVED.
January 1. I saw the old year out with Clarence dying in Casey House, and greeted the new at Alex and Andrew's party, in the traditional Scottish manner.
January 5. This morning I skied the lakeside a sublime experience, with clouds scudding across the looming sky, sun glinting from the water, the soothing sound of surf, and the dogs yelping merrily.
January 20. The personal approach of students seeking counsel is sometimes deeply moving. Yesterday a handsome young man came to talk about anxiety over school work because he is badgered by a super-competitive mother. He has no father living with him.
I recommended he see the college psychiatrist but he wanted to talk to me. "I can't, there's a conflict of interest," I explained. "I'm responsible for marking your work." The real conflict I kept in my head: "You're much too attractive for me to remain objective." [For all I knew, his real motive was to get it on with me. I never ever did that it was tantamount to handing the university my resignation].
January 31. I've been trying to persuade the Children's Aid to let me see the social work records of my childhood. They stubbornly refuse. What are they trying to hide?
February 1. Let's review my affairs since Dane left me (affair = several dates to several months; most have been edited out of daily accounts).
October 91 - Piet April 93 - Anthony
December 91 - Shaw May 93 - Will
February 92 - Fred August 93 - Robert
March 92 - Chris September 93 - Adrian
July-August 92- Kirk November 93 - Sylviu
January-Feb. 93 -Todd January 94 - Neil
This is a worse performance than in the 1960's and I’m much older now. In Kurt Weill's famous words (September Song ): "I have no time for the waiting game." At least my son is in bliss: he's just phoned from his Caribbean vacation with Lucy and her family: "Please try to force the CAS to release your childhood documents, especially your birth certificate. I want to get legal status to work in England."
February 17. Rather than eat alone, I took a roast over to Nicola's and we shared dinner. It was a grand evening, with Nicola looking sweet and boyish. I told him so.
March 10. Jean-Louis, who has the office next to mine, told me today: "Whenever I talk with you I feel better afterward." Dinner was a fine event with Alex and Andrew. They are kind and gentle. Praise the gods for such warm friends.
March 23. Good news: My provincial member of parliament (also a cabinet minister) has pulled all the right strings, and the CAS has released my childhood documents. My mother was indeed English, with the unlikely name of "Edith Anderson." Peter can get his landed status in England and stay with Lucy!
May 18. I've got a new housemate, Peter B. He is garrulous, and a real night hawk, but cheerful. Having a housemate helps my emotions. I'm less anxious about finding a lover when there’s company in the house.
June 19. Home from a magical canoe trip with Nicola to the Islands, for dinner and a fireworks display. I'm preparing a new flier for Pride Day.
June 30. Nicola wants to find a lover. I helped him create an ad. A key phrase was "Asians welcome." He's exhausted from dealing with the forty replies, and took a week off work to meet them. Ironically, one of Nicola's suitors is a recent, brief affair of mine. Nicola asked him: "Why were you interested in John?” "Because the sex was so good!" is the reply Nicola has passed on to me.
Pride Day. I set out before the parade, wandering the crowd, studying faces, handing out flyers. My partner must have a face I want to look at, eyes I can swim in. Here’s something very strange: pretty young gay faces are often blank like the big vacant eyes in Orphan Annie comics.
July 6. The Fates are up to something. Sagittarius is my worst sign for a love match, and I've just had four Sag replies in a row. What are the statistical odds?
September 14. I'm rereading Lucretius (The way things are , 53 BCE ):
If you have any sense of gratitude for a good life why not take your leave as men go from a banquet, fed to the full, come home and lie at ease, free from anxiety. If, on the other hand, all your joys are gone, why add more to it? Why not make a decent end?
October 16. I took Jeff, my third black affair, to the Cotillion, a traditional event with "dance card". It was a high-class success. Vivacious and impeccable Jeff was the prettiest, and awed the rest, but there’s no future for me. He is an elegant decoration but nothing more.
November 13. My 160th blind date. I could almost see TMT branded on his forehead - Too Much Trouble.
December 21. It was such a mild day I got out my canoe. I thought I'd be the only one, but another paddled by. It's a metaphor of my Search: I'm almost unique, but there is another like me, somewhere.
December 30. Casey House: How could anyone be so barbarous as to sign Clarence’s visitor book with “Be happy?” His face is a grotesque map of sorrow, and he does not respond to touch. He was gentle and harmed no one, but his last audible words were: “My life I blew it.”
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