The Heart Wants What It Wants—Then You Check Under the Hood
I wrote this a while ago and threw it into a file. I wasn’t sure when the time would be right to hit “publish”. But in the space of the past few months, several woman have told me about a very similar situation coming up in their lives, and a couple of high profile female writers have left their male partners for women—so I knew it was time to share. Besides the fact that I know you guys love to hear about things that get me all squirmy.
Let me know what you’re thinking.
“I had a love affair with a man”, he said nonchalantly, his back to me while he flipped pancakes.
I nearly did a spit-take with my mouth full of coffee. Not the funny kind that happens at the end of a joke. More the shocked, eye-bulging, quick exhale, I-need-more-air kind that happens when your live-in boyfriend casually drops a bomb like that at the breakfast table during a leisure Sunday morning two years into your relationship.
We had gone down THAT road.
The road less traveled. It is labeled that because you should NOT go that way. EVER.
We somehow, and I can’t remember exactly how, had gotten sidetracked and ended up on the subject of past lovers. There should be a big sign: TURN AROUND. GO FURTHER AT YOUR OWN PERIL! For those of us stupid enough to think that talking about that kind of stuff doesn’t matter. Oh, it matters!
Or does it?
This guy always colored outside the lines. He was big and bold in everything he did, most especially in the way he loved.
His love was enormous. It was unencumbered, dramatic and all-encompassing. It’s magic lie in its unedited innocence. He was still under thirty and had never had his heart crushed by a steam-roller or dragged behind a car. I was thirty-five-ish and besides being steamrollered and dragged, my heart had also been dropped from a fifty story building and tied to an anvil and thrown into the sea. Just to name of few.
I had the barely healed scabs and scars from my wounds. He did not. His heart was smooth and supple.
A love that pure enabled him to paint with a very broad brush. My pathetic brush was the width of a single human hair.
So, besides being madly in love with him, I was forever intrigued.
“Oh, really?”, I replied as soon as I could find my voice, attempting to sound cool and casual, like he’d just told me he loved plaid. I’m sure I sounded like I’d swallowed a piano.
“These are hot”, he said as he delivered a stack of blueberry pancakes to the table. “And I already buttered ‘um”.
He kissed the back of my neck as he went by, grabbed the syrup and a plate and sat down across from me.
My eyes were fixed on him but not focused. God, he was beautiful—and blurred. Me? I was reeling a little. Okay, a lot. I was reeling A LOT!
Did he have an aids test? I know we’d discussed it once but I couldn’t remember. My heart was pounding. Yes, Yes he had. Whew! We both had and they were negative. Bullet dodged.
So, now what? What about the obvious question: Was he gay?
I remember the napkins and what I was wearing. Isn’t that weird?
The napkins were white cotton with big, blue flowers and I was barefoot, wearing a blush colored linen top that I’d paid way too much for because the color “blush” was all the rage—and I was a redhead back then so “blush” was a good color for me—over a pair of ripped up jean shorts.
“Tell me more”, was what I think I said. Or something to that effect. I may have said “You have my attention”, but I doubt I had the cognitive agility at that moment to come up with any three syllable words. As he started to talk, my vision came back into focus and I sat mesmerized, staring at his lips as they moved over his teeth to form words.
“It’s wasn’t a big deal really,” he said, sensing my inner freak-out. “He was a guy who lived in my building. He had a huge jazz collection on vinyl and we used to listen to music and smoke pot.” He was shoveling forkfuls of pancake in between words, the blueberry tinted syrup glistening on his lips as he spoke. I handed him a napkin.
“How long ago was this?”, I asked, and the minute I did I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer. Recently? When he was a teenager? What did I want him to say?
“Oh, I don’t know…” he was looking into the distance, trying to conjure the past. Shit. Did I want him to re-live this memory?
“About five years ago. Yeah, wow, five years”, he was shaking his head marveling at the passage of time. I remembered that feeling.
Years are like dog years when you’re under thirty.
“You said love affair. You were in love?” I asked. This was the curious part. The part that struck me. I suppose I understood a dalliance in college or a same-sex fling. I could wrap my brain around the sexual exploration aspect of it all. But love? That was…diiferent.
“I was. We were. In love that is”, he was leaning back in his chair, arms crossed, staring at me, grinning. I could feel my face melt. There it went, down the front of my blush blouse, pooling in my lap. I suppose looking across at a melted face snapped him out of his complacency. Compassion kicked in because he leaned forward and took both my hands in his.
“Listen, it just happened. We were friends, and then we fell in love. We had sex…” He looked me straight in the eye. “It’s the oldest story in the book.” In that moment his brush painted a swath across my life as wide as the Grand Canyon.
“Was he…is he gay?”, I asked, holding my silly, single-haired brush. I guess I was thinking maybe the other guy had seduced him although I knew it had probably been the other way around. That wide-open heart of his was irresistible.
“I’m not sure if he identifies as homosexual. I don’t know. He moved away and we lost touch. I don’t—if that’s what you’re worried about.” he was laughing, turning my hands over, gently kissing my open palms while keeping his chocolate-colored eyes locked on mine. His ease and comfort around sexuality only served to exacerbate my narrow-minded clumsiness. Damn my face! It always gave me away. Poker player was not going to be a profession I could bank on.
That was the first time I’d heard the term “identifies” regarding sexuality. This was the nineties so the term wasn’t all over social media like it is now. As a matter-of-fact, this was before social media, if you can imagine that.
“You love who you love”, he said in a more serious tone, letting go of my hands. Then my boyfriend with the gigantic, all-encompassing heart got up and started to clear the table. “The heart wants what it wants”, he said, “Then, eventually, you check under the hood”.
The visual of that made us both laugh.
This “situation” turned out to have no repercussions on our relationship which died of natural causes about a year later.
What did reprecuss was the influence of this young man. He turned out to be my Yoda. He taught me to paint with a brush as broad as a four-lane highway. About almost everything in life. And in the process, it healed so many of my open wounds. He, on the other hand, did go on to have his heart broken by numerous other women—those bitches.
So, what I know for sure is that doesn’t matter how you “identify”. If you fall for someone of the same sex after being straight—are you gay? Bi?
Who cares! To quote Lin Manuel Miranda: Love is love, is love, is love, is love.