Quorum of Elders
So many aspects of the last few weeks had been thoroughly evanescent. Moments of happiness and epiphany would dissipate as suddenly as they appeared. With my trip to Chile looming on the horizon, connections with people and with my situation seemed impossible. The experience was agonizingly ephemeral—like walking on clouds and realizing there’s nothing supporting you. My feet hungered for solid ground as I tread the air.
Dennis was the last person I expected to ground me emotionally. He drank. He dated with more frequency than I did. He’d just gotten out of a long term relationship, and talked about it to a point that a sense of uncomfortable empathy crept up even in strangers at the next booth of restaurants. That said, he was almost proud that he’d found rock bottom perhaps because it is the one place the optimist-at-heart truly feels at home.
He was sensitive enough to pick up on the fact that I was in the same place in a philosophical sense. I was starting over and opening myself to the possibilities I’d avoided and denounced for the last year of my life. The moral codes that I’d lived up to for so long—abstaining from alcohol and pornography, sex and coffee, etc.—no longer made sense in the grand scheme of things. After a few dates, this was still at the core of our conversations.
“You know I’ve been there before,” he revealed one night (inasmuch as anyone can reveal the obvious). “Practically every one of us in Utah has, or at least we’ve dated them, and I’ve dated a lot of them.”
“More recently, but I’m slowing down. You’re interesting and not in that ‘Ooh, he’s a virgin’ sense of allure. I can’t often sit down with another guy who understands and appreciates every single reference from an episode of Gilmore Girls.”
Neither of us pretended we weren’t seeing other people or weren’t checking out our options, but he’d let down his guard. He let me know I wasn’t a sexual conquest with a deadline. I was unsettled in that I’d prepared for our dates to amount to nothing. He was someone I’d want to pursue when I returned from South America, someone to whom I could share the most vital pieces of my body and soul, someone with whom I could do more than watch Gilmore Girls or 30 Rock or Grey’s Anatomy (as had become ritual in the short time we’d known each other), but I’d conditioned myself to not expect that—in one sense, not until after returning from Chile and, in another, not ever.
The contemplative, awkward silence following his admission broke with a simple, pointed question: “What do you think your life is based on right now? Just living the moment, finding your place?”
“I might ask you the same thing,” I said simply to stall for time as I wasn’t sure in the moment. “I guess I just want to be happy and wasn’t so I needed a change.”
“That does make a lot of sense, but what’s next? Is your life any different now that you’ve stopped going to church or taken off the garments?” he asked seriously before a stilted aside to lighten the tone “…(which, by the way, are the opposite of sexy).”
“Well,” I said through my awkward chuckle. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning to trust in one thing. It’s a hard transition to believe in other people whether that be you or my best friend or even me.
“You’ll get there,” he said as if he knew my answer better than I did. “It wasn’t like I jumped right into bed with someone or started drinking the moment I was done with the church. It’s basically not even possible in places like Ephraim.”
Dennis and I were similar enough that we picked up on what the other was thinking quite often, as it was so easy to put ourselves in the other’s situation romantically speaking. We were both in a vulnerable state of putting ourselves together and mixing up the pieces at times, so we kept each other at a comfortable distance. Our moments of discussing the seriousness were offset ten fold by conversations on television and theatre providing a connection we felt more prepared with.
“GMB, I want you to meet some friends of mine,” Dennis mentioned cuddling one night to the sound of Buffy the Vampire Slayer blasting away in the background. “We don’t agree on everything, but I think we both need to be around some people who are satisfied with their life right now.”
“Who are these people and why the sudden urge to hang out?” I asked half-asleep (not sharing his enthusiasm for 90s fantasy television) and not in the most social of moods.
His taciturn response of “You’ll see” proved itself true after a quick walk across the gayborhood.
As we approached a small red brick duplex, I flashed back to several memories from my missionary time in Brazil. It was like every time I’d meet a family for the first time. They’d happily welcome the new missionary to town with a small party or a big dinner. In much the same way my companions explained to me the history of that particular family, Dennis shared the backstory of the house’s residents.
“Well, they’ve been together three years and they met in Provo at BYU. It was the fairytale romance minus the genders. They have people over for game nights every week. They don’t drink or smoke. This group is probably the Mormon-iest group of gays you could assemble.”
That night satisfied some form of nostalgia within me. Clearly, the ten men and women I met that night had found a way to embrace what they’d been taught their entire life despite as well as the emotions that countered those teachings in one way or another. Perhaps it was Dennis’ way of showing me that happiness was in reach sooner than I’d thought and that forsaking the past completely was not a viable option for me or for him.