I told the story in the previous chapter of my struggle of coming to terms with my being gay. This came about only after extreme turmoil within myself and an attempted suicide. Finally, at age 20, I was able to accept myself as I was.
During the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked a local job. One evening I decided to go out to a gay bar. I had never been to a gay bar before. I remember driving around the block where the bar stood, a number of times before I even worked up the nerve to park the car. I sat there wanting to make sure I wasn't seen entering. Once I worked up the courage, I ran across the street to the bar as fast as I could...if anyone saw me I would be a blur. Back then in Nebraska, the legal drinking age was 19, so I was not involved in under age drinking.
I entered the bar, ordered a drink and immediately headed for a corner. I wanted to observe, it was a whole new experience for me. I had never been in a place where gay/lesbian people gathered before. It did give me a good feeling knowing there were others in the world like me..I was not alone.
A short time later Matt came up and introduced himself. He had noticed that I seemed somewhat fearful of being there. I should say Matt, at this time, had not turned 19 yet and should not have been in there, but you know how college towns are. We began talking. He was so easy to talk to. Though, as I have previously stated, I had experimented...I had never before been with a man sexually before. I admit I was very much attracted to him. He stood 5'9" tall, black wavy hair, baby blue eyes and had a smile that would melt you.
After talking awhile he asked me to dance. I remember it was Gloria Gayner singing "I Will Survive"....how so appropriate. Then a slow dance came on the jukebox and Matt asked me to continue dancing with him. I can't fully describe the feeling I had when we took each other in our arms. It felt so natural, so warm and so right for me.
We closed the bar that night and went out for coffee and talk. I didn't want the night to end. I told him of my struggle, of my fears and anything I could to just keep him with me. As dawn approached I finally worked up the courage to ask Matt to come home with me despite a fear of rejection. He accepted.
This happened on a Friday night. Matt and I ended up being inseparable that weekend. Monday morning I asked Matt to move in with me. Was it love at first sight or was it infatuation? It was probably the latter then, but oh, how I developed a deep love for him. As we went into the relationship and a circle of friends developed they were astounded by the fact we only were together a weekend before we moved in with each other. Many thought it would never survive, as so many gay relationships do not, most gave it 6 months to a year. Boy, were we ever to prove them wrong.
I had always had a fear of relationships, as I had never experienced a relationship of any sort that lasted. My childhood was full of unfulfilled relationships. They always seemed to end before they got started. I was not trusting enough of others to completely open myself up to them, being afraid in the end that I would be hurt, as I had been so many time previously. I did not know what love meant, nor how to be able love someone...I don't think I fully loved myself at this point.
Matt changed all of that. Matt taught me to be able to love another person with heart, soul and every fiber of my being. He taught me to fully love myself at the same time. He was everything a person could ask for in a relationship.
A year into our relationship, we gathered friends to share in our commitment ceremony to each other. We promised to be together for better or for worse, sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer until death do we part. It was a solemn, sacred moment for me and a commitment I planned to do everything to keep.
In the following chapter you will see the road Matt and I traveled over the years together. We both worked, kept up our home, paid taxes, volunteered in the community to try and make it a better place. Geez, we wanted the same things and did exactly what a heterosexual couple would do within a marriage.
Matt and I were together not for 6 months or a year as some had predicted..we were together as a couple for 22 years. It was a committed relationship. We had our ups and downs as any couple would have. We made a promise to each other early in the relationship, that if a problem arose, we would communicate until it was resolved. We also promised to never go to bed without saying "I love you," no matter how bad the day had been or if we had argued. We committed to be faithful to each other. At times, all these commitments were not easy, but we were both determined to do all the work necessary to make a relationship work. Yes, a relationship of any sort takes a willingness by both, to work at making it work.
Unfortunately, as in marriages, all of this shattered in 1992, after having spent 22 years together, building a life together and feeling this would last a lifetime. There is one thing Matt and I said would always be unforgivable. That was for one or the other to be unfaithful in the relationship. For 22 years this never happened. Suddenly without any warning signs Matt began being unfaithful. I had heard rumors but did not believe them...not after 22 years! I was away on a business trip and without notice came home from the trip early..reality got thrown in my face. There was no discussion, no trying to work it out. Trust and a commitment had been broken and a promise earlier made, had to be kept, as I have always tried to be a man of my word. I ended the relationship with Matt.